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Lyme Disease Prevention

Diatomaceous Earth--Guard against tick bites

Prevent tick bites
While I was researching ways to guard against tick bites, such as rubbing your skin with clove, tea tree, peppermint oil or other essential oils, a reader wrote to tell me about food-grade Diatomaceous Earth.

This is not the same Diatomaceous Earth that we used to mix into the pool filter. That DE is laden with chemicals.

I had never heard of “food-grade” DE, which is said to be safe to consume. I’m skeptical, because in anecdotal research it is referred to as something of a panacea, curing everything from hot flashes to cancer.

Obviously, not one, single supplement can do everything.

DE kills fleas and gnats
But what can it do?
Is it all hype?

Not all of it.
My friend Stephanie uses it to kill fleas. If you’ve ever experienced the hell of a flea infestation, that’s worth a whole lot.

And I’ve used it successfully myself to kill gnats when they threatened to overtake my house. Mixed a tablespoon or two into the topsoil of the houseplants.

So I’ve seen it kill off gnats and fleas without harming pets and children. That’s a good sign. It can be rubbed into your pet's skin to help guard against tick and flea bites.
Caveat: DE is not fit for breathing. Take care that your pet's nose, mouth and respiratory passages are protected during application, and apply it when outside in fresh air.

85% Silica
Diatomaceous Earth is mostly silica. 85% and up. The rest is made up of additional minerals.

The way it kills tiny insects is by tearing into their exoskeleton and dehydrating them.
Drying them to death.

You’ve seen those tiny packets of silica that are used in packaged goods such as dried foods, clothing, toys, and all sorts of consumer goods. The reason silica is effective is because of its dehydrating ability.

It sucks the moisture out of whatever it’s packed into.

When consumed, it is said, DE offers the benefit of nourishing the body with silica and cleansing the colon of parasites, molds, bacteria and other scum in general that is contributing to a lack of energy and all manner of illness.

Why should silica matter to Lyme patients?

First, silica is what the body needs to generate collagen.

Second, Lyme bacteria are famous for eating the collagen out of our joints and skin. Our knees, Dr. Cowden once told me, are nothing but fine-dining collagen restaurants for the Borrelia bacteria.

So is it safe to consume DE?
Because if it is, I want to know. It could not only help cleanse the colon of all the bad stuff, it could also restore the damage done to our joints and skin (and nails and hair).

I’m in!! But…

My first instinct is to avoid taking it, simply because I wouldn’t want to stir up a major herx. Anything that changes the stasis of the gut is likely to do so.

Ask your Lyme literate doctor
If you are considering trying it, please first ask your doctor(s) about it. Let me know what they say.

I’ll post about DE again, once I find a qualified medical expert to offer scientific evidence that food-grade DE is helpful. Especially if it might help anyone who suffers with Lyme and its co-infections.

Many Lyme patients are dealing with immune-system challenges such as an imbalance of gut flora and fauna, a direct result of using pharmaceutical antibiotics.

Leaky gut syndrome
According to Dr. Lee Cowden, it’s often a case of the cure being worse than the illness itself. Pharmaceutical antibiotics punch holes in the gut lining, causing leaky bowel syndrome (IBS) and other problems that may be very difficult to cure.

Center of the immune system
The gut is center of the immune system. In traditional Chinese medicine, it’s called the dantian, a.k.a. the sea of qi (pronounced chee). In Japanese it is called the hara.

The story goes that qi, or jing, is the energy that sustains life. It supplies the rootedness and vitality required for healthy life to develop. When the dantian is unhealthy, from poor diet and nutrition to lack of fresh oxygen, the person will be sick and drained of energy.

In traditional Chinese medicine, qi gong practice helps restore and maintain the energy flow throughout the body and mind with deep, rhythmic breathing and slow physical movement.

So it follows that cleansing one’s colon would also help to restore one’s health and vital energy.

Food-grade DE for humans?

I you are thinking about giving food-grade DE a try, be sure to heed the disclaimers and warnings.

The FDA has not weighed in on this stuff. They haven’t tested or approved it for human or animal consumption. Therefore, DE may have unknown consequences or contraindications. Buyer beware.




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Paying it forward = Stress relief

I was stuck. Attempting to turn left into a traffic jam, confronted with cars backed up as far as I could see. Several vehicles had fresh-cut Christmas trees roped to the roof like hostages. The setting sun was blinding all the westbound drivers. I started to settle in for what looked like a long wait for a break.

Suddenly, a driver stopped to wave me in. Hallelujah! I couldn’t believe it. I watched as everybody in the long line of cars behind her was forced to stop and wait while I made my turn. With a wave and a smile and a tap on the brakes, she had flooded my heart with hope and love for my fellow humans. If she hadn’t voluntarily stopped like that, I might still be sitting there.

