Blog Article Archive

The Current State of Testing and Treating for Lyme Disease in Ontario

Lately, I have been receiving many requests to do community lectures on Lyme Disease. I thought I would share a small portion of what I speak about in my lectures here.

The topic of ticks and Lyme disease (LD) is very controversial.  In this article, I am going to be as informative as I can be with a limited word count while remaining rather neutral in my discussions. This article is targeted for those new to the world of Lyme, not necessarily for the advanced Lyme patient.


Let’s start by defining the term LD as it can be used in one of two ways. It can refer only to the infection caused by the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria, or it can be used as an umbrella term to describe not only the symptoms caused by B. burgdorferi, but also to those caused by common infections that get transmitted alongside B. burgdorferi, from the tick to the human host (eg. Bartonella, Babesia, Rickettsia, etc).


Most of what you hear about LD is acute Lyme, meaning the symptoms that develop within 30 days after a tick bite, however, what we are seeing more of is chronic LD. Acute LD symptoms include: joint pain, fatigue, fever, muscle aches (flu-like symptoms). Chronic LD occurs when acute LD is missed or treated ineffectively. Symptoms include: heart palpitations, chest pain, extreme fatigue, hot flashes, arthritis, nervous system symptoms, migraines, rage, cognitive dysfunction, etc. It is commonly referred to as the great imitator because it mimics diseases like MS, arthritis, fibromyalgia, dementia, hypothyroidism.


How can Lyme disease be missed?

  1. Current Ontario testing is two-tiered, meaning first your blood sample is tested with an ELISA, if it comes back positive, that result needs to be confirmed, so it is run through a Western blot. Both tests require an immune reaction to be mounted against the infection. That reaction can take 7-30 days to mount, which means if you have the blood test performed too early, the results will come back negative, resulting in a false negative and no treatment given.
  2. The B. burgdorferi bacteria can hide from the immune system. It is shaped like a spiral, giving the bacteria improved motility, and power to corkscrew its way out of the bloodstream and into organs, cells, and extracellular matrix. The bacteria can also create what is called a “biofilm”; a protective coating of polysaccharides, proteins, and metals, that effectively shield the infection from an immune response and theoretically, also from being treated effectively by short term antibiotic use.
  3. The saliva of the tick contains immunosuppressant molecules, Salp15, a feeding-induced tick salivary protein that inhibits white blood cell activation and proliferation by binding to T cells. Since the blood test for LD requires an immune response, the bacteria can evade detection in blood testing. This is also called a false negative.


How can Lyme disease treatment be unsuccessful?

  1. Current Ontario treatment guidelines recommend using 7-10 days of oral doxycycline to treat an infection. As you have read about in the paragraph above, the bacteria can create a protective barrier, shielding it from the harmful antibiotics. It also has the ability to live inside human cells, which also allow it to evade treatment. It can stay in hiding for long periods of time.
  2. The bacteria can exist in several different forms/life stages, not all of which are effectively treated by doxycycline: spirochete, spheroplast, cystic form. Sometimes a combination of antibiotics (herbal or pharmaceutical) is required.


A lot of physicians are facing irritated patients because they refuse to prescribe longer than 10 days of antibiotics. There is a reason for your physicians’ hesitancy, so please don’t be irritated with them. The College of Physicians and Surgeons could reprimand them, or even revoke their license if they find physicians are making recommendations that do not follow guidelines. Secondly, we are facing a future of antibiotic resistance. We only have so many antibiotics, and bacteria are beginning to become resistant even to our heaviest hitters. If we want to reduce or slow the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections, we must minimize our use of antibiotics. It is best to work with a Lyme Literate Doctor,  Lyme Aware Doctor or naturopathic doctor. You can find a list of these on ILADs website (, or by contacting LymeOntario.


When being diagnosed with (or without) LD, it is important your healthcare provider take into consideration more than just your blood results, make sure they also take into consideration:

  1. History of tick bites
  2. Presence of bullseye rash (also known as erythema migrans – EM) within 7 days of a bite. This rash will only appear in approx. 50% of tick bites. According to the CDC, diagnosis of LD should not be based solely on the appearance of EM.
  3. Totality of symptoms; consider filling out the Horowitz Questionnaire, if you are unsure if your symptoms are related to LD or not.


