Dr. Rawls, author of Unlocking Lyme is a Lyme Warrior who used his background as a physician to heal himself from Lyme disease and create a platform to help others. I have used Dr. Rawls’ Vital Plan herbal protocols for a few years, so it was exciting to talk with him on the Heal Podcast. Check out episode 10 to learn more about Dr. Rawls’ healing journey.
In his late forties, Dr. Rawls started experiencing debilitating fatigue, brain fog, aching all over, burning in his feet and tingling in his hands, skin rashes, joint pain, chest pain, heart palpitations, mood changes, and insomnia. Unlike most physicians, Dr. Rawls knows what it feels like to experience all of the symptoms of Lyme disease and have his life and busy medical career abruptly come to a halt.
Unable to continue practicing obstetrics, Dr. Rawls opened a private practice to control his hours and the intensity of the work. However, the private practice made it almost impossible to leave town and see Lyme disease specialists or go to treatment facilities. Unable to travel to traditional Lyme treatments became a blessing in a disguise. Dr. Rawls took control and began researching how to help his body heal.
These simple steps are crucial to preparing the body to heal and maintaining overall health. But it wasn’t until Dr. Rawls found herbal therapy that he started becoming well. Herbs have the healing potential that comes naturally in plants. When you think about it, plants have to deal with the same stress factors that people do. They contain antimicrobials, antioxidants, and other healing chemicals. Dr. Rawls has been taking herbs for about ten years and believes it was the key to getting his life back after Lyme.
Dr. Bill Rawls @rawlsmd is the author of Unlocking Lyme, founder of @vitalplan, and a Lyme warrior himself. “The body has an amazing ability to heal itself if given the opportunity.” Dr. Rawls shares the most effective natural, conventional, and alternative treatments for Lyme and Fibromyalgia based on research and his personal battle with both chronic diseases. Dr. Rawls has helped thousands of Lyme warriors regain their health, and I am so excited to have him on the Heal podcast. I have been using his herbal protocol for the last year and would highly recommend it as one of your first go-to steps for healing Lyme.
Welcome back to The Heal Podcast. Today we have an extremely special guest, Dr. Rawls from Rawls, MD. Dr. Rawls, thank you so much for being here. So Dr. Rawls graduated from Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University. He’s written extensively on health topics including Lyme disease, fibromyalgia and chronic immune dysfunction. He also serves as the medical director for Vital Plan, an herbal supplement and wellness company he co-founded with his daughter Braden. You can find all of his books and some of his supplements on our website.
Dr Rawls is a special guest on our podcast today because unlike most doctors, he understands exactly how Lyme, fibromyalgia and other chronic illness patients are feeling. He was diagnosed with fibromyalgia in his mid forties, developed insomnia, fatigue, joint pain and muscle pain. All symptoms most of our listeners can relate to. After finding no relief for years, Dr. Rawls decided to shift his focus from finding a diagnosis towards health restoration. He focused on his diet, exercise that his body was comfortable with, practice meditation and yoga and began studying herbal supplements. Finally, his health started to return to normal until he was bit by a tick which developed into a bullseye rash and ultimately being diagnosed with Lyme disease. He used a full medicinal herb protocol to combat his Lyme disease and decided to share his natural healing solutions with the world through Rawls, MD. I’ve been using your herbs for almost a year and I’ve really noticed a difference in my health. I also really enjoyed your 90 day email series. Thank you so much for joining us today, Dr. Rawls. We are so excited to have you. Can you begin by telling us a bit about your Lyme journey, including the symptoms and the diagnosis?
Dr. Rawls (02:21):
You know, you, I think I probably had what we define as chronic Lyme disease well before that diagnosis I call that tick bite that you mentioned the second tick bite because I spent my whole youth in the woods and tick bites were just pretty much a normal state. So every time you get a tick bite, microbes enter your system, it may not be the ones that we define as Lyme disease but ticks carry hundreds of different microbes species. And I think I picked up the classic borrelia Lyme microbes when I was younger probably, along with other things. And we do collect a lot of microbes as we go through life and we depend on healthy immune system to keep us well. So my problem didn’t start and, and it’s like so many other people that I speak with. My problem didn’t start until I had a perfect storm of factors can come together that disrupted my immune system. I hadn’t been sleeping properly, was chronically sleep deprived, chronically stressed, eating on the run and doing all the wrong things for my health and gradually just crashed in my late forties. I struggled for answers, struggled with the medical system and really all the medical system man was just medications for the symptoms. And that was about it because the medical system deals more with acute conditions within chronic conditions and we treat them all the same. And so really we didn’t get anywhere with the medical system and started changing my diet and lifestyle and it was, you know, it was obvious that I’d been running myself into the ground, kind of got a lot better, but it wasn’t until I embraced herbal therapy that that really started changing. I was doing a little bit of that before that second tick bite, but after that tick bite, you know, all my symptoms came crashing back. I developed the bullseye rash. It’s kind of like, well, you know, this is what you’ve been dealing with all along. So I’ve done Lyme tests before that and it had been negative. But in chronic Lyme, they often are, you know, I didn’t turn positive until I had another fusion of microbes into my system. So it was pretty obvious at that point. But antibiotics just tore my system up. They did nothing for me. And so I ended up doing herbal therapy and really thoroughly embraced it to the point that I gradually got my life back. And that was an up and down affair, but it happened. And that is remarkable.