An hour later, stuck in a checkout line held up by a woman buying 4,000 rolls of ribbon, I overheard the couple behind me. They were griping quietly at each other. I encouraged them to go ahead of me, and they suddenly smiled and said thanks, both wishing me a Merry Christmas. It felt so nice to pay back the generosity that had been extended to me that I actually wished there were more shoppers standing in line to wave ahead.

In times of stress, whether from traffic, sickness, or other events, it seems we have a choice. We can’t control the events themselves, but we can choose how we react. The glee and gratitude I felt for that driver infected my mood instantaneously. In every crowded lane and line for hours afterward, I enjoyed interacting with clerks and shoppers and felt genuinely uplifted with every sincere smile and upbeat thank you. It got me thinking about generosity and vulnerability.

We’re more vulnerable when we’re ill and suffering.
Pain breaks down the normal barriers that healthy people take for granted, the psychic boundaries we put up in a grocery store or a crowded elevator. When we’re spending most of our energy trying to feel normal or attempting to breathe through the pain in our muscles, our skin, or the fog in our mind, I think we’re more naturally vulnerable and open to other people’s moods and actions.

This open attitude of heart or viewpoint can make us feel weak. After all, it is only the strong ego that can construct barriers and know exactly who it is and what it wants. But these days, having returned from the trip to the underworld of Lyme disease, I feel, at times, much less attached to the picture of who-I-think-I-am. I feel more porous, less fixed. That fluidity has its own sort of strength.

I wish I could thank that anonymous driver for her small gesture of kindness, which felt to me like a light of consciousness in a murky sea. It could have worked the other way. We’ve all been the recipient of an angry gesture by an impatient driver (or we ourselves have been that angry driver), and we know how that affects us and others too. But as the recipient of her generous action, I went on my merry way with an attitude of gratitude. Like a fairy godmother, she’d waved her wand and changed the landscape from black-and-white to technicolor. In the crowded store, I passed her kindness along like an unexpected gift, and I bet it’s still working its way around town.

Serious illness not only brings suffering, it has another side which is filled with gifts if we are open to receiving them. When I take a genuine, hard inner look, I know I have Lyme to thank for the tremendous blessings in my life now. Riches beyond measure. Among them, more patience, resilience and humility, and an extraordinary awakening of consciousness which is largely unexpected but certainly profound.

Here’s to the spirit of gratitude and vulnerability. What are you grateful for?


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Cold freeze won't keep ticks from biting

Gorgeous fall weather brings temptations. Pumpkin pie cooling by the kitchen window. Outdoors, leaf-strewn mountain paths beckon. Canada geese honk and chatter in the clear twilight as they pass overhead on their way to the nearby lake.

The last thing we want to think about is Lyme disease. However, there is an increased chance of getting Lyme during winter, when we believe ticks don’t pose a threat.

I hope you’re feeling well enough to spend some time outdoors. Natural environments have an undisputed healing power, increasing relaxation and restoring a sense of balance in our minds and bodies. But if you do, take the necessary precautions. At least in Rhode Island,
ticks can survive even a cold New England freeze, according to Dr. Thomas Mather of the University of Rhode Island.

From WPRI News:
Ticks can survive throughout the entire winter, even if they are frozen in the ground for periods of time.

“They must produce some sort of antifreeze inside of themselves, because as soon as the ground thaws and they warm up again, they’re back out and biting,” said Mather.


When you go for a hike in the fresh fall air, stay in the middle of the path. Avoid grassy and wooded areas. Wear long socks and boots and tuck your pant legs in. Perform that routine tick check when you come inside. Pets who share our living space should routinely be inspected too. And bear in mind, wearing DEET does not guarantee protection from tick bites.
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How much is too much exercise for Lyme patients?

We take a cross-training approach to healing from Lyme. This includes body, mind, spirit and shadow (psychological) exercises. Some Lyme patients are just too weak, especially in the first stage, to address the needed physical exercise. Indeed at times it is not wise, if you are dizzy or otherwise debilitated. But there comes a time when you really just have to move that body! I know from experience.

Anaerobic exercise, such as stretching, sprinting and weightlifting, can help you heal from Lyme disease. But don’t overdo the aerobics, according to
Dr. Joseph Burrascano and other Lyme experts. They say that too much aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, jumping rope and skipping, can be detrimental.

One reason is that vigorous jogging or other aerobics open up the blood-brain barrier, allowing more
Borrelia bacteria to enter the brain. Too much, too fast aerobic exercise can also deplete the adrenals and decrease the specialized cells that are part of the body’s immune system, the T-cells. T-cells are the highly skilled militia of the immune system. They hunt and destroy invading bacteria. They also alert other cells to do their jobs. The adrenals can be depleted by the low-grade, ongoing stress of chronic illness, by not getting enough sleep, and in many other ways.

Tai chi and gentle yoga, chi gong, and other Eastern body-mind-spirit exercises are very beneficial. Depending on the style of each of these practices, they are considered anaerobic. Mindful stretching as you get out of bed in the morning can warm up your muscles and make you feel a smidge better. If you’re not feeling up to snuff, but want to do something, simply take a few slow, deep breaths. Breathing from the diagram can relax and bring your body and mind into harmony.

