Is There a Lyme Disease Test That Really Works?

Typically, the ELISA, Western blot, PCR and Lyme culture tests have been promoted as the best ways to diagnose Lyme disease.  The ELISA has been deemed to be essentially worthless by most Lyme-literate doctors (LLMDs) that I know (for reasons that I won’t go into here, because I simply don’t know a single educated healthcare provider who uses it anyway). The other tests are used among some Lyme-literate physicians, although their usefulness is limited.

An Overview of Lyme Disease Tests

The Western blot looks for antibodies to Lyme, which the body produces in response to the infections. It can be helpful for detecting a few species of infection, but it is only somewhat useful because in the later stages of disease, the body may not be able to mount an antibody response against the infections, and up to 60% of all people with Lyme will test negative on it.

The PCR is similarly useful for detecting a few species of infection, but not most. According to Wayne Anderson, ND, in my 2016 book New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, “We now know that there are over 290 subspecies of Mycoplasma that can affect humans, but tests have been developed only for one Mycoplasma species, which means that lab tests will miss most of them. Similarly, current lab tests can only detect 2 out of the 29 species of Bartonella that are out there, and only 2 species of Babesia, even though there are over 100! The same is true of other microbes.”

So these Lyme disease tests may miss most of the microbes. Further, PCR antigen testing (which looks for samples of microbial DNA in the blood) misses many cases of Lyme because most microbes aren’t in the blood and a random sample may or may not contain microbial antigens.

The good news is—world-renowned Lyme-literate doctor Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, has recently discovered a method for obtaining accurate PCR results in his patients — nearly every time. I describe this method in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment. The great thing about it is that it means that any patient or practitioner can now do PCR testing and get mostly accurate results, but urine test samples must be collected according to the method described by Dr. Klinghardt, which involves doing deep tissue massage to “chase” the bugs out of hiding, before collecting a urine sample for the PCR test.

There are other ways to find out for sure whether you have Lyme. First and foremost, you’ll want to see a healthcare practitioner who can diagnose Lyme based on your symptom patterns and who uses tests only to confirm the diagnosis. Secondly, consider looking for a practitioner who does dark field microscopy testing. This involves looking at the blood under a microscope. It is a great way to test for some infections, because if you have microbes in your body, they will tend to show up under the microscope. It is a helpful adjunct diagnostic tool when used along with other types of testing.

Finally, bioenergetic testing, using tools such as muscle testing and bioenergetic devices like the ZYTO can be incredibly useful for showing the infections that the body is battling at present, and many practitioners now use these in their practices.

“Challenge” testing, which involves giving patients an antimicrobial remedy to see how they respond to it, is another way to determine whether an infection is present. A few of the doctors featured in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment have found the Byron White remedies to be especially useful for this purpose.

In summary, you don’t have to rely upon a Lyme test like the Western blot or useless ELISA to find out whether you have Lyme. Explore some of these additional testing options with your doctor to see if you might find a better, easier way to detect the infections.

This article was first published on on October 27, 2016 and was updated on July 01, 2020.

Connie Strasheim is the author of multiple wellness books, including three on Lyme disease. She is also a medical copywriter, editor and healing prayer minister. Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine and prayer, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. You can learn more about her work at: ConnieStrasheim.

Phospholipids: A Powerful Tool in Lyme Disease Recovery

Healing the body at the cellular level is an important component of recovery from chronic Lyme disease.  Microbes, toxins and inflammation all damage the cells, and while the body does regenerate itself, sometimes, it needs a little help.

One powerful tool for healing and restoring the body involves using phospholipids, which are a type of fat that comprises all cell membranes, in addition to cholesterol. The cell membrane is where all cellular communications take place, and is responsible for uptaking nutrients into the cell while removing waste from it.  The cell membrane gets damaged by toxins, inflammation, and other factors involved in Lyme, but by restoring it with phospholipid therapy, the body can more quickly heal.

Phospholipids and Lyme Disease Recovery

Phosphatidylcholine is a type of phospholipid that is commonly used by Lyme-literate doctors (LLMDS) to heal the cells. It is most effective when taken intravenously, but I have also personally found transdermal phosphatidylcholine to be incredibly effective and beneficial. Oral forms of this super nutrient may also be useful, and are an especially good choice when your funds are limited.

In addition to rebuilding cell membranes, phosphatidylcholine helps the body to detoxify Lyme and other toxins, but in a way that is gentler than many detox treatments. It supports liver function (and is in fact a treatment for fatty liver disease), and assists with dumping waste out of the cells. By supporting cellular function and the liver, the body can more easily eliminate toxins.

David Minkoff, MD, a leading Lyme disease doctor featured in my 2016 book, New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, has this to say about phosphatidylcholine: “There are petrochemicals, plastics, heavy metals, pesticides and other environmental toxins stored in the cell membrane, and phospholipids help to remove these toxins. Phospholipid therapy is essential therefore for detoxification as well as for healing cell membranes and keeping cells intact.”

What’s more, phosphatidylcholine can improve Lyme symptoms of brain fog, memory loss, depression and anxiety, and even increase energy.  It is a component of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that aids in memory and cognition. I have personally found it to be as important for supporting the function of my brain as other brain support tools such as amino acid and hormone replacement therapy. Whenever I have a lot of mental work that I need to get done, I load up on this super nutrient and find that it helps me to process information more quickly, improves my ability to think abstractly—and even improves my mood!

Another great thing about phosphatidylcholine therapy is that it has a good safety track record. But because detox reactions can occur with it, people with Lyme may want to start out on low dosages of it. I recommend working with a Lyme-literate health care practitioner to best determine what you need, and in what form.

This article was first published on on October 27, 2016 and was updated on July 01, 2020.

Connie Strasheim is the author of multiple wellness books, including three on Lyme disease. She is also a medical copywriter, editor and healing prayer minister. Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine and prayer, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. You can learn more about her work at: ConnieStrasheim.

Namenda (memantine): A Potential Treatment Option for Fibromyalgia

Namenda (memantine) is a well-established treatment for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease. Namenda acts to reduce the activity of a set of receptors in the brain and spinal cord called NMDA receptors.

Overstimulation of NMDA receptors is believed to contribute to the increased pain sensitivity in fibromyalgia. Therefore, treating fibromyalgia patients with memantine should, in theory, decrease fibromyalgia pain.

But, for the last decade no one was willing to invest the funds needed to put this theory to the test. Now, however, that has changed. A very capable Spanish research team has done a double-blind study. The results: Fibromyalgia patients treated with memantine had less pain, better cognition and better day-to-day function compared to a control group, who took a placebo.

If these results are confirmed by future studies — as always the funding issue — memantine could quickly become a mainstay choice fibromyalgia treatment.

This key research study was done in Spain. Subjects who met the American College of Rheumatology 1990 case definition for fibromyalgia were recruited to take either memantine or a placebo.

Namenda and Fibromyalgia: The Results

During the six-month trial, subjects taking memantine had substantially less pain, improved cognitive ability, and better day-to-day function than did patients taking a placebo. Statistically significant improvement occurred within the first month and persisted throughout the entire six months long trial.

Memantine’s side effects tend to be mild. There are relatively few adverse interactions with other drugs. So, if these encouraging results are confirmed by further studies, Namenda could quickly become a mainstay treatment.

