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

Dr. Lee Cowden

Chronic Lyme, a persistent problem

Chronic Lyme disease is the controversial third stage of this multi-stage illness. While medical experts agree that for some, problems and symptoms persist after the standard protocol has been administered. What they don’t agree on is whether these persistent problems should be treated with antibiotics, and for how long. Also in question is the use of the term “chronic.”

According to the
CDC, what many call "chronic Lyme disease," is properly known as "Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome" (PTLDS). Doctors can follow protocol and treat patients who have been diagnosed with early-stage Lyme.

The fact that there is no insurance code for chronic Lyme, or PTLDS, means that many doctors will not treat chronic Lyme with long-term antibiotics.

Dr Lee Cowden, whose Lyme protocol has helped many, including me, agrees about the debilitating effects of long-term antibiotics. Dr Cowden would rather the patient detox and kill the Borrelia bacteria with herbal tinctures such as Cumanda, Samento, Banderol and others which will not punch holes in the gut lining and create problems in addition to the Lyme infection.

Stephen Buhner’s core herbal protocol for Lyme includes Cat’s Claw, Sarsaparilla, Japanese Knotweed and Eleuthero. Stephen is also devoted to helping Lyme patients and his alternative treatments are soundly researched. Many people opt to self-treat with these or other herbal protocols while also still on the doctor-prescribed antibiotics. Stephen has told me that his core protocol will not interfere with standard antibiotic treatment.

My personal approach to treating chronic Lyme, or “late-stage” Lyme as my doctor called it, did include treatment with long-term antibiotics (six months). After that, I embarked on the
Cowden protocol for a couple of years. During that time, I would never have had the stamina to work full-time outside my home. My work as a freelance writer allowed me to keep hours that fit with my quirky schedule of daily napping, frequent breaks, and staying in bed all day when I simply had zippo energy. Talking to sources over the phone, writing propped up on pillows, and a supportive, compassionate partner smoothed the brutal lows and quickened the recovery time.

However, my long healing journey has been successful for one main reason, and it isn’t just afternoon naps or diet or exercise, or love, or even the expensive
Resveratrol that makes the difference -- but all of those do definitely have their place. The real key is a continual re-commitment to healthy living every day, through several daily practices that address and acknowledge these four fundamental areas: my intentions, behaviors, my culture and shared values, and the social systems that play a major, yet somewhat invisible, role in life.

Chronic Lyme or PTLDS will continue to dampen and depress our spirits if left untreated. And long-term antibiotics may not be the answer.




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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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Following up with Samento & Banderol

A reader commented that he has tried Samento and Banderol and didn’t get results. Another reader mentioned that ‘diet is everything.’ I feel so strongly about this and want to put in another pitch for taking personal responsibility in our own healing. I wholeheartedly agree that Samento and Banderol alone won't cut it. I wonder if antibiotics alone can heal us, and personally doubt they can do it all (unless the Lyme disease is caught early enough). I believe that in order to be effective healing agents, antibiotics, as well as herbal and other complementary therapeutics, should be positioned as part of a whole approach. That approach includes diet and exercise and a host of other factors that I’ve written about in ‘100 Perspectives.

My own history of healing from Lyme seems similar to that of the person who responded, LymeAngl, although I followed the
r Cowden's updated Lyme protocol">Cowden protocol for four years (after treating for six months with powerful antibiotics), taking 30 drops 3x daily, alternating between Samento and Banderol.

LymeAngl’s point about diet being everything is critical in my opinion. I have had a healthy diet my entire life, but then went gonzo with healthy food, fresh organic juices daily, fresh sprouts and fresh dark green everything, such as spirulina, chlorella, and leafy greens when I learned I had Lyme. I maintained that frenzy of healthy food consumption long after my horrid symptoms and the ‘daily dizzies’ began to slowly fade. Today, 6 years after my diagnosis, I am a devotee of a clean diet and exercise and believe they are two very important branches of a healing path.

