by Dr. Bill Rawls
The Ask Dr. Rawls Webinar, No. 4 (“How to Overcome Roadblocks to Lyme Disease Recovery”) originally aired on September 18th, 2018. Due to popular demand, we’ve shared the replay video below. We’ve also added a transcript for your reference; you can read it in full, or click on the individual questions to jump straight to Dr. Rawls’ answers. (Also available are the videos and transcripts from episodes No. 1, No.2, and No.3)
VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION & QUESTIONS ANSWERED
How can I get better sleep? – 17:29
How do I deal with coinfections? – 28:01
Carin: Hi, good evening everyone, and welcome to tonight’s webinar, “How to Overcome Roadblocks to Lyme Disease Recovery,” brought to you by Dr. Bill Rawls and RawlsMD.com. My name is Carin Gorrell, I’m the editorial director here at RawlsMD. I’ve been working really closely with Dr. Rawls for the last year or so on all of the content that we do here on webinars, blogs, and email series. It’s a lot of fun, and it’s great to be here with you tonight.
You might be used to seeing our usual moderator Tim Yarborough, but he is actually involved in a deep course on herbology tonight with one of Dr. Rawls favorite herbalists, David Winston. So, he’ll be back for our next webinar, but for now I get to be here with you.
Thank you all so much for joining us tonight, we’re really excited to have you here. We have people from all over the U.S., and even folks joining us from overseas. So thrilled to have you all here, so happy to be here with you.
Just to give you a little heads up about what the presentation will be like tonight: Normally Dr. Rawls does more of a presentation at the beginning of the show, and then we get into the question and answer session at the end. But we got literally thousands of questions from you all. So, instead of doing a presentation, we’re going to spend the entire hour that we have together getting through as many of those questions as we possibly can.
Looking at this really cool infographic, this is just a look at all the different questions that you all sent to us, and as you can see, we got a lot of different questions. This is kind of an idea of what we’re going to be covering tonight. There’s no way we’ll get to everything, but we’re going to do our best.
So, let’s move on, and we’ll introduce Dr. Rawls. He’s about to join us, so a little bit about him. He is the co-founder and medical director of RawlsMD and Vital Plan. He’s a medical doctor who’s written extensively about all sorts of health topics including Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, all sorts of holistic wellness topics. You can read about a lot of them on our website, RawlsMD.com, and I really encourage you to do that. He’s written dozens, if not hundreds, of articles that I think are truly helpful, and we’ll talk a lot about those topics tonight, but you can find so much more there. He’s the bestselling author of Unlocking Lyme, he’s been featured on MindBodyGreen, Mother Earth Living, and he has experienced chronic illness firsthand, and has overcome it himself. And he’s really passionate about helping other people do the same, so without further ado, Dr. Rawls, I’d love it if you could join us.[00:02:37]
Dr. Rawls: Thank you Carin, pleasure.
Carin: Thank you.
Dr. Rawls: Welcome everyone, thanks for joining us, and I know some of the questions, I don’t know all of the questions, so I enjoy it when Carin tries to stump me. But, we’ll try to move through, and catch as many questions as we can.
Carin: It’s pretty hard to stump you, I’m not too worried about that. Before we dive into the questions, maybe you can just tell everybody a little bit about your personal story with Lyme disease, and since tonight’s topic is about roadblocks, maybe you can share just a few examples of some roadblocks you had while you were working on your own recovery.[00:03:19]
Dr. Rawls: Well, yeah, plenty of those. I’ve been a physician for 30 years, but beyond that I have struggled with this thing we call chronic Lyme, and fibromyalgia – all of these things tend to blend together, and I think they have very common causes.
I’ve experienced virtually every symptom of those illnesses, and so anything that you’ve experienced, I’ve been there. I’ve struggled through it, my life was devastated 10 years ago. I had to figure out those problems, and I turned to the conventional system first and found that it really wasn’t designed to manage these kinds of problems. We do a great job with acute care in conventional medicine, but not such a good job with chronic care.
So, I chartered my own pathway, and that has taken me to a whole different level of education. So yes, I had relapses, and I struggled as I went on. I found that my true salvation was herbal therapy, and I still believe that very strongly. Of all things out there, I think herbal therapy has more potential and more power to help people than any other thing out there.
But it takes time, and it takes patience. So, when I was going through this, there were so many relapses; there were different kinds of relapses. I always turned back to going down the list of potential factors contributing to the collapse of the immune system, so top of the list was diet. Was it food sensitivities? Were there things that I was eating that could affect it?
Were there toxins like mold in my environment? So, that’s second on the list of factors – toxins.
Chronic stress, too. You get hit with stress and you don’t sleep and the next thing that you know, you’re having a relapse. So, monitoring these things, and recognizing the causes of the relapse.
And then finally, the microbes themselves, which can contribute to Herxheimer reactions, and a whole range of things. So, let’s move on with the questions and we’ll see what we can do here.
Dr. Rawls: Right, yeah.
Basically a Herxheimer reaction is an inflammatory reaction, it’s when your immune system is dealing with these microbes or killing them off, or you’re administering therapy – whether that be herbal, antibiotics, or anything else that kills microbes. Killing off the microbes breaks them apart, so they release what are called endotoxins.
