Battling chronic Lyme disease is no easy task. The disease is surprisingly debilitating and continues to worsen over time. Any and all measures that help stem the flow of Lyme are recommended, and many patients find that a multi-pronged approach is necessary. But part of the problem with treatment is the lack of qualified doctors. As chronic Lyme is not recognised as a fully legitimate condition in many circles, there is a distinct lack of medical expertise surrounding the disorder. This can be extremely frustrating for both patients and doctors alike; as a result, misdiagnosis rates are high. Recently, patients have been exploring methods for controlling their symptoms. One of the most popular options is partaking in meditation, deep breathing and yoga. But is meditation good for Lyme disease?
One of the main things to consider when assessing whether stress-reducing activities can help treat Lyme disease is how stress contributes to the disorder. Lyme comes into two very different stages. It is transmitted to humans via tick bite, specifically from the deer tick in Europe and the black-legged tick in the U.S. The key bacteria the tick transmits is called Borrelia burgdorferi. This Lyme causative agent infiltrates the system and at first presents much like any other infection. Fever, chills, headache and fatigue are common complaints at this stage, but the distinctive symptom is a bullseye rash, found at the site of the bite. Unfortunately, this tell-tale symptom is missed more often than not, leading the patient to feel like they’ve just come down with a bout of flu.
Acute Lyme is easily treated by antibiotics, but ignoring it will allow the infection to develop into the second, long-term stage of the disorder: chronic Lyme disease. Chronic Lyme symptoms stem from two distinct factors: infection and inflammation. Infection symptoms are usually the lesser of the two, unless the Borrelia bacteria has breached the blood-brain barrier (a relative rarity). More debilitating are the inflammation symptoms, which stem from the patient’s own immune system. Borrelia is remarkably durable bacteria, and when the immune system can’t eradicate it, it goes into overdrive. The resultant symptoms typically include joint pain, constricted movement, muscle aches and crippling fatigue. This inflammation must be treated simultaneously with the infection, as even minute traces of the bacteria can cause a misguided immune response to flare up.
But how does chronic Lyme affect a patient’s lifestyle on a day-to-day basis? It works in two ways. Primarily, and most obviously, a patient has less energy because their body is constantly expanding it fighting an unwinnable battle against Borrelia. That’s a physical reminder of Lyme’s presence. The mental toll is more subtle, but no less damaging. Because the disease is barely recognised at all, patients can feel like they have no treatment options and will be stuck in their current state for the rest of their lives. Doctors will often downplay symptoms or misdiagnose the disorder, adding to the stress the patient is experiencing in a variety of ways. Stress-reducing activities can help deal with this mental onslaught.
Stress exacerbates all illnesses in one way or another. We don’t really understand the mechanisms of stress very well, but we can say with confidence that its effects are far-reaching and complex. It can affect all the body’s various systems, even manifesting new symptoms in patients, all of its own accord. Meditation is a great tool to try and help control this stress. By taking a few minutes of each day to sit and focus your mind, you may help your body rebalance itself. You can meditate whenever suits you; some people do it as soon as they get up, others do it before they go to bed, and some choose both. There is no right time to meditate. The goal is to take 10 or 15 minutes out of your day and clear your mind of clutter.
Deep breathing is very similar to meditation, and can even be incorporated into it. When we breathe, much of the time we use our upper torso. Deep breathing encourages people to breath all the way down to their lower abdomen, promoting de-stressing and a sense of relaxation. If you’re worried about your discipline, you can always join a yoga class, which will have much the same effect on your body stress-wise. Choose whichever option feels right for you. What’s important to keep in mind is how much your mental state can contribute to your condition. Whether it’s fear of the unknown, worrying about how your illness will affect future tasks, or even fear of relapse when the going is good, stress can be a significant factor in many chronic diseases.
In addition to stress-reducing exercises, natural supplements from outlets like Make Well can help support inflammation treatment, pairing with antibiotics to tackle all the symptoms of chronic Lyme head-on. Addressing one symptom and not the others is a prime mistake that most Lyme-illiterate doctors continually make. If you fear you may be suffering from Lyme, take the steps to fortify your mental health today. Once that’s in hand, you can investigate ways to tackle the physical symptoms more effectively.