Having dogs probably led to the fact I contracted Lyme. We hike daily, and although I use tick spray and check carefully for ticks when done, some deer ticks are so tiny, they’re almost invisible. Even though we use paths that are fairly heavily traversed in the summer, apparently this is a particularly good year for the little blood suckers (which means a bad year for mammals).
On the other hand, I use spray & ‘bundle up’ when hiking. I may have picked up a tick (or it picked me up) during a quick trip across the front yard to speak with a neighbor or get them mail.
I did not find a tick, did not feel a bite, did not see a bite mark. Suddenly, on a drive back from a check up at the vet’s for my dog, I became exhausted and feeble. Within that ten minute drive, I morphed from feeling fine into being so fatigued I could barely get out of the car.
So, I’m usurping my dogs’ training blog to write about my own protocol for treating Lyme disease, and what I am doing to kick the (%@#$%$%!) spirochetes out of my body. I was diagnosed with Lyme about 12 days ago.
The incidence of Lyme in our area is rising. Shorter, warmer winters mean that ticks simply burrow into leaf litter and ride out the season that – once upon a time – helped reduce their populations. Considered the first epidemic of climate change, the prevalence of the disease is increasing. New species of ticks are being unintentionally imported from Asia. Thanks to those shorter winters, ticks are spreading to new areas in the U.S., Canada, Asia and northern Europe.
Fortunately, Lyme is treatable. In addition to antibiotics, I’ve added supplements and other treatments to speed my recovery.
Note: This is my own personal plan. Before implementing any of these options, discuss them with your primary care physician.
My symptoms were vague, and not necessarily associated with Lyme. No bull’s eye rash (which is present in about 40% of cases), no fever, no alternating fever & chills. I spent most of the month of June bedridden with severe weakness and fatigue. “Severe” includes needing to collect myself for 2 hours to get the energy to get out of bed for a trip to the bathroom. After that resource expenditure, I’d need a 2 hour nap. Going down stairs to feed the dogs and let them out felt insurmountable at times.
Anorexia was another symptom. I lost 5% of my body weight because I had no appetite. Not a healthy way to shed some pounds….
My dogs reacted to my illness completely differently. Kiyo refused to go for walks unless the dog walker was a favored Auntie or Unka. She’d pull out of her collar or hide. If she did deign to go, she’d drag the walker back after a few short minutes. She logged a mile a day, and she’s usually hiking for 3-5 miles. Younger, more energetic (and definitely used to more action) Toka’s response: “Meh, if she’s dead, I’ll find out when I get home.”
On to ‘what to do to get better.’
Standard treatment: Doxycycline BID, prescribed your MD. Antibiotics themselves don’t ‘cure’ diseases. They just knock back the bacterial infection until your immune system can restore you to health.
A not-so-fun fact: You, like me, may have the dreaded Herxheimer (Herx) reaction as the antibiotics take effect. You may experience ‘worsening symptoms’ before you start to improve. All I’ll say: misery personified. And then some.
I am thankful my primary care physician is progressive, and understands holistic medicine. She encouraged me to bolster my immune system with supplements and other modalities. Here’s my approach.
WATER: Consume plenty. Not soda, not flavored water, just plain old water. Water is required for every single metabolic reaction that occurs in your body. Therefore, being dehydrated can potentially impact every single metabolic reaction that occurs in your body. Plus, it helps flush crap out of your system.
GUT HEALTH: 60% of your immune system is associated with your gut. The idea behind eating healthy foods simplified: if you can give your gut a break from having to deal with processed foods and foods to which you may have slight allergic reactions, you give your immune system a break from having to do so also. That frees up your white blood cells to fight the invading pathogen. (This is true for all diseases, not just Lyme).
Antibiotics are wiping out your normal flora. Take pre- and pro-biotics to help restore the bacterial population in your large intestine.
That does NOT mean ‘eat store bought yogurt!’ Most brands have incredible amounts of sugar, and little to no helpful bacteria. It’s the same with store-bought kefir, too. If you are eating kefir or yoghurt – they’re not probiotic foods unless homemade and consumed the next day.
