Lyme Disease - The Great Masquerader

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Burleson Nutrition and Natural Healing Center

Nutrition & Natural Healing Center

Dr. Roger Trubey, Dr.PH, MPH, and Doctor of Integrative Medicine 6320 Oak Hollow Dr. Burleson, TX 76028

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The Great Masquerader – Lyme Disease

It was after her second son was born that Olivia (not her real name) started to notice changes in her mood, and even her family and friends noticed it as well. It was very definite “up and down emotions,” often accompanied with a low sex drive, that continued for at least 7 years before it cascaded into a series of extreme mood changes that also resulted in serious fatigue, brain fog, anxiety, and a nervous breakdown.

During the next several years she visited a series of physicians and began to receive treatment for hormone dysfunction and allergies.  For a short time, this seemed to be helpful, but eventually the moodiness and fatigue returned.  

Lacking any progress, another practitioner put her on thyroid meds.  Through all these years she also had sleep issues, chronic back, joint and muscle pain, and a hoarseness in her voice for 10 years.  She could barely go to work at the business that she and her husband had started years ago.  At age 40 she was a wreck physically and emotionally and was sadly looking at a lifetime of pain and misery

It was at this point, about 17 years into this misery, that I saw her and suggested we look for chronic infections as an underlying cause of her symptoms.  It was good that we did as there were several pathogenic microbes that came back positive.  But the real kicker was a positive test for Lyme.   When I showed her that report and when she saw the symptoms of Lyme, tears flowed down her cheeks and she said, “Finally I have a reason for why I have felt so bad for so long”. 

Sadly, for Olivia, it took way too long to receive this crucial report of why she had been struggling for so long.  But it is understandable for several reasons:

  • Conventional medicine generally does not believe in chronic Lyme, only acute Lyme due to a recent tick bite.  
  • When testing is done the conventional tests are not robust enough to adequately evaluate chronic Lyme 
  • Lyme mimics so many diseases that unless one did have a recent bite of a tick, the practitioner will be looking for the diseases that mimic Lyme and not Lyme itself.  Lyme will masquerade as a variety of disease entities including,
  1. Neurological diseases – Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, ADHD, ALS and more
  2. Anxiety, depression, memory loss and brain fog
  3. Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome
  4. Most autoimmune diseases – arthritis, Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and many others
  5. Chronic headaches 
  6. Food allergies/sensitivities
  7. A weakened immune system that leads to one feeling sick and unwell far too often 
  • Not just ticks, but any biting insect is now considered a possible source of Lyme transmission.  Further many children have been born with Lyme – transmitted from mother to offspring.

Now, notice these common symptoms in individuals with chronic Lyme disease in the list below.  Is it any wonder that most doctors might be confused and begin to label the patient as perhaps having an autoimmune disease at best or worse, a hypochondriac?

Common symptoms of Lyme-Borrelia  

  • Gradual onset of symptoms   
  • Joint stiffness/swelling           
  • lightheadedness        
  • migratory/shooting pains
  • Afternoon fevers/letdowns
  • Chills
  • GI upset
  • pelvic pain
  • interstitial cystitis    
  • prostatitis menstrual disorders           
  • blurring vision           
  • light sensitivity          
  • Kidney problems           
  • painful urination
  • Muscle twitches or pain
  • fibromyalgia
  • depression  
  • bouts of anger        
  • word finding problems        
  • cycles of illness         
  • immune weakness    
  • reflux/heartburn         
  • unexplained breast pain    
  • tinnitus    
  • Facial paralysis/ (Bell’s palsy)    
  • paresthesia/numbness   
  • seizures
  • tremors         
  • ataxia  
  • Loss of libido     
  • heart palpitations or arrhythmias  
  •  difficulty swallowing    
  • chronic fatigue
  • unexplained weight gain or loss         
  • facial pain        
  • headache               
  • multiple chemical sensitivity
  • Vertigo       
  • disoriented -brain fog      
  •  difficulty concentrating or thinking
  • Short-term memory loss


It should be understood that not every person with Lyme will have all of the above symptoms or even most of them.  And this is not even a complete list.  One patient with Lyme had rage as a primary symptom – just ready to “fly off the handle” at the “drop of a hat”.   But nearly every Lyme patient that I have seen has 3 primary symptoms. Which are: 


  1.   Debilitating chronic Fatigue
  2.   Significant Joint pain or stiffness that moves around
  3.   Cognitive dysfunction that often includes brain fog, anxiety or depression, and memory impairment 


Notice the difference between symptoms of those with Lyme and those without Lyme here

Lyme Disease - The Great MasqueraderSo, as you can see it would be easy for a Lyme diagnosis to be missed, causing the individual suffer for many months or years before they finally receive the correct diagnosis.  Unfortunately, some will suffer with an autoimmune diagnosis or be diagnosed with some type of neurological disease without ever discovering their true undiagnosed cause.

