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Lyme Disease Treatment Guide

Lyme Disease Treatment  Guide

Lyme Disease Treatment Guide

Lyme Disease in Perth & Australia – Testing, Treatment and Recovery

Lyme disease is a condition that is growing worldwide and becoming diagnosed in Perth, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Australia wide on a regular basis. Previous thinking suggested Lyme disease was absent in Australia. However, the overwhelming evidence and the sharp increase in the number of suspected Lyme sufferers conclude that Lyme disease is likely active in Australia and the disease is much more prevalent that one might think. (1)

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a tick-borne infection caused by bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi.

It was discovered in 1975 in Lyme, Connecticut USA. A group of children was experiencing juvenile arthritic type symptoms, skin rashes as well as associated symptoms.  (2)

Lyme disease has however been around for thousands of years with an iceman discover in 2008 showing traces of borellia when tested. (3)  

Firstly, the initial symptom is a red “bullseye” type rash that spreads around the bite site. However, the rash is only present in as few as 30-40% of cases.  Likewise, other acute stage symptoms include fever, joint pain, headaches and fatigue.  Meanwhile, symptoms usually begin to occur within 3-30 days of infection.

Lyme Disease Bulls-eye rash

How is Lyme Transmitted?

Lyme disease a tick or vector borne disease that is transmitted primarily by a tick bite.  It is also been shown that transmission can be from a number other methods such as sandflies, midges and mosquitoes.  It can be passed on in utero from mother to baby as well as possibly be passed on sexually with the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria proven to be able to be cultured in vaginal fluid and semen.(4)

Transmission rates are highest in children aged 5-15 and similarly with adults over the age of 50.  (5)

Lyme disease was once thought of as a rare disease but in present times we have seen an explosion in the prevalence of this condition.   In the USA, over 300,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. (6)

Lyme disease in Australia

Meanwhile, Lyme disease has been scientifically identified in Australia as far back as 1959.  Since 1959, there have been 1000’s of reported cases of suspected Lyme disease illness.  In addition to the borrelia bacteria strain, ticks carry many other co-infections that can trigger similar symptoms to that of borellia

A clinical study was completed by Peter Mayne and published in the International Journal of Medicine. Consequently, it become apparent that over 500 patients in Australia in 2015 found that “There is a considerable presence of Borrelia burgdorferi in Australia. Moreover, a highly significant burden of co-infections accompanying borreliosis transmission.  The concept of a Lyme like illness on the continent needs reexamination as well as the clinical interplay between all these infections.” (7)

In Perth, a recent study of ticks on 38 Echidnas in the Perth area found that over a third of the ticks were positive for the borellia infection. (8)

Location of reported Lyme disease cases

Lyme disease Perth
Lyme Disease Association of Australia, March 2016.

Annual estimate of Patients in Australia

Lyme disease rates in Australia
Lyme Disease Association of Australia, March 2016.

According to the Lyme disease association of Australia, as in 2012, at least 15000 people have been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Also, a conservative estimate suggests another 200,000 undiagnosed people in 2012.  (9)

Symptoms of Lyme disease

The symptoms and treatment of Lyme disease needs to be broken down into two major categories including the following factors:-

  1. Acute Lyme disease – presents within days to weeks of contraction of infection
  2. Chronic Lyme disease – lingering symptoms that affect the patient for months to years after initial infection

Acute Lyme disease symptoms

  • Bulls eye rash – red rash that migrates out from bite site in a ring “bullseye” type shape
  • Fever, chills, flu like symptoms, headaches
  • Sore throat, swollen glands, aching muscles
  • Aching joints, heart palpitations, anxiety
  • Fatigue
  • Poor concentration, memory loss
  • Tinnitus, vertigo, blurred vision
  • Irritable bladder, skin rashes

Chronic Lyme Disease symptoms

  • Arthritis type symptoms
  • Memory impairment (Brain fog)
  • Tingling and random numbness
  • Chronic fatigue and depression
  • Anxiety and other nervous system signs and symptoms
  • Skin rashes, sensitivities to light and food
  • Muscular, nerve and ‘migrating’ joint pain
  • Palpitations, irregular heartbeat, chest pain
  • Dizziness, chronic cough, floaters in eye
  • Food intolerances and sensitivities
  • Tightening of muscles around chest
  • Seizures occasionally with strong die off reactions, usually with intravenous antibiotics
  • Occasional paralysis of the face

At late chronic stages of the disease testing can be more unreliable with some false negative test results occurring.

Borrelia burgdorferi

A very complex bacteria and why it is so hard to treat?