Dr. Barbara Olivan-Blazquez, Dr. Javier Garcia-Campayo and their team from Zaragosa University recruited about 60 long-term fibromyalgia patients. Half received memantine, the others took a placebo.

They measured pain status in two different ways. First, they used a visual analogue scale where patients rate their subjective perception of pain on a scale of zero to 10. Zero means no pain. Ten is the worst pain possible.

After one month on memantine, the average visual analogue score decreased from 6.56 to 4.83. That is, the memantine patients reported less pain. In contrast, subjects taking placebo modestly increased their pain score from 6.48 to 6.64. The difference favoring the memantine group was highly significant (P=0.001). Significant differences favoring the memantine group continued throughout the six-month long study.

A second way to measure pain was to pump up a blood pressure cuff. At baseline, the memantine group subjects complained of pain when the blood pressure cuff average reading was 97.9 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). One month later, it required an average blood pressure of 112 mmHg. before pain was noted. Thus, pain sensitivity had decreased. Patients on the placebo showed the opposite — a mild increase in their sensitivity to blood pressure cuff induced pain.

The degree of pain improvement was moderate for most memantine patients, although it was dramatic in a few. Only sixteen percent of the memantine-treated subjects achieved a 50% improvement in pain (5 of 31subjects). However, none (0%) of the subjects on placebo had that much improvement.

Subjects on memantine also did significantly better than those on placebo for the mini-mental status test of cognitive function, on a depression scale and on several measures of functional activity. The bottom line: Subjects taking memantine tended to feel better while also being more active.

Is it reasonable for a physician to consider using memantine as an “off label” treatment for fibromyalgia? We have only one fairly small study. So we cannot say for sure if memantine “really works.” But, as medicines go, memantine is considered to be fairly safe. Among Alzheimer’s patients, the most common side effects are dizziness, headache, confusion and constipation. Adverse drug interactions are few. But one should avoid mixing memantine with other NMDA receptor antagonist medicines such as amantadine, ketamine and dextromethorphan (the cough suppressant in Delsym).

The Spanish researchers started treating at 5 mg once daily. They titrated over one month to a final dose of 10 mg twice daily. Since people with fibromyalgia tend to be very sensitive to medicine side effects, I would tend to increase the dose even more slowly until we are sure that the patient tolerates the medicine.

The ongoing obstacle I forsee is how to gain funding sufficient to repeat the Spanish study. Memantine is available as a generic. So there may be little incentive for manufacturers to spend the millions of dollars that would be needed to obtain FDA approval for them to promote memantine as a fibromyalgia treatment.

Happily, the Spanish government provided major financial support for the Zaragosa research.

We do owe profound thanks to Dr Olivan-Blazquez, Dr. Garcia-Campayo and the Zaragoza group for putting memantine on our map.

Have you take memantine as an “off-label” drug from fibromyalgia symptoms? We’d love to hear about it.

This article was first published on on June 11, 2018 and was updated on June 25, 2020.

Richard Podell, M.D., MPH is a graduate of Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health. He has been treating patients with ME-CFS and Fibromyalgia for more than 20 years. A clinical professor at New Jersey’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Dr. Podell see patients at his Summit, NJ and Somerset, NJ offices. His website is


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How Can We Make Our Support Group More Supportive?

Question: How can we make our support group more supportive?

I’ve had a bad experience with a local chronic illness support group that tends to be depressing, and I would like to do something to make it encouraging and fun. Is there a way to keep people with all our problems from being negative?


When support groups become healing groups, a great deal of new potential is available to all. This concept extends to to both online and in-person gatherings.

In meeting the challenges of chronic illness, a support group can make a big difference in your self esteem and sense of hope. This is particularly true if you have been recently diagnosed with a complex illness like Lyme disease or ME/CFS (myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome) and are bewildered by all the confusion and ambiguity surrounding the illness.

But some supports are more effective than others at fostering a healing environment. I have seen many people benefit tremendously from support groups. And now, there’s scientific evidence that being in a support group can actually speed the healing process.

On the other hand, many patients have told me that they left or quit going to support groups because they found it a depressing and demoralizing experience. They actually felt worse afterwards, emotionally and physically. It seemed that what was being supported was an attitude of helplessness and hopelessness.

Chronic Illness Support Groups

Why the mixed reviews on support groups? Clearly there is a wide variation between different groups. The success of a group is determined by its approach to three important elements:

• Education

• Interpersonal support

• Healing

Picture a triangle with each of these elements as one point, each connected to the others. Without any of these elements, the triangle would be incomplete, and the group would not live up to its potential. Let’s take a closer look:

1. Education

The educational function of a support group is to give accurate, unbiased information about the illness and effective ways to cope with it. A support group should take care to challenge misinformation or mistaken views in every meeting, and not allow them to flourish.

For example: A common myth about ME/CFS treatment is that there is no effective medical intervention for this disease. However, there are several different traditions of medicine available. Conventional, western medicine excels in surgery and emergency medicine, but no cure for chronic illnesses like Lyme and ME/CFS. However, it can help a great deal with some symptoms. And Chinese medicine, herbal medicine, naturopathic medicine, Ayurveda, and other traditions have all been used effectively by people who have improved.

2. Interpersonal Support

The social isolation endured by many people with chronic illness is a real obstacle to their healing. Recent research has found that poor social support is a risk factor in recovery from Lyme, ME/CFS, and other illnesses. People who have supportive relationships, combined with using a daily self-healing practice such as meditation, do best. In contrast, people who have little social support, even if they do a lot of daily self-healing practice, don’t do as well.

Such support includes three aspects:

1. Validation of Feelings. Interpersonal support happens within group meetings when people share their feelings, their gains and losses, and simply listen to each other with compassion.

• By sharing your feelings, they become more tolerable.

• Whatever your feelings are, positive or negative, they are valid.

• You can also help others to see that they are not alone in what they are feeling.

2. Sharing Success Strategies. Another important aspect of interpersonal support is the sharing of strategies that people have found success in managing their symptoms.

• The real experts on this illness are people who experience it every day.

• It’s very important to talk about what works in daily living, and reinforce that in each other.

• Share with each other how you have spent your energy, how you use rest strategically, how you deal with the sleep disorder, or how you handle stress.

3. Continuity Between Meetings. Finally, interpersonal support need not end when the meetings end or you log off the computer.

• Connect with each other during the week, by text or a quick phone call.

• One effective group used a “buddy system” in which people paired off and called their partner on alternate days of the week to offer encouragement and reinforce the other’s healing practices — a novel concept in this digital age!

3. Healing Activities

Online or in-person support groups can become healing groups. A healing group is a group in which healing actually takes places within the meeting itself. It may seem like a bold move to begin incorporating healing activities into your support group meetings, but it can easily be done, and many groups are doing it now.

Here are a few ways to incorporate some healing time into your support group meetings:

1. Reserve a block of time in each meeting for healing activity. This may be the second half, or the last half hour, at least.

2. Use the time to listen to tapes of guided self-healing practice. This may include meditation, healing imagery, or breathing exercise.

3. Share your expertise with each other. Many group participants have expertise in strategies that can be shared with others in the group. You need not be a professional to do this. If you have a particular routine that works well for you each day, someone else in the group may really benefit from your teaching of it.

