I saw a patient today who has been treated by another physician. The patient spends nearly his entire day taking supplements along with a complex regime of antimicrobials meticulously scheduled. The medicines are rotated and pulsed within specific protocols. This patient is going broke, in part because of the high cost of supplements which he assiduously takes per his physician's directions. He has stopped working in part because his illness is a full time job. His life centers around being THE PATIENT. Lyme disease has become his life. There is no time for normalcy. The sick role can become integrated into the disease. Perhaps, ironically, some readers of this BLOG focus all of their attention on their illness--scouring discussion forums, constantly perusing the Internet, seeking some new tidbit of esoteric information. The disease becomes a life style.
Many of my patients have told me that they no longer read my BLOG or read about Lyme disease, the politics and the controversies. Of course when I see such patients we discus the course of their disease and the rationale behind prescribed therapies during each visit.
These patients may be free to pursue a life which is as normal as possible. They spend time with family and friends. They function at the highest level possible in a multitude of domains. Suffering with Lyme disease becomes something they live with: It is not the center of their universe.
Such patients get up every morning, despite pain and other symptoms, put on their best faces and face life head on in spite of adversity. Other patients are constrained within a prison, imagined or real, comprised of walls, esmeshed in the fabric of illness and its attendant disabilites.
So I like to keep the regimens simple, and largely devoid of supplements. Changes are made when patients see me at scheduled appointments.
A word about supplements. Some patients certainly report benefits from a variety of add-ons. Some feel energized from Co-enzyme Q10, which I truly think helps many people. Some swear by teasel root. I may recommend one or two additional supplements but not many. I do not recommend multi-vitamins on a routine basis.
I was reared in medicine with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding vitamins.(I have discussed this before). Vitamin E--the "miracle worker," turned to offer no benefits to heart patients in controlled, published studies. Vitamin C turned out to be potentially harmful to heart patients. It was shown to increase plaque in arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease unexpectedly. Simple chemistry may give us the reason. Vitamin C can exist chemically in a reduced or oxidized form. The reduced form is an anti-oxidant; the oxidized form can be a harmful pro-oxidant. Supplements may not be properly balanced. So I perfer to leave nutrients and vitamins in the capable hands of Mother Nature. I stress a healthy diet with fruits, vegetables and whole grains which gives the body vitamins in their proper form along with the potpourri of photochemicals needed for these nutrients to perform optimally.
A folksy argument I frequently share with patients is something like this: A chronically ill patient is likely to be deficient in a variety of nutrients. This is caused by the illness or chronic infection as in the case of Lyme disease. One can think of such a patient as akin to a gas tank with a hole in its bottom. You keep filling up the tank with gas (supplements) but the tank is perpetually empty because the fuel drains through the gaping hole. Close the hole first--by getting the infection under control, and then the metaphorical tank can become full with the needed fuel.
A case of not putting the cart before the horse.
This does not apply to patients with dramatic deficiencies. And of course, this is just my working hypothesis and I know that most other physicians operate from the opposite paradigm.
My experience tell me that it works both medically and psychologically for my patients.