Lyme Disease: Can Probiotic Bacteria Help?

Recently, Toby Smith P. asked about Lyme disease: 

I was recently diagnosed with Lyme disease. Mainly neurological symptoms–memory issues, attention issues, cognitive difficulties at times, anxiety, depression, sleep issues, ringing in the ears, dizziness. Am looking for everything I can do to help myself. Thanks!

What Is Lyme Disease?

Probiotic bacteria can even help reduce inflammation in the brain.

Lyme disease is caused by an infection from the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi. The infection can spread to the skin, heart, joints, and nervous system.

Not only does the virulent nature of Borrelia make Lyme disease difficult to diagnose, but it also makes it difficult to treat. Those with Lyme disease can feel like they are chasing symptoms, without ever getting rid of the infection.

Borrelia lives specifically in deer ticks, which is how the majority of people diagnosed with Lyme get infected in the first place—from a tick bite.

The telltale signs of a bite from a tick infected with Borrelia include:

  • A large “bull’s-eye” rash surrounding the area of the bite. This rash is typically surrounded by a red ring and has a clear center.
  • Flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, and headache.

Note: These symptoms can show up within 7-10 days after the bite—but not always. The bull’s eye rash is a response from the body’s immune system. If the body doesn’t mount a full immune response, the bull’s eye rash never appears.

Do Antibiotics Always Stop Lyme Disease?

Detail tick - parasite on leather of man (Rhipicephalus sanguine

Antibiotics may be ineffective to treat Lyme disease, spread by infection through a tick bite. The Borrelia bacteria that cause Lyme disease can hide in the body, inside immune cells and brain cells.

Think of it like this: Borrelia is a spiral-shaped bacterium one day and an unrecognizable kernel the next. Unfortunately, Borrelia can take on many forms (like a shape-shifter), which allow it to hide and evade the effects of antibiotics.

Borrelia can also hide inside of cells, like immune cells and brain cells.

Lyme Disease and the Brain

Many Lyme symptoms can show up in the brain, like:

  • Problems with memory and attention
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Problems sleeping
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Dizziness

When Borrelia infects nerve tissue, it can set off a pro-inflammatory immune response in the brain.

According to Dr. Aristo Vojdani, a researcher at the Immunosciences Laboratory in Los Angeles, California, specific neurotransmitters set off an inflammatory cascade in the brain by triggering immune cells to produce pro-inflammatory messages. (1)

These neurotransmitters also stop the production of signals that modulate the immune system—or balance the negative effects of inflammation.

When Borrelia infects the central nervous system (the spinal cord and the brain), this pushes immune cells to produce more pro-inflammatory chemicals. The result can be:

  • Exhaustion, poor memory, slow thinking, and other signs of poor brain function
  • All-over fatigue
  • Anxiety and depression

Fire in the Brain, Fire in the Gut

Fire (or inflammation) in the brain often means that there is also fire (or inflammation) in the gut.

The gut and the brain share a unique relationship in the body. They are connected by the vagus nerve. Many of the same neurotransmitters that influence the brain also influence the gut. This means that what you do to help one often helps the other. And you can’t necessarily “put out the fire” without addressing both the gut and the brain together.

The Body Ecology Diet is an anti-inflammatory diet that removes common food irritants. In addition to suggesting foods that are high in minerals and valuable anti-inflammatory compounds, the Body Ecology Diet specifically suggests adding fermented foods to the diet, multiple times a day.

Probiotic bacteria found in cultured veggies and probiotic beverages work with the immune system, shutting down inflammation. Dr. Vojdani suggests that probiotic bacteria can even help reduce inflammation in the brain.

Some compounds have also been found to minimize brain inflammation, especially when triggered by an infection like Borrelia:

  • Alpha Lipoic Acid: You can find small amounts in offal, or organ meats. This includes kidney, liver, and heart. It is also naturally found in spinach and broccoli.
  • Resveratrol: Found in the skin of red grapes and in a Chinese herb called hu zhang, or knotweed root.
  • Quercetin: The best natural source of quercetin is capers. You will also find it in herbs like dill, cilantro, fennel leaf, and the outer rings of red onion.

How to manage the symptoms of Lyme disease:

  1. Diet: Diet is paramount because it equips your immune system to have a fighting chance against infection. Remember, 70%-80% of your immune system is in your gut.
  2. Probiotic Foods: If you have been on or are on pharmaceutical antibiotic therapy, probiotics and probiotic foods are essential to restore the inner ecosystem of the gut.
  3. Herbal Antibiotics: Herbal antibiotics are a sustainable way to address Borrelia infection and Lyme disease co-infections. Chinese herbal formulas can be especially effective. Heiner Fruhauf, a practitioner of Classical Chinese Medicine in Portland, Oregon, has been successfully working with people diagnosed with Lyme disease for over 20 years. He designed a line of herbs specifically for chronic, inflammatory disorders like Lyme disease.

What To Remember Most About This Article:

Lyme disease is caused by an infection from Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. Spread through deer tick bites, this infection can affect the skin, heart, joints, and nervous system. This bacterium is difficult to attack using antibiotics since it can take on many forms and hide in immune and brain cells.

Once Lyme disease affects the brain, symptoms like memory and attention loss, anxiety and depression, difficulty sleeping, dizziness, and ringing in the ears may occur. Inflammation in the brain may be linked to inflammation in the gut; an anti-inflammatory diet can address both issues.

Body Ecology recommends eating fermented foods several times a day for this reason. Beneficial probiotic bacteria found in cultured veggies and probiotic beverages can support the immune system by shutting down inflammation. Experts believe that probiotic bacteria can even reduce harmful inflammation in the brain.

Use three important tips to manage symptoms of Lyme disease:

  1. Change your diet. Diet supports your immune system in the fight against infection; 70%-80% of your immune system is located in your gut!
  2. Eat probiotic foods. Probiotic foods restore the protective inner ecosystem of the gut, especially after a course of antibiotics.
  3. Consider herbal antibiotics. Chinese herbal formulas may be available to fight Borrelia infection and Lyme disease co-infections—without destroying your body’s inner ecology.
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  1. Vojdani, A., & Lambert, J. (2009). The role of Th17 in neuroimmune disorders: target for CAM therapy. Part II. Evidence Based Complementary and AlternativeMedicine, 2011, 51.
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