What You Need to Know About Bartonella

As if it wasn’t bad enough on its own, if you are suffering from chronic Lyme disease, chances are you are dealing with more than just Lyme disease. The overwhelming odds are that you are also dealing with at least one co-infection alongside Lyme. One of the most common of these co-infections is called Bartonella. In this article, I’m going to go over what you need to know about Bartonella. I am confident that these strategies will help you in your battle against this devastating infection. 

What you need to know about Bartonella; many cases in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Northeast.

Lyme co-infections are common

Tick-borne illnesses are much more prevalent than once thought by medical professionals. Lyme disease (Borrelia burgdorferi is the most common strain) alone has now risen to endemic proportions in Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Northeast. 

In Minnesota alone, there are at least 50,000 cases of Lyme disease every year. At a 10 percent failure rate, that means at least 5,000 Minnesotans are slipping through the cracks of the medical system and suffering from chronic Lyme disease. Now imagine how many of the people who develop chronic Lyme are also dealing with co-infections or co-infections alone. 

You may only get bitten with an infected tick once, but that single tick bite can infect you with multiple infections. Throughout the results of various studies published in Clinical Microbiology, co-infections appear the most often in people who have Lyme disease. 

To be clear, you can get these infections without getting Lyme disease, but it is extremely common for ticks to be infected with Lyme disease and various co-infections.

This information coincides with what Lyme doctors find in their own practices. According to Dr. Daniel Cameron, the former president of ILADS, 93% of the chronic Lyme patients he saw in his clinic weren’t only dealing with Lyme disease; they were also fighting co-infections like Bartonella.

Some of the most common tick-borne infections you can get alongside Lyme or by themselves include other strains of Borrelia and various strains of Babesia, Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Rickettsia, Bartonella, Southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI), and Powassan virus.

Getting infected with multiple infections is what probably makes Lyme or any of these infections enter into a chronic state. It can be too much for many people’s immune systems to handle.

These infections can be a huge reason why you’re slipping through the cracks of the medical system.

What is Bartonella? 

Bartonella is a gram-negative bacteria and intracellular parasite that lives in the endothelial lining, inside the cardiovascular system, inside your skin. In particular, Bartonella loves red blood cells and endothelial cells. 

This bacteria lives in the circulatory system, screws up blood flow, breaks the nitric oxide system, and starts to use blood flow for its own purposes.

What are some staple symptoms of Bartonella?

Lyme, Babesia, Anaplasma and Bartonella can all cause severe neurological and neuropsychiatric problems. For slightly different reasons, they can all lead to similar symptoms. Bartonella drives many of its symptoms because it lives in the bloodstream. 

Most people didn’t know Lyme and co-infections could cause major neurological problems until Columbia started doing their research in the 2010s.

Many patients with Bartonella experience problems with OCD, anxiety, depression, rage, derealization, and many other distressing psychiatric symptoms.

Because Bartonella bacteria thrive in the lining of blood vessels, the bacteria often attack and damage the cardiovascular system, producing heart and chest symptoms. 

These infections can also wreak havoc on other systems throughout the body, causing conditions like gastritis and costochondritis (inflammation of the cartilage that joins your ribs to your breastbone) which can also lead to chest pain. 

Although symptoms caused by other bodily problems can mimic those of a heart attack, it’s important to take it seriously and not brush these symptoms aside.

The unknowns of the severity of the chest pains and their cause(s) are distressing. For that reason, these symptoms often send you to the ER or urgent care. However, in many cases, they go only to be told your heart looks fine. After getting tested, you are often told you only have anxiety, are prescribed anxiety meds, and sent on your way with a hefty bill and no answers.

Bartonella also causes many pain issues and is particularly known for causing leg and foot pain. 

Bartonella has a major effect on the cardiovascular system

While symptoms vary greatly, some of the most commonly reported symptoms of Bartonella include: 

  • Stretch or scratch-like marks 
  • Low-grade fever 
  • Swollen lymph nodes 
  • Chronic headaches
  • Body aches
  • Severe fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loose stools, constipation, or impaired general intestinal function 
  • Eye infection (conjunctivitis)
  • Liver and spleen enlargement in acute or chronic infection
  • Relapsing low-grade fever
  • Chronic eye problems, including blurred vision, photophobia and eye irritation
  • Bartonella commonly infects bone marrow with resulting bone pain; the most common location is the shin bone.
  • Pain in the soles of feet upon waking in the morning. This is a classic bartonella symptom.
  • Ankle and knee pain on one or both sides
  • Anemia (from bartonella taking nutrients from red blood cells)
  • Small vessel disease, affecting the brain and nervous system
  • Headaches
  • Depression and rage
  • Anxiety
  • Neurological symptoms like poor balance, brain fog, decreased cognition, memory impairment, insomnia, and restlessness
  • Light and sound sensitivity 
  • Poor stress tolerance
  • Demineralization of teeth and jaw, causing chronic face and neck pain
  • Transient tooth pain
  • Chronic Bartonella infections can present a higher risk of needing a root canal
  • Small vessel disease can affect the function of the autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic systems), resulting in postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS).
  • Vascular system issues such as infection of cells lining the heart (endocarditis), leading to chest pain, shortness of breath, palpitations, and, in some cases, damage to heart valves
  • Respiratory symptoms, including unexplained cough
  • Urogenital problems like irritable bladder, kidney disease, pelvic pain, and infertility
  • Other abnormal sensations, like burning, tingling, water on your skin (when it’s not wet), etc.

