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.

Three Lyme Mistakes to Avoid

If ever a disease could cure a perfectionist of perfectionism, it would have to be persistent  Lyme.

Is it possible for anyone on a journey through Lyme country not to make mistakes along the way? The truth is that no doctor, no patient, no anybody, fully understands this disease. With this total lack of 20-20 vision, everyone with persistent Lyme eventually falls into a pit of some sort or another.

I can think of three BIG mistakes I’ve made. All of them happened before I was diagnosed with Lyme, but was without a doubt carrying the disease. Then, I was one of countless people around the world with some dreadful illness no doctor could figure out.

Mistake one was trying to go too fast. After making the doctor go rounds for a while, I found a naturopathic doctor (ND) who seemed to have an inkling of what to do. At the end of our appointments, he’d ask when I wanted to see him next. My response was always, “How soon can we do it.”

My haste was understandable. In a very short period, I’d gone from feeling well to feeling abysmal. When I started seeing this naturopath, I was still able to work half time, but my spare time and weekend hours were spent mostly in bed. The medical doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, but I knew something was seriously wrong. My health was slipping away, and I desperately wanted to stop the slide. Now.

So the naturopath tried various treatments that might have worked better if I’d given my body the time it needed to detoxify. As it was, I was pulling more garbage out of my system than my system could handle, and things got worse instead of better.

From my discussions with other Lyme sufferers, this is probably one mistake most people make. There was no way for me to know that I was going too fast. Maybe the naturopath should have insisted on a slower pace. But he didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on either.

The bottom line is that like any other person, I could not detoxify and get better any quicker than my body’s ability to detox and heal. I now wish I had been more patient.

Mistake two also had to do with a naturopath. I wasn’t getting better with the first naturopath, so I sought out another highly regarded ND in my city. He too wasn’t sure of what the problem was, but he was extremely confident in himself. So he proposed several things which he was sure would work. But deep down, I could hear my body warning me that I should be careful about his approach

So we ended up negotiating a fair bit. Now, I was going a lot slower, having learned from mistake one. I’d want to discuss his proposals at length, until I got a feeling inside that they had a good chance of working.

Naturopath No. 2 soon tired of this. It got to the point where he gave me an ultimatum. Do what I tell you or see somebody else.

So I’ll call my second mistake “Bowing to pressure from the doctor when you know in your guts he or she is wrong .” I would guess this is also on the top 10 list of errors for Lyme patients.

Again, I had a difficult decision. My health was continuing to slide, and my marriage was sliding with it. No other practitioner in town had a clue what to do.

I took his remedy, and it was a disaster. My health quickly worsened, which put further pressure on my marriage.

And this brings me to mistake three. I’ll call this one, “Not doing everything possible to maintain your primary human relationship.”

Looking back, I believe I tried very hard to do this. I did the best I could with the level of maturity I had at the time. But if I had to do it over again, I would have placed more emphasis on meeting my wife’s needs before I met my own. If I had done that, I might still be married.

My thinking at the time was that I had a very serious health problem that no one knew how to solve. Things were going downhill so fast that I feared it was life-threatening – and that may have been true. So when situations occasionally came up where my interests and my wife’s interests collided, I would sometimes feel the sick person’s view should prevail.

Lyme is known as a relationship wrecker, and I think it’s mainly because neither party usually understands the other party’s predicament. The caregiving one tends to think it can’t possibly be as bad as the Lyme patient claims, especially when there is no clear diagnosis. The sick person, on the other hand, tends not to understand just how difficult their situation makes things for their partner. Both lives are turned upside down.

I didn’t grasp at the time how important love and relationships are to the healing process. Back then, I followed our society’s more mechanistic view of human beings and how they get well. But I am not a machine. I am a human. And, like every human, I make mistakes.

 

Photo courtesy of joethegoatfarmer.com

Beating Lyme slowly and surely

You could liken living with chronic Lyme Disease to a high-wire act, or you might call it a knock-down, drag-out battle with a powerful and cunning opponent.

But I prefer a more peaceful comparison. To me, the daily struggle with Lyme is a lot like sailing.

Sailing? Here’s what I mean. To make progress in pushing Lyme into remission, you need to know how to take advantage of favorable winds, and how to avoid slipping backward when conditions are against you.

I’ll give you an example drawn from a recent daily journal.

