- Lyme disease is an illness caused by a bacteria called Borrelia burgdoreri. It is spread to humans and animals by a certain type of “hard-bodied” tick that is carrying the bacterium (gram-negative spirochete bacteria). This Lyme bacteria can duplicate themselves rapidly and can hide from the body’s immune system by mimicking healthy cells. Lyme bacteria can also change forms to elude the immune system or antibiotics. When it is in “cyst” form it becomes very difficult to kill. According to the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), there are 5 subspecies of Borrelia burgodoreri, over 100 strains in the United States and 300 strains worldwide.
Adding to the challenge of treatment, a mixture of other disease organisms in the tick flow into ones body during “feeding” or while the tick is attached to the body. A malaria-like parasite called Babesia (66% of cases in Northeast) is most common along with different types of pathogens and viruses. Treatment of these secondary organisms are needed to cure the illness
- According to ILADS, up to 50% of ticks in Lyme-endemic areas like the Hudson Valley are now infected.
- According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), cases of Lyme disease are grossly underreported and Lyme disease is now the fastest growing infectious disease in the United States. The CDC estimates that Lyme disease infects 300,000 people a year or 10 times more Americans than previously reported. Many experts in the field now say that Lyme disease is the number one spreading epidemic in the world today and more than 10 times larger than the AIDS epidemic of the 1980’s. Recent research also suggests that Lyme disease can be transmitted from mother to fetus and that mosquitoes and spiders can carry the Lyme bacteria.
- Lyme disease affects people differently especially when ones immune system is compromised. The good news is that Lyme can often be treated successfully with antibiotics (doxycycline drug of choice) if caught early (typically within two weeks of the bite). Unfortunately, most Lyme victims never know they were bitten until it’s too late (According to ILADS, less than 50% of patients recall a tick bite and only 17% find the tick).
- According to ILADS, 40% of short treatment courses with antibiotics result in upwards of a 40% relapse rate, especially if treatment is delayed. ILADS also reports that 40% of Lyme patients are ending up with long term health problems and the average patient is seeing 5 doctors over nearly 2 years before being diagnosed correctly.
- Adding to the challenge of being diagnosed correctly, the symptoms of Lyme can affect almost every part of ones body. Short Term Symptoms are: general flu-like symptoms, fever, sore throat, muscle or joint pain, headache, fatigue, depression, migraines and the swelling of lymph glands (usually located under the arm pit).
Long Term Symptoms are the most devastating: arthritic pain in joints, night sweats, neurological problems, sleep disturbances, severe fatigue, cognitive difficulties (severe memory & concentration problems), dizziness , heart palpitations, peripheral neuropathy (burning sensations all over the body), psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.
Lyme disease symptoms can also mimic those of other diseases. Fibromyalgia, acute neurological problems can appear such as Bell’s palsy, which is a loss of muscle tone on one or both sides of the face, a manifestation of meningitis, which is characterized by severe headaches, neck pain and stiffness, and sensitivity to light or a manifestation of encephalitis may cause sleep problems, changes in mood or memory loss.
- Contrary to common belief, not everyone bitten by a Lyme carrying tick gets the Lyme disease rash or the “Bull’s Eye” or red ring around the bite location According to ILADS, less than 50% of cases had a rash & if disease has progressed to a later stage there may be more than one red ring. Experts now believe that getting a rash indicates the person has had Lyme already present in their system, due to a prior infection or bite. Individuals with darker-skin may experience a dark ring instead of a red ring.
- Testing for Lyme disease is difficult. The traditional testing of ones blood (enzyme immunoassay (EIA) or immunofluorescence assay (IFA)) appears to be accurate only about 50% of the time. According to the CDC, a second testing of the IgM and IgG levels is recommended if positive signs or disease symptoms last greater than 30 days.
According to ILADS, the common Elise test misses 35% of culture proven Lyme disease & that up to 50% of patients tested for Lyme disease receive false negative results.
Some experts encourage the examination of the actual tick itself to identify species, if it is engorged with blood or if the mouthparts are present (if not, they may have remained in the skin). This tick ID service is provided by some County Health Departments (Ulster County, NY contact: 845-340-3021). The CDC, however, expresses caution since even if the tick is infected with disease-causing organisms, that does not necessarily mean that you have been infected.
