The Functional Medicine Approach To Lyme Disease
I’ve dealt with Lyme, with remittent symptoms, and long periods of peaceful remission for many years now. Even during peaceful remission, I’ve dealt with fear: fear that the turmoil would all come flooding back into my life after every late night, every flu, every stressful thought.
But I deal, and I have chosen to deal often without the overuse of allopathy, that is, the use of pharmacological drugs that suppress symptoms.
I do have some regrets in life, but opting for a slower more holistic approach to recovery is not one of them. I will explain to you why I prefer functional medicine (which aims to optimize the entire body) over allopathic medicine (which aims to suppress single symptoms separately), but first I would like to make a point to emphasize that I am not opposed to allopathy.
To Bear Some Symptoms Is Akin To Martyrdom.
Allopathic medicine has its place. Excruciating pain is the most obvious example. How does one carry on with their day in excruciation? The amount of meditative practice required to deal with some levels of pain is not something many of us have undertaken (I sure haven’t).
How do we heal any aspects of our health/sanity/life when our sleep is broken and short-lived, leaving every inch and cell of us fatigued? A medication that suppresses insomnia may come with its potential side effects, but maybe the risks of its side effects are worth the gains that come with sleeping a full 8 hours. Maybe, even though sleeping pills are allopathic, they have holistic properties in that they treat the cause of poor energy (sleeplessness). The zenith of allopathic medicine is when they secondarily treat causes of our ill health and not just single symptoms.
My concern is that many of our doctors want to pump us full to the brim of pharma – not to treat the causes of our symptoms but to treat the symptoms themselves. How long can we mask our ill health with anti-depressants, pain-killers, ant-acids and NSAIDs before the mask crumbles? And then what: do we up our dosages, or withdraw from the medications we have become so accustom to only to find that our symptoms are worse than ever? What if we find ourselves dependent on drugs that we are not meant to be on for life?
The Holistic Approach
The holistic approach recognizes that every aspect of the body is interconnected. It questions whether hypothyroidism is caused by a true thyroid condition or if the cause goes back further; to an immune reaction to something attacking the endocrine system perhaps. It questions whether you are anemic due to a true blood deficiency or if the cause goes back further; perhaps to a pernicious gut that does not absorb B12 properly – a nutrient vital in maintaining normal iron levels. Perhaps.
The holistic approach stops to investigate before giving a patient thyroid medications to treat the thyroid, or iron injections to treat the anemia. It goes beyond Lyme Disease and treats so much more than the bacterial infection, because it sees that weaknesses anywhere in the body will make the allopathic treatment of Lyme Disease less successful. It sees that antibiotics may effectively kill bacteria, but that our detoxification pathways and lymphatic systems need to be healthy and robust enough to get rid of the dead bacterial debris. It also sees that you may live a long life, and that if you have patience with and confidence in your body – taking holistic steps rather than trying to tweak every core process in your body with handfuls of addictive medications – you can heal.
I know what you might be thinking: I don’t know what you’ve been through. I really don’t. I know what I’ve been through has been near physically and emotionally unbearable. Sometimes I didn’t want to fight and on my weakest days, I would take pain-killers, or burrow into a depression, or take actions that were not going to help long-term, but that I simply needed to take in that moment of weakness. But for the most part, the treatments I did always had a purpose beyond making my suffering fleetingly disappear.
This approach has helped me tremendously, because the buildup of my body, though slow, is real. I don’t crash instantaneously when I stop taking a medication for a day. I don’t wake up one day and think “what happened?” Rather, I see subtle signs that my health is deteriorating and take steps to bring it back up to par before it gets hard to manage. I must admit, it’s not always this easy; sometimes I let stress consume me, which I believe is just as much of an addictive crux as allopathy. And sometimes, now that I do not suffer from daily pains, I now take pain-killers once a month for cramps. It’s strange to think of how tough I was at the pinnacle of my suffering and how soft I can become when life is easy.
This is all the more reason to take a holistic approach to your health: you will feel your body tell you it’s in pain. Allopathic medications often mask your body’s pains, sometimes to the point where you feel disconnected to your body, and terrified of any bodily sensations. That level of dissociation from a bruised up body can be a relief, but I’m afraid that it also makes it a scary place to ever visit again.
I don’t like “returning” to my body after long periods of dissociation. I know exactly how it feels to dissociate for a while, eventually relaxing into my body only to find out that “God, I am so tired, jittery, and un-alive.” It can be a creepy reunion. But I love it when I rebuild that connection to my body, to feel its pains and strengths and be comfortable in it. I don’t want to mask my problems; I want to connect my body and mind holistically, accept that I have work to do and do the work. The pay offs are much more rewarding.
I’m not trying to get all Buddha on you. Rather the opposite. In the next few weeks, new articles on ItsNotJustLyme.com will cover the main physiological core processes that interconnect. They will discuss basic anatomy and physiology, which would have bored me once in my life, but now, fascinate me and help me maintain genuine health and remission.
From digestion, to metabolism, to detoxification to immunity, to cellular communications and even your musculoskeletal structure, these coming articles will help you understand your how your body functions – with Lyme and without it. I hope they will encourage you to dwell in your body and treat it with holistic care.