Lyme disease or Lyme borreliosis is an infectious disease caused by the Borrelia Burdorferi bacteria. However, in recent years the term “Lyme disease” has become synonymous with a range of tick-borne infections and co-infections that are affecting people all over the world.
Lyme disease was originally identified in three towns in southeastern Connecticut in 1975, (including the towns of Lyme and Old Lyme, which gave the disease its popular name) after a number of children in the area were misdiagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis. The spirochete pathogen was isolated and described by Willy Burdorfer in 1982, and since its identification, Lyme disease and related tick-borne diseases have been determined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) to affect 300,000 per year in the United States and 65,000 in Europe annually. Yet experts in the Lyme community estimate those numbers could be six to ten times higher. The rate of infection is increasing annually 1.5 times the number of women being diagnosed with breast cancer and six times the number of people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in the US.
Lyme disease is one of the most misdiagnosed, least understood, and yet most rapidly-advancing infectious diseases in the world.
Two stages of Lyme Disease:
The disease has two stages: 1. Early-onset Lyme and 2. Chronic Lyme (or Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome).
1. Early-onset Lyme:
This is the initial presentation of the infection that is identified by the evidence of the following:
- Tick bite
- Classic “bulls eye” rash (erythema migrans) around the bite
- Flu-like symptoms
- Neck stiffness
- Partial facial paralysis (Bell’s palsy)
- Joint & muscle pain
- Tingling in the extremities
- Memory loss
- Heart palpitations
The elusive thing about the disease is, depending upon the patient, a person might not exhibit any of these symptoms in an obvious way. In fact, less than 10% of adults (with a higher percentage in children) tend to exhibit the tell-tale rash and less than 20% tend to present joint pain or fever. All of these are considered the classic early-onset symptoms and even with them, many doctors can be reluctant to prescribe treatment as a means to combat the illness.
If you have been bitten by a tick and/or are experiencing any of the above symptoms, in most cases, all signs and symptoms can be eradicated in this early stage of the illness with the sufficient round of antibiotics. Other treatment options may be appropriate on an individualized basis, especially if a patient is experiencing continued severe symptoms. According to International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) recommendations, initial antibiotic therapy should employ 4–6 weeks of amoxicillin 1500–2000 mg daily in divided doses, cefuroxime 500 mg twice daily or doxycycline 100 mg twice daily or a minimum of 21 days of azithromycin 250–500 mg daily.
For those wishing to avoid the use of antibiotics, there are many herbal remedies that can also eradicate early infection and keep the disease from moving into the chronic phase. The positive benefit of herbal protocols is that they do not have the harsh effects on the patient’s system and digestive tract that antibiotic use is known to cause.
Some of the herbal options are included in the Buhner, Cowden, and Zhang protocols. They each incorporate herbs that tackle the borrelia and various other co-infections.
Some people may find that there are contraindications, or reactions from some of the individual components in any of these protocols, and can choose to refrain from those particular herbs. Or they may utilize different tinctures from several modalities, or protocols, and mix and match what suits them best.
For instance, within the Buhner Protocol; one patient may derive great benefits from Cryptolepis (used primarily to fight off babesia) but find that Japanese Knotweed (used as a blood brain barrier breaching borrelia treatment) causes unpleasant symptoms and reactions. In these instances, many physicians recommend people follow their bodies lead and discontinue anything that is not effective, or interferes with their functionality.
Many physicians feel that remaining below a strong Herxheimer reaction (also known as “herx” or “herxing” which is an indication of die off) and striving to heal without impairing the capacity to perform daily tasks is preferable. There may be many ups and downs and episodes of detoxing and herxing while on the healing journey.
Other treatments that people with multiple pathogenic infections are having success with include oxidation methods. Options like ozone therapy, hydrogen peroxide IVs, rife machine therapy and chlorine dioxide ingestion can destroy a number of infections simultaneously. Although considered controversial within the medical industry, there are many who have turned both early and late-stage infections around quite quickly by oxidation methods alone.
2. Chronic Lyme:
If Lyme disease is not diagnosed and treated in the early-onset stage effectively (i.e. within 60 days of infection onset), it can transform into what is commonly called post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD) or chronic Lyme disease (CLD). In this stage of illness, the infection can spread and may go into hiding in different parts of the body. Symptoms may disappear even without treatment, and new or familiar symptoms may emerge, especially during times of stress.
