Understanding The Different Types Of Lyme Disease: Acute Vs Chronic
Because of Dr. Rawls experience with untreated Lyme disease flaring up after decades of dormancy, he views chronic Lyme disease and all chronic conditions differently than many other physicians and patients. He sees chronic disease as largely a result of immune dysfunction, which can be triggered by a number of different factors. There are thousands upon thousands of chronic illnesses, but when you look at the symptoms, they all bunch together, so the concept of a diagnosis is often a little artificial.
To understand how this works, Dr. Rawls says you must also understand that there are two types of Lyme disease, acute and chronic. Acute Lyme disease occurs when the Lyme microbe first comes into your body: You get a tick bite, the microbe enters your system, and theres an acute tug-of-war between your immune system and the microbe because youve never seen it before, he explains. This internal tug-of-war happens within weeks of getting a tick bite and is accompanied by symptoms like fatigue, stiff neck, mild fever, and aches and pains. Eventually, either the microbe wins or the immune system wins, and your body reaches a place of resolution.
Vital Plan Restore Program Review
I have been given The VitalPlan Protocol as part of a product review through the Chronic Illness Bloggers network. Although the product was a gift, all opinions in this review remain my own and I was in no way influenced by the company.
I was given a chance to try Vital Plans Restore Program from Dr. Bill Rawls. Im very picky about which supplements/programs I review as it seems like a lot of them are just out to profit from sick people. However, I picked this program because its not just expensive supplements, it comes with substantial research and support.
The Restore Program was created by Dr. Bill Rawls to support his immune system during his own struggle with Lyme disease and fibromyalgia. The program is meant to support people with Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue and has several goals and features:
During the program every morning and night you take 3 capsules from each supplement bottle. Though it is suggested you start small and build your way up to taking three at a time.
2. Adaptogen Recovery- Supports immune function and the bodys stress response
Botanicals And Essential Oils
Botanical medicines are foundational interventions in the functional medicine approach to Lyme disease. There are many botanical protocols available for Lyme disease however, it can be confusing trying to determine which protocol and products to use. At CCFM, we have extensive experience using botanical protocols for Lyme and can create a protocol that is customized to your specific needs. Some of the botanical protocols and companies we use for the botanical treatment of Lyme include the Buhner Protocol, Byron White Formulas, Beyond Balance, and Nutramedix.
Herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, a pioneer in the use of botanical medicines for Lyme disease, has developed a botanical protocol that we use with many of our Lyme patients at CCFM. The protocol is centered around several keystone herbs, including Japanese Knotweed, Cats Claw, and Andrographis. Botanicals that can be added to the core protocol, based on the patients needs, include Astragalus and Smilax Buhner recommends Astragalus as a preventative measure for those who live in Lyme endemic areas. You can learn more about Stephens protocol in his book Healing Lyme: Natural Healing and Prevention of Lyme Borreliosis and Its Coinfections.
Some of the botanicals with anti-Borrelia activity include:
- Cryptolepis sanguinolenta
- Cinnamon bark essential oil
- Clove essential oil
Certain essential oils also demonstrate anti-Borrelia activity 3, including:
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Lyme The Nervous System And Neuropathy
Unfortunately, once the infection begins to spread throughout the body, many people will develop Lyme neuroborreliosis . This is neurological Lyme disease, which affects and inflames the central and peripheral nervous systems.
Research suggests the neurologic manifestations of Lyme disease may be present in approximately 15% of the patient population. However, the exact incidence of LNB isnt well known. A brief stint in an online Lyme patient forum will quickly reveal that most individuals report experiencing at least some amount of neurological involvement on a routine basis.
One debilitating symptom that may be present among those with LNB is peripheral neuropathy . This is a disease process that impacts the nerves located outside of the brain and spinal cord. Neuropathy occurs when there is damage or dysfunction of neurons in one or more nerves.
The damage results in interference among the neurons, and they begin to have difficulty communicating with each other and the brain.
To make matters worse, co-infections like Babesia and Bartonella can contribute to neuropathy as well, according to a study in the International Journal of General Medicine.
So how do you know if the symptoms youre facing are neuropathy, and what can you do to find some relief? Read on to learn about the symptoms, diagnosis, and ideas on how to manage the pain and discomfort associated with neuropathy more effectively.
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Understanding The Acute Inflammatory Response
Suppose youre walking barefoot in the yard one summer day and accidentally step on a sharp piece of glass hidden in the grass. Pain alerts you to the injury and you stop to assess the situation. If the wound isnt deep, youre up to date on your tetanus vaccination, and a rinse in the sink reveals no foreign objects in the wound, you place a bandage over the area, and youre back on your way.
