The Epstein-Barr virus is a strain of the herpes virus that causes infectious mononucleosis, also known as “mono.” Although mononucleosis is seldom serious (it is only dangerous in rare cases when the spleen becomes enlarged and ruptures, or when a vital organ, such as the heart or brain becomes affected), it can be extremely inconvenient. The illness can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to two or three months or even longer, during which time sufferers experience extreme fatigue and weakness and must limit their daily activities.
The Epstein-Barr virus can affect anyone, but it most commonly affects individuals between the ages of 10 and 35. The condition is also known as the “kissing disease,” because the virus that causes it is spread through infected saliva. Since mononucleosis is highly contagious, it often occurs as an epidemic within a closed population such as a college or boarding school. In children and adolescents, the disease incubation period is usually 7 to 14 days, while adults may harbor the illness for 30 to 50 days before developing symptoms.
Signs and Symptoms
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Pain on the upper left side of the abdomen
- Lack of appetite
- Fatigue, weakness, and lethargy
- Sore muscles and/or muscle stiffness
- Rapid heartbeat
Conventional Medical Treatment
Due to its broad range of symptoms, mononucleosis can be difficult to diagnose by symptoms alone. In most cases, a monospot blood test is performed to confirm the presence of the Epstein-Barr virus in the bloodstream.
Unfortunately, there is no specific anti-viral medication to treat the disease. Drinking large amounts of fluid, getting plenty of bed rest, and taking aspirin or acetominophen are common treatments. (Caution: Children should not take aspirin because of the small risk of Reye’s syndrome, which can be fatal.) Be prepared to take it easy for the full duration of your illness-however long that may be.
If you have mononucleosis and experience sudden jabs of pain in the upper left side of your abdomen, call your physician immediately or go to a hospital emergency room. The cause could be a ruptured spleen, a rare complication, but one that requires immediate surgical attention.
Complementary and Alternative Treatments
Nutrition and Supplementation
Drink 8-ounce glasses of pure water as well as fresh juice daily. “Green drinks” made from leafy green vegetables are also beneficial. Eat a diet that emphasizes whole-some soups, root vegetables, and whole grains, including brown rice. Avoid coffee, fried foods, processed foods, soft drinks, stimulants, sugar, tea, and white flour. These depress immune function. Consume as much raw food as possible.
Nutritionists recommend these daily supplements:
- a prodophilus formula (as directed on label)-replaces friendly bacteria
- vitamin A (25,000 IU for 2 weeks, then slowly reduce to 15,000 IU; do not exceed 8000 IU if you are pregnant)-is essential for the immune system; use emulsion form vitamin E (400 IU)
- vitamin C with bioflavonoids (5000 to 10,000 IU in divided doses)-destroys the virus; boosts the immune system
- free-form amino acid complex 1/4 tsp 2 to 3 tirnes daily, on empty stomach)-provides the
protein necessary for healing and rebuilding tissue
- vitamin B complex (100 mg 3 times daily, with meals)-increases energy, supplemented with vitamin B12 (15 mg 2 times daily)-prevents anemia
- omega-3 fatty acids (as directed on label)
- thymus and liver live cell therapy (as directed)
To fight a mononucleosis infection and regain pep, take tincture of myrrh or of echinacea. For myrrh, drink 1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon in 1 cup warm water, 3 times a day. For echinacea, use 15 drops in a glycerin form, twice a day. To reduce a fever, try drinking a tea made from elder flowers or yarrow. Infuse 1 to 2 teaspoons of either dried herb in 1 cup boiling water for 10 minutes; strain. Take up to 3 times a day. In addition, garlic is a natural antibiotic. Take garlic supplements as directed on the product label.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Acupuncture This treatment can help boost immunity and tone organs that may be affected by the disease, including the liver, spleen, heart, and (always) the kidneys.
Chinese Herbal Therapy Formulas that are helpful for immune disorders very often include herbs such as Chinese wolfberry, but in a weakened form. It is always best to seek an herb-trained acupuncturist.
Yoga and Meditation
Use yoga, which is an extremely gentle form of exercise, to reduce fatigue; select non-strenuous poses, such as the Cobra, Locust, and Bow.