And Lyme is not a rare disease at all.   The CDC estimates that 3-400,000 new cases of Lyme are contracted per year, with some data suggesting that a more likely number is 1,000,000 cases per year.  And it is not found in specific regions of the country.  Every state in the US has Lyme and it is now a new epidemic!  It may likely be the most common vector-borne disease in the US…more common now than breast cancer. 

Lyme Disease - The Great Masquerader

Notice how rapidly Lyme spread in just 13 years.  And now this map is already 10 years out of date

Another problem related to testing has to do with the number of Borrelia species known to exist – at least 100 in the US and more than 300 worldwide.  But many labs only test for what is considered the most common species – Borrelia burgdorferi, hardly adequate with so many other species around.  

In addition, the Lyme organism, Borrelia, is nearly always accompanied with other co-infections which, again, are commonly missed because they are not being tested.    But some of the co-infections can cause symptoms at least as debilitating as Borrelia.

Three Forms of the Lyme Organism

There are actually 3 different forms of Lyme bacteria/spirochete.  And it is a result of these three forms that this organism becomes a “persister” bug in the human body mimicking many other diseases and being very difficult to eradicate.  These three forms are the Spirochete or spiral form (great for burrowing into tissues), the cell wall deficient form (or L form) and the cyst form.    The bacteria, when stressed with antibiotics or by the immune system, will form cysts as a protective form.  


However, the cell wall deficient form is much more difficult to treat because it will actually turn off the immune activity operating inside the cell and then go into the cell and hide as long as necessary.  The more of the co-infections and viruses one is harboring, the more ill one will generally be.

When the Lyme Borrelia and the co-infectious organisms along with other viruses enter the mitochondria of the cell, they damage the machinery that produces cellular energy.  The net effect is serious fatigue both in the body and brain. 

Chronic or persistent Lyme disease is becoming increasingly common and problematic. Among the small number of pathogens capable of persisting despite sophisticated host immune responses, the Borrelia spirochete gets special recognition because researchers still have not been able to elucidate the mechanisms that sustain its long-term survival. What we do know is that the spirochete has several remarkable abilities to adapt, which include:

  • The ability to hide within cells of certain tissues during or between stages of disease
  • The ability of Borrelia to change its morphology in response to varying environmental conditions including many antibiotics
  • Formation of a biofilm that enables Borrelia to be more resilient to stress and our immune system challenges
  • Suppression of host immune response

So, what does this mean? It means that when antibiotics are used to treat persistent infections like the Lyme organisms, we likely end up with highly persistent mutants. This is a separate phenomenon from antibiotic resistance, and it has become increasingly clear that traditional antibiotic treatments for chronic Lyme are not enough to eliminate these menacing microbes. 

But let me stress one very important point.  The best treatment for Lyme or coinfections when you have an acute disease with a recent insect bite and the symptoms are present, testing is likely to be positive and the best treatment is antibiotics.  If, however, the bite was weeks, months or years ago (or you never remember there being a tick or insect bite of any kind), the traditional use of antibiotics will likely NOT be successful.    The organisms will have already set up brilliant ways of evading the immune system and any antibiotics used.

For many practitioners when the classic symptoms are present, they are ready to jump in and attack these terrifying bugs.  But it is so unwise to go and start an attack on the bugs regardless of whether done conventionally or with alternative approaches.  The whole-body terrain must ideally be considered prior to dealing with the Lyme spirochete and the co-infections.  The body terrain along with the intestinal tract and its microbiome, the type of foods consumed, toxic chemicals entering the body and the organs of detoxification (liver, gall bladder, lymph, kidney).  

So, should you recognize in you or a family member the typical symptoms of Lyme with which you or they might be encumbered, find a practitioner to assist you in your healing journey.   True, it is not a quick treatment.  It can take several months at best, but without treatment the pain and cognitive symptoms along with the terrible fatigue will not go away.  Having had many patients suffering with this awful disease, I know this is true. 

Please call me if you have any questions.  I am more than happy to be of whatever help I can.  

Dr. Trubey