Finding a good test to diagnose or treat Lyme disease can be a big challenge. Many tests for Lyme disease won’t offer anything close to 100 percent accuracy. Most tests are only 50 percent sensitive. It’s part of the reason Lyme disease goes undiagnosed as often as it does.
Here are some of the tests for Lyme disease.
Blood or other fluid tests via IGeneX
Many people with Lyme disease seek out this Palo Alto, Calif.-based lab and it’s not without some controversy in the medical community. Some doctors claim the lab always produces positive results in its Lyme disease testing. Their complaints might be sour grapes, though, as IGeneX tests have been found to boast 98 percent accuracy.
The way it works is that people order a kit off the lab’s website that tests for Lyme disease and other tick-borne illnesses. Once the kit arrives, a person will have paperwork to fill out and should talk to their doctor. After that, they can take the kit to a blood draw site and then ship it to the lab. The lab then sends results to a person’s doctor.
Aside from blood, the lab also tests urine, cerebral spinal fluid, tissue, spinal fluid and breast milk. IGenex is also the only lab that tests for Lyme co-infections.
The availability of IGeneX labs can hopefully expand with time.
Antibody or immune response
These measure the level of antibodies produced as a response to the disease, which is a useful gauge of how equipped the body is to fight Lyme disease. Low antibody levels can also be a sign that antibiotic treatment is inadequate.
That said, this test has some issues. Only 65 percent of patients produce antibodies in the first year after a tick bite. By the second year, less than half of Lyme patients will. Thus, antibody response tests tend to be best if administered within the first three months after a tick bite.
This type of Lyme disease testing includes the two most common types of diagnostic tests for it, enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blot. Both are blood tests. There is also a Lyme C6 Peptide ELISA test which confirms Lyme exposure in approximately 60 percent of people.
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR)
This test, which magnifies an organism’s genetic material, purportedly has a 99 percent accuracy rate. It can be done in conjunction with rolfing, a type of deep tissue massage that stimulates this material.
PCR tests are increasingly being done as an alternative to ELISA and Western blot tests, since some Lyme disease sufferers won’t be diagnosed through those tests due to their low antibody levels. PCR tests can be highly effective at diagnosing Lyme disease, though there are some false positive results.
Blood culture test by Advanced Labs
These tests are difficult, time-intensive, costly and not FDA-approved, though when positive, they confirm Lyme infections. Basically, Advanced Labs uses a blood culture to grow the actual organism, typically over the course of a month or two. At the end of this time, the lab looks for the presence of spirochetes that would confirm Lyme disease.
This has been described as like a polygraph test for the central nervous system.
Finding a Lyme-literate medical doctor
Looking for Lyme disease treatment or different companies that can attempt it isn’t about finding the newest, flashiest method. It isn’t about finding a company that promises a quick course of treatment with a few weeks of antibiotics.
Perhaps the most important thing when seeking out a method of treatment or someone to administer it is finding a Lyme-literate medical doctor, or LLMD. It’s about finding a doctor who believes in chronic Lyme disease, who doesn’t just see treatment as being three weeks of antibiotics and who knows the right places to look for treatment advice.
This is easier said than done.
Unfortunately, too many doctors don’t believe in Lyme disease. They adhere to old methods of treatment espoused by the Centers for Disease Control or the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Armed with bad knowledge, they do things like misdiagnose and fail to test for co-infections.
Thankfully, Lyme-literate medical doctors can be found. Here are some tips on locating them.
Finding a Lyme-literate medical doctor
It might seem daunting at first to locate a Lyme-literate medical doctor, particularly for anyone who lives in a rural area. Few doctors knowledgeable in Lyme can be found in certain regions. Those with any degree of expertise might be booked out for months. But it’s not impossible to find Lyme-literate medical doctors. This is a good thing, as it’s vitally important to find the right doctor for Lyme disease treatment.
The internet is a wonderful tool for anyone with Lyme disease. Doctor referrals can be found at websites for: the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society; Lyme Disease Association, Inc.; and the Tick-Borne Disease Alliance. LymeDisease.org also offers a wealth of information and can indirectly help connect people with doctors. Facebook and other social media sites can also be helpful for connecting Lyme sufferers with treatment options.
