Every winter, I get eczema on my legs and hands, no matter what I do or how I eat. It’s frustrating. Yet each spring, it goes away as the weather warms up. Along with record-breaking temps and bitter winter cold comes an added challenge: Dry air inside. If you suffer from eczema, these cold, dry conditions can make a breakout unbearable. Your doctor can prescribe steroidal creme. Mine did, but after my horrid experiences with Prednisone, I couldn’t even bring myself to open the tube. I am mega-cautious when it comes to any medicine with steroids in it.
Manuka honey and Shea butter
By chance, I learned about Manuka honey from a friend who works at the local hospital. It comes from New Zealand, and the bees cultivate the nectar from tea tree bushes, with its famously potent antibacterial agents.
Turns out this hospital—a Western-medicine-centric place—like every other hospital in the US, orders Manuka honey by the boatload. Doctors in the ER use it on bad burns, deep gunshot wounds, and eczema.
It’s a good sign when your average hospital in the US starts using healthy “alternatives.” The type they use is trademarked Medihoney. I bought The Wild Bee brand at the local healthy foods store and started applying it directly on my skin. Mixed with a bit of Shea butter, that is.
Of course, nothing beats butter to seal in the moistness. Once in the morning and again before bedtime, I dab honey on the patches of dry skin, then slather it with a layer of Shea butter. Especially in the winter, I’ve found this combo to work like nothing else to soothe my dry skin and keep the eczema from getting worse.
I’ve long avoided eating any honey because our bodies react to it the same as sugar. Excessive amounts of sugar are to be avoided when the body is fighting any infection, but especially when it’s battling a fierce opponent such as Lyme. Manuka tastes lovely, but be cautious adding it to your diet. I do not recommend eating any sort of honey if you’re harboring a load of Lyme bacteria.
At the same time as I started using the Manuka on my skin, I also changed my diet. My doctor recommended that I limit my diet to find out if it could be a food allergy triggering the eczema. It may not be solely due to the cold dry winter weather.
Give GF a try
So I quit eating most of the common allergens. My diet is now 100% gluten-free and dairy-free. Wheat has never bothered me in the past, but by eliminating it completely and then experimenting with adding it back in, I’ve discovered that it actually does make my eczema worse. So, no more wheat for me.
Soy, although another potential allergen, isn’t problematic for me. I drink soy milk and eat tofu and edamame. Soy provides a good nonfat source of protein.
Bamboo leaf tea for silica?
In addition, I’ve added in a daily dose of bamboo-leaf tea. Over the past few years, I have experimented with preparing this tea, mainly because it’s very convenient. We happen to live inside a bamboo grove. I enjoy the process of picking and cleaning the leaves, then roasting them and grinding them up for a pot of tea.
Bamboo leaf tea has a pleasant grassy fragrance. It’s a light green tea which combines well with other teas (I especially like it blended with Jasmine green). It’s also very nice just brewed all by itself. Bamboo leaves are a high source of silica. The second-most common element on earth, silica is necessary to restore and regulate the amount of collagen in our bodies. Lyme bacteria eats away the collagen in our joints and skin. Bamboo leaf tea may help replace it.
What I don’t know yet is how much of the silica actually gets absorbed into our bodies from drinking bamboo leaf tea. How much is bioavailable? I’ll let you know as soon as I find out.
Turmeric with black pepper to reduce inflammation
Now let’s consider a very important spice—one that’s probably in your kitchen. Turmeric is highly recommended for reducing silent inflammation associated with arthritis, gout, heart disease, a whole host of other ailments, and of course, Lyme disease. Research into the cause and effect of Alzheimer’s disease on the brain has pointed to some very convincing scientific evidence that turmeric helps heal the brain, thus slow the aging process itself. But turmeric taken alone is evidently not as effective as turmeric that includes pepper. The addition of black pepper renders it many times more effective.
These are just a few of the supplements, therapies, and lifestyle changes that I’ve personally experimented with over the years. If something isn’t working for you, you might want to try a different remedy. Listen to your own body, be patient, and you’ll find what’s best for you. Different things work differently on different people, but these are some that I’ve come to depend on, to help me maintain the quality of life I’ve gotten used to since healing from Lyme.
