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Can antibiotics heal Lyme disease?

Can antibiotics heal Lyme disease?
Yes. If Lyme is detected early on, antibiotics can be effective in stopping the infection and killing the bug.

But what if you’ve completed antibiotic treatment, and you still feel more zombie than human? Quality of life matters.

When you dig a little further, you find that Lyme disease is often complicated by many factors. So it makes sense that Lyme is difficult to treat with just one pharmaceutical drug.

For one thing, the nasty co-infections that can accompany Lyme infection may go unresolved.

Research increasingly shows that a tick bite often downloads additional pathogens along with Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme. Co-infections such as Babesia and Bartonella seem to be the rule, and not the exception, for people with Lyme.

So why do most doctors take this one-drug-for-one-bug approach to treatment?

The answer is, as in so many cases, because that’s what they’ve always done.

It’s historical.

One drug for one bug
Monotherapy is the treatment of a condition by means of a single pharmaceutical drug. This idea of “one drug for one bug” was developed after World War II. Monotherapy came into use with the “first generation” antibacterials, as some epidemiologists and researchers refer to them.

But humans, our systems, and our environment, have evolved since the 1940s.

Consider the communication system. The computers my dad worked on in the 60s were as large as my kitchen, and had a fraction of the capacity of my smartphone.

Back then, people even had to get up and walk to the telephone.

Bacteria evolves too. Lyme and its co-infections are a new challenge for doctors as well as patients. These bacteria are stealth pathogens, with the ability to evade the immune system and antibiotics.

Outsmarting the smart bugs
Monotherapy offers only one weapon against the complexity of a Lyme infection.

Lyme, Babesia, and other co-infections are newly emerging infections, sometimes called “second generation” infections. These difficult-to-cure diseases require more holistic and complex approaches to treatment.

Stephen Buhner, author of Healing Lyme Disease Coinfections, questions the sole dependence on antibiotics as a treatment for Lyme disease.

“Technological medicine,” he says, “while a great adjunct, is not capable, at this point in time (if it ever will be), of dealing with this second generation of infectious agents.”

Especially when it is not detected in the early stage, many of us find that Lyme is not an easy disease to cure.

Plant medicine is considered by alternative medicine practitioners to be a smart healing ally, because as living organisms, herbs evolve right along with bacteria.


Get a handle on it
For me, killing the Lyme bacterial complex—as I call the numerous pathogens that we call Lyme—has been an ongoing challenge that has transformed my life. I have to say, it hasn’t been an altogether bad thing.

I try all feasible pathways to vitality and good health. My focus is on healing through daily attention to body, mind, and spirit. Most precious of all, I have a better handle on what truly matters.

I’ve had much good luck with herbs and plant medicine over the years since battling Lyme and its co-infections. Although I’d be the first to tell you to run to the ER with a severe infection—because that ain’t nothing to mess with—I consider herbal medicine one of my primary allies in staying healthy in my life post-Lyme.

Co-infections complicate Lyme. They can muck up the healing process and delay the gift of living a vibrant life.

Plants might be able to help. Most people I know who've healed from Lyme have taken herbal medicines along with their standard protocol. According to Stephen Buhner and other herbalists I've interviewed, there is generally no problem with taking herbs at the same time as taking pharmaceuticals. But as always, I recommend asking your doctor or medical team for their opinion before doing so.

“Those with co-infections tend to be sicker longer, have more difficult symptoms, possess a lower quality of life, and are much less likely to heal from the use of monotherapies such as antibiotics,” says Buhner.

Get well soon!

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Best test for Lyme & Co-infections

Best test for Lyme co-infections
Should Lyme patients be concerned about Bartonella? Commonly associated with Cat Scratch Disease (CSD), this bacteria is also commonly included in the toxic waste dumped into the human bloodstream via a tick or flea bite.

If you have a diagnosis of Lyme disease, you should be aware that you may also be dealing with common co-infections such as Babesiosis, Ehrlichsiosis, or Bartonellosis. Get tested and treated for these additional inflictions, which can cause symptoms and impact the immune-system.

