Could A Virus Be Causing Your Autoimmune Condition?

In this episode of Integrative Wellness Radio, Functional Medicine Practioners, Dr. Nicole Rivera and Brooke Scheller discuss how viruses that are impacting certain organs may be contributing to autoimmune conditions. Have you been diagnoses with Lupus? Hashimoto’s? Psoriasis? An underlying virus may be the cause!



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Dr. Nicole: [00:01:00] Hey everyone. Welcome back to another episode of Integrative Wellness Radio, the place to be for all of your wellness needs. I am Dr. Nicole Rivera and I am here with Brooke Scheller, the Functional Medicine Nutritionist. We work side by side at Integrative Wellness Group in Belmar, New Jersey. We are going to be talking to you about how different viruses can be associated with auto-immune conditions.

Brooke Scheller: [00:02:00] Yeah, this is something we were actually inspired to start talking about based off of our last podcast that we did about mono and lyme disease and kind of how some of those things might be impacting your body. One of the things, though, that is important to mention and is something that we've been looking at a little more closely in our practice is how certain viruses might be impacting certain organ systems. We think about, in general, we did this previous podcast on mononucleosis and Epstein Barr virus. Is it impacting a certain organ in the body? Is it maybe contributing to some type of auto-immune condition? This doesn't just go for Epstein Barr virus, but it goes for all different types of viruses. I kind of was inspired to bring this up to Dr. Nicole because recently I had a patient that has a condition called Hashimoto's, which is an auto-immune thyroiditis.

[00:02:30] This is actually really commonly seen. This is probably the most commonly seen auto-immune condition that we see in our practice. Something that's really interesting is that this patient had mentioned to me in her consult, that she had previously been diagnosed with grave's disease, about 15 years earlier. While we looked at all of this in the blood, she did not show any signs of grave's disease, but she had now shown signs of Hashimoto's. What she had expressed to me was that she had previously been told by other physicians that her graves was in remission. Something that her and I discussed was the possibility of some type of virus specifically impacting the thyroid. I do want Dr. Nicole to get into kind of the science behind how that contribute to auto-immunity.

Dr. Nicole: [00:03:30] Definitely. Kind of piggy-backing just off of what Brooke is saying is the idea that different viruses that get into our system that some viruses might cause us to have some sort of digestive discomfort, so what we call a stomach bug. Sometimes we get different viruses that will cause us to just have a fever and not feel well, have some swollen glands, and just not be able to go to work for the day. They come in all different shapes and forms. Typically after we get over the hump of the symptoms of, okay, we're not experiencing the diarrhea anymore. Okay, my stomach is better so my body is good. The virus is out of my system.

Okay, I had 3 months of really not feeling well because I got mono, but now I'm feeling better, so the virus is out of my system. Unfortunately, that's not the way that it works when it comes to viruses. They will remain within the body. More importantly, they can manifest in specific tissue of the body. As an example, when you talk about an auto-immune condition, what that is telling us is that the immune system is attacking part of the body. It could be the thyroid. It could be your connective tissue. It could be your pancreas. It could be a lot of different things. They all have different names. It's, you know, multiple sclerosis, lupus, hashimoto's, grave disease, etc..

All of those different diseases are just talking about the immune system attacking a different organ. If we really think about the concept of the way the immune system works is the immune system is the main role and function is to fight infection. Why would the immune system one day just turn on us? Why would it all of a sudden just decide to start attacking an organ? We're told that it "just happens". It could be genetics. It could be your family history. It's just something that's not well understood and it happens. You'll have it forever and you'll never be able to get rid of it.

When we start to think about this a little bit more logically, it makes perfect sense that there is an infection that is buried within that organ, which would then cause the immune system to attack that virus or bacteria or parasite. Then from there, the tissue will get damaged. When we think about this concept, it's actually very very difficult to figure this kind of stuff out because out lab testing is so limited. When you talk about running different viruses in your blood work, all you know is they're in the body. You don't know where they are. You would technically have to do a biopsy of that organ to figure out if there's an infection there.

