The Lyme Q&A Webinar with Dr. Rawls originally aired on September 19th. Since then, we’ve posted the video below and added a complete transcript for your reference and enjoyment.
by Dr. Bill Rawls
Lyme disease is the epitome of a mystery illness, often raising more questions than providing solid answers to sufferers. With respect to that, Dr. Bill Rawls shares his understanding, experience, and knowledge with Lyme to answer your burning questions.
This video offers answers to many common and uncommon Lyme disease questions that can quell your fears and forge a path to help you move forward in your healing journey.
VIDEO TRANSCRIPTION & QUESTIONS ANSWERED
How do people get Lyme disease? – 4:07
Is it possible to get Lyme through sexual contact? – 5:59
Can Lyme disease pass to a fetus? – 7:34
Why is Borrelia burgdorferi hard to diagnose? – 9:24
My child has been diagnosed with Lyme, but his doctor won’t treat it. Should I still pursue treatment? – 12:30
Do you believe a Lyme-literate doctor is mandatory? – 17:32
What’s the success rate of treating Lyme disease with antibiotics? – 20:05
Are there any non-medicinal treatments you recommend? – 24:47
What’s your opinion of alternating antibiotics? – 27:46
Is it safe to combine herbal and antibiotic treatment? – 30:32
What do you recommend for transitioning from antibiotics to herbs? – 31:33
How long should I expect to take herbs for treating Lyme disease? When do I know to lower the dose? – 33:28
How do I know what I’m doing is enough? I don’t want to go backwards and end up with chronic Lyme. – 36:16
Is Lyme disease more viral or bacterial? – 41:20
Do you feel that there’s a certain order in which Lyme, its co-infections, and other typical ailments (parasites, mold, heavy metals) need to be treated? – 43:10
Should I get tested for individual co-infections? – 46:12
Can Lyme disease elevate cortisol levels and lead to adrenal fatigue? – 51:15
What diet do I use to heal my gut? – 56:45
Are the food sensitivities I developed with Lyme permanent? – 59:10
Can meditation relieve my Lyme symptoms? – 1:02:59
Would you say that aerobic exercise at an intensive level is beneficial or harmful for someone with Lyme? – 1:05:14
Can I do a consult with you or can my natural doctor work with you? – 1:09:35[00:00:04]
Tim: Good evening, everyone, and welcome to the “Ask Dr. Rawls” webinar hosted by RawlsMD. My name is Tim, and I’ll be your moderator this evening. Dr. Rawls, of course, will be joining us as well in just a little bit.
We’ve had a lot of questions come in, thousands of questions, actually, and we are definitely not gonna be able to get to all of them. But we have read every single one and organized, sorted them, pulled together the most common questions, the ones that we think are most important that everybody know. And we also are gonna answer some more, like, less common questions tonight, so try to get you some answers of some of those.
You know, it’s hard to get answers sometimes. So we’ll go off the beaten path a little bit and throw Dr. Rawls some curve balls here. I mean, you can see in this word cloud a lot of the things that came up, you know, parasites, positives, silver, symptoms, neuropathy, all sorts of topics. So thank you for everyone who registered tonight and sent your questions, and we’re gonna do our best to get to as many as we can.
Dr. Rawls is the co-founder and medical director of Vital Plan and also is a board-certified medical doctor, holds his license in North Carolina, and he has written extensively on many health topics, such as Lyme disease, fibromyalgia, chronic immune dysfunction, and many others.
He’s also recently been featured on “The People’s Pharmacy” and is author of the best-selling book, “Unlocking Lyme,”. So, Dr. Rawls, if you would be so kind to join us now, and we will get started with these questions in just a moment.[00:01:52]
Dr. Rawls: All right. Thanks, Tim. Welcome, everyone. Thanks for joining, sharing your time with us tonight.
For those of you that don’t know me, I am a medical doctor, but probably my greatest credential is just having struggled with Lyme disease. I spent about 10 years of life experiencing virtually every symptom of Lyme. I was able to overcome it with a lot of hard work and primarily using herbal therapy. I did not personally find that antibiotics worked for me, and I chose the herbal route, which ultimately worked well and regained my life.
So, now, at age 60, I’m living a very different life. There were an awful lot of questions, and I’ve read over all the questions, but I really don’t know what Tim is going to ask me tonight. So, hopefully, you won’t catch me too off guard, and I’ll do my best. We’re gonna try to keep the answers short. I think that’s very important. We’re gonna cover as much ground as we can, and so hang in there with us.
Just a few notes on Lyme disease in general. Everybody wants specifics. What specific microbe do I have? What specific treatment do I need to do? And what I’ve learned about Lyme disease over the years is there really aren’t any specifics, and everybody’s path is a little bit different, and there are a lot of gray zones. And once you come to accept that, then that’s really important.
Almost everyone comes to the table with this idea that they have a microbe, and they’ve been infected with by a tick, and the microbe is making them ill, and they must get rid of the microbe to get well. And I work with people to shift their thought toward the fact that they have chronic immune dysfunction, and it’s not a micro but many microbes, and you have to not only suppress the microbes, you have to restore immune function. So, with that, let’s get started. Tim, what ya got?
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. The primary trend, Borrelia, the microbe that’s classically associated with Lyme is by ticks, but there is some question of whether it can be spread other ways, sexually and otherwise, but it specializes in ticks. People don’t typically get sick after a tick bite, though. Borrelia, Bartonella, all of these microbes that come with ticks are actually very, very common, and every tick has many microbes. So every single tick bite microbes enter a person’s system. I think that’s really important.
