In this video (Part 2): In this part of the video, we ask Dr. Andrew Litchy, ND more questions about Lyme disease with special emphasis on Chronic Lyme.
Here are the questions we asked:
- What is chronic Lyme disease?
- Is chronic Lyme a combination of different infections?
- What organs are impacted by Lyme? Is there a pattern to how Lyme may attack other organs?
- Patient stories and how Naturopathic medicine has helped to treat Lyme
- How soon do you expect results after treatment with Naturopathic medicine?
- Do people comply with their treatment?
- Do you recommend any preventive treatments for Lyme?
- What precautions do you recommend?
- What is the first thing to do, after seeing a tick on the body?
- What to do once you find and remove a tick?
- Why is it important to save the tick?
- Why is testing of the tick important?
Question from the Interviewer: That leads me to the next question, on “Chronic Lyme.” What is Chronic Lyme?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: Chronic Lyme is when Lyme disease has progressed past three to six months or more, has failed treatment and people are sick for years. That is Chronic Lyme. Chronic Lyme is also a bit of a misnomer as there are usually other infections involved, and it's a systemic issue. Hormones are affected, digestive health, detoxification pathways are all compromised, and it becomes a very ill patient. It goes from a strictly Infections problem to a more systemic issue with Chronic Lyme.
“Chronic Lyme” is when Lyme has progressed and failed Treatment.
Interviewer: For the sake of our viewers, if I'm hearing you correctly, when you've been exposed to Lyme for a long time, your immune system is compromised and as the immune system is compromised, you're then susceptible to more infections, so Chronic Lyme is generally a combination of different infections that the person is dealing with?
It can be like that, Yes. Having a long-term infection wears the body out in different ways, changes how the immune system works, how hormones work, and so it becomes a multi-systemic issue. There can be multiple infections involved.
Interviewer: This makes me think that Lyme disease really affects several organs within our body.
Dr. Andrew Litchy: It does!
Question: Which are some of the organs that are the most impacted by Lyme? Is there sort of a sequence, or a pattern the way it follows?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: There are different patterns, but I don't think any one person will have the same pattern as given time. There is early, mid, and late stage Lyme, that we see with other kind of spirochete infections, but how this manifests with people is different. People can have had it for 10 to 20 years and be much less ill than somebody who has had a recent exposure.
There's also a very interesting phenomenon where people will have exposure, have antibodies, maybe even have an infection, and have no symptoms. A large percentage of the population in Lyme endemic areas will test positive for Lyme, and not have any symptoms at all, which confuses things further. It does not affect everybody in the same way.
Interviewer: There are a lot of layers to the management of Lyme disease.
Dr. Andrew Litchy: Yes!
Question: Can you share some stories of your patient's, so people can understand how the treatment of Lyme disease, can happen with naturopathic medicine?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: Sure. A couple of extremes. Had a patient who is an interesting case. He knew he had his tick bite ten years before he had symptoms and then he had a couple chiropractic adjustments, which opened up the infection. After the adjustments, he had very strange swelling with very intense symptoms. Over the next three to five months, he progressed until he could not get off the floor, because he had so much pain and muscular swelling. He was diagnosed with Polymyalgia Rheumatica. He was diagnosed with multiple joint pain, a probable autoimmune disease, and he did not want to pursue that. He pursued testing for Lyme, and he had Lyme. Through treatment, with herbs and supplementation and other things, he was eventually able to recover from this, and a year and a half after I met him, he sent me a picture of him running another half marathon. This was a fellow who couldn't get off the floor and then was running a marathon later. That can happen, and that was without antibiotics.
Other people with chronic cases and their main symptoms were headaches, mild ones; a couple of months of treatment and the headaches were gone, and they are feeling better.
Then there are other times when people deal with symptoms over months and years, and it can be more complicated than that.