Borrelia burgdorferi is a spirochete (spiral shaped) type bacteria that is similar in structure to syphilis.  Firstly, the infection will have a localized effect in the area of transmission. Further, proceeding with an infection that comes on slowly until it affects every system of the body.  

The Borellia bacteria have been known to have specifically 21 plasmids on each bacteria. Plasmids are circular nodules attached to the bacteria strain.  These plasmids can detach themselves and transfer between bacteria and other cells enabling the bacteria to be very virulent, strong as well as hard to treat.  This enables Lyme disease the ability to be stealth-like within the body and able to effectively avoid many treatments.  In comparison, Borellia has up to 21 plasmids on each bacteria whereas the golden staph bacteria has only one plasmid. 

Lyme disease infections

Complete Anatomy of Borellia Bacteria

Borellia bacteria also have within each bacteria a drug efflux pump.  This is a mechanism that allows the bacteria to pump out treatments such as antibiotics from the bacteria itself. This mechanism also sends messages to the DNA of the surrounding bacteria to change its form and the ability to become resistant to antibiotics.  Fortunately, there are herbs that can inhibit the bacteria’s drug efflux pump such as licorice, ginger, garlic and Echinacea. (11)

Borellia bacteria is also pleomorphic, meaning it can change shape as need be, causing it to evade certain antibiotics.  In addition, the Borellia bacteria may pair up with other bacteria in the body and begin excreting their own protein cells for the purpose of forming new shapes and a biofilm type cell wall around the bacteria.  The use of biofilm disruptors is a must when treating Lyme disease. (12)

Borrelia burgdorferi is a bacteria that can change shape, pump out antibiotics from inside the bacteria as well as evade detection by antibiotics.  With these base defense mechanisms onboard you can see how tricky Lyme can become to treat!!

How does the bacteria transfer from tick to a human? 

The tick inserts its hypostome, a tiny barb shaped spear into the skin in order to access the hosts blood.  Through the hypostome, the tick feeds on blood. 

At the same time it breaks the skin, the tick injects the following;

  • An anticoagulant to stop the blood from clotting so it can continue to draw blood
  • An anesthetic so you don’t feel the tick bite and it feeding on you
  • An immune suppressant to compromise the host (13)

The Borellia bacteria located in the stomach of the tick starts passing into the blood through the hypostome while the tick feeds.  This bacteria doesn’t stay in the blood long before it migrates to the tissues and joints of the body as well as crossing the blood-brain barrier. 

The bacteria embeds into the body’s tissues and starts its infiltration of the host.  Left untreated, Lyme disease will affect all systems of the body.

Tick bite with lyme disease
An enlarged view of a tick hypostome located near the tick’s mouth

Pharmaceutical medications for Lyme

Above all, the most common antibiotic prescribed for Lyme disease and acute tick bites is Doxycycline.  It is often prescribed for an initial period of 2 weeks.  The trouble is that 2 weeks is not a long enough time period in order to eradicate the bacteria fully. Also, long term use of antibiotics can have a devastating effect on the body.

Common side effects of Doxycycline include;

  • Discoloration of the teeth
  • Contraindicated in pregnancy and breastfeeding
  • Can cause candida overgrowth and gut dysbiosis
  • Photosensitivity to the sun
  • Elevate liver enzymes and disturb kidney function (14)

A dose of Doxycycline is firstly recommended in the acute phase. Moreover, the use of herbal and nutritional support over a much longer duration.

Treatment of Lyme disease

The stage of the patients Lyme disease greatly determines the treatment protocol.  Firstly, in the early stages of acute Lyme, a combined approach of short term antibiotics along with therapeutic doses of immune herbs, anti-inflammatory herbs and liver support is required in conjunction with targeted high dose vitamins and minerals.

Meanwhile, the treatment of chronic Lyme disease can take up to 2 years or longer with maintenance treatment to reverse the effects of chronic Lyme disease.  Treatment therapies include:-

  • Therapeutic doses of chronic immune support herbal medicine
  • Anti-inflammatory herbs
  • Nervous system and adrenal support
  • Support the gut, addressing any dysbiosis, leaky gut or yeast overgrowths
  • Targeted vitamins and minerals in order to support biochemical, neurological and detoxification pathways
  • Mitochondrial and energy pathway support
  • Herbs to treat as well as eradicate the bacteria, pulsing doses throughout treatment

You cannot just treat the bacteria in order to heal someone completely from chronic Lyme disease.  Often those struggling with Lyme have a number of health issues affecting them in addition to Lyme disease. These may include gut dysbiosis and or leaky gut, mold exposure or toxicity, heavy metal toxicity, emotional stressors as well as mineral imbalances too.

