My Journey to Finding Effective Lyme Disease Treatment | My Lyme Disease Story: Part Four
Treating Lyme disease is inherently tricky, especially when it is chronic or involves co-infections. There is quite a bit of controversy, confusion, and misinformation floating around about Lyme disease, specifically when it comes to diagnosing and treating it. From an over reliance on prescription antibiotics, to a debate about what is the proper length of treatment, to belief in a concept called “post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome” (don’t even get me started)—there is a lack of consensus on what effective Lyme disease treatment entails. Because of this lack of unity and comprehensive understanding of how to treat Lyme disease, many people are royally screwed over and left without effective treatment.
I’ll stop myself here before I embark on a rant about the pitfalls of the “standard” Lyme disease treatment protocol—yes, that is a topic for another day. Instead, let me change the tone and share my journey of how I found effective treatment for Lyme disease .
The Progress I’ve Made with My Lyme Disease Treatment
Let me clarify—I am still sick. Chronic Lyme disease is a difficult beast to tame. But, I have made significant improvement from where I was three years ago, right before I got diagnosed. It has taken three years of treatment to reach where I am today.
Don’t get me wrong, I still have my bad days. I still experience fluctuating symptoms, endure nights of aggravating insomnia, and face bouts of acute sickness due to a weakened immune system. I am still susceptible to flare-ups and setbacks. I still find myself worrying about my health and continue to manage the limitations my illness puts on me each and every day.
However, the good days are becoming that much better and the bad days are becoming less frequent. My energy is gradually improving and each day my body feels capable of slightly more. Progress has been slow and it sure has not been linear. There are periods of time that I feel like my progress has plateaued. At times I even question if I’ve taken steps backward in my treatment. Treating chronic Lyme comes with a heck of a lot of ups and downs and side to sides. The improvements may seem marginal at best, but over time and in hindsight I notice myself making incredible strides forward towards my ultimate goal of good health.
Treating chronic Lyme disease is a long process. Success does not happen overnight. It will probably take longer to get back to good health than you initially expected. Flash back to newly diagnosed Annie; I remember talking to an acquaintance who had overcome chronic Lyme disease. She told me it took her 3.5 years from beginning to end to feel back to “normal”. When I heard that my heart sunk. I had already endured 10 months—repeating that felt impossible, let alone another three years of it. Almost four years since my first symptom and here I am. Ten months doesn’t seem so bad now.
For some people, 3.5 years feels unbearable. For others, it is only a drop in the bucket. Some people are sick for a lifetime, while others may respond to treatment fairly quickly. Like with many aspects of chronic illness, Lyme disease treatment is very relative. Keep that in mind when reading my story—this is how it unfolded for me, but your journey to finding successful Lyme disease treatment will take on its own shape.
It took some time to accept that my treatment journey could be a process that took years. I realized I had to get used to the idea of living life with a chronic illness. Once I was able to let go of the “what ifs” and resentment I felt, I was able to truly appreciate the emotional and mental growth I was making with each challenge I overcame. I was able to acknowledge and appreciate the better version of myself I was transforming into.
A related read you may like: Coping with Chronic Illness: Redefining the Meaning of Recovery
My Approach to Lyme Disease Treatment: Why I Took the Naturopathic Route
Like I mentioned in part four of my Lyme disease story, my life changed when I had my first visit with a Lyme literate naturopathic doctor. Three years later and she still treats me. Many people who have not had much experience with alternative or holistic health may be weary of naturopathic medicine. Although its presence is growing in the western world, it is not exactly the conventional medicine many of us are used to. I had no exposure to naturopathic medicine prior to my first visit, but I had been let down by the “mainstream” sector of medicine, so my mind was open to anything and everything. I just wanted a diagnosis and effective treatment. Naturopathic medicine gave me exactly that.
Let’s take a step back here and dive a bit deeper into the basics of naturopathic medicine. Firstly, naturopathic doctors are not the same as naturopaths. Although they may use various natural methods to treat disease and health issues, they are certified doctors and their practice involves a much more holistic and integrative approach, often including some methods of conventional medicine. My ND used a vast array of treatment methods to help me attack my Lyme disease and co infections. She used pharmaceutical antibiotics and blood testing. She also used herbal antibiotics—which I must say worked wonders on my three tick-borne diseases—as well as lifestyle changes and alternative treatment methods. The idea here was to tackle my illness from all angles: to use traditional western medicine in tangent with more “alternative” Lyme disease treatment methods to give myself the best chance of seeing effective treatment. It is interesting how when all these methods are used in unison—when the best parts of traditional and alternative medicine work together—there is great potential for synergy.
