MAKING SENSE OF LYME DISEASE

Making Sense of Lyme Disease – the Great Imitator

To say that Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose, would be like saying that McDonald’s has sold a few hamburgers over the years. Besides being called the great imitator, it has also been called an “invisible illness” as those who have it can still appear healthy, and so can their bloodwork.

Consider the shocking difference between these two statistics. In 2013, federal health departments reported that there were 27, 203 confirmed cases of Lyme disease. While the CDC that same year reported that there were 300,000 cases of the disease. What may be even more problematic, is that it appears to be on the rise.

What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is the most common tick-borne infectious disease in the U.S., according to the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. The disease was first identified in Lyme, Connecticut in 1975, which is how Lyme disease got its name.

It’s actually a bacterial disease. The corkscrew shape of the bacteria responsible allows them to burrow into body tissues and even cells, where the bacteria can then hide. This is why different parts of the body can be affected and why those who are infected can exhibit a wide range of symptoms.

What Causes Lyme Disease?

Of the four bacteria responsible for causing Lyme disease, Borrellia burgdorferi and Borrelliamiyamotoiare the two most common in the U.S., while Borrelliagarinii and Borrelliaafzelii are common in Asia and Europe.

The bacteria enter the body through the bite of a tick. However, according to Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, one of the top Lyme disease experts, other blood-sucking insects can also spread the disease.

A tick will usually attach itself to areas of the body where it will go unnoticed, like the scalp, groin, and armpits. It must be attached for around 24 hours before the bacteria are transmitted. And it’s usually the immature ticks that are most responsible, as adult ticks are bigger and easier to notice.

Research shows that within the first 15 minutes, as the tick attaches itself to the host, it injects a salivary content with numbing substances, so we don’t feel the invader as it feeds on our blood for hours. Up to 75 percent of a tick’s salivary secretion has a “soup” of pathogens, including Borrelia and other co-infections.

What are the Symptoms of Lyme Disease?

The biggest problem with Lyme disease is that, for your best chances of a complete recovery, early detection is both critical and difficult.

Common symptoms of Lyme disease mirror those of several other conditions including:

• Multiple sclerosis
• Chronic fatigue syndrome
• Arthritis
• Fibromyalgia
• ADHD
• Alzheimer’s disease

symptoms from lyme disease include rash
First Warning Signs

In about half of all Lyme disease cases, the infected person will notice a growing red rash at the site of the bite that can grow up to 12 inches in diameter. The rash isn’t itchy or painful and is usually accompanied by other symptoms that may include:

• Chills
• Fever
• Headaches
• Body aches
• Fatigue

Chronic Symptoms

The longer the disease goes untreated, other signs and symptoms may come and go, such as brain fog, severe fatigue, muscle and joint problems, and an irregular heartbeat. The longer it persists, the more difficult it is to treat. And if left untreated long enough, it can cause problems with many organs and systems in the body, including the heart, digestive system, nervous system, brain, and reproductive system.

How is Lyme Disease Diagnosed?

Blood tests are the most common method to detect Lyme disease. However, it may take a few weeks after infection for detection to be possible.

The tests are looking to confirm the presence of antibodies to the Lyme-causing bacteria. Antibodies are created by the immune system to combat pathogens, but the body needs a certain amount of time to make them.

The CDC recommends a two-step process when attempting to diagnose Lyme disease. The first test is an enzyme immunosorbent assay which checks for any and all antibodies. If results are positive, the second test – an immunoblot test – will check for two specific antibodies that the body produces due to the presence of the Lyme bacteria.

If both tests are positive, the presence of Lyme disease is a practical certainty. But again, problems persist. Proper results of these testing methods rely on the proper functioning of the body’s white blood cells. So, there is still a chance that tests can be negative and Lyme disease present.

There is some good news, though. A brand-new testing method has been developed that can detect Lyme DNA, rather than the antibodies the body produces to combat the Lyme bacteria. This should allow for detection weeks sooner. And since time is the most critical factor in treating Lyme disease, this early detection is a very positive development.

It should be noted that diagnosing and treating Lyme disease can become quite pricey and that a patient will often see five to seven physicians before the disease is even properly diagnosed.

How to Treat Lyme Disease?

Unfortunately, the conventional treatment for Lyme disease – short courses of antibiotics – is often unsuccessful, particularly if the disease has been present for a longer time. For most patients, symptoms continue, and the disease worsens.

A natural health approach may be the better option, as in a rotation of herbal antimicrobials. The advantages are two-fold. There’s no chance of a resistance developing, the way it might with antibiotics. And there are no adverse side effects, such as the disturbance to your delicate microbiome that antibiotics use can cause.

