Since my Lyme disease diagnosis in the summer of 2018, I have done a lot more research on different types of infections. This not only includes Lyme disease and its coinfections, but viruses, parasites, and fungi. When it comes to viruses, there is still a lot we don’t know, but books such as Medical Medium and the Epstein-Barr Virus Solution have made people even more aware about the impact that viruses such as Epstein-Barr can have not only on our thyroid health, but other aspects of our health as well.
What I’d like to do is share five things you should specifically know about the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), although as you go through this information, please keep in mind that some of the information in this blog post pertains to other viruses as well.
1. Epstein-Barr can trigger Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s. In January 2017 I wrote an article entitled “Can Epstein-Barr Trigger Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis?”. In this article I presented some of the research which showed a connection between EBV and thyroid autoimmunity. Since then I can’t say that there has been a plethora of new studies on EBV and thyroid autoimmunity, although a study published in October 2018 showed that EBV reactivation resulted in the production of thyrotropin receptor antibodies, which are associated with Graves’ disease (1).
In addition to the research, one can’t dismiss the clinical experience myself and other natural healthcare practitioners have had when treating EBV in autoimmune thyroid patients. I’ve had patients with Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s get into remission upon treating viruses, including EBV. However, I’ll admit that it’s not always easy to know when to address EBV (and other viruses), and of course viruses are just one factor that can trigger autoimmunity. As a result, it shouldn’t be surprising that in some cases where I thought EBV was the main culprit, addressing this stealth infection didn’t result in the person getting into remission.
2. There are many other factors that can trigger thyroid autoimmunity. Some sources suggest that EBV is the primary factor that causes thyroid and autoimmune conditions, along with other chronic health conditions. My research and clinical experience demonstrate that there are other triggers of Graves’ disease and Hashimoto’s. In fact, in my book “Hashimoto’s Triggers” I discuss many of these triggers, including the following:
- Other infections (i.e. H. pylori, parasites)
- Chemicals (i.e. heavy metals)
- Food (i.e. gluten)
- Estrogen dominance
3. Research shows that EBV might play a role in thyroid cancer. One study investigated the relationship between EBV and papillary thyroid carcinoma (2). In 41 samples, Epstein-Barr Nuclear Antigen 1 (EBNA1) was detected in 65.8% of patients with papillary thyroid carcinoma, which was significantly higher in younger ages. Another study looked to determine the presence of EBV and thyroid cancer, and the results showed that the EBV DNA was detected in 71.9% of the samples (3). Thus, the authors concluded that EBV infection may play a role in the development of thyroid tumors.
Of course this doesn’t mean that EBV is the cause of most cases of thyroid cancer. That being said, if you or someone you know is ever diagnosed with thyroid cancer, it might be worth testing for EBV, and addressing the virus if it appears to be problematic. How do you know if EBV is causing problems? As I mentioned earlier, sometimes this can be challenging to determine, but correctly interpreting the test results is important, which I’ll discuss next.
4. EBV testing can be challenging to interpret. In the past article I wrote on EBV I discussed three commonly tested markers. This includes viral capsid antigen (VCA)-IgM, VCA-IgG, and Epstein Barr nuclear antigen (EBNA). I discussed how the presence of VCA-IgM indicates a recent infection with EBV, while the presence of VCA-IgG indicates a past infection. Most people will test positive for VCA-IgG and EBNA, and in the past it was thought that EBV was in an inactive state if VCA-IgM was negative and VCA-IgG was positive. However, it seems that this isn’t always the case, and if someone has very high levels of VCA-IgG and EBNA IgG on a blood test (>100 U/mL), this can be an indication of EBV reactivation.
Some practitioners also recommend to test for Epstein-Barr early antigen (EBV-EA) antibodies. According to Dr. Kasia Kines, author of “The Epstein-Barr Virus Solution”, this marker is usually not tested for when doctors order an EBV panel, and I admit that I didn’t start testing this marker until recently. According to Dr. Kines, if VCA-IgG, EBNA IgG, and EA IgG are all positive, regardless of what the values are, then this can indicate reactivation of the virus. Keep in mind that not all practitioners agree with this interpretation, as many won’t recommend any treatment unless if the VCA-IgM antibodies are positive, which rarely is the case.
5. Natural antiviral agents can help…to some extent. With any type of infection, the number one goal should be to improve the health of the person’s immune system. This doesn’t mean that you can’t or shouldn’t take action to try to directly eradicate or inactivate the pathogen. But too many people focus on “killing” infections, and don’t do anything to improve their immune system health. Once again, if a patient of mine has any type of infection, in most cases I will put them on a protocol to address the infection. But one question you need to ask is “why did I get the infection in the first place?”
