Lyme Literate Nurse Practitioner, Ruth Kriz, Discusses Recovery, Relapses, and Patient Resources

Please note: This article first appeared on May 18th, 2017 on ProHealth.com.

Last month, I presented part one of a two-part interview with Lyme literate nurse practitioner, Ruth Kriz. If you missed that article, please click here to read it. In this month’s interview, Kriz furthers her discussion on Lyme symptoms, information the medical community may not know about, recovery, relapses, and patient resources. While these articles reflect Kriz’s approach to treating Lyme disease, it’s important to note much of this content can serve as talking points when you are communicating with your healthcare provider.

Following is part two of my interview with Ruth Kriz.

Jenny Buttaccio (JB): In the patients that you see, is there a “typical” presentation of what Lyme looks like?

Ruth Kriz (RK): Often, these infections have been camping out in a person for a very long time. Then, the immune system takes a significant hit, and the [infections] bloom. The CD 57 is a natural killer cell that takes the hit if someone has been infected with Lyme. The lower the number, the longer it has been since the original infection; it does not correlate to how sick a person is. But, it’s a clue as to whether I’m looking at an infection that has been there since childhood, or a more recent one. The people I see that have a lower CD 57 have had a longer time for these infections to settle into the body. [The infections] can be deeply entrenched in the nervous system, and patients can have symptoms like brain fog, word finding difficulties, and muscle twitching. In the patients with interstitial cystitis, the infections could be in the bladder or the nerves going to the bladder. I tend to see more complex symptomatology and the need to treat longer in people who have lower CD 57’s, than people who don’t.

JB: Are there some areas regarding Lyme disease treatment that you feel some clinicians don’t fully understand?

RK: They don’t understand biofilms or other forms of infections, like the cyst form (of Borrelia), that virtually become undetectable to the immune system. The biofilms wall the infections off, and once they get established in the joints and nervous system, they can take a heck of a lot longer to root out. If they’re not addressed, you will have relapses. The infections will continue to multiply at a very slow rate over an extended period–and that could go on for years–before it’s enough to make you symptomatic again. Some people do a better job of breaking down biofilms than others, based on a variety of genetic factors.

Also, maybe other clinicians aren’t factoring in how long the infections have been deeply entrenched in the body? The medical system typically works on protocols. For example, if you come to me, I give you this medicine for (a specific) length of time. Then, we go after these infections for that length of time, and you then “pop out” on the other end and declare that you are now well. The problem is that doesn’t work for Lyme, because everybody presents with a different infectious load, a different number of co-infections, and a different number of biofilms. So you can’t just march everyone through the same program and expect the same response.

Finally, many physicians aren’t aware that Lyme depresses some of the immune markers that are used to diagnose it according to CDC standards. Therefore, patients have a lot of false negatives, and physicians don’t believe that the Lyme is there, when, in reality, it is.

JB: Do you have any insights as to why a patient may not be getting better or why they might relapse?

RK: I have a couple of theories about it. I think it’s difficult to know when the Lyme is adequately treated. One reason I like the ISpot Lyme test is that I can tell if we have a solid negative, equivocal, or positive (response), and how positive (the response) is. So I have some metrics to tell me when we’ve reached the negative point; and that is often long after the symptoms have receded. Sometimes, when you’re very sick and start feeling better, you think you’re done treating. But the reality may be that you’re not.

The second issue in chronic Lyme disease is that just because you’ve been diagnosed with Lyme doesn’t mean that you don’t have other co-infections making you sick as well. The last tick I sent out for DNA testing came back with 43 tick-borne infections. Many of the tick-borne infections that tend to persist–we’ve got Bartonella, Babesia, Ehrlichia, Anaplasmosis, Brucella, Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Mycoplasma–competitively inhibit each other. When you knock the big ones back, some of the little ones become bigger players, and people continue to be sick. Just because you’re still sick doesn’t mean it’s because of the Lyme. It could very well be an undiagnosed coinfection.

JB: We know many Lyme patients are financially strained. What steps has your office taken to help Lyme patients?

RK: Patients have already spent tens of thousands of dollars before they ever call me. We have an account with the Professional Co-op so that if people don’t have health insurance, it will pay for some of the routine commercial lab tests; we can get discounted rates. We also try to figure out which tests are a priority so that it isn’t such a big expense up front. I try to use the labs that accept insurance, but some of the specialty labs don’t fit into the mainstream picture, so they’re cash only. Some of the labs I work with have been very generous in allowing us to select people who need the testing but really can’t afford it on their own.

