Lyme Disease Germany Part 2: Hello, Cryo

[This week, Lyme Nation posts a series of blogs sharing our recent trip to Germany, to receive two immune-boosting treatments for people with Lyme:  cryotherapy and apheresis.]

This is my first blog on a specific medical treatment, so I feel that it’s important to say up front that I am not a medical doctor.  The information in this blog is not, nor should it be considered or used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  As a Lyme patient myself, I had to sort my way through the often confusing menu of treatment options.  My goal is to help others who are in this process by sharing my personal experiences as well as those of other Lyme patients on our collective journey to “better.”  Lyme Nation does not receive any compensation for material presented here.  We are independent and – as our Manifesto states believe strongly in keeping an open mind to all viewpoints around our stated mission.IMG_1436First stop, Viersen, Germany to meet with Dr. Sergej Dorochov and his wife and business partner Elisabeth  Dr. Dorochov practices cryotherapy – the application of liquid nitrogen.  What does this have to do with Lyme?  Many Lyme patients suffer from chronically infected throats and sinuses.  Also, it’s important for people with Lyme to strengthen their immune systems – a strong immune system helps keep the Lyme under control and prevents other types of infections from invading the body.  Cryotherapy improves immune function overall both through clearing up infection and regenerating immune cells.

Humans have used various types of cold therapy for thousands of years.  Cryotherapy in the modern world has existed since the 1800′s.  Dr. Irving S. Cooper, a New York neurosurgeon, popularized it in 1913 when he developed a liquid nitrogen probe to freeze previously inoperable brain tumors  The primary form of cryotherapy worldwide is cryosurgery – destruction of tissue by application of minus 196 degree nitrogen for minutes at a time.  Cryosurgery is indicated for people who can’t tolerate anesthesia or who are otherwise at high risk for standard surgery.

Dr. Dorochov hails from Russia, where he is certified as a pediatrician and an Ear/Nose/Throat specialist.  As a medical student he discovered the regenerative power of cold therapy by accident.  He was beginning a cryotherapy treatment on a boy with infected tonsils, when the boy became upset.  So Dr. Dorochov stopped the treatment, and sent him home.  When the child returned some weeks later, Dr. Dorochov was astonished to see that the child’s tonsil tissue had grown back.  Thus regenerative cryo was born – where cold is applied for only a few seconds at a time, instead of the minutes of cold application that are used for cryosurgery.

Why cryo?  Each time a person gets an infection such as strep, the bacteria penetrates a little deeper into the tonsils.  Gradually little caves or “crypts” form in the tonsils, and bacteria can linger there.  Typically tonsils are always sluffing cells, but when crypts form that sluffing function is impaired.  Over time, the tonsils can stop working as protective and excretory organs, and can become an source of infection in the body.  When that happens, other lymph tissue in the throat “pick up the slack,” and small pockets of lymphatic debris and pus (called lymphatic folliculitis) form causing a chronic sore throat.  These lumps of infection are sealed off, hard for the body to recognize or fight, and so persist, a subterranean infection.  Prior to the invention of regenerative cryo, there was no way to cure this type of chronic sore throat.  Dr. Dorochov remembers his professors telling him that if he saw this condition in patients “not to tell them about it, because there’s nothing we can do.”  When he presented his cryotherapy method to his instructors, they asked “What, do you want to be better than your teachers?”  Dr. Dorochov replied, “Yes.”

How does it work?  As Elisabeth Dorochov said “When people are ill, the lymphatic tissue becomes tired and doesn’t protect the body against viruses and bacteria.  From the deep cold comes the impulse to regenerate and the protection function wakes up and returns to normal.”  In practical terms, Dr. Dorochov applies local anesthetic, followed by liquid nitrogen from stainless steel bottles that look like thermoses, using a variety of long metal wands.  The liquid nitrogen opens up the infected pockets, allowing them to drain and heal.  The treatment can be used on people who still have their tonsils, as well as individuals who have had tonsils removed, with or without scarring.

What was it like?  It felt something like a cool finger, pressing on the back of my throat.  I was scared of this treatment, imagining it would be unbearable, but it went fairly easily for me.  My impressions:  the liquid nitrogen “fog” bubbling over the side of the container, Dr. Dorochov joking, “Ice cooks,” deep belly breathing which reminded me of my years of yoga and helped center me, the dull pressure of the cryo wand in my throat, the sharp sting of banana flavored anesthetic in my sinuses.  Afterwards my throat felt like alcohol on raw skin for about an hour, but then I was able to eat and drink normally, and soft scabs formed.  The Dorochovs instructed me to apply sunflower oil to my sinuses and tonsils to aid the healing process, and I learned that anyone living in air conditioning should also use sunflower oil on their sinuses (rather than other oils which can be irritating) as the AC dries us out. Other oils can be irritating to the sinuses, but sunflower oil is okay.

I felt in excellent hands with Dr. Dorochov and Elisabeth the whole time.  They were very kind, and had me take several breaks to tap acupuncture meridiens, to help my body with the stress.  I could really feel Dr. Dorochov’s expertise, as he zeroed in on spots in my throat that had been sore for many years.  There is a kind of “super-focus” that people who excel at their work have, and he has it.

The results?  For me, amazing.  My sore throats started around age seven, and over the decades included both strep and staph.  Even after a successful tonsillectomy in 2012, my throat was low-grade sore most of the time.  Five days after cryotherapy, it was almost like I had a whole new throat. The sore lumps in my throat are mostly gone, and it feels clear and not (as often in the past) swollen.  The tissue regeneration continues for 4 to 6 weeks after the treatment, and I do have some aching still in parts of my throat, but it is minor compared to what it was.  If I had to put a number on it, with 1 being worst and 10 being best, I’d say my throat went from a 2 to a 7 or 8 in just that one treatment.  My sinuses, chronically blocked, are now open and I am breathing easily through my nose.  I also felt an improvement in my gut, for many years a problem area.

The Dorochov’s explained that when we develop as embryos, the gut and nose tissue come from the same cell.  So over our lives, whatever impacts the gut impacts the sinuses and visa versa.  We sniff a plate of food, and our gut tells us – do we want to eat it, or not? Also, whatever is in the sinuses drains into the gut, so if you have a chronic infection in your head, chances are it is in your gut too.

Dr. Dorochov encourages people to “eat for their sinuses” – to avoid a stuffy gut and a stuffy nose by being aware of histamine reactions.  He recommends the website, which provides lists of food to avoid.  Conventional histamine testing may not provide needed answers, Elisabeth explained, because foods eaten together may trigger reactions not present when a food is eaten on its own.

People have a range of responses to the cryo.  Some find it fairly easy as I did; others have more discomfort and gagging.  People can be fatigued for a day or two after the treatment, and some report die-off reactions.  In the case of long-term infection such as mine, it may take two or three treatments to achieve full benefits.  At a cost of $460 per cryotherapy session, this is one of the most effective and economical treatments I have ever experienced.  Elisabeth mentioned that a German travel agent* she knows can sometimes find flights from the US to Germany for just a few hundred dollars.  Lyme Nation, sign me up for the next round.

(Photo:  Elisabeth and Sergej Dorochov outside their office in Viersen, Germany)

* [For additional information on travel, lodging and treatment in Viersen, click]