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A Functional Medicine Approach to Lyme Disease

A functional approach to Lyme disease and its chronic, secondary symptoms that affect your long-term health.

Lyme disease has a long and somewhat complicated history due to the nature of the bacteria that causes it, Borrelia burgdorferi. This bacteria dates back to the ice ages, proving its effectiveness in remaining concealed and surviving throughout harsh conditions over thousands of years. Lyme disease continues to affect tens-to-hundreds of thousands of people in the US each year

Contracting Acute Lyme Disease, Testing and Treatment

Coming into contact with Lyme-disease infected ticks is common when out in the wilderness or through contact with pets in highly-affected regions. Infection can occur from a tick bite, a bite from a mouse or rat that has been infected by a tick carrying lyme disease, or even a household cat that may have eaten a mouse that’s been infected.


If you’ve been bitten by a tick it is important to remove it as quickly and completely as possible to prevent possible infection. After removing a tick, monitoring for fever, rash and fatigue, which may be signs of a Lyme disease infection.


Acute Lyme disease that is diagnosed with a positive blood test result for the bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi can be treated with antibiotics to eliminate the bacterial infection symptoms. 

Chronic Lyme Disease Secondary Symptoms

Lyme disease that goes undetected and untreated can have damaging, lasting, long-term effects on your health. Because the bacteria that causes Lyme disease has been described as “burrowing” within the cells of the body, it can be very difficult to get a positive blood test result, even going undetected for years.


This leads to a heightened immune response to the infection and over time, a range of devastating symptoms.

Chronic and Secondary Symptoms of Lyme Disease Infection:

  • Severe Fatigue, Headaches, Trouble Sleeping
  • Pain in the Joints and Muscles
  • Mood Disorders: Anxiety, Depression
  • Cognitive Problems: Brain Fog, ADHD
  • Hormonal Imbalances
  • Neurological Problems: Sensitivity to Light, Sound, Tingling and Numbness in Extremities, Tremors, Dizziness
  • Gastrointestinal Problems: Heartburn, Stomach Pain, Weight Fluctuations, Diarrhea or Constipation

Neurological and Gastrointestinal Lyme Disease

Left untreated, Lyme disease continues to spread throughout the body leading to a host of symptoms and further, neurological and gastrointestinal problems.


Lyme neuroborreliosis or neurological Lyme disease is a secondary symptom of Lyme disease and it is estimated that 10-15% of people that are infected with Lyme may develop the neurological symptoms: headache, fever, fatigue, brain fog, chills. Left untreated, this may lead to other, more serious inflammatory diseases affecting the lymphatic system, nerves in the brain associated with senses and facial expression, spinal nerves causing tingling or numbness, and peripheral nerves causing weakness and pain. These symptoms mimic those of other diseases including fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression and more.


With 80% of the immune system located around the digestive tract, Lyme disease that persists may begin to have effects on your digestive health. Gastrointestinal Lyme disease symptoms include food intolerances, constipation, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, heartburn, and blood in the stool. Gastrointestinal conditions associated with chronic Lyme disease include leaky gut syndrome, constipation, small intestine bacterial overgrowth, Crohn’s disease, and mast cell activation syndrome.


For both of these conditions, the diagnosis of Lyme disease may be made clinically even if blood tests for Borrelia burgdorferi are negative, based on the combined symptoms, co-infections and ruling out other diseases.

Treating Chronic Lyme Disease is Personal: A Functional Approach

It has been shown that how Lyme disease affects a person is correlated with their current immune system health and toxic load.


A person with an already high toxic load who contracts Lyme disease will begin to present the secondary symptoms a lot quicker than someone who has a lower toxic load. Additionally, past health history and current conditions influence how your immune system responds and what areas of the body present symptoms.


The functional medicine approach focuses on comprehensive diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease taking into account the whole health of an individual patient. Forum Health providers are able to work as a team with different specialties to get to the root cause, whether that be a diagnosis of Lyme disease or something else.


With functional medicine, the goal for chronic Lyme disease patients is to lower the viral toxic load affecting the immune system. Functional and integrative medicine providers at Forum Health focus on boosting the immune system to function properly, keep inflammation down with an anti-inflammatory protocol, and managing the maintenance of this condition with supplemental therapies, and always working as a team with the patient.


For more information on Lyme disease treatment options with Forum Health, Contact us.