Lyme Disease and the Co-Infections
Lyme disease is a potentially serious, slowly progressive and even life-threatening infection, caused by the spirochete Borrelia Bergdorferi, a type of bacteria, which was discovered by a NIH entomologist, Willi Bergdorfer, in 1982. Lyme is difficult to treat for several reasons. It damages the same immune system which fights it; it causes the immune system to inappropriately generate too much inflammation which weakens the body and can cause autoimmune diseases; it masquerades into many forms (spiral, cystic, granular), to evade detection and attack by the immune system; it is sneaky and grows very slowly, to stay under the immune system’s radar; it changes its immune expression about every four weeks, keeping the immune system off balance; it can go into hiding and become dormant for long periods of time, but nevertheless continues to produce toxins; it can wiggle its way into the body’s nooks and crannies and generates protective slime (biofilm) to hide. No wonder Lyme has become endemic in the District of Columbia metro area and many other parts of the world. It is a vicious and crafty adversary.
Lyme is often accompanied by co-infections, which can also be injected into humans through tick bites and other insects. A high percentage of co-infections have been found with babesia, a malarial-like parasite, rickettsias and Bartonella (e.g., cat-scratch fever), a bacteria that can turn off antibodies to Lyme, so that the diagnostic tests are not even positive are also suspected.
Diagnostic tests are helpful, but not reliable, and clinicians and the public should maintain a high index of suspicion for these slow-growing, sneaky and potentially devastating infections. Basically, the cause of any new medical or psychiatric problem that develops without an explanation, that is persistent and often does not fit any known pattern of a conventional disorder, thereby baffling conventional doctors, is likely to be caused by Lyme or a related co-infection.
Why is the incidence of Lyme disease and these co-infections exploding at this time in history? The best explanation seems to be that the immune systems of human beings are increasingly weakened by toxins like plastics, petrochemicals, heavy metals and aluminum, creating a window of opportunity for this germ. That, combined with the germ’s sneakiness, and the fact that it bypasses the usual surface defenses and is directly inoculated into the bloodstream by ticks and other insect vectors, sets the stage for a modern epidemic.
Lyme has quietly spread under the radar of a healthcare system which is in perpetual crisis, and relatively few resources have been devoted to effective education and treatment efforts. The symptoms of fatigue, arthritis and vague neurological and psychiatric symptoms, which often wax and wane, tend to be written off as psychosomatic and are often treated palliatively with pain medication and antidepressants.
When Lyme is diagnosed, the treatment often focuses on the bacteria exclusively, ignoring co-infections and the viability of the immune system, a living, breathing part of the body requiring vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and amino acids and other nutrition to function properly. Other bacterial (e.g., mycoplasma), fungal (e.g., candida) and viral (e.g., EBV or mononucleosis virus), opportunistic invaders see their chance to invade a weakened immune system, and they can pose challenges to clinicians. The notable success of alternative therapies, like homeopathics, herbs, detoxification, meditation/yoga, exercise and other lifestyle modifications, are often not incorporated into a pharmaceutically-intensive treatment plan for Lyme victims.
Borrelia Bergdorferi is such a challenging infectious disease, that all interventions must be considered, from those which attack the bacteria (medication, herbs, homeopathics), to lifestyle modifications, to detoxification and to strengthening the immune system.
If taken seriously and a comprehensive, integrative treatment strategy is adopted, Borrelia Bergdorferi and its family of co-infections can be driven underground, allowing most Lyme sufferers to go on to live functional lives. However, they must always remember that the spirochete, like chickenpox virus, poliovirus and many other germs, is simply hiding out—waiting until the coast is clear to lash out again.
Lyme disease forces its victims to walk a straight and narrow path—getting good rest, taking everything in moderation (including intoxicants), managing stress levels (even learning how to say no), finding a spiritual path, taking supplements regularly and eating sensibly (preferably organic foods). At the first sign of a relapse, the treatments must be intensified immediately to drive Borrelia Bergdorferi back into submission, before it has a chance to advance and attack the nervous system, where it can cause major problems.
As treatment regimens are improved, vastly more sophisticated over those used only several years ago, and as healthcare providers raise their index of suspicion and properly test for and treat Lyme, as healthful eating and lifestyle changes become more commonplace, like all epidemics of yesteryear, Lyme will gradually fade from the scene. However, it’s going to take sustained Herculean efforts to deal with this clever adversary.
Chas Gant, M.D., Ph.D., is an author, physician and practitioner, specializing in molecular health and healing. For more information, call 202-237-7000, Ext. 104 or visit DrChasMD.com.