May is lyme disease awareness month and it's time I brought my story to light. So many people are suffering with undiagnosed lyme disease, or told they will never heal and it's devestating. Here is my story.
I grew up in the panhandle of Texas where we often went camping in Palo Duro Canyon, rode motorcycles at the motorcycle lease, played in rivers and were basically outside all the time. It was completely normal to find ticks on us, light a match and "burn them out" or paint them with fingernail polish to "smother" them. We had never heard of lyme disease so we didn't think ticks were anything more than annoying.
In the fall of my senior year of high school, 2001 we went on our annual camping trip with some of my dads work friends. Per usual, I got several ticks and pulled them out and moved on with my life. I was an ambitious 17 year old and would go to school in the morning and work in the afternoon to save money and get ahead. After that camping trip I started to experience symptoms that I never had before. I found myself calling into my afternoon job that I had worked so hard to get, just so I could take a nap. That was literally my only reason. I was dead tired and had to sleep. I wasn't calling in to play hookey, I was literally so fatigued I couldn't make it through the day, as a 17 year old.
I told my parents that I was beyond exhausted, that I felt like my grandmother had more energy than me so my mom took me to the doctor. They ran basic blood work and wanted to check my blood sugar after eating so I did for a couple of weeks and everything was normal. The doctors told me it was probably just me worrying about college and upcoming life changes. I didn't know any better so I accepted that. For a while.
Pretty quickly my symptoms progressed to much more than fatigue. I began having daily intense headaches/migraines, brain fog so bad that I couldn't drive sometimes, random flu like sensations that would come and go, feeling like my brain was inflamed all the time, panic attacks, heart palpitations and derealization. We went to more doctors- ENT's, neurologists, specialists, heart doctors and normal MD's. Always me, crying in their office and them telling me blood work is fine and it's all in my head- here is an anti-depressant. Not one of them ever mentioned lyme disease or tested me for it. I lived that way from 2001-2016, just assuming I was a wimp compared to normal people and that something was seriously wrong with me but it would never be found. I got my masters and business and continued on as a Human Resources Business partner for many years. Eventually moving from TX to SC for my career, all while being super sick. I was stuck in a vicious cycle of trudging through my day at work, collapsing at home for a few hours, then getting up to eat and spend a few minutes with my daughter. I’d crawl into bed at 8:00 pm usually too exhausted ot brush my teeth, and then repeat the same routine the next day.
My body just could not repair itself. I was barely existing, and certainly not living.
Lyme Signs and Diagnosis
Lyme is caused by a tick infected with the spirochete bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, transmitted to humans through a tick bite. The diagnosis is usually confirmed through a combination of lab tests and symptoms, including:
- Butterfly or bull’s eye rash following a tick bite, between 3 to 30 days after a bite (note: not everyone develops a rash and I never had one)
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Neck stiffness
- Neurological problems
Even with advancements in diagnosis, confirming the presence of Lyme disease can still be difficult, in part because one of Borrelia’s strategies is to suppress immune function.
My Journey continued and I finally got answers...
Thankfully, the move to SC led me to a holistic doctors office in Charleston SC that took cases that were "unsolvable" and they were the first one to ever run a full lyme panel on me. It came back off the charts positive, as did mold and multiple co-infections. The doctor there taught me that lyme disease is an immune system issue, and mold was hindering my immune system making it basically impossible for my body to heal. I will write a seperate post in the future on mold, but for this post I will focus on Lyme disease. The doctor that diagnosed me was an amazing doctor who is now retired unfortunately, but the same test she used to diagnose me can be done through The Crunchy Club, without needing to see a doctor. I paid thousand of dollars to get diagnosed, and it's one of the biggest reasons I started The Crunchy Club so that if you don't have the funds you can test yourself. The test that she utilized and that is available to members at practitioner cost is the Vibrant Wellness Lyme and Co-Infection test panel.
She was the doctor that told me that since my original infection was (At that time) over 15 years prior that the lyme was now considered "chronic" and antibiotic treatments would not help. She instead had me use herbs, tinctures, purchase a sauna, and open up my detox pathways. She was the inspiration that I needed to switch from western to eastern treatments and become a clinical herbalist myself.
Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, is a pioneer in the use of plant medicine for Lyme disease and has developed a botanical protocol that many people have used with great success, myself included. The protocol is centered around several herbs, including Cat's Claw, Japanese Knotweed, and Andrographis. Botanicals that can be added to the core protocol, based on the patient’s needs, include Astragalus and Smilax; Buhner recommends Astragalus as a preventative measure for those who live in Lyme endemic areas. The protocol I did was very comprehensive and more than I can write about in a blog post. You can learn more about the exact protocol I did, step by step guides, which sauna I used, etc...in The Crunchy Club membership. If you want a discount to the crunchy club for only $27/month instead of $47 then use this link HERE.
There is also emerging research that supports the efficacy of the botanicals in the above mentioned protocols for the treatment of Lyme disease and coinfections. A recent study published in Frontiers in Medicine has added to the growing body of evidence that certain botanicals can effectively target B. burgdorferi and coinfections.2
Some of the botanicals with anti-Borrelia activity include:
- Cryptolepis sanguinolenta
- Scutellaria baicalensis (Skullcap)
- Artemisia annua and artemisinin, a concentrated extract from the Artemisia plant
- Black walnut (Juglans nigra)
- Cat’s Claw (Uncaria tomentosa)
- Japanese knotweed (Polygonum cuspidatum)
- Oregano oil
- Cinnamon bark essential oil
- Clove essential oil
Of note, this is one of the first studies to show that Cryptolepis has activity against the Lyme spirochete. This herb has a long history of use in Africa for malaria, and has been used in the Lyme community to help treat the co-infection Babesia.
In some cases, prescription antibiotics can be a central component of Lyme disease treatment. However, while they are essentially the only treatment for Lyme offered in the conventional medical model, they are but one antimicrobial treatment option in the functional medicine model.
The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS), a medical society dedicated to the diagnosis and appropriate treatment of Lyme disease and other tick borne infections, has created a helpful set of Lyme treatment guidelines outlining evidence-based guidelines around the antibiotic treatment of the disease.4 For acute Lyme disease, ILADS recommends a 4-6 week course of the antibiotics doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime.5 On the other hand, antibiotics used in the treatment of chronic Lyme disease may include doxycycline, amoxicillin, clarithromycin, rifampin, and tinidazole. The ILADS approach also advocates combining different antibiotics as needed to effectively target Borrelia and it’s different forms, as well as to target co-infection organisms.
Many functional medicine doctors combine antibiotics with botanical medicines, discussed next, as several botanicals appear to have synergistic antimicrobial effects in the management of Lyme disease and coinfections.
Some doctors who treat Lyme disease hand patients a prescription for an antibiotic (or two or three) and leave it at that; however, antibiotic treatment is but one piece of the puzzle. Antibiotics are powerful tools that can make a significant difference, but they are best utilized as part of a comprehensive treatment approach, not as a sole treatment. A comprehensive treatment approach may include antibiotics with probiotics, which may attenuate the microbiome-disrupting effects of the antibiotics, diet and lifestyle changes, and interventions that support detoxification, decrease systemic inflammation, and boost your body's immune function, among other interventions. If these areas are left unaddressed, response to treatment can be incomplete, and there is greater risk of relapse after treatment.
Dapsone, an antibiotic historically used for the treatment of leprosy, is another emerging treatment for Lyme disease. Leprosy is a chronic but curable skin infection caused by a “persister” bacteria, a variant of a bacteria that is highly tolerant to antibiotics, called Mycobacterium leprae. Dr. Richard Horowitz, a pioneer in the treatment of Lyme disease, theorized that the antimicrobial effects of dapsone against this M. leprae persisters might carry over to the treatment of other persister bacteria, including B. burgdorferi persisters in Lyme disease. Subsequent clinical research conducted by Dr. Horowitz suggests that dapsone is active against the “persister” form of Borrelia burgdorferi and associated tick-borne coinfections such as Babesia.9 A minimum of 12 months of dapsone treatment may be needed to produce significant improvements in symptoms and prevent relapse.10
Like disulfiram and antibiotics, dapsone is not without side effects. It can cause anemia, a condition in which the body lacks sufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen to the body’s tissues, so patients must be monitored closely during treatment.
