Lyme disease is a complicated infection, tough to diagnose and even harder to treat if doctors miss an early diagnosis, which happens too often. Lyme disease treatment is tricky because the most popular blood tests used in most doctors’ offices miss about 55 percent of Lyme cases. If and when a patient finally is diagnosed, it’s sometimes by a clinical evaluation of the symptoms, ones that often mimic other ailments such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, irritable bowel syndrome, rheumatoid arthritis and even Alzheimer’s.
To further complicate matters, the hodgepodge of symptoms often waxes, wanes and moves from one bodily system to another, making it even harder for doctors to effectively diagnose and treat. Headaches, migrating pain, bowel problems, uncharacteristic mood swings, panic attacks and sleep disorders are just a few of the symptoms Lyme patients commonly report.
While antibiotics and other prescription medications are certainly helpful in treating the disease and other infections that enter your body through a tick bite, experts in natural medicine say there’s also a place for holistic remedies in treating and managing Lyme disease, particularly in patients battling a chronic infection and its side effects. Antibiotics alone may not suffice because Lyme disease is caused by an intracellular spirochete bacterium called borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto. This bacterium infects healthy cells, thus protecting it from antibiotics. Many compound prescriptions can help heal the body by knocking out the infection and reducing inflammation while also getting an injured immune system back on track.
Other Ways to Deal with Lyme
Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN) was originally developed in the 1970′s to treat heroin addiction, but studies have shown that in low doses it actually increases immune function. It may help with reducing symptoms of Lyme disease such as fatigue, muscle pain and joint pain. LDN is thought to work threefold by decreasing inflammation caused by the disease state, increasing the immune system and releasing natural endorphins that are natural painkillers and enhance mood. LDN is started at a very low dose and increased over time. It is compounded into capsules from 1.5mg to 4.5mg to allow for this dosage titration.
Cholestyramine may be an old drug, but it has a new purpose. It is designed to bind to unwanted substances (initially cholesterol) in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract for excretion. There has been recent evidence that borrelia burgdorferi releases a neurotoxin, thought to be responsible for many of the lasting symptoms patients experience. This neurotoxin is sequestered by the liver and released with bile into the GI tract. However, instead of our body getting rid of this neurotoxin when we move our bowels, it is reabsorbed into the intestines and returned to the liver, perpetuating the cycle. It is thought that cholestyramine will bind the neurotoxin in the GI for excretion, thus over time reducing the burden on the body. It is important to note that while cholestyramine does bind unwanted substances for excretion, some wanted substances, such as fat-soluble vitamins, are also excreted, requiring we take supplements.
Glutathione has been called “the body’s master antioxidant.” It is naturally produced in the body and found mainly in the liver but also in almost every cell in the body. It is thought that borrelia burgdorferi causes the release of reactive oxygen species and reactive nitrogen species that require glutathione’s assistance to clear it from the body. In a patient with Lyme disease, this process is ongoing, eventually depleting glutathione, which is essential for antioxidation. Along with the consistent depletion of glutathione, borrelia burgdorferi uses our body’s cysteine, which is essential for forming glutathione. This makes it difficult for the person with Lyme disease to manufacture more glutathione because the bacterium depletes one of the pieces needed. If glutathione is severely depleted in a cell, the cell will die, so replenishing glutathione is a must. Since glutathione is not viable when taken orally, it is compounded into nasal sprays and creams for absorption into the bloodstream.