Renowned natural health expert, Dr. Joseph Mercola, recommends taking a functional nutrition approach by using a number of herbs, foods, and other supplements to fight the Lyme infection, including astaxanthin, curcumin, krill oil, probiotics, resveratrol, grapefruit seed extract, and others.

Don’t underestimate the role of diet and functional nutrition when it comes to fighting Lyme disease. Naturopath and author of “The Lyme Diet: Nutritional Strategies for Healing from Lyme Disease”, Dr. Nicola McFadzean, has this to say on the subject:

“The role of nutrition is central not so much in the actual bug-killing, but in the underlying strength and resilience of your health. Immune support, inflammation management, hormone regulation, and detoxification functions can all be vitally influenced by your nutritional intake.”

If you’re concerned that you may have Lyme disease, the first step is to find a functional medicine practitioner who can properly diagnose and treat the disease.  Remember that with Lyme disease, time is critical. As is getting the proper treatment.

Call our office and learn about an affordable way to get care from Lyme-literate practitioners certified in integrative medicine and natural therapies with our Access Membership plan. Call today – (212)-696-HEAL(4325).

References:

http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/33/6/780.full

https://www.healthline.com/health/lyme-disease#symptoms

https://www.webmd.com/rheumatoid-arthritis/arthritis-lyme-disease

https://www.cdc.gov/lyme/index.html

https://www.healthline.com/health/lyme-disease-chronic-persistent

https://www.healthline.com/health/lyme-disease

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140402110029.htm

What is CIRS - Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome

How to Know if You Have Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome?

Illnesses caused by biotoxins are on the rise. Since I’ve begun testing my patients for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) markers in my practice, I’m surprised at just how prevalent this condition is turning out to be.

Up to 25 percent of the population is thought to have the gene HLA, which makes them more susceptible to biotoxins. Though anyone can be impacted by biotoxins, these people are much more sensitive and therefore more likely to have symptoms strong enough to send them to the doctor.

Part of this apparent uptick in biotoxin illness is also due to the improvement in diagnostics. We are realizing the body’s reaction to mold, Lyme, and other biotoxins are unique in each person, which is partly why strategies for identifying and correcting these problems have remained largely underdeveloped until recently.

If you’ve been struggling with chronic health issues, you may want to consider getting yourself checked for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome.

What is CIRS?

So what is CIRS? Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome or CIRS is a condition with a wide range of symptoms which are triggered by a biotoxin – usually mold. The term CIRS was coined by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker to describe when a body’s immune system is out of whack. In some people this could mean the immune system is simply weakened, while in others it’s running rampant.

You can also get CIRS from common chronic sinus infections with MARCONS and tick borne illnesses like Lyme disease ticks, fish that’s been contaminated with ciguatera, and infections from a brown recluse spider bite. Essentially, CIRS is a dysfunctional reaction of the body’s immune system in response to a biotoxin. In my practice, I’ve seen the symptoms range from manageable to debilitating.

The different markers that we can test for, and the differences in how symptoms present, make CIRS a difficult condition to diagnose. Though diagnostics are improving, there still needs to be a cluster of symptoms and an improvement in treatment response for a CIRS diagnosis to be made.

Unfortunately, it’s not unusual for a person with CIRS to go years, even decades, without a proper diagnosis. However, if we can pool our knowledge and spread the word about the differences in this condition, I believe we can make a major difference in awareness and treatment of CIRS. This is part of the reason I’ve begun testing most of my patients for biotoxins and CIRS markers.

Waiting For A Diagnosis Might Not Be The Answer

There are numerous symptoms of CIRS, different biomarkers, and the toxins also differ. This complicates the diagnostic process and is part of the reason CIRS has gone largely ignored by conventional medicine. But just because an illness is complex and not fully understood, it doesn’t mean we should shy away from helping people heal – we just need to adjust our approach accordingly.

Testing and treatment often have to happen side by side when tackling CIRS. Sometimes the response to different treatments actually help in achieving a complete diagnosis. Symptoms, biomarkers, and testing must be used to correctly diagnose CIRS.

Some common symptoms of CIRS include:

  • Cognitive difficulties such as brain fog and trouble concentrating
  • Fatigue and weakness or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Frequent urination, excessive thirst, dehydration
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Visual insensitivity
  • Post nasal drip and sore throat
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Digestive issues
  • Mood swings
  • Tinnitus
  • Static shocks
  • Vertigo
  • Metallic taste in mouth

If you have some of the symptoms associated with CIRS, you should make an appointment with a doctor who is experienced in dealing with this condition. If you’re in need of a New York certified functional medicine doctor, you can request a consultation here.

