What is Chronic Lyme Disease?
Chronic Lyme is an infectious disease initiated by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is associated with a vast milieu of symptoms (indeed, it is known as the great mimicker and can present with symptom pictures similar to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, etc.). Most commonly its symptoms include:
- Pain (joints, muscles, etc.)
- Neurological symptoms (numbness, tingling, spasms, etc.)
- Cognitive symptoms (“brain fog”, loss of memory, anxiety, depression, etc.)
- Cyclical symptoms (periods of symptom improvement and worsening)
…however this is by no means a comprehensive list, and every chronic Lyme patient is unique.
What about the co-infections?
Lyme is also frequently associated with so-called co-infections; other microorganisms can infect the patient at the same time as Lyme (i.e. transmitted by the same mosquito, fly, or tick) or can infect the host while it is immunocompromised by the Lyme. The co-infections can include Babesia, Erlichia, and/or Bartonella.
For some patients, the co-infection(s) may indeed be the ONLY infection(s) (i.e. Lyme may actually be cleared from the system, or never present at all – this can account for why we see so many false negatives in Lyme testing) – this is impossible to definitively determine clinically because the co-infection microbes can present with identical symptoms to Lyme (which are non-specific to begin with). Generally, though, the co-infections can have some specific attributes:
- Babesia: cherry angiomas (red dots) on the abdomen, issues with breathing (inability to take a deep breath or “air hunger”)
- Bartonella: red streaks on the abdomen (like scratches), enlarged lymph nodes in the neck
- Erlichia: not associated with specific attributes distinct from Lyme; sometimes presents with sharp, knife-like pain behind eye.
In the absence of a positive lab result, what can we do?
We start with a “therapeutic trial”, meaning that we start treatment as if the patient has Lyme (and/or a co-infection, if symptoms suggest it) and see if their symptoms improve or change in a way that suggests we have the right diagnosis. Indeed, this method typically shows us results one way or the other within about one months’ time (i.e. if the patient feels better it strongly suggests Lyme; if they feel no change it’s less likely to be Lyme) and is significantly less expensive than running the independent lab tests.
What are the treatment options?
Lyme-literate integrative doctors (either medical doctors or naturopathic doctors) take a somewhat different approach. Ideally they like to see patients taking antibiotic therapy (assuming that antibiotics are a good therapeutic tool for the patient) while being supported with other anti-Lyme treatments and treatments to support the patient during the Lyme-killing process. In doing so, patients are able to resolve the infection(s) faster, feel better sooner, and reduce the “die off” symptoms as much as possible.
What are the naturopathic/integrative medical treatment options?
There are many. The treatments that I have found to be most effective with my patients include:
- IV therapy: combination of hydrogen peroxide (kills Lyme and co-infections) and nutrients (B vitamins, magnesium, etc. – to improve energy levels, pain, brain fog, etc.)
- Anti-Lyme herbs: specific herbs have bacterial killing effects and boost the immune system to seek out and kill Lyme more effectively. Herbal compounds like artemesinin (for Babesia) and essential oil combinations (rizols) have a powerful synergistic effect against Lyme
- Immune system enhancement/“waking it up”: Lyme has devised many ways to evade the immune system while still wreaking havoc on the body. Herbs can help in the regard, but more advanced treatments are often required to really “wake up” the immune system and get it properly patrolling the whole body. Two advanced treatments include:
- Sinus/Tonsil Neural and Ozone therapy: in-office treatment of these areas with procaine and ozone strongly enhances overall immune system function and directly kills Lyme in two of its main reservoirs in the body (i.e. the sinuses and tonsils).
- Adrenal Gland Support: our adrenal glands control our energy levels and get depleted in the face of stress. Chronic Lyme is incredibly stressful on the body and thus the adrenals are virtually always depleted in these patients. Support with strong doses of herbs and adrenal gland extracts help improve energy levels and mental function quickly.
- Reducing EMF exposure: EMFs (electromagnetic fields) can significantly aggravate symptoms of Lyme, especially issues with brain fog and insomnia. Reducing exposure during sleep is crucial to improve recovery time.
- Dealing with other issues as they arise: in my experience, patients who are actively killing Lyme begin to have other issues arise. Sometimes they start actively clearing heavy metals (indicated by developing headaches, a metallic taste in the mouth, aggravation by strong scents/chemicals, etc.) or clearing past emotional issues. Sometimes old symptoms from years before come to the surface again. As these issues arise they must be dealt with to help the Lyme to be cleared as efficiently as possible.
What is the take-home message?
Chronic Lyme is an incredibly challenging issue, made even more challenging by its lack of recognition in the conventional medical community. Fortunately there are many concerned doctors who are willing to treat what they see, not just what a lab test tells them. A great deal of support is available to patients who are suffering from chronic Lyme – we’re all working together to spread information and ultimately help people get well. To the well-trained clinical eye chronic Lyme disease (and its co-infections) is an identifiable condition even in the absence of a positive laboratory result. From there, effective and comprehensive treatment options are available.