There are a certain number of pharmaceuticals that we can provide to people at extremely good rates as well. It’s not a huge selection, but it’s better than zero. I also have a couple of connections with some pharmacies that give us samples. Prescription Hope has been very generous in helping people if they qualify to get medications at lower costs. I do what I can; it never seems to be enough because the needs are always surpassing the resources.

Finally, don’t discount the efficacy of herbals. There are some very affordable, user-friendly approaches. Herbals have great advantages in that you can titrate the dose by the drop. Therefore, you can control how much herxing goes on. [Herbal protocols] can be a primary therapy, as well as, an adjunct therapy. It can be ideal for children; many flexible spending accounts will reimburse for herbals.

JB: Thank you so much for willingness to do this interview. Is there anything else you’d like Lyme patients to know?

RK: Yes! When you start killing many of the tick-borne infections, they release toxins. These toxins are pro-inflammatory, and they will cause the areas of your body where the infection has been to flare up. This is where detoxing becomes even more important. Pulling the toxins out of your body and helping your liver get rid of them is going to mean you can continue treating more effectively and not have your whole life disrupted because you can’t function.

Finally, there’s a myth out there that Lyme disease is untreatable, that you’ll always have it, that people don’t get well, but that’s not been my experience either personally or with the vast majority of my patients. I think it takes persistence. It takes commitment. It takes educating yourself about how your body responds to treatment and learning what the roadblocks are for you, but it’s possible to get better.

 

Lyme Literate Nurse Practitioner, Ruth Kriz, Talks About Diagnosing Lyme Disease, Testing, and Communication Strategies for Patients and Clinicians

Please note: This article first appeared on April 25th 2017 on prohealth.com.

Recently, I had the honor to interview Ruth Kriz, a Lyme literate, 30-year nurse practitioner in Washington, D.C. and a fellow Lyme disease survivor, to discuss the diagnosis and treatment of tick-borne infections, testing, biofilms, and more. In part one of this two-part series, Ruth reveals how she began treating Lyme, the limitations of testing, and communication strategies between patients and clinicians.

Ruth has an education background and has taught nursing to LPNs through graduate-level nurse practitioners. In her years as an educator, she’s observed the medical community is often undereducated in their knowledge regarding Lyme disease and tick-borne infections; many healthcare providers believe Lyme disease is an acute infection and are misinformed regarding the chronic, persistent nature of this illness. Ruth has chosen to speak publicly about her expertise with Lyme disease and tick-borne diseases in the hopes of helping patients receive a proper diagnosis, along with widening the medical community’s understanding of these illnesses.

Below is my interview with Ruth Kriz:

Jenny Buttaccio (JB): How did you get started treating Lyme patients?

Ruth Kriz (RK): I guess you could say it was through the back door. I had interstitial cystitis for 11 years, and I started doing more precise diagnostics with broth cultures because the traditional cultures were coming up negative. One of my patients told me that she had been diagnosed with Lyme disease. When she treated Lyme, her interstitial cystitis went away. So, that started me looking into the connection between tick-borne infections and its connection with interstitial cystitis. Since then, I’ve treated over 2,500 patients. In 98 percent of them, I’ve been able to document tick-borne infections.

JB: In your view, why are so many patients having a hard time getting diagnosed with Lyme disease?

RK: According to CDC, the way you diagnose Lyme is through an antibody test. An antibody test is not testing for Lyme itself; it’s testing for the body’s immune system response to Lyme. When you first get infected, your IGM (immunoglobulin M) is the early responder. It goes up in four to six weeks. Therefore, doing a test for Lyme when you first see a bull’s-eye rash, find a tick, or think you’ve been infected is really inaccurate because it’s going to take several weeks for those antibodies to go up. The IGM stays up for four to six months. As it’s coming down, the IGG goes up. The IGG can stay up for a year, sometime two years. Then, it starts to go down as well. Using a test that only looks at immunoglobulin IGG and IGM is going to miss a lot of people who were either tested too early or too late. So, the race has been on to try to find a better way–better markers–of diagnosing the Lyme.