While results of research about the efficacy of pre- and probiotics is varied, they work for me. Fermented food – sauerkraut, kimchi – and home-made yoghurt and kefir are excellent sources of probiotics. A list of prebiotic foods is given here.
DIET: Cut the crap. See the bit about gut health written above. If it comes out of a box, don’t eat it. Avoid processed food (harder for your body to process), avoid sugar and alcohol (liquid sugar. Plus, to quote my MD “laughter is helpful! Alcohol is not”). Eat as close to the source of your food as possible – vegetables, fruits, meats (and preferably non-factory farmed meats).
Sugar: What? Avoid sugar? It’s a comfort food! In a nutshell, consuming sugar can trigger inflammation – which diverts your immune system from fighting Lyme. So yes, avoid sugar, including the simple sugars in rice, bread, potatoes.
What about fruit? Yes, fruit is OK. Even though it contains simple sugars, each bite is laden with nutrients.
Dairy: Limit or avoid dairy products. Calcium can interfere with absorption of the tetracycline family of antibiotics. That includes doxycycline. If you absolutely HAVE to have dairy, consume your portion 3 hours before you take your antibiotic, or at least one hour afterwards.
Protein: One of the functions of the protein you consume is to create antibodies. Eat meat, soy, complete protein combos if you are a vegetarian. Avoid dairy (see above).
SUPPLEMENTS – take supplements that will enhance your immune system’s function, including these. Speak with your MD to confirm the correct dosages.
Vitamins C & E: both are protective anti-oxidants and support various functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. Typically, 1000 – 2000 mg daily (discuss this with your physician).
Zinc & Selenium: Likewise, zinc is an important cofactor in regulating the innate immune system. Selenium is another important anti-oxidant
Mushrooms: oh, the magic of mushrooms! Super anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, great for kicking the immune system into high gear. Shitake, Reishi, Lion’s Mane, Chaga, Cordyceps. Best results are usually through either making a tea of the powder or by taking a tincture. Capsules seem to be more readily available, though.
Beta Glucan: I have started taking capsules, despite limited research on its efficacy.
STRESS: Avoid it. Your body is stressed enough already. One good thing – the only good thing? – about the fatigue I had was that I was too tired to care about anything except getting sleep. E.g., Water heater crapped out. Oh, well. Time for a nap.
Epsom salt baths: Important to me for three reasons. 1) Sooth those aches & pains. The first day I sat in a hot epsom salt bath, I couldn’t believe the relief I felt. No pressure, no tension, no gravity on my bones, muscles, joints. I felt – nothing. A soothing, wonderful nothing. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized how much I ached, and cried with relief. 2) Sweat out toxins! 3) Spirochetes don’t like increased body temperature. They prefer their victim’s temperature to remain at 98.6. Raise your temperature just a wee bit, and their environment is no longer ideal.
Chiropractic treatment: I’m going twice a week to my local D.C. to provide relief for my achy joints & muscles, as well as stimulate my nervous system.
It appears my return to health will be a bit of a haul. Many patients’ symptoms remit after four or five days. Mine have not. I have less fatigue everyday – but I still get fatigued and need multiple (though shorter) naps each day.
Current convention for treating Lyme is to remain on antibiotics for 30 days after the last symptom has dissipated. Sigh. 12 days and counting, for me. I’ll continue what I am doing – and may add more – depending on how I feel and how I fast I start getting over continuing fatigue. I’m thankful that Lyme is treatable.
UPDATE: August 6, 2018: My last day of recognizable symptoms was July 28. I stopped needing to take naps. I take short ones daily to continue recuperating. 22 more days of antibiotics. (Not that I’m counting…)
Note that ‘Lyme Fog’ is real. I’ve been forgetful, incapable of concentrating, unable to complete sentences, unable to match well known faces of friends and neighbors with names. That has mostly passed (I hope!)
Here’s a list of adjunct supplements, remedies or treatments that have anecdotally provided relief to others who have contracted the spirochete. Use common sense and discuss these with your physician: homeopathy, herbal remedies, tinctures, acupuncture, massage, colloidal silver, Vitamin B complex.