Cathryn Harbor MD

- Oberlin College 1982 BA

- UNC Chapel Hill, 1992 MD

- Family Practice Board Certification 1995

- Holistic medicine  Board Certification 2000



In this video, Dr. Harbor explains her approach to Lyme and other inflammatory problems

After my functional medicine training I felt confident I could help anyone improve their health.  This has been true - everyone improves with lifestyle changes. However, improvement was not the goal.  I wanted my patients to thrive.  This simply did not happen for everyone.   Following some of my intelligent patients as they sought answers, I read about Lyme.   Though initially skeptical that Lyme explained chronic illness, I found that treating an undiagnosed or undertreated case of Lyme or other tick borne diseases often led to sustained recovery.  But, again, return to excellent health did not occur for everyone, even for my patients seeing highly experienced Lyme Literate doctors.   Dr. Burrascano, among the most famous of the Lyme literate doctors, makes it clear that chronic Lyme is more than an ongoing infection.  Lyme causes measurable changes in the immune system.   The question remained how to proceed?

An answer came during last year’s Functional Medicine Conference, when I heard a lecture by Dr. Richie Shoemaker.  His talk was on a topic that held no interest for me:  surviving mold.  In fact, I was leaving his lecture when he mentioned chronic Lyme.  He dismissed the approach I had been taking – more and more antibiotics, more and more supplements.  His data supported his concerns and suggested a more complete path.  Over the past several months, Dr. Shoemaker’ work has increasingly informed the way I treat people with Lyme and with other chronic health problems.

Dr Shoemaker’s interest started not with Lyme but with people who have been damaged by the mold found in water damaged buildings.  Dr. Shoemaker, has doggedly explored the underlying causes of what he calls the chronic inflammatory response syndrome.  His work is elegant.  He explains that there are certain people (and we can tell who they are by a genetic test (HLD-DR) done through LabCorps) whose immune systems cannot process certain toxins.  The uncleared toxins made by Lyme and by molds can cause tremendous immune system activation or inflammation. 

To become healthy again people must stop the toxin exposure (kill the Lyme bugs that are generating the toxins or get out of the water damaged environment).   Then they must remove the toxins produced by the exposure.  Only then can they systematically restore health to the rest of their bodies.  Dr. Shoemaker has developed a protocol and demands that it be followed rigidly.  Some parts of the protocol involve tests and treatments that are not covered by insurance.    The protocol requires that people be OUT of water damaged buildings.  This can create tremendous problems for people, since it means leaving worksites or homes.  I am convinced that Shoemaker  is correct about this. 

Understanding the Chronic Inflammatory Response syndrome has changed my approach to Lyme disease and to all autoimmune illnesses.  The biotoxin model is a perfect example of the Functional Medicine model at work.  It appreciates the importance of both genetics and environment in causing chronic illnesses; it focuses not on swatting back individual symptoms, but on restoring balance to the complex orchestral interactions that make us alive and vital. 

Home Cathryn Harbor, M.D.