Tens of thousands of people will experience Lyme disease this summer. Unfortunately for some, this symptoms of this condition will persist longer than they should. For some, Lyme
disease can become a debilitating chronic illness. Treatment becomes expensive and thousands of patients have been forced to look for answers. Here’s what to know about Lyme disease and how Naturopathic medicine can help.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne illness in the United States, and around the world. The virus is transmitted by black-legged ticks (deer ticks), and certain types of mice. Lyme disease is identified by the presence the bacteria, Borrelia.
Symptoms of what is now called Lyme disease were reported in medical literature as early as the late 19th century. These reported symptoms were considered separate diseases until 1975 when an outbreak of rashes and arthritis occured in Lyme, Connecticut – the town became the namesake for the disease.
The presence of Lyme disease has increased dramatically over the past 10 years with the CDC estimating 300,000 cases occurred in 2017 (with only a fraction of those actually being reported).
Lyme disease occurs when people are exposed to ticks outdoors in grassy and wooded areas. The disease is more common in the northeast and upper midwest due to the habitat.
What are the Signs and Symptoms?
The first possible sign of Lyme Disease is a small red bump from a tick bite or from tick removal. This clears up in a few days and is impossible to differentiate from a mosquito or some harmless bug bite. If you develop a rash within the next three to 30 days, this is a strong indication of Lyme disease. This specific kind of rash (erythema migrans) resembles a bullseye pattern with a light-colored center and red outer rim. The rash can expand to up to 12 inches across, and multiple rashes can form when Lyme disease is present. Not all Lyme disease patients get the rash, but it’s a compelling sign to seek treatment if you do.
The rash is usually slightly warm to the touch but not painful or itchy. Other early onset symptoms include,
Swollen lymph nodes
If gone untreated for several weeks or months, further and more serious symptoms occur. This includes the spread of Erythema migrans with multiple rashes forming around the body. Joint pain and swelling usually begins in the knees and shifts from one joint area to another.
If Lyme disease is still not treated for several months, more severe symptoms develop. These include,
Temporary paralysis of one side of your face (Bell’s palsy)
Numbness or weakness in your limbs
Impaired muscle movement
Other neurological problems
Heart problems, such as an irregular heartbeat
Liver inflammation (hepatitis)
Many of these more serious symptoms occur when people experience Post-Treatment Lyme Disease (PTLD), more on that below.
Diagnosis – How do I Know if I Have Lyme Disease?
Not all tick bites lead to Lyme disease or tick-borne illness, however an early diagnosis is helpful for treatment. Usually the tick must be attached for more than 48 hours for the virus to be transmitted. If symptoms seems to be improving, you should still see a doctor. The conditions could be related Lyme or a different disease and the situation can get worse if untreated.
If you’re experiencing any of the symptoms above, had prolonged exposure to ticks or removed a tick – you should see a doctor to check for Lyme disease. Lab tests determine if the Borrelia bacteria is present.
The official diagnosis requires two lab tests. The first is the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay test (ELISA) which detects Borrelia antibodies. The second is the Western blot test which identifies protein antibodies of the Borrelia virus. The ELISA test can show false positives occasionally, so the Western blot test is required to confirm the diagnosis. Make sure your doctor performs both tests given the possibility of a false positive.
Additional testing that may be suggested is a viral panel to rule out co-infections. As the insult of lyme disease has on the neurological and immune system, the body is more prone for co-infections such as CMV, EBV, HHV-6, and mycoplasma. This severely decreases the immune system so CD4, CD8, and CD57 are commonly tested as well. Additional testing such as HLA-DR haplotype may be ran to see what the body is more susceptible to. Common susceptible antigens include: lyme disease, mold, parasites, bacteria, and different fungi.
Lyme Disease Treatment Options: Conventional and Alternative Methods
Many Lyme disease patients are treated successfully with antibiotics. Oral antibiotics are provided for early-stage Lyme disease and usually require a 10 to 21 day schedule. If the condition is more serious, intravenous antibiotics are recommended to curb the disease when it’s spread to the nervous system, this usually requires 14 to 28 days of treatment.
However the IV antibiotic treatment can cause side effects such as a lower white blood cell count, mild to severe diarrhea, or an infection of antibiotic-resistant organisms. Additionally, there’s a percentage of patients who do not fully recover from Lyme, they experience symptoms months, even years after treatment. As mentioned above, this has created a need for treatment options for PLTD.
There are several naturopathic options for Lyme disease if traditional treatment hasn’t relieved all symptoms. These include,
Ozone Therapy – Ozone therapy is a procedure where ozone (O3) is introduced into the body to produce a pro-oxidative effect to potentially eradicate pathogenic bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, or other organisms. Ozone therapy has been used by some patients to combat the joint pain and fatigue caused by PTLD. Read more about ozone therapy.
Essential oils – Some patients have experimented with essential oils due to their ability to kill bacteria. Some studies have been done using cinnamon bark, clove bud, and oregano oils, but more research is needed.
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy – A notable 2014 case study in Taiwan showed results of a patient being treated for Lyme disease with a hyperbaric oxygen tank. This involves sitting in a chamber that exposes patients to oxygen at a high pressure. (Wondering the difference between hyperbaric oxygen therapy and ozone therapy? Read more here.)
Chelation therapy – Chelation therapy is a method for removing metal toxicity from the body such as lead or mercury. This treatment will remove any buildup of heavy metals and is promoted by some as a Lyme disease treatment, but there’s no evidence that high metal content relates to the Borrelia virus.
Lyme Disease Research: New Insights About Conventional vs Alternative Treatment
Conventional treatments include antibiotics such as doxycycline for 12 months but this is not sustainable, as well as, effective in treating lyme disease. Some co-infections of lyme disease include: mycoplasma, EBV, CMV, and HHV6. These co-infections exacerbate the symptoms of lyme disease and makes lyme disease difficult to treat. Conventional medicine does not have the answer quite yet for chronic disease, especially lyme disease.
Alternative treatments have been helping individuals with lyme disease due to the pro oxidant effects of Ozone therapy, high dose vitamin C IV treatments, Alpha lipoic acid IV treatments, and glutathione. These treatments have a pro oxidant effect on the body and may aid in eradicating lyme disease as well as co-infections. However, this may cause a herxheimer reaction, which is a cytokine reaction that may result in the following symptoms: fever, night sweats, joint pain, nausea, brain fog, migraines, and fatigue. A herxheimer reaction or “herx reaction” is a positive sign/symptom in which die-off is occurring with the lyme + co-infections.
The alternative treatment options have been producing significant clinical results which need to be furthered studied to come up with a standard of care protocol for lyme disease. IV therapy and ozone therapy has seen some promising results in clinical cases of lyme disease and other chronic illnesses.
“I have been coming to LIVV for a few weeks regularly for my IV therapy and absolutely love this place. I have a chronic illness (lyme disease) with severe sensitivities and Dr. Phan has been so compassionate with my concerns and needs. The place has a great vibe which allows for a relaxing and great experience. Karley is wonderful and is always understanding and helpful with making sure I get everything I need. I definitely recommend LIVV as it is a wonderful place with caring people, so happy I found them! Oh and parking is easy which for me is huge :)”
Are you Suffering From Lyme Disease or Chronic Disease?
Dr. Payam Zand NMD – LIVV Natural Health | Naturopathic Medical Doctor specializing in IV Vitamin Therapy, PRP (platelet rich plasma)/Regenerative Injections, Chronic disease, infectious disease, and general wellness.