Testing for Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome Due to Mold

Some of the biomarkers for the different underlying causes of CIRS overlap, some are different. These are some of the biomarkers seen in mold patients which have been the most common forms of CIRS I’ve found in my practice.

CIRS due to mold exposure has a couple of characteristic markers, including high levels of

  • C4a – An activation protein that can cause inflammation, free radical production, and damage to tissues if too high.
  • TGF–beta1 – A cytokine in the immune system that has both anti– and proinflammatory effects.
  • MMP–9 – An enzyme that helps with tissue repair and is a significant marker of CIRS.
  • ACTH / Cortisol – A hormone that can be elevated and lead to weight gain in CIRS patients.
  • VEGF – A protein that causes blood vessel formation.

CIRS due to mold exposure is characterized by low levels of:

  • MSH – A hormone that is anti-inflammatory and typically low in CIRS patients.
  • ADH – This hormone regulates the amount of water your body removes and is associated with dehydration, frequent urination, and excessive thirst.
  • VIP – A neuroregulatory hormone that is associated with inflammation
  • Visual contrast ability – You can take the VCS test, which is simple and can be done at home.

There are several tests that can help you identify if mold is the cause of your inflammation, and therefore your symptoms. These tests are useful If you suspect you have CIRS, I recommend the following:

  • The Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test checks for neuroinflammation, which is often caused by mold exposure. The VCS test checks your ability to see differences in colors, a common symptom of CIRS. It’s also only $10 and can be done at home, so it’s a good place to start.
  • There is a Mold CIRS Panel laboratory markers that you can test in the conventional laboratory. This panel tests for MMP9, TGF-beta1, MSH, ADH, and osmolality.

If you believe your symptoms might be caused by chronic inflammatory response syndrome, it’s so important that you make an appointment with a doctor familiar with this condition. I can’t tell you the number of times I‘ve seen patients who have gone from doctor to doctor trying to find the cause of their symptoms.

When CIRS is the suspected culprit of your symptoms, there are a number of things that can be done right away to ease your struggles. Intervention and remedies like eating specialized diets, taking supplements that support natural detoxification, sauna therapy, and mold remediation can help those with CIRS.

If you are in need of a New York functional medicine doctor who is experienced in CIRS, you can request a consultation here. Don’t wait until this condition becomes worse, you can begin the path to relief today.

Resources:

http://www.survivingmold.com/news/2014/12/what-is-cirs/
https://selfhacked.com/blog/dr-ritchie-shoemaker-pioneer-in-cirs-mold-with-guest-host-dana-howell/#Dr_ShoemakersBiotoxin_Discovery
http://www.survivingmold.com/diagnosis/lab-tests
https://www.vcstest.com/

 

Diagnosing CIRS: Your Complete Guide to Testing

Diagnosing CIRS: Your Complete Guide to Testing

CIRS or Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome is really an umbrella term for symptoms with a few different causes. It can be caused by tick borne illnesses, mold exposure, and more. Characterized by extreme exhaustion, weakness, and cognitive difficulties, CIRS is a debilitating condition that’s inherently complex.

The nature of CIRS makes it difficult to diagnose. Sometimes patients go years, even decades before a full diagnosis is made. Fortunately, our understanding of this disease and its diagnostic testing has gotten much better.

I’ve found that because the functional medicine approach examines the body as a whole, it’s better at diagnosing complex conditions such as CIRS. In my article How to Know if You Have Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, I explored:

  • What is Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome?
  • Why waiting for a diagnosis might not be the answer.
  • Testing for mold exposure.

If you need more of an introductory to CIRS, I recommend you start there. In this article, you will find a comprehensive approach to diagnostic testing for CIRS. This is a guide you can use before you see a doctor, to help you determine if you possibly have CIRS – and what testing you can ask your doctor for to achieve a proper diagnosis.

Do You Have CIRS? Testing Before The Doctor’s Office

Before you even make an appointment with your doctor there are a couple things you can do.

First, see how many symptoms you have in the CIRS symptoms clusters below. This system was developed by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker through the analysis of thousands of patients. People with Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome will have symptoms in eight or more clusters.

For example, if you are experiencing night sweats that counts as a positive result for the entire cluster of symptoms in the red box on the right. Even if you don’t have red eyes, blurred vision, mood swings or ice pick pain, because you’re experiencing night sweats that counts as a positive result for the entire cluster. You only need one symptom in a cluster for it to count. You may have symptoms that aren’t on this chart, but if you have CIRS you’ll have at least eight symptom clusters. You can see how many clusters you have right now.