So what's causing it? I've been reading Kenneth Singleton's terrific book, The Lyme Disease Solution. As he explains, when Lyme bacteria or its co-infections infect the body, the same as when other microorganisms attack--such as parasites, fungi, mold, and viruses—inflammation results. Sometimes you can see it. Sometimes you can't. As I understand it, a little bit of inflammation goes a long way. It is our immune system's natural reaction to infection. A cut on a finger is painful. It swells a bit and turns red. These factors indicate that the immune system is doing its job. White blood cells rush like EMTs to the site of the action. In a healthy person, the infection is stopped. The redness fades and the swelling goes down as the cut mends.
However, if the bacteria isn't killed by the actions of the immune system, the inflammation can become chronic.
“...whenever we are dealing with chronic infections like Lyme, we must be careful not only to treat a person with appropriate antibiotics, but also to address the chronic inflammation problems that have been triggered by Lyme.” Singleton, K. The Lyme Disease Solution (pp. 186-187). Kindle Edition.
The Do's and Don'ts
First, the don'ts. Don't give a helping hand to the inflammation troll. The following activities suppress or kill the endorphins that will help you heal.
Smoking. If you smoke, quit! Here's your good excuse.
Drinking alcohol. Same goes here.
Consuming fried foods, doughnuts, pastries. If it doesn't build healthy cells, it isn't good for you.
Consumption of sugar and artificial sweeteners.
Fifty pounds or more overweight.
Nursing a victim mentality and a negative attitude.
Being unable to forgive.
Averaging less than seven hours sleep per night.
Not drinking enough water.
Little to no sun exposure.
The good news? We can take action to prevent the inflammation troll from ruining our party. With shifts in dietary, lifestyle, and exercise routines, inflammation can be reduced or eliminated. The immune system produces these wonderful little gizmos called endorphins. They assist the NK (Natural Killer) cells in fighting the bad guys.
There's a short list of helpers to make our immune systems create more endorphins. You're gonna like it: Belly laughter, massage, chocolate, acupuncture, adequate sleep, and regular exercise. Eat fresh veggies, salmon (or Omega 3-s/Fish oil supplement), range-fed or organic meat consumption, and healthy oils, like olive. Indian curry, in particular the spice turmeric (curcumin), is a well-known anti-inflammatory agent. (However, please consult your doctor to see turmeric is okay for you. People with gallstones are not advised to consume turmeric.)
On the long list, you'll recognize these emotional and cultural keys that assist endorphin production, as well. We've seen them all before, but they're not trite. Not by a long shot. Indeed, these common-sense tips are central to healing body and mind:
Count your blessings.
Cultivate a positive outlook, and a spirit of generosity and giving.
Take time daily to pray and/or meditate—rejuvenate your spirit.
Do some deep breathing in fresh air.
If possible, get exposure to sunlight for ten minutes a day.
And nurture healthy relationships and social circles. You know, the kind that fluffs your feathers and fills up your love and laughter reserves. Seek out the company of people who make you feel good, not drained.
Antibiotics are necessary to kill the Lyme bacteria. Yet in many cases, they are not enough to return the body back to homeostasis, its natural state of balance. This is where lifestyle and dietary changes are needed to help us get a handle on inflammation.
But I know how it is. When you are sick with Lyme and your symptoms are kicking, exercise may be the very last thing on your mind. But nothing moves the lymph like getting some exercise, especially in fresh air. If the weather is not too vile, and you are physically able, motivate and take a walk. Take the dog, or round up a friend to accompany you. They can help you set up a regular schedule that you won't be so easily persuaded to drop. Swimming and jogging are great exercises for getting the lymph to move, if you can manage. If you can do a dry brush massage, do it. That's also a terrific lymph stimulator. However, use your best judgement, and do not use a dry brush if you have skin eruptions or any sort of rash.
Lymph massage through breathing
Going for a massage could be heaven, but if it isn't an option, you can treat yourself to a really effective self-massage in this simple way. Deep, rhythmic breathing is like giving yourself a massage from the inside. When you breathe out, contract your lower-abdomen muscles, and on the in breath, keep them contracted but allow your ribcage to expand. Sit up straight, imagine a string pulling gently up from your spine through the top of your head. Imagine the other end of the string pulling gently down from your tailbone. You needn't get fancy with your imagery to get into a really relaxing frame of mind. The breath is capable of doing all of that naturally. Of course, you can get through the day without scarcely taking a deep breath. But why do that, when it can be so helpful in our healing process? We just have to remember to direct our awareness in using it.
