A Lesson in Lyme: Navigating the World of Treatment

Everybody has their own opinions about what treatment protocol is best, or what they believe is the correct way to treat Lyme disease. This post is not about me pushing my beliefs onto you, but about outlining the different types and some of the most popular forms of treatments to help you better understand the options that are out there. As I’ve said before, patients need to be their own advocates, and the best way to do that is to be as informed about your situation as you can possibly be.

If you click on over to the CDC website for Lyme treatment you will find a short list of antibiotics and the general idea that if taken immediately your symptoms should subside completely and you’ll be totally fine. They go on to suggest that you continue your search for recommended treatment by clicking a link that hasn’t been updated since 2006 (that’s a whole decade of NEW INFORMATION that isn’t being addressed, but sure). At the beginning of the final paragraph (there are only three paragraphs of information on this page) the CDC states, “In a small percentage of cases, these symptoms can last for more than 6 months.” Which is excellent, and very helpful-NOT-and those 6 months quickly turn into forever.

Now that brings us to antibiotics-simultaneously the most common and the most controversial form of treatment. In my experience, and from what I’ve read, it is often the first step in many peoples’ journey of Lyme treatment. Though antibiotics are widely dismissed by some (patients and professionals alike), many believe it is a very necessary and important step to take. Antibiotics can be taken orally, intravenously, in a pulsing method and can be combined with several other antibiotics at a time. Additionally, antibiotics can be taken for short-term periods or for long-term periods. Those periods can last anywhere from a month to years. Antibiotics should be prescribed with care and understanding from a Lyme literate medical doctor who has adequately researched the patients’ case history and Lyme symptoms.

I’d like to pause here to take a moment to make it clear that every patient is completely different from one another. No one treatment protocol works across the board for people. Spirochetes are fickle and Lyme and its related co-infections can very greatly differ in how they react with the body from person to person. Treatment options should always be discussed in depth with an LLMD who has your best interest in mind.

In addition to antibiotics, and all other forms of treatments, there are supplements. Now supplements are awesome, even for someone who is the perfect picture of health. Supplements are all those little, irritating pills and tinctures that you take several times a day to keep your immune system strong. Supplements are not placebos created by the money-making industries to trick you into buying them so they can make more money. No, these things really do help. There is a supplement for everything. Though you should always ask an LLMD for their recommended opinion, you do not need a prescription to start taking supplements-a word of caution, however, some supplements can interact badly with other medications and whatnot, so tread lightly. Most people who have been in treatment for Lyme can show you a picture of a pile of supplements they take every day to keep their body strong. No matter your treatment protocol or your situation in life, supplements are usually a good idea. In fact, many LLMDS’ protocols call for additional supplements depending on the patients’ condition.

Many LLMD’s ascribe to an already formulated protocol for their patients’ treatment. For example, there is the Cowden protocol, most notably used by Dr. Richard Horowitz, MD, and a founding member of ILADS (International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society), who has had very positive treatment outcomes using this method. This is also a method of treatment that can be done on your own if you follow the website’s treatment instructions carefully. The problem with DIY treatment protocols is that you do not have an LLMD to help you ‘customize’ your treatment. Though most protocols are very rigid in their treatment, there is always wiggle room for LLMD’s and patients alike to play with depending on your special set of circumstances. Another popular protocol is the Buhner protocol (Stephen Buhner wrote the book Healing Lyme that I have referenced in many of my blog posts), which consists of a strict all-natural herbal protocol and includes suggestions for how to help prevent Lyme disease and how to also treat some of the co-infections. Another popular all-natural method for treating Lyme and related co-infections is the Byron-White formulas. It includes tinctures, powders, a diet and additional supplements prescribed by your treating LLMD. Under this protocol, Lyme disease is looked at as more of a functional illness, than an infectious disease.

Many of these protocols will go hand-in-hand with some kind of diet, most notably, a gluten-free and sugar-free diet. Many of the protocols and diets will greatly rely on detoxing and cleansing the body while building the body’s immune system back up so it can fight off the spirochetes.

There are always many extra things that a patient can do in addition to their treatment to be proactive. Of course, being advised by your LLMD is best, but things such as regular massages and chiropractic adjustments can go a long way to help you mentally and physically heal. There are a million little things a patient can do on their own to help themselves heal outside of their regular protocol. For example, having a little can of oxygen on hand to use when your headaches or joint aches are too intense is great (athletes use them, so why can’t we?), and essential oils can become, well, essential to some people and their way of life when it comes to trying to relax in amidst the various symptoms that can plague your body from day to day.

This is just the briefest overview of treatments and protocols. Honestly, I could talk (type?) for pages about the many varied types of treatment combinations, but the list seems endless. It is important that whatever treatment you decided upon that you work closely with an LLMD and that your whole case history and array of symptoms be taken into account.

A really good book for reference, if you were looking for someone’s personal journey through Lyme, would be Bite Me by Ally Hilfiger. Though it isn’t the most eloquently written book, she does a great job at describing the many phases of treatment she goes through. She includes a segment in which she is treated directly by Dr. Horowitz, and in another segment she describes her experience with Ayurvedic medicine in reference to treating her Lyme.

If you follow this link to the Lyme Warrior website  you’ll find a long list of other treatment options and protocols written by people who have been through it all themselves. I urge you to peruse the rest of the Lyme Warrior site because it is awesome.

In antibiotic and all natural protocols alike, the goal is to fight and destroy spirochetes. New evidence shows that spirochetes can take on several forms (see my post about herxing for more info). The goal is to find a treatment plan that works for you while simultaneously is effective in striking down those damn spirochetes in all their forms. There is absolutely no shame in changing your treatment protocol from time to time. When fighting a chronic illness, you never want to reach a plateau in your treatment, even if that means going back on antibiotics, or, in my case, going off antibiotics and picking up an all natural path.

Next up, I’d like to talk about some of the great stuff that a cool little community called Lyme Warrior’s has been doing to spread awareness for chronic illness and Lyme.



Hannah Barry

About Hannah Barry

I am a 26-year-old Mainer. I was bit by a tick 4+ years ago and I've been battling Lyme disease and its various coinfections ever since.