Impact of Antibiotics

When consuming antibiotics for Lyme disease, the Lyme spirochete changes form to evade the antibiotic in order to protect itself.  The spirochete bacteria opens up and morphs into a cyst type shape for protection, changing back into a spirochete once the stressor(antibiotic) is removed.  This is why chronic Lyme sufferers often don’t respond well to antibiotics or shortly after they stop symptoms return.

Above all, antibiotics damage the gut lining, cause gut dysbiosis and wreck mitochondria, the energy production part of a cell.  In addition, antibiotics don’t cross the blood-brain barrier very effectively leaving those affected with brain fog, concentration issues and mood disturbances still suffering after treatment.

Long term treatment of chronic Lyme with herbal medicine as well as targeted vitamin and mineral therapy is a much better option.  Supporting the body while eradicating the pathogen is a must during a long treatment phase.

Lyme–Gut-Brain Connection

There are a mountain of studies confirming the connection between a compromised gut and its effect on the brain.  Moreover, the effects such as brain fog, fatigue, inability to concentrate, poor memory, anxiety and low mood can all be contributed to through a compromised gut-brain axis. 

So, what happens when we throw Lyme disease in the mix? 

When Lyme disease is involved, studies show that the dead bacteria shed from the outer shell of the Borellia bacteria and cross the blood-brain barrier, playing a role in the inflammatory pathophysiology of depression and other mood disorders. (15)  

Studies have also shown spirochetes to be found in patient’s brains suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  Some of the studies that conducted autopsies on deceased Alzheimer’s sufferers showed 100% of subjects being positive to Borrelia burgdorferi in the brain tissue. (16)

Testing for Lyme disease

Lyme disease is often a clinical diagnosis.  Certainly, only 17% of patients recall a bite, 36% of patients recall a rash and 50-70% of patients have a positive ELISA or Western Blot test.  These statistics show that it is important when testing for Lyme disease to use a combination of testing to have the best chance of getting an accurate presentation.

At Advanced Functional Medicine, we use a combined testing approach for Lyme disease in order to ensure the most accurate results.  This includes serological testing that incorporates ELISA, immunoblot and the traditional western blot test methods.  These results are sent to labs in the USA for testing.

Moreover, other tests available include the Eli spot test, a test that assesses the immune response to Borellia.  This can be useful to monitor the patient’s reaction to treatment as well as active effect from the bacteria.

The GLD test from Global Lyme diagnostics is also available to measure antibodies against stealth pathogens such as Borellia. This test is able to identify a wide range of pathogens that cause Lyme, not just Borrelia burgdorferi.  The detail in the test assists with reducing the occurrences of false negatives.

Testing for Lyme disease requires a multifactorial approach. It should not be done within the first few weeks of infection. This latent window can cause the occurrence of false negatives to increase dramatically.

Prevention of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is primarily transmitted through tick bites.  However, there are other possible methods of contracting the disease. However, the large number of reported cases have been through contact or suspected contact with a tick. 

The best way to avoid Lyme disease is to avoid areas where animals that have ticks live.  Specifically, forests and bushland are the areas that ticks live.  For instance, camels, foxes, dogs, blue-tongue lizards, livestock and many other animals can carry ticks in Australia.

When in tick prone areas, it pays to use a natural insect repellent such as tea tree oil or similar to assist with deterring ticks.  There are also numerous commercial insect repellents that assist with the prevention of tick bites.

Functional Medicine approach to Lyme Disease Treatment

Lyme disease requires a whole-body functional medicine approach to reverse the disease, remove the bacteria as well as support and nurture the body back to health.  Lyme disease and the active bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, as well as associated co-infections, compromise every body system in the patient. 

A combined approach addressing the pathogen load, gut dysbiosis and integrity, inflammation, effects on the brain and nervous system and mitochondria and energy production is required.

At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine, we help people from Perth and all over Australia recover from the symptoms of Lyme disease.  If you suspect you may be suffering from Lyme disease, it is crucial to get an accurate diagnosis and treatment as soon as possible.  Contact us to find out more about our clinic and the testing and treatment of Lyme disease. 

For more resources on Lyme disease in Australia

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The above information is intended to be general, educational advice only, on topics which are of interest to us. It is not intended to represent specific or individual health or medical advice and is not specific to your situation. The below information is educative and is not intended to advertise any service.

Before making any decisions in relation to your health, you should always discuss your individual situation with your own health practitioners to ensure that any advice you have read is right for you.

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.

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