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How Lyme Disease can Affect the Brain
- Neurological problems in Lyme disease are more common than you think. Plenty of people with Lyme disease report problems with everything from concentration, to issues with depression, and even long-term memory problems.
- Research into the connection between Lyme disease and the brain has found that Lyme causes swelling in the brain. This swelling can impact both the mind and nervous system, leading to neuropsychological symptoms like depression and brain fog, as well as long-term illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Alzheimer’s disease links frequently with infections. As a spirochete bacteria, Lyme can burrow into the brain and nervous system, causing damage within the brain that leads to long-term memory and concentration problems.
- Many people with Lyme disease suffer from psychiatric conditions, including depression, and even suicidal thoughts. One common issue is “brain fog”, which makes it difficult for people with Lyme to focus, recall memories, and commit new actions to memory.
- One of the most significant neural problems for people with Lyme is insomnia. More than just a frustrating symptom, Insomnia can prevent a Lyme patient from recovery by damaging the immune system, and allowing toxins or pathogens to take root in the body.
- Remedies for insomnia can include methods of balancing hormones in the body, eating more protein before sleeping, lowering your exposure to electromagnetic frequencies, and reducing inflammation levels.
The Neurological Impact of Lyme Disease
Neurological problems that occur because of Lyme disease are more common than people realize. When Lyme disease is effectively diagnosed and treated, many patients can recover. Unfortunately, diagnosing Lyme disease isn’t simple. Often, only when more severe symptoms begin to appear can doctors recognize the signs.
In the meantime, the spirochete of Lyme can invade various parts of the body, including brain and spinal cord. At first, patients might develop symptoms like encephalitis or meningitis, like a loss of sensation or pain around the nerves. However, like syphilis, months or years can pass before the later signs of a neurological infection become obvious.
Once it’s entered the nervous system, Lyme can wreak serious havoc. From memory problems, to fog, psychological concerns, and even long-term issues like Alzheimer’s, the problems are varied. Memory problems are one of the most common signs of a brain infection. However, common Neuropsychological issues that can occur with Lyme disease include:
- Impaired focus and concentration, or poor impulse control.
- Impaired speech and memory functions.
- Poor problem-solving skills.
- Slower mental processing.
- Symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia
70% of people afflicted with Lyme report changes to their thinking, including mental acuity issues and memory loss.
Research into Lyme Disease and the Brain
Research into the connection between Lyme Disease and the brain is ongoing. Many experts agree that Lyme produces micro edemas or swelling in the brain. This inflammation affects a person’s ability to process information.
Recently, a psychiatrist at the State Psychiatric Institute in New York, Dr. Brian Fallon, reviewed the neuropsychiatric symptoms of Lyme. He found that 40% of patients with Lyme disease developed issues affecting the central nervous system or extremities. In his review, he commented on a 47-year-old man who experienced memory problems and depression as signs of Lyme. The symptoms reoccurred, but he was not treated a second time, and developed dementia. An autopsy discovered Lyme spirochetes in a degenerated area of his brain.
Other studies also indicate that children can develop neurological symptoms associated with Lyme. Typically, these symptoms appear as emotional or behavioral disturbances. For instance, children might lose interest in play or become moody. Among a study of 16 children in Westchester County, the 15 who got treatment within the first month recovered well. However, the child who did not have a diagnosis until four months into the disease suffered with depression, headaches, memory problems, and arthritis for five years.
Studies conducted by a host of scientists have revealed that Lyme impacts almost all aspects of the brain and nervous system. In the limbic system, for instance, a pattern can be seen in low tolerance to frustration, and irritability, followed by anxiety and depression. Because cognitive problems emerge with memory and concentration, a person feels unable to take control of their lives.
Though the extreme incapacitating impact of neurological Lyme disease may be rare, it is dangerous. Even more subtle symptoms such as depression or brain fog can be devastating to anyone who is afflicted.
Alzheimer’s: The Infection Connection
One particular link that has drawn between Lyme and the brain is with Alzheimer’s. The connection comes from the fact that infections are often considered to have an impact on brain function. Certain diseases, bacteria, and viruses can damage the brain and effect the genes.
