Natural Treatment for Lyme Disease: are antibiotics really necessary?
I am asked frequently whether it is possible to recover from Lyme disease without the use of antibiotics. It’s a great question, but unfortunately not one for which I have a definitive answer. Rather, my answer is “sometimes”. I wish I could tell people that of course they can treat their Lyme disease 100% naturally and have great outcomes every time, but that is just not realistic.
I definitely have patients who I work with without the use of antibiotics, where herbal antimicrobials and immune support, coupled with dietary changes and other supportive nutritional supplements have recovered them to the point where they are back out in their lives, either completely symptom free or at 90-95% of their normal (pre-Lyme) level of functioning. I love these cases as they really reinforce the power of natural medicine, and show us that God has instilled healing properties in the plants He has given us.
More often than not, when patients opt for all-natural treatment, I select a variety of modalities to cover as many bases as possible. An example is to combine the immune-supportive properties of transfer factors (both general and Lyme-specific), with herbal antimicrobials (teasel, cats claw, olive leaf, etc), with Lyme-specific homeopathic remedies, and as I said, base all of that on a solid foundation of good nutrition. We want to address the infection from several directions at once to maximize the impact and our success. Supporting detoxification and digestive support are important here.
If we need to step it up another notch, then I start considering other therapies such as hyperbaric oxygen (HBOT). HBOT is a great way to improve oxygen flow to the cells, accelerating the cellular healing and regeneration. It also has antimicrobial action as the bugs do not survive well in that high saturation of oxygen. It helps regenerate neurological function, and sweeps the body of other microbes such as viruses and mycoplasma. I love HBOT, and I wish it wasn’t so time and money intensive so that more patients could access it.
If HBOT is not an option, another approach is to engage some kind of Rife or frequency based therapy. This is not something I can specifically offer or prescribe, however patients seek out information through other Lyme sufferers and internet forums, and can make their own decisions about the different machines that are available.
Then, alas, there are cases where quite simply antibiotics are necessary. I wish it wasn’t so, but it is. Some people just can’t get sufficient recovery without these medications, and antibiotics offer relief that other more natural therapies can’t give. I honestly think that the majority of Lyme patients require antibiotic treatment somewhere along the way in their treatment path. Of course, I always vote for naturopathic support in conjunction with the meds, and nutrition is equally if not even more important here. But the bottom line is that in many cases, the medications are a necessary part of treatment.
There are a number of factors that determine whether a patient might respond well only to natural treatments. Duration of illness is one as well as severity of symptoms. Obviously a more recent case that hasn’t gone as “deep” into the body will likely respond better. Also, I have had better success treating naturally in cases where there is less neurological involvement. Arthritic-type Lyme seems to respond better to herbs and nutrient therapy, in part I believe because there are several great natural remedies for calming inflammation, which causes a lot of the pain, and minerals such as magnesium can offset a lot of muscle aching, cramping and twitching.
So can Lyme disease be treated naturally? Sometimes. My general philosophy is to start out with natural agents, building up to meds if the patient is not responding adequately. At least then we’ve laid a solid foundation of support and started doing some bug-killing before the medications come along, and have set up detox pathways to function better and handle medications and die-off better. In medicine this is called the “therapeutic order” – start with the least invasive therapy and work up in strength and invasiveness as needed.
Another important part of this puzzle is making sure other issues are being adequately addressed such as hormone imbalance, heavy metal toxicity, thyroid issues and food intolerances. Sometimes if Lyme symptoms are not resolving there is a tendency to get more and more aggressive with medications, adding new ones and increasing doses, when the problem may not be coming from the Lyme disease at all, and may be helped with something completely different such as gluten avoidance or chelation therapy.
Of course, Lyme disease is complicated. There is no answer that is right for everyone, and the thing that might be right for an individual today may not be right for them six months from now. A lot of the answers come from listening carefully to what the body is saying, and not being afraid to make adjustments along the way as needed. Whether natural treatments or antibiotics are used, a multi-system, multi-factorial approach is the key to recovery from Lyme disease. We need to treat the person, not the disease.