4. Invite guest healers to come and share their work. Therapists and other people who teach healing methods can come and guide the participants through an experience of their work. They appreciate such opportunities to become more known in the community because they are always looking for new clients.

Methods which can be taught and practiced in support groups include:

  • Meditation
  • Healing imagery
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Breathing techniques
  • Laying-on-of-hands
  • Art therapy
  • Therapeutic journal writing
  • A prayer circle (Consider giving each person a turn being the focus of the group’s prayers.)

A support group need not just be an “information clearinghouse.” Rather, it can be a live experience to all who are participating. When support groups become healing groups, a great deal of new potential is available to all.

This article was first published on on January 8, 2016 and was updated on June 25, 2020.

William Collinge, PhD, MH, is a consultant, author, speaker and researcher in the field of integrative health care. Learn more about him at Collinge and Associates, Inc.

How to Get All the Leafy Green Vegetables Your Body Needs Daily – Even if You Don’t Like Greens

Ultimate Greens, green vegetables

When you see a serving of kale or collard greens on your plate, is your first reaction “Yum” or “Yuk”?

Despite the fact that dark green leafy vegetables contain perhaps the most concentrated source of nutrients of any food group, many people consume very few leafy greens on a daily basis. And most do not come close to eating the USDA’s recommended three cups of greens each day.

There is, however, an easy way to fulfill your body’s daily need for greens—even if you don’t like them. It’s called Ultimate Greens™.

I have to confess, I fall into the “Yuk” camp when it comes to most leafy green veggies. Other than a few salad greens, I find it difficult to force myself to take even a few bites, and I certainly don’t come anywhere close to eating three cups a day.

That’s why I was so excited to discover Ultimate Greens! One scoop of Ultimate Greens powder mixed into my favorite beverage once a day easily gives me far more nutritive value than I could ever get by just eating more greens—and it tastes so much better.

Benefits of Ultimate Greens

Ultimate Greens is a complete source of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fiber. This nutrient-rich super green foods formula contains a complex variety of plant enzymes, herbs, algae, and grasses. A powerhouse of nutrition is packed into each small scoop of Ultimate Greens.

Ultimate Greens benefits:

  • Supports healthy digestion
  • Optimizes pH balance
  • Promotes enhanced immune function
  • Aids the body in detoxification

Support Healthy Digestion with Prebiotics and Probiotics

Simply put, our gastrointestinal tract contains both “good” bacteria and “bad” bacteria, ideally in about a 50/50 ratio. When everything is working properly, the good bacteria are able to keep the bad bacteria at bay and all is well. But if the bad bacteria begin to take over, you can develop an array of digestive problems, including Candida albicans overgrowth and irritable bowel syndrome.

Probiotics are the good bacteria found in the intestines. They can be replenished by eating certain fermented foods like yogurt and sauerkraut or by taking probiotic supplements. Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates called oligosaccharides, which feed and encourage the growth of probiotic bacteria. Ultimate Greens contains both prebiotics and probiotics that support the growth of healthy intestinal flora (good bacteria), thereby promoting proper digestion and detoxification.

Optimize Your pH Balance

Every solution, including body fluids, is either acidic or alkaline. The term “pH balance” refers to the body’s need to maintain an appropriate balance of both acid and alkaline. For optimum health, your pH should be slightly alkaline.

When your pH is acidic, you become more susceptible to fatigue and illness because:

  • Your body’s ability to absorb nutrients is decreased.
  • Your body’s ability to repair damaged cells is decreased.
  • Your body’s ability to detoxify heavy metals is reduced.
  • Cellular energy production is reduced.
  • Tumors are able to thrive in an acidic environment.

The acidity or alkalinity of your body’s pH is largely determined by diet, although emotional stress, toxic stress and immune reactions can also play a part.

When it comes to food, the terms acid and alkaline do not refer to the pH of the food itself, but rather to the pH of the residue or ash left in the body after the food is digested. If a food is referred to as an alkaline food, it means that the food produces an alkaline ash when it is digested. Likewise, an acid food is one that produces an acid ash after digestion.

A diet aimed at maintaining health should consist of about 60% alkaline foods and 40% acid foods. However, if you are trying to restore health, your diet should consist of an 80/20 alkaline to acid ratio.

Unfortunately, the average American diet today is the exact opposite — 20% alkaline and 80% acid. Because typical diets are filled with so many highly processed, nutrient-depleted and hard-to-digest foods, the pH of most Americans tends to be very acidic.

Alkaline-producing foods are mostly vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices. Everything else—including meats, fish, poultry, beans, dairy products, grains, pasta, oils and most condiments—can be found in the list of acid-producing foods.

Given those lists, would it be difficult for you to eat a diet made up of mostly alkaline foods? This is where Ultimate Greens can come to the rescue.

Ultimate Greens is loaded with organically grown super green foods like barley grass leaf, wheat grass and alfalfa juice, which work synergistically to neutralize acid and balance the body’s pH.

Promote Enhanced Immune Function with Antioxidants

Oxidative stress and free radicals have been linked to cellular damage, which can impair your immune system, leaving your body vulnerable to numerous chronic illnesses and life-threatening diseases. Antioxidants are nutrients that can prevent or slow the damage of oxidative stress and help protect your cells against the damaging effects of free radicals.

Ultimate Greens contains green tea and grape seed extracts, both of which are packed full of antioxidants known as polyphenols. Recent research has shown polyphenols to have even more antioxidant power than the important vitamins A, C and E.

Help Your Body Detoxify

In addition to the detoxification benefits provided by probiotics, Ultimate Greens contains two powerful detoxifying nutrients – chlorella and milk thistle.

  • Chlorella is often used in detox regimens to help rid the body of pesticides and heavy metals like mercury, cadmium and lead that can accumulate in your body and result in serious health problems.
  • Milk thistle is known to be an effective liver detoxifier. One of the liver’s many jobs is to clean alcohol, drugs, poisons, pollutants and other toxins from the blood. When the liver is overwhelmed by too many toxins, it becomes less effective at doing all of its jobs. Milk thistle can help protect the liver from damage, improve its ability to function properly and even enhance its ability to regenerate.

Tasty Tips for Mixing Ultimate Greens

Given the name Ultimate Greens, quite frankly I was afraid it would taste like ground-up grass. I certainly wasn’t expecting to like it. But I was happily surprised to discover that Ultimate Greens has a very pleasant, mildly tropical flavor that I actually enjoy.

It’s particularly good when mixed with cold beverages like ice water or fruit juices such as grape, apple, guava, pomegranate, etc. And unlike James Bond’s martinis, Ultimate Greens mixtures can be either shaken or stirred because it mixes well, even in cold drinks.

Following are some additional taste-tempting ideas from other Ultimate Greens users:

  • Ultimate Greens adds a nice flavor to iced tea. Since it is naturally sweetened, it’s not necessary to add any additional sweeteners to your tea (unless you like it extra-sweet).
  • Add a scoop of Ultimate Greens to your favorite smoothie recipe.
  • Try adding Ultimate Greens to vegetable juice combos.
  • Ultimate Greens also mixes well with protein powder drinks or diet shakes.
  • Smoothies made by mixing Ultimate Greens, fruit and ice in a blender are very tasty.
  • For kids who won’t eat their greens, try mixing some Ultimate Greens in pudding or making popsicles by freezing a mixture of fruit juice and Ultimate Greens.
  • Try mixing a little Ultimate Greens into your favorite jam for a little extra nutrition.
  • Make Ultimate Greens ice cubes to use with other beverages to boost the nutrition in any cold drink.

