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What Chronic Immune Dysfunction Looks Like
Typical Chronic Immune Dysfunction symptoms include fatigue, decreased stamina, stress intolerance, feeling flu-like, muscle pain, joint pain, and sleep disturbances. Also common are temperature fluctuations, digestive dysfunction, mood changes, brain fog, skin rashes, a range of neurologic symptoms, and allergic-type reactions.
If you hadnt already guessed, the default diagnosis for this morass of symptoms is fibromyalgia, when pain is the primary symptom. Or, if fatigue predominates, its labeled myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome. Both are conditions, not diseases, and thus, are considered to have no known cause or treatment by the conventional medical community.
If a patient presenting with CID symptoms has any history of tick exposure, some providers may consider the possibility of Lyme disease. On the surface, this might seem like a much more attractive diagnosis than fibromyalgia or ME/CFS because it has a recognized cause , which implies a condition is treatable with antibiotics.
Unfortunately, this only applies to acute Lyme infection. Chronic Lyme disease is actually another consequence of CID, in which immune reaction is dysfunctional, and the entire microbiome is disrupted. Concentrations of borrelia are low and embedded deep in tissues where antibiotics cant reach them. As a result, treating chronic Lyme isnt much different from treating fibromyalgia or ME/CFS.
My Chronic Lyme Disease Journey
Likely, you have come to this page in hopes of sorting out some of the confusion surrounding Lyme disease.
There is so much controversy around this disease because most doctors dont understand it. Even many doctors who consider themselves Lyme experts or Lyme literate medical doctors do not completely comprehend its complexities.
But I have one qualification that most other physicians do not. My life and a busy medical career were disrupted midstream by Lyme disease, though obtaining that diagnosis was quite the journey through multiple diagnoses including fibromyalgia.
My late 40s were marked by debilitating fatigue, tremendous brain fog, aching all over, burning in my feet and tingling in my hands, skin rashes, joint pain, chest pain, heart palpitations, mood changes, and poor sleep. I know what its like to start and end every day feeling like you have a terrible flu. Over several years, I experienced virtually every known symptom of Lyme disease.
Ultimately, this caused me to stop practicing obstetrics. But because I didnt have a firm diagnosis at the time, declaring disability wasnt an option. As an alternative, I started a less demanding primary care practice that did not require nightcall. The practice provided me with the environment I needed to recover. I had control over my work hours and the intensity of the work.
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When To Consider Antibiotic Therapy
Last Updated 11/01/16
There is little consensus, however, on antibiotic use for chronic Lyme disease. At present, there are no studies showing benefit from long term use of antibiotic therapy for treatment of Lyme disease and the practice is not condoned by the conventional medical community.
The primary problem is that synthetic antibiotics do not kill only pathogens . Antibiotics kill all bacteria.
The types of microbes associated with Lyme disease are survivors. When full guns are levied at the microbiome , stealth microbes are generally the last ones standing. Normal flora are very susceptible to being killed by antibiotics. The harder and longer target stealth microbes are targeted with potent antibiotics, the higher the possibility that normal flora will get caught in the crossfire.
Destruction of normal flora shifts the balance of the microbiome from friendly microbes to pathogens . Prolonged antibiotic use allows these pathogens to become antibiotic resistant. The total process places undue stress on an already overly stressed immune system.
Indiscriminate use of high potency antibiotics destroys normal flora, allows potential pathogens to flourish, causes yeast overgrowth in the gut, fosters antibiotic resistance, and disrupts immune function.
It is impossible to overcome stealth microbes without a healthy immune system.
My Experience With Antibiotic Treatment For Lyme
When I was first diagnosed with Lyme disease, my first response was standard: Try antibiotics. But every time I started a new round, I was absolutely miserable by the second week.
Nausea, abdominal discomfort, and feeling generally terrible all over increased until I was forced to stop the drug. Probiotics didnt help, and I had the same response to different types of antibiotics. While some people tolerate antibiotic therapy better than others, it became obvious that I would have to find a different solution.
I later discovered that my experience was not unique many people seem to have the same response to oral antibiotics. I also met numerous people who had undergone 6-9 months of intravenous antibiotic therapy, only to be right back where they started within a couple of months of finishing.
Though there may be some logic in using antibiotics for 2-4 weeks during acute infection, many people develop symptoms despite initial use of antibiotics. And as I came to know the microbe better, I began to understand why antibiotics are not necessarily a good treatment for chronic Lyme disease. Though some people do overcome Lyme disease with antibiotics, those results arent consistent enough to be considered reliable. To date, no clinical studies have shown benefit from long-term antibiotic therapy for chronic Lyme disease.
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Herbs Are A Good Choice For Chronic Disease
Herbs with antimicrobial properties work quite differently than synthetic antibiotics. Plants have to deal with threatening microbes just like we do. Plants, however, tackled the friend versus foe problem a very long time ago. Plants produce a spectrum of chemical substances that selectively target pathogens and spare normal flora. The plants that we call medicinal herbs are the ones that mesh particularly well with human biochemistry.
