by Dr. Bill Rawls
Neurological symptoms are one of the most debilitating aspects of chronic Lyme disease, and it can be difficult to know what parts of the brain are being affected. Here, Dr. Bill Rawls breaks down what the hypothalamus is and how it relates to Lyme disease and the nervous system. Plus, he discusses what happens when the brain perceives ongoing stress for long periods of time. Learn more about neurological Lyme disease here.
Question: Does Lyme affect the hypothalamus?
Tim Yarborough: From Mike. We got this live tonight asking if Lyme affects the hypothalamus, and if so, can the hypothalamus be reset, quote, unquote?
Dr. Rawls: First of all, I would say that, yeah, Lyme disease pretty much gets everywhere. You know, anywhere that the bloodstream goes, then it affects. And you have to think about this thing as we are a collection of cells. So the hypothalamus is made of cells. And so definitely, it could affect it.
But I think it’s more apt to be affected just by the stress of the illness. So what the hypothalamus is, is basically a thermostat, a regulatory center for the body. So the brain is constantly sensing what’s going on inside and outside the body, and it uses the hypothalamus as a pathway to make adjustments to everything going on in the body. So things are changing. The body is stressed.
So it sends a message to the hypothalamus to modify everything. So the hypothalamus works through the pituitary. It’s like the pituitary is like a secretary. So the hypothalamus processes a message, it sends it to the pituitary, and the pituitary sends messages to the thyroid, metabolism, adrenals, stress, and ovaries’ or testes’ reproductive functions.
But it’s also connected to a lot of other things that the autonomic immune system with the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. So it’s a message, it’s a message system that’s going on. So you have to think about it this way. The body is a collection of several trillion cells. If you’re healthy, it’s because your cells are healthy. If you’re not healthy, because your cells are suffering. All right?
For any cell to be healthy, it must get water, nutrients, oxygen, and waste carried away. And that requires the activity of all the cells in the body. So all the cells in the body have to be communicating and talking to one another. So there’s got to be this constant dialog, not only between cells, but also between the brain sensing everything that’s going on and coordinating functions. When that breaks down, all the cells in the body start breaking down. And that’s when you start having fatigue and all kinds of other symptoms.
So it’s a matter of pushing that stress button. So whether it’s perceived stress from the outside or stress of chronic illness, the brain is keeping the body in alert mode. It keeps adrenaline pumping, it keeps cortisol elevated to deal with stress, to keep cells on edge, to keep getting ready for that stress. So if you’re pushing that button, sooner or later all the cells in the body just get fatigued.
And that feedback to the brain is affecting the hypothalamus, that everything is fatigue and it gets to be this vicious cycle. So, yeah, I don’t think there’s any doubt that we could have microbe invasion into the hypothalamus. That’s a possibility, but I haven’t seen it documented. But more than anything else, it’s just the body being in that constant stress mode that the hypothalamus is in transmission of that.
So you can think of stress as just basically wearing down the cells of the body and especially if you’re not getting sleep. Sleep is important because that’s downtime for cells. If cells don’t have time to recover from just the stress of going through the day, everything starts breaking down.