Infectious diseases have been identified for centuries and medicine has created various treatments to combat them. Integrative medicine is no exception, although it has a different approach by preventing the disease and then incorporating naturopathic treatments to heal it. In this article, we discuss Lyme disease, an infectious disease that causes great discomfort and serious symptoms for the infected. We look at the cause of the disease in details along with its prevention, diagnosis and treatment.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an infection transmitted to humans through the bite of Blacklegged tick (deer tick), which is infected to bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. The infected tick can transmit other tick-borne diseases as well, such as Anaplasmosis, Babesiosis, Borrelia mayonii, Borrelia miyamotoi and Powassan that are rare but severe infections with life-threatening symptoms.
Lyme disease has symptoms according to the stage of infection. Initial symptoms start at the early localized stage with a distinguished skin rash called erythema migrans at the site of the tick’s bit, but expands to a large area of almost 12 inches and sometimes it takes the shape of a bull’s eye with a center and a circle around it. It has no pain or itching and indicates that bacteria are multiplying in the bloodstream. EM rash is often present in 80% of patients.
In the second stage or early disseminated Lyme disease, fever, chills, fatigue, headache, and swollen lymph nodes appear because bacteria are spreading throughout the body. The rash might appear as well in other areas of the body. If Lyme disease is left untreated in stage 1 or 2, the third or late disseminated stage can spread to brain, nervous system, heart and joints causing repeated episodes of severe headaches, new skin rashes, facial palsy (Bell’s palsy), arthritis with shooting joint pains, tingling and swelling in the arms and legs, irregular heartbeat, nerve pain, and inflammation of spinal cord or brain, even years later.
It is worth mentioning that some patients have no visible symptoms and yet carry the infection for years without their knowledge. Lyme disease has been nicknamed The Great Imitator because it has symptoms similar to many diseases and due to these similarities, it is commonly overlooked, and the symptoms are attributed to other illnesses such as fibromyalgia, mononucleosis, chronic fatigue, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease.
CDC reports that 300,000 people in the United States are infected by Lyme disease every year.
How Lyme disease is diagnosed?
Lyme disease is diagnosed based on observed symptoms, skin rash and the possibility of infected ticks being present in patient’s environment. Then specialty Lab testing is used, which has a conventional method and a GLD technique. Conventional laboratory testing for Lyme disease is performed by collecting blood samples and looking for antibodies, which made in response to an infection. The test is done in two steps in which only positive (or indeterminate) result of the first step can lead to performing the second step. If positive result repeats, it will indicate an overall positive result and infection.
The problem with the conventional test is that antibodies are made weeks after initial infection; therefore, immediately after the bite; the test result might be false negative! On the other hand, antibodies remain in the blood for months or even years after infection; therefore, they cannot be an indication of current infection, and the test result is just a false positive. The diversity of species and strains of Borrelia bacteria across North America is greater than borrelia burgdoferi; therefore, most test results are false negative and if a patient interests in tests for multiple strains, it is too expensive to afford. Also, some other infectious or even autoimmune diseases cause the same antibody responses, which can provide false positive results for Lyme disease!
The two-tiered lab test can only detect 56% of people with Lyme infection, which is much lower than 95% gold standard for screening tests.
Due to these insufficiencies and misdiagnosis of the current two-tier diagnostic approach for Lyme disease, Global Lyme Diagnostics’ team of scientists has created GLD breakthrough specialty test. GLD test is based in science and aims to accurately detect Lyme infection at early stages within days after the actual bite and decrease current misdiagnosis of people along with offering accurate tests for common Lyme co-infections.
GLD incorporates a breakthrough technology called chimeritopes that increases sensitivity by eliminating proteins not relevant to a Lyme infection (non-OsPC targets). GLD novel chimeritope (chimeric proteins) technology is sequenced to be used as a vaccinogen or as a diagnostic antigen. Each chimeritope is derived from multiple diverse outer surface C protein (OsPC) variants, strains, and species of borrelia across the North American spectrum; therefore, it reduces false negatives in GLD test results.
It is worth noting that the outer surface proteins on borrelia spirochetes are regulated to OsPC at the time of the bite, and the resulting antibodies to OsPC are released earlier in the infection, which results in fewer false negatives. But it doesn’t mean the GLD test is only effective for early detection, on the contrary, it can be used to detect Lyme infection at every stage. The exciting part is that all variants are screened in one test; therefore, it is an affordable option for all. The earlier the diagnosis is, the less chance for infection to progress throughout the body.
How is Lyme disease treated?
In treating Lyme disease there are conventional method and naturopathic approach. The former consists of a few weeks of antibiotics that might treat the infection with temporary success only if treated within few weeks of initial infection and symptoms such as fatigue might last for months and years, and sometimes become chronic or post-treatment Lyme disease (PTLD).
Antibiotic treatment only eradicates the organism, but do not consider underlying disturbances of immune, autoimmune, and detoxification system.
On the other hand, the Naturopathic approach is holistic and takes into account treatment of co-infections, inflammatory or immune responses to neurotoxins and underlying conditions like diet and lifestyle that lead to the development of Lyme disease.
At your initial visit with a naturopathic doctor, a comprehensive examination of your visible symptoms takes place and your doctor ask you about the history of Lyme disease in your living area along with your recent outdoor activities. The possibility of Lyme infection in the past and your genetic predisposition is considered as well.
