Is it Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia and ME CFS ?

Ever since CFS Unravelled was published, I have been contacted by people diagnosed with Chronic Lyme Disease wondering if they have really have Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

Lyme disease is an infectious disease caused by at least 3 species of bacteria and usually results from a tick bite, although people are not always aware of the bites. Many but not all people develop a bull’s-eye rash around the bite site.

The illness is usually treated with antibiotics, but in some cases people develop chronic Lyme disease, although much of the medical fraternity does not recognise this condition. If that last sentence isn’t enough to spark the interest of people with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia Syndrome, the list of symptoms will certainly start to sound familiar.

And so it is no surprise that they are often diagnosed with ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia, sometimes before their Lyme diagnosis, sometimes after.

But listening to stories of people that have recovered and people that haven’t, my view on the subject has strengthened over the years, because I keep hearing the same experiences told in different ways.

Because I didn’t want to “open a can of worms”, I have held back in speaking on the subject for some time, despite a wonderful interview I had with Katina Makris, author of Out Of The Woods.

But recently I had my own brush with a tick bite. After a day in the bush, I found a tag at the back of my head. Without thinking about it, I had grabbed it when suddenly I felt extreme pain spreading on my head.

Sure enough, I had the first tick bite of my life. And whilst normally removing them leaves you with nothing to worry about, I had of course triggered the tick to empty its contents deep into my scalp, causing an immediate and somewhat severe reaction.

Now I won’t bore you with the details, but I took appropriate precautions to treat the infection which in the coming weeks spread symptoms across my scalp, down my neck and caused my glands to go into overdrive.

But I figured, this must be a signal for me to finally share my views on the subject of Lyme disease, or more poignantly, CHRONIC Lyme Disease!

But before I do, so that we don’t have anyone upset due to a misconception, let me start by stating the obvious:

LYME DISEASE IS REAL.

Yes, the illness isn’t easy to diagnose, with many false positives and false negatives (some labs have been reported to have up to 70% error rates), but the bacterial infection is of course absolutely real.

And regardless of whether you have the characteristic bull’s eye rash or not, I have no problem believing that many people have Lyme disease and that much of their illness, their symptoms, result from this infection.

But here is my point.

Is the Lyme disease actually WHY you are sick?

“Well, of course”, you might say. And yes, there is no doubt whatsoever that Lyme disease can create terrible symptoms when the infection spreads, especially when it becomes chronic.

But WHY is it such a problem? Why does it become CHRONIC in some people?

Many people get tick bites, and they don’t get sick.

Many people get tick bites, get Lyme disease, and recover quickly.

Ask yourself, “Why would Lyme disease become CHRONIC in some people?”

What is REALLY the problem here?

Is it that we were infected with Lyme disease, or is it that we are not recovering from it? I would suggest, the real problem is the latter.

You see, I hear these stories all the time. Sometimes it’s Lyme disease, sometimes it’s glandular fever, sometimes it’s flu – the list goes on and on.

Not only do I hear about many of these infections triggering ME/CFS/Fibro, but I actually believe that these infections often thrive only because ME/CFS/Fibro is being experienced.

That is why I inevitably hear of so many people with chronic Lyme that have the same personal histories that we always see with ME/CFS/Fibro. And it is no surprise that we also see the same similar stories of recovery. Katina Makris’ story of recovery is a prime example of this.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not saying that Lyme disease is ME/CFS/Fibro. Some people get SEVERE Lyme disease and get SEVERE treatments that work and from which they consequently recover to regain their health.

But so often, Lyme disease becomes part of the wider experience of ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia which is why we then need to adopt a holistic approach that encompasses the root cause of ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia, as well as addressing the Lyme infection with treatments that are most relevant.

But so many people get a diagnosis of Lyme and feel this relief, that they finally understand WHY they are sick and they just need to treat the Lyme and all will be well, only to find that is not really the case. Because of course, CHRONIC Lyme can be notoriously difficult to treat, just like ME/CFS/Fibro – the connection seems clear – it is rooted in the immune dysfunction.

There are many infections this world throws at us, many of which history has shown even to be lethal, even in the masses. The question I always ask, WHY do some people survive and thrive and others not?