Note: Mixing Ultimate Greens with citrus or tomato juices is not recommended because they interfere with its pH-balancing effect.

“It’s Not Easy Being Green”

I should forewarn you that Ultimate Greens, as you might expect, is very green, The color tends to dominate whatever it is mixed with. If ‘eye appeal’ is important to you and you find it difficult to drink something that green, I’d recommend mixing it in an opaque vessel—like a stainless steel travel mug with a lid—so you can’t see the color.

Need-to-Know Information

Dosage: As a dietary supplement, drink a scoop (10 grams) of Ultimate Greens mixed with water or your favorite non-citrus juice or other beverage each day. (Scoop is included.)

Storage: Ultimate Greens should be stored in the refrigerator after opening to maintain optimum freshness.

Contains No: Egg, dairy, yeast, artificial sweeteners, flavors or colors.

Karen Lee Richards is ProHealth’s Editor-in-Chief. A fibromyalgia patient herself, she co-founded the nonprofit organization now known as the National Fibromyalgia Association (NFA) in 1997 and served as its vice-president for eight years. She was also the executive editor of Fibromyalgia AWARE magazine. After leaving the NFA, Karen served as the Guide to Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for the New York Times website, then worked for eight years as the Chronic Pain Health Guide for The HealthCentral Network before coming to ProHealth. To learn more about Karen, see “Meet Karen Lee Richards.

4 Superfoods to Boost Your Energy

Have you read articles bragging about superfoods that lead you to believe you’ll eat them and gain super-human energy? Many of them describe ingredients guaranteed to boost your energy levels through the roof. Of course, for those of us living with fibromyalgia, we’re not looking for through-the-roof-results. Or, super-human energy. We’ll settle for regular-human energy, thank you very much.

Achieving even “normal” levels of energy seems an unattainable goal with fibromyalgia symptoms in the mix, but there are actions we can take.

Fibromyalgia and The Energy Crisis

Do you incorporate superfoods into your daily nutrition plans? If not, you may be in for a pleasant surprise. It’s true that superfoods can actually boost energy levels. And, before we dig into some examples, let’s review why fibromyalgia fatigue exists in the first place.

The fibromyalgia body is commonly compromised by the following factors. There are more, of course, but these basics give you a few ideas of where to look for what issues apply to you.

  1. Hormonal and thyroid dysfunction
  2. Nutrient malabsorption (leaky gut, etc.)
  3. Over-active stress response
  4. Unaddressed infections
  5. Whole body inflammation
  6. Toxic exposures

Think of your body’s natural energy as flowing through you like a river. Our body’s complex systems work together to provide us with the energy (flow) we need to get through the day. However, when the body is compromised by dysfunction, energy resources are channeled to where they’re needed most. That creates an energy flow that’s blocked or redistributed. The more blocks there are, the more the flow is diminished. Therefore, your body’s energy crisis is a portrait of diverted resources.

That paints a pretty vivid picture of fibromyalgia, doesn’t it?

When compromised by poor digestion, poor hormonal regulation, chronic stress and more, your body is likely to have very poor overall energy resources. The fibromyalgia body struggles for adequate function on a daily basis. Any kind of struggle expends energy. So, let’s not make the fibromyalgia body work any harder than it has to.

Addressing the energy-depleting issues that affect you most can be very simple. Just take small steps to adjusting your fibromyalgia diet — one at a time.

Now that you know why your body has an energy crisis, what can be done? As one example, adding superfoods to your regular meal plans can be very helpful. They’re definitely not a quick fix (no super-human energy levels promised), however, adding superfoods to your diet can be rather effective at rebuilding energy levels.

Incorporating Superfoods into Your Fibromyalgia Diet

I’m always a fan of efficiency. So, when one approach has multiple benefits, I’m all in. Superfoods can help to address nutritional, digestive, cognitive and detoxification challenges. Some are shown to lower overall inflammation while introducing much-needed micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) into the daily diet.

As a convenience for my clients, I provide a list of my favorite nutrient-rich superfoods. Several years ago, it began as a simple list of a handful of items that has now grown to over four dozen delicious foods to try.

To simplify, we’ll discuss four of my top superfoods here:

1. Avocado: A Fruity Delight

This is probably the most-talked about food in my holistic health care practice. Yes, it does happen to be a fruit, but it’s usually listed in a category by itself. It’s a fruit that features the creamiest and healthiest fat on the planet. Here are just a few of the reasons why avocados are a nutritional superfood. They’re a fabulous source of:

  • Vitamins K, C, B5, B6, and E
  • Fiber, folate, potassium, and heart-healthy, energy-rich natural fats
  • Manganese, copper, iron, zinc, phosphorous, magnesium, and more

2. Chia: An Incredibly Versatile Seed

Who hasn’t heard of ch-ch-ch-chia seeds? Yes, the cute little pottery animals that “grow” a coat of sprouted seeds have made this Aztec superfood a household name. But, if you buy a chia pet, don’t eat the seeds; they’re not food-grade.

Instead, head to your local natural health food store or purchase organic varieties online. Chia is one of the biggest nutritional bang-for-your-buck-foods you can consume. They can be used to add protein and fiber to your smoothies, juices, salads, soups, porridge, and more. They absorb liquids and thicken when added to various recipes. Try adding them to nut milks (i.e., coconut, almond, hemp, etc.) to make puddings and delicious desserts.

Besides being a great source of protein and fiber, chia provides:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Calcium

As a reminder, protein, fiber, and omega-3s provide fabulous nutritional benefits. They help us to feel fuller longer — all while stabilizing our blood sugar levels.

3. Berries: A Juicy Treat

While fruits in general (because of their sugar content) can negatively impact whole body inflammation, berries offer a low-sugar, yet sweet, option.

Superfood berries such as blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, boysenberries, lingonberries, cranberries, acai berries, and more are powerhouse fruits when it comes to antioxidants. When you think of high-antioxidant foods, think of color-rich produce that features pigments that penetrate deep; look for rich, concentrated colors throughout.

Other fruits – ones not as high in antioxidants – may have a different colored skin as opposed to its flesh. This isn’t bad, of course; there are no “good” or “bad” fruits. A concentration of colors is simply one way to identify antioxidant-rich foods.

Why are antioxidants important? Oxidation is a natural process of aging. While we could focus on the exterior signs of aging (wrinkles, thinner skin, drier hair, etc.), it’s important to note that the aging process happens on the inside, too!

Antioxidants are the vitamins and minerals found in certain foods that feature proven natural anti-aging benefits. Besides external benefits such as skin and hair health, antioxidants have been shown to positively impact artery health, nervous system function, immunity, and brain health. Antioxidants also include anti-inflammatory properties.

Berries, in particular, provide the following key nutritional benefits:

  • Fiber
  • Folate
  • Flavonoids
  • Vitamins K and C
  • Manganese
  • Copper

The blackberry features anthocyanin – a phytonutrient (the healthful, healing compounds found in plants) that may prevent and protect the body from disease.

4. Greens: More Than a Garnish

In this segment, we’ll focus on the category of greens that have the most intense concentration of energy-producing nutrients: parsley and cilantro.