Disulfiram is an interesting new option in the treatment of Lyme disease and certain Lyme coinfections. Disulfiram, also known by the generic name “Antabuse,” is a drug conventionally used for the treatment of alcoholism. It treats problem drinking by triggering nausea and vomiting when alcohol is ingested. However, in recent years, disulfiram has emerged as an effective treatment option for a completely different condition – Lyme disease.
How exactly has an anti-alcoholism drug come to be used in Lyme disease treatment? In 2016, in work funded by the Bay Area Lyme Foundation, researcher Jayakumar Rajadas was screening an array of pharmaceutical drugs for potential anti-Borrelia activity. During this process, referred to as "high-throughput screening" in the scientific community, he identified disulfiram as a candidate drug with anti-Borrelia activity.6 Subsequent in vitro research revealed that disulfiram is exceptionally effective at killing all forms of Borrelia burgdorferi, including the stubborn “persister” form that is highly resistant to antibiotics.7
While disulfiram is lauded by many as a breakthrough drug for Lyme disease, it is not without side effects. Emerging research indicates that disulfiram may trigger undesirable effects, including neuropathy, headaches, pain, and fatigue in some patients.8 Patients need to be monitored carefully while on the disulfiram protocol and much can be done with functional medicine to help patients better tolerate treatment. If you are interested in learning more, sign up for our email list; we are working on developing a comprehensive support program for individuals who want to use disulfiram for tick borne illness treatment using an innovative combination of disulfiram and functional medicine interventions.
Methylene blue is a pharmaceutical drug new to the Lyme disease market. Traditionally used for the treatment of methemoglobinemia, a condition in which the blood cannot carry oxygen properly, methylene blue has also been found to exert antimicrobial effects against the “persister” form of Borrelia burgdorferi, which is notoriously resistant to antibiotic treatment.11 It may also target Bartonella henselae, a common Lyme coinfection.12
There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Antimicrobial Treatment for Lyme Disease
Overall, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to the antimicrobial treatment of Lyme disease and it might take some trial and error.
What I would have done differently...
First and foremost, I would have had a tick kit with me and bug spray that was effective at repelling ticks so I didn't get lyme disease in the first place, but I was clueless back then. I wrote a blog post HERE all about my Tick Kit and Bug Away Spray.
The Dr. I worked with had me tackle the lyme and mold while boosting my immune system. That is actually how my product, elderberry and honey tonic was created because it included almost every herb/root/fruit that she wanted me to take and I couldn't find that blend on the market. So I began drinking 1 oz of the tonic 2x a day, plus daily sauna use (read my sauna blog post HERE), worked on lymphatic drainage daily and took an extensive herbal protocol as outlined in The Crunchy Club.
I got about 80% better with the above protocol and I was thrilled with that. I was told that I wouldn't be able to get rid of my chronic lyme, just manage it, so I accepted that. Then, I learned about parasites and how they feed off of and THRIVE in a body that has lyme, mold, toxins, and/or heavy metals and that they can hold 10x their weight in all of those toxins and then recirculate it in my system and a light bulb went off.
I got a stool analysis test for parasites and it was negative but I decided to do a parasite cleanse anyway. And man, I am so glad that I did. I passed over 150 parasites and my remaining 20% symptoms disappeared along with them and haven't returned. So if I had it to do all over again, I would do a parasite cleanse first, then tackle the lyme/mold/heavy metals with phase 4 of the Cell Core Protocol.
I would have gotten 100% better, 100% faster.
My preferrred method for tackling lyme after treating for parasites (we all have them, check out my blog post HERE) is via Cell Core. You can only order Cellcore products through a physician, nutritionist, certified herbalist, etc....
You can use my practitioner code: Kp69EfqJ to order the Phase 4A Kit from Cell Core.
