Lyme disease is one of the most common tick-borne illness in North America. It is transmitted by the bite of a black-legged tick known as the deer tick. Lyme disease can cause symptoms like fever, chills, neck stiffness, and headaches. Although antibiotics are the most common treatment for Lyme disease, they are not entirely effective and can cause other problems due to prolonged use. Thankfully, there are several natural alternatives for the treatment of Lyme disease. You can find relief from the symptoms of Lyme disease through a combination of these therapies and treatments.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease, also known as borreliosis, is a potentially life-threatening illness caused by black-legged ticks. This tick infects the person with the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. These ticks pick up the bacteria when they bite the mice or deer that are carrying it. The Lyme disease was first reported in a town called Old Lyme in 1977. According to the Center for Disease Control, up to 300,000 Americans are diagnosed with Lyme disease every year.
Only a fraction of tick bites leads to Lyme disease. The longer the tick is attached to the skin, the higher is the risk of getting Lyme disease. Infection is highly unlikely if the tick is attached for less than 36 to 48 hours.
Symptoms of Lyme disease
The symptoms of Lyme disease appear in stages.
A small bump may appear on the site of the mosquito bite. This bump usually resolves with a few days. After about a week to 30 days of the bite, a rash (erythema migrans) may appear on the site. This expanding area of redness sometimes clears in the center, forming a bulls-eye pattern. It is not itchy but may appear warm on touch. Other early symptoms include fever, body ache, chills, headache, neck stiffness, and swollen lymph nodes.
If left untreated, this infection can spread to joints, heart, and the nervous system. New signs and symptoms that appear are –
- The rash (erythema migrans) may appear in other parts of the body.
- A person may develop joint pain and swelling in the knees. This pain may shift from one joint to the other.
- A person may also develop inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain, temporary paralysis of one side of the face or numbness, and weakness in limbs, even months or years after the infection.
Less common signs
In some rare cases, a person may develop –
- Heart problems
- Eye inflammation
- Liver inflammation
- Severe fatigue
Lyme disease can be challenging to diagnose as some of the symptoms are quite similar to flu, lupus, or arthritis. The doctors make the diagnosis by using a combination of Western blot and ELISA tests, which measure antibodies in the blood. During the early stages, antibiotic medications are helpful and lead to a full recovery. During the later stages, if the person has developed joint pain or neurological conditions, intravenous antibiotics, or antibiotic injections are prescribed.
The patients may still test positive for anti-Borrelia burgdorferi antibodies, even after the treatment is over. This, however, does not mean that they still have Lyme disease.
Several natural alternatives are available for the treatment of Lyme disease. These include:
1. Anti-inflammatory diet
Many Lyme symptoms stem from inflammation. So, the best way to treat these symptoms is to eat food that boosts immunity and lowers inflammation. Some of the best foods to lower inflammation are –
- Foods high in antioxidants: Fresh fruits, brightly colored vegetables, leafy greens, and berries are rich in antioxidants. They prevent free radical damage, lower inflammation, and reduce the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
- Probiotic-rich food: Probiotics helps the beneficial bacteria to flourish in the gastrointestinal tract, which has a significant impact on your overall immunity and health. Probiotics also reduce infectious diseases and their symptoms. Probiotic-rich foods include yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kvass.
- Bone broth: Bone broth contains amino acids which can enhance the immune function and repair a leaky gut. This helps to build immunity and control inflammation.
2. Immunity-boosting Supplements
Some immune system-boosting supplements can help treat the symptoms of Lyme disease naturally. These include –
- B Vitamins can help fight infections and improve neurological health. Vitamin B6 helps reduce stress and fatigue.
- Vitamin D helps improve immunity and reduce inflammation.
- Omega 3 fatty acids support neurological function and reduce inflammation. Wild-caught fish, nuts, and seeds contain omega-3 fatty acids.
- CoQ10 protects the brain and the nervous system from inflammation and lowers aches and pains. You can take around 200 mg twice daily.
