Lyme Disease: Dispelling the Myths
Lyme Disease Is Not Just a Summer Occurrence – and three weeks of antibiotics might not be the answer!
With our warmer winter and no prolonged periods of very cold conditions, it will amp up an early tick season in the North east. Lyme-related illness is a silent epidemic and it has been great to see more media exposure in the local media outlets. As a health expert with a specilaized interest in Lyme-related illness, I do find that it is important to educate – and to dispel myths.
According to the CDC, 300,000 cases of Lyme disease are diagnosed in the US each year; however, that statistic is flawed as Lyme is grossly underreported. The reality is that more than a million are infected. It is an epidemic on a global scale.
“Absence of proof is not proof of absence.”
In many cases the Western Blot test comes back negative for a Lyme infection. Yet, there are often various infections present with multiple clinical symptoms of illness. These are often dismissed by the physician, or misdiagnosed as another illness or disease.
Chronic Lyme “does not exist,” according to the CDC and IDSA (Infectious Disease Society of America). Instead, the CDC now gives the multisystemic illness a vague label: “Post-treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome.”
The flawed, generalized, and severely limiting Western blot test that is used to detect Lyme infections is still the gold standard of Lyme disease testing. It does not include testing for co-infections, which require specialized testing from labs, e.g. IGENEX.
There are many co-infections possible with Lyme.
All infections create serious health challenges and increase risk of transmission to others, especially if they are not diagnosed and treated early enough. The most common include Babesia (Babesiosis), Ehrlichia (Ehrliciosis), Bartonella henselae (also known as cat scratch fever), Mycoplasma, Anaplasma, Rickettsia rickettsii (Rocky Mountain spotted fever), Borrelia mayonii and Borrelia miyamotoi. Parasites, different strains of bacterial infections and viral infections are discovered in continuous scientific research, and one must consider their interconnection with the Lyme-related infections.
Maybe you did see the tick, developed a rash, and got treatment, yet you still are not well years later.
Most people are not aware that transmission can occur from a mosquito bite, flea bites, semen and vaginal fluids during sexual activities, a scratch from your cat or dog, breast milk, saliva, and blood transfusions.
Transmission is not just about a tick bite, and transfer in the saliva from a tick certainly happens in less than 24 hours. If you are dealing with a Lyme-related illness, you might never have had a rash or a bull’s eye (erythema migrans); that only occurs in roughly 30% of infections.
Antibiotic resistance, hidden non-bacterial co-infections that masquerade with mysterious symptoms, and suppression of the immune and nervous system results in cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric symptoms that are often misdiagnosed.
The mainstream medical community still does not recognize or accept chronic Lyme and its common co-infections.
Many ill individuals are misdiagnosed repeatedly as having Fibromyalgia, or chronic fatigue syndrome, heart arrhythmias, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), depression, or one of the degenerative neurological diseases, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.
Antibiotics for long-term treatment are often not covered by insurance, and costs can be extensive—and prohibitive—for many. Many Lyme sufferers spend hours on the phone dealing with insurance companies in attempt to get coverage.
Many children and adults are misdiagnosed with mental illness without consideration of Lyme-related infections affecting genetic vulnerabilities, while severely inflaming and debilitating the brain.
Lyme, toxic mold, and Bartonella co-infections have been known to cause psychiatric and behavioral problems, including the Autism Spectrum Disorder, yet this is neither considered in conventional psychiatry nor in pediatric care.
Doctors in multiple states that do not recognized chronic Lyme have lost their practices for diagnosing chronic Lyme–related illness and treating patients with long-term antibiotics.
Existing research has not extended into the multiple co-infection strains that occur on a global scale today, and lack of funding for research is another challenge. However, there now is more interest from major institutions including the research by Dr. Ying Zhang at John Hopkins, and scientific studies by Dr. Kim Lewis from Northeastern and the Mayo Clinic.
The government now accepts the treatment guidelines from ILADS (International Lyme and Diseases Society), and insurance companies must accept these new government-endorsed treatment guidelines. Doxycycline™ does not address parasitic co-infections. Many individuals, including children, are infected with Lyme and with Babesia / malaria type co-infections that manifest in e.g. night sweats and fevers besides other symptoms
We now hear more about certain celebrities, including Avril Lavigne and Yolanda Forster, who are struggling in their battles with debilitating vector borne infections. Dr. Neil Spector, a renowned oncologist and researcher at the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center, ended up requiring a heart transplant after years of being misdiagnosed by physcians and incurring irreversible heart damage. It was an honor to attend his lecture at a Lyme conference in 2015.
Dr. Richard Horowitz, a highly respected international chronic Lyme disease specialist, author and activist, has mentioned that currently there are over 100 strains of Borrelia in the US, (over 300 strains worldwide) and 30 types of Bartonella. In his book “Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease”, he provides a groundbreaking sixteen-point differential diagnostic map that can be extremely helpful for anyone who is just not recovering despite antibiotic treatment.
When it comes to the multisystemic challenges associated with chronic Lyme, and often prolonged antibiotic use, nutrition is a whole other ballgame. Multiple digestive disorders, adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances, hidden gut infections, and food intolerances occur within that challenging scenario, as the collateral damage from long-term use of oral or IV antibiotics is debilitating for the gut and all other organs and glands.
Not all health symptoms are caused by the Lyme infections, even though they impact every system in the body.
Our adrenals and gut health play an important role in our energy, moods, and resilience; we must keep that in mind at all times and support its wellness. This is what I address in my practice when consulting with individuals who are debilitated by these infections and extensive use of antibiotics, e.g., I have worked with a client who was 3 years on Cipro™, prescribed by a so-called top doc in NYC at a prominent hospital. Yet it really was an undiagnosed Lyme that was driving illness, and now her digestive tract is severely compromised plus there are many battles with chronic yeast infections.
Research regarding infections, persistent Lyme post-antibiotic treatment, and various herbal and drug treatment options is forever evolving. I am grateful for all the Lyme-treating doctors and like-minded health practitioners. They challenge existing government treatment guidelines, and they are instrumental in creating new treatment protocols with insurance cover. I applaud all the Lyme organizations, including ILADS (Infectious Diseases Society of America), that increase funding, education and awareness of the debilitating effects of this chronic infection.
Rika Keck, “The Health Investigator”
NY Integrated Health