So in terms of people just beginning their journey and let’s say there’s somebody out there that just received the diagnosis for Lyme disease, what are a couple of first few suggestions that you have for them right out of the gate?
Dr. Rawls (05:45):
Yeah. I think the first thing is defining is THIS an acute situation or a chronic situation? And if it is an acute situation, in other words, someone who is just bitten by tick and they develop a bullseye rash or start developing other symptoms associated with any tick borne illness, fatigue, muscle aches, sometimes mild fever, variety of symptoms. Then I think antibiotics are a reasonable choice. You know, up to 20 to 30 days of Doxycycline or the alternative antibiotics I think is very reasonable. Are you eliminating the microbes with those antibiotics? Nope. There’s very good evidence that you’re not. But what are you doing? Well, you’re, you’re helping to knock the numbers of the microbes down so the immune system can take care of it. And that’s ultimately what we’re talking about here. You know what? One thing that I’ve observed over 30 years as a physician is that no amount of any antibiotic on earth will save someone from any microbial or bacterial infection if they don’t have an intact immune system. You know, you can take someone that is an elderly person that gets a pneumonia. And if their immune system is trash, they will not survive. It doesn’t matter how much antibiotic you throw at them. So what we’re doing with any antibiotic therapy is just knocking the numbers down. So what happens when you get that tick bite is the the microbes enter your system. So different microbes have different strategies. So we’re right in the middle of this COVID epidemic right now. And when you look at this coronavirus along with influenzas and other viruses, they have a breakdown the door strategy. You know, all of these microbes, you’ve got to ask what the microbe wants and the microbe wants to reproduce and spread from host to host but different microbes do it differently. So coronavirus is a breakdown the door microbe, its strategy is to get in fast, infect cells of the lungs, reproduce, make you cough and sneeze so it can spread to other hosts. And it’s rapid. It’s, you know, and it doesn’t plan to hang around very long. All it wants to do is use you for awhile. Move to another host. So when we’re talking about tick-borne microbes and a lot of other microbes that we call stealth microbes, talking about a totally different strategy, they’re doing the under the radar back door approach. So when these microbes enter your system from a tick, they infect white blood cells. So all of these, the microbes have the ability to live inside cells, whether you’re talking about Borrelia, co-infections, anything else. So they catch a ride on the white blood cells to disperse to all tissues in the body, brain, joints, heart, all through the body. We know this happens so, by infecting that white blood cell, they also have an opportunity to manipulate the immune system to suppress certain parts of the immune system and drive inflammation and other parts.So what they want to do is quietly set up shop in your tissues, live inside cells, and gain nutrients and resources from your cells. And they would just as soon, do that for a whole life, for your entire lifetime. And every time you come along and get bitten by a tick, which doesn’t happen to us as much as it did, but you think about it, humans use to spend all their time outdoors and they were constantly getting bitten by ticks. Ticks are just a normal state of affairs for us and mosquitoes and fleas and plies and everything else. So that’s the route that these microbes travel and they set up shop and wait until other opportunities to spread to other hosts come along. But it’s under the radar. It’s slower, it’s not that breakdown the door approach. So it’s a totally different microbe strategy and they can stay in someone’s system for years as it did with me. And it’s only if your immune system can’t keep these things in check, but we call them stealth microbes because they’re really sneaky. Yeah. They get in there and they manipulate the immune system and interesting ways that you end up with this standoff that the immune system tolerates being there. But if your immune system is strong enough that keeps them suppressed so you don’t have symptoms, let your immune system gets suppressed though you’re in trouble. That’s what chronic Lyme disease is. So, so often what we’re talking about is people that have been, you know, for many years, uh, talking to you guys, you know, there’s so many people I talked to around the country, it’s not acute Lyme disease we’re talking about, we’re talking about this chronic situation where people stay stuck for years and years and years and years and you get in this tailspin of chronic immune dysfunction that it’s really hard to crawl out of. The conventional medical school system just doesn’t understand it. So that’s, that’s a difference. And that’s what we’re dealing with. That’s what it’s all about.
