I don’t know where the expression of “barking up the wrong tree” came from, but my guess is that was invented based on a supposition that we are all like dogs, on the lookout for trees with the solution to our problems, (except that our solution isn’t finding a squirrel or some other furry creature, but rather healing from our illnesses). But like Fido, we sometimes get it wrong and don’t realize that the squirrel is one tree over.
In the case of Lyme disease, we “bark” at borrelia, babesia and the other supposedly active infections we are told that we have. We set our gaze upon these critters because our lab work, physicians and symptoms have told us that these are our problem. They are the main reason why we are sick, and we must treat them if we are to be well.
I think some of us have found the right tree, and are healing with the help of Lyme disease treatments, but the more I research, the more I wonder whether some of us should be focusing on a different tree.
You see, symptoms of chronic fatigue correlate strongly with those of Lyme disease, and while many excellent physicians would say that CFS is really Lyme disease, it is also possible to have CFS symptoms due to other factors and still test positive for Lyme disease.
Just because a Lyme test or test for any other infection comes out positive doesn’t mean that that particular infection is active and causing symptoms in the body, especially if the test used measures the presence of antibodies. Antibodies can exist in the body long after an infection is gone, so there is no good way to tell whether a borrelia infection is still there or more difficult yet, causing symptoms. We all have antibodies to many different infections, which may or may not exist and/or be active in the body.
And even if borrelia is active and/or present, it may not be causing the majority of our symptoms. J. Titelbaum, M.D., in the updated version of his book, “From Fatigued To Fantatic”, writes, “Lyme disease is especially problematic, as there is no gold standard test. I suspect that as many as half of the people who have Lyme infections have negative tests and, conversely, that if you randomly check Lyme tests, as many as half of the people who test positive do not have Lyme disease. This creates enormous confusion, as CFS/FMS symptoms are similar to those of Lyme disease. Because of this, many people desperately looking for an explanation for their symptoms who have found one of many Lyme tests to be positive, to cling to this diagnosis as they seek an explanation for their disability.”
Ouch. Well if this isn’t frustrating (if perhaps true), information!
Dr. Titelbaum goes on to state that many of the above-mentioned patients feel better on antibiotics and take this as confirmation that in fact, Lyme is the main reason for their symptoms. At the same time, he concedes that many excellent physicians believe that the large majority of CFS/FMS (Fibromyalgia) patients’ symptoms are caused by Lyme disease.
But how can we know for sure, especially if CFS symptoms mimic those of Lyme disease?
Maybe we can’t.
Maybe the best we can do is take pieces of our symptom and diagnosis puzzle and see which ones seem to best fit together, taking into account the considerations outlined in the following paragraphs.
First, while Dr. Titelbaum seems to infer that improvement based on antibiotic use does not necessarily implicate Lyme disease, it sometimes can, especially if the antibiotics used are borrelia-specific and cause a herxheimer reaction. Andrographis, for instance, is an herbal antibiotic specific for borrelia, and when effective, it produces an initial worsening of symptoms in Lyme patients, followed by improvement. Not all infections cause herxheimer reactions, but borrelia is one that does. The difficulty here, however, and as implied by Dr. Titelbaum, might be in finding Lyme-specific treatments, since the antibiotics used to kill borrelia often kill other infections as well, making it difficult to discern whether you’re really getting rid of borrelia or another bacterial infection.
Unlike most bacterial infections, however, borrelia takes many months or years to eradicate, which may be another clue to its presence.
Strategies in energy medicine, such as Rife machines and homeopathy, may provide greater clues as to the presence, and severity of, Lyme disease. Frequencies used in Rife, for instance, are specific to the pathogen being targeted, and any reaction to the frequency used is a good indication that the pathogen is present. Similarly, homeopathy uses nosodes containing the energetic blueprint of specific pathogens and any positive reaction to a homeopathic treatment is pretty solid proof that the pathogen was present in the body.
Also, if you have tried multiple Lyme disease treatments and don’t seem to herx or only herx mildly from these, without much, if any, subsequent improvement, it may be that your borrelia infection(s) aren’t an important factor in your overall symptom picture.
Finally, from personal observation it seems to me that there is a set of neurological symptoms which distinguishes Lyme patients from those who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. While both conditions cause depression, brain fog and anxiety, Lyme patients tend to also have bizarre neurological symptoms such as buzzing and crawling sensations in the brain, sensitivity to sounds and light, and symptoms which I would collectively call, “neurological weirdness.” Cardiac symptoms, especially tachycardia, are also more pronounced in Lyme sufferers. That said, if you suffer only from anxiety, that doesn’t mean you don’t have Lyme, but in the absence of other factors indicating Lyme disease (ie, a positive IgeneX test or no reaction to antibiotics), knowing what neurological symptoms are more Lyme-like can help to confirm a diagnosis.
If you suspect that Lyme is playing only a minor, if any, role in your overall symptom picture, I would advise exploring some new trees to find solutions to your symptoms. Don’t hyper-focus on Lyme; if you research Lyme, take some time to also research other reasons for CFS, such as environmental toxins, auto-immune and hormonal dysfunction induced by stress, as well as other diseases.