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Lyme Disease: Treatment Options & Resources

Since I practice Traditional Chinese Medicine, my knowledge regarding treating Lyme disease is rooted within the world of acupuncture and herbal medicine. And though I’ve read a fair amount about the subject, I can’t say I have a nuanced understanding of the antibiotic approach to treating acute or chronic Lyme. Prescribing antibiotics isn’t something I do.

I have, however, worked with multitudes of patients who were/are undergoing treatment for chronic Lyme, and I’ve often been part of that treatment through prescribing herbs (Western and Chinese herbs, mostly) and providing acupuncture. Most often, if a patient comes to see me for herbs, it’s because the antibiotics haven’t worked for them.

Though I’ve already written about this in previous posts, this bears repeating: The conventional approach to treating acute Lyme is controversial. From the blog of Kristen McElveen, a local ND who treats Lyme and chronic Lyme:

Currently, the ILADS recommendation for acute Lyme is a minimum of 6-8 weeks of antimicrobial therapy, while the IDSA/CDC is now even recommending 14-21 days. Unfortunately, many doctors are still only prescribing a single dose of doxycycline, or up to a week’s worth, which is not sufficient treatment, even from an IDSA/CDC standpoint.

Antibiotics are considered by many physicians to be highly effective in treating both acute and chronic Lyme disease – and for many people they are. Depending on the particular case, some people take antibiotics for months, some years at a time. That being said, up to 40 percent of people do not respond to antibiotic treatment. In fact, a study from Johns Hopkins University found that six months after Lyme treatment, 36 percent of patients reported new-onset fatigue, 20 percent reported widespread pain, and 45 percent had neurocognitive difficulties

Antibiotics, also known as antibacterials, are medications that destroy or slow down the growth of bacteria. They include a range of powerful drugs and are used to treat diseases caused by bacteria. Antibiotics cannot treat viral infections, such as cold, flu, and most coughs. Learn more: antibioticstore

The predominant theory for this involves the spirochetes’ ability to encyst when under “threat” (in this case, antibiotics). In the encysted state, the spirochetes enter a state of lowered metabolism and essentially hiberate. Fascinatingly, they can still monitor the environment in this state of hibernation, and when the threat is withdrawn, they change into a more active form again. (If you think we’re smarter than bacteria…you’re most likely wrong).

If you are dealing with Lyme, acute or chronic, here is a link to find a Lyme-literate doctor. Consulting a Lyme-literate practitioner, whether you have early or late stage Lyme disease, may be the right choice for you. In our clinic, Dr. Renee Lang is our Lyme-literate naturopath. Dr. Sasha Rose, Daniel Katz, and myself also have extensive experience treating Lyme with acupuncture and herbs (see below for more on this).

And don’t forget our community acupuncture clinic, where you can receive acupuncture for $30 a session.

Lyme Disease and Traditional Chinese Medicine

Naturally, this would be my favorite topic to write about when exploring approaches to treating Lyme. However, it’s already been done in such an eloquent and informative manner that I’m simply going to share with you an incredible piece on treating Lyme disease with Traditional Chinese Medicine. See it here.

If that resonated with you, see here, too.

Our most-often used brand for treating Lyme and co-infections are Classical Pearls. We have a variety of Pearls in stock at all times, but our most used are Lightening, Thunder, and Bamboo Pearls.

Of note, Andrew Weil suggests that patients seek out a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine if they suspect chronic Lyme.

Resources: Books

Cure Unknown, Inside the Lyme Epidemic: Written by Pamela Weintraub, Executive Editor at Discover magazine and science journalist, whose son became ill with Lyme and was the catalyst into her exploration of Lyme disease. This book is renown for impeccable research and captivating investigative journalism. 

Healing Lyme: Easily my favorite. So densely packed with information and research that you wonder if Buhner is a Cylon. A wicked sense of humor, and a no-bullshit attitude when it comes to the kind of nasty politics that can drive medical ineptitude. An advocate for patients. An incredible herbalist with a healthy respect for research.

The Lyme Disease Solution: I’ve not read this one, but the favorite resource for many, many people, patients and practitioners alike.

Resources: Websites and Support Groups

ILADS International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society: Through education, awareness, and action, ILADS promotes understanding of Lyme and its associated diseases and strongly supports physicians and other health care professionals dedicated to advancing the standard of care for Lyme and its associated diseases.

MidCoast Lyme Disease Support and Education: Maine’s local resource.

Stephen Buhner’s herbal protocols for treating Lyme: It should be noted that this page is not Buhner’s, though he is aware of it, promotes it, and has answered questions directly. These protocols are accurate and consistently updated.

Resources: Podcasts

Chris Kresser podcast on Lyme: A fantastic overview of Lyme disease and the problems that exist. Awesome if you’d rather listen than read.

Diane Rehm: Update On Diagnosing and Treating Lyme Disease: Another excellent listen. A panel of 4 experts.

Beyond the Basics: The Trouble With Diagnosing Lyme Disease: It’s one man’s story, but it’s the same as so many others. Through dealing with chronic Lyme, he learned a ton, too. A good listen.


Your Baby’s Digestive Health

Before getting into the details about the digestive health of infants, I’ll start with a personal story since it’s a great entry point into discussing the fascinating world of wee’ babies and their wee’ gut microbiomes. It’s a birth story, so if you’re not a fan just move on to the links below for more information.