I’ve gotten hooked on yoga this year, and finally made it a habit. I’m also a big fan of using the breath for relaxation, and finishing with a meditation.

What is your exercise routine? Have you ever overdone it?




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Letting go of the fear of Lyme symptoms

A friend popped in while on a road trip last week. She and I have never met in person before, just over Skype, for business. During dinner we discovered that we’d both had Lyme. And we’re both recovered.

Has that ever happened to you? Someone you’d never suspect turns out to be a recovered Lymie? I was really taken by surprise, because Stephanie is someone I’ve always known was brilliant. She’s loquacious, funny, sensitive and inquisitive. She’s verbal. We’re both English teachers, and that tells you something about our common love of language. (And our common fear of and frustration with brain-fog!) But she’s also a Fulbright Scholar (which I’m not), she worked for a megalithic TV corporation for many years, and she is a bona fide cinematographer. And she’s been honored by government officials for her humanitarian efforts that led to actual laws being changed. And...she’s had Lyme disease.

Okay, enough of my brag about her. Suffice it to say, we’ve all known people who seem to have a lighted star over their heads wherever they wander in this world. She’s just one of those. But at dinner, as she lowered herself into our Japanese-style seating (yes, we eat sitting on the floor), I heard her say that she’s been having some stiffness ever since Lyme disease.

My ears perked up. I couldn’t believe it. She’s just returned from a year in China, and is on her way to Micronesia for two years. I leave my house to go to the grocery store every few days. I have what’s called a low threshold of adventure, which is I believe, the medical term for it. Stephanie’s got just the opposite. Little wonder she can tell a story and make you laugh, get hired on a dime and make a friend in the time it takes to wash your hands. She’s got no fear of the world. Did I mention she lives on a houseboat when she’s Stateside?

Her neck, however, was stiff the night she had dinner with us. She and I had a lot to say to each other about Lyme, but we talked about everything else under the sun that night too, and that’s another sign that we both live post-Lyme lives, isn’t it? But she was very interested in hearing about sugar’s effects on Lyme, and we traded notes on our workout routines. Turns out she’d been putting her sore back and neck down to age. But she found out that my yoga routine is keeping me limber and strong, and I have no soreness to speak of (not Lyme-related anymore, that is). She vowed to get better about regular exercise. I hope she keeps her promise to herself, because I know how much it helps me. We talked about our love for learning new skills and languages, and how that helps our mental muscles stay toned and flexible. And she has set the bar high for me. I am seriously going to consider traveling abroad soon. Letting go of the fear, and the image of myself as a recovering sick person is the one last stand to truly embracing wellness.

Do you have a remarkable friend who has walked a path you’d like to walk? Would you do it if you didn’t fear Lyme disease, or its effect on you? Please tell me about it. I’d love to hear your perspective.

For further reading about the four fundamental dimensions of healing from Lyme, click here.
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Lyme Diagnostics

If you suspect you have Lyme, doctors can form a diagnosis by your considering your symptoms, history and serology.  Most of the Lyme literate docs whom I have interviewed say they will start treatment on the basis of a clinical diagnosis, so the patients aren’t left waiting and wasting precious time before killing the Lyme bacteria.

Typical Lyme tests are the Western Blot, ELISA and PCR. However, these tests have limited clinical value. Only when the infection is active can the bacteria be measured and identified.

Lyme bacteria has survived throughout millennia because it has the ability to cloak itself and evade the human immune system. Therefore, it can be impossible to detect, using such serology tests.

Aside from a clinical diagnosis, there are some new approaches. A Wisconsin research and education company, NeuroScience, Inc, working in conjunction with an independent laboratory called Pharmasan Labs, Inc, have teamed up in the name of improved diagnostics for Lyme disease and other illnesses.

Dr. Gottfried Kellermann, CEO of NeuroScience, Inc. states on the company website: "It is my life mission to improve the lives of people through better science."

NeuroScience has created a diagnostic tool called My Immune ID-Lyme, which “utilizes the immune memory and cytokine alterations to identify any B burgdorferiexposure (current and/or past) and therefore identify Lyme disease even when B burgdorferi is successfully evading the host immune system or is currently dormant.”

If you’re able to communicate well with your doctor(s), encourage them to use newer, better ways to test for Lyme.

The next step, of course, is successful treatment.

Once you know you have Lyme, I encourage you to treat it from every angle: intentional, behavioral, social and cultural. This integral healing approach leaves no stone unturned. It includes body, mind, spirit and shadow.

For further information on treating Lyme from every angle, or  the cross-training approach, see the 100 Perspectives.

Be fearless in fighting Lyme and insist that your doctor is too.

Be well!
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An integral approach to healing from Lyme

Lyme affects all the systems in the body, including the brain and therefore the mental state. It seems important to recognize that Lyme, as a complex disease that can be very hard to heal from, must be treated from as many angles as possible.