The answer inevitably has to do with health as opposed to disease! Whilst eastern medicine has long recognised this, the difference between health and disease is something which many people in the west unfortunately still don’t seem to understand (frankly I was one of them until I learned what I shared in CFS Unravelled). But change is happening and modern medicine is evolving and integrative medicine is changing how we treat many illnesses.

My view is this – CHRONIC Lyme disease is a result of poor immune dysfunction, often part of ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia. Hence it is a consequence of illness more than a cause of it. Yes, it causes much dysfunction and symptoms and needs to be addressed, but as a consequence of ME/CFS/Fibromyalgia. Like I always say “treat the cause, not just the consequences”.

What do you think? What is your experience of recovery from Chronic Lyme Disease?

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36 Comments on "Is it Lyme Disease or Fibromyalgia and ME CFS ?"

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Jen
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I’m not sure I completely understand your conclusion or that I would use the same phrasing. But, I think I am pretty much on the same page here. I am VERY holistic and eschew labels unless necessary, so I don’t see CFS, FMS, MCS, EHS, Lyme Disease, etc. as separate “diseases.” So I don’t know about calling Lyme a “consequence” of the other labels. But I think you probably agree with my belief that all of these labels represent the same, or very similar, pathology, that might have variations in their initial triggers and some other minor variations that don’t… Read more »
Dan
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Hi Jen – thank you for you excellent comment. The point about it being a consequence is this – Lyme isn’t a problem when you contract it, because you just recvoer from it. Lyme is only a problem when you DON’T recover from it. The reason I am suggesting why some people don’t recover from it, is because of ME/CFS/FMS. That’s why I see CHRONIC Lyme a result of ME/CFS/FMS. Normal Lyme of course is a consequence of a tick bite! Can I just say Jen, that you get it. Your viewpoint and attitude are actually what I am suggesting… Read more »
George Manlove, DC
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I think that you are right and that many more people are exposed to the Lyme disease organism than ever develop the disease but I also think that once it gets a foothold it alters the immune system so much that simply trying to rebuild the immune system is unlikely to bring it under control. I think the best take on Lyme is Stephen Harrod Buhner’s Healing Lyme and Healing Lyme Coinfections. His opinion is that we need to restore health AND knock down the infectious organisms which are often multiple, and that this is possible and often preferably done… Read more »
Dan
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Hi George – well I agree with the multi-lateral appoach to healing, but would be mindful about beliefs about the immune systme not being able to tackle this. Obviously, it isn’t likely to suddenly turn around without action, the key is to have an action plan like I describe in CFS Unravelled. But it’s also KEY to focus on the root mechanism, not just trying to heal the body. Because unless the root mechanism is corrected, the immune dysfunction and other problems simply won’t resolve long term. Thank you very much for your comment!

Jay
Guest
Great post Dan, I love that you are discussing this issue. I myself was diagnosed with chronic Lyme disease about 8 months into my illness, based on one of these specialty tests that are not covered by insurance. That ended up being a terrible distraction as multiple courses of antibiotics, each stronger than the last, left my digestive system a complete mess and I ended up getting much worse than before treatment. I believe “Lyme literate” doctors are doing their best to address the needs of very sick people. However, these tests they talk about have certain rates of both… Read more »
Dan
Guest

Thanks Jay – the Lyme aspect makes the whole ME/CFS/FMS story even more complex. And besides the whole misdiagnosis issue, where people shoud really focus on their true illness, some people will actually have Lyme (diagnosed or not).

But how this is treated needs to be so carefully considered, as some treatments can do more harm than good.

In the end, like so many other infections and dysfunctions, it can be a real distraction as you put, keeping people from focussing on the root cause!

