How to recover from a viral flare
It’s been pretty quiet on the website and social media lately. Usually I downshift during the summer months to spend more time with my kids while they’re out of school. This summer I took a step back for another reason, too. I had an EBV flare and took the summer to recover. For those of you who’ve read this blog for awhile, you know I healed myself from chronic Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV) in 2015. You can read more about my personal story here, and the steps I took to heal myself here. In this post I want to talk about how to recover from a viral flare because as I’ve learned the hard way….flares happen.
As I type the word heal, I chuckle to myself because heal is such a loaded word. Who decides when we have healed? Doctors? Lab work? Our own judgment? It’s a tricky subject for those of us with chronic viral issues like EBV. When I say I healed from EBV in 2015/16, I mean I felt healthy. For more than a year I felt strong and good. I know we can’t ever get rid of EBV completely in our bodies and that’s a good thing. We want a little of the virus in our system. EBV is EVERYWHERE and our immune systems need to REMEMBER this virus so when we get exposed to it again in a restaurant or from another person our bodies take it down STAT. In 2015 when I had my initial flare it took a lot of hard work, celery juice and plant-based living to get me in a place where I felt healthy. I considered my EBV dormant and my body “healed” to a level that felt really good.
And then last winter we lived through a huge wildfire in California.
The California Wildfires
I live in Southern California, in a little town about 40 minutes south-ish of Santa Barbara called Ojai. On the night of December 4th, 2017 a fire broke out in Santa Paula that would later be named the Thomas Fire. In the end the Thomas Fire would become the largest fire in state history burning over 250,000 acres.
That evening I received a text from a friend at about 9pm asking if I was aware of the fire. I was cuddled in bed (yes, I’m an early-to-bed gal) and oblivious to anything outside of the book I was reading and my cozy comforter. I’m so thankful for that text because it allowed me to get prepared for what would end up being a very long night. Within 2 hours the fire had spread rapidly and our neighbors started knocking on doors, alerting our street to stay awake. We watched the red glow over the mountains outside our front door as we packed up our belongings. At about 1am we decided the orange glow over the mountain ridge was growing and we wouldn’t get a wink of sleep all night. So we woke up our children and evacuated to my mother-in-law’s house a few hours north. Our gut instincts were correct as the entire neighborhood was evacuated by the fire department a few hours after we left.
On the car ride north I remember feeling so hyped up on adrenaline from all the stress and at the same time feeling bone tired. The last time I’d stayed out until 2am was over a decade before and probably involved some trendy bar in San Francisco. Out of nowhere my ears started ringing loudly and my whole body felt like it was buzzing.
This, I knew, was a warning sign from my body that stress and viral loads do NOT mix. I’d learn about the fallout of adrenaline and stress in greater detail a few months later.
From that night on our family was more or less displaced. Our house survived but we decided to start remodeling it right away due to smoke damage. We had been planning a remodel sometime in the spring anyway, but the fire moved our timeline up a few months. We found a place to stay about 45 minutes away and started commuting our kids to school.
It was a long winter and spring. The commuting, the living out of suitcases, all the pollution we were exposed to from the fires, the remodel…it all added layers and layers of stress and toxins to my body. And what I didn’t fully understand at the time is that adrenaline (one of our stress hormones) is a FAVORITE food of viruses and bacteria. Adrenaline is like Mac and Cheese to my EBV.
My Viral Flare
Because we were bouncing around so much and living out of suitcases, I really wasn’t taking my usual supplements. By April my lack of self-care caught up with me. EBV is a smart, smart virus and it waits for a moment when you’re feeling particularly weak to re-activate and attack. It’s the most patient and manipulative little bugger you will ever meet.
In April my EBV saw a HUGE opportunity.
My son, playing in the backyard one day, fractured his finger. It was a minor fracture but he cut it badly and we had to rush to the ER to get him stitched up. This was another MAJOR adrenaline surge in my body. The following days I didn’t get much sleep because he was in pain and sleeping with me and I just can’t sleep when my babies are hurting. Sleep deprivation = lowered immune function. Then my husband left on a week long trip a few days later which added more stress and adrenaline and fatigue as I took over as the sole caregiver and chauffeur to my children (one of whom was home with a broken finger). I caught a small cold that seemed like nothing, however, the cold virus drained my immune system a little more. And then the straw that broke the camel’s back…my cycle started. Ladies, do you know it takes 80% of your immune system to have your cycle every month? It’s crazy. Well my body could take NO MORE and I woke up that night with terrible vertigo. Room spinning, sit up straight and try to orient yourself, vertigo. For those of you who’ve never experienced full blown vertigo—let me tell you– you’re not missing anything. It’s scary.