These wonder herbs are easy to find and simple to use. Don’t think of them just as garnishes for your plate! Adding these deep green, nutrient-rich herbs to your salads, soups, smoothies, juices, and veggies can add a little pep to your meal prep, not to mention a burst of flavor.

Phytonutrients are highly concentrated in cilantro and parsley, so remember that a little goes a long way. These herbs feature the following vitamins and minerals:

  • Beta carotene
  • Chlorophyll
  • Folic acid
  • Iron
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Manganese
  • Magnesium
  • Vitamins A, B6, C, and K

In fact, these nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory herbs can help the body to defend against infection, balance hormones, ease digestive upset, protect against food-borne illnesses, improve liver function, regulate blood sugar and other benefits too numerous to mention.

Superfoods = Super Energy

If it hasn’t occurred to you so far, let me share that these superfoods are easy to add to your daily nutritional meal plans.

Sprinkle herbs and seeds onto your soups and salads. Add avocado to your veggies and wraps. For creamy cravings, blend avocado into your smoothies and salad dressings. For a sweet treat, add berries to your juices, salads, and smoothies.

Looking for a tasty dessert? Enjoy sun-ripened berries fresh on their own. Or, add them to a bowl of nuts, unsweetened coconut flakes, and a drizzle of raw, organic, local honey.

Now is a great time to jumpstart your energy levels with superfoods and experience the healing benefits of nutrition.

This article was first published on on  September 24, 2014 and was updated on June 11, 2020.

Sue Ingebretson is becoming a most sought after symptom-relief expert in the fibromyalgia and chronic illness communities. She’s known for getting to the root of her client’s health challenges and delivering long-term results using a light-hearted approach without quick-fix remedies that only mask symptoms. You can find out more and contact Sue at RebuildingWellness.

Would you like to find out more about the effects of STRESS on your body? Download Sue’s free Is Stress Making You Sick? guide and discover your own Stress Profile by taking the surveys provided in this detailed 23-page report.

How to Increase Cellular Energy in Lyme Disease

Healthy mitochondria

Matter is comprised of energy, and all biochemical processes in the body are driven by energy. That means we are energetic beings. This isn’t some “woo woo” concept; it has been proven in scientific studies. Lyme-literate physician doctor Dr. Lee Cowden and I discuss ways to measure the energy of the body using a variety of scientific devices and hands-on diagnostic techniques in our 2014 book, BioEnergetic Tools for Wellness (along with ways to heal the body using energy medicine). Herbs, vitamins, hormones, and antibiotics all contain energetic frequencies that affect the body’s energetic field—for better or worse.

All of our cells contain a specific energetic frequency. The frequency of the cells is affected by the health of the cells, and when the cells vibrate at lower frequencies, which can occur as a result of toxins, infections or trauma, over time, disease develops in the body. Bruce Tainio (of Tainio Technology, an independent division of Eastern State University in Cheny, Washington), who built the first frequency monitor in the world, determined that the average frequency range of the human body should be between 60-68 MHz, though, the frequency of a particular cell depends upon the type of cell that it is and where it is found in the body. In general, when the frequency of the cells is lowered to around 58 MHz, pathogens and infections can take hold in the body.

For the body to be healthy and recover from disease, the cells must have energy and vibrate within a certain frequency range. This is because the cells need energy to carry out their basic functions, to kick out toxins, uptake nutrients, fight pathogens, and to regenerate. Interestingly, I have found that increasing the energy of the cells isn’t a foremost consideration in most doctors’ treatment protocols. Yet without an adequate amount of energy, the cells cannot perform the tasks required to heal the body from chronic Lyme disease.

In Lyme disease, the mitochondria (the energy-producing organelles within the cell) are adversely affected in Lyme disease, as are other parts of the cell. And you probably don’t need a test to understand that Lyme causes a serious depletion of energy in the body, for many reasons.

It is beyond the scope of this article to go into all of the factors that influence the body’s energy; on a macro and micro level, but suffice it to say that there are things that you can do to raise the vibrational energy of your cells, which in turn will support the healing of your body.

I have personally done many of the following things and found them to be incredibly beneficial for increasing my energy and overall wellbeing. Perhaps you’ll find them useful, too.

Tools that Increase the Body’s Cellular Energy

1. Head outdoors: Spend time in the sunshine. Sunshine is a form of energy that raises cellular energy. Have you ever noticed that you feel better after spending a little time in the sun? I know that I do.

2. Get Grounded: Practice grounding and electromagnetic pollution mitigation. We are all awash in a sea of man-made electromagnetic fields (EMFs), from cell phones, computers, Wi-Fi, smart meters, and other sources. These all influence the body’s energy and hamper its ability to recover. Many studies have linked disease to excessive EMF exposure and Thomas Rau of the Paracelsus Klinik in Switzerland discovered that microbes reproduce more readily in the presence of man-made EMF’s, so reducing EMFs in your environment is crucial for recovery. For more information on grounding, which involves connecting your body to the earth by standing barefoot outside or connecting to the earth with tools that balance that body’s energy field see: Earthing.

3. Go for plant-based foods: Eat as many raw fruits and veggies as you can. Raw fruits and veggies contain higher energetic frequencies than other foods, especially cooked and processed foods. The higher energy found in these foods will help to raise your cellular energy.  Incidentally, when I do a raw veggie and fruit fast, my energy noticeably increases.

4. Boost mitochondrial health: Take supplements that support your mitochondria. It’s a good idea to have your doctor test you to determine the specific supplements that your body may need, including the brands and forms. Two types of vitamin C can have radically different energetic properties, depending on what they are made from, how they are produced, and what fillers and additives are in them. This means that supplements can increase or decrease your cellular energy, so you want to make sure to take the right ones and in a form that your body needs. For instance, in Lyme disease, the health of the gut can be compromised, and many people may not be able to digest tablets or capsules, in which case, liquid, sublingual, transdermal, or intravenous nutrition may be more effective.

Some mitochondria-supportive supplements include:

1. CoQ10, which is used for mitochondrial oxidative respiration, the process through which ATP, or energy, is produced.
2.  D-ribose, a powerful nutrient that helps to regenerate ATP.
3.  L-carnitine, a nutrient the body uses to shuttle fatty acids into the mitochondria for processing as well as for breaking down fatty acids for energy.
4. Glutathione, known as the body’s master antioxidant, it plays a role in maintaining the health of the mitochondria and the immune system and many studies have associated glutathione depletion with poor mitochondrial health.
5. Magnesium, a mineral that plays an important role in the creation of ATP.

Finally, enzymes raise the frequency of the cells by acting as catalysts for chemical reactions and for the uptake and utilization of vitamins and other nutrients. Without an adequate amount of enzymes present, the body can’t utilize vitamins, so enzymes may be important for some people. People with Lyme disease tend to have enzyme deficiencies so choosing a high-quality enzyme to take with your supplements and meals may be important. When taken on an empty stomach, enzymes are also used to break up debris and biofilm.

There are many other strategies and tools for raising your cellular energy—these are just a few that I have found to be helpful. Please feel free to share with me in the comments below what has worked for you, as well.

This article was first published on on June 29, 2016 and was updated on June 09, 2019.

Connie Strasheim is the author of multiple wellness books, including three on Lyme disease. She is also a medical copywriter, editor and healing prayer minister. Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine and prayer, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. You can learn more about her work at: ConnieStrasheim.


