10 Keys to Beating Lyme

Everyone with Lyme disease knows how important things such as taking antibiotics and finding an excellent health care practitioner can be.

There are, however, many other factors involved in fighting Lyme that also make a huge difference. In my struggles with the disease, I can think of 10 things that have helped a lot.

I’ll start with love, as it is often called the great healer.

Love

You might think this is obvious. Having Lyme disease, however, can make it much more difficult to receive and generate love. The Lyme patient needs to recognize this and place a priority on maintaining and deepening important relationships.

Many people don’t understand how serious Lyme can be. Lyme sufferers are often sicker than people with cancer, but friends and family sometimes don’t realize this. In most cases, everyone rallies around a cancer patient. Often, this doesn’t happen with a Lyme patient.

In many instances, a person with Lyme must reach out to family and friends to keep relationships in good condition. It isn’t easy to accomplish this when you have little energy. If you can do it, however, it’s worth the effort.

Living in a Healthy Place

Most people spend the majority of time at home. This makes it critical that your home is a healthy place to live.

Because various Lyme-related issues have forced me to move many times, I’ve learned which type of places are healthiest for me. The places I like allow for lots of light and fresh air. They tend to have hardwood floors, not carpets.

It’s important to keep living spaces clean and uncluttered to limit problems with allergens such as dust and mold. As well, I find relatively small houses and apartments much easier to keep clean and free of allergens. I also place special emphasis on the bedroom when creating a healthy living space, as, like most people, I spend much of my time there.

Mold Avoidance

Many top Lyme physicians say mold is a leading reason some patients don’t get well despite taking large quantities of antibiotics.

Strict avoidance is the best approach to mold. Stay away from places that smell moldy or musty. If your house or apartment is moldy, seek out a mold expert who can determine which measures you should take. If you try to remediate the problem, proceed cautiously, because a poor job of mold removal can release many toxic mold spores and make things worse.

You can learn more about this subject at http://www.survivingmold.com. Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a mold treatment pioneer, founded this site.

Toxin Avoidance

We live on a toxic planet. There are toxins in the air, in food, in household chemicals, in building supplies, and just about everywhere else.

It can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to avoid toxins whenever you can. That means educating yourself. Two helpful resources are Create a Toxin-Free Body & Home Starting Today, by Dr. W. Lee Cowden and Connie Strasheim, and the Environmental Working Group’s website, www.ewg.org.

Sleep

Your mother was right when she said it’s a good idea to sleep eight hours each night. Nearly every Lyme doctor will tell you that proper sleep is essential to getting well.

Research shows that the most beneficial sleep hours come before midnight, so it’s best to retire by 10 p.m. or earlier. Sleep experts recommend turning off the electrical circuits to your bedroom and keeping the room as dark as possible. It’s also best to keep televisions, computers, and other electronic devices out of your bedroom. If that’s not possible, turn them off an hour before bedtime.

Emotional/Spiritual work

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt is one of many holistic Lyme physicians who urge patients to deal with their emotional and spiritual issues. Traumatic things that happen to a person, often in childhood, can cause emotional blockages that weaken the immune system and allow disease to flourish.

Many healing modalities address these issues,  such as psychotherapy, prayer and various forms of counseling. The American Holistic Nurses’ Association website, http://www.ahna.org, provides a list of modalities along with a brief description of each.

Cold and Flu Avoidance

You can’t get well if you’re always getting sick. This truism resonates with Lyme patients whose taxed immune systems can’t afford to contract a cold or the flu.

While natural and over-the-counter cold and flu remedies can help, hand washing is the key to avoiding these illnesses. Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Code, says you should wash your hands when you return home and whenever you touch anyone or anything you suspect harbors cold or flu germs. He recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

Tetro also advises opening windows whenever possible. He says letting fresh air into the house cuts down microbial levels and gives your immune system a break.

Sunshine is a great way of increasing Vitamin D levels. Well-known physician Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum recommends getting lots of sunshine while at the same time avoiding sunburn.

Self-discipline

It’s not enough to know how to fight Lyme. You need the self-discipline to make yourself do what you need to do.

Making checklists helps me with this. I have one checklist that details the supplements I take and another checklist that has items like exercises, stretches, meditation, and deep breaths. Checking items off makes sure I get things done, and each check mark brings with it a small sense of accomplishment.