Dr. Brenda Tapp ND

Peterborough Centre of Naturopathic Medicine

Oncology Association of Naturopathic Physicians

Night-time Screen-time and Cancer Risk


Among non-communicable diseases, cancer is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. It is estimated that in 10 years, the number of new cases diagnosed per year will approximately double. If there was a simple change you could make in your life that would reduce your risk of developing cancer would you do it?


Most of us are familiar with reducing our animal product intake, increasing our physical activity, taking our vitamin D, reducing exposure to chemicals in our homes, but what about reducing your screen time, particularly at night? Most of our digital devices emit what is called blue light. Blue light has a shorter wavelength than other colours in the visible spectrum, and is not restricted from entering the eye, like other wavelengths are, therefore is able to cause more damage.


Before the invention of the lightbulb, humans were exposed to insignificant amounts of light at night. As the sun sets a small gland in our brain starts to make hormone called melatonin, which helps us fall asleep and stay asleep, among other things. Today, we are exposed to artificial light nightly from street lights that shine into our bedroom window, cellphones, laptops, tablets, LED lights, fluorescent lights, you get the idea. There is no need to conduct our lives according to the sun and moon cycle anymore. This means our circadian rhythm gets disrupted, especially in those who work shiftwork.  Exposure to artificial light at night increases your risk of cancer by suppressing melatonin production. Melatonin is an antioxidant that protects us from dangerous reactive oxygen species (ROS).  When our melatonin levels are insufficient, ROS increase in circulation and damage our DNA. If not repaired by intrinsic cellular mechanisms, it will lead to cancer. Another mechanism by which low levels of endogenous melatonin increases cancer risk is via reproductive hormones. Sufficient levels of circulating melatonin actually inhibit the synthesis of estrogen and interfere with estrogen binding at cellular estrogen receptors. This means that insufficient levels of melatonin result in greater risk of hormone responsive cancers like breast, prostate, uterine and ovarian.


Large scale studies have found 1.5-2.0 fold increased risk of cancer in countries with more artificial light pollution, even after statistics were adjusted for age, population size, air pollution, and electricity consumption. I certainly don’t believe this is the only cause, but it is a contributing factor.


How do we fix this? Well, once the sun sets it’s a good idea to start dimming the lights in your home. Candles make a great natural light source. Use light bulbs with a wavelength emission peak of 470-480nm, instead of those with a peak below 450nm. Spend more time outside exposing your eyes to natural light. Reducing screen time after dinner, and completely shutting down electronics an hour or two before bed is also important. I’ll be the first to admit that I regularly use my computer after dark, especially in the fall and winter, to do research, or write things like this article. Thankfully there are glasses you can wear to reduce your exposure to blue light. My favourite is Ladyboss Glasses (no, I do not work for the company). You can also turn on the night setting on your mobile device during the day.


While the use of indoor lighting and mobile devices has certainly allowed humans to accomplish much more in a day, it is also important for us to do nothing once in a while, to step back from the hustle of the day and relax.


Dr. Brenda Tapp ND


Don’t Believe Everything you Read

As you make purchases for your home library or search the Internet, keep in mind that not all information is written by qualified medical experts. Your doctor or a health organization may be able to recommend some good books or helpful Internet sites. When looking for health information on the Internet, don’t believe everything you see. Articles published in peer-reviewed medical journals are checked for accuracy, but anyone can put information on the Internet, so there’s no guarantee that the information you find is accurate or up-to-date. In addition, many companies set up Web sites primarily to sell their products. It may be helpful to ask a health professional about the information you find on the Internet, particularly before you buy any products. If you search and shop with care, you can add some medically sound reference materials to your home library and find accurate information on the Internet.

Use Information Wisely

It can be hard to judge the accuracy and credibility of medical information you read in books or magazines, see on television, or find on the Internet. Even people with medical backgrounds sometimes find this task challenging. Following are some important tips to help you decide what information is believable and accurate on the Internet.

The Internet

Compare the information you find on the Internet with other resources. Check two or three articles in the medical literature or medical textbooks to see whether the information or advice is similar.

Check the author’s or organization’s credentials. They should be clearly displayed on the Web site. If the credentials are missing, consider this a red flag. Unfortunately, there are many phony doctors and other health professionals making false claims on the Internet.

Find out if the Web site is maintained by a reputable health organization or reviewed by board certified doctors. Remember that no one regulates information on the Internet. Anyone can set up a home page and claim anything.

