After a tick bite in Northern California in 1996, I became mysteriously ill in early 1997 with a myriad of symptoms including full-body burning sensations, flu-like symptoms, cognitive issues, difficulty walking, balance issues, visual disturbances, gastrointestinal distress, muscle and joint pain, numbness and tingling, crawling sensations, air hunger, light sensitivity, anxiety, depression, OCD, and more.
Over the next eight years, I had seen 45 doctors and specialists of all kinds and still had no explanation for my failing health. In 2005, an MD referred me to an acupuncturist doing electrodermal screening (EAV/EDS) to explore food sensitivities. It was only then that I was told to have my doctor run tests for Borrelia, Bartonella, Babesia, and Ehrlichia. Fortunately, the doctor was able to confirm that these were in fact issues, and I was diagnosed with Lyme disease in July 2005.
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My initial approach to recovery was to first "kill the bugs," then detoxify, and finally consider mental and emotional factors that may have contributed to what I was experiencing. After having studied the work ofDietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, and the "Klinghardt Axiom," my understanding of the priorities for regaining wellness was turned on its head. Today, my belief is that exploring mental and emotional health is a top priority, followed by detoxification, and lastly supporting the body against microbial overgrowths. Nonetheless, all three of these must be explored and addressed simultaneously in order to make lasting progress. This axiom was one of the concepts that led me to consider broader models of healing early on.
In the realm of Lyme disease treatment, it is easy to fall into the belief that health would be restored if only the bugs could somehow be eradicated. The focus often entirely becomes eliminating the organisms involved in Lyme disease and its coinfections, particularly Borrelia, Bartonella, and Babesia. While these, no doubt, play a role in the struggles of those dealing with Lyme disease, they represent only a portion of the many factors that must be explored to regain optimal health. In my personal experience and that of many others, I have engaged with over the years, casting a broad net is often the best way to maximize Lyme disease recovery.
Casting a broad net may include the following:
- Reducing the impact of negative thought patterns and past emotional traumas and conflicts,
- Eliminating environmental mold and biotoxin exposures,
- Optimizing nutrition and improving GI health,
- Stabilizing mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS),
- Detoxifying the body and improving the terrain,
- Reducing exposure to EMR/EMFs,
- Supporting kryptopyrroluria (KPU),
- Addressing parasites,
- Supporting the body against other microbial overgrowths,
- Identifying dental contributors to chronic illness, and
- Rewiring limbic system impairment.
Reducing the Impact of Negative Thought Patterns and Past Emotional Traumas and Conflicts
Based on my personal experience and observation of people with Lyme disease over many years, there seems to be a common pattern where many are Type A (or Type A+) personalities, often perfectionists, and often not feeling deserving of or worthy of wellness. Very little with Lyme disease is black and white; and while this may not apply to everyone, it does seem to represent a pattern which may have been a contributor to setting the stage for health challenges in the first place.
Emotional traumas and conflicts do not necessarily have to be personally experienced; they may be inherited from our ancestors or even past lives (if one believes in this possibility). Further, if emotional contributors did not play a role prior to illness, the process of going through something as invalidating as one's Lyme experience often can itself create a PTSD-like condition, which could then benefit from work in this realm.
Family constellation therapy, applied psycho-neurobiology (APN), eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR), BodyTalk, the Emotion Code, EFT, and related techniques may be very helpful in exploring this realm.
I highly recommend the book How to Heal Yourself When No One Else Can: A Total Self-Healing Approach for Mind, Body, and Spirit by Amy B. Scher.
Eliminating Environmental Mold and Biotoxin Exposures
Looking back on my recovery journey, I recognize the significant role that living in a moldy home played in my downward spiral and inability to regain balance for many years. If someone has "Lyme disease," I cannot stress enough the importance of ensuring that your environment is supportive of healing. From my perspective, it is nearly impossible to regain health from a chronic condition if one is surrounded by their kryptonite on a daily basis.
While it may be true that only about 25% of the population are genetically predisposed to biotoxin illness resulting from exposure to water-damaged buildings, in the chronically ill population, this number is much higher. It is uncommon to find someone that is struggling with Lyme or a similar condition that is not predisposed to some form of biotoxin illness.
The environment around us is not separate from us, and we must optimize our environment in order to optimize our health. One of the most important explorations in this realm is mold and related environmental exposures from water-damaged buildings. This may include the home, work, school, church, or even one's car.
