Integrating Holistic Concepts Lyme Disease and the Importance of Essential Oils

holistic medicine-1063292_1280On May 14th, I had the privilege of presenting for the Lyme Action Network. My talk was on “Naturopathic and Functional Medicine: Integrative Approaches to Lyme Disease.” It was an all-around amazing event for three big reasons:

  1. The attendees were wonderful! They were so supportive, interested, and exceedingly versed in all the aspects of Lyme disease.
  2. Throughout my presentation preparation and through the whole event, I was extremely impressed and humbled by the passionate desire of the program’s’ directors to offer support, education, and new perspectives for the those struggling with this misdiagnosed and misunderstood disease. Furthermore, they are constantly reaching out to the community and educating leading officials on the urgency of understanding this disease more comprehensively.
  3. Due to the fact I was a presenter, I got to sit-in on some of the presentations of leading experts in Lyme disease and learn the importance of implementing various therapeutics! Here’s the link to that expert panel again.

I was asked to post my presentation, but alas, tech glitches made that impossible. So, I decided that in this blog I wanted to give the requested summary of what I presented and offer everyone my perspectives on Lyme disease.

Let me start out by saying this is a very complex topic and that there is no way I can go into too much detail or cover every consideration. However, I will do my best to summarize everything. You may want to bookmark this page and read a little at a time if you are interested in learning more on this subject, I got a little long-winded. (Shocking, right?!) 😉


A Little Lyme Background Primer

First, let me start with a little introduction.

Lyme Disease Defined

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention:

Lyme disease is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected blacklegged ticks. Typical symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and a characteristic skin rash called erythema migrans. If left untreated, infection can spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system. Lyme disease is diagnosed based on symptoms, physical findings (e.g., rash), and the possibility of exposure to infected ticks.  Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. Most cases of Lyme disease can be treated successfully with a few weeks of antibiotics. Steps to prevent Lyme disease include using insect repellent, removing ticks promptly, applying pesticides, and reducing tick habitat. The ticks that transmit Lyme disease can occasionally transmit other tickborne diseases as well.

Ah, if only we could stop there…

Now, for those who want more background, you can click here to read “The Caveats of Estimating Lyme Disease Cases and the Problems with Testing.” In this blog, I also discuss the “Big One”- controversy that is. It’s the issue of chronic Lyme disease. (Read it here.)

Now, back to the subject at hand.


The Power of Holism: A Naturopathic and Functional Medicine Perspective

With all the complexity in diagnosis, symptoms, immune evasion, and chronicity, many Lyme disease sufferers struggle with finding solutions and physicians who will understand their concerns.  According to a qualitative, phenomenological study in 12 adult participants who identified themselves as having chronic Lyme disease which was reported in BMC Family Practice:

Four major themes emerged from participants’ descriptions of their experiences and perceptions: 1) changes in health status and the social impact of chronic Lyme disease, 2) doubts about recovery and the future, 3) contrasting doctor-patient relationships, 4) and the use of unconventional therapies to treat chronic Lyme disease.

Conclusions: Participants reported a significant decline in health status associated with chronic Lyme disease and were often unsatisfied with care in conventional settings. Negative experiences were associated with reports of dismissive, patronizing, and condescending attitudes. Positive experiences were associated with providers who were reported to be attentive, optimistic, and supportive. Consultations with CAM practitioners and use of CAM therapies were common. Actively engaged and sympathetic clinical encounters may foster greater satisfaction in healthcare settings.

In my journeys, I haven’t found many physicians who seek out initially to become Lyme disease experts. Rather, it comes about as a necessity when they themselves, loved ones, and/or their patients struggle. That’s what happened to me.


My Viewpoint


First of all, I have never claimed to be a specialist in Lyme Disease or an expert in it. However, I do have experience with assisting many successfully who have been diagnosed with it and have personal empathy for their pain having experienced it myself. I have found that the best way I can help my beautiful clients is in NOT addressing the Borrellia and sometimes the co-infections first.

Yes, there’s a “Not” there, it’s not a typo.

This is for a few reasons:

1. I am in a state where I cannot prescribe antibiotics and the Russian roulette of finding the right combination to kill the right critter just seemed too complicated. It also wasn’t addressing the root cause, which is vital to me.

Now, I have seen those who have been helped by the proper antibiotics at the right time. This is with a caveat- I am admitting a sample bias here. The many who seek my support have needed to pursue additional measures for antibiotic side effects and pre-existing body imbalances.

