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Please note: I am aware that some people feel dizzy, fatigued, and drained after taking a shower, but this is likely caused by a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system, POTS. The symptom I am writing about in this blog post is a completely different animal.
For any person with chronic Lyme disease that feels worse after taking a shower, this information is for you.
One of my worst symptoms while dealing with chronic Lyme disease, aside from the depersonalization, was the debilitating and poisonous feeling I would get after taking a simple shower. I would feel great while taking a shower, but in the hours after, I would feel exponentially horrible.
My face would become pale, my eyes became very glazed, extreme irritability and agitation would develop, and tingling sensations all over my body. In a nutshell, I felt as horrible as any human could feel physically and mentally for days. The only word that made sense to describe this feeling is "poisoned".
How could a simple shower make someone feel so bad for days? Of all the doctors I've seen, they've all weighed in but none have ever been able to find a solution.
Nothing, absolutely nothing was on the internet that fit the bill of my debilitating symptom other than my original Tired of Lyme article on the symptom. Many forums and some blogs speak on the topic of feeling worse after a shower, but this was usually due to POTS (i.e., dizziness, fatigue, etc). I was on my own.
In an effort to find a logical explanation and potential solution for this extremely debilitating symptom, I performed many experiments to try and make sense of what was going on in my body after a shower. Instead of hot showers, I tried cold. I reduced the nozzle pressure to almost nothing and even tried a bath instead. I showered at other people's places and tried different types of water. But after the testing, it was clear there was no obvious culprit and I was exactly where I had started. What the heck was going inside of me?
Then things got worse, as after standing outside in a rain storm one evening, my debilitating shower symptoms presented themselves in the hours after coming inside. Despite this setback, my first real hypothesis started to develop for the cause of this symptom. Something inside of my head was being released whenever I had some type of external stimuli to my scalp.
Even shaving my face with an electric razor began to induce the symptom, but further supported my hypothesis. So it wasn't just my scalp, it was any type of external stimuli on my face, really.
With the little information I had from conducting my own experiments, unintentional setbacks, and primarily useless information my doctors, I wasn't getting anywhere with my hypothesis. All that made sense was that something was potentially being released in my head after external stimuli from a shower, standing out in the rain, or shaving my face, and that I would feel bad for days on end.
I searched the internet again, very thoroughly this time in an effort to find something that could explain this shower symptom, but nothing.
From there, I decided to get the opinions from others in an online forum. Someone has to understand or have experienced what I experience after taking a shower. I received quite a generous amount of responses from amazing people who, while they didn't know what was going on, made an effort to propose possible explanations.
All the responses I was receiving from people, while extremely grateful for, never really stuck out, until one response did.
Someone I had never met mentioned that my description of "toxins being released" seemed to mesh with Dr. Raymond Perrin D.O.'s stagnant lymphatic system theory. You know how something makes sense to you before you even reason through it? Well, this was one of those times.
After receiving this response from the forum contributor, for which I will forever be grateful for, I began to search Dr. Raymond Perrin's theory. I stumbled upon a video on YouTube in which Dr. Perrin explained his theory and work, and at 3 minutes and 40 seconds, I heard the words from Dr. Perrin's mouth, "What we believe is happening is that there's a build up of poisons..."
Jackpot! Dr. Perrin used the word "poisons", just as I had been using it all along to describe what I felt was being released in my head and body after a shower. This was huge and I was filled with excitement and resolution. This has to be it -- what else could it be!?
Dr. Perrin's theory that stagnant, or really slow, lymph fluid was explaining why I felt worse after a shower. After I researched the topic more, it became very likely that after I took a shower, "poisons" were being released in my head, but because my lymph fluid was stagnant, or really slow, these "poisons" were not able to drain out of my head. They instead remained and caused a whole host of debilitating symptoms in my body's command center.
So how was Dr. Perrin treating his patients who have these "poisons" built up? Lymphatic massage. Dr. Perrin had developed specific lymph massage techniques to treat this condition, and has trained doctors in its use and even wrote a book on it.
Once I got a hold of the solution, I immediately began to look for doctors in my area that were familiar with the "Perrin Technique", but they were far and few. Instead, I decided to seek out a lymphatic massage therapist that was familiar with chronic Lyme disease. After some quick searching in my area, I found one.
Before my lymphatic massage, I sat in the room and discussed with my lymphatic massage therapist why I was seeing her and what I wanted out of the session. I told her the debilitating and poisonous feeling I would get after taking a shower and the possible explanation for it from Dr. Perrin.
