You Might Have a Tick-Borne Illness (or 2 or 3), Now What?
Here are just a few things we have learned in this journey that can save you some time and research but this is not an end-all, be-all list. Look at it like a good jumping off point. This will be a journey that requires you to tune in to what is going on in your body and be prepared to stand up for your care. Do not be discouraged though because many have and are walking this road ahead of you and have put valuable information and resources on the internet, just be sure to check the sources.
A Few Facts on Tick-Borne Illnesses
- Each person is affected differently. This happens because it depends on what parts of the body the parasites decided to take residence in and also what other infection(s) exist so no two people are the same, even if they have the same illness(es). Most common symptoms are migrating joint pain, headaches, brain fog, fatigue and from there it just branches off into a myriad of symptoms. Some people may experience paralysis of part of their body. Neurological symptoms are common and certain tick-borne illnesses are notorious for psychological disturbances like depression, anxiety, and, in rare cases, schizophrenia. Liver, kidney, gallbladder issues usually arise and almost all diagnosed people have some type of gut issue if they have been infected for a while. Insomnia can be a real problem, as well, for many. The point is do not expect to find a list of symptoms that leads you to diagnosing Lyme or let a medical professional tell you that your symptoms do not match. The "common" bulleyes rash is not common at all. Less than half of patients ever have the rash.
- Tick-borne illnesses are everywhere, every state, including Lyme. Rarely, is a person infected with just Lyme or another infection alone. Most people have at least two co-infections.
- The current test for Lyme is highly inaccurate. IGENEX test is the best test right now but you also want a test for other tick-borne illness: Rocky Mtn. Spotted Fever, babesia, ehrlichiosis, bartonella. Get a copy of the results to keep yourself and know that even those tests are not 100%. A new test was recently developed this year (2014) that is much more accurate but if and when it will be available is anyone's guess.
- One thing to be aware of is that Lyme is related to syphilis and no one will say definitively that it cannot be spread through breast milk or other body fluids. The Blood bank will no longer take blood from anyone infected with Lyme, if that gives you a hint.
- Lyme is a master at getting in organs and is not really a blood disease. It is parasitic. It can hide really well, loves the brain, loves hormones (seems more active during women's menstrual cycle). It can cross the brain/blood barrier where many drugs have trouble reaching it. Because of its abilities to travel so easily throughout the body, it can and does mimic other diseases: rheumatoid arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, MS, fibromyalgia, ALS, and many others. Many people are diagnosed and treated for these diseases without success but the cause is Lyme.
Helping Your Treatment
As you read the suggestion below, please do not think that there is an agenda to turn you into a granola-eating, tree-hugging hippie. The goal is to share what has worked for others who have faced or are facing that which you are entering.
- Treatment does make people sicker before they get better because of herxheimer reactions. Maybe you have heard about herx already. When the parasites/bacteria start dying off they release an overwhelming flood of toxins into the body and a person feels worse. Depending on where they are in the body, it may cause emotional reactions, neurological reactions, or physical reactions and sometimes a combination usually not long after taking your prescribed medication or dose of protocol. Learn how your body reacts and do not assume a strange symptom is a herx. Be aware of drug or allergic reactions so you do not mistake it for a herx. Drink lots of water, especially filtered water to help flush your body, too.
- Diet is a huge factor. Lyme affects the gut if you have been infected for a while. Most people have at least a gluten-allergy, leaky gut, or malabsorption issues. It commonly destroys the gut flora and probiotics are a must for a lot of infected people and becomes important if you choose to do antibiotic treatment. Because of this, Candida is a huge problem with tick-borne illnesses and nutritional deficiencies usually occur. Some of the most common deficiencies include vitamin D, B vitamins, C, and magnesium. These deficiencies wreak further havoc and cause problems with thyroid and adrenal system. Before you stock up on supplements, get bloodwork done and find out for sure what is lacking. A beneficial help if you are deficient is an IV or IV push of vitamin C or a Myers injection, which is a multi-vitamin. Try to eat as much nutrient-dense foods as you can, like avocadoes, kale, chia seeds, hemp seeds. Againstallgrain.com and brittanyangell.com are great sites if you need to switch to gluten-free, grain-free, sugar-free diet. Paleo diet, Candida diet, Virgin diet, and Trim Healthy Mama diet are also helpful.
- Lyme also affects the body's ability to flush toxins especially with old infections. When your body has been weakened nutritionally and your organs and hormones are being disrupted, your system stops functioning correctly. The liver, kidneys, blood, and lymph system struggle to do what they are made to do - clean out the body. On top of that, once you start treatment, the dying parasites/bacteria put out more toxins. It may sound weird but detoxification will be your greatest help in treatment. Many natural treatment protocols have this as part of their regimen but if yours does not, add it to your treatment. Nutramedix sells parsley, pinella, sparga, and burbur drops that work wonders to help prevent or ease a herx. These drops have helped relieve insomnia if taken starting an hour before bedtime, rotating every 15 minutes with 10 drops of burbur then in 15 minutes, 10 drops of parsely, pinella, and sparga together. A hot soak in a bath of 16 oz. of hydrogen peroxide and 2 cups of epsom salt can help, too. Enough cannot be said about cleaning out your diet and exchanging products like soap, lotions, cleaning products for more natural ones. It truly does help a struggling body not switch to overload and it can save money. Many cleaning products can be switched out with vinegar, baking soda, and hydrogen peroxide. Just something to consider if your body is struggling.
Be Your Own Advocate
- Research will be your friend. Since tick-borne illnesses are still so very misunderstood and doctors are still experimenting to find a treatment, you should consider researching. Take notes. Make a treatment notebook to carry with you to appointments. Share with your doctor and ask questions.
- A movie that has some good info in it, but it also is sort of conspiracy theory-ish, is called "Under Our Skin." It was on Amazon for free if you have a prime account but don't watch it if you tend to get overly worried and anxious. It is very dramatic. "Why Can't I Get Better: Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease" by Richard Horowitz is a good book to read but do not take in everything, especially if you carry it like a burden or you are discouraged. Take one step at a time.
Hopefully, this has given you some direction. In our journey, we have fought through wanting to give up, hitting plateaus in treatment, and just plain old feeling hopeless. Through it all, I have found that I have drawn closer to Christ and made it my goal to find ways to give God glory because tick-borne illness is not the end of the story.