Show 210 Part 2: Is Lyme an Autoimmune? with Dr. Julia Greenspan

In this second show snippet, Q&A from our interview ‘Is it Lyme Disease or an Autoimmune Condition?’ we welcome Dr. Julia Greenspan in this intriguing Q&A excerpt where we explore is Lyme an autoimmune and can it cause autoimmune?

Listen to the full compelling interview at for more about Lyme disease and how often it is misdiagnosed as an autoimmune condition.

Dr. Julia Greenspan has recovered from Lyme and one surprise she shares in the interview is, ‘you don’t have to see a tick on you or the circular, outwardly expanding rash common with infection to have contracted Lyme.’

SHARON: I want to turn our attention to this idea of “Is Lyme disease a true autoimmune or is it a precursor to autoimmune? Does it create autoimmune?”

DR. JULIA: As far as it creating autoimmune, we’re just going to talk specifically about spirochetes because I think it would get too big if we try to talk about the other tick-borne infections.

I just want to start with the fact that the biggest issue with them is that spirochetes are shaped like spirals. They’re like little corkscrews and they’re very fast. Their corkscrew shape helps them propel themselves to the body.

So once a tick bites a human, this goes into the human’s bloodstream. Spirochetes don’t want to be in the blood. They don’t want to be around oxygen. They don’t want to be in that space.

They love fat and sugar. Fat is going to be your neurological system; sugar and proteins are going to be related to your joints. Those places are perfect homes for them.

So they go and find homes there. And they can drill through tissue and go and land in those spaces. Just their mere presence there ─ this is where it gets a little squirmy.

SHARON: I had a little bit of shiver there. It sounds terrible.

DR. JULIA: I do this every day so I forget that it can be a little bit yucky. Let’s say, somebody has a genetic predisposition, a family history of creating autoimmune disease, or let’s say, they have an HLA-B27 genetic marker, people who more commonly will develop rheumatoid arthritis or some sort of autoimmune issue ─ Sjögren’s or lupus or something along those lines ─ if Lyme goes into those cavities, the body doesn’t want it there and it will keep trying to clear it from those areas by creating inflammation, by regulating the immune system to that area.

It starts to look like an autoimmune disease because as the body tries to attack or fight or get rid of this microbe that it doesn’t like being there and that doesn’t belong there, over time, it can’t necessarily clear the infection very efficiently but it keeps creating this cyclic inflammation pathway over and over again; and cytokines are released which are immune cells that can create an inflammation response and participate in that.

And so, if that keeps happening over and over again, the tissue starts to release things like rheumatoid factor and ANA. In your bloodwork, you’d start to see positives on certain panels for autoimmune disease because those tissues are under stress and distress but a microbe isn’t necessarily thought of as the cause.

So, then, a lot of times, people get labeled as having autoimmune disease because “Here, look at these proteins. They’re elevated. This is happening and we don’t know why this is happening. This is just happening to you and you either you have a family history of it.” Or even if you don’t, usually, with autoimmune, you don’t have to have a reason for it to happen.”

Then, it becomes more symptom management at that point because they exist and you’re having the pain in your joints.

But the original instigators were the potential spirochetes in those spaces in your body and this repeated inflammation cycle that happens. And then, you mix that with your own genetics and your own body milieu, your own stressors, and other aspects of your health. It can be a perfect storm for up-regulating something where you might not have created or manifested autoimmune until later in life. Maybe that wouldn’t have happened to you at all or it wouldn’t happen until you’re in your sixties or seventies.

But now because of Lyme entering the system, it’s like a key and it just pops it in and turns on those pathways and up-regulates and creates an autoimmune picture or autoimmune disease.

SHARON: If we’re aware that we’ve been bitten by the tick and we’re aware that we have this spirochete, can we eliminate them medically or are they’re there and they’ve just drilled into everything and we have to deal with it?