2. The issue of “herxing” and the potential neurological damage it can induce.

This is related to the “immune confusion” of the three phases of the immune response to the critter invasion. The first is the acute phase, where the Borellia isn’t causing long-term immune activation. It is just swimming in your blood (this is very short-term). The second phase is turned on when phase I attempts of the immune response fail. At this point there is a cycling of two sides of the immune response, Th1 and Th2. This is the phase in which antibiotics are usually rotated and patients exhibit more extreme symptoms. This second phase can turn into an “over-response” of the immune system where the body actually attacks the very tissues the Lyme is hiding in- a case of “mistaken identity” of the tissue for the critter. Now although the theory of Th1 to Th2 has its caveats, there is evidence of an autoimmune and neurological response to Lyme disease.

Here’s three of my major concerns when one goes through “herxing”:

    1. The “mistaken identity” issue described above.
    2. Every time the immune response fires that harshly, there is increased inflammation causing all sorts of problems systemically
    3. It could harm neural tissue in the brain and body. (For you docs, inflammation can reach the brain stimulating NMDA and divert tryptophan down the kynurenic acid pathway. This excites an enzyme called IDO, feeding more systemic and neural inflammation)

Therefore, my approach is to treat the person’s whole system- the body, mind, and spirit. I use the philosophies of naturopathic medicine and functional medicine which unite to form my version of holism. It’s not about killing off the critters and more about balancing the body to effectively cope with whatever comes it way. My website reviews these concepts:

The Naturopathic Medicine principles regard the whole person and aim to get to the underlying root of your issue. It is not considered optimal to control biochemistry by suppressing and hiding symptoms through drug therapy without addressing the cause of the dysfunction.

Functional Medicine provides insight into your unique biochemistry and offers biological means in how supplements or medications affect your particular body. These two medical paradigms are rooted in an understanding of conventional medicine and how it interacts with integrative therapies.

Read more about Naturopathic Medicine here and Functional Medicine here.

For me, it’s not about finding the magic microbe-inhibitor, as there’s evidence that people can have Lyme and coinfections and be asymptomatic. This means the critters are in their bodies, but they can have no symptoms. So, the symptomology of chronic Lyme disease patients isn’t the bug inside them, it’s the person’s inner terrain and the susceptibility to the critter.


Treating the Bug Vs. Treating the Critter

There’s another bias I have with lots of antibiotics without proper additional support and supervision. One word- microbiome. You know I love our bodies’ many buggy inhabitants! Here’s a few slides I had on the importance of the microbiota population in our bellies:

checklist microbiome

belly bugs do

Just check out the sources on the microbiome in the reference section if you still think messing with them long-term is a good idea. I wrote more about the the issues with only going after the bugs here.

A second reason I shy away from the antibiotic approach- there’s the side effects- and they are not little. He
re’s a few more slides I presented:


antibiotic SE results


antibiotic SEs


Therefore, the expression of the disease and its resulting effects are largely dependent on the individual variations, and perhaps, more importantly, the characteristics and current overall health of the person who is infected. These 16+ factors I discussed here under “comprehensive approach.”

For the body to fully re-vitalize from Lyme and its co-infections, I believe it’s best to balance all these factors and especially love on the microbiome. I also discussed the importance of some functional lab markers, the concept of mold remediation, and a brief mention of MARCONS.

Finally, I pointed out that the emotional aspect is a very key component, often overlooked:

ACE and Lyme


The Essential Oils Connection

Mint oil

Throughout my talk, I reported on how essential oils are my “key tool” for Lyme disease. This is related to the fact that:

  1. Essential oils have the ability to modulate the physical, biochemical, and psychological aspect of a person simultaneously.
  2. They are antimicrobial without causing negative effects to the whole system. In fact, they are key to re-educating the immune response (not over-reacting or under-reacting).
  3. They help support the home of many of our microbiota friends, which modulate inflammation and immunity.

You can read more about essential oils here and get my references. I will have a follow up blog on the aspects of essential oils for Lyme and other chronic issues in a future blog. In the meantime, I’ve already discussed and researched many of these here.



So, that’s a long-winded way of saying Hippocrates quote:





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Decreased up-regulation of the interleukin-12R?2-chain and interferon-? secretion and increased number of forkhead box P3-expressing cells in patients with a history of chronic Lyme borreliosis compared with asymptomatic Borrelia-exposed individuals. Clin Exp Immunol. 2007 Jan; 147(1): 18–27.

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Thanks for the pics Pixabay!