Over the years, I have worked with a number of people who are dealing with Lyme and other chronic infections. These are difficult syndromes to treat, requiring support on many levels. It’s easy to miss key elements, so thorough diagnosis and analysis is required.
If you suspect mold sensitivities, Candida-related brain fog, or neurological Lyme (major symptoms are cognitive and neurological), the best place to start is with the Visual Contrast Sensitivity (VCS) test. The VCS test assesses the probability of the presence of a neurotoxin in your system. It is used by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker (author of Mold Warriors and Surviving Mold) and others as the first screening for any complex health condition that may be caused by a biotoxin resulting from exposure to certain pathogenic organisms (Lyme spirochetes, mold or Candida, brown recluse spider bites, etc.)
You can do it online, $15 for one, but it’s recommended to buy a package of several tests because you will want to retest when things change for the better as a result of treatment or for the worse as a result of reexposure to the biotoxin (as when returning to a water-damaged building). Or buy one to see if it’s applicable for you, and then buy a package when you’re ready to begin retesting. http://www.chronicneurotoxins.com . Because even small deficits in VCS can be measured and the visual system is highly susceptible to neurotoxins, VCS is a sensitive indicator of the systemic effects of these toxins. Their disclaimer : “No single vision test can fully describe the function of the visual system or conclusively indicate the presence or absence of neurotoxins or neurotoxicity.” But it is an inexpensive, easily available place to start and the results have been correlated with other tests that measure the same thing. (To take the test, you need to sign in.)
For an excellent article on the use of Chinese herbs for this type of deep, chronic infection, called “Gu syndrome”, see Heiner Freuhauf’s www.classicalchinesemedicine.org/wpcontent/uploads/2010/04/fruehauf_guinterview.pdf
In my own clinic, for instance, about a quarter of patients are treated for the chronic inflammatory syndrome that I believe the ancient Chinese called Gu syndrome—whether it is travelers’ diseases like malaria and Dengue fever, or whether it is chronic recognized viruses such as AIDS or herpes. When the associated anxiety and depression and physical symptoms that come with Gu are brought into the calculus, you have covered a good many patients. And we can’t leave out the complicated digestive disorders associated with chronic blastocystis hominis, giardia or other protozoan organisms.
“Gu syndrome actually means that your system (body and mind) is hollowed out from the inside out by dark yin forces that you cannot see. This not seeing often includes Western medical tests that come back negative for parasites. . . . It can be said that the primary prerequisite for Gu syndrome is that the person has some digestive distress, coupled with neurological distress, such as body pain or mental symptoms—light symptoms such as fogginess, or severe symptoms such as hallucinations—that are not explainable with Western medicine, and that are not explainable either by regular diagnostic patterning that we’ve learned in TCM school.”
Food sensitivities, autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, adrenal taxation, early trauma and/or ongoing stressful circumstances are common contributors to the “hollowing out” or draining of vitality that makes one more vulnerable or susceptible to invasion by these chronic pathogens. Fruehauf again: due to the decreased immunity in modern people, because of the way we eat and the way we move our bodies, and the way many of us were given antibiotics as kids, the average modern city dweller is actually much more susceptible to parasitic organisms than Chinese villagers in the past.
Lela commentary on Fruehauf’s description: People with these conditions often have food, herb and drug sensitivities and may react to the herbs – whether from “die off”/Herxheimer reactions or from an immune sensitivity to some of the ingredients. For this reason, sometimes the first step is to determine which of these substances the immune system is not reacting to. I use food sensitivity testing called ALCAT. The ALCAT test is diagnostic: If many things are reactive, we know that there is brain inflammation which must be treated first. And it is therapeutic – only eating the foods that are indicated as non-reactive can give the immune system a rest, allowing it to calm down. (eliminating reactive foods, additives, herbs, etc may be necessary but not sufficient — other therapies will probably be required.) www.alcat.com/ To see the options for different panels, go to www.alcat.com/store/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=1 . Practitioners can offer their patients a lower price, if they choose to do so. I offer my patients the practitioner price, which is considerably less than the prices listed and simply charge for my time to set up the test. People with this condition have been too sick, too long and have spent thousands of dollars trying to figure out what’s wrong. I feel it is unethical to mark these tests up more than the time it takes to make the test accessible to the patient.
Resources for dealing with gut and endocrine issues: http://alternativethyroidtherapy.com/leaky-gut-food-sensitivities/ . . . . Resources for dealing with trauma: http:// lelaccarney.com/somatic-experiencing/ . . . And resources for ongoing stress: http://lelaccarney.com/mindfulness-mbsr/
Here are some other excellent resources that can help you to identify and describe more clearly what you or your loved one is struggling with:
The brochure, Psychiatric Lyme Disease: What psychiatrists (and patients) should know about lyme/tick-borne diseases: www.ilads.org/lyme_disease/Psychiatric_Brochure_08_08.pdf
One of the authors of this brochure is Dr. Robert C. Bransfield. He has created an excellent questionnaire designed to help identify Lyme/coinfection-related cognitive and mood disorders: The Neuropsychiatric Manifestations of Lyme disease
Assessment Form . This link will download the form as an Excel file to your computer. I’ve converted it to a Word document that is easier to work with, I think: neuropsych-lyme-assessment .
This article by Bransfield that makes the form easier to fill out: lyme-cognitive-impairments-bransfiled . Read it before you fill out the form.
Although Bransfield and Burrascano (ILADS) recommend IgeneX testing for Lyme, I am currently leaning more toward Dr. Vojdani’s Lyme panel through Immunosciences Lab www.immunoscienceslab.com/Catalog/Catalog%202010b.pdf (scroll down to page 2 for IMMUNOSEROLOGY OF LYME PANEL A).
If you have been through all of the above screening tools and feel that you fit the profile of chronic Lyme/coinfections and you’ve ruled out the other obvious pathogens like mold, then you will want to consider spending the $450 – 550 for this test.
There is a different set of tests for mold-related illnesses: (coming soon).