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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Lyme Basics

Being back at Northland for my final semester (!!!!) has been an objective blessing.  Already, people have been asking me about my experience with Lyme disease, which was the cause for my having to leave mid semester in the fall of 2011.  I'm not an expert.  At all.  So don't use this post as your self diagnosis or your authoritative source for all things Lyme.  But there are some things that I learned that might help somebody and at least answer the most frequent questions that I get.

What is Lyme?

Lyme is a vicious, spiral-shaped bacteria that affects the body by systematically taking over the organs of the body.

How do you get Lyme?

Most people get Lyme from a tick bite.  However, it can also be spread from person to person through the blood.  (That means mothers can be carriers and pass it to their children and spouses can pass it to each other.)

Why did it take so long to find?

My case took about 10 years to find.  Other cases are caught much sooner.  But because of the nature of the bacteria, the illness is difficult to diagnose.  For example, many associate the bullseye rash with Lyme contracted from a tick bite.  But only a small percentage of Lyme cases present a bullseye rash.  A lot of people are misdiagnosed because the spiral bacteria burrows into the organs and masquerades as other sicknesses causing arthritis-like symptoms in early phases and eventually bringing about apparent evidence of Alzheimer's.  Another cause for the constant misdiagnoses is the current blood test used by doctors.  It is only about 30% accurate because while Lyme does go into the blood stream, it also buries itself in the organs and only comes out in the blood to reproduce every four weeks or so.

What are the symptoms?

Because Lyme attacks the body in stages and affects so many different internal structures, the symptoms are varied and sometimes tricky to pin down.  But a brief list includes the following...
Early phase symptoms include joint pain, skin rashes, body aches, fever, sweating, fatigue, muscle pain, and neck pain. If allowed to thrive, the disease will progress to cause splitting headaches, digestive problems, heart palpitations, thyroid issues, and weakness in the limbs along with other problem.  The most advanced stage of Lyme deals with the neurological system.  In this phase, sufferers struggle with nerve pain, numbness, tingling, twitching, paralysis, stuttering, inability to think clearly, and memory loss.  Additionally, Lyme so deeply compromises the immune system that many other viruses enter the body while the sufferer continues to weaken.  Mono is one of the most common of these lyme associates, as well as babesia (which causes a host of interesting symptoms like lack of coordination and shortness of breath), bartonella (which has similar symptoms to babesia) and FSME (which causes swelling on the brain among other issues).

Isn't Lyme a disease you'll have forever once you get it?

That's true for a lot of people.  But it doesn't have to be.  That leads me to my next question.

How did I get better?

The Lord has been very gracious in allowing me to be in touch with the right people at the right time.  I am Lyme free!  And I have been since July of 2012.  While a lot of methods are being attempted to cure Lyme, most of them are ineffective because they fail to recognize the unique nature of the disease and treat it accordingly.  The method I used has been recognized in Europe for decades and as I understand it, it is the primary method used in many other countries.  It is very difficult to kill Lyme, so this approach drags it out of the system and flushes it from the body while rebuilding the person's constitution so the body can fight for itself.  While natural remedies are used to detox the body, an anti-inflammatory diet is used to strengthen the immune system.  Anti-inflammatory diets vary from person to person, but the general principles for the Lyme sufferer include complete avoidance of gluten, dairy, and sugar since these things actually sustain the bacteria through the creation of a physical environment appropriate to the microbe. Sugar is the most dangerous of the three and can also be the most difficult to cut out of the typical American diet, but most Lyme patients notice an improvement in their symptoms after a few weeks on the diet.  On this system, it takes months up to a year to get better (about 8 or 9 months for me), but the results are worth the discipline it takes to regain health.

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