Denise
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I’ve been in the Lyme world for 6 years now (as a patient) and have heard a lot of stories. There are people with Lyme who weren’t sick before the tick bite, some people were actually thriving and quite healthy, including young athletes, health nuts, and children. Once the bacteria enter your body, they tinker with your immune system so as to remain undetected by it. They do their stealth damage over a period of years, and by the time people actually have symptoms, they’re in multi-systemic metabolic mayhem and it’s hard to come back from that. People have different… Read more »
Dan
Guest

Thank you for your comments Denise and sharing your experience! 🙂

sarah
Guest
I agree completely Denise. If your root cause is Lyme you need medical interventions that treat the infection. Lyme Disease can be terminal when not treated so this is an important point! In addition to being a serious bacterial infection that spreads throughout your body many studies are indicating it can be sexually transmitted and passed from mother to child. People can employ neuroplasticity techniques and should employ a range of other holistic treatment strategies but they must be first treated using herbal antimicrobials or antibiotics. I would encourage all people suffering with CFS to be tested for Lyme as… Read more »
Sean
Guest

Similar to what some others have already said: it’s probable that Lyme and neuroimmune disregulation propagate and amplify each other. On the bright side, many protocols address both (e.g. LDN, dietary changes, light exercise, capsaicin and turmeric). Other protocols might address one but aggravate the other (e.g. prolonged antibiotic treatment). People’s budgets and patience also vary greatly. What a tangled knot it is!

Dan
Guest

Hi Sean – well, you are talking about primarily physical treatments, but a nervous system dysfunction in my view is best addressed directly. That’s what you see with stroke victims and so on, they don’t take pills, they retrain the brain! Hopefully the explanation videos vs will make sense to you.

Patricia Simon
Guest
Have not read all the comments but just thought to say that this reminds me of comments made by Judy Mikowitz in a radio interview I listened to recently, I believe she said something on the lines of when Chronic Lyme sets in it is virtually indistinguishable from ME/CFS and the pathology is then virtually the same. Well something like that anyway. She is well worth listening to ! Also really I would say, how many people with CFS do not also have Fybro, where do you draw the line, just unexplained pain on all fronts, with a slightly different… Read more »
Jen
Guest

great explanation here Dan, I had been wonderng myself about the overlap

Ruth
Guest
Hi , I’ve been seriously ill for 4 years following a holiday to the USA where I had lots of insect bites ( I used to live there , in the same area ,and both my parents contracted Lyme when they visited me whilst I lived there ). My parents were both treated at uk hospitals as they had classic Bulls eye rashes and recovered fully. I didn’t have a rash and the onset of the illness was delayed. None of the U.K. tests have detected Lyme in my body and all the nhs consultants that I’ve seen don’t believe… Read more »
Rachel
Guest

I have been trying to work out whether I have chronic Lyme or M.E. I became ill 18 years ago after visiting Florida and have become increasingly more ill since with no treatment except thyroid support. My symptoms get a lot worse around full and new moon when the Lyme bacteria are meant to reproduce, which leads me to think I have Lyme disease. The symptoms are very similar in both conditions.

Fiona
Guest
I was always prone to being bit by biting insects. When they said it was ME/CFS they diagnosed without obligation of doing a Lyme disease blood test. So you are lulled into a false sense of security that the NHS is through in their diagnosis of exclusion. Whereas they just did a handful of basic blood tests, sent me to a psychiatrist and a cardiologist. So clearly they weren’t looking in the right places. When I had a persistent annaul decline they were happy to call it atypical fibromyalgia and prescribe antiinflammatory and give me a TENS machine and I… Read more »
Sonia
Guest

What type of doctor treats ME/CFS due to chronic Lyme? Can you recommend someone in NYC? I did antibiotic treatment. I’m better but totally listless most days, for most of the day.

sarah coleman
Guest

I have chronic lyme 22 years, 3 co infections trying natural remedies. It’s 10:40 am here been asleep twice…so what do I do to cure CFS? from what I read there is no cure for it or fibro, got that one…L had the bulls eye in the hollow of my neck and do have neurological lyme

Carrie
Guest
After a year of issues and symptoms, this is the one I drew the line with. I had been diagnosed with several different things over several months, but with chronic fatigue and multiple myalgias listed as well. The last discovery was lyme. Testing initially came back indeterminate, followed by a positive response to testing on a particular strain. My doctors debated between themselves about whether this was a true confirmation of lyme or not. The suggestion was to add antibiotics into the mix of other treatments. With some stomach issues starting to resolve, I couldn’t bear the idea of throwing… Read more »
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