From there, I hopped on the table and got my first lymphatic massage, which lasted about 30 minutes. She worked my cranial region, neck, and upper body, as to not move too much around at once.
After the massage, I felt great but nothing really ground breaking. As the days went on after the massage, my nose became very constricted and breathing became a little difficult. My massage therapist reached out to see how I was doing and said this is normal. It made sense to me, as stuff was probably draining, I thought?
Not long after getting my lymphatic massage, I ended up getting a haircut which required extreme scalp stimulation. Yes, the cost of looking somewhat groomed while chronically ill required me to feel bad afterwards. I assumed the debilitating shower symptom would occur after my haircut and that I'd just would deal with it, as much as I didn't want to.
I got my haircut, but nothing really happened afterwards. I did feel a little off in my head, but nothing like what I used to experiencing from external stimulation to my scalp.
The next day is when things got interesting. I awoke in the morning with swollen lymph nodes. Now, at the time, I thought I was just dealing with a virus or something and didn't think much of it. I took some oregano oil for a few days and it passed.
About a week later, I'd end up going to the beach with my girlfriend. I would normally feel a little off after going in the ocean, but it was never the debilitating feeling I would experience after taking a shower.
As the Sun began to set, we made our way back to the Jeep to head home. I normally didn't hose myself down with the shower provided at the beach because of, well, you know, but this time around, I really didn't want to drag sand into the Jeep.
So I sucked it up and subjected myself to the icy cold shower the beach provided. The pressure was that of a fire hose, and I knew that after spraying the sand off my lower body, I couldn't ignore my scalp. I proceeded to put my head under the high pressured nozzle and hit my scalp with such force for quite a decent amount of time. I knew I was in for a real hurting later on, but at least I was sandless.
That evening, my shower symptom never came about, but I was really tired. I went to bed and the following morning I awoke with swollen lymph nodes again. These swollen lymph nodes were making an appearance too frequently for me not to be concerned.
The appointment with my Lyme doctor was coming up in a couple of weeks, so I sent her an e-mail letter her know what was going on. I told her that my lymph nodes were swollen on and off, but I wasn't experiencing a fever, light headedness, or any nausea, symptoms that usually accompany a cold or the flu. We agreed that it wasn't really of great concern and that she would run tests at my next appointment.
Even though my lymph nodes continued to be swollen on and off since my lymphatic massage, I eventually observed that after taking a shower, or having any type of external stimulation on my scalp, the result would be swollen lymph nodes the following day. While I was almost certain there was a connection, I still wanted to be sure my immune system wasn't trying to fight off something.
I explained the connection between the shower and swollen lymph nodes to my doctor. I told her that I think the lymphatic massage I had a couple weeks prior cleared my lymphatic system to some extent, and now when I subject myself to a shower, or any experience that caused my debilitating symptom in the past, my lymph nodes become swollen the following day. This never happened before my lymphatic massage.
It made sense to her, but she ran a CBC panel to be sure that my white blood cells weren't elevated because of an active infection. From there, one of her recommendations was to simply get another lymphatic massage. Uh, okay!
While I have yet to receive another lymphatic massage, it's on my list of things to do.
For now, I'm relishing in the knowledge I have obtained regarding this specific symptom and that I may have been able to figure it out. I took a cold shower in my house for the first time in a while, and the next day, you guessed it, my lymph nodes were swollen.
So what do I think is going on? I think that the debilitating and poisonous symptom I would experienced after taking a shower was directly caused by "poisons" being released in my head from external stimulation. Since my lymphatic system was very stagnant, these "poisons" could not drain, thus causing extreme debilitation for days.
The lymphatic massage I received helped to move stagnant lymph fluid along and made a pathway for these "poisons" to drain once more. I'll tell you, with all the herxing I've done over the years, it's no surprise to me at all that my lymphatic system had taken a major hit and became stagnant.
Now when I take a shower, these "poisons" are being released from my head as they've been all along, but this time, since my lymphatic system is clear and moving, these "poisons" now have a pathway out, hence my swollen lymph nodes. No more debilitating or poisonous feeling after a shower, so far!
If you guys have any questions about this symptom I experienced after a shower or the treatment involved, just let me know them below!
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The LyBlog will focus on my personal battle with chronic Lyme disease, which includes updates, progress reports, and personal experiences that encompass Lyme.