How I Recovered from Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV)

Prior to February 2017, I had never heard of Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV). I had just been diagnosed with it after being sick for four months and not knowing why.

Fast forward seven months, and I know more than I ever thought I would about EBV because of the incredible coaching and guidance I have received from my nutritionist, Kasia Kines. An acute form of mono, EBV occurs more frequently in immunocompromised people, especially after periods of prolonged or intense stress or hormonal changes. The stress that had been accumulating in my life up to that point had nowhere else to go, so it took me down for the count.

As I wrote in a previous post, EBV has been a gift, even though it has been frustrating, confusing and overwhelming to deal with. Since sharing my story, multiple people have reached out to me asking me what I did to treat the virus and quiet it. The truth is, once you get EBV, you always have it, so once it’s been activated, you have no choice but to make some changes to your lifestyle. Most people have the virus in their body but never experience its activation. I had the perfect storm of circumstances come together to turn it “on”.

I’ve since learned how to calm it down, restore my immune system and get my energy back, and that’s what I want to share with you today. I’m forever grateful to my nutritionist, Kasia, for guiding me through this healing process. If you know someone struggling with EBV, tell them to contact her!

1) Rest

This was the most important thing I did.

And one of the toughest.

I had to prioritize sleep more than ever before. In the past, I could easily get a second wind at 10pm and just keep going until midnight reading, writing or watching mindless TV. After EBV, sleep was no longer a negotiable behavior. I consistently got about nine to ten hours of sleep each night in the three or four months following the diagnosis. My body needed additional time to recover and repair itself, so I gave it what it needed. Getting inadequate sleep suppresses the immune system and can trigger a cascade of hormonal changes, which can trigger EBV reactivation.

I also gave my body a break from movement. Any physical exertion at all seemed to set me back, so that meant no exercise for several months. Gentle walks and gentle stretching or yoga every now and then seemed to be okay, but my body needed to rest in every way, including physically. It took me almost six months to recover the vigor I once I had physically, which was frustrating but necessary. Since then, if I’m feeling mentally or emotionally run down, I am more aware, and I choose to be gentle with my body and movement on those days.

I love taking epsom salt baths, started reading even more than usual, wrote in my journal A LOT, listened to music, read my devotional, and was frequently diffusing calming essential oils like lavender and frankincense.

2) Slow Down + Create Space

Yup. This sucked. I didn’t want to do it. I thought I could keep being superwoman and superhuman.

EBV was the only thing that got my attention and made me take changes to my life seriously. Hormonal changes due to stress and even that time of the month can trigger EBV, so reducing stress is super important.

Prior to the virus, I would jam pack every day and week with as much excitement as I thought I could handle. Sometimes that meant four speaking gigs in one week, often with new content. I had no idea how exhausting that was for my mind and body, even though I love speaking. I had to email my boss and our CEO letting them know the seriousness of the virus and asking for support in terms of time and staffing. I knew I had to protect my calendar, which meant no more than two speaking gigs in any week. Period.

Slowing down meant saying “no” to people, late night socializing and exciting “opportunities”, so I could take care of myself and respect my need to create space in my life.

I’m still working on this, but I am so much more aware when I’m heading in a not so good direction that I catch myself before I go off the deep end. I also started seeing a therapist to start processing and working on some of the emotional and psychological factors that cause me to run myself into the ground. I know I have a lot of emotions inside that I have not acknowledged or addressed that send me into a spiral, and I am committed to getting to the root of them, too!

3) Connect to Community

As someone who finds it easy to be alone and crawl into a hole when I’m feeling down, I’ve learned in the importance of reaching out to people and bringing them into the muck with you. I can’t tell you the number of people who were praying for me, with me, and over me during this time.

I felt like there was an army of love behind me, pleading for my healing.

There were multiple days when I was at an 8-session spiritual gifts training at my church and was so sick I just sobbed out of desperation and pain, and people weren’t repelled by it; they came closer to me. When I was at my worst, people were checking in on me, asking how I was doing, sending sweet text messages, and stopping by to see me. I’m so grateful for all of the people who loved me so well through this period of time.

If you’re going through a difficult illness, REACH OUT to people. ASK FOR HELP. BE VULNERABLE. It’s one of the best things I ever did and that lesson has stuck with me ever since. I feel closer and more connected to my friends and larger community than ever before.

What a gift.

