After diligently watching all of the livestream videos from the 2012 ILADS Boston Lyme Disease Conference a month ago I still wasn’t convinced that long-term antibiotics were the way to go for treatment of chronic Lyme disease. Why? Perhaps it’s my nutrition classes teaching me about the importance of gut flora and maintaining a healthy gut terrain to allow the body to successfully fight off infection the way it was designed. Antibiotics tend to destroy large portions of bacteria that make up the gut terrain and don’t stop to ask whether specific bacteria are helpful or hindering. Or maybe it’s that some doctors and patients claim to have success with antibiotics, yet I still see so many instances where the drugs only seem effective while taking them, causing patients to relapse with symptoms again after finishing treatment. Or it could be the idea that multiple infections make it so difficult to target infections with the correct antibiotics–the idea that specific antibiotics may work well against a particular strain of borrelia burgdorferi but not as well for that unknown, non-Lyme spirochete hiding out in the deep recesses of the jaw.

Those thoughts bring me to my latest method of treatment–the 6 month Cowden Protocol or Cowden Support Program as Nutramedix calls it. At my last visit with Dr. Yu in St. Louis a month ago, all of my meridians finally checked out normal yet I still had swollen knees, a newly swollen left thumb, and more joint pain, stiffness and tenderness in my elbows, heels, back and jaw. I chalked up the jaw pain to recovery from the past two surgeries that were probably still healing. So what was the next step? Dr. Yu suggested I might try the Cowden Protocol for six months and if that didn’t work, then address the issue with a triple short-course of antibiotics to knock everything out (while carefully supporting with probiotics). During that visit the air was thick with hesitation, since he knew my stance on antibiotics and it sounded like they would only be used as a last resort if I was willing to even try that approach. Meanwhile, he explained the details of the Cowden Protocol and that I would be the first of his patients to try it if I wanted to be a guinea pig. I agreed since I trust Dr. Yu’s experience and his willingness to figure out my mysterious illness with every intention to find healing without all the corporate influence.

Last week I finished month one of the Cowden Protocol. So far it has been easy to follow. The included daily chart allows you to see exactly when and what herbal tinctures to take each day with the amounts listed and boxes to check off each time you complete a dose. I am grateful  this protocol includes magnesium since the last time I tried taking herbals like Samento and Banderol I became extremely constipated. I think the magnesium has helped immensely with digestion and elimination of wastes and toxins.

You may wonder how I’m feeling after a month of this treatment. Well, it’s been a rough start. I’ve been able to take every dose but maybe one or two–because of suspected herx reactions when I felt too much pain to continue the next dose. About a week or two into the program, I started feeling worse, more aches and pains and a lot of back pain, especially near my kidneys. I’ve been drinking three to four quarts of water per day as listed in the instructions. I get random muscle twitches from time to time throughout the day and knee swelling has not decreased. My worst symptoms are still the stiff, swollen knees, back pain and a stiff neck–especially at the base of my skull. Pain in my left thumb, both elbows and heels is aggravating but not as strong. Suspecting herxes, I decided after a couple weeks to increase doses of the antimicrobials Banderol and Samento only every two days instead of twice a day. I think that has helped since I have had less back pain but I still have not reached the maximum dose of 30 drops. Only time will tell whether my symptoms get better or worse, but I am hopeful.

A few days ago I returned for a monthly follow-up visit with Dr. Yu to monitor progress of the the Cowden Protocol. He seemed disappointed that I wasn’t feeling better yet, and checked all my meridians again. This time all were normal except that dental appeared problematic once more. Fearing another surgery and possible cavitation in the right side of my jaw, I will return to consult with my oral surgeon to decide what to do next. Until then I’ll continue to pray for healing and support my body with the best sources of food I can find.

Have you had any experience with the 6 month Cowden Protocol? If so, please comment below. I’d like to hear about experiences with this protocol, whether good or bad.