Naturopathic Treatment of Lyme disease: Q&A with Dr. Frank Aieta, N.D.

Q: How can Naturopathic Herbal Medicine help in the treatment of Lyme disease? I thought that antibiotics were the only treatment that worked?

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A: I do consider antibiotics the first treatment of choice for Lyme disease, especially in the acute phases. The literature shows that the effectiveness rates for antibiotics run anywhere from 70%-95% depending upon the study.

Rarely included in these statistics, however is the fact that there is often as much as a 35% relapse rate. Research has also shown that live spirochetes (the Lyme bacteria) are regularly found in people who have been on antibiotic therapy for years. We are finding that the Lyme organism is highly adaptable and is able, on a large majority of instances, to evade antibiotic regimens, even those of long duration.

Continual antibiotic dosing can and does keep the organisms at lower levels in the body, but studies regularly show that it does not eradicate them in 40% of those treated.

The longer a Lyme infection is untreated, the greater the chance that it will not respond to antibiotic therapy. I routinely refer patients out to Lyme specialists for antibiotic therapy and many do make a full recovery (usually if it’s caught early enough) but there are a handful, especially those with chronic Lyme, that require more support and that’s where Naturopathic medicine comes into play.

Q: How does the Naturopathic treatment of Lyme disease differ from that of conventional antibiotic treatment?

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A: My natural treatment of Lyme disease, just like conventional antibiotic therapy focuses on the eradication of the Lyme bacteria but through the use of very specific antimicrobial herbs.

The big difference is that my approach also focuses on other areas besides trying to kill the bacteria such as immune modulation and support, tissue support (specifically the joints) and symptomatic relief.

Many times Lyme specialist will refer their patients to me for this additional support when antibiotic treatment is unsuccessful or not yielding optimal results.

Q: Can the Naturopathic treatments be combined with the conventional antibiotic treatments for Lyme?

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A: Yes they can, in fact the combination typically yields excellent results in most patients. For patients that can’t tolerate the antibiotic treatment or where long term antibiotic treatment was unsuccessful, the Naturopathic treatment can be used on its own.

Q: Can Naturopathic Herbal Medicine address the coinfections that can typically accompany Lyme disease?

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A: The two most common co-infections that I see in my practice are Ehrlichia and Babesia. I have successfully eradicated both of these infections in patients with specific herbal and nutritional treatments.

Q: Why is Lyme disease so often misdiagnosed?

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A: The problem of misdiagnosis is due to the fact that most physicians will only treat if the patient remembers getting bit by a tick and the classic bulls-eye rash (erythema migrans) is apparent.

The problem with this is that up to two thirds of the people infected with Lyme will have no rash at all and many may never see the ticks. The second problem with diagnosis arises with the laboratory tests for Lyme.

The standard laboratory tests for Lyme have been shown to miss more than 40% of infected patients. Many times if I suspect a patient has Lyme disease I will implement a treatment plan based solely on the patient’s clinical symptoms.

Since my treatments are 100% natural, there is very low risk in a therapeutic trial to see if symptoms improve and chances of developing side effects is minimal in comparison to conventional treatments.

Q: Does diet play a role in healing Lyme disease?

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A: Diet and lifestyle play a significant role in overcoming Lyme disease or any other disease process for that matter. Every patient that I see gets counseled on diet and lifestyle changes on their first office visit and they are consistently reviewed at subsequent visits. I consider diet and lifestyle modification the core of any healing protocol.