Lyme Detoxification 101: The Basics

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Lyme Detoxification 101 Image by Marty Ross MD

Basic Detoxification in Lyme Disease

There are basic steps that everyone with Lyme disease should take to remove toxins. Toxins come from

  • Lyme germs,
  • yeast and bacteria in the intestines,
  • food and air, and
  • chemical reactions in our cells.

Herbal and prescription anbtiotics and other medications can have toxic effects too.

When the immune system sees toxins it makes inflammation chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines cause

  • fatigue,
  • immune system dysfunction,
  • hormone problems, body pain,
  • thinking dysfunction, and
  • many other problems.

This article describes the basic fundamental steps to take for detoxification. For most these are the only detoxification steps that are necessary.

A Word About Feeling Toxic

Often people report they "feel toxic" in Lyme treatments. The major reason a person feels this way is due to the excess cytokines I mentioned above. A good way to deal with "feeling toxic" is to lower cytokines and work to remove the toxins triggering the cytokines. Read more about how to lower cytokines in Control Cytokines: A Guide to Fix Lyme Symptoms & The Immune System. Two basic steps that support lowering cytokines are to take liposomal curcumin and to use liposomal glutathione. The doses for these are explained near the end of this article. 

Beyond Basic Detoxification

In certain situations where these fundamental steps are not enough then one could consider using

  • coffee enemas,
  • saunas or hot baths, or
  • toxin binders like betonite clay, activated charcoal, fractionated pectin, or cholestyramine.

For more information about when and how to use toxin binders see Mold and Lyme Toxin Illness. For more information about saunas and hot baths see Far Infrared Sauna Detox: More Than Sweat.

The Basic Steps to Lyme Detox

1. Keep Toxins Out

Start with your diet. Eat organic foods. These do not contain harmful poisons. Also use green cleaning supplies. The fumes and gasses of toxic cleaning supplies get absorbed into the blood stream through the lungs. For specific diets I recommend see The Best Brain, Inflammation, Pain, Energy, and Detox Diet Ever and Elimination Diet to Find Problem Foods.

2. Support Toxin Removal by The Liver, Intestines, and Kidneys 

From the blood, toxins are cleaned out of the body by the liver. The liver transforms toxins from fat-based forms to water-based forms by tagging them with water-based chemical groups. In the intestines the tagged toxins are then moved out of our bodies through the stools. However, if a person does not have regular bowel movements, bacteria in the intestines can remove the water-based tag. If this happens the now fat-based toxins can be reabsorbed into the blood. Fiber in the diet and water intake promote regular bowel movements. In addition fiber can bind the fat-based toxins so that they do not get reabsorbed.

Fiber & Water Support Detox 

  • Water: it is important to drink 1/2 of your ideal body weight in ounces daily (ie: a 150 pound person should drink 75 ounces of water a day). This helps to flush the kidneys and promotes regular bowel movements.
  • Fiber: To bind toxins in the intestines and to promote regular bowel movements have 3 or more servings a day of fiber. Foods rich in fiber are beans, legumes, and whole grains. Apples are also a good source. To determine how much to have in a serving, I advise that a clenched fist is roughly equal to two serving sizes.

Support Liver Detoxification

Liver detoxification requires adequate micronutrients and glutathione the master detoxification agent found in all of our cells.

  • The building blocks. Often, proper nutrition alone is not enough to provide the essential nutrients necessary to support the organs responsible for detox. A well balanced multi­vitamin with mixed amino acids taken daily is the foundation of detoxification. Active glutathione is made in cells with Alpha Lipoic Acid and N­-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC). Glutathione is a very powerful antioxidant generated in all cells and used in the liver to detox fat soluble toxins. Unfortunately, most forms of oral glutathione are poorly absorbed. However there are newer sources designed for improved absorption which microscopically wrap the glutathione in fats called phospholipids. This type is called liposomal glutathione. Stronger ways to increase cellular glutathione levels are through nebulizers which create a mist that a person breaths in or intravenous administration. Another way is to give alpha lipoic acid and/or NAC. For more information see Glutathione: The Great Fixer.
  • MTHFR and Methylation. If a person has a MTHFR genetic defect they are unable to produce adequate levels of glutathione. (See my video article: MTHFR and Detoxification.) MTHFR is an enzyme that converts inactive folate into the active form called 5-­methyltetrahydrofolate (5-­MTHF). 5-­MTHF and methylcobalamin (a methylated form of vitamin B12) are used in a process called methylation. Methylation is required to produce glutathione. A MTHFR dna mutation analysis blood test shows if a person has this problem. Another clue is having sensitivities to many different prescriptions or supplements.

