Lyme Disease

by Leon Hecht, ND

Lyme Disease is a bacterial infection resulting from a tick bite and is the fastest spreading and emerging epidemic in the United States.
 
Black legged ticks (deer ticks) infect humans. Deer and white-footed mice are the primary carriers of this bacterial infection. A recent study showed 50% to 70% of the deer ticks in the Durham/Lee woodlands are infected with Lyme disease and Bartonella, another serious infection.
 

Early Lyme Disease Symptoms

Signs of early Lyme Disease infection include flu like symptoms (sore throat, headache, body aches and pains, fever, nausea).
 
A bull’s-eye rash occurs in less than 50% of cases. Having a bull’s-eye Lyme rash is a definitive diagnosis of Lyme Disease and should be treated immediately with antibiotics for a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks.
 

Chronic Lyme Disease Symptoms

Chronic Lyme disease is an infection lasting more than 1 year.
 
Fatigue is the most universal presenting symptom, along with headaches, fevers and flushes of heat, body aches, muscle and joint pain, brain fog, declining memory, tingling in extremities, and a long list of other neurologic, cardiac, eye and systemic symptoms.
 
One of the most important clues of Lyme Disease is that symptoms will wax and wane over time. The symptoms may be of recent onset or perhaps began years ago.
 

How do I know if I have Lyme Disease?

The diagnosis of Lyme Disease is primarily a clinical diagnosis, meaning a “Lyme Literate Doctor” (LLD) can often diagnose you as having Lyme Disease based on a carefully taken case history, your symptoms, and a physical exam. Lab diagnosis is then used to confirm the LLD’s suspicion. A negative Lyme test does not mean you don’t have Lyme Disease!
 
There is a significant difference in Lyme testing laboratories. A specialty lab called Igenex offers the most accurate testing for Lyme Disease, while other labs offer a Lyme test that is 30% to 70% less likely to detect whether or not you have a Lyme infection.
 
A person newly infected with Lyme Disease (less than 2 months) is unlikely to have a positive test as it takes weeks to months to develop antibodies to the infection.  
 

Antibiotics & Lyme Disease

Recently bitten patients should take antibiotics immediately, as the more recent their infection, the more likely they will be cured with antibiotic therapy.  
 
Conventional antibiotics are used to decrease the number of Lyme bacteria in an individual’s body. This will aid in the initial immune recovery and help a patient to feel better.  If there is a chronic infection, and or co-infections (links to Bartonella, Babesia, Erlichia), a variety of antibiotics are required to treat the different manifestations of infection.
 

Treating Chronic Lyme Disease with Integrated Medicine

An integrated medicine approach to treating individuals with Chronic Lyme Disease begins with the recognition that the patient has been ill for an extended period of time and it is likely many body systems are affected.
 
Hormone assessment; adrenal, thyroid, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, growth hormone (link to tests for hormones and adrenal fatigue, hypothyroid, hormonal imbalance), and balancing is necessary for optimal body functioning. Sleep disturbances are common and need to be addressed. 
 
A chronic Lyme infection suppresses the immune system. Nutrition and botanical medicine are crucial to immune recovery and stimulation. Specific plant medicines can assist in spirochete killing and immune stimulation.
 
Often the digestive system needs support from repeated insults from antibiotics. Probiotics, antifungal botanicals, and digestive enzymes are essential. Anti inflammatory herbs can help quench the immune fires of infection, decrease pain, aching and fevers. Quercetin, curcurmin, ginger, bromelain, and others can be helpful.  
 
Intravenous nutritional therapy replenishes vitamin and mineral levels. Gentle detoxification and an anti inflammatory diet are crucial to immune system recovery. Moderate protein and carbohydrate, high vegetable diets are necessary for optimal immune and digestive recovery. 
 
Resistance training (as appropriate) stimulates muscle, tendon and joint repair, immune stimulation, and hormonal balance. Brain fog (encephalopathy) is one of the most distressing symptoms and can be helped by treating the underlying infection and using brain nutrients, neurotransmitter precursors and hormones. Heavy metal testing and treatment is essential to optimal immune and brain functioning.
 
As you can see, chronic Lyme Disease is a complex and multi system illness. Many people with chronic Lyme Disease have not been diagnosed and treated appropriately. Effective treatment of infected individuals is best accomplished in most cases using a combination of conventional antibiotics and natural medicine.