Epstein Barr virus (EBV) is becoming quite common yet often mis-treated. EBV results in mononucleosis (glandular fever) also referred to as mono, can attack the liver (hepatitis – inflammation of liver) along with the spleen (splenomegaly – enlarged spleen) and in worse case scenario’s present with jaundice, meningitis. EBV is a highly contagious virus which initially attacks lymph nodes in the neck and throat making them less effective in fighting infection creating very hot dry sore throats and fever. It is another form of herpes virus.
The virus enters the lymph nodes and attacks the lymphocytes (the white blood cells) which causes white blood cells to change shape and multiply. Initially there are no symptoms since it often takes several weeks before enough altered cells accumulate to generate infection.
Your glands do not function as well as you would like when this occurs due to the viral attack. Inflammation results in various parts of the body. Tear ducts do not function properly, thrush can occur and sweat glands do not appear to create perspiration as they would normally. Every gland in your body is under attack along with your entire immune system. It can be quite debilitating for some people depending on severity of viral attack to your body and the fatigue.
If is often referred to as “the kissing disease” since it is transmitted by saliva. Younger people – adolescents are more prone to encountering EBV; however adults can suffer from it also. Let me point out that many virus’s usually only take up residence in the host when you are drained your inner resources. If you have been subjected to ongoing stress, not had a healthy diet, limited sleep etc, then the immunity is drained and less able to fight the virus. You need to avoid sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils, and toothbrushes, or touching anything that has been near the mouth of an infected person, since this will result in transmission of the disease. So keep your utensils separate from any friend/family member who shares home with you. Hygiene is very important, wash hands all the time and avoid kissing – especially on the mouth. I have met and spoken with many people who have been diagnosed yet never told to take care re the above. They many go back to work too soon, often when they are still in the infective state – passing it on to other people!
The incubation period for the disease is approximately 7- 14 days in children and adolescents and longer in adults often from 30 to 50 days. If the EBV lasts longer than 6 months it is referred to as chronic EBV.
First signs and symptoms:
The infection develops slowly with mild symptoms that could be suspected as a simple cold or flu with malaise. As the condition progresses the symptoms may include:
1. A sore throat lasting two weeks or more
2. Swollen lymph nodes in neck, armpits, and groin
3. Persistent fever (usually about 102 degrees F/39 degrees C.
4. Great fatigue follows with constant need to sleep
5. Symptoms can be mild to so severe where the sore throat and pain impedes swallowing and fever reaches 105 degrees F/40.56 degrees C.
6. Mouth ulcers may occur and tiny blisters on the back of the throat.
7. Some people also experience a rash, eye pain, photophobia (discomfort with bright light), swollen spleen/liver infection which are often tender to palpate.
8. Headaches may also plague some people resulting in painful hot migraines (especially if the liver is attacked by the virus (Hepatitis)).
9. Mononucleosis can be accompanied by streptococcal infection of the throat
10. Weight loss occurs – even if you are still eating.
I think this is quite a nasty virus since although symptoms may resolve in most cases in 1-2 months the EBV remains dormant in cells in both throat and blood for the rest of the person’s life! Every now and then the virus can reactivate and is found in the saliva of infected persons. This reactivation can occur without symptoms of illness. EBV also establishes a lifelong dormant infection in some cells of the body’s immune system. A virus we cannot totally get rid of once exposed to it!
If the spleen is affected it may be enlarged and the ribs will put pressure on the spleen so in this case the person is advised not to bend over and pick things up – the pressure on the rib cage against the spleen could bruise and irritate further or worse still rupture. Lifting and pushing are also best avoided. Most people do not have the energy to be active with sports.
Hospitalization is necessary if there is a serious complication, such as rupture of the spleen, jaundice or even meningitis.
Hepatitis can result when infected with Epstein Barr Virus – the liver is inflamed and therefore appropriate nutrients must be taken to support this both during illness and afterwards.
If jaundice does occur then one will experience a yellowing of the skin, due to liver and gall bladder being affected.
Worse case situations may result in inflammation of the meninges (system of membranes enveloping the central nervous system (CNS) comprising of 3 layers dura mater, arachnoid mater and pia mater), which the primary function is protection of cerebrospinal fluid and CNS, so care must be taken to counteract this inflammation as soon as possible if the virus has results in meningitis. When I had EBV over 30 years ago I was advised to wear dark sunglasses and a large brim hat if outdoors in the sun until fully recovered as the eyes can experience great sensitivity to light also the skin is more photosensitive and can burn easier.