Check for the Web sites Editorial Policy. Web sites that provide health or medical information should have a Medical Editorial Board and an Editorial policy (that includes peer review by their doctors).

Be wary of Web sites advertising and selling products that claim to improve your health. More important, be very careful about giving out credit-card information on the Internet (check to see if they have a secure database such as VeriSign™). Further, even if nothing is being sold on a Web site, ask yourself if the site host has an interest in promoting a particular product or service.

Ask yourself whether the information or advice seems to contradict what you’ve learned from your doctor. If so, talk to your doctor to clarify the differences in the information.

Be cautious when using information found on bulletin boards or during “chat” sessions with others. Testimonials and personal stories are based on one person’s experience rather than on objective facts or proven medical research.

To Make Informed Decisions About Your Health Care, You Need to Understand Your Health Problem

Medical information, especially material written for health care providers, can be hard to understand, confusing, and sometimes frightening. As you read through your materials, write down any words or information you don’t understand or find confusing. Make a list of your questions and concerns. During your next office visit, ask your doctor, nurse, or other health professional to review the information with you so that you understand clearly how it might be helpful to you. If the medical information you gathered is for a personal health problem, you may want to share what you found with your spouse, other family members, or a close friend. Family members and friends who understand your health problem are better able to provide needed support and care. Finally, you might want to consider joining a support group in your community. You may find it helpful to be able to talk with others who have the same health problem and share your feelings or concerns.

Ultimately, the information you gather from print and electronic resources can help you make decisions about your health care–how to prevent illness, maintain optimal health, and address your specific health problems. Armed with this knowledge, you can more actively work in partnership with your doctor and other health care professionals to explore treatment options and make health care decisions. Health care experts predict that today’s computer and telecommunication systems will result in a new era–the health care system information age–built around health-savvy, health-responsible consumers who are the primary managers of their own health and medical care.

The above information has been provided by the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, and Society for Integrative Oncology.

You May Have Moved on, But Your Body Still Remembers – Dr. A. Potvin.


As I’ve written about before, the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself.  Whether you like it or not. Another difficult realization is how long it can take for our bodies to implement some of the changes our thinking selves so desperately want.  But here’s the thing:

Your body has a memory.  It lasts longer than your mind-memory does.

Not even in a woowoo way, either.

Your cells die.  New ones are born.  Receptors on the surface of your cells rearrange themselves to better receive messages. Sometimes receptors are put away. Other times more are brought out.  New pathways in your brain have to be built, like foot paths through the woods, while the old pathways fill in with brush.  Your body has to trust that you will nourish it, and you won’t leave it to starve.  It won’t get rid of its reserves until it can trust you.  It has to know life is safe before you can sleep through the night again.  How your genes express themselves takes time to change.  The stress your grandmother felt may still be expressing itself in your genetic makeup now.    

Your body adjusts over time. Sometimes this can take a lot of time.

That’s why you have to tell it every day that you are there and you will give it what it needs. Nutrients, sleep, kindness, forgiveness, movement, sunshine. The list goes on. History rewrites itself in every action that you do differently from that moment forward.

You have to be your body’s reason to trust.

Wellness Said with Love,

Dr. Potvin

As I Lay Dying – LA Times – Laurie Becklund

I am dying, literally, at my home in Hollywood, of metastatic breast cancer, the only kind of breast cancer that kills. For six years I’ve known I was going to die. I just didn’t know when.

Then, a couple of weeks before Christmas, a new, deadly diagnosis gave me a deadline. No doctor would promise me I’d make it to 2015.

Promise me, I told my friends and family, that you’ll never say that I died after “fighting a courageous battle with breast cancer.” This tired, trite line dishonors the dead and the dying by suggesting that we, the victims, are responsible for our deaths or that the fight we were in was ever fair.

Promise me you’ll never wear a pink ribbon in my name or drop a dollar into a bucket that goes to breast cancer “awareness” for “early detection for a cure,” the mantra of fund-raising juggernaut Susan G. Komen, which has propagated a distorted message about breast cancer and how to “cure” it.

I’m proof that early detection doesn’t cure cancer. I had more than 20 mammograms, and none of them caught my disease. In fact, we now have significant studies showing that routine mammogram screening, which may result in misdiagnoses, unnecessary treatment and radiation overexposure, can harm more people than it helps.

