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Through a Naturopathic Lens: Lyme Disease

Updated: Jun 5, 2019

By Drs. Craig Fasullo & Tonya Pasternak, NDs

Summer is wonderful for so many reasons. But it has its downsides too.

In the Northeast, it's tick season, and the terrible reality of Lyme Disease should not be ignored. When it comes to Lyme prevention, proper outdoor attire and thorough tick checks are of primary importance. In cases of bite or infection, turn to the tick-borne illness specialists at Collaborative Natural Health Partners for the best comprehensive care.

Dr. Tonya Pasternak recently wrote this article describing another tool in combating Lyme, as well as other infections and illnesses. With so many options available, it's possible to individualize treatment appropriate for each patient. And if there's a question of diagnosis, do not settle for less than the most cutting edge comprehensive tick-borne illness testing available.

Wishing you a tick-free summer! If you have any concerns regarding acute or chronic symptoms, please schedule a consult with Dr. Craig Fasullo, a Naturopathic Physician skilled in the treatment of both acute and chronic disease, focused on maximizing the health and well-being of each patient. To read more about him, please check out his practitioner biography. He is available for appointments at SNHC on Tuesdays.

Immune System Response to Lyme Disease

Our bodies come in contact with harmful bacteria every day, some being more problematic than others. Typically, our immune systems ward off a majority of these microbes without our knowledge. Other times, the infection surpasses our immune system, and we’ll require treatments, such as antibiotics, to help fight it. Generally speaking, with this extra support, we can bounce back fairly quickly, even from some of the most serious conditions. However, this isn’t always the case with Lyme Disease. People can be treated with antibiotics for years on end with no resolution. So what is it about the bacteria that causes Lyme, Borrelia burgdoferi, that sets it apart from other infections?

One major distinguishing factor is the way in which our immune system responds to this infection. Borrelia has the ability to trick the immune system, thus preventing an effective killing response. The bacteria take an innately intelligent system and redirects it to create a damaging inflammatory cascade. This inflammation is largely responsible for the numerous symptoms that come along with the disease, including joint pain, cognitive decline, fatigue, and mood changes. In this way, the infection generates a response similar to that of an autoimmune condition. So, while the initial issue begins as a simple infection, it often leaves people with an unhealthy immune reaction. Understanding this can help to make sense of why people often don't get better with antibiotics alone. The veracity and uniqueness in which Borrelia attacks our bodies needs to be matched equally aggressively.

At our clinic, we often speak about needing to treat the terrain as well as the infection: meaning we need to address the environment which supports our capacity to stay well. If we do not reorganize the underlying immune system, people will continue to create an inflammatory response that perpetuates the disease. One way in which we do this is a revolutionary new treatment called Low-Dose Immunotherapy, or LDI.

Low-Dose Immunotherapy involves introducing a small amount of liquid into the body that includes an antigen and an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase. Since this treatment is used for many chronic infections, the antigen used can consist of whatever specific infection we are trying to clear, not just Lyme Disease. All of the antigens are non-active organisms and are used in extremely dilute concentrations, so there is no risk of a person becoming infected from the actual treatment. After the remedy is given, the enzyme beta-glucuronidase works by attracting the immune system to the antigen, allowing for a more effective response. Also known as desensitization, this process allows the immune system to pull out of its inflammatory cascade and redirect it towards fighting the infection. Through doing so, the infection becomes less of an autoimmune-like process, and the body is more easily able to keep it at bay.

One great thing about using LDI is in addition to being highly effective it's also very gentle on the body. It does not disrupt the good bacterial flora the way antibiotics do. People also tend to have less adverse reactions than with other Lyme treatments. LDI can be safely used with adults, children, and during pregnancy, making it a unique and viable option.

We frequently use LDI as a strong tool against Lyme Disease and additional tick-borne illness, such as those caused by Babesia and Bartonella. It can also be applied for a host of other chronic or recurrent infections, such as yeast infection, Epstien-Barr Virus (EBV), and strep. A branch of Low-Dose Immunotherapy is known as Low-Dose Allergy Therapy (LDA). LDA works similarly; however, it's used for allergies and sensitivities rather than microbial infections. This works extremely well for seasonal allergies, food allergies or intolerances, mold sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities.

The beauty of being able to use LDI and LDA treatments simultaneously is oftentimes underlying sensitivities can cause Lyme Disease to flare. If this isn’t addressed, we may never get to the driving force of the infection. For example, many people with Lyme Disease have mold sensitivities. This makes sense due to the similar hyperactive response of the immune system. Under these circumstances, if the mold sensitivity isn’t treated, the immune system will continue to be stimulated, thus flaring the response to the Lyme bacteria. In these situations, it is crucial to identify all underlying triggers and address them appropriately.

Not all Lyme disease triggers are allergen related. They can also include stress, lack of sleep, poor diet, and weather changes. Each individual is unique and needs to be treated as such. Regardless of the triggers, they are areas that should be addressed in a comprehensive plan. This typically encompasses balancing hormones, uncovering food allergies or intolerances, and helping people find hope and support in whatever areas necessary.

At our clinic, we use a host of treatments for tick-borne infections in addition to LDI and LDA. Being an integrative clinic, we're fortunate to be able to utilize many forms of medicine to create comprehensive plans for our patients. We often use bodywork, such as Osteopathic Manipulation Therapy (OMT), CranioSacral Therapy, and Acupuncture, to help with pain management and to release physical and emotional tension. IV Therapy is another option, which helps support the immune system, enhance energy, and aid in detoxification. Antimicrobial agents, such as antibiotics and herbal medicine, are used when necessary. Through this integrative approach, people suffering from Lyme Disease have a higher likelihood of regaining their health than if we solely focus on addressing the infection. The body is a whole, and treating it as such is crucial for success.

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