Treating Lyme disease, a comprehensive approach

Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Many people have Lyme disease without experiencing any discomfort from symptoms. Many others are struggling with complex symptoms of Lyme, but are unaware that they are infected, and so are not getting treatment. The social/political/medical/legal mess that is Lyme disease evaluation and treatment in the U.S. needs to be resolved, but is not a topic of this article. Nor is this a guide for which medications to take. You need to find health professionals experienced with treating Lyme to help you decide your individual protocol.

This article is for readers who are aware that they have Lyme disease, are suffering from its effects, and are looking for guidance on how to restore their complete health. If you are suffering from the myriad symptoms of Lyme, it is likely that you went through a time of intense stress, weakness, or illness. The corresponding weakening of your immune system allowed the Lyme to bloom. Now it is time to restore your immune system and put Lyme back in its place, in hiding. Even if you can never completely clear all traces of Lyme from your body, you can recover from Lyme. You can return to being pain-free, with a clear mind and good energy, without unpredictable ups and downs. Here are some guidelines I hope you will find helpful.

First, decide that your health is the Number One priority in your life right now.
This is tough when we have families, jobs, and assorted commitments. Treating Lyme can be the equivalent of a part-time or even full-time job. You will need the support of your family to cover for you and help you find the time and space and finances for complete recovery. You need to know that you are worth it! There is nothing more important than your health.

Find a health provider who has experience treating Lyme.
This is essential. Lyme bacteria progress into several forms, each of which responds differently to different combinations of medications. They also adapt quickly to whatever medications are used. You need a specialist who is very familiar with these challenges. In Washington State, naturopaths are able to order blood tests and prescribe antibiotics, and are also knowledgable about nutritional support and natural or herbal medications. After finding your primary support practitioner, I recommend that you find at least one other practitioner who is knowledgeable about Lyme, with whom you can consult in person or on the phone. This could be a nutritionist, acupuncturist, or chiropractor, depending on their background.

It is very helpful to have input and suggestions from multiple sources. Some practitioners can test your response to individual substances to help you maintain the most effective treatment protocol for you. Many are committed to keeping the price reasonable. If herbs are part of your regimen, you can often make your own tinctures (In a glass jar, cover herbs in vodka. Shake vigorously twice daily for two weeks. Strain and use the liquid.) If you are taking long-term antibiotics, please see my article Maintain your health during long-term antibiotic use. Whether you have chosen pharmaceutical or botanical antibiotics, or a combination of the two, there are additional important steps you can take to speed your recovery. Many of these recommendations come from Dr. Nick Hedberg.

Get a high quality blood test from a specialty lab.
It is important to check for all vector-borne bacterial infections and viruses. Lyme (borrelia) is a specific bacteria that is usually accompanied by others. Each bacteria responds best to different treatments, so it is essential to know accurately what it is you have in order to determine the most effective treatment. IGeneX is a popular Lyme testing lab. Another specialty lab is MDL, Medical Diagnostic Lab. At the time of this writing, theirs is the most thorough and inexpensive test I am aware of. Standard (insurance-covered) blood tests from non-specialty labs are mostly useless. They often use foreign strains and do not check many of the bands where Lyme is found. They also only use one technique. MDL checks not only for antibiotic response, but actual genetic Lyme material. You will also want to get a thorough general blood test that checks the health of your red and white blood cells, vitamin and mineral levels, etc. Both of these tests can be ordered by your health-care practitioner.

Establish an alkaline anti-inflammatory diet.
A diet that is 70% fresh organic vegetables, lentils, quinoa, and fruit will accomplish this. Most of us can use a little help. Dr. Hedberg recommends magnesium glyconate and potassium bicarbonate taken in the evenings for a rapid raise in pH. A generally healthy diet is essential: low grain and low or no gluten and no sugar. Avoid all foods that you might be sensitive to. Focus on seasonal, organic foods with one ingredient. Lyme patients require large quantities of protein and zinc, so boost those levels in your diet. In order to reduce the strain on your liver, eat organic produce and meats whenever possible. Along with yourself, you will be helping to heal our soil and water. There are many good sources for anti-inflammatory diets on the web. Raw agave nectar, xylitol, coconut sugar and barley malt are some gentle sweeteners that can help you wean off sugar.