The Arrival of The Pooties: September 2012

My labor started with a splash (literally) and moved along faster and furiously than the average labor. I don’t mean to imply that it was any more difficult than any other’s labor, but because it progressed so quickly there was no adjusting to the various stages and within an hour I went from shopping for sweatpants at the Goodwill to losing language. Thankfully, my inner athlete took over and I labored with the kind of intense, unwavering focus of a tied soccer match between the daughers of the Capulets and Montagues, with only 10 minutes to go, and an 8 pound human squeezing its way through the birth canal. (My metaphors typically impress, thank you.)

An hour or so later, after careful watch of all the beeps and blips of various monitors, my midwife made the call for a c-section. She squatted down to look me in the eye, put a hand on my shoulder, and announced, “She’s not coming out the old-fashioned way.”

Because I trusted my midwife and knew she wouldn’t advocate for an unnecessary intervention, I offered her a long grunt that I hoped would translate as, “F*****k!!!…….But, okay.”

10 minutes later I was wheeled away for surgery.

A little while later, my daughter was born via c-section. She was a chalky gray-blue color and making feeble, soggy cries. The doc whisked her away and I stared into space, spinning in the center of a giant wave of resignation. This was not how I planned on welcoming my daughter into the world. Yet, somehow, even more potent than my disappointment in having an emergency c-section was the sudden embodied understanding that my life had changed forever. I was both thankful for my daughter’s arrival and terrified by this sudden evaporation of Child-Free Lauren. Some parents experience this change slowly, throughout the pregnancy and into infancy. Mine happened on the operating table.

But back to my waterlogged daughter.  She had swallowed a bunch of meconium (the first baby poo) on her journey and now had a lung infection. Within a couple of hours of birth, my daughter was nested in an incubator, IV antibiotics pumping through her veins to my horror and my relief. The markers that showed infection were high, but the antibiotics began to work within 24 hours. Her infection slowly but surely cleared up.

There were highlights to my birth experience that I’d be remiss to neglect. During the first 48 hours upon her arrival, she was fed colostrum through a syringe, was serenaded by her dad and his guitar, and held tightly the various, gloved pinky fingers of family who adored her. In the meantime, I did my best to calm the waves of anxiety that overtook me as I adjusted to the disappointment of missing out on the initial skin-to-skin contact that I had read so much about, as well as to the other uncomfortable realities of a c-section (like trying to poo, and worrying about how the drugs I was taking might affect my breast milk). The thing that got me really good, though, was recalling exactly what antibiotics can do to the gut. If I ruminated on the fact that antibiotics were now an integral part of her introduction into the world, I would begin to panic, and would have to yank on the gears of my brain until I could refocus on the fact that they may just be saving her life.

(If this story is creating anxiety, I should say now – keep reading. There’s a practical, helpful ending.)

Section 4A of Pootie’s legitimate fan club.

In just a few days, she weaned off of supplemental oxygen and we transitioned her from the warmth of her incubator to the warmth of my own skin, and upon our first legit snuggle, we immediately formed (what felt like) an indestructible crystalline bond. This mewly bundle of suckling need was my newborn daughter! Watch out world! Happily, she thought my boobs were great, and my boobs thought she was great, too. It was true love.

Anyway, here’s the point of this post. Though she recovered fully from her lung infection, my daughter did not thrive in infancy. From the age of 3 days to 6 months, she projectile vomited about 70 percent of everything that she ate, which was exclusively breast milk. She was a gaunt-faced, odd-complected, PootiePoots at 2 months, with eyes that would bulge almost out of her head before she’d toss back all the milk that I had just served up. She went through 5-10 onesies a day. She could only sleep upright, which meant that I propped myself with pillows for many, many slumbers and she slept on my chest. By 5 months, she had gained a little weight but still flung her milk if you moved her the wrong way.  Her dad and I did our best to remain at the periphery of Totally Strung Out. When we’d dabble in crossing over into Totally Strung Out and threaten to sit down and stare at our toes forever, some family member would take her from our arms and demand that we go take a nap.

Healing the Gut: Treating Reflux and Other Digestive Issues in Infants and Children

In retrospect, I better understand what was happening, and though I did my best as a parent (who was trying to be a practitioner, too, even though you’re not supposed to do that, but whatever), there were actually a couple of things that I would have done differently.

Upon birth, a newborn’s digestive system is in the midst of the process of blossoming (and will continue to blossom for the next couple of years). The antibiotics that my daughter needed –  though they did exactly what they were meant to do and for that I’m thankful – put out the “pilot light” of her digestion, according to the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Her reflux was truly insane. I’m talking, like, a four foot reach (considered a “reversal of Stomach qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine, combined with Spleen cold-dampness). We never used drugs to treat her reflux, just experimentation and patience. Thankfully, we had a D.O. who answered all of our questions with wisdom and compassion, and never urged us to try drugs.

In the end, I suspect it was a combination of probiotics, acupressure, and the passing of time that solved the issue. She stopped tossing her cookies a dozen times a day. Her digestive center worked out its kinks, and she began to thrive. (The two probiotics that I used were Baby’s Jarro-Dophilis+FOS Powder and Klaire Labs Ther-Biotic Infant Formula. We carry both brands in our online store, if you’re interested.)

So, what would I have done differently?

These 3 articles wrap up the kind of knowledge I wish I’d had at the time, but didn’t.

The Human Microbiome: considerations for pregnancy, birth and early mothering

Scientists Swab C-Section Babies With Mother’s Microbes

How to Treat Acid Reflux in Baby’s Without Using Drugs

Also, check out this research.

Lastly, and this is a bit off the subject, but I wanted to share the book that I used the most in the first couple years of my daughter’s life, to treat everything from colds to ear infections to confusing-colored poo. It also makes a great gift for new parents and/or caretakers.