Keeping an Open Mind: The Key to finding Effective Treatment
Something about naturopathic medicine clicked with me and resonated with my core belief system. Seeing the effectiveness of my truly holistic treatment protocol only motivated me to open my mind more and continue to explore newer areas of medicine and health. With that, I discovered what I believe to be the key to developing a holistic approach to healing (ha! See what I did there): keeping an open mind and embracing the things that work for you, not just the things that are “standard” or familiar. However, do so with caution and while under qualified guidance—I’m not going to sit here and tell you to explore crazy forms of medicine if you are not guided by a qualified professional. But keep an open mind and continue to pursue new avenues. That is the key to finding successful treatment for Lyme disease—or to find successful treatment for any health issue, for that matter.
A Quick Check on Privilege
A brief digression, but an important one. I think it is important to acknowledge the privilege that comes with being able to access and afford the resources to effectively diagnose and treat Lyme disease—or any chronic illness. Many factors go into being able to access the right doctors, testing, medicines, and other various treatments: from money and income, to race, gender identity, to even factors as simple as location. These factors can also play a large role in the individual patient's experience navigating the medical system and interacting with medical professionals. I am a white, cis woman from a middle class background—although my journey of chronic illness has been very challenging, I hold a lot of privilege that benefited me as I interacted with the medical system.
I believe it is important to open up a conversation about the ways various types of privilege interact with healthcare accessibility and the individual patient experience with the medical system. Not only is it something important to reflect on individually, but discussing the role certain privileges play in the medical system is key for identifying and evoking much needed systemic change. This is something I will ponder, educate myself on, and hopefully encourage discussion about throughout the existence of Holistic Healing. Please reach out if it is a discussion you wish to take part in here on Holistic Healing—my ears and mind are open!
Lyme Treatment Protocol Overview: My Lyme Disease Toolkit
Quick disclaimer here:
This is what worked for me. I am not a qualified doctor or other medical professional (hah, no kidding!) I’m not suggesting that these treatments are foolproof, nor do I recommend you jump into them. BUT I do think that—if any of them sound appealing—you should do some research and maybe meet with a qualified professional who specializes in these treatments. This array of treatments was developed over time with the help of multiple different specialists and doctors. Without further ado, here is an overview of my holistic treatment for Lyme disease.
Over the past three years, I have tried everything under the moon to get better, or at least it feels that way. I was so eager to get my health back that I was open-minded to trying anything. From your run-of-the-mill antibiotics to mixing ozone into my blood: I have tried treatments across the spectrum of medicine, ranging from conventional to very alternative. Some treatments were specifically aimed at killing off Lyme disease bacteria, some were to detox and manage symptoms and herxes, and some treatments were to support my immune system and body as I tackled the infections. Here’s a very simple overview of the chronic Lyme disease treatments I have explored first-hand. For a more in-depth look into my treatment protocol, stay tuned!
Prescription antibiotics (4+ types on rotation for 3 years, inconsistently)
Herbal antibiotics & antimicrobials (3 years, consistently)
Various herbal and homeopathic supplements for detox, hormone balance, & symptom management
CBD oil for symptom & pain management
IV photodynamic laser treatment
Transcendental Meditation to support mental health
Infrared saunas for detox
Exercise & movement
What Lyme Disease Treatment is Most Effective?
This is the question I avidly searched to find an answer to upon getting diagnosed with Lyme disease. Unfortunately, this question is not paired with a straightforward or simple answer. Firstly, Lyme disease treatment is not a “one size fits all” sort of deal. Although I would argue that a holistic and diversified approach to Lyme disease treatment is the best way to go, each person will find their own combination of treatments that is right for them. Secondly, my treatment protocol has always entailed many moving parts. Never have I just focused on one treatment at a time. Because of that, I can not point to just one type of Lyme disease treatment as being the most or least effective. Using this combination of methods has led me to find an effective approach to managing, treating, and improving my illness.
That being said, there are a few of these treatments that I highly recommend considering. Firstly, let me just say that herbal antimicrobials are very underrated. Herbal medicine is an amazing natural treatment for Lyme disease. It is incredible the medicinal qualities plants hold, especially when it comes to treating disease. I personally found the various herbal antibiotics and antimicrobials I took to be incredibly effective. How could I tell? Well, the biggest indicator of an effective Lyme disease treatment—besides gradual long term improvement—is herxing. In my experience, herxing is one of the only short-term indicators of an effective Lyme disease treatment. If the concept of herxing is brand new to you, I highly recommend learning more about the herx reaction, as it is a lesser-known aspect of Lyme treatment that is integral to understanding how treatment works. Herbal antibiotics made me herx, big time.
