Is Lyme Disease Curable? Functional Medicine Can Help!
In this blog, we will look at Lyme Disease and answer the question ‘Is Lyme Disease curable?’ You will learn:
- What Lyme Disease is
- That Lyme Disease is a complex illness
- How Lyme Disease is usually curable and how Functional Medicine is well suited to address symptoms resulting from Lyme Disease
Do you know what Lyme Disease is and if it can be cured? Do you suffer from acute or chronic Lyme Disease and its symptoms? If you want to know more about this increasingly common disease and how to best optimize your health, then this blog is for you. Please read on for answers!
** Please note: If you want the longer, more scientific version of this article, then please click here **
What is Lyme Disease (LD)?
Lyme Disease is a tick-borne illness. It is caused by the bacteria borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted through tick bites. After the initial tick bite, a person may develop an early stage borrelia infection which is acute Lyme Disease. If not treated properly, or in some cases, despite treatment, it can worsen and develop into late stage borrelia infection or chronic Lyme Disease.
Doctors call Lyme Disease the ‘Great Imitator’ because it has so many potential symptoms and can imitate many other diseases. It can often go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed. Even if properly diagnosed, treatment is not always effective. Because of these issues, some people suffer quite a lot from undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated or improperly treated Lyme Disease. Their symptoms often present as something the doctors don’t think is Lyme Disease.
We have written extensively about Lyme Disease in our blogs. Please start here with some definitions of Lyme and continue reading through our blog for tons of information on Lyme Disease. In our clinic, we are experts at diagnosing and treating Lyme.
Is Lyme Disease Curable?
The good news is that…. Lyme Disease is usually curable.
In our medical experience, Lyme Disease is curable. But it is a complicated disease. It is best to see a Lyme-literate doctor. Please see our blog here on this topic. We recommend that you catch it as early as possible. See a doctor as soon as you realize that you have been bitten by a tick, have a bull’s eye rash or suspect you may have been exposed to Lyme Disease after time in nature.
Lyme is curable, but complicated:
- 63% of people today infected with Borrelia develop chronic Lyme Disease (Davidsson, 2018).
- Many Lyme Disease patients either do not receive any antibiotic or antimicrobial herbal treatment or receive an insufficient amount of antibiotic or antimicrobial herbal treatment (Davidsson, 2018).
- No scientific studies support the claim that 3 weeks of oral antibiotics can always cure acute or chronic Lyme Disease (Davidsson, 2018).
- Many scientific studies show that the Borrelia bacteria can survive 3 weeks of oral antibiotics in vitro and in vivo, in mice, dogs, horses, monkeys and in humans (Davidsson, 2018).
- Alive Borrelia bacteria has been found in 7 out of 8 patients with chronic Lyme Disease (Davidsson, 2018)
- The immune system by itself can never eradicate a Borrelia infection (Davidsson, 2018).
- Borrelia also has many different co-infections: Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, etc. A tick can spread approx. 237 different types of bacteria and many types of viruses (Davidsson, 2018). Chronic Lyme patients might be simultaneously infected with many different types of microbes.
- Testing for Lyme Disease is often inaccurate. Not all doctors know to run the correct test and not all doctors know how to properly interpret the gold standard test, the Western Blot.
- Unfortunately, as one research article puts it ‘A person who suspects a Lyme Disease infection is better off tossing a coin and diagnosing themselves because the blood tests for Lyme Disease today will miss most infections.’ (Davidsson, 2018). This is because the Borrelia bacteria has, as mentioned, the ability to change its antigens by changing its morphology.
- Studies estimate the sensitivity of the Lyme Disease test to be 44-46% (Davidsson, 2018). Sensitivity is a test’s ability to find a person with the disease as positive. A very sensitive test means that there are few false negative results and fewer cases of the disease are missed. At 44-46%, the Lyme testing is not very sensitive so we can expect false negative test results. A false negative test result says someone does not have Lyme Disease when they actually do have Lyme Disease.
- Severe inflammation can result from the Borrelia bacteria, co-infections and how an individual person’s body responds. This dysregulated inflammatory response from the immune system can trigger autoimmunity or an autoimmune-like reaction, as a result of Lyme Disease. This happens in the case of Lyme arthritis for example and can be difficult to resolve.
- The Borrelia bacteria can hide behind biofilms. It can burrow deep into tissue and hide. It is then unreachable by any antimicrobials or antibiotics.
- Misdiagnosis can often happen with Lyme. Either the testing can provide a false negative or a doctor may not be Lyme-literate and therefore not recognize the symptoms for Lyme Disease, or may interpret the Western Blot test incorrectly.