- Magnesium supports nerve signaling and reduces aches and pains.
- Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that can reduce joint pain, headaches, and damage to nerves.
- Probiotic supplements with at least eight strains and 50 billion units are beneficial.
- Medicinal mushrooms reduce inflammation and stress.
Herbs cannot cure Lyme disease, but they can reduce the symptoms. These include –
- Cat’s claw has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which help reduce the symptoms of Lyme disease.
- Garlic has antibacterial properties, and it can improve the immune system.
- Essiac is a mixture of burdock root, sheep sorrel, slippery elm, rhubarb, and other plants that have antioxidant and immunity-boosting effects.
Chronic stress can impact your immune system. It can trigger inflammation, cause hormonal imbalance, disturb digestive function, and worsen symptoms of Lyme disease. You can lower your stress levels by –
- Meditation and yoga: It relaxes your mind and aids in the healing process.
- Activities your enjoy: Whether it is reading or cooking, take part in activities that you enjoy doing.
- Laugh: Laughter enhances your immune function and is the best medicine.
- Companionship: Avoid isolation and enjoy the company of friends and relatives.
- Exercise: Exercising is a great way to improve immune function and relieve stress.
5. Reduce exposure to parasites
Exposure to parasites and molds can stress the immune system and can contribute to lasting Lyme disease symptoms. You can use activated carbon to treat parasitic infections and toxicity. Bentonite clay can also help the body in expelling harmful substances. A diet that is low in sugar and high in healthy fats and probiotics is also helpful.
Recent research has shown that stevia, a common sugar-free natural sweetener, can kill Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria that causes Lyme disease. While the study published by Dr. Eva Sapi of New Haven University is lab-based, more research is needed to check its effectiveness in the body.
Lyme bacteria produce a biofilm, which is a protein matrix that creates treatment resistance. Stevia alone may not be effective against Lyme disease. However, this biofilm-busting sweetener may help to treat Lyme disease when used along with other antimicrobial agents.
The best defense against Lyme disease is to prevent tick bites. You can reduce the risk of getting Lyme disease by taking some simple precautions.
- Avoid going into heavily wooded or grassy areas that may be infested with ticks. If you have to go into these areas, wear shoes, socks tucked into pants, and a long-sleeved shirt.
- Use insect repellent with 20% or higher concentration of DEET to your skin.
- Mow your lawn regularly. Clear out the bushes and leaves. You must also stack wood in a dry and sunny area to discourage rats.
- Wear light-colored clothes. It is easy to spot tick when you are wearing light-colored clothes.
- After spending time in wooded or grassy areas, always check yourself, your children and pets for ticks.
- Take a shower soon after you come back from a wooded area. Ticks often stay on the skin for several hours before they attach themselves.
- If you spot a tick on your skin, you must remove it with a pair of tweezers immediately. Once you have eliminated the tick, dispose of it off by putting it in alcohol. Apply antiseptic to the bite area.
Always check with a doctor or medical practitioner before you start using natural treatments for Lyme disease. Several natural therapies are not supported by science and can be toxic and dangerous in some cases. Some natural remedies can also interact with other medicines that you take. Your doctor can help you in identifying if the current medication or supplements that you are taking will interact with the natural therapy you may want to try.
Lyme disease is caused by an infection from bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi that is spread through the bite on an infected black-legged tick known as the deer tick. The symptoms of this disease appear in stages, and the stages can overlap. The first sign is a bump at the site of the tick bite. This sign is followed by a rash, which clears at the center to form a bulls-eye pattern. Over time the person can develop joint pain and problems with the heart and nervous system.
The conventional treatment for Lyme disease includes antibiotics. For most cases, a two or four-week course of oral antibiotics in enough to clear the infection. More severe cases need intravenous antibiotics. Several natural alternatives are also available for the treatment of Lyme disease. These include an anti-inflammatory diet, immunity-boosting supplements, herbs, stress lowering techniques, reduced exposure to parasites, and stevia. Always inform your doctor before you start using natural treatments for Lyme disease.