Lyme disease is a serious condition, which leaves thousands of individuals crippled and suffering, but does that mean our immune system somehow is inadequate to keep us safe from these spirochetes? The verdict may be mixed in regards to this question, as many natural health practitioners, naturopaths and acupuncturists advocate the conventional approach of doxycycline and other prolonged courses of antibiotics. But recently an interview with integrative medicine expert, Russell Jaffe, MD, PhD, CCN championed using a “physiology-first” approach to treating Lyme disease.


Sometimes it’s nice to be validated by our “MD” colleagues who agree that the body has the inherent and innate ability to self-heal, especially as it pertains to such a gnarly condition. And this is exactly what Dr. Jaffe spends 20 minutes discussing, that the body’s innate and acquired immune system is comprised of some 50 billion cells whose sole responsibility is to protect our body. When we have all of the antioxidants, cofactors, minerals, etc. there shouldn’t be an issue of getting rid of borrelia burgdorferi, or any other spirochete. Dr. Jaffe, supports a perspective that lyme disease/syndrome is a condition of a dysfunctional immune system, and that by addressing this underlying cause there is no reason why people should need to take antibiotics to treat lyme.

Antibiotics: Hurt More Than Help?

In fact, Dr. Jaffe actually theorizes that it is likely that the antibiotics could be perpetuating the disease process by adding gut dysfunction to the picture. As the gut microbiome is messed with, inflammation of the small intestine is more likely, and a process of increased intestinal permeability (“leaky gut”) initiated, which puts added strain on the already dysfunctional immune system. In this way, Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and other antibiotic induced gut function disorders may have a relationship with Lyme disease.

Address the Process

Treating Lyme disease as a process that needs to be addressed at a foundational level, proper nutrition and gut repair become mainstays of treatment. Initiating a diet that removes all food intolerances, allergies and sensitivities is mandatory. Dr. Jaffe also mentioned that living in harmony with one’s nature, physically, emotionally, and mentally is also of primary importance.

Dr. Jaffe interview

Node Smith, associate editor for NDNR, is a fifth year naturopathic medical student at NUNM, where he has been instrumental in maintaining a firm connection to the philosophy and heritage of naturopathic medicine amongst the next generation of docs. He helped found the first multi-generational experiential retreat, which brings elders, alumni, and students together for a weekend campout where naturopathic medicine and medical philosophy are experienced in nature. Three years ago he helped found the non-profit, Association for Naturopathic ReVitalization (ANR), for which he serves as the board chairman. ANR has a mission to inspire health practitioners to embody the naturopathic principles through experiential education. Node also has a firm belief that the next era of naturopathic medicine will see a resurgence of in-patient facilities which use fasting, earthing, hydrotherapy and homeopathy to bring people back from chronic diseases of modern living; he is involved in numerous conversations and projects to bring about this vision.

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