Lyme Disease and Ticks: Here's What to Watch Out For
What is lyme disease? Lyme disease is an infectious and inflammatory condition caused by the bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi and it is spread to humans from infected animals via ticks, most commonly the deer tick. These ticks can be found anywhere, however, they are mostly concentrated in woody, rural areas.
Lyme disease is more common in children than in adults. The prevalence of Lyme disease is increasing in North America and since it can be a challenge to diagnose, early detection and prevention is key as the symptoms worsen and become more debilitating over time. Here is what to look for and how you can prevent Lyme disease.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease in Kids and Adults
Lyme disease can affect many systems of the body. The initial symptoms of Lyme are cold or flu-like including sore throat, achy muscles, fatigue and congestion. A rash, known as ‘erythema migrans’ may appear in kids and adults as an early sign of Lyme disease, however, this is not always the case as not all strains of bacteria that cause Lyme will cause a rash.
According to the Canadian Lyme Disease Foundation, there are over 100 identified symptoms of Lyme disease. Here are some:
-Oversensitivity to light
-Diarrhea or constipation
-Joint pain or swelling
-Numbness in body, tingling
-Too much sleep, or insomnia
-Memory loss (short or long term)
-Unexplained fevers (high or low grade)
Slow and Steady Tick Removal
The early detection of a tick bite and the quick removal of any tick is of utmost importance. If you have been bitten by a tick, remove it using pointed tweezers and by grasping the mouth portion. Avoid squeezing the body or using your fingers as this can trigger regurgitation of the bacteria into your skin.
Once the tick is removed, cleanse the area with mild soapy water and use an antiseptic such as tea tree oil or iodine. See a medical doctor who may prescribe antibiotics as a precautionary measure. However, if Lyme disease is detected late or if you’ve already tried antibiotics and did not respond to the treatment, it is important to consider the other ways to strengthen your immune system and reduce the inflammation.
Natural Immune System Support
How you respond to Lyme disease will depend on how early it is detected as well as the strength of your immune system to fight it. When you maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle, your immune system will be ready and armed to minimize your body’s reaction to the infection.
Vitamin D — Vitamin D strengthens your immune system and can help reduce inflammation in your brain, heart and joints. You may need anywhere from 2000IU to 10 000IU per day. See a naturopathic doctor who can recommend how much you should take based on your blood levels. If you live in the northern areas of the country, a supplement should definitely be considered.
Probiotics — Antibiotics are often necessary to treat Lyme disease, however it is important to protect the good bacteria that make up the majority of your immune system and reside in your gut. The antibiotics will kill the bad guys, in this case the borrelia bacteria, and also the good guys and when good bacteria have decreased in number, you increase your risk of yeast infections and lower your immunity. Increase the consumption of foods that are high in probiotics including kefir, yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. You may also want to consider a probiotic supplement.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids — The regular consumption of cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel is protective of your joints and great for the health of your brain and heart. However, a fish oil supplement that is high in the omega-3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA is essential if you don’t eat fish and should be considered if you need a higher, therapeutic dose to an fight infection and reduce inflammation.
Prevention of Lyme Disease
The best course of action is to prevent Lyme disease, and insect repellent is an important first step to do so. When you are hiking or camping be sure to apply insect repellent and to reapply often. You may also want to consider wearing light colors and long sleeves. Light colored clothing will make it easier for you to see the ticks and long sleeved shirts, pants and high socks will prevent any insects from landing on your skin.
Lyme disease can become a chronic, systemic condition if it is not detected and treated early. Look for the signs and seek help from your health care provider immediately if you have been bitten by a tick. Support your immune system with a healthy diet as a foundation and use supplements as necessary to minimize your body’s reaction and to speed up your recovery.