Right. So it’s really interesting. So if someone has this chronic immune system and obviously the two months of antibiotics isn’t going to work. And I mean, cause we have a lot of people who kind of reached out to us and say, you know, what do we do first? We don’t have a lot of money. You know, a lot of people don’t have like, you know, I went down the path and I was fortunate enough that I was able to fly around the country and go see the best Lyme doctors and, and, and it’s expensive. Like even to go on the, the longterm antibiotics is $1,500 a week or $2,000 a week. It’s ridiculous the amount of money I have spent. So now I kind of tell people like, just stop and then, you know, start with whatever, like your protocol, like your either your herbal or something. So would you recommend somebody that being their first, like if they don’t have a lot of money to run around the country, what would you like just your first couple of basic things iff you have chronic Lyme and you know that the two months of antibiotics is not going to work.
Dr. Rawls (12:10):
Sure. You know, it’s one of all those things that if you have all the symptoms of chronic Lyme, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, and they all overlap, then you’ve got a situation where your immune system is dysfunctional and that is allowing not just the Lyme microbes in your body to flourish, but all the different microbes in your body to flourish. So antibiotics aren’t a very good choice because antibiotics are indiscriminate and disrupt your flora in your gut and other microbes in your body. And they actually end up suppressing immune system functions even more. Antibiotics can work. But I’ve seen a lot of people that their lives have been ruined by taking longterm antibiotics. There are no studies that support longterm antibiotic use. And this is something I agree with the conventional doctors. There’s just no evidence for it. And intuitively, if you think about it, it’s not a very functional plan. I was in an odd situation that I really didn’t have the opportunity to go and do what you did, which was flying across the country and try to find other care. I was forced to figure it out. You know, I reached a point. I was practicing and obstetrics and gynecology, and I reached a point that I couldn’t take night calls anymore. My group was not very patient and basically said if you can’t take calls, we don’t want you here. And I had to leave was really no idea how I was going to make it and generate income or anything else. I started a primary care practice just really with this theme of wellness, and this optimism that I was going to get my health back. But, uh, it was pretty shaky financially. I had kids in college and everything else I had during that time. So I couldn’t leave because I had to cover this practice. Yeah. I couldn’t leave town. I didn’t have the financial resources to pursue any other care. I was in a small town when there really were no other significant specialists that I could trust. I had a basic internist and I got on the internet and pub med and read everything that I possibly could and considered every option that might be viable and came up with three main criteria for choosing therapy. Number one was, is there any evidence that this might be beneficial? I think that was important. Number two, what’s the toxicity of this potential therapy? Number three, what’s the cost of it? You know, could I afford to do it? And I looked at a lot of things. I tried a lot of things. I tried everything and I could bring to me, but I really didn’t have the opportunity to go somewhere else, which really ended up being an advantage because it forced me to learn and it forced me to figure things out that I could make available for other people, which I did in my practice for years. And now we’re doing that through the programs that we do. But you know, when you go down the list of things, I mean, antibiotics is a top of the list. And for acute Lyme disease, I think they have value, but there are no studies supporting longterm use, none. And you’re talking about $40,000 to $60,000. I have seen people that are more devastated from the money that they spent on antibiotics that didn’t help them and the actual Lyme disease, which is terrible. So they’re financially bad and the antibiotics are really, really toxic. They destroy your flora and, and I could go in the book, I listed probably five or six things of reasons why.
Well, I almost died. I had, I had sepsis from mine. I almost died. I was in the emergency room for a week from it. It was because I had a port, and my port got infected, so I get it. Not to interrupt you, but yeah.
Dr. Rawls (16:38):
Yeah. So, that option was off the table. So I looked at ozone therapy, but that wasn’t going to work. I was going to conferences around the country, online disease, alternative medicine. I became certified in holistic medicine during that time. So I was getting out there. But you know, I looked at that criteria for ozone and and hyperbaric oxygen and hyperthermia and just all of these different things and all kept coming back to the herbs. I happened to read Stephen Buhner’s book. It was about the time that I was figuring Lyme out and Stephen Buhner produced a book called Evil and Blind. And I picked that up and it kind of opened the door to say, well maybe this herbal therapy is a reasonable thing to do. So that was early in the stage where I was going, okay, you know, there’s several thousand people that have used this and it reported benefit even though we don’t have the clinical studies, which are hard to do because they’re so expensive. But we’ve got people that have, because of the internet, a lot of people would report benefits. The potential for toxicity of herbs was really, really, really low. And the relative cost to everything else I could do was really very low also cost, good comparative cost. The other thing about the herbs is there is a lot more science out there than people realize. And there were good studies showing that these herbs do have antimicrobial properties, do have immune modulating properties and do a lot of other things to really protect ourselves and boost ourselves. That has been brought to light very recently. So, you know, it’s just been more and more evidence accumulating. So in February there was a study from Johns Hopkins University and Baltimore that they looked at the different herbs, some of the more common herbs, and it’s actually some of, most of the ones in our formulas and found that most of them were actually superior to antibiotics. They were able to kill the cyst forms and the mobile forms of bacteria, which antibiotics couldn’t do. So now we’ve even got more evidence saying herbs really are important. But the advantage of the herbs is you can, because of the low toxicity, you can take them for a long time. And that’s what it takes with these microbes. You have to wear them down and rebuild your immune system at the same time.
