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Lyme Disease An Integrated Approach

The conventional medical approach is to treat Lyme disease with antibiotics. When a child or adult is quickly treated with an appropriate antibiotic, the result is usually a swift and positive healing. However, if the person does not recover with the first round of antibiotics, additional rounds are routinely prescribed, often leading to “antibiotic cocktails.” Long-term antibiotic therapy can result in an imbalance of microorganisms in the intestinal tract and deplete the functioning of the immune system, making the body more susceptible to other illnesses. Consider taking the best of both conventional and holistic medical practices by integrating natural remedies with antibiotic therapy. The natural remedies can help keep the body strong while the antibiotic does its job.

Researchers Still Puzzled

In many cases of chronic Lyme, medical researchers cannot understand why symptoms persist when intensive testing fails to reveal signs of the Lyme bacteria in blood or spinal fluid. According to a 2001 article by Philip J. Hilts in The New York Times, researchers account for these symptoms by assuming that Lyme has led to autoimmune dysfunction without considering that the tick may have passed more than just bacteria into the human host. In my own client population, I have found the majority of long-term Lyme cases complicated by viral co-infections.

Common Scenario of Infection

In recent months, doctors are discovering Bartonella bacteria piggybacking the spirochete. Bartonella infection is also called cat scratch fever—likely picked up by the tick feeding on a cat. If the tick can pick up a bacteria from a cat, why not viruses from dogs and mice? A common scenario is for a tick to feed on a dog, picking up a strain of parvovirus; feed on a mouse, picking up a strain of hantavirus; feed on a deer, picking up the spirochete; and then feeding on the human and passing along the spirochete piggybacked by viruses. It’s also possible for a tick to pick up neuroviruses from other wildlife and pass them into the central nervous system of the human host.

The Integrated Approach

When my son had Lyme disease, blood tests confirmed that it was accompanied by the virulent bacteria, Ehrlichia, and his doctor immediately put him on an antibiotic. Of course, I gave him probiotics and echinacea as described below. However, since antibiotics do not treat viruses, rather than waiting to see if one round of antibiotics would bring him to total recovery, I tested him for viruses, using kinesiology. I gave him natural remedies that specifically addressed the particular strains of virus that commonly piggyback the spirochete for which he tested positively. When children and adults do not fully and quickly recover with a round of antibiotics, it may be because viruses are also involved. They do, however, respond to natural remedies designed to address the specific viruses, remedies which can be given along with antibiotics without the treatments interfering with each other. If your Lyme disease is not responding well to the antibiotics alone, or if you have been suffering with chronic Lyme disease in spite of long-term antibiotic therapy, you may wish to consult a health practitioner who is familiar with the viruses that are known to be present in the ticks that transfer this disease.

Increasing Good Bacteria

Friendly bacteria and yeast microorganisms live harmoniously in the intestinal tract. An antibiotic does not differentiate between beneficial and harmful bacteria and, in its quest to go after the “bad guys,” may deplete the “good guys” located in the intestinal tract. When the level of good bacteria is depleted, the yeast that is 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 good bacteria. Probiotics are available in capsule, liquid, and tablet form, and are best taken three times a day, an hour before or after the dose of antibiotic, and continuing for at least three weeks following the antibiotic therapy. Making the last daily dose right before bedtime gives the good bacteria a chance to grow unimpeded overnight.

Immune Support

Echinacea, known to gardeners as the purple coneflower, is a popular, nontoxic herb easily found in health food stores. Echinacea helps to support immune systems in danger of becoming depleted by antibiotic use. 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, and is safe for adults and children alike (except for individuals with autoimmune disease). One teaspoon, diluted in a small amount of water or juice, taken three times a day, can accompany the antibiotic therapy (see my book, Gentle Healing for Baby and Child [Simon & Schuster] for dosing instructions for children). To further strengthen the immune system, take the echinacea for a few weeks after the antibiotic is finished. Cycling it for 10 days on and 4 days off will keep your body from becoming resistant to its benefits and give you an additional immune-stimulating boost each time you go back on it. People often feel weakened after an extended therapy of antibiotics. Supporting the body’s immune system during treatment will help them feel stronger when the therapy is finished.

Reducing Sugar Intake

Bacteria and viruses feed on sugar, so it’s a good idea to reduce sugar intake. Desserts should be limited to low-sugar fruits (e.g., strawberries, raspberries and blueberries). Keep in mind that many fresh and dried fruits, and fruit juice, have a high sugar content (e.g., bananas, raisins, and apple juice). This would be a good time to eliminate junk foods and eat healthpromoting 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. Check with your local health food stores and organic produce departments in supermarkets for the best choices.

Protecting Against Tick Bites

The safe, natural way to prevent tick bites is with the essential oil of eucalyptus, found at health food stores. The strong but pleasant smell seems to effectively repel the ticks. There are three ways to use this aromatic oil.

  1. In a spray bottle, mix 16 ounces of water with 1 ounce eucalyptus oil. Spray the mixture on the skin before an outdoor activity. The bottled mixture remains potent for many months.

  2. For longer protection, such as a hike in the woods, mix 10 drops eucalyptus into 1/2 ounce almond oil or sunflower seed oil, and apply to skin and clothing. A larger amount can be premixed for a camping trip or for sending with a child to summer camp.

  3. Protect your dogs and cats from ticks and you will also be protecting yourself! Some people never touch a blade of grass yet get Lyme disease anyway, and wonder why. Your 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 your pet’s neck, refreshing the rope twice a week. Your pet will look fashionable and be protected at the same time! It is best not to tie the eucalyptus rope directly onto your pet’s skin, as it may cause irritation. The spray bottle of eucalyptus and water may also be used to spray your pet’s coat before an outdoor romp in the grass or the woods.

Choosing the pleasures of country life over city life means we must learn to cohabit 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.