From that night on I felt like I was on a boat 24/7, rocking back and forth (vagus nerve irritation). I became super sensitive to light and noise again (vagus nerve irritation). Sometimes I woke with spinning vertigo in the middle of the night and sometimes I just felt like I was rocking and rolling on the open seas as I tried to sleep (both from vagus nerve irritation). I was bone tired again (adrenal fatigue). My muscles would get sore from just walking up the stairs (adrenal fatigue). My limbs and head felt so heavy (adrenal fatigue). Overall I felt terrible.
I had to fly my mom in to help me and she spent a week juicing and cooking and driving for me. Moms are ANGELS so call your mom today and tell her you love her. When my husband returned from his trip he took over. I was in bed again at 5pm just like the dark days of 2015 when I was so sick. My balance was off. It wasn’t much fun to stand up so I stayed in bed as much as possible. These intense symptoms lasted for a few weeks. Besides the scary vertigo, the worst part of it was the FEAR. I could NOT understand how my symptoms were SO BAD. I never experienced days and weeks of vertigo in 2015 when I was at my worst… so why now? I felt deep despair those few weeks.
Slowly, as I worked my protocol I started to feel better. After the worst of it was over, I still had lingering EBV symptoms like dizziness, feeling like I was on a boat, tinnitus, FATIGUE, tingling, FATIGUE, nerve pain, FATIGUE….you get the picture. The scary vertigo had stopped (more or less), but I was still feeling pretty crappy. But with the scary vertigo gone, I regained a bit of my mental strength and vowed I was going to kick my EBV back into remission. Honestly half the battle is getting your head into the right space. You have to BELIEVE you can heal.
EBV loves to attack the nervous system in later stages. At my worst (vertigo) I was in stage 4–the last stage. For more information about EBV and it’s stages please read this article. My neurological symptoms could be traced back to the EBV living and breeding in my liver (a place where EBV loves to hide and grow). In the liver, EBV grew stronger with all the adrenaline and stress I experienced and started kicking out neurotoxins. These neurotoxins traveled up to irritate the vagus nerve. When the vagus nerve gets irritated you can experience symptoms like vertigo, balance issues, dizziness, brain fog, etc. My symptoms got worse in the late afternoon and evening because the nervous system naturally gets tired as the day goes on. For me that meant my dizziness kicked in about the time my kids needed me to make dinner and get them to bed. As a mom I was extra motivated to get better so I could be a better parent to my kids. So I made it my full time job to go back on a very strict antiviral protocol to kick EBV back into remission (I follow Medical Medium protocols–he’s a life saver for me).
How to recover from a viral flare
For those of you in a flare of your own, here’s what I did to aggressively go after my viral load. Of course each person is different and some people tolerate or don’t tolerate certain supplements, etc. So work with your practitioner and trust your own intuition. I’m giving you the dosages I took because people always ask me about them–but please know this was done with the help of my practitioner because these dosages are pretty high. So again: check with your practitioner first! And see my medical disclaimer at the bottom of my site 🙂 I’m not a doctor, this is just what I did personally.
- Vitamin C IVs. These got me out of bed the first time I experienced an EBV flare and they worked for me again this time, however, not everyone can tolerate IVs and they can cause problems for some people who are more sensitive. Start at a lower dosage and see how you feel. Work with a practitioner. Trust your intuition. I went weekly for 7 weeks until my kids got out of school for summer vacation. I started them again this week and will continue for a few months. For me, these really pull me out of a flare.
- Celery Juice, 16 oz every morning on an empty stomach. This helped my neurological system so much. On bad days I drank 20 or 30 oz in the morning and then another celery juice in the late afternoon when my nervous system started to fatigue. Read all about the healing power of celery juice here.
- Wild Blueberry Smoothies. These things are such a gift to the world. Wild blueberries are so calming to the neurological system. They are also antiviral. I drink one smoothie a day.
- Liposomal C (not on IV days). This liposomal C is the only one I take. It’s made from sunflowers instead of corn. I took 6,000-8,000mg. That’s a lot of C so work with your practitioner to figure out what’s right for you.