So let’s just say I don’t have a Lyme literate doctor near me and I don’t have a functional medicine doctor near me. Can I go on your herbal protocol and heal my Lyme or support my Lyme? And, and, and how long, you know, do you, would you suggest being on those herbs?
Dr. Rawls (19:43):
Yeah. And well, this is why I wrote the book. I wrote the book Unlocking Lyme. I took a year out of my life just to write that book, just detail everything that I went through and my experience with herbal therapy and to make a case for the fact that it should not be expensive to overcome Lyme disease. It just requires patience and persistence and that more than anything else, what I’ve seen with so many people that I’ve met is they get frustrated, you know, and they try one thing, they get a little benefit, um, and it doesn’t work or it stops working. So then they’re on to another thing. And then another thing, it’s just, you know, it’s really understanding what’s going on in your body. Understanding these microbes, understanding the immune system, is so important. And rebuilding your system and taking the herbs for a long, long time. So you know, people in rural areas. I’ve talked to plenty of folks that didn’t have access to Lyme doctors or integrated physicians and not the, not those individuals. I mean, I think there, there a lot of really good people who care about what they’re doing. Um, but I’ve also had people’s lives ruined by Lyme doctors who didn’t know what they were doing and they ended up in a $100,000 financial hole from it. And that’s happened way, way too much. It’s kind of a pet peeve of mine. So, yeah. So I think most people, if you get just a good general internist or family physician who you can really trust just to get basic medications, basic care, basic monitoring, you know, Lyme can lead to other things that, and it can mimic other things. So it’s important to have that medical evaluation and periodically keep up with that medical evaluation to just make sure there’s not something else going on to make sure you’re going in the right direction. So you do need the medical system and you do need the confidence of a medical provider that you can trust, but you don’t necessarily need specialized care. That being said, you know that the people who have access to that and can afford it and, and you find a functional medicine doctor or a Lyme doctor that knows what they’re doing, they can get people there faster. It’s just really, really expensive to do it. You know, quite frankly, you know, running an office, it’s really expensive to pay staff and and run everything and you don’t get much back from insurance when you do that. It’s a really frustrating situation for a lot of providers for the level of care that you offer. You know, our system is built on offering procedures and if you’re not offering procedures, if you’re just talking to people, I found out pretty quickly, it’s pretty easy to go broke. So there’s a huge incentive in our system for, for providers doing procedures on people. Talking is one thing, but man, if you can do a procedure even like 10 times more on that encounter. So it’s a huge incentive. It’s crazy. And it’s one of the reasons I ultimately left it because I was doing so much more good talking to people but wasn’t getting paid for it. Um, because our system just doesn’t reimburse that way and doesn’t cover that kind of expense. But so I think anybody can get, get over it. I think the keys, you know, I put so much of my foundation and herbal therapy and complementing that with healthy diet and good lifestyle modifications and good sleep and all of those things, which sometimes take time to cultivate. It took me years to crawl out of that hole, you know? And, and it, I was figuring things out along the way, but it took me five years before I would reach, reached a point where I said, okay, I’m recovered now, you know, I’m, I’m done with this thing. So it took a while, but within three months of taking the herbs, I started noticing a difference. There was an up and down course, but it just kept getting better and better. And yeah, that was ultimately the way for me.
I just wanted to say that I love what you said during one of your webinars, which is if you had the one test that said you had Lyme instead of getting another test to confirm it, if you have all the symptoms and the signs and it’s all there, just assume that you do and spend the money that you would on retesting on an herbal supplement or a protocol like that and just go ahead and start moving forward.
