Herpes – the many faces it wears


By Doctor Sandra Cabot

Over the years I have seen the herpes virus cause many so called “mysterious health complaints” in patients, the cause of which eluded some top medical specialists.

We all know the common presentations of the herpes virus – namely chickenpox, shingles and recurrent cold sores on the face, and blisters on genital areas. However, the herpes virus, being a perpetual inhabitant of the nervous system, can pop up in areas of the body and in ways you may never suspect.

‘Case histories record unusual presentations of herpes that were initially not recognised and were not treated appropriately’

This virus lives in the roots (ganglions) of the nerves and may hibernate there without causing problems. If it reactivates and multiplies, it travels down the nerves to the ends of the nerves and may erupt in the skin. The herpes virus may also multiply in the brain and cranial nerves causing severe brain inflammation (encephalitis) and paralysis.

Here are some case histories of unusual presentations of herpes that were initially not recognised and thus were not treated appropriately.

 Case One

A 59-year-old woman presents with paralysis of her left vocal cord causing a hoarse voice and sore throat. She has some shortness of breath and the left hemi-diaphragm at the bottom of her left lung is raised, and does not move normally.

The clue to her condition is that the vagus nerve supplies the muscles of the vocal cords and the diaphragm, the herpes virus is living in her vagus nerve and it has damaged this nerve.

She had recently suffered with cold sores on her lips and had positive antibodies against the herpes virus in her blood. After appropriate supplements to strengthen her immune system, the paralysed vocal cord and diaphragm recovers and she is symptom free after four months.

 Case Two

A 49-year-old woman presents with a three-year history of a constant 24/7 headache in the right frontal-temporal area of her head and deep behind her eyes. This headache is severe, constant and requires daily analgesics, which have caused a fatty liver. She is overweight and extremely tired.

A neurologist has told her the headache is a migraine, which does not make sense, as migraines are episodic headaches and come and go. Her headaches do not respond to drugs that suppress migraines and the neurologist has not been able to help her.

She continues to suffer and sees a gynaecologist, who tells her that she has headaches because of menopause! But because headaches are not a symptom of menopause the hormone therapy does not ease her pain.

The clue to her case is that during the previous three years she had an episode of shingles affecting the right forehead and right eye, which was treated with anti-viral medications.

Other causes of her headache are excluded, including high blood pressure, sinus infection and brain tumours. Extensive investigations reveal no cause for her headaches.

I deduce that she has the herpes virus active in her brain, trigeminal nerve and possibly her optic nerves, which is causing the inflammation and thus the pain.

I prescribe a detoxification for her liver as well as nutritional supplements to fight the herpes virus and reduce brain inflammation. Her headaches gradually lessen and she starts to have headache free days.

 Case Three

After suffering an episode of feverish illness associated with sweats, aches and pains, and fatigue, a 55-year-old woman starts to experience recurrent blisters on her left buttock. These blisters hang around and develop into an itchy red rash and ulcers, which then become secondarily infected with opportunistic skin bacteria.

She consults a skin specialist who neglects to take a swab from the blistery rash to see if it grows the herpes virus. The specialist treats it with steroid creams and antibiotics and the patient gets worse. She continues to suffer with chronic fatigue, sore muscles and recurrent blisters on her buttock, which are extremely itchy. I take a swab and grow the herpes virus from the blistery rash.

I deduce that she previously had an infective illness, which may have been Lyme’s disease, as she lived on the border of a national park where she had been exposed to ticks. This illness weakened her immune system, allowing the herpes virus to reactivate in the nerves supplying the buttocks.

I also found that she had the genetic pattern for gluten intolerance and bowel symptoms suggestive of a leaky gut. Gluten intolerant people are usually low in minerals that are essential to fight viral infections, such as herpes. I put her on a gluten free diet and prescribed supplements to repair her leaky gut and strengthen her immune system. Six months later she was cured with no remaining symptoms. Her diagnosis was called dermatitis herpetiformis.

From the sound of the name, many would think that a form of herpes virus caused the rash. But the experts believed it had nothing to do with herpes. I remain unconvinced. Dermatitis herpetiformis occurs in people with coeliac disease or non-coeliac gluten intolerance.