I’m not writing about this approach simply because I read about it somewhere and thought it sounded good. I’m a walking, talking example of someone who beat Lyme because I practice an integral approach myself. It begins with recognizing that in any given event, there are four perspectives that represent the fundamental dimensions of an illness, as stated in the post above:
  • Physical state
  • Mental state
  • Cultural views
  • Social systems

We’ve already touched on the first two angles, and explored how you can see one but not the other. The doctors can treat your physical body with medicines while often missing entirely your state of mental-emotional health. Sometimes mental problems can clear up when only the body receives treatment. Other times it takes another approach.

Cultural views, the third angle, include other peoples’ thoughts and opinions about your experience. Think about the impact that your family members and friends’ ideas about your illness have influenced or affected you. Whose advice do you seek out in times of trouble? Your psychologist, your BFF, your mom, and the opinions of other important tribe members all play a role in your approach to healing Lyme. And in many cases, this has proved itself not a simple disease to heal. What happens to the people who have experienced recurring symptoms?

Say, for example, that your manager at work came across an article that restates the IDSA’s guidelines for Lyme treatment, and he knows you have completed the requisite three weeks of doxycycline when you suddenly begin to complain of arthritis or fatigue -- again. If he believes hands-down that the IDSA must know the optimal treatment for Lyme, he may not believe that you are still not well. He may even suspect that your symptoms are “all in your head.”

I remember when a writer friend whom I trust and admire queried me about my pain. I had confided at lunch that I was having trouble writing because I couldn’t remember from one sentence to the next what I had just said. You look fine, he insisted. I was hurt. It felt like betrayal. He didn’t believe me, and I hated being put in the position of having to defend my illness. The opinions of others still hold sway even if they’re wrong.  On the other hand, when others believe in us and hold a space for our healing, it can feel as liberating as fresh air. It opens the way for our progress.

The fourth angle of the integral approach is the social systems. Think of the health care system, and whether or not you can afford access to coverage. Can you not get access because you’ve been denied, or because you had to quit your job and can’t afford COBRA? Systems are simply there whether you are aware of them or not. The emergency room, for example, is a social safety-net system. If you haven’t been privy to a doctor’s care for one reason or another you may wind up in the ER in a health crisis. That’s an example of falling unintentionally into a social system that may be your only option. An example of an intentional use of a system may be your own research into alternative care, which leads you to an integrative doctor and a trip to the pharmacy for herbal tinctures and supplements.

As you can see, the social systems available to us are largely influenced by where we live, which country, and how near or far we are to the kind of doctor or medical team we need. Many people with Lyme disease have come up against the cruel realization that not enough medical professionals are educated about diagnosing or treating Lyme. Numerous people have had to travel by air across state lines, sometimes thousands of miles, to get to a doctor that will give them appropriate treatment. Social systems are not incidental to the story. They lie at the heart of it, influencing the outcome just as cogently as do the other three angles.

Bear in mind that these four perspectives are not unique to illness but always arise naturally, and always together, in any given event you can think of. Even when you’re healthy you can still identify all of these dimensions. Each area only tells a part of the story. Each part contributes to our experience as a whole. They cannot be separated.

Once we recognize how these dimensions work together in our day-to-day life, it’s easy to see where things are functioning well and where they aren’t. Being aware of dysfunction gives us a much better chance to change it. And to get better.

Learn more about this approach on the
Beat Lyme page.
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Fight Lyme from every angle

Lyme is a multi-systemic disease, which means it can affect all the systems in the body, including the brain. Many people discover that Lyme symptoms must be treated from as many angles as possible. But how can we be certain we’re hitting them all?  

These four angles represent the fundamental perspectives that arise in any illness, in fact these four angles are always present for everyone, healthy as well as ill:
  • Physical state
  • Mental state
  • Cultural views
  • Social systems


Consider the way these fit together in your life. For now, let’s talk about the first two, because it’s easy to see how they work together, although they differ in one crucial way. You can see one, but not the other.

Conventional Lyme protocols treat the physical body -- your physical symptoms. That’s one angle. Even if your doctor uses alternative medicine, for example, prescribing herbal tinctures instead of conventional antibiotics, he is still addressing the physical symptoms. And as Lyme symptoms vary from person to person, your doctor might be primarily prescribing treatment to address your arthritis, while also treating a different patient for Lyme fatigue and rash.

Conventional medicine emphasizes treatment of the physical state with good reason. The physical body is what we see. It’s easy to see many symptoms or their effects, such as the sudden wince of someone suffering with arthritic pain. Many illnesses and conditions can and should be treated primarily from this one angle. You break a leg, you go to an orthopedic doctor.