- Liquid Zinc Sulfate. ZInc is a mineral our immune system NEEDS to function and most of us are deficient. When you are in a viral flare your immune system is burning through zinc at a high rate so you may need to take more while you heal. I took 2 full droppers, 3 times a day.
- Cat’s Claw. This herb kills EBV and it’s something you gotta take during a flare. I took 2 droppers, 3 times a day.
- Lemon Balm. This is probably my favorite herb ever. It’s good for so many things like killing EBV but it also calms nerves and helps when the neurological system is impacted. I took 2 droppers, 3 times a day.
- Licorice Root. Some people are sensitive to this herb because it’s strong, but works to heal vertigo and also kill EBV. I pulse this herb 4 weeks on, 1 week off. I took 2 droppers, 2 times a day.
- Monolaurin. This is an antiviral and antibacterial supplement. I took 2 scoops a day.
- Milk Thistle. I took this herb to help my liver cleanse and heal. I had been exposed to so much during the fires and needed major liver support. I took 2 caps before bed.
- Magnesium glycinate. I took this to calm my nervous system before bed. 2 caps in the evening worked for me.
- Melatonin. Melatonin helps to calm irritated nerves and it helped me to prevent vertigo attacks in the middle of the night. I still take 6-20 mg depending on how dizzy I feel in the evening.
- Emotional support. This flare really impacted my emotional health. It took me by surprise because I’d been feeling strong for so long and the flare symptoms were worse than my original symptoms. It was a lot for my head and heart to process. I learned the hard way that FLARES HAPPEN and it’s OK. You are going to be OK. I promise. Go back to the basics. Read Medical Medium. Work the protocol. You will heal.
- Plant-based diet–as much raw as possible. I went back on the Medical Medium protocols for diet and lifestyle. I can’t say enough good things about Anthony’s work. I hope you will keep an open mind and try his healing protocols and healing recipes!
- CBD oil. CBD oil works pretty well for me when I’m feeling slightly dizzy but not super dizzy if that makes sense. I worked hard to find a brand that was cold pressed , made without solvents, and organic. Care by Design is the brand I use but I think you can only get it in California. CBD oil is taxing to the liver, but it’s not as taxing as a pharmaceutical so I take it when I need to.
- A pharmaceutical, yup, really. This is going to surprise you, because it surprised me. But when it comes to vertigo—it’s ok to get a drug if it helps you. Most cases of vertigo and dizziness are caused by the vagus nerve (sometimes it’s the inner ear too, but that’s usually accompanied by some ear symptoms at the same time). In most cases of vertigo, viral neurotoxins get loose in the body and irritate the heck out of the vagus nerve causing vertigo. It’s hard to live with a triggered nervous system. You can’t function well in the world. So my naturopathic doctor was able to prescribe me Xanax because it works on the neurological system in a way that takes away my vertigo and dizziness. On days I was SO dizzy and I didn’t think I could make dinner for the kids or sleep without spinning–I took the tiniest bit of Xanax. Not enough to feel the effects psychologically, but enough to take the edge off the dizziness and to prevent the room spinning in the middle of the night on my bad days. THIS IS NOT A CURE and should only be used when it’s really bad. But for me this helped me avoid the really scary vertigo that was haunting me for a few weeks. I don’t take pharmaceuticals ever. But this one was necessary for me to survive the worst of it while I healed my body with the rest of the protocol I outlined above.
I’ve been on this protocol more or less for 3 months and am feeling MUCH better. I’m not back to the level of health I’m used to, but this flare is going to take time to heal. I can fall back into dizziness around my cycle when my immune system is taxed. Some days I still feel dizzy and viral, and some weeks I feel really good. I’m on the right path forward because I’m improving overall but the hard days are difficult for me to accept emotionally. We are still at the tail end of the remodel with some final details to finish up, so I know stress is still playing a role in my symptoms. I’m doing the best I can and I know because I’m feeling so much better than I was 3 months ago that I will kick this back into remission again.
Flares happen. It’s life. We live in a polluted and stressful world and it HAPPENS. So for those of you who are feeling down because of a flare, don’t despair. I hear from women all the time who are dealing with EBV symptoms and flares because of my original post about my own journey. I know so many are freaked out and concerned that they are NEVER going to feel better. I am here to tell you that we CAN heal. Sometimes it takes longer than we anticipate. Sometimes a flare catches us off guard and we have to slow down. But at the end of the day…we all can heal. I believe in you. And I believe in me. Let’s keep moving forward.