Lyme disease - Integrative Treatment Approach Part One

Lyme disease, or Lyme Borreliosis, is caused by a species of bacteria called Borrelia. It is transmitted to humans by ticks. Some ticks carry Borrelia, and when they attach and suck blood, they can regurgitate the bacteria into their host. The most common strain is Borrelia burgdorferi. This is the cause of most cases of Lyme disease in America. In Europe, the main strains are B. garinii and B. afzelii.

 

What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Borrelia bacteria are slow growing. Symptoms may take days or months to appear. In some cases, the disease may lie dormant for years, and surface after a stressful event such as illness, surgery, or physical or emotional trauma. One of the earliest and most defining signs of Lyme disease is a rash that spreads out from the site of the tick bite. The rash resembles a bulls-eye. At this early stage you may feel like you have the flu- fatigue, fever, headaches, muscle and joint aches and pains, and swollen lymph nodes are common.

The later stages of Lyme disease can take months or years to develop, and can cause problems in the joints, heart, and nervous system, and may affect mood and cognition.

 

Lyme disease in Australia, why the controversy?

The question of whether Australian ticks carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease is controversial. The Australian government denies that Australian ticks carry the Borrelia bacteria, and suggests that people with Lyme disease must have contracted it while overseas. However, switched-on health practitioners are finding that not all patients with Lyme disease have been outside of Australia.

So why is there so much disagreement on Lyme disease in Australia? In 1994 a study by Russell and Doggett set out to answer the question of whether Australian ticks carry Borrelia bacteria. They collected 12 000 common Australian ticks and did not isolate any Borrelia DNA, concluding that Australian ticks do not carry the bacteria that causes Lyme disease. However, there were a number of issues in this study. Of the 12 000 ticks, only 1038 were actually tested for Borrelia. Russell and Doggett also worked on the assumption that only the burgdorferi strain of Borrelia causes Lyme disease, yet European studies have found that B.garinii and B.afzelii can also cause Borreliosis.

In 1959 Mackerras isolated Borrelia from Australian kangaroos, wallabies and bandicoots. Russell and Doggett did not mention this study in their own work. In 1962 Carley and Pope discovered an Australian strain of Borrelia, called Borrelia Queenslandica. Again, Russell and Doggett made no mention of this in their study. In 1995 Barry, Wills and Hudson isolated and grew Borrelia bacteria from Australian ticks. They also tested people with symptoms of Lyme disease, and 20% were positive for B.garinii, B.afzelii or B.burgdorferi.

Given that three out of four studies isolated Borrelia species from Australian fauna, a review of the government position on Lyme disease in Australia would be wise. We need more research to fully understand Lyme disease in Australia, and more public awareness of Lyme disease, to ensure people receive the correct diagnosis and best treatment.

 

Why is Lyme disease so difficult to diagnose?

Aside from the clear roadblocks that the controversy of Lyme disease in Australia causes for diagnosis, a number of other issues make diagnosis difficult. Firstly, less than 30% of patients with Lyme disease can recall getting a tick bite. Secondly, the bulls-eye rash that is a defining feature of Lyme disease occurs in less than 30% of cases.

And the list of reasons goes on: Borrelia can live inside cells and inside the central nervous system, and so may not come up in blood tests, especially in chronic cases. The tests currently used are very poor at detecting Borrelia, and results may come back falsely negative. None of the tests, either in Australia or overseas, test for strains of Borrelia specific to Australia, like Borrelia Queenslandica.

Because Lyme is difficult to diagnose, and awareness of Lyme disease in Australia is poor, patients are being misdiagnosed. People with Lyme disease have been misdiagnosed with fibromyalgia, motor neurone disease, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

The complexities of Lyme disease

Lyme disease is not your average bacterial infection. Ticks often carry other organisms, including Babesia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, and Bartonella. These can be transmitted to humans at the same time as the Borrelia bacteria, causing co-infection. It is incredibly important to test and treat these co-infections as well. Animal and human studies show that these co-infections can cause more severe and treatment-resistant Lyme disease.

Borrelia is also capable of creating a biofilm. A biofilm is a slippery, glue-like coating that some bacteria create to act as a protective shield. The plaque on your teeth is a type of biofilm produced by Treponema denticola, which causes gum disease. To create the biofilm, the bacteria clump together and build a complex matrix around themselves. They can do this on a range of surfaces including our soft tissues. Other organisms, including the co-infections common in Lyme disease, can live inside the biofilm. The biofilm protects the bacteria from attacks from the immune system and antibiotics.  The Borrelia biofilm is one of the reasons Lyme disease and its co-infections are so difficult to treat.