What are some of the problems associated with co-infections? Well, it begins with not even knowing that you might have them. Not all diagnostics labs are created equal. We admire the work that is being done at IGeneX. Here are some of the reasons why.

Same old Lyme-testing trouble
Nick S. Harris, PhD., of IGeneX laboratory in Palo Alto, CA, cautions that due to many factors, Lyme disease remains very complicated to correctly diagnose. Among the top reasons stated, infection does not show up the same in everybody. People all react differently. In addition, seralogical (blood) tests yield unreliable results because the Lyme bacteria is known for its stealth activity and it likes to hide. Lyme is weird (you heard it here). Even in a person with active disease, the bacteria are not always likely to be detectable in the blood. On top of that, antibodies may only be present for a short amount of time, making testing for Lyme bacterial infection a hit-and-miss affair at best.

Standard tests frequently flunk
If you go to your IDSA doctor, assuming you can convince them to test you for Lyme, he or she will give you the standard ELISA and Western Blot Lyme tests recommended by the CDC. What your doctor may or may not know is that these standard tests often fail to give positive diagnoses to patients, causing a chain of reaction wherein they are not made aware that they should begin proper treatment for the disease.

This frustrating scenario has been going on for years. Decades. Your doctor or doctors might also be smart enough to be paying attention to what many call the Lyme wars. They might recognize that while a positive blood test would be optimal, where Lyme is concerned, a clinical diagnosis is often the only way that doctors can observe your condition.

More sensitive testing required
IGeneX lab offers tests sensitive enough to detect the bacteria. For many Lyme patients, myself included, testing at IGeneX has signified the end of the mystery (do I have Lyme?), and the beginning of recovery.

Dr Harris recommends that “for patients presenting with clinical symptoms of Lyme Disease who test negative by the IgG or IgM Western Blot, the Whole Blood PCR or the LDA/Multiplex PCR Panel on urine may be appropriate. There are physician-developed antibiotic protocols to enhance the sensitivity of the LDA. In addition, there seems to be increased sensitivity of this test during the start of menses.”

IGeneX tests for Co-infections
IGeneX lab also offers tests for other tick-borne illnesses. The following info is from Dr Harris on their website:

“The tests are IFA (fluorescent antibody) or direct tests by PCR. In the case of
Babesia, FISH (fluorescent in situ hybridization) is also available. The FISH test detects the ribosomal RNA of the Babesia parasites directly on air-dried blood smears. This test is highly specific for Babesia, unlike the standard test, the geimsa stain smear, which cannot differentiate between malaria parasites and Babesia.”

Babesiosis Tests
B. Microti and/or WA-1 IgG/IgM Antibody Babesia and/or Babesia WA-1 PCR Babesia FISH (RNA)

Ehrlichiosis Tests
Human Granulocytic Ehrlichia IgG/IgM Antibody Human Granulocytic Ehrlichia PCR Human Monocytic Ehrlichia IgG/IgM AntibodyHuman Monocytic Ehrlichia PCR

Bartonella Tests
Bartonella henselae PCR with Whole Blood


New Bartonella Test
Across the country, another diagnostics lab has been working on a new test for Bartonella, and they want you to know about it so you can request it from your doctor. Galaxy Diagnostics in Research Triangle Park, NC, claims it has developed an even more sensitive test for Bartonella, using state-of-the-art molecular detection.

According to their literature, twenty-eight species of Bartonella have been identified so far, and new species are found every year.


Added cost, but better long-term health prognosis
Of course, testing for co-infections will likely add cost to your treatment plan. But it is important to know what obstacles you could be facing on the road back to good health.

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Lyme Success Story! Treating every angle

Not too long ago, Jerry was preoccupied with his professional responsibilities and other commitments. Resolutely running the treadmill, he pursued his multiple roles as a husband, father and self-described Type A quite unconsciously.  But around May of 2010, he began “to feel really crummy.”  Not merely tired from work, he was exhausted. He ached all over, his glands were swollen and painful, he suffered headaches and disturbing muscle twitches.