Certain herbs are particularly good for suppressing stealth microbes and enhancing immune function. These are the herbs commonly chosen for use in Lyme disease. Because most medicinal herbs are very safe, do not disrupt normal flora and immune function, and offer a host of other beneficial properties, herbs can be used continuously for long periods of time.
Medicinal herbs, however, are not nearly as potent as synthetic antibiotics.
There are certain situations where the potency of synthetic antibiotics may be valuable.
Borrelia The Misunderstood Microbe
Its not uncommon for people to harbor borrelia and not know it stealth is this microbes middle name.
Lyme disease is mostly transmitted by nymphal ticks, which are about the size of a pin. They bite, transmit the microbe, and then drop off most people arent even aware of being bitten. Because symptoms of the initial infection are so mild , its not uncommon for people to be completely unaware of being infected.
And borrelia isnt the only microbe to worry about. Ticks carry many microbes that have similar characteristics to borrelia. What they all have in common is stealthy characteristics that make them hard to find and even harder to get rid of.
If immune system function is robust, a person can harbor these types of microbes indefinitely, keeping them in check without ever having symptoms. When illness does occur, its typically chronic and debilitating, but not life-threatening. Additionally, the degree of chronic illness is highly variable. Some people are severely debilitated, while others are only marginally miserable.
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Chronic Lyme Disease Articles
Before the organism that causes Lyme Disease was identified, it was understood by treating physicians that whatever was causing this mysterious tick-related illness was not a virus, it did react to antibiotic therapy, it could be serious and it often required repeated courses of antibiotics in those who relapsed to see marked improvement.
“Named for the Connecticut town where the first identified cases occurred in 1972, this disorder has since been found elsewhere and may be caused by a virus transmitted by ticks. Attacks are often preceded by erythema chronicum migrans and are seldom prolonged, though they may recur. Symptomatic treatment only is advised, except in the rare instances of severe neurologic complications or myocardial conduction abnormality.”
“Clinical studies have documented the efficacy of antibiotics, but therapy has failed in as many as 50% of cases of chronic infection.”
Neurological complications were described in the literature in the 1980’s and were said to be caused by central nervous system infection. Additionally, Luft, et al published that the: “…infectious process of Lyme disease can appear as chronic dermatologic, rheumatologic, or neurologic.”
It was also discovered that the chronic illness would advance to later stages and could go undetected on tests .
In Good Times And In Bad
Medical hardships spilled into college life. Spuhler found hope and strength from within herself and her familyher parents and two brothers, Matt and Bryan. But her joints were in chronic pain. She was exhausted, depressed, pale and ill.
People teased me because of the way I walked, Spuhler says. People stared. They made comments. They got annoyed of how I was always sick. And I never had energy to go out.
Then, at a moment when she needed it most, Spuhler was invited to a get-together at a friends house. Feeling uplifted, she pulled together all the energy she had and went. Thats the night she met John, her future husband.
That night, John asked Spuhler out on a date. A few days later, they met up and just talked. Spuhler told John about her Lyme disease. He was caring and empathetic and told her hed help her through it.
John kept his word, driving Spuhler to appointments, carrying her up the stairs, and even tying her shoes for her.
He gave me the faith I needed, Spuhler says.
That faith brought Spuhler and John to a happy ending. Between 2006 and 2007, Spuhlers symptoms tapered then disappeared completely. Joseph declared Spuhler free from Lyme. And, in 2009, John and Spuhler said I do.
When we said in sickness and in health, everyone knew how true it was, Spuhler says.
Today, Spuhler and John have three sons, 4-year-old Jack, 3-year-old Owen and Connor John Spuhler, who was born in October.
Do I Have Lyme Disease?
- Stiff, aching neck
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Founding Member Of Both The International Lyme And Associated Diseases & Its Educational Arm The International Lyme And Associated Diseases Educational Foundation
He was a founding member and director of both the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society and its educational arm, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Educational Foundation . One of the first ILADS members to host clinical clerkships, his dedication to practitioner education continues to this day through his conference presentations, webinars and writings. Dr. Burrascano closed his practice several years ago and began work in the biotech arena as a research project analyst and occasional project manager however, he still does extensive consultancy work for business entities and fellow practitioners in the Tick-borne diseases field.
Creating The Perfect Environment For Healing
Healing is the ability of cells to regenerate and recover from being stressed. Healing can only occur if ongoing stresses are reduced enough for cellular recovery to occur.
No doubt, killing bacteria and other microbes is essential for cellular healing, but it must be done without upsetting the delicate balance of other microbes that inhabit the body. This is the problem with antibiotics. Conventional antibiotics dont penetrate into cells very well, but do disrupt the balance of normal flora in the gut and skin. Prolonged use of antibiotics typically leads to a host of issues that disrupt cellular healing and often doesnt eradicate the ongoing infection.
