Lyme and Infectious Disease Program
The infection of Borrelia Burgdorferi, also known as Lyme disease, was once isolated to the north eastern states of the United States. It is now known to have spread, has been diagnosed in the south western states, and is epidemic in parts of Europe and China. Lyme has been a disease of great mystery due to its multiple forms and locations-it may hide within the human body. Its effects are wide- ranging, from systemic pain to central nervous system affects, and so it has been labeled the” great imitator.” Adding to the confusion and difficulty, a diagnosis is not so straightforward. This is probably the reason that modern medicine has failed, and continues to fail, to recognize and treat Lyme disease. In essence, testing of active Lyme disease produces positive results less than half the time.
The inability to accurately assess and determine the degree of Lyme disease effects on a single individual has led to great confusion, even amongst clinicians, in how to treat the disease. Although testing accuracy has improved, Lyme disease is complicated significantly by other immune- influencing factors that have, in recent years just come to light. For example, we now know that ticks, mice, and even mosquitoes have found to carry Lyme disease. In addition, many other infectious agents are co-inhabiting and are passed simultaneously with Lyme disease. These infections include other bacteria, viruses, and even parasites.
Therefore we have two types of Lyme-infected patients presenting in our East Valley Naturopathic Doctors Clinic. Lyme can cause acute symptoms, as can many other infectious agents such as bacteria, virus, parasites, and fungi or yeast. These patients present with new-onset symptoms within days, weeks, and perhaps a few months of exposure to Lyme disease. The other group of patients we see have been infected sometime in the past. They may have had some degree of acute symptoms, but they were not sufficient to seek medical help or were misdiagnosed as a mild respiratory infection or Influenza virus. More than 50% of Lyme patients do not recall seeing a bulls-eye rash distinct to acute infections. What can complicate this picture even more is that an old infection might have lain dormant for decades only to be awakened or intensified by a new exposure to a viral or bacterial infection.
It is also very likely, as I will explain later, that a combination of viruses, bacteria, fungi, and even parasites having been kept in check, but, due to reasons still too complex for immunology to understand, they have become reactivated. One example is the patient who has a history of Mononucleosis or Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Epstein -Barr virus causes both mental and physical fatigue, aggravating even mood and is often confused by many physicians as depression. It might have lain dormant for years, but now with new and acute exposures it will reactivate. This has led to the conclusion that many patients with Lyme disease are, in effect, co-infected with other viral, fungal, parasitic, and other bacterial infections. We know this because we have tested for them. We find in many cases the most severely and most difficult patients to treat have a combination of all types of infections, with the average being 3-5 infections simultaneously. A Lyme disease treatment program focused only on one area of possible disease may have some benefit, but will be limited in its total ability to eradicate all symptoms, or symptoms will return soon after stopping successful, but partial, protocols.
Historically and currently the treatment of Lyme disease has required the use of antibiotics. The type, dosing schedule, and duration of antibiotics are dependent on the length and type of symptoms present as well as the co-infections, whether from a new or previous exposure. The use of antibiotics produces its own side effects, such as yeast overgrowth, that are part of the underlying problem, and need to be treated and minimized while on long-term antibiotic therapy. Effective Lyme treatment requires effective co- treatment of yeast and candida species overgrowth.
Depending on the duration of a patient’s symptoms, other bodily systems that support energy, mood, and Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) pathways are often affected. Patients often report that though their recovery is much improved, they rarely feel as good as they did before they became ill. We find that other systems, such as the endocrine and neurotransmitter systems (part of the ANS), have to be restored to their optimal function. This requires not just treating all realized and unrealized infections, but evaluating and treating deficiencies and imbalances that occur as a result of the body’s attempt to continue to function while being attacked by serious infectious diseases attacking the body over months, and often decades.
The diagnostic workup of chronic Lyme and other infectious agents requires reviewing every functioning system in the body including the immune, endocrine, and the neurotransmitter or stress response systems. With good evaluation and treatment protocols, we can eradicate Lyme and other infectious agents, restore optimal functioning of energy and stress response, improve mood, and calm pain pathways, leading toward a full recovery.