The Terrible Toxins and Tiny (Lyme Disease) Ticks- Living in a World Where Things We Can’t See may be the Scariest Thing Yet…

staying-wellPicture this… a world where going outdoors can be a risk factor for disease. Oh wait, we have it!

Not only are our bodies up against the thousands of chemicals that are present in our surroundings, but we are also exposed to them in our personal care and cleaning products. In fact, even the air we breathe is a mortality risk!1 New research has linked 5.5 million deaths worldwide to poor quality air.2

Just recently, Science Daily reported on the consequence of this dire statistic:

“Air pollution is the fourth highest risk factor for death globally and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease,” said Michael Brauer, a professor at the University of British Columbia’s School of Population and Public Health in Vancouver, Canada. “Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population.” 2

Probably even scarier than knowing about all the chemicals that have been found to harmful, is not knowing about all the others that haven’t been evaluated for safety! Thankfully, some research scientists are trying to remedy this by creating a chemical map which was recently submitted to the European Chemical Agency. According to Science Daily: 3

“There are 100,000 chemicals in products we use every day and we are missing 90 percent of the safety information we need,” says study leader Thomas Hartung, MD, PhD, the Doerenkamp-Zbinden Professor and Chair for Evidence-based Toxicology at the Bloomberg School. “It would take billions of dollars to test every one of them which is very cost prohibitive. To address this, we have come up with a computer model that can tell us which chemicals are similar to untested ones to give us an idea of what types of hazards they are likely to pose.”3

The good news with knowing about our chemical soup world is that we can take proactive steps to protect ourselves. As informed consumers, we can also make sure we continue to eat foods with less herbicides, pesticides, and antibiotics, AKA real food, in order to keep our systems clean and our immune systems less burdened.

There are also means to keep our home environment as healthy as possible. These include hiring a building biologist and/or evaluating for EMFs and dirty electricity, mold, and ensuring proper air filtration. One simple way to mitigate toxic air effects is diffusing essential oils may help us fight off toxic critters in the environment,4 calm our nervous system, and allow our immune system to effectively defend and repair us from these exposures.5-8



The Critters That Go Bite in the Night (and Day)

What about the other creepy news?

Recently, the world has been on high alert regarding the Zika virus, spread by mosquitoes. According to the CDC:

On January 22, 2016, CDC activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to respond to outbreaks of Zika occurring in the Americas and increased reports of birth defects and Guillain-Barré syndrome in areas affected by Zika. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) because of clusters of microcephaly and other neurological disorders in some areas affected by Zika. On February 8, 2016, CDC elevated its EOC activation to a Level 1, the highest level.9

CDC is working with international public health partners and with state and local health departments to

  • Alert healthcare providers and the public about Zika.
  • Post travel notices and other travel-related guidance.
  • Provide state health laboratories with diagnostic tests.
  • Detect and report cases, which will help prevent further spread.10

There’s been some rumbling that this mosquito outbreak may be linked to the GM mosquito release in 2015,11 but it has not been substantiated. Regardless of why, it seems like the underlying fear of our bodies being vulnerable continues. As a result, we continue to look outside ourselves for the same answers, regardless of the dismal healthcare results.12


The Tick That Don’t Quit

And we can’t forget one of the most famous pests that we are up against as a consequence of being a bulls-eye for a blood feast by a tick. I’ve discussed this vampire-like spirochete, as well as his traveling companions, in previous blogs. As if this guy isn’t bad enough, it seems that more and more little buggers are hitching a ride in with Borrelia burgdorferi or new tick caste-mates are popping up.

Just this month, a new Borellia species was found.13-14 The study collected Ixodes scapularis ticks from regions of suspected patient tick exposure and tested them by oppA1 PCR. The Lancet Infectious Disease reports:13

100?545 specimens were submitted by physicians for routine PCR from Jan 1, 2003 to Sept 30, 2014. From these samples, six clinical specimens (five blood, one synovial fluid) yielded an atypical oppA1 PCR product, but no atypical results were detected before 2012. Five of the six patients with atypical PCR results had presented with fever, four had diffuse or focal rash, three had symptoms suggestive of neurological inclusion, and two were admitted to hospital. The sixth patient presented with knee pain and swelling. Motile spirochaetes were seen in blood samples from one patient and cultured from blood samples from two patients. Among the five blood specimens, the median oppA1 copy number was 180 times higher than that in 13 specimens that tested positive for B burgdorferi sensu stricto during the same time period. Multigene sequencing identified the spirochaete as a novel B burgdorferi sensu lato genospecies. This same genospecies was detected in ticks collected at a probable patient exposure site.13

Now, there’s many controversies on Lyme Disease including:

    1. The existence of chronic Lyme and its diagnosis (Lyme has been called the great imitator)
    2. The efficacy, sensitivity, and reliability of current conventional testing
    3. Best treatments- length, duration, antibiotic selection
    4. Treatment of coinfections

(Two new tests just recently emerged which are very hopeful, in that one actually tests an immune response and another may help with earlier detection, read them here.)