4) Supplement***

Kasia was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable in this area. She was in the process of finishing her final PhD project for a degree in Functional Nutrition and had selected EBV as her topic of choice. Lucky for me! She put me on antiviral, immune-boosting, energy-restoring supplements, which I have listed below.

Exact dosages should be determined by a healthcare provider with experience with EBV.*** For that, Kasia has no equal.

  • Licorice Root Extract (NOT Deglycyrrhizinated Licorice): One of the strongest anti-viral foods out there, I took this every either in the form of tea or a capsule from Vital Nutrients. Licorice root is contraindicated for people with hypertension, as it increases blood pressure. My favorite tea brand is Buddha Teas Licorice Root tea. I buy it at MOMs Organic Market.
  • Selenium: strengthens and protects the nervous system; antiviral
  • L-Lysine: strong antiviral amino acid
  • NAC: anti-replication of the virus and cell system support (energy)
  • Vitamin D3 + K2: increases energy levels and immunity, boosts mood and balances hormones; antiviral
  • B-vitamin Complex: supports balanced moods, healthy energy levels, and the nervous and immune systems
  • Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin NOT cyanocobalamin – read the label): strengthens the nervous system and increases energy
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: prime modulator of inflammatory hormones
  • CoQ10: a natural antioxidant synthesized by the body that can improve energy production in cells
  • Magnesium: anti-inflammatory for nerves; nerve calmer; reduces constipation
  • Vitamin C: strengthens immune system and flushes out EBV toxins from the liver
  • Vitamin A: immune system support
  • Turmeric: active ingredient curcumin helps strengthen the endocrine and central nervous systems
  • Probiotics: digestive system support. Make sure to get these from foods like naturally fermented sauerkraut (HEX Ferments, Farmhouse Culture, Bubbies brands). Otherwise, use a high quality probiotic with a variety of strains (at least 8 different kinds) and 10-50 billion CFUs.

A few other supplements and herbs I didn’t use that can be helpful are red marine algae, nettle leaf (get in tea form), 5-MTHF, lemon balm (tea form), elderberry, red clover, star anise, rose hip tea, cat’s claw.

***As with any health condition, especially one as serious as EBV, consult with a trusted health care provider. My choice would be Kasia!

5) Eat to Nourish and Heal the Body

Every bite I consumed was intended to calm the raging inflammation in my body and heal my digestive system. I was already dairy-free and gluten-free, which helped because gluten and dairy tend to be key triggers of autoimmune conditions and promote gut dysfunction. They tend to trigger EBV symptoms, too. I pretty much nixed sugar, alcohol, caffeine, corn (digestive irritant) and even eggs for a while because they can aggravate EBV, according to Kasia’s research.

Here are some of the main foods I consumed a LOT of because of their antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and gut-supportive properties.

Veggies: celery (whole plant and juiced), sprouts (I LOVE Potomac Sprouts Company sprouts), cilantro, spirulina, asparagus, spinach, artichokes, parsley, sauerkraut, fermented veggies, lettuces except iceberg, green beans, winter squash, zucchini, kale, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, fennel

Roots: garlic, ginger, turmeric (try this turmeric golden milk smoothie!)

Fruit: wild blueberries (try this blueberry avocado smoothie bowl), pears, bananas, red-skinned apples, blackberries, melons, raspberries, papaya, apricots, pomegranate, grapefruit

Other: coconut oil, bone broth, herbal teas made with licorice root, ginger, fennel, chamomile, nettle leaf, lemon balm, red clover or rose hips

That’s a wrap, my friends. I hope it helps you and anyone you know on a journey of healing autoimmune conditions or chronic illnesses like Epstein-Barr Virus. Be patient and give your body what it needs to heal, and it will respond.

Sending love and light to all of you!

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26 Comments

  1. Janet

    thank you.

  2. Julie Wood

    Thank you Rachel~
    I have just been officially diagnosed with EBV. I have known something was off for a very LOOONG time! Years, in fact. Thankful for naturopathic medicine. Thanks to reading your article, I am going to put my myself and my healing first!

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      You’re welcome! Yes, it is a nasty virus and one that can reactivate as a result of too much stress, lack or sleep or some other insult. I’m noticing a slight resurgence after a week away at a conference during which I did not sleep well. So back on the full protocol I go!