DR. JULIA: Both. With Lyme, if you catch it early enough in the infection in the acute phase like right when you got bitten, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll find a tick on you or see a bull’s eye rash which everybody thinks in terms of Lyme; and only a small percentage of people compared to the majority of people who get bitten get that rash at all so a lot of people dismiss and think,

I’m fine. I didn’t get anything. And we pull off the tick and go, I didn’t get the ring so I’m okay, and they don’t treat.

But that doesn’t mean you didn’t get infected.

As far as treatment, the reason why I say “both” is because, physically, I don’t know if Lyme ever really officially gets cleared or cured. I don’t want to say that it can’t either. I don’t know for sure. And no doctor could really tell you whether that’s the case or not because there’s no way they could go in and find out if those microbes were left over in the system.

But can it be treated?   Yes.

Can somebody treat and then be off treatment and go have a high quality of life without requiring treatment and go years without needing anything?   Yes.

Can you get re-bit after being treated and get re-infected and go through the same cycle over again?   Yes.

So just getting it once doesn’t mean you can’t get it again. It really depends on how the body takes in medications. Typically, in my office, depending on what the patient wants, I will do a combination of antibiotic therapy along with natural medications: herbs, homeopathy, dietary changes, natural medicine in combination together.

And some people just choose to do natural medicine alone. But it really depends on where somebody is starting with the disease when they’re first coming in for medical care. If it’s early on the disease, you have a much easier time of completely eradicating it. If you go and deal with the bite right away and you get treated for an adequate amount of time at the get-go, you’re reducing significantly the chances of becoming a chronic illness patient or heading down that road of autoimmunity And, before the infection imbeds in the system. Lyme has different stages. In the acute stage, it’s just entered the body. There isn’t a large population of them. They haven’t really had the chance to get deeper into deeper into the tissue.

The longer an infection stays in the body, the more it goes deeper into different areas of the body: the neurological system; joints; muscle; organ systems.

And so, the delay in treatment is a big factor.

SHARON: What else should we know about Lyme? Let’s say, we have it and we’ve gone through protocols. Does it flare or is it actually a re-infection?
Does it flare?

DR. JULIA: Yes, it does. There’s also something common in the Lyme community. It’s officially called the “Jarisch-Herxheimer” reaction named after two scientists who discovered that when the body is trying to get rid of toxins, it will up-regulate an inflammation reaction. It’s sort of like a hangover. The closest, easiest, or simplest way would be to think of it in terms of a hangover.

But, in Lyme, when you start to treat Lyme, people’s symptoms will get worse before they get better. The flare will go up and down and up and down for a period of time.

As a practitioner, I know that the patient is getting better when I have them on the same treatment and they’re not getting the flares anymore. And we treat until those flares disappear for a good period of time before I stop.

A good chunk of people end up not having flares come back or end up not having a relapse but a lot of patients do because their body is not just done or time goes by and spirochetes repopulate or they got bit again.

In this area where I am, it is so completely easy. It could go either way. It could very easily be a new bite that they didn’t even know about especially if they’re well for a couple of years and then, all of a sudden, they have a flare.

But you also have to take into consideration that if Lyme patients are doing well, all of a sudden ─ just as I’m sure with autoimmune ─ if there’s a death in the family, if they have a car accident, if something happens like even kids leaving for college or just any major life transitions like they get fired from a job and shocked by that, that can cause a flare.

So stress definitely, just like with any other illness, plays a role here.

SHARON: Do diet and nutrition, other than the obvious, play a role? I know, a lot of times in autoimmune, they play much more integral roles than just the obvious of getting the right nutrients and vitamins.

DR. JULIA: Absolutely! I would say that most of my patients usually end up needing to remove gluten from their diet. They end up becoming more sensitive to it and they get more joint pain, more brain fog, and more symptoms from food. Their gut becomes a little bit more sensitive to things because the immune system is so bogged down with an infection that it’s now starting to overreact to foods that it normally didn’t before.

So, a lot of times, I’d do food sensitivity testing with patients or look into gut permeability. Leaky gut is a term that comes up quite often. I’d look into those components and make sure that the gut is healthy and that we’ve removed things from the diet.

