Any Acute Infection Could Be “The Straw that Breaks the Camel’s Back”
Spring is on the way and for those spending time in the country, it also means that the ticks are coming out from under piles of leaves and fallen tree trunks. Some might have perished during the few cold spells, but certainly not all. Ticks have become more tenacious and more aggressive, and they will be searching for new hosts after the winter. With my professional interest in Lyme disease, and prevention, I have started community outreach with Lyme disease preventions via zoom.
Even though the attention is on the pandemic, recently there have been interesting articles in the NY Times connecting ‘Long Covid’, chronic Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome / ME (myalgic encephalomyelitis). It is terrific to see that chronic Lyme is given a platform in a mainstream paper, as this sickness is often disregarded in conventional medicine. Long Covid is a new phenomenon, fibromyalgia and CFS/ME have been around for quite some time.
Despite the different labels, all of them have common denominators including:
Discerning other possible underlying root causes with lingering symptoms from the most recent infection, or toxic exposure, can be a challenge. It requires a thorough investigation and additional testing is helpful, but it can be expensive. When consulting with individuals who have been ill for some time, it becomes apparent that there were already underlying health challenges before, e.g., the tick bite, or flu, or an acute SARS 2 infection.
Here is one way to look at it: Our life history and medical history all end up in one bucket. Prior infections or other illnesses, toxic mold exposures, work troubles, a history of digestive troubles, dental health, financial challenges, traumatic brain injuries or accidents, loss of loved ones, all matter. When the bucket is full and overflows, symptoms of ill health will appear. This matters especially for viruses that might have been dormant while we were in a better state of health / life balance. EBV or shingles are common examples of when the body has lost its resilience. An exposure to the SARS2 virus “can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.”
Brain inflammation is part of Fibromyalgia, Lyme disease and co-infections, toxic mold exposures, CFS / ME, and also considered in Long Covid. Functional Neurology and Environmental Medicine are way ahead in treatment of brain inflammation. Specific nutrients and botanicals are essential to calm a hyperactive immune response in the brain. Neural feedback training is another component as the brain will need a “reset.” Brain inflammation will present with neuro-psychiatric disorders, sleep problems, anxiety, behavior changes. This might be diagnosed as a psychiatric case – however, it is a medical case with psychiatric symptoms. (This happens frequently in the Lyme disease community where individuals are told “it is in your head, you need to see a psychiatrist.” Yet the patient is medically ill with infections.)
Does one consider diet and lifestyle in this entire scenario?
In many cases, digestive troubles and a compromised gut lining are part of this picture. Since up to 70% of the immune system resides in the GI, any imbalances in the homeostasis of gut microflora will weaken innate immunity. Use of acid-blocking medications, antibiotics, and NSAIDS also contribute to non-optimal gut flora, while also opening the door to a ‘leaky gut’ and increased inflammation. The constant use of hand sanitizers, breathing in of chemicals from masks, and high antiseptic exposures will also be harmful to our systemic ecology.
Too much daily stress will weaken the innate immune system, as will lack of sleep. When living more in fear, or in excessive fight or flight mode, blood sugar dysregulation is common. Our stress hormone, called cortisol, will remain more elevated. And we will also crave more sugar or simple carbs. Elevated cortisol levels adversely affect melatonin production and restorative sleep, while also lowering our ability to fight inflammation.
Any infection that is not treated appropriately, and long enough, has a high potential to induce autoimmunity over time. This can happen to any joint, organ or gland, including the brain.
Autoimmunity is also not uncommon in the Lyme disease arena, where, e.g., arthritic conditions can persist long after antibiotic treatment. Here is an example e.g., knee arthritis, years after a Lyme disease infection that was treated with short term antibiotics:
- Is the osteo-arthritis potentially still a part of lingering Lyme disease?
- Or is this now part of an auto-immune process where initially the innate immune system and medications did not take care of the acute infections, and now the immune system has lost self-regulation and is attacking joint tissue?
- Does one still treat the remnants of the initial infection?
- Does one help to rebuild damaged collagen?
- How does one assist with pain management?
- Does one consider other potential health challenges that can drive an ongoing inflammatory process hurting the knee joint?
- What about the medical history – was there ever was a knee injury or surgery?
- Is the individual overweight?
- Is there an exercise program in place?
- What current pain meds are taken? (or not)
From a holistic perspective, every aspect must be evaluated when looking at autoimmune conditions, sustained inflammation, and ongoing pain.
With chronic inflammatory sickness symptoms, it is essential to initially ‘calm the fire.’
Nutritional and lifestyle interventions are considered as a first line. Depending on the constitutional strength of the individual, it is also necessary to shore up the immune and endocrine system, and to ensure quality sleep.
- Without sleep, the body cannot heal or restore.
- Without adrenal reserves and blood sugar balance, the body will not have energy to fight infections and control inflammation.
- Without regulated immune function, the auto-immune process can continue to go rampant.
Botanicals, nutrients, and homeopathy shine in the above as they can have many functions at the same time. Each individual has different needs, and everyone responds different to interventions, hence the emphasis must be on personalized treatments. It does not matter whether one deals with, e.g., ‘Long Covid’ symptoms, Lyme disease, CFS, or rheumatoid arthritis. Modulating and anti-inflammatory agents that can “calm the fire” include olive leaf, turmeric, lion’s mane, luteolin, rosemary, broccoli sprouts, boswellia, passionflower, lemon balm, pau d’arco, magnesium, rehmannia, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, butyrate, cod liver oil, quercetin, pomegranate, baicalin, CBD, and more.
Why a detox can backfire:
Often one might read that it is essential to “detox”. There is a time and place for everything. In many cases individuals who are chronically ill are compromised in detoxification pathways. Genetics can play a role in this; a reason why genetic testing might be appropriate. “The body must be able to get rid of the garbage.” Pushing detoxification can backfire if one does not address clearing organs of elimination incl. the colon, liver, kidney, lungs and skin.
Go easy, go slow:
One way to naturally support the body detoxification is ability by consuming a whole-food organic diet with health fats, and by including herbal detox teas, e.g., milk thistle, hibiscus, dandelion, cranberry and nettles. And then there is also the good ole fashioned castor oil pack.
Even walking will stimulate the lymphatic pump needed to move toxins out of the body. Cardio exercise to induce sweating is even better – just wipe it off though so toxins do not re-enter the body. Whatever you do in the new Zoom – lifestyle, is MOVE!
Check vitamin D levels in a blood test, eat a clean and organic diet, hydrate, get away from technology and enjoy invigorating fresh air in sunshine, plus engage in supportive relationships. Yes, vitamin C, A, and zinc also have been in the news. No supplement can replace a healthy diet, but it will enhance a healthy one. But also remain curious, find ways to have fun and laughter. Taking care of foundational physical and mental health has never been more important!
Greetings to you all,
Rika Keck, NY Integrated Health