Currently, there’s a test that looks at inflammatory cytokines, called ISpot Lyme. When Lyme is active, cytokines are high, and therefore, reactive. The technology has actually been out there for decades, and using it to check for Lyme is simply a new application. That’s the one I traditionally use. Also, there are tests that to do DNA testing on urine, blood, or cerebrospinal fluid. In regards to cerebrospinal fluid testing, the literature from 15 years ago says less than 3 percent of people with neurological Lyme test positive with a spinal tap, so that’s not helpful. There are some better antibody tests like IGeneX as well, where you’re more likely to get a positive western blot. But, to answer your question, there are really no good diagnostic tests for Lyme if you’re not in that window to get a good antibody response. The best we can do right now is to look at other markers that respond in the body when Lyme is active.

JB: I’ve heard other doctors suggest that Lyme disease is a diagnosis based on clinical presentation and supporting tests can be useful to help confirm the disease. Do you also hold this belief? As a follow-up question, why are so few clinicians willing to treat Lyme?

RK: That’s what we’re left with if we don’t have a reliable test. Because of the political climate surrounding Lyme, some clinicians feel if they don’t have any documentation in a patient’s chart to prove they have Lyme, they’re going to come under fire from their state medical boards. So, yes. It does need to be a clinical diagnosis. But sometimes practitioners are put in a corner. And to step out on that limb, they might risk their license.

Regarding the second part of the question, the medical education system is geared toward acute infections. Overcoming the infections that were public health threats (like smallpox, anthrax, diphtheria, and polio) and had high morbidity and mortality rates, naturally became the focus of research. Even though 70 percent of the patient population a family practice physician sees deals with chronic illness, the medical community insists on acute care. So the mindset of the doctor is you come up with an ICD-10 code. You have your particular protocol. This is the medicine you give. Then, the patient leaves the office. There’s a whole different understanding as to how you treat acute infections, and how you treat chronic infections.

JB: Are there ways Lyme patients could better communicate their needs to clinicians?

RK: Often, doctors feel like their job is first to rule out the big, nasty stuff going on. After that, they’re not willing or able to tackle the intensive, patient-care demands of a chronically, sick Lyme patient. From my perspective, I think Lyme patients could interface more effectively with the medical community if they could write down the points they want to talk about during their appointment. Also, they can be sensitive to the fact that the practitioner has a schedule and 10 or 20 people after them on that schedule. It’s hard for practitioners to deal with a large Lyme population because their needs are extensive. Not every practitioner is emotionally or knowledge-base equipped to handle the complexity of patients with Lyme. I love what I do. I’ve had Lyme myself. But I also see things from the other side. There’s a lot of skill involved in managing complex patients, and not everybody feels competent enough, or is interested enough, or can financially even afford to provide that level of care.

A Lyme patient must become informed, be educated and be their own advocate. They need to find a practitioner they feel is hearing them.

To find a Lyme literal medical professional in your area, fill out the Doctor Searchpage on the ILADS website, visit the state support group page on LymeDisease.org, or check Facebook for online forums in your area. Many support group moderators and facilitators will be able to provide you with a list of doctors in your region. 

Three Women Share What It’s Really Like to Live with Lyme Disease on Reader’s Digest

Yesterday, Reader’s Digest published an article I wrote on three, incredible women battling Lyme disease. I am so proud to call these women my friends. To view the piece on the Reader’s Digest website, please click here. Feel free to leave a comment about your own struggles with Lyme disease.

Six Ways to Combat Candida during Lyme Treatment

Please note: This article originally appeared on ProHealth on December 21, 2016

Photo credit to William Ismael

Photo credit to William Ismael

Yeast overgrowth is a common concern for Lyme patients who undergo long-term antibiotic therapy and certain herbal antimicrobial treatments. While numerous antimicrobials can affect the delicate balance of the gut flora, broad spectrum medications like amoxicillin, minocycline, doxycycline, and clarithromycin (just to name a few) pose the greatest risk of destroying healthy intestinal microbiota allowing yeast to flourish. One such yeast you’ve probably heard about is Candida.

Certain levels of Candida are a natural and ordinary part of the flora in the intestinal tract. When Candida levels are healthy, they aid in the absorption of nutrients, guard the intestinal tract against other pathogens, and support the immune system. However, when Candida levels become imbalanced and overwhelm the body–a condition known as dysbiosis–you may experience a whole host of symptoms in addition to those associated with Lyme disease.

