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Managing chronic Lyme symptoms

If you have chronic Lyme, or post-Lyme symptoms, like I do, it's up to you to raise your awareness and change your behavior if you need to. You can't depend on your doctor to tell you to start an exercise program, give up sugar, stop drinking pop, and never touch a glass a wine. You have to make those decisions yourself. Okay, some doctors may counsel you to exercise, but speaking generally, they won't bother. It's not their job. It is their job to find the pathology and fix it, not to counsel you in preventing chronic illness.

Most chronic disease (perhaps including chronic Lyme) is a result of long-term behaviors, including diet, exercise, and other lifestyle factors. This should come as no surprise. Habits may be hard to break, but if getting healthy is our goal, we do ourselves a disservice when we don't recognize the problems caused by our own repeated behavior. Complementary and Alternative medical practitioners, such as nutritionists, acupuncturists and nurse practitioners are generally aware of this. Many perhaps most, Western doctors are not.

My own experience has taught me this. Eating sugary food or drinking alcohol is one example. I've been living with so-called chronic Lyme for 6 years now. When I make the choice to eat those cookies, knock back that beer, stress out from overworking, or skip the gym for days on end, my body reacts. I can ignore the obvious cause and effect. I can attribute the flare-ups and Lyme-brain to the capricious Borrelia infection, or I can take responsibility for giving the infection an advantage. I can choose to recognize my own culpability, and next time the cookies are passed around or my friend wants to pour me a glass of wine, I can simply say no thanks. What may have begun with a Borrelia infection from a tick bite can be exacerbated by habitual behaviors that continue unchecked for years or even many decades. Nothing about chronic Lyme is simple. There is even controversy over calling it 'chronic Lyme.' But one thing seems clear. Medicine alone cannot cure a person suffering with long-term Lyme symptoms. We need to approach healing from multiple levels.

Success stories are published here for many reasons. We need the inspiration, the 'atta girl/boy' pat on the back, for one thing. For another, we want a recipe. 'How did that person do it? What protocol did she or he follow? If they can do it, maybe there is hope for me.'

Managing chronic Lyme disease is dicey, no question about it. But there are many ways to prevent the problems we know are lurking, by making intelligent choices and stopping behavior known to increase the problems. One way to begin raising your awareness around habits that may be hurting you is to see what the Lyme experts say about it. If you think for one minute that drinking alcohol is okay when you have a Lyme infection, just check out what Dr. Burrascano has to say about it.

Dr. Burrascano's bullet list for chronic Lyme:

CHRONIC LYME- Treatment Issues
• In chronic Lyme Disease, active infection may persist despite prior antibiotic therapy
• Relapses do occur and retreatment is often needed
• Repeated or prolonged antibiotic therapy usually is necessary
• High doses of antibiotics are needed, and blood levels should be confirmed wherever possible
• Antibiotic combinations usually are necessary
• Check for co-infections and immune status, and treat appropriately
• May need to rotate through different regimens based on response
• If the CD-57 count is not normal at the end of treatment, then continued illness or a relapse is likely
• May not cure the infection, and may need repeated or open-ended maintenance therapy
• Signs of persistence of infection:
– continued fevers, synovitis
– four week cycles, migrating symptoms
– PCR positivity and low CD-57 counts
• As symptoms wind down, I DO NOT cut the dose, for resistance may develop
• Aggressive supportive therapy is required- and search for any other possible cause of a weakened host:
– Toxin exposure, heavy metal poisoning, malnutrition, endocrine dysfunction, other illnesses, severe or ongoing stress
• Progressively increase exercise program as the symptoms of Lyme decrease
– Exercise is vital and required, or a full recovery will not occur
– Not exercising will increase risk of a relapse

* This post was modified by the editor on 11.24.10.


Have Lyme? Have patience.

Treating for post-Lyme or chronic Lyme infection may be highly controversial in the medical industry, but down here in real life it seems quite clear-cut: You have Lyme. You go to a doctor who treats your Lyme infection. You get better. After a time, you stop taking the antibiotics. You go back to work, to caring for your kids, to everyday life. You may or may not change your diet, your lifestyle, your stress levels. And then sometimes, not always, but sometimes years after the fact, the Lyme infection returns. Is further treatment necessary? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Sometimes the flare-ups continue and increase in intensity, driving you back to the doctor. Chronic or not, the label is not the essential thing. Treating the flare-up, or the return of the symptoms, is.

My mother raised five rambunctious kids. She tells me she often prayed for guidance. Her favorite prayer was: God, grant me patience, and give it to me RIGHT NOW! Patience is certainly a virtue in healing chronic or post-Lyme disease. But cognitively knowing it and embodying patience in everyday life are two different things.

Here in the mountains of NC, we've just received our first snow. Although I welcome the changing seasons, I find myself getting a tad anxious about the coming winter. It's hard to be patient when you have no control. And of course, who has control over the weather? Last winter was no picnic for people with Lyme. The cold weather poses many more challenges to people who struggle to keep their body temperature at an even keel. Plus, skin conditions that are common with Lyme and co-infections are exacerbated by winter weather, little sun exposure, and snug clothing.

Seeking personal inspiration and practical advice about treating Lyme, I looked back through our posts and conversations with healthy post-Lyme survivors. How do these people remain strong? Are they just made of different stuff? Do they worry, like I do, about tiny signs of Lyme's return, a sore that won't go away, a persistent itchiness. The occasional Lymie surge of dizziness that fades almost as quickly as it comes on.

Then I found Darryl Crews' advice about treating Lyme disease, which I want to share with you. I so appreciate his level-headed approach to treatment. Also, not surprised to see 'patience' right there at the top of the list:

1.  PATIENCE, DETERMINATION, WILL POWER, DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE: Your chances of recovery are good if you happen to possess these qualities.

2.  MEDICATION: Treat all known infections thoroughly with specific antibiotics. Treat aggressively until infection load is reduced to a point where the immune system can take over. Consider IV if you have neuro symptoms or fail to respond to orals. Learn to embrace herxes and avoid under treating at all costs.

3.  DETOX: Address die-off daily to decrease toxins and reduce herx intensity. Consider using supps/herbs, sauna, Epsom salt baths, coffee enema, colonics, etc.

4.  SLEEP: There's no such thing as too much. Quality deep sleep is a vital part of healing. Lyme causes fractured sleep. Auto CPAP is my all-natural sleep-aid of choice.
5.  SUPPLEMENTS/HERBS: Daily support is required to assist the body with balancing nutrients, detoxifying and boosting your immune system.
6.  EXERCISE: Thick blood harbors infections and toxins. Daily exercise will keep the blood flowing. Keep it basic for 10-15 mins twice a day (calisthenics, walk, cycling, swim, stair climbs or yoga.)

I especially like #4. My treatment routine includes meditation and deep breathing at night and again in the morning. Sleep is indeed essential, and these little habits help create the space for a good night's sleep.

I've come to accept that my approach to treating Lyme is unique, and if it's working, it's the right thing to do. But those dark clouds outside the window, that nippy breeze lifting leaves off the trees. What Lyme treatment approach can fend off cold weather? I'm still treating with teasel tincture and hoping it will help keep my body warm, as it has been doing for several months now. And come to think of it, it's lunchtime. A nice pot of carrot-ginger soup sounds perfect. Ginger is a warming food.

What is your attitude about winter? How do you stay warm enough and protect your skin? Lyme treatment, especially treating for chronic Lyme disease, is different for for everyone, but there is so much we can learn from each other.