Fibromyalgia and Lyme Disease: Here’s What You Need to Know

Before diagnosing you with fibromyalgia, your doctor may have tested you for Lyme disease, a bacterial infection frequently transmitted by ticks. If you received a negative test result, he or she likely crossed Lyme off their mental list of potential causes for your symptoms and moved on to ruling out other conditions.

But what many doctors don’t realize is the standard testing for Lyme disease is only 50-60 percent accurate. That means you could still have Lyme even if you’ve tested negative for it!

Last summer, I learned this lesson firsthand when I found out I have Lyme. I had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014. At the time, my rheumatologist ruled out all the typical culprits of my symptoms, including Lyme. In fact, I was tested at least twice for Lyme through Labcorp, and both times my tests came back negative.

Two years after my fibromyalgia diagnosis, I learned about the high rate of false negatives in Lyme testing. I’d always had this nagging feeling that my doctors were missing something. My symptoms didn’t improve with the typical fibromyalgia treatments, and I was desperate to find relief from the continual pain, fatigue and other symptoms that I live with on a daily basis.

Having grown up in rural Virginia, I had a history of tick bites, so it made sense to me that I might have contracted Lyme. I decided to have IGeneX testing, which is more accurate than the testing available through Labcorp, Quest and similar mainstream labs.

My result? The IGeneX testing indicated I have Lyme.

I’ve since found out my story is common among Lyme sufferers. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have told me they were diagnosed with fibromyalgia and later found out they have Lyme. Based on my own research, I suspect thousands – maybe even millions – of fibro sufferers around the world have Lyme and don’t know it.

That’s tragic when you consider that Lyme is treatable. Yes, it’s extremely difficult to treat, but some people do recover and get their lives back. In contrast, recovery stories are extremely rare in the fibro community.

Since my Lyme diagnosis, I’ve made it one of my missions to educate the fibro community on the link between fibromyalgia and Lyme. Below, I’ll share some of the common misconceptions about Lyme, along with helpful information on how to get properly tested and evaluated.

Fibromyalgia and Lyme Disease Myths

Myth 1: I was tested for Lyme disease, so there’s no way I have it.

As mentioned above, the testing used by most labs is only 50-60 percent accurate. The primary reason for this is because the standard testing isn’t actually looking for the presence of Lyme bacteria. Instead, it’s looking for antibodies, which the body develops when it detects the Lyme bacteria.

Many cases of Lyme are missed because it can take weeks for those antibodies to form, so if you were tested too early in the disease process, then you’ll have a negative test result. (Some people never develop the antibodies at all due to a poorly functioning immune system.)

The antibody tests also fail those who have long-term exposure to Lyme. As the Lyme bacteria invades the body, it suppresses the immune system, and the body stops making antibodies against the bacteria. If you were exposed to Lyme years ago, the chance of it showing up on an antibody test is very slim.

Myth 2: I don’t have Lyme because I’ve never been bitten by a tick.

Only 30 percent of Lyme sufferers remember a tick bite. Ticks can be smaller than the size of a poppy seed. They also tend to migrate to out-of-the-way places, like the scalp, belly button or groin, so they are easy to miss.

Myth 3: I don’t live in the Northeast, so I couldn’t have Lyme.

Lyme is found in every state in the United States. When a doctor says, “We don’t have Lyme in [insert your state name here],” he or she is just plain wrong.

Lyme is more common in some states than others. The most endemic areas include the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic (from Maine to Virginia), the north central states (mostly Wisconsin and Minnesota) and the West Coast (particularly northern California).

Myth 4: I live in the city or suburbs, so there’s no way I have Lyme.

Ticks do not recognize arbitrary borders like city limits. If you have birds, deer, mice or any other sort of wildlife in your area, then there are ticks there as well.

You don’t have to be an outdoorsy person to contract Lyme. Lyme also lives in seemingly safe places, like city parks.

Myth 5: I don’t have Lyme because I’ve never had a bullseye rash.

Not everyone who contracts Lyme develops a bullseye rash. Estimates vary depending on the study, but on average only around half of patients ever have a bullseye rash.

Myth 6: I don’t have flu-like symptoms, so I don’t have Lyme.

Flu-like symptoms are common in the early stages of Lyme, but some people are completely asymptomatic.

As Lyme takes hold in the body, the symptoms become much more complex and diverse. The most common symptoms of chronic Lyme infection are extreme fatigue, joint/muscle pain, cognitive impairment, numbness/tingling (particularly in the extremities), depression/anxiety, digestive problems, neurological issues (tremors, bell’s palsy, etc.) and changes in vision/hearing.

Do those symptoms sound familiar? They should because many of them are also symptoms of fibromyalgia.

Reading a list of Lyme symptoms, it’s easy to understand why Lyme and fibromyalgia could be confused for one another. There is so much overlap in symptoms.

Lyme is actually dubbed “the great imitator” because it’s frequently misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, dementia, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other conditions.

Myth 7: It’s easy to get rid of Lyme.

If caught early, Lyme is usually treatable with two-to-four weeks of antibiotics. However, if left untreated, Lyme can develop into a debilitating chronic condition that’s extremely difficult to treat.

Coinfections further complicate Lyme treatment. When a tick bites, it not only transmits Lyme but other infections as well. The most common are bartonella, babesia and mycoplasma. Coinfections can be just as hard – if not harder – to treat than Lyme.

How to Get Properly Tested and Evaluated

Some Lyme specialists do recommend having the standard testing as a first step toward being evaluated for Lyme. Health insurance companies usually cover this testing, so it’s easy to access and affordable.

The standard testing does detect Lyme in some cases. If you fall into that group, you’re lucky because it means you’ll be able to forgo more expensive testing.

But for most people, getting properly tested will mean paying out of pocket. IGeneX is currently the gold standard for testing in the Lyme community because it tests for more strains of the bacteria than the standard testing. The basic Lyme panel costs around $500. Yes, I know that’s steep, but, in my opinion, it is worth every dollar to get the right diagnosis.

Test kits can be ordered directly from iGenex, and the blood can be drawn at your doctor’s office.

Beyond testing, your primary care physician or other fibromyalgia doctor is probably not going to be of much help when it comes to diagnosing and treating Lyme. They just aren’t educated enough on the complexities of Lyme.

To get properly evaluated and treated, you’ll want to seek out a Lyme specialist, also known as a Lyme-literate medical doctor (LLMD).

The easiest way to find an LLMD is to seek out a recommendation from your nearest Lyme disease association. and also have doctor referral services on their websites.

LLMDs typically use a combination of testing and clinical expertise to diagnose Lyme.

The bad news is that most LLMDs do not accept health insurance. Because Lyme is so complex, practitioners may spend an hour or more per appointment with each patient. Under our current medical model, there’s no way they could survive financially on insurance reimbursements.

Treating and Beating Lyme

Treatment is one of the most controversial aspects of Lyme. Some LLMDs rely on the long-term use of antibiotics. Others use herbal protocols. Some combine the two.

Then, there are more alternative treatments, like ozone therapy, stem-cell transplants and RIFE machines.