 

Diagnostic considerations for Lyme disease

At The Health Lodge, we understand that the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease is complex. Therefore, we suggest a comprehensive diagnostic work-up to gather information relating to your health, including:

  • Screening for Borrelia
  • Screening for co-infections
  • Testing for nutrient deficiencies. Practitioners have found vitamin B12 and magnesium deficiency are common in patients with Lyme disease
  • We may test levels of stress and thyroid hormones. Thyroid and adrenal function is often impaired in Lyme disease
  • Screening for markers of inflammation, as chronic inflammation is an issue in Lyme disease
  • Assessing the health of your detoxification organs. Lyme disease and its co-infections can release toxins that attack the body, especially the nervous system. It is very important that the liver, kidneys, and digestive system are working well to get rid of these toxins. Unfortunately, in many patients with Lyme disease, these detoxification organs are under-functioning.
  • Heavy metal screening. Heavy metals can be incorporated into the bacterial biofilm, and affect the body’s ability to detoxify.

 

Treatment considerations for Lyme disease

Treatment of Lyme disease can be a long and difficult journey. Many people with Lyme disease do not get the treatment they need due to misdiagnosis.  Lyme disease is incredibly complex, and best treated by a team of health practitioners. At The Health Lodge, our treatment plan for patients with Lyme disease may include:

  • Supporting detoxification
  • Breaking down the biofilm
  • Treating Borrelia and co-infections
  • Decreasing inflammation
  • Supporting affected organs and systems
  • Heavy metal chelation
  • Correcting nutrient imbalances
  • Psychological support

 

Your integrative team of health care specialists

We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of Lyme disease. The multidisciplinary team may include general practitioners, psychologists, dietitians or nutritionists, naturopaths, osteopaths, and acupuncturists. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support the patient’s physical, mental, and emotional well being.

For enquiries call The Health Lodge on 02 6685 6445

 

Hyperthyroidism - An integrated treatment approach

To understand what hyperthyroidism is, it is important to first understand what the thyroid is, and the role of the thyroid in the body. The thyroid is a small gland located at the front of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. The thyroid is responsible for releasing two thyroid hormones, T3 and T4. These thyroid hormones act much like the accelerator on your car- they determine how fast or slow your body’s metabolism runs.  

Thyroid hormones are able to stimulate almost every cell in the body, and control your body’s metabolic rate. This means that thyroid hormones affect the speed at which cells use oxygen and make proteins, and can affect things like heart rate, body temperature, growth, breathing rate, digestion, energy consumption, weight, fertility, and skin health. Clearly, the thyroid is an incredibly important gland!

So what happens when the thyroid is overactive?

When the thyroid is overactive, it produces excessive amounts of thyroid hormones. This speeds up the body’s metabolic rate, and vital functions including heart rate and breathing. This condition is called hyperthyroidism.   

Causes of hyperthyroidism

The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is Graves’ disease. Graves’ disease is an autoimmune disease where they body’s normal method of regulating thyroid activity is disrupted. In Graves’ disease, the body produces abnormal thyroid-stimulating proteins called immunoglobulins, which are able to bind to normal receptor sites on the thyroid gland and stimulate its activity, resulting in excessive production and release of thyroid hormones. 

Symptoms and signs of hyperthyroidism

For many, the main symptom of hyperthyroidism may be unexplained weight loss. Other signs and symptoms of hyperthyroidism include increased heart rate, high blood pressure, heart palpitations or abnormal heart rhythms, excessive sweating, loss of bone density, increased bowel movements, poor sleep, anxiety, nervousness, and trembling hands. 

Treatment options for hyperthyroidism

There is a range of treatment options available to you, and we recommend an integrated “team approach” to your health management. It is important to note that in thyroid conditions it is possible to alternate between hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism. Regular monitoring of signs, symptoms, and blood tests by your healthcare team is recommended to prevent large swings in thyroid function. Therapies that you may find beneficial include:

  • Medical management: Your GP or endocrinologist may recommend thyroid-suppressing drugs to normalise thyroid hormone levels. Depending on the severity of your condition, your GP may suggest using radioactive iodine to destroy part or all of the thyroid gland, or surgery to remove part or all of the thyroid gland.
  • Dietetics: A dietitian may construct a meal play that ensures nutrient requirements are met, to prevent weight loss, muscle wasting, and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Psychotherapy: Stress may contribute to thyroid dysfunction, and may worsen symptoms. A psychologist may assist you in identifying areas in your life that cause you stress, and help you develop stress management techniques.