This was one question I asked myself when I found out I had Lyme disease. And to be honest, it’s still something I ask myself. To some people this might seem like a silly question to ask. After all, people get Lyme disease because they were bitten by a tick that is carrying Borrelia Burgdorferi, right? Similarly, many people get EBV and other viruses because it’s transmitted quite easily through bodily fluids, including saliva. While this is true, perhaps the better question to ask is not “why do I have this infection”, but “why is this infection having a negative effect on my health?” Because the truth is that we’re all exposed to potentially pathogenic microbes, and many people have such “infections”, but not everyone presents the same way.
So while I’m going to list some natural treatment approaches for viruses below, in order to receive optimal benefits you need to have a healthy terrain. Eating a healthy diet is of course necessary. Since most of the immune cells are located in the gut, having a healthy gut microbiome is essential for fighting off ALL infections, and not just gut infections. In addition, healthy adrenals are essential to fight off infections, as chronic stress is one of main reasons some people succumb to viruses and other infections. Reducing your toxic load and supporting your detoxification pathways can also play an important role.
That being said, let’s take a look at some specific natural agents and other therapies for EBV:
Herbs. Two herbs which can help to inhibit viral replication include licorice root and St. John’s Wort. However, while some of the other natural agents listed below are low risk, I wouldn’t take these two herbs unless if you’re under the guidance of a competent healthcare practitioner. I’ll add that while St. John’s Wort has antiviral properties (4), I couldn’t find any evidence showing that it directly impacts Epstein-Barr. On the other hand, a few studies (in vitro) show that licorice root can prevent EBV replication (5) (6).
Other natural agents. In addition to licorice root and St. John’s Wort, other natural agents that have anti-viral properties include monolaurin, colloidal silver, quercetin, and olive leaf.
Homeopathy. Although there is no research I’m aware of which demonstrates that homeopathy can be beneficial for inactivating EBV, recently I started using homeopathy on some of my EBV patients and have seen very good results. I like the remedies by the company DesBio, although there probably are other companies that offer similar EBV homeopathic protocols.
UV light and ozone therapy. As I discussed in the blog post I wrote about my experience with chronic Lyme disease, I received multiple UV light treatments and ozone therapy. Both of these treatments can help with viral infections as well.
Reminder: Don’t Rely on Natural Agents Alone
It’s worth repeating that while taking herbs, nutrients, homeopathy, or even receiving UV light/ozone therapy can help with Epstein-Barr, your number one focus should be to improve your immune system health. This is the case with just about all infections, as while taking natural antimicrobials or prescription drugs might be necessary at times, if this is the only thing you do then you won’t truly be addressing the cause of the problem. This is one of the main reasons why it’s quite common for people to have recurrent infections.
I’m sure there are some people reading this who felt that they were living a healthy lifestyle, yet still dealt with an infection such as Epstein-Barr. If this is the case with you then chances are there is a weak link. So if Epstein-Barr has been a factor in your health and you have been eating great and doing an awesome job of managing stress, then your immune system health is probably being compromised in other ways. Perhaps the main “weak link” is another hidden infection, exposure to environmental toxins, toxic mold, or even EMFs. It’s not always easy to find the reason behind a compromised immune system, but doing so is necessary to overcome a chronic infection.
A Few Other Things To Know About EBV:
- An acute EBV infection doesn’t always result in symptoms. Many people think of mononucleosis when thinking of EBV. Mononucleosis, also known as “mono”, is characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, a sore throat, a fever, swollen lymph nodes, and other signs and symptoms. But not everyone who is initially infected with Epstein-Barr will develop these symptoms. So Epstein-Barr can be a factor even if you never had “mono” or other virus-related symptoms.
- Epstein-Barr doesn’t just impact thyroid health. Epstein-Barr has been linked to other health conditions as well. This includes multiple sclerosis (7), rheumatoid arthritis (8), and lupus (9). Non-autoimmune conditions linked to Epstein-Barr include Burkitt lymphoma (10), Hodgkin’s lymphoma (11), and gastric cancer (12).
What’s Your Experience with Epstein-Barr?
If Epstein-Barr has been a factor in your thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition please feel free to share your experience in the comments section below. Feel free to share anything you’d like, although I’d specifically love to hear about any “alternative” treatments you received and whether you feel they helped or not.