Laughter

Dr. Cowden developed an herbal supplement program to fight Lyme, but herbs aren’t the only part of his regimen. He also encourages patients using the program to make several positive lifestyle choices, including looking for ways to laugh every day.

Dr. Don Colbert, the author of many health books, prescribes 10 belly laughs a day for his patients. Along with this, he advocates watching classic situation comedies like The Lucy Show.

These physicians believe laughter is among the best medicines available. Fortunately, finding laughs is easy. You can, of course, watch comedy shows on television, or search for funny items at YouTube, at iTunes, or at http://www.archive.org, the Internet Archive.

Photo: Eric Davidson

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7 Myths That Can Steal Lyme Recoveries

Sorting out truth and myth is itself one of the keys to overcoming Lyme disease. And it’s not easy to do because considering how prevalent the disease is, the medical community hasn’t given it the research priority it deserves.

So a lot of my myth busting comes from many hours of reading the information that does exist and from personal experience.

Myth #1 – There’s no such thing as chronic Lyme disease. The grandaddy of the myths. My experience is that I received a clinical diagnosis of Lyme and received lengthy treatments of both antibiotics and antibiotic herbs for Lyme. More than a year after that, I tested positive for Lyme and several co-infections. That’s not iron-clad proof, but it sure looks a lot like chronic Lyme. Scores of others have similar tales.

Some doctors still hold to the “no such thing” mantra, while others have accepted recent science that shows Lyme bacteria can persist after treatment. So maybe we can call it “persistent Lyme” and stop  arguing about it and have everyone place their attention on dealing with the problem.

Myth #2 – Long-term antibiotics don’t work for persistent Lyme. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine said that three months of antibiotics were not effective in treating Lyme in patients with lingering symptoms. Other major studies done in past years show mixed results. Some say long-term antibiotics do help, some say they don’t.

From information gathered from books, articles, and interviews by leading Lyme doctors and from reading testimonials, it seems the truth is that long-term antibiotics can, and often do, work. There are also many instances when they don’t work. It seems to depend on many factors, such as the practitioner’s skill in choosing the antibiotics, the patient’s compliance, and the patient’s willingness to work on many other things such as diet optimization and detoxification.

Myth #3 – Herbs don’t work for persistent Lyme. Shortly after I got sick, a naturopathic doctor told me “Herbs don’t work.” Well, I think he was wrong. After much study into the matter, and after using  a lot of herbs myself, I’d say herbs do work for many people, but they have to be extremely high-quality herbs, chosen by expert herbalists, and, preferably, administered by expert practitioners. Fortunately, the Lyme community has access to the Cowden, Buhner, Zhang  and Jernigan herbal protocols, along with other outstanding herbal products from Byron White, Beyond Balance and many others.

Myth #4 – It costs too much to eat a healthy diet. It’s probably true that crappy food is usually cheaper than healthy food, but with a bit of time and effort, good food can be found at a good price.

Health experts agree that vegetables are the centrepiece of eating well, and many people have the option of growing their own. Finding a local farmer’s market or a good fruit and vegetable store  are other good ideas. Fortunately, many of the vegetables best suited to Lyme patients, like garlic, onions, broccoli, and cabbage, are cheap. I eat three  veggies with my evening meal and they cost about a quarter a serving.

The two pieces of fruit I eat daily cost a bit more than that, but they too are cheap if you shop around and pick out specials. I also choose the smallest pieces of fruit in the bin, which reduces cost and sugar intake. I further save money by snacking on sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which cost about 25 cents a handful (note: all prices mentioned in this post are in Canadian dollars).

Choosing organic food is optimal, but that often is too expensive for many people. Still, keep an eye out for specials. I’ve often seen organic produce on sale that costs less than the same store’s conventional produce.

Myth #5 – It costs too much to use natural cleaning and personal care products. Reducing your toxic load is a key factor in fighting Lyme. Most commercial  cleaning and personal care brands contain many toxins, so it makes sense to look for natural alternatives. The Environmental Working Group’s website, ewg.org, is a good place to find substitutes.

But can you afford them? Probably yes. I made the switch, and it costs me roughly $100 a year. To do that, I needed to shop around a bit. Doing this, I’ve found it much cheaper to buy supplies at supermarkets, which have bulk buying power, rather than at health food stores. Also, I’m fortunate to be near stores which sell the Nature Clean line of products, which I find to be reasonably priced, effective and truly green.

