What You Need To Know About Lyme Disease – The Truth About Lyme Disease and 5 Natural Remedies to Consider
What You Need To Know About Lyme Disease – The Truth About Lyme Disease and 5 Natural Remedies to Consider
Lyme disease is a tickborne bacterial infection that causes skin rash, fever, muscle and joint pain, headache, and fatigue. It is the most common vector-borne zoonotic illness in the United States, with cases rising dramatically in recent years. The bacteria responsible for Lyme disease comes from the bite of black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks.
Lyme disease can successfully be treated with prescription antibiotics if it is diagnosed early on. If left untreated, it may develop into a more serious systemic stage that is difficult to diagnose and treat. About 10-20% of patients continue to experience symptoms like fatigue, mental confusion, arthritis-like pain, swollen lymph nodes, and insomnia. These symptoms may linger for months or years in some cases. This condition, known as chronic Lyme disease or post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, requires a more holistic approach to deal with.
Lyme disease is on the rise
Lyme disease has historically been a major health concern in the Northeast and Upper Midwest regions of the United States, especially in rural and woody areas where ticks thrive. But it has now spread to all 50 states and is rising all over the world.
Every year, about 20,000-30,000 cases of Lyme disease are reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But a 2021 report based on insurance records revealed the actual numbers to be around half a million each year.
In the last 15 years, Lyme disease cases have increased 357% in rural areas. Recent studies have suggested that climate change may be one of the reasons for this, as ticks can now thrive in areas they were previously unable to survive. A recent study found that black-legged tick species are moving out of their traditional habitats and are now as common near beaches as in the woods.
Symptoms and causes of Lyme disease
Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and its closely related species. It is a type of zoonotic disease, meaning it spreads from infected animals to humans. Certain species of ticks pick up the bacteria when feeding on infected deer, birds, rodents, and other animal hosts. This bacteria (and many other germs) can be transmitted to humans when a tick bites you and stays attached to the body for more than 36-48 hours. It is possible to prevent and avoid the infection if you spot the tick and remove it before that time.
If you get infected and the bacteria enters the bloodstream, it triggers a reaction from the immune system. The resulting inflammation can cause wide-ranging symptoms affecting multiple organs, including joints, skin, brain, heart, and endocrine system.
The progression of Lyme disease happens in three stages. The type of symptoms depends on the stage of infection, and the treatment is recommended accordingly.
Stage 1: Early localized Lyme disease (3 to 30 days after the tick bite)
The earliest symptoms that occur within the first four weeks include a characteristic skin rash known as erythema migrans. It looks like a bull’s eye pattern with a red ring forming around a central circular red spot. It usually forms on the site of the tick bite but can appear on any part of the body. Usually not painful or itchy, the rash may expand over the next few days, with its size varying from 2 to 12 inches wide.
About 70% of Lyme disease patients develop erythema migrans. Flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, sore throat, muscle aches, headaches, exhaustion, stiff neck, and inflamed lymph nodes are some other common signs in this stage.
Stage 2: Early disseminated Lyme disease (one to four months after the tick bite)
If the infection is left untreated in the first stage, it may spread throughout the body and start affecting the heart and the nervous system. Its symptoms may include rashes developing in multiple areas, heart palpitations, a feeling of numbness or weakness in limbs, neuropathic pain, and a type of facial paralysis known as Bell’s palsy. A person may also experience stiff joints and chronic fatigue, which is a clear sign of increasing inflammation that may take the form of arthritis in the next few years.
Stage 3: Late disseminated Lyme disease (months or years after)
Even after a full course of antibiotics, some people experience recurring episodes of joint and muscle pain, knee pain, frequent headaches, physical and emotional fatigue, and sleep disturbances. These conditions may cause cognitive decline, short-term memory loss, and other brain disorders. Some people may also develop arthritis of one or more joints (typically of the knee) in this stage.
The progression of Lyme disease varies a lot from person to person, and not all people go through all three stages. Most cases are mild infections that are treated in the first stage itself. Also, the first two stages may overlap in some cases. However, some people experience persisting symptoms that can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
How is Lyme disease diagnosed?
If you have a rash or physical symptoms of Lyme disease, a doctor may order some blood tests to confirm the disease.
- ELISA test: It helps detect antibodies against Borrelia burgdorferi If this test comes negative, you do not need to go for another test.
- Western blot test: If the ELISA test is positive, Western blotting is performed to detect the specific proteins of Lyme disease bacteria.
Blood tests are more accurate after a few weeks of initial infection. An early test may come out negative because it takes some time before antibodies are formed.