And it’s important to differentiate between exotoxins and endotoxins. Exotoxins are toxins produced by the microbe, usually as a defense mechanism. Certain kinds of microbes that we carry, like E coli, can do that. But it’s more common with something like Anthrax, or Tetanus, the microbe that causes Tetanus. So, it’s an actual toxin that is affecting systems in our body like a poison. None of the microbes typically associated with Lyme disease produce exotoxins. They’re not trying to disable or harm the host, they’re just trying to get nutrients. So they’re manipulating the immune system to try to get the advantage of getting the nutrients, and the things that they need to reproduce and move on to another host.
So, if you hit them hard, it kills the microbes, and they break apart. The protein particles that are floating around in your system are the endotoxins, and they get tagged by white blood cells with antibodies. So, it’s basically a tag that says, “Here, get rid of this.” So, it flows to a lymph node, and white blood cells that are stationed in the lymph nodes gobble these things up. If you’ve got a little bit of that going on, you’re okay. But, if you overwhelm your whole lymph system with all these foreign particles floating around, and this intense inflammatory reaction, that’s basically what a Herxheimer reaction is – it’s a reaction to die-off of these microbes.[00:08:52]
Dr. Rawls: Sure.[00:09:01]
Carin: Maybe it’s a flare-up, or a relapse of their Lyme disease, or maybe it’s truly a reaction to the medication or treatment that they’re taking. Or, maybe it’s a reaction to something that they’ve eaten, and I think that those symptoms can be really similar. So, how can people start to tell the difference with what’s going on?
Dr. Rawls: Right, yeah. It’s a tough one. And like I said, I used to go down that list. There are so many things that cause those same symptoms. Food sensitivities can cause exactly the same symptoms as Herxheimer reactions. Mold toxins can cause exactly the same kinds of symptoms. And sometimes just reactions to therapy can cause similar symptoms.
So, go down the list and think about foods that you’ve eaten. Are you more stressed? Are you getting sleep? Are there other factors that could be depressing your immune system?
But generally, a Herxheimer reaction is going to occur shortly after you started a new therapy. So, if you start antibiotics, or you start new herbs. Or, you’re doing some other kind of therapy that’s targeted toward killing microbes, and you have these reactions, you have an intensification of all of your symptoms. You just feel inflamed all over, you know? You’re sore, you’re fatigued, you feel lousy. So, then if it occurs somewhat near starting a new therapy, that’s what’s going on. And if that’s the case, the solution is to back down on the therapy. You do things to clear out your immune system, hydration, eating good food.
And you don’t want to compound it. I found that often I had several things going on at once. When I was going through my struggle, my food sensitivity testing showed that I was sensitive to 75% of the foods that I was eating. So a lot of times I was having food sensitivities right there with the Herxheimer reactions, and all these other things going on. And I happened to be working in a moldy office. I didn’t know what was what, a lot of the time.
So, you have to balance it. It’s like when you’re twirling different plates on sticks. And you’re doing that with this thing, so you have to try different things. So you look for food sensitivities, is there something obvious that could have contributed? Did you start a new therapy? If so, back down on it a little bit. Or, if you had a lot of stress that caused a flare-up. If you back down and you’re actually getting worse instead of better, then you might have to ease the therapy back up. That’s true of whatever you’re taking, antibiotics or herbs – I prefer the herbs, I think they work better. So, that might be the solution. You have to play around with it back and forth.
Dr. Rawls: One thing about the herbs that’s really nice is that you don’t tend to get the same intensity of Herxheimer reaction, with the herbs you’re more suppressing the microbes. And you want to do that for a very long time. With antibiotics, you’re not only hitting the targeted microbes, you’re hitting everything in your microbiome. You’re hitting everything in your gut, so it’s not necessarily just the Borrelia that’s associated with Lyme, you can have that from all the gut microbes and other microbes in your body, too. So, antibiotics tend to cause more intense reactions than the herbs. So, that’s the nice thing about herbs, I wouldn’t suggest stopping them completely. Back it down until your symptoms are reduced.
At the same time, eat a clean diet, make sure you’re hydrating. Moving your body can help move some of this through your system. Yoga is really good because that helps clear the lymph system. Massage therapy can really be helpful. Acupuncture can help with symptoms. There are a lot of things that you can do to reduce the intensity of the symptoms, along with taking other herbs like turmeric that are anti-inflammatory. And some of the adaptagenic herbs, the mushrooms, have some nice anti-inflammatory properties. Load up on those things, and you might not have to stop therapy completely, and then restart everything. But if you do stop, or slow down, when the symptoms start to dissipate, then you gradually ease it back up.[00:14:14]
Dr. Rawls: Well, your body is doing everything that it can to detoxify itself, no matter what toxin you’re talking about, whether it’s endotoxins or heavy metals or something else. And part of the illness process is that a lot of those systems have been compromised. So that’s why a selection of herbs that support the liver, support detoxification, is really wonderful.
But there are a lot of things that you can do to help generally detoxify. One at the top of the list is moving, working up a sweat. And sometimes that’s a catch-22, if your body’s inflamed and you feel terrible, you don’t want to move at all. I found that exercises like yoga and qigong weren’t quite so intense but I did work things up a little bit. Some people find that hot yoga is really good, because sweating helps move blood and get rid of these toxins. Far-infrared sauna can be excellent. Massage therapy sometimes can be beneficial. Plus, just general health habits, hydration, all of these things.
I’m going a little bit beyond that with the herbs as far as clearing the lymph system. There are different herbs that can clear the lymph system. One that I like is rehmannia, it’s really nice for clearing the lymph system. Another that does it more acutely is an herb called red root, but you would only want to use that short term, and you have to be a little bit careful with it, because it can increase coagulation of blood, which we don’t necessarily want to do.