While very few tests are perfect, the Mycometrics ERMI is a tool I have benefited from and recommend. It is a test performed on a dust sample taken from the environment which then identifies and quantifies various molds and provides an ERMI score. In genetically-susceptible individuals, the ERMI score should be < 2 (in some cases even lower). An ERMI result can be used to calculate a HERTSMI-2 score (or the more limited HERTSMI-2 test can be ordered rather than the ERMI; some practitioners use this as an initial screening tool though I personally prefer the full ERMI for initial testing purposes), which can provide additional insights as to the potential for a chronic inflammatory condition with exposure to a given environment. In some cases, an indoor environmental professional (IEP) may be the only way to identify an environmental problem.
Once identified, necessary action may include remediation or moving to a new environment. In many cases, if the problem is not severe, remediation may be the best way to address the exposure. Incorporating air filtration devices such as IQAir, Air Oasis, IntelliPure, and others may be helpful; however, these should not be viewed as entire solutions to the problem alone – the source of the problem must be addressed.
When mold exposure has been ruled out or addressed, a significant roadblock to recovery has been removed. I cannot stress enough how important this area is to explore as it can be one of the most significant impedances to overall progress. Don't miss this important issue; it may save you years of struggle in your recovery from Lyme disease.
Optimizing Nutrition and Improving GI Health
The majority of the immune system originates in the gut. Thus, optimizing GI health can have far-reaching effects within the body.
There are many different diets that have been found helpful. However, these are highly individualized and may be best identified by a nutritionist for one's unique needs. These may include Paleo, Autoimmune Paleo (AIP), Ketogenic, GAPS, SCD, low FODMAP, low histamine, and many others.
The first step is to remove any foods that are stressful to the body. For many, a good starting point is to eliminate gluten, cow dairy, and sugar. Food sensitivity testing can be performed by a doctor. Foods that are stressful to the system should also be avoided.
The next step is to incorporate nutritionally-dense, real foods in the diet. This may include the following:
- Incorporating as much organic food as possible;
- Eliminating GMO foods and restricting processed foods;
- Consuming organic grass-fed meats, organic pasture-raised poultry, or wild-caught seafood;
- Adding healthy fats such as butter, ghee, chia seeds, coconut oil, olive and other healthful oils; and
- Introducing bone broth and fermented foods (only if tolerated).
I am personally a big fan of a daily "Power Shake," which includes high-quality protein, collagen powder, a fiber blend, phospholipids, healthy fats, chia seeds, and an organic nut milk.
In terms of supporting the health of the GI tract and minimizing intestinal hyperpermeability (leaky gut), one may benefit from exploring MegaSporeBiotic or RESTORE for Gut Health.
In many cases, it may be important to consider and address dysbiosis, including SIBO/SIFO, to improve overall GI health.
Stabilizing Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS)
Mast cell activation syndrome and overproduction of histamine and other mediators has emerged in the realm of Lyme disease most notably very recently. Mast cells are part of the immune system that are intended to protect us, but they can become activated by triggers that lead to an over-activation and release of histamine and other substances resulting in increased inflammation throughout the body.
Symptoms may include rashes, hives, flushing, itching, nausea, diarrhea, low blood pressure, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, headaches, brain fog, anxiety, fatigue, weight loss, weakness, dizziness, osteoporosis, and many others.
A primary trigger for mast cell activation is mold exposure, but there are many other triggers such as parasites, Lyme disease, environmental toxins, medications, foods, supplements, temperature changes, physical and/or emotional stress, EMFs, and more.
Consideration should be given to mast cell activation and histamine overproduction early in the treatment process in order to reduce inflammation, and thus symptoms, but also to allow other treatment options to be easier to tolerate. Treating MCAS often leads to notable shifts in how people feel – while simultaneously working to remove or minimize the underlying triggers in support of longer-term improvement.
When MCAS is an issue, a low histamine diet may be helpful. While a low histamine diet is not easy, notable shifts in overall symptoms may be observed. There are many low histamine food lists online; and while they don't all agree on what is or is not allowed, incorporating a low histamine diet may be a very helpful step. It is worth noting that fermented foods are one of the key items to remove when mast cell activation plays a role.
