Understanding Lyme Disease and Overcoming Chronic Infection
In recent years, the instance of Lyme disease infection has risen drastically. It is now estimated that the infection rate in the United States is around 300,000 people a year, and approximately 40% of people infected don't fully recover, developing serious chronic health problems. For those chronic sufferers of Lyme disease, life becomes very different from what they once knew, and the on-going struggle to identify and eradicate the cause of their symptoms is challenging.
There is a mystery clouding this disease, and many people are just simply in the dark about what it is, how it's transmitted, how it thrives and how to effectively kill it. Intelligent, adaptable and protected by a biofilm fortress, the Lyme parasites are a formidable foe. Luckily there are organisations, and Lyme literate physicians that specialize in uncovering these mysteries, and new information is released regularly from researchers, doctors and patients involved in the fight against Lyme.
Lyme disease affects each person differently. Symptoms can include joint stiffness and pain, swelling, muscle cramps, numbness, tremors, dizziness, headaches, extreme fatigue, impaired immune function, depression, anxiety, insomnia, "brain fog", digestive problems, changes in vision and hearing, hallucinations, rashes, fevers and sweating, burning sensation of the hands and feet, sudden sharp sensations (like an insect bite) that move around the body, very cold basal temperature, disorientation, forgetfulness, etc.
In Chinese Medicine, Lyme disease falls into the category of diagnoses of an almost forgotten syndrome in the modern world, called Gu Syndrome. Often translated as "Possession Syndrome", the Chinese character for Gu literally means "worms in a pot". In the classical Taoist text, the I Ching, the hexagram Gu translates as "Degeneration" and represents darkness, vermin, decay, dampness and rottenness. It is common to hear sufferers of Lyme disease say things like, "I don't feel like myself" or "I just want my life back". In these statements, we can understand how Gu Syndrome, or chronic parasitism as it is also called, can be seen as a kind of possession. No longer the authority of their own body, emotions and/or mental abilities, people with Lyme disease often feel like they've lost control.
Lyme bacteria have many adaptive and survival techniques. They hide out in deep, dark places in the body and form a barrier called a biofilm to protect against drugs, herbs and the body's immune system attacks from penetrating. Remember the idea of 'worms in a vessel'? When multiple organisms group together, they create a biofilm fortified "city". Lyme bacteria can also encapsulate their DNA into a cyst form that hides out, dormant, until conditions are ripe for them to emerge. This is one of the reasons that people often feel better after a course of treatment, only to find their symptoms return again later. Luckily there are herbs and essential oils that break down biofilm and penetrate the cyst form of the Lyme bacteria, so that the medicines can kill their target.
Lyme can do some other interesting things with DNA. Sometimes, the Lyme bacteria can even shed their cell walls. This is an evasive maneuver to avoid being hit by medicines that work by identify proteins in the cell wall. But perhaps the creepiest thing they can do is trick your body into attacking itself by hiding in your body's own cells! Because of the overlap in symptoms, patients are often misdiagnosed with one or more of the following auto-immune diseases, when a hidden Lyme infection was later discovered: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Crohn's disease, Lupus, and Parkinson's.
So let's look a little closer at exactly what we are dealing with here. Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) is a bacterial spirochete that is found in the stomach contents of ticks (and possibly other insects) and is transmitted to the parasite's host through fluid exchange. This is the organism typically associated with Lyme disease. What we now know is that there are many other organisms in the tick that are also passed to the host, creating a more complex symptom picture and requiring a more targeted approach in treatment. Bartonella and babesia are two of the most common co-infections, but there are others. Each co-infection has it's own course of attack and presenting symptoms. It is common for a person to host multiple organism infections, making diagnosis and treatment more complex. It's important to correctly identify which combination of organisms are responsible to effectively target treatment.
Unfortunately, blood tests for Bb and other infectious organisms associated with Lyme are only 35-50% accurate according to the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) a leader in Lyme research and the standard for treatment guidelines used by Lyme literate physicians in the US. So, if the test results aren't reliable, how do we even know what we are dealing with? Well, there are ways of detecting the presence of Bb, bartonella, babesia, etc. One of the ways is through use of a zyto scan, or biofeedback machine.
On a molecular level, everything has it's own unique signature vibration. The biofeedback machine is actually a computer that has been programmed with hundreds of frequencies and is able to detect and identify the presence of the unique signature vibration of the individual organisms associated with Lyme disease. It is also able to send a counter-frequency to disrupt the organism even causing some die-off. It can be an effective part of Chronic Lyme recovery, but since Lyme is so adaptive and resistant, treatment needs to include multiple methods of attack, diligent commitment to the process and frequent change in course of treatment.
