There are so many facets to Lyme disease; it affects mental, emotional and physical wellbeing of both children and adults. Unlike some chronic disease, it is not just the toll of having a silent, often underdiagnosed health condition that is the issue; the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria themselves affect mental health. Fortunately, there are medication options and remission is possible once a diagnosis is obtained and treatment initiated .
Lyme and the Brain: The Central Nervous System consists of the brain, nerves and spinal cord. It is protected by the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) which functions to protect the brain from neurochemicals, toxins, and many infectious agents. Unfortunately, the Lyme bacteria are able to cross the BBB and are known to cause multiple neurological and psychological effects. The BBB becomes more permeable as a result of inflammation, which is another side effect of Lyme disease. This creates a vicious cycle that can severely impact behavioral and neurological health.
Children and Lyme: Children and youth tend to be more at risk for tick bites as they spend more time outdoors and are in close contact with family animals. Children with Lyme can have special issues as they are less able to communicate what is wrong and tend to have nonspecific symptoms like poor sleep, irritability, tummy aches and joint pain. This can result in poor grades, memory problems, low concentration and other classroom issues. Children are very susceptible to the neurological effects of Lyme infection, and their clinical diagnosis can include confusion, uncharacteristic mood swings, difficulty reading and writing, and being overwhelmed by schoolwork. Performing regular tick checks are imperative after outdoor time; teach your older children how to check themselves and younger siblings. Watch for unexplained rashes or joint pain, or facial paralysis called Bell’s Palsy, and contact your pediatrician if neccesary. Lyme testing does have some limitations. Your child will need to wait at least 2-3 weeks after a bite before taking a test to measure the immune response. With a bulls eye rash or immediate signs of fever or flu-like symptoms after a tick bite, some doctors will treat prophylactically without waiting for test results.
Lyme and Alternative Medicine: Medicinal plants have provided us with many natural antibiotics that also have tonifying, immune supportive effects for children and adults. Combining herbal medicine and conventional antibiotics seems to be key for long term treatment of this condition. Botanicals like raw garlic (or its concentrated form allicin) and Artemisia have had promising results in breaking up biofilms and managing Lyme infections. Include raw garlic in salad dressings, pesto, garlic bread and dips for prevention for the whole family. There are also many well studied anti-inflammatory herbs and phytonutrients that improve whole body health like turmeric, ginger, resveratrol, quercetin, and green tea. Cook liberally with these herbs and include food sources of these nutrients like organic grapes and grape juice, organic berries, yellow onions, and citrus in your weekly meal plans. Echinacea and cats claw are two other herbal medicines commonly used as part of a Lyme treatment protocol. There are many layers to effective care as Lyme infection and co-infections can negatively affect almost every body system.
Enzymes aimed at breaking fibrin may be helpful in disrupting the biofilm. Serrapepsidase and nattokinase are two enzyme supplements that have been suggested to be effective in this regard. It is theorized that biofilm concentrates heavy metals like cadmium, lead and aluminum; therefore, heavy metal chelation is also suggested to break up stubborn biofilm colonies. By disrupting these slime-based microorganism structures, antibiotics and the immune system have a better chance to kill hidden sources of ongoing infection.
Probiotics are foundational to Lyme support, both as a counterpart to antibiotic use but also for whole body health. The microbiome is the diversity of good and bad bacteria, viral and fungal microorganisms in every body. There is substantial and ongoing evidence that one’s microbiome dictates many aspects of health and has been linked to depression, obesity, cancer, autoimmune disease, and basic digestive wellness. Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, are usually combinations of lactobacillus and bifidobacterium strains. Beneficial streptococci strains are sometimes included as are the beneficial yeast saccromyces boulardii. Probiotics are best refrigerated as they can only exist in whole living form between 40-70 Fahrenheit.
Conclusion: The psychological and behavioral effects of Lyme disease cannot be ignored. Understanding that B. burgdorferi can cross the BBB and directly affect the CNS with mental, emotional and neurological results is key for clinical diagnosis of this condition for all ages. Children are very succeptible to Lyme infection and co-infection. Watch for unexplained changes in school behavior, sleep patterns, and joint pain. Integrative medicine like herbs and nutraceuticals are recognized as effective complements to conventional prescriptions when treating Lyme Disease. Working with a trained herbalist, licensed Naturopathic Doctor or licensed Integrative Medicine professional along with your prescribing practitioner or Pediatrician ensures you are using these medicines safely.
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