The bottom line is, like fibromyalgia, there’s no tried-and-true treatment for chronic Lyme. It’s extremely challenging to banish because Lyme is the smartest bacteria on Earth. They use their corkscrew shape to burrow deeply into the body’s tissues where antibiotics can never reach. They can change their shape and form, so they’re invisible to the body’s immune system and protected from antibiotics and herbs. They will go into hiding while you’re treating with antibiotics and or herbs, and when you stop treatment, they’ll come back out and begin causing havoc again.

Like fibromyalgia, there is no cure for chronic Lyme, but remission is possible. Some people do recover and go on to lead fairly normal lives.

That’s my greatest hope for myself and for everyone diagnosed with Lyme.

Helpful links

This article was first published on on May 17, 2017 and was updated on June 4, 2020.

Donna Gregory Burch was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in 2014 after several years of unexplained pain, fatigue and other symptoms. She was later diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Donna covers news, treatments, research and practical tips for living better with fibromyalgia and Lyme on her blog, You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter. Donna is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared online and in newspapers and magazines throughout Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania. She lives in Delaware with her husband and their many fur babies. 

Patchouli Oil: Uses, Benefits, and Contradindications

The smell of patchouli oil is so powerful and unique — you either love it or hate it. The mere thought of it, let alone getting a whiff, might invoke memories like hanging out at outdoor music festivals with friends. For some people, the smell of patchouli wafting through the air brings back those feelings of rebellion and excitement. 

But patchouli has many health benefits as well.  Also, aged and blended with other essential oils, its smell is more mellow. This article will cover some of the reasons you might consider including patchouli in your health and wellness regimen.

What Is Patchouli Oil?

Patchouli oil is distilled from the leaves and flowers of a bushy herb native to tropical areas of Southeast Asia, whose scientific name is Pogostemon cablin. The plant is related to the herbs mint, oregano, and lavender. In order to distill the potent smelling, amber-colored essential oil of patchouli, leaves and flowers of Pogostemon cablin are dried for several days. Then, the oil is distilled using steam or carbon dioxide. As patchouli oil ages, the color darkens, and the scent becomes deeper and smoother.

Patchouli’s smell and medicinal properties come from the many phytochemicals contained in the oil, such as:

  • Alpha patchoulene
  • Beta patchoulene
  • Alpha bulnesene
  • Alpha guaiene
  • Caryophyllene
  • Norpatchoulenol
  • Seychellene
  • Pogostol

The oil can be used on the skin as a fragrance or for medicinal properties (usually diluted in a carrier oil). It can also be diffused in water using a diffuser. Some even take patchouli internally for health benefits – though this is riskier, so don’t try it without consulting your doctor. 

History of Patchouli Oil

Patchouli oil has been valued by humans over many centuries, both for its perfume and its medicinal properties. It was first used by the Tamil people of Southern India, and it traveled from there to the Middle East along silk trading routes — where the dried leaves were packed into crates containing textiles to repel moths. Supposedly, Napoleon introduced patchouli to Europe. Patchouli oil is still used in traditional Asian medicine, most commonly in China, Malaysia, and Japan.

Potential Health Benefits of Patchouli

Although more studies on humans are needed to better understand patchouli’s medicinal qualities, there have been promising in vitro and animal studies. Some are listed below:

1. Antimicrobial

Patchouli is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to combat both viral and bacterial infections. For example, a 2019 study explored patchouli alcohol’s effects in vitro and in vivo against the influenza virus. It was shown to significantly inhibit different strains of influenza in vitro, and when administered nasally, improved the survival rate of infected mice as well.

2. Skin Health

TCM uses patchouli to balance skin problems such as eczema, dandruff, and acne. A 2014 study done on mice looked at the application of patchouli oil prior to UV light exposure. The study determined that the mice who received topical administration of patchouli showed less wrinkle formation and more collagen production after exposure to UV light. 

3. Anti-Inflammatory

Inflammation is a natural part of the body’s immune response. However, especially in chronic disease, the inflammatory response can become problematic, and contribute to symptoms. A 2017 study looked at patchouli’s effect when administered rectally in rats with inflammatory bowel disorder, or IBD. (In TCM, patchouli is used therapeutically for IBD.) The study concluded that the patchouli significantly reduced damage to the rats’ colons and also reduced disease activity indicators.

4. Insect Repellant

Patchouli can be used as a healthy, non-toxic insect repellent or insecticide. It has been shown to be toxic to ants, houseflies, and mosquitoes when applied directly — though less so than synthetic pesticides. 

5. Pain Relief

TCM uses patchouli as a therapeutic approach to easing headaches. A 2011 study on mice determined that the application of methanol extract from patchouli was useful in lessening pain. The study concluded that patchouli’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties contribute to its analgesic effect. 

Contraindications for Patchouli Essential Oil

All essential oils are very potent. Talk with your doctor before you include patchouli in your health regimen (topically, orally, or inhalation) to make sure it’s right for you. Pregnant women, people taking blood thinners, or people with bleeding disorders should avoid using patchouli.

If you use patchouli topically, be sure to dilute it in a carrier oil such as jojoba or almond oil. Direct application of any essential oil can irritate your skin, or more rarely, cause an allergic reaction. Even in a carrier oil, test a small patch of your skin first before widespread use.

Ultimately, patchouli essential oil is a potent, fragrant oil with many possible health benefits. Experiment with using patchouli alone, or blending it with other essential oils in a carrier oil. You may discover a natural, non-toxic perfume you love, one that may improve your health and well-being.  

Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.




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How Ultrasound Therapy Can Help People with Chronic Pain

Chronic pain, muscle stiffness, and impaired circulation are some of the most challenging symptoms to manage in people with chronic conditions that affect the musculoskeletal system. Ask any fibromyalgia or Lyme disease patient for a list of their symptoms, and you are likely to see at least several mentions of musculoskeletal problems such as muscle pain, stiffness, inflammation, and tenderness. While pharmaceutical interventions can provide much-needed relief for musculoskeletal problems, the relief is typically only palliative. Pharmaceutical interventions for pain also come with undesirable side effects and the potential to cause addiction. Body work modalities such as massage and acupuncture are great alternatives to pharmaceutical interventions, but these types of treatments often need to be done on a continuous basis in order to provide symptomatic relief and can become quite expensive.

Not long ago, in my own battle with musculoskeletal problems resulting from chronic Lyme disease and coinfections, I felt that I had reached a dead-end when it came to my search for effective treatments. I had been using intramuscular analgesics and receiving weekly massage treatment for months, yet I was still struggling to manage my pain. Just as I was about to throw in the towel, I came across an amazing treatment modality that changed the course of my battle with chronic muscle pain, stiffness, and inflammation. This particular modality is called “therapeutic ultrasound.”

Therapeutic ultrasound has helped me greatly not only in managing, but reversing, my chronic muscle stiffness and pain associated with chronic illness. I think many other people struggling with chronic illness-induced musculoskeletal problems could also benefit from this simple, quick, and effective modality as part of fibromyalgia or Lyme disease treatment.

What is Therapeutic Ultrasound?

Therapeutic ultrasound is a technique that has long been used by physical therapists for treating musculoskeletal disorders such as pain and stiffness, as well as for increasing blood flow and promoting tissue healing. It involves the use of an ultrasound probe that is placed in direct contact with the skin, along with transmission coupling gel. The transmission coupling gel is the medium by which the ultrasound waves are transmitted into the body from the ultrasound probe.

