Sign in with Google+ Sign in with LinkedIn
herxes

How I survived the Herx

Ten years ago, one day in July, 2005, I was sick with Lyme, and vacillating between extremes. I was feeling pretty positive most of the day, symptoms not horrible, merely terrible…a big improvement.

But at that moment, my naturopath called, and our conversation sent me into a mental funk.

Through the brain fog, I strained to comprehend what he was suggesting.

He explained that he really didn’t want to prescribe antibiotics. But in the next breath he said that because I was not out of the woods, I really must use them.

He said antibiotics were crucial now, because there was a neurological involvement we must address. Neuroborrellia.

He recommended intravenous antibiotics, and thought I should have an IV for the next several weeks. That meant getting a catheter stuck into my arm and bringing home a portable IV stand with a bag. Then I would be injecting myself with antibiotics every day.

The thought of having a tube stuck into my arm me depressed me to no end. But the problem was, there was evidence that with Lyme disease, long-term antibiotics are effective. In fact, they may be the only way to prevent symptoms from returning.

It was a conundrum. I felt like I was being pulled in two directions at once. I did not want the catheter. I did not want to stay on antibiotics. I dreaded the Herx. But, I did want to kill the spirochetes, and I did want to get completely well.

Evan, however, was convinced that I was coming along really well. He was my systems-thinking cheerleader.

“Look at the numbers,” he said. “You have only been on the antibiotics for twelve days. You added a second antibiotic on Friday. Okay, so you herxed in misery. But instead of seeing that as bad,” he said, “look at it this way. The Herx proves the antibiotics are doing their job. They're killing the spirochetes efficiently.”

And it turned out that he was right. Doctors call it a die off. The Herx is one of the ways of measuring the effectiveness of the antibiotics. It’s a case of the cure being as bad as the illness.

Spirochetes — the original survivalists
Spirochetes are ancient organisms, eons older than dinosaurs. Over the ages they have had nothing else to do but refine their survival techniques.

For such minuscule critters, they’ve got a sophisticated arsenal of ways to keep from detected by your immune system. They can armor themselves with cysts to keep the antibiotics from reaching them, and morph into other forms, thus playing hide ’n seek in your tissues, muscles, organs, and brain.

The spirochetes are the villains, and the last thing they want is for the Terminator — your immune system — to locate and destroy them.

Fight back! Why anaerobic exercise helps
Lyme spirochetes thrive in a cold, low body temperature. I was beginning to get the idea that I would have to fight back, and fight hard. As much as possible, I started to include therapies and lifestyle changes that would increase my core body temp.

The good news is that Borrelia burgdorferi are anaerobic organisms and can't survive in a high oxygen environment.

My plan to fight back began to take shape back then. It started off pretty slowly I admit. Surviving the Herxes was easier said than done. I drank a whole lot of water with lemon. I slept. I endured and persevered, like you are doing.

Don't let the Herx scare you
I knew in my heart that the more I could manage to raise my core body temperature, the more the spirochetes I could kill. It was my main goal, to kill them, and to try to not kill myself with a Herx.

It wasn't easy trying to get enough exercise. I had a hard time standing up, let alone walking around the neighborhood. But I kept at it, determined to be as proactive in my healing as I could.

Today, ten years to the month from my diagnosis, I'm a martial artist, with two solid years of practice logged on my journey from Borreliosis to black belt.

You don't have to join a Taekwondo school. You don't have to sweat through hours of hot yoga, play basketball, dance, or climb steep mountainsides if you don't want to. But you do have to make a plan to be as proactive in your own healing as you possibly can. The doctors can only do so much. The rest is really up to you.

Did I ever get the IV antibiotics?

In the end, the decision was made for me. I couldn’t afford it, so I passed. These days, I might have been tempted, since now I've got health insurance. But in 2005, it simply wasn’t a choice.

Comments

Dr. Peter Muran, Lyme Disease Management

I had the opportunity to interview Dr. Peter Muran this week about his approach to Lyme disease management, which he refers to as functional medicine. Dr. Muran practices Holistic Integrative Medicine in San Luis Obispo, CA, and specializes in diagnosing and treating immune system disorders and diseases such as Lyme. Functional medicine is about treating the whole person, body, mind, and spirit. To those of us who are aware of the role we must play in our own healing, this might seem like a no-brainer, but in Western medicine it is still quite revolutionary and new.

There’s a profound sense of relief that resonates deep inside when a trained and experienced medical doctor tells you, “there’s nothing stronger than what goes on in your own body.” It felt like music to my ears to hear this. Yes, we need medicine -- sometimes very powerful medicine indeed -- but our own miraculous bodies are often resilient and strong and capable of healing themselves, if only we let them.

The main point I came away with after our talk was that immune disorders can be managed if we take a whole person, whole life, approach. Healing from Lyme is literally a life-changing experience. I’ve said in the past that I’d almost rather have something easily diagnosable, such as cancer, instead of this mysterious condition that is so difficult to treat. Dr. Muran set me straight. Cancer is much harder to get over, he told me, more devastating overall to health. Lyme is treatable. We just might not want to make the effort to change in the radical ways it seems to insist on, but if we do, we can get better.

Have you ever had a doctor tell you that “diet has nothing to do with it”? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Lyme patient who has ever heard that from a conventional doctor. I’m no expert, but I know a line of bull when I hear it.  As it turns out, diet does have something to do with it. When I asked him to say a few words about our eating habits, and about the role of sugar, Dr. Muran offered some basic widsom:
don’t live to eat, eat to live. Diet should always be nutritional. Become aware of how the foods you eat affect you. In other words, instead of ignoring that bloated sensation, recognize that your body is giving you feedback. When beginning to work with a new patient, Dr. Muran conducts food allergy tests to help distinguish food sensitivities from a reaction to bacterial infection.

During our hour-long conversation, he touched on subjects that are close to our hearts, including of course the astounding immune system and GI tract, diet and nutrition, exercise, the function and role of the body’s secondary responders: the hormones, cortisol, insulin, and adrenal. He doesn’t go into detail, but intriguingly also mentions the importance of the role of meditation.

We also talked about his approach to handling herxes. The Herxheimer reaction is a double-edged sword for Lyme patients, because we know it is generally a sign that the Lyme bacteria are dying -- good. But with that die-off, more symptoms or more severe symptoms may also emerge -- not good. Instead of pushing the patient and risking more stress to their system, his recommendation is to back off the newly introduced antibiotic or treatment causing the herx. Reduce it to a point where the patient can stabilize and continue to heal without additional stress.

On a personal note, I was surprised and gratified to discover during our talk that Dr. Muran actually played a central role in my own healing although I never knew his name. I lived in San Luis Obispo at the time I discovered I had Lyme, and the naturopathic doctor who treated me was new to the field at the time. I was aware that he was given guidance every step of the way by a group of Lyme experts in California. That group included Dr. Muran and Dr. Steve Harris, who incidentally are both featured in Connie Strasheim’s excellent book:
Insights into Lyme Disease Treatment. Also included in the book are Dr. Lee Cowden and master herbalist Stephen Buhner, both of whom are featured guests in our own interview with experts’ series.


Listen to my conversation with Dr. Muran on managing Lyme disease.


For further information about Dr. Muran’s approach, please visit his website page on Lyme disease:
http://www.alternativemedicinehealthcare.com/immune-health/lyme-disease.www.longevityhealthcare.com
Tel: (888) 315-4777



Comments