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Dr. Mark Hyman: 7 Ways to Tackle Lyme Disease

Health + Wellness
Dr. Mark Hyman: 7 Ways to Tackle Lyme Disease

“I have Lyme disease,” writes this week’s viewer. “Is there anything I can do to treat it naturally?”

Lyme disease, the most common American tick-borne infectious disease, often goes undiagnosed or becomes misdiagnosed. That becomes a real problem when you consider that in America, up to 300,000 new cases a year of Lyme disease diagnoses have been reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an increase of up to 10 times what researchers previously believed.

Lyme disease, or borreliosis, is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, which can proliferate to every area in your body. An infected blacklegged deer tick transmits the virus to humans through a bite.

Unfortunately, Borrelia burgdorferi has the ability to proliferate within every area of your body, hiding from and suppressing your natural immune system. Lyme infections literally hijack your immune system like AIDS.

Lyme is one of the most challenging, difficult situations in my practice because it mimics other illnesses such as the flu, manifesting as diverse symptoms like headaches, muscle aches, stomach ulcers, constipation, and joint pain. That makes diagnosing and treating Lyme very difficult. 

A weakened immune system paired with suboptimal cellular function and protection, chronic bacterial infections, and exposure to environmental toxinslike molds and parasites, can make things much worse for those who suffer from chronic Lyme.

Some of my patients who are diagnosed with Lyme have struggled for years with undiagnosed symptoms that conventional doctors overlooked.

My own dentist had a chronic inflammatory problem that no one could figure out. After copious sleuthing, it turns out he had a tick-borne infection. Just as bad, my patients have been misdiagnosed. Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt believes conventional doctors misdiagnose many cases of Lyme as fibromyalgia.

Left unchecked, Lyme symptoms worsen, creating a long-running inflammatory response and autoimmune illness. Early treatment can be successful but many go undiagnosed for years.

Although I believe antibiotics become necessary for treating Lyme, many conventional doctors stop there. But to truly recover from Lyme disease, you want to work with a practitioner who takes a whole-system approach rather than simply believing a few courses of antibiotics will make things better.

If you suspect Lyme, the first step is to complete the Horowitz Lyme-MSIDS Questionnaire. This will help you pinpoint many Lyme-related symptoms and their severity.

If you believe you have Lyme, please visit your doctor to confirm your suspicion. Needless to say, the sooner you address these conditions and begin treatment, the more effectively you will recover.

The most popular conventional way to test for Lyme disease is a combination of the Western blot and ELISA test, which measure specific antibodies in the blood. 

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The problem with this and other conventional testing is that it’s not always accurate. This approach also misses up to 60 percent of cases of early-stage Lyme disease, since it can take weeks for the body to develop measurable antibodies against the infection.

Whereas, many conventional doctors go wrong by not supporting your entire system, Functional Medicine becomes a systems-biology approach to personalized medicine that focuses on the underlying causes of disease. The very  definition of Functional Medicine states that we focus on WHY, not WHAT.

Functional Medicine doctors are like soil farmers. They create a healthy soil, so pests can’t come and weeds can’t flourish. A healthy soil means disease can’t come. You want to do everything possible to cultivate healthy soil so disease doesn’t have a place to take root.

The good news is that with some work and effort, you can successfully treat Lyme disease. After you are correctly diagnosed, you want to become proactive about eliminating this disease.

If you suffer from Lyme and really want to dive deep into healing strategies, I highly recommend Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme and Chronic Disease, by Dr. Richard Horowitz.  Whether you’re a practitioner or someone who struggles with Lyme, this book contains a wealth of copiously referenced information.

Treating Lyme disease involves diagnosis followed by treatment with a Functional Medicine practitioner. As I’ve mentioned, this can become a challenging trial-and-error process that requires patience and effort.

As you work with your practitioner to eliminate Lyme disease, consider  implementing the following seven strategies to help you become an effective soil farmer.

  1. Eat real food. The key here involves removing the bad stuff like processed foods and sugar and incorporating more good stuff like protein, healthy fats and plenty of anti-inflammatory omega 3-rich foods like wild fish. You can grab plenty of my favorite healthy recipes here.
  2. Supplement smartly. A host of nutrients, including herbs, can help with Lyme. These include immune-boosting herbs including cordycep, reishi, and maitake mushrooms that help kill off bad bacteria, as well as immune-boosting vitamin D, anti-inflammatory curcumin (found in turmeric) and magnesium. I strongly encourage you to work with a Functional Medicine practitioner to customize these and other supplements, which you can find in my store.
  3. Repopulate. While I believe they are absolutely crucial to treat Lyme, antibiotics kill off all bacteria (good and bad). After you’ve zapped them, you want to repopulate with good bacteria. Eat probiotic-rich fermented vegetables like sauerkraut and kimchi.  And supplement with a high-dose, multi-strain probiotic.
  4. Address food sensitivities. Gluten, dairy and other food sensitivities can increase inflammation, weaken your immune system and worsen Lyme disease symptoms. Eliminate these foods for three weeks and see if your symptoms improve. The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet provides an easy-to-implement plan that removes food sensitivities, sugar, and processed foods to help your body heal quickly.
  5. Get good sleep. Studies show that sleep disturbances and chronic fatigue are prevalent with Lyme disease. Sleep deprivation has numerous ramifications, including reduced levels of your feel-good hormone serotonin (I frequently see this with patients) and diminished immunity, giving pathogens more leeway to ramp up. Get 19 of my top sleep tips here.
  6. Control stress. Chronic stress can crash your immune system and exacerbate Lyme disease symptoms. Whether you do yoga, deep breathing, or meditation, find something you can consistently do to lower stress levels. Many Lyme disease patients find my UltraCalm CD ideal to melt away stress and anxiety.
  7. Reduce your toxic load. These include heavy metals and pesticides, which have a broad range of negative effects on human biology; they damage the nervous and immune systems and contribute to diabesity. If you suspect metal or other toxicity, please work with your Functional Medicine doctor to develop a customized detoxification plan.

The right strategies, combined with working with a Functional Medicine practitioner can help address Lyme. The healing process can become frustrating and sometimes seemingly insurmountable, but with time, effort, and a focus on a whole-system, integrative approach with the right practitioner, you can tackle it. I’ve seen patients have miraculous recoveries, especially when we diagnose and tackle Lyme in the early stages.

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A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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