At first he brushed it off as a bad flu and continued on his daily routines. He did not have a bull’s eye rash.  But then his symptoms took a turn for the worse, the muscle twitches increased and he felt he was losing control. He decided it was time to get tested for Lyme. The result was negative. However, test results were positive for an infection that typically accompanies Lyme: Ehrlichia. Antibiotic treatment began but he continued to feel worse, even taking Doxycycline. At that point, he took the initiative to search out a doctor in Minnesota who specialized in Lyme and could really help him.

Jerry found Dr. Karen Vrchota. She sent his blood to be tested by IGenEx, in Palo Alto, California. In addition to three co-infections, Ehrlichia, Bartonella and Babesia, Jerry was positively diagnosed with Lyme.  She recommended further treatment including some of Dr. Cowden’s protocol, such as Samento, Burbur and Parsley tinctures.

As Jerry worked with Dr. Vrchota, he branched out to discover many more proactive methods that would allow him to feel in charge of his own therapy. He realized that truly healing from Lyme disease demanded coming at it from every angle, not simply by taking antibiotics and herbal medicines. At the suggestion of Dr. Cowden, he focused on getting rid of the mercury, aluminum and other heavy metal poisons and toxins in his system. He adopted a new approach to exercise and nutrition. Following the advice of Dr. Burrascano, he began cardio as well as strength training exercises. He talks about the difference he began to feel as he focused on heating up the blood and getting it flowing. Spirochetes hate heat and cannot survive it. Therefore, physical exercise is super important to include in a Lyme disease protocol.

In his search for wellness, he has been seeking advice from experts in many fields, psychological as well as physical, spiritual as well as emotional. He feels confident that he’s now about 95% healed, and is eager to reach out and help others facing similar health challenges.

Over the past couple years, Lyme disease has become one of Jerry’s greatest teachers. He has rediscovered the simple joys -- tossing a ball with his kids, slowing down each day to practice mindfulness meditation and noticing life’s small blessings.

Hearing him tell his story, it’s easy to see that this once-Type-A person has a loving and generous heart.  You can sense that something in his nature has softened and profoundly changed and evolved.  He talked movingly about how he is now deeply committed to “giving something back,” and I’m really pleased to be able to share our recent conversation in our Lyme Success Stories series. You’ll hear him discuss the challenges he faced in getting properly diagnosed, his treatments, protocols, exercise routines, and the doctors and other experts who are guiding him as he turns his life around.  

Jerry has redefined the meaning of success in his life and feels endless gratitude for the things we tend to take too easily for granted. By approaching Lyme disease comprehensively and from every angle, his healing is happening on many levels of his life. Yours can too.

For additional information on healing Lyme from every angle, see Beat Lyme!

Join to listen to the interview.
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Diagnosis and treatment of Babesia & other coinfections

If you have been treated for Lyme Disease but you’re still in pain, you may have MCIDS, or Multiple Chronic Infectious Disease Syndrome. Dr Richard Horowitz coined this term for patients presenting with symptoms of multiple chronic infections, many that don’t test positive with the standard tests. Challenges to the immune system include chronic inflammation, problems detoxifying heavy metals, sleep disorders which in turn exacerbate inflammation, and mitochondrial infections.  Patients with multiple co-infections may have a suppressed immune system, and ultimately it is the inflammation that causes the problems.

Dr. Horowitz has treated almost 12,000 patients with Lyme Disease over the past twenty years. He has observed that most of his patients have had multiple infections, viruses and parasites and that for this reason, the standard of care recommended by the IDSA has been less than effective. Patients may have one or more coinfections such as Babesia, Erlichia, Bartonella, additional piroplasms which don’t test well with the standard testing. Some have hormonal disorders, nutritional and enzyme deficiencies, GI problems, autonomic nervous system disfunction and other symptom complexes.

To describe the challenge of treating a patient with MCIDS, Dr Horowitz uses the following analogy. “It’s like the patient has ten nails in their foot, and you pull out only one. They still have pain.”  Doctors need to address all of the factors and overlapping symptoms.