Myth #6 – Gluten free is unaffordable. Many Lyme practitioners tell patients they need to eat gluten free in order to get well. Then the patients go to the supermarket and see the prices on foods marked gluten free. That makes them feel about as sick to their stomach as the gluten itself might make them feel. The answer to this dilemma? Eat basic foods that don’t have gluten in them. There are lots of them, such as vegetables, fruits, fresh meats, fish, and nuts and seeds. I find I can eat my fill of these sorts of foods for about $10 a day.

Myth #7 –  Some people are too far gone to ever recover from Lyme. Let’s just say I believe in miracles. I’m one of those people everyone had counted out. I had been housebound, spending about 22 hours a day in bed, for seven years. During that time, it would be a good week when I could talk on the phone for 20 minutes and watch TV for half an hour (that’s over the span of the entire week). I wrote about how I emerged from that hole in a post back in March called “5 things that got me out of Lyme hell”. The moral of that story is never, ever, give up. You never know when something totally unexpected will happen to lift you out of the pit.

Graphic: Nevit Dilmen

Life Lessons from Lyme

I’ve heard people say that Lyme has taught them so much they’re glad they got the disease. I can’t imagine ever hearing those words come out of my mouth, but I have learned some important things.

Some of these lessons are things that you commonly hear from people who’ve gone through potentially life-threatening illness. They may sound cliched, but I believe they bear repeating.

I’m not sure how close I was to checking out, but at one point I asked my doctor if I was dying. I hoped she’d tell me it wasn’t nearly that bad. But all she said was “I’m not sure.” Although I’m still on a journey to recovering full health, I’m a lot better than I was. And I think I’m well enough now to put into practice the following lessons that I hope I have truly learned from my fight with Lyme.

It’s about love. Treat other people with love. Treat yourself with love. Do things you love doing.

Be grateful. If you believe in God, constantly thank Him for what you’ve got. If you don’t believe in God, just be thankful.

Let a lot more things go. There are times when you have to stand on principle and argue, but, really, those times are rare. More often, it works out best if you just drop it.

Do stuff that matters. Spending time with family matters. Meaningful work matters. Anything that makes a positive contribution to life matters.

Don’t waste time. When I’m planning my days, I ask myself, ‘What can I do that’s important today?’ I’m not saying never watch TV or anything like that, because sometimes that’s a good use of time. But I try to make a real effort to use this most valuable resource well.

Be positive. Be enthusiastic. When Lyme is really bad, this is a challenge. But if you can pull it off, no one is better off for it than you.

Put others first. I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people. Especially family. One of the many reasons I love having a son is that there is nothing that makes me happier than helping him out in some way. There were many years when I could do precious little for him because of Lyme, and that was very, very difficult.

Forgive, forgive, and forgive some more. Nearly everyone with Lyme has endured more than their share of mistreatment. Doctors telling you’re making it up, friends and family members telling you to get off your butt when you’re seriously ill, and worse. It can be difficult to forgive, but it is essential. Otherwise, you’re just loading yourself down with bitterness and anger. Personally, I don’t have the excess energy to carry those bags.

Take great care of others. If you think of something nice to say about someone, don’t hold it in. Say it. Let people in your life know how much you appreciate them.

Take great care of yourself. I’ve made a pledge to myself to do things, say things, eat things, etc., that are going to lead to full health. I fall short sometimes, but I try.

Like nearly everyone else, I’m tougher than I think. Lyme can dole out an unbelievable amount of punishment, and I hope those bugs are impressed that we humans are built to absorb a lot of distress. When you think you just can’t take it anymore, the truth is that somehow you nearly always can.

Take your time. More often than not, rushing is counterproductive. After Lyme has stolen so much, it’s tempting to try to catch up too fast. I have to work hard to guard against this. Being a Type A personality likely contributed to my Lyme woes. Remembering to slow it down is a daily challenge.

ENJOY LIFE! When you’re having an off day, think of how much better it is now than when your Lyme was at its worst. Enjoying life then may have been next to impossible. So if you’re now in a position where it’s fairly easy to enjoy life, go ahead and do it. Every day.

Photo: Eric Davidson

LDI: What I’ve learned

Okay.Here are the stats. Eight months of Low dose immunotherapy. Five injections for Lyme and co-infections. Two instances of moderate flaring of symptoms, one mild to moderate flare, one mild flare, and one very mild flare. Seem to be closing in on the target dose.

