Lyme Disease Research Database Independent reporting on all aspects of Lyme Disease

brain fog

Yolanda Foster speaks about Lyme

"The light had gone off in my brain." Yolanda Foster speaks about Lyme.

“We live in the most extraordinary country, with the best doctors in the world. But the truth is, we don't have proper diagnostic testing,” Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Yolanda Foster told the audience at the Gala held for the Lyme Research Alliance on April 6. The LRA honored Foster with the Star Light Award, in recognition for her advocacy and for serving as a role model for people suffering with Lyme.

In her acceptance speech, Foster describes her frightening decline from “being an outspoken, multi-tasking social butterfly, to being trapped in a mentally paralyzed cocoon.” Doctors did not find any indication of Lyme disease in their standard blood tests, so they missed important clues. She knew something was wrong, intuiting that it may have been an infection in her brain. But doctor after doctor misdiagnosed her, advising her to cut back on her busy schedule. She was put on subscription drugs.

“Sleeping pills, Adderall, steroids, and anti-depressants,” she recalls, reciting the litany of drugs she was given. “[But] I was so
so not depressed,” she adds. Increasing frustration and annoyance were closer to the mark.

After a two-week stay at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles that achieved nothing, Foster returned home to bed. Hopeless, and believing that in her native Europe she might find a doctor to help, she to embarked on the long flight from California to Belgium. After a test showed spirochetes in her brain, she finally received a correct diagnosis of Lyme Neuroborreliosis and co-infections.

Thankfully, zeroing in on the pathology leads to treatment, but as anyone who has been through this crazy-making process knows, Lyme treatment is a double-edged sword. To begin with, it is not so cut and dry. And antibiotic therapy also causes Herxheimer reactions which can be as debilitating as the symptoms themselves. Friend Suzanne Somers led Foster to the Sponaugle Wellness Institute in Clearwater, Florida. Foster reluctantly left her family to go for a 6-week treatment. She reports that now she feels about 80% back to normal.

The LRA event raised more than $1 million to fund research for finding a cure for Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. Doctors Steven Schutzer, M.D., of the University of Medicine and Dentristy of New Jersey, and Mark Eshoo, Ph.D, director of new technology at Ibis Biosciences, were also honored at the Gala and received an award for their significant contribution in research and treatment in the quest to find a cure for Lyme.

Please watch Yolanda Foster's speech.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tO8ZDvwTXKw

Interview with director of the Lyme Research Alliance
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-uDyb0NyRog



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Mind your brain health!

Whether we’ve recently received a diagnosis of Lyme disease, or we’re dealing with recurring symptoms, eating right and exercising are core considerations of a good protocol. We know the importance of foods rich in Omega-3, lean proteins, and a rainbow of vegetables which are high in antioxidants and key vitamins. The physical health of the body is usually our main focus in healing from Lyme.

But what about mental health? You know, brain fog. One of the most disturbing things about Lyme is that the bacterial complex can actually cross over the blood brain barrier. That means it may affect your cognitive abilities, the ability to pay attention; your speech centers, creating stutters or slurs; your memory; your balance and more. I’ve found that
herxing can bring on a ridiculously frustrating case of brain fog, even when other symptoms have faded.

What is really hard to explain to someone who has never been through it, is the unique torment of days filled with sensations and events that you can’t know with certainty even exist. Did I hallucinate that smell, those sounds, or is there someone else in the house? And if that isn’t real, how can this physical pain be so tortuous? My heart goes out to anyone who is at that stage of Lyme.

As Winston Churchill famously said: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Having been dragged by Lyme through the murk and come out on the other side, I can now look at that component of the disease with some objectivity. Yes, it’s crucial to take your
antibiotics (whether conventional or alternative), nourish your body with whole foods and detoxifying fruits like strawberries and blueberries, exercise and stretch whenever possible, and by all means rest.

But because of this mental component of Lyme, it’s also absolutely necessary to
exercise our brains, and therefore help keep our minds fit. The general rule is to try new things.

