Why These Four Methods Help to Reduce Inflammation from Lyme Disease
For people that have inflammation, brain fog, or a lack of vitality due to Lyme disease and co-infections
by Greg Lee
Several years ago, one of my NASA colleagues had a memory lapse that almost ended in disaster. After moving into a new house, he hooked up a hose to fill up his waterbed. He soon got distracted with unpacking boxes and talking with other people. Over an hour later, he went back into his bedroom and his water bed had swelled up like a balloon to three times its normal size.
How is an overfilled waterbed similar to inflammation caused by Lyme disease and other chronic infections?
Similar to a ballooning waterbed, Lyme disease patients can have excessive inflammation
The immune system produces compounds called pro-inflammatory cytokines that can increase swelling in response to an infection. In the initial stages of an infection, this is a healthy response to an invading germ. In patients with chronic Lyme disease and/or co-infections, the immune system can over produce pro-inflammatory cytokines which can lead to persistent symptoms of swelling, pain, or mental fog.
Lyme disease and co-infections can trigger elevated levels of inflammatory cytokines
Excess interferon gamma (INF-γ), a pro-inflammatory cytokine, has been found in early Lyme disease patients with an erythema migrans (EM) rash. In patients with systemic symptoms, interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor – alpha (TNF-α) were more frequent¹. In mice infected with Babesia WA-1 showed elevated levels of TNF-α and INF-γ². In animal studies on Bartonella henselae, these cytokines were elevated: INF-γ and interleukin – 4 (IL-4)³, TNF-α⁴, IL-1β, and interleukin – 6 (IL-6)⁵ in chronic and high levels of infections. Not only tick infections can increase inflammatory cytokines, so can secondary infections.
Secondary infections like staph and yeast can also elevate inflammatory compounds
Lyme disease patients that undergo lengthy antibiotic therapy are at a higher risk of developing secondary infections from yeast like Candida species, staph, and Clostridium difficile, In animal studies, Candida albicans has been shown to increase interleukin-1 alpha (IL-1α), IL-1β, interleukin-8 (IL-8), granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor (GM-CSF), TNF-α⁶, and inducible cyclooxygenase (cox2)⁷. Staphlococcus aureus in rodent studies induces TNF-α, IL-1β, INF- γ⁸, and IL-1α⁹. Clostridium difficile in animal studies has been shown to elevate IL-6, IFN-γ, IL-1β, interleukin-10 (IL-10), and interleukin-12 (IL-12)¹⁰. When cytokines are chronically elevated, they can produce stubborn symptoms of pain, swelling, and arthritis.
Elevated cytokines can lead to unhealthy side effects like joint pain and swelling
According to Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker’s Biotoxin Pathway, toxins from Lyme disease, babesia, mold and toxic algae can lead to elevated cytokine levels which can produce symptoms of inflammation. Inflammatory symptoms can include: flu-like symptoms, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue, unstable temperature, concentration difficulties, and increased clot and arterial blockage¹¹. Lyme patients with chronic inflammation report additional symptoms of arthritis, bloating, distention, digestion difficulties, memory recall problems, a racing heart, and insomnia.
How can knowing about “dampness” from Chinese medicine help patients to reduce their persistent symptoms of inflammation?
In Chinese medicine, dampness is a keyword for inflammation
Dampness in Chinese medicine can indicate swelling, inflammation, and the effects of an infection. Dampness can interfere with healthy functioning of the tissues, organs, emotions, and also the clarity of the mind. When describing symptoms of the body, mind, or emotions, this is referred to as internal dampness. Damp weather, like humidity or rain, and environments with lots of moisture, like swamps, are classified as external damp conditions. When a person is exposed to external damp conditions, their symptoms of inflammation can increase. Similarly, “damp” foods can also increase swelling and joint discomfort. Reducing consumption of damp foods can also decrease symptoms of inflammation.
Method #1: Stop eating “damp” foods that produce inflammation
Reducing your consumption of sweet or high fat foods like dairy, wheat, and sugar, helps to reduce internal dampness. By increasing the intake of bitter or tart foods and spices that are classified as “drain dampness” foods, you can help reduce inflammation. Daily consumption of tart cherry juice reduced TNF-α¹² and IL-1β¹³. In one rat study, tart cherry powder reduced IL-6, cholesterol, and belly fat¹⁴. In another rat study, wild blueberry reduced the transcriptional nuclear factor-KappaB (NF-kB), C-reactive protein (CRP), IL-6 and TNF-α¹⁵. Not only foods help to reduce inflammation, but also herbs.
Method #2: Increase herbs that reduce symptoms of inflammation
Just like foods, there are herbs that help to reduce inflammatory cytokines. Turmeric, Chinese name: jiang huang, activates circulation and eliminates blood stagnation. It is used to relieve pain and reduce swelling. Turmeric is to be used with caution in weak patients that do not have signs of stagnation and is contraindicated during pregnancy¹⁶. Turmeric has been shown to decrease IL-1, IL-8, and TNF¹⁷. Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, has inhibitory effects on cyclooxygenases 1, 2 (COX-1, COX-2), lipoxygenase (LOX), TNF-α, IFN-γ, inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), and NF-kB¹⁸.
Polygala tenuifolia, Chinese name: yuan zhi, expels phlegm (dampness) that causes mental and emotional disorientation, seizures, hearing loss, and lung congestion. This herb reduces abscesses, dissipates swellings, pacifies the heart and calms the spirit. Polygala is used with caution in patients with heat symptoms or dryness. It is also cautioned in patients with gastritis, stomach ulcers, and during pregnancy¹⁹. Polygala has an inhibitory effect on IL-1, TNF, and IFN-γ²⁰. Highly concentrated essential oils that are extracted from herbs can also help to reduce cytokines.
Method #3: Use essential oils that decrease inflammatory cytokines
Tea tree essential oil reduces TNF-α, IL-1β, IL-10 and PGE2²¹ in one lab experiment. Tea tree essential oil also has anti-microbial properties against fungal²², staph and E. coli²³ biofilms. Bergamot orange essential oil blocks INF-γ in one lab study²⁴. Apigenin, a flavonoid in German chamomile essential oil, inhibits IL-1a, TNF-α induced IL-6 and IL-8 production²⁵. These essential oils have been used safely internally and topically for years in patients diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease. Not only food and botanical medicines can reduce cytokines, so can cupping with acupuncture.
Method #4: Get cupping and acupuncture to reduce inflammation
Another method for reducing cytokines in Lyme disease patients, wet cupping uses needles and suction cups to draw lymph fluid, blood, and toxins²⁶ from the body. In one study, cupping and acupuncture reduced IL-6 levels²⁷.
Patients report significant relief in their symptoms of inflammation, pain, depression, and mental fog immediately after cupping. Cupping is cautioned in patients with weakness or anemia, and contraindicated in patients with bleeding disorders. A combined approach can help reduce inflammation from Lyme disease.
Multiple methods and treatments can help reduce inflammation due to abnormal cytokine production
Before his water bed could burst, my colleague quickly shut off the faucet and let the excess water drain out the window. Decreasing inflammation can be enhanced through dietary modifications and herbs that “drain dampness”, and essential oils and treatments that reduce excess pro-inflammatory cytokines. Since some of these herbs and treatments are contraindicated with certain conditions, work with a Lyme literate acupuncturist and herbalist to develop a proper, safe, and effective strategy for your situation.
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