Also, there are evidently different strains of Borrelia and Babesia that may not be detected with the ELISA or the Western Blot tests. Recent evidence suggests that new species of tick borne coinfections may be arising and may occur in regions of the US and worldwide. One tick bite can transmit a cesspool of multiple infections.

Here is an intriguing paper by Dr. Horowitz illustrating the interest in investigating Alternative Medicine to treat Lyme and coinfections that elude conventional Western medicine. Herbs, Hormones & Heavy Metals. (.pdf)

Dr. Richard Horowitz is the President of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Educational Foundation. He serves the Lyme community in multiple ways, primarily as an internist at the Hudson Valley Healing Arts Center, in Hyde Park, New York. In 2007, the Turn the Corner Foundation named him the Humanitarian of the Year for his ongoing work with chronic Lyme disease.

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Educate & legislate: Sen. Charles Schumer on Lyme disease

Senator Charles Schumer in August, talking to the press about Lyme disease. His message is that we need to educate and legislate, and teach each other how to identify the symptoms early, before a treatable condition becomes a horrendous nightmare: chronic Lyme disease.

Schumer states that he is personally aware of the dangers of not treating Lyme disease immediately after contracting an infection. He says he was bit by a tick in the Hudson Valley, while inspecting a dam in the area. He sought medical treatment immediately, and says he was cured because it was caught early enough.

Senator Schumer’s comments, quoted from the Hudson Valley Insider, Aug 13, 2011:

“We need to bring Lyme disease and Babesiosis out of the weeds and better educate the public about how to keep themselves and their families’ safe,” said Schumer. “Lyme disease is a problem we’ve seen for decades, and Babesiosis is a recently growing issue in New York, but we haven’t done nearly enough at the federal level to tackle it. Tick-borne illnesses often go unnoticed for months, yet can be devastating for many victims and their families. The summertime brings about warm weather and school vacation, causing higher rates of infection in Ulster County and beyond.  The tick is a little pest that can pose a big problem, and this legislation would boost research of Lyme disease and Babesiosis and increase education and awareness in the community to better fight these diseases.”

Just for the record, Senator Schumer states that “20,000 Americans are infected with Lyme,” which is a misleading statement, and probably also a grossly underestimated number. Lyme experts estimate the number of infections to be approximately 10 times higher, more like 200,000 annual cases. Mangled facts aside, it’s always good to hear and see  an influential politician speaking out for Lyme awareness.

Educate and legislate!




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Biotoxins test and chronic Lyme

Biotoxins created by the Lyme bacterial complex and released into the body can cause chronic illness, even when antibiotics are killing the spirochetes. You will recognize these illnesses by their other names: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Sick Building Syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, and depression.

People who cannot naturally eliminate biotoxins develop chronic illness. About 20% of patients with Lyme disease, due to their hepa-type, are susceptible to biotoxin illnesses. However, according to Dr Richie Shoemaker and other biotoxin experts, the toxins can be eliminated and good health can be restored.

From biotoxin.info: "Many physicians feel that diagnostic tests for Lyme are unreliable, due to differences between strains of the bacteria, and the potential for co-infections with Bartonella, Babesia and/or Ehrlichia. A team of researchers at Boston University Medical Center (Cartwright, Martin Donta) discovered and patented (US Patent No. 6,667,038) the Bbtox1 neurotoxin. They reported that the effects of Bbtox1 were consistent with that of botulinium and other cytoskeletal toxins. Even so, there are no chemical tests for the disease-causing toxin B. burgdorferi produces and releases into human body, even as antibiotics are killing the bacteria. Without such tests, the medical debate over whether or not Lyme can be quickly cured has surged in recent years, provoking frequent battles in which physicians have attacked each other's credibility and integrity (and in a few cases, even their medical licenses). All too often, suffering patients have been left in the middle, essentially ignored by doctors who contend that their long-term symptoms aren't the result of Chronic Lyme, but of 'Fibromyalgia,' 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome', 'depression,' or 'irritable bowel syndrome.'"