And it’s an imbalance of our microbiome that we have, everyone has these things onboard. So as a testing, it’s better I think that we’re gonna find that lots of people are carrying these microbes. But typically what I find is that people don’t get sick after the tick bite immediately. That’s a pretty rare occurrence.
Most people probably have been carrying the microbe a good while, and they get sick when they come upon factors that disrupt immune function. It’s always this perfect storm of things that come together, and that’s when people get ill.
Dr. Rawls: That’s a really common question, and I think the answer is yes, it is possible. Kissing, probably not. Sexual contact, in utero transmission, less chance through breast milk. Those are possibilities, but what you have to understand is that microbes tend to specialize in different routes.
Another very similar or somewhat related spirochete, corkscrew bacteria, syphilis, specialized in transmitting sexually. It may be actually transmitted ticks. I don’t think anybody’s looked for it in ticks or ever documented a case, but that microbe is specialized in sexual contact. So you find high concentrations in seminal and vaginal fluids, and it does cross utero.
Borrelia, another spirochete, specialized in ticks. So it is possible that you don’t find high concentrations of the microbe in semen and you don’t find it in high concentrations of vaginal fluid. So, yes, I think there are cases that it is transmitted in utero and spreads sexually, but that’s not going to be as typical as tick-borne routes.
Dr. Rawls: I think that concept of dormancy is really important, but I really don’t think there’s any way to eradicate these microbes from your body. And there’s no evidence that antibiotics or anything else will do that. In fact, there’s a fair amount of evidence to the contrary. So symptoms are a pretty good guide.
Testing for these microbes is notoriously difficult, because the concentrations of microbes in the body are so remarkably low. People get sick from the way the microbes manipulate the immune system, not overwhelming infection. So it’s a matter of just following that track and the… What was that question again, Tim? Sorry, I lost my train of thought.[00:08:56]
Tim: Just is it possible to get well enough so that they can feel confident that they’re not gonna give it to their baby?[00:09:03]
Dr. Rawls: Sure. Again, symptoms are the best judge. Really tracking these microbes in the body is really difficult. So if a person feels well, then the microbes are dormant in their tissues, and the chance of them transferring them are really, really small, really small.
Dr. Rawls: Well, it’s when we look at all of our testing modalities, whether we’re doing immune testing, testing for antibodies, or whether we’re testing for particles of the microbe with the DNA, you have to have a certain quantity of the microbe and you have to know what you’re looking for.
So when you look at tick-borne microbes, we’re scratching the surface and what kinds of things that we can test for. They discover new species of Borrelia every single day, and there are so many other things out there that we can get that can cause similar kinds of illness. So all of these stealth microbes, they become part of us, you know. We all carry these kinds of pathogens, so they’re not unusual.
When you look at testing, all the labs are focusing their testing on acute diagnosis, somebody that gets ill and they have a load of microbes in their body. But because most people don’t get sick after the tick bite or don’t notice it until long after the tick bite, most people being tested have chronic infection. So by the time the microbe is dispersed throughout the body, and is deep in tissues in low concentrations, and is growing very slowly, it’s really difficult to find it. You don’t find very much of it in the blood, and it is challenging.
Generally, I try to make people recognize that if you have all of the symptoms of Lyme disease, then the chance that you’re carrying stealth microbes of some kind is 100%, and you have chronic immune dysfunction. There’s a pretty good chance that you have Borrelia, but because the antibiotics don’t work very well for those kinds of infections, knowing the specifics at this point isn’t necessary to get well from these kinds of illnesses.
So this idea of finding the microbe, targeting the microbe with specific therapy to get well and then test for cure, it just doesn’t work with Lyme disease. It’s totally dysfunctional and just not something that we’re gonna find as very valuable. What we will find over time as the testing gets better, and it will, is that an awful lot of people are carrying these microbes who aren’t sick, because their immune system is healthy. In fact, I think we’re going to find that they are quite common.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. The chances that he has Borrelia are pretty high. But, again, knowing the specifics isn’t necessary for someone to get well, because antibiotic therapy and targeted types, such therapies… the alternative there is that we’re looking at the things that are restoring immune function.
Again, you know, this is a disruption in the microbe balance of the body with chronic immune dysfunction. It’s a pot boiling over many multiple stealth microbes. So this idea of trying to find a specific microbe and holding back treatment until you find that microbe just doesn’t make any sense. Why not go ahead and start a therapy like herbal therapy that has great coverage, suppresses these microbes, restores immune function, reduces inflammation, balances hormones? You know, why do you have to wait for that diagnosis before you start that? So be proactive, you know. It is really important.[00:14:23]
Tim: Dr. Rawls, yeah, I think that’s such a huge part of your message for people out there. Maybe I’ll bring up the therapeutic pyramid just talking about, you know, the why wait. Maybe you could talk a little bit about the notion of restorative therapy. I’m just gonna introduce that concept to people that aren’t familiar with it. So it’s actually the Borrelia at scale 10.[00:14:46]
Dr. Rawls: No, yeah, okay. We got it there. I try to just separate therapies out into categories. And looking at the value of these things for treating these kinds of microbes, these stealth microbes, is really important. Restorative therapies are things that enhance immune function and enhance the healing systems in the body, but because healing takes time, sometimes symptomatic therapies, which can include drugs, are valuable. And I leave off the heroic therapies, antibiotics, ozone, hyperthermia, all of the things that [inaudible 00:15:48] of pretty extreme toxicity and often cost…[00:15:44]
So this is the first time we’ve put these two illustrations together. But when you look at the concept of virulence, virulence is the ability of a microbe to cause illness. So Ebola, HIV, those things will be right at the top, and they’re going to be better managed with things that are more potent, more heroic. Other things like stealth microbes that are down at the lower end of the scale that are actually more common are better managed initially, at least, with restorative therapy. So it’s a good place to start.