Remember – your skin is an organ! Many people forget this or don’t even realise. I was tempted sit in the garden relaxing one day – about 3-4 weeks into the illness and the soles of my feet were burnt quite red in the mild winter sun after just half an hour exposure!
How is EBV/Mono diagnosed?
Please do not attempt to diagnose yourself from any of the abovementioned information. It is very important you see a GP and have the appropriate blood tests. Only then, will you know the extent of the viral attack on your body. The doctor will inspect your throat and lymph nodes at the throat and groin area and may palpate around the spleen and liver area to check for tenderness and inflammation.
How is EBV/Mono treated?
Many doctors may just tell you to have bed rest, drink plenty fluids and perhaps you will be signed off from work for a week or two. They may prescribe antibiotics for any streptococcal infection of the throat. Depending on their knowledge and belief of the effectiveness of natural remedies they may recommend you take relevant remedies. However, there is no drug that is usually prescribed to clear up this virus. Doctors will tell you the virus has to run its course. Antibiotics will not help.
Natural therapies can help.
Probiotics are excellent to take if you have been prescribed antibiotics depending on which avenue you choose to take to resolve this disorder. Remember you do not want a serious infection to enter the lungs. The throat is like the “gate way” to the lungs. Streptococcal infection is very serious, please be sensible about this and know that you can always back up with natural remedies when taking antibiotics.
Herbal remedies can be taken in conjunction with and certainly after the course of antibiotics has been completed to build up strength to the immunity, but I do recommend you see a qualified herbalist or naturopath that will be able to formulate the appropriate herbs for you. Many of these herbs would not be available in health food stores due to their high level of potency and low dosage requirements. This is done for your safety. Herbalists/Naturopaths train for up to 3-4 years in the skill of formulation of herbs and homoeopathic’s. Some highly potent herbs can combat streptococcal and other toxic bacteria’s often more effectively than antibiotics which is what some doctors may offer you.
Some people who are experienced in juice/vegetable fasting may consider this until the fever abates. However many people may still prefer to eat something. In this case I would emphasize the need for highly nutritious foods including fruit and vegetable juices each day and plenty of spring/filtered water. Select good quality organic protein with plenty of raw salads and lightly steamed vegetables.
Depending on how the virus has impacted on your body your nutrient need will vary.
Looking back over those 30 odd years I believe I was fortunate to encounter a GP who recommended Vitamin A – due to hepatitis, however one must take care with dosage since as mentioned some people can also turn jaundice so do not over dose on Vitamin A. Since the liver is vulnerable due to inflammation high dose can be counterproductive. Take in accordance with the brand you purchase. He also recommended (as I do now), Vitamin C – 1000-2000mg a day – buffered type is best so it does not affect the bowels.
Anti-oxidant fruits – dark berries are excellent.
Olive leaf extract excellent for strengthening immunity.
Garlic in your food and mashed raw, perhaps with hot lemon drink and tiny pinch of cayenne.
Colostrum is another wonderful natural remedy to bring on board, strengthens immunity and digestion and many other things.
Plenty of rest and sleep. Remember, you can SLEEP yourself well. Sleep and rest is imperative when you have this disorder!
Emotional well being.
Practice goal manifestation. Whilst you are resting meditate and focus on something wonderful you would like to do in the near future. Keep seeing yourself strong, healthy and well enjoying yourself at this event or activity. Your mind is powerful. Take the opportunity of this “down time” whilst resting to use it constructively and positively.
Take care now and prevent future weakness.
When people go back into the work force too soon with this disorder they often take longer to recover. They can also leave themselves open to developing chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) which can be extremely debilitating and change your life – not for the better. It creates limitations for you in many ways physically, whereby you do not have the same strength and resilience to follow through on everyday tasks let alone anything strenuous like manual work or sporting activities. You tire very easily and lack zest for life. You may even succumb to illnesses far more often and experience constant tiredness.
Be patient with your body. Don’t “solder on”!! When you are sick you rest, you sleep and the body will then have a greater opportunity to draw on its own innate resources and heal.
People who experience hepatitis may find that their ability to drink alcohol in the future is limited, some may only manage one drink others may find they simply cannot tolerate any. A viral attack on any part of the body can hinder its ability to function as before. In some cases people may experience blood sugar disorders due to enzyme activity being affected by the EBV/Hepatitis such as glycogenesis. Same can apply for viral attack on the pancreas – the hormone insulin may be affected. The quickest way to get sugar to the brain is alcohol so some people may experience plummeting levels of blood sugar the day after their glass of wine. The liver is involved with stabalising your blood sugar just as much as your pancreas.
