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The Great Imitator: The Facts About Lyme Disease

by John Sherman, N.D.

Confusion remains large surrounding one of the most misunderstood and under-diagnosed diseases of our time: Lyme disease. Doctors and historians can't even agree on when it first started, whether it was in the late 1970s in Lyme, Connecticut as most people think, or in the early 1880s, when a German doctor, Alfred Buchwald discovered a degenerative skin disease that mimics what we now know as Lyme.

Much of the confusion can be attributed to the fact that up to 60% of those infected with the deer tick-borne bacteria (Borrellia burgdorferi)(Bb) actually show negative on the most widely used blood test (Western blot test). This creates a lot of discrepancy around just how widespread Lyme disease is. To make it more confusing, doctors just don't have it on their radar even when they see the classic symptom: the target (or bull's eye) rash, which appears anytime from a few days to a few weeks after an infected tick bite. Many patients go undiagnosed after they come back from camping, seeming to have vague symptoms, often mistaken for Giardia (an intestinal parasite acquired from contaminated water) or just an upset stomach from eating camp food. The danger lies in the fact that if the infection from the tick is not treated within the first cou-ple of days, it becomes much more complicated and symptoms can remain chronic for a very long time. To make matters worse, the testing results may not come back to the doctor's office for a week or two.

Adding to the confusion around its diagnosis, Lyme disease symptoms can present like many other disorders. Often called "the great imitator", Lyme can mimic a large number of other conditions, including Parkinson's disease, ALS, depression, chronic fatigue, arthritis, fibromyalgia, Candida, Epstein-Barr, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, Bell's palsy, neuritis, angina and irregular heart rhythm, auto-immune disorders, sudden infant death syndrome, ADHD, and many chronic pain conditions. A person may have another disease picture for many years while the Lyme goes undetected.

Bb is able to burrow into tendons, muscle fibers, ligaments, and even into solid organs. Dr. Lida Mattman, biology professor and author of Cell Wall Deficient Forms: Stealth Pathogens, has recovered Bb from 8 out of 8 Parkinson's patients and all the patients with Alzheimer's disease. Only 1 out of 23 chron-ically ill patients tested negative to Bb. Through years of research, Dr. Mattman has concluded, "I'm convinced Lyme Disease is transmissible from person to person." Dr. Mattman has found Bb in human tears which could subsequently spread through touching. Many families have been documented where nearly every family member is infected. Studies at the University of Vienna have found Bb in urine and breast milk of mothers with Lyme disease. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has determined that Bb can survive blood processing techniques at blood banks, possibly contaminating transfusions all over the U.S.

The severity of Lyme disease and how sick a person becomes is related to the levels of Bb in their system, the health of their immune system, detoxification abilities, and their stress levels. Also, as we age, our immune systems accumulate toxicity, and allow various organisms to which we've been exposed to merge with our own DNA, causing a wide variety of symptoms and chronic illness. One theory is that as the greenhouse effect has more and more of a stimulatory effect on the growth of micro-organisms, the more we will be continually confronted with threatening microbes. The reality is these variable and ever adapting microbes have always been with us. The microbes are not necessarily the enemy, it is we who have altered the earth's environment, as well as our own internal environment, which has facilitated the growth of many of these 'stealth pathogens'.

How to test for Lyme:

Lyme disease is thought to be the fastest growing infectious disease in the world. The CDC (Center for Disease Control) seems very complacent regarding the incidence, estimating only 20,000 new cases annually in the US, whereas an independent, Harvard Medical School study showed a more likely number close to 200,000, with as many as one in 15 Americans currently infected. Most clinicians agree that the first step in dealing with acute or chronic Lyme disease is getting an accurate indication of whether Bb is present, through reliable lab testing.

The doctors at Options Naturopathic Clinic recommend blood and urine tests that have been shown to have 95% specificity, and 90% sensitivity. When the appropriate tests are done, we can expect less than a 10% false negative rate, and the Bb DNA can be correctly identified in 95% of specimens that are submitted. We believe it is also important to screen for co-infections that commonly occur in Lyme disease.

Therapeutic Suggestions:

For doctors and patients both, the obstacles to total recovery from Lyme disease are great. Even when the standard antibiotic treatment recommended by the Center for Disease Control is given, up to 35% still have symptoms or relapse months afterward. A factor contributing to making Bb so dangerous is that it can survive and spread without having a cell wall. Many antibiotics kill bacteria by breaking down the cell wall, and these often prove ineffective against Bb. Furthermore, there is the argument that chronic antibiotic use may also directly degenerate the immune function and overall health of an individual.

Just as in most illnesses, basic naturopathic principles are extremely important in ridding oneself of Lyme. These include good diet, proper sleep and exercise, and good personal hygiene. Most practitioners tend to treat the infection alone, rather than addressing the co-infections and cellular damage that has occurred due to the infection. Any effective program should include a toxin elimination protocol, deep tissue cleansing, and cellular drainage techniques which can rejuvenate the tissues, making it uninhabitable to unhealthy organisms.

In conclusion, we at Options Naturopathic Clinic are committed to quick resolution of Lyme disease using natural methods, avoiding the chronic problems that so many Lyme sufferers endure. Because Lyme exhibits such diverse symptoms, and many lab tests are highly inaccurate, misdiagnosis is common. When anyone is confronted with any chronic disease, it is worthwhile to at least screen for Lyme to make sure that it is not a critical part of the underlying cause. Patients who remain unaware of an underlying Lyme bacterial infection, have much less of a chance at successful treatment.