I am a guinea pig.
By this, I mean I’m early on the boat when it comes to Low Dose Immunotherapy or LDI, which is considered by many to be the most promising new Lyme treatment to come along in years.
In a nutshell, these are the LDI facts. It was pioneered nearly two years ago by an environmental medicine practitioner named Dr. Ty Vincent, who hails from Alaska. He had been having difficulty getting his Lyme patients well, so he tried a new approach that spun off a treatment called Low Dose Allergen Therapy (or LDA).
With LDI, patients are given by injection or under the tongue an incredibly small dose of dead particles of many strains of the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia, as well as many strains of co-infections like Bartonella, Babesia, and Ehrlichia. Along with this, the patient is given an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase, a substance that helps build T regulatory cells, an important part of the immune response.
The idea is to develop more immune tolerance to the microbes. Vincent’s theory is that most people with persistent Lyme are sick mainly because their immune systems are overreacting to the bugs and causing a negative cascade of chemical reactions in their bodies.
Somehow, in a way that I don’t fully understand, the combination of the low dose dead microbes and the enzyme can cause the immune system to deal more efficiently with the microbes. The trick is getting the dose just right. When that happens, patients feel much, much better, and don’t experience any flaring.
It’s Vincent’s view that millions of people carry these bugs without getting sick, and that a lot of people ill with Lyme and co-infections could carry them too if their immune systems were properly regulated.
There’s more to it than that, but that covers the basics.
The question is: Does it work?
Early results looked fantastic, as, after several months, Vincent was saying 90 per cent of patients on LDI were improving, and many were totally better. That percentage has dropped substantially as the technique has spread and more doctors have incorporated it into their practices, but no one knows what the batting average is now.
I am not the guinea pig type, and rarely try a treatment until it has an established track record. But I tried LDI because for a long time I’ve felt that immune overreaction has been a major problem for me, and because many well-respected Lyme doctors speak highly of it and use it on their patients.
And, because it offers hope. I’ve gotten a lot better, but I’m stuck at a point shy of being fully well. LDI could change that.
So how am I doing? It’s nearly six months since I started, and I’d say I’ve been helped a bit in some ways and made worse a bit in others.
My first dose was a 15C potency. That’s a pretty normal starting point. The range is usually between about 5C and 23C depending on how sensitive your practitioner thinks you are. The potencies are homeopathically diluted, and according to Vincent, a 5C potency is equal to one part in 10 billion of the actual substance. Now that’s low dose.
I hoped my immune system would react to the treatment by shutting off inflammation and responding to the Lyme and co-infections in a more effective way. Then I’d feel great. This happens to some people. Not to me.
My reaction was mixed. You’re told to give it 10 days from the day of treatment before making any judgments, and after that period had finished, I had gone through some moderate flaring of symptoms, but overall I felt a bit better. But the mild improvement could have resulted from other factors.
One of Vincent’s rules is if you flare at all, you should go to a weaker dose after a seven or eight week period is up. The waiting period is because the dose, he says, is educating the T regulatory cells, and that process takes about 55 days.
So I tried 17C next. This time, there was mild flaring, and I felt much the same after 10 days. After another break of about two months, it was 18 C with very mild flaring, and at the end again I felt much the same.
The main question I have is this. When is a flare a good thing and when is it a bad thing? Vincent’s goal is to get patients not to overreact to the microbes and not have a flare, but he says getting a flare means your body is reacting, and that should mean that eventually you’ll find the right dose. He feels the worst thing is no reaction at all, which probably means the treatment won’t work for you.
But I wonder if perhaps a flare can in itself be positive. The diluted dead microbes are essentially homeopathic nosodes, and my neighborhood homeopath tells me the purpose of nosodes is to stimulate your body to fight the germs you are carrying.
In this case, a flare could mean that I may feel lousy, but my body is whittling down the microbial load I’m carrying. And that’s a good thing, as long as I’m strong enough to handle the flare. Having a severe flare when you are in a highly weakened condition is usually a very bad thing in my experience, as it can lead to serious setbacks.
My other question is that while getting the dose right means you’ll start reacting to the microbes more effectively, does missing the right dose lead to your body to deal with the microbes less effectively? I sometimes get the sense that since starting LDI my body has become more likely to overreact to the germs.
There’s also the opportunity cost of LDI. Vincent recommends patients stay off killing protocols until they’ve found the correct, or target dose, which will be given regularly once it’s been established as a way of keeping patients well. But I’m six months in and really at much the same point as where I started. Would I have been better off now if I’d gone with other treatment options?
As guinea pigs go, I’m a stubborn one, so I’ll give it at least one more try. There are many cases where people go many months searching for the target dose, and once they find it, it’s like sticking a key in the ignition switch. Vrroom, vroom, and life is all of a sudden a whole lot better. Knowing that makes it very difficult to give up on the great Lyme hope.