Restorative therapy, the cornerstone of it is herbal therapy. It includes dietary modifications, the way you approach life, sometimes supportive, alternative therapies of various kinds, things that don’t cost that much and they are generally pretty darn effective. But toxicity of these things is extremely low, and that’s the most important part of this whole thing. Start with the things that have the lowest amount of toxicity and then move to the things that are more toxic or more expensive if you need to.
But if everybody had that triangle, that pyramid shape in mind, and was building that restorative base before they went chasing heroic therapies, we’d have Lyme disease under control quite well, and that’s the message that we’re trying to broadcast, is you really don’t need to fly across the country to get that kind of care. It’s very available.
Tim: Thanks. Yeah, that’s such a big thing. Sometimes testing can be so valuable to a person. You acknowledge that all the time. But, you know, why wait when you can start some of those restorative things right away that aren’t gonna causing your risk and can only help?
Dr. Rawls: That’s a hard question to answer. There are many well-meaning physicians out there that consider themselves Lyme experts, and a lot of people have worked hard to gain knowledge, but that knowledge is very, very diverse. And I’ve seen too many people that are in crisis because they are in desperate financial strain because they blew their entire retirement and all of their savings chasing a dream for a heroic therapy with some doctor across the country.
And, you know, it can run $30,000, $50,000, $100,000, and it’s gone in a flash. Some of these doctors won’t let you even in the door until you drop $3,000. So I wouldn’t exclude Lyme doctors, but do your homework before you go see somebody. Find out what kind of therapies they use and what they typically cost. Get on the internet. Talk to other people.
That being said, I didn’t have the luxury financially of going to see a Lyme doctor. I had to bring things to my doorstep, and I was miserably ill, as ill as most, I’d say 90% of the people I’ve talked to over the past 10 years, and I didn’t go to see a Lyme doctor. I figured it out, and I used things that ended up building that restorative base, and it’s come to make me appreciate that that’s essential. You really have to build out that restorative base to get well.
Now, as far as your local provider, they can be a real asset. They’re not gonna know how to treat Lyme disease, and you really don’t need to ask them to try to treat Lyme disease, because they don’t understand it. And because they don’t understand it, they’re not going to be able to help you properly.
But they can be there just for everyday things, symptomatic things, labs, just basic labs, making sure it’s not something else besides Lyme disease that may need to be treated in a different way. So, okay, maintaining a good relationship with your just local healthcare provider can be really valuable, but you can’t overwhelm them or ask them to do things that they aren’t capable of doing. I think that’s the key.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. That’s a difficult question to answer. There are no studies showing antibiotic therapy for chronic Lyme disease is effective, none. There are people that get well. In my opinion, those are people that their immune system rebounded enough that the suppression of the microbes was enough that they got back on their feet, and they were able to go on and get well. Immune function is key.
There’s only one thing on Earth that can put these microbes back in their place, and that’s your immune system. There is no other therapy on Earth. Herbs can help that. Sometimes antibiotics can help that, but when you start using antibiotics, you enter a race, and I think this is very important to recognize.
I often compare two types of infections. An acute pneumonia in your lungs, you have a fast-growing microbe, very consolidated in one place, very aggressive. You can take biopsies in that area, and you’re going to siphon off lots of bacteria, and those kinds of microbes that conventional antibiotics are built for. So when you hit those kinds of microbes with antibiotics, synthetic antibiotics, they die very quickly, the counts go down, the immune system catches up. In two days to a couple of weeks, a person is well.
These stealth microbes’ infections are totally different. You’re talking about microbes that are in the deep recesses of the body. They live inside cells. They grow very, very slowly, and they have really interesting ways of evading the immune system but also evading antibiotic therapy.
So what most doctors do that try to treat chronic Lyme disease is they realize that that two days to a couple of weeks that would look for a pneumonia wouldn’t work for Lyme disease, so they hit you with weeks, or months, or even years of the antibiotics. Typically what I see is some people feel better, but they ultimately don’t. They often ultimately slide back, because the chances of eradicating these microbes is very low.
So what ends up happening is, because these things are not growing any faster, and they’re very much like your normal flora, but they’re more protected than the normal flora, then you hit your normal flora a lot harder than you hit these microbes. So, eventually, you’re gonna wear your normal flora down, and you’re gonna have gut problems, and you’re gonna get candida, and you’re gonna get C. diff, and you’re going to get all these pathogens that become antibiotic-resistant long before you get these stealth microbes.
There are too many people out there that are actually harmed quite a lot by long-term antibiotic therapy. As I go through time, I am less and less a fan. I recognize that some people have gotten well, but I think there are higher percentages of people that regain their health in other ways.
Dr. Rawls: Well, lots of them. The book is full of them. And the programs we do and that’s what…[00:25:36]
Tim: We start to hear the…[00:25:38]
Dr. Rawls: We provide a lot of support. But that Ehrlichia, you know, is a little more virulent than some other tick-borne microbes, Rickettsia, Anaplasma, or Ehrlichia do tend to respond to doxycycline, because they’re a little bit more virulent, but not always. And at this point, we don’t know quite frankly whether it’s Ehrlichia or something else.
It may be that the antibiotic did affect the Ehrlichia but also adversely affected immune function, and now other stealth microbes are thriving and causing problems. Also, there are many different species and strains of Ehrlichia that act very differently, and some of them tend to be more antibiotic-resistant. So it comes back to the same thing.
I think if someone has a diagnosis of the Rickettsia, Anaplasma, or Ehrlichia, at least a month, if not two or three, of doxycycline can be reasonable, but certainly not any more than that. But, personally, I would start concomitant herbal therapy at the same time, because you’re still dealing with immune dysfunction that’s been brought on by this microbe, and there are always other microbes present that aren’t going to be affected by the doxycycline as much.
