It’s estimated that Lyme disease 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.
B-cell Immune Response Key to Resolving Lyme Symptoms
Lyme disease is increasingly recognized as a significant health concern worldwide. As researchers continue to investigate the complex mechanisms behind this debilitating condition, one thing is clear: Symptoms and responses of Lyme disease are often very different from one person to the next. A recent study helps us understand why.
Published in the July 2018 issue of Frontiers in Immunology, the study shows that patients who had higher B-cell immune response to Lyme infection, experience more rapid resolution of Lyme symptoms. The researchers examined specific blood cells from Lyme patients and analyzed over a range of time, from initial (untreated) visit through two years following treatment. They compared these with healthy controls in the same geographic region. Results demonstrated that higher blood levels of plasmablasts—a specific B-cell subset of antibody-producing immune cells—correlated with more rapid resolution of clinical symptoms. In comparison, a poor plasmablast response was associated with longer symptom duration, following standard antibiotic treatment.
In particular, a higher plasmablast response was shown to produce stronger immune activity against Lyme bacteria proteins and peptides.
This study provides important insights into the broad range of symptom severity that Lyme patients experience. It can also help to guide future treatment guidelines focused on specific immune modulating ingredients.
A Holistic Approach to Treating Lyme Disease
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. Curcumin, thyme, oregano, astragalus, boswellia, capsaicin, and other botanical agents also 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.
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.