Summer! It’s a great time to spend time outdoors with friends or family. Between beach time, family reunions, camping, and hiking, it’s unfortunately also “tick season.” While it’s important to get out in nature whenever possible, danger lurks afoot! Wood ticks and Deer ticks are known for their tendency to harbor a particular parasite bacterium called Borrelia burgdorferi, which, if it’s transmitted through a bite, causes Lyme disease.
What is Lyme Disease?
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), “Lyme disease is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States.” (1) The spirochete (spiral-shaped) bacterium, mostly Borrelia burgdorferi but sometimes Borrelia mayonii, is transmitted to humans through infected ticks. Lyme Disease is named after a town, Lyme, Connecticut, where it was first discovered. Note that it says “vector-borne” rather than “tick-borne.” It’s now known that Lyme isn’t just transmitted by ticks; you can also get it through mosquitoes and other insects. (2, 3)
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
The symptoms of Lyme and other coinfections may differ based on whether it’s an acute infection or a chronic infection.
An acute Lyme infection is caused by the transmission of bacteria that occurs immediately after the bite. Symptoms of an acute Lyme infection may include:
- Fever and chills
- Muscle and/or joint aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Characteristic rash called erythema migrans (“bull’s eye rash”), which begins at the site of the infection and spreads outward.
While people generally watch for the bull’s eye rash, not everyone develops the classic rash. Twenty to thirty percent of those infected don’t get the bull’s eye rash. Whether you develop a bull’s eye or not, an acute infection, if not treated, can turn into chronic Lyme.
Chronic Lyme is when the initial infection spreads to other areas of the body, such as the joints, heart, and nervous system. Chronic Lyme can lead to symptoms persisting for months or even years after the tick bite. Symptoms of chronic Lyme can vary a lot but may include:
- Severe headaches
- Stiff neck
- Bull’s eye rashes in other areas of the body
- Chronic fatigue
- Pain in joints, tendons, muscles, and bones
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat (called Lyme carditis)
- Brain fog
- Occasional dizziness
- Shortness of breath
- Nerve pain, numbness, tingling
Because chronic Lyme can affect many different systems of the body, it can be difficult to detect. The wide range of symptoms may cause it to be diagnosed as one or more of the following:
- Mold illness
- Fibromyalgia and/or Chronic Fatigue
- Bell’s Palsy
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Seizure disorders
- Rheumatoid Arthritis and other autoimmune diseases
If you’re dealing with one or more of these diagnoses or have a chronic illness no one can figure out, it may be worth looking into Lyme. If you’re wondering whether you or a loved one is dealing with Lyme Disease, here’s a Lyme Disease Symptoms Checklist put out by the website www.lymedisease.org. Is Lyme Disease avoidable? Yes – The #1 way to avoid this tick-borne illness is to not get bitten by a tick in the first place.
How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?
Mainstream doctors use a two-tiered approach to diagnose Lyme disease. The two tests used are the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and a Western blot test. The ELISA test looks for antibodies in the blood that are specific to Lyme disease. However, it’s not that reliable. For that reason, if the ELISA test comes back positive, doctors use the Western blot test to confirm the diagnosis.
The Fireman Vs. The Carpenter in Healthcare
The Wellness Way often talks about the “Fireman and Carpenter Principle”, which explains when to seek out traditional medical care versus a Wellness Way practitioner.
Mainstream “fireman” healthcare professionals have two tools: an axe and a hose. The axe represents cutting things out in a surgical procedure. The hose represents using medications to extinguish inflammation, pain, and other symptoms. In the case of a vector-borne infection, that means treatment with antibiotics or other anti-infectious agents.
Tick bites tend to be a job for the fireman. This is a good time to seek out traditional antibiotics immediately after a bite. If you go into urgent care right after you discover a tick, they will likely give you a one-time dose of doxycycline to treat the infection right away. This is something the medical system is good at. They can give you a very strong anti-infectious agent immediately after the bite. The Fire Department is the right one for the job in the short term. However, if Lyme and its coinfections have become chronic, then that’s where the carpenter comes in.
The Wellness Way doctors are like carpenters. They assess the damage with testing and then create a personalized plan to rebuild the body with the required nutrients from foods and supplements. When it comes to chronic infections, that means using some anti-infectious herbs, lowering inflammation in the body, and giving the body what it needs to heal and restore vitality.
Mainstream Medicine’s Approach to Lyme Disease
Mainstream medicine really only deals with preventative measures and acute vector-borne infections. They don’t generally recognize chronic Lyme as a real condition.
The CDC recommends this body part checklist after coming in from outdoors:
- Under the arms
- In and around the ears
- Inside the belly button
- Back of the knees
- In and around the hair
- Between the legs
- Around the waist
These are some favorite places for ticks to attach. You’re less likely to contract Lyme if you don’t allow the ticks to bite in the first place.
