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Autoimmune Disease And Lyme: An Immune System In Distress

Inflammation Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

Many people do not regard Lyme disease as an autoimmune disorder. Yet, like different autoimmune disorders, Lyme disease presents with various symptoms associated with the condition. It is known as one of the great imitators, making it very difficult to identify. Furthermore, much speculation regarding autoimmune disease and Lyme is currently doing the rounds. Is it an autoimmune disorder or not? This is the question we will try and answer in this article.

What is Lyme Disease?

The Lyme DiseaseLyme disease is a health disorder resulting from a bacterial infection after having been bitten by a deer tick or mosquito that acts as the bacteria's host. The name of this bacterium is Borrelia burgdorferi.

Once in your body, the bacteria multiply, causing several initial symptoms that include a rash in the form of a bull's eye (although not necessarily), headache, fever, chills, aching muscles and joints, and swelling in your lymph nodes.

Later symptoms, which could develop within days to months after the bite, include:

  • Rashes appearing on various parts of your body.
  • Severe headaches.
  • A stiff neck.
  • Arthritis accompanied by severe swelling and joint pain.
  • Dizziness.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Heart palpitations.
  • Brain and spinal cord inflammation.
  • Muscle, tendon, bone, and joint pain.
  • Pain, numbness, or tingling in your hands and feet.
  • Facial palsy, i.e. where muscle tone decreases or muscles droop in the facial region.

Unfortunately, most people do not realize a tick or mosquito has bitten them while only one in five develops the initial telltale rash. This makes the initial diagnosis so difficult. In most cases, a round of long-term antibiotics treatment clears up the symptoms, but in some, this only helps for a short period. Several persons may have lasting symptoms even after their antibiotic treatment. These people have a case of chronic Lyme.

Late Lyme Disease Discovery

To make matters worse, a large portion of people with Lyme disease only realize they have the condition after some time. This could result from an initial misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment. The result is lasting symptoms that worsen over time.

These people, often initially thought to suffer from either chronic fatigue or depression, have also been thought of as hypochondriacs in certain extreme cases. And all this while they had Lyme disease!

Autoimmune Disease and Lyme: The Connection

Research into autoimmune disease and Lyme have made a startling discovery. The long-term treatment with antibiotics only eradicates all the bacteria in a certain percentage of those affected. In others, where remnants of the bacteria persist, their initial symptoms could progress and result in damaging neurological health issues. Furthermore, many of these people develop various autoimmune conditions, including the likes of rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. They could also end up suffering from conditions closely related to adrenal fatigue. These include, amongst others, memory issues, chronic fatigue, a decline in cognitive function, and even various mood disorders.

Your body's autoimmune response to the bacteria may result from damage encountered while initially infected. The bacteria's outer coat is similar to that of your nervous system tissue. Your immune cells that were reacting to the bacteria could end up attacking your own nervous system tissue. Essentially, the residual bacteria tissue causes an immune system response. This results in the many irregular diagnoses surrounding Lyme disease and the autoimmune disorders that develop because of this bacterial infection. So, autoimmune disease and Lyme has a definite connection.

Autoimmune Disease and Lyme: Your Inflammation Circuit Response

Inflammation Circuit ResponseAutoimmune disease and Lyme may result from a compromised inflammation circuit response. Inflammation is the result of the body's response to the stress of any kind. In this case, the stress implied may arise from the effect of the bacteria's action on your body.

When presented with the stressor, your body's Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis kicks your NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response into action. This it does by using chemical messengers called neurotransmitters in your brain.

Your immune system, which forms part of the NEM, will strive to get rid of this infection by initiating your inflammatory response. Typical symptoms of inflammation include redness, swelling, heat in the area, and, of course, pain. This process, while uncomfortable, is your body's way of dealing with an infection. But it does allow your body to repair itself.

Health issues related to chronic inflammation

Now, most inflammation is good when it's short-term. But sometimes, as is the case with autoimmune disease and Lyme, conventional methods of addressing the condition may not get rid of all the bacterial residue. This could lead to a chronic infection. The following condition could indicate that you have a chronic infection:

  • Brain fog
  • Mood disorders like anxiety and depression
  • Leaky gut
  • Dizziness
  • Autoimmune disorders like arthritis. Lupus, or fibromyalgia (and others)
  • Chronic muscle pain
  • Acid reflux
  • Increased susceptibility to bacterial, viral, or fungal infections
  • Heart issues
  • Diabetes

In all honesty, the list is too long to mention. Yet all these conditions have an element of inflammation involved. And when chronic inflammation sets in, having an autoimmune disease and Lyme could worsen these conditions if you have them, or introduce even more to an already overtaxed body. Also, these conditions all have an element of adrenal fatigue. To make matters worse, the chronic inflammation resulting from autoimmune disease and Lyme could even cause an adrenal crash, depending on the stage of your condition. It could also severely compromise gut health, but more on this in a moment.

Your Immune System Autoimmune Disease and Lyme

Autoimmune Disease and LymeNow, your immune system's reaction to the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria infection is typical: perceive stress and get the NEM started, with inflammation a typical part of this process. But research, which has identified a protein marker showing this bacterial infection, has discovered the way this bacterium works that results in a continued inflammatory response.

Unlike other bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi can make a comeback even when your immune response and the conventional treatment worked perfectly. This means that this bacterium could stay in your body for an exceptionally long time.

Your body's immune system, as the first line of defense, will send in a nonspecific attack to get rid of what it sees as a foreign pathogen. And if this does not work, it will take a few days to study the pathogen and then formulate a new attack to take care of the issue. But no matter how long it ultimately takes to kill off these bacteria, the damage was done.  Your body's inflammatory load increased to such a large extent, which could cause many of the inflammatory conditions previously mentioned.