Treatment options may consist of Ketotifen, Cromolyn, DAO (Diamine Oxidase), Algonot NeuroProtek, Seeking Health HistaminX, Seeking Health Probiota HistaminX, Integrative Therapeutics AllQlear, quercetin, vitamin C, and various other mast cell stabilizers or histamine reducers.
Detoxifying the Body and Improving the Terrain
Detoxification is one of the keys to recovering from a condition such as Lyme disease. Microbes thrive in a toxic terrain with a dysregulated immune system. Cleaning up the inner terrain makes one a less-hospitable host. Further, various microbes such as Candida and parasites may actually be present in the body, in part, to serve us in that they hold or concentrate heavy metals in order to protect us from their deleterious effects.
Detoxification should first and foremost consider toxin avoidance. If one does not encounter toxins in the environment, there is far less of a burden that must then be detoxified. This includes toxins in our food, water, air, personal care products, cleaning supplies, cookware, and almost anything that we come in contact with.
Heavy metals, pesticides, chemicals, and mycotoxins are key considerations in a comprehensive detoxification strategy. One must also consider that there are toxins produced by the microbes within us and by our own metabolic processes.
A well-planned foundation for detoxification generally includes binders, drainage remedies and organ support, and trace minerals. Once the foundation is in place, individualized strategies may be needed to support detoxification of specific toxins such as aluminum, glyphosate, or other common environmental toxins.
Binders may include Supreme Nutrition Takesumi Supreme, BioPure ZeoBind, CellCore Biosciences Biotoxin Binder or HM-ET Binder, Beyond Balance TOX-EASE BIND, Bio-Botanical Research GI Detox, QuickSilver Scientific Ultra Binder, chlorella, and others.
Drainage remedies and organ support products are available from PEKANA, Energetix, Physica Energetics, DesBio, BioRay, Viatrexx, and others.
Additional tools which may be helpful in supporting detoxification may include colonics, coffee enemas, castor oil packs, infrared sauna, ionic footbaths, oil pulling, and more.
Detoxification is a primary strategy for regaining wellness long-term.
Reducing Exposure to EMR/EMFs
In my personal journey, I became aware of the impact of exposure to electromagnetic fields through Dr. Klinghardt's work. Based on his recommendations, I have slept in a Faraday cage using silver-lined cloth since 2006. At the time, his position was not taken seriously by many; but today, there is more consensus as to how harmful living in a soup of invisible electromagnetic fields can really be.
While it is not possible to avoid EMFs entirely, the focus should be on reducing exposure while sleeping as this is when the body is regenerating and repairing. During the day, avoiding obvious exposures is a logical step, but not always practical.
I personally eliminated all cordless phones, limit my cell phone use to speakerphone or texting and utilize a protective case (SafeSleeve, Pong, or DefenderShield), turn off my Wi-Fi automatically during the day when I work at my desk or during the night and use hard-wired devices when possible, and implemented Stetzer filters in my office to reduce dirty electricity.
For my sleeping environment, I use the silver-lined cloth, have nothing plugged into the wall in my bedroom, and don't have any technology in my sleep location. For years, I went as far as to turn off the circuit breaker to the bedroom entirely each night when I was recovering from Lyme.
While various meters are readily available, it takes several different meters to measure all of the potential stressors in this realm. I ultimately hired a building biologist to evaluate my home and make recommendations for reducing exposures, and I recommend others do this as well.
EMF sensitivity is correlated to the level of heavy metal toxicity in the body, and thus, a focus on detoxification and removal of heavy metals may reduce symptoms of electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS). Dr. Klinghardt has suggested that propolis and rosemary taken orally may help support the body against the harmful effects of EMFs, but this does not replace the need for focused exposure reduction.
Creating a healthier environment in which we exist on a daily basis creates a healthier body and a healthier person. With many modern-day illnesses being viewed as environmental illnesses, recovery without an environmental focus may remain elusive.
Supporting Kryptopyrroluria (KPU)
KPU may be an inherited condition, but it can also be induced by psychological trauma or chronic infections. Epigenetic influences such as intrauterine, birth, childhood, or transgenerational trauma may trigger KPU; other triggers may include a car accident, divorce or emotional trauma, and physical or sexual abuse. Chronic infections, such as Lyme disease, may themselves serve as a trigger for the condition. Common symptoms include white spots on the nails, poor dream recall, and depression.