A good example of an infection connected to Alzheimer’s is syphilis. This infection has can be linked with the dementia, and other severe problems with the brain when untreated. According to the Journal of Neuroinflammation, spirochetal infections can slowly cause brain atrophy, progressive dementia, and amyloid deposition.
Lyme disease and syphilis are similar because both infections are caused by spirochete bacteria. This is a form of microscopic corkscrew-shaped bacteria that is effective at burrowing into nervous tissue and hiding. Lyme disease and Syphilis are both are frequently linked to Alzheimer’s. In one study, Borrelia Burgdorferi was found in 25.3% of Alzheimer’s cases.
Lyme disease often comes with many co-infections, and can also be a result of being infected by four other pathogens. One of those pathogens is called “Babesia”, which causes Babesiosis – an infection similar to malaria. When those infections start to come together, you can start to see why Alzheimer’s patients have such hyperactive immune systems. They are fighting something they can’t win.
When it comes to the battle against Alzheimer’s, it is crucial to look at environmental factors and infection.
Lyme Disease and Psychiatric Conditions
Of course, the link between Lyme and the brain isn’t all about disease. Lyme is frequently linked to a range of psychiatric problems, including anxiety, depression, and irritability. In severe cases, Lyme has emerged alongside obsessive-compulsive disorder, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Up to 40% of people with Lyme disease experience neurological involvement of the central or peripheral nervous system. A broad range of conditions are associated with Lyme, ranging all the way from panic attacks to depression. In fact, depressive states are relatively common in people with late-stage Lyme disease. Some patients even experience suicidal thoughts and somatic symptoms.
One of the most common psychiatric results of Lyme Disease is brain fog. Brain fog is a term given to people with Lyme Disease who find their brain functions are not performing normally. Usually, memory loss and issues with concentration are common symptoms of people with chronic and acute Lyme.
Importantly, some memory loss issues can be severe. Patients have documented that they can sometimes forget where they live, where they are, and how to perform basic functions that often do not require conscious effort. Simple tasks, such as starting a car can suddenly become extremely difficult for someone with Lyme Disease.
Not only do people with Lyme disease have trouble recalling memories from recent times and the distant past, but they may also struggle to make new memories. For instance, simple experiences like meeting a new person for the first time and remembering their name can seem practically impossible. This is even true after patients go through lengths to increase their chances of remembering a person’s name.
What Causes Brain Fog?
There are a range of elements in Lyme disease responsible for causing brain fog, including the pathogens themselves. Lyme spirochetes are spiral-shaped, which allow them to drill into the body tissue. The bacteria can embed itself into nerve cells and white blood cells, leading to theories that Lyme might destroy brain receptors.
Additionally, Lyme can move through the blood/brain barrier, which protects the brain from pathogens. This is why it is so crucial for experts to consider treatments that use anti-microbial substances that can pass the blood/brain barrier too.
Another possible explanation for brain fog is in regards to the toxins that emerge constantly from Lyme disease. Lyme typically releases two types of toxin into the body. Exotoxins are the toxins that are continuously released as waste material. Endotoxins are the toxins released when cell walls are damaged or destroyed. These walls are damaged when antibiotics or the immune system starts working.
Lyme has also shown links with the release of ammonia, a substance linked to Alzheimer’s. This exotoxin can disrupt proper brain function, and it is common for people with Lyme to have high levels of ammonia. An inability to detox the system from this substance properly can lead to severe problems with memory loss, and even chronic issues.
Additionally, the endotoxins that Lyme releases when the cell wall is destroyed can accumulate in the brain without a detoxification process. The result can be the destruction of brain tissue or neurons which brings on symptoms like Alzheimer’s. The presence of endotoxins can call upon the reaction of the immune system, which releases cytokines.
Cytokines can exacerbate symptoms within the body and the brain. This is why many professionals believe that it is important to reduce the inflammation that happens in Lyme patients. In order for Lyme patients to heal, they must remove inflammation, and this often begins with adaptations to the diet. Many Lyme disease experts recommend removing dairy, sugars, and gluten from the diet, because these products can all cause inflammatory responses in the body.