I wake up feeling shaky after a rough night. A couple of small errors on my part along with a couple of unavoidable problems threw my hair-trigger immune system off course. As a result, I slept fitfully, waking numerous times, often with sweat pouring off me.

Not good. I think I got away with it this time, but too many sweaty nights with the immune system misfiring has a way of setting me back. Not only do I feel tired, but it eats away at my physical stamina.

So this day, I’m determined to pay close attention to my sailing, and concentrate on doing everything I need to do to successfully manage the day. I’ve been fighting Lyme for quite a while, so I’ve learned to follow signs my body gives me that let me know how things are going at a given point.

Some of what follows may sound over the top, but my body constantly gives me feedback on how it’s doing. Sometimes the clues seem odd, but after several years of seeing these signs repeat themselves, I’ve come to trust my interpretations of them.

I’ll start with clue No. 1, which isn’t the most pleasant way to begin. I’m speaking of my first poop of the day. Fortunately, it looks okay. Next come a bunch of other morning signs that present a mixed picture.

I start breakfast with a powdered probiotic. If it tastes weak, that suggests my body is asking for more of it due to some gut problem. But it’s strong. Yay. I then dig into a meal of quinoa crispbread, sunflower seed butter, and an apple. All is good except for the apple peel, which is hard to chew today. Yesterday, I had no trouble with a similar peel from the same bag.

That suggests there’s something in that peel my body doesn’t want today. I get resistance to my morning snack as well. I scoop out my usual sized handful of pumpkin seeds but only want half. I take these two signs to suggest my body is getting too much stimulation from foods and supplements, and this is part of what is edging my immune system out of balance.

The other morning signs don’t tell me much. The dumbbell I lift seems a tad heavier than usual, but that probably reflects a slight weakening of my body due to the previous night’s difficulties. I get a similar signal when I drink my daily solution of magnesium chloride crystals. It’s a bit weaker than usual, suggesting that my nervous system could use a bit more magnesium after a sweaty sleep.

At lunch, I get more resistance to food. About three-quarters of the way through the rice and eggs, my body tells me to stop. Again, too much stimulation, it seems. So I cut back my supplements a bit,  hoping this will improve my appetite.

I don’t reduce my midday dose of baking soda and water. Sodium bicarbonate, strangely enough, is a key indicator for me. When the baking soda tastes weak, it usually means my immune system is in danger of overreacting, and could use more of the sodium bicarb to increase alkalinity and slow things down. When it tastes moderate, this is a good sign. When it tastes strong, it suggests my immune system is engaged in some fight and doesn’t want to alkalize.

By now, I’m getting a message that I need to chill today, and avoid unnecessary stimulation. Unfortunately, I have to work on my taxes in the early afternoon. Always good for a shot of stress. When I take a break, I walk by a mirror and notice that my right ear is crimson. This redness suggests that I am indeed stressed and starting to overproduce histamine.

Time-out. Enough taxes for the day. Now is a good time to drive over to the beach and do some light exercise. It works. When I return, I feel relaxed, and my ear is back to normal.

It seems my body is now getting back in sync. I want all the pumpkin seeds this time at my afternoon snack, and, when I do another set of dumbbell exercises, they feel lighter than in the morning.

But at dinner, I’m still fussy, turning half the broccoli away, and leaving behind a bit of chicken as well. Once again I make a small reduction in supplements, and decide that a relaxed evening is in store.

So that’s what I do. I add a little extra meditation and prayer time, watch a comedy on TV, and head to bed. The signs are now positive. My evening dose of bicarb tastes as it should, my ear looks fine, and all other indicators seem in order. I’m finished sailing for the day, and I guide my body into harbor, er, bed. Looks like a good night ahead.

Photo: Eric Davidson

LDI: The great Lyme hope

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.

Helping yourself too much

Hey Jetsons fans. Remember the episode where Elroy gets a movie gig.

Well, if you don’t, here’s how it goes. Elroy gets chosen for a movie part, and Papa George is hanging around the set all day trying to help out his son, the director and anybody else who happens to be around.

But of course, George only gets in the way, messing up scene after scene. The director gets fed up, and George ends up being chased around by a variety of ferocious beasts, barely escaping with his life.

I hate to admit it, but sometimes I can be a lot like George.

That episode came to mind a while back when I was trying to ward off a cold. Like most people with Lyme, I’ve got enough microbes to handle, and I try fiercely to avoid colds and flu. But I overdo it sometimes, and my herculean efforts can get in my body’s way.

