Holistic Lyme Disease Treatment Options

Doctors at an integrative medicine clinic share how they approach treating Lyme disease in a more natural way.

May 14, 2015
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Lyme disease has become one of the most difficult medical challenges today, presenting a myriad of issues that can obscure the path to recovery. People may have Lyme and not test positive for it; others who do test positive didn't suspect it or can't recall getting a tick bite. In addition, Lyme disease is underdiagnosed, since many of the symptoms overlap with other conditions, such as chemical sensitivity, viral and bacterial infections, chronic fatigue, and mold exposure. People with Lyme suffer varying symptoms—fatigue, headaches, poor memory, inability to concentrate, depression, anxiety, recurrent flu-like symptoms, rashes, and a general sense of not feeling well—yet the cause(s) of these symptoms isn't easily identified by most doctors. As such, treatment for Lyme is complex and multifaceted.  

At Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center, patients with chronic Lyme disease and co-infections receive unique, individualized treatment. While acute Lyme and related infections require immediate antibiotic therapy for up to four weeks, we rarely use long-term antibiotics in our approach. We've found that patients have a strong beneficial response to holistic treatments that target the imbalances in their bodies that make them susceptible to the illness. In essence, we first work to decrease vulnerability to the microbes; in the long term, we aim to significantly reduce the microbial load while strengthening and supporting overall health. Our end goal is to have our patients live functionally and with minimal symptoms, if any.

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Many of our patients have been grappling with the disease for an extended time, and very often they have already received long-term antibiotic therapy. We find that at this point, more antibiotics are generally ineffective. Instead, treatment plans are tailored to each patient's needs and tolerance. Nevertheless, amid this individualized, patient-centered approach, we recognize that there are a number of commonalities regarding the systemic effects on the body. This is because Lyme disease is an infection that causes chronic inflammation and immune imbalance, with suppression of certain immune components and over-expression of others.  

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The Stages of Lyme Disease Treatment at Amitabha
We treat Lyme patients in a systematic manner by addressing the illness in several stages. Depending on the individual, we may first treat the gastrointestinal (GI) system by balancing its microbiome, repairing a compromised intestinal barrier, and supporting the digestive process.  

Following this, we test for common genetic mutations that impair the body's ability to properly detoxify. Armed with this knowledge, we can properly support detoxification pathways with specific nutrients, guiding patients through a detoxification process that ultimately makes the body less hospitable to the microbes. Once these initial interventions have successfully strengthened and cleared the person's system, we then work to decrease the microbial load with antimicrobial and antiparasitic herbs. 

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The next treatment phase works to rebalance and support the immune system. During the physical and biochemical healing process, we also address emotional aspects that play a significant role in each individual's health and disease—a key element in the overall healing process. At Amitabha Clinic, healing Lyme disease is a multidimensional process that allows our patients to experience meaningful benefits.     

Pre-Lyme Treatment: Providing Foundational Support 
It's critical to have a stable foundation of health before beginning the intense treatment that chronic Lyme requires. Many Lyme patients are nutrition savvy, however, they may not be eating a diet appropriate for their particular constitution. It's possible that their food choices don't allow for optimization of the body's detoxification systems and cellular biochemical reactions. 

Common problems are an individual may be regularly consuming foods that he or she is sensitive or allergic to, thus creating more inflammation in the body, and there may not be adequate levels of micro- and macronutrients in the body. Through clinical evaluation and functional nutrition laboratory tests, including food sensitivity testing and nutritional analysis, appropriate dietary recommendations can be made to optimize nutrition status. 

Nutrients and herbs are also given to support all the organs and pathways of elimination. An important treatment modality for Lyme patients is intravenous nutritional therapy, including administration of minerals, vitamins, glutathione, and phosphatidyl choline. This form of micronutrient delivery is especially important in individuals whose GI, endocrine, and immune systems are compromised, as it aids in delivering nutrients much more effectively to target tissues. 

