Many are dealing with chronic fatigue or long-lasting low energy. You may feel reliant on caffeine. I have seen many posts and memes about not having the morning coffee, dreading waking up in the morning for work, or “Does someone have a case of the Mondays?” We are a tired bunch of people.
Along with fatigue many report poor memory, getting sick more often, headaches, brain fog, and unrefreshing sleep. This can progress to the point of even getting a label, “chronic fatigue syndrome.” This is a diagnosis of idiopathic extreme fatigue, AKA they don’t know what is causing it. Part of the reason is many things can cause it. Something I run into all the time trying to explain this patients and colleagues. We are seeing different manifestations of the same problems. Hopefully you have read my article on the Big 5. In it, I explain how most conditions can be traced back to the Big 5. It could just be one of them or multiple of them. It is very individual. This has to do with the concept of biochemical individuality, that is, what works for one person is not necessarily the same thing that will work for another.
You may not be to the state of extreme fatigue but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a problem. If you are drinking coffee or taking caffeine to feel “normal,” then there is a problem. I went through this myself. I started getting more and more tired during my studies. I was working out each day but I found that the only way to function was to take pre-workout supplements and caffeine on a regular basis. I stopped working out because of it. It took several years to figure it out. Part of it I wasn’t metabolizing fat very well so I needed carnitine and coenzyme Q10, two nutrients that are essential for good metabolism. But I also realized I had some hormone issues and persistent infections. Which brings me to the topic at hand, which is, can Lyme disease be causing your chronic fatigue?
Maybe you are familiar with Lyme disease or maybe not, but I will break it down for you. Lyme disease is a condition caused by a bacteria transmitted to humans by ticks, specifically blacklegged ticks or Ixodes scapularis. But it also known to be transmitted by the Western blacklegged tick and the lone star tick. The bacteria is called Borrelia burgdorferi which is a spirochete. A spirochetes are long and helical in nature like a corkscrew. This is important to remember. This is one of the characteristics we use to identify bacteria, but as you will learn some change their shapes to avoid detection.
Signs and Symptoms
A common sign of infection is the bull’s eye rash or erythema migrans (seen below). However, this only occurs in about 40% of patients. (1) But some estimates go up to 80% which may cater to why so many are underreported or have false negative diagnoses. Some experience a red, inflamed area. Others don’t have any sign at all. Fever and fatigue are also fairly common symptoms. But many have more serious complications such as Lyme carditis which is inflammation of the heart, a very serious issue. The CDC reported out of 1,876 cases of Lyme carditis, only 42% had the erythema migrans. (2) So you could have this serious issue and it can be overlooked. Another issue is the amount of other symptoms and their variation. This has led to Lyme disease being called “the great mimicker.” It looks like a lot of other conditions.
Two studies, one on early Lyme symptoms and the other on chronic Lyme, show many different symptoms in addition to rash, fatigue, and fever. (3,4) You may have any of the following:
- Muscle pain
- Joint pain
- Neck pain
- Sleep problems
- Cognitive problems
Others have put together checklists that is even more extensive. (5,6) They are neat checklists that show different signs and symptoms, but remember that doesn’t necessarily mean you have Lyme disease. For that you need to seek out a healthcare practitioner. Which I will give some information on that so you know what to look for in searching out a practitioner.
Regions, Testing, and Diagnosis
If you were to check the CDC website for regions that have Lyme most of it is reported in Wisconsin, Minnesota, or the New England area. (7) However, this can be very misleading. If you notice on their map there are spots throughout the US that Lyme has been reported in, just not as prevalent. It is often underreported or misdiagnosed. In Arkansas, it was not diagnosed because there was an assumption that it didn’t exist in the state. Many have fought hard to get the recognition and proper treatment. One group is the Arkansas Lyme Foundation. So this may be the case in other areas around the country.
Physicians most commonly use 2 tests for diagnosis, the Enzyme Linked Immunoassay (ELISA) and the Western Blot. Typically you run the ELISA test first and then follow it up with the Western Blot. However, the ELISA test has been shown to have a false negative rate of 52%.(8) That means 52% of people are not getting the Western Blot and are told they do not have Lyme when they do! But this is the recommended course of action by the CDC. There are other options for testing such as IGeneX and DNA Connexions. Others have created questionnaires which can be combined with physical findings, and the possibility of tick exposure for an accurate diagnosis. (6)
There are different types of ticks which I mentioned before and they carry other diseases as well. Tick borne illness is not just limited to Borrelia burgdorferi. They also carry many other bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoans. You can also be infected with these or co-infected. Co-infections include babesiosis, bartonellosis (cat-scratch fever), anaplasmosis, ehrlichiosis, relapsing fever, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Studies have found that 50% of chronic Lyme disease cases have co-infections and 30% of them having 2 or more. The highest rates were Babesia, Bartonella, and Ehrlichia. (9,10) Bartonella and Ehrlichia are bacteria but Babesia is a protozoan parasite similar to malaria. Having co-infections further complicates the issue in diagnosis and treatment.