[00:06:00] Honestly, that's not the most pleasant process. There's not many physicians that are doing it. One of the solutions that we found in our office is using a muscle testing therapy that is very similar to applied kinesiology, but it's a lot more specific with the diagnosis of different types of infections that could be held within organs. After we run labs and we figure out, okay. This person has 'x' amount of viruses in their body. Now let's figure out where these viruses are. We do this form of muscle testing to kind of hone in on these different places. It always ends up correlating with the type of auto-immune condition that they have. [

It's very very common to see Lyme disease with someone that has lupus. Lyme disease hides in your connective tissue. Lupus is an auto-immune condition that attacks your connective tissue. This is a podcast that we have done. If you are someone who is dealing with lupus, definitely listen to that. The most common thing that we actually see with Hashimoto's, which is in the thyroid, is we see a lot of viruses classified as like retro-virus or neuro-virus. If you actually Google these, you're going to find that these are almost like stomach bugs or different types of viruses that manifest as food poisoning. Again, you get food poisoning for maybe 2-3 days, your out of commission, your symptoms resolve and you think, oh, I'm in the clear and not realizing that that could actually manifest in a different organ.

Brooke Scheller: [00:08:00] I think it's something that for me kind of really strikes a chord because I feel like it's almost like an ah-ha moment. You're almost like wow, that makes so much sense that if I have a bug in my connective tissue that my body might start fighting that. Then that auto-immune process might start to occur. I think it's pretty eye-opening in terms of looking at things from a different perspective. One of the things that I want to talk about is, and I know that you kind of mentioned what we do in our office, but the limitations of the testing because a lot of the different auto-immune conditions, like you mentioned, you'd have to do some type of tissue biopsy. Even something, for example, like multiple sclerosis, or what we call MS, typically to have a really good diagnosis on that, they have to actually do a spinal tap. Correct?

Dr. Nicole: Yes, and MRIs.

Brooke Scheller: Yeah. The other thing with that is you know we do that and we understand more about that. Really how does that change the actual course of treatment?

Dr. Nicole: Well, the spinal tap, they're looking for the antibodies. They're looking for the antibodies of the immune system attacking the myelin sheath. They're not actually looking for infection. You really would have to biopsy the neurological tissue. You would have to biopsy the brain or the spinal cord, or the nerve, which you can't. You can't do it because if you are to biopsy it, aka touch it, you will create neurological damage. If, God forgive, you touch the spinal cord, you would create paralysis and a variety of other things. It's really just not possible to do the proper testing to figure out what is attacking the neurological system.

When you are looking at how you can really figure out what is the common trigger, you have to definitely test the blood to see what viruses are showing up. You kind of have a possibility of an idea if those viruses are maybe affecting the neurological system. One of the biggest things that I would say is that if somebody has parasites in their gut, there's a very strong possibility that they also have parasites in their, possibly in the brain or affecting other parts of their neurological system. There's actually been a lot of research done on something called toxiplasma gondii, which is a parasite that is known to affect the neurological tissue. It's been actually shown to be correlated with bi-polar and schizophrenia.

Brooke Scheller: Well, and the limitations of testing, I think one of the big things is, for parasites we typically do a stool analysis. That doesn't mean that if we have parasites in the body, it doesn't always mean that they're living in the gastrointestinal system.

Dr. Nicole: [00:10:30] Well, because if you do have something called leaky gut, meaning things from your gut are escaping into your blood, then once it's in your blood, it can go anywhere. It can into your joints. It can go into your connective tissue. It can go into your brain. It's really the sky's the limit, unfortunately. The other thing is is we do have something called the blood-brain barrier, which is there to specifically protect our brain from any types of infections and toxins and heavy metals, but now a days all of our blood-brain barriers are so damaged because of how much sugar, and how many pesticides, and how many heavy metals and mercury. We are constantly being bombarded with these toxins that are literally breaking down the integrity of the blood-brain barrier. There are so many things that are getting into the brain that should never ever be there.

One of the most common things that we do through our muscle testing technique called autonomic response testing, is we also look at something called the Bornavirus. The Bornavirus is actually, there is not one lab in the United States that tests for it. The reason why is because this was a virus that was founded in Germany and it is something that is not necessarily thought to have come to the United States but, unfortunately, we do find it quite often. The bornavirus ... It's B-O-R-N-A. That is a virus specifically that will affect the neurological system. Once you have that information, you're able to help people to get these viruses out of the body and support the immune system in a very very specific way.