Common Medications for Lyme
Mainstream medicine only treats a recent known or suspected infection. These are the medications most used for Lyme and its coinfections:
- Antibiotic pills: Doxycycline is usually given as a single oral dose, 200 mg for adults and 4.4 mg/kg (up to 200 mg) for children. Amoxicillin or Cefuroxime Axetil are also used. If a patient is unable to take both doxycycline and beta-lactam antibiotics, another option is Azithromycin.
- IV Antibiotics: IV Ceftriaxone, Cefotaxime, and Penicillin G are all used in certain cases of Lyme disease – particularly if the nervous system is clearly affected.
However, antibiotics are rough on the gut and the microbiome. These drugs are like the fireman spraying down the house and putting out the fire. Most mainstream doctors stop there after the microbiome has been decimated. That’s what makes The Wellness Way doctors different.
What Causes Lyme and Coinfections? Why Do Some People Seem More Susceptible?
Some people may seem to be more susceptible to tick infections than others. Why is that? It all goes back to the nervous system and immune system. The “Three Ts,” trauma, toxins, and thoughts, are stressors that weaken the body’s normal immune response. The severity of the Lyme infection is directly connected to the health of the immune system. Let’s go over each of these stressors.
Traumas are those physical stressors that can weaken the immune response and make you more susceptible to infections. Examples include:
- Physical trauma to the spine
- Car accidents or other injuries
- Sexual assault/Rape
- A traumatic loss
- Severe illness or surgery
- Being a victim of violence
- Being a witness to violence or a natural disaster
- Having a baby – A major stress on the body
Researchers have found a direct connection between chronic illness and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), such as physical or emotional abuse or neglect, witnessing violence, or losing a family member to suicide. The more ACEs, the greater the chance of developing a chronic illness like Chronic Lyme. (4)
Toxins or biochemical stressors can also negatively impact the nervous system and immune response. These include:
- Food Allergies – eating inflammation-causing foods (because you’re allergic) is a biochemical stressor on the body.
- Poor Indoor Air Quality – Off-gassing and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) used to sterilize materials in new cars, mattresses, and carpets can create chronic toxicity in the body.
- Cleaning Chemicals – Cleaning with conventional Household Cleaning products increases your toxic burden over time.
- Exposure to pesticides or insecticides
- Bacterial or parasitic infections from ticks
All these toxic exposures, whether natural (foods or parasites) or synthetic (chemicals), chronically aggravate the nervous system, eventually leading to an imbalanced immune response and the possibility of chronic infections.
Chronic stress or depression can also weaken the immune response leading to an increased risk of infection.
- Emotional stress from marriage, financial, or other issues
- Exposure to the news (fear/worry)
- Overwhelm by major life changes, including marriage, divorce, a new baby, graduation, or even moving to a new city.
- Pent up anger
- Grief/feelings of loss
All these things may seem unrelated to a tick bite but remember: It’s all connected.
The Wellness Way Approach to Lyme Disease
At The Wellness Way, we dig deeper to solve the health challenges others can’t. We start with testing to see where there may be imbalances and then develop a personalized nutrition and supplement plan to help your body heal itself. But first, prevention:
#1 – Don’t Get Bitten in the First Place
One little-known way to avoid ticks in the first place is to make yourself unappealing to ticks. Sure, that’s what most people try to do with bug sprays, but did you know you can do it from the inside out? That’s where one of Doc’s favorite herbs comes in… Astragalus.
- Consider Astragalus: Astragalus. (Astragalus membranaceus) has been used as a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for years. According to respected herbalist Stephan Harrod Buhner, it may make you less appealing to ticks, reducing your chances of being bitten and infected. Since it has many benefits for the immune system and longevity, some people take it regularly for its other health benefits.
- Be Smart About Outdoor Activities: If you know you’ll be spending time outdoors in the summer, be aware of ticks. Look for a non-toxic bug spray that contains Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus. It’s even recommended by the CDC.
- Do a Tick Check: When you come inside, check your clothing and body for ticks. Take a nice, hot shower to wash off unattached ticks, and give yourself the opportunity of doing a “tick check.” You can also throw your clothes in the washer and or dryer at high heat to kill the ticks and keep them from taking up residence in your home. If you have pets, make sure to check them, too.
Ideally, we avoid ticks and other biting insects, but sometimes they get us anyway.
#2 If You Do Get Bitten…
If you do get bitten, proper care is essential.
- Safely Remove the Tick: The most important thing to remember if you do get bitten is to safely remove it, including the head. One of the best tools for this is something called a Tick Tornado, which you can easily find and purchase online. It comes in two sizes based on the size of the tick. The Tick Tornado is a favorite of some Wellness Way docs.
- Keep the Tick: If you’re able to remove the tick, head, and all, be sure to keep it so that you can bring/send it in if you suspect an infection. A good way to preserve it so that you can see it from both sides is to fold it in a piece of clear tape. Not all ticks transmit Lyme, but some ticks may transmit other infections instead.
