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How Do You Get Rid Of Brain Fog From Lyme Disease?

Lyme disease is a dangerous condition. The tick-borne illness can affect the entire body, including its most vital organs, such as the heart and brain. When a person first contracts the bacteria after being fed on by an infected tick, they will cycle through some flu-like symptoms. If they receive prompt treatment, that may be the end of it. However, post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome can develop in anyone who has had the infection, and when that happens, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease can cause even more damage. Brain fog is one symptom that can develop in people with Lyme disease. But what is brain fog, exactly? And how can you get rid of brain fog from Lyme disease?

What is brain fog?

Brain fog is an umbrella term used to describe various symptoms that affect the function of the brain. It is most closely associated with a person’s mental clarity. Brain fog can have many causes, such as a lack of sleep or being overworked. However, it can also occur due to an infection such as Lyme disease.

While not everyone with the bacterial infection will experience brain fog, roughly 10% of people treated with antibiotics will develop the chronic symptoms of post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome. Some of the most debilitating symptoms of post-treatment Lyme disease are the cognitive changes of brain fog. 

What are brain fog symptoms?

A sign of Lyme infection, which can appear shortly after a person has been infected, would be the bullseye rash that’s often clearly visible around the tick bite site. Symptoms, on the other hand, are sensations or feelings that aren’t necessarily visible. Brain fog falls under the category of a symptom. The category of brain fog is broad and can be broken down into a subset of symptoms associated with that fuzzy feeling in one’s head.

People with brain fog may experience the following:

  • Memory issues
  • An inability to focus
  • Confusion in familiar situations
  • Slower thinking speeds
  • Difficulty speaking because of an impaired ability to retrieve words
  • Impaired fine motor control

These symptoms can make it difficult for a person to function and may lead to a person being chronically ill.

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Image by Robina Weermeijer on Unsplash: What does Lyme brain fog feel like?

How does Lyme disease cause brain fog?

When the Lyme bacteria enters the bloodstream, it sets off alarm bells in the immune system. The process of protecting the body begins with higher levels of inflammation and the creation of specific proteins or cells geared toward getting rid of the bacteria. During this immune response, cytokines, which are small proteins, are produced to speed up the removal process. However, there can sometimes be too many cytokines produced, causing something called a cytokine storm.

The overproduction of these small proteins may be attributed to the Lyme disease bacteria’s ability to break through the blood–brain barrier. This barrier is a collection of tissue and blood vessels tightly formed together. Its primary design is to keep dangerous things out of the brain, such as Lyme disease bacteria.

However, it doesn’t always succeed. It’s thought that when the bacteria infiltrate the blood–brain barrier in Lyme disease, it causes the immune system to produce even more cytokines as protection, creating too much inflammation in the brain and, thus, brain fog.

Can your brain recover from Lyme disease?

The brain can recover from Lyme disease, but unfortunately, it can also experience long-term effects. As mentioned above, the bacteria that cause infection in people with Lyme disease can break through the blood–brain barrier and infiltrate many other bodily systems, organs, and tissues, where it begins to damage cells. That is what leads to the symptoms people experience.

When it comes to treating Lyme disease, antibiotics are the only treatment option available. While most people go on to fully recover after treatment with medication, many may have permanent nerve damage in the brain. The damage and reversibility level will depend entirely on the person, how long they’ve had Lyme, and what part of the body is most affected. So yes, the brain can recover – but sadly it’s not always that simple.

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Image by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash: Does Lyme brain fog go away?

Dealing with brain fog: how to cope with and manage “Lyme brain” symptoms

It’s not always easy coping with the brain fog that Lyme disease can cause, especially if you’ve already undergone antibiotic treatment and it didn’t help. However, you can manage brain fog in several ways to improve your cognition during your Lyme disease recovery.

The first is investigating a new antibiotic course. Sometimes, people with Lyme disease will have to take more than one round of antibiotics if the first or second doesn’t knock out the bacteria and the symptoms it causes.

Other possible options for managing Lyme disease and brain fog include:

  • Anti-inflammatory medication: Since the brain fog in Lyme disease is primarily driven by inflammation caused by the bacteria, lowering that inflammation can help reduce brain fog. Anti-inflammatory medication will likely need to be prescribed so that it’s strong enough to pass the blood–brain barrier.
  • Herbal and nutritional supplements: Some of the best supplements for Lyme brain, such as omega-3 fatty acids, can help you recover faster than with medication alone. It’s essential to speak to a health care provider before starting any new supplements.
  • Diet changes: A diet that lowers overall inflammation is a great way to combat brain fog caused by Lyme disease–driven inflammation. Some of the best foods to include in an anti-inflammatory diet include ginger, lemon, nuts, and green vegetables.
  • Staying hydrated: Hydration is essential even if you don’t have an infection. With Lyme disease, though, you want to be able to flush your system faster, and that can be done by drinking more water than you usually would.
  • Give yourself the grace to rest when needed: Rest is crucial when the body is fighting a cellular battle. Brain fog may be debilitating and complex to work around, so it’s essential to let yourself rest when you feel like a flare is too much to handle. It’s also vital to allow yourself the grace to take a break, because if you stress about not getting things done, it can actually lead to higher inflammation levels in the body.

Dealing with Lyme disease and the debilitating symptoms that go along with it, such as brain fog, isn’t easy. That’s why it’s crucial to stay alert for ticks when visiting wooded areas and always ensure prompt treatment if you are bitten by a possibly infected tick.

Featured image by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

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