Welcome to another edition of the Doctor’s Note where we talk about what’s on our minds when it comes to your health.
This week we’re going to be talking about something that doctors hate to see come into their office. They cringe when people come in and say they have this disease, and that’s Lyme disease.
A lot of my new research on Lyme disease is based on a book I finished a few months ago called “Chronic” by a prominent Yale Epidemiologist, Dr. Steven Phillips and Dana Parish.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme Disease is a bacterial disease that is usually transmitted by a deer tick. It’s a bacteria.
It turns out there’s a whole family of related bacteria that can cause what Dr. Phillips calls “Lyme +”.
Lyme is a bad disease that can chronically disable you. I know many patients who have been all over the country spending lots of money on treatments, and never really improving much. This book may shed a whole new light on that.
People think of Lyme disease as being caused by a deer tick, but 90% of patients don’t even know they’ve been bitten by a tick.
The other sign is a target rash, but 90% of Lyme cases never have a lesion (looks like a red circle with a clear zone on the inside).
So think about it….90% of patients don’t have a rash, and 90% don’t know they have been bitten by a tick.
The thing is if you treat this early it’s fairly easy to treat. If you get it right at first you can get rid of it. Same thing with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever which is usually caused by the larger wood tick, and this bacteria can kill you quickly!
That’s why, through the years, anybody that tells me they’ve been bitten by a tick I immediately put them on an antibiotic called Doxycycline.
Unfortunately, most people don’t know they have Lyme for a long period of time, because it turns chronic and has all kinds of crazy symptoms. In fact, people have been labeled crazy by many doctors who don’t know much about this disease including most Rheumatologists, in my opinion.
About Autoimmune Diseases..
We treat a lot of autoimmune diseases in my offices. Diseases like Thyroiditis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Lupus, MS and even ALS.
These are diseases that mostly are treated by Rheumatologists, Neurologists and/or other specialists like that.
When we use the term autoimmune disease (even like psoriasis or eczema), is it really an autoimmune disease? Or Is it the body fighting itself? Or is your body actually fighting an infection?
Back in the old days most doctors thought that most diseases were caused by an infection.
Nowadays we have all of these autoimmune diseases and pharmaceutical companies coming up with ways to treat them. An example of this are medicines like Methotrexate or Humira for Rheumatoid Arthritis and other “autoimmune diseases”.
And don’t forget that I believe most autoimmune diseases start in the GUT. When your GUT is too permeable, infectious disease can get into your bloodstream and cause inflammation, which is the hallmark of all diseases.
Also, you have to consider infections caused by other modes of transmission like vectors (ie a tick)
I’m not downing these drugs at all because in a lot of cases they really do help the symptoms.
The problem is, when we treat most autoimmune diseases, we’re treating symptoms. We aren’t getting to the root cause of these chronic conditions.
Why Treating Lyme Disease Is So Difficult
One of the things doctors fear the most is a patient that tells them that they are suffering from chronic lyme disease.
Your heart sinks because you’re thinking to yourself there’s no way you can help this patient.
It turns out a lot of these autoimmune illnesses we’ve been able to put a label on ( Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Sjogren’s Lupus, ALS, MS) could have been caused by Lyme.
Dr. Phillips’ story is amazing in and of itself. He had Lyme disease and went for years not knowing what was wrong with him. He saw twenty IVY league Rheumatologists that couldn’t tell him what was wrong with him.
He had to figure it out for himself.
He was bed ridden for 2 years and now he is normal!
It turns out that we don’t want to see these Lyme patients come in because testing isn’t really good, and neither is treatment. And the symptoms are so varied that we may start thinking it’s all psychological.
New Learnings on How To Treat Lyme
When patients who come in with arthritis I’ll sometimes put them empirically (which means without a solid reason to do something except for the fact you think it might help) on a month of Doxycycline.
I was taught this trick years ago during my fellowship in integrative medicine. It works in a lot of cases. A lot of times they will get better. At the time I just didn’t know why.
When you’re treating Lyme, what you are really treating is an infection. That’s what this book brings to light that I hope revolutionizes the treatment of Lyme disease and cousins of Lyme Disease.
I suspect a lot of these autoimmune diseases are actually infectious diseases.
This should be a wake up call for doctors and patients!
Treating Chronic Lyme disease requires a long course of antibiotics (note: a lot of doctors use IV antibiotics) and a multitude of other treatments like Ozone that may or not work.
Dr. Phillips treated over 20,000 people including himself and he doesn’t like to use IV antibiotics.
It turns out that Lyme (he calls it Lyme +) is a family of closely related diseases.
It may not be Lyme, but it could be Bartonella, Babesia, Brucella, or even Mycoplasma and others.
Bartonella (a close cousin of Lyme) can be spread by fleas, lice, spiders, and even ants. It can be transmitted by sex and even in utero to the fetus which is very scary.
Note: the Lyme causing bacteria is called borrelia burgdorferi.
Thirty-nine percent of the Lyme family becomes chronic. That’s a lot! Why some suffer and others don’t, we don’t know. I’m sure it has something to do with the immune system.
One month of Doxycycline has a 0% cure rate once it’s been chronic. That’s not good.
Testing is 90% inaccurate.
Two Main Types of Testing
ELISA is the initial test. A more accurate test is the Western blot where you have a bunch of different bands that you count to see how many are positive. This gives you a more definitive diagnosis.
Because testing is so inaccurate, if a patient has symptoms I will just go ahead and treat.
The longer course of treatment is pulsed oral antibiotics (taking short breaks). This is a six month treatment, starting with 3 months of either Doxycycline or Tetracycline. Tetracycline is a little harder on the pancreas and liver so you’ll need to get a lab test.
It’s funny that we treat chronic rosacea (or even acne) with years of Tetracycline and Doxycycline, but a lot of doctors are hesitant to prescribe it for a chronic condition that could disable you, like Lyme.
The pulsed antibiotics are the mainstay treatment, but there are other things you can do to treat it as well.
OTC medicines like Oil of Oregano, NR (Nicotinamide Riboside), Curcumin, Low Dose Naltrexone, and sometimes CBD Oil. You can even use Fluconazole (usually a yeast remedy).
If you have other diseases like a parasite infection, Lyme can be more difficult to treat because it suppresses your immune system. Or if you are on heavy hitters like Humira or Methotrexate, they can also suppress your immune system which makes it harder to cure.
One thing you’ll find out in medicine is that doctors are hard to turn around and try something that is new. Something that breaks a barrier.
There’s a saying that goes “arrogance goes hand in hand with ignorance”. You can’t be too arrogant in medicine.
Some doctors are unwilling to open their eyes to something new, like viewing Lyme as a cause for a lot of these autoimmune diseases we’ve been treating for years.
If you or somebody you know may be suffering from Lyme or any autoimmune disease, please read this book by Dr. Phillips!
Note: This is a very very simplified explanation of Lyme Disease.