- What all experts do agree upon is that carefully removing the tick as fast as possible and getting early treatment produces the best results. First, do not put anything on the tick, burn the tick, touch the tick with fingers or squeeze the tick. Remove the tick carefully as follows:
- Apply tweezers close to skin on the front of the tick or as close to the head that you can get (you can purchase Tick Removal Kits)
- Pull the tick straight out with a steady, slow motion (do not twist or squeeze it; avoid crushing the body of the tick or you risk spilling its stomach contents into the bite)
- Clean the bite area afterwards with an antiseptic like isopropyl alcohol. Wash your hands and
- Examine the bite for any remaining parts of the tick. If you think the head is still in the wound & you can’t get out with tweezers, make an appointment with your doctor to get it out
- Save the tick for testing, preferably alive, in a zippered plastic bag or container with moist cotton balls
- Mark the date. Remember Lyme disease may take from 3 days to two months to show symptoms. Early treatment is always recommended
- Apply ice for 15-20 minutes once an hour to ease the itching (over a wash cloth). Take ibuprofen and/or an antihistamine for pain or itching
Generally, a tick has to be on the body sucking blood for about 24-36 hours to transfer Lyme disease. If the tick is removed with 6-8 hours, the likelihood of getting infected is very low.
WELLNESS RX: TREATING LYME DISEASEAt this stage of the Lyme disease epidemic in America, there is no one treatment plan for Lyme disease. Every individual is different and doctors all over the country have different, often radical treatment philosophies on the subject. We are only in the early stages of understanding this unique disease and infected individuals in high risk areas like the Hudson Valley section of New York State are part of the evolving experiment.
All parties do agree that prevention is the best way to stay safe especially during tick season (ticks in their nymphal (immature) stage are most likely to transmit Lyme disease; they are most active from April through the end of July). Wear long pants tucked into your socks (light-colored best), wear long sleeved shirts with tight cuffs, wear shoes and socks, tie up long hair and always wear a hat, keep a Tick Removal Kit by your side and once inside check for ticks head to toe, paying close attention to areas like your scalp and neck (putting your clothes in the dryer for 35-60 minutes will kill lingering ticks). The CDC also recommends showing within 2 hours of returning indoors.
You may also want to use certain sprays to protect your skin/clothing from ticks. Some sprays are used on clothes only (contain a chemical called permehrin). Other sprays can be used on skin and clothing (contain a chemical called DEET).
Other sprays, creams, lotions and oils are natural in composition (many types of therapeutic grade essential oils; ticks don’t like the smell of the oils) and most are safe for children and pets (no citrus or pine oil products for cats). Some reports suggest that Dryer Sheets (Bounce) in socks, pockets & hat helps.
Treating home yards with pesticides (or natural products like garlic) from April to mid-May can also be helpful. Spray or spread 5 feet extending from shrubbery into grass and at least 10 feet into vegetation areas. Be aware of any local Neighborhood Notification laws to follow.
All parties agree that getting early treatment is the most important step for success. Since most early treatment regiments include extended antibiotic use, it is highly recommended that you also add a high dose probiotic supplement to your diet along with immune boosting therapy ( aloe vera juice, raw honey, high dose vitamin C supplements, Elderberry Tonic, ginger, oregano oil, Japanese mushrooms, avocados, herbal tonics and foods from the cabbage family (kale, broccoli and fresh sauerkraut) are all highly recommended).
It is strongly recommended to seek a second opinion if symptoms persist despite current treatments. Physicians cannot be experts in all areas of medicine. Misdiagnosis is not surprising when one is dealing with a disease for which diagnostic tests are not definitive. Many research and teaching institutions like Columbia University Medical Center (www.nymc.edu/LDDC) have established specialized Lyme Disease Diagnostic and Treatment Centers.
In the end, there is often no magic pill or no magic solution to cure Lyme disease especially cases that were undiagnosed for an extended period of time. Talk to patients suffering with the disease and you will hear tragic stories of pain, long hours of hopelessness and medical costs that never end. The journey to simply feel better again becomes overwhelming.
For most, treating chronic Lyme disease requires a commitment to become your own private investigator that includes exploring the world of alternative medicine and natural healing. Here are some interesting and hopeful stories from individuals who are committed to the successful treatment of Lyme disease or that have found ways to “out smart” this nasty disease:
The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is a non-profit organization that tries to serve as an objective clearinghouse for the latest information in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease (www.ilads.org). The site can be useful for identifying doctors who have been trained in the advanced treatment of Lyme’s patients and diagnose based on a clinical evaluation.
