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Learn how Lyme disease can impact hormones and the various ways it can affect the body. Discover the symptoms and potential treatments for hormonal imbalances caused by Lyme disease.

Lyme disease, the most common vector-borne disease with 476,000 new cases annually, can affect every system of the body. While Stage 1 Lyme disease typically involves flu-like symptoms and sometimes an erythema migrans rash, symptoms can become more severe as the infection spreads. In later stages, the Lyme disease bacteria can enter the heart and joints, cross the blood-brain barrier into the nervous system, and burrow into cells and tissues throughout the body. Lyme can also get into the endocrine system, meaning it can impact hormones. Let’s walk through what hormones are and how Lyme disease can affect them.

What are hormones?

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the endocrine system consists of glands, hormones, and receptors in organs and tissues that respond to the hormones. “Hormones are chemical messengers that are released into the blood stream to act on an organ in another part of the body…The endocrine system, made up of all the body’s different hormones, regulates all biological processes in the body from conception through adulthood and into old age, including the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, as well as the metabolism and blood sugar levels.”

How can Lyme disease impact hormones?

Lyme disease can affect many different types of hormones in different ways. Here are some examples of ways Lyme disease can impact hormones.

Adrenal dysfunction

The physical, mental, and emotional stress caused by Lyme disease can send the endocrine system into distress. In his book Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease, Dr. Richard I. Horowitz, MD, says, “During times of extended or extreme stress, the adrenal glands go into a ‘fight or flight’ mode and secret high levels of hormones, such as DHEA, aldosterone, and cortisol.” These elevated hormones can impact different body functions, particularly circadian rhythms and sleep, worsening symptoms like insomnia. Dr. Horowitz notes, “Chronically elevated levels of cortisol may lead to adrenal fatigue and burnout.” This can also lead to cognitive impairment and psychological symptoms like depression. Sometimes Lyme patients experience the opposite effect—low cortisol—which can lower immune function and contribute to chronic symptoms. [i]


Lyme is an inflammatory disease. Research shows that Lyme disease can elevate inflammatory cytokines that affect thyroid inflammatory markers.[ii] In Why Can’t I Get Better?, Dr. Horowitz writes, “Thyroid problems are commonly found in my Lyme patients. Some of these problems are from an overactive or underactive adrenal gland affecting thyroid function, but many patients have an overlapping autoimmune thyroid problem, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.” In addition to “classic symptoms of hypothyroidism such as fatigue, weight gain, dry skin, dry hair, constipation, cold intolerance, and memory and concentration problems,” you might also notice “loss of the external third of the eyebrows, swelling around the ankles, swelling around the eyes/orbits, scalloping of the tongue, and a delayed Achilles tendon reflex.” Body temperature may also be low in the morning. [iii]

Reproductive system

Lyme disease can cause hormonal changes in the reproductive system for both males and females. Women’s Lyme symptoms tend to increase during menstruation due to hormone fluctuations. For men, Lyme disease can lead to low testosterone levels, which Dr. Horowitz notes can cause decreased energy, lethargy, anemia, insomnia, short-term memory loss, depression, and anxiety. Low testosterone can also increase inflammation and decrease immune response, which can make it more difficult for men to respond to Lyme disease treatment.[iv]

How do you treat hormones impacted by Lyme disease?

Your doctor can run tests to see which hormones are affected by your Lyme disease, and how. They can then determine the best treatment course. This may include hormone replacement therapy, dietary changes, or vitamins and supplements. Talk to your Lyme Literate Medical Doctor about the best protocol for your particular case.


[i] Horowitz, Richard I. Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013 (284).

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC201073/

[iii] Horowitz, Richard I. Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013 (282-3).

[iv] Horowitz, Richard I. Why Can’t I Get Better? Solving the Mystery of Lyme & Chronic Disease. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2013 (294-6).



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