When we eat fresh fruits and vegetables and add fresh herbs to our daily meals, we take their vitality into our bodies for healing. Dr. Wolf Storl’s work is centered in his conviction that all plants, and especially wild plants that haven't been cultivated, are bursting with vital energy from the sun. In his 2010 book, Healing Lyme Disease Naturally, he lists several herbs that strengthen the capillary vessels, regulate the blood pressure, alleviate arterial sclerosis, improve the lymph functions and support the immune system by stimulating the thymus (Storl, 2010). Always check with your doctor(s) before taking any herb. Herbs, just like pharmaceutical medicines, can have side effects.
Storl, Wolf D. (2010). Healing Lyme disease naturally: History, analysis, and treatments. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
A good Lyme-literate doctor will suggest you supplement your treatment with a good diet. This is especially true for those of us with chronic Lyme symptoms. But when it comes to food, a lot of us do not like to change things up – creatures of habit, unite! However, change may be easier if you understand why it's necessary.
Sometimes it has to hit us below the belt, in the area of the wallet. So think of it this way. The money spent on medicines, herbal supplements, doctor's appointments, and health insurance may be going to waste, if we neglect our diet. The food we eat is also medicine. It will either help build vibrant immune cells, creating strength and energy, or it will bring the body down. Go to your local market and cast your eye over the organic produce aisles. Doesn't it make you feel better, just looking at the brilliant colors and the variety?
Our bodies are nothing short of miraculous. I wish that didn't sound trite, because I truly believe it. Even aging bodies can learn new tricks! Don't be fooled into thinking you can't make some small change, because you have the power to control what goes into your mouth every day. Exercise and a diet of scrumptious, fresh organic foods can speed the healing process of chronic disease, and slow down the aging process. A better diet also contributes to better sleep, which every Lyme patient needs.
Success Stories – Chicken soup for the soul
As the editor of this blog, I often hear amazing stories about someone who turned around a dire situation. The stories contain different elements but they're all about someone who kicked chronic disease.
The other day a woman I train with said that her dad was celebrating his 79th birthday. None of his family had dreamed of that possibility, because his brother and his nephew had died young. The doctors had informed them of the risk, because diabetes “ran in the family.” But her dad, at age 40, had experienced a scare: His beloved brother's early death. Shortly after that terrible wake-up call, he started exercising. He started out walking, then jogging, then began running long distances. Eventually he began working out vigorously every day of the week, running marathons, and pushing the limit of what his doctors said was possible. He also changed his diet, adding veggies and fresh fruit daily, cutting down on red meat, and eliminating sugary treats.
Chicken Soup with Lyme
I also hear stories – many stories – about people with Lyme. Some (more than you might think), are living healthy, post-Lyme lives. I've shared a lot of these on our “Success Stories” audio interviews here on this site. My purpose for sharing is because you are very important to me. I feel like Lyme patients are all part of one big family. We've been through the ringer! I want you to know for certain that healing from Lyme is possible. You know how hard it is to endure the symptoms. I don't need to remind you of that. What I want to make sure you know is that it is entirely possible to remove more of the obstacles to healing. Your body, our bodies, want to heal. And they are completely capable of it. We just need to give them what they need, and take away the roadblocks so they can make progress.
All these stories share a common thread. Someone in a bad way changed their life, simply by making better every-day decisions. And so they changed the outcome of their story.
“I'm sick,” she managed hoarsely. “The flu.”
So instead I drove to Whole Foods, my pharmacy of choice, and foraged through the produce department for lemons, oranges and fresh ginger. In the spice aisle I picked up a jar of cayenne pepper for topping off a hot citrus-ginger drink. All fall and winter this immune-strengthening drink has helped keep me well.
I let myself into my friend's apartment building, pushed the elevator button and rode up to her floor. I could hear coughing from another apartment as I knocked on her door. She opened it and stepped back, covering her mouth with the sleeve of her bathrobe. She's a nurse, so taking precautions is simply commonsense. I set my offerings down in her kitchen.
