By: Margaret Christensen MD
As cities and counties begin the phased approach to open back up, we’re watching people flock to outdoor spaces. Social distance is much easier to achieve if there is wide open space, and fresh air. Perhaps the hope is that it makes the world feel just a little bit more “normal”.
While we are still reeling from the events of the past several months, and we are still seeing headlines about COVID-19, there is another health risk out there as we head into open space that is worthy of our attention.
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is an infection usually introduced into the body by a tick bite. That bite injects a corkscrew-shaped bacteria into the body, known as Borrelia Burgdorferi. Lyme has gained some notoriety in recent years, as several celebrities have been diagnosed; everyone from Justin Beiber to Yoland Foster who actually wrote a book on her experience. Often referred to as “ The Great Imitator “, this multisystem disease can affect the skin, nervous system, heart, and musculoskeletal system.1 This “Imitator”, much like mold toxicity, is often misdiagnosed as any of the following:2
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
- Rheumatoid arthritis
What makes Lyme disease so difficult to treat is, if not correctly diagnosed and treated quickly, the bacteria rapidly reproduces and hides in different areas of the body. 3Once the bacteria has made itself at home in your body, it suppresses your immune system. Compounding the difficulty in treatment, Lyme often presents with coinfections. As if the Borrelia Burgdorferi were not enough, ticks often carry other disease-causing microorganisms. Therefore if you have Lyme you could very well suffer from a coinfection. Coinfections present for at least 30% of people with Lyme disease. Some of the most common co-infections include:4,5
- Lyme borreliosis
- Powassan virus
- B. miyamotoi
- Rocky Mountain spotted fever
3 Stages of Lyme Disease
Stage 1: Early
Symptoms of Lyme might show up as early as a few hours after a bite but may also take up to a few days. At this point, the infection has not yet spread through the body and is likely the easiest to cure. 6
Early Symptoms include:
- skin rash, which may or may not look like a bull’s eye
- flu-like illness, including chills and fever
- headache and stiff neck
- muscle soreness and joint pain
- swollen lymph nodes
- sore throat
Stage 2: Disseminated infection (1 to 4 months)
If Lyme disease isn’t found and treated quickly, or if you don’t have early symptoms that trigger the need for treatment, the infection may affect the skin, joints, nervous system, and heart within weeks to months after the initial infection.7
Symptoms may include:
- An expanding, circular rash at the site of the bite. More rashes may appear on other parts of your body as the infection spreads.
- Pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms or legs.
- Not being able to use the muscles of the face.
- Persistent headaches or fainting.
- Poor memory and reduced ability to concentrate.
- Conjunctivitis (pinkeye) or sometimes damage to deep tissue in the eyes.
- Brief episodes of pain, redness, and swelling in one or more large joints—most often the knee. Joint problems are common.
- Occasional rapid heartbeats (palpitations) or, in rare cases, serious heart problems.
Stage 3: Late Stage
If left untreated, the symptoms of Lyme disease can be severe and debilitating. Once it has spread through the body the symptoms of late-stage Lyme include:8
- Severe headaches
- Dizziness, vertigo
- Bilateral hearing loss over time
- Cognitive dysfunction
- Sleep disorders (no sleep, always sleep)
- Multiple ischemic strokes
- Respiratory distress syndrome
- Elevated liver enzymes
- Atrioventricular block
- Loss of sense of taste
- Various nephritic syndromes
- Recurrent, spontaneous episodes of loss of consciousness
Is There An Increased Risk of Getting COVID-19 if I have Lyme?
Just like if you have been exposed to mycotoxins, and as a result, your immune system is not running properly, Lyme also poses an additional challenge. Borrelia Burgdorferi (the bacteria that causes Lyme disease), actually disables part of your immune system, this is actually what allows the bacteria to hide in your body. Your body senses it is under attack from the Lyme and other coinfections which leaves the immune system in chronic fight mode and less able to withstand another attack by any new threats presented. This exhaustion of the immune system can cause a serious malfunction- even leading to possible autoimmunity. 9
LYME and TOXIC MOLD
In addition to someone with Lyme being more susceptible to COVID-19, due to the immune system being compromised, patients with mold are also more susceptible to Lyme and other inflammatory and infectious agents. When a patient has both Lyme and mold illness it can be difficult to treat. The mold illness often goes undiagnosed, but it actually needs to be addressed and treated first.
According to Dr. Patel, “it is nearly impossible to differentiate symptoms of mold and mycotoxin illness from those of Lyme disease because the biotoxins from each trigger the same inflammatory pathways in the body and can cause similar symptoms. For instance, brain fog, joint pain, fatigue, paresthesia’s (sensations of burning, tingling, and numbness) and intestinal inflammation, among other symptoms, can all be caused by both mold and Lyme disease infections.”10Many physicians including Dr. Jay Davidson consider “biotoxin illness”, or mold illness to be a co-condition of Lyme. When the body is exposed to mold mycotoxins during a Lyme infection, the body’s systems can weaken and suffer significantly.
Testing for Lyme is challenging as the standard conventional blood tests are often negative. See the upcoming Chronic Lyme Summit 4 for an in-depth discussion of various testing available.