A person might have to travel to connect with a Lyme-literate medical doctor or specialist. They might need to commit to a long, uncertain course of treatment. They might have to do some of this treatment without reimbursement by medical insurance. As of right now, insurance doesn’t cover this treatment. Hopefully in the future, it will be recognized and covered.
That said, with the right doctor, the process will be worth it regardless.
What to look out for when meeting with a doctor
Even once a doctor has been located willing to meet with a person who thinks they might have Lyme disease, it’s important to make sure this doctor is Lyme-literate.
Here are some questions worth asking at the doctor’s office:
- Does the doctor believe in chronic Lyme disease?
- Where do they primarily get their information on Lyme disease? If they say the CDC or IDSA, this can be cause for concern.
- What labs do they send Lyme blood work to for further analysis? Do they favor well-known labs like IGeneX?
- What kind of course of treatment do they envision? If they want to just write a three-week prescription for doxycycline and have a person on their way, it might be better to find another doctor.
- What’s their plan for assessing possible co-infections? Are they knowledgeable of some of the more popular ones like babesia or spotted fever?
A few questions should quickly show if a doctor is Lyme-literate or someone perhaps best avoided.
When a person gets diagnosed with Lyme disease, they’ve already cleared a tough hurdle. So frequently, Lyme disease isn’t properly diagnosed for months, even years after its onset, leading to a lot of needless pain and other side effects. But much work remains after diagnosis in order for anyone suffering from Lyme disease to be properly treated.
Anyone facing Lyme disease should be realistic about what they’re in store for, in terms of treatment. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for Lyme or any of its coinfections. Lyme disease treatment often isn’t quick. It’s rarely, if ever, easy. It can be quite costly (and, unfortunately, not covered by health insurance at this time.)
That said, Lyme disease is certainly treatable, with people diagnosed often able to go on with their lives within a couple of years provided they get the right medical attention. The sooner a person gets treatment for their Lyme disease, the better. The longer Lyme disease goes without effective treatment, the more long-term effects that can occur, such as arthritis, psychiatric disorders and co-infections.
Some treatment options for Lyme disease follow below.
Generally, Lyme disease can be treated with a round of antibiotics such as doxycycline, amoxicillin and zithromax over the course of anywhere from three to six weeks. Antibiotics fight Lyme by killing the corkscrew-shaped organisms, known as spirochetes, that carry the disease and can be a particularly effective treatment option in the early stages of the disease.
One word of caution, though, is in order with this treatment option. Spirochetes, as wily and persistent as they are, can sometimes survive short rounds of antibiotics. While some people can recover from early-stage Lyme disease after a few weeks of doxycycline, not everyone is this lucky. Antibiotics also don’t always cure late-stage Lyme disease.
Thus, anyone with Lyme disease shouldn’t just rely on antibiotics for treatment. They should, with the help of a doctor, consider a range of different options.
In addition to taking antibiotics, herbal treatment can be useful as well. The 2015 book “Lyme Disease and Modern Chinese Medicine” by Dr. Qingcai Zhang and Yale Zhang details the herbal strategy.
The book notes that this strategy can be useful for numerous reasons. The extensive use of antibiotics in Lyme disease has resulted in bacteria resistant to drugs. In addition, while Lyme disease requires long-term treatment, long-term use of antibiotics can lead to liver damage and other side affects. Antibiotics also aren’t always effective at dealing with the common coinfections of Lyme disease.
Capsules used to treat Lyme disease through traditional Chinese methods include ones made with allicin, coptis, HH and R-5081. Acupuncture can also be a popular alternative way to treat Lyme disease.
Supplements and diet
Aside from taking antibiotics and considering alternative Chinese methods, anyone suffering from Lyme disease is also wise to consider adjusting their diet and taking vitamin supplements as part of their treatment. A good diet, which is discussed in greater detail elsewhere on this website, is anti-inflammatory.
It’s important to take probiotics with your antibiotics, as the latter can quickly start causing digestive problems. Yeast-based probiotic can be taken simultaneously with antibiotics and won’t be destroyed by them. Examples of yeast-based probiotics include jarrow, saccharomyces boulardii + MOS.
Other useful supplements include Vitamin D3, B-complex supplement, co-enzyme Q10, Jarrow-Dophilus, RenewLIfe Ultimate Flora and VSL#3.