I have written here about slipping off the health food wagon, the results of which have been disastrous for me. Beer and wine don’t work. Sugar is the worst. Coffee I can handle very infrequently, but I stay healthy now because I pay close attention to my daily habits. I exercise MORE, not less, as I get older; I consume no sugar or alcohol, and I have never been a soda drinker. I drink more water than most people are probably able to (because I'm fortunate to work at home, near the loo). I hardly ever drink coffee but I do drink green tea. I don't have a sensitivity to gluten which is fortunate. My diet includes a fair amount of dairy but I stay away from cow milk, which has never worked for me. Goat cheeses, lots of herbs and spices, and as much fresh organic produce as I can swing. I read labels voraciously and have learned to attend pot lucks and dinner parties without caving in to peer pressure, while at the same time not devolving into a buzz-killing 'health food lecturer' about the evils of sugar. Everyone is aware of the dangers by now & they need to wake up and make their own choice. It does, however, never cease to amaze me how much actual junk food people can consume, all while fervently believing that their diet is perfectly healthy. I’m a people person, always have been, so people’s quirks and imperfections tickle me to no end, but sometimes it's just too surreal to witness how strong the disconnect can be between somebody’s words and their actions.

For example, the other day I sat and watched someone woof down a sugary maple scone and a cup of coffee with sugar & cream, while describing to me her newly found enthusiasm for ‘cleansing.’ When I pointed out that scones are probably not the best cleanse-food she pouted, saying she had to have SOME fun. Ridiculous. What's “fun” is living life the way you choose to every day, not strangling in the grip of your own unconscious habits, not being held prisoner by disease.

I'm convinced that the key to healing from serious disease is to approach it from as many angles as you can discover. Never give up.

Please read about my "100 Perspectives."



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Staying Lyme-free in an endemic region

"Almost everybody I know either has Lyme disease, or they know someone who is undergoing Lyme treatment," said my friend Dee, who moved to the Hudson Valley, NY just a few years ago. 

She'd been telling me about her favorite pastime, walking with her dog, Daisy, through the woods near her small house.

"Knock on wood, I haven't gotten it yet. It's kind of shocking how many people have, but honestly, I don't think I've ever even seen a tick out there," she added. I could tell she was amazed at her good luck. "But the fact that I haven't gotten sick doesn't seem to make me more cautious," she went on. "In fact, I feel sort of immune to it." She paused, considering this idea for a moment.

"Are some people just more susceptible than others?" she asked.

While silently giving thanks (and feeling relieved) that my friend remains happy and healthy, I explained what I've learned from Lyme experts regarding our susceptibility.

Ginger Savely, RN, tells us that in her experience observing and treating Lyme patients, it's true that some people tend to attract ticks, just as some of us are mosquito magnets, and some never get bit. Other medical professionals, such as Dr Cowden and the late Dr Joanne Whitaker, who have studied Lyme, its testing and treatment for a lifetime, claim that the Lyme bacteria can be found in body fluids, such as tears, sweat and semen. Pediatrician Dr Charles Ray Jones, who is nothing short of a hero in many of his colleagues and his Lyme patients' estimation, says he has treated very young children who were infected by their mother while in vitro.

"The problem with being Lyme-free while living in a place such as the Hudson Valley," explained Dee, "is that you lose your fear. You don't take the precautions you know you should because it just hasn't happened yet."

Here are some precautions to take, if you plan to venture outdoors in this beautiful spring weather. Be sure to check your dog, too.

To reduce the risk of Lyme disease:

• Wear light-colored clothing and preferably long pants and long sleeves when in places where ticks may be present. This helps in spotting ticks that may be on clothes. Tucking pants into socks is also a very good idea.
• Perform a tick check every day so ticks can be removed before they have a chance to feed and transmit pathogens they might be carrying. Research indicates that a tick has to feed for at least 36 hours before it can transmit pathogens such as the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
• Consider the use of repellents if spending considerable time outdoors.

