Hormones and Chronic Lyme Disease

Hormones and Chronic Lyme Disease

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy

 

As of 2013, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that there are approximately 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease per year in the US, which is 10 times more than the number of cases officially reported. And there are potentially many more “victims” who have yet to discover that they have the disease because the symptoms can mimic other disorders, such as arthritis, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.

An article entitled “Lyme, Neurotoxins and Hormonal Factors, an interview with Nancy Faass, MSW, MPH,” which appeared in the July 2014 edition of the Townsend Letter, offers further insight into the complexity of diagnosis and treatment. Wayne Anderson, ND, and Robert Gitlin, DO, were the experts interviewed for the article.

Chronic Lyme disease patients experience a myriad of complications that make it difficult to diagnose, much less treat and restore the patient to wellness. Lyme disease patients are likely to be struggling with a whole host of problems beyond the infection from the Borrelia bacteria from the tick bite, including but not limited to co-infections such as Babesia, Bartonella, Ehrlichia, and Mycoplasma, along with assaults from mold toxins, petrochemicals, and heavy metals.

Adding to the complexity, some of the symptoms associated with the Borrelia infection are the same as symptoms caused by hormone imbalance. Dr. Gitlin finds that the vast majority of his Lyme disease patients are in a state of adrenal depletion, which needs to be addressed before addressing other hormone depletions.

In patients with Lyme disease, the hypothalamus is affected by the neurotoxins produced by the infectious agents. The hypothalamus is the master gland that ultimately affects the production of thyroid hormones, as well as the sex and adrenal hormones, so supplementing hormones can help offset the deficiencies.

To make matters worse, when Lyme disease symptoms are present, hormone transitions may be more difficult. Dr. Anderson suggests that, if you are directing your patients with bioidentical hormone therapies and they are not responding, chances are good that this patient also has Lyme disease and should be evaluated further.

Low testosterone levels provide an opportunity for infections to take hold. Starting during perimenopause and continuing after menopause, women get about half of their testosterone from the conversion of adrenal DHEA, as opposed to only about 10% in men. Consequently, menopausal women with Lyme disease will suffer even more than men with this disease.

The sex and adrenal hormones tend to have anti-inflammatory actions, so the decline of these hormones in all Lyme disease patients is even more critical, and some patients will present with chronic pain. Dr. Anderson will treat more aggressively with hormone therapies, in order to take advantage of the anti-inflammatory effects the hormones provide in these situations.

Progesterone and pregnenolone are both adrenal hormones, and are precursors to creating more cortisol and DHEA. Because the chronic stress of Lyme-related infections deplete these hormones, supplementing progesterone, pregnenolone, and DHEA can help.

Some patients with Lyme disease present with liver and/or gall bladder tenderness. Dr. Gitlin observes that, because most hormones are metabolized in the liver, using hormones at this point is likely to fail, and patients will not tolerate the hormones. It would be more prudent to address the infection and other toxicities first.

Low levels of DHEA impair liver detoxification and the flow of bile from the gall bladder. (Bile is needed absorb fats from the diet, and structurally it is related to the sex and adrenal hormones.) As a result, the liver becomes even more congested with toxins. As evidence of this, low DHEA levels and subsequent poor detoxification are also associated with an increased risk of breast cancer.

In addition, magnesium, which is an essential element and necessary for hormone balance, becomes critically depleted in patients with Lyme disease. The presence of mercury, a toxic heavy metal, may also be found with Borrelia infections.

Thyroid optimization is another key in helping Lyme disease patients, but only after adrenal support has been added. Hashimoto’s disease tends to be the result of an inflamed gastrointestinal tract, but a Lyme disease infection may also be part of the problem. In fact, Dr. Gitlin has observed the presentation of Hashimoto’s disease, a low white blood cell count, and an increased bilirubin levels (Gilbert’s disease) pattern, which he thinks may be a hallmark of Lyme disease.

Understanding the impact of Lyme disease on hormones (and vice versa) can help create the perspective needed for successful treatment. Why do hormones not work as effectively in some patients? Why do some women suffer much more at menopause transitions? And why do women tend to be more symptomatic with hormone imbalances than men? Considering the possibility that Lyme disease may be present and addressing the dimensions noted may increase the chance of success.

Hormones and Chronic Lyme Disease 2018-04-04T14:58:50+00:00

Lyme Disease Research Update

Lyme Disease Research Update

Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP– Women’s International Pharmacy

What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection transmitted to humans by infected deer ticks. The bacterium that causes the infection is a spirochete named Borrelia. Initial symptoms include a rash that may look like a bullseye, fever, headache, and fatigue. As the disease progresses, one may experience arthritis, heart problems, and nerve problems. A diagnosis is most often made based on symptoms and history of a deer tick bite. Lyme disease is difficult to diagnose because its symptoms mimic other diseases and lab testing is not definitive. Current treatment most often involves a two to four week course of antibiotics. However, a single round of antibiotics may not eradicate the infection and co-infections with other organisms may arise. Individuals with Lyme disease may find themselves in a situation where the condition becomes chronic and they are in a continuous struggle to restore their health.

International Lyme and Associated Disease Society
The International Lyme and Associated Disease Society (ILADS) is a nonprofit, international, multidisciplinary medical society dedicated to the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of Lyme and associated diseases. They are advocates for helping people with chronic Lyme disease and other associated diseases restore their health. Over 600 people attended the annual ILADS meeting in Fort Lauderdale this year. There were many presentations and among them, there were several linking the symptoms of chronic Lyme infection with hormones and hormone treatment.

