Understanding Lyme Disease And Why It Matters

August 02, 2019

Introduction

 

A significant number of people are suffering from the effects of Lyme disease and its associated co-infections in the Unites States, and the number of people contracting the disease keeps growing every year. If treated with antibiotics early enough (usually within the first month of initial infection), most people usually are healed from the disease. Unfortunately, many people don’t discover that they have Lyme until many months, if not years, after their initial infection.

 

There is much controversy regarding Lyme disease, and most of it involves diagnostic techniques, treatment methods, and even how the disease is spread to humans. Regarding the latter, the science community currently believes that Lyme disease is transmitted only through a bite from a tick infected with a bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), but even now that is being disputed. Recently, there has been some research suggesting that Bb, a spirochete (spiral-shaped) bacterium that is thought to cause Lyme disease, may possibly spread in the following ways: mosquitoes, flies, fleas, lice, or even through sex. Though, additional studies to substantiate these findings are warranted.

 

In addition, there is evidence that Lyme disease may not be solely the result of an infection with Bb, but also possibly a combination of other specific microbes (bacteria, viruses, and/or parasites). If this stands to be true, then testing for Bb alone may not be enough to reliably diagnose and monitor this disease.

 

Why This All Matters

 

Most doctors in the medical community are not taking Lyme disease seriously enough. This is a very crucial issue, especially since it has reached epidemic levels in the Northeast region. Though, this disease is not exclusively isolated to the Northeast. Bb has been found in ticks in all 50 states within the USA, making it a nationwide concern. But if you think this is an issue that occurs only in the USA, you are incorrect. Lyme disease is now occurring throughout the world.

 

The number of people contracting Lyme disease is growing at an alarming rate. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now says that there are about 300,000 people in the USA infected with Bb each year. This is up from the reported CDC estimate of only 30,000 people in 2010. Personally, I find 300,000 newly infected people annually to be a conservative number, and it’s probably closer to double that estimate, if not more.

 

What It Means

 

There are three main obstacles to establishing an accurate estimate of the number of people annually contracting Lyme disease.  1. Most doctors still lack the proper understanding and training to recognize a possible complex Lyme infection.  2. Many doctors still don’t test for Bb when evaluating their patients.  3. Even when the tests are conducted, most often they are ineffective in accurately determining an infection with Bb. As a result, many people go without a diagnosis of Lyme disease, and oftentimes they are mistakenly treated for an unrelated disease. This leads to further suffering, as well as wasted time, which could have been used to help people quickly and effectively recover from this dreadful disease.

 

A Mistaken Diagnosis

 

Lyme disease is often called “the great imitator.” That’s because it can produce a variety of symptoms which may mimic almost any other disease. Unfortunately, there are still too many doctors who simply don’t understand this, and only recognize the more common signs and symptoms, such as a fever, joint and muscle pain, and fatigue. Combine this with the inaccuracies of the current laboratory tests used to help diagnose Lyme and it becomes easy to see why this disease has become such a growing issue.

 

As stated earlier, many people continue to be mistakenly diagnosed with something other than what is really causing their health issue. I personally have worked with countless numbers of people who have experienced this issue prior to seeing me. Oftentimes, they have been diagnosed with all sorts of health issues, especially relating to an autoimmune condition, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus and Hashimoto’s, as well as hormonal conditions including thyroid disease, adrenal insufficiency, and sexual dysfunction.

 

In many of these cases, after a more thorough evaluation, it became clear that the underlying cause of their health issues was really related to Lyme disease. Now, this doesn’t mean that every health condition is caused by Lyme disease, but it is important to rule it out. The sooner it’s addressed post initial infection, the better the chance of a quicker and complete recovery. See my free eBook: 4 Real Reasons Why We Become Sick for more information about other reasons why disease occurs.

 

Some examples of other conditions that are often associated with Lyme disease are the following: Guillain Barré syndrome, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, dementia/Alzheimer’s disease, other neurological issues, heart and circulatory issues (including strokes), liver disease, digestive issues, weight loss or weight gain, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, Meniere’s disease, hair loss (alopecia), visual disturbances, and practically any other health condition.

 

Interestingly, Willy Burgdorfer, the scientist who discovered the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi (named after him), developed Parkinson’s disease years after accidentally being infected with Lyme spirochetes following a mishap during one of his experiments. After only 20 days of antibiotics to treat the disease, he was deemed cured. Though, was he really? Could his history of Lyme disease have been associated with his Parkinson’s disease later in life? Well, as stated earlier, there’s a possibility.

