Bachelorette Star Ryan Sutter's Lyme Disease Diagnosis Explained

Ryan Sutter has finally found some answers to the "mystery illness" he's been attempting to manage for the past year. "The Bachelorette" star spoke about his diagnosis on his wife's podcast, Better Etc. with Trista Sutter, where he described his harrowing battle with Lyme disease and several other complications.

"I now essentially have Lyme disease," Ryan said on the podcast. "It seems like something that I will always have, it's just that now I know, and I will try to build back my immune system to fight it off." In addition to having the tick-borne illness, Ryan revealed he has Epstein-Barr virus. "I showed that virus, and this weakened immune system may have allowed that to come back in. On top of that, COVID, I tested positive for that," he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Epstein-Barr is one of the most common viruses in the world. It spreads through saliva and can cause mononucleosis, often called mono. Ryan, who met his wife Trista on the first season of "The Bachelorette" in 2003, described his symptoms. "My body would just itch for no reason, severe headaches, swollen lymph nodes, nausea, night sweats, fevers, really deep bone aches, and muscle aches and joint aches, periods of extreme fatigue, almost paralyzing fatigue," he said.

Health problems exacerbated by mold

Ryan Sutter explained that after undergoing a series of tests and blood work, his doctors uncovered an underlying cause of his ailments: mold toxins, which he is exposed to frequently during his job as a firefighter. "It seems to be that what happened is that my immune system was weakened through exposures to toxins and especially to mold," he revealed on Better Etc. with Trista Sutter. "There are other people in the fire academy that probably had the same exposures who aren't dealing with these exposures because their genetics are stronger. They're able to get rid of the toxins easier."

According to the CDC, mold can cause a number of health problems. However, some people exposed to the toxin will experience no symptoms whatsoever. It is thought that some people are more sensitive to mold than others and may experience more severe reactions. In sensitive individuals, mold may cause symptoms like wheezing, coughing, stuffy nose, and itchy, watery eyes.

Ryan further revealed that other parts of his job as a firefighter made his symptoms worse. "On top of being exposed to mold, I was also dealing with these long days, with exhaustion, dehydration; all these other things that weaken your immune system," he continued on the podcast. "So my immune system was weakened, making it difficult to fight off infections, or what it seems like, allowing prior infections that my immune system had been able to sort of suppress and keep down, to resurface."

A struggle to get a diagnosis

"The Bachelorette" star's health problems were first made public in November 2020 when his wife Trista Sutter took to Instagram. "This guy ... my rock, my best friend, my hero, my love ... is struggling," she wrote. "Not every day, and not to the point that he can't work or cook or exercise or be with family, but enough."

A month later, Ryan Sutter went on to confirm his health problems, which apparently began in February 2020. In an Instagram post, he wrote about a litany of tests he had taken, which had not proven anything conclusive. "Most days I feel about 70%," he wrote. "Somedays I feel a bit better and somedays I can barely get out of bed."

Throughout the year, the Sutters believed he may have had lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or even cancer (via People). "It was a weird feeling, because your cancer screening comes back negative and you're like, well that's great, I don't have cancer, but then on the other side of that is well, what do I have?" Ryan explained on Better Etc. "There's still no answers, and you're still not feeling better."

The importance of advocacy

The Sutters have been open about Ryan's health struggles and the importance of advocating for your own individual health and the health of loved ones. "My wife went on a mission, developing a medical strategy and path towards hopeful answers while at the same time leaving daily reminder notes to keep my spirits up," Ryan wrote on Instagram in December 2020. "My family has rallied behind me, my friends have shown tremendous support and my colleagues a high degree of understanding and patience." Ryan went on to express his gratitude for his friends and family. He added, "Resiliency is not a solo act."

On her podcast, Trista discussed the difficulty of seeing her husband suffer without answers and how that spurred her to take action. "It's been hard," she said. "It's a really difficult thing to see the person you love most in the world struggling. And he's a big, strong guy, and oof — to see him get emotional and feel hopeless, in that all I could really do is advocate for him, so that's what I did."

Making improvements

Now that Ryan Sutter knows what is going on with his health, he can take steps to treat it. He said that while most Lyme disease patients take a "pretty heavy dose" of multiple antibiotics for several weeks, he's decided to take a different approach with dietary changes (via Better Etc). "What I'm doing is avoiding, as best I can, gluten, dairy and refined sugars," he said. "I've added a ton more fruits and vegetables to my diet, things that are easily digestible." He continued, saying, "I've gone on specific diets and things to try to alleviate a lot of those things so my internal organs can function more efficiently and begin to fight back some of these viruses and bacteria that they were able to hold back prior to going through this last year."

While antibiotics are the only current treatment for Lyme disease, experts say lifestyle changes can help people better manage the condition (via U.S. News & World Report). These steps include getting plenty of rest, reducing stress, and making dietary changes that focus on getting plenty of vitamins, minerals, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

'Things are looking up' for Ryan Sutter

With his treatment plan in place, Ryan Sutter said he is already feeling better and seeing improvements in his health. "I truly believe that we're on the right path now, and I'm very thankful for where we are and for everyone that's helped us get there, whether that's the doctors, or family support, or even all the people that have written in on social media or in other avenues," he said on his wife's podcast. "Things are looking up."

Trista said she and her husband decided to be completely open about their story to encourage others not to ignore their own health problems. She also hopes others speak up when something feels off, and continue to seek answers even if they're not getting a diagnosis at first. "Do not feel that going to one doctor and that answer to be definitive," she said. "Keep advocating for yourself. That is my biggest lesson in all of this."