The Naturopathic treatment starts with strengthening the immune system, detoxification ability, and gastrointestinal health to allow your body attack the infection and heal the symptoms effectively, without overreaction. Homeopathic remedies are available to act as natural antibiotics and an individualized alkaline diet is prescribed to promote better cellular alkalinity. Also, high-quality sleeping pattern, exercise plan, and stress management techniques are designed uniquely for you as they play important roles in immune system functions.
Homeopathy balances the immune reactions and detoxification; therefore, it is very effective in healing the infection and associated symptoms. Incorporating anti-bacterial nutrients, antioxidants and even botanicals help eliminate infection and also control immune and inflammation reactions.
Restoring gut microbiome is responsible for 80% of the immune system; therefore, having healthy intestinal permeability, balanced gut microbiome, and optimal digestion are critical for overcoming any infection. Proper intestinal motility has a role in preventing inflammation that in turn can disrupt intestinal function.
Comprehensive stool analysis and organic acid testing can be used to shed light on specific areas of intestinal function that are disturbed. The treatment for this purpose should be individualized, but nutrients that promote better motility, less inflammation, higher rebalance of the gut microbiome and treatment of pathogenic bacteria are generally helpful. Some specific nutrients are probiotics, fish oil, magnesium salt, and glutamine.
Detoxification of neurotoxins and heavy metals is a great concern of naturopathic medicine because they can also cause symptoms of Lyme disease, which in turn trigger an immune response, even if the bacteria are no longer present. They increase inflammation and decrease immune function while Lyme disease disrupts the detoxification system in the body. Elevated toxic levels, chronic inflammation, and slow immune responses create a vicious cycle of vulnerability for Lyme and other infections to thrive.
To disrupt this destructive cycle, naturopathic treatment incorporates Detox therapies. Detoxification of heavy metals such as lead, mercury, and cadmium along with mold and pesticides is an early stage naturopathic treatment for Lyme disease especially for people with a genetic predisposition by HLA (Human Leukocyte Antigen) immune system feature, which cause an escalated response to neurotoxins that prevent elimination of these antigens.
Genetic predisposition necessitates detoxification in patients with Lyme disease after specialty HLA-DR genetic testing. Patients with certain genes, such as HLA-DRB1, 15, DQ6 or other HLA genes are more sensitive to neurotoxins like bacteria, mold, fungus, pesticides, toxic metals, and industrial chemicals. These genetic predispositions prevent the elimination of neurotoxins produced by the bacterium and other co-infections; therefore, naturopathic Detox therapy can eliminate them by binding to these toxins.
IV therapy containing glutathione and phosphatidylcholine (PC) is an effective therapy for Lyme disease because PC removes toxins from cell membrane and nervous system and glutathione flushes them and increases antioxidant activity. High doses of Vitamin C are also very effective in treating infection, inflammation, and immune reactions. Chelating agents like liquid EDTA or DMPS are strong chemicals for removing heavy metals from the body.
Vitamin injection can provide the body with high doses of essential nutrients, which helps restore the gut microbiome. Antioxidants and vitamin D are specifically critical in having a strong immune system.
Peptide therapy is the most effective naturopathic treatment for Lyme disease. Peptides are cell signaling amino acid sequences like small proteins that attach to receptors on the cell membrane to cause certain behavior in them in response to stimulants. They cause regulation and rejuvenation of neuroendocrine-immune axisConsidering that 7000 peptides have been identified in the human body, purposeful use of peptides can overwrite chemistry of the body which ultimately creates a restorative trend towards healing. Peptides can help prevent diseases become chronic.
Thymosin alpha-1 is one of the peptides produced by the thymus gland and lymphoid tissue, which is active in immune system’s T-cell maturation. This peptide is critical for the body to recognize and adapt an immune response to pathogenic invaders. It has been approved for clinical use in more than 35 countries and has been effective in treatment of many bacterial and viral infections and immune system deficiencies.
This peptide can modulate the immune system from a TH-2 dominant system to a more balanced TH1 response, resulting in reduction of IL-4 and increase in IL-2, which in turn can decrease inflammation and halt the vicious cycle of immune dysfunction observed in chronic diseases such as Lyme.
Due to its reversing effect on immune suppression seen in chronic infections, enhancement of natural killer cells and improving identification of stealth pathogens, it is an adjunctive treatment in elimination of resistant intracellular bacteria like Borellia in Lyme disease.
With naturopathic approach to modulate the immune system, fight infection, remove toxins and control inflammation, Lyme disease can be eliminated both in acute and chronic states along with its co-infections; therefore, potential complications will resolve and optimum health and vitality will restore.
How do you prevent Lyme disease?
Currently, there is no vaccine available for Lyme disease; therefore, the best preventative approach is using natural insect repellents and pesticides, physical removal of ticks, and eliminating tick habitat.
If you live in an area where Lyme infection is common like in Los Angeles, you must wear socks, pants and long-sleeved shirts when camping in the woods and spray your skin, clothing and camping gear with eucalyptus and lemon oil. More importantly, check your skin and hair immediately after return and remove any ticks by tweezers, wash the site with alcohol or soap and dispose of the tick with same solutions. If you remove the tick within the first 48 hours, it is unlikely you get infected.
If you have dog, it is likely that your dog will carry them inside; therefore, take the same preventive measures and also vaccinate your dog against ticks.