Try this:
Play music - dust off your violin or sit down at the piano
Go to a museum or concert - if you’re not well enough to do so, take a virtual museum tour online


Play games - try lumosity.com or brainmetrix.com
Paint
Write
Cook
Play Sudokus or do crossword puzzles
Read a book - on an iPad or the old-fashioned paper kind
Try learning a language

Almost anything can be learned online, either with a live teacher/virtual classroom or software program. If you have a yen for learning something, from Yoga to Mandarin Chinese to how to improve your fingerpicking technique on the ukelele, the important thing is to try something new. When you can.

Make a promise to your mind that you’ll do whatever you can to help your brain stay fit so that when you come out on the other side of Lyme disease, you will be smarter and healthier than ever. For it’s true what Nietzsche said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

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Has Lyme changed your mind?

Every New Year's Eve I write down my goals for the New Year. Written lists have an uncanny way of materializing -- perhaps not as soon as we would like, or in the way we imagined, but all in all the act of writing down your goals for the coming year does seem to influence your ability to achieve them.

I also write down my goals for each month, putting them in a journal dedicated for that purpose only. I got my journal out today and looked it over, scanning to see the trajectory of the last five years since I've been dealing with Lyme.

My goals were strikingly immediate in the beginning, and health naturally became my number one priority. In the past they'd had everything to do with professional, financial, and relationship aims. But starting in 2005 my written goals became narrow and specifically focused on getting healthy. Common actions and abilities I once took completely for granted -- thinking clearly, talking without stammering, walking around the block, putting in a good day's work, sleeping peacefully, or waking up rested -- it all seemed very hard to imagine.

From the perspective of today, I look back at that time with more than a little fear. 'What if' questions start gathering in my head like storm clouds. What if I ever get that sick again? No matter how far behind you the illness gets, once a powerful antagonist like Lyme has twisted you like a rag and hung you out to dry, one is never the same. Revisiting my deepest wishes I'm amazed at how much faith I had managed to express. I kept my focus on positive affirmations. One month is a simple list of 10 goals, each a variation on the same theme of trust in my body's innate wisdom, in its ability to heal.

Please do not misunderstand. I'm not saying that I believe I healed from Lyme because I wrote down my goals. The point is, writing them down strengthened my resolve to work hard at healing. Going through the long dark passage of disease and emerging on the other side is one heck of a life changing experience.

The brain and all the systems of the body can be affected by the Lyme bacterial complex. But even when the brain has been affected there is hope. Further, there is the miracle of transcending brain changes and tackling new studies, such as learning a new language, an instrument or sport.

For proof and a shot of inspiration, read this New York Times article by Oliver Sacks:

This year, change your mind.
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New Lyme test for neuro symptoms

Like you, I've devoted a lot of my time and energy to figuring out how on earth to get better. "Be well" is my mantra, and I'm sure I'm not alone here. So when someone points me in the direction of research that's being done in the name of Lyme testing, I'm all ears. Here is something you might be interested in hearing more about as well: a new test for Lyme disease.

As we know, many people sick with a Lyme infection are routinely dismissed by medical doctors who aren't trained in diagnosing or treating Lyme as "crazy," or at best, "exaggerating." This type of reductive response from medical professionals can really sting. Nothing like being kicked while you're down, and from the very people you have turned to for help. I know how it hurts, and I've experienced firsthand the fearsome mental disorientation that this disease can cause.

I remember hearing my (deceased) father clearly saying my name. I jerked my head in the direction of his voice, fully expecting to see him standing next to me.  I remember hearing the phone ringing, ringing, ringing, and each time I picked up, a little girl on the other end pleading to talk with someone whose name I did not know, someone who she swore lived there. I recall sitting in a chair all day for one entire day, afraid to move, practically afraid to breathe, for fear that movement would make the utter despair I felt inside even worse. It felt like standing, during an earthquake, on the brink of insanity, where even one small tremor would send me tumbling into the chasm below.