Although it can be a challenge to distinguish the symptoms of Candida overgrowth from the complex expression of Lyme disease, some signs that your body is battling an upsurge of yeast include: digestive disturbances, bloating, fatigue, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, brain fog, vaginal yeast infections and itchy skin. In fact, yeast overgrowth can lead to a spike in inflammatory cytokines–potent inflammatory chemicals in the body–leading to a worsening of many of your Lyme symptoms. Food allergies and sensitivities may also develop as a result of this imbalance in your body.

The majority of Lyme patients are likely to encounter Candida overgrowth at some point during their treatment. Using a combination of prescription medications (when necessary), anti-fungal herbs, and dietary changes, you can bring balance back into your intestinal tract. As naturopathic doctor and Lyme expert Dr. Nicola McFadzean says, “Since the gut has its own immune and neurological systems, keeping the natural ecology in balance is key.” Below are six ways to help keep Candida in check throughout your Lyme treatment.

1. Limit your intake of sugar.
Sugar and substances that break down into sugar in the body are foods that fuel yeast overgrowth. To control yeast, you’ll want to eliminate your intake of sugar as much as possible–including both simple and complex carbohydrates, alcohol, and fruit. If you’re waging an ongoing war with Candida, you might need to remove these items completely from your diet. While this step is not always an easy one to take, it’s one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system.

2. Add fermented foods to your diet.
In a previous article called, Six Things You Can Do To Improve Your Gut Health When You Have Lyme Disease [http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=29182], I discuss the benefits of increasing your intake of fermented foods. Foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, and kefir are gut-friendly nourishment that support intestinal health. Fermented fare provides your body with essential probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins that can help shield you from a whole host of pathogens.

3. Take a quality probiotic.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that restore and replace the healthy gut flora that been destroyed by long-term treatment. The dose of probiotics and the brand you’ll want to take will differ depending on your doctor and your protocol. However, they are a must-have supplement for anyone going through Lyme treatment. Additionally, they aid in digestion and help your body assimilate the nutrients that you take in.

To find the probiotic that’s right for you, it’s best to ask your physician for advice. They may have a preferred brand they want you to take.

4. Don’t forget about Saccharomyces boulardii.
Sacc what? Don’t worry. It’s known as Sacc B. for short. Sacc B is a beneficial yeast that functions as a probiotic in the body (surprisingly, not all yeasts are bad). Like the helpful bacteria mentioned above, this organism also contributes to defending the gut against disease-causing bacteria and yeast. Studies suggest that Sacc B might be useful for managing Clostridium difficile (C-diff)–a dangerous gastrointestinal infection that can be brought on by the overuse of antibiotics. One such study, entitled “Influence of Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 on the gut-associated immune system” was published in Clinical Experimental Gastroenterology in September, 2016. Many other similar studies show that Sacc B may support GI health in those with irritable bowel syndrome, as well as in those with urinary tract conditions–among other conditions that are relevant to Lyme patients.

5. Try herbal remedies.
In addition to dietary changes and probiotics, your doctor might decide to place you on a combination of natural anti-fungal treatments to correct yeast overgrowth. Herbs like garlic, olive leaf extract, pau d’arco, caprylic acid, oregano oil, and grapefruit seed extract may help support a healthy balance of yeast in the gut; they are sometimes used alone or in a combination Candida support formula. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding any herbal remedies to your protocol. Certain ones may interact with your medications.

6. If the problem persists, there are prescription medications.
Anti-fungal medications like nystatin and fluconazole are commonly prescribed for treating yeast overgrowth. Nystatin is generally safe and efficient at killing yeast in the gut without toxic or harmful side effects. Fluconazole is a more potent medication, and it’s used when there’s a more serious or systemic problem with Candida. Some medications, including antibiotics and herbal remedies, may interact with this drug, so let your doctor know what you are taking before you begin fluconazole.

With a combination of lifestyle and diet changes, natural treatments, and prescription medications, symptoms associated with elevated Candida levels may greatly improve.

References:

Balch, J.F., & Stengler, M. (2004). Prescription for Natural Cures. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Crook, W. (2005). The Yeast Connection And Women’s Health. Jackson, TN: Professional Books, Inc.