We waved and air-hugged from across the room. I promised I would not catch it. As soon as I got home I washed my hands well.
If you've been lucky enough to not catch it yourself, it's hard to miss the prevalence of stories about this winter's flu epidemic. Common also are stories about the effectiveness (or ineffectiveness) of the flu vaccines and prescription drugs designed to combat the bug or virus causing the terrible problems.
My bias is to bone up on prevention. I know it's sometimes impossible to ward off these nasty critters, but I've managed to stay out of harm's way for a good long while now, and I like to think my hot lemon & ginger drink with two shakes of powdered red pepper on top,is helping.
I decided that I needed an antidote to all the dire flu-bug warnings – and also to the unwelcome news story about the latest Lyme-like bug in the US, the Borrelia miyamotoi (more on that in a minute). So I picked up Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria. This is a good time to revisit the sound advice of master herbalist and author Stephen Buhner.
Stephen has a thorough scientific approach and vast knowledge of healing herbs. His thoughtful, user-friendly writing is informative and comforting, even when describing the “rise of the superbug.” This is his alarming account of the increasing powerlessness of conventional antibiotics.
In this book, Stephen investigates natural alternatives to conventional antibiotics for treatment of drug-resistant bacteria. If you want to hear a sound argument for using herbal or plant-based antibiotics, check it out. He generally includes as much information as you would want about each herb. One thing I adore about Stephen's books is that he includes recipes for making tinctures, teas, tonics and soothing soups. If you are a DIY'er like me, you'll like that too.
Strengthening the immune system is the first line of defense. As Stephen says: “Countless studies have found that the healthier your immune system, the less likely you are to get a disease and the more likely you are, if you do get sick, to have a milder episode. This is especially true in diseases such as Lyme.”
Bear in mind, not all flu-like symptoms are an indication that you have the flu. Another bacteria carried by deer ticks is now being investigated. It also causes a Lyme-like fever and symptoms resembling flu.
This organism, the Borrelia miyamotoi, was first discovered in Japan in the mid 1990s and detected in deer ticks in Connecticut in 2001, and California in 2006. Lead research scientist Dr. Peter J. Krause at Yale explains.
Buhner, Stephen Harrod (2012-07-17). Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria. Workman Publishing. Kindle Edition.
On this winter solstice, chill winds and snow swirl through the giant bamboo forest
just outside our windows.
Since last Friday morning, we’ve shed a lot of tears.
Our broken hearts can heal but it will take time. In my own reflections over the course of the past week, I’ve recommitted to get stronger and healthier in 2013, in mind, body and spirit.
That’s my New Year’s wish for you, too.
-- All my best, Suzanne
Holiday gatherings usually center around sharing a meal together. You might be anticipating some changes in your dishes of choice this year. Where is the list of “should” or “shouldn’t eat” foods? And, the most important question of course: is chocolate on the list?
Food choice is so personal. Is there a good “Lyme diet” to follow? Take a peek at this food pyramid shared by Dr. Andrew Weil (and not just because chocolate is on the list!)
We hear a lot about how a particular food is good for us, such as salmon or flaxseed for the omega oils, and avocado for its ‘good’ fat. But how big a portion is advised, and why it is good are something you might not yet know. That’s why I like this simple chart. It tells you the how-much and the why.
An anti-inflammatory diet is beneficial for anyone suffering from Lyme, an inflammatory illness. Chances are, your doctor and your medical advisors are not well-informed about the way your diet affects you, so it’s worth looking into.
Most of us with Lyme have specific needs at mealtime. Communicate your wishes to your family. If you are the main chef and bottle washer at your house, encourage and allow others to help out in the kitchen. Let them do the shopping and the cleanup.
Aside from knitting irresistible toys for the adorable little ones, my preference during the holidays is to renew, reconnect and reflect. Since Lyme, I pay more attention to my breath, I take more time to write and walk. Give yourself permission to enjoy whatever activities you find regenerative. If it expands your spirit, feels loving and healthy, it’s a worthy pursuit. Healing comes from such wholeness.
A word about frenzy, which is so often the tone around this time of the year. It’s defined medically as temporary madness, “a state of violent mental agitation.” Its synonyms include fury and rage. Let’s focus on the symbols of the season, on faith and on relationships that matter. Or have you succumbed to old habits, struggling through city streets and stores clogged with impatient shoppers. It’s always our choice.