But I wasn't crazy. I had Lyme. I had an infection that was affecting my brain, and that's all. And I have gotten better. I continue to heal, and of course that is also my deepest desire for you. So what about this new test?

Evidently, there are neurological manifestations that have non-neurological root causes.  It is important that doctors understand this when dealing with patients who present with neurological difficulties and challenges.  The new Lyme test is capable of assessing whether someone has had "an immune response to the Lyme disease bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and whether the infection is currently active."

The test has been developed by Pharmasan Labs, Inc. in collaboration with NeuroScience, Inc.

From their website:

NeuroScience, Inc., by virtue of its name, has its foundations built on understanding the nervous system. Our understanding of the nervous system has led us to a point where, from a biochemical point of view, we must further consider the role hormones, cytokines, and neurotransmitters play, not as the messengers of individual systems, but rather as parts of a much larger picture. Our goal is to embrace a more global perspective on health that incorporates facets of neurology, immunology, and endocrinology. This newly emerging field has been defined as “neuroimmunology” and it forces us to rethink our approach to health and disease. Our adoption of the principles of neuroimmunology have resulted in an expanded menu of laboratory services that now include a wide spectrum of neurological, endocrinological, and immunological markers.

There are a lot of big words in that paragraph. Don't let them put you off. I think this test, this lab, may be onto something very important here. I'm looking forward to talking with their scientists very soon. Stay tuned for an interview, and meantime read up about their new Lyme test (and how you might use it), on their website.

Be well.
Think positively.
We can get better.



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Have Lyme? Have patience.

Treating for post-Lyme or chronic Lyme infection may be highly controversial in the medical industry, but down here in real life it seems quite clear-cut: You have Lyme. You go to a doctor who treats your Lyme infection. You get better. After a time, you stop taking the antibiotics. You go back to work, to caring for your kids, to everyday life. You may or may not change your diet, your lifestyle, your stress levels. And then sometimes, not always, but sometimes years after the fact, the Lyme infection returns. Is further treatment necessary? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes the flare-ups continue and increase in intensity, driving you back to the doctor. Chronic or not, the label is not the essential thing. Treating the flare-up, or the return of the symptoms, is.

My mother raised five rambunctious kids. She tells me she often prayed for guidance. Her favorite prayer was: God, grant me patience, and give it to me RIGHT NOW! Patience is certainly a virtue in healing chronic or post-Lyme disease. But cognitively knowing it and embodying patience in everyday life are two different things.

Here in the mountains of NC, we've just received our first snow. Although I welcome the changing seasons, I find myself getting a tad anxious about the coming winter. It's hard to be patient when you have no control. And of course, who has control over the weather? Last winter was no picnic for people with Lyme. The cold weather poses many more challenges to people who struggle to keep their body temperature at an even keel. Plus, skin conditions that are common with Lyme and co-infections are exacerbated by winter weather, little sun exposure, and snug clothing.

Seeking personal inspiration and practical advice about treating Lyme, I looked back through our posts and conversations with healthy post-Lyme survivors. How do these people remain strong? Are they just made of different stuff? Do they worry, like I do, about tiny signs of Lyme's return, a sore that won't go away, a persistent itchiness. The occasional Lymie surge of dizziness that fades almost as quickly as it comes on.

Then I found Darryl Crews' advice about treating Lyme disease, which I want to share with you. I so appreciate his level-headed approach to treatment. Also, not surprised to see 'patience' right there at the top of the list:

1.  PATIENCE, DETERMINATION, WILL POWER, DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE: Your chances of recovery are good if you happen to possess these qualities.

2.  MEDICATION: Treat all known infections thoroughly with specific antibiotics. Treat aggressively until infection load is reduced to a point where the immune system can take over. Consider IV if you have neuro symptoms or fail to respond to orals. Learn to embrace herxes and avoid under treating at all costs.

