Seven easy ways to not delay your healing

I was going to compile a list of “don’ts” here, but nobody likes to be told don’t do this and don’t do that. So why don’t I make it a list of “avoids”?

We people with Lyme are usually so focused on making sure we do this and take that and see so and so that we don’t pay enough attention to what we should steer ourselves away from.

It’s all about not accidentally shooting yourself in the foot and setting yourself back.Many times what you don’t do is as important to getting well as what you actually do.

#1 – AVOID watching a lot of TV news.  People underestimate the importance of keeping their headspace positive. I’ve worked in television, so I know that TV exists primarily to sell advertising.

To help further this, many things are sensationalized and made to appear more extreme than they actually are. You may have noticed this during the recent U.S. election campaign. It appears the trend will only worsen.

A little TV news can help keep you informed, which is a good thing. A lot can get you depressed and carrying a negatively skewed view of the world in your head. Not so good.

#2 – AVOID eating (much) crappy food. In recent years, health researchers and doctors have been increasingly stressing the importance of a good diet to maintaining health. I’ve seen in my own life what an incredibly positive difference eating the right foods makes. But let’s not go overboard. Healthy food is often tasty, but unhealthy food is often really tasty. So go ahead and cheat, a bit, especially now that we’re in the holiday season.

#3 – AVOID arguing unless you have to. This might be a difficult one for the politically inclined this holiday season in the wake of the recent U.S. elections. But love has an awful lot to do with getting healthy and positive relationships generate love. Arguing has a way of tearing apart relationships, and really, what purpose does it serve 99 percent of the time? Sometimes you have to take a stand, but those times are rare.

#4 – AVOID believing that you’ll never get well. I remember early in my Lyme journey when I just couldn’t see how I could get better. I felt doomed. Big mistake. In his landmark book, “The Biology of Belief,” written in 2005, Dr. Bruce Lipton wrote convincingly of how a person’s beliefs play a huge role in what actually happens to them. This concept is becoming so mainstream that National Geographic just wrote a cover story on it.

The truth is that many, many Lyme patients have emerged from seemingly desperate circumstances to get fully well. Sometimes it’s a new treatment that works for you when previous ones didn’t. Sometimes it’s finding a different doctor who figures out your problem when others couldn’t. In short, there’s good reason to AVOID giving up.

#5 – AVOID pushing yourself too hard. This is especially important to remember during the holidays. One of the most valuable skills a person with Lyme can master is learning how to say no. When your energy level will allow you to do only so much, politely explain to people that this is the case, and it’s very important for you not to overdo it.

Not pushing yourself too hard also comes into play when it comes to treatment. Lyme medications can often cause serious die-off (Herxheimer) reactions, but many doctors in the field are now saying that it’s best not to promote these Herxes as a good thing to be aimed for as has often been done in the past. I believe the newer message is better. It says that Herxes are sometimes unavoidable but that you should try to avoid them.

#6 – AVOID getting down on yourself. I belong to several Lyme Facebook groups and I see a lot of people expressing their dismay at not being good enough wives or husbands or mothers or fathers or sisters or brothers or whatever.

For those who feel this way, give yourself an important gift this Christmas. Look in the mirror and repeat these words. “It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault.” You got sick with a serious illness that limits what you’re able to do. IT IS NOT YOUR FAULT.

#7 – AVOID focusing too much on Lyme. Fighting Lyme is such a full-time job that this one can be difficult. But it helps a lot if you can work towards having as full a life as possible with Lyme being only one component of it. Maybe try setting aside one day a week when you don’t say the L word or even think about it. Maybe Christmas day would be a good day to start.

Photo: shonna1968

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7 Easy Ways To Help Yourself Heal

I didn’t want to make the title too long, but it could have been 7 easy ways to help yourself heal that most people don’t do at all or don’t do nearly enough of.

Most of these are no-brainers, so obvious that they really shouldn’t need to be mentioned. But do I have to be reminded to do them? Yes. Do you? Well, let’s find out.

#1 – WASH YOUR HANDS!– Now that it’s cold and flu season this is more important than ever. I’ve done an admittedly unscientific survey about handwashing and it suggests serious problems. Lyme Disease has forced me to move many times and to live with many people. The common denominator. Nobody washes their hands before they eat.

