If you live anywhere in the Northeast and have ever been outdoors, in the meadows, woods or just your backyard, you’ve probably been bitten by ticks, mosquitos or flies. You may not have noticed it.

Many of these critters carry a range of microbes that they can transmit to animals, including humans. Some people develop an acute symptomatic infection, in others the infection goes unnoticed until the immune system is no longer able to keep the microbial activity at bay. Both immediate and delayed reactions can progress to chronic Lyme.

What is Lyme disease

Lyme disease is a complex syndrome that affects people in many different ways. This has to do with the nature of the microbes involved and the competency of the host’s immune system. Some people may never develop serious symptoms, others feel condemned to a life of misery. An acute infection can present with the famous bull’s eye rash, but if you didn’t develop this rash you could still be infected. Even more troubling is the fact that blood tests for Borrelia burgdorferi and other microbes involved in Lyme are notoriously unreliable. They often come back negative even when someone has many tell-tale signs and symptoms of Lyme. Equally frustrating is that the treatment with synthetic antibiotics is often unsatisfying and incomplete, especially in cases of Lyme presentations that resemble chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.

In spite of the large numbers of outdoor users in the Northeast, especially in the Hudson Valley, who have contracted Lyme, there’s still a dearth of so-called Lyme-literate medical doctors who understand the nature of Lyme and the challenges patients face. An acute infection can feel like you have the flu, with symptoms such as chills, low-grade fever, fatigue, and muscle aches. However, chronic infection can include a much wider range of manifestations including joint pain and degeneration, headaches, eye and tooth pain, neurological symptoms like dizziness, twitching, burning or tingling sensations, tremors, as well as heart, lung and digestive problems, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and many others.

Getting the help you need

If any of these sound familiar, consider that infection with Lyme pathogens could be involved. You will need to assemble a team of integrative medicine practitioners to help you get back on track. For some people the necessary treatments may take many months, or even years, and require longterm commitment to lifestyle changes that help you get your immune system into tiptop shape.

In addition to a Lyme-literate medical doctor who can manage your prescription drugs, such as synthetic antibiotics during acute infection or flare-ups (as well as other medications appropriate for temporary symptom relief) and consider appropriate laboratory work-ups, you should think about working with a Chinese herbalist, naturopath or holistic nutritionist who is knowledgeable in the realm of treating chronic Lyme with herbal prescriptions and nutritional supplements, and can help you develop a health-supportive approach to eating well.

Lifestyle changes are essential

Even if you receive good medical and complementary care, you still have one big task left: You need to change your life! Many people with Lyme will become symptomatic during periods of increased stress because stress affects your immune system. Conversely, reducing stress in your life is a fundamental prerequisite for you recovery. This may entail laying low for several months, reducing your workload and other obligations, resting a lot, and taking up a restorative practice such as Tai Chi, yoga or meditation.

There’s no magic bullet for a complex condition like chronic Lyme, only your dedication and persistence will lead you back to a healthy and joyful life.

© 2023 Christiane Siebert