McFadzean, N. ( 2010). The Lyme Diet. South Lake Tahoe, CA: BioMed Publishing Group.

Teitelbaum, J. (2007). From Fatigued to Fantastic. New York, NY: The Penguin Group.

Six Lifestyle Changes to Improve Adrenal Fatigue in Lyme Disease

Please note: This article first appeared on ProHealth.com on November 26th, 2016.
Photo credit to  Dubravko Sorić

Photo credit toDubravko Sorić

“A Lyme patient is tired from adrenal fatigue,” a naturopath recently told me. The only way to eliminate the fatigue is to decrease infections and support the adrenal glands through the process, he suggested.

Adrenal fatigue results from low functioning adrenal glands–small hormone-producing glands located on the top of your kidneys. While the glands themselves aren’t diseased, they’re underactive, resulting in a whole host of symptoms. Lyme disease patients aren’t just “tired” due to adrenal fatigue, they’re devoid of energy, “crash” during times of stress, experience low blood pressure, feel dizzy upon standing, feel achy, experience hypoglycemic episodes and more. Some experts believe adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal insufficiency, is caused by a disruption in the brain’s hypothalamus, the region of your brain that signals your adrenal glands to produce hormones. At times, addressing adrenal fatigue in Lyme patients can be troublesome and confusing.

In her September 19th, 2016 article, Connie Strasheim presents Solutions for Mitigating Adrenal Fatigue in Lyme Disease. Strasheim’s piece provides patients with valuable information on supplements to combat adrenal fatigue. However, if you’re like me, you may have chemical sensitivities or be intolerant of stimulating herbs like adaptogens, adrenal extracts, and glandulars. In this article, I discuss lifestyle changes to support the adrenal glands when your body can’t handle some of the more commonly recommended supplements.

1) Improve Your Sleep Schedule- You need it. You crave it. But sometimes you just can’t get sleep no matter what you do, and your sleep habits play a large part in restoring your adrenal glands. To assist your body in the healing process, plan to eliminate the use of TVs and electronic devices by around 8:00 PM. Though this may be a difficult pattern to break, the reduction in stimulating light will encourage your body to produce the sleep-inducing hormone called melatonin. Try your best to be in bed between 10:30 PM and 11:00 PM, which reduces the likelihood that you’ll be kept awake by a “second wind” adrenaline surge. Whenever possible, aim to sleep in until 9:00 AM. Adrenal fatigue expert, Dr. James Wilson, says this allows your morning cortisol levels to rise gently and without interruption. Seek to make this new schedule a routine, so that your body’s natural sleep-awake cycle gets reinforced.
2) Eat a light snack before bed- A small snack before bed, like a handful of nuts or a spoonful of coconut oil, can help you fall asleep. It balances your blood sugar and lessens the chance for a boost in your nighttime cortisol–soothing the brain and the body for a better night’s rest.

3) Rejuvenate your adrenal glands with food– Bone broth is nutrient-dense fuel for the adrenal glands. Packed with collagen, gelatin, and amino acids, bone broths contain an array of nutritious components that are easily digestible. Other healing foods that are low in sugar, high in fiber, and contain beneficial fats to feed the adrenal glands include: cruciferous vegetables, coconut oil, avocados, olives, wild caught salmon, chicken, turkey, nuts, seeds, and seaweed. These healthy foods work to replenish your body from the inside out.

4) Increase your intake of sea salt–  Many people with adrenal fatigue have electrolyte imbalances and low blood pressure, which contribute to a worsening of symptoms. “A relatively easy tactic to increase blood pressure is to simply take in more salt and water. Salting food liberally as well as taking salt-water drinks can be very helpful. Sea salt is better than table salt because it contains trace minerals. Drinking more water will increase blood volume. This helps those that have chronic hypotension, chronic orthostatic intolerance, neurocardiogenic syncope, and POTS, ” reports Michael Lam, MD, an adrenal fatigue consultant in Loma Linda, California. To help replace both sodium and fluid volume, try ¼ to 1 tsp of sea salt dissolved in a glass of water first thing in the morning. A word of caution: if you have high blood pressure, please discuss this with your doctor before increasing your salt intake.

