Chronic Lyme is a disease caused first and foremost by a damaged or suppressed immune system. This then allows entry into, and then permanent residence in, the body by spiral-shaped bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. It should be obvious in Lyme treatment that simply trying to kill bugs with medication is not sufficient. The best results stem from combining traditional treatments like antibiotics with potent alternative treatments like Ozone accompanied by natural supportive care. Some patients who do not tolerate the antibiotics or are opposed to using them will benefit greatly, even reach remission of symptoms, with a natural or holistic medical approach alone.
The major goals of Chronic Lyme Treatment are:
1. Eradicate pathogens
- Primary Infection: Borreli burgdorferi
- Secondary infections: Ehrlichia, Bartonella, Babesia, Viruses (
2. Boost and restore normal immune system function
- Address Nutritional Deficiencies
- Address Lifestyle Deficiencies - Sleep. Stress
- Address Food Intolerances - Testing, Elimination from the diet
- Address Gut Health - The Root of Our immune System - Parasites, Candida, Pancreatic insufficiency
- Address Toxins - Heavy Metals, Pesticides,
Household Toxins, Mold
3. Restore cellular integrity and health
- Hormone Evaluation and Treatment - Thyroid, Adrenal and Reproductive Hormones
- PK Protocol
4. Provide symptom relief when and if needed
- Systemic Inflammation and Pain
- Sleep restoration
- Evaluate and Restore Neurotransmitters - Depression and/or Anxiety
Clearly, treatment must be multi-faceted and is highly complex.
Antibiotic regimens can become quite complex. Some treatment protocols like Dr. Burrascano’s guidelines that are the most often referenced guidelines for medication can be overwhelming and as mentioned before can be quite toxic to those who already have a damaged immune system and detoxification system. The protocol must be individualized and of short enough duration to both achieve the desired eradication yet avoid the side effects they can cause. Natural antimicrobials have been used successfully in Lyme disease treatment. Herbs such as samento and guaiacum have antispirochete activity. Teasel is also a good antimicrobial, also producing anti-inflammatory effects. Colloidal silver in oral and nebulized fashion are very beneficial, concentrated allicillin extracts, and others have been used. Artemesinin, extracted from the herb wormwood, is a very good natural remedy against babesiosis, a common coinfection of Lyme. Oregano, clove, pau d’arco and garlic are preventive measures that can be added as treatments for yeast overgrowth secondary to antibiotic therapies.
Lumbrokinase has been used to break down the biofilm which can allow for greater exposure and less “hiding places” available to the borrelia spirochetes.
Many Lyme patients are co-infected with viruses such as EBV, CMV, HHV-6. Astragalus, Elderberry, and Olive leaf are beneficial herbs with antiviral activity.
Nutrition and Lifestyle Factors
It is useless to start aggressive medication protocols without improving nutritional and lifestyle factors. I find that most patients do better on gluten and dairy free diets as those foods can fuel inflammation, which is already a major issue. I further suggest a completely grain free diet since digestion is often impaired so a low allergen diet without grains is key, especially since corn contains molds and many have mold issues affecting their immune systems. Sugar avoidance is vital and is a great help in preventing antibiotic-associated yeast overgrowth, and will assist a healthy immune response. Omega-3 fatty acids must be added as seafood and/or supplements for their anti-inflammatory benefits – 2 grams of fish oil plus 1 tablespoon of flax oil daily is a great place to start.
Patients should consume at least two liters daily of clean, filtered water to help flush waste materials. For the same reasons, adequate fiber is necessary to flush the colon of waste, in particular neurotoxins that can be released when bacteria are killed off - this is the cause of h the dreaded Herxheimer reaction and can be minimized with something so simple as lots of hydration.
Lean organic proteins, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats such as BodyBio Phosphatidylcholine and BodyBio Balance Oil to heal cell membranes as well as fish oil, flax, olive, avocados, and nuts and seeds provide great nutrition without fuelling inflammation.
Sleep is VITAL!! Lyme patients often suffer from insomnia due to pain and neurotransmitter imbalances. Melatonin, 5-HTP, Magnesium glycinate, Seditol and herbs such as valerian and passionflower can be helpful.
Lyme patients require many forms of detoxification support:
- General phase I/II liver detoxification support
- Detoxification of neurotoxins released during treatment as bacteria, viruses. and molds die off
- Heavy metal detoxification
- Pesticide and household toxin support
Detoxification regimen tolerance is variable so a gentle 2 week approach is used at Renew. Liver and kidney herbs help support medication associated toxic stress. Cholestyramine, a cholesterol lowering medication that has binding properties for released neurotoxins can benefit some.
Clinical observation has shown intravenous glutathione to have significant benefit in boosting energy levels and cognitive function in chronic Lyme patients while significantly helping with liver detoxification.
Heavy metal toxicity is often present in Lyme patients and suppresses, but again, as detoxification mechanisms are already stressed, chelation must be started slowly. The natural chelators Chlorella and Cilantro can be very helpful to promote gentle detoxification. For others, low dose DMSA (100mg every 2-3 days) will be efficacious without stressing the system.
Infrared sauna is vital to add to all detoxification regimens. Other natural helpers are Epsom salts baths, colon hydrotherapy, lymphatic drainage and ionic footbaths.