Dr. Rawls (24:50):
Yeah. We may be in a better place in 10 years, 20 years, 50 years, who knows? But right now our capacity to test for microbes that are in a chronic state is pretty low. You know, we’re talking about these microbes that are very deep and tissues. They’re not in the bloodstream. But they’re still suppressing the immune response and those are the things that you depend on for testing. So all of the testing standards, when a lab says, well, in our, our lab is 95% or our test is 95% good for picking up a Borellia from Lyme disease. What they’re saying is if you’re bitten by a tick acutely within that acute period, that acute phase, that’s when our test is really 95% good because that’s the standard that they’re monitoring. There’s no standard. We have no idea how good these tests are in chronic conditions. No one has ever looked at it that way. So there are an awful lot of people out there that are carrying the microbes that don’t know it. But beyond that, there are a lot of microbes that are, we define as stealth microbes or intracellular microbes that can cause the same symptoms. So there are plenty of people out there that have all of the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease, have a negative test, aren’t carrying Borellia, and they’re, they’re still virtually the same thing because you know we talk about these co-infections. Well, about a year or two ago, I sat down and look for all the microbes that were intracellular. It’d be classified as microbes, could cause chronic infections like Lyme disease. I came up with well over a hundred species of microbes, most of which we are not testing for routine month anywhere. So these things happen, we collect them and it’s our immune system and it’s never just one microbe, you know, this whole idea that we have microbes in our tissues is new. When I was in medical school, it was thought that the microbes in the body were pretty much isolated to the gut and the skin and research over the past five years has shown that’s just not true. And then nobody ever really looked at it. But now there’s studies out there showing that we actually have a microbiome of our brain. Every single one out is have hundreds of species of microbes in our brain. If you’ve got them in their brain, you’ve got them everywhere else. There’s studies showing that microbes can travel from the gut through the bloodstream by infecting and being harbored inside our red blood cells and travel to the brain and other tissues. We’re constantly bitten by ticks and variety of other sources. We breathe things in continually and we harbor these things in our tissues and we all do. Some are worse than others. If you don’t ever get bitten by a tick or don’t pick up some of these microbes that are associated with Lyme disease. Your risk of having these conditions is much lower, but the key is the immune system. You’ve got to have a healthy immune system.
Now, what’s your take on vitamins?
Dr. Rawls (28:31):
Okay, well defining vitamins, you know, and I think a lot of people just roll natural supplements and herbs together. Herbs are really one thing. And then natural supplements. When we look talk about vitamins and vitamin like substances, those are really two totally different things. So basically what you’re doing with different kinds of natural supplement therapies in the form of amino acids and vitamins is you’re trying to tweak the chemistry of the body by using those things to either replace lower levels, which sometimes happens in illness. We use more nutrients in certain areas than, than we do than we do otherwise, or amino acids trying to affect our neurotransmitters in our body because there’s so many. Many of our neurotransmitters, especially the things that they’re run our brain, our are amino acids are amino acid derivative. So if you’re using amino acids, you can sometimes influence those things. But it’s kind of the same strategy that we’re doing with drug therapy is we’re trying to affect the chemistry of the body where it’s been disrupted with using these different kinds of nutrients. And sometimes it works really well. A lot of times it doesn’t work very well and it isn’t really a direction that I’ve gone very much. The research, I mean it’s really hard to research the value of these nutrients in the body. And there aren’t very many studies out there, you know, we really don’t know very much about using vitamins and vitamin like substances in the body because studies like that are expensive and not many people are really doing them. So most physicians that are prescribing them or using them are kind of shooting from the hip as far as trying to figure things out. There are more and more types of lab testing, but some of these things are notoriously inaccurate. So it’s sometimes hard to gauge and I just didn’t go that route. I mean, there’s some nutrients that I think are really valuable. I put a lot of faith there. There’s good studies behind glutathione, inositol assisting and a few others. But I really took a totally different approach. And that is instead of trying to tweak the chemistry of the body, to trying to help the body tweak itself because our body, our cells have this extraordinary capacity to self regulate and self repair. And if you’re in that tail spin that they’re not able to do that, you can throw nutrients at it all day and it’s just not going to help. You have to take the pressure off. So my approach is more, let’s take the stress off the cells and the healing system and the body and the immune system, so the immune system can actually work. And if you do that, if you’re eating a good diet, 50% vegetables, mostly fresh food, and you’re, so you’re getting all your nutrients through your diet, your gastrointestinal system is designed to extract what your cells need and the quantities that your cells need them. So eating a good diet, it’s really important. Keeping your stress level down so you’re sleeping, moving enough. So all of these support things are really important for distress, storing the normal healing capacity of the body. And then the herbs. Wow. Are they powerful in that respect? So with the herbs, we’re not tweaking the chemistry of the body. We’re effecting the stress factors that are disrupting the chemistry of the body. So it’s really a totally different approach. So when you look at using herbs, basically what you’re doing is taking all the natural defenses being produced by the plant. So a plant is going to have to produce things to protect itself from a variety of different microbes, from free radicals, from just about all the stress factors that we are. So when you take an herb, you’re taking those natural defenses. So you’re suppressing not only the one microbe, but you’re suppressing all of the potential pathogens that we all have in our tissues. At the same time, you’re reducing inflammation and you are helping the immune system target these things better. So you’re basically, the herbs are fine tuning the immune system. The herbs are protecting the cells. When you protect cells and take stress off of cells, they use less energy, they burn out lunch slower and they and and so they’re more functional. If you make all the cells in your body functional again and you give yourselves all the nutrients that they need, you will reach a state of wellness. And the problem with that is it’s slow. It takes a long time to cultivate that and people get impatient. But I had seen so many remarkable things take place. It just can take years to get there. But it’s just patience and persistence and keeping at it. And, and so my approach is quite different than many providers.
