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Beyond Antibiotics: Effective Alternative Approaches to Chronic Lyme Disease Treatment

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Reprinted from, July 2017, with the kind permission of Townsend Letter and Jonathan Collin, Editor. 
New treatments for chronic Lyme disease are continually emerging, as researchers and health care practitioners learn more about the infections, co-morbidities and other problems commonly involved in the disease. Most Lyme disease specialists understand that chronic Lyme isn’t just about a Borrelia burgdorferi bacterial infection, but rather, a complex of infections that cause systemic dysfunction in the body. What’s more, Lyme can be both a primary cause of illness or ancillary to other disease processes, and even make the afflicted susceptible to other diseases.  Sometimes, it is simply the “straw that breaks the camel’s back” in an already weakened body that’s battling other assaults.

Regardless, healing from chronic Lyme disease, for most, isn’t just about eliminating pathogenic microbes.  And because there are so many unidentified strains of Borrelia, Babesia, Bartonella and other Lyme-related microbes that are infecting people, researchers and doctors probably still don’t know exactly what cocktail or mix of infections their patients are really dealing with. Add to that the fact that everyone is different, with a unique biochemistry and set of comorbidities, and treatment becomes much more complex than simply assigning an antibiotic or two to whatever supposed infections patients are dealing with.

Typically, the conventional treatment for Lyme disease among Lyme-literate health care practitioners has involved giving patients months or years-long courses of multiple antibiotics. This approach has been successful for some, but not everyone responds well to antibiotic therapy and some relapse. This has led some practitioners to look beyond to other approaches to Lyme disease treatment, or to add additional tools to their repertoire.

In my interviews with ten Lyme-literate doctors for my latest book, New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Lyme Doctors Reveal Healing Strategies that Work (October, 2016), I have also learned that some doctors are now opting for a less aggressive approach to treatment. It used to be that the motto within the Lyme disease medical community was that Herxheimer, or microbial detoxification reactions, were beneficial, because it meant that the treatments were working and that the patient’s immune system was effectively killing off the microbes.
Wayne Anderson, ND, one of the original pioneers of Lyme disease treatment, shared with me in his chapter for the book, “Back in the old days of Lyme treatment, the philosophical approach among Lyme doctors was that the worse that we could make our patients feel, the more we thought that we were doing our job. Patients would come in feeling horrible because they were taking three different antibiotics, and I’d tell them, ‘Great, hang in there, you can do it!’  I was trying to get them to the finish line. Now, many doctors have a different philosophical approach, which is that ‘slow and steady wins the race.’”

If patients experience symptoms of a Herxheimer reaction, it means that their bodies are being overloaded by toxins. The result is that those toxins get recycled back into the body through the organs of elimination and patients end up sicker than before, and often, more frustrated, especially if they spend a majority of their days in a perpetual Herxheimer reaction.

I can’t tell you how many years I spent feeling utterly miserable because my doctors gave me heavy-handed antimicrobial treatment protocols that caused harsh detoxification reactions in my body. Yet I pressed on, believing that somehow, all that Herxing was good for me—no matter that the effects of all those remedies were incapacitating me. In reality, the toxic overload that I experienced from doing too much treatment, too fast, set me back in my healing and even left me functionless in my bed at times for months. And all of the detoxification remedies in the world didn’t make it easier.

The fact that some well-respected Lyme-literate doctors, such as Dr. Anderson now believe that “more is not better” and that heavy-handed regimens aren’t necessary to get patients healed is good news to me, and probably also to many thousands of frustrated patients and doctors.

Now, that doesn’t mean that those doctors who believe in a lighter approach necessarily give their patients just one type of treatment or remedy at a time. Some, such as Neil Nathan, MD, who is also featured in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, might start out some of their patients on just one or two antimicrobial remedies, but then slowly stack and add others to the regimen. But never at dosages or at a pace that overwhelms patients and causes them to feel horrible.

In addition, and as I just mentioned, many of the best Lyme-literate doctors aren’t just limiting their antimicrobial protocols to antibiotics anymore. Essential oils, herbs, intravenous silver and ozone; hyperthermia, and even hands-on manual therapies are proving to be just as effective—if not more so at times—than conventional antibiotics.

Some of the doctors that I interviewed for New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment use antibiotics to treat their patients, but only in combination with other antimicrobial remedies and supportive treatments. By themselves, though, antibiotics are usually not enough, just as most treatment modalities. The microbes are intelligent and easily evade the immune system, so the best regimens involve combining and rotating multiple antimicrobials such as intravenous ozone and silver, herbal remedies and perhaps one, two or three antibiotics. Yet these are often not all given to patients at once at the outset of their treatment. Instead, they might be added in to a patient’s regimen, one or two at a time, over a period of weeks or months.

What excites me about how some doctors are approaching Lyme disease treatment now is that many are having good success by using exclusively all-natural treatments to treat the infections, such as herbal remedies, intravenous ozone, silver and essential oils. Dr. Anderson confirms this in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment when he states that, “I still think that some patients need antibiotic therapy, but I probably use antibiotics about 15-20 percent of the time. I have discovered many great herbal and naturopathic remedies and tools that are effective for treating my patients, and these work well for most. We Lyme-literate doctors have so many more options for treating patients now than we did back in the 1990’s when we first started treating Lyme.”