5) Avoid harsh detoxing- Simply put, severe detoxing can further disrupt an already delicate fluid balance in the body forcing the adrenal glands to work harder. Instead of aggressive detoxification strategies, try something gentler like dry skin brushing, an Epsom salts foot bath or a hot-cold shower.

6) Begin restorative exercise- As Lyme patients, we know exercise is critical to our healing. But if you expend all your energy on trying to push yourself through an exercise routine, you’ll worsen adrenal fatigue and increase the amount of time it takes for you to recover. Exercise is essential for rebuilding your body, but it’s the right kind of exercise that matters most. You want to conserve as much energy as possible, so your goal for exercising is to restore the body; do exercises that release tension, improve movement, ease pain, increase oxygen throughout your body, and strengthen your core. Some examples of these types of activities include gentle walking, restorative yoga or Pilates, and Tai Chi. When your body has rebuilt some energy reserves, you can progress to more challenging workouts.

For some Lyme patients, the rebuilding process may take weeks. For others, this process could take months or even years. Regardless of the length of time it takes you to bring your adrenals into a state of balance, try to listen to your body and not measure your progress by what others are doing. Your path to recovery will be uniquely yours in all aspects.

References

Lam, M. (2012). Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Loma Linda, CA: Adrenal Institute Press.

Wilson, J. L. (2001). Adrenal Fatigue The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. Petaluma, CA: Smart Publications.

 

 

A Quick Guide to Seven Popular Toxin Binders

(Please note: This post originally appeared on ProHealth.com on October 22, 2016)

To heal from Lyme disease, co-infections, and other biotoxin related illnesses (like toxic mold exposure), we must help our bodies detoxify to reduce Herxheimer reactions and chronic inflammation. Thankfully, there are many options available to us to lessen the toxic load.

In my Lyme support group, I often see patients trying to navigate the complicated world of toxin binders. What works for one person often doesn’t work for another, which leaves many patients confused and frustrated. In this article, I discuss seven toxin binders that can support the body’s detoxification processes, eliminate unhealthy waste, and help your body to heal. Keep in mind you may require a trial of a few products before you find one or more that works well for you.

As a word of caution: please discuss these binders with your doctor before incorporating them into your treatment. Almost all of them must be taken a few hours away from medications, herbs, or supplements to prevent them from absorbing them along with the toxins.

1) Cholestyramine- Cholestyramine (CSM) is a prescription medication that lowers cholesterol. In additional, biotoxin illness expert, Richie Shoemaker, M.D., states cholestyramine can legally and ethically be used as an off-label medication to bind biotoxins from mold and Lyme disease in the gut and assist the body with successfully excreting these harmful elements. Since CSM binds intensely to the biotoxins, it prevents them from being reabsorbed. As long as you aren’t repeatedly exposed to biotoxins, over time, CSM will remove them from the body’s tissues. Your doctor should provide you with specific instructions on how to take this medication and may also advise you to adhere to a strict diet. For some people, CSM is a useful tool to help the body recover.

2) Welchol- Welchol is another prescription medication that may provide a suitable alternative to those who find cholestyramine too harsh. Dr. Shoemaker reports that Welchol is approximately 25% as effective as CSM for removing mold or Lyme biotoxins from the body, so it’s a much gentler medication. Welchol may be a better pick for patients with severe sensitivities, and the frequency of the dosage can be slowly increased for greater effectiveness. Like CSM, Welchol binds to toxins and transports them out of the body through the gastrointestinal tract. If you take Welchol, you will likely receive specific instructions about how to time your dosages throughout the day, as well as dietary recommendations to maximize its potency.

3) Bentonite Clay- Bentonite clay is a consumable clay originating from the ash created by volcanoes. It has been used for centuries around the world to help the body detox from illnesses. It soaks up toxins, heavy metals, and other harmful materials. Additionally, bentonite clay may be a beneficial source of bioavailable nutrients. It also contains antiviral and antibacterial properties. However, more research is needed on this subject to confirm the accuracy of these ideas. In some people, bentonite clay may cause digestive upset, so you need to take it with eight to 16 ounces of water per teaspoon to prevent constipation.

4) Activated Charcoal- Many Lyme patients find activated charcoal to be an effective, low-cost alternative for reducing the body’s inflammatory responses to various toxins. Like the other options, activated charcoal absorbs adverse substances and helps the body properly dispose of them. This supplement has an excellent safety record and provides a subtler method of detox than some of the other supplements and medications.