Now—just like any medication—some herbal medicines are more effective than others, which is why I strongly urge you to connect with a qualified specialist that has successfully treated Lyme patients using herbal antibiotics. If you feel more comfortable with using a natural treatment for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses, then dive into the world of herbal medicine. It may surprise you how effective the right types of plants can be.
I know there are many skeptics out there when it comes to herbal medicine, especially among a medical system that seems to praise pharmaceutical drugs. Although I would not go as far to say that all pharmaceutical drugs are bad—I’ve had some success with pharmaceutical antibiotics—I would argue that “big pharma” is a bit too big and that there is not enough open mindedness to medical solutions that lie outside of conventional mainstream medicine. Pharmaceutical antibiotics are not the only solution to Lyme disease, and for many people, may not be the most effective solution. Keep an open mind, that’s really what I’m trying to get at.
That short digression aside, another noticeably important part of my successful Lyme disease treatment has been adopting a Lyme diet. From my observation, many treatment regimens for chronic Lyme disease often involve a significant lifestyle change, noticeably a change in diet. There are various approaches to the “Lyme disease diet”, but in general it is a set of restrictions and/or guidelines aimed at reducing inflammation associated with the Lyme disease symptoms, as well as depriving bacteria of their main food sources in order to make them weaker and more susceptible to antibiotic treatment—or so that is my understanding of it.
My specific Lyme disease diet has involved eliminating many processed foods, most dairy products, gluten, and dramatically reducing my sugar intake. Diet has been an integral part of managing my Lyme disease. I’ve noticed a correlation between my diet and symptom severity; when I slack off on my diet, the overall severity of my symptoms and condition of my body seems to suffer. I usually feel my best when I am eating clean, which could be said for people in any state of health. All in all, a change in diet is an easy and low-risk tool to add to your Lyme disease treatment regimen.
Lastly—although it is not a direct treatment for Lyme disease-related infections—another effective aspect of my holistic Lyme disease treatment regimen were my tools to manage mental health. I have noticed a significant correlation between the state of my mental health and my physical health. When my stress and anxiety levels are at their worst, so are my symptoms.
I’ve struggled with stress, anxiety, and depression throughout my journey with Lyme disease. Through that experience, I’ve witnessed first hand the effect stress and anxiety can have on my physical health and immune system. A key for me has been to find tools—such as transcendental meditation, exercise, and adaptogenic herbs—to help cope with anxiety and mitigate my stress levels. It may sound far fetched to some people, but there is truly a connection between mental, physical, and emotional health. That is a connection I’ve had to learn how to nurture and respect throughout my Lyme disease treatment.
Some Parting Words
In an effort to manage the length of this article, I am going to discuss more about my Lyme disease treatment experience another day. So if you are curious about some of the key lessons I took away from Lyme disease treatment, or want a more in-depth look into some of my favorite treatments, stay tuned. For now, I will leave you with some final words of encouragement:
Upon getting a Lyme disease diagnosis, an acquaintance of mine who had overcome chronic Lyme disease provided me with encouragement that went something like this…
You will get better. Don’t listen to anyone who tells you otherwise. It may take some time, but it will happen. You will get there.
I want to pass on that same encouragement to anyone reading this who may be in the midst of their own battle with Lyme disease. Although your journey with Lyme disease may not unfold how you originally thought it would, you will find growth and improvement in your health—be it mental, emotional, and/or physical. I truly believe that approaching Lyme disease treatment with an open mind will bring unexpected forms of success. Keep your head up and focus on your personal journey—if you allow yourself to compare your Lyme disease treatment progress to the stories of others, you are setting yourself up to feel that much more behind, overwhelmed, and fearful.
You can overcome Lyme disease. Coming from someone who has found a glimpse of success and miles of improvement due to a holistic approach to Lyme disease treatment, I truly believe this. There are many opinions out there that would try to convince you otherwise. Yet you will also find many stories that will motivate you to believe in the contrary. Hang on to those. Know that you are strong and resilient enough to be another success story.
Until next time…
Best of luck and much love,
Read Next: Your Mental Health is a Long-Term Game