I like a gentle, continuous detoxification, instead of an acute intense one. In other words, qigong, hydration, far-infrared sauna, moving whenever you can, keeping your body relaxed, sleeping. Sleeping is so, so important. If you’re not sleeping, you’re not detoxifying. I talk to people all the time that say, “You know, I just feel toxic.” And you ask them, “Well how much are you sleeping at night?” And, “I might get three or four hours, if I’m lucky.” You’re not going to detoxify your body on three or four hours of sleep, no matter what you do. You’ve got to sleep, that’s a priority.[00:17:02]
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. Well, it’s a topic that’s near and dear: the biggest contributing factor to my own condition was lack of sleep. I practiced obstetrics, and took night calls every second or third night for 15 years. I had disrupted sleep every time I was on call. And as I got into my 40s, by my late 40s, I just lost the ability to sleep completely. That was the biggest precipitating factor of my illness. So it wasn’t a tick bite; I think I had the microbes in my system for a long time. It was trashing my immune system by not sleeping. And it was back in the time where I convinced myself, “Hey, you don’t really need to sleep, it’s just an inconvenience. It takes away so much time from life.” So, even when I wasn’t on call, when I was in my 30s, I was pushing on four or five hours of sleep at night. It was crazy, don’t do it.
In the course of things, I did end up on medications. And I would recommend that if you can possibly avoid using any pharmaceuticals for sleep, do so. Because they’re just so habituating. Once you get on them it’s so hard to get off. I had to go through all that, it was very frustrating, and it took several years, and I learned. I was a physician who was so careful with writing any kind of medications, I never gave people sleep medications. But when I lost the ability to sleep and still had to go to work every day, I was desperate. So I know that feeling. But try to avoid that route. The problem with Lyme disease and fibromyalgia is your brain is on fire. And it’s hard to sleep when your brain is on fire, and agitated.
So, part of the solution is reducing that. I found the herbs to be extraordinarily good for that. Anti-inflammatory herbs and antimicrobial herbs actually are quite good for sleep, because they decrease the fire in your brain. And that can really help. Other kinds of herbs can be helpful in a transient way. The problem with any kind of herbs that have a specific affect like inducing sleep is, while they don’t cause the habituation, you’ll eventually develop tolerance to it. So short term, a several month period. Right now, I’m in the middle of finally putting together a really wonderful sleep program that I think everybody’s going to like, to help people through that whole course. So it’s not just giving you something, it’s a whole email series to help you understand what you have to do to cultivate normal sleep.
So, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about cultivating good sleep habits. It’s about setting up your world so that your brain can turn off at night and you sleep normally. And it’s a bit of learning, you know. If you’ve lost sleep and have chronic insomnia, you have to reteach your brain how to sleep. So part of it is using various kinds of herbs to balance your hormones, some herbs to actually calm the brain. But also, adopting habits that help train your brain back to sleeping again, along with all the anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial herbs to decrease the fire in your brain. So, we’ve got some really nice solutions, that are real solutions, not a bunch of junk. “Here take this, and you’re going to be fine.” That’s coming, and I’m pretty excited about that.
Dr. Rawls: It is.[00:22:42]
Carin: Front and center. So obviously getting more sleep is something you can do to fight that fatigue, but I think one of the symptoms of Lyme, and fibromyalgia, is you can never get enough sleep. So looking at the other side on the energy side, what are some ways that people can energize themselves some more, to get through that fatigue?
Dr. Rawls: I see people all the time who are taking things at night to go to sleep, sometimes alcohol, sometimes over-the-counter sleep medications, prescription sleep medicines, and then they’re dragging in the morning so they use a ton of caffeine to get pumped up during the day. The problem with caffeine is that it does not energize your body. Basically it forces your body to use up the energy that you have. So, what’s going to happen is you’re going to be dragging by the end of the day because you’ve used up even more energy. So fatigue happens when the body isn’t working properly and all the cells and tissues aren’t communicating. And that is a really common problem with these kinds of conditions, because the microbes are disrupting communications within the body. That’s one of the key elements that causes symptoms.
So, if all the parts of the body aren’t talking to one another, then everything works inefficiently. Sleep doesn’t come properly. And the body, if it’s not working well, then you don’t have any energy. And that affects you all the way down to the level of mitochondria, which are the true source of energy in the body. So, it really gets back to the best way to energize yourself is to get eight good hours of sleep every night. So it is a bit of a catch-22. You’ve got to be really, really careful trying to do things like caffeine or other things too, trying to energize the body during the day, because those things will be left in your brain at night and will keep you from sleeping. So, if you have two cups of coffee in the morning, half of that dose of caffeine is still there in the early evening, and by the time you go to bed, 25% of it is still there. So, that caffeine is actually blocking your sleep.
You can use energizing adaptogens like rhodiola, eleuthero, ginseng, they’re better at energizing. But I find that even in people who aren’t sleeping well and who are fatigued, those adaptogens can cause some of the same problems as caffeine. So, I put those off for later in recovery. What I ultimately found as a solution to the fatigue was getting good rest. And when I couldn’t get rest at night, I got it at short intervals. I learned how to do really brief intense meditations of 10 or 15 minutes. And that does take some practice, but I found that it was more valuable for boosting my energy for a couple of hours than anything else that I could to do. And this was when I was still working. I would get up in the morning, I tried not to wake with an alarm clock. I was able to set my schedule in my office so I didn’t have to get up until the sun came up. I went to the office, I saw patients, and by 11:30 AM or 12 PM, I’d be exhausted. So, I actually had a meditation center set up in my office, and I would go close my door, have a quick light lunch, and I would meditate for 30 minutes. And then I would do the afternoon, and then I would come home and meditate again in the evening.