Naturopathic approach to hyperthyroidism

This section will discuss some of the naturopathic approaches to management of hyperthyroidism.  The information in this section is of a general nature only, and should not be used as a substitute for medical advice or consultations with you health care provider. We advise you to consult your health carers before considering commencing any of these therapies.

Diet

Compensating for a faster metabolism

Due to the increased metabolic rate, people with hyperthyroidism have an increased need of certain nutrients. To compensate for a faster metabolism, and manage or prevent weight loss, increased intake of calories and protein may be required.

Choosing nutrient dense foods

Due to the increased nutrient requirements, it is important to eat plenty of nutrient dense foods.  Fruits and vegetables are especially important as a rich source of antioxidants, as well as whole grains for their high B vitamin content. 

Calcium and vitamin D

Loss of bone density is common in hyperthyroidism, and people with hyperthyroidism are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis. It is important that your diet contains adequate calcium and vitamin D to promote healthy bones. Sources of calcium include dairy products and fish with edible bones. Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, and sardines. Supplementation with calcium and vitamin D may be required, but this should be assessed on a case-by-case basis. 

Lifestyle

Stress seems to play an important role in disrupted thyroid function. Stress management or reduction techniques such as exercise, yoga, meditation, and massage may help to reduce stress levels.

Exercise is important in maintaining muscle mass and cardiovascular health. Weight bearing exercises are recommended as they promote healthy bone mineral density. Be mindful of the intensity and amount of the exercise, as exercise may contribute to weight loss.

Specific nutrients

L-carnitine

Some animal and human studies suggest that L-carnitine counteracts some of the effects of hyperthyroidism by inhibiting the activity of circulating thyroid hormones. Sub-optimal levels of L-carnitine could contribute to or worsen some symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Your integrative team of health care specialists

We believe that a multidisciplinary team of health care professionals is essential in managing all the aspects of hyperthyroidism. Depending on your individual needs, your multidisciplinary team may include general practitioners, endocrinologists, naturopaths, dietitians, osteopaths, acupuncturists, counsellors and psychologists. This comprehensive and holistic approach is designed to support your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing.

Medical and Alternative solutions for Chronic Pain

I have spent many years searching for an answer to my chronic pain, and it has been a long and lonely road. There is not an area of my life that has not been changed by chronic pain. I have lost friends, and it has stopped me playing sports and enjoying my social life. I have to constantly watch my stress levels to not send my pain levels soaring. I feel restricted and burdened inside, yet I keep it to myself, because who wants to hear about that?

I speak from a place of being an experienced Healer, with good awareness of anatomy and physiology, energy, and of the role of emotions on our health. Still I was lost. As hard as I tried I could not heal myself despite facilitating healing for thousands of people. It is so tiring taking yourself from one practitioner to another trying to find the 'cure', or at least some relief from the relentless pain and discomfort that chronic pain brings. I walked the alternative route and I walked the medical route, yet still I felt like I was in a maze of which I could not make sense. How must this feel to the average person suffering from chronic pain, who does not have my background, knowledge and experience? It must be even harder!

Well-meaning friends and family tell you to try this person or that person, trying to find you an answer. So you pick yourself up from the weariness and depression that drags you deeper into the hole and hope that the next approach will fix it. Maybe the last physio/doctor/healer was not the right one and this one will be the one to help you at long last. And when you still get no results your spirits drop once more and you are back to square one dealing with pain as your constant unwanted friend.

Recently I saw Reine Du Bois (Naturopath) and Dr Bettie Honey (GP). Together they took time to get my story of how I came to have chronic pain, and to see what had worked and what hadn't worked in the past. They used their collective knowledge from both medical and alternative perspectives to brainstorm possible courses of treatment for me. They did this with great care and respect, and checked in with me on how I felt about the options they were presenting. I felt relief that I had two caring people in front of me who were going to help me put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle together. I wasn't alone anymore; there was a team now. It felt like there was more hope, that together we could do it. It soothed my mind and gave my spirits a great lift. I felt I could relax a little knowing I was in good hands; knowing my problem was being looked at from a few angles at once.

The world needs this new approach. We have become a society of individuals running solo in our lives, some of us living alone, working alone, barely seeing extended family, and pushed for time to spend with friends. Collectively we can become a mastermind if we work together building on one another’s knowledge and expertise. If you had a dedicated, hand picked team of medical and alternative practitioners focused on your healing, the power in that concept alone could be enough for your healing, and that is even before the work begins. If I could take the money I spent over the last decade and put it into a team to heal not just my chronic pain but heal myself on all levels, I would be there in a nanosecond.... (This article has been written by an experienced practitioner who for professional reasons wishes to remain anonymous.)