Renowned researcher and naturopathic physician, Amy Yasko, Ph.D., proposes following activated charcoal with a high dose of magnesium citrate to flush the bowels and rid the body of excess ammonia from Lyme toxins or genetic mutations like CBS.

5) Chlorella- Chlorella is a blue-green algae rich in vitamins, minerals, iron, and amino acids. This toxin binder works particularly well for removing heavy metals from the body; some biological dentists will use chlorella in conjunction with removing mercury amalgams to prevent this unwanted metal from entering the bloodstream. Since chlorella mobilizes metals, many health care providers tell their patients to begin slowly and work up to the desired dose to prevent unfavorable side effects.

6) Zeolite- Zeolite is a popular substance and is used as part of many herbal Lyme treatment protocols. Composed of a wide array of natural minerals, zeolite powder chelates metals and draws them out of the body. However, some doctors suggest that it’s a weak binder of mercury; though it may work better on other heavy metals. Also, some physicians will combine zeolite with some of the previously mentioned binders for a balanced detox plan.

7) Pectin- Pectin is a powdered fiber supplement made from apples, plums, grapefruits, or other citrus fruits. It helps to detoxify the body by sweeping up biotoxins in the gut caused by mold, Lyme, and other infections. In addition, pectin binds mildly with heavy metals. Many people say that pectin is easier to handle than some of the more aggressive detoxifiers. Like zeolite, pectin works well in combination with other binders and is relatively inexpensive.

Although this isn’t a comprehensive list, these are a few of the more common toxin binders recommended to Lyme patients. However, it’s always best to consult with your practitioner for more individualized recommendations before beginning any supplement or medication.

Which toxin binders have you benefited from on your journey towards healing? Please leave a comment.

References:

10 Proven Bentonite Clay Benefits and Uses. (n.d.). Dr. Axe. Retrieved from https://draxe.com/10-bentonite-clay-benefits-uses/

Balch, J.F., & Stengler, M. (2004). Prescription for Natural Cures. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Shoemaker, R. (n.d). What to Expect from Cholestyramine (CSM). Retrieved from https://www.survivingmold.com/docs/CSM_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Yasko, A. (n.d). General Important Information to Guide You on Your Road to Wellness. Retrieved from http://www.knowyourgenetics.com/media/pdf/General%20Important%20Information%20To%20Guide%20You%20on%20Your%20Road%20To%20Wellness.pdf

Condensing A Year

(“I hear rumors that I am well. Someone mentioned it to ‘this’ person, ‘this’ person then told ‘that’ person, and finally, ‘that’ person told me that I am doing great. I am flattered people think I am doing so well, but the reality is much less glamorous.” More Than 43,000 Pills Later, October 23rd, 2015).

Where do I begin? I’m lying in bed typing, trying to push through the fatigue. I’m exhausted. No. I’m depleted. But that’s often the case with chronic Lyme disease. What can I say that you don’t already know? Some days are terrible. Some days are okay. I feel like a broken record sometimes–repeating the same verbiage day in and day out. Three years into treatment and yes, I’m still sick. Although you probably can’t tell by looking at me.  

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. October 2015-January 2016

My healthcare team uncovered a Babesia infection–a malaria-like parasite–and a high viral load. Since I didn’t have the obvious symptoms of these infections, I had some doubts about this diagnosis. I had done the immune-boosting, GcMaf therapy with Bravo Probiotic for several months, so I encouraged my nurse practitioner to intensify my treatment. I wanted 2016 to be my best year yet, and I thought I could tolerate an aggressive regime. Initially, I had some good moments. I went ziplining, celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, and my birthday. Then, without much warning, I got knocked down. I crashed so hard I could no longer lift my head from the pillow. My mother, who I rarely get to see, had come for a visit over Christmas. Sadly, I spent two days of her time here lying in bed. After the new year, I spoke with my nurse practitioner, and she ordered me to stop all medications and have some blood work done. Sure enough, my test results confirmed elevated liver enzymes and kidney function, and I was told to stay off all medications until my overworked organs were back in their normal ranges.