3.  DETOX: Address die-off daily to decrease toxins and reduce herx intensity. Consider using supps/herbs, sauna, Epsom salt baths, coffee enema, colonics, etc.

4.  SLEEP: There's no such thing as too much. Quality deep sleep is a vital part of healing. Lyme causes fractured sleep. Auto CPAP is my all-natural sleep-aid of choice.
 
5.  SUPPLEMENTS/HERBS: Daily support is required to assist the body with balancing nutrients, detoxifying and boosting your immune system.
 
6.  EXERCISE: Thick blood harbors infections and toxins. Daily exercise will keep the blood flowing. Keep it basic for 10-15 mins twice a day (calisthenics, walk, cycling, swim, stair climbs or yoga.)
 

I especially like #4. My treatment routine includes meditation and deep breathing at night and again in the morning. Sleep is indeed essential, and these little habits help create the space for a good night's sleep.

I've come to accept that my approach to treating Lyme is unique, and if it's working, it's the right thing to do. But those dark clouds outside the window, that nippy breeze lifting leaves off the trees. What Lyme treatment approach can fend off cold weather? I'm still treating with teasel tincture and hoping it will help keep my body warm, as it has been doing for several months now. And come to think of it, it's lunchtime. A nice pot of carrot-ginger soup sounds perfect. Ginger is a warming food.

What is your attitude about winter? How do you stay warm enough and protect your skin? Lyme treatment, especially treating for chronic Lyme disease, is different for for everyone, but there is so much we can learn from each other.
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Readers write about Lyme brain

"Kmart" sent these comments in response to last week's post:

1 - I once lost my truck key on the job (gardener). I had three people (customers), for thirty five minutes, looking all over their house and property for it. I must have checked my pockets thirty times and even flipped out my front pockets like a rabbit. Yes (you all have done this) while just standing in confusion & embarrassment my stomach fluttered & face grew red as I had to suddenly admit that I found my key in my right front pocket while casually just standing there. Oops, my bad. There is still no way to explain lyme brain to others.

2 - Having read through the protocol, how in the heck is someone with stage 3 suppose to remember all that? I believe any attempt (at a protocol) is a good one for fighting Lyme. Seriously, there is no way I could stay on this as I am still looking for my keys!

***

Success stories usually, if not always, follow failure. The classic example is learning to ride a bike. If it took falling over nine or ten times before you finally got the balance thing down, than those nine or ten times were more about succeeding than failing.

Healing from Lyme has been sort of like that for me. Starting with getting a diagnosis, which doctors kept getting wrong. I've talked to people for the success stories who said that they went to more than 30, or in some cases more than 40 different doctors before getting a correct diagnosis!

It still makes me shiver to think about the dermatologist who wouldn't even look me in the eye while he was examining my skin rash. I'd brought in a notebook with questions I had jotted down, because I knew I wouldn't be able to remember them unless I wrote them down. The minute I opened it and read my first question, he stopped making eye contact with me! It felt as though he saw me as some sort of weirdo to protect himself against. I absolutely did not feel like I was in the supportive hands of a healer. Of course, it didn't help that I stuttered terribly whenever I tried to talk. He was one of the docs who had prescribed prednisone for my "excema." He was sure he was right. I was sure I was getting worse, not better. At that time I had no clue that the medicine itself was making my disease spread inside my body and brain, quickly rendering me unable to think, talk or keep my balance while walking.

Lyme brain can definitely be funny in retrospect, but I know it's absolutely terrifying when you've got it.

Whether your stories are humorous or scary (or both!), I invite you to share one of yours here. You can either email me directly: ldrd.support@gmail.com or put it in the comments.