Treatment is often done with a strong course of antibiotics but Lyme is a tricky disease. It has been shown to evade the immune system and survive antibiotic treatment. One study has shown that B. burgdorferi can survive a 28-day course of doxycycline. It also further sticks a nail in the coffin for how we test for Lyme. Two of the ten subjects were found to be still infected with the Lyme bacteria in their heart and bladder despite having tested negative by the antibody tests for Lyme Disease. Furthermore, all subjects were found to have some level of infection post treatment. (11)
Another article speaks about the atypical shapes of the spirochetes. Remember how I said they were like a corkscrew? This article reviews a study that found that the bacteria can change its shape to avoid immune detection. Another complication is it has “biofilm-like niche-seeking” behavior which allows them to evade the immune system by effectively hiding from it or shielding against it. It can inhibit the immune system too. Lastly, it has been found to have antibiotic resistant properties. (12) In other words, this bacteria can be difficult to eradicate.
So...What Can Be Done?
First let’s talk about prevention. Prevention is always key. If you are going to be out where ticks are prevalent take the necessary precautions. You can wear long pants and boots but I assume many of you won’t be doing that in the Summer, I know I don’t. One thing I like to do is to use a blend of essential oils to keep ticks at bay. It is a combination of Arborvitae Wood, Catnip Plant, Cedarwood Wood, Eucalyptus Leaf, Lemon, Litsea Fruit, Nootka Wood, Tamanu Seed, Vanilla Bean Absolute, and Ylang Ylang Flower. It has been quite effective for us.
Nevertheless, you may still get them on you. So periodically check for them. When you get home take a shower to wash away any unattached ticks. Throwing your clothes in a hot dryer for 10 minutes can kill any lurking in them. Make sure your pets don’t have any as well they can be a great carrier for them.
Depending on your property this may be helpful. If you have room and don’t want any ticks, chickens and ducks are great for getting rid of them. Mowing regularly to keep the grass short seems to help and making sure the yard is picked up so there is no debris or overgrowth. For more helpful tips and proper tick removal check out this site.
The Natural Approach
You may have already read the article by Dr. Quinn but if not here is the link: The Words of a Lyme Disease Patient. In it he effectively explains a Lyme case he dealt with and the results. It is a great read and I highly recommend it. I have a patient currently dealing with it as well.
In the article, Dr. Quinn details out that the treatment can take a few months but there are some effective options to support the body and help it to heal. We use a lot of herbs when it comes to persistent infections. We found that they are truly great at supporting the body during these conditions. Some are regularly consumed by people around the world without them even knowing that it has medicinal properties. Such as the noni fruit in Hawaii. It is a great anti-microbial.
When it comes to Lyme disease we found several to be quite effective, however this comes with a caveat. Like I said before, treatments are very individualized. What I mention here are not recommendations but common treatments that change from patient to patient. It is not intended for medical advice, though you are more than welcome to book a consultation with us!
We have found cat’s claw, teasel root, houttuynia, mimosa pudica, and morinda citrifolia (noni) to be very effective in treating Lyme disease. Depending on what tests for an individual we give them an herb or a set of herbs to help support their system. Typically it can be about 2-4 months for the turn around. In the meantime, we work closely with each patient giving dietary advice. If you have read our other articles you know that diet is big for us and for you. It is of such vital importance to long term health and healing. If you do not eat the proper nutrients you frankly will not get the results you are seeking and you will continue to go from place to place without resolution.
In addition to diet, we often find many of our patients sorely needing specific vitamins and minerals. This can be due to lack from diet, lack of sun exposure, or a variety of other reasons. With persistent infections the body may need extra vitamins and minerals to continue to support the immune system as well. Vitamin A is a big one I give commonly. It plays a critical role in our innate and adaptive immune system. It is very important in the supporting the structure of the cells in your gut. (13) That is just one example. This is why a comprehensive blood analysis is often ordered to make sure nothing is looked over. We want to be thorough and holistic.
Other complications can be found too such as intestinal permeability, food sensitivities, heavy metal toxicity, or environmental toxin exposures. We help the body combat each of these as they come up. Each person is different but hopefully this gives a clue into how we approach things and hopefully provides not only some answers but some much needed hope!