It really works better than anything else you can do. Because if you learn to do deep meditation, which does take some practice, basically you’re getting all the intensity of sleep in a very, very short period of time. Not only is it giving your body a rest, it’s starting to synchronize some of the communication systems in your body. So, it will help you sleep better at night. The key to a good night’s rest is being calm during the day. So working on that sleep, meditating during the day, and doing all the other things that really help it out, that will gradually improve the fatigue.[00:27:48]
Let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about something that we get a lot, in fact, I think this is probably the topic we get asked about most in posts, which is coinfections. People are constantly asking us about other infections with bartonella, babesia, candida, Epstein-Barr virus. We have questions from Christy, Kara, Vanessa, Tracy, and more. I think the resounding sentiment is, “Wow, I’m coping with Lyme disease and now I’m hit with this other infection. What am I supposed to do here, what should I do first?” What is your advice on tackling coinfections? Is there a way to go about it? Should you target one thing first, or another, or just generally how do you cope with dealing with multiple infections?
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, I think that’s the classic response. If you talk to infectious disease experts, they’re used to dealing with highly virulent microbes like Ebola, pox, plague, or severe pneumonia where it is one microbe. But when you look at chronic infections with any kind of microbe, it’s always multiple microbes. Specifically with these illnesses we’re talking about microbes that are very different than things that would cause pneumonia. Those are extra-cellular microbes, they are outside cells. With all of these things that we’re talking about with Lyme disease, bartonella, babesia, mycoplasma, rickettsia, all of these are intracellular microbes. What they do is as soon as they enter the body, they infect white blood cells, and they spread to tissues all through the body, where they set up shop in low concentration. But what I’m realizing is we all collect these things through life, some worse than others. I wouldn’t wish borellia on anybody, but there are people out there who are carrying borrelia, there are people carrying bartonella, and babesia, and all of these microbes that are quiet in their systems, and they’re not causing illness.
It’s this thing called chronic immune dysfunction, where all of the factors that we’re talking about – chronic stress, poor sleep, bad food, all of these things – disrupt immune function. So once you get these things going, then it just builds on itself and it sends the immune system into a tailspin. By the time thats going on, it’s not one microbe – it’s a whole spectrum of microbes. Thirty years ago, when I was in medical school, we thought that we were carrying about 300 or 400 species of microbes; now we’re recognizing that is 20,000 to 40,000. We’re realizing that they’re not just in our gut and on our skin. They are in deep tissues, they’re in our brain, they’re in our muscles. And that’s new research that’s come down in the past several years with new types of testing. We’re finding that everybody has microbes in their tissues, these intercellular microbes.
We’re also finding that they’re associated with a lot of other diseases, most chronic illnesses. Five years ago they were saying that 12% of cancers were associated with intercellular microbes; now they’ve bumped that up to 18%. I think it’s a lot higher. So these intercellular microbes are remarkably common. Everybody has some of them. When you look at all the different species that are possible, I recently cataloged well over 100 different intercellular microbes that people can carry chronically without causing illness, but they can also cause these chronic symptoms that are very, very similar to Lyme disease. Whenever you’re talking about someone with these kinds of symptoms, whether you call it chronic Lyme, fibromyalgia, or whatever you want to call it, they’ve got Epstein-Barr, they’ve got mycoplasma, often they’ve got borrelia. And all of these microbes can cause the same symptoms. So whatever you’ve got, whatever you think you have, multiply that by a factor of 10. If you think you’re going to find the one microbe and target it with a therapy, think differently.
So, that’s why I’m a big proponent of herbal therapy, because the herbs have such broad spectrum. You’re not talking about one chemical, you’re talking about hundreds and possibly even thousands of different chemicals in herbs that have these robust anti-microbial properties. You blend different herbs together, you get a broad spectrum of coverage. Not just one microbe, but a spectrum. When I was going through my course of treatment I took a broad spectrum of herbs. I gradually got better, but sometimes I would seem to develop tolerance. I’d add new herbs. I’d circulate things around. Different herbs work better for different people. I think it’s great to start with a core, but it’s often that you have to expand beyond that. But, think even bigger than just a few microbes. This is a disruption in the entire microbiome with all of the potential pathogens in your body starting to flourish. And that’s how you have to think of this thing.
Carin: That sounds a little overwhelming, but I have to say, maybe the great takeaway there is, don’t think about tackling each thing one at a time, where it’s this whole pile of things that you have to take on. If you go about it, and you focus on balancing your microbiome and strengthening your immune system, you’re taking care of all of those issues at once. So you don’t need to compartmentalize it. Is that right?
Dr. Rawls: Perfect, yes. Absolutely, Carin. That is the whole point behind herbal therapy, that it’s easier than you think. It’s not just taking an herb for a microbe. You don’t really have to get complex: You take a spectrum of herbs, and if that isn’t quite getting you there, then you can add to that. You can circulate it around. It is a little bit of trial and error. But, we’re talking about instead of targeting each individual microbe, it’s not that hard. Your goal is balancing out the microbiome, and restoring the ability of your immune system to take care of these things. Because whether] you’re talking about cyst forms of borrelia, or any of these things, the only thing that can truly control it, the only thing, is a healthy immune system. That’s your goal.[00:35:04]
Dr. Rawls: Sure. Yeah, I used the same regimen of herbs initially for about a year or two, and I seemed to just develop a little bit of tolerance to it. Then I started adding herbs to that regimen. But I think if someone tried herbal therapy, and they went for three months, and they just really got nothing from it, it doesn’t necessarily mean that herbal therapy isn’t the answer. It may mean you’re not getting them in the intensity that you need, because potency is really important with this. That’s one thing, so increasing the dose is a possibility that might give you more of an effect. Herbs are pretty forgiving with the exception of increasing Herxheimer reactions.