Experts say the most important factor in avoiding colds and the flu is handwashing, and that we should wash our hands frequently, especially after using the washroom and before eating. My survey hasn’t included bathroom habits, but I suspect the worse.

#2 – EARLY TO BED! – Science tells us that the hours of sleep before midnight provide the greatest benefit. Does 10 p.m. sound reasonable? Can you squeak in 9:30 without feeling like a boring old fart? So you’ll miss a bit of TV. Nobody ever went to their deathbed regretting that they hadn’t watched enough TV.

#3 – GET OUTSIDE! – We were not built to spend 90 percent of our time indoors like most of us do. Studies show that outdoor air is generally much healthier than indoor air. The air is even better if you can get out to the country, or to the beach, or to a mountain. Of all the things that have helped me in my journey to getting well, fresh air is near the top of the list.

#4 – FLOSS YOUR TEETH! Are you kidding? No. This is no joke. Doctors who specialize in chronic illness are increasingly stressing the importance of oral health. Some go so far as to say that cavitations, root canals, hidden dental infections, and the like are some of the primary things that cause recalcitrant health problems.

The good news is that fixing dental problems in a careful way and paying strict attention to oral hygiene can be major factors in getting you well. So think floss before bed, and while you’re at it, brush those choppers two or three times a day.

#5 – GET OFF YOUR BUTT! – I understand that this doesn’t apply to many people with chronic illness who can’t get off their butts. But if you can, go for it! Doctors are nearly unanimous in pointing to our sedentary lifestyle as the cause of a myriad of ills.

We were built to move, so move as much as you can. If all you can do is stretch, then stretch. If you’re stuck at a desk, get up and take as many breaks as you can get away with. Go for walks as often as you can.If you can do it, park the car a short distance from your destination and walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. You’ve heard this all before. Just do it! Nice slogan, eh.

#6 –  SMILE! – I’ve had severe chronic Lyme to the point where it almost killed me, so I know that sometimes it’s next to impossible to smile. But if you can, it’s going to help you a lot. Studies suggest smiling can cut stress levels, lower your heart rate, and even make you look younger and more attractive.

#7 – LAUGH! – Again, a tricky maneuver when you’re really sick, but worth the effort. By now, most everyone knows that laughter produces endorphins, which make you feel good and are good for you. My unscientific household survey also shows that most people don’t laugh much.

So lighten up everybody, for your own good! If you have an Internet connection, there are scads of funny things available on YouTube, iTunes, and other outlets. If you’re not big on the web, how about telling jokes? My elderly mom is a big fan of joke books. Most of the jokes are corny, but who cares? It’s not about winning Nobel prizes for Literature. It’s about making you laugh, and, more than that, it’s about helping you to get well.

Photo: Douglas Scortegagna

Stephen Buhner vs. The Lyme Conventional Wisdom

You can approach treating Lyme Disease in two basic ways. First, you can look at it purely as a science. Or, you can look at it as partly a science and partly an art.

The conventional wisdom says go strictly with science. Over the past few decades since Lyme hit the map, Western medicine has developed treatment strategies that for the most part fit the disease into its existing paradigm.

It goes something like this. We’ve discovered Lyme is a bacterial infection. We test for it. If the test is positive, we throw antibiotics at  it.

This works great for some people, but it doesn’t work very well for a lot of other people.

Enter Stephen Buhner, master herbalist and author. He is far from the only proponent of the science plus art approach, but no one has done more to champion it.

Among his books are two editions of Healing Lyme, plus two books on treating coinfections associated with Lyme. If you read these works carefully, you’ll clearly see how different his way of treating Lyme is from the conventional wisdom.

It’s not that Buhner isn’t scientific. He worked from 1980 to 2005 as a clinical herbalist and psychotherapist and also has treated many Lyme patients since. In Healing Lyme, Second Edition, he says that he has had contact with more than 25,000 people with Lyme and has read more than 10,000 peer-reviewed papers on Lyme.

In this book, he also gives some stats on his Lyme protocol’s success, saying that from the feedback he received from 2005-2015. he estimates that 75 percent of people experienced what they considered a cure from the program, 15 percent needed to continue with a reduced form of the protocol, 5 percent had some relief, and 5 percent got no help.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight the differences in the two approaches. As mentioned earlier, the conventional wisdom has worked well for many people, while Buhner’s way has helped many others.