Faced with a few days off, it’s tempting to try to get as much done as humanly possible with the extra down-time. But your body and mind needs slowing-down-time. Don’t try to rush the healing process with your willpower.
If you’re in pain and the weight of the world feels like it’s on your tired shoulders, please be generous with yourself and rest. The world’s wisdom traditions teach that this dark season naturally facilitates surrender. So allow the healing process to move through you, and perhaps move you to a new place in your journey. With grace, you will be yourself again in time.
I wish you a peaceful and joyful holiday -- with an oz of 70% chocolate!
Very little is known about CD, however but there is a growing awareness, which is why, over the past five years, we are seeing more gluten-free (GF) choices in the grocery stores. To a person with Lyme disease, this scenario, an autoimmune disease with vast, murky symptoms and not a lot of clarity about treatment, probably seems vaguely familiar.
The leading US specialist in CD, Peter Green, MD at Columbia University, recommends that people suspected of having gluten-sensitivities not quit eating foods containing gluten until they are properly tested and diagnosed. This is because withdrawing from foods with gluten will change the test results. However, as there is currently no other treatment available for people with CD or non-Celiac gluten sensitivity, the treatment consists of eliminating all sources of gluten-containing foods from the diet.
But there's a catch-22 in that logic. Do you feel better when you don't eat foods containing gluten? I do, I don't feel as puffy, which I guess is the way inflammation in the gut feels. Would you go back to including gluten in your diet just so your intestinal biopsy proves that you have a definite sensitivity to it? I'm not sure I'd do that. And if you did go back to eating it, and you were diagnosed with CD, then you'd be put on a treatment that consists of not eating gluten.
Evidently, the US is behind the UK and Italy and other countries in its knowledge of CD. According to a 2011 interview with Dr. Green published on Delight Gluten Free Magazine online, in England, people with CD are part of a program that enables them to have gluten-free foods delivered to their home. This “food as medicine” is also a tax write-off because it is part of a subscribed treatment for their illness.
I write about nutrition and a healthy, whole foods, Lyme disease diet, and whenever I pay for my fresh organic groceries I often think how nice it would be if I could write off a meaty percentage of that food, since it is a central element of my ongoing treatment.
What do you think? Let's talk about it.
For women reaching menopause, Lyme symptoms can blend in really irritating ways with the Seven Menopause dwarves, as Suzanne Somers calls them: Itchy, Bitchy, Sweaty, Bloaty, Sleepy, Forgetful, and Psycho, aka All-Dried-Up.
Somers promotes gluten-free foods and hormones to help manage the Seven dwarves. I write a fair amount about diet and good nutrition because I've seen firsthand that a diet full of nutrients and whole fresh foods is crucial to the healing process. Adding fresh vegetables and a modicum of fruit, loads of greens, lean proteins, and entirely cutting out sugar has benefited my healing process more than I can say – even though the internal medicine doctor I saw while in an acute stage of Lyme declared that my “diet had nothing to do with it.”
I'm here to tell you that it does. It's not the only thing, but it's one of the things that we can control, change, modify and design to promote our own healing.
Bear in mind the distinction between eliminating illness and living a life of wellness. That's an important difference, because you aren't always going to be sick, and you aren't always going to be healing from Lyme. Some day, I hope very soon, there will come a moment when you will feel better. You'll feel like your old self again! The moment might slip away, but it will come back. And then the intervals between the good moments and the bad moments get smaller. You find yourself re-engaging with life again. You still relate to people suffering with Lyme, yet don't define yourself as being sick anymore. There'll come a time when the brain-fog will burn off for good, like a hazy morning sky before a clear day.
This recognition that you are well again might happen in one moment. Or it may happen, as it does for a lot of us, over a long period of time. I think of it as emerging out of the ocean after swimming a great distance from some other land mass. You aren't lifted out, you don't suddenly jump out, but instead you walk slow-mo through the water towards the beach.
You'll be a new person, the same essential you but changed forever, because that's just what happens to those of us who get swept away on this journey of illness and healing. And when you emerge and know that you have, that's the moment to set a course for a life lived with vibrant presence, vigorously dedicated to wellness.
