It’s All in Your Head…?
There is nothing more disheartening than hearing these words from your Physician, “It’s all in your head.” I understand why my doctor said it to me. He tried all of the conventional testing, looked at my symptoms, performed exams and nothing was fitting in to the conventional diagnosis box.
His statement frustrated me because I am a physician and I knew something serious was happening. I was experiencing fatigue, muscle pain, difficulty sleeping and a decline in my brain function. I self-medicated and supplemented in order to help reduce symptoms, however I always felt like I was missing the underlying cause. It was a very difficult time trying to understand the cause of my “weird” symptoms.
With my functional medicine training it was clear that my decline in health and function began nine months earlier with an odd, raised, red inflamed rash that continued to expand, causing me to develop a fever of 104 degrees and severe disorientation. I was quickly rushed to the emergency room where I was diagnosed with cellulitis (inflammation of the skin cells) and pumped full of IV antibiotics. This treatment improved my acute symptoms and saved me from serious complications, in which I am grateful, however the diagnosis and inflamed skin cells didn’t help me understand the cause; it only revealed the effect.
Unfortunately, the lack of a clear cause resulted in me not treating it correctly and drove my body to respond in the way that it did with worsening symptoms becoming more severe over time. Then these symptoms led me to different doctors resulting in being probed, prodded, stabbed and told it was all in my head. These persistent symptoms dragged on for almost a year before I had testing for the Great Imitator…LYME. This positive result was as much of a relief, to know that it wasn’t in my head, as it was scary, as at the time was a giant unknown.
Once I learned these symptoms were caused by Lyme and co-infections, I was able to become Lyme literate, studying and implementing a comprehensive functional medicine treatment protocol through nutrition, antimicrobial support, detoxification support, hormonal balance and cognitive support all while addressing my genetics to help my body recover. Today I truly feel my best because my journey has allowed me to now be an integral part in others’ recovery from the battle against Lyme and other chronic conditions.
I can’t emphasize enough the well-earned reputation Lyme has as the “great imitator.” Lyme infections are misdiagnosed and each individual suffers with different, debilitating symptoms. Once diagnosed with Lyme, implementation of a comprehensive functional medicine treatment protocol, in my opinion, is essential to a full recovery.
I created: The Complete Lyme Report
Symptoms of Chronic Lyme
The symptoms of chronic Lyme are consistent with those of acute Lyme, but are more disruptive to your life. Fatigue, joint pain, and muscle pain may be persistent. Sleep disruption becomes chronic insomnia. Forgetfulness manifests as cognitive decline and anxiousness and depression can be debilitating. Symptoms vary greatly among individuals and can often mimic more severe conditions such as cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, neuropathy, hypothyroidism, multiple sclerosis, and psychiatric disorders. After being sent from specialist to specialist, patients commonly end up without a definitive diagnosis or receive a very broad umbrella diagnosis such as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. Unfortunately, some may be told it’s all in their head. Although it is a relief not to receive some of the major condition diagnoses above, not knowing the cause of the “weird” symptoms is troubling and difficult. Not only does Lyme prove it is the great imitator, Borrelia burgdorferi (Bb) is capable of suppressing and hiding from the immune system so that it is essentially undetectable with conventional testing.
Diagnosis and Testing: Chronic Lyme
Receiving a positive blood test result for Lyme can be difficult, however is more likely when the infection has been present in your body for at least three to eight weeks. The test results are dependent on the presence of antibodies created by the body to fight infection. Mounting that defense takes time.
Despite clinical advances in testing sensitivity and specificity, testing limitations create chances for false negative, and rarely, false positive, results. That being said, we support the use of the testing options and recommendations described in our ebook, as they are the most current way we have to detect this elusive disease and support a clinical diagnosis. I am glad I was personally tested as it allowed us to confirm a diagnosis and make a treatment plan targeting the underlying cause. Having this confirmation is helpful, but if you are struggling to find answers, do not take a negative test as the “be all and end all” and forego pursuing treatment. Often one of the best options is to pursue a treatment trial while monitoring your symptoms.
Treatment Options and Immune Support for Chronic Lyme
Treatment of persistent Lyme disease is an ongoing process that takes time, diligence, and a knowledgeable team of “Lyme literate” practitioners. However, preferred treatment options may vary greatly among Lyme specialists. Some practitioners believe that multiple rounds of antibiotics are the only way to treat chronic Lyme. Some favor natural herbs and nutrients. Other practitioners prefer homeopathy. And some will even say you need a combination of all of the above.
If anything, we have learned they are all right! Whatever works for you, works for you. If you have been diagnosed with Lyme, you should do anything and everything to pursue the treatment options that help you. The perfect treatment for you may be different from your neighbor, your family member or even, in our case, your practitioner. What allows us to customize the plan for you is a combination of testing, presenting symptoms, your genetics, lifestyle, goals, research findings and clinical experience. Lyme treatment is not a one size fits all approach but a one size fits YOU approach.
