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Mr. Norris, your articles about Lyme disease have been very informative and helpful to my family. I’ve heard Lyme disease can hide in the body and mask itself in various symptoms. True? – Charlie P. in Maine

Brittany is a former gymnast and All-American pole-vaulter. She loves hiking, rock climbing and just being outdoors.

She always was very athletic and energetic, but over the past 12 years, Brittany has become progressively fatigued, which has led to other symptoms, including having irregular heartbeats, intense chest pains, difficulty breathing and bad headaches.

Brittany saw many different specialists, trying to figure out what was causing her chronic fatigue and bodily pains. In 2009, she was diagnosed with various strains of Lyme disease and two co-infections (Ehrlichia and babesia).

Remember what I said in Part 1: Symptoms of Lyme disease can be very tricky and masquerade as a host of illnesses.

Timothy Angel, health commissioner in Ross County, Ohio, recently warned his community, like so many health officials across the country, that when diagnosed early and treated with antibiotics, Lyme disease is not dangerous. However, when it goes undiagnosed or untreated, it can lead to problems in the joints, the heart and even the nervous system, causing serious health issues.

One recent testimonial from a volunteer camp counselor shows how early misdiagnosis by camp medical personnel led to the spread of the bacteria throughout her body: “I don’t blame the camp nurse for my misdiagnosis, but I do blame the lack of awareness surrounding tick-borne illness that led to her ignorance. It took eight years for a doctor to connect the dots of my burgeoning constellation of symptoms. By then the bacteria had spread to every system of my body, crossed the blood-brain barrier and invaded my central nervous system, and was replicating at a rate that evaded the strongest antibiotic treatment.”

If caught early, Lyme disease can be treated with two to four weeks of antibiotics, says Dr. Rajlakshmi Krishnamurthy from Boston Medical Center. She and other experts say that such treatment usually prevents the development of the later stages of the disease, but the fact is that it doesn’t always.

For example, Brittany started on a series of high-strength antibiotics, as well as herbal and nutritional supplements. After a five-month hiatus, she received another year’s worth of antibiotics in addition to other treatments (e.g., hyperbaric oxygen, Rife and homeopathics). Shortly after an “all clear” diagnosis in November 2010, everything returned with a vengeance.

The Mayo Clinic’s website explains that more intense forms and treatment of antibiotics (including intravenous) “can cause various side effects, including a lower white blood cell count, mild to severe diarrhea, or colonization or infection with other antibiotic resistant organisms unrelated to Lyme. … Some experts believe that certain people who get Lyme disease are predisposed to develop an autoimmune response that contributes to their symptoms.”

A nurse whose teenage son has Lyme disease commented on an online edition of a previous column, saying she and other medical professionals around her have found that antibiotics are “not enough” to treat early stages of Lyme disease and that long-term antibiotic treatments even can create other long-term health issues, just as they did with Brittany.

She wrote: “A few months after treatment his energy levels dropped to the point he was having problems getting out of bed and going to school. Traditional medicine … put him on and off one medication after the other until the side effects were so bad he could not function and we had to homeschool him.”

The nurse explained Lyme progressiveness in this way: “Once the bacteria [dig] in, [they start] to hide in the tissues making the chronic cases hard to diagnose. The scary part is that the bacteria [are] in the same family as Syphilis and can cross the blood brain barrier making it even harder to drive [them] out of the body. We have opted for a more natural approach using cellular detoxifiers. [My son] will most likely feel worse before he feels better, but with good nutritional support and optimizing his glutathione levels he will get his energy back.”

Brittany’s and this young man’s fights with Lyme disease are just two of countless thousands.

My wife, Gena, and I encourage you to read Brittany’s story at Healing4Brittany.com and then, if you are so moved, to share it with others and even financially help with her roughly $50,000 share of costs to free her from this progressive disease.

For more information about deer ticks and Lyme disease, I recommend the following websites: LymeDiseaseAssociation.org, CDC.gov/ticks, UnderOurSkin.com and TexasLyme.org.

Also check out natural resources such as Cellgevity and glutathione to build up your immune system and energy. But be cautious of Lyme treatments with Bismacine, also known as chromacine, which contains high levels of the metal bismuth, which the Mayo Clinic also says to avoid.

And for a more holistic medical approach to and treatment of Lyme disease and other illnesses, especially if local treatment hasn’t remedied your symptoms, Gena and I recommend Sierra Integrative Medical Center, in Reno, Nev. The people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies.

Lastly, before you head outdoors with your family or friends this summer, read, post or pass along my three-part series on Lyme disease prevention and treatment. Tell them, “Chuck Norris told me to!”

Mostly, contact your physician or health practitioner immediately if you or your loved ones see a large bull’s-eye-shaped rash left behind by a tick carrying the Lyme disease bacteria or experience early symptoms, such as fatigue, fever, chills, muscle aches and headaches.

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