To make matters worse, your body's own constant inflammatory response produces irritations. And when this happens, these irritations cause stress. This, in turn, further fuels an inflammatory reaction. So, your body's inflammatory response becomes a cyclical reaction of inflammation, response, inflammation, etc.

Easy misdiagnosis

Unfortunately, it is this inherent survival ability of the bacteria, and your body's corresponding response and the various health issues that arise that could potentially result in misdiagnosis. Here you sit with a perfect inflammatory response that, at first glance, has addressed the issue. But then, a few days, or weeks, or even months later you start showing symptoms of various disorders that, at first glance, have nothing to do with Lyme. However, when further investigating your health history, your healthcare provider may make the connection between your autoimmune disease and Lyme.  Unfortunately, though, your body's inability to correctly cope with the bacterium may have led to the development of further chronic health issues that may or may not ever be rectified. These include a compromised Cardionomic Circuit, for example, with a weakened heart, or even compromised gut health.

Your Gut's Response to Autoimmune Disease and Lyme

Body Response to Autoimmune DiseaseYour gut and inflammatory response have a remarkably close connection. Many inflammatory conditions start in your gut. Similarly, inflammation, especially when systemic in nature like that resulting from Lyme disease, could harm your gut lining and gut composition.

Now, your gut has a permeable lining. This means it allows certain substances your body needs to function properly to enter your bloodstream. When confronted with issues, your gut lining may see an increase in permeability. Foreign objects may enter your bloodstream. This, in turn, activates your immune system. Your body wants to get rid of these foreign objects. Of course, your immune system's response is inflammation.

But now you sit with a situation whereby your body is already fighting off a bacterial infection and possibly losing the battle. And the added inflammation of your gut lining increases your body's inflammatory load even more. This could result in not even increased or more inflammatory symptoms, but also result in certain neurological problems and impact your brain health. This could mean an increase in mental health issues like depression.

Addressing Autoimmune Disease and Lyme: Conventional versus Holistic Healthcare Measures

Autoimmune disease and Lyme could cause some serious neurological damage as well as leave you with a few autoimmune-related health issues causing damage to joints, bones, gut, muscles, and bones. Please remember, however, that you would not present all the various complications arising from this bacterial infection. But you may have a few.

Conventional medicine, to a large extent, depends on the use of antibiotics in addressing the bacterial infection and then addressing the arising symptoms separately. The use of the medications used in treating the various associated symptoms could have their own set of contraindications and side effects. These, unfortunately, could result in you feeling worse while your weakened body tries its best to counteract them.

The holistic approach is quite different. It is one that looks at your diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that could worsen your condition. This approach, although seemingly general in nature, helps the body to heal itself and get out of the cycle of self-destruction caused by a cyclical immune response. Other holistic approaches include ozone therapy, low-level laser therapy, and herbal supplements. With any approach, it's important to consult with your healthcare provider as each body is different and you might need a blend of both approaches.

Dietary Considerations

When it comes to diet, you should follow a healthy diet incorporating plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean protein sources. It also means eliminating processed foods, carbonated soft drinks, and sugar foods. These promote inflammation and do nothing for your general health.

You could also consider using natural supplements that boost immune health while providing adrenal support.

Lifestyle Factors

Factors Designed to Fight DiseaseWhen it comes to lifestyle factors, we take into consideration things like the amount and type of exercise you get, your time spent with family and friends, and the individual 'you' time you allow yourself.

Regarding exercise, someone battling with autoimmune disease and Lyme should preferably not take part in any sort of rigorous training. Doing so may negatively affect their body's ability to heal itself and add extra stress. If considering exercise, rather opt for a long walk out in nature with your dog or doing Pilates. The latter two improve the health of your core muscles plus you progress at your own pace without putting too much strain on an already overtaxed body.

Most people are exposed to the psychological stress of some type. But this type of stress is the last thing someone with autoimmune disease and Lyme needs when battling the infection. So, to counteract this stress, try keeping away from people and situations causing stress as much as possible. Alternatively, try to find ways of dealing with them and it. Also, make sure of not isolating yourself. Keep in touch with family and friends. Spend time with them. You could also consider going on a course and learning about a new, non-stressful, hobby.

Remember, stress is bad when battling a condition such as adrenal fatigue.

Your Environment

When talking about your environment, we mean your immediate, physical environment as well as your general environment. While you cannot do much about your living or working environment on the outside, you can do much about your immediate, home environment.

The environment outside your home is filled with noise pollution and air pollution. These increase your body's stress load. Bar living inside a bubble, you cannot do much about this except possibly moving out to the country.

But when it comes to your home environment, there is much you can do.

Decrease your home's levels of electromagnetic energy by switching off all appliances when not in use. Also, do not charge your phone next to your bed at night. Regarding household pollutants, try using all-natural products for cleaning purposes. The usual home cleaning products have high levels of chemicals that could harm your health. Unfortunately, the same applies to makeup and body care products.


Research increasingly shows that Lyme disease has the benefit of causing autoimmune health issues. These could have a debilitating effect on your overall health.

If you are suffering from autoimmune disease and Lyme, here are a few things you can do to help alleviate the situation.

  1. Try giving your immune system the support it needs by following a healthy diet devoid of foods that increase your inflammatory response.
  2. Make the necessary adjustments regarding the environmental factors you can control.
  3. Besides the use of antibiotics, talk to your healthcare professional about other ways of improving your immune and adrenal health.

If you would like to know more about or need assistance with autoimmune disease and Lyme, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234 where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask Your Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam's Key Question

In one word, yes. It most certainly does. Autoimmune disease and Lyme cause an inflammatory response that someone with adrenal fatigue may find difficult in addressing. If you're suffering from this condition, please talk to a healthcare practitioner well-versed in adrenal health to address possible complications.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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