Swelling occurs because blood vessels dilate to allow an influx of WBCs and flush the area with fluid. Macrophages and arriving WBCs engulf debris, foreign matter, and microbes that have entered through the open wound, and destroy the material with potent free radicals and hypochlorous acid. Its a noxious process that causes collateral damage to normal cells, but its part of the healing process.
Once the injury is contained and the mess is cleaned up, WBCs migrate out of the area. Surviving cells repair damage from the injury and the inflammatory process itself. Gradually evidence of the injury disappears like nothing had ever happened.
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Setting The Stage For Chronic Inflammation
Though the immune system plays a key role in protecting cells of the body from microbe invasion, the health of cells is also a major player. When cells become chronically stressed, they are more susceptible to being invaded by intracellular bacteria and other microbes. There are five primary categories of factors that weaken cells and set the stage for the chronic inflammation associated with Lyme disease.
#1. Poor diet
When cells arent fed properly, they cant function properly. Processed foods sourced from grains, beans, and grain-fed meat are overloaded with raw carbohydrates and refined fats that disrupt cellular functions. On the other hand, theyre deficient in the nutrients that cells need to function properly. Poorly nourished cells cant properly defend themselves against microbes.
#2. A toxic environment
In the modern world, chronic exposure to low levels of toxic substances and free radicals in food, water, and air is hard to avoid. The list includes man-made toxins associated with petroleum products, free-radicals in processed food, and natural toxins such as mold. In addition, the acid and free radicals associated with inflammation are highly toxic to cells. Toxic substances disrupt cellular processes, damage internal working parts of the cells, and weaken cell membranes. Weakened cells are more vulnerable to microbe invasion.
#3. Chronic stress
#4. Physical stress
How I’m Feeling Now
Now, about a year and a half after beginning this holistic road to recovery, I feel pretty damn good. Of course, I still have periods when I notice my aches and pains cropping up, but now I have the knowledge to begin addressing them quickly so they don’t spiral out of control.
One of the most valuable things I’ve learned from my holistic doctor is that healing from Lyme is an ongoing process, and it cannot happen with one isolated drug, supplement, or therapy. It requires tuning in to your body and adopting a variety of health-promoting strategies that, together, strengthen and protect the immune system so it can keep harmful pathogens in check.
But all that said, I actually don’t regret my initial antibiotic treatment. Because it was so effective for a period of time, it helped confirm that what I was dealing with was, in fact, Lyme disease. And although this theory isn’t science-backed, part of me feels like I needed the “big guns” to get over the initial hump since my symptoms were so all-consuming. All in all, they were a valuable first step in my personal healing journey, but everyone’s journey is different.
And no matter how hard things get, know that once-hopeless people like me have gotten better. It takes time, but it can happen, and it may not be the exact same protocol that worked for me. So keep tuning in to your body, prioritizing your needs, and being your own advocate until you find an approach that works for you.
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Major Red Flag: Chronic Lyme Where Real Lyme Is Rare Or Non
Chronic Lyme is a social phenomenon spread by word of mouth and the Internet. Thus, chronic Lyme is not restricted to areas where ticks transmit the curable Lyme infection.
With real Lyme disease, 95% of reported US cases are in 14 states, mostly in the Northeast, mid-Atlantic, and Upper Midwest.
Healios excellent article on the misnomer of chronic Lyme disease features this graphic illustrating the stark difference in geography between confirmed Lyme cases and chronic Lyme support groups:
The United States has exported its conspiracy theories about Lyme disease to many countries, including Canada, France, Germany, and Turkey. Thousands of people have received false diagnoses in Australia, where there is no endemic Lyme disease.
How Long Will It Take To Work
It does take time, says Dr. Rawls. Certain symptoms, particularly those found in people with neurological Lyme, can take months to years of steady, comprehensive herbal therapy to see substantial gains.
Although an herbal therapy approach tends to be slower, its important to remember that healing is cumulative. Thats because youre chipping away at the underlying causes while simultaneously restoring health to your body as opposed to only attacking microbes or masking the symptoms.
The good news is that because herbs have a low potential for toxicity, they can safely be used for a long time to suppress microbes, balance the microbiome, and establish a more robust immune system.
Its not a short-term proposition, acknowledges Dr. Rawls. It took me years of taking herbs to get my life back completely. And Ive continued taking immune-supporting herbs long term I think thats really, really important for lasting wellness.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme. You can also learn about Dr. Rawls personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.
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Quotes From Healthcare Organizations:
Antibiotics are the only known effective treatment for Lyme disease, but a quick search on the internet will introduce you to other untested remedies that claim to cure Lyme disease or chronic Lyme disease. These productsavailable online or from some health care providersmay be dangerous, deadly, or simply a waste of money.