Testing for nervous system dysfunction can be done online. The Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test is a pattern recognition test that Dr Shoemaker uses to help determine how the nervous system is functioning. According to Dr Joseph Burrascano, at least 70 - 90% of patients whose VCS test is abnormal feel better with treatment, while 30% of patients who test normal from the VCS test feel better with neurotoxin treatment.

When testing for Lyme infection, coinfections are often culprits that go undetected. Be sure to look for Bartonella or Babesia, which destroys red blood cells.

Dr Shoemaker and other Lyme experts agree that if you find elevated C4-A markers, and if symptoms are persistent beyond the initial antibiotic protocol that may indicate that a longer antibiotic treatment, possibly including intravenous antibiotic therapy, is needed. As he makes it clear in this video, you and your doctor will be the judge in whether or not you should use long-term antibiotics.




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Trust your doctor. Or not?

Anyone in the medical profession deserves heartfelt respect. Most of us honor these men and women for serving humanity in the most fundamental way: Caring for the sick. But what do you do when your own doctor, the saint with a compassionate heart, won't listen, and you know something is wrong? This frustrating experience is common among people with Lyme disease.

Many people, doctors included, believe that a bull's eye rash is the definitive Lyme symptom. In fact, up to two-thirds of people infected with Lyme never develop a rash. When I say doctors I mean doctors from all fields. That includes GPs, Infectious Disease specialists, Neurologists, Dermatologists, Hematologists, Cardiologists, you name it.

  • It is a mistake to assume that your family doctor (or your dentist, for that matter) knows anything about Lyme disease or common Lyme co-infections, such as Babesia, Bartonella, or Ehrlichia. They will most likely tell you with some degree of confidence that Lyme is rare, hard to get, easy to cure, or that it simply doesn't exist where you live. This is old thinking, but you may be surprised how many people (doctors too) are not educated about Lyme, yet possess strong opinions about it.

Tick bites can occur without anyone noticing. They do not hurt. You may have never seen a tick on your skin, or you might have been told the ticks in your region don't carry Lyme. You might remember a tick bite, but you never developed the bull's eye rash, and wrote off the other symptoms as a bad flu, a touch of arthritis, or a passing case of tachycardia.

If you are symptomatic, and have been told that you don't have Lyme but you strongly suspect it, have your blood tested through the IGeneX laboratory. Obtain a second, third, or fourth opinion. Most people who are now successfully overcoming Lyme will tell you they saw 10, 20, 30 doctors or more before they found help.

In my own case, several Infectious Disease doctors I consulted with were quickly convincing themselves that I must have multiple sclerosis. Every cell in body and mind knew with absolute certainty that they were wrong. During that period, I had my blood tested at IGeneX, so I knew that they were wrong. These doctors saw the test results with their own eyes and did not trust them. However, I was in no shape to refute them. At the time I was extremely weak, unable to articulate my thoughts, speak clearly, and was essentially wasted from a horrible full-body rash (not the bull's eye, which actually might have been helpful in terms of their diagnoses).

Prior to my IGeneX test, the expensive dermatologist I consulted had prescribed Prednisone, and taking it (I later learned) was possibly the worst thing I could have done. The steroids explosively multiplied the spirochetes and drove them deeper into my body and brain. Finally I found a naturopath who believed my test results and had treated several patients who had Lyme and co-infections. He was my saving grace. He was hard to find, because I entered this illness naively, believing that all doctors knew best. I had no clue that I'd have to fight them for my life.

You may love and trust your family doc. And indeed, he or she may be saintly and have a heart of gold. But it's your life we're talking about. If your intuition is nagging you to get another opinion, listen to that inner voice. Your intuition is a highly sensitive and intelligent guide, designed to nag for purposes such as this.

The good news is there are educated Lyme doctors who can help you. However, you might have to make an effort to find them. In addition to IGeneX, check out these two new tests, the DNA test and the antigen test.
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