How Does Lyme Disease Affect Your Hormones?
Every organ system in the body, including the endocrine system, is susceptible to chronic infections like Lyme disease. The body is attacked by a persistent infection, which impairs the performance of organ systems and lowers levels of sex, thyroid, and adrenal hormones. The same symptoms of Lyme disease, such as weariness, pain, brain fog, headaches, depression, and more, are caused by inadequate production or release of the hormones produced by these glands. The correct diagnosis and management of hormone disruption are necessary for successfully treating the signs and symptoms of Lyme disease and other chronic infections.
Issues with hormone assessment
For identifying and treating endocrine dysfunction, conventional medicine relies on laboratory reference ranges. A person needs to fall into the upper or lower 2.5 percentiles to be deemed outside of the bounds of the standard reference range, which is based on a 95th percentile curve. The drawback of this strategy is that many people who experience symptoms are ignored. This “cookie-cutter” method disregards the symptoms of each patient and exempts the doctor from exercising clinical judgment.
Additionally, a doctor might not order all the necessary lab tests to conduct an accurate assessment. To accurately examine thyroid function, for instance, a comprehensive thyroid panel should test TSH, free T3, free T4, and reverse T3. The majority of traditional doctors will only recommend a TSH test.
Endocrine response after infection and/or inflammation
Injuries and acute inflammation are examples of short-term stressors to which the endocrine system was created to react. Chronic damage or inflammation results in a maladaptive endocrine system response that eventually causes illness. The hypothalamus-pituitary axis is affected by increased inflammation, which initially results in increased cortisol production, decreased thyroid output, and decreased testosterone synthesis. As cortisol production decreases over time, inflammation rises and weariness sets in.
Bartonella and Babesia infections, which live inside blood vessels, infiltrate cerebral circulation and disrupt the hypothalamus and pituitary, conductors of the endocrine system.
Immune function is influenced by hormones
About 50 hormones are produced by the human body, and each one affects the others in the same way that one instrument in a symphony influences the others. The immune system is influenced in diverse ways by numerous hormones as well. Although DHEA, T3 thyroid (triiodothyronine), and estradiol (estrogen) can activate the immune system, cortisol, testosterone, and progesterone can decrease the immunological response.
Lyme disease and estrogen
Estrogen in adequate amounts has anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating effects. To promote the immunological response, estrogen boosts the synthesis of B-cells and antibodies. In one study, researchers encountered young ladies with Lyme illness who had really low estrogen levels. A signal to rule out an underlying illness like Lyme disease should be low estrogen levels in a woman of reproductive age.
The signs and symptoms of Lyme disease might cycle periodically. If a woman has untreated Lyme disease, these symptoms may be linked to hormonal changes in the body. Because of the underlying inflammation of the infection, severe premenstrual syndrome can occur in some women with Lyme disease.
Do men and women react to Lyme disease differently on the immune system?
A research team aimed to see if immune responses differed between men and women. They found that the cytokines interleukin-4, interleukin-6, interleukin-10, interferon-gamma, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha are secreted in greater numbers by immune cells (TNF-a) in females. A 1:2 ratio of the T-helper cells (Th1/Th2) was estimated on the basis of cytokine production, and the researchers found that women have greater Th1/Th2 ratios than men. Early in an infection, an elevated Th1 immune response is more efficient at eradicating the virus than a Th2 response.
Women are more likely than men to have tick bites.
Compared with men, women have a higher incidence of Lyme disease. Researchers from Sweden studied the frequency of tick bites in men and women. Compared with men, women over 40 and under 40 years had a 48 percent and 96 percent higher risk of being bitten by a tick, respectively. This raises the question of whether estrogen draws ticks, resulting in an increased number of tick bites in women.
Tests and treatment for estrogen
Three distinct estrogens are produced by females. The most effective way to evaluate these estrogens is with a four-sample urine hormone test (and progesterone). Because hormone levels change throughout the day, four samples taken throughout the day offer a more accurate evaluation than a single blood test. Women should always apply creams or patches to their skin to restore lost estrogen. A manufactured patch only supplies estradiol, whereas a compounded bio-identical estrogen cream uses two of the therapeutic estrogens. Because of the advantages progesterone offers, women should always use it when taking estrogen (even if they have had a hysterectomy).
Thyroid gland affects immune and energy function
Chronic infections that damage the thyroid gland frequently cause hypothyroid symptoms. The immune system is affected by thyroid hormone regulation of energy generation. Fatigue, cold hands and feet, constipation, weight gain, a weakened immune system, trouble concentrating, depression, etc. are all symptoms of an underactive thyroid. Additionally, infections might increase the development of thyroid antibodies, resulting in autoimmune thyroiditis.
Lyme disease inflammation affects thyroid function
Thyroid hormone signaling is strongly affected by inflammatory cytokines created in response to Lyme disease and other persistent infections. The thyroid gland may receive fewer signals to produce thyroid hormones as TSH levels (also known as TSH) drop. Inflammation caused by Lyme disease can also affect the transformation of thyroid hormone from its inactive form (T4) to its active form (T3). Inflammation can lead to an increase in reverse T3, which inhibits the active T3 hormone and causes functional hypothyroidism.
