My experience with and commentary on the modified Marshall Protocol
Now that you have been introduced to the Marshall Protocol, I would like to share my personal experience with it.
Many protocols have predetermined, rigid guidelines. In reality, despite these guidelines, everyone is different and certain people will need variations of a given protocol. Such was the case with myself. After using / experimenting with the Marshall Protocol for over three years, I came to discover that what worked best for me was slightly different than the standard protocol. In this section I will share the variations that worked for me, and why I believe these variations were beneficial. However, I must disclose that the information below is my experience and opinion only, and should not be mistaken for the official Marshall Protocol developed by Dr. Marshall. For this reason, I am referring to my experiences in this section as the "modified Marshall Protocol.” Please realize that this section includes only the experiences of one person.
Before looking at how I personally modified the protocol, I would like to share some related background information.
The story begins in fall of 2002, when my Lyme Disease symptoms first began to get out of control. Looking back, I now believe that I had been infected with Lyme Disease for my whole life—but the disease did not take over and become unmanageable until fall of 2002. (Note that this occurred in fall, not another season, which verifies the conclusions drawn in Lyme Disease and Rife Machines about the significance of spring and fall in Lyme Disease bacterial activities.) Shortly after the infection worsened in those autumn months, I started to notice a strange reaction to the sun. Each time my skin was exposed to the sun for more than a few minutes, I could feel something changing in my body—changing for the worse. Then, after I got out of the sun, whatever had changed did not completely go away. It was as if whatever was happening in the sun was causing some type of permanent changes in my body. Each subsequent time I would get sun exposure, I noticed the same thing would happen, over and over, leading to a sustained worsening of symptoms. Because it was still early in my illness, I had absolutely no idea what was happening, and I did not know if it was important or not. Now I know that it was very important.
Eventually, I reached a point when these reactions no longer occurred and sun exposure did not have any effect. At the time, I believed that this meant I was healing—whatever ugly disease process had caused the sun sensitivity had most certainly resolved, I thought to myself. After all, the reactions had stopped, right? The only problem was that the worsened symptoms that resulted from the sun reactions did not go away. The
reactions themselves stopped happening, but it felt as if permanent damage had been done.
It would be two more years before I even heard about the Marshall Protocol. When I began reading about the Marshall Protocol and what it said about sun exposure, I was intrigued and immediately interested because of my strange experience with the sun in 2002. Although various aspects of the Marshall Protocol seemed outlandish to me, I did not write the protocol off because it was the only protocol I had ever seen that potentially explained my experiences with the sun.
Amazingly, when I first began to use the Marshall Protocol, it actually felt as if I were reversing the damage done during those sun exposure episodes in the fall of 2002. As I followed the Marshall Protocol guidelines of avoiding sun exposure and Vitamin D consumption, using Benicar, and taking Marshall Protocol antibiotics, I literally felt the same reactions as I did in 2002, except this time, I was experiencing reduction in aggregate symptoms instead of an increase in symptoms. Needless to say, this experience immediately convinced me that this protocol was significant and dealt with an aspect of the Lyme Disease complex that to date, no other protocol has successfully addressed. Later during my use of the protocol, this conclusion would only be strengthened as I experienced continual progress and healing.
Hindsight is 20/20. Looking back, I now know that when the reactions I had to the sun in late 2002 diminished, it was not a sign that I was getting better. It was instead a sign that I had reached an unhealthy equilibrium in which Vitamin D levels in my body had greatly increased, aiding the bacterial infection in its survival and proliferation. Although the reactions had stopped, my symptoms were greatly worsened—and remained greatly worsened all the way up until I first started using the Marshall Protocol. I did not return to feeling relatively well until the Marshall Protocol helped me reverse those reactions and return to a healthy equilibrium. It is important to note that my experiences were very counterintuitive. When my initial reactions of 2002 went away, it actually meant I was worse. When the reactions returned as a result of using the Marshall Protocol, it meant I was getting better.
I believe I was lucky that my initial experience with the sun in 2002 was so acute and dramatic, and, therefore, memorable. I was also lucky that I noticed, upon beginning the Marshall Protocol, that the resultant reactions were somehow related to my earlier experiences with the sun. I'm sure that many people undergo the same processes that I did but do not experience them as vividly. It would be much harder for these people to evaluate their response to the Marshall Protocol (or any protocol for that matter). People who cannot interpret their responses to the Marshall Protocol might conclude that the reactions are harmful, instead of concluding that they are an indication of the reversal of previous damage done. After all, the Marshall Protocol is somewhat unusual, and without personal experiential evidence like my own, it might be hard to rationalize use of the protocol.