So always supportive therapy, build that restorative base, do the herbal therapy, because, you know, this thing of targeting a microbe is just dysfunctional. It’s not the way to get well. You have to approach the chronic immune dysfunction and the whole thing. I keep saying this same theme, because it’s so remarkably important.[00:27:31]
Tim: I wanna go back to antibiotics one more time, and then I do wanna ask you some questions about herbs.[00:27:37]
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, all right.[00:27:38]
Tim: What about a lot of Lyme specialists out there believe that… Can you hear me okay?[00:27:44]
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, sure. Go.
Dr. Rawls: It’s another one of those things that people want statistics, specifics, but there are none. We honestly don’t know. There is some logic behind it, and that is that if you pulse the antibiotics, possibly you won’t hit the normal flora quite as hard, and therefore you won’t disrupt the immune function quite as much, and possibly that might help the person rebound. But nobody knows the absolute answer to that.
But it’s very easy to say, well, if you’re going to do that, why don’t you do herbs at the same time, because the herbs are gonna help restore immune function and help suppress all the microbes that that antibiotic isn’t getting very well. And it might have a positive effect on the normal flora that keeps the antibiotics from being quite so disruptive.
So, yeah, I think probably pulsed antibiotics makes more sense than continual antibiotics, but we don’t know. There are no studies, and folks are shooting from the hip with that one. But, again, build that restorative base. You’re much more likely to get well.[00:29:20]
Tim: And part of the reason that people recommend pulsing, if I understand correctly, is to help avoid the issue of resistance. Is that correct?[00:29:30]
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, but I don’t know whether that… there’s no proof of that, you know. It’s been looked at over the years, and there’s just not enough data out there to say that that’s the case. And resistance is… it’s hard to put a finger on that one, too, because you don’t know, you know, what bacteria you’re talking about.
Are you talking about the bacteria that you’re targeting, these stealth microbes, or are you talking C. diff and other microbes in the gut that normally are suppressed by normal flora and become antibiotic-resistant when you keep using antibiotics to them, or Staph. aureus? People that are using that I don’t think are necessarily asking all the questions that need to be asked.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, why not? I mean, herbs are inexpensive. The toxicity of them is profoundly low. Herbs have this wonderful property of not disrupting the normal flora. At least most of the ones that I call the restorative herbs are suppressive. They’re not as potent as an antibiotic. I wouldn’t use it in treating acute pneumonia. That would be ridiculous. But they have this wonderful suppressive effect that actually enhances a microbial balance. It enhances our normal flora, and it helps that balance in the gut, which is also important for so many illnesses.
Dr. Rawls: Not really. I do find that people kind of get caught on this treadmill of they get on an antibiotic, they feel better for a while, and gradually they lose that, because the antibiotic is affecting their flora and their immune function and that sort of thing. So they get off of it, and then they go right back to where they were, and then they’re on a different antibiotic. Or people that every time they go off an antibiotic, they get ill again, and that’s because, you know, sometimes the antibiotics are suppressing, but they’re also suppressing immune function, all right? You have to have good immune function to get well from this illness or really any illness for that matter.
So if you’re not restoring immune function while you are in the process of treating with an antibiotic, then as soon as you go off the antibiotic, all these things are just gonna flourish again, and you’re gonna be right back where you started. So definitely start on the herbs and then gradually taper off the antibiotic. There’s no magic there. The herbs work very differently than antibiotics. They’re not going to interfere with the antibiotics or vice versa. So, yeah, there’s nothing wrong with starting the herbs and then gradually tapering off the antibiotics.[00:33:17]
Tim: Great. I meant to thank Kathy for that question about transitioning from antibiotics and Amy for the question about using herbs and antibiotics together.[00:33:26]
Dr. Rawls: All good questions!
Dr. Rawls: It’s a question everybody asks, you know. “When do I stop this thing?” And it’s when you want to give up wellness, basically. Because when you look at what herbal therapies are doing, they’re affecting all the processes of chronic illness and aging right in the middle of it. I’m in the middle of a research project looking at aging and how herbs affect that.
So you don’t necessarily need to keep high doses of herbs forever, but the herbs are doing a wonderful thing. So I use myself as an example. I’ve been taking herbs for over 10 years continually twice a day, not always the same herbs, but usually a pretty good assortment of herbs twice a day. And five years ago, I would have said, “Now, I’m recovered.” I’ve been getting a little better every year since then, you know, and sometimes you lose track of that.
I mean, it’s sometimes hard to understand aging, because I feel so much different at age 60 than I did at 50. You know, at 50, I had chronic knee pain, chronic right hip pain, and I assumed by now that I would have a right hip replacement, low back pain, neck pain, and I don’t have any of those things anymore. So the healing propensity of the body is profound. It’s really remarkable.
So most people, if you can consistently do it at least until you’re well, and that’s highly variable, some people that’s six months, some people that’s six years, then I think that’s important. But what I want to do with the education that I provide, and the programs that we do, and the books that I write is help people understand the remarkable value of phytotherapy of these chemicals that come from plants and how they interact with our biochemistry to protect us. And people have been using these things throughout history, but never have we understood their application more than we do today. And so not doing these things I think is not necessarily a good idea.
Tim: Great. And there are tons of questions about Dr. Rawls’ herbal protocol. I just wanna let everyone know that’s not the focus of tonight, but we will be sending an email for those that are interested. We’ll follow up with an email so that you can learn more about it, but we’re trying to keep it broader than just that, so we won’t be diving into that very much.
