Lyme disease is a complicated infection that is caused by bacteria that’s transmitted from a tick or insect bite. The majority of cases of Lyme are due to a bite from a type of deer tick known as the black-legged tick, which can carry and pass on bacteria known as borrelia burgdorferi. According to the Michigan Lyme Disease Association, more recently it’s also been found that other insects can also spread Lyme disease or cause similar infections — including other types of ticks, mosquitoes, and possibly spiders or fleas.
Overall, up to 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year, according to new research from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC), and many seek Lyme disease treatment. Lyme disease cases are largely concentrated in the Northeast and upper Midwest, with 14 states accounting for over 96 percent of cases reported to CDC.
Lyme disease symptoms can start with flulike symptoms, headaches, muscle and joint pain. Over time, the symptoms can continue to worsen and turn into a long-lived inflammatory response that is similar to an autoimmune illness.
It’s important to understand that although Lyme disease originates from an insect bite, symptoms are caused by an inflammatory infection that has a lot to do with the strength of someone’s immune system. Two people who are both bit by the same insect carrying the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can respond very differently. That’s why preventing and treating Lyme disease symptoms by improving overall immunity is key.
Lyme Disease Symptoms & Causes
The Most Common Lyme Disease Symptoms:
Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that is transmitted by the tick or insect can spread throughout the body and cause a series of autoimmune-like reactions. Research done by the Department of Rheumatology at University of Würzburg in Germany shows that symptoms of Lyme disease are far-reaching and commonly affect the skin, heart, joints and nervous system. (1)
Symptoms and signs of Lyme disease include:
- A temporary (acute) “butterfly” skin rash that appears where the tick bite occurred (called erythema migrans). Many, but not all, develop a rash shaped like a bull’s eye that appears as a red ring around a clear area with a red center. The CDC reports that around 70 percent of Lyme disease patients develop this rash
- Flu-like symptoms, especially shortly after being infected. These include a fever, trouble sleeping, neck pain, fatigue, chills, sweats and muscle aches
- Poor sleep, chronic fatigue and lethargy
- Digestive issues, including nausea and loss of appetite
- Achiness and joint pains. The CDC has found that around 30 percent of Lyme patients develop symptoms of arthritis (2)
- Long-term many people experience mood changes, included increased depression and fatigue
- Cognitive changes are also a long-term symptom and include forgetfulness, headaches, brain fog, misplacing things and trouble concentrating
The “REAL” Cause of Lyme Disease:
As mentioned above, Lyme disease is triggered by an infection caused by a tick bite, but there’s much more to Lyme disease than that. I believe the real cause of chronic Lyme disease — meaning the type that cannot be effectively treated using antibiotics and lasts for more than six months — is related to these four things:
- Weakened immunity
- Inhibited cellular function and protection
- Systemic bacterial infection
- Environmental factors including exposure to mold and parasites
Someone struggling with Lyme disease may have all of these 4 issues, or only one. Some people are able to overcome Lyme disease much more easily than others. Post Lyme Disease Syndrome (PLDS) is how many doctors refer to the condition once it becomes chronic and continues to cause ongoing symptoms for many months, or even years. (3) These patients do not respond to conventional treatments and can experience significant hardships, so much so that their quality of life is reduced due to Lyme disease.
According to medical experts, there might be hundreds of thousands of people who have Lyme disease and don’t even know they require Lyme disease treatment. According to Columbia University Medical Center, not everyone who tests positive for the bacteria that causes Lyme will experience Lyme symptoms. (4)
Wondering how it’s possible that one person can have Lyme and show no symptoms, and yet others can have chronic symptoms that can be crippling at times? The bottom line is that everyone is hosting a range of different viruses, bad bacteria, fungus and even cancer cells in their body at any given point in time; what’s really important is how strong your immunity is at keeping these invaders at bay.
Conventional Treatment for Lyme Disease
Healthcare providers often have difficulty diagnosing Lyme disease because many of its symptoms are similar to those of other infectious or autoimmune illnesses, such as the flu, arthritis or lupus. Several tests are now available for diagnosing Lyme disease. The most popular way of making a diagnoses is using a combination of the Western blot and ELISA tests, which measure specific antibodies in the blood. Some experts, however, feel that this testing has flaws and is not always conclusive.
Another test that may be effective in diagnosing Lyme disease is direct microscopy, which is done by fewer laboratories, including Fry Labs in Arizona. In my opinion, this is the preferred method. It’s often performed by holistic health practitioners in combination with other physical exams.
- Once Lyme is diagnosed, the most common conventional Lyme disease treatment utilized today is prescription antibiotics.
