In the health-care industry Lyme disease is often misdiagnosed, as the symptoms can be confusing with no correlation between neurological patterns, visual disturbances, joint pain and anxiety. The cardinal signs (bull’s-eye rash, fever, flu-like malaise) can be elusive. Increasing awareness is evident in education campaigns at provincial parks where black-legged ticks are endemic. Zach Klein, the co-founder and designer behind Vimeo and co-author of Cabin Porn: Inspiration for your quiet place somewhere, told a National Post reporter in 2015 about how his “sojourns in the woods have also left him with Lyme disease.” He said it’s a reminder “that nature isn’t move-in ready. It’s not sterilized. It’s very much a force that has to be reckoned with.”
For Ashley Short, a certified holistic nutritionist and clinical herbalist, exposure to ticks took her life in an unexpected direction. She was diagnosed with Lyme disease and put her energy into creating positive change for others. At Earth Kisses Sky, a massage and acupuncture clinic located in Stoney Creek, Ont., co-founder Short and founder, Tijen Yalchin (R. Ac., RMT), decided to put Lyme diseaseat the forefront, with 50 per cent of Short’s clientele seeking treatment for Lyme-related symptoms.
Short advises everyone to take serious precautions and be aware at all times – not just when travelling in areas infected by ticks. If a client has expressed concern about a myriad of strange symptoms, be sure to provide proper resources. It takes 48 hours for infection to enter the system but early treatments (holistic or via oral antibiotic therapy) can be successful and potentially eliminate chronic issues associated with Lyme.
JT: How did you discover that you had Lyme disease? Did you present with the cardinal signs and symptoms?
AS: Not everyone has a bull’s-eye rash or experiences flu-like symptoms. I feel that doctors and other health-care practitioners who are not Lyme literate have a difficult time understanding Lyme and how to treat it individually. I didn’t have a bull’s-eye rash. I experienced random joint pain in my hands and wrists in 2011. They would be perfectly fine one day and the next, extremely swollen and so painful I was unable to pick up a pen. As the months progressed new symptoms would arise, jumping from one joint to the next.
JT: Where do you think you were exposed to the infected tick?
AS: I worked as a dog groomer where I routinely bathed, cut hair and removed ticks from animals. I never thought anything of it at the time, but it was the only place where I could have contracted it. I wasn’t into hiking or camping, and didn’t travel at the time.
JT: Did you turn to western medicine first?
AS: Pharmaceuticals have never been my first choice of treatment as I’ve always had a strong belief and connection to plant medicine. I have lived a very holistic lifestyle in my adult years, working with nutrition and herbs (through consumption or implementing them into my skincare regime). I treat my pets holistically, too.
I graduated from The Institute of Holistic Nutrition in 2012, and at this point my symptoms were increasing and were becoming noticeable to friends and family. I was misdiagnosed with chronic rheumatoid arthritis (RA). With a lot of research, an amazing holistic community and family support, I was able to figure out I had Lyme disease. I tested positive in 2012 twice, with the western blot assay test. My doctor was ecstatic that there could be a correlation between RA and Lyme disease and said that he was going to present his findings to the board of doctors. The very next day he told me that I didn’t have Lyme disease and said, “I would suggest that you take the RA medications or else you will be crippled in a wheelchair for the rest of your life.”
JT: I read on your website that you treated yourself 100 per cent naturally with herbal medicine and holistic nutrition?
AS: My partner, Tijen Yalchin and I developed symptom-specific herbal formulas and I created a lifestyle and meal plan. My energy increased, my inflammation and pain decreased and my body started absorbing nutrients. I was able to gain back the weight I’d lost (nearly 25 pounds) and started to feel hope. Seeing how powerful plant medicine was, I decided to become a clinical herbalist and graduated from The Institute of Traditional Medicine in 2016. I received massage and acupuncture from Tijen. Both were some of my main forms of treatment to help manage symptoms. I experienced a lot of pain throughout my body, as well as severe swelling, neurological symptoms and difficulty sleeping. The approach helped move my lymphatic system and realign my body, in addition to pain and emotional management.
JT: On your website you outline of your “eight-week Lyme disease treatment plan.” What herbal formula and supplements do you suggest?
AS: Everybody is different. There are different symptoms, co-infectors, lifestyle habits, emotional disconnections, environmental exposures and genes to consider. Every lifestyle plan that I formulate is 100 per cent specific to the individual, including nutritional meal plans, herbal formulas, supplement and lifestyle recommendations.
For someone who has been recently bitten and/or has been diagnosed with Lyme disease, I would suggest removing all forms of sugar (including fruit), gluten, dairy and alcohol. All of these food sources feed the Lyme-borrelia and co-infectors, allowing them to thrive, suppressing the immune system, disturbing the digestive system and making it difficult for the body to absorb vitamins and nutrients. Increased inflammation provides a safe haven for bacteria to live and multiply rapidly causing damage to organs, tissues, joints and nerves.
JT: What percentage of your clientele is Lyme treatment specific? Do you know of other Canadian practitioners who cater to this niche market?
AS: I would say 50 per cent of my clientele comes to me for Lyme treatment (the other percentage would be for cancers, autoimmune conditions, weight loss and other concerns). A lot of practitioners keep their names quiet when it comes to treating Lyme disease, as many have lost their licenses or were forced to resign.
Two notables in the industry would be New York-based Dr. Maureen McShane, and Dr. Ernie Murakami at the Dr. E Murakami Centre for Lyme Research, Education & Assistance Society (located in B.C.). Dr. Murakami doesn’t treat patients, but he offers exceptional education and advice to those seeking it. He can also be found on Facebook.
JT: You’ve also created a pain-relieving cannabis salve. Are clients able to purchase this, or do you use it in treatments only?
AS: I was constantly being prescribed pharmaceutical medications, from the highest strength of RA pain medications, cortisol shots, steroid creams and more pills for depression. As a holistic hutritionist and clinical herbalist, I decided to disregard the pharmaceuticals altogether and go with what I personally believed in, which was plant medicine. I started using cannabis oils internally and eventually developed a topical cannabis application which helped me tremendously. I implemented all that I knew from my herbal background and formulated it with not only cannabis sativa (full spectrum), but additional herbs that I knew would have a huge impact on inflammation and pain. All ingredients are derived from true, natural sources and contain no artificial color, fragrance, chemicals, parabens, artificial preservatives, petroleum-based products or silicone. Our products are available for retail but can only be purchased through local dispensaries across Canada at this time.
- Ontario’s Ministry of Health Lyme Page
- Government of Canada’s Guide to Lyme for Health Professionals
- Dr. Ernie Murakami, on Facebook: @lymediseaseepidemicnow
- Dr. Maureen McShane, Plattsburg, NY
Jules torti, RMT, has been in practice since 1999 and a freelance writer since age six. In between massage engagements, she travels to Africa to be with chimpanzees and writes about her zany travels for Matador Network.