Maybe it was one of the many cats her family had. Or one of the times she played in the dense brush around her childhood home.
Melissa Sue Tucker will never know exactly how she contracted multiple Lyme co-infections. Scratches and bites were just part of growing up.
“I grew up in rural Indiana,” she says. “We had cats. We were outside all the time. I probably had head lice as a child. So it could have been any of that. I’ve probably had this my whole life.”
But those infections likely laid dormant for decades.
Uncovering Three Lyme Co-Infections
Until 2016, Melissa was an active business owner and mother of three. But within a couple of years after the birth of her third child, a slew of odd symptoms made it difficult to work or take care of her young son: body aches, exhaustion, brain fog, unexplained weight gain and erratic emotions.
“I just didn’t feel like myself,” she says.
Often, she crawled back in bed by 11 a.m. and remained there the rest of the day.
For answers, Melissa saw Dr. Krystal Tellier, her naturopathic doctor in Phoenix. Looking for causes, Dr. Tellier ran numerous tests and uncovered a few major clues in Melissa’s rapid decline.
For one, she had severe adrenal fatigue, explaining some of her exhaustion.
Perhaps more telling though were positive tests for three Lyme co-infections: Bartonella henselae, Borrelia recurrentis and Ehrlichia chaffeensis.
Bartonella, or cat scratch disease, is typically transmitted just as the name implies. Borrelia recurrentis can be contracted from tick or lice bites. And likewise, Ehrlichia chaffeensis can be caught from ticks.
Given Melissa’s upbringing, all of the above seemed quite possible. Most likely, extra life stressors in the preceding years had kicked up the latent infections.
“I nursed my son past two years and he slept with me,” she says. “I didn’t get a lot of sleep during that time and I think that contributed. So there were years of lack of sleep that built up.”
Hard, Humbling Moments
Melissa started on support for her adrenals and measures to nurture her gut health, including a high-quality probiotic. A food sensitivity test had uncovered that her body couldn’t tolerate dairy, eggs or almonds. Coffee also went onto her nix-list to keep her cortisol levels in healthy ranges.
Fortunately, her naturopath was “Lyme literate” too. Under Dr. Tellier’s care, she began antibiotics for the Lyme co-infections, which eased her symptoms in the short term.
“It really helped take down the inflammation and helped me lose a little bit of weight right away,” she says.
She also found that medical marijuana eased the pain and helped her sleep.
At the same time, Melissa took herbs to detox from the Lyme co-infections, and invested in an infrared sauna to sweat out toxins and process die-off of the infections.
But then, in 2018, her upward trajectory took a sharp downward turn. In the midst of a work project, her brain became so clouded that she just couldn’t do it.
“That was really hard and really humbling because I thought I was getting dementia,” she says. “My dad had passed away of it a couple of years earlier. And that was terrifying.”
She also felt like she had a perpetual urinary tract infection, but tests showed sores on her bladder instead. After everything of the previous couple of years, that brought her to her lowest point.
“I’ve read statistics that say that suicide is the number one cause of death for people that have Lyme. And I never tried, but that was my dark moment,” she reflects. “I was laying on the floor in the bathroom crying, telling my husband, ‘I don’t know how I can live like this.'”
Herbs for Lyme Co-Infections
Desperate for relief, Melissa reluctantly tried more antibiotics. This time, however, they brought her further down.
She couldn’t eat and even water smelled like poison to her, leading her to drop 20 pounds rapidly.
Meanwhile, Melissa’s husband searched for a Lyme expert and found Dr. Darin Ingels not too far away in Southern California. Ingels, a naturopathic physician and author of The Lyme Solution, specializes in Lyme disease and co-infections, and successfully recovered from his own battle with Lyme.
In Dr. Ingels’ waiting room, Melissa felt so badly she couldn’t even sit up in the chair. But help was close at hand.
After the two-hour appointment, she was sent home with Chinese herbs. Within half an hour of taking them – on the ride back to Arizona – she began feeling better. Her headache went away, she could sit up and her body stopped aching. And she was able to stay up till 10 that evening instead of her usual bedtime of six.
In hindsight, she believes the antibiotics may have killed the infections, but her body wasn’t able to process resulting die-off.
“What I think happened now is I had so much die-off in my body and I was herxing [Herxheimer reaction] so bad,” she says. “And I think that the A3 [herbs] helped mitigate that.”
The herbs work more holistically for Lyme, compared to antibiotics, says Ingels.
“Antibiotics do one thing – kill the bug directly or stop it from replicating,” Ingels explains. “That’s pretty much all they do. Using antibiotics long-term damages mitochondria, which make energy. Cells won’t repair like they’re supposed to and then the cell ceases to function when mitochondria don’t function. So you have a condition that damages mitochondria and now a treatment that damages it further.”
“A lot of herbs have antimicrobial effects,” he adds. “They aid in blood circulation, are anti-inflammatory, can help the gut… They’re not just focusing on killing the bug, but working on addressing other issues that Lyme creates. They’re less likely to kill good bacteria and have less impact on your body.”
Diet, Detox for Lyme Co-Infections
Melissa continued on the herbs for about a month, taking more at the start and then tapering off.
She also switched to an alkaline diet to reduce the acidity in her body, which is thought to contribute to inflammation and disease. She ate more fruit, vegetables, nuts and legumes while reducing foods such as meat, eggs, grains and alcohol. She added detox smoothies from Green Smoothie Girl.
While she had stopped drinking coffee to support healthy cortisol levels, she tried coffee enemas for detox. She also jumped daily on a rebounder trampoline to get lymphatic fluid moving and facilitate detox.
‘Able to Live My Life’
Within a month on the herbs, diet and detox, Melissa blessedly felt back to her usual self.
“To be able to go from being in bed for two days straight to being able to have every day be better than the day before on the herbal program was incredible for me,” she says.
Now, she’s regained the energy to exercise, work and homeschool her son, with only the occasional afternoon nap to recharge.
While the Chinese herbs got her across the finish line to feeling better, she believes all the work she did leading up to that improved the chance for success: cleaning up her diet, detoxing and reducing negative emotions.
“Now, I don’t feel like I can’t do something or make plans because I’m not sure if I’m going to be up for it or not,” she says. “I’m able to live my life. I’m able to travel. I’m able to do all the things that I was able to before.”
How Melissa Healed
- Herbs for Lyme co-infections – She took a mix of Chinese herbs through Dr. Darin Ingels.
- Adrenal support – Adaptogens for adrenals, plus removing coffee.
- Eliminating trigger foods – She cut out foods that showed up on a sensitivity test: dairy, eggs and almonds.
- Alkaline diet – She switched to a diet that reduces acid in the body.
- Detox – Melissa sweated in an infrared sauna, did coffee enemas and jumped on a rebounder trampoline.
- Working on negative emotions – Melissa found that stress, anger and negative emotions kicked up her health issues. She has worked hard on noticing and managing her emotions.
If you enjoyed this story, you might also like: Active College Student Bounces Back from Lyme Disease after Trading Antibiotics for Herbs.
The information on this site is for educational and inspirational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of qualified professionals. Keep in mind that what works for one person may not work for another. Always consult your healthcare practitioners before beginning new approaches or treatments. Some links on Rebuilding My Health may be affiliate links. This means that we may receive a commission - with no additional cost to you - if you make any purchases using those affiliate links. Rebuilding My Health is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. Learn more.