Lyme, the Stealth Epidemic Outside Your Front Door
If you spend time outside in spring, summer or early fall, sooner or later you will pick up ticks in their various stages or get bitten by flies or mosquitos, all of which can carry a range of different microbes. Several of these are associated with Lyme disease. There are several hotbeds in the United States, including the wider Hudson Valley in the Northeast, but the pathogens and related illness are present in most parts of the country, as well as internationally. The most well-known is Borrelia burgdorferi, but other Borrelia species and co-infections with other microbes are often involved in Lyme disease, too.
One of the biggest challenges for people and their healthcare providers is that laboratory testing for Lyme-associated pathogens is notoriously unreliable. A high percentage of people with typical symptoms of Lyme will test negative. Equally challenging is treating people suspected of having Lyme disease because signs and symptoms run the gamut from the classic bull-eye rash (only observed in about 30 percent of people being affected) to chronic fatigue, joint pain, headaches, eye pain, neurological or digestive issues to inflammation of the brain or heart muscle as well as autoimmune-like manifestations. Many people do not develop an acute, flu-like infection and don't remember having been bitten by ticks, flies or mosquitos. There are indications that Lyme-associated microbes can also be transmitted from person to person by body fluids or by the excrements of smaller, infected mammals such as mice.
So, if you have developed unusual symptoms, including the ones listed above, consider that you may not be randomly sick but that your health issues could be manifestations of Lyme disease. Try finding a physician knowledgeable about treating Lyme, especially if you have several of these symptoms over a longer period of time, or you don't get better after a routine round of prescription antibiotics.
For many people with Lyme, a combination of therapies will allow them to get better. They may benefit from Lyme-appropriate botanical protocols and nutritional therapy (in addition to pharmaceutical drugs that can be helpful during acute episodes or for relief of severe symptoms). These natural strategies are often more successful in supporting your immune system than conventional drugs, which is the key to overcoming Lyme disease and regaining vibrant health. Borrelia spirochetes are often described as stealth microbes. They're able to evade your immune system by hiding in certain body tissues or forming cysts or biofilms that can conceal them from antibiotic therapy. Certain antimicrobial botanicals that you can take over long periods of time can also boost your immune system's ability to keep these infections at bay. A knowledgeable herbalist and naturopath can help you devise a strategy.
Your immune system is very sensitive to stress, and most Lyme experts will agree that stress reduction and self-care are paramount if someone affected by Lyme-related infections hopes to get well again. Reduce your risk of getting bitten by ticks, flies and mosquitos. Wear appropriate light-colored, long-sleeved clothing, tuck in your pant legs, use bug spray and nets, and check yourself thoroughly when you come home. If you suspect you may have Lyme disease, don't sit on your hands but locate a Lyme-literate healthcare professional and begin working on getting your life back.
© 2017 Christiane Siebert is a doctor of Chinese medicine, a licensed acupuncturist, and a naturopathic physician. She is the founder & director of Serenity Health Arts, a center for integrative holistic medicine in Midtown Manhattan. Read more articles by Dr. Siebert at SerenityHealthArts.com/Blog.