Question: How soon after you started treatment with this person, did they start feeling the difference? That their body was now able to handle it a little bit better?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: That's another complicated question. We'd like to see treatment response within two to three weeks. See something happening, but when people start treating Lyme, particularly late-stage Lyme, they sometimes feel worse before they get better. When the bacteria is dying off, and things are changing they may have what's called a Herxheimer reaction, which happens in other bacterial infections, which is an actual increase in their symptoms due to effective treatment. This is a hallmark of effective treatment, in some cases, is that symptoms got worse as a result of treating. That can happen. We expect something to happen soon, and we hope they will be feeling better, at the latest, three to four months. In my practice that follows a pretty predictable pattern, and if people are not improving appropriately, then it is time to refer and get other kinds of help. Not everybody responds to every type of treatment.
Question: Is compliance an issue when you're starting treatment with people dealing with Lyme disease?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: Not in my practice. People with Chronic Lyme are usually extremely compliant, to use a medical term because they're very ill. Often by the time I see them, they've seen many practitioners, and it's not worked out, and so they're very motivated to feel better because they are so sick. Of course, there can be some issues with following certain aspects of the treatment plan, but as a population, people with Lyme are very interested in getting better.
Question: Some people work on farms for example or people that work in the woods, who are exposed to ticks more so, than people that live in downtown Minneapolis. Would you ever work with someone prophylactically and boost their immune system with naturopathic medicine, if they are more exposed to Lyme; does that really happen?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: I tend not to do that. Being healthy and having a healthy immune system, of course is helpful. The main prophylaxis is, of course, not getting bitten. It is doing thorough tick checks, there is clothing that's embedded with insect repellents. There are various kinds of insect repellents and that is the most important thing to do when one is going to be exposed to Lyme.
Question: What do you say to someone who has pets in the family and little kids? It's summertime, and they're going camping; what is your recommendation to parents and kids with a full household? How do you have to check for ticks and what are some of the precautions today?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: Aside from insecticide, you do a tick check, and you need to check the body carefully. Look in the hairline, look in the creases of the body, armpits, and groin, and so on. They can hang out there. Make sure you're wearing high socks, and maybe even some pants that are tucked in, so things are unable to crawl up in them. These will help prevent ticks from getting on your body. Do a tick check every single day.
Question: What do you recommend to people, once they see a tick on the body? What should be their next step?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: To get it off the body, immediately.
Interviewer: If they can't do it, go into the ER or someplace to have it be taken out.
Dr. Andrew Litchy: Sure, as soon as possible. Any moment is a possible exposure time.
Question: Do you have patients that have called you and said I have a tick on me can you take care of it?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: I have not. They usually take it out. I have patients call in and say I have the tick, where do I send it to get it investigated for Lyme, and there's a lot of options, and that's a good idea to save the tick. Though again, it is not a hundred percent that it will test positive, even if it does have Lyme. But that is an important step to save the tick.
Interviewer: When you say “save the tick” ... do you mean keep it alive, or does it not matter?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: It does not matter. Put it in a small glass jar, where it cannot escape.
Interviewer: Why is the testing of the tick so important?
Dr. Andrew Litchy: That can help clarify if that bite is likely to lead to Infection. The decision tree is, if the tick is positive, then you know to treat. If the tick is negative, you're not out of the woods, but it doesn't necessarily make sense to treat immediately unless symptoms are happening. A positive tick, positive bite, you should be treating, and that can be helpful to know.
END OF PART 2
Special thanks to Dr. Andrew LitchyND for being an educator on TrailheadHealth.com and for helping answer consumer questions.
Dr. Andrew Litchy, ND specializes in Chronic Lyme Disease, Integrative Cancer Care, Autism Spectrum Disorder and Botanical Medicine. In addition to his clinical practice at the Neighborhood Naturopathic in Edina, Minnesota, he also teaches at the University of Minnesota. He loves Educating consumers and is offering free initial consultation to anyone who has questions on Lyme and wondering if Naturopathic Treatment can help them. He can be reached at (612) 259-8529 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org