The other thing is, if you’re not getting benefit, try different herbs. Your spectrum of microbes in your microbiome may respond to other things. Don’t give up on the herbs too quickly. Keep working with them, keep trying new herbs. You can try other things outside of that, but the farther I go the more I feel that herbs are the core of this thing. That’s what’s going to help the most people more than any other single thing.[00:36:58]
Dr. Rawls: Sure. Well again, I don’t think it’s necessarily just borrelia. When I started researching neurological Lyme symptoms, it was really interesting. I found that Epstein-Barr virus caused those same symptoms, several of the other herpes viruses could cause those same symptoms. Bartonella, babesia – virtually every microbe that we know of (and in the end there are probably more microbes that we don’t know of) has the potential to cause neurological symptoms. Some strains of bacteria do it a little more than others. It is thought that some of the European strains of borellia have more of a tendency to cause neurological symptoms. But now they’re questioning that, because we’re seeing different people with neurological symptoms. Personally, I think it’s some genetics. Some people may be more genetically prone to getting neurological symptoms. I think everybody has some. I had the brain fog, I had the burning feet, I had the numbness, I had the pins and needles. I had a lot of the neurological symptoms that are typical with these kinds of conditions. They are some of the most stubborn symptoms.
It’s again treating the immune system, suppressing the microbes, the symptoms gradually get better. I didn’t think the burning feet was ever going to go away, I mean that was just such an uncomfortable symptom. But it did gradually get better. It took actually a year or more of the antimicrobial herbs to cause those symptoms to go away. There’s some thought that some herbs are really good for it – lion’s mane mushrooms have been defined as something that’s really good for neurological symptoms. There’s been thoughts that monolaurin, a coconut extract, has some antimicrobial properties, and because it’s fat soluble it can really reach the neurological system well by crossing the blood-brain barrier. Some of the essential oils: Applying essential oils to your skin – the ones that are safe to use topically – such as tea tree oil. Or aromatherapy in some of the stronger ones. There are some people that are taking essential oils orally and getting good responses. But it can be dicey, because they can be really toxic to the intestinal tract. You have to be careful with that one. Aromatherapy is probably better.
Rosemary oil is top of the list for helping neurological symptoms. Also tea tree oil. There are so many essential oils that can be administered by aromatherapy, or some topicals that can be beneficial. So, there is a long list. A lot of it is just patience and persistence. You’ve just got to keep hammering at it, and the nerves have to heal, you know? It takes a long time for nerves to heal. Nerves don’t divide – you can’t just replace your nerve cells, they are the ones that you have. You do have stem cells in your nervous system, but it takes a long time for the neurological system to heal itself. But my response was good. It did gradually get better. It took time, but hang in there, it will.
Carin: That seems to be sort of the theme for tonight, persistence. We have about 15 minutes left. I’m going to sort of jump around, you ready?
Dr. Rawls: Alright.[00:41:17]
Dr. Rawls: Parasites, yeah. That word. I think a lot of people don’t understand what a parasite is. Basically any microbe that is host-dependent is a parasite. It’s living off of your system. So borellia is technically a parasite; bartonella is a parasite. But what most people are talking about is intestinal worms. And one thing I think I’ve made clear is, if you’re talking about one-celled organisms, bacteria, protozoa, those can reproduce inside the body. So say you get an infection, and the microbes keep reproducing inside your body. When you’re talking about worms, these are multicellular organisms that do not reproduce inside the body. To harbor them, to have an infestation of intestinal worms, you have to keep getting either eggs or larvae (depending on what kind of parasite it is). You have to keep reinoculating yourself or they’ll eventually just die off, and you’ll get rid of them.
It’s really more of a problem in third-world countries, where they have fecal contamination of food so people are constantly getting reinoculated. And this is a question that I really investigated pretty thoroughly because I heard so much about it. That question of, “Okay where are we getting the eggs and the larvae?” You can get them from your food, but if you have clean food, and you’re buying clean food, it would have to be raw food, or undercooked food. You can get some parasites from undercooked meat. You might get something on lettuce, but a lot of your lettuce now is produced up in racks, and isn’t on the ground, so there’s not a very high potential for fecal contamination. You can get certain kinds of things from walking in the grass, but it’s not a very typically high load. So you see infestations of worms a lot more in third-world countries where people are constantly becoming inoculated with these things.
That being said, we get them from time to time. The best thing is having a healthy immune system. It’s really interesting, when I investigated this, one thing that was found to be true was that people in third-world countries who were getting reinoculated all the time but who had a really healthy immune system didn’t get infested. So even though they were getting the eggs and the larvae continually, they didn’t get sick from it. Whereas people who were eating a poor diet, stressed, etc., and who had a depressed immune system function had a higher risk. Your immune system is perfectly capable of nailing these things and getting rid of them – if it’s healthy. So it all gets back to a healthy immune system.