Western medicine is a good choice to treat Lyme disease and its co-infe
ctions. That said, it’s as important to add holistic approaches to Lyme treatment. Adding holistic treatments such as massages, acupuncture, homeopathy, hypnotherapy, light exercise, meditation, positive thinking and an anti-inflammatory diet can greatly benefit you on the way to recovery.
A good Lyme diet is about boosting the immune system. It’s about promoting gut health and anti-inflammation, since Lyme disease causes a lot of inflammation and can ravage stomach lining.
Borrelia Burgdorferi a bacterium that causes Lyme disease produces symptoms by provoking immunological and inflammatory responses throughout the body. If left untreated these adverse physiological responses can cause neurological, musculoskeletal and cardiovascular damage. Reducing inflammation is crucial from preventing damage to the body and to aid healing. Chronic inflammation associated with Lyme disease contributes to joint pain, headaches, swelling, fatigue, brain fog, and inhibits healthy cell function.
A healthy anti-inflammatory diet promotes healthy digestive function.
70% of the immune system resides in the gut, so it’s very important to maintain a healthy balance of gut flora and avoid “leaky gut” syndrome, which can cause so many problems for Lyme patients. When the gut is healthy, the immune system can function optimally and efficiently fight pathogens such as Borrelia Burgdorferi a bacterium that causes Lyme disease.
A healthy diet supports the immune system.
Eating diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and high quality proteins will give you the raw materials your body needs to boost your immunity and promote healing.
Avoiding sugar is a must. Sugar suppresses the immune system.
Sugar directly feeds the bacteria and fungus in the body.
The food our ancestors ate was in fact organic food. They didn’t call it “organic” because there was no opposing contaminated and destroyed food supply. The food was consumed by humans in the way it spawned from the earth without any manmade chemicals.
Diet and Bio-individuality
Each and every person has unique needs for their own health according to age, gender, lifestyle factors, genes and environment.
There is no one perfect way of eating that works for everybody. This is called bio-individuality. What is tolerable for one person may not be for another.
Always listen to your body when it comes to eating as it knows best.
What to eat
- Organic fruits
- Organic vegetables
- Organic nuts, soaking nuts & seeds neutralize enzyme inhibitors allowing easier digestion.
- Wild caught sea food, Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, mackerel, herring, sardines and tuna, contain the most omega-3 fatty acids
- Organic eggs
- Organic grass fed meats.
- Organic organ meats such as liver are incredibly nutrient rich.
- Organic legumes and whole grains.
- Organic oils, such as olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. Olive oil and avocado have healthy fats which can help a body with Lyme disease absorb needed vitamins and minerals.
- Organic spices and herbs. Spices like ginger and turmeric powder can fight inflammation.
- Raw Cacao is a great source of minerals like potassium, manganese, copper, magnesium, calcium, zinc and iron.
- Raw honey is very nutritious and full of living enzymes but should only be consumed seldom.
- Organic dairy only sparingly, as it can cause inflammation.
- Juicing whole foods is also incredibly nutritious.
Prebiotic rich foods
Some examples of prebiotic foods are, garlic, onion, asparagus, dandelion greens, artichoke, carrots, cucumbers, jicama, beets, yams, cabbage, radishes, tomatoes, apples, berries, banana, mango, pumpkin seeds, quinoa, ginger, wild rice, legumes, chia seeds, coconut. Some of these ingredients can be incorporated into smoothies.
Probiotic rich foods
Probiotics can help ensure and restore proper colonization of gut microflora. This plays a crucial role in immunity. When this microflora isn’t thriving within the gut, immunity is greatly compromised. Some examples of probiotics foods are, plain yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi.
What not to eat
Avoid alcohol, sugar, processed foods which can all cause inflammation.
Vitamins and minerals
Vitamin A, Vitamin D, vitamin C, B vitamins, zinc, selenium, calcium, magnesium are just a few nutrient that improve efficiency of immune function. A healthy diet in organic fruits, vegetables, nuts, fatty fish, whole grains, meats is full of these healing nutrients.
The bottom line
We need to support our immune system during the treatment of Tick borne illnesses, to keep our immunity at its highest, so we can win the fight.
Living with Lyme disease
Some people infected with Lyme disease get better quickly after a few weeks of antibiotic treatment and perhaps a few minor dietary and lifestyle changes. For others, there is a longer, more uncertain road ahead to recovery.