Brooke Scheller: I think that's that important thing to bring up is this isn't meant to scare you that now you're thinking that there's something more to it with your auto-immune condition. It gives us so much more power in terms of how to treat it. Right? We can look and try to help to support your immune system and stop the actual auto-immune process from happening. If you don't actually take a look and impact if there is some type of bacteria or virus or parasite. If we don't attack that, then we might not be able to get to that root cause of the auto-immune condition. I think that that's really the take-home message there. You know, talking about what we would do, I want you to give a little bit more insight to our listeners of what we would do in this case.

Dr. Nicole: [00:13:00] Well, establishing the viral load in the body is really important because some people ... you know one of the viruses, as an example, that I test for in the blood is called parvo virus, which actually as a lot of implications in dogs, but not as many in humans. That's not the point of why I'm testing it. It's because oh, you might have gastrointestinal issues if parvo's in your system. It's more so, I want to take inventory on how many viruses you have because if you have 2 viruses, okay. Not that big of a deal. We'll give you're body some immune support.

If you have 5 or more viruses, then your immune system is extremely taxed out. We need to support you very differently, just because we have to make sure that we are covering all of our bases. Being able to establish through, not only the lab testing, but also using that muscle testing, how many viruses are present, where are they living within the body. Once you know where they are, you can get very very specific on your treatment. As an example, if somebody does have a lot of strep in their tonsils, instead of just taking a supplement, or an anti-microbial, or anything like that, we might say, okay. You're going to make sure to use this mouthwash, as well. You might also do something called oil pulling. We're making sure that we're taking care of the oral health because it's so close to the tonsils, instead of just saying taking these supplements and be done with it.

The same story, if somebody is having a ton of parasites in their descending colon, or something called their sigmoid colon, we might say do some enemas because that is actually really close to the rectum, opposed to again, just saying take supplements because technically it has to get from the mouth all the way down to the end of the digestive track. You can tailor the treatment to be very very effective.

One of the other things that we do, is we do use laser therapy. Lasers are really amazing in the fact that you can set a laser to be anti-bacterial. You can set a laser to be anti-microbial, anti-yeast, anti-parasitic. If you use the laser at specific settings, say on the thyroid, you're using it on an anti-viral setting, that will help to also start the process of getting rid of that virus. Then the supplements do the rest of the work. From a dietary perspective, you want to make sure that you're following an auto-immune paleo type diet. My most recent cookbook called "Eat for Your Gut", is really ... There's 2 different chapters. There is a chapter about someone trying to strictly get their gastrointestinal system working better. Then there is another chapter that is really geared towards someone who is dealing with an auto-immune condition and helping them to get on an anti-inflammatory diet, so they're decreasing inflammation, but they're also not feeding these different types of infections that could be in their body. Definitely checking out the "Eat for Your Gut Cookbook" on Amazon. That can definitely get you started with making those dietary changes.

Brooke Scheller: [00:16:00] Yeah, and with regard to diet, I think even knowing more about if there are certain viruses or certain organs that are more impacted, you might be able to more strategic with the things that you're consuming. For example, if there's something going on with the liver, you might want to increase your detox pathways and add things like cruciferous vegetables and beets. There's definitely a lot of strategy that you can use with your diet once you know a little bit more about what's going on.

Dr. Nicole: Definitely, and different herbal teas. You know some herbal teas people them because they enjoy them, but there are teas that are very very good with fighting different types of infections. There are teas that are really fantastic for the oral health and tonsil health. Again, once you have that clear picture as to what's going on in your body, you can get really really specific.

Brooke Scheller: [00:17:00] On all of our podcasts, we like to offer a free 15-minute strategy call with myself to get a little bit better of an idea of exactly what you have going on and what we might be able to do in your situation and give you a little bit more guidance on what you can do for your own health. To do that, you can head over to and you can schedule that right on our homepage. As always, please feel free to subscribe to us on iTunes and write us a rating and review. Thank you so much.