Usually, if someone presents with Lyme, we ask where/when was the mold exposure? Unfortunately, many people are treated for years on an antibiotic protocol for Lyme, and that creates a lot of fungal overgrowth in the gut, which further suppresses the immune system. Mycotoxins and fungal toxins from the antibiotics are what’s keeping people sick!
UNDERSTANDING THE TWO ARMS OF THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
You have two equally important parts of the immune system; one is called the INNATE branch. These immune cells are essentially the ground forces that maintain surveillance all the time. It is nonspecific and it continuously goes after bacteria and viruses. The other part of the immune system is called the ADAPTIVE. This part is very specific, it uses T-cells and B-cells. B-cells produce antibodies, while T-cells produce a lot of inflammatory chemicals, called cytokines. (You have probably heard about the overactivation of the adaptive inflammatory “cytokines” with COVID 19.)
With toxic mold, you get suppression of the Innate immune system by the mycotoxins, so it’s no longer available to look for things like Lyme, viruses like COVID, or even cancer cells. To put it simply, this means you are more likely to get sick. At the same time, mold activates the Adaptive T-Cells, called Th2 and Th17 cells, triggering a lot of inflammation and autoimmunity. It depresses not only the innate cells but also the Th1 cells that clean up the bacteria. So, we have massive activation of autoimmunity antibodies, and chronic smoldering infections at the same time. No wonder folks feel terrible!
Mold basically suppresses the part of the immune system that protects us from Lyme. Unfortunately, when people are treated for Lyme for years and years with antibiotics, they are suppressing their immune system and further inflaming their cells which creates a big imbalance. When someone comes to me with a diagnosis of Lyme or we find Lyme in our work-ups, the first thing we do is take a history of how many antibiotics they have been on in their lifetime and history of exposures to water-damaged buildings.
It’s important to note that, if you are dealing with Lyme or any of its subsequent co-infections, it can cause the same neurological, autoimmune, hormonal brain dysfunction as toxic mold can. A good first step is to assess for mold. If you are living in a moldy environment you will not get better. Focus on air quality. My mantra is always “clean air, clean food, clean water, clear mind. “
TREATMENT for LYME
According to the CDC when Lyme is caught early the treatment is simple antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin, or cefuroxime for a short period. Used properly you can expect a quick recovery. Sadly, many folks don’t ever have early symptoms or don’t remember an insect bite, so end up being diagnosed much later in the cycle.
Unfortunately, even the Lyme Literate Medical Doctors (LLMD’s) have used antibiotics for years to treat chronic Lyme, often missing treating for toxic mold exposure first. While there may be a place for shorter-term courses of antibiotics, many practitioners on the leading edge prefer using rotating botanical protocols as well as using diet and nutritional modalities to support the innate immune system to allow the body to begin killing off the infection on its own.
Calming down inflammation can be done by utilizing an anti-inflammatory diet and very specific nutrients and botanicals. We like to support the body so that it will naturally go after the bacteria, viruses, and the Lyme without more antibiotics. Once we have supported the innate cells and calmed the inflammation and the adaptive immune system, then we start using botanicals to target and treat Lyme. Part of that treatment includes lymphatic drainage, which is important as both mold mycotoxins and debris from the Lyme dying off, plugs up the lymph system. It’s also important to use binders during treatment because a lot of toxins are being released, and those toxins can recirculate, causing a further immune imbalance.
Many Biotoxin illness practitioners also utilize IV ozone therapies along with high dose IV Vitamin C as important additions, along with botanical protocols, to help kill off Lyme and its co-infections. These are modalities we use at Carpathia–I have personally used these modalities on myself for both mold and Lyme co-infections.
Lyme treatment and diagnosis is a complex subject. Please join me at the Chronic Lyme Summit 4 with host Dr. Jay Davidson for a deep dive into learning more about symptoms, diagnosis, and cutting edge treatments.
SIMPLE STEPS to START RX
If you have Lyme, as previously outlined, your immune system is already under attack. Once this happens, minimizing inflammation is one step that can help. The most effective way to minimize inflammation is through diet. We recommend the Mold Detox Diet. This is a crucial part of healing your body. Eliminating sugar and processed carbs and adding in whole fruits and fresh vegetables can help give some relief to your overworked immune system.
This is also the time to prioritize your sleep. Good quality, consistent, restful sleep will help to heal the body and give it strength to fight the invaders.
It is also an ideal time to move your body; getting regular gentle exercise is another effective method to help lower the inflammation in the body. While the temperature in Dallas is on the rise, you can still dance in the living room, or try a yoga video. Many streaming services are free right now and local barre, yoga, and Crossfit classes have gone virtual, due to COVID-19. A lot of these classes even have live options, adding a layer of accountability and fun in the knowledge you aren’t working out alone, even if you are in your living room. It may be challenging to get motivated at first, but give it a try and see if you don’t feel slightly better in just a few short weeks.
Just remember, we share the open spaces we’re so excited to get back outside too, with many other creatures. Make sure, if you suspect you may have gotten a tick bite, that 1) you contact your practitioner for immediate treatment, and 2) you pay close attention to any symptoms, even months out. As always, you can call the team at Carpathia Collaborative if you suspect Lyme exposure.
For in-depth information sign up for the free Chronic Lyme Summit 4 and ToxicMoldProject.com where Dr. Jay Davidson and I discuss these issues in detail!