As I’ve mentioned in recent posts (maybe I’m overdoing this too), one of the Lyme bacteria’s main survival strategies is to overly boost a person’s immune system. This throws the immune out of balance and leads the person with Lyme to overreact to pollens, dust, molds, cat and dog hair, microbes, etc. and end up exhausted by the effort. And this gives the Lyme a chance to get the upper hand and make you miserable.

So I always keep in mind the need to not add to that overstimulation.

But all of a sudden my roommate is endlessly barking out coughs and making kazoo sounds with his nose, and I really don’t want that cold.

What do I do?

I dig into my supplement bag and pull out the vitamin C, the zinc, the herbal cold formula and a few other things, and I zing that virus with something every two hours. It works, as I get away with a few sniffles.

I’ve won the battle, but, unfortunately, it looks like I lost the war. One mistake was taking stuff in the middle of the night. I woke up with a stuffy nose, got up and wolfed down a few supplements. The resulting immune boost kept me awake for several hours.

I did this a couple of nights in a row, and I rose in the morning with no stuffy nose, no sore throat or other cold symptoms. But on day two I felt really tired and draggy with some of that old Lyme malaise. The kind you try to explain to the doctor and she comes back with a puzzled look. Then you say, ‘Doc, I just feel like crap.’

What it seems I had done was lose too much sleep and at the same time push my immune system out of balance by taking too many anti-cold supplements, giving the Lyme a chance to bash me over the head again. And it took several days to get back in balance.

This is just one example of how careful I have to be not to try to help myself too much. I try not to beat myself up over it because Lyme presents so many can’t win propositions. But I always have to remember not to take too many supplements and not overstimulate my body. I also have to avoid the danger of taking too much and thus drawing out more toxins than my body can handle at a given time.

So what will I do the next time my roommate’s cough sounds like something coming out of a Labrador retriever. Hmm, let’s see. How about rest and fluids?

Food Fight!

Have you ever had a food fight with yourself?

No, I don’t mean smushing a cream pie in your face or whacking yourself over the head with a jumbo pizza. I mean having an argument between your inner self and your outer self over which morsels of food on your plate you should eat and which you should shun.

This happens a lot with me, and I suspect I’m not the only person with Lyme with this dilemma. I think it results from Lyme causing people to have off-the-charts sensitivity.

According to the smart doctors, Lyme overstimulates the immune system as one of its survival mechanisms. It tries to get you flail away wildly instead of attacking it with a calm, measured, effective response.

Let’s face it. Those of us managing a severe case of Lyme are walking a tightrope. One false move here or there can bring misery. And I think this is what my finicky eating is all about.

My food fight goes something like this.

The outer me notices halfway through the meal that I haven’t touched the steamed kale. I push my fork towards it, but it’s like there’s a magnetic pull preventing me from reaching it. Then I go for a hefty chunk of salmon sitting next to it. Again something seems to be warning me away.

If it were a conversation, it would go as follows.

Outer self: “Hey, what gives. We’re really skinny. We need to eat.”

Inner self: “Look, I’m overstimulated as it is, and if you make me eat this stuff, it’s going to get worse, and I’m going to overreact to that stupid Lyme.”

Outer self: “Are you sure?”

Inner self: “Remember the last time you force fed me. We kept waking up all night sweating and felt lousy in the morning. You didn’t check the scale, but all that sweating means we didn’t gain weight, we even got a bit skinnier. The same thing happened the time before and the time before that. Clueing in yet?”

Outer self: “I guess you’re right. Sorry about that. I’ll try not to do that again.”

Inner self: “Hey, it’s your funeral.  Wait a minute. It’s our funeral. Smarten up, eh!”

One of the advantages of Lyme making me super sensitive is that I get a lot of feedback from my inner self. Especially when it comes to food. Yesterday, it was hold the parsnips, the day before no more cabbage and parsley please. Green veggies, for some reason, bring out the most red flags.

Yogurt is another one. I just stick my spoon into the tub and wait for inner self to say whoa with that magnetic pull feeling. Some days it comes after a few spoonfuls and some days after half the container.

The last while I’ve learned to negotiate with my inner self. I’ll lobby for a few extra forkfuls of chicken or those last two pieces of carrots, and the force field will ease off a bit. But I don’t push it. I’ve learned through experience that my inner self knows a lot more about what’s going on inside than I do, and when the outer me has a full-blown food fight with the inner me, all of me ends up losing.