Diagnosing CIRS: Your Complete Guide to Testing

Next, you can take the Multiple Systemic Infectious Diseases Syndrome (MSIDS) Horowitz questionnaire. This questionnaire allows you to assign 0-3 in severity on a number of symptoms that are commonly associated with CIRS that’s been triggered by Lyme disease. At the end, you’ll have a total score which will tell you how likely it is you have a tick-borne illness.

Finally, you can take a Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test. This is a simple test that costs $10. It checks your ability to distinguish between very similar colors. Those with CIRS often are unable to differentiate between similar shades due to neuroinflammation.

If any of these tests result in a trip to the doctor’s office, be sure to bring your results with you to your appointment. These tools are excellent resources for beginning your CIRS diagnosis.

Testing for CIRS

Remember, because there are numerous underlying causes of CIRS, there are also various tactics in tackling these diagnostics. You’ll need to go through these with a doctor who’s experienced in chronic conditions. You might not need every single test listed here. Your symptoms will tell your doctor where to start.

Testing should include:

  • Mycotoxin testing – These tests can identify biotoxins in your blood created by mold.
  • Human Leukocyte Antigen (HLA) genetic test – An estimated 25 percent of the population have a genetic variation that makes their immune system bad at identifying and ridding the body of biotoxins. Sometimes when mold is an issue in a home,  the rest of the family only notices the problem after a person with the HLA gene becomes sick.
  • MARCoNS – Multiple Antibiotic Resistant Coagulase Negative Staphylococci (MARCoNS) live inside the nasal cavity. These can contribute to CIRS and need to be identified and treated.    
  • Mold CIRS Panel of laboratory markers. This panel tests for MMP9, TGF-beta1, MSH, ADH, and osmolality.

The following are biomarkers commonly associated with CIRS and should be tested:

  • Vasoactive Intestinal Polypeptide (VIP) – Normal range is 23-63 pg/mL. CIRS patients usually have lower levels.
  • Melanocyte Stimulating Hormone (MSH) – Normal range is 35-81 pg/mL. CIRS patients usually have lower levels.
  • Transforming Growth Factor Beta–1 (TGF Beta-1) – Normal range is <2380 pg/ml.
  • C4a – Normal range is 0-2830 ng/ml.
  • Antigliadin (AGA IgA/IgG) – Normal range is 0-19.
  • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)/Cortisol – Normal range is ACTH 8-37 pg/mL. Cortisol in the a.m. 4.3-22.4 and p.m. 3.1-16.7 ug/dL. CIRS patients usually have higher levels.
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) – Normal range is 31-86 pg/mL. CIRS patients usually have lower levels.
  • Antidiuretic hormone (ADH)/Osmolality – Normal range is ADH 1-13.3 pg/ml and Osmolality 280-300 mosmol.
  • Matrix Metallopeptidase 9 (MMP-9) – Normal range is 85-332 ng/mL.
  • Leptin – Normal range is 0.5-13.8 ng/mL for men and 1.1-27.5 ng/mL for women.

You should also have an Environmental Relative Moldiness Index (ERMI) test done. The ERMI test is a DNA-based test that’s used to identify specific species living in your home. This is beneficial because it helps identify potential mycotoxins that could be making you sick. Furthermore, it will help you know if you should have any mold remediation done in your home. Removing the cause of CIRS (in this case mold) from your life is the number one step in recovering your health.

Finding a Functional Medicine Doctor for CIRS

If you suspect you have Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, it’s important you make an appointment with a functional medicine doctor who has experience in working with CIRS. If you don’t start with a doctor who’s knowledgeable in complex, chronic conditions it could end up costing you a lot more time, money, and energy down the road.

When potential CIRS patients come to me, not only do we begin diagnostics to completely identify the condition, we also start taking steps to alleviate the symptoms. Together we come up with a treatment plan that reduces any exposures, heals any outstanding infections, reduces inflammation, and supports natural detoxification.

As a certified New York functional medicine doctor with CIRS experience, I’ve helped thousands of patients get their life back from chronic, debilitating conditions. If you are struggling with your health, you don’t have to go through this alone – you can request an appointment here or call 212-696-HEAL (4325). When you catch chronic conditions early, the treatment is often easier, faster, and cheaper – don’t wait any longer, start today.

Resources:

http://www.lymeactionnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/MSIDS.pdf
https://www.vcstest.com/
http://www.survivingmold.com/diagnosis/lab-tests