What is Lyme disease anyway?

So What Is Lyme Disease?

Is the expression “Lyme disease” fighting words?

Is Lyme disease a ticket through the cracks of medical care and straight to the land of frustration?

Is Lyme disease an imaginary illness for people who need to complain more?

Is Lyme disease a waste basket diagnosis?

Is Lyme disease a political landmine?

Lyme disease really isn’t a good expression; as it’s not defined correctly. The main organism that is associated with Lyme disease is a bacteria named Borrelia burgdorferi. A better expression for symptoms caused by an infection with Borrelia would be Borreliosis. But Lyme disease is not just Borreliosis.

Borreliosis, treated quickly after the infection, is often curable. One can kill Borrelia with antibiotics if it is treated relatively quickly after the exposure. The infection can be identified in various ways:

1)Finding a deer tick on you and testing that tick for the Borrelia bacteria

  1. Getting a deer tick bite that leads to the classic bull’s eye rash (which tends to happen about 30% of the time
  2. Getting symptoms after a deer tick bite that is in a Borreliosis pattern
  3. A positive antibody test
  4. A positive culture test
  5. A positive antigen test

As I mentioned on my Lyme disease page, Borrelia has the ability to trick some people’s immune system so that the immune system doesn’t make antibody correctly. Instead, your immune system switches to a cell mediated immune reaction. I’d love for science to figure this process out; so that we can support your immune system and improve Borrelia treatment.

The way your immune system talks is inflammation. Inflammation is the chemical process your immune system goes through to have a conversation with itself, and your body, to direct a proper immune reaction. Therefore Borrelia changes inflammation. What seems worse is that pre-existing inflammatory problems seem to change the course of Borrelia. The way I like to say this is, “Borrelia likes and causes inflammation.”

Our immune system will fight infections through inflammation. Borrelia is an infection that our immune system would like to fight. There are MANY MANY MANY other infections our immune system also needs to fight or help manage. We can get harmful infections from many different places including: insects, foods, the environment, water, animals or going into an infection filled snot factory (I’m looking at you school!)

Borrelia changes the way our immune system communicates. So, if you happen to have another infection, Borrelia changes the way you fight that infection as well. That’s why these other infections are called “co-infections.” You could have an infection with another organism. The combination of the two infections is much worse than Borrelia or the other infection by itself.

One example of co-infection is the bacteria Bartonella. There are at least 26 different types of Bartonella, one of which is cat scratch fever. In humans, you can only test for 2 of the 26 species, and the testing is not accurate. You could get multiple infections from one or multiple bites. The complex of the two infections is much worse than either infection alone. Your immune system can usually clear Bartonella. When you have Bartonella and Borrelia together, the symptoms of Bartonella really shine. Bartonella tends to cause crippling neurologic and muscle problems with severe gastritis. The gut problems that come with Bartonella are near impossible to diagnosis. Then comes the landslide of acid blockers and antidepressants to cover the symptoms of an infection!

Borreliosis can cause other infections to be more profound and change inflammation. Borrelia likes and causes inflammation. That brings to “What is Lyme disease?” Lyme disease is the combination of Borrelia, plus other infections, plus YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM, and whatever happens to be making your immune system inflamed.

Lyme disease= Borrelia + other infections + your immune system + causes of inflammation

Lyme disease is YOU SPECIFIC. That’s why it’s such a political and medical landmine. Lyme disease complex depends specifically on YOU and what is wrong with YOU.

Borrelia takes advantage of you to create Lyme disease complex.

My mother likes saying “You can read all the baby books you like to learn how to take care of your child. But you’d better hope that your baby is reading the same book.” I feel this applies to Lyme disease. You can read and write whatever research, books, blogs, emails, articles and medical education material you like… but you’d better hope your immune system and the co-infections read the same book.

In our current climate of flow chart disease management, it’s impossible to account for the individual. Individualized medicine is severely damaged and we’re limited to a symptomatic disease management system. How could you possibly receive adequate treatment for YOUR Lyme disease? Your personal combination of Borrelia, co-infections and everything causing your immune system inflammation by following a standardized flow chart treatment.

A good book about the compounding factors of Lyme disease is Richard Horowitz, MD book Why Can’t I get Better? The first time I was exposed to that information as compiled by Richard Horowitz I cried. It’s just too much! Even though I personally knew the steps to manage Lyme disease complex, I found that it was still overwhelming to hear the list of problems to work through. I was thinking about my own Lyme disease and the steps I had and still needed to take. Since those days I’ve become very well managed in my Lyme disease by working though all the individual factors and bringing the treatments together.

To treat Lyme disease you have to treat it all at the same time. You have to find the infections and you have to figure out what is bothering your immune system. That can include so many different examples. Here are some of them:

Adrenal problems

Hormone imbalances

Thyroid problems

Heavy metal toxicity

Liver detox and metabolism problems (MTHFR DNA mutation, Glutathione production, superoxide dismutase)

Co-infections: Fungal, bacteria, mycoplasma, viruses and parasites

Energy production problem

B vitamin metabolism issues

Food reactions (sensitivity, allergies, celiac, etc)


Chemical sensitivity

Fatty liver

Previous injuries and surgeries.

Cardiac problems

Mental/emotional health problems


Mitochondrial dysfunction

Nutrient deficiencies

Genetic mutations

Metabolic syndrome

And many more…


So What?

Let’s not call acute Borreliosis “Lyme disease.” Let’s not get hung up on the infectious nature of Borrelia as the only factor of Lyme disease. Let’s keep the focus and net wide.

If you have chronic Lyme and you aren’t treating the other problems causing you inflammation you won’t improve.

If you rely on just antibiotics to treat chronic lyme, you are in for disappointment. In many cases treating lyme ISN’T treating the infection. It’s treating the causes of inflammation. I think I’m well suited to treating Lyme because I’m always searching for the underlying cause of your problems and inflammation. I treat the Borrelia, but I also consider other infections and your immune system in that treatment. That’s what you should expect from a Lyme doctor.


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