This is where the antimicrobial properties of herbs offer a distinct advantage. Taking an herb with antimicrobial properties isnt like taking an antibiotic. Instead of being a single chemical agent, like an antibiotic, herbs offer a wide spectrum of chemical substances with broad spectrum action against a wide variety of microbes. In essence, it acts like an intelligent defense system that targets pathogens and not normal flora. This allows herbs to be taken for extended periods of time months and even years without disrupting the balance of bacteria and other microbes in the body. Which is exactly what it takes to wear the intracellular microbes down.
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Lyme Disease Specialist Will Speak In Olean
- Copy article link
A public information meeting on the treatment of Lyme disease will be held at 7 p.m. Friday in First Presbyterian Church, 212 Laurens St. The session will be led by Dr. Joseph T. Joseph of Pittsburgh, a specialist in the treatment of disease, which is spread by the bite of the tiny deer tick. The meeting is sponsored by Advanced Home Care of Western New York.
New Research And The Covid
Although early research on the pathophysiology of Lyme disease gave us some insight into Lyme disease, Dr. Jemsek notes that there arent many recent controlled trials on Lyme disease treatment. A pilot study of his treatment protocol was in the works, but had to be paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Jemsek points out the similarities between Lyme disease and the lingering symptoms of COVID-19, and believes that Lyme patients who become infected with COVID-19 experience a reactivation and clinical expression of their Lyme symptoms.
How can physicians learn more about treating patients with tick-borne illnesses? Dr. Jemsek mentors other physicians and firmly believes tick-borne illness should be designated as a specialty, with its own education and accreditation program. He refers listeners to his website for numerous videos, livestreams and a booklet he has written to help guide patients and physicians.
Something is going on, why cant people wake up and see that the human condition is in another paradigm with a set infections that the immune systems not had to deal with, in an environment where we cant quantify or identify what new toxins are in our environment and what they do to our bodies.
Dr. Joseph Jemsek
Thank you Dr. Jemsek for your pioneering work with both HIV and Lyme disease and for sharing your knowledge and professional lived experience with us!
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Why Antibiotics Have Limited Use For Chronic Lyme
Borrelia clears the blood quickly and uses its corkscrew shape to penetrate deeply into tissues where it is protected from antibiotics and the immune system. It can penetrate into cells, give up the corkscrew shape, and live inside of cells, thus gaining protection from the immune system and antibiotics. If confronted with a full antibiotic assault, it rolls up into dormant cyst and rides out the storm until the antibiotics are gone.
Antibiotics work best on highly threatening microbes that grow very rapidly and congregate densely in localized areas in the body . Borrelia grows very slowly in the body and only occurs in very low concentrations in tissues.
Borrelia is a master at blending in with the trillions of other microbes that make up the human microbiome . Overwhelming the host is not its mission it simply needs to scavenge enough resources to survive. Borrelias stealthy ability to lay low makes diagnosis and treatment a real challenge.
Borrelia never occurs alone. There are many stealthy microbes mycoplasma, chlamydia, Bartonella, Epstein-Barr virus , cytomegalovirus , and others that can occupy space in the microbiome. Sometimes they occur as coinfections with the tick bite, but they can already be present in the microbiome, without causing symptoms, when infection with Borrelia occurs.
When Symptoms Boil Up
You can think of it as a pot of water on the stove that starts out over a low simmer. As the simmer increases, minor discomforts start showing up general body aches and joint stiffness bloating, gas, and digestive issues lack of energy and simply not feeling well. Often, these kinds of changes become accepted as part of aging or life in general.
Its not until the pot is fully boiling over that things become noticeably uncomfortable. Sometimes its a specific event that causes the pot to bubble over severe emotional stress, an accident or trauma, an acute viral illness, or even a tick bite. But most often, its a perfect storm of cellular stress factors accumulating over time until a tipping point is reached.
At that point, the immune system can no longer keep a lid on things, and life becomes miserable. I refer to this as Chronic Immune Dysfunction.
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Healthy Cells Equal A Healthy Body
The human body is a complex collection of living cells. When all the cells in the body are healthy and working in unison, you feel well. Symptoms occur when cells are stressed. Sometimes the symptom points to the source of stress: for example, joint pain indicates that cells in the joints have been taxed or injured. Symptoms like fatigue, however, suggest that cells throughout the body are overburdened, and communications that unify cellular functions have been compromised.
Fortunately, cells can recover from being stressed its what healing is all about. Cells can repair internal damage, and even when theyre injured beyond repair, other cells in the body can divide to make replacements . That is, if the stress resolves or is relieved.
Chronic illness occurs when stress never resolves, and our cells dont get a chance to recover from being overworked. There are many different chronic illnesses because different cells in the body can become chronically stressed in different ways.
The immune system plays an enormous role in the healing process. Its responsible for removing old and abnormal cells, cleaning up cellular debris and dead microbes, clearing foreign substances from the bloodstream, and purging toxins from the body. During chronic illness, cellular turnover is increased to the point that the immune system becomes overtaxed. When the immune system cant do its job, all cells in the body suffer.