Let’s Talk Lyme: The Basics

If you’ve been following this blog from the start (thank you, by the way!), then you are probably wondering why I haven’t gone into more detail about Lyme Disease. The answer is, because I haven’t known quite where to start.

Lyme Disease, like many invisible illnesses, can be difficult for people to understand. Symptoms tend to be erratic and the path to healing is not always one dimensional. I oftentimes find myself stumbling over my words when trying to explain my symptoms, treatment, and the politics surrounding the disease. Many Lyme patients feel misunderstood and neglected because the public and even the medical community has a poor understanding of the implications of the disease.

This has been by far the most difficult post to write because trying to simplify Lyme Disease is difficult. For the most part, this post is dry and to the point. It is information-rich, and probably a little bit boring for most people. But I am asking you to read it. I am asking you to take three minutes to gain a little more understanding about a disease that has become a silent epidemic.

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What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease (LD) is an infectious disease most typically transmitted by the bite of a tick. New research, however, has proven that other vectors carry LD as well- mosquitos, spiders, mites, and fleas have all been found carrying LD.

As Dr. Mercola states, “Lyme disease has recently received a new definition. It now refers to illnesses transferred by insects, as opposed to simply a tick-borne disease. Mosquitoes can carry Lyme disease and many other serious infections, as can spiders, fleas and mites.” (Why Is Lyme Disease Not JUST a Tick Borne Disease Anymore?)

LD refers to a specific stealth pathogen, formally known as Borrelia Bergdorferi (Bb). Bb, however, rarely comes alone. More often than not, a single tick/insect bite can infect a patient with Bb as well as other pathogens known as co-infections. LD refers to the resulting infection from Bb as well as these co-infections. The presence of co-infections further complicates the disease picture, as each pathogen requires a unique treatment. Examples of common co-infections are: Babesiosis, Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever), Mycoplasma, Erlichiosis, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.

Dr. Joseph Burrascano, a leader in treatment techniques and research in the Lyme Disease community, explains:

“Traditionally, Lyme is defined as an infectious illness caused by the spirochete, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb). While this is certainly technically correct, clinically the illness often is much more than that, especially in the disseminated and chronic forms. Instead, I think of Lyme as the illness that results from the bite of an infected tick. This includes infection not only with B. burgdorferi, but the many co-infections that may also result. Furthermore, in the chronic form of Lyme, other factors can take on an ever more significant role- immune dysfunction, opportunistic infections, co- infections, biological toxins, metabolic and hormonal imbalances, deconditioning, etc.” (Advanced Topics in Lyme Disease)

In summary, LD is the result of being bitten by an infected tick/insect, which in turn produces a cascade of symptoms and immune dysfunction.

What is the treatment for Lyme Disease?

Diagnosis and treatment are quite controversial, just google “chronic Lyme debate”, and you will discover all kinds of articles speaking to the controversy. Let me quickly speak about each side of the debate.

In one corner you have the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA), insurance companies, CDC, and most MD’s. This camp believes that Lyme Disease can be effectively treated and eradicated with 28 days of antibiotics. They believe that if symptoms persist after the 28 day course of antibiotics is completed, it is due to the effects of the past Lyme Disease infection and not due to a current, active infection. The CDC has dubbed this, Post Lyme Syndrome.

In the other corner is the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS), which comprises a minority of doctors and patients who believe that Lyme Disease is due to an active infection that requires long-term, intensive treatment through the use of high doses of antibiotics, herbal tinctures, and supportive supplements and therapies. This is the camp that Chronic Lyme Disease belongs to.

I won’t go further into the politics between the two parties because it’s messy and slightly maddening. What I will say is that I believe that with time, Lyme Disease can be eradicated with the use of pathogen-killing herbs and medications. Many patients undergo treatment with IV antibiotics, similar to chemotherapy, to eradicate their disease. Others opt for Chinese Medicine or natural antibiotics and antimicrobials. Either way, persistent, intensive, long term therapy has been proven to work for many Chronic Lyme sufferers.

What is a “herx”?

A herx (short for a Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction) occurs when a large number of pathogens are killed too quickly for the body to eradicate. This phenomenon was first discovered by Adolf Jarisch and Karl Herxheimer, whom it was named after. The phenomenon occurs with only a few diseases- Syphilis, Candida, and Lyme among them.

During a herx the body experiences a healing crisis, and symptoms flare, making the patient feel worse before they eventually feel better. As cancer patients have to endure grueling rounds of chemotherapy, Lyme patients must “herx their way back to health”. Herx reactions can become severe and even life threatening, and so treatment usually starts off slowly before gradually ramping up.

This overview is only the tip of the ice berg, but at least it’s a start. I hope that in reading this you have learned a thing or two about Lyme and the difficulty than many have in recovering from this illness. If you have any specific questions, I am always happy to answer them in the comments below.

I hope your day is filled with love and light. Share it with the world.

XX, K

PS- Here’s some inspiration for the day…

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