Right. It sounds as though it’s not so much about building your immune system, it’s more about enhancing your ability to fight the bacteria. Is that, would that be correct?
Dr. Rawls (34:27):
I mean, you know, we have a cellular immune system, so it’s, you know, we have a very, very complex immune system made up of cells and all of those cells have to talk to one another. So it’s, you know, with these things that we call cytokines, the messengers that allow each of the immune cells to talk to other cells in the body. So if your cells aren’t getting nutrients and not, and are unhealthy, it means your immune system cells are stressed and aren’t healthy. And if your immune system I like to think of it is like going into a battle, you know, if you win a battle and you didn’t have good communications and everybody was just going off in different directions, you’re not going to get anywhere. You’re willing to lose badly. So those, the cytokines, all the communication systems of the immune system are really important. And we know that the microbes are trying to manipulate, you know, they infect white blood cells so they can manipulate that immune system in their favor. So you have to cut out the chatter and allow the immune cells to talk and take the stress off the immune cells with free radicals and other things the herbs provide and then the immune system starts to recover and as it recovers, you recover. So not only are you taking care of all the cells of your body and helping things work better, you know, you’re really taking care of your immune system and allowing it to rebound.
So the, the golden question would be for people with chronic illness and chronic Lyme, let’s say chronic Lyme specifically, are they able to successfully completely kill everything in their bodies?
Dr. Rawls (36:24):
Yeah. Yeah. Like very quick answer to that is absolutely not. There are, you will never eradicate all the potential pathogens, right? I like to think of it this way. You’ve got a big city like Los Angeles, right? You got criminals in Los Angeles, don’t you? Yeah. Are you ever going to get rid of them? No matter how good your police forces, Nope. And the same thing is true with microbes in your body. This is just an ongoing thing, I mean this, this conflict between higher living organisms and, and microbes, bacteria, protozoa, et cetera. This has been going on since the beginning of time. All living organisms have potential pathogens within them, all living organisms harbor intracellular microbes in their cells. Every single one. It is a fact of life. So it’s how you manage that and that is the job of your immune system and it just puts the immune system front and center with this whole thing every single time. So no I don’t think I’ve eradicated the microbes from my body. Maybe I have, I mean, I feel pretty darn good at 62 and doing all the things that I want to do. But yes, I still take herbs because when you look at this thing that we call aging, one of the biggest things that accelerates aging is this competition that we have with our microbes in our body. And there are so many studies now coming out and defining these associations between so many chronic illnesses and these kinds of microbes. And it’s not a microbe causing an illness. And that’s a problem with medical science. They’re always looking for that single smoking gun. And that’s not the case. It’s the immune system. And they missed that. So yes, chlamydia has been associated with multiple sclerosis. Barellia and P acnes, the microbe causes the acne and so many things has been associated with Alzheimer’s and the list just goes on and on and on and on. But chronic immune dysfunction is in the center of every single one of those illnesses and you find different microbes for different illnesses. But the studies are showing that there was a, there was a big study, there were two studies, one in the UK, one in Canada, this was 2016, 2017 that they were looking for evidence of microbes in the brains of one study of Alzheimer’s and the other EMS. And so they were looking for things like borrelia and things like that. It was autopsy specimen so they could get large amounts of tissue and they were separating out bacterial DNA from our DNA and able to match the segments. They found hundred, hundreds of microbes in every single specimen, but they also found them in the controls. Every single control specimen had hundreds of microbes and they did controls with people who had died of something other than a neurodegenerative disease. The difference was the people with the neurodegenerative diseases had a predominance of pro-inflammatory microbes of different varieties. And so what it says is their immune system wasn’t working. It wasn’t keeping these things in check. And, and that’s, that’s what we’re seeing, you know, that’s that. So competition with microbes and immune dysfunction as a central feature. I think of most illnesses right now, 20% of cancers are directly associated with intracellular microbes. 20%. I think though that figure is really low. I think it could be most of them, we just haven’t gone deep enough yet.
