About Lyme Disease:

Since the discovery over thirty years ago of the spirochete bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb), responsible for causing Lyme disease, much research and information has come to light around this serious health issue.   Lyme is probably the most political and controversial disease of these times.  The bacteria is transmitted from the bite of a tick to its host, which can include animals such as deer, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, small rodents, birds, pets and people.  Research has shown that Bb can be transmitted through the placenta and there is even concern that it may be transmitted through blood transfusions.   In the United States and Europe, where much of the research is being conducted, researchers consider Lyme a larger pandemic than Cancer and AIDS with estimates of up to 200,000 new cases a year in the United States alone.  In Canada new cases of Lyme are found in every province.

 The Politics of Lyme Disease

Lyme is often under-diagnosed or misdiagnosed.

Those with Lyme disease often have other bacterial co-infections such as Bartonella, Babesia and Ehrlichia and they are often lumped together with Lyme disease.  The standard medical therapy for Lyme and its co-infections is the use of antibiotics.  However, due to current Health Canada and US guidelines, doctors are restricted from using the long-term antibiotics they used previously and that seemed to be very beneficial  for many people with chronic Lyme.  The current regulations of a maximum of six weeks of antibiotic use can be effective for treating an initial infection; it is however, not long enough, for treating chronic Lyme.   

In both the U.S. and Canada, there seems to be a schism in the medical community.  On the one side, the regulatory bodies of allopathic or mainstream medicine insist that chronic Lyme disease does not exist and medical doctors are only allowed to treat recognized diseases.  On the other side are Lyme Literate Medical Doctors (LLMD) and complementary practitioners who recognize chronic Lyme exists and that it is both under-diagnosed and misdiagnosed.   

Chronic Lyme Testing

To date there is no test that is 100% accurate for detecting Bb, which makes it difficult to diagnose.

The two approved tests in Canada and the U.S. are the ELISA and the Western Blot.  These tests measure the body’s immune response to the bacteria or antibody levels in the blood and not the presence of the bacteria.  Both of these tests have recognized limitations, including up to fifty percent false negative results.  Another test, the Lyme Dot Blot Assay or LDA, measures the Lyme antigen or bacteria levels in the urine and not the body’s immune response

In chronic Lyme, Bb is not necessarily circulating in the blood and does therefore not always show positive on the above tests.  The bacteria inhabits intercellular tissue, including immune cells and may only be detectable through biopsy and autopsy.  The bacteria have also shown the capability to form cysts.  The cyst form of Bb allows the bacteria to evade the body’s immune system and even antibiotics.  These cysts are considered the major reason for relapses.

Lyme the Great Imitator

The reason Lyme disease is known as the Great Imitator is because it can manifest in any part of the body with many different sumptoms.

There is no single unique expression for Lyme and it can infect every system and organ in the body.  Neurological Lyme, or neuorborreliosis, can manifest as Alzheimer’s, ALS, Autism, Parkinson’s, Bell’s Palsy or MS and many individuals with these diseases have tested positive for Lyme. 

“Multiple Sclerosis (MS) is a chronic central nervous system infection similar to Lyme disease or Neurosyphilis in its latency period, pathogenesis, symptoms, histopathology and chronic CNS involvement” Med Clin (Barc) 12;94(18):658-8

“In the late period of Lyme disease demyelinating involvement of the central nervous system can develop and MS can be erroneously diagnosed” 2007;69(1):117-9. Epub 2007 Jan 2

Other recognized forms of Lyme include Arthritic Lyme, Cardiac Lyme, Ocular Lyme and Auditory Lyme.  Chronic fatigue, chronic pain or fibromyalgia symptoms are common.  Coincidentally or not, the terms fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome were coined during the same time period as a resistance to recognizing chronic Lyme disease became the norm.  The cause and cure for fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome remain unknown today.

Some of the other symptoms and conditions that can indicate Lyme disease include constant headaches or migraines, night sweats, heart palpitations, neck pain, jaw and teeth pain, anxiety, sleep disorders, fatigue, memory issues (Lyme fog) and autoimmune disorders.

Less than half of Lyme infected individuals bitten by a tick, develop the classical bulls eye rash or erythema migrans (EM).  As a result, many individuals may not realize they were infected.  Within weeks of infection, individuals often develop flu-like symptoms and can experience a significant deterioration in their health, either gradually or rapidly.  Many do not develop symptoms for years. 

Herxheimer Reaction

Why you somtimes need to feel worse to get better...

When using antibiotics or natural antibacterial remedies, the body can experience a die off of the bacteria.  This causes what is known as a herxheimer reaction or a flare up of the symptoms.  The patient can initially feel worse, which may lead them to believe incorrectly that they are having an adverse reaction to the remedy.   These reactions can actually indicate that the remedy is working.  Lyme sufferers may experience many herxheimer reactions throughout the curative process.

Natural Therapies

There are many effective natural therapies to eradicate both the spirochete and cyst form of Bb and co-infections.

Natural therapies can be used on their own or in combination with antibiotics, with the potential of improving their efficacy.  They can also have the added benefit of improving the ELISA and Western Blot test accuracy.  Currently, there are limited clinical studies on natural therapies to support their use for Lyme.  Most of the common natural therapies used to treat Lyme rely on empirical evidence with supportive studies of their antibacterial and immune action.

When initially infected antibiotics are warranted; in conjunction Astragalus can be used to increase the body’s immune response to Bb and may help prevent Lyme from gaining a foothold in the body.  It is an excellent herb to be included in a first aid kit. 

Working with a Lyme Literate complementary Practitioner (LLCP)

The LLCP can provide an objective view and treat both the individual and the disease.

The A Lyme recovery program will be based on:

   how long the individual has been infected

   the severity of symptoms

   the state of the person’s immune system

   predispositions

   ability to detox

This information will help determine how to prioritize treatment, when to address non-Lyme co-infections like Candida and when and how to implement a detoxification program.  As Lyme can often cause damage to tissues and organs, an LLCP can offer supportive therapies and determine whether dealing with the Lyme may help to resolve the other issues indirectly.

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