How to Shorten "The Kissing Disease" Mononucleosis By: Allan N. Spreen, MD, The Nutrition Physician
What's been going on? In the last three months I've personally run into three teenagers with mono, and I know of a fourth, all severe enough to lay them up for a minimum of several weeks. Two are high-level athletes.
Mono, or mononucleosis, also called "the kissing disease" due to its transmission via infected saliva, isn't as funny as the name implies. The virus that causes it (Epstein-Barr, or EBV) can be transmitted by less exciting routes, such as sneezing and coughing, and the consequences can be really unfun. Besides the standard swollen glands and sore throat (which can be really severe), the long-lasting weakness and fatigue that follow can be a trying experience.
What's even neater is that we're told "there's no cure" by the hallowed halls of modern medicine. Go home, get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, and wait.
That's cool...what a way to start summer vacation.
Occasionally, the doc will give a drug called acyclovir, which is an anti-viral agent. I've never found any studies on mono and this drug, nor seen it appear to help much, but maybe it does. At least gives the doc something to do.
However, I've treated this nasty little problem before, and I think there are some definite things you can do to shorten the life span of this bothersome pest (rarely is mono really serious...just a bummer). I used to run the medical clinic at a private school and had plenty of chances to observe the effects of this illness, with and without "health nut" efforts to stop it.
The first thing I tried (and would always try) was vitamin B-12 as an injection. This totally innocuous effort, shunned by conventional medicine as corny and useless, has been amazingly effective for mono in my opinion. I give it daily for at least three days, a week if necessary, and have seen kids bounce back far faster than without it. Placebo? Maybe so, but who cares? There's no drug or stimulant involved, and no toxicity. If a shot is just out of the question, I'd use B-12 supplements under the tongue (called SL, or sub-lingual form).
Appetite can be down, and absorption may be worse, so highly nutrient dense food is important. The easiest way to get that down is using the "green foods," such as spirulina, chlorella, barley green, or other similar products. They require no digestion to speak of to be absorbed and are low-volume.
There is an antiviral agent that has a lot of study behind it, though it's not embraced by most conventional types (it's also antifungal, antibacterial and somewhat antiparasitic!). It's called olive leaf extract, and I've become a serious proponent of this remarkable compound. I use two capsules three times a day for most any infection. The stuff is strong enough, however, that it also can destroy the "good guy" bacteria we need in our gastrointestinal (GI) tracts, so augmenting with acidophilus supplements before meals and bedtime for a week or so after stopping the olive leaf extract is a must. I never use olive leaf for long periods.
For some reason I don't really understand, a mixture of magnesium and malic acid really helps with generalized fatigue of many causes. Too much magnesium can cause loose stools, so you don't want to overdo this, but I use a ratio of 100 milligrams of magnesium with 300 milligrams of malic acid three times/day. There's a supplement called Super Malic that has this ratio, but I'm sure there are others.
Vitamin C is a must. It's amazing stuff against infection, but it's a bit weak, so you have to be aggressive. I use 1-2 grams (1 gram=1000 milligrams) every HOUR until the person feels better. Such doses can cause diarrhea after a few hours if you're not sick, but when ill the body just soaks the stuff up. That's even one way you can evaluate how sick you are...by how much C your body tolerates. Adding citrus bioflavonoids, 1000 milligrams every few hours, makes the C more effective.
Another herb that can help, used intermittently, is echinacea. Capsules taken 2-3 times/day seem to help.
To strengthen the body as fast as possible, a complete B-complex supplement makes sense, as these nutrients are intimately involved in energy production in the body and work together in their biochemical reactions. If you want to cover all the bases (well, not all, but another one) alpha lipoic acid (ALA), though not cheap, can be very helpful (sick or not). It's the only antioxidant that's both water- and fat-soluble, and I also consider it an anti-aging nutrient (but that's just me).
So, don't just lie in bed if mono strikes (and don't just watch someone else lay there). You're not helpless in this situation, so get proactive and head this pest off as soon as possible!
Allan N. Spreen, MD
"The Nutrition PhysicianŽ"
Dr. Spreen is a nutritionally-oriented medical doctor in practice for over a decade before concentrating on nutritional writing. He is known for his original "Nutrition Physician" on-line sites for both America Online and iVillage's 'The Women's Network', offering nutrition information directly to the public.
His authored works include Nutritionally Incorrect-Why the American Diet is Dangerous & How to Defend Yourself (Woodland); Smart Medicine for Healthier Living (Avery), co-authored with Janet Zand and James LaValle: and The Menopause Diet (Woodland).
A graduate of both the Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee before obtaining his M.D. from East Tennessee State University, Dr. Spreen wears a second hat as a coach of competitive divers at the national and Olympic levels.