Arizona Advanced Medicine Clinic

The Insanity of Lyme Disease

A poignant blog post by David Michael Conner[1] does indeed reflect the unfortunate state of modern medical treatment of Lyme disease. Aside from the relatively few physicians who have studied the disease in depth and those who suffer from it themselves, the medical establishment seems content to follow the 2006 ISDA guidelines which call the condition “post Lyme disease syndrome”, treating it with everything except the antibiotics that could cause the condition to heal.

Even apparently open-minded authors talk about “…the suggestion that an infectious agent continues to cause chronic symptoms” reinforcing a “tendency for patients to develop illusory patterns of perception when they lack control.” The articles goes on to state: “Well-meaning physicians often reinforce a patient’s fixation on the diagnosis by empirically prescribing antibiotics for those with nonspecific symptoms and negative or nondiagnostic Lyme serology or those with nonspecific symptoms and positive Lyme disease serology.”[2]

The medical establishment points out, with good reason, that the chronic condition which sometimes occurs after treatment of the original Borrelia burgdorferi infection is ill-defined and often improves with other treatments as well. The establishment maintains, with less objective reason, that long term antibiotics are not a viable answer – despite the history of long term antibiotic therapy of tuberculosis.

Manifestations of Lyme disease are multiple – pleomorphic – appearing in almost any organ system of the body, depending on where we are the most vulnerable.

Many treatments have been devised to deal with this horrific illness, including long-term antibiotics, herbal therapies, homeopathic treatments, bioenergetic treatments, cognitive-behavioral therapy... None of the treatments appears to be “the answer” but they do appear to all play a part in healing from the disease.

The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) has been instrumental in promoting a more rational and comprehensive treatment approach to the entity known as “chronic Lyme disease”.

One recent editorial in the British Medical Journal[3] framed the medical debate very well. “Recent evidence shedding light on how spirochaetes of the Borrelia genus evade host immune defences and survive antibiotic challenge threaten current beliefs about the persistence of infection, one of the largest points of contention in the medical community.” Information which appears to contradict our belief systems is often rejected out of hand, based on emotion rather than scientific evidence.

There is no denying that when our diet is full of chemicals and non-nutritive substances like sugar we often do not function at our best levels. If we make different food choices – colorful vegetables, for instance, instead of brown cinnamon buns – or mental and physical health often improve. This is not to say that “Post Lyme Disease Syndrome” is due to poor food choices. But food choices are certainly a contributing factor.

When are bodies are full of toxins, it is like trying to drive a car when the fuel lines are clogged – the engine does not run so well.

These toxins may include heavy metals like lead (from leaded gas in years gone by), mercury (from the “silver” fillings in our teeth – or our mothers’ teeth – or from the vaccinations which we received), cadmium (from cigarettes, ours or out mothers’) or arsenic (from well water or rice). They may also include glyphosate – the major ingredient in RoundUp® found in grains, corn, soybeans, cottonseed oil – which inflames our gut and our brains. Toxins may simply be chemicals which are put into our “foods” to make them more palatable (like MSG, monosodium glutamate) or easier to store and sell. For instance, there are chemicals in our “bread” which increase the shelf life (like potassium bromate which also decreases platelet count) or bleach the flour (like azodicarbonamide which causes asthma) or improve the volume of risen bread (like DATEM, Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Esters of Monoglycerides which causes fibrosis in the heart muscle). None of these additives make the bread more nutritious, they simply make it easier to store on the shelf and to sell in the stores.

Borrelia burgdorferiBorrelia burgdorferi spirochete image courtesy of Bigstoack Photos

The organism which causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, aka Bb, is very clever – in that it appears to attack us where we are the most vulnerable. If we have history of joint disease, or excessive physical activity, or family history of arthritis, the organism will likely settle in our joints. If we have a history of anxiety or panic attacks, or family history of mental disturbance, it will likely settle in our brains and nervous systems.

One of our patients first came to us at about the age of 19 with seizures which improved with doxycycline treatment. She was a college student who was forced to drop out of school because of her illness. She received IV antibiotic therapy for over a year, together with nutritional therapy, supplements to improve her baseline nutritional status, chelation therapy to eliminate heavy metals, magnesium therapy to keep her from having any more seizures. Her comment now that she is finally healthy, is: “Never give up, never lose hope that there is a cure.” She has been off antibiotics for over a year, continues with healthy food choices, comes to the office occasionally for vitamin infusions, and has a life which she enjoys very much. She has graduated from college and is pursuing a graduate degree.

Treatment of Lyme disease, once it has taken root in the system, is a lengthy process. But there is definitely hope for a cure. It is simply a matter of cleaning up the system to the point where our own immune systems can handle foreign invaders without having to destroy us in the process. And if that means using antibiotics for a year, then so be it. Health is a priceless condition which takes effort to maintain. It is so much less expensive in the long run to be healthy than to be chronically ill. Too bad the Infectious Disease Society of America and insurance companies don’t appear to agree.


[2] Garakani A, Mitton AG. New-Onset Panic, Depression with Suicidal Thoughts, and Somatic Symptoms in a Patient with a History of Lyme Disease. Case Rep Psychiatry. 015; 2015: 457947. Lyme Disease, or Lyme Borreliosis, caused by Borrelia burgdorferi and spread by ticks, is mainly known to cause arthritis and neurological disorders but can also cause psychiatric symptoms such as depression and anxiety. We present a case of a 37-year-old man with no known psychiatric history who developed panic attacks, severe depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation, and neuromuscular complaints including back spasms, joint pain, myalgias, and neuropathic pain. These symptoms began 2 years after being successfully treated for a positive Lyme test after receiving a tick bite. During inpatient psychiatric hospitalization his psychiatric and physical symptoms did not improve with antidepressant and anxiolytic treatments. The patient's panic attacks resolved after he was discharged and then, months later, treated with long-term antibiotics for suspected “chronic Lyme Disease” (CLD) despite having negative Lyme titers. He however continued to have subsyndromal depressive symptoms and chronic physical symptoms such as fatigue, myalgias, and neuropathy. We discuss the controversy surrounding the diagnosis of CLD and concerns and considerations in the treatment of suspected CLD patients with comorbid psychiatric diagnoses.

[3] Borgermans L et al. Lyme disease: time for a new approach? BMJ 2015; 351 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.h6520

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