Perturbation theory is a phrase that was kicking around in my mind after I wrote the last post about my evolving views of exercise and how it fits into a full recovery. I looked it up and realized that it was not quite what I thought, but that its actual meaning is as interesting as what I wanted it to mean.
Below, you’ll find my analysis of what happens when I perturb the stasis that I sometimes find, the periods of time when I’m well, then do something simple that unexpectedly reduces my capacity by a lot. There is also a report on the two-day coiling challenge to see if Babesia is at the root of my current struggle with having no energy. I’ll end with the next stage of fighting Bartonella and how I plan to get past the place I’ve returned to where I’ve gotten stuck before.
When I thought about the phrase, Perturbation Theory, I defined it for myself in the context of treating chronic tick-borne illnesses. If I set everything up right, I can keep my symptoms to a manageable level that allows me to function each day and do what I’d like to do. If I perturb the system, with exercise, travel, certain foods, lack of supplements, changing my coiling routine, missing a night’s sleep or catching a cold, then the system crashes. And of course, I crash and become more incapacitate for some period of time.
Conversely, when things feel bad, when I have a symptom that is incapacitating and won’t go away, I can perturb the system to my benefit. When the symptoms are from Lyme, I coil more often until they go away. When they are from Babesia, I coil a lot for a few weeks, watching them get worse than better. Sometimes a free floating symptom might be temporarily tackled with a strong anti-oxidant supplement, though that tends not to solve the problem unless I keep coiling for the underlying infection.
We’ll get back to this idea shortly.
What Perturbation Theory is in the world of mathematics (and quantum mechanics, which is where I first heard the phrase about 20 years ago) is the idea that for an unsolvable problem, one can find a similar problem that is solvable and use the solution to get an approximate solution to the unsolvable problem. Then to get a better approximation, one breaks the unsolvable problem into two parts, the solvable part and the unsolvable part, and uses a “perturbation” to approximate the difference that represents the unsolvable part. (Click the link above to get a more thorough explanation.)
To apply it to the chronic tick-borne infections I carry, the unsolvable problem is how to get rid of all the infections and be unaffected by them for the rest of my life. The more solvable problem is how to reach a state where I am in no way debilitated by each illness, in other words, that I put each infection into remission. I’ve solved this problem on an extended, but not permanent basis for Babesia, and for a shorter but still extended time, for Lyme. I have not found a solution yet for Bartonella.
The question then becomes: how do I add small perturbations to my solution for the remission periods to get closer and closer to eradicating the infections? What I’ve come up with so far is to trigger the infections by doing things I want to be able to do in the elusive stage in my future, the one I call, “When I Am Well,” and coil until the infection is no longer able to thrive in the altered physical environment.
These small perturbations, using either definition of Perturbation Theory, seem to have an effect on my abilities, both in the short and long run. In the short run, many perturbations have a negative consequence. I feel worse. I can do less. I am more tired. I have more pain, etc. In the long run, I often return to a state of fewer symptoms, as long as I coil adequately while I am experiencing the symptoms.
Again, the converse is true. When I generate small perturbations that make me “feel” better in the short term, like adding in anti-oxidants, they eventually become less effective, or I decide I don’t want to take them forever and I stop. In the long run, they have postponed my ability to kill off the underlying infection by keeping it dormant, while I enjoyed temporary symptom relief.
This concept is important for a few reasons. First, I have always believed, and continue to believe, that I should start where I am in treatment (with supplements or other modalities to reduce symptoms or increase detoxification), add in as much coiling as I can stand until the herx reactions die down, then go back and reduce the adjunct treatments. When I reached the point where I didn’t need much additional treatment beyond coiling, then I experimented with changing other things, like foods or exercise. I didn’t have the theoretical basis behind it, I was simply ready to try to get my life back to normal.
The second reason this is important right now is that I’m at a crossroads with Bartonella and I’m trying to decide how much support to give my kidneys. The best treatment, by far, that allowed me to coil a tremendous amount and make big progress on Bartonella was to sweat regularly, mostly in a dry sauna, but also with hot baths. Doing this will prevent me from continuing progress on Lyme, and quite frankly, might cause the Bartonella to become dormant as well. So it is on my mind while I figure out what to do with Bartonella.
Babesia Coiling Test
This past week, I did a short test to see if my persistent fatigue is likely caused by a Babesia relapse. Frankly, I was hoping it wasn’t, but I’ve learned over and over that ignoring Babesia relapses just slows everything down.
I tested for it by coiling for Babesia. On Sunday, I coiled my liver twice, 10 minutes at 753Hz and 10 minutes at 570Hz. It was a short provocation to see if I either triggered a migraine or had a night sweat. On the same day, I also coiled for Bartonella. I had a tension headache that evening. The weather cooled and I had no sweat of any kind overnight. I was as tired the next day as I had been the previous days.
I continued the test on Tuesday and Wednesday, doing a full body coiling protocol each day. No migraine type headaches (but another tension headache, which I’ve been getting more often with continued coiling for Bartonella), no night sweats, about the same level of fatigue.
Basically I decided that Babesia coiling was having no effect. If either I’d had a big change in energy (better or worse), or had migraines or nightsweats or low blood pressure, I would know that Babesia was playing a role in my current fatigue. But, for now, I’ve had a negative result. So I can focus on Bartonella and not worry about coiling for Babesia.
Having now convinced myself that fatigue is not from Babesia, I had a feeling like I’d reach this point before, several times. Bartonella, as I often write, is the infection I think I’ve had since childhood, and the one that seems most embedded in my body.
