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Ammonia: a Lyme disease exotoxin
Lyme Disease contributes to ammonia in the body and hinders its removal
Ammonia is a natural byproduct of eating protein, as well as gut-friendly bacteria, but these are normal levels of ammonia and the body knows how to remove them efficiently. Borrelia Burgdorferi, the bacteria responsible for Lyme Disease, as well as many of the coinfections that could potentially accompany it, not only contribute to the amount of ammonia the body has to process, but can also make this process less efficient which could potentially result in ammonia toxicity. A CBS gene mutation could complicate this process even further by contributing more ammonia to an already excessive load.
What is ammonia?
Ammonia is a molecule consisting of one nitrogen atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms, or NH3. To the human body, it can be very deleterious if it is in excess and not removed in an efficient manner.
The body naturally removes ammonia through a process known as the urea cycle. In a nutshell, when ammonia enters the liver, the liver converts ammonia to urea, the urea is then sent to the kidneys where it is then flushed out via urine. This is how the body addresses the normal amounts of ammonia it encounters daily, but this process can be disrupted and hindered when liver and kidney function become inefficient through damage or if they're overburdened with work. As a result, ammonia is not properly removed from the body and will begin to back up into the bloodstream, and from there, begin entering other organs (i.e., the brain), teeth, other body tissue, and disrupt the nervous system as it is a neurotoxin.
Lyme Disease and Ammonia
Lyme Disease can contribute to excessive ammonia in a number of ways. The first is that Borrelia Burgdorferi, the Lyme bacteria, releases ammonia as an exotoxin within the body. Wherever the bacteria resides within the body, this can occur, and if it's in the brain, there is potential for damage to occur to neurotransmitter receptors. This opens up the door to Lyme induced depersonalization and other discrepancies of the brain.
Lyme Disease can also contribute to the accumulation of ammonia in the body by hindering the body's ability to remove ammonia. We learned earlier that the body removes ammonia through the urea cycle, a process initiated by the liver. However, in people with Lyme Disease, the odds increase that their liver and/or kidneys may not be working efficiently. Herxheimer reactions, which is the release of endotoxins in the body from dead spirochetes, more than likely have the liver and kidneys working overtime which can result in an inefficient urea cycle. If the body's urea cycle isn't converting ammonia into urea properly, this in turn can cause a back up or accumulation of ammonia in the body from any source whether it be basic protein metabolism, or a CBS gene mutation. This is where ammonia becomes troublesome as it is forced to enter the bloodstream, and from there, infiltrate and disrupt other parts of the body - symptoms begin to manifest.
This is just one reason why it is so important to detox and support the organs while treating Lyme Disease.
CBS Gene mutation and excessive ammonia
While the human body is very impressive, biology isn’t perfect. This couldn’t be more true when it comes to genes. While you don’t need to be a biologist to understand the basics of genetics, to keep a potentially complex topic simple, know that chromosomes are comprised of DNA, and a section of DNA is called a gene. It’s also important to note that the blueprint and instructions for human biology (i.e., you) is DNA.
There is a specific gene (i.e., segment of DNA) called the Cystathionine Beta Synthase gene, or CBS gene for short. The CBS gene can also be broken down into further variations. The imperfection of biology is that sometimes genes are mutated (i.e., they don't work properly). When a CBS gene is mutated, it can lead to high levels of ammonia, as well as taurine and sulfur.
While it isn’t possible at the moment to change (i.e., fix) our gene mutations, it is possible to change how they’re expressed (i.e., their functions). Specifically fixing a CBS gene mutation’s expression can be done with the CBS treatment protocol which can be found in the book, “Autism: Pathways to Recovery” by Dr. Amy Yasko, Ph.D.
You can get tested for a CBS and other common gene mutations through 23andMe. After receiving your results, upload them to geneticgenie.org for an analysis of gene mutations.
Symptoms of ammonia toxicity
Symptoms of ammonia toxicity, like many of the other conditions that can affect people with Lyme Disease, have a tendency to overlap making it difficult to discern the cause. When the body can no longer process ammonia efficiently through the urea cycle, ammonia will begin to back up into the body and symptoms such as severe cognitive dysfunction, nervous system dysfunction, irritability, headaches, chronic fatigue, food intolerance, and in more severe toxicity cases, coma, and even death can occur.
Testing for ammonia toxicity
A standard blood-ammonia test can check the amount of ammonia present in the blood at the time the blood is withdrawn. However, this type of test does not reflect the total amount of ammonia that may be stored in other parts of the body such as the brain, teeth, and muscle tissue that could be causing damage.
For ammonia stored in locations of the body other than the blood stream, Direct Resonance Testing is performed. D.R.T. identifies a strong muscle of the body. A vial of ammonia is then placed at various locations around the exterior of the brain, and if that strong muscle goes weak, ammonia toxicity is suspected.
Always consult your physician first before beginning a treatment protocol for ammonia removal. Also, if you have CBS gene mutation which leads to excessive ammonia in your body, you need to follow the protocol in the book, "Autism: Pathways to Recovery" by Dr. Amy Yasko, Ph.D. and not assume a single supplement will address the CBS mutation because it's just one part of the equation.
For those who don't have a CBS gene mutation, but are still concerned about excessive ammonia in their body, there are some popular supplements used for helping the body remove excessive amounts of ammonia. Dosages should be discussed with your treating physician.
- L-Ornithine - An amino acid that plays an important part in the formation of urea which is needed to remove ammonia from the body. It is recommended over both L-Arginine and L-Carnitine for removing ammonia from the brain because the brain lacks the Ornithine-related enzyme for neutralizing ammonia. When using L-Ornithine, one should start out slow and increase as the dosages become more tolerable. Too much L-Ornithine at once may result in brain fog and cognitive impairment which may be the result of unwarranted rapid removal of ammonia from the brain.
- Yucca Root - An herb well known for its unique ability to remove ammonia from the body. Dosages can be found here.
- Charcoal/Magnesium Flushes - Charcoal is used to soak up excess ammonia in the body, and Magnesium Citrate is used to help produce bowel movements. Dosages can be found here.
- Dr Jernigan's Neuro-Antitox II Formula CNS/PNS - A supplement created by Dr. David Jernigan designed to help remove the neurotoxins caused by Lyme Disease. This product can be ordered through hansacenter.com. Product information can be found here.
- Hydroxy B12 - Hydroxy B12 comes at the recommendation of well known Lyme physician Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt, M.D. He states that Hydroxy B12 may be able to help remove ammonia from the brain.
- Jernigan, David, D.C. "The Alkaline Brain: Lyme Borrelia-induced Hyper-ammonemia ." Neuro-Antitox II. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
- "How Excess Protein Produces High Ammonia Levels." (n.d.): n. pag.Connected Health Care Systems. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
- "Why Does Every Cell in Our Body Contain DNA?" Science Questions with Surprising Answers. N.p., 22 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
- "Hepatic Encephalopathy: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 23 Oct. 2014.
- "The Urea Cycle." The Urea Cycle. N.p., 18 May 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2014. <http://users.rcn.com/jkimball.ma.ultranet/BiologyPages/U/UreaCycle.html>.
- Yasko, Amy, Ph.D. Autism: Pathways to Recovery. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1996. Print.
- Harvey, Richard A. "VII: Metabolism of Ammonia." Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews: Biochemistry. N.p.: Wolters Kluwer, n.d. N. pag. Print.
- Forsgren, Scott. "Klinghardt Conference: Lyme and Other Chronic Infections." BetterHealthGuy.com - A Site Dedicated to Lyme Disease. N.p., 21 Jan. 2014. Web. 31 Oct. 2014.