Probiotics and Detox

Healthy bacteria that line the intestines remove toxins. In Lyme disease it is common to have unhealthy bacteria in the intestines due to herbal of prescription antibiotics and the stress of the illness. Rebuilding the healthy lining with high quality probiotics can help with detox. For more information about probiotics see Probiotics in Lyme Treatment.

Dosages For Supplements in This Article

Support liver detox with a good multivitamin, increase glutathione using liposomal glutathione or if not tolerated then N-Acetyl Cysteine and Alpha Lipoic Acid. Take 5-MTHF and Methylcobalmin if you also have an MTHFR detoxification defect.

Basic Supplements

  • Multivitamin. Use a vitamin that has numerous amino acids, antioxidants, minerals, and various vitamin Bs including b12 and folate Take one scoop daily. I prefer powder multi-vitamins by Integrative Therapeutics or Thorne or pills by Researched Nutritionals.
  • Liposomal Glutathione 400 to 500 mg 1 to 2 times a day. An example of liposomal glutathione shown to raise cell levels of glutathione is Tri-Fortify by Researched Nutritionals. (3)*
  • Liposomal Curcumin 500 mg 1 or 2 pills 3 times a day. An example of liposomal glutathione is Meriva 500 SF by Thorne.
  • Probiotics to Support Healthy Intestinal Function and Detox*

    Corebiotic by Researched Nutritionals 2 to 4 pills 1 time a day. This product is a soil-based spore-forming probiotic that includes strains of Bacillus scientifically proven to support intestinal health. Consider using Corebiotic Sensitive, which does not include prebiotic fiber, if Corebiotic causes gassiness. Another spore-forming probiotic to consider is Proflora R by Bio-Botanical Research. These do not require refrigeration.


    HMF Forte by Genestra 2 to 4 pills 1 time a day. This product includes Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains scientifically shown to support intestinal health. This product requires refrigeration after shipping.

Other Supplements

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid 350 mg 1 pill 2 times a day. (Take only if not able to tolerate liposomal glutathione.)
  • N­-Acetyl Cysteine 500 mg 1 pill 3 times a day. (Take only if not able to tolerate liposomal glutathione.)
  • 5-MTHF 400 mg and Methylcobalamin 400 mg Combination 1 to 3 pills 1 time a day. Start at 1 pill and increase every 7 days as tolerated up to 3 pills. Go slowly because opening up blocked detoxification with this supplement could cause more fatigue, body pain, and cognitive dysfunction.
  • 5-­MTHF. 5-­MTHF 1 mg or 5­-MTHF 5 mg 1 pill daily. Add the 1 mg dose after your are stable on the 5-MTHF/Methylcobalamin Combination. Only add the 5mg dose if advised by your physician.


The ideas and recommendations on this website and in this article are for informational purposes only. For more information about this, see the sitewide Terms & Conditions.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


View Citations

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  3. Sinha R, Sinha L, Calcagnotto A, Trushin N, Haley JS, Schell TD, Richie Jr JP. Oral supplementation with liposomal glutathione elevates body stores of glutathione and markers of immune function. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2018;72:105–111.
  4. Lynch, B. Dirty genes. New York, NY: HarperOne; 2018.
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  8. Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University. Curcumin. Micronutrient Information Center; Phytochemicals website. Accessed August 18, 2018.
  9. Lu SC. Glutathione synthesis. Biochimica et biophysica acta. 2013;1830:3143-3153
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  11. Peacock BN, Gherezghiher TB, Hilario JD. et al. New insights into Lyme disease. Redox Biol. 2015;5:66–70.
  12. Shachar I, Karin N. The dual roles of inflammatory cytokines and chemokines in the regulation of autoimmune diseases and their clinical implications. J Leukoc Biol. 2013;93(1):51–61. doi: 10.1189/jlb.0612293.
  13. Zhao F, Gong Y, Hu Y, Lu, M, Wang J, Dong J, Qiu F. Curcumin and its major metabolites inhibit the inflammatory response induced by lipopolysaccharide: Translocation of nuclear factor-κB as potential target. Molecular Medicine Reports. 2015;11:3087-3093.
  14. Markowiak P, Śliżewska K. Effects of Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Synbiotics on Human Health. Nutrients. 2017;9(9):1021. Published 2017 Sep 15. doi:10.3390/nu9091021

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About the Author

Marty Ross, MD is a passionate Lyme disease educator and clinical expert. He helps Lyme sufferers and their physicians see what really works based on his review of the science and extensive real-world experience. Dr. Ross is licensed to practice medicine in Washington State (License: MD00033296) where he has treated thousands of Lyme disease patients in his Seattle practice. 

Marty Ross, MD is a graduate of Indiana University School of Medicine and Georgetown University Family Medicine Residency. He is a member of the International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) and The Institute for Functional Medicine.

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