Can Lyme Disease Cause A Loss Of Appetite?
For many years, Lyme disease was largely misunderstood and difficult to diagnose, as its symptoms are vague and similar to general feelings of malaise. However, the bacterial disease was conclusively identified in 1975 in Connecticut, United States, and was named after the town it was first diagnosed in. Recently, medical professionals have been able to better identify the disease using a variety of tests, and can diagnose patients more accurately.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is a parasitic infection caused from ticks carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria. This bacteria is a type of spirochete, or corkscrew-shaped bacteria, and there are four closely related types in the Borrelia family – Borrelia burgdorferi is the most common throughout the United States; Borrelia mayonii is found in the upper Midwestern United States; and Borrelia afzelii and Borrelia garinii are both found in Europe and Asia. In the United States, the ticks that tend to carry the bacteria the most are the deer ticks, whereas in Europe, the primary carriers are sheep or castor bean ticks. The good news is that not all ticks carry this bacteria; however, with tick populations on the rise and the increase in global travel and exploration, humans are becoming more and more exposed to ticks.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in acute form?
The difficult part about diagnosing this condition is that its symptoms of Lyme disease are very similar to flu symptoms and can be difficult to pinpoint. Symptoms of Lyme disease also do not present themselves until 7–10 days after a tick bite, making the connection tricky to identify. Acute symptoms of Lyme disease can include a circular ‘bull’s eye’ rash that may appear anywhere from a few days or up to a month following a tick bite. Other symptoms of Lyme disease in this acute stage include headache, fatigue, chills, loss of appetite, fever, and achiness of joints and muscles. When identified at this stage, Lyme disease is treatable with antibiotics; most people only experience these symptoms and never become seriously ill.
What are the symptoms of Lyme disease in chronic form?
It is estimated that 30–50% of people will progress through to the next stage of the illness that can begin two weeks to three months after the infection starts, and they are then subjected to the chronic symptoms of Lyme disease. These can include arthritic pain, memory loss, trouble with vision, and other neurological symptoms that closely parallel multiple sclerosis.
Only a very small percentage of people will progress to the third and final stage of Lyme disease, which can present itself two years after the initial tick bite. This chronic form of Lyme disease causes crippling arthritis and several neurological symptoms similar to those in patients with multiple sclerosis. It can also include facial paralysis, difficulty walking, meningitis, increased memory loss and difficulty concentrating. (Source)
Can Lyme disease cause a loss of appetite?
In a word, yes. One of the symptoms of Lyme disease in its acute form is a loss of appetite, similar to what patients would experience if they had the flu. So exactly how does Lyme disease affect appetite?
Lyme disease can affect the sense of taste, making previously enjoyed foods taste odd. It causes patients to have to limit what they are eating, as only certain tastes and textures are tolerated. At first glance, this aversion to food can come across as an eating disorder, if Lyme disease hasn’t already been diagnosed. In children, it can seem as though they are simply being ‘picky eaters’ or going through a phase of not enjoying certain foods, when in fact it is a sign of Lyme disease.
How to test for Lyme disease
To determine whether or not flu-like symptoms are a result of Lyme disease, especially if the patient notices the bull’s eye rash or has been recently bitten by a tick, doctors will perform a variety of tests using blood samples. It can be challenging to get confirmation of the presence of the Borrelia burgdorferi bacteria; however, this is not always easy or possible. The part of our immune system that creates the antibodies required to fight an infection is called the humoral immune system. Doctors can check this part of the immune system to determine whether or not the bacteria is present, based on whether the body is creating antibodies to fight it. They can also test at the cellular level to analyse the activity of the antibodies. Humoral immune system tests include the ELISA, CLIA, and immunoblots, while the cellular immune system tests are done through the ELISpot test. (Source)
How to treat loss of appetite due to Lyme disease
The best way to treat any of the acute symptoms of Lyme disease is to get on a regime of antibiotics as soon as possible. If you suspect that you have been bitten by a tick, or you notice the bull’s eye rash, seek medical help immediately to begin testing for the disease. By treating the disease at its root, many people find relief of the acute symptoms, including the loss of appetite. While you are experiencing the loss of appetite due to Lyme disease, try experimenting with various foods to try to find options that are nutritious and appealing to your altered palate. Continue consuming fluids as much as you can, and include fluids such as smoothies that can add nutritional value while not requiring you to eat a lot.
Before I hit upon lack of appetite, I’d like to clear up a few points:
- Lyme IS STILL largely misunderstood and difficult to diagnose. Poor testing rules the day and “authorities” continue to think this is a singular illness caused by a singular pathogen and for most of us, that’s not true: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/10/30/study-shows-lyme-msids-patients-infected-with-many-pathogens-and-explains-why-we-are-so-sick/
- There’s probably many more strains implicated and an open mind is necessary. Due to the fact testing tests for ONE strain, it becomes clear that besides this extremely limiting factor, the fact the body often doesn’t mount an adequate immune response for antibodies to be picked up on a test is also a problem. Tests routinely miss infected patients. This is a clinical diagnosis.
