Discussion on the Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatments of Lyme Disease
This research paper began with my symptoms in my sixth decade of living. I was going to write a book about myself telling everyone how wonderful it was to turn sixty-one and to be in such good health, until I started feeling fatigued and thought it was a case of needing to lose a few pounds and perhaps balancing my hormones. I went to several doctors before I was able to determine the cause of my symptoms: Chronic autoimmune phase Lyme disease. In the course of seeking the proper treatment, I’ve encountered Lyme illiterate doctors who’ve tried to treat me based on the typical medical protocol for any chronic infectious disease which is how I ended up with a broken arm after herxing with vertigo. Added to this, are the well meaning friends who continue to tell me what I need to do to get well, not knowing the extent of my condition nor having the education required to guide me in the right direction. I’ve had to be very forgiving. My goal in this paper will be to discuss the various symptoms of Lyme, to identify the phases of Lyme correctly, and to share the appropriate protocol based on my particular symptoms, along with how I use essential oils to cope with this affliction, for rare is the person who is cured, although this is exactly what I am looking for. My hope is that this paper will help someone else who is struggling with this disease and is looking for answers.
I started having chronic muscle and joint pain after the chronic fatigue got to the point of being debilitating. At first, I thought I had these bouts with joint and muscle pain as a result of my physically demanding job as a licensed massage therapist, the bulk of my work being deep tissue massage. I would end my shift feeling so broken, wondering if I could keep continuing in this profession. Nightly immersions in Epsom salts helped me along with daily yoga stretches, but I wasn’t bouncing back like a healthy person should, and I was spending all of my time off work recovering from the pain. The strange thing is that Lyme disease also lists inconsistent pain which moves around in the body.
It ping pongs around the body in a different place daily, making it hard to diagnose.
It became so severe that I had to see a doctor of osteopath to find out why I felt like my bones were brittle and ready to snap, as if I had no synovial fluid left in my joints. I hurt everywhere and my range of motion was so limited that I could not turn my head when backing my vehicle up to see if anyone was behind me. I was wondering if this was the start of arthritis. Because I was in so much pain, my eyes became bloodshot and the tinnitus in my ears amplified. My blood pressure elevated and the doctor put me on the usual course of treatment at a low dose of Lisinopril which is basically treating my symptoms without ever finding the cause, and the medication was not consistently keeping my blood pressure down, so my doctor told me to increase the dosage. That’s when I looked for an alternative method of treating HBP using essential oils.
I was taking a workshop at Aroma Hut Institute and the teacher let me use a bottle of essential oils that her former students had made for high blood pressure. I took my blood pressure before rolling on the blend: 152/83. After rolling this blend onto my wrists and carotid arteries, I waited fifteen minutes and my blood pressure reading was 145/80. Ten minutes later it was 120/76!
I was astounded and bought Rebecca Park Totilo’s book, “How to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally” and experimented with different blends until I found one that works best for me (Totilo 19). I stopped taking Lisinopril against my doctor’s wishes, but I am not recommending this to anyone else. I have been able to manage my blood pressure using essential oils, eating right, and exercising. I find that if I don’t exercise, my blood pressure gets higher. However, simply managing my blood pressure was not alleviating the chronic fatigue and body pains I was suffering.
The second doctor prescribed ImmunoMod-A which contains curcumin and shellfish-free N-Acetyl-D-Glucosamine, which helped considerably. She ordered a customary blood panel and saw that my WBC’s were low (white blood cells) and later accounted it to the microbes hanging out where there are physical toxins because they are not adversely affected by them, whereas, the WBC’s cannot function in this environment, resulting in a breakdown of my immune system. She ordered further testing with an infectious disease panel. She suspected Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) which causes chronic fatigue, and the results came back positive for Lyme and EBV. She utilized the standard 2-tier testing that is done for Lyme: ELISA test and Western Blot.
She looked at my bacterial load in the results and told me that I was in chronic stage Lyme and asked me if I’d ever had a bull’s-eye rash which is the physical trademark of those bitten by a tick. I did not have the bull’s-eye rash, nor do I recall specifically being bitten by a tick. I’ve since learned that Lyme can also be transmitted by fleas, mosquitoes, and even by sexual transmission. As I’ve started to familiarize myself with the co-infections that usually come along with Lyme, I can understand why no two people will have the exact same set of symptoms. The pathogens that can accompany Lyme are mycoplasma, Rickettsial type infections such as Ehrlichia (Anaplasma), Coxiella (Q Fever), Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Typhus, Bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever), Treponema, Leptospira, Tularemia (Rabbit Fever, Deerfly Fever, and Ohara’s Fever), Brucella, Chlamydia pneumonia (Johnson 15). There are also parasites such as Babesia, Toxoplasmosis, Helminths (parasitic worms), and fungi: Candida, Aspergillus, Cladosporium, and Stachybotrys. And lastly, many viruses that like to accompany Lyme known as Borrelia burdorferi: Cytomegalovirus (CMV), Human Herpesvirus (HHV-6), Herpes Simplex Virus 1 and 2 (HSV-1 and HSV-2), Coxsackie A virus (CAV), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), Human Herpesvirus 4 (HHV-4), and West Nile Virus (WNV). Lyme is never in the body without co-infections, so you can see by this list why it is a challenge to diagnose, and why everyone has a unique set of symptoms!
