One of the most common concerns my patients have is about Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). I’ve seen thousands of patients in my clinic who have tried chasing after a cure for the Epstein-Barr virus. After treatment, they were fine for a month or so, but the very next month? The virus reared its ugly head.
During their first consultation with me, many of my patients tell me about their “positive” EBV test result or diagnosis from a physician. They’ve heard from doctors or articles on the internet that their virus is the root cause of all of their symptoms.
Chronic viruses and their severe symptoms are the result of an underlying condition, not the cause.
While this convenient idea of one germ, one disease, and then one drug for easy treatment sounds wonderful and simple, it is truly wishful thinking. Chronic viruses and their severe symptoms are the result of an underlying condition, not the cause. Attempting to treat the infection alone will waste time, money, and energy.
In my 20 years as a naturopathic doctor, I have found that treating the stress-response dysfunction, or what’s commonly known as Adrenal Fatigue, is what paves the path to immune health. With a strong, functional immune system, Epstein-Barr can remain dormant for life.
What is Epstein-Barr?
EBV is in the Herpes family of viruses. There are 9 Herpes viruses known to infect humans. Some are known by name, some by number. Human Herpes Virus HHV-1, for instance, is the common cold-sore-causing virus. Epstein-Barr is a virus in the family line HHV-4.
EBV has an infection rate of approximately 95% of the country.
All Herpes viruses have one thing in common: they infect the majority of people in the US, either in childhood or our teenage years. Once infection occurs, these viruses live dormant within the body forever. We are never actually free from these viruses.
EBV has an infection rate of approximately 95% of the country. That’s right! Ninety-five percent of us will test positive for having once been infected with EBV. The majority of us will test positive for having a past infection, meaning we once had the virus, our body fought it off, and it is now dormant.
Who’s at Risk for Epstein-Barr Virus?
EBV causes different reactions in different people. In a third of us, our body fights it off without many symptoms at all. In another third of us, it will cause a mild upper respiratory-type of infection that will come and go—we may never even know we’ve been exposed to the virus.
In the final third of us, EBV will cause the typical mono-like symptoms that can be severe and debilitating. EBV is a common cause of infectious mononucleosis.
Chronic reactivation of Epstein-Barr is our body telling us there’s something deeper going on.
In these people, EBV will most likely reactivate when they are immunologically suppressed. During these times, the person will develop their particular EBV symptom “pattern,” be it extreme fatigue or more severe “mono” with long lasting flu-like symptoms.
The immunosupressed population is not limited to the severely suppressed, like those with HIV, the elderly, or organ transplant patients. We can become immunosuppressed, albeit less so, by stress alone. This is why it’s common for people to get sick after a difficult time at work or with family, or for students to develop a cold sore during exam time. Stress does it, almost every time.
Continual EBV reactivation with extreme fatigue and other symptoms is the body’s way of telling us that there’s something going on at the root, and that is Adrenal Fatigue.
What Does Epstein-Barr have to Do with Adrenal Fatigue?
After a person is infected with EBV, the virus becomes dormant in the body. In some of us, it is likely that the virus may reactivate, perhaps with symptoms like those experienced during a bad cold. For those with weakened immune systems, however, the symptoms are more severe, and the accompanying fatigue can last for months.
The majority of my Adrenal Fatigue patients present with immunologic symptoms. In these patients, I will not chase after chronic infections but will instead focus on the system that is leading to immunosuppression. The underlying troublemaker is the stress response system, which includes, but is not limited to, the adrenal glands.
Healing Adrenal Fatigue bolsters immunity, which in turn keeps EBV from reactivating.
Adrenal Fatigue is the result of chronic, perpetual stress over time, severe or prolonged enough to overwhelm one’s capacity for that stress. I refer to the capacity for stress as a “bucket” of tolerance. As the bucket fills up, the body shifts into stress physiology, or “fight or flight,” and away from “rest and digest” physiology.
This shift turns on the organs of stress response and turns off the organs of healing and repair (the “rest and digest” function). The immune system is one of the main rest and digest systems, along with the digestive, reproductive, and thyroid.
The immunosuppression that occurs because of the release of excess stress hormones—cortisol and adrenaline—is very well documented, researched, and predictable.
By fixing the dysfunctional stress response system (or the Adrenal Fatigue), we remove the immunosuppression. Then, the immune system has a chance to recover. A strong, functional immune system can keep viruses from reactivating over and over. It will certainly keep the symptoms to a minimum should reactivation occur.
If Adrenal Fatigue Is the Underlying Cause, What Can I Do About It?
By design, the stress response system was made for immediate response to an acute stressor. For instance, a tiger hunts you, and the stress-response kicks in and tells the body what to do: run from the tiger so you don’t get eaten! When you’re safe and sound, the body returns to its usual function.
But what happens when stress comes from everywhere, all the time? The body’s response to bankruptcy, a death in the family, or even being stuck in traffic for hours is the same as its response to that of being chased by a tiger. The body cannot discern one stressor from another. It’s all just “stress,” and the physiological reaction is the same.
The reason I am more successful than most in healing these recurrent infections caused by Adrenal Fatigue is because I don’t chase red herrings and secondary dysfunctions. I focus on the entire stress response system, not merely the adrenals, and certainly not just the virus.
When doctors chase only the virus as a symptom, they miss the bigger picture of well-being.
If we chase after these viruses, we’ll be chasing them forever. I have seen this play out in many hundreds of patients that have come through my clinic. Their stories are all similar. “The doctor diagnosed me with EBV and treated me with antivirals. I felt a little better for a while, but then I ‘caught’ it again the next month!” The patient never makes any permanent progress.
Immune system imbalance, which causes the recurrence of these infections, is a hallmark of Adrenal Fatigue. Together, my patients and I focus on this main underlying cause so they heal at the deepest level possible.
Realizing there is hope can be a turning point for anyone who’s been suffering with Adrenal Fatigue and chronic infections for months… most likely years.
After two decades of practice working only with Adrenal Fatigue patients, I’ve found the only way to heal from this frustrating and stubborn condition—and to get the EBV to remain dormant—is a Trilateral approach, which starts in the brain’s limbic system…