If you’re not recovering from chronic fatigue syndrome, you could have an undiagnosed co-infection that’s keeping you sick!
Learn more about the most common co-infection that causes fatigue – and all sorts of other strange symptoms – in today’s post!
Lyme disease could be the cause of your chronic fatigue. But one of the most confusing parts of Lyme disease is properly diagnosing and treating the other infections that tend to accompany it. These are known as co-infections. One of the more common co-infections is an awful bacteria known as Bartonella.
Bartonella. More specifically, it’s known as Bartonella Henselae. You may know this bacteria as cat scratch fever. Others call it Bartonellosis.
Regardless of what you call it, know that Bartonella is a bacteria. When you get infected by it, you have a Bartonella infection. As there are over 45 different types of Bartonella bacteria, it’s most accurate to call the infection a Bartonella-like organism.
It’s never a good sign if the medical community can’t even agree on a name for an infection. As you’d suspect, properly diagnosing and treating Bartonella-like organisms is an exercise in patients. You’re probably not going to get much help from your family doc. Heck, most functionally trained docs struggle with Bartonella and Lyme-like illnesses.
Suffice it to say, the Bartonella waters are murky. Today, I’ll do my best to help you understand everything you need to know about Bartonella! Especially how it may be a hidden cause of your fatigue!
The chronic fatigue Bartonella connection
Much like any infection, the most common symptom associated with Bartonella is fatigue. (1) So, it should come as little surprise that a chronic Bartonella infection could cause chronic fatigue. While this may hold true, there really isn’t scientific data to support that conclusion… Yet.
I believe many practitioners will agree that chronic fatigue syndrome is often triggered by an infection. The Epstein-Barr virus has been linked to chronic fatigue for years. Many chronic fatigue patients note their symptoms began after a flu-like illness.
Indeed, Bartonella could very well be the infection that both triggers and maintains your fatigue levels. But as you’ll soon find out, today’s testing methods for Bartonella are woefully inadequate. Until testing becomes precise, it’s unlikely to see strong research connecting Bartonella to chronic fatigue syndrome.
If you’ve received a less-than-helpful diagnosis like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, you need to dig deeper into what may be maintaining your fatigue and body pain. Infections like toxic mold have a strong connection to chronic fatigue. Bartonella does not yet have the research support the connection. But Bartonella could still be at the root of your debilitating fatigue levels!
Fatigue aside, Bartonella has a rather unique symptom picture. Symptoms that could point in the direction of helpful diagnosis. Read on to see if your symptoms picture fits with Bartonella!
How do you get a Bartonella infection?
As the name implies, cat scratches are a common way to get a Bartonella infection. So are cat bites. You could even get a Bartonella infection if your cat licks an open wound.
It is thought that about 40% of cats posses the Bartonella bacteria. (2) But unlike humans, cats seem to be able to live with this bacterial infection without issue (most of the time). Cats pick up the bacterial infection from either flea bites or flea droppings getting into an open wound.
Cats aside, you too can catch Bartonella from fleas! But by far the most common way humans acquire a Bartonella infection is through ticks. Yep, those gross creatures that spread Lyme disease are also carriers for Bartonella.
Now I have to put a disclaimer in this next section. At the time of writing this article, the CDC has not yet given the green light of approval to Bartonella being transferred via tick bites. (3) They suspect Bartonella can be transferred via ticks, but they have yet to come out and report that.
Nevertheless, there are other studies that do clearly illustrate the Bartonella bacteria being harbored by ticks. (3, 4, 5, 6, 7) If you started to get all sorts of weird symptoms – which we’ll discuss in detail in the next section – after a tick bite or a cat scratch/bite, you need to consider Bartonella as a potential cause of your fatigue and other associated symptoms.
Do you have the symptoms of a Bartonella infection?
The general symptoms of a Bartonella infection are similar to many other chronic infections. These include:
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Brain fog
Dr. Neil Nathan describes the hallmark signs of a Bartonella infection are of an over-excited nervous system. He suggests that many symptoms will be classified as psychosomatic. Indeed, the symptoms of Bartonella can make you question your sanity. Some of the symptoms closely linked to Bartonella include: (8, 9, 10, 11, 12)
- Intense emotional instability and mood swings
- Intense anxiety and panic attacks
- A sensation of internal vibration or tingling
- Numbness and/or tingling
- Sensitivity to light, touch, sounds, smells, and chemicals
- Migrating joint or muscle pain
As the symptoms of a Bartonella infection are incredibly severe and equally weird. Many practitioners tell their patient’s that the symptoms must be in their heads. If you’re suffering from the above symptoms and have been told time-and-time again that your symptom picture is not possible, look to a Bartonella infection.
Can you accurately diagnose Bartonella?
If you thought getting tested for Bartonella would be the answer to your woes, you’re not going to like this section. Testing for Bartonella is in its infancy. At the time of this writing, there really aren’t many great options for testing.
The biggest problem in diagnosis is the sheer volume of different Bartonella species. There are 45 different species of Bartonella. (13) 27 of which are thought to cause infections in humans. Labs testing only analyzes two different Bartonella species:
- Bartonella Henselae
- Bartonella Quintana
The other 25 species are not tested for. Fortunately, Bartonella Henselae and Bartonella Quintana are the two most prevalent species. Before you get too excited, there’s another flaw in testing.
The most common way of testing for Bartonella is through something called an antibody titer. That means that the lab checks to see if your immune system has been activated by a Bartonella infection.
