I always tell my patients that when it comes to Lyme disease, nothing will ever surprise me. The disease is one of the most brilliant bacterium on the planet and its destruction of the human body is limitless. If you or a loved one are having an array of symptoms that just don’t quite make sense this article is for you.
Let’s start with the basics. Lyme disease is a spirochete bacterium. Spirochetes are one of the most ancient bacterium on planet Earth. The word spirochete literally means, “coiled hair,” which describes the appearance of the bacteria. The spirochete that causes Lyme disease is known as Borrelia Burgdorferi. The B. Burgdorferi bacteria can be found in three different forms— spirochete, cell-wall-deficient, and cyst form. Most Lyme infections are caused by a tick bite from the ixodes tick. However, current research is showing that Lyme disease is also being transmitted through mosquitoes, spiders, and flies. The always robust bacterium has been found to cross from a mothers breast milk to the infant. It has been theorized that a possible source of the bacterium may be cow’s milk from a cow that has been infected with the bacteria.
As I mentioned earlier, the symptoms of Lyme disease are truly limitless. There are five different subspecies of B. Burgdorferi with over 100 different strains in the United States and over 300 strains worldwide. There are also dozens of co-infections associated with Lyme disease that exponentially increases the symptoms that a Lyme patient may experience.
The hallmark sign of Lyme disease is a bulls-eye rash known as an Erythema migrans (EM), which is usually apparent within the first few days of infection. Recent research suggests that as few as 17% of Lyme disease patients notice an EM rash. The bacteria B. Burgdorferi targets tissues high in collagen such as joints, aqueous humor of the eye, the meninges of the brain, the heart, and the skin. Typically, the Lyme bacterium lives deeper within tissues than most other types of bacterium.
Lyme Disease is known as one of the “great imitators.” It has been shown to manifest itself with similar if not identical symptoms as many other diseases including multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, arthritis, and many others. Other common symptoms of Lyme Disease include but are not limited to:
- High fever
- Continual low-grade fever
- Frequent neck stiffness and headaches
- Mild to moderate muscle and joint pain
- General flu like symptoms
- Bell’s palsy
- Mental confusion and difficulty thinking
- Mood swings including anxiety, irritability, and depression
- Disturbed sleep
- Fatigue, poor stamina
- Blurry vision with floaters or light sensitivity
- Feeling of pressure in the eye
- Stiffness of joints
- Twitching of muscles
- Tingling, numbness, or shooting pains
- Chest pain, heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath, cough
- Buzzing/ ringing in ears, sound sensitivity, or sudden hearing loss
- Motion sickness, vertigo, and poor balance
- Weight gain or loss
- Swollen glands
- Menstrual irregularity
- Irritable bladder
- Upset stomach and/or abdominal pain
- A sensation of buzzing or crawling under the skin
Now comes the tricky part. Figuring out how to diagnose Lyme disease. In the absence of an EM rash, there is no definitive way to diagnose Lyme disease. In the first 2-4 weeks of infection, only 50% of infected individuals produce measurable antibodies to Lyme Spirochetes. One common medical method to diagnosing Lyme disease is the Elisa test. A study performed in December of 2011 showed that 41% of patients were seronegative on an Elisa test despite having a well-developed EM rash and cultivated spirochetes from the lesion. Another common test is the Western Blot test; this test is a much more specific test than the Elisa with only 20-30% of people with Lyme disease remaining seronegative. Other common tests include Immunofluorescent assay, antigen capture, spinal tap and Polymerase Chain Reaction which uses the spirochetal DNA itself and enhances it to countable levels. These tests have all proven a lack of sensitivity and are not sufficient in the diagnosis of Lyme Disease. One of the best available tests today includes the iSpotLyme test, which tests the T-cell response to four different Lyme antigens. A very valuable test is a direct microscopic evaluation for the spirochete bacterium. Overall, lab testing can be very expensive and very inaccurate.
The Borrelia bacteria is a difficult bacteria to research due to the fact that it needs a host to live in. Due to this fact B. Burgdorferi is unable to be grown in a lab setting and is therefore known as a “fastidious” organism. The bacterium is by far the most complicated of its kind yet to be found on planet earth with the largest number of genetic units of replication. The current research on treating acute Lyme disease is actually quite consistent. The administration of antibiotics within the first 72 hours of infection almost always eradicates the infection.
The current research on treating chronic Lyme disease is very scattered. A randomized control trial of the effectiveness two different types of IV antibiotics had to be discontinued due to the fact that after the treatment of the first 107 patients, it was highly unlikely that the treatment was effective and the patients were experiencing a decrease in quality of life due to the adverse reactions to the antibiotics. A review of four trials on the effectiveness of antibiotics on chronic Lyme disease found that two out of the four trials demonstrated effectiveness in treating chronic Lyme disease. The other two trials did not show any positive effect.