Other people may experience ongoing headaches/migraines for many months – sometimes years. In both Chinese medicine and Naturopathy we would pay great attention to the liver. The Liver oversees the smooth flow of Qi of all organs in the body and has been compared to an “army general”, responsible for planning all of the body’s functions. Knowing this, you can now see how an inflamed liver would have trouble functioning and helping your body run smoothly and efficiently as normal.
If the spleen has been affected by the virus then this would also require attention. The spleen is considered the “earth organ” in Chinese medicine. Your well-being can be seen as dependent on your ability to absorb and process nourishment from all food you eat. The spleen is responsible for providing the nourishment which supports all aspects of healthy functioning.
The transforming action of the spleen enables food to become nutritional substances as well as information digested and transformed into knowledge, sensual experience is then received and transformed into a core sense of well-being. Through the spleen healing energy is received into the body. A strong spleen ensures you are well nourished. A weak spleen may result in being undernourished. You may eat a good diet yet not strong enough to convert food into balanced nourishment. So, if EBV affects your spleen you may experience future discrepancies with its function here.
At the emotional level you may be in what seems to be a nourishing situation yet still unable to receive the available nourishment. All our organs reflect our emotional state as well as physical aspect with regard to optimum function.
So even when you have been advised you are no longer contagious and you are well to return to work and every day activities, your body and any affected organs may experience ongoing weakness. This is where natural therapies in particular naturopathy, (which includes herbal/homoeopathic remedies and nutrition) Bowen therapy, reflexology and acupuncture (the latter 3 working on the Chi energy and meridian system) are very important to consider taking on board, not short term but to implement a “maintenance” wellness program ongoing. If you can take longer time from work and daily activities the better for your recovery of strength. I was off work for over 3 months and took a few more months to regain normal energy levels. However I did not know then what I know now regarding natural therapies. Everyone is different, it depends on impact of the virus and your ability to recoup and heal. I was fortunate however to have had a GP at the time who encouraged acidiophillus (for thrush), Vitamin A and E and B complex with plenty fruit, juices and water. This is what I did along with vegetables and salads in the initial stages.
The more you rest you can then ensure that organs like the spleen, pancreas and liver will work more efficiently for you in the future. Some time underlying weakness can result. Virus’s can cause havoc with our body.
I personally cannot see how anyone can drag themselves to work when experiencing EBV I simply had no energy so allowed my body to rest and had continual sleep.
Many articles on EBV often give impression it is not a serious virus and that you are back on your feet within a couple of weeks. It really depends on the extent of the viral attack on the individual. The person may also have pre-disposition to genetic flaws/weakness’s which can be activated by a viral attack like EBV. It is not a virus to be underestimated.
I have seen excellent results with recovery of EBV/mono and those who have more chronic viral infection that resulted in inflammation and much later, discrepancies with organ function.
Natural therapies plays an excellent role in helping people who suffer from EBV/mono/CFS. Remember, the longer you wait to treat your disorder the more chronic it becomes and the longer and more complex it is to treat and resolve.
EBV can play a role in the emergence of two rare forms of cancer:
Burkitt’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. It has been proposed as a possible cause of Hodgkin’s disease (a cancer affecting cells of lymph nodes).
Research is presently looking at the link between MS (multiple sclerosis) and EBV by Professor Michael Pender, Director of the Neuroimmunology Research Centre at Queensland University.
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) is a prevalent viral pathogen. The majority of persons with acute CMV will experience an in-apparent infection. Primary CMV infection will cause up to 7% of cases of mononucleosis syndrome and manifest symptoms almost indistinguishable from those of EBV-induced mononucleosis.
CMV is a member of the Herpesviridae family, which includes Epstein Barr, herpes simplex, varicella zoster virus (chicken pox) and herpes virus 6, 7 and 8. CMV remains latent within the host, reactivating and shedding when the host’s immune system is compromised. CMV is highly contagious. It is possible to be diagnosed with EBV and CMV simultaneously. CMV is far more serious with more complications arising and can result in same disorders as EBV along with pneumonia and thrombocytopenia to name a few.
Lyn Craven is a Practitioner of Naturopathy, Bowen Therapy, Energy/Reiki Therapist, Meditation Teacher, and a Corporate Health Consultant. Lyn is a health researcher/writer of various topics for Health magazines and has produced a meditation CD assisting people manage stress. This CD is available on line – 2 minute sound sample is on the website. She runs a private practice in Sydney and conducts workshops in Sydney & Sunshine Coast. She can be contacted on 0403 231 804 firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.lyncravencorporatehealth-naturopath.com