Every single one of these topics could be a separate blog, but I did do a little summary of them here and here.

The scary thing about these little guys is that they are stealth and they come in various forms. They are fabulous at finding ways to evade the immune response. One sneaky way is through a biofilm, but that’s just a beginning. There’s many ways these guys can survive and linger in our bodies.15-17

A few weeks ago, I was just reviewing the aspect of stealth infections in my functional medicine immune module from 2015. Dr. Sult described the following ways that this bacteria may be able to survive in the immune system including:15

  1. Immunosuppression- the salvia containing the Borellia contains pain-suppressing signals (so you don’t feel it), anticoagulants (blood thinning proteins), and complex immune induction and inhibitory triggers. All of these factors allow the bugger to enter in the skin and trick our immune system.15
  2. Genetic, phase, and antigenic variation- the little critter can “master disguises” and actually change how it looks to the immune system to evade antibiotics and the immune system’s detection. It was once thought that Lyme was not resistant to medications; however, there is some evidence that B. burgdorferi infection now shows resistance in vitro.15-17
  3. Physical seclusion– not only can spirochetes and bacteria change forms and trick our immune system, they can also hide in our bodies own cells and adapt to our “local foliage” by binding to certain substances in the body (proteoglycans, collagen, plasminogen, integrin, fibroprotectin). This makes them “invisible” to immune system.
  4. Secreted factorsBorellia can secrete proteins to adhere to cells and pierce through cell walls so they can “hibernate.” Then, they can turn on their nasty genes when the immune system least expects it! 15
  5. There were also recent studies that demonstrated that Lyme could get around iron poor environments and thrive on manganese18-19 as well as produce a DNA base critical for their survival!20-21


Add that to all the forms of Lyme disease:

  • Spirochete
  • Cell Wall Deficient (L-forms, may be 200 or more)
  • Cyst
  • Biofilm….

…and the picture is quite complicated


The Problem with Just Pills

If you look at all the ways the little guy can evade the immune response, I don’t think we can find the answer to chronic Lyme with the right “antibiotic.” We have to look at various aspects that impact the immune response and deal with all the consequences of the imbalances this critter and his friends create. After all, some people who get bit, do not get chronic Lyme. Why is that? It’s their terrain and genetic predisposition, among other factors.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think antibiotics may be needed for some people in order to help the body deal with the “infection overload.” However, stopping after killing the bug may not prevent long-term consequences.


A Comprehensive Approach

With Lyme, or any disease, I always go back to my naturopathic roots and dig into the functional medicine matrix.

Below I’ve listed a few of the factors that I consider whenever someone approaches me for wellness support for any health issue. I listed these previously in relationship to mental wellness, but they are especially critical to look at for modulating and supporting immune balance. These include:

  • Inflammation and oxidative stress
  • Genetic variations (such as SNPs related to MTHFR, DRD2, DRD4, COMT, CBS, serotonin transporters (5HTT),)
  • Nutritional status and capacity for assimilation
  • Dietary triggers and deficiencies (including iron and manganese)
  • Mitochondrial dysfunctions and imbalances
  • Hormonal imbalances
  • Stress & cortisol levels
  • The microbiome balance
  • Environmental toxicants, especially mold!
  • Blood sugar levels
  • Other stealth infections
  • Childhood adversity and its impact on the immune and nervous system
  • Emotional tone and spirituality
  • Brain trauma history
  • Nervous system stressors
  • Hyper or hypo-activity in a brain region
  • …and more! (Get link references here)

Sound complicated? Thankfully, my client’s history and labs will guide me in which areas need to be focused on. Otherwise, we both could get overloaded! I’ve also found that using essential oils with my clients seems to be helpful in not only reducing microbe burden, but actually modulating the immune response verses creating negative effects on the microbiome.

The bottom line as I see it is that in order to effectively treat Lyme disease, you have to look at the whole picture and the whole person. Dr. Horowitz is an excellent example of a Lyme expert who is addressing the many causes and factors in another way.


Now… click here to read about those new tests.



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  2. University of British Columbia. Poor air quality kills 5.5 million worldwide annually. ScienceDaily, 12 February 2016.
  3. Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Public health researchers map world’s ‘chemical landscape’: Using data from well-studied substances, map can predict hazards stemming from those for which no safety data exists. ScienceDaily.12 February 2016.
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  19. Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. Quirky Lyme disease bacteria: Unlike most organisms, they don’t need iron, but crave manganese. ScienceDaily, 21 March 2013.
  20. University of Iowa. Chemists uncover how key agent allows diseases to reproduce: Findings could lead to non-toxic drugs that block diseases’ chemistry. ScienceDaily, 28 January 2016.
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