The human body has a built-in immune system that defends against different types of germs and pathogens. As soon as the immune system recognizes something that is not supposed to be in your system, it switches into attack mode. Inflammation is activated, which seeks, finds, and destroys bacteria trying to harm you.
Antibiotics may not be needed if everyone’s immune system is adequately functioning. There are several reasons for immune system malfunction.
What Weakens the Immune System?
According to Yale Medicine, 3% of Americans have compromised immune systems. You may wonder why you always get sick, and others never get sick even though you work or live in the same environment. Or how one group member develops a disease that everyone was exposed to. Here are some possible reasons:
- Autoimmune Disease
If you have an autoimmune disease, your immune system mistakes healthy cells for foreign ones and attacks them. Your immune system no longer protects you and can cause you harm. There are at least 80 autoimmune diseases, including diabetes, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, celiac, graves, multiple sclerosis, and thyroiditis.
Having an autoimmune disease means your body will struggle to detect Lyme bacteria. And even if it detects them, it may not be strong enough to flush them out of your system.
- Lifestyle Factors
What you put into your body directly affects the immune system’s strength. Smoking, drinking alcohol excessively, misusing drugs, obesity, and inactivity hinder how well your body functions. They are also factors that lead to autoimmune diseases.
- Gut Bacteria
Billions of good and bad bacteria exist in the mouth, skin, and gut. Good bacteria help in protecting you from diseases. They can activate the immune system to get rid of harmful bacteria. If you do not have enough good bacteria, your immune system will not know about the bad bacteria trying to multiply and take over. When the bad bacteria start growing and spreading through the body, you are at higher risk of an autoimmune disorder.
- Other Factors
Certain medications can weaken the immune system, especially those used to treat cancer and organ transplant patients. Someone can also be born with a weakened immune system or acquire an opportunistic infection that weakens white blood cells.
Lyme Disease and the Immune System
Some people debate whether Lyme disease is an autoimmune disease. To date, it is labeled only as a disease that triggers an autoimmune response. This happens when a deer tick infected with the Lyme bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi, transmits the bacteria into your bloodstream.
Once in your blood, the bacteria start reproducing to spread to other body parts. The body’s immune system is triggered when Lyme bacteria enter your system. However, Lyme bacteria are very smart and defend themselves with tactics other bacteria cannot use.
Lyme bacteria create shields called biofilms to protect themselves, making detecting them difficult. They hide bacteria so well that inflammation activated by the immune system will constantly circulate through the body, searching for them even though they are within reach. These biofilms must be destroyed to destroy the bacteria.
The body’s immune system can only detect active pathogens. Lyme bacteria can go inactive, tricking the immune system into thinking they are not there. Going inactive also means the bacteria can trick Lyme disease tests. If you take the test when they are inactive, your results will be false negative. You could have Lyme disease even though the test says you don’t.
Making them even more difficult to flush out, Lyme bacteria have claws or spikes that allow them to travel against the blood flow.
If Lyme bacteria is in your system, your immune system can become weaker and ineffective against fighting the bacteria. Your symptoms can be debilitating if not treated properly.
How Do Antibiotics Treat Lyme Disease?
Antibiotics can prevent an autoimmune reaction by blocking the processes bacteria use to grow and spread. Antibiotics can kill or suppress bacteria enough for the body’s immune system to do its job.
Many antibiotics exist; some are broad spectrum and treat many diseases, while others are narrow spectrum and treat few conditions. For Lyme disease, three specific antibiotics are used as the first-line treatments. Doxycycline prevents the growth of bacteria and can be taken twice daily. It is broad enough to treat Lyme disease and Lyme coinfections.
Amoxycillin kills bacteria by preventing cell wall synthesis. It is taken three times daily to keep the antibiotic levels high. Cefuroxime is the third antibiotic for Lyme disease. It also prevents cell wall synthesis but can cross the blood-brain barrier, making it a better choice for some with chronic Lyme disease.
Oral vs. Intravenous Antibiotics
Oral antibiotics refer to pills that are taken by mouth. They travel through the digestive system, where stomach acids cause some degradation. They then enter your bloodstream and start fighting bacteria. Oral antibiotics may cause digestive discomfort, nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting.
Intravenous (IV) antibiotics are administered through a line connected directly to your vein, where the bacteria live. With intravenous antibiotics, you receive all the doses in the quickest time. When treating Lyme disease, speed helps.
IV antibiotics are better absorbed, can be given in high doses, and help many avoid digestive side effects. For people who have trouble swallowing, IV antibiotics make a big difference. Typically, antibiotics are prescribed for at least 21 days. Depending on your unique needs, the length may vary.
Get Serious About Prevention
No one thinks Lyme disease will happen to them, until it happens. Then they wish they had taken preventative steps. There are many things you can do to protect yourself from contracting Lyme disease, such as:
- Wear protective clothing when you know you will be outdoors where ticks may be present.
- Spray tick repellent on your clothing and skin. Spray it on your pets, also.
- Check your body and your pets for ticks after being outdoors.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle to strengthen your immune system and avoid developing an autoimmune disorder.
To learn more, contact an infectious diseases specialist today.