Dr. Joe Jemsek, a leading infectious disease specialist, blames the American health care system for failing to raise the flag on this epidemic, for failing to recognize Lyme disease as a true chronic disease and for failing to take patients symptoms seriously (“can never quit on your patient”). According to Dr. Jemsek,
treating Lyme disease today now depends on insurance coverage and not receiving that dreaded “denial letter” in the mail.
Dr. Richard Horowitz, a general internist from High Park, NY, has treated over 12,000 Lyme disease patients and claims a 90% success rate. His recent book “Why Can’t I Get Better ? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease “ is currently on the NY Times Top 10 Science Best Seller list (www.cangetbetter.com). In his book, Dr. Horowitz tries to provide a map for helping a patient to find out “why they aren’t feeling well “ and a comprehensive questionnaire is included to help a patient determine the probability of a Lyme disease diagnosis.
According to Dr. Horowitz, chronic Lyme disease is a complex interplay of genetics, environmental factors, infections, trauma and overlapping medical problems (multi-factorial causes of chronic illness). Success must start with the initial patient intake to identify past medical history, testing’s and examinations, nutritional deficiencies, thyroid levels, adrenal gland functioning, presence of heavy metals in the body, glycose levels and any other factor that may be impacting the patient’s immune system.
Dr. Horowitz particularly stresses testing for Babesiones (a tick-borne malaria-like parasitic illness) in all Lyme patients. At a recent ILAD convention, Dr. Horowitz stated that “ Babesia infections are spreading worldwide and that some patients are starting to show a resistance to Mepron or the top anti-protozol drug used to treat the infection”. Dr. Horowitz has found some success in treating Mepron-resistant patients with natural herbs that treat malaria. In addition to Armanecia, he has used Cryptolepis Sanguinileta (from Ghana; in short supply), Artemisia Annua (800mg. to over 1gm./day) and an extract of Turmeric called Curcumin (adding a black pepper called Piperine increases the uptake of Curcumin).Backing-up Dr. Horowitz’s concerns, Dr. James Schaller has written a book “The Diagnosis and Treatment of Babesia” and stresses that these co-infections must be aggressively treated for Lyme disease patients to achieve long-term success.
According to researcher Dr. Joseph J. Burrascano Jr., chronic Lyme disease patients are always suffering from a mixture of different pathogens and often experience a re-activation of latent infections that come out as a result of a failing immune system. Dr. Burrascano stresses that Borrelia bacteria don’t grow steady, but rather they grow in 4 week long cycles. Treatment or the killing of the bacteria will only occur during the “growth phase”
Dr. Burrascano suggests that patients keep a daily journal to determine when symptoms are peaking (do they follow the 4 week growth cycles ?) or evolving (early flu-like, then more “organ specific” including the heart & then full body illness ).
Dr. Burrascano stresses that early testing at a qualified lab and the ruling out of other diseases (correct clinical diagnosis) is essential since the longer one lives with the disease, the longer the antibiotic course to get better and the harder to achieve full recovery.
From Olympic runner Perry Louis Fields, advice is given to have a plan in place for the “Die-Off” period or the period after extensive antibiotic treatment when Lyme dies and your body becomes overloaded with neurotoxin waste (poison).Perry suggests that Vitamin C IV, chelation, orally taking charcoal and rebounding on a mini tramp all help to get the waste through ones Lymphatic System and out of the body. Perry claims that antibiotic therapy alone will never get all of the Lyme. It’s only when your immune system can finish the job is when you have success. Read about Perry’s journey on www.thetickslayer.com.
From the herbal medicine field, drinking aloe vera juice daily holds promise in strengthening the immune system and in detoxifing the body to help with the removal of deadly toxins. Also, licorice, garlic and skullcap can help to cease the growth of the Lyme bacteria. According to natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola (www.mercola.com), garlic supplements work best when combined with the amino acid arginine.
According to the Rodale News (www.rodalenews.com/lyme-disease) , Lyme-killing plants also include the herbs Samento, Banderol, Andrographis, Japenese knotweed/resveratrol, Smilax, Cat’s claw and Stephania.
Speaking for traditional Chinese Medicine, a NYC-based Lyme disease expert Dr. Qingcai Zhang, says that an infectious disease consists of two sides: the invading pathogens and the body’s reaction to the invasion (strength of the immune system). In Dr. Zhang’s book “Lyme Disease & Modern Chinese Medicine” (www.lymediseaseresoucrce.com), he claims to have treated more than 1,000 cases of Lyme disease at different chronic stages with more than 60% of patients symptom free after 6 months or more of herbal treatment.
