Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne disease in America, with 16,000 new cases reported each year. It is caused by a bite from a deer tick infected with the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. Not all tick bite will cause Lyme disease but if the tick stays on your body for more than 36 hours, you are likely to get Lyme disease. Lyme disease cases have been reported in nearly all states, with high number of cases in wooded areas. Early treatment is imperative to prevent long-term effects. Treating Lyme disease can be tricky as sometimes, the disease persists and causes arthritic, neurological and cardiac complications even after symptoms are gone.
1. What are the symptoms?
Stage 1: The bite will develop into a lesion, much like a bull’s eye. It can be contained and localized on the bite area or it can cover the entire width of a person’s back. 10 percent of people may experience heart abnormalities such as palpitations, lightheadedness, fainting, chest pain or shortness of breath.
Stage 2: Flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, body and joint aches and fatigue make their appearance. If Lyme disease is not treated soon with antibiotics, it will progress to stage 3.
Stage 3: In the final stage, symptoms can mimic other medical conditions. 60 percent of the untreated patients will develop recurring arthritis (most often in the knees) that can persist from a few days to a few months. In the worst case scenario, 10 to 20 percent of the people will suffer chronic arthritis. Neurological symptoms will also develop—stiff neck, severe headache (may indicate meningitis), temporary paralysis of muscles in the face (Bell’s palsy), numbness, pain or weakness in the limbs and poor motor co-ordination.
2. What Should You Do to Prevent Lyme Disease?
They say prevention is better than cure? For this case, it applies a hundred times over. The absolute best way to prevent Lyme disease is to stay away from wooded areas. Heavily areas include Northeast, Upper Midwest and Northern California. However, that can be an unreasonable request if you love the outdoor or enjoy exploring wooded areas. If that is the case, take precautions—your next best bet. Wear protective clothing—long-sleeved shirts and long pants, preferably light in color to help you spot ticks, if any. Apply an insect repellent with DEET or oil of lemon eucalyptus. Do a body inspection after you’ve been outdoors. If you find one, remove it with tweezers and see the doctor immediately. Taking antibiotics within 3 days’ of tick bite may prevent Lyme disease.
3. Is there a Vaccine for Lyme disease?
There used to be a vaccine for Lyme Disease but was discontinued due to low demand. Most cases can be treated with antibiotics.
4. What treatments are available?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded several studies that showed that patients can be cured within a few weeks of taking antibiotics. Oral antibiotics include doxycycline, amoxicillin or cefuroxime axetil. Patients with certain neurological or cardiac forms of illness may require intravenous treatments with drugs such as ceftriaxone or penicillin.
Proper nutrition and supplements can help to boost your immune system at this time to give your body the best chance to fight the disease. Antibiotics can strip the GI tract of good bacteria, producing side effects such as diarrhea and yeast infections. To replenish good bacteria wiped out, consider taking a probiotic supplement (containing Lactobacillus acidophilus). The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends taking 5 to 10 billion colony forming units (CFUs) a day.
Since inflammation is involved in Lyme disease, take Beta-glucan, a type of soluble fiber, available at health stores and online specialty stores.
5. What about Complementary Medicine?
Don’t want too much synthetic medication in your body? Consider using herbs to strengthen the body and treat the disease. Consult your physician before taking herbs as some herbs can trigger side effects or interfere with medications.
Green Tea: Since green tea is not fermented, it contains high levels of catechins, an antioxidant polyphenol, that helps to capture damaging free radicals. It is also anti-inflammatory, making it a great herb to take while fighting Lyme disease.
Gingko biloba: A powerful antioxidant, it also promotes heart-health and enhances memory function.
Cat’s Claw: Antifungal, antiviral and anti-inflammation—three good qualities to tame Lyme disease.
Reishi Mushroom: Helps to boost immunity and is anti-inflammatory.
Olive leaf and Garlic: Antibacterial, antifungal and great immunity boosters.
These herbs can be found as dried extracts in the forms of capsules, powders or tea. They also come as glycerine extracts (glycerites) or as tinctures (alcohol extracts). Unless otherwise indicated, most of these herbs can be made into teas (steep 1 tsp. of herb in 1 cup of hot water—steep for 5 to 10 minutes). Drink 2 to 4 cups a day.