 ‘There eight different types of human herpes: all have the ability to become latent or dormant’

Explaining the herpes virus

Herpes viruses are large DNA viruses. There are eight different types of Human Herpes-Viruses (HHVs): herpes simplex virus (HSV-1), HSV-2, varicella zoster virus (VZV or HHV-3), Epstein–Barr virus (EBV or HHV-4, also known as glandular fever), cytomegalovirus (CMV or HHV-5), HHV-6, HHV-7, and HHV-8.

All herpes viruses have the ability to become latent or dormant (much like a bear hibernates in the winter). The herpes viruses exist in a dormant form in ganglia (lumpy nerve root origins) of the nervous system and in lymphatic tissue, such as the lymph glands.

Most of the HHVs are attracted to nervous tissue (they are neurotropic) and infrequently cause serious acute and chronic neurological disease of the Peripheral Nervous System (nerves in the extremities) and Central Nervous System (brain, spinal cord and cranial nerves).

‘Infection with each herpes virus produces different signs and symptoms’

Infection with each herpes virus produces different signs and symptoms, and imaging abnormalities seen on CT or MRI Scans of the nervous system.

Serious complications of infection with the herpes viruses include meningitis, encephalitis (inflammation of the brain), myelitis (inflammation of the spinal cord), inflammation of many spinal and peripheral nerves (radiculo-neuritis), and different inflammatory diseases of the eye.

Recognition of the different clinical presentations and imaging characteristics of disease produced by different herpes viruses is important, because infection by many of the herpes-viruses can be treated successfully with anti-viral drugs in the very early stages, before the virus causes severe damage to nervous tissue. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are essential to a favourable outcome using anti-viral drugs.

Blood tests for herpes

If it is suspected that the herpes virus is the cause of neurological symptoms or disease, the detection of herpes-virus-specific DNA in bodily fluids or tissues, herpes-virus-specific IgM in blood, or herpes-virus-specific IgM or IgG antibody in cerebrospinal fluid can be shown.

Holistic approach to herpes (Food image)

If the patient has a low immune system associated with other chronic infections, leaky gut, fatty liver or mineral and vitamin deficiencies, they will find it hard to stop recurrent or severe attacks of herpes infections.

To prevent new or recurrent herpes infections, it is vital to have a strong immune system and if you don’t, then herpes can cause awful damage to your central or peripheral nervous system. The most important nutrients for your immune system to fight the herpes virus, and indeed all viruses include:

  • Vitamin C and I recommend at least 1000mg daily as a supplement, as well as consuming fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C. Cooking and micro waving food destroys vitamin C.
  • Vitamin D 3, which reduces inflammation in nervous tissue and supports immune strength
  • Zinc, which helps white cells to fight viruses
  • Iodine, which is important for immune competence and brain health.
  • Selenium, which is unique in its ability to keep viruses in a dormant and thus inactive state.

British researcher Doctor Margaret Rayman has shown in numerous studies that viruses can become much more dangerous (virulent) in people who are selenium deficient. This includes herpes, hepatitis viruses, the HIV virus that causes AIDS, and influenza and viral encephalitis.

I have been practising and researching nutritional medicine for more than 40 years and if anyone asked me “what is the most important nutrient to fight a viral infection”, I would say without doubt – whether it is a chronic or acute viral infection – it is selenium. I call selenium “the viral birth control pill”.

Selenium acts on the genetic material of viruses (its RNA or DNA) and has three highly valuable effects:

  1. Inhibits the ability of the virus to multiply (replicate)
  2. Reduces the ability of the virus to mutate into a more aggressive (virulent) form
  3. Increases the chances that the virus will stay inactive or less active and not harm you

A normally harmless (or low-pathogenic virus) can become much more destructive (virulent) in a person who is selenium deficient. Selenium-deficient mice infected with a mild strain of influenza virus developed much more severe and protracted inflammation of their lungs, compared to selenium-plentiful mice infected with the same virus.

A lack of selenium causes a decrease in the production of selenium dependent proteins that keep viruses under control. This is serious and can result in worse outcomes for people infected with many types of nasty viruses including herpes, viral hepatitis, Ebola, polio, HIV, influenza and the human papilloma virus (which causes cervical and oral cancer).

Dr Cabot is the Medical and Executive Director of the Australian Women’s Health Advisory Service and the author of several ground-breaking books, including Hormones – Don’t Let Them Ruin Your Life; The Body Shaping Diet; The Liver Cleansing Diet. For further information visit https://www.cabothealth.com.au


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