Boosting immune function so that the body can help fight the infections is crucial – natural killer cells and antibodies are frequently low. Ozone is one of the best immune system stimulators I know and kills Lyme and co-infections as well as viruses and molds. It also helps remove heavy metals from cells at the same time. Transfer factors can help to stimulate NK cells, immunoglobulins can be given, Immune modulating herbs such as astragalus, elderberry and olive leaf can be very beneficial. Low dose naltrexone has been very useful in autoimmune disease as well as infectious diseases like Lyme or inflammatory illnesses like fibromyalgia as it can not only modulate immune response, but also help quality of sleep and mood. Mushroom extracts such as reishi and maitake are beneficial but may not be tolerated by people with candida infections.
Systemic Inflammation and Pain
Much of the symptomatology of Lyme arises from chronic systemic inflammation. Anti-inflammatory herbs including white willow, tumeric and holy basil moderate inflammation and ease pain significantly, while systemic enzymes taken away from food can help break down inflammatory mediators. Cytokines created in the inflammatory cascade can cross the blood-brain barrier worsening mood problems, anxiety and depression. Essential fatty acid supplementation (2-4 grams daily) along with a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids help combat overall inflammation as well as depression.
To further alleviate pain, magnesium and malic acid are key players for muscle relaxation. For some individuals, magnesium cream topically with anti-inflammatory herbs help relax muscles and are great remedies for pain. Use of NSAID’s like ibuprofen or Aleve and narcotic pain relievers, although necessary at times, can create many side effects and are used sparingly.
Lyme patients often have digestive issues, which can be caused by the borrelia and co-infections themselves, by opportunistic infections such as intestinal parasites, yeast overgrowth and H pylori, or by food sensitivities brought about by leaky gut and immune activation. H pylori can compromise the stomach’s production of hydrochloric acid, making complete digestion of food difficult. Parasites can cause symptoms of constipation, diarrhea, gas and bloating. Specific infections must be addressed as optimal digestive function will help patients better absorb medications and better tolerate other treatment protocols, as well as maximize absorption of nutrients from food that the body needs to heal.
Gluten intolerance and other food sensitivities are common in the general population, and can worsen Lyme symptomatology. Most patients fare better avoiding gluten and dairy, because of their potential to fuel inflammation. Specific food sensitivities can be detected using a multiple panel IgG food allergy test. Yeast overgrowth is a consideration especially when antibiotic protocols are given. Prevention with high potency probiotics are a part of every Lyme patients protocol. Up to 100 billion organisms a day are used prophylactically. Nystatin is a relatively safe and non-toxic medication to address candida; diflucan may be necessary in systemic yeast cases but has higher liver toxicity and more medication interactions.
Heavy Metal Detox
Heavy metal toxicity causes neurological symptoms, fatigue, muscle/ joint pain, cognitive deficits and many other symptoms in common with Lyme disease. More importantly they suppress the immune system and can interfere witht he liver's detoxification process. Chelation protocols can be helpful but care must be taken not to overwhelm detoxification systems – glutathione and methylcobalamin are helpful “precursors” to chelation, to upregulate detox and antioxidant status. Low dose chelators given over several months may well be just as effective and easier to tolerate. One of the U.S.’s top Lyme disease doctors promotes 100mg of DMSA given every three nights along with alpha-lipoic acid, vitamin C, NAC etc as an effective plan.
Ritchie Shoemaker, MD, (www.chronicneurotoxins.com), pioneered recent research on biotoxins and their impact on immune and nervous system function. Mold exposure is a major source of neurotoxins, and many people with Lyme have elevated antibodies to molds such as aspergillus and stachybotrys. A home mold evaluation should be performed with an ERMI test which can guide both treatment protocols as well as home mold remediation programs. Identifying any possible exposures is vital as re-exposure will hamper the best treatment regimens and can continue to worsen symptoms. Cholestyramine is used in such cases as a binding agent (sometimes with amphotericin B given orally). Again Ozone treatments come to the rescue as molds are quite sensitive to it and help boost the immune system at the same time.
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis is typically stressed in any chronic illness and Lyme is no exception. Babesiosis is renowned for altering hormone pathways, which worsens the situation. Adrenal support is warranted, and should be addressed before any thyroid supplementation is given. Boosting thyroid function without supporting the adrenals is akin to putting ones foot on the accelerator with the parking brake on, and may do more damage in the long run. Bio-identical hormone support, while not addressing the underlying infectious issues, can go a long way towards helping patients feel better with regards mood and energy. A hallmark symptom of babesiosis is night sweats so it ca n be difficult to ascertain whether night sweats are caused by hormonal imbalance, or by babesia. Female Lyme patients tend to have low progesterone levels; in men low testosterone can worsen fatigue, weakness and depression.
Imbalance in Brain Chemistry/ Neurotransmitters
Chronic Lyme disease can disrupt normal neurotransmitter pathways, and depression and anxiety are common in these patients. Chronic pain further worsens this. GABA and L-theanine are effective in moderating anxiety, while 5-HTP eases the depressive aspects and can be given in fairly high doses at night to help with restful sleep. Tyrosine, the amino acid neede for the norepinephrine pathway, is an energizing amino acid for the brain, and can help patients get up and go in the morning.
Lyme disease is complex and multi-factorial. It can pact every system of the body. It may seem almost impossible to evaluate all these factors at once, so a step wise approach is often taken remembering the widespread effects of the disease and addressing each person individually in a systematic manner. Simply killing bugs with massive doses of antibiotics will not restore health, and often has the exact opposite effect with many systemic side effects. Restoring a competent balanced immune system is vital along with restoration of a healthy digestive system, then supporting efficient detoxification and promoting a balanced hormonal system. Personalized medical care is a must to enable healing on a comprehensive level.