And if you are already someone that is following Dr. Rawls’ herbal protocol and you’ve got a specific question about it, please do feel free to send an email to email@example.com. Support team there will be happy to help you. So I just wanted to let you know that we will be following up with other folks that are not on the protocol that are interested. We’ll have more information later.
Dr. Rawls: You know, a big thought is I just did a tour of the Northeast and met a lot of people that were chasing various kinds of heroic therapies, and they would go from one thing to another, and a lot of them were really worn out. And it wasn’t the Lyme that was wearing them out, it was all of these really toxic therapies that they were doing. And so I really think it’s important to keep your focus on what you’re trying to achieve with the whole thing, and so just focusing on that restorative base of just keeping tuned in to where you’re going is really more important than anything else you can do.
So that’s important, is just staying focused, building it up. It’s lots and lots of little things. It’s not one big thing that’s going to get you well, and when you give up chasing that one big thing and start doing all the little things to rebuild your immune system and rebuild your system, that’s when you’re ultimately going to get well. That’s what’s gonna take you through the finish line and get your life back. So it’s not just an herb. It’s many herbs.
And there are other things beyond the herbs. You know, I recommend thymic extract and CBD (cannabidiol) to help with pain and just for that immune modulation.
Almost everybody finds that they have to do the diet, and you’ve really gotta be particular about your diet and how you go about life, and you’ve got to do life differently. You’ve got to undo the things that got you in this situation in the first place. People get sick because their immune system gets disrupted. You have to look for the things that cause that immune disruption.
Sometimes it’s a lot of little things, but I’ve had unusual cases, you know, people that are trapped in a house full of mold, people that have…I’ve talked to one person who ended up in a house that she found out had termites, and they had saturated the house with chemicals, and she got sick afterwards. People that are affected by electromagnetic energy, some people more than others. That can be a factor.
So when you look at these factors, these system disruptors, and start undoing the system disruptors and then complementing it with herbal therapy, the cool thing about the herbs is they’re affecting all of these system disruptors, because plants have to deal with these same stress factors that we do. And because they do, then plants are producing this spectrum of biochemicals, not just against the microbes, but against a lot of other forces that affect us, also.
That’s why I’m finding the idea of plant medicine, phytotherapy, so interesting as it applies to anti-aging and chronic illness in general. I think there are so many wonderful things out there that we just haven’t been paying attention to, and the evidence is accumulating that we really just started, no doubt about it.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, I don’t know of anybody that’s documented that proteolytic enzymes kill viruses. More of what proteolytic enzymes are doing as far as documented evidence are reducing inflammation by breaking up immune complexes, which could be originating from food sensitivities, viruses, bacteria, or a number of things. So that’s what you’re mainly doing with proteolytic enzymes.
As far as viral, people feel viral, but you have to understand that when people are sick from a virus or a stealth microbe like this, it’s not the microbe necessarily that’s causing them to be ill. You get a bad cold, that sort of thing, it’s not as much the microbes, but it’s the reaction of the immune system to the microbe and how the microbes are manipulating the immune system.
So when you have a dysfunctional immune system, you’ve got this boiling pot of microbes. So it’s not just Borrelia, or just Bartonella, or just Borrelia, and Bartonella, and Babesia, and Mycoplasma. It’s many microbes. And then you have reactivation of a number of different types of viruses in your body, so you’ve got this spectrum of all of these things going on all at once, and that’s what chronic Lyme disease is. It’s not an infection with a microbe.
Tim: Yeah, great question. Thomas B., thank you for sending that one in. Because typically, you know, we think about Lyme just in relation to Borrelia, but there are a lot of coinfection questions, and some of those can be viral, and some of those things could already be dormant and kind of come back out, you know, as you’re dealing with Lyme.
Dr. Rawls: No, no. This thing of targeting specific problems doesn’t make any sense. You know, when you’re doing that, you’re basically targeting symptoms, but, again, it’s not the microbes as much as the chronic immune dysfunction that’s allowing these microbes to flourish. So if you’re addressing the chronic immune dysfunction, you’re going to be addressing the individual microbes.
Sometimes, with more aggressive microbes, certain strains of the Babesia are more aggressive or virulent, you do have to add on more therapy, but it’s generally not something that you’re targeting specific microbes or need to. You have to understand the reasons why those things are happening, why are these things flourishing in the body, why does the person have Candida, not how do you treat the candida.
And when you start looking at candida from the point of view, you know, so often, I mean, candida is a good example. People get candida overgrowth in their gut. Everybody on the planet carries candida, absolutely everybody, and the reason that candida doesn’t flourish in the gut is because normal flora, including normal flora yeast, suppress the candida, all right? So if you levy a potent antifungal agent at them really, really hard, what you’re going to do is suppress the candida, but you’re also going to suppress all of the normal flora yeast that are suppressing the candida also. So as soon as you let up on that antifungal, it’s all coming right back.
So you have to address looking at how we rebalance that microbiome and restore immune function to put these things back in their place. And as you’re looking at this comprehensive restorative protocol, you know, you’re enhancing the detoxification systems in the body, you’re restoring normal adrenal function, you’re balancing the hypothalamus, so you’re doing all of it at one time. And that’s the value of the restorative approach, is you’re not singling out and having to do each one of these things individually. It’s part of the recovery process.
Dr. Rawls: Sure, you know, and I think that’s a reasonable question. And I’m not suggesting that no one should ever do any testing, but what I can say is a lot of people get well without doing any testing, and I’ve seen a lot of people squander a huge amount of money doing testing that really wasn’t valuable to them.