Well, we had touched on this earlier and I’d like to go back to it. Why do you think the medical community and insurance has not covered or acknowledged chronic Lyne?
Dr. Rawls (40:46):
Yeah, they just don’t understand it. Um, we understand things like COVID, all right. And it’s something that’s right in our face and is just right. This thing that you measure that is, you know, acute infections. You do a test you can rely on the test. Everybody, you know, you can identify the patients by symptoms. You know, who’s got it, they’re going to either die or they’re going to get well. We do wonderfully well with that and conventional medicine because it goes back to the mid 1800s to something called Koch’s Postulates. A guy named Koch defined this idea that for a pathogen to be a pathogen, it had to be the single entity that caused that illness. And the illness had to be well-defined and you could isolate that pathogen from someone with that illness. And it always causes the same symptoms each time. And we’ve found over the years that it’s just not accurate, but most of conventional medicine are still looking at that. You know, we still are looking for the pathogen that causes the illness and virtually everything that we do is in terms of of acute illness. So our conventional medical system does extremely well with acute care. You know, you break your leg or have a stroke or anything like that. We do medical care drugs, procedures that can acutely rectify that problem or at least stabilize it for a certain point of time. But we don’t do well with chronic illness because we’re applying those same tools. We’re taking, uh, potent antibiotics and potent drugs and potent things to try to treat the processes of chronic illness where you just can’t get well that way. You know, we’re artificially blocking processes which can result in a state of managed illness where symptoms are reduced and the person doesn’t die, they can living with this illness, but we’re not eradicating the illness because we’re not addressing the causes. We’re not looking at the underlying problem and saying, okay, what’s going on here and why is this person, you know, it’s, it’s the big question we always forget to ask in chronic illness, why is this person ill? And that’s something I started doing in my practice that, you know, the standard medical evaluation as well. Let’s collect all your symptoms, do a physical exam, get the labs, define your diagnosis so we can find the diagnosis and we can’t treat you until we find your diagnosis because we don’t really know what you have. And I had developed this reputation for people would come to me that were just being abandoned by the medical system and in that concept of diagnosis and that standard evaluation is valuable, especially in acute illness, less so in chronic illness. So my direction with it was when somebody came to me would be why is this person, you know, what is going on in their lives that are making them ill. and I would go down the list, you know, what are they eating? What is their lifestyle like, are they getting enough sleep? Are they getting outside? Have they been exposed to different kinds of microbes? They could have something chronic, is their immune system working properly? And so I looked at it from that point of view. I used to have these patients that would be seeing a specialist and you know, and they come to me and say, well, I’d say what are they doing for you? And it’s like, well, they’re not doing anything because they don’t have a diagnosis yet. I’ve got to go through all these testing and I don’t, they’re not going to do anything for me until I have my diagnosis. And it’s like, hmm, let’s see if we can figure out why you’re sick and see if we can get you well before you actually have a diagnosis. And it happened all the time. And you know, because it was looking at that, looking for the underlying reasons of why that person is sick. I do consults and I work through that situation and I help the person understand why they’re ill and that gives people strength, it empowers them. And it’s really important. And we don’t do enough of that in chronic illness because we don’t understand chronic illness as a medical profession. Maybe we’re getting closer. We’ve got a long way to go.
Along those lines for your patients, let’s say they start their herbal protocol and you’re monitoring them every so often, do you do occasional blood work for them to check in and adjust herbs or how does the lifespan of this go with your patients? Like their timeline?
Dr. Rawls (46:03):
Yeah, when I was first in my medical practice, I went and got integrated training, became certified and set up all the lab systems in my office. And I was basically doing integrative care the way a lot of integrated physicians are doing it, still looking for the diagnosis and that sort of thing. And as I went forward in time, I found that the more that I talk to people and really help understood what was going on with them and they understood what was going on, then I needed the labs less and less, labs going to be really expensive. You know, a lot of doctors do well with labs financially. You know, it’s, it’s kinda like the, the Lyme disease thing. You know, the only difference between fibromyalgia and chronic Lyme disease is in my opinion is somebody had a positive test for Lyme disease, but was there a fundamentally the same thing? And, that test is valuable because people, I remember, you know, when I was first going with this, it was like, okay, well my doctor said I had this Fibromyalgia thing, but wow, if I could get a diagnosis for Lyme disease, I might be treated and wow, all of the symptoms are the same and I’d get the test and they’d be negative. And it wasn’t until later that I had a positive test. And so you ended up in this situation of just doing labs to kind of cover for things because you’re not taking the time to talk to the patients. And it was very frustrating because I found that the more time that I talked with people and got to know their situation, the better that I would be able to help them, the fewer labs that I needed and the less I got reimbursed to the point of hardly being able to keep the doors open because it wasn’t doing all the labs anymore. It wasn’t doing procedures that was making people well, we didn’t need to do that stuff. So yes, there is value in laboratory testing, but we don’t have any good test right now for immune dysfunction and we don’t have any practical way to monitor whether we’re actually eradicating these microbes. And we don’t really understand the microbiome well enough to know to measure out select species or the microbiome. So most of our lab tests aren’t very specific. You know, we do CDC’s, we do chemistries and they don’t give us a huge amount of information. Patients give me more information than anything else. I was told by my grandfather, if you listen to the patient, they’ll tell you what’s wrong. And it’s true.