Pituitary Gland and Endocrine Dysfunctions in Chronic Lyme/Co-infections, presented by Eugene R. Shippen, MD 
Dr. Eugene Shippen is a family practitioner in Shillington, Pennsylvania. He is also the author of The Testosterone Syndrome and a sought after lecturer on hormone replenishment. Dr. Shippen began his presentation by stating comprehensive hormone testing should be done for all patients with chronic illness. He recommended testing thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones, as well as pituitary hormones which normally stimulate the production of thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones. Pituitary hormones including luteinizing hormone, follicle stimulating hormone, growth hormone, and prolactin may be used to evaluate pituitary function. If abnormalities are revealed, the function of the hypothalamus should also be examined.

Prolactin, a pituitary hormone known for stimulating breast milk production, tends to be elevated in chronic illness. Prolactin participates in a multitude of bodily functions and chronically high levels of prolactin can have far reaching effects. Symptoms may include decreased libido and mood, insulin resistance, and weight gain. Low thyroid function may also contribute to high prolactin levels, but a pituitary growth called an adenoma should be ruled out if prolactin levels are especially high. Proper treatment of hypothyroidism may restore prolactin to normal levels.

Impaired cognitive function can be a persistent symptom of Lyme disease and other associated diseases. Dr. Shippen described using a topical gel of selegiline, DHEA, and pregnenolone for cognitive dysfunction arising during chronic illness. Selegiline is a drug that inhibits the breakdown of dopamine in the brain. It is commonly used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and has favorable action on neuro-repair. The adrenal hormones, DHEA and pregnenolone, may also have neurosteroid or neuro-enhancing properties. Dr. Shippen presented case studies to illustrate the effectiveness of addressing some of these hormone deficits.

Changes of Thyroid and Adrenal Function in Chronic Infections/Lyme Disease, presented by Usha Honeyman, DC, ND
Dr. Usha Honeyman is a chiropractor and a naturopathic physician who practices in Corvallis, Oregon, and specializes in finding hidden causes to chronic disease and inflammation. She, too, focused on the presence of hormone dysfunction in patients with chronic Lyme disease and other associated diseases.

Patients with chronic Lyme disease and associated diseases tend to have low body temperatures. Normal body temperature is important in patients with chronic infection because white blood cell activity may be impaired under low temperature conditions. Healthy, active white blood cells are vital in helping the body fight infection. Low body temperature is also a symptom often associated with low thyroid function. Lyme disease and associated diseases may affect thyroid function in a number of ways:

  • Cytokines and inflammatory agents, which are often elevated in chronic infection, may affect thyroid function.
  • Corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) is produced by the hypothalamus and activates cortisol in the body. CRH tends to be elevated in chronic infection. Excess CRH activity may interfere with thyroid function by inhibiting the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone, T4, to the active form, T3.
  • Infection is a stress activator of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands.
  • The interaction between these three glands regulates many functions in the body, including thyroid.

Final Thoughts
The incidence of Lyme disease is on the rise in the United States. Some practitioners have recommended that anyone who is struggling with any type of chronic health issue be examined for Lyme disease. Hormone disruption is not usually the first thing considered by practitioners when a patient presents with a chronic disease; however, some of the ILADS practitioners are now urging all practitioners to examine the effects of high or low hormone levels and treat accordingly in patients with chronic Lyme disease and other associated diseases. Chronic Lyme disease may contribute to hormone imbalance, or, alternatively, hormone imbalance may be a source of the symptoms exhibited in chronic Lyme disease.

  • International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society. http://www.ilads.org/.
  • Shippen ER. Pituitary Gland and Endocrine Dysfunctions in Chronic Lyme/Co-infections. Lecture presented at: Annual ILADS meeting; October 2015; Fort Lauderdale, FL.
  • Honeyman U. Changes of Thyroid and Adrenal Function in Chronic Infections/Lyme Disease. Lecture presented at: Annual ILADS meeting; October 2015; Fort Lauderdale, FL.
Lyme Disease Research Update 2018-04-02T16:25:10+00:00

The Lyme Disease Merry-Go-Round

The Lyme Disease Merry-Go-Round: Hormones, the Immune System, and Yeast

Written by Kathy Lynch, PharmD – Women’s International Pharmacy

 

Patients with chronic Lyme disease have weakened immune systems which may allow intestinal yeast to overgrow. Antibiotics, the mainstay of Lyme disease therapy, destroy the beneficial gut bacteria which keep yeast overgrowth in check. Yeast, in turn, depresses the immune system even further. It also binds up estrogen, making it unavailable to the cells that need it the most. Thus patients with Lyme disease may get sicker and sicker due to a compromised immune system, hormone imbalance, and yeast overgrowth.

A low sugar, low carbohydrate diet can kill off yeast while strengthening the immune system. Acidophilus and other anti-yeast supplements like aged garlic extract can help as well. (See our A Connection with Yeast newsletter.) Practitioners who treat yeast with immunotherapy can be found at the American Academy of Environmental Medicine website.

Marlene Kunold, a German practitioner who specializes in the treatment of Lyme disease, believes that healing may be incomplete until the adrenal and thyroid glands are adequately supported. Researchers have found that the adrenal glands have a positive effect on immunity. And natural killer cells, part of the immune system’s first line of defense, are more active when thyroid function is optimal.

Dr. William Hrushesky believes that estrogen dominance can decrease the activity of natural killer cells and other immune system components. Low estrogen levels can do the same thing. Progesterone can help offset estrogen dominance but may cause yeast overgrowth in susceptible individuals. It is important that patients with Lyme disease have access to medical professionals with knowledge of hormones, the immune system, and yeast.

The Lyme Disease Merry-Go-Round 2018-04-05T13:15:46+00:00