Evidence suggests that antibiotics do help Lyme patients heal, especially when they're given soon after infection.

Unfortunately, evidence also suggests that after a certain amount of time, antibiotics may begin to do more harm than good. To add to this complicated mix, further evidence exists that suggests the some people may never experience symptoms of Lyme because the bacteria is capable of lying dormant until another illness or one of life's big stresses kicks it into play. Therefore, by the time a correct diagnosis is received and antibiotics are administered, the initial infection is a thing of the past.

These frustrating facts present a dilemma for those of us suffering from Lyme: How do we keep killing the Lyme bacteria after we have completed a reasonable course of antibiotics?

While we toil to find ways to heal and stop the pain, fierce controversy in the medical profession wants to divide us into two separate camps. In one camp, we fight for the right to continue long-term use of antibiotics. In the other, we collectively agree that there's no such thing as Chronic Lyme disease, we're satisfied with a CDC-sanctioned 30 day course of antibiotics, and we simply ignore flaring symptoms or explain them away as another problem altogether. End of story.

But the question remains: How, then, do we heal? One LLMD that I interviewed said that when antibiotics are given long-term, they seem to doom the patient to a lifetime of use. One doctor I know, a chiropractor who has been diagnosed with Lyme, has been on a roller coaster of Doxycycline use for many years, and she is still symptomatic.

The problem with antibiotics, as everyone knows by now, is that overuse results in damage to the intestinal flora, the friendly bacteria, that do us good.

One reason we need that bacteria is to help our bodies absorb Vitamin B. Without the gastrointestinal microflora to perform its job, B vitamins go unused in our bodies. Antibiotics overide the body's natural immune responses. They're immunosuppressive. Many people are convinced that this is no big deal, and the use of antibiotics to bypass the immune system and kill dangerous bacteria is widely accepted in Western medicine. There's no question that they are generally still considered the modern miracle drug, as they were touted in the last century. Most of us have witnessed, or had, an experience where the use of antibiotics quickly helped to turn around a bad situation.

The use and overuse of antibiotics is an issue fraught with complexities, and if you are suffering with Lyme symptoms it's all the more likely to confuse you. When short-term antibiotics fail to cure Lyme disease, and the patient experiences a flare-up of symptoms, who could blame that patient for wanting another course of antibiotics? In my friend's case, she simply can't afford to let Lyme run her life (indeed, who can?). She can't get sick and stop seeing her patients, so she simply writes herself another 'script of Doxy, buys herself some time and hopes for the best.

Answers are often found in the questions themselves. In this case, we should be asking if there are effective alternatives to antibiotics.

Are there other therapies besides antibiotics that are as useful and efficient in killing Lyme bacteria and its co-infections, but do not suppress the immune system? Fortunately the answer is yes. Many people in the Lyme community are becoming familiar with alternatives such as the herbal microbials Samento and Cumanda. Instead of suppressing the body's natural immune system, these products are classified as immunomodulators or immunoregulators, because they work with, and support, the body's natural healing abilities and treat the whole person, never destroying the liver, kidneys or intestines, as corticosteroids or antibiotics will.

Let's hope that before long, our health insurance companies and the rest of the contributors to the modern medical-industrial complex begin to recognize the success of Samento and Cumanda. The more people who are healing from Lyme, the better.

LDRD 2006 ┬ęSuzanne Arthur