What Is Lyme Disease?
Caused by Borrelia burgdorferi (a type of bacteria), Lyme disease is passed on to humans by the bite of infected ticks. If left untreated, it can lead to neurological problems (such as facial palsy or meningitis), memory loss, chronic joint inflammation, inflammation of the heart and/or its conduction system, and changes in mood and sleep habits.
The Lyme Disease Rash
One of the major signs of Lyme disease is a rash that looks like a bull's eye (featuring a red center surrounded by a clear area that, in turn, is encircled by a red ring). The rash typically develops a few days after the appearance of a small, red bump at the site of the tick bite. Known as erythema migrans, the rash is usually tender and warm to the touch and tends to grow larger (up to a foot across) and redder over time.
Not all Lyme disease patients end up developing erythema migrans. Other symptoms or signs may include headache, fatigue, chills, fever, muscle and joint pain, and swollen lymph nodes.
When left untreated, Lyme disease can cause intermittent bouts of arthritis (marked by severe joint pain and swelling) in about 60 percent of patients after several months. Some individuals with untreated Lyme disease also experience eye inflammation or develop hepatitis.
Lyme Disease Treatment and Remedies
When begun at the early stages of the illness, three to four weeks of antibiotic treatment can usually cure Lyme disease. In a small percentage of cases, however, complications such as sleep disturbance, fatigue, and cognitive defects can remain for months or even years after the infection has been eliminated.
To enhance your health and ease your symptoms while undergoing treatment for Lyme disease, consult your physician about using these natural remedies:
These immune-stimulating "friendly" bacteria may help ward off gastrointestinal problems induced by antibiotic use, suggests a 2008 study. Available in supplement form, probiotics are also found in fermented foods like yogurt and kefir.
For more immune-system support, increase your intake of garlic (an herb believed to have powerful bacteria-fighting effects).
Another immune-booster, this medicinal mushroom (also known as reishi) may help lessen inflammation.
Although hyperbaric oxygen therapy and the herb cat's claw are often promoted as alternative therapies for Lyme disease, there's little evidence to support the effectiveness of either approach in treatment of this condition.
Lyme Disease Prevention
In addition to using insect repellent (including natural alternatives like oil of lemon eucalyptus), you can lower your Lyme disease risk by wearing long pants and sleeves, a hat, and gloves whenever spending time in grassy, heavily wooded areas. After leaving potentially tick-populated spots, perform a tick check and shower if possible.
Harris JC, Cottrell SL, Plummer S, Lloyd D. "Antimicrobial properties of Allium sativum (garlic)." Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 2001 57(3):282-6.
Kligler B, Cohrssen A. "Probiotics." American Family Physician 2008 1;78(9):1073-8.