The other side of this, though, is the herbal therapy. Again, most all of the herbs in my protocol – cat’s claw, andrographis, garlic – all of these things are well known to be very suppressive of intestinal worms. But there are so many others, the classic formula is Artemesia, or wormwood, black walnut. Lately one that’s been showing up and being used very frequently is mimosa pudica. It’s not the mimosa tree, it’s a ground-cover plant that’s actually an invasive. I think mimosa pudica is a really nice one. So there are things that you can take.
It’s not the kind of thing where you take just a load of the medication and you flush all these worms out. The first course of getting rid of these things is, you’ve got to stop the flow in. Cook your food, cook your meat, stop eating raw vegetables. Eat really clean food that doesn’t have fecal contamination. And be careful and aware of other areas, wet grass, walking in areas where there might be fecal contamination. You want to be really careful about not getting reinoculated with new eggs. And then if you’re taking these herbs continually, you’ll gradually get rid of all them.
Again, the herbs do a really nice job, they don’t acutely kill them. I think that’s probably a good thing. They gradually eradicate them from your body.[00:46:46]
Dr. Rawls: Sure, yeah. Mold is a big one, and I think we’re going to see a lot of that in this area of North Carolina after this hurricane. That’s typical after tropical storms, hurricanes, big storms; in the south we see a lot of molds in homes that have been wetted. And the big thing is, you’ve got to get out of the place. If you’re living in a moldy place, then it’s going to make you sick if you’re mold sensitive. Some aren’t mold sensitive, and they can live in a moldy place, but typically most people get sensitized with time. Mycotoxins, mold toxins, are big immune disruptors. They can cause huge problems, and I’ve seen so many people that are trapped in their situation of staying chronically ill, because they can’t get out of a moldy house. So getting rid of the mold is really important. Sometimes it’s just leaving that place temporarily. There are lots of companies out there that do renovations or extractions of the mold. There are also a lot of scams companies out there that are doing it too, so you have to really look for a reputable company. I do not have a recommendation right off the top of my head.
But you’ve got to get rid of the mold. Mold typically occurs under houses. It can occur in drywall in a really old house. It can occur in attics; bathrooms are notorious. So, you’ve really got to go through the whole house. It is often worth closing in a crawlspace or a basement, and installing dehumidifiers to dry it out, because that’s a huge source of mold toxins. It can live in air conditioning systems. You’ve got to get rid of it. So the first step is, you’ve either got to get rid of the mold in your house or dwelling, or office, wherever you might be. I had it in the office where I worked. Or you’ve got to get out of that place, temporarily. Sometimes that’s the easiest way to know whether you’re mold sensitive or not, or whether your house has mold in it. Go and stay somewhere where there isn’t mold for two or three weeks, and if you start getting better, then you’re probably sensitive.
As far as getting the mold toxins out of your body, you know, some integrative physicians talk about these elaborate procedures using binding agents and all of that. And I was exposed to mold, and I’m definitely mold sensitive, and I found that after a week or two just outside of the moldy place, my body started getting rid of it. Your body will detoxify, it will get rid of these things. Sometimes in extreme cases, binders like charcoal and bentonite clay and things like that can be helpful. Cholestyramine is a drug that’s often used. I found that most people don’t need those things, and I’ve also found people who got really sick from using them. So you have to be careful.
Carin: Yeah, yeah, that’s great. I feel like I’ve read that pretty much every home in America has a mold issue. And I’ve also heard that it’s probably a lot cheaper to have it removed from your house than it is to buy a whole new home. But, that’s great advice, you have to get rid of the inflow and get them out of your body, so it’s kind of a two-step approach. I know you’ve written about mold, and mycotoxins pretty extensively on RawlsMD.
Dr. Rawls: Yep.[00:51:02]
Dr. Rawls: Well, it’s another one of those chicken and egg things. Do the gut issues precipitate the illness and the chronic immune dysfunction, or is the illness part of the gut issues? Because I found that probably about 75% of people that are chronically ill do have gut issues. A lot of people have leaky gut, a lot of people have food sensitivities. Again, I was sensitive to 75% of the food that I was eating, because I had such severe leaky gut, and bowel issues. The herbs are really good at helping with that. That’s one of the protocols that we’ve recently developed. We have a full holistic gut health protocol with a stepped, staged, dietary program, and herbs that go with it. I found that the herbs, many of the herbs, as far as balancing the gut, such as berberine, and other herbs like andrographis, and cat’s claw, do a better job than probiotics or virtually anything else you can take. It’s another one of those patience and persistence things.
So, you’ve got to start off with a diet that’s free of any of the foods that you’re sensitive to. You have to work around food sensitivities. You’ve got to do things that are really easy on digestion. You’ve got to help digestion. Taking digestive enzymes, eating slower, eating smaller meals. Doing everything that you can to help your body digest and process the food so you’re extracting the nutrient that you need to get well. Nutrient-dense food is really important over calorie-dense food, which is what most modern Western food is.
We hear a lot about wheat causing the problem; I do think wheat is an issue. I’m not sure it’s all just the gluten, though. We know that there are lectins. But it’s a primary source of glyphosate. You know, when we talk about the GMOs, it’s because the companies that produce all of these commercial products like Roundup use high levels of those pesticides. And they are in the food, and there’s some suggestion that the oats and the corn might be as bad as the wheat itself. So, it’s more of an issue. Getting away from the grains.
