The initial symptoms of Lyme disease may be difficult to recognize as they can mimic a flu-like illness. Although not a common symptom of Lyme disease, nausea does occur in some patients, alongside headaches, myalgia, fatigue, a stiff neck, sore throat, fever, chills, and light sensitivity. Lyme disease nausea may also occur as a side-effect of the medications used to treat the condition such as the Lyme disease antibiotic doxycycline. The antibiotic gentimycin is also known to cause hearing problems in some people, with tinnitus, and balance problems arising in a small number of patients. A loss of equilibrium can make patients feel particularly nauseous and they may then have difficulty taking their Lyme disease medications or keeping them down. Where this is a significant problem it can affect the success of treatment and a patient may need switching to an alternative antibiotic to help eradicate the Borrelia infection.
Antibiotics and Lyme Disease Nausea
Antibiotics can also have deleterious effects on the gastrointestinal system itself and some patients may have gallbladder problems when using gentimycin that could lead to issues of fat digestion, nausea, and diarrhoea. Around 1% of patients taking clindamycin to treat Lyme disease suffer adverse drug reactions (ADRs) including diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal pain or cramps, rashes, itchy skin, pseudomembranous colitis, and nausea. The gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are more likely to occur where a patient lies down for an extended period of time within thirty minutes of taking the antibiotics.
Antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease may also induce symptoms similar to those initially experienced when first infected with Lyme disease bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato. These Lyme disease treatment symptoms are thought to be part of a Jarisch-Herxheimer reaction known amongst Lyme patients as ‘herxing’. Although some patients feel that this is a necessary step in the treatment process it is not required for the Borrelia bacteria to be successfully cleared from their system and the endless pursuit of stronger antibiotics to create this initial worsening of the condition can be dangerous in itself.
Lyme disease nausea may simply be a symptom of the condition itself, and some estimates put it at around 10% of patients who experience symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and right upper quadrant pain suggestive of hepatitis in early stage Lyme disease. In the early disseminated stage of Lyme disease, many patients will experience flu-like symptoms once again, along with nausea, and arthritis, and a gradual involvement of the nervous system, cardiovascular system, or the eyes.
Treating Lyme Disease Nausea
Coping with Lyme disease nausea can prove difficult for many sufferers. Working out if the symptom is due to antibiotics or other medications, or part of the condition itself is the first step in addressing the problem. Patients may require intramuscular injections or an intravenous antibiotic course if they are unable to adhere to a regime of oral antibiotics. Pain medications, and NSAIDs may be contributing to the nausea and gastrointestinal upset and patients may wish to try alternative, natural anti-inflammatories to reduce the side-effects from these types of drugs. One popular anti-inflammatory which is also an anti-emetic and helps with nausea is ginger, which can be used in tea form, eaten as hard candy, or simply consumed as a slice of raw stem ginger itself. Liquorice and peppermint are also effect anti-nausea remedies for many people, and can be taken in the form of tea, along with chamomile, or as the herbs or root themselves, although there is some concern that liquorice could exacerbate high blood pressure.
Just as women experiencing morning sickness are advised to maintain good blood sugar levels by having plain, dry crackers by their bed to nibble on during the night or first thing in the morning, those with Lyme disease nausea may find that this is also helpful. Patients taking antibiotics are not advised to use anti-nausea medications such as carafate as this can adversely affect the efficacy of the antibiotic medication if taken at the same time. Those not currently having Lyme disease treatment, perhaps with residual effects of Lyme disease, may be prescribed this medication and some patients in treatment may be given carafate but instructed to ensure that the two are not taken simultaneously.
Lyme Disease and GERD
The symptom of nausea may also occur as part of gastroesophageal reflux disorder (GERD) which sometimes manifests in Lyme disease patients. These patients may begin to take antacids, some of which contain harmful aluminium, to calm down excess stomach acid and acid reflux. Unfortunately, such antacid medications can actually cause nausea themselves, and patients prescribed protein-pump inhibitors may also find that nausea occurs as a side-effect. Taking a natural antacid such as magnesium may be more effective and pose significantly lower risks than these types of medication. Any antacids containing either aluminium or magnesium should not be taken alongside Zithromax (a Lyme disease antibiotic) however, as they can interfere with its absorption and effectiveness. Altering eating patterns is also beneficial to many of those with Lyme disease nausea as light meals are often better tolerated and less night-time nausea is experienced if a patient eats earlier in the evening rather than just prior to lying down to sleep.
Some patients use homeopathic remedies for Lyme disease nausea although there is no evidence for their efficacy other than anecdotal support. Some popular remedies include combinations made by companies such as Heel, and Nelsons. Individual homeopathic medications for nausea include Ipecacuanha, Asarum, Nux vomica, and Pulsatilla. It is also important to realize that co-infections that often occur with Lyme disease, such as Babesiosis, Rickettsiosis, and Ehrlichiosis may also contribute to feelings of Lyme disease nausea and may require different treatment to Lyme disease itself.