Experiencing acute, intense, perceptible changes and reactions during the course of my chronic illness was not limited to my experiences with the sun and the Marshall Protocol. For some reason, most of what has happened to me during my struggle with Lyme Disease has been this way. I have been very aware of my body and usually I am able to tell quite clearly what is taking place. I believe this acute perception is one of the factors that have allowed me to write the books that I have written. Having a unique ability to perceive reactions that most Lyme sufferers do not notice has given me a 6th sense with regard to interpreting and evaluating various treatments. Since modern medical science leaves much to be desired in the area of Lyme Disease understanding, my 6th sense is a special, invaluable resource. Of course, the subjective experiences of one person are not sufficient to draw scientific conclusions from. However, they sure do help!
There is one more experience I would like to share before moving on to the ways in which I modified the standard Marshall Protocol. When I first began taking Benicar, the reaction I had was so strong and alarming that I wrote it off as a horrible side effect of the drug itself and not a herx reaction. The reaction lasted for almost a week after just one tiny dose of Benicar. It was so severe that I stopped using the protocol and did not revisit it again for a long time. Many other Lyme Disease sufferers have had similar experiences. Such experiences are responsible for the reputation the protocol has earned as a very extreme, potentially dangerous protocol. However, although it may be natural for the people who experience strong reactions to conclude that those reactions are horrific side effects, I later learned (via research, future experiences of my own, and communicating with other Lyme Disease sufferers) that said reactions are not side effects but instead, genuine herx reactions resulting from attacking and challenging the Lyme Disease infection. The disease itself, in response to the treatment, produces the monstrous reactions as the disease fights to win the battle and persist in the body. It is no secret that chronic Lyme Disease is an entrenched, stubborn, strong infection. It is also no secret that there are very few ways to actually remove the infection. When you begin to make progress in uprooting the bacterial colonies, a full-scale war is the result. And believe me, war is what you feel. The reactions are a result of forcing the body to move from a sick equilibrium to a healthy equilibrium. This is most certainly not a comfortable process. However, comfortable or not, you cannot blame the protocol for these reactions, you can only blame the disease.
One of the convincing factors that prompted me to conclude that reactions to the Marshall Protocol are herx reactions and not side effects is the fact that people who are not chronically infected with cell-wall-deficient bacteria do not experience horrific reactions to Benicar. Remember, Benicar is nothing more than a commonly used drug for lowering blood pressure. Sure, Benicar does have some documented side effects. No pharmaceutical drug is without side effects. However, the documented side effects for Benicar are nothing even close to what people harboring cellwall-deficient bacteria experience. Some of the documented side effects for Benicar include back pain, bronchitis, creatine phosphokinase increase, diarrhea, headache, hyperglycemia, influenza-like symptoms, rhinitis and sinusitis. Yet, what I experienced when I first started taking Benicar was an undeniable and extreme flareup in my Lyme Disease symptoms (or symptoms similar to my Lyme Disease symptoms). Although severe, these reactions were not drug side effects.
My personal experience is another factor which supports my conclusion that Marshall Protocol reactions are not side effects but instead herx reactions: as I progressed on the protocol, despite continuing to use Benicar, the reactions diminished and so did my overall disease symptoms. My state of health and well-being increased dramatically the longer I used the protocol. Theoretically, if what I was experiencing was drug side effects, they should not have dissipated over time but instead intensified. Yet, the opposite is what occurred. Presently, as I write this, I am able to take the full Marshall Protocol dose of Benicar with close to zero reaction. And, I credit a large portion of my recovery to the Marshall Protocol. If Marshall Protocol reactions were somehow harmful, then how do you explain these occurrences?
