by ecoNugenics founder and formulator, Dr. Isaac Eliaz, MD, MS, LAc
May is Lyme Disease Awareness month, and it’s also tick season (ticks are most active in spring and fall). It’s estimated that Lyme infects 20,000 to 30,000 people each year, mostly in the northeast United States, as well as Northern California, Minnesota and Wisconsin. If detected early, the infection can be treated with a heavy round of antibiotics. However, delayed diagnosis and treatment can lead to a chronic, highly debilitating condition that can persist for years.
Causes and Consequences
The culprit in Lyme disease is a specific type of bacteria: Borrelia burgdorferi carried by infected deer ticks. Lyme disease in its early stages is most often recognizable by a telltale “bulls-eye” rash at the site of the tick bite. The condition comes with a laundry list of difficult and often devastating symptoms, such as severe headaches, flu symptoms, fatigue, joint pain, heart palpitations, dizziness, muscle paralysis and many others. Unfortunately, the rash can sometimes be concealed, on top of the head for example, or it may not appear at all. In these cases, diagnosis is often delayed or missed completely until much later when the infection has become chronic.
To complicate matters, many Lyme cases are misdiagnosed because the infection can be difficult to test for. That’s why it is so important to be vigilant about full body tick checks after spending any time in natural tick habitats, in order to catch potential infection early on. Some experts assert that the tick needs to bite for 24-48 hours in order to transmit the infection, so checking yourself after every nature outing is still the best way to prevent chronic Lyme disease. Tucking pants into socks and wearing natural tick repellant are also wise preventative measures.
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As noted, early antibiotics can be effective. However, the Lyme disease bacterium likes to hide inside cells, making treatment difficult. This is further complicated by the shortcomings of diagnostic tests, which tend to be more accurate three weeks or more after infection. False negatives are also common even in late-stage infections, again delaying or confusing detection.
When treatment is delayed, for whatever reason, Lyme disease can evolve into its chronic form, leading to a number of inflammatory and degenerative processes in the body, particularly in the musculoskeletal and nervous systems. Furthermore, the bacteria can develop antibiotic resistance, and even hide in the brain, where the blood/brain barrier blocks out antibiotics. Over time, Lyme disease can significantly impair the immune system, making people vulnerable to a number of co-infections. Herpes, chronic strep, mold, candida and other fungi, and other opportunistic pathogens can take up permanent residence. A tiny tick bite becomes a life-altering event, and not for the better.
For all these reasons, the treatment of Lyme disease requires a holistic approach. Yes, we can try to treat the bacteria with antibiotics, but we can’t stop there. Other issues like impaired immunity, inflammation, neurological damage, heavy metal body burden and co-infections must also be addressed, gently and thoroughly.
The Big Picture
The list of symptoms related to Lyme disease can fill a page, which lends credence to the belief that there’s a lot more going on than infection from a single type of bacteria. With so many vague symptoms, it can be difficult to determine when, or if, the disease has actually been cured. While the original bacterium might be eradicated, other issues might persist. This broad range of symptoms, and possible co-factors, requires a broad-spectrum response.
Detoxification and Immunity
A key step in any comprehensive Lyme protocol is gentle detoxification over a period of a few months. Heavy metals, environmental toxins, mold and other toxic accumulations can aggravate chronic inflammation and cause inappropriate or suppressed immune responses. A gentle detox program can strengthen immunity against the Lyme bacterium and other possible co-infections.
Another way to support the immune response is with medicinal mushrooms. Though often touted as immune boosters, they could be more accurately described as immune optimizers. Medicinal mushrooms can help focus the immune system to function more effectively, while supporting other areas of health in the process.
Inflammation and Infection
There are also a number of botanicals that offer important antimicrobial actions. Garlic and its primary active ingredient allicin, are top on the list. I also recommend curcumin, thyme, oregano, astragalus, boswellia, capsaicin and other botanical agents that help fight harmful pathogens and bacteria, control chronic inflammation and support numerous other areas of health.
Inflammation can get out of hand during a chronic infection or an overactive immune response, leading to degenerative symptoms such as debilitating joint pain, fatigue and more. Diet is a critical factor in controlling inflammation. Focus on eating low glycemic index foods (low sugar and low starch foods), such as high-fiber and green leafy vegetables, high quality protein, raw nuts and seeds, sprouted whole grains and beans, that will cool inflammation in the body and promote immunity and overall health.
As an integrative physician, I’ve also had success in my clinic with nutritional therapies such as phosphatidylcholine and glutathione treatments against Lyme disease. Phosphatidylcholine helps remove toxins from the nervous system while glutathione flushes them from the body. Other complementary treatments such as acupuncture, heat therapies, body work and other more in-depth therapies can help reduce inflammation, target bacteria, support neurological health, increase vital energy and aid in restoring balance to the system as a whole.
If you have concerns about Lyme disease, it’s important to seek out an integrative health provider experienced in this area of treatment. Lyme disease is a complicated condition, but that doesn’t mean we are powerless against it. By integrating conventional protocols like antibiotics (especially in the early stages) together with naturopathic approaches that modulate immunity, remove toxins and fight inflammation, we can control this debilitating condition, address potential complications and help restore health and vitality over time.