How Does Integrative/Functional Medicine Treat Lyme Disease?

How Does Integrative/Functional Medicine Treat Lyme Disease

Lyme disease, a tick-borne illness caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, presents a complex challenge due to its varied symptoms and the difficulty in diagnosing and treating it effectively. While conventional medicine often focuses on antibiotics as the primary treatment, integrative and functional medicine approaches offer a more comprehensive and holistic perspective to address Lyme disease. These approaches aim not only to alleviate symptoms but also to support the body’s natural healing mechanisms, enhance immune function, and address underlying imbalances contributing to the disease.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a multi-system infectious disease caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of an infected tick. In North America, two types of ticks carry Lyme disease:

  • The black-legged tick (Ixodes scapularis), also known as the deer tick, transmits Lyme disease on the East Coast and in the Midwest.
  • The Western black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) transmits the disease on the West Coast.
  • Other biting insects may also transmit Lyme disease; however, this concept remains controversial and has not been thoroughly researched.

Importantly, while Borrelia burgdorferi was the first bacterium implicated in Lyme disease, a growing body of research indicates that other forms of Borrelia can cause a similar illness picture, including Borrelia miyamotoi and Borrelia hermsii. 

Lyme disease has been detected in all 50 states in the United States. In California, Lyme is found in the majority of counties.

In addition to Borrelia, other bacteria, parasites, and viruses can be passed by tick bites. Some of these pathogens include Babesia, Ehrlichia and Anaplasma, Bartonella species, Rickettsia species, Powassan virus, and more.

How Common Lyme Disease is?

While the U.S. CDC estimates that more than 400,000 Americans are infected with Lyme disease each year,4 this number vastly underestimates the actual number of cases due to problems with testing methodologies, rampant misdiagnosis, and underreporting of cases. As human encroachment on natural environments increases and climate change accelerates, Lyme disease’s prevalence will only continue to rise.

For additional details, you can access the entire journal article: The Latest on Lyme Disease: A Research and Treatment Update

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The symptoms of Lyme disease vary depending on whether the illness is acute or chronic. Many people who experience acute Lyme disease symptoms mistake the symptoms for a summer flu-like illness, leaving the Lyme infection unrecognized.

Acute Symptoms:

  • Erythema migrans lesion
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Day and night sweats
  • Chills
  • Muscle aches and joint pain, can migrate or move from joint to joint or different body areas
  • Neck pain
  • Sleep issues

Chronic Symptoms:

The symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are frequently mistaken for other illnesses, such as arthritis or mental illness. 

  • Neuropsychiatric illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and suicidality
  • Sudden-onset aggressiveness and violence 
  • Cognitive dysfunction and brain fog
  • Neurodegeneration
  • Insomnia and sleep disturbances, such as frequent waking at night 
  • Neuropathy, particularly numbness and tingling that comes and goes or moves around the body
  • Pain
  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Chronic fatigue

Lyme Disease Addressed through Integrative/Functional Medicine

Integrative Medicine: A Holistic Approach

Integrative medicine blends conventional and alternative therapies to focus on the whole person rather than just the disease. It emphasizes the importance of addressing lifestyle factors, nutrition, stress management, and environmental influences in the treatment process.

Targeted Testing for Precise Diagnosis

Functional medicine, a subset of integrative medicine, often utilizes advanced testing to understand the unique biochemical imbalances within a patient’s body. For Lyme disease, specialized tests may include comprehensive blood panels, immune system evaluations, and microbial testing to precisely identify the specific strains of bacteria and co-infections present in the patient.

A Functional Medicine Approach To Treating Lyme Disease

Lyme is not like other bacterial infections, it causes systemic inflammatory effects throughout the body and immune dysfunction that makes it difficult to eradicate. This is why a simple course of antibiotics is often unsuccessful in completely resolving Lyme.

In functional medicine, we take a whole-body approach that addresses all of the dysfunction caused by Lyme and supports your body’s natural ability to fight off the disease and restore balance. The protocol is highly personalized to each patient, but here’s a high-level overview.

1. Antibiotics and Beyond

While antibiotics remain a primary treatment in conventional medicine for acute Lyme disease, integrative medicine looks beyond antibiotics alone. It aims to support the immune system and address inflammation caused by the disease. Various herbs, supplements, and natural therapies may complement or substitute antibiotics in integrative treatment plans.

2. Nutritional Support

Nutrition plays a crucial role in supporting the body’s healing process. A nutrient-rich diet tailored to the individual’s needs helps in strengthening the immune system and reducing inflammation. Specific nutrients and supplements, such as vitamin C, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics, may aid in managing symptoms and supporting overall health.

3. Detoxification and Elimination of Toxins

Lyme disease can result in a buildup of toxins in the body, leading to additional health challenges. Integrative approaches often focus on supporting the body’s natural detoxification pathways through methods such as infrared sauna therapy, lymphatic drainage, and targeted supplements to eliminate toxins and promote healing.

4. Herbal and Botanical Therapies

Herbal medicine offers a rich source of remedies with antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties. Herbal protocols tailored by integrative practitioners may include herbs like Japanese knotweed, cat’s claw, and Andrographis, which have shown effectiveness in combating Lyme bacteria and supporting immune function.

5. Mind-Body Practices

Stress management and mental health support are integral components of integrative medicine. Techniques like meditation, yoga, acupuncture, and biofeedback not only alleviate stress but also aid in balancing the nervous system, potentially reducing inflammation and supporting the immune response against Lyme disease.

How Restoration Healthcare for Integrative Health is Different

Integrative and functional medicine and Restoration Healthcare’s Treatment of Lyme Disease emphasizes a holistic view of health, incorporating multiple modalities to address the complexity of this condition. By focusing on enhancing the body’s innate healing mechanisms, supporting immune function, and addressing underlying imbalances, these approaches offer hope and improved quality of life for individuals navigating the challenges of Lyme disease.

Restoration Healthcare is a state-of-the-science holistic medical center integrating Functional Medicine, Integrative Medicine, and Osteopathic Medicine. Services include comprehensive testing and diagnostics along with cutting-edge treatment such as intravenous (IV) therapy, nutrition/nutraceuticals, genomic/microbiome assessments, and much more. Our clinical team will help you get well and stay well in a sustainable way that honors who you are and what you need. Our mission is to serve as your comprehensive resource for lifelong well-being. Contact us at (949) 523-1987 to set up an appointment today.