With all that said, it is important to note that even though Marshall Protocol reactions are indeed genuine herx reactions, it is still possible that these reactions can be dangerous or even life-threatening. The fact that the reactions are productive and result from the disease, and not drug side effects, does not provide free license to let these reactions get out of control, and does not mean that these reactions are categorically safe. In fact, herx reactions as a result of the Marshall Protocol or any other Lyme Disease treatment can be very dangerous and frightening, and should be respected. Herx reactions can be as or more dangerous than side effects of pharmaceutical drugs. Important steps must be taken to control and minimize these reactions during use of the Marshall Protocol. This book will not describe what these steps are. You can learn about how to safely control Marshall Protocol reactions at
www.marshallprotocol.com. It is absolutely critical to have a solid understanding of how to control Marshall Protocol reactions before you use the protocol!
Now I will share the modifications to the protocol that I personally found to be beneficial. Remember, these modifications have not been evaluated or approved by Dr. Marshall or other official researchers of the protocol. They are simply my experiences. These modifications, while beneficial to me, may be harmful to others. So as you read on, please keep in mind that this information is experimental.
The first modification to the protocol I eventually found beneficial was using it in a pulsed manner. "Pulsing" a therapy simply means using it for a time, then taking some time off, then using it for a time again, then taking some time off, and so on. There are several reasons why I pulsed the protocol. Some of the reasons are related to my subjective experience of the protocol and other reasons are related to philosophical conclusions I arrived at with regard to the protocol. Here are the reasons I pulsed the protocol:
- Because Benicar is a drug, I desired to give my body a rest from its use. Additionally, the Marshall Protocol calls for using a relatively high dose of Benicar. This further solidified my decision to take breaks from the protocol. I did experience what I believe were a few mild side effects of Benicar including some heartburn and indigestion. Breaks from the protocol were one solution to this problem.
- Being on the Marshall Protocol was quite intense, even after the initial reactions dissipated. I found my quality of life was unacceptably compromised if I used the protocol continuously. Many Marshall Protocol users have commented that this diminished quality of life is justified and should simply be tolerated. However, in my case it was not. If I were forced to use the protocol either continuously or not at all, I would have chosen not at all. Therefore, using the protocol in a pulsed fashion, in my opinion, was more beneficial for me than not using it at all. Results may have been slower than they could have been, but nevertheless, results were still forthcoming.
- In general, I believe that most, if not all, Lyme Disease treatments have the highest level of benefit and lowest toxic impact when they are used in a pulsing manner. You will notice this theme throughout my books with regard to lots of different types of therapies. I hold this position both because of philosophical conclusions and my subjective experiences during the recovery process. In short, pulsing various Lyme Disease treatments ensures that the bacterial infection never has time to adapt to the treatment, and that the infection is always caught off guard. It also reduces side effects and
gives the body time to figure out what to do on its own during breaks from therapy.
- My health insurance did not cover Benicar or the antibiotics used in the Marshall Protocol. Ideally, my financial state should not have any influence on how I built my treatment campaign. In reality, however, finances are just as real as Lyme Disease bacteria. The protocol was more affordable when breaks were taken.
- Because the Marshall Protocol utilizes pharmaceutical antibiotics, I believe it can potentially interfere with the progress of rife machine therapy (see Lyme Disease and Rife Machines for more information on this topic). I still believe that rife machine therapy is the foundational treatment upon which the recovery process is built. Therefore, any treatment that compromises the success of a rife treatment campaign is unacceptable. Using the Marshall Protocol in a pulsed manner ensures that rife machine therapy is not hindered.
I found that the best time to use the Marshall Protocol was typically during the winter, between the months of September and April. This does not mean I used the protocol continuously during this time frame, but instead, this was the time frame in which pulsed applications of the protocol were most beneficial for me. During the summer months of April to September, my symptoms were generally at a minimum, and I did not feel the need to use the protocol. This summer symptom reprieve is consistent with what Doug MacLean, inventor of the first rife machine used to fight Lyme Disease, also experienced. Some would argue for continuing to use the protocol during the summer months despite the symptom reprieve. And, maybe my recovery would have progressed faster had I done that. For that matter, maybe my recovery would have progressed faster had I not made any modifications to the Marshall Protocol at all. However, the fact remains that based on my philosophical conclusions and subjective experiences, these modifications to the protocol were justified.
I also found that using the Marshall Protocol during spring and fall helped mitigate the inevitable spring/fall flareups. Particularly, I found Benicar use to be valuable during these times. In fact, sometimes I would use only Benicar and not take antibiotics at all. As I progressed through the recovery process, I found more and more that Benicar was the ingredient that helped the most, and that the antibiotics were not as important. This observation was not categorically true, especially in the beginning. At first, I noticed that the antibiotic component of the protocol was critical. So, clearly, things changed as time went on. The antibiotics eventually lost most of their effect, but Benicar did not.