Obviously, there’s also the component of common sense: reducing or eliminating sugars that are not healthy for us. My hard and fast rule is that anything white powder or white sugar or white flour and into something like pasta, a bread, or any grains, pastries, and things like that just got to go.

And it’s not easy for a lot of patients to make that change but once they finally do, it can make a huge change in how they move through them and progress and start to improve and get better and get over it faster.

SHARON: I think that’s critically important ─ the curiosity of your own body and coming up with your own wellness path… Thank you, Dr. Julia! So helpful. Everyone, that’s Dr. Julia Greenspan sharing common symptoms and diagnosis of Lyme and tick-borne disease. Find the complete audio and video of this interview at

Dr. Julia Greenspan is a naturopathic doctor and author of the book “Rising Above Lyme Disease.” Dr. Greenspan is a Lyme Literate Doctor with a majority of her patients having some form of the tick-borne disease. She has been listed in the Top Doctor’s Reader’s Poll with New Hampshire Magazine several times and interviewed as an expert on tick-borne illnesses on TV, radio, podcasts and in print media. Dr. Greenspan’s website is
And, thank you for coming with us on another great adventure in Q&As. Remember to join the Courage Club!

In joy;

DISCLAIMER: The information provided on, The Autoimmune Show, or The Autoimmune Hour is for educational purposes only. Seek sound professional advice. Sharon Sayler is not a medical doctor or a medical professional. We are talking about other people’s research and our own anecdotal experiences including those of and with clients, listeners, and friends.

Add comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Join The Courage Club

Join us in the Autoimmune Show's Courage Club, where we bring together top experts and courageous first-hand stories of those with autoimmune to bring you the latest insights about how to thrive regardless of your diagnosis.

Sign up below to be the first to find out about new shows, get the transcripts of previous shows, plus an immediate download of the helpful ebook ‘Five Things You Can Do Immediately That Will Help You Feel Better.’

About Your Host, Sharon Sayler

Your host, Sharon Sayler is a certified executive and wellness coach, communications trainer, public speaker, best selling author, and the founder of Competitive Edge Communications who specializes in teaching professionals critical nonverbal and body language skills including how to have those critical “tough” conversations. She teaches how to up-your-impact on the stage, in the boardroom, with clients, customers, team members and even how to deal with difficult people.

Now, she's taken those skills, her passion for clear and competent communication, her own experience dealing with a rare medical condition and her frustration with the medical community in understanding what it is like to have a chronic and complicated medical condition to teach others to become courageous self-advocates so they too can turn life transitions into triumphs. One way she spreads the word is through the podcast and videocast called The Autoimmune Show: Inspiring hope and help for those with autoimmune.

Thank you for visiting Be sure and join the Courage Club here at

Aware of our potential to make a difference, we support:


We use cookies to personalise content and ads, to provide social media features and to analyse our traffic. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners.
Cookies settings
Privacy & Cookie policy
Privacy & Cookies policy
Cookie name Active

Privacy Policy

What information do we collect?

We collect information from you when you register on our site or place an order. When ordering or registering on our site, as appropriate, you may be asked to enter your: name, e-mail address or mailing address.

What do we use your information for?

Any of the information we collect from you may be used in one of the following ways: To personalize your experience (your information helps us to better respond to your individual needs) To improve our website (we continually strive to improve our website offerings based on the information and feedback we receive from you) To improve customer service (your information helps us to more effectively respond to your customer service requests and support needs) To process transactions Your information, whether public or private, will not be sold, exchanged, transferred, or given to any other company for any reason whatsoever, without your consent, other than for the express purpose of delivering the purchased product or service requested. To administer a contest, promotion, survey or other site feature To send periodic emails The email address you provide for order processing, will only be used to send you information and updates pertaining to your order.

How do we protect your information?

We implement a variety of security measures to maintain the safety of your personal information when you place an order or enter, submit, or access your personal information. We offer the use of a secure server. All supplied sensitive/credit information is transmitted via Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology and then encrypted into our Payment gateway providers database only to be accessible by those authorized with special access rights to such systems, and are required to?keep the information confidential. After a transaction, your private information (credit cards, social security numbers, financials, etc.) will not be kept on file for more than 60 days.

