Friday, December 10, 2004

Adrenal Fatigue and Lyme Disease

Adrenal fatigue is complicated. I have had it very bad, and went through most of the standard emotional or stress reducing treatments, with only marginal improvements. Cortef (cortisol) was great but very bad for the digestive system as it is a steroid. Licorice was critical to my turn-around, but so were personal changes. Later I found out that licorisce (I used DGL) helps regulate salt.

Here is a place that REALLY understands adrenals, but does not know as much about Lyme, this is from Posenecker: - I use their Licorice products. I've added a few other adrenal links on my main blog page.

Here is the scenario I believe is happening with Lyme with adrenal problems, and must be reversed holistically, with salt as part of the treatment:

1. The person starts off as a high stress-level personality or lifestyle. This means you are constantly thinking, achieving, or have high anxiety or stress load. Or you have lots of problems and you are not happy and continually trying to resolve them. Or something in your past is giving you perpetual high stress loads. Perhaps some other health issue may also do this (like having EBV or HHV6, or allergy to amalgams). Or you have untreated ADD, or something like that. You have a high 'total load'. This stress load is handled fairly well before Lyme, but it is a 'precondition'. This is because chronic high stress lowers immune function. I know a lot of people balk and say 'it's not in my head' and I agree. But don't deny the facts, and the lowering of immune function due to stress is a proven fact (studies conducted with Med students proved that their immune system was depressed during exams). So we DO need to work in our mental response to stress, because we need every shred of immune function we can get to beat Lyme.

2. You get Lyme or something like Lyme, perhaps you get it worse or chronically because of lower immune function (which can be partly due to chronic stress!). Once Lyme sets in you get some symptoms like being sluggish or joint pain, and you have to push yourself to keep going. This creates more stress and further lowers the immune function! But this infection doesn't stop, it becomes chronic so you 'adjust' your life and find ways to push harder, or maybe you just get mentally stressed out because you can't push anymore. This situation WEARS OUT the adrenals, this is because your glucose is not working right and you are relying on the adrenals to keep going. But because you are the type of person described in #1 above, you don't want to stop, just keep pushing.

3. Your cortisol level goes up and starts getting 'stuck' - this is a weird response that seems to happen to a lot of us. Probably because of the combination of the signals Lyme is giving your body (an infection to fight), plus your own attempts to keep a high-stress life going. Cortisol is chronically high, programmed that way in the mind-body. Lots of new weird symptoms, you can't relax even though you are intensely fatigued. This is the high Cortisol that won't adjust anymore.

4. The adrenals and/or hypothalamus/pituitary start getting worn down. Your body is using lots of adrenal substances to battle Lyme (and co-infections) as well as maintain your activity level (which may be too high). The adrenals no longer can maintain both a reserve and a high capacity. Normally you have adrenal reserves throughout the body, but now the reserves are gone, and you rely on 'current production' of many hormones, particularly cortisol. This is why if you rest for a few hours you may have a few hours of energy. The body was able to build a tiny reserve, but as soon as you use it, you crash again. To use a common auto metaphor, you are 'running on empty' and adding fuel a gallon at a time...

5. Your cortisol level now goes down, and you don't have enough, and become progressively incapacitated as may key biologic functions require the adrenals (especially the immune system). Healing the damage and fighting Lyme both take a lot of adrenal functions. But if you still are the type of person described in #1, you yourself are continually depleting the very adrenalin your body needs to be healed, because you spend energy as soon as you get it, and don't build a reserve.

This is the essence of Posenecker's argument, but I have added the Lyme perspective...
How to fix this? Here is what is helping me:

1. Change the personality and lifestyle, and possibly the career and interests and become a person who doesn't need so much adrenalin. Sound impossible? IT is FUN - you can find what you love, maybe what you SHOULD have pursued early in life, and find a way to be satisfied by that. I changed career goals, as well as life priorities and my way of thinking. This is complicated but very engaging, it takes a few years to succeed. This may involve managing anxiety, resolving past emotional hurts, changing your beliefs about yourself, etc. You are trying to alter your life to give your adrenals a break. This is essential, in my opinion. If you are 'stuck' then probably this is what is missing. This is because you MUST take adrenal load off to heal adrenals, they also need adrenalin to heal! You must learn a lot about yourself to succeed, getting help is important, because this is an 'individualized' problem and you may not see the issues clearly.

2. Try some long-term adrenal support supplements. I can not take much Vit C, although I tolerate it better if it is time-released, or if it is buffered (Esther-C is the best buffered form I have found). But the best adrenal supp I have found is licorice, but it must be the right form. Baschetti from is the best I have found but even DGL from the store helps. Also 'End Fatigue' tablets - they have adrenal substances. They are as good as Cortef, in my experience, but without steroids. The licorice, BTW acts as a re-uptake inhibiter to adrenalin - it extends the usefulness of the adrenalin you do produce. Take EXTRA adrenal supps when you are sick with a virus (cold or flu). Also, take days off and rest without much adrenal support. That way the adrenals won't get conditioned to the supplements all the time and will 'get the message' that they need to heal.

3. Take the slow route to killing the Lyme. Pulse strategies work well. I rotate several 'proven' anti-Lyme supplements (Cat's Claw, Artimisinin, Salt tablets, Oregano Oil) and take days off. Also, I rotate FIR sauna and am planning to start Rifing soon. I got lots of great ideas from Journigan's book for Lyme treatment that help with the holistic aspects of overcoming this.
BTW, I think Lyme is so hard to kill for some of us precisely because of the low adrenals. The adrenals are needed for detox and immune functions... So maybe this is very important for some of us.


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