Methods of Treatment
There are a combination of strategies that are important to consider in healing Lyme and recovering from the harmful effects of infection. It's important to remember that the road to recovery for chronic Lyme is a long and challenging one. It takes dedication and perseverance. But it is possible to become symptom free, so take heart and know that there is hope!
1. Detoxification- One of the obstacles to recovery is overcoming a toxic environment resulting from a combination of factors including endotoxins released from the die-off of Lyme and other co-infectious organisms. This die-off can cause symptoms such as pain, fatigue and brain fog to increase or return, resulting in a relapse of symptoms. This is referred to as Herxheimer reactions, or "Herx" for short. It's actually a positive sign that the treatment is working, but care needs to be taken to moderate this response so that the body is able to effectively eliminate these toxins without becoming overwhelmed. Mold, candida, strep, staph, heavy metals and more may be a part of the big picture and need resolution for healing to proceed. Some people actually lack the genes needed to detoxify properly. Some ways to assist the detoxification process are through herbs and essential oils, acupuncture, cupping, sweating, and detox baths.
2. Killing the Parasites- Fortunately there are ways to seek out Lyme organisms in their hiding places and also penetrate the protective biofilm layer. Use of Liposomal herb remedies and essential oils have been shown effective in killing the organisms associated with Lyme disease and alleviating symptoms. Liposomal remedies are herbs and/or essential oils that have been encapsulated within an outer layer of fat, or lipid. This delivery method allows greater absorption of the liposome by the body's cells, for a more targeted and effective approach. Since Lyme organisms are resistant and adaptive, herb treatment strategy needs to be changed regularly to keep on the offensive and stay a step ahead of their defenses.
3. Supporting the Body's Resources, Tonify Qi & Blood- Every action takes energy. For a person suffering from chronic illness, resources are often depleted. It isn't enough to kill the parasites without repairing the body's ability to produce healthy Qi and blood. These are the resources needed by the body to repair the damage caused by chronic illness. Some of the common symptoms from Lyme disease are extreme fatigue, muscles weakness, numbness and dizziness which are signs of Qi and blood deficiency. Since the production of Qi and blood occurs within the metabolic processes of our body, it's essential that we help stoke that fire. Herbs, acupuncture, moxibustion, diet and Qi Gong are all ways to build Qi and blood.
4. Support the Mind and Emotions- Lyme disease doesn't just affect the physical body. It can cause mood swings, depression, anxiety, insomnia and withdrawal. It is said that Gu Syndrome "marks a state of extreme stagnation where corruption and decay have already manifested and can no longer be ignored...the worst nightmare of any human being." Often a person with Lyme disease actually looks fine on the outside, but is suffering terribly on the inside. If there is no confirmed diagnosis, this sometimes leads to friends, family and doctors suggesting that their illness is psychosomatic, or only in their head, and the person may feel like no one believes them, thus increasing their sense of isolation, withdrawal and hopelessness. Community support and connection are equally as important as the other treatment modalities used to support the emotions and calm the mind including acupuncture, herbs, essential oils, cupping and Qi gong.
5. Move Stagnation- In Chinese Medicine it is said that "pain is stagnation". This means that where there is pain, the proper circulation of Qi, blood and body fluids has become sluggish or obstructed to some degree. The greater the pain, the more pronounced the stagnation. People with Lyme disease are often in a great deal of pain. This treatment method, including acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, herbs, and Qi gong promotes the proper movement of Qi, blood and fluids in the body, thus increasing circulation and alleviating pain.
6. Avoiding Harmful Substances- If you keep picking at a wound it takes longer to heal. If you keep feeding the parasites, they will continue to grow. Healing Lyme includes awareness and avoidance of certain diet and lifestyle habits that create a hospitable environment for the Lyme-related organisms to thrive. This includes avoiding foods and beverages that feed the Gu like alcohol, sugar, dairy, wheat and gluten.
Chronic Lyme disease is a complex condition marked by multi-organism infections, a toxic internal environment and compromised immune system. It can manifest symptoms in multitudes of ways, and each person presents a unique case. Treatment strategies including herbs, essential oils, acupuncture, moxibustion and cupping have been shown to effectively kill Lyme and eliminate symptoms. Length of treatment can continue for months or years depending on severity of infection and how long a person has had it. For everyone, treatment strategy includes multiple methods and frequent changes to account for adaptability and resistance of the Lyme bacteria and co-infections.
With perseverance, dedication and the guidance of Lyme literate physicians, people with chronic Lyme disease have options to really get better. There is light at the end of the tunnel..
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