But what about the mental state?
People with Lyme disease often have the experience of seeming normal to our friends and family members even though we know that inside, something is off. Very off.  They may declare “but you don’t look sick.” They may not be able to tell from the outside, but our inner view could be garbled and fuzzy, and it can vary from day to day or depending on the medicines we take. I used to have the odd feeling that I was somehow living underwater, just a few inches from the surface, so close but so far away from normal. It was weird to think that people thought of me as “okay,” because I knew I wasn’t quite.

Integrative physicians, in contrast to conventional doctors, are in the business of addressing the mental state in addition to the physical. How do they accomplish this? For starters, they talk to their patients and they listen. They ask how they feel. Patients may be asked to guess at what they think the problem is, and they are generally encouraged to play an active role in their own treatment.

These patients typically feel gratified for having been listened to and taken seriously. Doctors who listen are thought of as open-minded by their patients. Instead of simply being poked and prodded and treated like a slab of meat, patients feel respected and even energized by sessions with their doctor. Energetic exchanges or meaningful conversations can contribute to a patient’s mental health, leaving them feeling optimistic about the future of their state of physical health. That’s two angles.

In the next post, I’ll discuss the third and fourth perspectives and explore the ways in which they contribute to the whole picture of healing from Lyme.

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Cleansing for health post-Lyme Disease

January invites fresh starts. So it’s no surprise that cleansing, colon cleansing to be specific, is on the minds of many. A lot of us abandon our usually healthy diets as we travel or feast with friends and families over Thanksgiving and Christmas. Now that we’ve decked the hallways, it’s time to clear them out.

In my life BL (before Lyme,) I had embarked on dietary healing cleanses such as juice fasts quite a few times. Bear in mind, I grew up in California and one of my first jobs after high school was at a health food store, so my behavior wasn’t out of sync. But health food stores were new and not quite popular yet. Even in SoCal in the 70s - 80s you might be dubbed a little weird if you shopped in one, especially wearing your Birkenstocks and tye-died t-shirts.

Pre-internet days now seem like ancient history, but these stores always had an intriguing books section which I gravitated to. I sipped many a smoothie while reading about the virtues of sprouts, organic veggies, the healing power of vegetable juices, herbal formulas and even (ahem), enemas. Since learning about the function and importance of the colon, it’s always made sense to me that an occasional cleansing could be very helpful. Keep things moving on out. Now of course the internet is a rich source of research on, and recipes for such cleansings, including full-color images of the dreadful gunk that people have dredged from their lowlands.

Having been through Lyme’s crucible, I would never suggest that someone still healing from Lyme Disease try a colon cleanse. I haven’t yet asked, but I doubt that many Lyme doctors would advise it, based on my own experience with frequent and painful Herxheimer reactions and the Lyme symptoms themselves.

However, I’m currently on Day 6 of experimenting with an herbal intestinal cleanse. I decided to go for it because I’ve been feeling so incredibly normal for more than a year now. This is my first time since healing from LD and going through many years of both traditional and alternative Lyme Disease treatment. I’ve got a good feeling about it. Over the holidays, I did experience a few skin-breakouts and some sort of shingle pain that I attribute to chronic Lyme symptoms. It seems to happen every winter as the weather grows chilly & dry and I spend more time indoors with the heater on. It’s too early to come to any real conclusions, but since Day 1 I’ve noticed a distinct reduction in swelling in my tummy, and my skin breakouts have almost completely faded. The skin isn’t itchy or red as it has been for over a month. I haven’t had any negative effects from the herbs, no Herxing (thank goodness!), no brain-fog, no skin rash and no fatigue. In fact I’m super energized and I’m off to a dance class as soon as I finish this post!

Drinking more water (one doctor mentions that we should all be drinking nearly a gallon per day) is so important. And you know how I feel about exercise - it’s the miracle cure when you can possibly swing it. But on top of these two things, it seems to be helping me to focus, at least for a week or two, on cleansing my colon again. Remember, I’m no doctor and I’m certainly not doling out recommendations here. But I know sometimes it’s helpful to hear someone else’s experience.

I can’t remember where I copied this quote from so apologize for the lack of acknowledgement. But in the spirit of the new year and its power & potential for healing, I want to include it here:

"The future is just the past catching up with us. Today is the preview of tomorrow's reality. In the future we will say one of two things. ‘I wish I had’ or ‘I'm glad I did,’ but we make that choice today."

If you’ve cleansed lately please tell me what your experience was. I’d love to hear from you, especially if you’ve had Lyme.

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Safe mosquito & tick repellent

A friend dropped by with her 8-month-old baby the other day. We sat at the picnic table, enjoying the deep shade of the bamboo. She set the little guy down on the ground, buck naked, where he proceeded to crawl around and gleefully do what babies do best -- put everything into his mouth. As he sampled the bamboo leaves, I flashed on how much my relationship with nature has changed since having Lyme. In the past, I never would have worried about an occasional bug bite. I was like my friend in that respect, assuming that nature, in small doses, mostly can’t, or won’t, cause harm. Now I’m older, wiser, or perhaps just merely unluckier, but one thing’s for sure, I’m definitely much more cautious when interacting with the Great Outdoors.