- Think Japanese Knotweed: Japanese Knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum) is an herb that can help keep the infection from spreading throughout the body and morphing into different forms. It’s also the most bioavailable source of the potent antioxidant resveratrol known.
Then go and get tested with an IGeneX blood test and schedule a consult with your Wellness Way practitioner.
Important Tests For Lyme & Coinfections
How do you know if you have Lyme Disease? While a lot of people initially have that bull’s eye rash and then have symptoms after that, it’s not always the way things go. It’s possible to have Lyme Disease and not know it. Symptoms and questionnaires are helpful, but we don’t guess; we test.
- Immune Health Test: Wellness Way doctors most often use the Immune Panel, which includes a CBC, including the white blood cell count. That helps show whether an infection is present and how well the immune system is responding.
- Lyme Test: Get an IGeneX test kit to find out whether Lyme Disease or other co-infections are present. IGeneX is considered the global leader in accurate and reliable testing for tick-borne infections and diseases. This company tests for all major tick-borne illnesses, including Babesia, Bartonella, Tick-Borne Relapsing Fever (TBRF), and Rickettsia.
- Chronic Lyme Test: There is also an add-on test, called CD57, they can do to see whether chronic Lyme is present. A depleted CD57 result indicates chronic Lyme.
Testing depends on which ones your Wellness Way practitioner considers most important for your health history. Lyme is an infection like any other (aggressive) infection.
Supplements For Helping the Body Overcome Lyme
Every patient is different, but some supplements used at The Wellness Way for those struggling with Lyme and other chronic infections may include the following:
- Japanese knotweed – Japanese knotweed can help prevent the spirochetes from morphing and spreading to other tissue.
- Cat’s Claw – This herb shows strong activity against the Lyme spirochete, B. burgdorferi. (5)
- Oregano – Oregano oil and its active compound, carvacrol, are effective in breaking down Lyme biofilms, making it easier to address the infection. (6)
- Wormwood – Wormwood is one of the botanicals that was shown to be more effective against Lyme bacteria than the antibiotics doxycycline and cefuroxime. (6)
- Black Walnut – Black Walnut, too, was more effective against Lyme than antibiotics. (6)
- Albizia – Albizia herb has a strong anti-inflammatory effect that may help the body overcome the effects of a Lyme infection. (7)
Some infections are more difficult to eradicate than others. Lyme can be tricky to address, as it is rarely an isolated condition. However, the success of the patient is dependent on the state of their immune response. Everything is connected.
The Swiss Watch and Tick Infections
As we say all the time at The Wellness Way, all systems of your body work together like the gears of a Swiss Watch. Each of the gears affects all the others. If there’s an imbalance in one area of the body, there will be consequences in other areas. That even applies to infections, like Lyme Disease and co-infections.
Infections are mostly addressed the same way as other health challenges, by first addressing inflammation and stress on the nervous system. This is done with dietary changes (following a food allergy test), herbs to break down the biofilm protection the parasite builds, and herbs to fight the infection. (8) If the body is stuck in stress and inflammation, its energy is divided. As a result, the immune response will not be optimal. That’s how chronic infections and chronic illnesses become chronic.
Educational Resources for Lyme
Videos & Webinars Related to Lyme
- Leaky Gut | A Different Perspective | Episode 117
- Inflammation: Top 4 Secrets Revealed | A Different Perspective | Episode 10 – YouTube
Articles to Support Those With Lyme
- Chronic Fatigue: Are You Just Tired or Is it Something More? – The Wellness Way
- Alzheimer’s: A Dis-Ease of Chronic Brain Inflammation. What Are The Causes? – The Wellness Way
- Multiple Sclerosis: Addressing Causes to Improve Outcomes – The Wellness Way
The Wellness Way Can Help
The body was designed to heal. It’s just a matter of removing the barriers to healing – including infections. Fortunately, the earth is full of anti-infectious herbs that can help fight unwanted parasites and allow the body to heal itself. Seeing a Wellness Way practitioner and doing the appropriate testing and protocols will go a long way in helping the body get back to a balanced immune response, healing, and repair. If you’re concerned about the potential of Chronic Lyme, make an appointment with your local Wellness Way Clinic and start your journey back to health!
- Flea and mosquito-borne diseases. (cabdirect.org)
- The etiologic agent of Lyme disease in deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitoes – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Lyme Disease | Lyme Disease | CDC
- Ticks and mosquitoes as vectors of Borrelia burgdorferi s. l. in the forested areas of Szczecin – PubMed (nih.gov)
- Lyme disease symptoms checklist test. Do you have Lyme disease?
- Preventing tick bites | Ticks | CDC
- The Emerging Role of Microbial Biofilm in Lyme Neuroborreliosis – PMC (nih.gov)