So when I talk about building that restorative base, what we’re doing is we do, you know… Right up front you can say, “Okay, no matter what we do know, there are a lot of things that we don’t know.” So if we know that Borrelia, and Mycoplasma, and Bartonella are on the table, there may be things that are identified that are tick-borne pathogens that we’re not even recognizing yet, because there are lots of things that come up every year that are new.
You know, we know that there are hundreds of things, there are hundreds of microbes carried by ticks that can potentially cause illness, and we’re testing for a handful. So what we do know may be less than what we don’t know.
So when you look at a comprehensive herbal protocol in that restorative foundation, instead of covering for a microbe or test or treating microbes specifically, it makes more sense to build the base to suppress those stealth microbes as much as we can in a broad way and build the immune system at the same time.
I generally start with a basic assortment of herbs that have a nice suppressive effect on a broad range of different microbes, and the person works through that, and you try to be as conscientious as you can, you know. It takes a while. Some people to get up to a total full dose will take them a month or two.
If a person is into it three to six months and they’re not getting well with that basic restorative foundation, that’s a time to start spending some change on further testing. Is there some other virulent microbe there that we need to cover for a lot more aggressively?
But a question that I also get a lot, asked a lot, is, “What do I need to do to cover Babesia?” And what I can tell you is Babesia is often compared to malaria, but it’s not nearly as virulent. Malaria is a much more virulent microbe. When I started researching Babesia in the medical textbook, it was a footnote that they said, “Well, most people who get it don’t get ill,” and that’s true. Most people who get it don’t get ill, but people with really bad immune dysfunction can get really ill in certain situations. If someone is not getting well, that’s the point to really start aggressively testing for, and possibly treating, either with other herbs or, possibly even at that point, antimicrobials.
But even the antimicrobials, you know, I hear a lot of people say, “Well, will your herbs cover Babesia and these other things?” They provide that basic level of suppressive effect and the immune support. So I generally start there.
We have a lot of people going, “Well, okay, do I need to take Sida acuta, and Cryptolepis, and Alchornea, and all of these really more potent herbs right off the bat?” I don’t necessarily think that that’s necessarily a good practice. If you’re getting well with the basics, save those for a backup plan if you’re not getting well.
But here’s the deal. Your basic suppressive herbs are not disrupting the normal flora. The more you reach an herb that has systemic antimicrobial properties, you know, like Cryptolepis, Sida acuta, and some of these others, the more apt they are to affect the flora in the body. So why not save those guys? They’re great herbs. They have a wonderful place. But why throw all your guns away right in the beginning? Start with the basics and then build out from there. And I think that’s a really important message, and the people that are doing that find that it’s much more cost-effective than what most people are doing with this random across-the-board testing and trying to cover for every single microbe that we test for. So does that make sense, Tim?
Tim: I think so, yeah. I think that’s a great answer, because people definitely get overwhelmed with all of the different options out there. And, yeah, having that wide spectrum coverage is a great place to start. That makes a lot of sense. I was just preparing the next question. So there are couple questions on symptoms, but before we go on to that, I know there are a lot more questions about co-infections.
Unlocking Lyme covers a lot of this information. There are chapters that include more information about that specific testing if you feel like you want to know more about that in addition to herbs and how they work with those co-infections. So more reading there and, of course, on RawlsMD.com.
Dr. Rawls: Right. I think you have to define adrenal fatigue, right? And a lot of conventional physicians really struggle with that diagnosis of adrenal fatigue, because if you do just random testing and cortisol, technically it’s normal. So what that means is the adrenal gland isn’t broken, all right? When you have something called Addison’s disease, where the adrenal gland can’t produce cortisol anymore, then you’ve got an adrenal gland that’s broken.
So when we use that concept of adrenal fatigue, we’re actually talking about the hypothalamus. The adrenal gland is controlled by the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus through the pituitary controls all of our maintenance activities, our day and night cycles, our thirst or hunger. All of these kinds of things are controlled by the hypothalamus, and it works through the pituitary to control the adrenal glands, which are basically, you know, maintenance functions in the body, the thyroid, which is metabolism, and ovaries and testes, reproductive functions.
So what becomes out of balance in adrenal fatigue is stress adversely affects the hypothalamus. It short-circuits this system that it can’t keep up, and it’s being driven too hard, so it tends to drive the adrenal glands to the point that the adrenal hormones become very dysfunctional, sometimes low when they shouldn’t be low, and high when the others, when they should.
So it can present different ways. Some people have high levels of cortisol continually. Other people don’t have high levels when they need them to get going, and they just feel exhausted all the time. But it’s really more of a dysfunction of just pushing the gland too hard and hypothalamus being driven by chronic stress. It’s not the bacteria as much as just the stress of the illness and the stress surrounding the illness of the emotional stress, or physical stress, or whatever stress factors are contributing to the whole thing.
When you look at that concept, again, the herbs are really wonderful. We have a whole set of herbs that we call adaptogens, and one of the key features of adaptogens is they balance the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. They give feedback mechanisms that basically just help let the pressure off of the hypothalamus so it’s not driving the adrenals so hard, and the adrenals can recover a little bit. There are other herbs that actually help support the adrenals, like licorice, but you have to be careful with licorice. If you use it too much, it will start dysregulating that whole feedback mechanism. So we use a lot of adaptogens.
There are adaptogens in the program that are very important for balancing that really important central pathway. That is one of the key parts of getting well, is balancing the HPA axis and restoring, not only adrenal function, but metabolism and all of the normal processes in the body. But you have to let the pressures off, you know. You have to change your lifestyle, you have to change the way you go about eating, and you have to take the herbs.