Rice seems to be pretty good. Most people tolerate rice, so I don’t necessarily think you’ve got to go exclusively ketogenic, which is really hard. But, cutting the carbs down and eating nutrient-dense food, which means eating a lot of vegetables, staying away from tons of meat, you know? For many reasons, fish and poultry are better than your big, heavy animals. But, we have a full gut health protocol for that, and people are having just extraordinary results.[00:54:55]
Dr. Rawls: Sure, yeah. One of the problems with antibiotics, is they don’t discriminate. They kill your gut flora, and that’s one of the really nice things about the herbs. The chemicals in herbs are from plants, and plants are having to deal with these same kinds of microbe situations that we do, and they have to take care of their normal flora, too. So plant medicines, or herbs, typically don’t disrupt the normal flora in the gut, like antibiotics do. But antibiotics, I typically tell people, when you start taking an antibiotic you’re in a race. Are you going to kill off the microbes that you’re trying to target before you completely disrupt your normal flora? So if that’s of an extracellular microbe that’s growing fast, or something like a pneumonia, where you might only be taking the antibiotics for days or weeks, you’re probably going to win the race. You’re probably going to kill off that targeted microbe before you disrupt everything else in your body. But when you’re talking about microbes, intercellular microbes that are inside cells, and deep in tissues, they grow very slowly, they’re not going to respond to antibiotics, so you’re going to have to hit them hard with a long time if you’re going to try to treat this problem with antibiotic therapy.
I think antibiotics, you’ve really got to be careful with them. I would suggest that short courses, if you’re going to do them, do them in short courses. No more than a month. If you start having gut problems while you’re taking an antibiotic, that’s an indication that you’re developing a problem, and you need to stop that antibiotic and take a break from it. And typically, I mean, I tried antibiotics a number of times. Doxycycline, cephalosporins, whatever I used I’d get about two weeks into it, and my gut would be a mess, and I would have to stop. And that was the thing that ultimately forced me to do herbal therapy. And I was totally surprised in the beginning that I was into taking months of herbal therapy, and my gut just kept getting better, and better, and better.
There are cases where people are using herbs, and then using short courses of intermittent antibiotics along with it, with good results. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with trying that, but you have to be really, really careful with it. So the solution is if you’re developing gut problems with an antibiotic, you need to stop the antibiotic. Probiotics can sometimes help, your standard probiotics. But you run the risk of selecting out pathogens, like C.Diff, Clostridium Difficile, in the gut. And typically people who are on antibiotics repetitively for a long time, they have overgrowth of candida. So, you’re going to have those things, which is going to put you on antifungal therapies. So there is a nice probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii, it’s a favorable yeast that is a transient. It only stays in your gut as long as you take it. It can suppress Clostridium Difficile, and also candida. So it’s probably the best one to take if you’re going to take something along with the antibiotic therapy. And, because it’s a yeast, your typical antibacterial antibiotics aren’t going to affect it, like they would your bacterial probiotics.
Just a couple of more questions, as we get toward the end of the webinar tonight. I wanted to talk a little bit about support, and how a lot of people who are attending tonight, and we’ve heard this always, Christine, Barbara, several others pointed out just a general lack of support, knowledge, and even belief in Lyme disease from the medical community.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah.[00:59:54]
Carin: I mean, you’re kind of a rare commodity, Dr. Rawls. You’re a medical doctor, and you’ve experienced Lyme, and now you’re helping people with it. But how do you talk to a doctor who doesn’t get it, and when do you know it’s time to move on, and find maybe a new Lyme-literate MD who can help you?
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, I think what most people are going to find is that most doctors don’t get it. That is a rare thing. It’s usually someone like me, who has encountered it directly, or just happened to work with enough patients to understand it. So it’s going to be a rare thing. You still need to have access to medical care though. I tell people all the time, the medical system is designed to handle acute problems. So if you walk in with a list of 20 or 30 complaints, you have already put up a wall between you and that provider, because that provider, they’ve got 15 or 20 minutes to take care of you. And you walk in with those kinds of complaints, or start talking about this bizarre thing they don’t understand called Lyme disease, and they’re going to turn you off.
So, I tell people keep your relationship, maintain a good relationship with a provider that you trust, whether they know about Lyme disease or not. Go in and ask them for specific things. That means you need to be educated. And probably one of the best ways to really get a good education is read that book I wrote, because I put everything I could, possibly find, in it, that might help people. So the more educated you are, the better that you’re going to be.
So when you have an encounter with a provider, go in and ask for specific things. You know? Have a specific problem that you know that provider can address. Is it labs that you want drawn? Do you need something short term for sleep, or anxiety. Are there specific things, they can help you with symptoms for drugs. They can help you with labs to gain information. But don’t expect them to understand Lyme disease, or know how to treat Lyme disease. I found that most people are on their own in that respect. So I think that’s really important advice, is don’t disrupt your relationship with a provider just because they don’t understand Lyme disease. Understand how you can best use them. I actually wrote a chapter in the book, on that topic, because I think it is so important for people to retain access, and local access.
I’ve talked to so many people who have flown all over the country to not get well, and spent their whole life savings. And it’s become a pet peeve of mine, to see people fly all over the world, all over to these experts, to get therapies that ultimately don’t help them. Where, everything they need is very accessible. And it isn’t terrifically expensive.[01:03:04]
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, now is a better time than ever, because we’ve got the internet, and that’s awesome. You can find people that are having the same struggle that you are. I experienced that, I lost my professional community, I had to stop practicing obstetrics. I was asked to leave by the people in my group because I couldn’t take call anymore. I started my own medical practice doing primary care, doctors in the community really didn’t understand what I was doing. So, I lost that community. Because I spent all of my time recovering, I lost my social community. So rebuilding communities is something I’m still in the process of doing. But, the internet is so remarkably valuable, and we found that, and we started our own Facebook group. So we try to make it a positive thing that it’s a place where people can come, and share information, and rebuild their community. But we try to keep it positive. There’s, some sites out there that you can just see people complaining, and that’s just not going to get you anywhere. So a positive community, a building community that’s helping you rebuild your life, that is going through the same thing that you’re going through simultaneously, we found just to be so extraordinarily available. And it’s right there at your fingertips.
