Some thoughts on antibiotics and treating chronic Lyme… When I was first diagnosed in 2005, all I knew to treat Lyme disease with was antibiotics, so I went hard and heavy right away. After taking doxcycline orally for about a month and not noticing any positive results, I asked my naturopath for a PICC line. She refused, citing that it was too drastic and dangerous, so I went to another doctor who would do it.
During the procedure to insert it, the hospital staff unwittingly jabbed my heart with the line, and I started losing blood pressure on the table. They kept me for observation for about an hour and then I drove myself home. Later than night while asleep, I rolled over on it and I thought I was going to die when I experienced something on the level of a heart attack. I didn’t die and believe it or not, I actually got a second PICC line inserted a year later and I resorted to painful intramuscular injections of Bicillin when the PICC lines didn’t have any lasting effect. The doctors I was consulting at the time only knew of antibiotics as a Lyme treatment. When you only have a hammer in your toolbox, you tend to think the solution to every problem can be achieved through hammering a nail.
I experienced outbursts of rage and felt my tendons snapping when I was on Levaquin, and I only made it through a week of Minocycline before I asked my doctor to take me off of it because I felt I might commit suicide from it. I felt THAT depressed while taking it.
After that, I spent 5 years on 3-5 different oral antibiotics at a time and I got a dangerous CDIFF infection during this treatment. To combat the infection, my doctor prescribed TWO MORE antibiotics … Nystatin and Flagyl. I believed my doctors who told me “you have to stay on antibiotics until you feel better.” Problem was, I never felt better… until I went off of them.
Finally, I learned about herbal treatments and I went on the Zhang protocol + some Cowden protocol tinctures. It took me several months but my brain fog began to clear and I started getting my energy back.
The thing that really put me against antibiotic treatment for late stage Lyme were a few slides I saw at a presentation Dr. Lee Cowden gave in Pennsylvania in December of 2016. He showed the audience a slide of a borellia burgdorferi spirochete with a few buds or cysts attached (see attached photo). He told us this was a spirochete that had been exposed to antibiotics in the blood stream a few hours before. The next thing that would happen, he said, is the longer body would die but the little cysts would eventually detach and become new spirochetes and travel throughout the body and leave the bloodstream. He said that this is why it is not recommended to treat Lyme patients with ABX (antibiotics) after 60 days of infection onset… the ABX make the bacteria go into a hyper reproductive state. I believe through my own experience that if you’ve had chronic Lyme for several years, ABX is like fighting a fire with gasoline.
I have heard the Lyme and co-infections bacteria described as “antibiotic resistant” and I would go a step further and call them “antibiotic intelligent.” There is evidence beyond what Dr. Cowden showed that the bacteria flees the circulatory system when ABX are present, burrowing into bone, tissue and organs to go into hiding. They can also develop their own protection in the form of a biofilm shielding that makes it difficult for ABX to get near them.
Most Lyme literate doctors will tell you that no patients are getting “cured” or going completely symptom free indefinitely from taking ABX, but I have talked to people who have felt “relief” for a few months which made them think the ABX were bringing about full remission. What was actually happening, according to one of my original medical doctors, is the ABX did kill some bugs but they migrated, reproduced and went into dormancy. This effect happened to me with each PICC line. I would experience reduced symptoms for 3 months and then I would crash harder than before after about the fourth month. Once the bacteria detected I had discontinued ABX, they would come roaring back with a vengeance, knocking me flat with worsened symptoms.
I would also like to point out that there is strong evidence that taking antibiotics WITHIN 60 days of infection can completely turn around the illness. I have several friends who have taken a 4-6 week round of doxycycline after noticing a tick or bull’s eye rash and they are leading healthy, normal lives.
However, one of these friends noticed the bite and infection right away and still had trouble treating with ABX. It took her more than a year to get better, but she eventually improved to lead a normal life. But something strange happened several months ago when she decided to take a supplement, serrapeptase, that is commonly taken by Lyme patients to break down biofilm in Lyme bacteria. She said she instantly got the same Bell’s Palsy she had when originally treating. I asked her what she did. She told me she simply stopped the supplement and the symptoms went away. Dr. Cowden has warned in these situations that if a major trauma is experienced when there is dormant infection present, that the bacteria will re-emerge from dormancy and start causing trouble again. He recommends treating immediately, even if symptoms haven’t begun yet.
On top of the questions about ABX effectiveness in treating late stage Lyme, there is the issue of how damaging and dangerous long-term antibiotic use is. The FDA recently issued a warning on the antibiotics Fluoroquinolones (i.e. Levaquin, Cipro, Floxin, among others), saying that they can cause permanent nerve damage and neuropathy. This is on top of the warning the FDA issued on the same drugs back in 2008 about their potential to cause severe tendon damage, blinding retinal detachment and kidney failure. The FDA warns that these side effects can occur hours to weeks after exposure to fluoroquinolones and may potentially be permanent.
In March of 2013, the FDA also warned that Azithromycin (Z-pack), a commonly-prescribed antibiotic, may trigger a potentially deadly irregular heart rhythm for some patients. The FDA is warning the public that the pills can cause abnormal changes in the heart’s electrical activity that may lead to a fatal heart rhythm. Lyme patients with related tachycardia issues should NOT be taking this antibiotic to fight Lyme.
A 2011 study shows that higher doses and prolonged use of Rocephin (ceftriaxone) will cause “biliary sludge” that can turn into gall stones comprised mostly of Rocephin itself. This can happen within 3 to 22 days of administration of the drug and it has been seen to occur in 15 to 46% of the patients studied. Sludge can also occur in the urinary tract , and sometimes even gallstone pancreatitis or acute inflammation of the gall bladder can occur . The main risk factors for biliary sludge or gall stones was high daily dosages (over 2 grams daily) and a long term duration of drug therapy (see study).
A 2003 study reported by the US National Library of Medicine warns that Doxycyline has been shown to cause intracranial hypertension or pressure on the brain. Actually, it has been known for years that doxycycline and its cousins Tetracycline and Minocycline can cause increased cranial pressure to the point of manifesting symptoms ranging from headaches, blurred or double vision, whooshing sounds in the ears, spinal fluid leaking from the nose to permanent blindness.
People treating for late-stage Lyme are already experiencing an array of painful symptoms and they trust their doctors not to prescribe treatments that might cause even more serious and permanent damage.
The good news is there are natural substances (Lion’s Mane mushroom in particular) that can help repair the brain damage and grow back the myelin nerve sheath whose absence causes the pain and neuropathy that these drugs can cause.
After all of the above happened, I’ve made it my own little personal mission to try to help people off of ABX while they’re treating chronic Lyme. There are now some very effective and safe herbal treatments with very high cure rates that have none of the disabling effects of pharmaceutical ABX. I still respect anyone’s decision to stay on them if they feel strongly about them, but after what I’ve been through and what I’ve learned, the least I can do is pass on this knowledge.
The above material is provided for informational purposes only. The material is not nor should be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.