Avoiding sun exposure and Vitamin D consumption was another component of the protocol that did not lose its beneficial effect. This component continued to be helpful throughout my entire healing process. In fact, as a very important note to my readers, I should mention that even during breaks from the protocol, I still followed the recommendations of staying out of the sun (or wearing long sleeves, a sun hat, and sunglasses when in the sun) and avoiding food sources of Vitamin D. For me, taking time off from the protocol meant that I was not using Benicar and antibiotics. Continuing to avoid sun and Vitamin D foods was very natural for me to do even while on breaks from Benicar and antibiotics because if I failed to do this, symptoms would quickly return. My body quite clearly communicated to me that sun avoidance and Vitamin D food avoidance was the proper course of action. Returning symptoms upon sun exposure would feel very similar to the initial harmful reactions I experienced in fall 2002. This was a blatant indication that continual avoidance of sun exposure was critical. In my opinion, staying out of the sun and avoiding Vitamin D foods even while taking breaks from Benicar and antibiotics is what prevented me from losing the gains I had made.
Sure, the lifestyle restrictions involved in avoiding Vitamin D foods and especially avoiding the sun are significant, especially considering that I continued to comply with these restrictions even during my breaks from the protocol. The lifestyle restrictions were even more cumbersome for me, as a person who thrives in the outdoors and loves to hike, mountain bike, and just plain be outside. However, having been so sick and so miserable with chronic Lyme Disease, complying with these restrictions was something I was willing to do. I did not just comply with these restrictions due to philosophical or theoretical information. I complied because the protocol was helping to give me my life back—and I felt this in a very real way. Symptoms kept diminishing and my overall quality of life kept increasing. If I failed to stay out of the sun and avoid Vitamin D containing foods, I would backslide. Truthfully, real symptom improvement is just about the only thing that could actually convince someone to comply with such inconvenient lifestyle restrictions. Not to mention the silliness of wearing long pants and shirts in the heat of summer, and the associated, inevitable funny looks and questions.
Thankfully, I was still able to participate in many of the outdoor activities I loved simply by wearing long sleeves, long pants, a sun hat, and sunglasses while partaking in them. Fortunately, I live high in the mountains, and there were only a few weeks of the summer during which the temperatures were high enough to make it very uncomfortable to participate in outdoor activities with the excessive clothing I had to wear.
Many people disagree with the Marshall Protocol premise that sun avoidance is beneficial. Quite a few respected sources on health and physiology actually conclude the opposite of what the Marshall Protocol states. Most healthcare practitioners and researchers say that Vitamin D is healthy and beneficial to healing chronic disease. Numerous studies have shown that Vitamin D aids in healing. It has been documented that some forms of chronic disease actually result from Vitamin D deficiency.
I cannot, nor will I try to, argue with the evidence that Vitamin D is beneficial for various health problems. I know very well that intentionally avoiding both Vitamin D and sun exposure for long periods of time seems to be contrary to established wisdom. However, I also cannot argue with what I experienced. Use of the Marshall Protocol greatly accelerated my healing in many ways. I believe that my body knows what it needs. The long-term, sustained, unrelenting symptom improvement I got from using the Marshall Protocol was far more than I gained with most of the other Lyme Disease treatments I used. I do not claim to fully understand the mechanism by which it is possible for something as beneficial as Vitamin D to be so detrimental to people with Lyme Disease. I'm not sure anyone completely understands this, although Dr. Marshall probably has the best grasp of the science. Did the caveman understand the physiological reasons why drinking water is life-sustaining? No. But of course, the caveman still drank water and lived. All I can do is share what I have experienced and let you come to your own conclusion.
the complete paperback book or
this chapter as an e-book to read the rest of the chapter. The
following are additional sections included in this
Marshall Protocol Components
Correcting Vitamin D Levels
Reducing Exposure to Sunlight and Bright Lights
Avoiding Vitamin D Sources in Food and Supplements
Benicar Lowers Vitamin D Levels and Weakens the Bacteria
Antibiotics used in the Marshall Protocol
My experience with and commentary on the Modified Marshall Protocol
Trial and error vs. laboratory testing
Rife machines vs. the Marshall Protocol
A Final Word
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