2008-06-20 / Columnists

Health & Harmony

Lyme Disease
By Dr. Nancy Gahles

DR. NANCY GAHLES DR. NANCY GAHLES The months of May through August are the most common times to come into contact with deer ticks (Ixodes species), the carriers of the infection named after its first appearance in Lyme, Connecticut in 1977. The bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi is contracted by humans when bitten by an infected deer tick, which has lodged itself onto the skin and has been feeding for at least 36 hours.

The usual places of tick contact on the body are on the ankles, hair, ears, neck and navel areas which should be checked carefully after walking or hiking in low wooded brush or in overgrown, moist shaded places. Take particular note of regions where deer are abundant and where dogs run. Pets should also be checked for ticks before entering the house. Deer ticks are reddish in color and about the size of a seed. In order to remove one, take a tweezers and grasp the head of the tick pulling firmly to extract the whole body.

As with any perplexing and difficult chronic syndrome, prevention is the best policy. Avoidance of the areas mentioned is one way to do this. Dressing for the event is another. Always wear long sleeves and pants tucked into socks or boots when trekking through low lying grasses. There is some evidence that DEET acts as an insect repellent. It is not 100% effective and there is controversy as to its toxicity. Better options to explore are neem oil, eucalyptus oil and tea tree oil.

The diagnosis of Lyme disease presents a conundrum in many cases. In the first instance, the onset stage of Lyme called Primary Lyme Disease presents as a low grade fever with muscle aches. The presence of the antibody to the Lyme bacteria, as diagnosed by the ELISA and Western Blot tests, takes 2-3 weeks to be confirmed after symptoms have developed. Diagnostic tests are also fraught with false negatives as well as false positives. Due to the insidious nature of this disease, if you are lucky enough to have a tick and a rash at the site of the bite or a causal relationship, it is advisable to begin a course of antibiotics as soon as is practical.

All stages of Lyme Disease lend themselves to integrative healthcare. In the primary stage, where antibiotic therapy has begun, simultaneous use of probiotics are advised to prevent bowel disorders and promote health, intestinal flora to increase immunity, and effectiveness of the therapy. Homeopathy is effective, for example, where the site of the bite has a purplish swelling that feels much better with cold compresses. In this case, Ledum is a remedy that will facilitate healing. If the site has the particular characteristic of soreness and a bruised sensation of the muscles, then Arnica is a good remedy choice. Belladonna is a remedy for bright red, hot rashes. The fever that is characteristic of Belladonna is high and the face is also red and hot. This will be in contradiction to the usual low grade fever of Lyme's and so will be easy to spot. It is important to note that one of the hallmarks of homeopathic treatment is

it's compatibility with conventional medicine. In my experience, selection of the appropriate remedy used in conjunction with antibiotic therapy, hastens the healing time and restores the person to vitality more quickly.

Advanced stages of this disease are the most challenging to both the patient and the practitioner. Often there is the absence of any known contact with a tick or recollection of the onset of the disease itself. Up to 30% of patients infected did not get a rash. They may have had the flu like symptoms of fever, muscle aches and joint pain but did not associate this with a Lyme's situation.

By the time they consult a practitioner, the symptom picture can include virtually all the systems. Chronic joint inflammation especially of the knees and associated polyarthritis is common and differentially diagnosed as arthritis. Neurologic manifestations such as fatigue, Bell's palsy, memory loss, altered sensitivities to external stimuli, mood disorders, parasthesias and coordination loss often lead to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome. The diffuse muscular pains, headaches and inflammation with irritability, fatigue and depression tend to be diagnosed as fibromyalgia. Heart palpitations can accompany any of these presentations and, in fact, studies show that approximately 8% of untreated Lyme's patients will develop heart disease.

Intregrative practitioners who work closely together on these cases stand the best chance of achieving cure. The primary care physician must undertake a thorough examination with pertinent diagnostic testing. The case history must be explored in detail as to onset, chronicity and recurrences after treatments. When collaborating with a Certified Classical Homeopath this information will be helpful. The homeopath will investigate the totality of symptoms and the underlying vitality of the patient in order to determine a remedy that matches the picture of the disease and one that will strengthen the constitution of the individual while it is battling the assaults on the vital force. Restoration of health requires a team approach where progressive disease has compromised both physical, mental and emotional elements. Appropriate consultations with providers in these fields along with nutritional and herbal support and movement/ music/art therapy can be valuable. (reprinted from my article in Integrative Practitioner.com)

May The Blessings Be!

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