Typically, I take any recommendation for tick and mosquito repellent with a grain. Either they’re full of poison or they don’t work because they’re ‘natural.’ However, I’ve been experimenting with a safe mosquito & tick spray repellent in my yard and around my house. It’s made of garlic juice. As an honorary Italian, I love the smell, but it does fade after a few hours. This stuff, Mosquito Barrier, is safe to use around people, fish, butterflies and birds, but it supposedly disturbs ticks and kills mosquitoes.

So far, I like the results but I’ve only been using it for a few weeks, so can’t tell if it’s made a huge difference. The baby didn’t get bit, so you can breathe a sigh of relief now. I live on a creek near a lake, so we’re no strangers to bugs. They’re part and parcel of our community, which is actually a certified wildlife habitat. We see no evidence of deer, but there are plenty of resident birds, geese, ducks, frogs, fish, squirrels and other critters (even reportedly a black bear) which means that ticks are probably here as well.

I’m aware that some people discourage deer with certain deer-repelling plants. Others put up fencing to keep deer out, which is a much more complicated and expensive proposition, but worthwhile, if it works. I picked up a citronella-scented geranium at the nursery and placed it by the front door, and I’ve got a truckload of garlic juice ready to spray in another week.

What are you using to repel ticks from your yard? Please share. I’d love to hear.
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Beautiful weather brings tick danger

"Go outside and play!" Sound familiar?

I grew up in a time and place where the accepted norm was to spend every possible moment out-of-doors. My mother gently objected to my lounging on the couch for hours, absorbing books by the stackful, whenever it was sunny and warm outside. But since I grew up in SoCal, it was ALWAYS sunny and warm. I did ruin my eyesight, so she was probably right about that. And although I read voraciously in the summer (and every other time of the year), I still managed to make it outside to swim and hike with friends pretty much every day as a kid.

So when spring comes tumbling in, bringing beautiful outdoorsy weather, should you still be sending your kids outside to play? Have things changed now that you are aware of the dangers of Lyme? Now that you know you and your loved ones are only one tick-bite away from it?

This spring, reports are already piling up in regional news, warning that this is likely to be a heavy tick season. The ticks are early and plentiful.

One suggestion for preventing Lyme is to advise your kids not to sit on the ground. Now, how realistic is that? For kids, part of the allure of playing outside is the opportunity to investigate the bugs and other critters crawling on the ground. And when you're little, how else can you eat your snacks, play tic-tac-toe in the dirt, examine the fluttering moth you just caught in your hands, if not sitting on the ground? And what about toddlers who are still getting their sea-legs, and end up sitting more than walking?

One thing that really bugs me is when I read, over and over in various articles, that ticks must be embedded for 24 hours or so in order to infect the person they bite. While that may be a comfort to read, there is no scientific evidence to support it. Prevention is the very best medicine, not wishful thinking.

Aside from prevention, early detection is still the most important thing when it comes to having been exposed to ticks. Bear in mind, tick bites don't hurt. This is because the tick injects a sort of anaesthetic with the bite that will numb the area, so you won't feel it. Perform regular tick checks on yourself and your kids, especially after time spent playing outside. Take the time to be careful and diligent. Remove ticks before they have a chance to get embedded.

And please tell everybody you know that tick checks are vitally important.
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Staying Lyme-free in an endemic region

"Almost everybody I know either has Lyme disease, or they know someone who is undergoing Lyme treatment," said my friend Dee, who moved to the Hudson Valley, NY just a few years ago. 

She'd been telling me about her favorite pastime, walking with her dog, Daisy, through the woods near her small house.

"Knock on wood, I haven't gotten it yet. It's kind of shocking how many people have, but honestly, I don't think I've ever even seen a tick out there," she added. I could tell she was amazed at her good luck. "But the fact that I haven't gotten sick doesn't seem to make me more cautious," she went on. "In fact, I feel sort of immune to it." She paused, considering this idea for a moment.

"Are some people just more susceptible than others?" she asked.

While silently giving thanks (and feeling relieved) that my friend remains happy and healthy, I explained what I've learned from Lyme experts regarding our susceptibility.

Ginger Savely, RN, tells us that in her experience observing and treating Lyme patients, it's true that some people tend to attract ticks, just as some of us are mosquito magnets, and some never get bit. Other medical professionals, such as Dr Cowden and the late Dr Joanne Whitaker, who have studied Lyme, its testing and treatment for a lifetime, claim that the Lyme bacteria can be found in body fluids, such as tears, sweat and semen. Pediatrician Dr Charles Ray Jones, who is nothing short of a hero in many of his colleagues and his Lyme patients' estimation, says he has treated very young children who were infected by their mother while in vitro.

"The problem with being Lyme-free while living in a place such as the Hudson Valley," explained Dee, "is that you lose your fear. You don't take the precautions you know you should because it just hasn't happened yet."