In 1996, during a self-exam, I found a peanut-sized lump in one breast that turned out to be stage one breast cancer. I had the “best,” most common, kind of breast cancer, found it early, got a lumpectomy and short dose of radiation. Five years out, my doctor told me there was little chance of recurrence and said, “Have a great life!”

You can imagine my shock when, 13 years after my initial diagnosis, I was in gridlock on the Harbor Freeway and got a call from my doctor with the results of a PET scan ordered after routine blood labs. “Maybe you should pull over,” he said.

Half an hour later, in an elementary school parking lot, I learned the scans revealed stage four breast cancer in my bones, liver, lungs and brain: a death sentence with an average life expectancy of three years.

I demanded the truth, always, from my doctors. I was a reporter who needed facts to plan whatever life I had left. I would not live in denial. But I was too scared, too private to tell anyone except my husband, my daughter and three friends. My very cells suddenly became my most intimate secrets.

Who would ever sign another book contract with a dying woman? Or remember Laurie Becklund, valedictorian, Fulbright scholar, former Times staff writer who exposed the Salvadoran death squads and helped The Times win a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 L.A. riots? More important, and more honest, who would ever again look at me just as Laurie?

It took me more than two years to summon the courage to meet others like me, at a Metastatic Breast Cancer Network conference. When I arrived there were no pink ribbons in sight, except for a single lapel pin that had been turned upside down like a noose.

I introduced myself to the group’s president and vice president, who were comparing their hands, red and shiny from the side effects of various chemo treatments. Metaphorically, I had been both hiding my identity and fearing I’d lose it. It wasn’t until that day that I learned some people literally lose theirs, via their fingerprints.

The women at the conference greeted me with questions. They were shocked to meet someone whose cancer had metastasized to all four possible sites breast cancer can go. How was I even alive? They had set up lunch tables labeled “Brain,” “Bones,” “Lungs” and “Liver.” I told myself, at least I could table-hop.

Later that day, in one of the most powerful rituals I have ever seen, the group’s president asked all of us to stand, then sit back down when she reached the number of years since our diagnosis. At two years, most had to sit down. When she reached seven, no one I could see was still standing.

Looking back, I realize that I’ve been trying to report my way out of this disease. I’ve read so many books; researched hundreds of clinical trials; done my best to learn the complicated language of cancer and microbiology; attended conferences in Indiana, Florida, Mexico and Portugal. I joined online forums. I signed on with the user name “WontDieofIgnorance.” Despite it all, I fear that is exactly what is going to happen. I might as well have been playing Chutes and Ladders, a childhood board game whose outcome is based on rolls of the dice.

The medical establishment tells me I have “failed” a number of therapies. That’s not right: The establishment and its therapies have failed me. The system we live in as metastatic breast cancer patients is simply not designed to deal with the cycle we are living and dying in. The estimated 40,000 women (and a few men) who die annually can’t wait years for FDA-approved, “gold standard” clinical trials. We’re dying now.

Another quarter-million Americans are estimated to be waiting in the wings. I say “estimated” because no one is required to report a metastatic diagnosis. Death certificates normally report symptoms such as “respiratory failure,” not the actual disease. We are literally uncounted.

We now know that breast cancer is not one disease. What works for one person might not for another: There is no one “cure.” We are each, in effect, one-person clinical trials. Yet the knowledge generated from those trials will die with us because there is no comprehensive database of metastatic breast cancer patients, their characteristics and what treatments did and didn’t help them.

In the Big Data-era, this void is criminal. Consider what Wall Street does. Even the tiniest companies can see how much stock they sell, compare themselves to cohorts, review history, predict trends. Why can’t we create such a database for cancer patients, so we can all learn from patient experiences and make more educated decisions on what treatments will extend and improve lives?

The most powerful organization in the breast cancer universe, Susan G. Komen , has raised $2.5 billion over the last 20 years, much more than many corporations will ever earn. Yet Komen channels only a fraction of those funds into research or systems to help those who are already seriously sick. Most of that money continues to go to a breast cancer “awareness” campaign that is now painfully out of date.

We need people — patients, doctors, scientists, politicians, investors, families — to make a fresh start. We must create a new system of data collection and an open, online, broad-range database about patient histories that will provide information invaluable to those who’ve been given a death sentence. Patients as well as doctors must contribute.

It will come too late for me. But it is possible to end the game: Patients shouldn’t have to climb up ladders and fall down chutes.

Laurie Becklund, a former Times staff writer, died Feb. 8. She wrote this over the last few months.