Source: New York State Health Department

PS: I asked Dr Eva Sapi, Director of Lyme Research at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, whether it was true, in her estimation, that a tick must be attached "for at least 36 hours before it can transmit pathogens," and she assured me there was no evidence to support that assertion.
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Dr Cowden's updated Lyme protocol

Are you treating Lyme disease symptoms after having received a late-stage diagnosis? The problem for many of us who are healing from Lyme is that we know antibiotics are tough on our systems. While I have no doubt that longer term antibiotic protocols are key in killing the Lyme bacterial complex, I've talked to a lot of people who are either severely allergic to antibiotics, simply can't tolerate them after a long period, or have no health insurance coverage and can't pay out of pocket.

Which leaves us with what alternatives? It's very scary to hear your doctor tell you that in order to treat you for Lyme you must have antibiotics, when you a) can't tolerate them physically, or b), you can't afford them financially.

A friend of mine asked me about Lyme the other day. She'd heard that I'd been very sick and wondered if I was feeling better. It was such a huge pleasure to realize that I hadn't mentioned Lyme once to her, since we met a year or so ago. Speaking from my own experience only, I have found that treatment with a combination of methods, including behavioral changes, nutrition and diet and rigorous exercise has worked really well. Not as quickly as I'd like, that's for sure! But these days I consider myself to be living a healthy, Lyme-free life. In part, I achieved that goal with the help of Dr Cowden's protocol, using Samento and Cumanda and a host of other supplements.

Dr. Wm Lee Cowden says that he has discovered that “antibiotics do seem to work fairly well in a lot of patients. But, if they've had the illness for longer than six weeks, the chance of antibiotics getting rid of the infection, in my experience, is pretty unlikely, pretty remote. So, they're basically just guaranteeing that they'll stay on antibiotics for the rest of their life."

“The problem with staying on the standard pharmaceutical antibiotics long term," he says, "is that you kill off the friendly bacteria in your gut, and you cause an overgrowth of fungus in your gut, so then you trade one problem for another."

(The above quote is from my article on the effectiveness of Dr Cowden's Lyme protocol, in the Townsend Letter - The Examiner of Alternative Medicine, April 2007.)

PROTOCOL FOR LYME BORRELIOSIS From Wm. Lee Cowden, MD

Please also note Dr Cowden's condensed support program, updated February 17, 2009.
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Alternative Lyme treatments

A friend asked for some advice about her Lyme protocol. She doesn't want to take antibiotics and would like to attempt an all-natural Lyme protocol.

I reminded her that I don't give advice. I'm an editor, not a doctor, and besides, it seems to me that depending on what stage of the disease you have, the symptoms of Lyme and the specific quirks of our immune systems truly complicate the challenge. The more people I interview about their experience with Lyme and its co-infections, the more I find out that I don't know. You've heard that old saying about the moment you recognize that you don't know anything is the beginning of wisdom? It's like that.

Although many of the Lyme-aware doctors we've interviewed for the "Interviews with Experts" series prescribe antibiotics for Lyme disease treatment, many people dealing with this multistage illness have incorporated other protocols into their routine at one point or another. Herbal tinctures, nutritional supplements and oxygen therapy are good examples of alternative or additional treatments, and I've had reports of excellent results with various combinations of these. Rife therapy has reportedly helped a lot of Lyme patients as well.

I've written about Dr Lee Cowden's herbal protocol in a special issue about Lyme protocols in the Townsend Letter, and he's featured in our Experts series. I'm interested in hearing more about the results of Dr Richard Horowitz's protocol, because he incorporates some of the Cowden herbs, and we're looking forward to adding his voice to our series.

I told my friend that the best advice I could offer is to tune in to the experts, and also listen to a catalog of stories about people from all walks of life, rich and poor, old and young, who have battled the tiger and now live vital, post-Lyme lives. I believe everyone has something to teach us, and that everyone is at least partially right. It's our job to decipher what's right, and what works, for us on our individual healing journeys.

