May 03

Lyme Disease Natural Immune Boosters

Lyme diseaseAs we enjoy the warmer weather, thoughts of family vacations and BBQs may be mixed with concerns about Lyme disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 27,203 confirmed cases of Lyme disease in the United States in 2013. However, the CDC also reports that the actual number of cases is more like 300,000 or higher due to underreporting.

Lyme disease is caused by a spirochete bacterium (Borrelia burgdorferi) carried by deer ticks (Ixodes scapularis and I. pacificus), but researchers and physicians are discovering there is much more to the story. For one thing, there is debate over whether mosquitoes, mites, lice, flies, and fleas can also carry the bacterium.

Other questions surround treatment. Since antibiotics apparently do not cure the disease and more and more people are experiencing chronic symptoms, experts are redefining the disease and how to manage it.

Among those experts is Richard Horowitz, MD, past president of the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society and author of Why Can’t I Get Better? He has coined the term “multi-systemic infectious disease syndrome” (MSID) to explain the complex array of symptoms associated with Lyme disease.

Part of redefining Lyme disease is the belief that it is critical to support the immune system of affected individuals. The chronic inflammation associated with the disease interferes with the body’s ability to eliminate toxins and fight the co-infections that often are part of the syndrome. Individuals who take antibiotics for Lyme also risk further compromise of their immune function.

With all of this in mind, here are some natural immune boosters (in alphabetical order) for Lyme disease. Although some dosing suggestions are offered, you should consult a knowledgeable healthcare professional for the doses that are best for you.

Lyme disease immune boosters

Astaxanthin. This carotenoid pigment is what gives shrimp, some algae, Pacific salmon, and several other creatures their pinkish color. It is a powerful antioxidant—reportedly 6,000 times stronger than vitamin C and 550 times more potent than vitamin E. Astaxanthin also possesses anti-inflammatory properties, so together these qualities seem to be a good fit for aiding the immune system in Lyme disease. A suggested dose is 2 mg daily with a gradual increase to 4 mg.

B-complex. This family of vitamins plays a key role in battling infections. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) is especially important for supporting immune function.

Coenzyme Q10. Individuals with Lyme disease are often deficient in this vitamin-like nutrient. CoQ10 improves cellular function and protects the heart, which is often a target in people with Lyme. Along with vitamin E, this potent antioxidant fights free radicals. A suggested dose is 200 mg twice daily.

Lyme diseaseGreen tea. Here’s an old favorite, valued for its antioxidant properties. But did you know that green tea compounds also has been found to boost the antimicrobial powers of antibiotics? Whether you are taking antibiotics or not, green tea may be a helpful aid for your immune system.

Killer herbs. Integrative medicine expert Dr. Isaac Eliaz and his colleagues suggest that certain herbs, including andrographis, banderol, cat’s claw, Japanese knotweed/resveratrol, and samento can be effective against Lyme and related tick-borne infections. These herbs reportedly can help reduce or even eliminate the Lyme spirochete as well as support the immune system in its battle against the infection. Use of these herbs is controversial, so you should definitely consult a knowledgeable provider before using them.

Mushrooms. Among the many experts who suggest turning to mushrooms to support and boost the immune system in Lyme disease is Dr. Eliaz. He explains that these fungi not only can help boost immune function but also destroy free radicals and detoxify the body. A few of the medicinal mushrooms to consider are reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis), and maitake (Grifola frondosa). Each of these mushrooms are available in several forms (dried, teas, capsules, extracts).

Lyme diseaseOmega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids have been shown to provide anti-inflammatory properties. Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids (eicosapentaenoic acid [EPA] and docosahexaenoic acid [DHA]) may help relieve the inflammatory burden of the disease.

Probiotics. These good bacteria are essential for helping eliminate bad bacteria while also restoring the body’s supply of beneficial organisms. A balanced gut environment is critical for the immune system to operate optimally. You can get probiotics from some foods (e.g., fermented veggies, kefir, plain organic yogurt, amasai) but a supplement containing multiple strains (5 or more) of bacteria at a dose of at least 50 billion units daily is suggested.

Vitamin D. This vitamin is well known for its immune boosting abilities. Since most people don’t get enough vitamin D from food or from sunlight, it’s important to supplement. A simple blood test can tell you if you are deficient in this critical nutrient. The Vitamin D Council recommends taking 5,000 International Units daily of vitamin D3 to help maintain a blood level of 50 nanograms/milliliter (ng/ml).

Bottom line

Lyme disease is a complex condition and requires a variety of integrative approaches to help restore the body’s natural balance, strength the immune system, reduce inflammation, and fight co-infections. A treatment regimen may include herbal and nutritional remedies (including more than are named here) along with diet, acupuncture, heat treatments, and antibiotics, among other choices. Anyone who is facing the Lyme disease challenge should consult knowledgeable experts who are willing to explore a variety of treatment options.

For more information on how to fight Lyme disease, you may want to check out these sources from both sides of the aisle (conventional/conservative vs integrative/alternative). Some suggestions are the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society, the Lyme Disease Association, the Foundation for Alternative and Integrative Medicine, the American Lyme Disease Foundation, and Dr. Horowitz’s book Why Can’t I Get Better?


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Dr. Axe. Natural strategies to cure Lyme disease

Eliaz I. Medicinal mushrooms: immunity and beyond. Rodale News

Mercola. Astaxanthin, nature’s most powerful antioxidant.

Society for General Microbiology. Green tea helps beat superbugs, study suggests. ScienceDaily 2008 April 1

Vitamin D Council

Wang J et al. Free radical scavenging and immunomodulatory activities of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides derivatives. Carbohydrate Polymers 2013 Jan 2; 91(1): 33-38

Zerbe L. Top natural treatments for Lyme disease. Rodale News

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