This article was published originally in Natural Awakenings.
As of 2008, Orange County has an unfortunate notoriety: the highest number of reported Lyme cases in New York. Rockland is not among the top five, but its rates are still alarmingly high. Once found only in the Northeast, Lyme disease now has been reported in all 50 states. But reported cases may be just the tip of the iceberg, perhaps only one-sixth to one-twelfth of actual incidence. Many people suffering from a variety of symptoms don’t know that Lyme disease could be at the root of their chronic illness and diverse problems.
Most people expect to find a bulls-eye rash or an engorged tick to alert them. But not everyone gets a rash, and many ticks are never detected, as they are so tiny and often hidden in hair or skinfolds. They even secrete a kind of local anasthetic when they bite, to decrease the chance of detection. And ticks are no longer the sole vector: horse flies, deer flies and mosquitos can carry infection as well.
While lab tests have improved over the years, there are many false negatives, for several reasons. First, bacteria spirochete which causes Lyme disease is rarely in the bloodstream, particularly in chronic cases. They tend to burrow into places where there is less blood flow, like cartilage, fascia, tendons, and injured connective tissue. Second, an infected person’s immune system may be too weak to produce antibodies that signal the spirochete’s presence. And Lyme microbes generate “biofilm” on their surface, which effectively makes them invisible to both the immune system, and antibiotics. For all of these reasons, Lyme is hard to detect. According to some experts, there is no lab that consistently makes the diagnosis, even in confirmed cases, although tests are often more accurate after treatment begins. Estimates of false negatives range between thirty and fifty percent.
What is it?
Lyme, traditionally, has been defined as infection with Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), but co-infections are part of the illness. These can be bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic, making treatment and recovery more complex. Many of Lyme’s symptoms are non-specific, which makes it difficult to diagnose clinically. Fatigue, body aches, memory issues, sleep difficulties, difficulty with temperature regulation, tingling and numbness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, auto-immune issues all can be associated with Lyme.
To add to the confusion, Lyme disease is often characterized by cyclical episodes of improvement and recurrence over time. Furthermore, chronic infections overwhelm the normal detox pathways, leading to secondary symptoms.
Doxycycline is the conventional treatment of choice, and is most effective if used immediately after a tick bite. Lyme can also be addressed without the use of antibiotics. This involves a step-by-step individualized protocol which includes anti-microbials (which can kill or inhibit the growth of bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites), gentle chelating agents (to remove toxins from the body), biofilm breakers, natural anti-inflammatories, and general detox support. This protocol can also be used in conjunction with antibiotic therapy. Either way, no chronic or serious illness should ever be treated without the ongoing supervision of an experienced and knowledgeable professional.
With or without antibiotics, results are improved if a multi-faceted approach is implemented.
- Identify and eliminate factors that can block healing, such as food sensitivities, poor nutrition, constipation, electromagnetic stress, heavy metal toxicity, mold, and parasites.
- Support the immune system not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually, with positive thinking and social support. Add pleasure and decrease stress.
- Assure good quality sleep and rest. Eliminate light, noise and EMF pollution in the bedroom. Consider turning off fuses at night.
- Decrease toxic burden in your home: use non-toxic, fragrance-free cleaning products; filtered water for both sink and bath; cast iron or stainless steel for cooking; minimize use of plastic; sunshine and circulating fresh air when possible.
- Consider coffee enemas, saunas, castor oil packs, epsom salts or baking soda baths, and dry skin brushing, for further detox support.
- Exercise, but allow rest time after to prevent post-exercise fatigue.
Holistic practitioner Fran Sussman has worked with Lyme disease for over 15 years, starting with herself. Since 2009, she has been training with Dr Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, and uses ART and the Klinghardt protocols.