The gel-covered probe is swept along the skin, over areas of the body that are painful, stiff, or in need of repair. The ultrasound waves emitted from the probe are generated by something called the “piezoelectric effect,” which occurs when the crystals vibrate within the head of the probe. The ultrasound waves that pass through the skin from the gel-covered probe cause a vibration of the local soft tissues. The vibration affects the soft tissues through several different mechanisms, which I will discuss next. Therapeutic ultrasound has traditionally been used to treat muscle pain, muscle spasm, joint stiffness, and tissue injury.

Due to the mechanisms by which therapeutic ultrasound exerts its effects, it offers unique benefits for people with fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and other chronic illnesses that affect muscle and connective tissue.

Mechanisms of Therapeutic Ultrasound

There are several mechanisms by which therapeutic ultrasound affects tissues. One mechanism is its ability to increase hemoglobin levels and thereby improve blood oxygenation. In a small clinical trial published in The Journal of the Japanese Physical Therapy Association, 11 healthy men were administered therapeutic ultrasound treatment at a frequency of 3 MHz, intensity of 1.0 W/cm2, and 100% duty cycle for just 10 minutes. After the 10-minute ultrasound treatment, oxygen and total hemoglobin levels were significantly higher in the treated men, than in the men who were allotted to placebo (“fake ultrasound” treatment) or control (no treatment) groups. Hemoglobin is the molecule that shuttles oxygen throughout the body, and oxygen is essential for fueling cells and their numerous biochemical l functions. Therefore, by increasing hemoglobin levels, therapeutic ultrasound increases oxygen transport throughout the body, improving oxygenation of cells and tissues.

In addition to increasing hemoglobin and oxygen levels, therapeutic ultrasound also has thermal effects in that it increases tissue temperature. The vibration of the crystals in the ultrasound probe, when transmitted through the skin to the tissues, causes a vibration of the tissues that leads to a rise in temperature. The increase in tissue temperature causes vasodilation, a widening of blood vessels, which in turn increases blood circulation through tissues. Increased circulation helps to remove waste products from tissues, and replenishes them with substances they need to function properly. Finally, therapeutic ultrasound also increases the extensibility of collagen fibers and reduces the viscosity of fluid in tissues. This can help reduce pain and stiffness, increase range of motion, and break up adhesions.

Therapeutic Ultrasound for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Lyme Disease

The mechanisms by which therapeutic ultrasound exerts its effects can be of great assistance to people struggling with fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, and chronic illness. Chronic illnesses such as these often lead to an accumulation of waste products in tissues, including bacterial metabolites and inflammatory molecules released by the immune system. Muscle pain, stiffness, and inflammation are some of the very common, yet intractable, symptoms that can be caused by the accumulation of these substances.

Therapeutic ultrasound can help remediate these symptoms by increasing blood flow and tissue oxygenation, which helps to remove waste products. By increasing oxygenation, mitochondria are able to function more effectively, which may improve symptoms of pain and fatigue in fibromyalgia and Lyme patients.

Increased blood flow induced by therapeutic ultrasound treatment enables cells of the immune system to access tissues that were previously “closed off” due to poor blood flow, giving the immune system the opportunity to target covert pathogens.

Interestingly, ultrasound therapy has also been examined for its effectiveness in breaking up biofilms. Biofilms are a colonies of microorganisms that bond together and adhere to surfaces within the body; biofilms function intelligently, promoting survival of the pathogenic microorganisms within the colony while negatively affecting the health of the host. Biofilms play a major role in Lyme disease symptoms and other chronic illnesses with an infectious component, because the biofilm enables pathogens such as Borrelia (the pathogen that causes Lyme disease) to survive even in the presence of antibiotics.

Therapeutic ultrasound may be of huge benefit in the case of Lyme disease and chronic infectious diseases because the vibrations it produces have been shown to stress the bacteria in the biofilm, disrupting its integrity. In addition, when ultrasound therapy is combined with simultaneous light therapy, the light has demonstrated the ability to cause the release of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by cells. ROS target pathogens for destruction, helping to fight infections.

Parameters for Therapeutic Ultrasound

There are several parameters that are used in the application of therapeutic ultrasound. These parameters include :

  • Frequency
  • Intensity
  • Treatment mode (aka “duty cycle”)
  • Length of treatment
  • Location of treatment

The frequency refers to the number of vibrations per second emitted by the ultrasound machine via the probe. A frequency of 1 MHz means that 1 million vibrations per second are being produced. Frequencies of therapeutic ultrasound range from 1 to 3 MHz, with 1 MHz used for superficial tissues and 3 MHz used for deeper tissues.

The intensity of the ultrasound treatment refers to the total amount of vibrational energy being applied per unit area; this is typically expressed as Watts per square centimeter. The surface area of a therapeutic ultrasound probe is typically 1, 5, or 10 centimeters squared.

The treatment mode, also known as the “duty cycle,” refers to whether the ultrasound vibrations are applied continuously or pulsed on and off over the course of the treatment.

Finally, the treatment time is simply the amount of time the ultrasound is applied, and the treatment area refers to the part of the body over which the ultrasound is applied.

Safety of Therapeutic Ultrasound

Therapeutic ultrasound is considered to be very safe. It is important to keep in mind that ultrasound probes do heat up over the course of treatment, but when properly applied, the risk of burns from therapeutic ultrasound is very low. Therapeutic ultrasound is contraindicated in the following instances:

  • A local malignancy.
  • A metal implant (such as metal screws in bone)
  • On the abdomen of pregnant women,
  • Over the eyes, skull, or testes

No cumulative dose has been defined for ultrasound therapy, so there are no specific guidelines as to how often one should receive ultrasound therapy. It is best to consult with your doctor or physical therapist to determine the appropriate treatment dose for your needs.

How You Can Try Therapeutic Ultrasound

If you are interested in therapeutic ultrasound, you can try contacting a local physical therapist or physiotherapist to see if they offer this treatment modality. Chiropractors and MDs who specialize in physical medicine or physiatry may also offer this particular treatment in-office. The cost of a therapeutic ultrasound treatment session is typically quite low, because a treatment session only lasts around 10 minutes.

If you have success after trying therapeutic ultrasound in a physical therapy clinic or doctor’s office, you might want to consider purchasing a therapeutic ultrasound machine for personal use at home. This will be an investment, but in my experience, it was well worth it. I have a small therapeutic ultrasound machine at home that was designed for personal use, and it has been a game-changer for me in terms of reducing my pain levels, breaking up muscle adhesions, and promoting circulation and tissue healing. I can’t recommend this treatment modality enough!

If you have been struggling with musculoskeletal problems related to fibromyalgia, Lyme disease, or another chronic illness, give therapeutic ultrasound a try. It just may change your life.

This article was first published on on January 18, 2017 and was updated on May 28, 2020.

Lindsay Christensen is a health writer and researcher with her B.S. in Biomedical Science and an Emphasis in Nutrition. She is currently pursuing her M.S. in Human Nutrition, with the intention of becoming a Clinical Nutritionist. Lindsay’s passion for natural health and wellness has been driven by her own experience in recovering from a serious chronic illness. She blogs about chronic illness recovery and her nature-inspired approach to nutrition and healthy living on her website, Ascent to Health: Ascent2Health. In her free time, she can be found outdoors rock climbing and hiking, enjoying the beauty and healing power of nature.


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