Insomnia, and the Dangers for Lyme Sufferers
Insomnia is another common neurological issue for people with Lyme disease. Although not all patients with Lyme will experience insomnia, this problem can be more severe than it seems. For instance, you may think that insomnia simply stops you from feeling tired. However, a lack of sleep could cause serious damage to your immune system, and limit your abilities for recovery.
In Lyme, the body is under attack from bacteria that influence its own chemistry. The lack of appropriate levels of sleep causes the body to release additional cytokines. In addition to the cytokines released more often by Lyme suffers, this leads to greater inflammation. As many people know, inflammation is the key to most of the symptoms Lyme sufferers experience.
Once Lyme bacteria is suppressed, and the immune system is under control, the sufferer is often on the path to healing. However, sleep deprivation results in a more compromised immune system. When the immune system is down, the pathogens in the body increase.
Common Remedies for Insomnia for People with Lyme
Since insomnia may be one of the key neurological symptoms of Lyme that prevents effective recovery for a patient, it is important to find methods of recovery. Better sleep could help the immune system to work as it should, and ensure that Lyme sufferers have the tools that they need to overcome their disease.
The typical advice given to people suffering from insomnia is quite simple. Even for people with Lyme, you might find it helpful to take some herbs, have a hot bath, and drink a glass of warm milk. Unfortunately, for some people with a severe neurological disease, these measures are not enough. With that in mind, here are a few common remedies that can help with those suffering from insomnia.
1. Learn how to Balance your Hormones
If your thyroid function is either too high or too low, you may struggle to sleep. Additionally, if you have an imbalance of progesterone related to estrogen, you may not sleep well. Even having an issue of adrenal exhaustion, which can cause problems with cortisol levels, can impact sleep.
Hormones have a huge effect on the way that we sleep. For this reason, it may be useful to ask your doctor to run a complete hormone panel for you (blood testing). By examining the results of this test, you may be able to correct any hormonal imbalances. You can manage hormones with bio-identical hormones, nutritional supplements, and herbal remedies. For instance, you might take DHEA, vitamin C, or adrenal supplements.
2. Try a Protein Snack before Bed
Sometimes, Lyme disease, when combined with issues of adrenal fatigue, can lead to instability in blood sugar levels. This means that you might struggle to get through the night without your body waking you. You wake up because you need extra glucose to help you get through the right of the night. The conventional advice for sleep is to avoid eating close to bedtime. However, some people find that a protein snack can be useful.
If you suffer from Lyme disease, eating some healthy protein before bed can allow you to access a longer night of rest. For instance, you could get some lean chicken or beef. Make sure that you choose organic, high-quality, and clean animal protein. Alternatively, nuts could be a good protein snack.
3. Lower your Exposure to EMFs
It might seem strange, but your sleeping environment can have an impact on how well you sleep. Many experts agree that people struggle to get the rest they need because of the prevalence of technology in and around the bedroom, producing electromagnetic fields. EMFs are dangerous to your health in a range of ways. They come from microwave towers, cell phones, powerlines, and more.
All EMFs are capable of disrupting sleep. If you can remove them from your bedroom, or limit your exposure, you might get a better rest. Try the following steps:
- Turn off all circuit breakers and electrical devices in your bedroom.
- Remove all electrical devices from your bedroom, including cordless phones and WIFI routers
- Remove your cellphone from your bedroom and do not ever sleep with it beside your bed.
4. Reduce Inflammation and Glutamate Levels
Finally, we know that inflammation is a common problem for Lyme sufferers. Unfortunately, when inflammation occurs, the body can’t rest naturally. Whether from high glutamate levels, or pain, inflammation leads to a bad night of sleep.
If you want to fight back against inflammation, you should avoid certain foods in your diet. Inflammation rich foods like grains and sugar can cause serious problems. You can also consider talking to your doctor about taking anti-inflammatory substances. For instance, turmeric and curcumin have both been shown to help with inflammation and could possibly be taken before bedtime.
Lyme and the Brain
There is a very clear a link between Lyme disease and the brain. Although research into this connection is ongoing, it is important to remember that recovering from Lyme means knowing how to look after both your body, and your mind.