Many health practitioners believe that chronic Lyme disease should be treated using only natural methods while others find effectiveness in treating chronic Lyme with both natural methods and antibiotics. The bottom line is that we don’t really have a definitive answer on how to treat chronic Lyme disease and more research needs to be done in this arena. Research using natural and homeopathic remedies has not been explored but is certainly a promising prospect. The research on the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy has been shown to be less than satisfactory. There is a definitive need for advanced research in treating chronic Lyme disease.
As mentioned several times earlier, but worth mentioning again, Lyme disease is a very brilliant bacterium. It has the most complicated genetic structure of any known bacteria on earth with over 1,500 gene sequences and at least 132 functioning genes. The ability to research the bacterium is limited due to the fact that it is unable to be isolated in a laboratory setting. The bacterium also has many stealth tactics allowing it to thrive in its host environment.
One of these stealth tactics is that the bacterium groups together inside the body in dense colonies that contain multiple layers of bacteria. Many treatments only affect the outside layers of the bacteria and still allow the inside layers to remain vibrant and safe. It is very hard to effectively kill the entire colony of bacteria without killing the person or animal that the bacterium is calling home. Lyme bacteria are unable to survive at 140°F but human beings are definitely not capable of surviving temperatures that high either.
When the bacterium is killed, it releases a toxin that leads to systemic inflammation and causes us as humans to feel very unwell. When killing off a Lyme infection, it is a constant battle between killing it off too quickly and not killing it off quickly enough. The bacterium is also able to retreat into its cyst form in less than a minute when threatened. While in the cyst phase—it is nearly invisible to the immune system of the body.
The Lyme bacterium has a difficult time establishing itself and thriving in a healthy environment. When an individual has a compromised gut and immune system, they are much more susceptible to obtaining the B. Burgdorferi bacteria. Habits and conditions that cause a decreased bio-terrain include: general toxicity, obesity, compromised immunity, poor diet, excessive stress, inadequate exercise, mold exposure, heavy metal toxicity, fungal infection, and many other various conditions that decrease the ability of the immune system to function and react to invaders appropriately.
Treatment for acute Lyme disease occurring within 72 hours of exposure has only a 0.2% chance of developing into chronic Lyme disease. I am certainly not a fan of antibiotics but this is one of the circumstances where the medication may be necessary. The research proves that a two-week course oral doxycycline is extremely effective in the treatment of acute Lyme disease. Doxycycline is usually the preferred antibiotic due to the decreased likelihood of side effects when compared to other antibiotics.
The treatment of chronic Lyme disease is very controversial at this moment and unfortunately there is no black and white treatment in either the medical world or in the natural community. In order for Lyme disease to be successfully treated, four simultaneous approaches are necessary: Killing the bacteria, supporting the immune system, supporting the areas of the body that contain collagen (joints,eyes), and symptomatic and detoxification support.
Research has shown that some parts of the Lyme lifecycle are six-months to one-year long. Successful treatment requires passing through several bacterial life cycles. Due to this fact, the 28-day antibiotic approach is not usually effective at eradicating the Lyme infection long-term. Antibiotics become more toxic to the body the longer that they are used and the Lyme bacteria can actually become resistant to the antibiotics the longer that they are utilized. Certain naturally approaches may be used to increase the effectiveness of antibiotic therapy and reduce the side effects.
There are also many natural antibiotic therapies available that are effective against B. Burgdorferi. These include cats claw, Andrographis paniculate, Japanese Knotweed (resveratrol,) garlic, smilax, usnea, olive leaf, and several others.
General detoxification is also a necessity when treating Lyme disease. At some point during the treatment of Lyme disease, heavy metal detoxification may be necessary. B. Burgdorferi has shown that it often times uses mercury to protect itself from invasion from the immune system. Vitamin-C flushes, coffee enemas, activated charcoal, and gallbladder/liver flushes may also be beneficial in treating Lyme disease by reducing the circulation of toxins in the bile and the overall toxin load of the body. Another important therapy to be utilized while treating Lyme disease is using an infrared sauna. Infrared is different from conventional saunas in the fact that it actually heats the body from the inside versus just on the outside. This creates an increased body temperature and has antimicrobial effects along with immune system boosting and detoxification effects Grounding mats and Epsom salt baths assist with fatigue and brain fog symptoms. An anti- inflammatory diet avoiding sugar, gluten, and dairy is necessary along with light exercise to tolerance in the Lyme disease patient.
I will repeat it one last time. Lyme disease is an incredibly and astonishingly brilliant bacterium. Nothing will ever surprise me when it comes to Lyme disease symptoms and its treatment. If you or someone you know has symptoms of Lyme disease or has been diagnosed with Lyme disease it is not a disease that should be treated at home. It is a disease that requires close monitoring and supervision from a licensed practitioner. If you have any questions about Lyme disease or would like to inquire about whether your symptoms might be related to Lyme disease, please do not hesitate contacting me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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