- In petri dish studies, Lyme that was killed by antibiotics often regrows. Some herbs have shown in this kind of study to be less effective and some more effective compared with antibiotics. No antibiotic has shown in petri dish studies to stop regrowth. One herb called cryptolepis did show ability to kill Lyme and there was no regrowth at a sufficient quantity (Feng, 2020)
That is a lot of bad news about the challenges of treating Lyme. A Lyme-literate doctor is best positioned to address Lyme and its symptoms. Furthermore, by using a Functional Medicine approach, we can do a more effective job with addressing and resolving Lyme symptoms, even in the case of chronic Lyme. It is our true hope that some of the above research does inspire hope that Lyme can be eradicated without regrowing.
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How does Functional Medicine Treat Lyme Disease?
We have made the point before: Lyme Disease needs to be correctly identified, diagnosed and treated early on. This is best done by a Lyme-literate doctor. In our clinic, we are Lyme-literate doctors.
We look beyond antibiotics and look for the root causes of disease within the individual patient. Healing Lyme Disease and its various symptoms is an on-going process. It is not based on one specific drug, supplement, herb or therapy. We employ a range of different immune-boosting, health-promoting strategies to strengthen the immune system and keep pathogens under control.
The conventional medicine treatment approach of antibiotics may help though it sometimes doesn’t. Even so, antibiotics can be damaging to gut health and long-term pharmaceutical use generally has side effects. In our clinic, we look for natural treatment approaches. We use medications as needed but always look to less-invasive solutions with the least side effects first.
You can read about our approach to treating Lyme Disease here.
How do we Treat Lyme in our Clinic?
There are various things we do when treating Lyme Disease, whether it is acute or chronic:
- Look for Lyme co-infections
- Look for other chronic infections
- Antimicrobial herbs
- Immune-supporting supplements
- Anti-inflammatory diet
- Gentle exercise
- Stress reduction and management
- Improve sleep
- Address issues with gut heath
- Address inflammation & possible autoimmunity
- Reduce toxic load
- Recommend acupuncture
- Stay up-to-date on new medical approaches
Functional Medicine and integrative approaches can be very effective in conditions that have no clear ‘cure’. This goes for Lyme Disease and chronic Lyme as well as conditions like long Covid, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and chronic pain. FM techniques (exercise for depression, mindfulness for stress and anxiety management, an anti-inflammatory diet, etc.) can decrease the inflammation that comes with chronic conditions. These are often more effective than pharmaceuticals (Roth A, 2021).
When people suffer from these chronic conditions with ‘no cure’ in conventional medicine, they may lose confidence in conventional medicine. They may see very little improvement despite working with different doctors. Conventional doctors often blame stress for people’s symptoms (Roth A, 2021). While stress is an important factor, this does not identify any root causes of illness. This is where Functional Medicine can truly help, and very often, completely cure people if the patient puts in the time and dedication required to implement treatments.
- Lyme Disease is a complex disease. The bacteria responsible for a Lyme infection is the borrelia burgdorferi bacteria.
- The borrelia bacteria is genetically very complex and sophisticated. It can change shape and form. This means the immune system’s normal ways of eradicating bacteria may not work on this bacteria. This is because borrelia can change the antigens it produces and confuse the immune system
- In addition, borrelia can hide behind a biofilm for protection from antimicrobial treatment.
- In Functional Medicine, we can often better address complex diseases than conventional medicine can.
- In Functional Medicine, we identify the specific root causes for each individual and address them one by one. For example, we can identify gut issues, hormonal imbalance, inflammation, nutrient deficiencies, excess stress, toxic load and others. Addressing these issues individually will help to regain full health.
- We use lifestyle habit changes, diet changes, herbs, supplements and antimicrobials to address Lyme Disease. In many cases, we can fully resolve a Lyme infection through these Functional Medicine techniques.
- Some of the strongest research on Lyme treatment is for cryptolepis (herb) and dapsone (drug). If you are struggling with Lyme and your protocol does not contain one or both of these, you might consider looking for another provider or sharing some research with your doctor. It is usually not enough to only do antibiotics or antimicrobials. Other elements such as addressing mitochondrial function and nervous system regulation are essential for recovery in most cases of chronic Lyme.
** Please stay tuned for our next Blog! **
As always, please get in touch with us. In our clinic, we are experts at identifying root causes, diagnosing conditions like Lyme Disease and helping people to address the root causes of illness and improve their health. We are Lyme-literate doctors who treat Lyme Disease and post-Lyme chronic symptoms, with both natural and pharmaceutical approaches, depending on the individual case.
Book a free health evaluation call with us today, to see how we can help you with your concerns. We can answer your questions and help you book an initial consult with one of the functional medicine doctors in our clinic.
Are You Suffering From A Chronic Illness?
Does your current health situation look like this…
- Do you feel that you have tried many things and either nothing works, or the treatment does not hold?
- Have you been told that there is nothing that can be done to reverse your illness and you just need to manage symptoms?
- Does your illness impact your work, your family, your happiness and your social life?
We specialize in finding answers and solutions for complicated chronic illness when people feel like they have tried everything. If this sounds like you, book a free call with us to see if we are the right fit for your health goals.