Chronic Fatigue or Lyme disease?

Uinmyeye. . . Lyme in South Africa.

‘From a happy, energetic, productive and healthy person the one day, to an anxious, fatigued, pain-filled, and bed-ridden one the next day’: It has been said that this is the picture of what can happen to a person who gets infected with Lyme Disease, and I can testify to that.

It took approximately three years of me being chronically ill, before a correct diagnosis was made. I started developing symptoms out of the blue one day and thought I was coming down with flu or a viral infection. I had terrible pains in the upper area of my stomach, a sore throat, muscle pains, fatigue, dizziness and nausea. After a visit to my medical doctor and a number of blood tests, it seemed like an acute ‘Epstein Barr’ viral infection. I was prescribed a course of antibiotics and plenty of rest. What was supposed to have been a passing viral infection, turned into a very long and drawn out period of on-going symptoms with no solutions. The general diagnosis was Chronic Fatigue syndrome, and the general prescription from specialist doctors was an anti-depressant that made me feel worse instead of better. Over time, I developed extra symptoms that included fevers, headaches, gastrointestinal problems, intense fatigue, ear and eye infections, joint pain, and a consistent shortness of breath or “air hunger”. After about two years, my symptoms took another turn. This time it was neurological symptoms, including muscle spasms, twitching, numbness in areas of my body, severe burning pains under the soles of my feet, and fatigue that got so intense that it was difficult to do even basic tasks. My weight dropped to 45kg. After a lot of prayer and research, I ended up with a medical practitioner who was knowledgeable on Lyme, and I was diagnosed with stage three Lyme disease. I started following a treatment programme for Lyme, and for the first time, my symptoms began to slowly subside.

What is Lyme disease? It is a tick born disease that is caused by a particular kind of bacteria, -a ‘spirochete’. The main spirochete responsible for Lyme is called Borrelia burgdorferi. It is said that there are over 100 strains of Borrelia in the US alone and over 300 strains worldwide. Lyme disease is a very controversial subject and a medical condition that is being recognized by some medical experts, whilst others deny that it exists. A lot of western mainstream doctors are not willing to admit that a patient could be suffering from Lyme. From my perspective most doctors in South Africa, have very little knowledge about the disease, or believe we cannot get it in this country.

Lyme disease was originally discovered in the United States in 1975, when people got ill after being bitten by a tick found on a deer living in the area. Today there is still an assumption that Lyme’s disease is only contracted in the United States. The reality is that other forms of the spirochetes have been found in other continents across the world. It is also logical that the spirochetes can migrate, because these organisms can move around with a great deal of freedom the same way people move around in planes. Perhaps the whole subject should be up for debate. What I do know is that I contracted Lyme (or a similar disease with the same characteristics) from a tick bite in South Africa.

Lyme bacteria is generally contracted and spread through being bitten by a tick in most cases. However, it has been found that the bacteria may also be spread by other insects, including mosquitoes, spiders, fleas, and mites.

One of the problems with diagnosing Lyme is that the symptoms are not identified or visible immediately after being bitten by an infected insect. Initially, one may experience flu-like symptoms, but it may not be so severe that it gets recognized as something other than a passing viral infection. Most medical experts believe that the tell-tale sign for diagnosing Lyme disease is a so-called “bulls-eye” rash on the skin shortly after being infected. It is found however that the rash only occurs in approximately 50% of people being infected with Lyme. In the months leading to my ill-health, I had a few symptoms that came and went, such as sinus, alternating stomach symptoms, and bouts of fatigue. I wrote these symptoms off as an effect of too much stress or too little rest, until one day when the symptoms became so intense, that my life was called to a complete standstill. Had I known at that stage it was caused by these bacteria invading my system, it would have multicircumvented my extensive search for answers let alone my suffering the many symptoms in the process.

Unfortunately testing for Lyme or spirochete involvement is not always that easily diagnosed, since this clever organism has a way to hide itself really well. Borrelia burgdorferi does not just exist as a spirochete; it has the ability to live intra-cellularly (inside your cells) as an “L-form” or a “cyst” form, which is why they are not always found in the blood during testing. It has been well documented that these spirochetes produce Biofilms as a protective shield where they can hide deep within to multiply and grow. A biofilm is a multi-cellular colony of multiple species of micro-organisms and extra-cellular materials that stick to one another or a surface. Not all bacteria form biofilms, but Lyme spirochetes do. With all these advanced survival mechanisms, this is a highly adaptable organism that is extremely difficult to detect and eradicate. Live Blood Analysis or Dark field Microscopy can be used as an alternative approach to test for these bacteria when they are not detected during normal laboratory testing.