Interesting. Interesting. This has been absolutely amazing. I could sit here and talk to you all day because you’re so knowledgeable. Now, are you still seeing patients as consultations or are you strictly just doing, you know, your vital plan and online.
Dr. Rawls (49:41):
Right now I’m putting all my energy into writing and, and working that way. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of going back and doing clinical practice again. I had this practice in a small town, an integrated practice in a really small town in North Carolina and before integrated, anybody really knew much of what an integrated practice was. And again the more I time I spent with people, the more I had, the better outcomes I had, the fewer procedures I did. And again, it was really hard to pay my staff and pay the rent every month. So eventually closed the office and took a year to write Unlocking Lyme and then I put all my energies into writing and connecting with people otherwise with our program. We have a Facebook group that I am very visible and as far as trying to answer people’s questions. So I tried to provide all the resources that I can to help people help themselves. But it’s, it’s frustrating going, you know, about six months ago I looked into going to work at a clinic, an integrative clinic here in, we actually moved to a larger town in Wilmington, North Carolina and went into and thought about going back to practice and talk to the practitioner who is actually selling their practice. I’m thinking about buying it until I found out that yeah, she did do integrative care and she did talk to her patients, but 80% of her revenue came from putting hormone pellets in people. Not really what I want to do, but that’s how you get paid. And that’s just how it is.
So tell our listeners about Unlocking Lyme.
Dr. Rawls (51:50):
Um, well again, I took a whole year of my life out to write the book. And so I put all the information that I thought could possibly be valuable for making this course. And it was for that person who is stuck in a rural area, doesn’t have a high level of wealth and can’t afford to go to Lyme doctors or just doesn’t have access to that kind of care. It’s a guide book for them, but of course it’s a guide book for anyone. So the first five chapters are really helping people understand what Lyme disease really is and it’s a lot of what we’ve been talking about during this podcast. And that’s the first five chapters. But then the whole other part of it is herbal therapy, understanding why the herbs work, understanding why herbs are a better option than antibiotics. Beyond that though is looking at all the different therapies that are out there. You know, I consider the lifestyle diet and herbal therapy as a foundation. So that doesn’t rule out having other kinds of therapy. It doesn’t rule out intermittent use of antibiotics. It doesn’t rule out ozone or any of the other kinds of therapies that can have some value in certain situations as far as getting people there faster. So I discussed the pros and cons of all of those things in the book I talk about how to develop a relationship with a healthcare provider. So really everything that I could possibly think of. Other alternative therapies for inflammation, dealing with sleep and pain, cbd. So there’s a lot of stuff in there.
I loved it. Yeah, I love that book. I read it immediately. I think I was on your preorder so it shipped right when you released it. And I read it in a weekend and out of all the Lyme books, I’ve pretty much read most of the Lyme books that are out there and really, that one spoke to me and so I was so excited to have you on here. Just because I feel like you’re a little bit of like my hero cause I’ve been following you for the past year. You are very involved in and responding to people on social media. And so I feel like I knew you without even, um, knowing you when we got on today. So I’m so appreciative that you came on and this has been absolutely amazing.
Dr. Rawls (54:21):
Well, thank you. And it’s, uh, it’s good to meet you guys too. Yeah. Get the word out there. That’s what it’s all about.
That’s what it’s all about. And your book is my go-to recommendation for anyone really.
Dr. Rawls (54:51):
That’s awesome. Yeah. Well, well thank you for the opportunity to get this out there. We try to reach as many people as we possibly can and there’s a lot of misunderstanding about Lyme disease and chronic Lyme disease who it’s really hard to reach people. There’s a lot of censoring going on by Google, the FDA, everybody because you know, when people don’t understand something, they find it to be threatening. And that is frustrating to reach the people that are really need this the very most so books work. That was how I felt like I could reach the most people and do the most good.
Thank you so much. And for those, for those of you that would like to learn a little bit more about Dr. Rawls, you can find him at RawlsMD.com and in addition to his website, you can find his supplements on our website, thetickchicks.com. Thank you so much.
Dr. Rawls (55:58):