I should mention that I’m referring to the conventional wisdom for treating persistent, or chronic, Lyme. It should also be noted that not all Lyme doctors fall completely into one camp or another. Some are a totally conventional, some a bit unconventional, and others quite a bit unconventional in their treatment methods.

But, for the sake of comparison, here’s how I see the main differences between Buhner and the conventional Lyme wisdom.

Conventional wisdom: Only antibiotics will cure Lyme.

Buhner: Lyme can be cured by using herbs and other natural products. Several natural protocols have been developed  by Buhner and by others, and one particular protocol may or may not work for one person, and another protocol may or may not work for another person.

Buhner is not against antibiotics. He says they work very well for some people and they can be combined with herbs, but they often aren’t necessary.

Conventional wisdom: Fighting Lyme is like fighting a conventional war. You have to keep blasting away at the bugs until they are defeated. Sometimes this means taking high doses of antibiotics for a year or more.

Buhner: Fighting Lyme is like a guerrilla war. You have to outsmart the bugs. The goal isn’t to bludgeon the enemy into submission, it’s to understand what the bugs want and need from their hosts and to find ways to deny those needs and prevent them proliferating.

Conventional wisdom: Strong and highly unpleasant die-off (Herxheimer) reactions are an unfortunate, but necessary, part of getting well from Lyme.

Buhner: Herxheimer reactions aren’t necessary. They sometimes happen, but you should try to avoid them.

Conventional wisdom: The doctor creates the protocol and the patient doesn’t deviate from it.

Buhner: Patients should listen to their bodies and tweak their protocols according to what works best for them. Having patients educate themselves and develop a feel for how herbs and natural products interact with their bodies is a crucial part of treatment.

Conventional wisdom: Patients need to push themselves and fight through difficult patches in treatment.

Buhner: Only go as fast as your body is telling you to go. If an herb is making you feel significantly unwell, back off and cut down on the dose.

So now that I’ve gone through the main differences in approaches, I’ll admit to having a bias. The conventional wisdom didn’t work well for me. Buhner’s protocols haven’t gotten me fully well, yet, but they have contributed to substantial improvement.

I also find the Buhner model more sustainable. Going on long-term antibiotic programs wreaks havoc on many body systems, especially the gut, and nobody knows what long-term effects that will have.

The conventional wisdom approach is also hard on the human spirit. The consequence of taking antibiotics long-term is often feeling awful day after day, month after month. Many times the treatment feels worse than the disease.

A lot has changed since the first edition of Healing Lyme came out in 2005. The trend in the conventional wisdom among leading Lyme doctors has slowly been moving in Buhner’s direction.

Herbs and other natural products are more commonly used as many doctors are now willing to look beyond solely an antibiotic approach. And this makes sense to my mind. Buhner strikes me as someone who has studied Lyme Disease as thoroughly as anyone and understands it as well as anyone, and people should look closely at what he’s doing.

The Lyme bacteria is known as one of the most intelligent and resourceful of bugs, and the conventional wisdom approach hasn’t stopped it from spreading rapidly worldwide. One hopes that more people like Buhner will step forward and put the focus on figuring  out more new and perhaps unorthodox ways to neutralize Lyme and reduce the tremendous damage it is causing around the globe.

LDI: Does The Weather Affect Your Dose?

As if Low Dose Immunotherapy isn’t complicated enough, I’m going to toss in another variable.

I’ve been doing LDI for nearly 15 months, and there’s one factor that affects how a given dose will work for me that I’ve never heard anyone mention.

I doubt this applies to everybody, but I also doubt that it only applies to me.

The factor I’m referring to is the weather. More specifically, the season I take the dose. And, to be more precise, how humid it is when I’m taking the dose in that season.

I’ve had chronic Lyme for a long time now, and it’s become clear that high levels of humidity push my immune system to react more strongly than usual.

This can be a good thing and a bad thing. It reduces my chances of getting a cold, but it also sometimes pushes my immune system out of balance. Combined with the Lyme bacteria doing its best to screw up my immune system, it can cause problems with overreactions. In this scenario, I’m more reactive to a lot of things.