Here are some tips for living with Lyme disease, for those who wind up with it for some time.
First things first
Dealing with Lyme disease starts with having a Lyme-literate physician who can make a proper diagnosis, both of the disease and any potential co-infections. With its ability to mimic other ailments, Lyme disease often goes undetected or misdiagnosed. The longer this goes on, the more severe Lyme disease symptoms can become.
Once Lyme disease is diagnosed, a person can begin a cycle of antibiotics such as doxycycline to attack the infectious spirochetes in the bloodstream. They can also begin treatment for any co-infections, which must be treated before proper treatment for Lyme disease can begin.
A person newly-diagnosed with Lyme disease is in for an upending of their world. Even if they led an energetic, active life before, they will now be dealing with an illness that can leave them fatigued and feeling muscle and stomach pains. They might struggle with night vision, mental focus and spatial awareness.
Thus, a person with Lyme disease should try to take it easy and practice acceptance. Experiencing a wide range of potential physical side effects from Lyme disease doesn’t make them lazy or a bad person. It simply means they are dealing with a difficult illness that remains misunderstood and, all too often, ineptly treated by the medical community.
Beyond this, people dealing with Lyme disease will want to seek out supportive community. They will want to become educated and learn as much as they can about Lyme disease, through the internet, books and talking to others.
Essentially, Lyme disease sufferers will want to try to seek out experts and become one on the disease themselves.
As Lyme disease begins in and attacks the gut lining, the ideal diet for someone fighting the disease will boost their immune system and promote gut health. One great method to do this is through warm soups and cooked vegetables. Probiotics can also help promote healthy gut bacteria.
There are also foods to be avoided for Lyme disease sufferers. While cold-pressed juices can safely be consumed and are even advisable, ice cold drinks and raw vegetable juices are best avoided because they’ll keep the gut from sealing. Meat and gluten are also best avoided.
One of the greatest tools to fight Lyme disease is having the right attitude. Don’t let Lyme disease define you or hold you down. While Lyme is a serious ailment requiring a disciplined course of treatment.
Lyme disease might be one of the greatest challenges a person will face in their life. But by tackling it with a positive attitude, the experience can become a source of strength.
Taking care of yourself to prevent other illnesses
A person with Lyme disease faces a tall order just to ensure that they receive effective treatment. It’s also important, though, that they take good care of themselves. This can minimize the risk of other illnesses developing through the course of chronic Lyme disease.
This page summarizes the risks a person with Lyme disease faces and offers some tips for positive self-care to reduce those risks.
Long-term ailments associated with Lyme disease
Positive self-care is so vitally important for a person with Lyme disease due to the myriad number of other ailments that can set in as a result of it. These include arthritis, psychiatric disorders and even cancer.
The reason for these risks is pretty simple: Lyme disease wreaks havoc on a person’s body, causing inflammation, cell damage and increased toxicity levels in the body. As many cancers are caused, in one way or another, by toxins, Lyme disease can make a person susceptible to it.
Lyme disease, sadly, goes undiagnosed a lot in society, often causing months or years of hardship before it’s properly treated. If this goes on long enough, it can compound into a whole host of other problems. The good news is that it’s possible for someone with Lyme disease to take early action and take good care of themselves to prevent other illnesses.
Ways to take care of yourself
The best way for a person with Lyme disease to take care of themselves is to take as broad and holistic of an approach as possible to dealing with the disease.
Many people with Lyme disease embark on a course of antibiotic treatment as soon as they are diagnosed. Antibiotics are an extremely important part of treating Lyme disease. But they shouldn’t be the last line of care for anyone with Lyme.
A person with Lyme disease who wants to diminish their chances of contracting other long-term illnesses or ailments should work with a Lyme-literate medical doctor to chart a good course of treatment, diet and positive lifestyle changes. A diet should be healthy and filled with food that reduces inflammation.
The Lyme lifestyle should include physical therapy, rest and regular visits with medical and supportive community. After all, positive self-care for a person dealing with Lyme disease also means knowing how to ask the right people for a little help now and then.
It’s important that a person with Lyme disease be prepared to work for a few years to guard themselves against contracting other illnesses. This treatment can be long and difficult.
Often, there isn’t a quick fix for Lyme disease, just a rigorous course of treatment that must be committed to.