Virology 101

Viruses work by using your own cellular machinery against you. They latch on to the cell membrane, insert their DNA (or RNA) into the cell, and convince the cell to manufacture its proteins for it.

Your immune system can fight off and eradicate most viral infections, but certain viruses never completely disappear. This is because they hide out in your cells, dormant, waiting to be reactivated… and your immune system won’t know to attack because from the outside, nothing abnormal is going on. Viruses in the Herpes family (Epstein Barr Virus, Human Herpes Virus 6, Herpes Simplex 1 and 2, and Cytomegalovirus) fall under this category.

In most cases, infection with these viruses is not a big deal, because they are not particularly virulent — for instance, by around age 40, 95% of the population has been infected with Epstein Barr (EBV) but most of them never know it. A robust immune system can keep the virus in check.

Reactivation of Latent Viruses

Certain triggers can cause sleeping viruses to wake up again. These include:

What the Blood Work Says

When you first get infected with a virus, your body makes an immunoglobulin called IgM specific to that virus to fight it off. These stay elevated only for the first 6-12 weeks; so if you suspect the infection is that new, this would be the one to look for.

After that period of time, the IgM numbers (think of these as your first line of defense) will die down to zero, and instead you’ll have elevated IgG (think of these as the reserves). These can tell you that you either have an active chronic infection, or that you had a past infection and the reserves are sticking around to make sure nobody gets out of hand again.

There isn’t really a definitive way to tell whether the elevated IgG numbers are due to an active or a past infection unfortunately. Typically I look for titer numbers; very high antibody counts suggest that active recruitment is still happening because the invaders aren’t gone. You can also check for the DNA of the invader; high DNA material indicates that the virus is replicating.

Treatments for Chronic Viral Infections

While there are some prescription antiviral therapies that can be effective, a few natural treatments that are effective include:

  • Coconut oil (or its powerful antiviral extract, Monolaurin)
  • Lysine: this is an amino acid that prevents replication of HSV 1 and 2 by inserting itself in place of an amino acid these viruses do require (arginine). It’s not known for certain whether it will do the same for all the other viruses in the Herpes family, but I’ve used it with good clinical results.
  • Immune stimulating treatments: A few weeks ago I wrote about a new study demonstrating that fasting can regenerate immune cells. If your lifestyle permits, definitely worth consideration.

Of course, make sure you are also taking good care of yourself (eating right, sleeping enough, minimizing stress) so that your immune system has a chance to bounce back!

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