So, how does this relate to LDI? Well, during an extremely humid period, I am more likely to react to a weaker dose and have a flare of symptoms.

The difference in my reactivity to LDI in a humid period as compared to a dry period seems to equal about a 1C difference in the dose.

In other words, let’s say I’m asked to take an 18C dose in  late November when the relative humidity in my part of the world is high. I’m likely to react to it and have a flare of symptoms. In early June when humidity is low I probably wouldn’t react to it at all or I might react to it to a lesser degree. So an 18C dose in November is roughly the same to me as a 17C dose in June, although the 18C dose is actually weaker.

Some people may not think of November as a humid month, but in Central Canada where I live, it is. As in many parts of North America, people don’t feel the humidity much this time of year here because it’s cold outside. But since the sun shines only about nine hours a day and has very little heat in it, there’s not much to drive down the relative humidity.

Because weather affects me, I follow Internet weather sites closely. In late November, humidity is often at 100 percent overnight and usually between 70 and 80 percent during the day.

Compare that to June, when the sun is hot and sticks around for about 16 hours a day. Then, humidity averages around 70 percent overnight and 40 percent during the day.

Making all this even trickier is the fact you can have humid spells during dry periods and dry periods during humid spells.With this in mind, in my case, it’s a good idea to talk to my doctor near the time of my dose and tell her how the humidity during that period is likely to have a slight affect on what dose will work best for me.

So I hope I’m not making LDI even harder to get a handle on. All I’m saying is that there is a subset of patients (at least one, anyway), and probably more, that will be more likely to react to a given dose if the weather is very humid.

I suspect this might apply mostly to patients who are extremely sensitive by nature or who have had Lyme for a long time, and, as a result, have had their nervous systems made highly sensitive. I believe I contracted Lyme in childhood but didn’t see it manifest until I was under a lot of stress in my early 30s.

LDI is still in its early stages of development and I don’t think anyone has fully figured it out yet. As the guinea pigs, we LDI patients are the ones who have to tell practitioners how we are affected by it. With this in mind, I hope that taking humidity into consideration in some cases might be added to the myriad of factors that go into the greater understanding of LDI dosing.

The Best Thing About Lyme

I’m not one of those people who say they’re glad they’ve had Lyme. No matter how many life lessons it teaches me, I’ll always wish this miserable disease had never become part of my life.

Lyme has stolen an unbelievable number of things from me, mostly the most important things. If I could sue Borrelia, I’d ask for millions upon millions of dollars in damages.

But the truth is that having Lyme can make a person better. And I’d say the best thing about Lyme is that it gives you tremendous incentive to be the best you can be.

It’s like an athlete training for the Olympics. Every day you focus on doing exactly what you have to do as well as you can, sometimes just so you can survive. When I was really sick, I used to divide the day into three-hour blocks. The goal was to make as few mistakes as possible in each block and perform each task as well as I could.

Those things were often pretty mundane. Make sure I had three glasses of water in the morning. Do a brief series of stretches, because that’s all the exercise I could do. Make sure I took my supplements exactly as I was supposed to, and at the times I was supposed to. Check mark in box on this protocol sheet. Check mark in box on that protocol sheet.

I’m in much better health now in, so all this isn’t as intense as it once was. But I’m still not fully well, so the incentive to max out in all realms of life is still there.

Probably the most important area is simply trying to be a good person. Whether you believe in God or karma or the universe of whatever, anyone with chronic Lyme who aims for 100 percent wellness is going to need some wind at their back.

Christianity teaches that what you sow you reap, and much of karma is about what goes ’round comes ’round. I believe in this, and I badly want to be fully well, so my incentive to goodness is powerful. Let that driver in the traffic jam in front of me? Glad to. Practice random acts of kindness? With pleasure. I’m no more perfect than anyone else, but trying to do the right thing has become a habit.

When your heart’s desire is total wellness, it does wonders for your discipline. Before getting sick, I ate a lifetime’s worth of junk food. Now you’re going to have to wrestle me down and jam that crap down my throat to get me to eat it. If I feel tempted, I remember how wretched I felt, month after month after month, and my appetite for sweets quickly fades away.