I have had profound results from Dr Cowden's protocol. However, when I was first diagnosed my doctor insisted that I take antibiotics, which I remained on for six months.

I'm moved by my friend's sincere quest to heal from Lyme without going the pharmaceutical route. So, I thought I'd post this question to you: Have you had significant and long-lasting results from purely herbal protocols, such as the treatments recommended by Dr Lee Cowden, or Herbalist Stephen Buhner?
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Immune system support

A few subscribers have said they're curious about my own particular healing protocol. We all know that there's no silver bullet where Lyme is concerned (although we wish) and that what works for your cousin or someone on your Lyme forum may not work for you, and vice verse. So keep that in mind. For the record, I feel great these days -- nearly normal (what a concept! Was I ever?). My routine is a blend of Dr. Cowden's and master herbalist Stephen Buhner's Lyme protocols, with a handful of other stuff thrown in for good measure. I get enough sleep, eat organic vegetables and fruits, try to exercise every day, and take probiotics.

One thing that I've learned from my own experience, as well as from talking to Lyme specialists and others who are healing, is that when you take antibiotics you must replace the friendly bacterial flora in dryour gut. Otherwise, "you can cause problems for yourself that are just as harmful as the Lyme symptoms themselves," says cardiologist and Lyme researcher Dr. Lee Cowden, whose herbal protocol for Lyme disease has helped many people. Even long after you stop taking antibiotics, probiotics can assist in bringing balance to your intestines. The intestines play a central role in the human immune system, and getting better is in many ways dependent on supporting the immune system.

So I want to mention something else I also take daily, a lactobacillus-based supplement that supports my immune system. I take 2 to 4 capsules daily, more if I feel stressed. It's called Del Immune V. A friend of mine sent me some when I first got diagnosed and I haven't been without it since. She takes it religiously too, as part of her protocol for hepatitis C. I have seen its effect on her, and the stuff is good. It seems to banish dark circles under her eyes, and best of all it seems to help lift her back to her natural wise, warm and witty self.

Although I haven't taken pharmaceutical antibiotics for two years, I've continued to take this high quality probiotic from Bulgaria. Although I may run out of other supplements and let them slide from time to time, I try to never go without Del Immune. It's made from a strain of lactic acid bacteria -- lactobacillus -- more precisely known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, DV strain. The lactobacillus is cultured, then digested with natural enzymes that are an exact match to the enzymes in the human intestine, creating a product that is made of cell wall fragments containing pieces of cell DNA.

No silver bullets, but smart choices. Like eating organic and treating your tummy, and your immune system, with care.
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Zeolite and Dr. Cowden's therapy

Chelation therapy helps detoxify the body by removing heavy metals such as lead, arsenic, and mercury. This type of therapy is commonly used in treating lead poisoning and heavy metal toxicity, but is not supported by conventional doctors as a way to help patients heal from other serious conditions, such as cancer, heart disease, autism, and Lyme disease. However, some alternative medical practitioners and patients claim to get significant results with chelation. Cilantro and alpha lipoic acid are among the natural chelators used by many people seeking to remove low-level poisons such as mercury and lead, which can be transmitted from a polluted environment, from their systems.

Zeolite is another substance used as a chelator. What is it? Zeolites are natural minerals formed thousands or even millions of years ago, that work as other chelating agents do, absorbing metals from your system, and drawing them out so your body can eliminate them. When the body's immune system is supported its natural healing mechanisms simply work better.

Dr. Lee Cowden, a renowned physician who treats Lyme patients, and spends much of his time and energy teaching other doctors his method for treating Lyme patients, emphasizes the necessity to detoxify the body of metals in order to thoroughly treat Lyme disease and prevent reinfection. He recommends Zeolite as a chelator. You can now order Zeolite through Nutramedix (http://www.nutramedix.com), the company that offers all of the herbal supplements listed on Dr. Lee Cowden's core protocol for treating Lyme.
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