Getting back to the first doctor that I saw in January 2016 who specializes in internal medicine, she loaded me up on hormones and I started having panic attacks which were new to me. In addition, the side effects were so severe that I ended up in the emergency room with a hearing loss which was diagnosed as eustachian tube dysfunction. My doctor’s response was, “I’ve been doing this for twenty years and nobody else has had these kinds of reactions.” In other words, there must be something WRONG with ME and she wasn’t able to resolve the problem which she thought was me. All of this to say that it is critical in understanding that every person has a different chemistry, along with emotions, genetic predisposition, mindset, diet, and beliefs which will influence the homeostasis in every person in a very unique way. It is something to remember when sharing the benefits of essential oils with people: not everyone is the same. An aromatherapist is dealing with a unique body chemistry within each person.
One of the things that my current Lyme literate doctor, Kevin Conners, is doing with me is ordering a DNA genetic profile to better understand why my body has negative responses to certain treatments. The 23andMe kit is a simple saliva test which will give a detailed report of carrier status to determine what inherited conditions I have in my chromosomes. There is also an ancestry report, a wellness report, and a traits report which help to understand the chemical makeup of a person, and what essential oils or other holistic treatments would be contraindications.
For example, my second doctor, after receiving my infectious disease blood panel results, used the gunshot approach in my treatment and told me to take Methyl CpG for fatigue without knowing my genetic profile. By the second week, I felt like my head was swelling and when discussing it with her, she told me to keep taking it, but I stopped because it was frightening to feel like I was losing control of my stability and my mind. I found out from Dr. Conners that I should never have been given this supplement because it causes serotonin imbalance with my particular genetic makeup, resulting in depression, anger, or extreme emotional upset.
I stopped taking it and looked into using essential oils for inflammation in my scalp and rubbed several drops of a 50/50 blend of coconut oil with frankincense (Boswellia carterii) for two weeks until I started to regain a sense of stability again, although I was still struggling with vertigo. The frankincense has the ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, increasing oxygen into the brain, which is extremely helpful for me because Lyme destroys neurons and causes brain damage. Monoterpenes in frankincense also have the ability to reprogram miswritten information in the cellular memory (Totilo 159), as well as being anti-inflammatory and calming, all of which helped me to return to some sense of wellbeing.
Lyme Disease is at epidemic proportion in the USA and is the number one infectious disease in the world now, bypassing the number of people with breast cancer and AIDS, yet many doctors remain Lyme illiterate.
It is not enough to know whether the person afflicted has acute or chronic stage, although it is necessary to know which category a person suffers in order to choose the right treatment, because acute Lyme means the Borrelia burdorferi bacteria has not had time to penetrate into the cell membranes yet and can usually be cured with antibiotics if it is caught in time.
Lyme has masquerading properties and can form into cysts under stress which antibiotics cannot penetrate where Lyme hides in the blood-brain barrier doing its damage. So, acute phase one Lyme would be treated with antibiotics, but once inside the cell membrane in cyst form, it becomes phase two. I personally would not rely solely on essential oil therapy with a fresh tick bite at acute phase one stage, knowing that time is of the essence, meaning, if you don’t kill the bacteria before it gets a chance to penetrate your cell membranes, you have helped yourself into phase two Lyme which is a lot harder to treat. In the acute phase of Lyme immediately following the bite, the Borrelia bacteria have not yet entered the cells while they multiply in the circulatory system (Cowden). It is at this point that antibiotics would be most appropriate to administer while the pathogens have not yet entered human cells. Within two hours after administering antibiotics, the Borrelia, which have a corkscrew formation, start to form little granules along its cell membrane which are impervious to antibiotics and can continue to multiply as cyst formations while the antibiotics are given! And while this is happening, once the antibiotics stop, these granule cysts then form into spirochetes which are very invasive, entering human cells as its corkscrew formation within minutes. It also forms biofilms, which are mucous hedges built around the pathogens as a defensive wall of protection so our immune systems cannot find them. My doctor tried too rapidly with her gunshot approach of treatment to break this biofilm with Biocidin LSF and it resulted in debilitating vertigo which lasted two days until I stopped taking it. The residual effects of this experience have left me with a spatial imbalance and disorientation which contributed to my falling down and breaking my wrist. In phase two Lyme, the microbes start to mutate genetically as genetic plasmids which can turn on and off human genes. It can share its DNA with another bacteria and form a new mutation which can continue to mutate microbes. This makes it dangerous for an affected person to become exposed to pathogens as the immune system becomes weakened trying to kill off the hiding invaders (Cowden).