Here are some precautions to take, if you plan to venture outdoors in this beautiful spring weather. Be sure to check your dog, too.

To reduce the risk of Lyme disease:

• Wear light-colored clothing and preferably long pants and long sleeves when in places where ticks may be present. This helps in spotting ticks that may be on clothes. Tucking pants into socks is also a very good idea.
• Perform a tick check every day so ticks can be removed before they have a chance to feed and transmit pathogens they might be carrying. Research indicates that a tick has to feed for at least 36 hours before it can transmit pathogens such as the bacteria that causes Lyme disease.
• Consider the use of repellents if spending considerable time outdoors.

Source: New York State Health Department

PS: I asked Dr Eva Sapi, Director of Lyme Research at the University of New Haven, Connecticut, whether it was true, in her estimation, that a tick must be attached "for at least 36 hours before it can transmit pathogens," and she assured me there was no evidence to support that assertion.
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3 keys to better sleep

When was the last time you got a really good night of deep sleep? Sleep is a soothing tonic for anyone suffering with Lyme symptoms, yet peaceful snoozing can be elusive when you're in pain.

3 keys to better sleep:

1 - Therapeutic massage. Gentle, healing touch can help you relax and get a better night's sleep. Massage is helpful in lowering the anxiety which naturally arises when you have Lyme symptoms. Just the simple act of being touched with compassionate intention can be healing in and of itself. Before you make an appointment with a professional massage therapist, talk over your situation with them. Be certain you can communicate your needs clearly. She or he should be made aware of your illness and your threshold for pressure.

The Bowen Technique, developed by Dr JoAnne Whitaker, is similar in principle to acupuncture. It is a type of gentle massage designed to unblock energy and help the body maintain equilibrium so that healing can take place. Many people struggling with Fibromyalgia and CFS/ME report that this technique has accelerated their healing. (Incidentally, Dr Whitaker is one of the experts I interviewed for the LDRD Interviews with Experts series.)

2 - Maintain a regular schedule. Go to bed and rise at the same time every night and day. Even on the weekends. This is a good health-habit to cultivate even for people who aren't sick. Former surgeon Dr Christine Horner, author of Waking the Warrior Goddess: Harnessing the Power of Nature & Natural Medicines to Achieve Extraordinary Health, which received the “Best Book of the Year” for 2005 award from the Independent Book Publishers association in the category of health, medicine and nutrition, strongly believes in the body's innate ability to heal from any disease. Dr Horner recommends going to bed no later than 10 pm and rising at 6 am each day. (Note: LDRD members, please read the transcript of my interview with her, or listen to the audio version.)

Keeping a regular sleeping schedule helps your body to regulate its other autonomic functions, eating and making bowel movements. All of this can lead to more effective healing therapy. In addition, I'm a big fan of afternoon snoozing, and I usually get in about 20 minutes to one hour, daily. I'm convinced that my napping habit saved me during the worst of my illness. However, if you struggle with insomnia, you might get better results at night by limiting your naptime during the day.

3 - Allow yourself time to wind down before bedtime. This is a personal challenge for me. I'm either online with work or friends, or deep in conversation with my favorite person in the world, my partner Evan. I'm also a natural night owl, so if you are too, I'm sure you can relate. It can be tough to find the discipline to slow down at night, especially if you aren't in the thick of the disease and your mind is back to working order.

Cultivating a meditation practice, simply using breathing techniques from your yoga class, or relaxing in bed with an inspiring book can do wonders. Don't exercise for up to three hours before bedtime. Avoid stimulating drinks--especially during the afternoon and evening. No alcohol. Take a warm bath, and listen to soothing music. Let your loved ones know that they can help by gently rubbing your shoulders or neck. Stretching your arms and legs slowly and methodically before you get into bed can signal your body that it's time to drop off into dreamland.
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Reduce your chance of tick bite

Learn about tick bites.

• Avoid likely tick-infested areas such as wooded, bushy areas or places with high grass and leaf litter - especially from May through the fall, when ticks are most active.

• When in likely tick areas, wear insect repellent with 20 percent DEET or more.

• Light-colored clothing helps you spot ticks more easily. Also, wear long sleeves and pants, tucking your shirt into your pants and you pant legs into your shoes.

• Before going indoors, perform a tick check on yourself.

• If you find any, use a fine-tipped tweezer to remove. Grab the tick close to the skin, and do not twist or jerk.

Source: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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How to hike & garden: Tick-free

Ticks are incredibly resilient critters. They have lasted for millenia due to their wily survival tactics. We're not required to admire them for this, however, we should be as determined in our efforts to avoid them as they are persistent in going after their goals--namely, a warm meal and a ride.

How do you avoid ticks? In particular, how do you avoid them in tick havens such as the US NE region, and pretty much anywhere that constitutes wilderness (including the parking lot at work, if there are hedges, grasses, trees or bushes nearby).