 

Those Pesky Co-infections

 

Ticks can carry many other microbes, not just Bb. This means that Bb doesn’t usually find its way into the body by itself. It often is accompanied by some friends, known as co-infections. The term co-infections refers to microbes other than Bb (e.g., Babesia, Bartonella, Anaplasm, Ehrlichia, Tularemia, and Rickettsia, though there are others). Ticks can be infected with any combination of these microbes. Although, there isn’t a set number of microbes that one tick can carry.

 

When these co-infections are combined with Lyme disease, together they can make a person much more ill. In addition, they can make it much more difficult to diagnose and treat a person as well. And, similarly to Lyme, the standard laboratory testing methods used to detect most of the co-infections are often inaccurate. I experienced this firsthand, initially testing negative for Lyme disease, Bartonella, Babesia, Rickettsia, and a few other co-infections, all of which I actually had. It was only through specialized laboratory tests, which tend to be more sensitive to these bugs, that I became aware of the extent of my numerous infections and cause of my extreme illness. You can read more about My Experience with Lyme Disease here.

 

It was a long time before I received an official diagnosis, and during that time, these infections caused my life to be a living hell, to be blunt. Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence in many people with these infections.

 

Why You Should Be Concerned

 

So many people are needlessly, and oftentimes unknowingly, struggling with Lyme disease. Much of it is a result of both inadequate testing and poor, ineffective treatment options. Regarding testing options, conventional laboratory tests often result in false negative findings for Bb bacteria. This is true even after waiting the necessary four- to six-week latent period after initial infection (an infection with Bb doesn’t tend to show up on blood test screenings for at least this period of time). Additionally, the standard twenty-day course of antibiotics does not work in every situation to eradicate the Bb bacteria from your body.

 

Regarding the people who were not successful in completely eradicating the Lyme spirochete from their body using standard treatments, these people tend to go on with persistent symptoms. When this happens, it is often called “chronic Lyme disease,” though the CDC does not acknowledge Lyme as a chronic condition at this time. Instead, they call it “Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome (PTLDS),” which they refer to as a continuation of symptoms without an active infection. Though, there is at least one recent study demonstrating a persistent Bb infection post antibiotic treatment, providing support for the argument that chronic Lyme disease exists.

 

Whether the CDC recognizes chronic Lyme disease or not, a countless number of people are still suffering from symptoms associated with this disease. For many of these people, additional treatment tends to bring relief to their symptoms, and even complete healing for some fortunate ones. Therefore, additional treatment for those who suffer from chronic Lyme disease should be a consideration.

 

If additionalconventional treatment does not help someone with chronic symptoms post treatment, then other possible health related issues should be considered (I talk about this later in this article). However, if improvement is observed, then why not continue to treat these people for Lyme disease?

 

I have heard some people in the medical profession suggest that a longer course of treatment for people with Lyme disease only works in some due to the placebo effect (all in their minds). This may be a possibility for some people, but not everyone. I have seen a number of doubters, who also had Lyme disease, achieve healing following a longer course of treatment.

 

At this point in our history, even with some of the more recent discoveries in Lyme disease testing and treatment, most conventional doctors will still go on to diagnose their patients with PTLDS, with no further treatment for Lyme offered—even when their patients are still experiencing symptoms. Instead, they often are referred to a psychologist or even a psychiatrist and sent on their way.

 

To be clear about PTLDS, if you can’t reliably detect an infection with Bb during an active infection, prior to treatment, then how can you definitively say that a person is free of infection post treatment, especially if they are still exhibiting symptoms?

 

What You Can Do

 

As stated earlier, testing for Lyme disease can be really frustrating. The current laboratory tests used to detect an infection with Bb tend to yield false negative test results approximately 60% of the time. And, the standard methods used to test for the associated co-infections are even worse in determining past or active infections.

 

So, what can be done to help more accurately determine if you truly have Lyme disease?

 

Alternative Testing Methods

 

Fortunately, there are alternative ways to test for these infections and diseases. One way is to evaluate your symptoms. Even though Lyme disease may mimic the symptoms of many other diseases, it does present in certain ways that may help distinguish it from other diseases. For example, a person that has Lyme disease may complain about certain symptoms one day, then other symptoms a few days or even months later. Their symptoms seem to constantly change from one thing to the next, and then back again to their original symptom(s). Rotating of symptoms is common. Though, it is possible that you can still have Lyme disease without this occurring. Even so, identifying a pattern of changing symptoms is usually a telltale sign of Lyme disease.

