The sad truth is, most doctors and even naturopaths are vastly undereducated about Lyme disease and coinfections. They simply are not equipped to diagnose or treat Lyme beyond a two-week course of doxycycline, even if you present with a bulls-eye rash. At this point in American medicine, if you suspect you have Lyme, you are very much on your own. You will need to find a “Lyme-literate medical doctor” (LLMD), and you will most likely need to pay for treatment out-of-pocket for Lyme disease treatment. Or, if you decide to take a more natural approach to recovery, you may choose to see a Lyme-literate naturopath (LLND).
I found my Lyme-literate doctor — a naturopath — quite by chance. So far, no doctor understood what I was going through, and I randomly bumped into him in the hallway of his clinic, where I was seeing someone else. He took the time to ask about me, and I was truly astonished at his listening skills. Here I was, not even his patient, and he listened to me more attentively than any of my previous doctors. When I switched to his practice, he decided to test me for Lyme within the first five minutes.
But I’m one of the lucky ones. Most people need to search for an LLMD or LLND close to them and sometimes drive hours for doctors’ visits. If you suspect you have tick-borne infections, how can you find doctors who treat Lyme disease? There are many factors to consider, including the doctor’s Lyme training, what services they offer in their clinic, the cost, and the convenience.
Here are some important factors to take into consideration when making this decision:
Locating Doctors Who Treat Lyme Disease
1. Find a doctor who has ILADS training.
The International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, ILADS for short, is a reputable non-profit organization dedicated to furthering Lyme literacy worldwide. They offer training courses that prepare doctors and naturopaths to diagnose and treat Lyme effectively. They also hold conferences to keep doctors updated on the latest research. Doctors and other healthcare professionals who wish to specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease will likely have attended one or more of these annual conferences, and they may even have participated in additional training such as mentorships.
Check the Provider Search to see a list of doctors trained to treat Lyme. Then, ask the doctor you are considering if they have attended recent conferences.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
There’s no doubt that Lyme disease symptoms vary from person to person, and some healthcare providers may be more familiar with some aspects of the illness than others. The most important factor in choosing the right doctor to treat you for Lyme disease is to understand their background, education, and treatment philosophy. These will determine their go-to form of treatment, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and ask the following questions: How many patients have you treated with acute or chronic Lyme disease? What medications, supplements, or other protocols are you familiar with? Are you well-versed in the importance of detoxification in the process of healing?
A few well-placed questions will help you gauge if a healthcare provider might be right for you.
3. Decide whether you want to see a naturopath or a medical doctor.
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Consider whether you would like to see a naturopath or a medical doctor for Lyme disease treatment. Depending on which state you live in, both may be licensed to prescribe antibiotics, but a naturopathic education covers the use of herbal therapies as well (for all conditions, not just Lyme disease). Most Lyme-literate naturopaths will be knowledgeable about many different herbal protocols available for Lyme. Ask them which one they prefer and why. Even if you choose antibiotics, you can still support your treatment with herbs. (I’ve used both together, with good success.)
4. The Klinghardt Institute may offer additional practitioner options.
The Klinghardt Academy, founded by Dietrich Klinghardt, MD, Ph.D., of the Sophia Health Institute, also educates doctors, naturopaths, and whomever else is interested in Lyme disease diagnosis and treatment. The Klinghardt Institute trains practitioners through in-person seminars and online. Trainees learn about many alternatives to antibiotic therapy for Lyme disease, including light therapy, herbal therapy, and very in-depth detoxification protocols. Anyone can use the Institute’s website to explore Klinghardt’s theories and protocols. If Klinghardt’s methods appeal to you, use the Institute’s website to find a certified practitioner.
5. Check to see if your doctor of interest is connected to a clinic.
As you narrow your search for a Lyme-literate doctor, be sure to ask about the services offered in-house or in conjunction with a clinic. One benefit of this is that you can create a comprehensive treatment protocol in one place instead of running around to several doctors or treatment facilities. The types of services offered at a clinic can include:
- IV antibiotics
- Nutritional IVs
- Blood ozone therapy or other forms of ozone
- Herbal antimicrobial Lyme protocols
- A variety of supplements
- Light or sound therapy
- PEMF (pulsed electromagnetic field)
If your doctor isn’t part of a clinic, can they help you explore a multitude of treatment options for you to use at home? It’s nice to have a good overview of all the services offered so that you can compare several treatment modalities before committing.
Furthermore, I suggest asking about referrals as well. Does the clinic have relationships with mental health professionals? Neurological chiropractors? Detoxification experts such as colon hydrotherapists, lymphatic massage therapists, and biological dentists? Healing Lyme disease takes a wide network of support. A good community of professionals working together and sharing information can be life-saving.
Additional Resources for Choosing an LLMD
If you don’t find what you are looking for through ILADS or The Klinghardt Institute, there are other online resources to help you. Lymedisease.org offers a webpage dedicated to finding a Lyme-literate doctor. Other websites that serve local communities do as well, such as Bay Area Lyme Foundation.
While you are in the middle of a health crisis, it can be daunting to have to research treatment options and find a doctor who is well-educated, connected, convenient, and affordable for you. You might want to ask a friend or family member to help, especially if your symptoms are neurological and impair brain function. The time and energy it takes to find the right doctor is well worth it, however! With any luck, you will find someone who makes you feel well cared for and understood and can offer treatment options that feels right to you. Persevere, and you will soon be on the way to better health.
Shona Curley lives and works in San Francisco. She is co-owner of the studio Hasti Pilates, and creator of the website www.redkitemeditations.com. Shona teaches meditation, bodywork and movement practices for healing Lyme disease, chronic illness and pain.