Exercise? Now I see it as a privilege. For a long time, it was a struggle to walk the eight steps from my bed to the bathroom. Compared to that, going for a pleasant stroll is bliss. Are you kidding? Fresh air. Sunshine. Seeing people, animals, trees, clouds. Unbelievable! After being released from prison Lyme, you start to see the world as a small child would.

Even something like cleaning the house. For a long time, I wasn’t very good at that. But now I know a few things about microbes, and frankly, I don’t want a lot of them hanging around.

The potential downside of all this incentive is that it could lead to perfectionism. But after doing a ton of Lyme research, I know that perfectionism is a stumbling block to healing. So I remember to take it easy on myself, laugh a lot, make time for relaxation, and meditate every day. Still checking off those boxes.

So like an Olympic athlete, my habit is to maintain a laser focus on my tasks. For Olympians, everything they do right day in and day out is one step closer to a medal podium. For Lyme patients like myself, the steps are much smaller but they lead to an even bigger goal – getting back a better life than you had before Lyme entered your life.

The Lyme World’s Unsung Hero

Did you realize there’s a guy who’s spent decades figuring out precisely how Lyme Disease and its coinfections work, and precisely how to treat them?

More than that, did you realize the same guy has had considerable success in getting people well from these miserable diseases?

My guess is that most people with Lyme don’t know this, and that is regrettable. I, for one, owe this man some major gratitude.

I’m referring to Stephen Harrod Buhner, the author of many books including Healing Lyme (two editions), Healing Lyme Disease Coinfections: Complementary and Holistic Treatments for Bartonella and Mycoplasma; and Natural Treatments for Lyme Coinfections:  Anaplasma, Babesia, and Ehrlichia.

I call him the unsung hero because there are several other Lyme heroes that also have made tremendous contributions to understanding and treating the disease – people like Dr. Richard Horowitz, Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, and Dr. Joseph Burrascano. But they all have a relatively high profile, and, if you have Lyme, chances are you’ve heard of them.

Buhner stays mostly under the radar. He doesn’t run a world-renowned clinic or give lectures all over the globe. He’s a master herbalist living in an American culture in which the medical system places far less value on herbalism than it should.

You can gauge his lack of fame by the way people butcher his name. I’ve seen him referred to as Stephen Bruhner on many occasions, and on others as Stephen Harold Buhner. Then again, herbalism is known for taking a humble approach.

Despite the praise I’ve been laying on here, I want to be clear that I’m not recommending that you dive right into the protocols that Buhner has developed for Lyme and coinfections. I think they are brilliant, but herbal medicine can be very complicated. If you choose to go on them, I suggest doing so under the guidance of an expert herbalist or holistic medical practitioner extremely familiar with herbal medicine.

If you don’t have a good sense of what you’re doing with herbs, it’s been my experience that they can make things worse. There are many possible pitfalls, such as taking an herb that for one reason or another doesn’t mesh with you, taking the wrong dose, or taking a combination of herbs that doesn’t work for you.

I tried the Buhner protocol for Lyme a few years back and it didn’t produce results. That wasn’t the protocol’s fault; it was my fault for not having enough experience working with herbs. But now that I’ve taken more herbs and read many books on the subject, including the above-mentioned works and several others Buhner has written, I have a much better feel for the process. Thus, fortunately, the herbs Buhner recommends are working well for me and are making me feel better and better.

In his writings, Buhner stresses the need for people to tweak his protocol to meet their individual needs and circumstances because nobody has precisely the same case of Lyme Disease as anyone else does. Treating Lyme this way is scientific, but there’s also a lot of art to it.

Some people are wary of his methods because Buhner is not a medical doctor. But he worked from 1980 to 2005 as a clinical herbalist and psychotherapist and also has treated many Lyme patients since. In Healing Lyme, Second Edition, he says that all told he has had contact with more than 25,000 people with Lyme and has reviewed more than 10,000 peer-reviewed papers on Lyme.

In this book, he also gives some stats on his Lyme protocol’s success, saying that from the feedback he received from 2005-2015. he estimates that “75 percent of people experienced what they considered a cure from the program, 15 percent needed to continue with a reduced form of the protocol – generally small doses of knotweed and cat’s claw to keep symptoms from returning, 5 percent had some relief and 5 percent got no help.”