 

Another alternative assessment method is to use laboratories that specialize in testing for these infections. These labs use testing methods that tend to be more sensitive to the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete, as well as to many of the co-infections. Though, they also tend to be pricey and, as a result, unaffordable for some people.

 

If the expense of these specialized tests is an obstacle for you, there are still other ways to help assess for these infections. I believe a therapeutic trial is one of the most useful ways to do this. It involves using specific medicines that tend to cause a reaction when one of these hidden infections is present. If a person either gets worse or better sometime after taking one of these medicines, then an infection with one of these bugs is most likely present.

 

Of course, individually, these testing methods are limited, but if all used together, they increase the likelihood in finding these hidden infections. For more information on alternative assessment methods, see my article: 3 Reasons Why It’s So Difficult to Diagnose Lyme Disease.

 

A Brief Word on Treatment with Antibiotics

 

In the early stages (within the first month of initial infection) antibiotics can be very effective in curing Lyme disease, when used correctly. This means that they tend to be more effective if taken for at least six to eight weeks, instead of the standard three-week (20-day) regimen. Though, if antibiotics are not initiated shortly after the first signs of infection, the infection can begin to entrench itself deep within your body, making eradication of Bb more difficult as time progresses. At this point, the effectiveness of the antibiotic decreases.

 

Once a chronic Lyme infection has developed, finding a Lyme Literate Doctor (LLD) is essential. That’s because most other doctors tend not to prescribe a longer course of antibiotics. However, even if you happen to be fortunate and can find a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) to prescribe you a longer course of antibiotics, this still may not be the answer for you. Unfortunately, for some, long-term use of antibiotics has a tendency to fail. It also can cause a lot of other damage to the body. In addition, there are a number of people whose symptoms return sometime after stopping antibiotic treatment. This could happen at any time, including days, months, or even years after stopping them.

 

There are a number of other issues regarding long-term treatment with antibiotics. For example:

 

  1. As just stated, antibiotics may cause damaging effects on your body when used long-term. I experienced their damaging effects firsthand, as I was one of a number of people who tried a longer course of antibiotics and, unfortunately, it caused my liver to be damaged. This actually started to happen within the first two weeks of using two particular antibiotics. Meaning, my body doesn’t tolerate certain antibiotics well.

 

  1. Antibiotics also have a tendency to kill off your intestinal flora (diversified bacteria in your gut). There are trillions of good bacteria in your gut, made up of possibly a thousand or more species that help you in a number of ways. They help you digest food, assist in making certain vitamins (e.g., vitamin K), help provide a strong immune system, and have some other functions.

 

But, for these functions of your gut bacteria to work properly, they must be in equilibrium (balance), which means that each species of bacterium in your gut needs to be in equal numbers to each other.

 

So, there is an issue when taking antibiotics, especially when taking them for a long period of time. They can cause an imbalance between the species of bacteria by killing off some species, but not others. If one of the remaining species is an opportunistic bacterium, meaning that it can go from friend to foe when not kept in check by other bacteria, it can start to cause damage to your digestive tract walls and lead to a whole lot of other issues.

 

Needless to say, it is very important to keep your digestive flora balanced if you want to be healthy.

 

  1. As just stated, when antibiotics are used long-term they can damage your digestive tract, leading to food sensitivities and even allergies. This is an issue because food sensitivities and/or allergies cause additional inflammation within your body, and not just to your digestive tract. If you have Lyme disease and its associated co-infections, then you already have a significant amount of inflammation in your body. This additional inflammation adds to the existing damage caused by Lyme and the other infections. Any further inflammation will make you feel much worse and recovery will be more difficult to achieve.

 

  1. Antibiotic resistance is also a huge issue. Chronic Lyme disease and associated co-infections usually require an assortment of antibiotics over the long-term to help fight off these infections. Over time, these antibiotics will push these bugs to mutate, causing the antibiotic to become less effective or not even work at all.

 

This does not mean that the use of antibiotics shouldn’t be tried when treating Lyme disease and co-infections, especially in the early stages of infection. During long-term treatment, however, antibiotics may become ineffective and can cause a lot more damage to your body, as stated above. Fortunately, there are effective alternatives to using antibiotics when treating people with chronic infections.

 

Planning Your Next Steps

 

Before you address chronic Lyme disease (killing the bacteria), addressing the following steps can make the difference between a safer, more effective recovery and an ongoing debilitating disease.