Antibiotics will no longer be effective in this phase two stage of Lyme.
Peruvian Cat’s Claw is the recommended herb to help with immune support as herbs can penetrate our cells. Some doctors recommend grapefruit seed extract (not to be confused with grapefruit essential oil) at this phase because of its ability to break down cysts, but it is important to know that a person taking antibiotics, specifically Doxycycline, and then also using grapefruit seed extract actually disables the effectiveness of Doxycycline (Tired of Lyme). An intense detox with nutritional support would be appropriate for all phases of Lyme and is discussed in detail by Dr Conners on his website (Conners). In phase three Lyme (which I have) the bacteria hides inside the cells and pretends to be my body’s own cells, so if I boost my weakened immune system, I stimulate the attack upon my own body. This is autoimmune phase three and is the most complicated to fight. In referring to my DNA genetic profile, I see that my body does not detox very well, so this would explain why I have negative reactions to a usual and customary dose of medication. My body goes into Herxheimer reaction which Lyme illiterate doctors consider as an acceptable healing crisis, but in fact, it is very damaging to the body, and in my case, being overloaded with toxins to prompt “herxing” is how I ended up with vertigo and lost my balance, breaking my arm and cracking my ankle.
Treating phase three Lyme requires a delicate balance between killing the bacteria and removing the die off at a pace so the body does not become dangerously toxic. In addition, the autoimmune condition of this advanced disease requires alternative ways to attack the pathogens without destroying healthy tissue, knowing that the antigens have developed to the point where the body is attacking the body part instead of the bacteria because Lyme is hiding deep inside these tissues where phagocytes cannot access.
Lyme bacteria in the brain causes multiple symptoms, known as “Lyme brain:” confusion, feeling spaced out, foggy, memory loss, unable to focus, irritated, difficulty concentrating, and feeling overwhelmed, all of which I struggle with, so I choose essential oils to help with inflammation in the blood brain barrier because I know the molecules are small enough to penetrate this area. Essential oils containing sesquiterpenes have the ability to pass the blood brain barrier, so I use frankincense as previously mentioned, and ginger (Zingiber officinale), both of which have excellent anti-inflammatory chemical constituent properties. When vertigo was at its peak, I used a blend of 50/50 olive oil with equal parts frankincense and ginger and rubbed this blend into my scalp and jawline daily, until I felt the inflammation leaving my endothelial tissue in the sense of less pressure within my head. I used it for two weeks and then took two days off to give the hiding microbes a chance to come out into invasive form where they can be attacked with essential oils when the dosage is repeated, continuing this cycle until I eventually got relief.
Other oils to consider when treating Lyme are Roman Chamomile (Anthemis nobilis) for relaxation and mood; Vetiver (Vetiveria zizanoides) to help with focus; Citrus such as sweet orange (Citrus sinensis) for antimicrobial as well as energizing effects, as well as various blends in favorite massage oils for pain relief (Zielinski). I like to use a blend of cypress/frankincense/peppermint on my joint pain 3-5 times daily followed by a warm compress for two minutes. The cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) reduces inflammation and increases circulation; the frankincense oil (Boswellia carterii) reduces bruising and also decreases inflammation; and the peppermint (Mentha piperita) reduces pain. Inflammation is of great concern with Lyme, as left uncontrolled, it will damage the hypothalamus resulting in endocrine and immune compromise leading to severe impairment (Patel).
Detoxing is a huge factor with all Lyme patients as the die-off from the bacteria, along with the biofilm, must be carefully purged from the body without making the body herx. It is absolutely essential to detoxify as the bugs are killed off, for if even one is missed in the treatment, it will rapidly multiply in a toxic environment where WBC’s do not flourish.
I can say that essential oils were extremely helpful in coming out of Herxheimer mode. I will continue to study the benefits of using essential oils to help fight Lyme disease. Knowing that phase three Lyme people are highly sensitive to synthetic chemicals, it is imperative to use only therapeutic grade essential oils that have a GC/MS rating which matches the chemical composition of each oil (gas chromatography and mass spectometry). Purity is a must!
- Totilo, R. (2014), How to Lower Blood Pressure Naturally with Essential Oil. St. Petersburg: Rebecca at the Well Foundation.
- Davidson, J. (2016), Lyme Disease: http://www.drjaydavidson.com
- Totilo, R. (2013), Therapeutic Blending with Essential Oil. St. Petersburg: Rebecca at the Well Foundation.
- Cowden, L. (2016), ChronicLymeDiseaseSummit.com
- Tired of Lyme. (2016): http://www.tiredoflyme.com
- Conners, K. (2016), The 3 Phases of Lyme: http://connersclinic.com/lyme-determining-your-phase/
- Zielinski, E. (2016): http://www.drericz.com
- Patel, R. (2016): ChronicLymeDiseaseSummit.com
- Conners, K. (2016): http://www.connersclinic.com/lymes-disease/