Odds are you or someone you know has experienced the so-called “kissing disease”, also called mono or mononucleosis. However, mononucleosis also has another name: Epstein-Barr.

Epstein-Barr virus or EBV is one of the nine known human herpesvirus types and one of the most common viruses in humans in the world. You may even have been infected by this virus without knowing it! Let’s take a closer look at EBV, break down where it comes from, and examine some remedies you can rely on.

What is Epstein Barr?

Epstein-Barr or mono is a type of virus belonging to the herpes viral family. As a result, it’s extremely common and most people are eventually infected with EBV just like they get herpes. In fact, 90% of the population before age 20 gets Epstein-Barr!

That also means that, like herpes, EBV can lay dormant in your body for months or years after infection and may eventually reactivate or cause symptoms long after the initial outbreak.

However, children who are infected with EBV frequently don’t experience any symptoms. Or they may experience symptoms that are indistinguishable from other brief childhood illnesses like colds.

Regardless, Epstein-Barr is a typical, non-serious virus that should be defeated by your body’s immune system within a number of days or weeks.

What Causes Epstein Barr?

It’s not called the kissing disease for nothing! Epstein-Barr is primarily found in saliva, which means that the virus usually spreads from either kissing someone infected or from an infected person’s saliva spreading to other surfaces, such as through utensils.

However, EBV can also be found in blood and semen, so the virus can transmit through other methods such as sex, injuries from roughhousing, and more. Sharp objects, toothbrushes, and other potential transmission vectors can all spread Epstein-Barr from an infected person to an uninfected person.

Even worse, an Epstein-Barr carrier doesn’t have to be sick with the virus to pass it to someone else. Remember, this virus sticks around in your body long after your immune system defeats it and prevents it from causing symptoms.

Epstein Barr Symptoms

In children, Epstein-Barr symptoms are similar to those they get with the flu, such as a fever, muscle fatigue, and even potentially diarrhea or ear infections.

In adults, Epstein-Barr’s major symptoms include:

  • Muscle weakness
  • General fatigue
  • Fever
  • Skin rash
  • Enlarged spleen
  • Sore throat
  • Enlarged liver 
  • Swollen glands or lymph nodes

More seriously, Epstein-Barr has been linked as a potential cause or exacerbating effect for other major conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease, multiple sclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis, and more.

Natural Remedies for Epstein Barr

Because Epstein-Barr is so common, our bodies’ immune systems are pretty effective at defeating this virus and forcing it into remission. After getting mono for the first time, you may not experience symptoms from the illness again for the rest of your life.

However, it’s still important to know that there are several natural remedies and solutions you can rely on to tackle this virus’s symptoms.

Avoid Getting Infected

Naturally, the best way to avoid the symptoms of Epstein-Barr is to avoid getting the illness in the first place. You can protect yourself against infection by:

  • Limiting who you kiss or engage in sexual activity with.
  • Don’t touch sharp objects that have blood or bodily fluids on them.
  • Don’t share utensils with people not in your immediate family.

However, it’s very difficult to avoid getting this virus eventually because of how common it is. So let’s break down some more direct treatment methods you can use.

Associated Illnesses and Syndromes

Epstein–Barr virus can be associated with various non-malignant, premalignant, and malignant  lymphoproliferative illness and neurological syndromes such as:

  • Burkitt lymphoma
  • Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma
  • Encephalitis syndrome
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus
  • Meningitis
  • Lymphoproliferative disorder

Infection Treatments & Testing

EBV infections are confirmed by blood tests that detect antibodies. One of them is the monospot test. However, the Centers for Disease Control doesn’t recommend it for general use since the results aren’t always precise.  There are other blood tests for more specific antibodies to EBV, such as a viral capsid antigen (VCA). The antibodies for VCA appear early in the infection. One type (anti-VCA IgM) disappears after a few weeks while another (anti-VCA IgG) can last for life. Antibodies to an Early antigen (EA) appear during an active infection and generally become undetectable after several months. 

If you get an EBV infection, try these methods to bolster your immune system or alleviate your symptoms.

Nutrient-Dense Diets

A nutrient-dense diet can do wonders for treating an Epstein-Barr infection since it improves the gut microbiome and gives your body the energy it needs to fight off the infection. A good nutrient-dense diet will include:

  • Few sugary products or ingredients.
  • No processed foods (as much as you can manage).
  • Probiotics, such as yogurt or other dairy products, which can improve your gut microbiome by replacing bad bacteria with good bacteria.
  • Lots of healthy fruits and vegetables.
  • Lean meat like chicken.

Get Enough Sleep

You can do your body a favor by getting plenty of sleep. Sleep restores your energy levels each day and can help your immune system be more effective at defeating viruses like Epstein-Barr.

Manage Stress and Exercise

You should also try to manage your stress levels, either through meditation and mindfulness or through regular exercise. Doing as much as you can to make your body overall healthier will go a long way toward defeating Epstein-Barr and preventing the virus from reactivating later in your life.

Reactivation can occur when your immune system is temporarily lowered, such as through the effects of another illness or through bad health habits.

Stay Hydrated

Lastly, try to stay hydrated as much as possible. To that end, drink plenty of healthy herbal teas or regular water instead of highly caffeinated or sugary beverages. You should also avoid alcohol, which dehydrates your body and can give you a headache, as well as lower the efficacy of your immune system.

Summary

All in all, Epstein-Barr is a common viral infection you’ll probably have to deal with at one time or another. But you can minimize the severity of your symptoms or even reduce your children’s chances of getting this illness by following the tips above.

Sources

Mononucleosis (Mono): Symptoms, Treatment & Diagnosis | Cleveland Clinic

Infectious mononucleosis | NCBI

How to Avoid Mono | University of Tampa