There is no panacea for Lyme, but then, there are no panaceas for anything! Even your Lyme doctor can't perform miracles. We can't fix everything with a Lyme diet. Personally, I found that sticking with a diet of whole, organic, fresh foods and eliminating sugar and now gluten, has given me a real boost toward the shore. Stick with it. Never give up!
All of us want to get better, and so many people with Lyme are good people, deeply invested in helping each other. With that in mind, I want to suggest that we follow these two rules:
- First, heal well.
- Second, through diet, physical exercise, attitude, work, relationships and in your spiritual or religious practice: live a life dedicated to wellness.
The thymus is located in the chest, in front of the heart. It’s part of the adaptive immune system. You may recall as a kid seeing Tarzan pounding his chest, right before leaping onto a vine and sailing across the treetops. The thymus, which decreases in size after puberty, is situated right there in the chest behind the sternum. The King of the Jungle and his gorilla pals pounded their chests as a show of strength and dominance. Some physical therapists say that thumping it gently will help stimulate it.
Eating Splenda shrinks it. Why is this bad? Because T-cells develop in, and are educated by, the thymus. Splenda can damage the T-cells, according to Jean Reist, a nurse who has treated over a thousand people diagnosed with Lyme disease. When treating Lyme, the last thing you want to do is cause damage to your adaptive immune system.
Lyme-literate experts advise us to avoid sugar. So what do you replace it with? Honey and agave sweeteners may contain nutritional goodness, but they are processed by our bodies the same way that sugar is. Stay away from Splenda (sucralose), which contains chlorine.
I’m happy to see that some nutritionists recommend stevia nowadays. I switched to stevia tincture when I was first diagnosed with late-disseminated Lyme symtpoms. Stevia tincture is made from the stevia herb, which has small leaves and looks like any other hillside weed. My mom, who has an amazing green thumb, grows it in a container on her deck. If you ever get the opportunity, bite into a stevia leaf. It’s unbelievably sweet, and it’s pure plant. No sugar. Nothing fake. This herb is native to South America, used for centuries to sweeten tea and make mate, and although popular for decades in Japan and elsewhere, it’s now in widespread use in the US, following approval from the FDA. Still, if you buy stevia at the grocery store, read the label. Some brands actually add sugar! I use KAL Stevia tincture, an alcohol-free, zero-calorie blend.
How far can diet and exercise go toward treating Lyme? There is no question that antibiotics are well-advised and necessary towards a Lyme disease treatment. But if there are lingering symptoms or problems, diet and exercise seem to be critically important. In my experience, healthy shifts in diet and making the effort to maintain a regular workout practice have made a huge, positive difference. I know that without having changed my habits I wouldn’t be in very good shape at all.
Weird as it sounds, I count having had Lyme disease among the biggest blessings in my life. Perhaps it is the biggest. I know you’ll understand what I’m saying. Although I’d never have voluntarily dived into the wretched state that it put me in, if I hadn’t been dragged under by Lyme, I strongly doubt that I would now be making the daily efforts I now make to live a radiantly healthy life, in body, mind & spirit! As you know, healthy living is not something that happens by accident. It takes mindfulness. I eat live foods, and drink freshly-made juices, mostly containing fresh organic veggies and high-fiber, high-protein foods such as beans and quinoa, to improve my skin and elevate my energy. I hit the gym at least three times a week, mainly doing interval workouts and strength training with weights. Exercising helps oxygenate my blood, strengthen my muscles and improve my endurance. I also think positively, which is not too difficult considering that post-Lyme, I feel blessed to be alive at all!
I also love to learn from other people. My mom is in her 80s and still healthy, beautiful and active, taking dance and Tai Chi classes and enjoying spending time with her friends and family. She never bought us much junk food or soda pop as kids, and she didn’t drink alcohol or smoke cigarettes. Instead, she shared her excitement over vibrant fresh greens and delicious fruits straight from the garden or the local farmer’s markets. When we sat down to dinner, she and my siblings and I often lingered afterward just talking and enjoying each other’s company. Recently I asked about her secret to living a long, healthy life. She thought about it for a minute and said, “I don’t poison my body and I think positively!” I love my mom. What a wonderful role model.