Jason Elias, a licensed acupuncturist and certified herbalist from New Paltz, NY,
combines Chinese and herbal formulations to treat many of today’s health challenges. Jason has been studying Lyme for 20 years and has created LymeOut (11 different herbs) to help combat acute and chronic Lyme disease (www.FiveElementHealing.net)
According to Dr. Isaac Eliaz of the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center, natural compounds that ease inflammation, such as Curcumin, modified citrus pectin, and Tibetan Herbal Formula can help with treatment along with a low-glycemic-index diet because carbohydrates, including sugar, fuel the Lyme germs (avoid processed foods and adding sugar to diet). Dr. Eliaz suggests that Zinc, B & D vitamin deficiencies can also slow down Lyme recovery.
Dr. Eliaz stresses that the Lyme bacteria is an intracellular spirochete bacterium that bores itself into cell membranes and effectively shields itself from antibiotic treatment (can also hide dormant in the nervous system, among other places, where antibiotic drugs can’t reach them).
According to the Lyme Newsletter (www.goodbyelyme.com) , an herb Terminalia Chebula can help destroy the biofilm which Lyme bacteria create to shield themselves from antibiotics and according to www.tiredoflyme.com, Teasel Root (tincture or capsules) pulls the Lyme bacteria from tissue and into the blood system exposing it to antibiotics and the immune system.
According to Daryl Hall of the famous musical group Hall & Oates, chronic Lyme disease has been devastating to him and early signs of problems could include an increase in allergic reactions to common foods such as celery sticks.
According to the international natural health physician Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt (www.klinghardacademy.com), almost all of chronic disease today is now turning out to be related to chronic infections. Like Dr. Horowitz, Dr. Klinghardt believes that Lyme disease is a complex interplay of genetics, emotional background, nutritional history, environmental exposure, co-infections and a suppressed immune system which can trigger other diseases in the body that were dormant.
After many years of studying infectious diseases , Dr. Klinghardt has become a leading expert in the treatment of Lyme disease without antibiotics.
Often, Dr. Klinghardt is now the “ last option referral” for patients long-suffering with Lyme disease or other untreated chronic illnesses.
Dr. Klinghardt’s treatment begins with a comprehensive testing of a patient’s immune responses to disease (autonomic-response testing). This includes muscle testing (reflexes), neurological testing (cranial nerves), skin sensitivity to touch and a look at ones personal history including any trauma that they haveexperienced (psychic kinesiology). After about six weeks of testing, a preliminary diagnosis is made and blood testing begins (Dr. Klinghardt uses Arginex Labs in Palto Alto, CA since they test for 2 different antigens versus the one antigen testing done at most commercial labs).Dr. Klinghardt’s treatment approach then looks at external factors at the patients workplace and home. This includes the testing for molds (very high contributor to symptoms like Lyme disease) and exposure to electromagnetic fields or “electronic smog” (the damage caused by molds are accelerated by cell phones, TV’s, computers, microwaves, etc.). Before treatment begins, the patient must mitigate exposure to molds and electronic smog.
Dr. Klinghardt then tests for parasites (test must be made within 20 minutes of a bowel movement while parasites remain alive). If test is positive, treatment begins. Once the parasites are removed from the body, Dr. Klinghardt designs an anti-microbial and anti-viral cocktail (especially strong herbal tonic; may include niacinamide (Vit. B3); cocktail formula on his WebSite) which is taken daily by the patient for a prescribed period of time. During treatment, Dr. Klinghardt treats any other underlying problem discovered such as insulin resistance.According to Dr. Klinghardt, patients who can afford treatment and stay with treatment protocol, have a tough first 2 months and then start to feel better in about 4 months. Overall, his success rate has been excellent.
The literature is full of personal stories, blogs and public health releases on the escalating challenges that lie ahead as our country faces the reality that chronic Lyme disease is real and fast-growing. As Dr. Joe Jensek stated, “our health care system is trying to now play catch-up on Lyme and time is running out”.
It is our hope at Wellness Rx that this report on Lyme disease helps you to better understand the facts surrounding this epidemic and helps provide you or a family member objective treatment options if one develops chronic Lyme disease. We will continue to update our research as more facts come in, more outcome studies are received and more personal stories of success can be celebrated.
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