There are three stages in which this disease develops if it is not diagnosed and treated correctly. Stage one is when the person becomes infected and usually lasts one to four weeks. This is when some people develop a rash, and experience flu-like symptoms or low energy. But some people have no specific symptoms during this stage. If the Lyme’s bacteria is then not detected and treated during the first four weeks, the infection starts spreading to other areas of the body, such as the skin, nervous system, heart, and joints during Stage two. This stage is usually identified during one to four months. Stage three is the late or more chronic stage of the disease. The bacteria has spread throughout the body and involves various organs. The symptoms of this stage can persist for months or even years.

The symptoms associated with Lyme disease are in some cases similar to those of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The Main symptoms of CFS, according to the Mayo Clinic, are: fatigue; loss of memory or concentration; sore throat; enlarged lymph nodes in neck or armpits; unexplained muscle pains; pain that moves from one joint to another without swelling or redness; headaches of a new and different type, pattern or severity; disturbed sleep; and exhaustion that lasts many hours after physical or mental exercise. Lyme disease symptoms include the following -: persistent swollen glands; sore throat; joint pains; muscle pain; confusion or poor memory; mood swings; anxiety; depression; headaches; ear pain or ringing in the ears; conjunctivitis; flu-like feeling; numbness in arms or legs, tingling or burning sensations; fatigue; poor stamina; insomnia; napping during the day; pain in genital area; stomach pain; nausea; constipation or diarrhea; heart palpitations; breathlessness or “air hunger”; fevers or chills; vertigo; increased motion sickness; light-and sound sensitivity; skin hypersensitivity; facial paralysis- Bell’s palsy; muscle weakness; neck stiffness; weight gain or weight loss; night sweats; head congestion and skin rashes.

Although Borrelia is the main bacteria responsible for Lyme disease, there are a number of other bacteria and organisms that usually accompany this disease. They include co-infections like Rickettsia, Toxoplasma, Chlamydia, Bartonella, Babesia, Mycoplasma and a few more. In a lot of the cases, viruses of the herpes family, parasites, mould and yeast also form part of the Lyme disease picture. Most CFS patients already have some form of chronic or acute viral activity present, as well as fungus or parasites. This raises a controversial but perhaps valid question as to whether a person might be dealing with spirochete involvement without knowing it, whilst being diagnosed with CFS. It does not mean that all CFS patients are infected with Lyme, but it is worth exploring, if one does not respond to any treatment recommended for Adrenal Fatigue, Thyroid imbalances or other areas of the endocrine system.

In a number of articles written, it has been said that the symptoms of chronic Lyme disease can stay dormant until the individual’s immune system is weakened. It is therefore possible that a person can contract an infection like Lyme during any point in their lifetime but be unaware of it, until it is triggered. The trigger can often be a trauma, like a car accident or a divorce that causes the immune system to weaken.

Another important factor in Chronic Lyme disease is the presence of a toxin overload in the body that seems to play a major role in the symptoms. Firstly, there are the toxins that get produced by the bacteria itself. These neurotoxins are like nerve poisons and they are capable of causing neurologic dysfunction in the central nervous system. This can affect the spinal cord and brain stem, causing muscle weakness, cognitive impairments, chronic pain and severe inflammation. But there are also the influences of other toxins that play a role such as environmental toxins. They are prevalent in our water; air and/or food supply and include industrial chemicals, pesticides, asbestos, heavy metals and even the toxins that are released from mould or fungus.

With all these toxins invading the blood, the organs responsible for cleansing like the liver, kidneys, skin, and lymph can sometimes become overloaded causing multi-system health problems to occur. The challenge with Chronic Lyme disease sufferers are that they do not have adequate detoxification mechanisms to get rid of the toxins in the first place. This actually forms a major part of the chronic symptoms that people with Lyme experience. Therefore in order to manage the symptoms of Lyme successfully, one has to explore all detoxification pathways, especially those of the liver.

The main treatment approach for Lyme disease is to try and eliminate the bacteria, build the immune system, and support the body to fight the chronic infection. An anti-microbial treatment, including elimination of parasites, yeast and mould should be done and continued for a period of time. Due to the nature of this bacteria and the issue of biofilm, short term treatment is not sufficient to successfully fight the Lyme bacteria. The standard treatment protocol (consisting of 30 days antibiotic therapy) doesn’t offer the cure for chronic Lyme sufferers. A long-term commitment to medication, the correct diet, additional nutrition, and detoxification is crucial.

Lyme disease is a complex and sometimes debilitating condition that requires early detection and treatment. If it does not get treated, it can turn into a chronic disease with multi system involvement that can affect your quality of life on all levels.

Author: Heilie S. van Zyl
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