Sadly, I have friends ten years younger than I who suffer with RA and other autoimmune deficiencies, who refuse to examine their dietary habits and sedentary lifestyles. They depend on the medical professionals to help heal them with medicines.
If you decide to take an active role in your own healing, begin by recognizing that shifting your diet and starting an exercise practice takes determination and regular effort. Realize that your Lyme doctor may be an excellent diagnostician, and she may have prescribed antibiotics and been of great help to you in the early stages, but she may not know bupkes about nutrition, or how some foods or alternatives such as Splenda may contribute to, or denigrate, your progress.
Medical doctors don’t study nutrition in medical school, not with any depth. While it would be nice to think that they could be our role models for healthy living all-around, that isn’t in the curriculum. So unless your doctor is also educated in and interested in the way diet affects healing, it’s possible that you know much more about it than he does. There are indications that this is changing, and that more people who become doctors are also interested in how the whole healing process works. This is a wonderful trend, and I have a feeling it will continue. One of my friends says her doctor expects his patients to have read up on their condition online, and he encourages them to dialog with him about what they learn there.
Does your medical doctor know about the role of nutrition and exercise in treating Lyme? Do you talk with your nurse practitioner or doctor about diet and exercise as you heal from Lyme disease? Who are your role models for healthy living? Drop a line or leave a comment. I love hearing from you!
Now go on, nobody’s looking. Thump your thymus!
What is a Herx? The Herx occurs when the Lyme bacterial complex dies from an attack by antibiotics or other means, and releases toxins that signal reactions from the body’s immune system. Herxing can be triggered at a number of points throughout the healing process.
Detoxification, once the catch-word of glitzy drug rehab centers, is now more or less a Hollywood cliche. Almost every health & beauty magazine or website promotes a different detox diet that in theory will cleanse your body of toxins that assault it every day: smog, sugar, alcohol, pesticides and artificial sweeteners. If you suffer from a chronic condition such as post-Lyme syndrome or chronic Lyme, proponents of detox diets say you’ll benefit from periodic cleansing.
Current, popular ways to cleanse include the ‘Master Cleanse’ which consists primarily of drinking lemon, water and maple syrup. Many consider fresh raw vegetable juices a healthy basis for a good detox diet that can help people slim down while infusing the body with necessary enzymes and other rich nutrients. These types of diets are believed by some to boost the body’s elimination mechanisms through internal cleaning.
However, there may be no scientific basis for cleansing diets. Dr. Peter Pressman of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles states that the body’s multiple systems, such as the liver, kidneys, and GI tract, already do a perfectly good job of cleansing the body and eliminating toxins. He claims there is no evidence to suggest that detox diets improve the body’s natural mechanisms.
Lyme patients must be vigilant about popular trends. Changing your diet or engaging in something radical such as a juice fast might even be a bad idea, especially if you are on antibiotics or some other Lyme treatment. Always discuss with your Lyme doctor or medical team before changing your diet. Cleansing can be dicey for people with active Lyme disease symptoms. The cleanse may trigger a Herxheimer reaction which would affect the body’s immune system.
Whether you think colon cleansing is good and necessary or not, we can all agree that keeping things moving is best. By drinking lots of filtered water and eating foods that help prevent or relieve constipation, we can do our best to ensure that our body is able to eliminate the toxins from the Lyme bacteria as well as the meds, while undergoing Lyme treatment and post treatment. Be sure to drink about 8 glasses of water daily, as it helps digest the fiber, as well as softens and adds bulk to the stool. When I am experiencing a Herx, I drink extra water and it always seems to give me relief, almost immediately.
What are the best foods for preventing or relieving constipation?
High-fiber foods such as barley, quinoa, brown rice are helpful. So are flaxseeds, beans, lentils, artichokes, sweet potatoes, pears and green peas. If you’re avoiding gluten, don’t eat wheats, barley or rye. Quinoa makes a great breakfast cereal. I add a little coconut oil, stevia and cinnamon, and toss on a teaspoon of flaxseed for good measure. And of course steel cut oats that are gluten free are highly recommended in a healthy Lyme diet, because they’re so good for our skin in addition to their fiber-rich content. We should be eating about 20 - 35 grams of fiber per day, according to the NIH.