Lyme disease may masquerade as other conditions
Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose in disseminated stages, as it often masquerades as other (completely unrelated) conditions. In fact, researchers have coined the term “the great imitator” to describe the evasiveness of Lyme bacteria.
Its early stages are frequently misdiagnosed as mononucleosis—a type of viral infection that causes fever, sore throat, swollen glands, fatigue, and rash. In later stages, its symptoms are often confused with rheumatism, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, migraine, lupus, or early dementia.
Conventional treatments are not always helpful
Prescription antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime are effective treatments that can successfully eliminate the infection within 2-4 weeks. Early diagnosis and timely treatment are crucial because antibiotics are most effective in the first few weeks when the infection has not yet spread to the nervous system.
If the infection is not completely gone and has advanced to a second stage, you may need additional antibiotics and medicines for individual symptoms. These conventional treatments are not very helpful in the later stages of Lyme disease. Besides, taking antibiotics for a long time can negatively alter the gut microbiome by killing off beneficial gut bacteria that play a vital role in fighting infections. A weakened immune system may further increase inflammation in the body, facilitating the progression of Lyme disease.
Why is Lyme disease chronic for some people?
The reason why Lyme disease lingers longer in some people is not clearly understood. Experts point out chronic inflammation, weakened immune system, nutritional deficiency, and an inflammatory diet as some possible culprits. High levels of low-grade inflammation in the body can hinder the recovery process and reduce the effectiveness of medicines. If Lyme disease is not treated early and completely, it can also cause low-grade inflammation to persist in the body, increasing the risk of developing arthritis.
Another possible reason may be an overactive immune system that keeps attacking healthy tissues by mistake (like in auto-immune disorders) long after the infection has subsided.
Natural and alternative remedies for chronic Lyme disease
Most conventional treatments focus on treating symptoms of the disease rather than addressing the underlying cause, which is a bacteria evading the immune system. If antibiotics do not help treat the infection early on, a holistic approach may be needed to boost natural immunity and lower inflammation. Medical treatment is not available for post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome, but some natural options may help.
Magnesium deficiency is strikingly common in Lyme disease patients. This important mineral plays a vital role in various nervous and neuromuscular functions. It stabilizes heart rate, supports immune function, maintains healthy bones and muscles, regulates energy production, and helps manage pain. Research shows that magnesium supplements (I use this one)may help in fighting neuropathic pain, muscle cramps, joint stiffness, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, brain fog, difficulty concentrating, insomnia, and many types of psychological disorders.
Often an ignored and underrated aspect of healing, an anti-inflammatory diet can play a huge role in controlling the spread of Lyme disease. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and plant antioxidants to naturally assist the immune system and accelerate the recovery process. Spices, berries, fruits, nuts, seeds, and cruciferous vegetables are packed with disease-fighting chemicals that can improve cognitive health and help manage pain.
A 2020 study evaluated the efficacy of various herbs in treating persistent Lyme disease. Researchers found seven herbs to exhibit powerful antibacterial activity against microcolonies of Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria and related species. These herbs were shown to be more effective than doxycycline and cefuroxime antibiotics.
- Cryptolepis sanguinolenta
- Juglans nigra (Black walnut)
- Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed)
- Artemisia annua (Sweet wormwood)
- Uncaria tomentosa (Cat’s claw)
- Cistus incanus
- Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap)
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy
Hyperbaric oxygen therapy has been found to be effective in patients who are resistant to other drugs and antibiotics. It involves exposure to 100% pure oxygen at high pressure. This increases the oxygen level in tissues by up to 10-15 times, which helps in killing off disease-causing bacteria and improves brain function. However, oxygen therapy may not be safe for everyone. Speak with your doctor before going for this treatment.
Nutritional deficiency can slow down the healing process and worsen Lyme disease symptoms. Taking multivitamins and mineral supplements may help improve cellular function and support the nervous system in fighting inflammation. You can also include some immune-boosting herbs like amla (Indian gooseberry), turmeric, moringa, ginger, basil, and cinnamon in your diet to prevent complications.
About half a century after it was first discovered in the town of Old Lyme, Connecticut, Lyme disease still remains a major health concern in the United States, with cases rising each passing year. Conventional treatments involve antibiotics that may not work equally for everyone. Even after successful treatment, some people experience persistent symptoms similar to an auto-immune disease for years after the infection.
Experts suggest that while medical treatment should never be skipped in the early stages, optimal nutrition and a holistic lifestyle are crucial for preventing complications later. Immune-boosting measures such as adequate sleep, stress-reduction exercises, an anti-inflammatory diet, and nutritional supplements may help improve recovery in persons living with Lyme disease.
Remember, “Do Something Everyday That Heals Your Body”
To Your Health!