  3. sam

    Hi Rachel, I have been struggling with EBV for almost 8 months now. The symptoms I am left with now are dizziness (Kind of not feeling all there) and constant fatigue which is proving very difficult to combat. This has been accompanied by depression as my life has just been put on hold. Did you suffer any of this and do you feel as though you will make a full and complete recovery and the same is possible for me? Thanks, Sam 26, M , UK

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Hi Sam, I’m sorry you’re going through what you’re going through. It was definitely a long and challenging year, but with the combination of partnering with a functional medicine practitioner (Kasia), a great therapist, honoring my body’s need for rest, and surrounding myself with a community of friends and family that support and encourage me, I feel like I’ve made it to the other side. I’m not a doctor and can’t speak to your specific situation, but I would recommend a multi-faceted approach that addresses the emotional and physical dimensions of this challenge. Check out this post for more about what I learned were some of the root causes of why I wasn’t well: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/.

    • Stacy

      Has anyone had severe head and ear fullness with dizziness and overall weakness. A lot of fatigue in legs as well.

      Thank you!!!

  4. Heidy

    Thank you for this article! I have had chronic EBV for over 2 years now and have tried so many natural things but still it lingers! I have the dizziness and worst of all the swollen liver and the huge lymphnodes in my neck. I recently just went off dairy and gluten and almost immediately my skin issues started to clear up! I’m so thankful for natural medicine, herbs, tea and learning what to feed my body. Thank you again for your input on this wretched virus! 😊

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      You’re welcome! I’m so sorry to hear about your challenges with this nasty virus but am glad you discovered the power of eliminating certain foods for healing! All of the recipes on my blog are gluten-free and dairy-free and a few cookbooks I’d recommend are – Nourishing Meals, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, Practical Paleo, Clean Food, and the Undiet Cookbook. Let me know if you need any other recommendations and here is to healing!

    • I hope you are feeling better! THe Cat’s Claw helped me alot.

      • Rachel Druckenmiller

        Thanks! I’ve heard about that but haven’t tried it, so I will have to look into it.

  5. Anoushka

    Thanks for this article. It was particularly nice to see a list of good foods to eat instead of a list of foods not to eat.
    I have a question about the dairy / almond milk. I have been told not to eat nuts at all, so almond milk would be out. I didnt know about the dairy though… which would you suggest is the lesser of 2 evils – the almond milk or the dairy milk? Its confusing and a little overwhelming.
    I am waiting for an appointment with an alternative practitioner, so will hopefully learn more on the chronic ebv journey soon.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Hi there! I’m glad you found it helpful. Since I’m not a healthcare professional, I can’t give medical advice on here, but I would just follow what your physician says. It seems that dairy is a trigger, so I was told to stay away from it in particular. You could always try hemp milk or rice milk instead, since both of those are nut-free and dairy-free!

  6. David Blevins

    Rachel,

    Thank you for the article on how you dealt with this virus. I’m now just shy of 3 weeks with EBV taking me down and out. No work, no Bible Study, no serving in ministry. I’m tired most of the day and am not hungry. By late afternoon I finally seem to function semi-normal, only to wake up and start over. Some days are better than others.

    I’ve started probiotics, a multivitamin, vitamin D3 and eating more veggies than my diet had in the past. Looks like I need to add Licorice and a few other good things too.

    I have many family and friends praying for me. It helps to talk about what I’m going through with almost anyone. They are encouraging and assure me it just takes time.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      You’re welcome! Thanks for taking the time to read it. I’m glad you found it. I felt like the Lord used my recovery time to slow me down and open up my eyes and ears to see and hear what was most important that I was missing when I ran myself down. Here are some inspirational songs that really carried me through that time: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/10-songs-that-got-me-through-2017/. I think you will find them to be helpful and that they will speak to you during this time.

      My nutritionist, Kasia Kines, who helped me through my healing protocol, is publishing a book all about EBV in the next year, so I will share information about that as soon as it is ready to be published, so you can check that resource out as well! Ask God what you are meant to notice and receive during this time and how this sickness could be opening your eyes to something. I wrote about the gift of EBV in this prior post that might be helpful to you as well: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/.

      Prayers are with you for healing and wholeness!