And, as you do that, the adrenal gland will recover. As opposed to someone with Addison’s disease, their adrenal gland can’t recover. As far as the idea of using cortisol to treat adrenal fatigue or cortisones of any type, steroids, I don’t agree with that, because you’re going to suppress the adrenal function even more, and you’re going to become dependent on the steroid. And because we can’t mimic the normal cycles of the hypothalamus, it suppresses immune function. And if you suppress immune function, you will not get well. Simple as that.
Dr. Rawls: Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, I had really bad gut dysfunction like everybody. I had terrible leaky gut. I did a food sensitivity panel, and I had a lot more things that I was sensitive to than the very few things that I wasn’t. So it put me down to a very simplistic diet right in the beginning.
But basically what I did when I looked at diet was looked at all the contributing factors that come in food and how they affect the GI tract and also in relation to our traditional foods that we’ve eaten through time, compared to the heavily processed things that we’re eating now. So it’s not only gluten. It’s lectin proteins. It’s the associated microbiome imbalance in the gut. And you have to address all of those factors.
So I start people off with a really strict diet, because most people come to the table with gut dysfunction. And we start them off, basically, it’s cooked vegetables and chicken or fish, like salmon and rice. Rice is very forgiving and has very few negative properties, and we get them on better fats and better foods.
People that don’t have that much gut dysfunction, we’re gonna progress them out of that… progress out of that phase pretty rapidly, but some people actually stay in it for months or even a year just to restore that gut function. Lots of things, lots of things that you can do is just supportive. Ginger tea, Chlorella, the freshwater algae, absolutely wonderful. And I found just all kinds of tricks up my sleeve, because of all the things, all of the things that I have had to use personally to restore my gut over the years.
Tim: Great, yeah. That’s a really common question, too. And Dr. Rawls referred to the eating plan, and one of the things that we’ve got to make it easier for you all is I’m gonna to attach the pdf, and you’ll see Dr. Rawls’ clean grocery list. It’s all the foods recommended, and a lot of this is in the book as well, but I wanted to make something handy for you all.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah. Well, again, personal experience and experience with so many people. Basically, leaky gut is you compromise the barrier between the intestines and the bloodstream, and at the same time, those people aren’t digesting proteins. So the proteins that you eat most commonly flood across into the bloodstream and overwhelm the immune system, causing a range of symptoms that can often be very, very much like Lyme disease.
As you heal the leaky gut, a lot of those things will gradually resolve. But once the immune cells are activated to those proteins, it takes a long time for those immune cells to just wear off and not be present any longer, so then things are retained. Some people have more food sensitivities than others.
We find that the more foreign the protein is to us, the more problems that people have. Gluten is a very, very foreign protein. A lot of people develop soy sensitivities and a lot of other things. When I was going through my whole situation, I was lactose-intolerant, so I gave up regular milk and started on soy milk, and I did that for six months to a year. And within that time, I became very sensitive to soy, I mean, really sensitive and started having allergic reactions to it. So then it was to almond milk, and sooner or later I developed almond milk sensitivities and then coconut. And I went through all the different milks, and now I’m back to lactose-free regular milk, pasteurized milk, and that doesn’t seem to bother me.
But I found personally, and this is true of a lot of people, that animal proteins are less foreign to us than a lot of the plant proteins. You can get through this thing and be a vegan, but it’s challenging, quite frankly, because so many of the vegetable proteins are foreign to us. You have to stay with peas and some things that really have very minimal reactivity. So it is some things that you have to work around.
My thing is nuts. I still can’t eat nuts, and it drives me crazy. I generally stay away from wheat. I cheat every now and then and seem to get away with, but nuts, I can’t do nuts. I mean, I really, really miss eating nuts. But it’s a little bit different for everyone. And I’m hoping one day that I can eat nuts again.
Tim: Well, it’s good to hear a lot of the other ones have been temporary. Hopefully, you guys got that that shopping list. I think we will be emailing it afterwards if you weren’t able to snag that, but it’s a really handy resource. Now, let’s move on to just a couple last questions. Thanks, everyone, for sticking through here. Hopefully, we answered a lot of your questions, and we’ve got just a couple more before we wrap up and share a couple resources.
Dr. Rawls: Meditation does a lot of wonderful things. It is another way that you can balance the hypothalamus. You know, I learned that if I could just bring myself, if I could, you know, sit in a relaxed place and do relaxed breathing, and I would try to bring myself down to the level that I almost touch sleep, and if I could do that, even in a 15-minute period, it zeroed all of my stress hormones, so just that breathing, just focusing on breathing. So you don’t really have to sit in an odd position and do this, you know, really regimented thing. It’s just a matter of being in a quiet place, focusing on your breathing, trying to focus out of other kinds of thoughts, and that reduces stress.
And reducing stress, you know, stress is one of our primary immune disruptors. That’s one of the things that is driving so many people’s illness. So if you can free yourself from that immune disruption factor, then that can do profound things for your recovery.
Now, have there ever been people that have overcome Lyme disease by meditating alone? Probably, but it’s gonna take an awful lot of effort to get there. But I am sure there are people that have been successful, because stress seems to be such a driving factor of keeping us ill.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, unfortunately, almost all the time it’s harmful. And all of us that were athletically active before this thing have this thought of just, you know, “I’m gonna drive through it. I’m just gonna push as hard as I can,” and I tried to do that. And you just keep hitting a wall, and basically what is going on is your whole body is inflamed. And when you rub bones together and muscles together, you’re going to exacerbate that inflammation, you’re going to make your situation worse, and you’re gonna set yourself back.
The goal with recovery is generating endorphins. Endorphins are those feel-good chemicals that come with exercise, and they stimulate natural killer cells. Natural killer cells are the prime cell in your body. They’re gobbling up these offending infected cells, cells that have been infected with microbes, and the microbes are doing anything they can do to suppress your natural killer cells. So exercise stimulates stem cells, which you need for recovery. So I generally recommend that people do enough to work up a light sweat and do that as consistently as you can.