Immune response is boosted by T3 thyroid hormone
T3, an active thyroid hormone, promotes the immune system. Increasing T3 levels can stimulate the immune system and aid in infection control in those with Lyme disease who have a low immunological response. T3 medications, which strengthen the immune response and lower cortisol, may not be tolerated by someone with an overactive or elevated immunological response. Increased Herxheimer responses could be the result of this. The replenishment of T3 hormones also enhances mitochondrial performance, increasing ATP generation and energy.
Thyroid dysfunction and Lyme disease co-opt each other
There are many similarities between the signs of Lyme disease and hypothyroidism. Each organ system in the body might experience symptoms from both illnesses, which can also resemble one another. Paparone reported a case report of a patient with both hypothyroidism and Lyme disease. He recounts the patient's symptoms, which include swollen hands and feet, migraines, joint and muscle pain, and nerve discomfort. She had a history of several tick bites, with the most recent occurring around the time that her symptoms started or 6 months earlier. Although the doctor gave the woman antibiotics, her symptoms barely changed. He gave her thyroid medicine after a lab test revealed hypothyroidism. She started feeling considerably better after a few months and kept taking thyroid medicines and antibiotics until her symptoms disappeared. Hypothyroidism may have been caused by Lyme disease, or the two illnesses may have co-occurred.
Many of the patients with Lyme disease also have hypothyroidism. To accurately evaluate thyroid function, it is necessary to measure the levels of TSH, free T3, free T4, and reverse T3. TSH levels have to be less than 2.0. Anyone with hypothyroidism should take liothyronine (T3), as it is the active form of the thyroid hormone. Never take levothyroxine (T4) without T3, as T3 to T4 conversion is frequently impaired by chronic disease. Another acceptable choice is natural desiccated thyroid hormone like Armour. Clinical symptoms, not just test data, should be used to determine the dosage of thyroid medication.
The foundation of all hormones is cortisol
Cortisol, also referred to as the stress hormone, is produced by the adrenal glands. Short-term stressful situations require cortisol, but persistent stress decreases cortisol production, which results in weariness, inflammation, and discomfort. Every organ and tissue in the body is affected by cortisol, which is the body's natural steroid hormone. Mitochondrial stimulation by cortisol affects cognition, mood, and energy levels.
The adrenal glands release cortisol in response to infections, which is necessary to control inflammation. In autoimmune diseases and allergies, cortisol assists in controlling an excessive immune response. The majority of people with chronic illnesses have low cortisol levels and can benefit from cortisol replacement.
Consequences of low cortisol
- Inadequate recovery
- Cognitive impairment
- Mental fog
- Inability to handle stress, aches, and stiffness in the muscles
- Nausea and digestive issues
- Anxiety, irritation, and a sense of exhaustion
- Sleeplessness with frequent awakening
- Allergies, inflammation, and autoimmune disease
- Sensitivity to chemicals, light, and sound
Cortisol therapy for Lyme disease
Because most people with persistent illnesses do not produce enough cortisol, starting antimicrobial treatment can cause inflammatory reactions in them. An inflammatory reaction to pathogenic material is known as the Herxheimer reaction. While receiving antibiotic therapy, those with hypocortisolism benefit from cortisol supplementation.
When someone has an illness, steroids are frequently avoided because they are thought to suppress the immune system. However, maintaining natural cortisol levels while receiving antibiotic medication has many advantages. While antibiotics or herbal antimicrobials kill the illness, cortisol controls inflammation. When the infection is successfully treated, the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis can recover, enabling a person to taper off the medicine.
Examination and management of cortisol
If there is clinical suspicion based on symptoms, cortisol function testing begins. A four-point salivary cortisol test is the preferred method for determining cortisol secretion. This test is available through national labs like Quest and LabCorp, but a doctor's prescription is necessary.
The physiological pattern of cortisol secretion should be followed when taking cortisol supplements. Depending on the need for additional support, the cortisol dose is higher in the morning and lower throughout the day. When under more stress or receiving more aggressive antimicrobial medication, people may need to take more hydrocortisone. DHEA supplements are necessary while taking hydrocortisone.
Hormones and Lyme disease
The aforementioned mechanism of chronic Lyme disease-related inflammation causing hypothalamus-pituitary dysfunction also has an effect on testosterone levels. I've seen low testosterone levels in males with Lyme disease who are in their 30s and 40s. Men with lower testosterone levels are likely to have a more severe course of infection, according to research.
In chronic infections, testosterone is essential as it controls the immune system. Optimal testosterone levels are essential for recovering from Lyme disease because they also boost energy, mood, and physical power.
The best laboratory marker for measuring testosterone levels is bioavailable testosterone. If levels are low, supplementing with injectable testosterone cypionate offers the biggest advantage.
Hormones and Lyme disease: their function
It is uncommon to think about the connection between chronic infections such as Lyme disease and thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormones. Because hormones affect the immunological response, adequate hormone levels are required. Chronic infections, which worsen hormone levels, make the situation worse by exacerbating the symptoms of Lyme disease. To reduce the symptoms and severity of Lyme disease, thyroid, adrenal, and sex hormone levels should be correctly examined and treated as necessary.