- The CDC reports that the majority of people can overcome Lyme disease after receiving a course of antibiotics for several weeks. The most common antibiotic treatment for Lyme infection is a combination of amoxicillin, cefuroxime axetil or doxycycline antibiotics taken for 2–4 weeks. (5) However, not everyone will respond well to these antibiotics, including those with infections that spread through the central nervous system.
- The National Institute of Allergy & Infectious Disease reports that the sooner treatment begins after infection, the quicker and more complete the recovery will likely be — so people who wait a while before being diagnosed might not react positively to antibiotics. (6)
- Antibiotics treat a small part of Lyme disease (the actual infection) but not the entire condition and series of symptoms. Plus, antibiotics can cause side effects and can’t always be used in pregnant women or those who are allergic/reactive.
- Antibiotics can weaken the immune system over time by negatively altering gut bacteria, especially if they are used for an extended length of time. They kill not only harmful bacteria, but good bacteria that we need for strong immunity, too. This means that antibiotics can possibly make Lyme disease bacteria spread even more and worsen in some people.
Lyme Disease Prevention Tips:
Prevention and early treatment is very important for managing Lyme disease. Steps you can take to to prevent getting Lyme disease include: (7)
- Using a natural bug spray or insect repellent (such as one made from essential oils) when you’re anywhere that has a high amount of insects. This includes the woods, garden, beach or when you’re hiking or camping.
- Wearing long pants, long sleeves and long socks to keep ticks off the skin. Also try wearing lighter-colored clothing so you can spot insects and ticks more easily.
- Checking your skin after you’ve been in the woods or elsewhere outdoors. Look over exposed skin so you can remove ticks promptly.
- If you’re pregnant, be careful to avoid outdoor areas where ticks might be found. It’s best to avoid hiking or camping in tick-populated areas to reduce your risk.
- Last and not least, as you’ll learn more about below, improving overall immune strength before you even get infected will give you the best chance of having a minimal reaction.
4 Natural Treatments for Lyme Disease
1. Eat to Improve Immune Function
The best way to overcome chronic Lyme disease is by naturally boosting your immune system, lowering inflammation and managing the root causes of your symptoms. Your body can overcome Lyme disease for good only once you control the inflammatory responses it’s triggering.
My basic dietary advice for anyone struggling with an inflammatory condition is to try removing grains, fruit and sugar from your diet while consuming anti-inflammatory foods — mostly vegetables, nuts, seeds, coconut, bone broth, organic meat and raw cultured dairy. If you want to learn more about this approach to controlling leaky gut syndrome and inflammation, you can find out much more detail in this article about healing leaky gut and autoimmune diseases.
Some of the best foods for naturally raising immunity include:
- High-antioxidant foods: fresh fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens and other brightly colored veggies or berries, are the best sources of antioxidants and many other key nutrients. They help control free radical damage and inflammation, lower risk for nutrient deficiencies, and can protect you from Lyme complications.
- Bone broth: bone broth naturally contains the amino acids called proline and glycine, which can help repair a “leaky gut” and enhance immune function. Your gut/digestive health is highly tied to overall immune functioning; in fact, around 70 percent or more of your immune system lives in your gut! Foods that help replenish your gut with healthy bacteria and also rebuild the lining of the your GI tract control inflammation and allergies along with the many symptoms they can trigger.
- Probiotic-rich foods: Research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology shows that probiotics can help reduce infectious disease progression and symptoms. (8) Probiotic foods include kefir, amasai and yogurt (ideally raw goat’s milk yogurt, which is one of the highest sources of probiotics). Fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kimchi and kvass can be beneficial and should be added to your diet regularly. To truly kill off the bad bacteria we must overcrowd it with “good bacteria” (also known as probiotics). Probiotics help good bacteria to grow and flourish in the GI tract, which has a huge impact on your overall immunity and health.
2. Supplements to Help Improve Cellular Function
The next step in Lyme disease treatment is improving cellular functioning and protection. Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, along with viruses and parasites, can attack healthy cells and weaken your defenses. In order to restore cellular health, consider adding these essential nutrients to your regime:
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D3 naturally boosts immunity and plays a role in regulating inflammation. I recommend you supplement with around 5,000 IU daily, especially if you’re vitamin D deficient, live in the northern region of the world and don’t get much direct sunlight exposure (the best way for your body to make its own vitamin D).
- CoQ10: CoQ10 can help protect your brain and nervous system from degradation and inflammation, while also lowering symptoms like joint pain and aches. It’s commonly used by patients with ongoing fatigue and autoimmune disorder symptoms, including those with fibromyalgia. (9) Most physicians recommend taking 200 milligrams twice daily.