We sympathize with patients who suffer from the wide array of symptoms that have been attributed by some to be due to so-called chronic Lyme disease, but we are concerned that most of these patients have been improperly diagnosed and may be receiving a treatment, i.e., long-term antibiotic therapy, that will do them more harm than good.
Infectious Diseases Society of America
What Does Herbal Treatment For Lyme Disease Look Like
When Adrienne was going through treatment for her chronic Lyme disease, herbal therapy was one of the methods she used, by drinking Chinese herbal teas and taking herbal supplements. But, just as there are many different types of healing herbs, there are also many different ways to go about taking herbal treatment for Lyme disease.
Dr. Rawls explains that there are many different methods and preparations out there for taking herbal therapies, but it all comes down to phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are bioactive plant compounds that can be used as antimicrobial, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer agents, and they are the compounds within herbs that do the healing. So when youre taking herbal treatment for Lyme disease, your main concern is to have as high a concentration of phytonutrients as possible.
There are three primary ways to take herbal therapy: teas, tinctures, and capsules. Teas will pull out all of the water-soluble chemicals in herbs, which is a good amount however, they wont let you get any of the fat-soluble phytonutrients. A water-alcohol tincture will pull out the water soluble phytochemicals as well as some of the fat-soluble ones, so you get a bit of a broader spectrum of nutrients as well as a higher concentration.
When it comes to capsules, there are two different types to choose from:
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Healthy Vs Weak Cells
How all this plays out is a function of the health of cells as much as the aggressiveness of the bacteria: Cells that are weak from being chronically stressed are more vulnerable to invasion by bacteria.
A healthy person with healthy cells who is bitten by a tick may not have much in the way of acute symptoms and may never develop chronic symptoms. It doesnt mean, however, that the bacteria have been eradicated from the body. They can stay dormant in tissues for a lifetime.
All it takes is a shift in the health of cells for dormant bacteria to surface and invade more cells. The immune system scrambles to keep a lid on things as bacteria erupt and infect other cells. Dead cells break apart and create debris. Macrophages secrete acid and free radicals to break down debris. Reinforcements are called in. More acid. More free radicals. More collateral damage. More debris. Flow of nutrients and oxygen is obstructed and cells are weakened even further.
The invasion intensifies as more cells are infected. Along with inflicting injury to cells in tissues, bacteria infect and kill WBCs. In addition, bacteria throw the immune system off balance by disrupting the cytokines the immune system uses to coordinate the resistance. As the process spirals out of control, the immune system loses the capacity to keep microbes in check.
Before long, tissues throughout the body start to look like a war zone. Cells suffer. Symptoms result. It becomes a never-ending cycle of misery.
How To Begin A New Natural Lyme Protocol: Your Top Questions Answered
Anyone beginning a new herbal protocol for Lyme disease is bound to have questions. After all, if youve been taking a variety of prescription medications for a while, switching to a natural regimen can feel like a leap of faith. Will the new protocol be one that you can tolerate? How will you handle die-off reactions or detoxing? How long will it take to work?
To help you answer these questions and more, we turned to Dr. Bill Rawls, MD, Medical Director of RawlsMD and Vital Plan, who has experienced chronic Lyme firsthand. We also scoured the research and other reliable sources to create a resourceful guide to getting started, plus offer suggestions for tackling some of the more common pitfalls patients encounter.
One overarching bit of advice to remember: When implementing a new protocol, starting low and going slow is often a critical step to sustaining any health regimen over the long haul. If you hit a roadblock along the way, try not to panic. You can always press the pause button and give your body a chance to reset.
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My Vital Plan Restore Review
I started the Restore protocol in early June a few weeks after being diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. During the first six weeks of the program, I had some of the best days that Ive experienced since my fibromyalgia diagnosis in early 2014. I started seeing a noticeable reduction in pain about two weeks into taking the supplements. I track my pain levels using this pain scale. On most days, my levels were in the 1-3 range during those first few weeks. It was a welcome relief since I hadnt had levels that low since last December.
Ive also noticed an improvement in my overall stamina. I have a little more gas in my tank. For example, earlier this month, we had a yard sale to get rid of the junk Ive accumulated as Ive been decluttering my house. I was worried I wouldnt get through the day, but I was able to manage the sale, get everything packed up for the donation truck and still have a little bit of energy left after the whole ordeal. I thought Id be camped out on the sofa for a couple of days to recover, but I wasnt. I was tired, but not to the point where I couldnt function. I considered this a small victory!
For my Lyme treatment, I decided to combine herbal therapy with prescription drugs . From my laypersons perspective, I want to hit the Lyme bacteria and other co-infections with everything possible, and combining natural and prescription therapies just makes sense to me.