I read that tests have found that the natural sweetener stevia kills Lyme bacteria better than antibiotics. I’ve had chronic Lyme for years, and antibiotics haven’t helped. Should I try stevia?


Recent headlines announcing that stevia was more effective than antibiotics at killing Lyme bacteria raised hopes among sufferers. Chronic Lyme is hard to treat, so the idea that something many people already use to sweeten coffee and tea could cure it is understandably appealing. In fact, the research is promising—but it’s important to understand just what stevia can and can’t do. Lyme disease is caused by a bacterium transmitted by the bite of an infected tick. Caught early, treating Lyme with antibiotics usually can clear the disease completely. But an unlucky 10% to 20% of infected people who have been treated with antibiotics develop a persistent form of Lyme called post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS), with debilitating symptoms that can include fatigue, joint and muscle aches, brain fog and psychological problems. A prime reason that PTLDS is hard to treat is that the bacteria are so good at eluding attack by antibiotics. Two ways they do this are by the bacterial spirochetes (the corkscrew form of Lyme bacteria) changing into “persisters” (dormant cells that can reactivate at any time)…and by covering themselves with a protective biofilm (tightly-connected cells that form a physical armor over the bacteria). Certain drugs and supplements can be effective at combatting the various forms of Lyme bacteria, but unless they can penetrate the biofilm they can’t do their work. With these challenges in mind, scientists at the University of New Haven in Connecticut wanted to see what effect stevia would have against Lyme bacteria. They compared the effects of four kinds of commercially available stevia to the effects of the antibiotics doxycycline, cefoperazone and daptomycin on Lyme bacteria in three forms—spirochetes, persisters and biofilm. Results: Whole-leaf liquid stevia extract killed all forms of the bacteria, including those in the biofilm, better than the antibiotics. The whole-leaf extract was more effective than the other kinds of stevia. These results were promising, yes—but as the researchers point out, these are test-tube results. There is no evidence that stevia would work as well, or work at all, when consumed by people.


While stevia on its own as a Lyme disease treatment is not ready for prime time, it is not a harmful substance taken in reasonable amounts and seems worth considering for many people trying to beat this disease. I have had success treating my patients who have chronic Lyme with a brand of stevia made by NutraMedix—the same whole-leaf extract used in the study—together with antibiotic combinations effective against persisters (doxycycline, rifampin and dapsone) along with supplements that are known to disrupt biofilms. Examples of these supplements: The enzyme serrapeptasemonolaurin, a coconut oil derivative…and/or Biocidin, a commercially available product that contains oregano oil. A typical dose I use for my patients is 15 drops of stevia extract twice a day, which I advise my patients to work up to. As bacteria are killed off, it’s not uncommon to have an inflammatory reaction (called a Herxheimer reaction)—an indication that the treatment is working but which can make patients feel worse in the short term. Note: People with Lyme disease also can be coinfected with other tick-borne infections, such as babesiosis, without knowing it. Before trying stevia or any new treatment, it’s important to have a doctor test your blood to determine exactly what’s causing your symptoms.


It’s best to work with your doctor if you want to try stevia to treat your chronic Lyme. Stevia is considered safe even at higher doses than what you’d normally use for sweetening food or drink. However, while no side effects have been reported for the doses that I have used to treat Lyme bacteria, one study did find that stevia might reduce a beneficial gut bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri, which could lead to nausea and diarrhea. You can protect the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut by taking a probiotic supplement—an especially good idea if you’re taking antibiotics. Also check with your doctor if you take any other medications.

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