My EBV “Aha” moment!
My journey as a clinician in relationship to chronic Epstein-Barr Virus started a little over a year ago, when I noticed that a sub-set of my functional medicine clients were not improving as expected with their personalized functional medicine protocols. Some of them were simply unable to institute the recommended comprehensive lifestyle changes for various reasons, but several clients, following their protocol whole-heartedly were not seeing the expected improved clinical outcomes over time. This sent me on a search for answers. Since most these clients also had autoimmune disease, primarily Hashimotos thyroiditis, I went back to research what all the experts were saying. Overall I felt that my protocol was similar to the protocols used by the “autoimmune experts” with one big exception, the notion that chronic EBV could be one of the underlying drivers for many chronic conditions.
While this was an interesting concept, it was further complicated by the fact that there was no one clinician who was deemed the “expert” in treating chronic EBV. On top of this, traditional medicine does not report EBV as a big player in chronic disease and, in many cases, does not believe the reactivated EBV even exists. This is apparently clear in the interpretation of EBV antibody testing. For example, the same test that I would interpret as a “reactivated EBV with a high viral load” would be called merely a “past infection” by many of my client’s traditional medical providers.
This led me on a journey of reading every snippet that I could get from the current functional medicine literature on the treatment of chronic EBV. I was astounded by the multitude of articles published through reputable traditional medicine resources, all of which illustrated the connection between EBV and many chronic conditions including cancer! To further complicate the issue, there was no clear consensus on how to treat individuals with chronic EBV. While this is still a “work in progress”, I am seeing improved clinical symptoms in my clients following our EBV protocol.
What is EBV?
The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), a HHV-4 herpes virus, is one of the most common viruses found in humans. For many individuals it presents as a brief cold-like symptoms with minor consequences. Mononucleosis is an acute form of EBV infection which can present with more severe symptoms such as severe sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, fever and severe fatigue that can last for days or even weeks in some individuals. Current estimates suggest that up to 95% of adults have been exposed to EBV. For most individuals, the virus stays in the body in a dormant state for life. Unfortunately, EBV may result in serious illness in later life for some individuals.
“The Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) has created a secret epidemic. Out of the roughly 320 million people in the US, over 225 million have some form of EBV”. Anthony Williams.
EBV has been linked to many chronic health conditions
Current evidence suggest that 85-90% of Americans harbor EBV. Just like the varicella virus (chicken pox) can re-activate later in life as Shingles or Bell’s palsy, EBV lying dormant in your body can re-activate over time.
There is striking evidence to linking EBV to a variety of conditions such as autoimmune disease, inflammatory bowel disease and certain cancers such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, B-Cell lymphomas, some T-cell lymphomas, nasopharyngeal cancers and some gastric cancers. There are multiple studies looking at the connection between EBV and Multiple Sclerosis. EBV is thought to be a major underlying driver of Hashimotos thyroiditis. EBV is thought to be a risk factor for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia and Neuro-degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease and some unexplained neurologic symptoms. These are just a few of the articles connecting EBV to chronic disease. I encourage you to do your own google search and see the vast number of studies supporting the connection between EBV and chronic illness.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › NCBI › Literature › PubMed Central (PMC) by KJ Flavell – 2000
http://www.uptodate.com/contents/the-role-of-epstein-barr-virus-in-hodgkin-lymphoma – Jun 30, 2015
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov › NCBI › Literature › PubMed Central (PMC) – by AH Draborg – 2013
Risk Factors for EBV
Vitamin D has a huge role in immune function. Deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with an impaired the immune’s response to EBV. Zinc and Selenium are also essential minerals for normal immune function. Given the fact that 70 – 80% of our immune system is regulated through the lining of the gut, the presence of gut imbalance and/or leaky gut could also be a major contributor to the re-activation of EBV. Lastly, any major stressor to the immune system, even major life stressors, can potentially be a trigger for chronic EBV.
The OW Protocol for Chronic EBV
Unfortunately, there is no clear consensus on how to treat chronic EBV. In fact, many traditional health care providers may interpret your EBV antibodies as a “past exposure only”. I have done a very detailed review of the emerging literature and have merged the various protocols to represent the top most common treatment options that have shown benefit in the treatment of EBV and other Herpes viruses. Our Functional Medicine approach to Chronic EBV is based on the following core components;
Identify other underlying triggers such as food sensitivities, gut imbalance, vitamin and nutrient deficiencies, toxic exposure and other stressors.
Reduce oxidative stress through diet, targeted nutritional supplements and stress management.
Address Chronic Fatigue by supporting mitochondrial/cellular energy production, detoxification and antioxidant pathways.
Use of natural anti-virals and functional foods to support the immune system.
I have recently added Low Dose Naltrexone to my current protocol as it has a role in targeting the immune system imbalance created by the high Epstein-Barr viral load.