What You Should Know About Lyme Disease
A few summers ago, The New York Times reported that 40 percent of Nantucket has Lyme Disease. A vector-borne illness that is transmitted through our bloodstream from an infected tick, Lyme Disease is now the most commonly reported vector borne illness in the United States– one that often transmits unbeknownst to the host after a tick has made attachment.
The black-legged tick, small like the tip of a ballpoint pen, is not just prevalent in Massachusetts– with the advent of Climate Change, the historic territories of the deer tick most often associated with the disease are shifting (Lyme Disease is on the rise in the Mid-Atlantic, and diagnosis has become increasingly prevalent in Southern California).
Still, despite this nascent epidemic, “official” diagnosis for Lyme Disease is notoriously complicated; many victims go undiagnosed and untreated every year– especially those who like to spend their time outdoors, in wooded or grassy areas like those surrounding hiking trails or gardens that abut “wilder” ecosystems.
“Nature’s Dirty Needle”
As a result of this pernicious risk, Sunny Raleigh, DO the Medical Director of Restoration Healthcare (an optimal health program that implements osteopathic medicine, IV therapy, and functional medicine into their treatments)– refers to the transmitter of Lyme Disease as “nature’s dirty needle”.
When a tick finds a host, it takes only minutes for it to transmit a myriad of infections– up to 91 different species of co-infections, to be exact. Dr. Raleigh tells me this while explaining why she moved from the plush wildlife surrounds of Maine to Orange County, California.
After four members of her immediate family were diagnosed with the disease– Dr. Raleigh included– she knew it was time to make the move to a place that has a far lower percentage of infected ticks. Little did she know that a flood of patients with the same disease would soon be seeking her counsel.
Some of these patients had experienced a tell-tale bulls-eye rash, which has the shape of a coiled up shell and is clearly red in color, indicating infection. For those that flocked to the emergency room, they were given the standard protocol– a 200 mg dose of Doxycycline.
“This is what the CDC recommends,” Dr. Raleigh explained, much to her dismay. “But with one dose, you turn off the body’s immune response.” (As the immune system shuts down, the body becomes a breeding ground for infections when it could be executing its most effective work.)
A staggering 50 percent of those infected with Lyme, that typically go undiagnosed longer, never experience any sort of rash– most of them never even remember encountering a tick at all. “This is one of the reasons that makes the diagnosis so challenging,” Dr. Raleigh points out.
“When a tick finds a host, it takes only minutes for it to transmit a myriad of infections– up to 91 different species of co-infections, to be exact.”
Her solution? To throw the 15-minute patient-doctor visit out the window and spend upwards of an hour investigating a patient’s medical history. This interview processes begins a dialogue that enables her to diagnose patients who have been suffering from lifelong chronic illness. There is often a moment in a patient’s health history where they notice a sharp decline.
If Dr. Raleigh suspects Lyme Disease, or co-infections, as the culprit, she will immediately order an ELISA and Western blot. Another laboratory blood test that Dr. Raleigh will order is C4a, which is an inflammation marker. (Because a Lyme vaccine was released in the ‘90s and soon-thereafter removed from the market, bands 31 and 34 have been removed from standardized testing.) “They were worried that if a patient received the vaccine, did a Western blot, and tested positive, that they would be falsely positive. So instead of empowering the physicians to ask appropriately, they removed it all together.
Now we’re not looking for two proteins that are so specific to Lyme. Instead, we look to specialty labs like IGeneX or Stony Brook for results,” she laments. (According to our research these are the only labs in the U.S. that are testing for bands 31 and 34.)
More so than Syphilis, the great imitator which cleverly masks itself within the body, Lyme Disease can infiltrate a patient’s system without them testing positive for it on a blood test, because it has a cloak, which starts with the tick itself. Ticks use animals as their vectors so that they can cover a long distance.
This can be a bird, a gecko, a white-footed mouse, a deer, etc. Then, when the tick goes to bite someone, it releases a numbing solution so that the host doesn’t feel the bite. Come removal, if the tick is squeezed too hard with tweezers it will regurgitate the infections to its host– a disturbing (and medically important) fact that most hasty victims fail to consider during the removal process. Many tick removals are botched because the tick is so difficult to remove.
“Once the antibiotics enter the bloodstream, it morphs into a different shape and curls up with a biofilm around itself. With this [shield] nothing can penetrate it,” Dr. Raleigh points out. “Herbals help dissolve the biofilm so that when you do take antibiotics, it can penetrate the bacteria,” she adds.
Concerned parties will continue to read about Borrelia burgdorferi, the most common species of bacteria for Lyme Disease, that is rampant along the Eastern seaboard. It’s also possible to learn of new strains as they are identified– like mayonii, a strain of Borrelia, which is found in North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Minnesota.
But even with this information, infected patients will still fall through the cracks. “There is significant need for more accurate testing, although the CDC says you do not diagnose based on laboratory data, you diagnose based on clinical symptoms,” Dr. Raleigh explains.
Natural Alternatives In The Mix
Aside from the need to employ more effective strategies to identify the disease, research suggests that the most effective way to treat Lyme is with a marriage of plant-based medicine and pharmaceuticals. Cowden, Buhner, and Byron White Formulas are all plant-based Lyme formulations that are tailored to a patient’s specific needs.
There are additional herbs that address viruses like HHV-6, Epstein-Barr, Candida, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Chlamydophila pneumoniae— common co-infections of Lyme Disease. “Again, it’s going back to that overburdening of the immune system,” Raleigh explains. “When you start checking chronically-ill individuals, all of them have a milieu of multiple layers of infection.
When you tailor herbals, you uncover different layers of each infection. And once you treat one layer of infection, you may expose another that is dormant. It’s the peeling of the onion when you start delving into the treatment,” Dr. Raleigh stresses. Look to nature for peace while still being mindful of what lurks within.
Through education we empower those in need of solution, but it’s only through an integrated approach to medicine that we make headway in our attempts to fight chronic illness– especially those diseases that are rooted in nature, in the places we’d least expect.