Some doctors, such as Friedrich Douwes, MD, have even had exceptional success using outside-the-box treatments such as hyperthermia. Dr. Douwes has been using hyperthermia to treat Lyme disease patients for over 16 years, and in an interview with me, shared that hyperthermia can eliminate Borrelia and Bartonella infections after just one or two treatments, although it is less useful for treating Babesia.  Some of the other advantages of hyperthermia are that it is relatively safe and can penetrate deep into areas of the body where conventional remedies may not reach, and as such is a potentially fast, effective treatment for infections.

Another novel, outside-the-box treatment is Tony Smith, DC’s program called LymeStop, which, according to Dr. Smith, is based upon several hands-on neurophysiological, or brain-body healing techniques; specifically, CranioBiotic Technique (CBT), Contact Reflex Analysis (CRA) and AllerTouch. It involves using magnets and the hands to stimulate specific points on the brain and body, while simultaneously touching different areas of the patient’s body where the infections are located. This process apparently signals to the immune system where the infections are, so that it can lock onto them and eliminate them.
This is Dr. Smith’s theory anyway, and while there are no scientific studies to prove that this is what LymeStop actually does, many patients have testified that it has helped them to recover after years of antibiotics and other treatments failed them. Patients post their experiences on the LymeStop Facebook group (which is a group that has no affiliation with Dr. Smith’s clinic). Dr. Smith has so far treated over 2,000 patients using LymeStop and claims a strong track record of success. However, this treatment is still relatively new and its long-term efficacy has yet to be established. LymeStop is also described in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment.

Intravenous ozone and silver are two other relatively novel (although not new) treatments used by some Lyme-literate practitioners, such as David Minkoff, MD. Dr. Minkoff, in an interview for New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, shared with me that he has had exceptional success using both of these modalities on his patients, when they are combined with a regimen that supports the overall healing of the patient. Other doctors, such as Neil Nathan, MD, believe that intravenous ozone must be combined with additional antimicrobial treatments to effectively eliminate the infections.

Intravenous ozone treatments can cost $150 or more per session, but unlike antibiotics and herbal remedies, treatments aren’t typically done for years, but rather, several times per week over a period of months. This may make them less expensive over the long term than some other treatment modalities. Ozone and silver are also very safe treatments with few side effects, when they are used appropriately and tailored to the patient’s specific needs.

Essential oils are another modality that is being used (albeit sometimes quietly) by some practitioners and patients to treat Lyme disease. Some practitioners are averse to publicly sharing about the benefits of essential oils because they fear reprimand from the FDA, since essential oils are not an FDA-approved treatment for Lyme disease, and the FDA has apparently been cracking down on anyone who claims that essential oils can treat or cure disease.
However, essential oils can be very powerful for supporting the body in Lyme disease. They are much more concentrated than herbal remedies and their effects upon the body can be stronger and more powerful than those of herbal remedies. Frankincense, clove, thyme, oregano, majoram, cinnamon and melaleuca are some popular antimicrobials used to treat Lyme, although there are many others.

All of the doctors that I’ve interviewed also believe that supporting the body with the right nutrition, hormonal support, and other tools is just as, if not more important than using the right antimicrobial remedies to treat Lyme disease. After all, it is the strength and the health of all of the body’s systems that determines the body’s wellbeing, not necessarily the number or virulence of microbial organisms within it.

As David Jernigan, DC stated in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, “All illness is the result of a breakdown of every system in the body. It is never about just a bacterial, viral or mold infection, or any other one single thing, because microbes cannot thrive and cause disease in an optimally healthy body.  Microbes challenge all of us, but with ten times more bacteria than cells in our bodies, we are a living, eating, breathing microbial soup. This means that it is not the absence of microbes that creates health, but rather, restoring health at every level and by teaching the body to do the work of bringing down the over-population of bugs.”
Raj Patel, MD, another Lyme-literate doctor, confirms the importance of supporting the body when he says in New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, “On some level, I don’t believe that it matters what antimicrobial therapies patients and practitioners use to treat Lyme disease: whether herbal formulations, oxidative therapies or antibiotics. This is because once doctors and patients have done their groundwork by addressing all of the factors that are compromising the immune system and causing inflammation (besides Borrelia and co-infections) — including things like mold, dental problems, viruses, gut issues and unresolved emotional traumas —then whatever they use to treat the infections is likely to work.”

However, some other doctors, such as Neil Nathan, MD, believe that antibiotics are still essential for being able to recover from chronic Lyme disease. In an interview with me, Dr. Nathan stated, “I have found that my patients can rarely get well without some antibiotic treatment; perhaps 1 in 200 are able to fully heal without antibiotics. That has just been my experience.”

