Most of us think about bacteria, viruses and fungi when we have an acute illness like a cough, the flu or a nasty-looking rash. But what most people don’t realize is that microbes can also cause long-term issues like fatigue, joint pain and even mental illnesses.
About 50 years ago, Dr. Thomas Brown, a rheumatologist, discovered a link between rheumatoid arthritis (RA) and a slow-growing organism called Mycoplasma. He went on to develop a pulsed antibiotic therapy for RA, despite pressure from the medical community, which was at that time focused on anti-inflammatory and immune-suppressive treatments. In the early 1990s, a clinical trial popularly known as the MIRA trial validated his 30 years of clinical research and practice.
Lyme disease is a classic example of arthritis with a microbial cause. Lyme patients may suffer from arthritis, fatigue and even cardiovascular and neurological problems.
A link between intestinal infections and arthritis has also been determined. It is well known that E.Coli, salmonella and giardia, to name a few, can lead to arthritis in which these bacteria are later found to be infecting the joints.
In chronic fatigue patients, there is an increase in the incidence of finding mycoplasma as well a chlamydia species.
Perhaps the most surprising finding was that of schizophrenics whose mental illness resolved with the administration of antibiotic for a seemingly unrelated cause. The initially reported case was out of Japan, where a previously healthy man was admitted to the hospital because of delusional and paranoid symptoms. Anti-psychotic meds were ineffective. He later was given minocycline (which happens to be the same drug Dr. Brown used on his RA patients) for pneumonia, and his psychiatric symptoms cleared up. When the antibiotic was discontinued, the symptoms returned. Doctors began to prescribe antibiotics for schizophrenia, with promising results. The National Institute of Health in the UK is now beginning trials of minocycline as a treatment for schizophrenia.
A bittersweet relationship.
There is no question that humans and microbes have a long history of interaction, symbiosis and competition. As every seed needs the right soil to grow, every pathogenic microbe needs an environment that allows it to flourish.
When a virus, bacteria or fungus begins to cause problems, it is due to the inability of the immune system to control it. This may be due to poor nutrition, repeated multiple stressors, mucosal weakness (such as in “leaky gut”) and genetic predisposition to name a few factors. All of these need to be thoroughly examined and addressed in a comprehensive treatment approach, using an individualized diet, targeted botanicals and nutritional concentrates, restoration of sleep and rest patterns, and yes even the use of pharmaceuticals when (and only when) necessary.
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If you would like to explore this facet of chronic disease further, speak with a Berkeley Naturopathic Medical Group doctor.