Are you like me? Since being struck down by Lyme and making the long, slow climb back to health, I've really lost my taste for hiking and gardening, activities that were a constant of my pre-Lyme life. However, I don't want to be afraid of the outdoors, and I know you don't either, especially this time of the year when the air smells like flowers and tulips are blooming in the colors of little girls' Easter dresses.

Taking precautions on a hike can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. You may want to stop short of duct-taping yourself head to toe, as the mother does to her son in the new movie, Lymelife. Wear white or light colors so ticks can be seen easily and eliminated a.s.a.p. Use a strong repellent. Tuck your socks into your pant, and check yourself (and the kids) when you get home.

Gardening, for me, has moved indoors. Growing plants is just too fun to give up altogether. On walks through my neighborhood I admire the results of other people's green thumbs, but here at home I get great satisfaction from growing sprouts. Not only do you get quick results, you can save money on the store-bought varieties, and guarantee freshness. Broccoli and clover are the house favorites.

So here are the main points: Wear white. Tuck your pants into your socks. Perform tick checks thoroughly after you've spent time outdoors. Grow sprouts. Don't be afraid of the big bad tick. Just outsmart it with your own wiles and tactics.

Happy spring!
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Lyme disease prevention

I don't like thinking about ticks. You don't like thinking about ticks. We don't like anything about the little buggers, least of all the fact that when you're outdoors on a lovely summer day, you must think about them! However, protecting yourself, your kids and your pets can give you a sense of control and actually help prevent infection or re-infection from a tick bite. Here are two ways to make you feel a bit safer from Lyme this summer.

First, check your body thoroughly (and teach older children how to check theirs) when you've been hiking or picnicking or doing anything outdoors where you suspect there may be ticks lurking. Give special attention to the area around your ankles, the backs of your knees, your waistband and your armpits. Ticks start out low to the ground and climb up. Shower when you get home, but remember that ticks do not wash off. You must remove them with a tweezers. To remove, gently grab the tick as close to the skin as possible, and pull straight out without twisting or turning. Some people recommend squeezing fresh garlic juice directly on the bite immediately. Antibiotic cream may work as well. Place the tick in a plastic baggie for testing.

Second, eliminate the habitats ticks love in your yard. Ticks don't like to hang out in the middle of the yard unless there are tall grasses to climb. They do like the moist, shady areas around the perimeter of the yard, ornamental plantings and gardens. Ticks like leaf piles. Rake leaves and get rid of them. Keep shrubs trimmed and cut off low branches. Have a professional spray the perimeter of your yard. Do a bit of research to see what types of tick control insecticides are recommended for use in your area. Tick killing agents are not as toxic to humans as they once were.

Read more about preventing lyme disease.

Become a member and gain access to the expert audio interview series and other resources.
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Keeping kids Lyme free

When you were little, your mom probably strapped your sandals on your feet and dressed you in shorts before she sent you out to the backyard to play. Now, if you live in a region where Lyme is rampant, and you're aware of the trouble caused by Lyme disease symptoms, you're likely to cover up your kids from head to toe and spray them down with bug repellent before sending them outside.

Although you may feel the need to take more precautions if you live near wooded areas where deer that harbor ticks roam, the reality is that ticks are found even in urban neighborhoods. Anywhere grasses or shrubs grow, ticks can hide. Ticks need warm-blooded animals or people to give them a ride and a hot dinner. They cannot get around very far by themselves, so they hang out on the tips of branches, leafy bushes, grasses, and hop on when they sense a convenient critter walking by.

Lyme disease is a growing endemic, and prevention is the best medicine. Keep your kids protected when you send them out to play, and make sure older children are taking precautions, especially as they head out to the woods and trails for hiking and playing.
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Spring Cleaning Helps Prevent Lyme

'Spring' and 'cleaning' are two concepts that fit together just right. Ticks that carry Lyme disease do not like clean spaces. Thoroughly cleaning both indoors and outdoors around your house or property can help you feel more protected against ticks. Wild animals are potential carriers of ticks and Lyme. Mice, skunks, squirrels, opossums, feral cats and dogs who roam around looking for a snug hideaway in the cold may squeeze through crawl spaces in your attic or basement.

With the vernal equinox now three weeks away, it's time to bring out the buckets and brooms. While you're sprucing up, keep the following three steps in Lyme prevention in mind.

* Deny access to host critters. Replace torn screens on vents and windows. Plug holes in walls with caulk or concrete. Reduce the gap in doorway thresholds.



* Sanitize your indoor space. Clean floors and carpets, thoroughly clean area rugs and upholstered furniture. Toss out infested pet bedding.



* Clean up your outdoors space. Remove all debris such as leaf and wood piles. Steam or vacuum spider nests.


Peppermint soap is reported to be a strong natural insect repellent. Use it in your daily shower and also while cleaning up your pet's bedding. While cleaning outdoors, always wear protective clothing and take extra precautions against the creatures, such as snakes and insects, that you may stir up. A little Lyme disease prevention goes a long way as anyone with Lyme disease symptoms now knows.
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