How Can Functional Medicine Help With Lyme Disease?
Read below how Functional Medicine can help with Lyme Disease
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease can develop after you’re bitten by a tick, a tiny insect living in grass and on low vegetation.
Causes of Lyme Disease
If you brush past undergrowth where a tick is hiding, it will attach itself to your skin. The tick often sits there unnoticed because not only are they very small, but ticks secrete a numbing substance so you won’t feel them biting you. Once attached, the insect will bury its head in your skin and feed on your blood through a special feeding tube.
Some ticks harbour a type of bacteria called Borrelia. While the tick is feeding, the bacteria can make their way into your bloodstream where they can damage muscles, nerves or organs.
How Common is Lyme Disease?
We simply don’t know, because many people with Lyme disease are not diagnosed. Most suspected cases are not tested, but one estimation is more than 10,000 people in the UK are treated for Lyme disease each year. However, because its symptoms mimic many other conditions and can occur some time after the initial tick bite many incidences of Lyme remain undetected.
The period immediately following the tick bite is called the acute phase. There will often be a red, circular rash on the skin at the site of the tick bite called a bulls-eye, appearing up to four weeks after the initial bite. This might be accompanied by flu-like symptoms like fatigue, fever, headache or joint pains.
The problem is the Borrelia bacteria are very good at hiding from your immune system, and if they manage to do this they can spread all over your body. Lyme then becomes chronic and produces non-specific symptoms, particularly in the joints and muscles.
Symptoms of chronic Lyme disease include fatigue, sleeping problems, ongoing pain in the joints or muscles, memory and attention problems, numbness and tingling, heart issues like irregular heartbeat, frequent headaches, neck pain and stiffness, dizziness and mood disturbances.
The bacteria are able to prevent your immune system from eradicating it by suppressing its function. This can lead to your immune system attacking your body’s own tissues, with the development of autoimmune disease.
You may have suffered with symptoms for many years, but because a long time has elapsed since the initial insect bite, or you might not have even been aware you’d been bitten, Lyme disease is easily overlooked. Given the wide array of symptoms that can be produced, it’s often misdiagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia.
Diagnosis of Lyme Disease
Targeted tests can look at antibodies in your blood indicating whether you’ve been exposed to Borrelia bacteria, as well as showing whether the infection is active or latent by examining your immune cells.
Antibiotics if given soon after the initial infection can be effective, but once the infection becomes chronic the bacteria can hide themselves away, becoming harder to eradicate.
Functional Medicine Approach to Lyme Disease
Many people struggle for years even if they obtain a diagnosis of Lyme disease. If this is you, functional medicine can help. Because so many body systems are involved, a whole-body approach towards treating Lyme is important.
The bacteria produce uncontrolled inflammation in the body, so managing this inflammation is important by emphasising anti-inflammatory foods, supporting the microbiome and healing your gut, especially if antibiotics have been prescribed for Lyme disease in the past.
As well as eradicating the Borrelia bacteria, supporting your immune system is key by nutritional support and lifestyle choices like stress reduction, exercise and prioritising sleep.