The unfortunate consequence of an antibody titer is that it doesn’t tell us if you’re actively undergoing a Bartonella infection. All it lets us know is that at some point in time your immune system was exposed to Bartonella. A positive test suggests a Bartonella infection but it is not conclusive. A negative test does not rule out a Bartonella infection.
Fortunately, new laboratory technology can help dispell some of the mystery surround Bartonella. PCR testing (polymerase chain reactions) measures the DNA of a particular bacteria. Armin Labs in Germany is able to measure Bartonella via PCR testing.
If the PCR test comes back positive, it is indicative of an active Bartonella infection. At the time of this writing, PCR testing is the most accurate way to objectively test for a Bartonella infection.
Subjective testing for Bartonella
If laboratory testing for Bartonella didn’t inspire confidence, you’re not alone. You need to combine a thorough clinical history with a symptom picture and laboratory testing to make an educated clinical decision.
My general rule is to test, not guess. But when the technology is not where it needs to be, clinicians are forced to make some clinical decisions based on subjective criteria.
Take 5 drops of A-Bart twice a day for two days. If there is no reaction, increase your dose to ten drops twice a day for two days. If there is still no reaction, increase your dose to fifteen drops twice a day for two days.
If you have a Bartonella infection, there will be a marked increase in your symptoms. Should this happen to you, it is suggestive of a Bartonella infection. But as I said, this is quite a subjective test. Therefore, you need to combine the results of this test with a detailed history and symptom presentation.
Do not try to make this diagnosis on your own. Work with a practitioner trained in tick-bourne and mold-related illnesses. Take this diagnostic methodology for what it is – subjective.
The ingredients of A-Bart include: (14)
- Garlic (bulb) – Allium sativum
- Gou Teng (vine with hooks) – Uncaria rhynchophylla
- Licorice (root) – Glycyrrhiza glabra
- Neem (leaf) – Azadirachta indica
- Grapefruit Seed Extract (seed) – Citrus paradisi
- Indian Sarsaparilla (root) – Hemidesmus indicus
- Clove (bud) – Syzygium aromaticum
- Usnea (lichen) – Unsea barbata
- Poke (root) – Phytolacca americana
The majority of these ingredients are herbs with general antibiotic abilities. Thus, a positive reaction to taking A-Bart could be due to its effect on another bacterial species.
As I said earlier, tread softly with the subjective means of diagnosing Bartonella. It’s not fool-proof.
My personal thoughts are to first start with laboratory testing. If the lab testing comes back negative but your symptoms and clinical history fit with Bartonella, then look to try the subjective method.
Now that you’re all expert Bartonella diagnosticians, let’s dig into how to properly treat it!
Treatment options for Bartonella
For a deep dive into treatment options for Bartonella – and all the other co-infections associated with Lyme disease – I’m going to point you in the direction of Stephen Buhner. Stephen has written several books on Lyme disease and the co-infections commonly associated with it.
The other disclaimer is that successfully treating Bartonella is no picnic. A seven-day course of antibiotics is not going to cut it. The proper treatment of Bartonella is a marathon. Working with a Lyme-literate practitioner is absolutely essential.
Bartonella is often a co-infection. Meaning that it accompanies another type of infection. Some of Bartonella’s close colleagues include toxic mold and Lyme disease. Before charging ahead on Bartonella treatment, you need to identify other infections that may be associated with it.
Antibiotic treatment of Bartonella
As I stated earlier, ten days of antibiotics just aren’t going to cut it for Bartonella. Long-term use of antibiotics is required. Long-term use of antibiotics brings about its own risk factors. Including Clostridium Difficile infections, a decrease in healthy gut bacteria, and a lowering of your immune system.
Some of the more commonly prescribed antibiotics for Bartonella include:
If your practitioner is recommending treatment via long-term use of antibiotics, be sure you’re consuming a large amount of prebiotics. Prebiotics include foods high in soluble fiber like Jeruselum artichokes and chicory root.
Since no one I’ve ever met consumes these foods, look for a soluble fiber supplement powder. Said powder should include ingredients like acacia fiber, green plantains/bananas, partially hydrolyzed guar gum, Jeruselum artichokes, and/or chicory root.
Prebiotic fiber acts as food for your bacteria. In the case of long-term antibiotic use, you’re going to want to ensure your remaining bacteria are well taken care of.
Intuitively, you may think that taking probiotics while on antibiotics is a smart move. I thought so too. But new research is suggesting that taking probiotics before or after antibiotic courses may not be beneficial, and could actually make things worse. (15)
The research here is murky. Other studies have shown probiotic supplements to reduce the risk of C-diff infections after antibiotics. (16, 17) As we wait for more research, I recommend limiting probiotic supplementation while on antibiotics. Instead, opt for the soluble fiber prebiotics I mentioned above.
Herbal treatment of Bartonella
Being a natural health practitioner, my personal bias is towards using herbs over antibiotics for treating Bartonella. As treatment spans many months, the risks associated with long-term herbal use are far less than long-term antibiotic use.
Stephen Buhner recommends the following herbal protocol for treating Bartonella:
- Sida Acuta
- Japanese knotweed
- Houttuynia (Yu Xing Cao)
- Milk thistle seed
Other herbal treatment options specific to Bartonella include:
Much like antibiotics, herbal treatment of Bartonella is a marathon. You will likely need to rotate between different herbs throughout your treatment protocol.
Since Bartonella is closely connected with both toxic mold and Lyme disease, you may find these need to be treated before or concurrently with Bartonella.
Ok, now that a Bartonella infection is on your radar, it’s time to see if that’s the root cause of your fatigue!
I’d love to hear your experiences in diagnosing and treating a Bartonella infection!
Leave your answers in the comments section below!