25-year-old with Neurological Lyme disease recovered with Naturopathic Medicine
I had a 25-year-old patient who presented to my naturopathic practice with numbness in her limbs, pre-menstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), fatigue, joint pain, fainting, muscle pain, bell’s palsy, headaches, insomnia, depression, anxiety, SIBO, and H. pylori.
After ordering through labs and collecting her clinical history, we uncovered her Neurological Lyme Disease. This patient has received Naturopathic medical care through my office for the past year and her symptoms have resolved. Before I share more about her story, I think it’s necessary to share some pertinent information about Lyme Disease and how challenging it is to get a diagnosis, so you understand why Lyme negatively impacted her neurological system.
In my Naturopathic Medical practice, we see a multitude of patients presenting with, what most doctors may call “mystery” symptoms, that are not correlated to common diseases or conditions that are on these doctors’ radar. These patients have the conventional lab tests done by their allopathic doctors and they are told their “labs are normal.” Many of them are told that it is “in their head” and recommended psychiatric medications.
Many of these patients are from Lyme endemic areas and do in fact have Lyme disease or co-infections. It’s important to note that Lyme is not only on the East Coast. Lyme is spreading West and I have even treated patients in California with Lyme disease.
We typically see two types of patients in my practice.
- The patient was bitten by a tick in their lifetime but did not know that they needed to be treated for Lyme disease and were completely unaware of the severity of the disease.
- The patient has no recollection of a bite whatsoever. This happens quite often because not everyone will get the typical bulls-eye rash that is characteristic of a tick bite. At least 20% of patients who get bit by a tick do not get an actual rash.
It is imperative that the patient is treated early to reduce the risk of long-term symptoms and chronic Lyme Disease. If the patient does not know they are bitten, then they do not take the proper steps to address the infection. Lyme disease then becomes chronic, as the infection can disseminate into multiple organ systems causing symptoms that vary among each patient.
Lyme is considered a multi-organ system disease when it goes undiagnosed and untreated. The longer the infection goes untreated, the more it has significant negative implications on the neurological system. The patient becomes a more complex case and more difficult to treat as Lyme is now a late-stage infection. Patients begin to develop more severe symptoms and it’s common for them to visit a host of different physicians to try to get a diagnosis.
Diagnosis is very difficult, as traditional Lyme testing checks your immune response to the Lyme organisms, not the actual infection itself. Therefore, if you were bitten years or decades ago and the immune system is not surmounting a proper immune response, you will get a false negative result. The patient is then sent home saying that they do not have Lyme Disease.
Also, your doctor usually performs the typical 2-tiered testing model recommended by the CDC. They will start with an Elisa test, which checks for antibodies for Borrelia burgdorferi. Then, only if the Elisa is positive, will it reflect a western Blot IgM/IgG, considered the “gold standard” for Lyme testing. The issue with this testing method is that the Elisa test is not always sensitive enough to detect Lyme and then it will not reflex to the Western Blot.
I had a patient from Connecticut who was suffering for many years and her doctor continually ordered just the Elisa test (also known as the Lyme antibody test) and it was always negative. When she came to me as a patient, I immediately ran the Western Blot and she was CDC-positive. We can’t rely on this two-tiered testing if the patient is presenting with Lyme symptoms, as Lyme disease may be a clinical diagnosis.
It’s also important to note that the best time to test for Lyme antibodies, if acutely bit by a tick, is 4-6 weeks later as it may take that long for the antibodies to become present. This is another way Lyme is in fact missed because if you test too early after a tick bite, you will also get a false negative.
Traditional Lyme testing also does not test for as many bands or has the specificity and sensitivity as some of the specialty testing through companies such as Vibrant America or Igenex Laboratories.
As you can imagine, many patients suffer for years on end searching for a diagnosis. This leads me to a patient case study where a patient suffered year after year with neurological Lyme symptoms.
She was a 25-year-old patient under the care of another physician who was treating her gut infections (SIBO and H. Pylori) and mycotoxin illness.
She made an appointment with me to discuss her chronic symptoms. After listening to her clinical history, I ordered more testing to get a clearer picture and her Lyme Western Blot was negative. She only had Lyme IgG Band 41 positive and the CDC states that you must have 5 IgG bands or 2 IgM bands to be considered positive for Lyme. This patient also had a negative Lyme Antibody test.
Other markers that I check when I suspect someone has Lyme disease are a CD57 and a C4a. These two tests can help me with “puzzle pieces” as I call them, because as you can see Lyme testing may not always be accurate.
This patient had a low CD57 which can indicate a chronic Lyme infection.
This patient also had a high Complement 4a (c4a), and I see this also elevated in patients with Lyme or mold illness.
The patient never recalled being bit by a tick, but since she was from New York and her symptoms and labs were leading me in that direction, I recommended more specialty Lyme testing.
The patient agreed to a Vibrant Tickborne 2.0 test that tested thorough Lyme bands as well as co-infections. Co-infections are infections that a tick can have and can get transferred to you when you are bitten.
When the results came in, the patient was positive for Borrelia Garinii, which is generally found in Europe or Asia. When I asked the patient about her travel outside of the US, she did in fact confirm that she did live in Asia and Italy at certain times in her life. This particular strain of Borrelia can have neurological implications and this explains the numbness and why she would not feel her limbs for a few days at a time. I feel her neurological system was impacted so greatly because she had a species of Lyme not regularly tested for in the United States and that it was left untreated for so long.
The patient also had two co-infections named Babesia which is a red blood cell parasite, and Bartonella, which is a bacterium. The Babesia can contribute to the bell’s palsy as well as headaches. Bartonella mostly affects the musculoskeletal system and neurological systems and can greatly impact mental health.
HHV-6 and HHV-7 were also present on her test which are herpetic viruses that are opportunistic when the immune system is compromised, which makes perfect sense in her case of a chronic infection.
I recommended follow-up visits to this patient every 4-6 weeks. We worked on all her organ systems in a step-wise fashion and implemented a comprehensive health plan with clear instructions on what to take and when. I find that we are most successful when we start with foundational work. We make sure the patient’s diet is nutrient-dense, they are managing their stress, doing trauma work if necessary, moving their body, getting proper hydration and sunlight, and taking foundational vitamins and minerals.
I then make sure the gastrointestinal system is supported and the patient is having daily effectual bowel movements, as this is the most imperative step before recommending any anti-microbial Lyme agents. This patient was already working with another doctor who was working on her gastrointestinal tract to address SIBO and H. Pylori
I usually then make sure the immune system is thoroughly supported and recommend items that are anti-viral in nature first and also start to slowly detox the system from toxins, including mold, heavy metals, pesticides, etc. This patient was already detoxing mold and had a great head start. It is important to detox mold if it is present, as it can reactivate a dormant Lyme Infection and will make it more difficult to eradicate Lyme disease.
After the above, I introduced anti-microbial herbs including Cats claw, Japanese knotweed, and more. You can learn more HERE about how herbals are effective in treating Lyme and how antibiotics are not the answer for chronic Lyme disease.
This patient no longer experiences joint pain, headaches, fainting, numbness, PMDD, bell’s palsy, insomnia, or fatigue.
She was able to travel for the holidays, go out with her friends, and socialize more than she ever has been able to and she just went to fashion week in Paris!
Naturopathic Medicine has helped many of our Lyme disease patients re-gain their health.