So what have I found out on this long and sometimes baffling journey? One thing for sure is that it can be very difficult to find the target dose. Beyond that, here are some other observations.

Take it easy and get your rest after taking the LDI dose. It’s a tiny looking amount you’re taking, but it’s packed with dozens of Lyme and co-infection antigens. If you have a lot of co-infections, your body could be in for some heavy flaring if it’s not your target dose. The antigens are essentially homeopathic nosodes (made from micro dilutions of dead microbes), which can stimulate your immune system to fight. Dr. Ty Vincent, the founder of LDI, says that if you’ve found the core dose, you shouldn’t have any flaring. But finding the core dose takes time, and flaring is a lot more common than not flaring.

Take it especially easy once you’ve determined that you are flaring. I learned this with a recent dose. I could see a mild flare had started, but I had a lot I wanted to do that day. By 7 p.m. I felt dreadful. I scheduled extra rest in the following days, and from then on the flare caused no serious distress. Lesson learned: My body needed extra energy to handle the flare.

LDI doesn’t work as well for me in winter. I live in Canada where even mild winters like this past one are plenty cold. I found it much harder to tolerate a flare in January than I did in September. The reduction in fresh air and sunshine negatively affects immunity, as does the increased number of viruses and other other bugs kicking around in mid-winter.

Some flares may have a silver lining. In two instances, I felt better after the flare was over than I had before the flare started. This is not the way it’s supposed to work, according to what Dr. Vincent has said in interviews. This isn’t criticizing Dr. Vincent, who has done tremendous work with LDI, but in just about every field sometimes the general rules don’t apply to everyone. Several other people on the LDI for Lyme Facebook group noted they’d had the same experience of feeling better after the flare than before the flare.

If you’re very sensitive or have had Lyme for a long time or have a lot of co-infections, it’s probably best to do one set of antigens at a time. Along with LDI for Lyme and co-infections, you can add in yeast, mold and other antigens. I fit into all three categories mentioned in the heading of this paragraph, and I’ve had plenty to handle with the LDI for Lyme and co-infections antigens. I can’t imagine moving on to other things until I’ve found my core dose.

It’s a good idea to work on reducing microbial load before doing LDI. This is especially true if you have a lot of co-infections. As I mentioned above, an LDI dose can give your body a lot of work to do if you’ve missed the core dose. I’m very glad that I’d taken a lot of antimicrobial herbs and  done other microbial load reducing work in the time leading up to my first dose. If I hadn’t, the process so far would likely have been a lot more problematic.

Napping can be an effective weapon once you’re determined you’re flaring. I’ve found I can save myself a lot of misery if I take a nap as soon as I’m certain a flare has started. I don’t like napping, so I didn’t do this in my early days of LDI. But I have since found that my mother was right years ago when she told me that if you’re feeling sick, lie down and rest. Works for colds, flu and LDI flares. It’s probably good to increase fluid intake too.

I probably wouldn’t have wanted to try LDI when I was really sick. Finding your target dose can be an intense process that includes a lot of flaring. I’m at a point in my recovery where I can handle that, but in earlier days when I felt dreadful all the time, having a lot of flares may have placed too much stress on my body and provoked a serious setback.

Different batches may affect potency. This is controversial. Some people on the LDI for Lyme Facebook group say the doses don’t lose any strength if they were made many months before injection. Others disagree. All I can say is I initially reacted more strongly to an 18C dose from a fresh batch than I did to a 17C dose from an old batch (18C is weaker than 17 C, so I should have had a stronger reaction to the 17C).

Don’t assume the flare period is over when you start feeling better. I’ve had two instances where it looked like the flaring process was finished after seven days. But then on days nine and ten after taking the dose, I had my most intense flares.

It can be a good idea to take a break in treatment.  This happened to me this past winter. I had a near three-week flare, and it was time for my next LDI shot, and I still wasn’t feeling great. The picture wasn’t clear, so I decided to wait a few weeks until I felt better before resuming LDI. Things soon settled down, and now I’ve taken my next shot and things appear to be back on track.

It’s important to be very patient. An LDI flare can make you feel so sick you want to quit. And sometimes it can be a good idea to quit if the treatment is clearly not working and does not look like it ever will. But for most people, it’s a  matter of realizing this is a new thing that can be both very difficult to figure out while at the same time offering a real hope of substantial improvement and even complete remission from Lyme. Knowing that makes patience a lot easier to muster than would otherwise be the case.