Take proteolytic enzymes.
Lyme bacteria hide inside a protein-based biofilm that makes them hard to reach with antibiotics, whether natural or pharmaceutical. It is recommended to take proteolytic enzymes (enzymes that digest protein) about 30 minutes before taking the antibiotic substances.

Rotate all remedies, medications and supplements.
As mentioned above, Lyme and its cohorts are very adaptable! Whatever you are attacking it with will gradually lose its effectiveness. In order to avoid this situation, all antibiotics (including natural ones), and even enzymes should be rotated every 6–8 weeks. The number of herbs, medicines, supplements you are taking can feel overwhelming. Don’t worry; you will adjust. Missing some now and then is normal.

Create artificial fevers.
Hot baths with 1–2 cups of epsom salts (optional, add a sprinkling of bentonite clay) or saunas (any type) several times a week. 15–20 minute immersion and a full body sweat. When I calculated how much I was spending annually for the once-a-week sauna, I decided to purchase one. That was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I recommend a Clearlight far-infrared sauna, listed under Resources.

Exercise and move the blood.
Exercise gets the blood moving and reduces inflammation. Exercise daily and moderately; not too intensely. Herbs and supplements such as tumeric and bromelain are considered to be blood movers, and, as such, help to reduce inflammation. Massage and acupuncture are also helpful to keep the blood and lymph from getting ‘stuck.’ Balance movement exercise with slow weight-bearing exercise.

Stay healthy!
Diet counselors experienced in Lyme can help you. They might also recommend antioxidants such as n-acetyl cysteine (NAC also helps to produce glutathione), whole food vitamins, tonic mushrooms, and additional substances with antibiotic and/or anti-viral qualities, such as echinacea, colloidal silver, garlic, olive leaf compounds, etc. Special care should be taken to avoid viral infections. Lastly, have some fun with friends! Social interaction is shown to have a positive effect on our immune system. Acupuncture can also stimulate the immune system.

Manage stress.
Easier said than done, right? You are already stressed out, learning that you have Lyme disease. Please do all you can to accept the diagnosis, so that you can gather your strength and focus on recovery. Treat yourself as if you are someone else whom you dearly love. When anxiety comes up, recognize and accept it. Take a few deep breaths, then move on. There are several approaches to helping you with this. Meditation is very helpful. Start with 5 minutes, and slowly extend the time you sit. Also, ask your health practitioner to check your adrenal function.

Get plenty of sleep.
As often as possible, allow yourself to sleep without an alarm. Your body repairs and heals while it sleeps. It has been shown that sleep deprivation (less than 7-8 hours a night) can lead to obesity, sugar-handling problems, lower immune function and more. While you are ill you need even more sleep than usual. If you have trouble sleeping, my Insomnia article might be helpful.

Stay informed about treatment options.
There are many other suggestions out there for Lyme treatment: electric pads such as the Ultimate Zapper, Rife machines, bioresonance, sodium chlorate, and parabolic oxygen therapy to name a few. Most of us are limited by availability and affordability. It will take you awhile to find the path that is most comfortable for you. Again, please prioritize your health. There is nothing more important. You might need to take a year to focus on your healing. It can seem like a full-time job. Ask your family for support, and practice saying “no.” With perseverance, you will find a way to take back control of your health. It is a challenging path; I wish you the best.

Dr. Nick Hedberg, Lyme and thyroid specialist
Medical Diagnostic Lab
The Abascal anti-inflammatory diet
Moss Nutrition, excellent quality supplements
Clearlight far-infrared sauna
The Ultimate Zapper, electric pad
Super Slow Zone, an excellent and safe weight-resistance program

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