- Medicinal mushrooms: Studies show that medicinal mushrooms (this includes cordycep, reishi and maitake mushrooms) promote an adaptive immune system which helps control autoimmune reactions. (10) These can be found in various supplement forms and have been proven to reduce reactions to inflammation and stress. Medicinal mushrooms boost an intracellular antioxidant called superoxide dismutase (SOD) that protects your cells. They can also increase function of natural killer cells that can kill off bad bacteria.
- B-Complex: B vitamins support many metabolic and cellular functions, plus they help fight infections and improve neurological health. Vitamin B-6 is especially important for Lyme patients, or just about anyone dealing with the affects of stress or fatigue.
- Omega-3 fatty acids: These fatty acids are highly anti-inflammatory and support neurological/cognitive functions. In addition to consuming food sources of omega-3s (for example, wild-caught fish and nuts and seeds), I recommend supplementing with 1,000 milligrams of fish oil daily, specifically one that contains astaxanthin which boosts absorption.
- Magnesium: Magnesium is an electrolyte with hundreds of roles in the body, from supporting nerve signaling to reducing muscle aches. Many people are magnesium deficient, and those with Lyme disease can’t afford to run low since stress and illness only increases the body’s need for more.
- Turmeric: Turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory that can help reduce joint pain, headaches, and damage to blood vessels or nerves.
- Probiotics: In addition to consuming probiotic-rich foods, I recommend supplementing with probiotics with at least 8 strains and 50 billion units daily. I believe this is the most important factor in destroying Lyme.
3. Get Enough Rest & Manage Emotional Stress
Chronic stress, whether physical or emotional, has been proven time and time again to weaken the immune system and increase someone’s risk for getting sick. Stress can trigger inflammation and cause hormonal imbalances, while also disturbing digestive functions and worsening many Lyme disease symptoms. To prevent a Lyme infection from continuing to worsen and spread, you must address stress if you are truly going to heal.
- In order to combat chronic stress, I recommend you schedule times of rest into your week, along with “fun times” meant to spend with family, friends and also alone. This might seem silly or even too simple to work, but stress is a very serious issue that makes many people sicker than they need to be!
- Focus on getting plenty of rest. Lyme can contribute to fatigue and require that you get extra sleep, so balance activity with rest and relaxation.
- I suggest you also practice forgiveness, address past emotional trauma, and work on healing through spirituality and guidance. Many people with Lyme and autoimmune conditions have deep-seeded emotional issues that interfere with healing. A good friend of mine, Dr. Alex Loyd, has a book called The Healing Code you may consider reading.
- Supplementing with adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha can naturally reduce the effects of stress and help balance cortisol levels.
- Other methods for helping to control your stress response include meditation, joining a support group, reading, journaling, exercising, using essential oils and spending time in nature.
4. Reduce Mold & Parasite Exposure
According to Lyme disease experts and research done by the Department of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University, environmental triggers (in particular viruses, bacteria and other infectious pathogens) are thought to play a major role in the development of autoimmune diseases. Parasites and mold exposure can contribute to lasting Lyme disease symptoms by stressing the immune system. (11)
- To naturally treat parasitic infections and toxicity I recommend using activated carbon (activated charcoal), which has been proven effective in helping the body expel harmful substances.
- Bentonite clay can also be beneficial and works in a similar way to bind to things like chemicals and heavy metals. However, make sure to take these two supplements on an empty stomach because they can also bind to essential minerals you need.
- To specifically treat parasites, I’d suggest consuming a diet low in sugar and high in healthy fats, along with taking and consuming probiotics.
- Herbs that can help kill parasites include wormwood, black walnut, oregano, garlic and grapefruit seed extracts.
Customization & Precautions When Treating Lyme Disease
Remember that every person with Lyme disease is different — not all will show all the common Lyme disease symptoms described above, suffer from deficiencies or deal with high amounts of stress. That’s why customization, patience and being open-minded are important. Different things for Lyme disease treatment work for different people, so don’t lose hope.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by your Lyme disease symptoms. here’s what I recommend:
- Focus first on changing your diet. Reduce nutrient deficiencies, improve gut health and lower your intake of harmful ingredients that are found in processed/packaged foods.
- Make sure to take it easy on yourself. Give yourself rest, sleep nine hours a night, reduce stress and address emotional issues. Remember that stress, guilt, anger and frustration only make things worse.
- Then try different supplements. Listen to your body and try to pay close attention to what works bet.
- Naturally overcoming Lyme disease can take time, so remember to not just treat Lyme but instead focus on getting your body into a healing state for good.