Chronic Lyme disease can have many tumultuous effects on the body. Some of them are immediately apparent, and some of them take months or even years to manifest. The fact that these symptoms are so varied among patients adds to the problem of diagnosing chronic Lyme. The misdiagnosis rates surrounding the disorder are high. This is due in part to the varied symptoms which mimic other chronic diseases, and also down to the fact that chronic Lyme is not viewed as a legitimate condition in most medical circles, compared to acute Lyme, which is. Weight gain as a result of Lyme disease might not sound like a serious symptom in the grand scheme of things; but when it affects a patient’s mental health, as well as their lifestyle, it can have severe repercussions. So can Lyme disease cause weight gain? And if so, how?
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a condition caused primarily by the Borrelia burgdorferi strain of bacteria. It is transmitted to humans via the bite of an infected tick, namely the deer tick in North America and the castor bean tick in Europe. Not all ticks carry the offending strain, and not every bite from an infected tick will result in Lyme disease. However, the exact statistics on this front are hard to gauge. It is best to assume that contact with a tick, for any period of time, could result in Lyme disease infection. This is always best practice because Lyme disease is easily treated in its initial stage. This is known as the acute stage, and symptoms at this point generally resemble the flu. A distinctive Lyme symptom is the bullseye rash, which develops at the site of the bite. If this is present, it’s a clear indicator that Lyme disease is active.
However, it is easy to miss the rash if the patient did not notice the tick bite in the first place. Lyme routinely gets ignored in its acute form because the initial symptoms of Lyme disease resemble the flu. They will also dissipate of their own accord after a few weeks, giving the impression of recovery. Unfortunately, the disease is simply transitioning into its second, more insidious stage, known as chronic Lyme. This is the long-term form of the disease, which comes with a range of different symptoms and issues so varied that the condition is almost impossible to pin down. These can include, but aren’t limited to, muscle and joint pain, chronic fatigue, impaired mobility, neurological issues and cardiac problems. Another side effect is weight gain.
Lyme Disease and Weight Gain
Weight gain is usually not actively discussed as a symptom of any kind of disease, as it is a sensitive topic. People see obesity as a by-product of lifestyle choices; rarely do they consider that it might be the by-product of a chronic disease. This leads to a large amount of stigma around the symptom and discourages patients from talking about it. However, significant weight gain can lead to poor self-esteem and subsequent mental health problems, compounding the other symptoms of Lyme. The distinct lack of empathy surrounding this particular symptom also bleeds out into treatment. The symptom of obesity is often ignored by doctors, and not brought up at all by patients.
But exactly how does Lyme disease cause weight gain? Obesity in Lyme patients is the result of a number of different factors. Not all patients will suffer from increased weight, of course, but those who do are often at the mercy of a negative feedback loop. Primarily, the cause is the Borrelia bacteria that has infected the patient. Borrelia burgdorferi is a surprisingly resistant and assertive pathogen; it can cause havoc in the body in many different ways, one of which is through the patient’s metabolism. Chronic Lyme has the effect of slowing a person’s metabolism significantly. Specifically, toxins released by the Borrelia bacteria can hamper the production of leptin, a chemical that helps regulate fat storage. Without leptin functioning correctly, the brain is not signalled to burn fat. Weight gain is the inevitable result.
As well as the disease taking its toll on the patient’s weight, certain prescribed medications can also play a role. Depression is often a significant symptom of Lyme; antipsychotic medications (the lithium in antidepressants, for example) can compound weight gain. Antibiotics can also play a role. They inhibit the naturally occurring probiotics in the stomach, specifically the ones that regulate the feeling of fullness. Without those specific signals from the stomach, the brain can’t dictate when a person feels full, leading to overeating. Lastly, Lyme can disrupt the activity of the thyroid hormone, causing hyperthyroidism. This condition is often accompanied by overeating and rapid weight gain.
If a nutritional plan is not implemented accordingly, weight gain is the inevitable result. BCA-clinic has long known about the importance of a robust and specialised nutritional plan as a component of chronic Lyme treatment. Antibiotics aren’t the sole answer to battling Lyme; the inflammation symptoms must be addressed via nutrition and supplements. Tackling both avenues of symptoms together (both infection and inflammation) will help to reduce a patient’s obesity over time.