 

  1. Find a doctor who is well educated with all the latest testing and treatment methods, especially alternative treatments. For chronic Lyme disease, a Lyme Literate Naturopathic Doctor (alternative medicine) can provide you with more alternative treatment options than conventional medicine, including whole body support to help your body reduce and repair damage caused by these infections. And, for an acute infection, both a Lyme Literate Naturopathic Doctor and Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (conventional) working together can help provide a stronger and more effective approach in eradicating Lyme spirochetes and co-infections from your body.

 

  1. Detox, detox, detox! Lyme disease and its associated co-infections can take a toll on your body. They can cause a toxic mess to build up, overloading the organs that remove toxins, thereby causing the buildup of damaging inflammation, all while worsening your condition. The causes of these toxins are both related to the bugs themselves and from the use of the medications that kill them (usually antibiotics). When killing the bugs, a “die-off” can occur, increasing your total body toxic load and worsening your symptoms. This is called a “Herxheimer reaction.”

 

Some people do not experience a Herxheimer reaction because their bodies are much more efficient than others in clearing out these toxins. Still, many people do, and they need to focus on detoxing to prevent further damage. This can also help you better tolerate treatment and, of course, heal quicker.

 

Naturopathic Physicians are specifically trained to help provide you with proper detoxifying methods and treatments.

 
Additional Concerning Toxins

 

The following are some additional areas of focus that may make a significant difference in your recovery:

 

  1. Find and remove food sensitivities (these are not allergies). Food sensitivities cause low-grade inflammation in certain areas in your body, adding to the inflammation that is already occurring. Foods that you are allergic to should also be avoided.

 

  1. Test for and reduce the levels of toxic metals in your body. Toxic metals place an additional burden on your body, making them much more prone to tissue damage and the dreaded Herxheimer reaction. Some examples of heavy metals are: Aluminum, Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, and Mercury, although there are many others.

 

Mercury is one of the most dangerous toxic metals that can cause a lot of damage to your body, especially to your body’s nervous system. If present, this metal must be removed properly or you can become much sicker than you are right now. If that’s not enough to get your attention regarding this toxic metal, mercury toxicity may also trigger autoimmunity in those who are susceptible. When present together with chronic Lyme disease and other infections, it may be impossible to rid your body of these infections without mercury first being removed.

 

Note: Accurate analysis of the levels of mercury in your body isn’t as simple as most doctors tend to make it sound. There is a proper way to test for the accumulation of this toxic metal in your body, and it’s not through a blood test. A blood test will only show an ongoing exposure and not the actual amount of accumulated mercury in your tissues. Even when using the appropriate test, the evaluation process is complicated and needs to be addressed by a medical professional who is experienced in read its results.

 

If a toxic level of mercury is indicated when using the appropriate testing method, then safe removal of this metal through proper chelation is warranted.

 

Though, before a chelation program is conducted, you will need to determine if there is an ongoing source of exposure to this metal. For many people, it’s the result of having amalgam/silver fillings in their teeth. Amalgam fillings are composed of elemental mercury and other metals bound together. If amalgams are present, they should first be properly removed by a Biological/Holistic dentist who is specifically trained in their safe removal before chelation is initiated.

 

Unfortunately, there are very few doctors who actually know the correct method to safely and effectively detoxify this dangerous metal from your body. And, as a result, many injuries have occurred.

 

There is a lot more to assessing and detoxing mercury, which I will address in a future article. But, for now, if you require more information, you can contact me by either email or phone; both are listed at the top of this page.

 

Additionally, there are a number of other toxins that many of us unknowingly come into contact with in our modern day society. For more information, see my free eBook: 4 Real Reasons Why We Become Sick.

 

  1. Avoid stress as best as you can, both physical and emotional. Meditation can be helpful, as well as Epsom salt baths, yoga, Tai chi, and/or Qigong, but there are other effective ways as well. There isn’t a one-method-fits-all here. Basically, it’s best to find what works for you and then continue to do it.

 

Note: For some people, their greatest stress may be their job.  If this is you, you may want to try and find another one. I know this isn’t realistic for many people, but think about it this way, if you become too sick, you won’t be able to work anyway. Remember this, stress is a killer and needs to be minimized, if not completely removed from your life, especially if you want to prevent disease as well as heal from disease.

 

  1. Address any hormone imbalances, particularly when involving the adrenal glands and thyroid. These glands are notoriously stressed and dysfunctional as a result of chronic Lyme disease and co-infections.