There are four key areas that we address through our proprietary Precision Health process:
1. Decreasing the total inflammatory load is a critical part of treatment. Inflammatory compounds, such as cytokines (IL-1, IL-6, TNF-a, IFN-y), are released from immune cells in areas of injury. The load of these inflammatory compounds can create sickness syndrome, fatigue, muscle aches, joint pain, mood disorders, and neuropsychiatric disorders. These inflammatory compounds create free radicals that perpetuate the inflammatory process and lead to additional damage. Decreasing inflammation involves removing offending agents, repairing injured cells and introducing compounds that help put out the inflammatory “fire” such as curcumin with piperine, antioxidants, fish oil, glutathione and its precursors, proteolytic enzymes, CoQ10, B-vitamins, amino-acids and minerals.
2. Providing symptomatic relief from the many devastating effects of chronic Lyme is essential for healing and often requires multiple modalities. Medications, herbs, nutrients, meditation or manual therapies such as chiropractic, acupuncture, or massage therapy may all improve symptoms.
3. Using targeted antimicrobial agents to eradicate the Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete and other diagnosed co-infections can be a very difficult task. The Borrelia burgdorferi spirochete has advanced capabilities that evade detection from the immune system and resist treatment. These antibiotic regimens can be an effective treatment option, but they may also have troublesome side effects due to the duration of treatment and the combination of multiple medications. Fortunately, there are several other options for targeted antimicrobial therapy that are safe and effective such as antimicrobial herbs, homeopathic treatments, transfer factors, CBD oil, silver hydrosol, intravenous nutrients, and other therapies.
4. Supporting the natural systems of the body is key to achieving the best treatment outcomes when dealing with any chronic condition, including ongoing infection. It is not adequate to simply prescribe an antimicrobial regimen and expect the body to recover. The body must be addressed in a holistic manner, recognizing that the immune system, mitochondria, detoxification, gut microbiome and hormonal systems are interconnected and in constant communication.
Immune system – The immune system is meant to act as a guard and army to protect our body from invaders, both “foreign” and “domestic”. When the immune system responds to a stimulus, it does so through a complex chemically based communication system. To address the immune system appropriately, a comprehensive approach must be taken to find and address the causative factors that lead to the immune system’s switch being held in the on or off position. We must squelch the immune system fire by pointing our functional medicine hoses toward the base of the fire, and not just wave our hands at the symptoms’ smoke.
Mitochondria – Mitochondria are organelles (“small organs”) within each cell that are responsible for producing the majority of cellular energy, called ATP. Mitochondria are now known to play important roles in responding to infection from microbes (like lyme and its co-infections), controlling chronic inflammation, triggering cell death, and controlling other metabolic processes. When dealing with chronic infection and inflammation it is important to realize that the mitochondria could be, and often are, a contributing factor to the occurrence of a sustained inflammatory response. It’s like throwing gasoline on a fire. The mitochondria need to be addressed with therapies that restore normal efficient ATP production, reduce inflammation signaling by addressing their respective causes, and promote the death of dysfunctional and inefficient mitochondria.
Detoxification – Prior to antimicrobial therapy, and throughout treatment, it is crucial to optimize the ability of the body to detoxify through the lymph, gut, liver, kidneys, and skin. Chronic infections burden detoxification capacity and introduction of antibiotics or herbs can further strain this system. Our favorite detoxification methods, because of their effectiveness and low side effect risk, include infrared sauna therapy, epsom salt baths, activated charcoal, protein supplements designed to support detoxification, glutathione, and specific herbs.
Gut Microbiome – The gut microbiome must be optimized before, during, and after antimicrobial therapy. Overgrowth of candida, pathogenic bacteria and parasites in the gut can often tax the immune system and impede full recovery from Lyme. We prefer to test the gut microbiome an balance this before starting any antimicrobial therapy.
Hormonal Balance – Persistent tick borne infections can have devastating effects on hormonal balance. It is not uncommon to find severe adrenal dysfunction, thyroid disease, low testosterone, and exacerbation of PMS and perimenopause symptoms in patients suffering with persistent infections. Testing and addressing these imbalances through functional medicine approaches is key to helping the patient feel better and restore balance throughout treatment.
Though the treatment of chronic Lyme continues to be studied, the best options currently available address and treat the body as a whole. At Precision Health Family Functional Medicine, we implement our process that includes advanced testing, multiple modalities and treatments that restore and support the immune, hormonal, digestive, and detoxification systems. Optimizing these systems allows for maximal effectiveness of antimicrobial agents, minimizes treatment side effects, provides adequate symptom control, and hastens recovery from chronic Lyme disease.
At Precision Health Family Functional Medicine, we help people who are having difficulty getting answers to their frustrating symptoms. We develop a customized treatment plan geared toward addressing the underlying cause of your symptoms so you can regain your health and reach a higher potential.
If you would like to learn more about lyme and how to protect your family, what steps to take if you find an attached tick, and what therapies can be beneficial for acute or chronic lyme and much more please follow the instructions below to receive your digital copy.
The Complete Lyme Report:
Overcoming Lyme Can be Easier Than You Think! Discover What These Functional Medicine Practitioners Are Doing To Protect Their Families And Patients. You can get your complimentary copy now by Texting the word Lyme to: 1(678) 506-7543. Your Health Detectives from Precision Health Family Functional Medicine, Dr. Rudy Mueller DC, IFMCP and Annette Mueller FNP, IFMCP