Fairfield County Edition

Chronic Lyme? Another Bug?

An Integrated Approach May Improve Treatment Effect

In many cases of chronic Lyme disease, medical researchers cannot understand why symptoms persist when intensive testing fails to reveal signs of the bacteria associated with the condition. In a New York Times article, a number of researchers reportedly account for these symptoms by assuming that Lyme disease has led to autoimmune dysfunction without considering that the tick may have passed more than just bacteria into its human host. Understanding tick behavior leads us to understand it’s more likely that the Lyme spirochete brought more than Lyme.

A common scenario is for a tick to travel around, feeding upon a dog, picking up a strain of parvo virus; feeding upon a mouse, picking up a strain of hanta virus; feeding upon a deer, picking up the spirochete; and then finally feeding upon the human and passing a spirochete with some hitchhiking viruses. It is also possible for the tick to pass neuroviruses picked up from other wildlife and pass them into the central nervous system of the human host. Doctors acknowledge that Bartonella bacteria, also known as cat scratch fever, can sometimes be found piggybacking the spirochete. If the tick can pick up bacteria from a cat, it is also likely it would be able to take in viruses from dogs and mice.

If Lyme disease is not responding well to antibiotics alone or developed into a case of suffering with chronic Lyme disease—in spite of long-term antibiotic therapy—it may be time to consult with a health practitioner familiar with the viruses known to attach themselves to the ticks that transfer this disease. It is also advisable to take steps to strengthen the immune system so it can fend off the intruders.

Increasing Good Bacteria

Friendly bacteria and yeast micro-organisms live harmoniously in the intestinal tract. The antibiotic does not differentiate between beneficial and harmful bacteria and, in its quest to go after the “bad guys”, may deplete the “good guys”. When the level of good bacteria is depleted, yeast, regularly kept in check by the “good guys”, has an opportunity to grow out of control. Yeast overgrowth can cause a variety of symptoms, including bloating, gas, itching, sugar cravings, brain fog, mouth sores, headaches, weight gain, mood swings, depression and extreme fatigue.

Acidophilus and other probiotic, active bacterial cultures in yogurt (plain yogurt without added sugar, as sugar feeds yeast) help to bring balance to the intestinal flora by repopulating the area with good bacteria. Probiotics are available in capsules, liquid and tablet forms. They are best taken three times a day, one hour before or after the dose of antibiotic. Continue taking them three times a day for at least three months following the antibiotic therapy. Making the last dose of the day right before bedtime helps the good bacteria have a chance to grow unimpeded overnight.

Immune Support

Echinacea is a popular, non-toxic herb easily found in health food stores. It helps to support an immune system that can become depleted by antibiotics. Although it is available in tea and capsule form, the liquid alcohol extract of echinacea is the most potent and effective form of the herb, safe for adults and children alike; the exception is for those with autoimmune disease. One teaspoon, diluted in a little water or juice, taken three times a day, can accompany the antibiotic therapy; check for dosing children. To further strengthen the immune system, continue echinacea for a few weeks after the antibiotic is finished. Cycling it for 10 days on and four days off will keep the body from becoming resistant to its benefits and give an additional immune-stimulating boost each time we go back on it. People often feel weakened coming off an extended therapy of antibiotics. Supporting the body’s immune system will help us to feel stronger when the therapy is finished.

Reduce Sugar Intake

Bacteria and viruses feed on sugar so it is best to reduce sugar intake. Desserts should be limited to low-sugar fruits like berries. Many fresh and dried fruits, and fruit juice—like banana, raisins and apple juice—have a high sugar content. This would be a good time to eliminate junk foods and eat health-promoting foods like pesticide-free vegetables, antibiotic-free chicken, fish, grains, organic eggs and nuts, so as not to pose any additional challenges to the body. The inflammatory symptoms of Lyme disease would also benefit from an alkaline diet.

Prevent Tick Bites

A safe, natural way to prevent tick bites is with oil of eucalyptus. The strong but pleasant smell seems to effectively repel ticks.

In a spray bottle, add 16 ounces of water to 1 ounce of eucalyptus oil. Spray on skin before an outdoor activity, such as gardening. The bottled mixture remains potent for many months.

For longer protection, such as a hike in the woods, mix 10 drops of eucalyptus into a ½ ounce of almond oil and apply to skin and clothing. A larger amount can be pre-mixed for a camping trip or for sending off with a child to summer camp.

Protecting dogs and cats from ticks also protects us. Some people never touch a blade of grass, yet get Lyme disease and wonder why. A pet may be transporting the ticks into the house. Dip a thin rope into the eucalyptus oil and wrap in a bandana. Tie the bandana around a pet’s neck, refreshing the rope twice a week. It’s best not to tie the eucalyptus rope directly onto the pet’s skin as it may irritate. The spray bottle of eucalyptus and water may also be used to spray the pet’s coat before an outdoor romp in the grass or in the woods.

Choosing the pleasures of country life over city life means we must learn to cohabitate with nature harmoniously. The fewer chemicals we use internally and externally will mean safer groundwater and air, healthier bodies, and a reverence for life around us.

Andrea Candee, MH, MSC, a master herbalist who also specializes in chronic Lyme disease, has a consultation practice based in South Salem, NY. She is the author of Gentle Healing for Baby and Child and lectures for The New York Botanical Garden, corporate workplace wellness programs and more. Connect at AndreaCandee.com.

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