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. January 2016-April 2016

Two months. That’s how long it took for my liver and kidneys to return to normal. Following this setback, I became angry. I was angry that I was undertaking such a fierce treatment protocol without the support of knowledgeable, local physicians. I was angry that no matter where I went for healthcare, I was thrust into the role of patient, advocate, and educator always having to point out the inaccuracies of testing and the old, erroneous treatment guidelines. Lyme disease is serious; in some cases, it’s deadly. I had to explain this bitter reality to every physician I met. If it weren’t for a select group of doctors willing to put their licenses and careers on the line for me, I would be dead. Period.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Eventually, I consulted with a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) in Indiana to re-work the previous protocol that caused me to tank. The treatments I endured from him were intense–like knock-you-on-your-ass intense. But I persisted because that’s all I knew how to do. Days went by, and I was stuck in bed again trying to figure out the next step (I’m always trying to figure out what’s next).  

In March, I began weekly intravenous, ultraviolet light treatments. It’s an alternative intervention, but I heard promising reports that people were close to remission with this treatment. It was a pricey and sometimes painful attempt, but the hope of improving my quality of life was dwindling. At this point, the tremendous financial burden this placed on my family and me seemed worth the risk.

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. April 2016-July 2016

For awhile, I was improving with the new combo of medications and the UV treatments. In May, my husband and I took our first plane ride in eight years. We went to Nashville to visit some friends. While I was nervous about the large quantities of medication I had to bring with me, things went pretty smoothly. I came back from the trip feeling like I was making progress with my health–this time for good. I couldn’t believe I had conquered such a huge healing milestone!

In June, we adopted a new puppy. For a short time, I was the owner of THREE dogs! The puppy brought new energy into our apartment, and I enjoyed many walks with her through our neighborhood. Sadly, my upswing was short-lived, though, and I ended up in the emergency room after battling a colitis-type episode for a few days. While that episode resolved, I quickly began heading downhill once more. By July, I no longer saw benefits from the UVLrx treatments or my medications. The fatigue came back with a vengeance as I struggled to preserve the improvements I’d made. Sliding backward is a heartbreaking part of this illness, I’ve learned.

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. July 2016-October 2016 and beyond

So, shouldn’t I be used to this by now? I’m not. I’ll never get used to the anguish of the low points, or watching my dreams slip away. Sadly, my summer wasn’t what I had expected. I wasn’t able to attend my high school reunion, visit friends, family or do much of anything. In August, I stopped the UVLrx treatments at the six-month mark. Also, I tested positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae–another bacterial infection I had to contend with. 

“Maybe you’ve been reinfected. Do you recall any tick bites?” my nurse practitioner asked due to my increasing symptoms. How could that be? I’d hardly left the house the entire summer! I prayed she was wrong, but I was terrified she might be right. Could I have missed one, microscopic tick? What would I do if I had to begin this journey all over again? 

Then, life happened, and it forced me to put my health on hold. On October 6th, we put our almost 17-year-old beagle named Seven to sleep. Just typing her name still causes a dull ache in my heart. There’s no doubt it was her time, but it still hits me like a punch in the gut. She was my first dog, and when I was at my worst, I whispered in her ear one dispirited day, “You have to stay well until the day comes where I am strong enough to handle it.” I am grateful she upheld her end of the bargain. Even though I didn’t feel healthy, I managed her death without sliding further down the hill. Maybe I’m just too sentimental, but it sure felt like I hung on for her, and she hung on for me.

I connected with my nurse practitioner over a Zyto scan a few weeks later. The scan showed very high levels of oxidative stress, brain inflammation, and the Babesia infection from nearly a year ago.

But, there was good news too! After three years of treatment–three years of powerful medications–I no longer tested positive for Borrelia (the bacteria that causes Lyme) or the co-infection Bartonella. At least, for now. Insert happy emoji of the dancing lady in the red dress.

My nurse practitioner and I settled on a more simplified treatment plan of Malarone, tinidazole, and Tagamet. Although Tagamet is an antacid, it’s been shown to reduce brain inflammation, so I take it after meals to not interfere with my digestion. It’s still too early to tell, but I think it’s helping. Fingers crossed that it’s helping. I’m ready for a big shift to occur. I’ve been ready and waiting for a very long time…

The last of the golden fall sun.

The last of the golden, fall sun.

“A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.”

-e e cummings