What is Mononucleosis?
To understand mononucleosis, you need to know that it stems from the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). EBV belongs in the herpes virus family and is widespread, causing several infectious diseases, such as mononucleosis. (x) Teenagers and young adults commonly contract mononucleosis between ages 15 and 24. It affects 95 percent of people in the world at some point in their lives, though many people will never show symptoms as only carriers. (x)
What is a Virus?
Viruses are tricky little buggers that only survive if they use another cell structure to reproduce. That means they need to live inside a person, animal or plant to survive. So, they only live a short time outside the body from infected body fluids like countertops or doorknobs unless a host comes along and picks them up.
Viruses spread quickly without difficulty once they move into your body and can make you sick. These germs cause minor colds, flu, and severe diseases like HIV/AIDs, COVID-19, and smallpox. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses. Often, when you are sick with a virus, you go through the illness, let it run its course, until you no longer have symptoms. Sometimes, the virus remains in the body and goes dormant and can wake up later. There are some antiviral medicines for a select group of viruses, but this is a small amount. (x)
- Coughing or sneezing
- Sharing utensils
Symptoms of Mononucleosis
Mononucleosis is often asymptomatic, meaning some people carry the virus without showing symptoms, acting as carriers. (x) The incubation period is four to seven weeks. After this period, patients begin to show symptoms, which usually last for about two to four weeks, but they can last longer. (x) Symptoms are like the flu:
- Mild fever
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Abdominal pains
- Swollen tonsils
- White spots on the tonsils
- Body aches
However, if the virus remains active, it can develop into chronic active Epstein-Barr virus (CAEBV). Besides mild mononucleosis symptoms, patients may experience swelling in the liver and spleen, anemia, rash, nerve damage, liver failure and oral ulcers. Chronic mononucleosis can damage the immune system over time and result in deadly infections. (x) (x)
Complications from Mononucleosis
If you suffer from chronic mononucleosis, you may suffer from complications including ruptured spleen, respiratory difficulties, neurological complications and hematologic complications.
- Ruptured Spleen
Too much swelling in the spleen can cause it to rupture. If you have a ruptured spleen, you’ll feel pain in the upper-left part of the abdomen below the rib cage and the left side of the chest and shoulder. You may also experience dizziness, blurred vision and loss of consciousness. (x) (x)
- Respiratory Complications
- Neurological Complications
- Hematologic Complications
Hematologic complications are problems in the blood. You can usually have these conditions for a limited time. They include granulocytopenia, thrombocytopenia and hemolytic anemia.Severe cases of thrombocytopenia or granulocytopenia are not common, but mild forms occur in 50 percent of mononucleosis patients. They usually relate to bleeding or bacterial infections. Hemolytic anemia results from an antibody that targets red blood cells, causing your body to destroy them faster than it can make them. (x) (x)
Other Long-Term Side-Effects of Mononucleosis
Some patients may develop jaundice, in which the skin and eyes yellow. Some cases lead to hepatitis if the liver becomes inflamed or anemia, characterized by a low red blood cell count. Research links it to myocarditis, inflammation in the heart. These studies also state that mononucleosis may trigger multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease. It can cause certain cancers, including Hodgkin’s lymphoma and nasopharyngeal carcinoma. (x)
Because the symptoms are like other illnesses, it can be difficult for patients to differentiate which virus they have caught. But because, as mentioned above, it can cause complications. Therefore the diagnosis is an essential measure. Some diagnosis actions include: (x)
- Physical Examination
In the physical exam, the doctor looks for swelling in the lymph nodes, tonsils, liver and spleen. (x)
- Complete Blood Cell Count
A blood test detects an increase in the number of white blood cells and checks for abnormally shaped white blood cells, showing infection. (x)
- Monospot Test
Mono spot is an older blood test that checks for antibodies that the immune system produces in response to the mono virus. But these antibodies can also result from other conditions, which causes inaccurate results, especially within the first week of infection. (x) (x) (x) (x)
There are no medications to treat mononucleosis. Rather than treating the virus, you treat your symptoms and any secondary infections you contract with appropriate antibiotics and pain relievers. (x)
Streptococcal infection, sinus infection, and tonsillitis are all secondary infections that accompany mononucleosis. Healthcare providers prescribe antibiotics, such as amoxicillin and penicillin, to treat these health concerns. (x) (x) Acetaminophen and ibuprofen can relieve pain.
Like many other viral infections, mononucleosis will resolve on its own after running its course for about a month. You can help yourself recover by resting as much as possible, especially for the first couple of weeks. You must drink lots of water and avoid alcohol to ward off putting extra stress on the spleen and liver. Gargling salt water can help relieve a sore throat, along with throat lozenges, cold drinks or ice cream, Popsicles or other frozen desserts. You should also avoid exercise or sports until the doctor certifies that it is safe — the spleen is delicate during mononucleosis, and physical activity can lead to splenic rupture. (x)
Supplements for Mononucleosis
Try supplementing your body to fight off infections. It’s better than lying around waiting for the mononucleosis virus to go away. Besides, supplements, herbs, and extract build up your immune system to fight the infection so that it may go away faster. Check with your physician, making sure these supplements work for you. Some excellent choices for helping to relieve mono symptoms include:
- Creatine Monohydrate
Creatine monohydrate can send energy to your muscles. It also helps to treat muscular diseases and inflammations caused by infections, such as mononucleosis. A study performed on twelve athletic males suggested that creatine supplementation increased endurance and recovery of endurance after 60 minutes of running. (x)
- Green Tea Extract
Echinacea is a traditional herb native to the United States, Europe and Canada. This supplement boosts the immune system to fight infection. It can also heal skin wounds as a topical ointment. (x) (x) From a Phytotherapist’s Perspective, echinacea is the primary herb to use, relating it to immune support and the possible onset of multiple sclerosis in the future as the EBV remains dormant. In the article, other herbs are mentioned, such as goldenseal, ginkgo, St. John’s Wort and Korean ginseng. (x) Phytotherapy treats health concerns and preventions through plants or herbs by empirical observation. (x)
Native primarily to North America, cranberry extract mainly helps maintain your bladder health, but it may also fight viruses. However, research is not sure if it works against the mononucleosis virus. (x)
- Vitamin D-3
Studies show that vitamin D-3 deficiencies interlink the Epstein-Barr virus to multiple sclerosis. By administering high doses of the vitamin promotes an immune response to EBV. (x) Research also shows that people with acute infectious mononucleosis have seriously lower levels of vitamin D. (x)
Where to Buy Supplements for Mononucleosis?
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The Bottom Line
The Epstein-Barr virus causes mononucleosis, transferring through saliva contact, such as kissing and sharing food utensils. The symptoms are usually mild — fever, sore throat, body aches, swollen tonsils — but some cases cause complications like inflammation and rupture in the spleen and liver, difficulties breathing from swollen lymph nodes and complications in the blood.
The medical field cannot cure the disease, but symptoms typically disappear on their own after about a month, usually without complications. You can manage symptoms with adequate rest, drinking lots of fluids and taking antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications for secondary infections. Supplements can also help promote and maintain overall health to strengthen the immune system.
While you are resting and healing the body from the virus, look into the possibility of taking various herbs and supplements as mentioned above. You may experience relief and a faster convalesce but check with your physician first.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.