  7. Clair

    So glad I found this site. I have had EBV over 3 months for sure now. I felt over it a month ago after a rotation of several herbs my doctor gave me. However, I immediately got excessively busy! and of course, it came back. Luckily I already ate well and took supplements but the better I feel, the more I do! I have totally quit most all outside involvements, sleep every afternoon, only do my yoga sometimes and walk just a little. Reading all the comments helped me get it that this is a long-term recovery. I’m hoping it won’t be two years. I guess I am going to have to act my age—72.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      I’m glad you found it, too! I’m sorry to hear you’ve been struggling with EBV. It is a nasty virus but one that is possible to quiet, so we can go on living our lives. Yes, getting to busy and neglecting ourselves is easy to do, and I still find myself relapsing when I do that, but I am much quicker to slow down than I used to be and am just more aware of the importance of giving myself the rest I need. Good for you for being so proactive! I hope this community continues to help you!

  8. LMR

    Hello, I have reactivated EBV and was wondering if you take all the supplements at same time or spread them out? I feel like if I take them all at same time I won’t know which is helping the most. Also, the droppers of cat claw, licorice root… can you mix them in a drink or need to take one a a time?

  9. L

    Hi – Just stumbled upon your site – I’m an athlete – long distance trail runner – Started going ‘down’ a while back. My Medical Doc put me thru the ringer. I got mad and looked to an Integrative Doc. There I was diagnosed with Reactivated EBV. It is a nasty, nasty little booger. I don’t want to go into all my symptoms but its just a mess. I am on an anti-viral plus many supplements – one is Monolaurin which I didn’t see mentioned in your post. Its so frustrating especially when you are someone who exercises daily, eats farm to table organic, green shakes every day, yoga, etc. Don’t know how or why but that booger can hide in the craziest places. I’ve learned, for me, to not stop moving. Yes, I understand the importance of rest, meditation, etc but for me it was a death sentence to stop moving. Some days, its just a walk around the block a couple of times; others, I get lucky, and I can run on the trails for about 45 minutes. This really, really helps my spirit – It is much easier to stay positive and pray for better days. Question: Did you experience days like ‘herxing’ – where you would just go days/weeks where you were super-duper fatigued & out of it and then ‘rise out of it’ to function okay for a few weeks – I guess, what I’m asking did you notice a roller-coaster pattern? Thanks – its nice to hear a success story – I’ve just heard so many that are not.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Hi there, thanks for sharing your story with me. I can imagine how frustrating it would be to be as active as you are and to end up with an illness like EBV. I get what you are saying about being someone who eats nourishing, whole foods and takes care of your physical fitness. If I may, one thing I didn’t notice mentioned in there was anything about the emotional or psychological component. For me, EBV was a sign that I was pushing myself too much. It was a sign that I needed to slow down (and I feel your pain on that – it’s almost impossible for me to slow down – I’m a doer and an achiever by nature). If you haven’t already read it, I think you would get a lot of out of reading part one of this series about the gift of EBV. I really do: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/

      I didn’t have the energy to engage in any form of movement for about two months when I was at my worst. It sucked. But it’s what my body needed. It sounds like even taking a walk is helpful to your spirit, so if that is working, go for it. Listening to your body and honoring what it is telling you is one of the most important things you can do with this virus. Ignoring it will set you back .

      Interestingly, I didn’t have roller coaster symptoms. It just took me a while (like about 4 months from time of diagnosis) to have the energy to do something like jog or hike again. For me, it was a gradual ramp up to feeling like myself again. Just last month I decided to rejoin a gym (I had been going to a movement studio and dancing and doing yoga), and that was a big step for me. I have had to learn to be patient with my body and not mad at it. That mindset shift has been helpful. The most important thing I did was sleep as long as my body needed to sleep. Sometimes that was 10 hours a night. I did that and took my supplements religiously. I also talked to my job about cutting back on my start time and workload for a period of time and letting them know the gravity of the virus (you know, that it can trigger things like lymphomas and neurological damage if left unchecked).

      I hope that you are able to start feeling better consistently, and again, I sense that you would get a lot out of reading this post http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/

      Here’s to your healing!

  10. John B.

    Rachel,
    I’m a 54y/o male and I’ve been ill since November of 2017. I was just diagnosed with EBV a couple of weeks ago and have been on a self imposed healing regimen for about a month now. I take a variety of supplements including L-Lysine Monolaurin, Licorice Root, Cat’s Claw, Lemon Balm, Tumeric Curcumin, Vitamin C and Vitamin B12. I have cut out wheat, rice and corn gluten as well as all dairy. My diet consists of mostly (70+% ) raw fruits and vegetables and the balance in cold water fish, white meat chicken and turkey (preferably organic). I went through months of testing and thousands of dollars in co-pays before finally having to self diagnose and demand EBV testing.