Still other respected authorities, like Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, PhD, might disagree. In his interview with me for New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment, Dr. Klinghardt says, “Despite antibiotics’ benefits, I believe that there are much better and safer ways of detoxifying the body and down-regulating the immune system…Antibiotics are a strategy that can get patients to the same endpoint as other treatments, but with the risk of many negative side effects. For instance, there’s a direct relationship between long-term antibiotic use and breast cancer, so medical practitioners should strive to treat Lyme without antibiotics.”
Dr. Klinghardt believes that there are better ways to treat Lyme disease, such as ozonated essential (or rizol) oils. He uses pharmaceutical remedies only for removing parasitic infections.

The divergent views among skilled Lyme-literate practitioners may frustrate some patients, as they wonder what treatment approach is best. Indeed, if there is no standard of care that has been found to be effective for everyone, then how valid can each practitioner’s approach be?

My belief is that medicine is an art as much as a science, and while there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for Lyme disease, in reality, there is also no cookie-cutter approach for any chronic disease, because people are unique and no two will respond to the same treatment modality. This means that effective treatment for Lyme disease may not be as much about having the right remedy for the right microbe as much as it is about having the right box of tools to fix the most important underlying causes of disease. That might include using specific tools to eliminate microbes as a first line of defense, or it might not.
For instance, some people with Lyme disease might need some detoxification therapy or hormonal support to first balance their body, or to help them get strong enough to mount an effective response against the microbes and better respond to the treatments. Or, they might have another health condition that is a bigger cause of their symptoms and which needs to be addressed first. This might include things such as mercury toxicity from dental amalgams, a parasitic infection, or another major stressor that needs to be unloaded from the body so that it can more effectively combat the Lyme infections.

Dr. Minkoff provides a good analogy about the importance of prioritizing treatment. In an interview with me, he said, “Imagine that your best friend is with you on a trip through the jungle. He goes to the bathroom and gets lost. You go to look for him and you find him lying on his back, unconscious. When you look at him, you see red ants crawling up one of his arms. On his other arm there is a tarantula. Then, you see a boa constrictor on one of his legs, and a black panther walking up the other leg, ready to bite his leg off.”

“So what do you do? Get the panther off of his leg first! Because it will take a little while for the snake to hurt him, and the tarantula and red ants can wait. You have to go after the biggest threat to your friend. So you get the panther off of him first, then the boa, followed by the tarantula and then the ants. But if you do it in the wrong order, your friend will suffer. It’s the same with treating people who have Lyme disease.” 

Prioritizing treatment from the greatest to the least important threat to the body is essential, and as I mentioned, most chronic diseases nowadays, including Lyme, aren’t just caused by one thing. All of us who have health challenges carry around within us a unique cocktail of microbes and environmental contaminants, and have organs and systems that are compromised in different ways.

Nonetheless, if you are a patient reading this, and wondering what type of antimicrobial treatment would be best for you, know that all types of treatment have pros and cons, in terms of effectiveness, cost, convenience and side effects. And you can’t always know what will work best for you, but you want to work with a doctor who understands what you, as an individual need, and who will prescribe treatments according to those needs, rather than according to a predefined toolbox or whatever happens to be fashionable in medicine.

Antibiotics may have the longest history of use, but the side effects of long-term use can be significant. They deplete the body of healthy flora, or the friendly bacteria that resides in the gut and on the surface of the skin. These bacteria help to maintain a healthy immune system so long term antibiotic use may compromise the gut and immune system over the long haul. They can also cause Candida overgrowth, which leads to other problems in the body.
Healthy microbes even play a role in helping to maintain the body’s circadian rhythm. This is something that I discovered for myself when I could no longer go to bed before midnight after a year of taking antibiotics. To this day, my “new” circadian rhythm has me asleep at 1 AM most nights, instead of 11 PM, as before. Yet some Lyme doctors will tell you that antibiotics are still necessary for some people, and perhaps especially, as Dr. Anderson noted, in cases of very aggressive Lyme disease.

The good news is, more and better options for effective Lyme disease treatment are continually emerging, and doctors seem to be finding new ways to incorporate these tools into their practices. You might be one of those who respond exceptionally well to antibiotic therapy, but if not, be encouraged—there are many other viable and effective treatment options out there.

I happen to believe as Dr. Patel; that if you are doing enough things to support the recovery of your body, on some level it may not matter as much what specific tools you use to combat the infections. As I have learned through my interviews with many Lyme-literate health care practitioners, rebuilding the body from the ground up, and addressing the root causes of disease (beyond Lyme) are key. Once you do those things, then eliminating the Lyme microbes becomes much easier, regardless of which tool you use to do that.

Connie Strasheim is a medical researcher and writer, and author, co-author and/or ghostwriter of ten wellness books, including New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Reveal Healing Strategies that Work. ( She collaborates with some of the world’s top integrative doctors to write her books and articles. She is also an editor for the Alternative Cancer Research Institute and Pro Health’s Lyme disease research and patient advocacy site.  She hosts a monthly prayer conference call group for those with chronic health challenges, believing that prayer is powerful for healing. To learn more about Connie’s work, visit:

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