This week, besides the Babesia test, I ran into my rough patch with Bartonella. It started with increasing kidney pain. One night I had day-glo yellow urine, something I haven’t seen since I took traditional Chinese herbs in January. I’ve been feeling exhausted and out of sorts all week. Constipation has returned. My joints are bothering me again. I’ve even had a return of the dreaded butt acne.
Not only have I reached this point in previous years while coiling for Bartonella, it is exactly at this point in taking IV Rocephin that I discontinued using it. Now, after getting to this point and abandoning Bartonella treatment multiple times, I can recognize that this is yet another time when my saying, the only way out is through, applies.
When I was on Rocephin, the kidney pain was coupled with insomnia (which hasn’t (yet?) returned this time). I couldn’t sleep when I was taking it. Then, after about 13 weeks, I started having serious joint pain again, so I decided to stop. First, I wasn’t familiar with the idea that Rocephin treats Bartonella as well as Lyme, and that it’s the only drug to do so that I took that penetrates the blood brain barrier. Second, since I thought I was treating Lyme, I assumed that I was having medication side effects and that I had reached a plateau and it was time to go on something else to treat my joints again.
If I understood then what I believe now, that Bartonella is the primary culprit in my disability, and that Lyme and Babesia were what pushed my body past the point that it could contain Bartonella, I would have started with Rocephin and stayed on it much longer. But I just didn’t have the information then. I’ve learned a lot by coiling and being able to figure out which infections cause which symptoms. I even understand the overlapping symptoms better now. Beyond that, I would have preferred to start with Rocephin rather than taking so many other different antibiotics first and killing off so much of my gut microbiome.
Even now, I have moments when I want to stop coiling and just take Rocephin until all the neurological problems go away. In my fantasy, Rocephin would be faster and more direct. But I’m not yet ready to give up on coiling since I’m also familiar with the side effects I experienced with Rocephin.
The only way to get past this point in treating Bartonella is to coil until my kidneys are fine and the neurological symptoms I’ve been writing about for the past few months are behind me. (These include: tingling in my arms and legs; pain in my arms, wrists and hands that follows my ulnar nerve or my radial nerve; a funny sensation on one side of my body, formerly the right side, but it switched to the left on Thursday; muscle spasms in my upper back and left shoulder; tension headaches from muscle spasms; strange sounds and lack of sound in my right ear; and on and on.)
The plan at this point, starting today, is to coil my central nervous system for Bartonella three times a day (5 minutes in each of the following locations: head — each side, top, and back; spine — upper, middle, and lower; each shoulder knob). The question is then, how do I keep up with the herxes, particularly the way they affect my kidneys? The first thing is that I’m starting to drink dandelion root tea daily. The second is that I’m starting to drink kombucha again. Both of those have the possible side effect of suppressing Lyme or even Bartonella. I don’t plan to do another round of traditional Chinese herbs because I’m not totally sure that they didn’t suppress the Bartonella as well as heal my kidneys. Then there is the last thing I am considering: hot salt baths.
These baths are great in some ways. I don’t have to fill the tub too much (I live in drought-ridden California) to get my body temperature up and get myself sweating. Once I’m sweating, I feel so much better. The kidney pain goes away. In fact, it is the only thing I’ve done for Bartonella that has gotten rid of kidney pain while I continue to coil aggressively. I was going to a dry sauna at the gym three times a week two years ago in autumn. I was coiling a lot back then. When I didn’t go, I the pain came back, along with many Lyme symptoms. When I did, I felt energized, like a new woman. It is incredibly tempting.
I don’t plan to join a gym again at this point. I tried for the month of April and I just didn’t recover from one activity fast enough before the next attempt at a class or workout to make financial sense. (Nevermind that the pool was unavailable the whole first week, or that the yoga class I wanted to take was cancelled for two of the four Fridays in the month). More importantly, I’m not yet committed to sweating in a dry sauna as my primary method of sweating. I have two other options: the biomat, which I haven’t used in two years, or baths.
So the question over the next few days is whether I will start doing things to make me sweat out the Bartonella toxins, or whether I can make it through with just lots of water, tea, and kombucha.
The last two things on my mind are yoga and acupuncture. I had an acupuncture session this week. I felt weak in addition to fatigued. I had reached a point on Tuesday that I didn’t even have an appetite. After my treatment on Wednesday, my appetite came back. Acupuncture seems to help me from falling through the floor, but it is one of those things that doesn’t quite help me get better from the infections, either. So it stays on my list of what to do as things get worse.
I finally made it to the Friday yoga class at the gym. (After two weeks of the teacher cancelling without announcing it, the third week I was too sick to go.) It was good and bad. Some of the work we did on our postures really worked my lateral muscles in my abdomen. I can feel it even more today than I did yesterday. It is that not-too-unpleasant pain that muscles feel when they’ve been worked more than normal.
What didn’t go so well was in one of the poses, the teacher came to adjust my position. She pushed me into a position that made my back seize up on the left side, just above my iliac crest. I told her my body doesn’t go that way and moved back into a less intense position. She said, “Yes, it does,” and pushed my hip again. I had to tell her she was hurting me to get her to back off.
The rest of the class and most of the rest of the day I had pain in a place that used to hurt all the time, from mid-2007 through the beginning of 2014. I was really upset. It dragged me back to the time when I couldn’t walk and all of the subsequent slow progress to try to walk normally again. It took me back to the unmitigated, constant pain I was in. It triggered a lot of hopelessness about ever getting through Bartonella or having a long-term Lyme remission.
Deep breath. Today the pain in my back is gone. I’m not sad to let the gym membership expire and go back to doing yoga on my own as best I can.