Do we use cookies?

Yes (Cookies are small files that a site or its service provider transfers to your computers hard drive through your Web browser (if you allow) that enables the sites or service providers systems to recognize your browser and capture and remember certain information We use cookies to help us remember and process the items in your shopping cart, understand and save your preferences for future visits, keep track of advertisements and compile aggregate data about site traffic and site interaction so that we can offer better site experiences and tools in the future. We may contract with third-party service providers to assist us in better understanding our site visitors. These service providers are not permitted to use the information collected on our behalf except to help us conduct and improve our business. If you prefer, you can choose to have your computer warn you each time a cookie is being sent, or you can choose to turn off all cookies via your browser settings. Like most websites, if you turn your cookies off, some of our services may not function properly. However, you can still place orders by contacting customer service. Google Analytics We use Google Analytics on our sites for anonymous reporting of site usage and for advertising on the site. If you would like to opt-out of Google Analytics monitoring your behaviour on our sites please use this link (

Do we disclose any information to outside parties?

We do not sell, trade, or otherwise transfer to outside parties your personally identifiable information. This does not include trusted third parties who assist us in operating our website, conducting our business, or servicing you, so long as those parties agree to keep this information confidential. We may also release your information when we believe release is appropriate to comply with the law, enforce our site policies, or protect ours or others rights, property, or safety. However, non-personally identifiable visitor information may be provided to other parties for marketing, advertising, or other uses.


The minimum information we need to register you is your name, email address and a password. We will ask you more questions for different services, including sales promotions. Unless we say otherwise, you have to answer all the registration questions. We may also ask some other, voluntary questions during registration for certain services (for example, professional networks) so we can gain a clearer understanding of who you are. This also allows us to personalise services for you. To assist us in our marketing, in addition to the data that you provide to us if you register, we may also obtain data from trusted third parties to help us understand what you might be interested in. This ‘profiling’ information is produced from a variety of sources, including publicly available data (such as the electoral roll) or from sources such as surveys and polls where you have given your permission for your data to be shared. You can choose not to have such data shared with the Guardian from these sources by logging into your account and changing the settings in the privacy section. After you have registered, and with your permission, we may send you emails we think may interest you. Newsletters may be personalised based on what you have been reading on At any time you can decide not to receive these emails and will be able to ‘unsubscribe’. Logging in using social networking credentials If you log-in to our sites using a Facebook log-in, you are granting permission to Facebook to share your user details with us. This will include your name, email address, date of birth and location which will then be used to form a Guardian identity. You can also use your picture from Facebook as part of your profile. This will also allow us and Facebook to share your, networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Facebook account settings. If you remove the Guardian app from your Facebook settings, we will no longer have access to this information. If you log-in to our sites using a Google log-in, you grant permission to Google to share your user details with us. This will include your name, email address, date of birth, sex and location which we will then use to form a Guardian identity. You may use your picture from Google as part of your profile. This also allows us to share your networks, user ID and any other information you choose to share according to your Google account settings. If you remove the Guardian from your Google settings, we will no longer have access to this information. If you log-in to our sites using a twitter log-in, we receive your avatar (the small picture that appears next to your tweets) and twitter username.

Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Compliance

We are in compliance with the requirements of COPPA (Childrens Online Privacy Protection Act), we do not collect any information from anyone under 13 years of age. Our website, products and services are all directed to people who are at least 13 years old or older.

Updating your personal information

We offer a ‘My details’ page (also known as Dashboard), where you can update your personal information at any time, and change your marketing preferences. You can get to this page from most pages on the site – simply click on the ‘My details’ link at the top of the screen when you are signed in.

Online Privacy Policy Only

This online privacy policy applies only to information collected through our website and not to information collected offline.

Your Consent

By using our site, you consent to our privacy policy.

Changes to our Privacy Policy

If we decide to change our privacy policy, we will post those changes on this page.
Save settings
Cookies settings