Lyme Disease

There are few medical conditions that have generated as many web pages as Lyme Disease so I will try to make my contribution as concise as I can. My comments are based on my professional experience treating patients with Lyme Disease as well as my own personal history with this ailment.  Information about all the symptoms caused by Lyme Disease (LD), the causative bacterium and the mode of transmission via deer ticks, etc.  is readily available online so I won't repeat all of that here.  It is important to keep in mind that the blood test for LD, the western blot, is problematic in that there are far too many false negative results. Namely, many patients with negative test results but with LD symptoms who are treated with antibiotics respond positively to treatment. LD is now a clinical diagnosis based on the patient's history, symptoms, where they live, whether they have pets, etc., etc. The simplest way to organize this blog entry is to go through some variations of LD presentation. First there are the straightforward cases in which the patient reports a tick bite or maybe just a red rash with fever, chills, joint aches, fatigue, etc. The standard antibiotic treatment is begun and  3 weeks later the western  blot blood test comes back positive confirming the presumptive diagnosis. The symptoms are all gone and the patient is essentially done with LD.

Another variation is that the symptoms are not relieved by the oral antibiotics so either the oral antibiotic is changed or a course of intravenous antibiotic is started. This is usually preceded by testing for other tic borne diseases such as Ehrlichiosis and Babesiosis .  After this treatment, the symptoms are gone and the patient is done with LD and/or the other possible infections.

Then there are cases where there is no response or an incomplete response. In these cases either oral or intravenous antibiotics are continued for months at a time. Some patients ultimately respond to this aggressive treatment others do not or suffer extensive side-effects from prolonged antibiotic use.

The straightforward cases are, well, straightforward. You have LD, you get treated and you are better, done. The cases in which the symptoms return after months of an apparent cure or never completely go away with standard or aggressive treatment that are of most concern. Patients in this category are said to suffer from post-treatment chronic Lyme disease or what is now known as PTLDS, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome.  Here, my personal case is relevant.

In 1999 while on vacation, I came down with a high fever, shaking chills and flu-like symptoms. For some reason, I did not take my homeopathic kit with me - a highly unusual circumstance. The next day, I noticed a bright red rash near my left arm pit and didn't want to ruin the rest of the family vacation so I called a conventional colleague. He thought it might be a spider bite and called in a prescription for an antibiotic. After 24 hours, I was only marginally better so I called him back and said that this must be Lyme disease. (I live in Fairfield County, Connecticut and had a dog).  He changed antibiotics and within 48 hours I was markedly better and our family vacation was salvaged. When I returned home, there weren't any symptoms left to treat so I didn't take any homeopathic remedies. About a year later, I began suffering from insomnia, anxiety and headaches (an old symptom previous cured by homeopathy). It wasn't too severe but nagging and I soldiered on. Then 9/11 happened as well as some reversals in my personal life which I interpreted as the cause of the worsening insomnia, headaches, fatigue and other symptoms.

One day in early 2002, I had just finished meditating and was thinking about an osteopathic colleague and mentor of mine. He was having some health issues and since he was an avid outdoorsman I wondered if he had Lyme disease. I did some online research and my mouth dropped open as I realized that I had many of the symptoms on the list: palpitations, depression, anxiety, insomnia, joint pain, chronic fatigue and easy exhaustion. Despite being a homeopathic physician, I wanted to experiment and prove that this was Lyme disease, revisited. I put myself on a double dose of an antibiotic for a total of six weeks. I didn't have to wait that long for my answer. Within less than a week, all the symptoms were gone - physical, mental and emotional. I was astounded, especially about the change in depression and anxiety. I concluded that I had post-treatment chronic Lyme disease and finished the course of antibiotics.

Nine months later, I again fell into the same state. This time, however, I was not going to rely on antibiotics so I had a consultation with a homeopathic colleague. I had one very strange symptom: I would only get palpitations when walking outdoors. I had some cardiac testing done and the skipped beats were benign but troublesome as I was having several hundred per day. My colleague's prescriptions were not helpful, so I videotaped my case and sent it to a world famous homeopath overseas. I anticipated his first prescription which helped my mood but only for 1-2 days. After taking a number of other remedies over the course of a few months, nothing was happening so I suggested to him what I thought would be a good remedy. My suggestion offended him since he replied  that if I thought I knew better, why did I need him? Why indeed!  I took what I thought was the correct remedy and within days the palpitations stopped, mood, pain, and energy improved. When the symptoms returned slightly a month later, I repeated the remedy in a higher potency. That was in 2004 and I have been steadily improving since. Two other remedies were needed over the next few years to complete the cure. I can honestly say that I am now passed that episode.

So this is what I have learned about Lyme  Disease:  1. Western Blot test is good but not perfect - too many false negatives. 2. The alternative Lyme blood test isn't any good either because there are too many false positives if the patient has ever had cold sores or genital herpes. 3. Chronic Lyme disease is real and symptoms can be many and varied including mental/emotional symptoms not usually associated with a bacterial infections.

If a patient comes with a positive Western blot and Lyme symptoms, I treat with the indicated homeopathic remedy and a 3 week course of antibiotics. If a patient lives in an area with a high rate of Lyme Disease and they have a fresh tick bite but no other symptoms, I treat with 2 days of high dose antibiotics. There are no symptoms so no remedy is given. The cases where homeopathy can be most useful are the chronic, post-treatment cases. The most important thing to do is to determine which are the symptoms that are the Lyme symptoms. These must be separated from the patient's chronic issues that existed before Lyme disease. Lyme disease represents a layer to the patient's chronic case and must be treated separately. This can be very challenging because the longer a patient has Lyme, the easier it is to drag every known symptom, past or present into the Lyme chapter of the person's life.  For patients with Lyme disease for more than 10 years (say between the ages of 50 - 60) it is even harder because as we age we can slow down a bit or have more joint pain.  Over two hundred years ago, the founder of homeopathy recognized that some patients have complex, multi-layered cases that required treating one layer for awhile before switching to another layer. Treating this way, with the indicated remedy, results in an upward spiral of increasing vitality and health.

Readers should realize that in homeopathy there is no specific remedy for any medical condition. The prescription is based on the individual patient's symptoms which are a guide to remedy selection. If the remedy is correct, the level of the patient's health improves. There is no specific for Lyme disease - it is not Ledum, it is not a remedy called "tick bite", it is not even a remedy made from the bacterium that causes Lyme disease.  During my Lyme disease chapter, I tried several herbal tinctures that were recommended by herbalist, many of which had been used by herbalists and homeopaths over 100 years ago for the treatment of syphilis. None worked, they just can't kill the bacterium and too many people have made themselves sick trying to eradicate it. Sometimes a Lyme patient will have low levels of one or more nutrients in their body and these should be corrected together with ongoing homeopathic treatment. The best overall website for information about Lyme disease is the site for the Lyme and Tick-Borne Diseases Research Center at Columbia University: http://www.columbia-lyme.org/