Besides that, just getting out in your community. I started going to yoga classes, and things, where I could interact with people, but there wasn’t anybody there to judge me. You know, they were new people, I had to basically start over. So, that process of rebuilding your community can be slow, but it’s really, really important to do.
Carin: Oh sorry, didn’t mean to cut you off.
Dr. Rawls: It’s alright, you were good.[01:05:37]
I appreciate everybody staying with us, so my second to last question Dr. Rawls, it comes from Lisa, and a couple of other folks too. But, they want to know, how to know when you’re cured? How do you know when you can stop doing the treatments that you’re doing, whatever protocol that you’re doing, and that you can move on?
Dr. Rawls: You’re never absolutely cured. Nobody on Earth is ever absolutely cured. As I said, when you look at all these microbes, I’m finding links every day to chronic illnesses. There are connections to the cancer, I think we’re going to be making more, and more connections. Multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, all of these illnesses have connections to these things. You never can completely let your guard down. That being said, for a three to five year period, I was doing things really intensely. I was intensely restoring my sleep, building health habits, taking high doses of the herbs. I reached a point probably five or more years ago, where I said, “Okay, I feel recovered. I feel like my health is as good as anybody my age out there.” And I did drop the doses of the herbs down. I still take herbs twice a day, though. I still take anti-microbial herbs. I take immune supportive herbs, I think it’s really important. I’m 61 now, and I’ve got a 61 year old immune system. It’s not the same as it was when I was 20 or 30, you have to accept that. I don’t think anyone ever completely eradicates these microbes from their body. There’s very good evidence that doesn’t occur, and not any evidence that we can completely eradicate them with antibiotics or anything else. What you do is you have to keep your immune system strong.
The cool thing though is, I seem to be getting a little bit better every year, instead of worse. My energy is better than it was five years ago. I don’t have the aches and pains that I did five years ago. And I’m looking around at people my same age, and I’m pretty darn active, I’m doing some significant physical activity at this point in life. And getting to do a lot of things that I couldn’t do well 10 years ago. So there’s a lot of value there. We are in the process of working on a step down program, to help people figure out what level do I need to be on. So we’re trying to look at this from a levels point of view. And sometimes people are at a lower level and they need to bump back up temporarily if they’ve been under a lot of stress. So we’re working at ways we can help people answer some of those questions.[01:09:24]
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. It’s purpose. We all need to have purpose. And purpose is there, and sometimes you end up going through a struggle to get there. There were three different points in time, that I can remember, that I was ready to call it quits. I basically said, “Come and take me, I’m done, this is it. I can’t take it anymore.” And it was after those points that I would get this influx of knowledge. And it was almost like I had to go through that point just of being at the point of being hopeless, to turn it around, and say, “No, I’m not giving up, and I’m going to keep pushing harder.” And that’s when I said, “Okay, if you’re not going to take me, I’m going to double up my efforts, and I’m going to keep at it.” And those are the points where I really made the most progress. I wouldn’t be here doing this, if it wasn’t for Lyme disease. I would be doing the same career that I started. I wouldn’t have had the joy of meeting all the people that I’ve met, and working with all the wonderful people. Being able to touch people’s lives all over the world. If I hadn’t gone through that experience, I would basically be at the end of a career of obstetrics and gynecology, getting ready, looking at, hoping for retirement. And then being able to just sit around, and do whatever.
I’ve got a whole new life here. And it’s just wonderful. It’s really extraordinary. And it’s all because I had to go through that struggle. So, never give up hope. Instead of being hopeless, keep looking at ways that you can move your situation forward, just an inch, and then another inch, and then another inch. And look for ways that your life has purpose, everybody has purpose, sometimes you don’t see it. But I always use the example of Stephen Hawking who died this year, that guy had ALS. His life was absolutely, you could consider it a horror. It was terrible, he wasn’t able to move his body after the age in his mid 30s, and he lived to be late 70s. He’s probably one of the most productive people on the face of the Earth. And had a remarkable life, absolutely remarkable.
Sometimes you got to look past the misery, and say, “I have to keep pushing, there is purpose out there. I must find it. I must look for ways that I can continue to contribute.” And once you start moving past yourself, moving past your symptoms, moving past your misery, and look forward to what you can do with your life. Whatever piece of your life you have left, that’s where you’ll find your hope, that’s where it will be.[01:13:24]
Carin: Thanks Dr. Rawls. Speaking of gratitude, we are so grateful that you were here with us tonight. So thank you so much for sharing your insights and your thoughts.
Dr. Rawls: Pleasure.
Carin: Yeah, we really appreciate it.
Dr. Rawls: Absolutely a pleasure.
Dr. Rawls: And again, thanks everybody, and thank you Carin for doing such a great job.
Carin: Thanks Dr. Rawls. We’ll see you soon on the next webinar.
Dr. Rawls: Alright.
Carin: Alright, and that’s it. Thank you all so much for joining us tonight. Again, we really appreciate you being here, and hope it was helpful, and have a great night.