 

There are three hormones in particular that the thyroid and adrenal glands produce that can really have an impact on your overall health while dealing with these infections. They are thyroid hormone, cortisol, and adrenaline, although both glands do produce other hormones as well.

 

To begin, adrenal glands produce two very important hormones, cortisol and adrenaline. Both are associated with the “fight or flight” response of the body. Now, I’m not going to bore you with high school biology on how they work, but I do think it’s important to have a general idea of their significance. Most people will be completely worn down as their body battles with Lyme disease. This will eventually deplete these two hormones, causing additional symptoms other than the ones directly caused by Lyme disease.

 

The following are a set of symptoms that you may experience if your adrenal glands become worn out, which means that you produce not enough adrenal hormones (hypoadrenalism or adrenal fatigue): fatigue, low blood pressure, salt cravings, low sugar levels, autoimmunity, loss of libido, immune dysfunction (including autoimmunity), and others.

 

In addition, sometimes in the early stages of Lyme disease, your adrenal glands may produce too much adrenal hormone (hyperadrenalism), resulting in the following symptoms: anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue, immune dysfunction (including autoimmunity), skin issues, weight gain (especially around the mid-section, face, and upper back), visual disturbances, dizziness, bone loss, elevated sugar levels, and more.

 

Notice that some of these symptoms overlap between hypo and hyper functioning adrenal glands. In addition, you may notice that some of the symptoms overlap with Lyme disease symptoms as well. This makes it so much more difficult to determine the true cause of your symptoms. That’s why it’s so important to treat the whole person and not just the disease, which is a primary focus of Naturopathic Medicine.

 

It’s also essential to understand that your body cannot distinguish between emotional stress and physical stress, meaning that it will affect your adrenal glands in the same way for both types of stress.

 

Together, both physical stress (caused by the damage from Lyme disease) and emotional stress can result in a tremendous strain on your adrenal glands, which can lead to extreme, debilitating fatigue. Most people with Lyme disease and adrenal dysfunction can completely understand what I’m saying here. Just remember to work on reducing your overall stress and support those adrenal glands!

 

Additionally, Lyme and its associated co-infections have a knack for accumulating in and affecting the thyroid gland. The thyroid produces thyroid hormone, which controls the rate or speed of all the chemical reactions in every cell in your body. Basically, it’s your metabolism. If you produce too little thyroid hormone, you may experience unusual tiredness, loss of libido, hair loss, muscle cramping, brain fog, among other symptoms. And, if you produce too much of the hormone, you may feel like you’re bouncing off the walls, anxious and, interestingly, fatigue as well.

 

  1. Once you have started working on the previous steps, and are feeling a little bit better, that is the time to start going after the infections. This is so important and can be the difference between these bugs breaking you or you breaking them.

 

My motto is “go slow and don’t try to be a hero.” Support your whole body and give it a break when need be. This is especially true if you are someone who is super sensitive to almost everything that you come into contact with, including medications, foods, or even when in different environments. I have been through this myself, experiencing extreme sensitivities resulting in symptoms from hell, as I like to call it. I had to use, and sometimes develop, many alternative ways to treat myself to get through the toughest times. Fortunately, I found much success, but it took a lot of trial and error and time. I now share what I learned from the successes I’ve had with my own patients. 

 

In Conclusion

 

Healing from Lyme disease and co-infections is absolutely achievable, but it’s helpful to first be aware of the specific infections that you actually have. Using alternative testing methods may be the only way to help determine a true Bb infection, as well as any co-infections. This can help your treatment outcome to be much more favorable to your recovery. Additionally, the use of proper detoxifying methods is especially beneficial to minimize the damage that these bugs can cause and to minimize Herxheimer reactions. Eliminating food sensitivities and allergies, as well as toxic levels of metals (especially mercury), can also help your body to work much more efficiently when fighting against these infections. In addition, addressing hormone imbalances is a necessity and usually needs to be ongoing, even long after effectively ridding your body of these bugs. Though, eventually the glands that produce your hormones should return back to normal over time.

 

Lastly, please don’t do this all alone. Find a doctor you trust who has experience with all the steps that I listed, as well as with treating people who have Lyme disease and its associated co-infections. It can make a world of difference in your recovery.

Remember, the goal is not only for you to feel better but to completely recover from these diseases and to live a normal life once again. I hope this article was helpful to you, and if you think it would be helpful to someone else, do share it with them. I wish you all the best in your quest toward reclaiming your health. For more information, feel free to contact me at: https://www.thecenterfornaturalhealth.com/contact/

 

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