Monday, January 10, 2011

Lyme Basics

I am a member of a Yahoo group called CaliforniaLyme.  Today someone posted this wonderful write up on the Basics of Lyme Disease.  I asked her permission to post it to my blog.  I think it is great information for anyone who may have lyme or knows someone with lyme.  Thank you Cynthia!

"As there are always "newbies" joining our group who have the same basic questions, I thought I'd put out a lyme basics posting.  This only represents the most general information.  Doctors who treat this disease are few and far between, and they are often VERY busy.  So, you should be prepared to do your own research and own some responsibility for getting your health back.  Anyone new to our group should take the time to investigate the topics covered here in all of the past publications of the Lyme Times at and order the back copies.  They are a treasure trove of information.  

Doxycycline is the standard antibiotic (abx) for treatment of lyme recommended by the CDC, but here is what my LLMD explained to me, and I present it in lay person's language.  Bear in mind that there are many, many differing opinions within the medical community regarding treatment of lyme, and what I'm saying here is not by any means the be-all and end-all of discussion.  Hopefully, it will give you newbies a starting point.

Doxy can be effective at eliminating Lyme when it is diagnosed within 2-4 weeks of infection.  It is among a class of abx (the Tetracyclines) that are useful at eliminating bacteria from the blood.  However, there are 2 other classes of abx which should be involved in the treatment for an infection with a longer term of exposure.  

Since the Bb bacteria is a spirochete, it has the ability to imbed in the soft tissue:  joints, muscles, nerves.  It begins to do this within 2-3 weeks of infection.  And it can penetrate the myelin shield of the spinal chord and brain.  If more than a month passed between infection and start of treatment, you will probably need a round (often a very lengthy round) of a second class of antibiotics (penicillins and/or third generation cephalosporins) which can also penetrate the soft tissue and get to the bacteria there.  

Finally, when under attack from abx, the Bb bacteria will spiral down into a ball and form a protective shield around itself (called the cystic form).  It can also form a bio-film as a strategy for protecting itself from abx.  Once treatment stops, these protected bacteria will begin to replicate again.  The cystic form may require a stronger third class of abx which can effectively penetrate at the cellular level.  This class includes Flagyl and Ketek, both of which can have serious side-effects (particularly with regard to the gut). 

Neurological involvement which occurs when the bacteria has passed the blood/brain barrier may require intravenous (IV) treatment in order to achieve the necessary penetration to reach the bacteria.  Shots (Bicillin) can also achieve a high degree of penetration, as can oral Biaxin.

The subject of which abx to use, what form of delivery and what strengths is a VERY complicated one.  Your LLMD will work with you to design the treatment protocol that will work best for you.

Any long-term antibiotic treatment program will negatively effect the gut, which can cause serious side-effects.  Inclusion of an anti-fungal like Diflucan in the treatment protocol will be helpful in this regard, but all lyme patients in treatment should be taking serious amounts of pro-biotics to protect the gut.  In addition, strong antioxidant juices have been found to partially alleviate herxheimer symptoms caused by the die-off of the bacteria, which spews toxins into the bloodstream.  Others find various detox protocols helpful in managing symptoms.  Often, you will need to consult a naturopath, functional medicine specialist or dietitian to get help with supplementation.

Long-term exposures to lyme will require more than Doxycycline to clear them.  And, of course, the whole treatment protocol will be complicated if there is the presence of co-infections - this is pretty common in California - which require their own treatment protocols.  In addition, individual capacity of patients' immune systems, environmental toxic loads and other variables make it necessary to custom tailor the treatment to the patient.

Antibiotics may not eliminate a lyme infection in all cases, but they should be able to whack it back into a state of remission where your own immune system can contain what remains indefinitely.  That's the goal, anyway.  An on-going regimen of supplements and naturopathic treatments will be very useful in this regard, boosting your immune system's capacity.

All of these subjects are covered in detail in various Lyme Times publications, so, again, I urge you all to order your own library of these indispensable magazines from CALDA's website:

For the record, I underwent 6 months of treatment, followed by a couple of follow-up rounds of treatment for continuing symptoms.  Eventually, these were successfully managed with other approaches (thyroid supplementation and other naturopathic protocols) for 3-and-a-half years.  This past year, I developed leaky gut and a SIBO infection (due to damage to the gut from the abx).  After 6 months on IgG supplements and 75billion CFU/daily pro-biotics, I am feeling good again.

Wishing you all the best in 2011."

Cynthia Sawtell, CALDA advocate and lyme patient
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