Cellcore's Comprehensive Protocol is for you if you are affected by any chronic health issue. This is commonly used when people are affected by Lyme, mold toxicity, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, gut issues and many more.
What's included in the Phase 4A kit
- BC-ATP adds highly charged molecules to support your metabolism and ATP (energy) production. This formula is well tolerated by most sensitive people and can help the other formulas be more efficient.
- HM-ET Binder seeks out heavy metals and environmental toxins (like glyphosate) to bind and expel.
- KL Support is a collection of herbs that support your most basic detoxification organs, your liver and kidneys. Your liver is where your body breaks down toxins and hormones and sends them to bile or the kidneys for elimination. They need support starting yesterday, that's why KL Support is in Phase 1.
- Para 4 is the newest powerhouse herbal blend to blast parasites and fungus.
- CT-Biotic contains 11 strains of bacteria; spore forming and non-spore forming. These strains will help break down toxins in the gut to help with detoxification and improve digestion.
This kit, Phase 4, is not recommended to take as a stand alone. You want to do the first three phases and it is all outlined for you in the Parasite Cleansing Course. You can save thousands of dollars by taking the course instead of working with someone one on one like I did. There is an free intro course and parasite quiz that you can take HERE.
The main point of this blog post is to let you know that if I healed from chronic lyme, you can too. Our bodies were designed to heal if we give it everything we need to do so. So, don't live in fear of the forrests, just be prepared with knowledge and faith that you can overcome anything.
As always, this is not to be taken as personal medical advice. Please see your physician with any questions regarding potential lyme disease.
- Lyme disease treatment. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Reviewed December 17, 2019. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/treatment/index.html.
- Feng J, et al. Evaluation of natural and botanical medicines for activity against growing and non-growing forms of B. burgdorferi. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020; 7(6). doi:10.3389/fmed.2020.00006.
- Feng J, et al. Selective essential oils from spice or culinary herbs have high activity against stationary phase and biofilm Borrelia burgdorferi. Front Med. 2017; https://doi.org/10.3389/fmed.2017.00169.
- ILADS Lyme disease treatment guidelines. LymeDisease.org. https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-basics/resources/ilads-lyme-disease-treatment-guidelines/. Accessed September 12, 2020.
- Cameron DJ, et al. Evidence assessments and guideline recommendations in Lyme disease: The clinical management of known tick bites, erythema migrans rashes and persistent disease. International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.ilads.org/patient-care/ilads-treatment-guidelines/.
- Pothineni VR, et al. Identification of new drug candidates against Borrelia burgdorferi using high-throughput screening. Drug Des Devel Ther. 2016; 10: 1307-1322. doi: 10.2147/DDDT.S101486.
- Hari-Hara SK, et al. Repurposing disulfiram (Tetraethylthiuram Disulfide) as a potential drug candidate against Borrelia burgdorferi in vitro and in vivo. Bio Rxiv. 2019; doi: https://doi.org/10.1101/842286.
- Trautmann A, et al. Potential patient-reported toxicities with disulfiram treatment in late disseminated Lyme disease. Front Med (Lausanne). 2020; 7: 133. doi: 10.3389/fmed.2020.00133. eCollection 2020.
- Horowitz R and Freeman PR. The use of Dapsone as a novel “persister” drug in the treatment of Chronic Lyme Disease/Post Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. J Clin Exp Dermatol Res. 2016; 7(3): DOI: 10.4172/2155-9554.1000345.
- Leland DK. Touched by Lyme: Leprosy drug shows promise for Lyme treatment. LymeDisease.org. Published May 8, 2016. Accessed September 12, 2020. https://www.lymedisease.org/touched-by-lyme-dapsone/.
- Feng J, et al. Identification of additional anti-persister activity against Borrelia burgdorferi from an FDA drug library. Antibiotics (Basel). 2015; 4(3): 397-410.
- Li T, et al. Identification of FDA-approved drugs with activity against stationary phase Bartonella henselae. Antibiotics (Basel). 2019; 8(2): 50.