- Then there’s the issue that there are potentially many other ways to become infected besides the bite of a tick: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/06/19/33-years-of-documentation-of-maternal-child-transmission-of-lyme-disease-and-congenital-lyme-borreliosis-a-review/, https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/05/24/microbiology-professor-im-convinced-lyme-disease-is-transmittable-from-person-to-person/, and there’s many animal studies indicating the serious need for more research to determine the various means of transmission: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2017/02/24/pcos-lyme-my-story/
- Symptoms of Lyme/MSIDS are highly variable and require education and study. The Horowitz questionnaire should be used by all physicians as it has been validated: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2017/09/05/empirical-validation-of-the-horowitz-questionnaire-for-suspected-lyme-disease/ The actual questionnaire is in the first link in the comment section.
- Please remember that patients can jump around in the 3 “stages of Lyme” and in no particular order. Again, a little girl developed facial palsy, and couldn’t walk or talk within a 4-6 hour window after being bitten by a tick, demonstrating people can quickly jump to stage 3 without ever showing stages 1 & 2: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2016/12/07/igenex-presentation/
- The statement that only a small percentage go on to stage 3 is complete hearsay. We really have no idea how many people are in this category, but microbiologist Holly Ahern wrote an article demonstrating that it can be potentially 60 percent of those infected: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2019/02/25/medical-stalemate-what-causes-continuing-symptoms-after-lyme-treatment/ One thing I can clearly state is that ALL the people I work with are chronic cases.
- Regarding the issue of appetite, personally I will say that I often felt I ate to take pills. I rarely enjoyed food during treatment due to being extremely sensitive to smell, sight, and sound. Food often takes patients “over the top” and becomes somewhat repulsive. I suppose this could look like anorexia but it’s due to being extremely sensitive – not an abnormal body image. Personally, I can state that both my husband and I eat probably half of what we used to. It just doesn’t sound or taste as good any more. I’ve nearly lost my entire sense of smell – another strange side effect of this illness.
- In this informative article, anorexia is listed as a symptom for Lyme disease: https://www.holtorfmed.com/connection-lyme-disease-psychiatric-disorders/. In this article, Dr. Bransfield, a well-known psychiatrist also states this: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2015/10/18/psychiatric-lymemsids/
- Loss of appetite in Lyme/MSIDS is another topic that deserves more research. It would be interesting to know the potential reasons behind it and if it improves after treatment. I will also state I’ve noticed many patients struggle with abdominal pain at some point in treatment as well as digestion issues. Whether this is due directly to the pathogens or the effect of treatment is another puzzle that needs to be teased out. In my treatment, there was only one antibiotic that made me extremely nauseous. I told my doctor about it and he put me on ondansetron (8mg), a drug commonly used for nausea caused by chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery. It’s expensive but I found if I took one in the morning before any antibiotics, I had no nausea.
- If you struggle with digestion issues, I encourage you to read this article written by Dr. Sherr on palsy of the gut with Lyme disease: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/05/21/palsy-of-the-gut-other-gi-manifestation-of-lyme-msids/ Excerpt: Parallelism between Lyme borreliosis-caused paresis of facial muscles supplied by Cranial Nerve VII and Lyme-caused gastrointestinal paralyses suggested a pseudonym to the author–Bell’s palsy of the Gut—despite the fact that these syndromes are related to different types of neural fibers and only occasionally occur together. Since similar injury to all sites may be etiologically related, however, otherwise unexplained gastrointestinal symptoms should be considered as possibly related to Lyme borreliosis and/or its co-infections until proven otherwise…..Borreliosis-caused, gastrointestinal tract paralysis and related abnormalities can occur anywhere along the entire length of the tract (9,10)—involving, for example, functionality of taste buds (11,12), muscular strength of the tongue, gag reflex, ability to swallow, gastroparesis, peristaltic retardation (or excitation) related to small bowel competency, dysbiosis, total arrest of peristalsis (“ileus”), pseudo-obstruction (sometimes associated with Bell’s palsy) (13), colon dysfunctions, encopresis, proctalgia fugax and the final act of defecation. “In 5%–23% of patients with early Lyme borreliosis, there can be gastrointestinal symptoms such as anorexia, nausea, vomiting, severe abdominal pain, hepatitis, hepatomegaly and splenomegaly.
- When you become educated on how Lyme can cause paralysis pretty much anywhere in the body, all of a sudden it become quite logical that a patient would struggle with all aspects of eating – from their smell all the way through elimination. And that’s just Lyme – we know coinfections are also sometimes to blame or work synergistically with Lyme: https://madisonarealymesupportgroup.com/2018/05/21/palsy-of-the-gut-other-gi-manifestation-of-lyme-msids/ in the same article by Dr. Sherr she states: Bartonellosis can cause major central nervous system damage, similar in some aspects to the aforementioned Lyme neuroborreliosis. Lyme and bartonellosis symptoms may include encephalitis signified by headaches, major memory loss, rages, seizures, and coma, as well as inflammation of the heart, abdominal pain, bone lesions, and loss of vision. Until recent years, Bartonella, at onset of infection an endothelial and subsequent red blood cells infector, was considered to cause a relatively benign and common disease otherwise known as cat scratch disease (26–28). Now that ticks have become significant transmitters of Bartonella infections into humans, this vectoring appears to amplify victims’ general Lyme symptoms (26), and quite likely amplifies GI tract lining symptoms as well.
- I agree with the author of the article that in order to treat the lack of appetite, treating the infection(s) at the root is the best approach; however, also remember that food is life and eat a healthy, whole-food diet with many vitamins and nutrients – especially when your food intake is low. Try to figure out ways to make food appealing again as well as become savvy in ways of choosing healthier, yet appealing options.