In fact, trauma is often a factor with the emergence of a full-fledged Lyme and co-infections presentation. Correspondingly, multiple exposures to the Lyme spirochetes throughout our lives can cause the return or worsening of symptoms.
Often individuals may have been exposed to these infections via various sources in their lifetimes. Lyme may be contracted congenitally (through the placenta or breast milk) and from the saliva of infected arachnids, and possibly insects. Even sexual transmission is now being researched as a possible method of spreading the illnesses. The borellia burgdorferi spirochetes have similarity to other pathogens such as syphilis.
Chronic Lyme can cause some people to develop severe symptoms that can be difficult to resolve. Weeks, months or even years later, patients may develop problems with the brain and nervous system, muscles and joints, heart and circulation, digestion, reproductive system, and skin.
Antibiotics & Chronic Lyme
In this late stage of the infection, medical evidence and the personal experiences of our writers, underlines the potential harm that antibiotics can introduce at this phase. Once borrelia and co-infections have been in the body and untreated for an extended period (i.e. more than 60 days past the illness onset), the bacteria seem to be able to communicate or at least run interference for each other. When antibiotics enter the bloodstream during late-stage infection, the bacteria and parasites mutate and either go into a dormant state or leave the circulatory system… literally burrowing into muscle, organ and bone to hide. This can give a patient the false sense that antibiotics have completely eradicated the pathogens.
Dr. Lee Cowden, MD and many other physicians have discovered that borrelia spirochetes actually form buds or “cysts” within hours of antibiotics entering a patient’s bloodstream, and while the host spirochete eventually dies, these buds migrate throughout the system and form new spirochetes. In this way, using antibiotics to fight late-stage Lyme infection is like severing one head of the mythical Hydra, where two heads sprout where one existed before. Antibiotics seems to facilitate infection instead of hindering it at the late-stage phase.
Many infectious agents including borrelia also utilize biofilms to facilitate their dormancy. They protect themselves with these shields particularly after exposure to antibiotics. They engage this defensive mechanism in the wake of pharmaceutical treatments but seem less likely to hide from natural anti-microbial options. That stated, biofilm and cyst-busting supplements should accompany killing agents as part of any protocol. Pulsing these remedies (i.e. a short, intensive course of treatment, usually given at intervals such as weekly or monthly) can help decrease the numbers of hidden pathogens found in prolonged cases.
Once antibiotic use stops, the patient may go into approximately a three-month period where symptoms are very much alleviated. However, at the end of this cycle, the pathogens re-awaken with more force and can cause patients to crash back into worsened symptoms. Patients who have experienced this cycle more than once through PICC lines (peripherally inserted central catheter) or long-term oral antibiotic use have reported worsened and more intense symptom crashes each time antibiotics were taken, discontinued and then re-introduced.
On top of all this, it is a well-known medical fact that intense and long-term antibiotic use is very harsh on your entire immune system, and especially on your intestinal tract.
Many patients also discover that Candida Albicans overgrowth (also known as yeast overgrowth or candidiasis infection) within the gut and systemically throughout the body can be one of the greatest challenges when healing from chronic Lyme and long-term antibiotic use. After years or decades without diagnosis or treatment, one of the hallmarks of standing Lyme infection is a complicated presentation of additional opportunistic contagions. A multifaceted assortment of toxicities, sensitivities, neurological and psychological reactions are also associated with a long-term infection.
And problematic in unrecognized borrelia cases is an inappropriate immune response. This can further delay diagnosis especially within the limitations of current diagnostic testing. Many of the symptoms are labeled as conditions like “MS” “mastocytosis” “Parkinson’s” “fibromyalgia” etc. None of these are actual illnesses, but symptoms of underlying pathogens, and symptom chasing along with harsh pharmaceutical interventions can drag out the process further.
The Lyme cases who have reported major improvement or complete remission have accomplished this by steering away from antibiotics and pharmaceuticals. Instead, they have done their own research or worked with a Lyme-literate practitioner or advisor who uses an holistic approach to treating the illness. Usually, this begins with a slow detox process to bolster a patient’s immune system before attempting the use of antimicrobials that trigger further toxin loads in the body. Effective treatment tends to focus on diet, the patient’s emotional state and an ongoing detox plan, instead of traditional methods that focus squarely on attacking pathogens and symptom relief with pharmaceuticals and opioids. See our Treatments section for a full range of protocols that have proven effective in many patients.
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.