    My question(s) is this, can I expect to ever feel completely normal again? I have periods for days at a time (only recently) that I feel almost back to normal for the majority of the day. The feelings of malaise ebb and flow throughout the day. Thankfully my brain fog and neuropathy in my feet have decreased and my ear ringing has started to calm down. I am going above and beyond to fight this thing, but I am just looking for some testimonials on what to expect in the form of healing. I know that everyone’s journey with this disease is different, but how would you rate your “success” in healing?

    I plan to visit a functional practitioner soon to take this journey to the next level. I am in sales and I cover a large territory and travel extensively. I have managed to keep this from my employer until now, but it is really starting to affect my performance. I have forced myself slow down while on the road , but it’s my mental state that’s suffering the most. It’s tough to be an effective salesperson if you’d rather be in bed than sitting across from a client.

    Thanks in advance for any light that you can shed on my concerns.

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Hi, John. I’m sorry to hear you are going through such a tough time. It’s frustrating to feel so unwell and de-energized when we’re used to being on the go. That’s one of the reasons I found EBV to be a gift, and I wrote about it in this post, that I would encourage you to read: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/. Sometimes it’s hard to accept or hear the truth about needing to slow down and being honest with ourselves and others instead of superheroes (I’ve always been wired to achieve and perform, so I get it). But I can promise you that the greatest growth happened for me when I was willing to deal with the underlying emotional factors as well, not just doing all the recommended supplements. The supplements were game changers for me, but what has allowed me to sustain a busy lifestyle 18 months post-diagnosis is honoring my need for rest, learning to say no to things that cause me to compromise sleep or my health, and bringing a tight circle of friends around me for support.

      Since I’m not a health care practitioner, I can’t give you any specific recommendations or time frames for anything, as everyone is different. That’s why I just share my story and my experience, in the hopes it will help someone. Kasia Kines is the person who helped me and she is THE expert on EBV and does virtual coaching, which could work well with your on the go sales career. She is just publishing her first book about everything you could ever want to know regarding EBV. Here is a link to order it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Epstein-Barr-Virus-Solution-Undiagnosed-Destroying/dp/1722895365. Also, here is a link to her website, as I would highly recommend reaching out to her: https://kasiakines.com/. She is pricey but worth it. She helped me get my life back.

      Here’s to your health, healing and transformation at all levels during this process!
      Rachel

  11. Emily Wood

    How long did you eliminate the eggs, corn, alcohol, caffeine and sugar. I recently found out I have EBV reactivation from a bout of mono in high school. I’ve gone about 30 days so far without those foods. I’m curious how long it took before you were healthy enough to re-introduce those foods back into your diet. Also, if you re-tested your EBV, how long did you wait to do that? Thanks!

    • Rachel Druckenmiller

      Hi, Emily. I’m sorry to hear you’re dealing with this nasty virus. I was off eggs for about 9 months or so, and I didn’t eat much corn to begin with. I rarely drink because I don’t like how alcohol makes me feel. I also don’t drink coffee, so caffeine wasn’t really a thing for me (I realize I’m a bit of an anomaly in these ways but it’s just my M.O. to be 100% transparent), but being off chocolate for like 6 months was tough.

      Since I’m not a health care practitioner, I can’t give you any specific recommendations or time frames for anything, as everyone is different. I started reintroducing things about 6 months after my diagnoses and noticed if I felt any differently, but I can’t say what would be best for you. That’s why I just share my story and my experience, in the hopes it will help someone. Kasia Kines is the person who helped me and she is THE expert on EBV and does virtual coaching, which could work well with your on the go sales career. She is just publishing her first book about everything you could ever want to know regarding EBV. Here is a link to order it from Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Epstein-Barr-Virus-Solution-Undiagnosed-Destroying/dp/1722895365. Also, here is a link to her website, as I would highly recommend reaching out to her: https://kasiakines.com/. She is pricey but worth it. She helped me get my life back.

      Lastly, I wrote about how EBV has ultimately been a gift to me in this post that I would encourage you to read: http://rachelsnourishingkitchen.com/the-gift-of-sickness-ebv/. The greatest growth and healing happened for me when I was willing to deal with the underlying emotional factors as well, not just doing all the recommended supplements and foods. The supplements were game changers for me, but what has allowed me to sustain a busy lifestyle 18 months post-diagnosis is honoring my need for rest, learning to say no to things that cause me to compromise sleep or my health, and bringing a tight circle of friends around me for support.

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