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Elimination of Toxins
We're all well aware that our environment is laden with toxins—from chemical pollution in our air and water to antibiotics and hormones in animal products, and from pesticides and heavy metals in food supplies to ionizing radiation surrounding us. Exposure to these and other toxins can wreak havoc on our immune, endocrine, and nervous systems and can be carcinogenic over the long term. 

Lyme patients are more susceptible to illness from toxin exposure, having immune systems that are already weakened and, often, detoxification pathways that are not functioning properly. People who experience symptoms of chronic Lyme disease tend to be those with high inflammatory and toxic body burdens.

In order to receive the full benefit of treatment from antibiotic, herbal, and nutritional therapies, toxic burdens in the body need to be cleared. A comprehensive detoxification protocol is absolutely key in the treatment of Lyme. It can include heavy metal removal, neural therapy, and support of the liver's natural detoxification pathways. Regular sweating is also important for the excretion of toxic substances, since the skin is the largest detoxification organ.  

The Role of Therapeutic Apheresis in Lyme Disease
Our center utilizes a unique treatment method called therapeutic apheresis, to remove specific inflammatory compounds from the circulation. During the process, blood is removed and separated into plasma (liquid component) and cells (solid component). The plasma is then filtered, allowing for the removal of oxidized LDL cholesterol, lipoprotein(a), fibrinogen, C-reactive protein, galectin-3 (Gal-3), and other inflammatory compounds.

The two blood components are then recombined and returned to the patient in a continuous process. Dr. Eliaz is developing this method for specific removal of Gal-3, as well as pioneering the use of apheresis in combination with individualized supportive therapies to maximize the benefits of this treatment modality. This therapy results in an immediate and dramatic reduction in viscosity (thickness) of the blood, and it's done to clear multiple inflammatory compounds that are being generated by the Lyme infection and toxic burden. This opens the way for the tissues to receive nutrients and antimicrobial therapies that can effectively reach their targets and offers an immediate reduction in toxic load. 

When environmental toxicity is high in Lyme patients, additional biotoxins released by the microbes can be overwhelming to the body, thus aggravating and furthering symptomatic illness. In fact, such toxic and inflammatory congestion is often the reason for chronic Lyme symptoms. Thus, detoxification is necessary before decreasing the microbial load. Therapeutic apheresis allows for a significant decrease in toxic congestion, making it an extremely useful treatment for individuals with chronic Lyme disease.  

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Microbes and Biofilm
Co-infections and opportunistic infections in Lyme disease patients are common. Bacteria such as Ehrlichia, Babesia, Bartonella, and others often accompany the Lyme spirochete during a tick bite, as these organisms also inhabit the tick. Once inside the body, research has shown that microbes exist in communities: bacteria, viruses, mycoplasma, and fungi cohabitate, and it's very common for Lyme patients to suffer from a variety of these infections. 

These microbes build protective environments called biofilms in the GI tract and other areas to shield their multispecies communities from immune response and antimicrobial treatments. In fact, the persistence of biofilms is often a key reason that people struggle with chronic infections that don't respond to treatments. To make matters more complex, biotoxins secreted by the microbes also work to subdue the host's immune responses. Therefore, the use of natural compounds to help break up the biofilms, combined with antimicrobial and antiparasitic compounds, is critical. Again, therapeutic apheresis can be very beneficial in this stage of healing.   

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Repairing the Body
Bacterial infections weaken the biochemistry and physiology of the body, and therefore, repair is needed. Protocols for healing and rebalancing the GI, neurological, and hormonal systems, as well as immune function and energy metabolism, with support for the mitochondria (energy-producing structures within each cell) are all put into place as part of the overall program.

Lyme is a multisystemic disease, so treatment is comprehensive and individualized. Protocols address safe and effective detoxification along with ongoing support of the body's natural biochemical processes and healing capacity. 

Doctors Eliaz and Parpia use integrative therapies to help patients heal at the Amitabha Medical Clinic and Healing Center in Santa Rosa, California.