All good wishes for healing to every one of you,
Suzanne


P.S. Kmart, I know what you mean about remembering the protocol. I kept notebooks full of schedules for when to take which antibiotic or supplement, to take it before meals, between, whether to take it with water or juice, or put it under my tongue, and how many drops of this and that, when to increase or decrease...It got to where I was either taking a medicine or writing about having taken it. Having Lyme is hard -- but healing from Lyme can be just as tough!
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Working with Lyme brain - Under Our Skin

Under Our Skin filmmaker Andy Abrahams Wilson discussing his film on The Wrap.

I have to laugh now, because in retrospect it's funny, but at the time it was embarrassing. It's a memory of my interview with Andy, which I conducted a few years back before the Turn the Corner Foundation stepped in to help fund his film. I'm sure he didn't think much of the incident.

In our conversation, Andy was very gracious. He spoke eloquently about his sister's trouble with Lyme disease, and later, his feeling of helplessness when a close friend of his then discovered she also was suffering from late-stage Lyme. He'd been so moved to do something about the misunderstandings around Lyme symptoms and Lyme treatment, that he entered into the long process of making Under Our Skin, which is still gaining ground and helping the Lyme community to get the word out.

The embarrassing part was that in interviewing him, I couldn't get my phone recording equipment to start correctly. Lyme brain was so intense at the time for me, that I couldn't fix the problem. I had to hang up and call him back. I was too proud to admit that I was having a hard time that day. I couldn't tell whether it was the equipment or me who was glitching. However, Andy was incredibly kind and generous, and allowed me to reschedule our talk for later that day.

It wasn't the first time that had happened. A month earlier, I'd gotten through an interview with Dr Christine Horner, but I could barely hear her the entire time. My tinnitus was roaring, but that wasn't it. It was that awful, foggy Lyme brain again. It took away my ability to multi-task and hold two thoughts at a time. Normally I'm a fairly good troubleshooter, but there was no way I could troubleshoot and conduct an interview at the same time. It didn't even occur to me to ask if we could reschedule. When the interview was complete I hung up, and discovered that I'd put my earphone in backwards. No wonder she'd sounded faint the whole time.

These are not pretty memories.

However, remembering the bad times allow me to measure how far I've come back into balance. Using my brain is one of my favorite hobbies. I guess I'm grateful for all my Lyme experiences now, since I've come out on the other side, and can actually work my recording equipment pretty smoothly again...usually.

What about you? Care to share a Lymie memory? Please share your story in the comments!
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Support while detoxing

With all the talk about Swine Flu, there's an abundance of common sense about how to stay healthy making the rounds on the Internet, such as washing your hands regularly and supporting the immune system. Immune support is as central to keeping the flu bug away as it is in healing from Lyme disease. And one important step in keeping healthy is detoxification. Detox is part of the one-two punch in Lyme management (along with antibiotics) that RN Ginger Savely describes in our experts interview series. But what happens when you try to detox too quickly?

Anyone dealing with Lyme is painfully familiar with stressful "Herxheimer Reactions," which occurs when toxins - Lyme bacteria - in the body die off faster than the organs of elimination can handle. Learning how to manage Herxes is important yet tricky business. Essentially experienced as an increase in symptoms, Herxes can include nausea, headaches, brain fog, vertigo or mood swings, bringing more stress to an already stress-loaded system.

Some experts and patients say the Herx just comes with the territory, that it's unfortunately one of the crummy things that Lyme patients must endure in order to get better. However, others claim that painful Herxes are more likely to occur when the organs of elimination lack sufficient support. For example, Jean Reist, RN, claims that the intensity of a Herx can be reduced and in some cases eliminated altogether. How? By supporting the lymph system, an important part of the immune system and a major player in elimination. The lymph must be maintained in order to carry toxins away from the cells. An act as simple as drinking plenty of water each day and routinely jumping on a mini-trampoline can help move the lymph, and reduce the effects of a Herx.

The organs of elimination include the liver, the bowel, kidneys, skin and lungs. Yes, deep breathing, which is used in meditation and yoga practice, is a way to remove toxins from your lungs, so remember to support your body in healing by taking a deep relaxing breath.
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