Battling with the Epstein-Barr Virus

 

Like most kids, I got the chickenpox. My mom wanted us to have it and get it over with so she took us over to play at a friends' house who had it so we'd get it young... I think I was like 6 or so. I have a scar on the tip of my nose from a chicken pock (what a ridiculous name for a virus by the way) I obviously couldn't stand and would constantly scratch... 

Since before I can remember, I've always gotten cold sores. The were so embarrassing as a kid. My mom would always tell me to put a hot compress on it and this oily sticky goo called "Resinol" that my grandfather invented. She used it on everything! Stress would bring them on, and I'd also get them whenever I'd get sick in the spring and fall with a bad cold. Carmex really doesn't work - in the words of the late comedian Mitch Hedberg, it just makes them shiny and more noticeable. I've now learned that tea tree oil works wonders, and ice cubes will keep the swelling down. Heat is good on and off to draw out the fluids/infection if needed, but I've found that drying it out is what's best. Coconut oil (virgin unrefined and organic) is great to apply once it's drying so your skin isn't left with any scarring. Coconut oil has lots of antisceptic properties and is a wonderful moisturizer too!

In high school, I was diagnosed with mono - twice - once in my sophomore year, and a second time in my junior year. Maybe it never really cleared the first time, or maybe I had it twice. Either way, I had it and it was rough both times. I had to stop going to school, have a home-teacher come to the house, and missed almost an entire semester. I was on steroids medication because my tonsils were so swollen and enlarged, which I reacted too and turned into a strawberry with a terribly uncomfortable red rash all over my body. 

I remember being tired a lot too, growing up. Getting ready for school in the morning was like pulling teeth, I could never get out of bed for anything, and I remember secretly falling asleep in class from time to time. I'd always put my head down and close my eyes after finishing a test and slept on the bus on the way home. 

After I graduated, I got shingles too - basically "adult chicken pox". It was a reactivation of my virus. After you get chickenpox, the virus moves up into the neurons that relay info to the brain about what your body is sensing (like hot, cold, touch, pain), and settles where it lies inactive until it's awakened years later. Shingles can be incredibly painful and unbearable, and I assume it's because of the location of where the virus is embedded - the nerves system! When I had them, they didn't last too long but were pretty dang uncomfortable. I remember I had it in a straight line across my mid-back. 

So what the heck was wrong with me!? You'd think I would have wondered that for all those years. I guess I did from time to time, but always chalked it up to just being "the way I am" which I say about so many things that I've learned I really can change through my diet and lifestyle. It's not fun to be tired. It's not fun to not have energy. It's not fun to want to work out so badly and feel like I could just curl up on the treadmill and nap rather than run. And it's not fun to sleep through my alarms and get nasty looking fever blisters and sore throats pretty often.

A couple years ago, I was seeing a holistic endocrinologist to try and find answers to many of the symptoms I'm still trying to figure out today. I did receive a lot of beneficial information from seeing her - much of which I'll review at a later date. But one thing in particular that I wanted to talk about today is my positive test for Epstein-Barr. Ding! Ding! Ding! Makes sense doesn't it?? I was grateful to have an answer! Looking back, it's so easy to see the common thread....

Mono, herpes (and no I do not have that down there and do not plan to ever, though it does come from the same family), shingles, and EBV all stem from the same virus - the Varicella-Zoster virus. Viruses are little tiny parasites that enter our cells and reproduce, and have the potential to kill and damage our cells too. Gross, right?? A healthy immune system can pretty much give these viruses a run for their money so they don't do too much damage to our system but that's the key - to stay healthy and active! But this is the thing - there are no cures, treatments, or vaccines for this either. Great....

Did you know that it is super common too? It's one of the most common viruses humans contract. About 50% of children have been exposed to it at a very young age, and by adulthood, at least 95% of the population have been affected... Sheesh! 

(Read more from the article here! I learned a lot when I was first diagnosed! Pinterest has a lot of good info too.)

I knew it was something I was going to live with and needed to live a lifestyle in complete support of my immune system so that my EBV wouldn't flare up again. The only way to know if you have it is to get tested. It's such a different feeling than just being tired. It feels like your body is literally sinking into whatever you're sitting in or laying on and it takes everything you have inside you to move and function sometimes. Other symptoms are of course the cold sores, lack of appetite, sore throats (which I would get as a kid all the time), swollen lymph nodes, and weak/sore muscles.

So how do I treat it? L-Lysine is majorly beneficial in treating the virus. Foods rich in Lysine include lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, and lentils. The internet says hat the recommended daily intake for lysine is 30mg per kg of body weight, or 13.6 mg per pound. It's also important that I get lots of rest and eat a healthy balanced diet to keep my immune system strong. Since the virus remains dormant in my system, I just need to keep it at bay and I'm good to go! It could be a major driver of an autoimmune disorder or even cancer, so it's important that I stay healthy! 

It's also important for me to up my Vitamin B6 intake. I also have a genetic disorder where my body doesn't process B vitamin's like it should (my parents have it too - thus, I do!) so I ahve to take special vitamins for this. So many Americans have this too but never test for it! B vitamins affect so many of our body's pathways and are so important to absorb... Get tested if you can! Visit MTHFR.net (MTHFR is an abbreviation for the gene that is mutated, that causes the issue) for more info on that, and I'll blog about it one day soon too. But make sure you are getting enough B vitamins regardless of whether or not you have EBV.

Another must is increasing your Potassium and Magnesium intake with foods like spinach, pumpkin seeds, yogurt, avocados, figs, bananas, dried apricots, white beans , and mushrooms... (see why eating a well-balanced whole foods based diet is so important?? Whew!) I have seen a major increase in my energy by consuming more of these foods and it's felt amazing. Read more about Chronic Fatigue Syndrome prevention here!

I've also cut out caffeine, began to exercise more, and make time to clear my mind and do things that help me feel at ease. So many things around us can cause our bodies to go haywire in ways we don't even realize so finding time to relax is so beneficial. We need to get over the guilt we might feel in taking time for ourselves to rest. 

My fatigue is still in existence from time to time, that's for sure. I'm still learning and discovering all of the steps I need to take to heal and live a life in prevention of it's flare-up's. I can feel it's affects when I fall off track with my schedule, diet, or don't get enough rest. Stress is also a major factor. But I'm still working hard to keep my energy flowing and building up that immunity! Come on cells, let's do this!

Do you or someone you know have struggles with EBV or chronic fatigue? I'd love to hear your thoughts and story!