The KPU condition results in a significant loss of zinc, vitamin B6, biotin, manganese, arachidonic acid, and other nutrients from the body.
Dr. Klinghardt has found a high correlation between patients with chronic Lyme disease and those with KPU; four of five patients with chronic or persistent Lyme disease test highly positive for this condition. That suggests that 80% or more of patients with symptoms of chronic Lyme disease may benefit from a treatment protocol that addresses KPU. KPU may lead, in part, to a higher burden of heavy metal toxicity. Addressing KPU may lead to stabilization of mast cells and lowered responses to relative rises in histamine.
Testing is available from DHA Labs, Health Diagnostics and Research Institute, and Great Plains Laboratory.
Treatment is to supplement zinc, vitamin B6 (or P5P), biotin, manganese, arachidonic acid, and other co-factors. BioPure CORE and CORE-S are products particularly formulated by Dr. Klinghardt and are options I have personally used in my own recovery from Lyme disease for over a decade.
It is no longer the case that foreign travel is a pre-requisite for acquiring parasitic infestation. In one urban area, every salad bar tested was positive for parasite eggs and protozoa. Sushi is another common source of living parasites.
Two of the leaders in this realm are Simon Yu, MD, and Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD. Both aggressively treat parasites in their patients when necessary and have found that this is best done very early in the treatment of microbial contributors to "dis-ease."
Sadly, this topic is widely ignored, as finding evidence of parasites in most available laboratory testing is difficult at best. Often, various forms of energetic testing may be the only way to get some insight into the potential for parasites, or a practitioner may need to empirically treat and monitor patient response.
Laboratory testing may include Diagnos-Techs Expanded GI Health Panel, GI MAP (Microbial Assay Plus), BioHealth GI Screen, Genova Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis, and Doctor's Data Comprehensive Stool Analysis with Parasitology. ParaWellness Research offers microscopic evaluations of both stool and urine to identify parasites.
Energetic testing may include Autonomic Response Testing (ART) or device-based testing such as with ZYTO, ASYRA/QEST4, Kindling, MORA, Acupuncture Meridian Assessment (AMA), and others.
Treatment of parasites may be approached with pharmaceutical and natural options. Pharmaceutical protocols are often based on the work of Simon Yu, MD, and may include medications such as ivermectin, nitazoxanide, praziquantel, albendazole, pyrantel pamoate, and others.
Natural options may include Beyond Balance MC-PZ, PARAZOMIN, or PARALLEVIARE; Supreme Nutrition Mimosa Supreme or BioPure Mimosa Pudica; BioPure NEXUS Suppositories; Byron White Formulas A-P; Jernigan Paragen; CellCore Biosciences Para 1; Energetix Core Para-V; and others. Incorporating a frequency-based homeopathic option such as Pekana HELMIN, Viatrexx Amoebas or Parasites, Energetix Para-Chord, or DesBio Amoeba or VER may also be very helpful.
It is important to remember that killing parasites in the body can result in a release of heavy metals, and thus, detoxification support is critical. While detoxification support should be an ongoing part of any Lyme recovery protocol, it is particularly important when addressing parasites.
Supporting the Body Against Other Microbial Overgrowths
While battling with microbes is likely not the ideal focus of a treatment protocol, it does need to be given consideration and appropriate supportive measures incorporated. While there may be a place for antibiotics, many do quite well with natural protocols; and many very effective natural options have emerged in the realm of Lyme disease since my initial diagnosis over ten years ago.
In many cases, the Lyme co-infections Bartonella and Babesia may be more symptom-producing and require more focus than Borrelia itself.
It is important to consider that symptoms resulting from these Lyme-related pathogens may not be entirely from the microbes, but they may instead be the result of the interplay between the immune system of the host and the microbe, resulting in high levels of inflammation and thus symptoms. Modulating the immune response and creating tolerance or integration of the host with its microbiome is a key strategy. This may be approached with tools such as low-dose immunotherapy, low-dose naltrexone, and homeopathy.
Some options to explore in the realm of natural treatments for Lyme and co-infections may include Beyond Balance, BioPure, Byron White Formulas, Maypa Herbals, NutraMedix, Researched Nutritionals, Supreme Nutrition, Vital Plan, and others.
It is important to consider that many with chronic Lyme may also need to explore chronic viruses, fungal overgrowths, and bacteria such as Rickettsia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Mycoplasma, Chlamydia pneumoniae, and others.