While the problems Bartonella can produce are extensive, once you understand why and how you are getting these symptoms, you can more easily find strategies to feel better.

Why is Bartonella so difficult to eradicate? 

In every tick-borne illness program, there is a heavy emphasis on killing the bacteria. While the killing aspect is imperative, it’s only a third of the puzzle. It’s also crucial to understand what these bugs are doing to protect themselves so you can counteract their efforts.

Of the tick-borne infections I’ve encountered with patients, Bartonella is the most antibiotic-resistant bacteria. I have often had people come in who have been on antibiotics for years, yet whenever we retest, they still have an active Bartonella infection. 

Bartonella often evades the attempts of antibiotics because of its distressing ability to hide deep within the cells. 

To help alleviate the symptoms of Lyme and co-infection patients, over a decade ago it became popular to alter neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, GABA, etc.). However, in my practice (and many other doctors’ practices) we weren’t finding much success.

Once we put more of an emphasis on using anti-inflammatories and circulation support, we saw vast improvements. 

How can you help your body fight Bartonella?

Support your circulatory, cardiovascular, and nitric oxide systems

To beat Bartonella, you can’t merely focus on drawing out the bacteria from hiding and killing it. You must support your circulatory, cardiovascular and nitric oxide systems. 

Reminder: Bartonella lives in the circulatory system, screws up blood flow, breaks the nitric oxide system, and starts to use blood flow for its own purposes instead of what your body needs. 

It’s not a coincidence that many of the things that work well for Bartonella are also great for the cardiovascular system. 

A part of making Bartonella unable to morph and become resistant to your immune system, drugs or herbs is supporting the healthy function of the circulatory system. If you’re not adding in things that support healthy circulation and nitric oxide production, you’re going to be far less successful. 

It’s not just about what’s in your blood; it’s also about whether you’re getting it to where you need it. Shifting to an anti-inflammatory approach and one that supports healthy blood flow has produced much better results for our patients.

Bartonella causes deficiencies

Whenever we have Bartonella patients take micronutrient tests, the results line up with their symptoms. 

Vitamins and minerals that are vital for a cardiovascular system to function well are often depleted in those who have Bartonella, which causes even greater symptoms. This occurs because Bartonella has been ravaging the system, causing deficiencies in nutrients our bodies need to repair itself and function. 

If you aren’t layering raw materials and nutrients, herbal help, nitric oxide and cardiovascular support, you undoubtedly won’t be able to get your blood to the places it needs to repair. This is a big concept with Bartonella that must be put into practice.

For example, if you aren’t getting proper blood flow to the brain, you’ll have problems thinking clearly. And if you aren’t getting it to your toes and fingers, you’ll have peripheral neuropathy. Proper blood flow is imperative to your health and healing.

Using supplements that lower inflammation and support circulation is imperative. 

Key support for the cardiovascular system:

  • Garlic
  • Black walnut
  • Hawthorn
  • Vitamin B1, B2, B3
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K2

In your program, you must have a focus on providing:

  • Cardiovascular support
  • Circulation support
  • Nitric oxide support

To beat Bartonella, you have to support your cardiovascular system, circulation, and nitric oxide production.

Summary

  • Bartonella is just one of the many “Lyme co-infections.”
  • You don’t have to have Lyme in order to have Bartonella and vice versa, but they are commonly found together.
  • There is a vast array of possible symptoms associated with Bartonella. The list we provided is not exhaustive. 
  • If you have brain problems, you probably have inflammation, and removing sources of inflammation will help you.
  • In general, using anti-inflammatories gave us better responses than messing directly with neurotransmitters.
  • In our clinic with our patients, we got better results by helping patients’ blood flow than we had by altering their neurotransmitters.
  • Bartonella lives in the circulatory system, screws up blood flow, breaks the nitric oxide system, and starts to use blood flow for its own purposes.
  • Antibiotics have a hard time reaching Bartonella because of the way it is able to hide.
  • Adding in things for circulation support helps the nitric oxide system. 
  • Some of the most effective cardiovascular-supporting supplements you can take include garlic, black walnut, Hawthorn, vitamin B1, B2, B3, vitamin E, and vitamin K2. 
  • You must find ways to support your cardiovascular system, circulation, and nitric oxide production. 

To read more about Lyme disease, Bartonella and other tickborne infections, read more from our blog.

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By Dr. Kyle Warren

Edited by Meghan Feir Walker