Starting out, you know, I was able to walk… there’s a state park near here with sand dunes, and it’s a 3-mile trail all through the sand dunes and then back to the parking lot, but you can cut off the trail and walk the beach back. And when I started, I could walk 1/2 mile and then quit and walk the beach back, and that was all I could do, and I very gradually built up the full thing. Now, I do that same trail three or four times a week at least. I don’t do that much really intense exercise anymore, and I still do some kitesurfing, but I mainly do kayaking, and biking, and hiking, and walking.
You know, you look at the healthiest people on earth, they’re people like sheep herders. They just walk all day. They’re not doing intense exercise. They’re doing just moderate, low intensity exercise that generates endorphins, but not so much that it’s causing inflammation in their tissues. So in other words, you’re gonna cause a lot less inflammation by walking a 5k than you are running a 5k, and you’re going to generate endorphins a lot longer, because you’re gonna be doing it longer.
That all being said, intense exercise is what a lot of us live for, and I think it’s important, but during your recovery, you just have to back off. As things get better, you can get back to doing some things that you really like. Again, I am doing some kitesurfing now. Even at age 60, I am still surfing. I’m back out surfing. I didn’t do that for a long time. So I’ve pulled in some of those intense activities, but I still keep up with those low-intensity activities more often and more consistently. So yoga, tai chi, walking, all of these things consistently, that’s what will get you to the finish line.
Tim: Awesome. It’s always inspiring to hear that you’re still able to do those things, especially after having it so rough in your 40s when you were dealing with all this, so, you know, you and all the other people that have gotten through it, because there are a lot of folks out there, and especially with, you know, more research, more conversations about this, hopefully people are finding better ways to get around it and get themselves well. So thanks for sharing that, Dr. Rawls.
Dr. Rawls: Yeah, I did a medical practice. Originally, my original career was practicing obstetrics and gynecology, and every second or third night call is what was my system disruptor that ended up causing me to become ill. But after that I opened a medical practice, and the state of our medical system makes it very difficult to do what you really need to do for people.
So if you’re going to accept insurance, you’re never going to get reimbursed for the kinds of things that you need to do or certainly the time that you need to invest to take care of someone. You have time to pass out prescriptions, and that’s about it. You know, I found that the more that I help people, the more time that I spent with them, the less revenue we generated to the point that it was really hard to pay the staff.
And that’s what a lot of integrative and Lyme doctors end up facing, is once you have that brick-and-mortar, and all the employees, and all of the things that come with it, it’s really, really expensive. The overhead and the offices is typically 70%. I mean, it’s huge. So you end up doing a lot of labs and a lot of procedures that you might not put out there first or it might not be the absolute best thing for the patient.
But, you know, it might help them, and it generates revenue, and you have to generate a lot of revenue to run a office like that and take home a paycheck, and that’s just the sad fact about it. And it leaves very little time to really sit down and talk to the patient and counsel them.
I can talk to people doing what I’m doing now. I do do consults. I’m not doing a lot of consults, because I’m spending so much time writing and researching. I can reach more people through media like this, through writing, through blogs, through books, and, you know, we wanna add even more video things, and we wanna build out our programs.
I can do more good and reach thousands upon thousands of people and not become so stressed that I’m ill, because I’m having to go and work in an office and see 20 patients a day just to make ends meet. So I don’t think I’m going to be opening another office again, but I will continue to disseminate this information and reach out to people until we’ve really solved this problem and help people understand that we’ve got to approach it from a different angle.[01:13:10]
Tim: Thank you very much, Dr. Rawls. We’ll let that be the last question. And thanks so much for all the research. And hope that was helpful for everyone. We will definitely do these again and pick Dr. Rawls’ brain on the next webinar.[01:13:25]
Dr. Rawls: All right.[01:13:25]
Tim: Thanks, Dr. Rawls.[01:13:27]
Dr. Rawls: Thanks for joining us, everybody. We are going to have many more webinars, lots more content, lots more research and writing. There’s a lot more stuff coming your way. Thanks.[01:13:43]
Tim: Awesome. So please do stick around, guys. We’ve got just one or two more things left. One resource that we’ve worked really hard at building at RawlsMD is a Lyme support database. And so, if you go to LymeSupportDirectory.com, that will take you to a database that we’ve curated of Lyme disease support groups all over the country and others, and, you know, look for some help there. A lot of people also asked us, you know, “What’s the best treatment option in Connecticut?” “What’s the best place in Colorado?”
You know, we try to be informed, but we don’t know it all. So it’s important to get connected with people in your area for sure. So do that. You can search there and hopefully find a group in your area. If there’s one that’s not listed, please add it. We’ve had people reach out to us saying that they are gonna start a group in their area and they’re getting people together, so that’s great. Let’s continue the conversation and keep the wheels turning in this direction. So check out LymeSupportDirectory.com.
And then, if there are any questions that we didn’t get to answer tonight, we’ve got great health coaches that have been trained by Dr. Rawls. They’ve been through Lyme themselves, you know. They’ve had training as a chef, meditation teacher, yoga teacher, and then they’re continuing their herbal knowledge training with Dr. Rawls and just overall understanding. So they’re amazing resources, a really affordable way to help guide, you know, a lot of aspects of your recovery. And then, of course, Dr. Rawls is also there for more complicated, kind of troubleshooting topics, is usually where folks call upon him. To learn more about that, https://rawlsmd.com/consults is the place to go.
We really appreciate you guys joining us tonight. We hope you will be here in the future. We’re gonna continue to do these. And we’ll see you on the next webinar. Goodnight.
Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.
You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.