Identifying Dental Contributors to Chronic Illness
Dental issues can be a major player and possibly even a factor in setting the stage for illness in the first place. In my personal journey, I had my wisdom teeth removed as a teenager, had a dry-socket, and years later needed to address two cavitations as part of my journey through Lyme disease.
Amalgams may contribute to our body burden of mercury and other heavy metals. While these would ideally be removed (by a biological dentist skilled in safe removal), timing of dental procedures should be discussed with one's doctor as to when any interventions may be most appropriate and tolerated by the body.
Root canals may have far-reaching implications within the body as a dead tooth left in the mouth may impact the organs and meridians associated with the tooth and be an ongoing source of infection within the body.
Cavitations are infections in the jaw-bone often in areas of prior tooth extraction, but these can occur elsewhere. Those with Lyme-related co-infections may be at higher risk for dental cavitations, and these may require surgical interventions to remove the stressor from the body. Dr. Klinghardt has suggested that cavitations are an issue in nearly all of his patients with chronic Lyme disease.
The tonsils are another area that may warrant exploration in some cases; particularly in those with a history of strep or in those with a PANDAS-like condition.
While significant dental issues will require a biological dentist or oral surgeon to address, self-care for optimizing general oral health may include Supreme Nutrition Oral Defense, Bio-Botanical Research DentalCidin and Biocidin LSF, essential oils, and oil pulling.
Rewiring Limbic System Impairment
The limbic system includes the hypothalamus, hippocampus, amygdala, and cingulate cortex. It is the "feeling and reacting brain" and is involved in determining our level of safety in terms of those things one may smell, see, hear, taste, and feel. The limbic system is thought of as the body's "alarm center" or "anxiety switch." The limbic system impacts the functioning of the immune system, endocrine system, and the autonomic nervous system (which controls blood pressure, heart rate, breathing, digestion, and more).
Many different triggers can lead to limbic system impairment. These may include exposure to mold in a water-damaged building, chemical or pesticide exposure, bacteria, viruses, other microbial overgrowths, physical, mental, or emotional trauma, and more.
At one time, the limbic system's efforts to protect the body from a significant stressor may have been perfectly appropriate. However, later, it may react with the same vigilance to a stimulus that is no longer an actual threat. The body may at one point react appropriately to a tiger, and later, may react in the same stressful manner to a cute kitten outside the window. This inappropriate response may continue to negatively impact the immune, endocrine, and autonomic nervous systems and lead to the body continuing to express a wide array of symptoms.
Programs such as DNRS (Dynamic Neural Retraining System; https://retrainingthebrain.com), created by Annie Hopper, incorporate numerous components to "rewire" or "reboot" the limbic system such that it no longer has a stress response to nonthreatening stimuli. For many, this work has been profound.
While there are certainly additional considerations in recovering from Lyme disease not covered in this article, the key takeaway is to cast the broadest net possible to ensure that key contributors to illness are considered and addressed. Every time a burden is identified and lifted, the body is better able to regain balance and do what it was designed to do – not to only survive, but to thrive! Here's to your health!
Nothing in this article is intended to serve as medical advice. Lyme disease is a complex condition which requires medical guidance and should not be approached from a self-treatment perspective. Always consult with your medical authority before making any changes to your health optimization protocol.
Scott Forsgren, FDN-P, is a health coach, blogger, podcaster, health writer, and advocate. He is the editor and founder of BetterHealthGuy.com, where he shares his 21-year journey through the world of Lyme disease, mold illness, and the myriad of factors that chronic illness often entails.
His podcast "BetterHealthGuy Blogcast" interviews many of the leaders in the field and is available on his web site, YouTube, iTunes, Google Play, Stitcher, and Spotify. He has been interviewed on numerous podcasts and has lectured on his recovery from chronic illness as an invited speaker of the Klinghardt Academy, at AutismOne, and on three Chronic Lyme Disease Summits. He has written for the Townsend Letter and other publications.
He is the co-founder of The Forum for Integrative Medicine, which hosts an annual conference bringing together some of the top integrative practitioners to share practical tools for treating complex, chronic illness.
He serves on the Board of Directors of LymeLight Foundation which provides treatment grants to children and young adults dealing with Lyme disease.
Today, Scott is grateful for his current state of health and all that he has learned on this life-changing journey.