Backing for his claims comes from other sources as well. In his book, “Suffered Long Enough“, Dr. William Rawls says “thousands of patients have followed his protocols with exceptional results.” Dr. Klinghardt has noted that Buhner’s contributions to herbal treatment for Lyme have made him “the outstanding man in his field.”

I’ve always believed in giving recognition to people who deserve it but don’t seek it, and who don’t get as much of it as they should. This is what makes an unsung hero, and, for his exceptional work with Lyme Disease the past few decades, Stephen Buhner certainly deserves the title.

How LDI Works In Me

My 14 months on Low Dose Immunotherapy have been a good news-bad news kind of thing.

The good news is that it’s working.

The bad news is that it isn’t working as well as I’d like, and it definitely isn’t working the way LDI’s inventor, Dr. Ty Vincent, says it should work.

LDI  is used for many diseases and disorders, but primarily for Lyme Disease and co-infections. Patients are given, by injection or sublingually, minute doses of deadened microbes such as Borrelia, Bartonella, Babesia, and Ehrlichia.

Doses are prepared in homeopathic dilutions, and range from about 6 C to about 30 C. With the 6 C potency, the actual substance of the deadened microbes is one part in a trillion, according to Wikipedia. By the time it gets to 30 C, it is believed there is no substance left at all, only energy. Many scientists think this is hogwash, but countless people who’ve taken homeopathic potencies will tell you the effects are very real.

Finding the correct dose is key. Hit it just right and a very sick Lyme patient can see symptoms reduce or even disappear. This is known as the core dose, and if everything goes well, taking that core dose repeatedly over seven-week periods can lead to complete remission.

So that’s how you write it out on the blackboard.

Here’s how it works in me.

LDI isn’t technically homeopathy, it’s an immunotherapy technique that aims to treat a  variety of diseases. Its goal is to get the immune system to react properly to Lyme or co-infections or whatever it’s troubled with, and not overreact.

But the doses are formulated in homeopathic fashion, and as well-known Lyme physician, Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, has remarked, using homeopathy to treat Lyme and co-infections is not new. The way Dr. Vincent developed it, however, using a batch of 74 different deadened microbes (representing many species of Lyme and co-infections) all at once in a dose is new.

I’ve taken eight doses now, ranging from 15 to 19 C (some of these have been halfway doses like 16.5 and some have been the same potency taken twice), and I’ve written detailed notes each time of how my body has reacted. So I think I have a decent read on what’s happening.

I have yet to meet Dr. Vincent’s criteria for hitting the core dose, which is feeling better and not having any flaring of symptoms. I’m not sure why this is, but maybe it’s just the way I am. There’s a good chance I’ve had Lyme since I was very young, and it’s contributed to making my system highly sensitive. I react to just about every medication or treatment thrown at me. I once had a flare-up after eating a peppermint.

The way LDI has worked in me, however, is more in line with how things work in traditional homeopathy.

Homeopaths call these potencies of deadened microbes nosodes. I’ve talked to a number of homeopaths, and they’ve told me the purpose of nosodes is to activate the immune system to take on pathogens. The idea is to gradually reduce the number of pathogens in this way.

This seems to be what’s happening with me. Each time I’ve taken a dose, I’ve felt an increase in symptoms, things like rashes, mild nausea, sore neck and shoulders, and temporary increases in fatigue. Generally speaking, the stronger the dose, the more symptoms I’ve experienced.

These symptoms, fortunately, haven’t been extreme, and I haven’t experienced any setbacks. The symptoms tend to disappear after a week or 10 days, and then I seem to feel better than usual for the next little while. This period of improvement has lasted anywhere from a few days to a month depending on the injection. It’s in these times I notice that my immune system is less overreactive.

After 14 months on LDI , I’ve had several noticeable improvements. My strength and stamina are better. I can do more exercise. I have less brain fog. In fact, I have practically no brain fog now. Overall, my health has improved, although, again, not as much as I’d like. I have reason to believe that I am indeed slowly reducing the pathogenic load that I’m carrying.

So I hope this offers some encouragement to others like me who haven’t found the elusive core dose. I may just be an outlier, but it seems  to me that LDI can still work even when it isn’t working the way it should work.

 

Photo: Mike Licht, notionscapital.com