Additionally, people with a magnesium deficiency are found to be at greater risk for constipation, so include plenty of magnesium-rich sources in your healing Lyme diet. Nuts such as almonds and cashews are high in magnesium, as are baked potatoes in their “jackets” as my mom used to say.
Refined or processed foods such as white bread, white rice, and white pasta are not your friends if you want to promote pooping. In addition, ice cream, cheeses and meats are high in fat and will work against you in your quest for a good bowel movement. Cut these processed and sugary foods out of your diet and replace them with high quality, high fiber foods. You’ll begin to see and feel the difference.
For now, we may not have the answer to healing chronic Lyme, but in my experience, my quality of life -- and the amount of energy I have for living -- increases immensely the more I shift my diet into the healthy zone. Over the years, each and every person I’ve interviewed for our Lyme Success Stories series has also told a remarkable tale of having healed more quickly after making healthy changes to their diet.
Celebrities’ stories have a potent affect on our collective notions about disease. When someone famous for car racing or acting or novel writing, or when the President of the US (GW Bush) has fought and defeated the same powerful foe as we have, we want to know their stories. We may not be equal in status but we’re equally brought to our knees by the Lyme bacteria. Hearing their stories about dealing with Lyme might trigger an idea that works, or give us strength to try a new approach.
Parker Posey was diagnosed with Lyme disease in February 2009 and received the standard IDSA Lyme treatment of antibiotics. After completing the round of antibiotics and experiencing a return of her symptoms, she decided not to continue on a second round and instead turned to a holistic approach involving detoxification, diet and supplements. Her experience led to her involvement with a documentary film by rethinkingcancer.org, the story of five cancer patients and one person with Lyme disease who all made the decision to treat their diseases through alternative means, and who have all lived years beyond the time their doctors predicted.
Posey asks: “How can a natural approach to healing oneself be considered so unconventional? Why do we think we can't play an active role in getting healthy? Why do we give ourselves away so easily to pharmaceuticals that deplete our system and confuse the natural healing process?”
Lyme patient David Walant has been free of Lyme for 20 years. Listen to him in this brief clip from the webpage of rethinkingcancer.org.
Karen Allen, who played opposite Jeff Bridges in Starman, was interviewed in 2010 on the blog, Macrobiotic Adventures, about her difficult journey through Lyme disease and back to health. Her story is familiar to almost everyone with Lyme, it’s a series of tortuous misdiagnoses and failed cures, and then finally a way through the pain and confusion and back to a normal, creative life. The interview is fairly long, but very intriguing. Karen talks about her dynamic healing experience with the parasite zapper invented by Canadian Dr. Hulda Clark.
I hope you find these clips inspiring, as I have. Remember you are not alone and you’re not crazy. Change your diet if you think it will benefit you. Change your sedentary life and exercise every single day. Stay limber, stretch and relax daily, and surround yourself with loving friends. It’s your life and it’s worth every precious moment you have to get well.
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.
Not only our physical health, but our mental health originates in our guts. People dealing with chronic Lyme disease symptoms have good reason to guard both of these states. I’ve been exploring why it’s so important to eat a healthy diet, and that means paying as much attention to what we don’t eat as to what we do. I’ve flirted with a gluten-free diet for months now, but something tells me that it’s time to give it up for good. At least for a month, and see how it goes from there. Want to plunge in and go gluten free for a month with me? Read on and think it over.
First of all, have you ever have a ‘gut feeling’ about something? Most people have. In fact we rely on those feelings to inform us in crucial ways. Our guts can warn us to get out of harm’s way, keep us from getting involved with business deals of a questionable nature, and alert us when a distant loved one needs our help.
When I ignore those feelings, I always wind up thinking I “should have listened to my gut.” You too?
Lately, my gut has been saying to cut out wheat. I’ve cut back on it, but haven’t ever gone without it for long. So I’m going to start tomorrow, as I’ve already blown it this morning with lox and bagels. I feel bloated. This is a disappointment, because I’ve been telling myself that I love lox on an everything bagel with vegan cream cheese, red onion, tomato and capers. However, this morning’s breakfast is still sitting in my gut, calling attention to the fact that it just isn’t getting digested right.
What can we expect to happen when we cut out wheat and gluten from our daily diet? Well, for one thing I expect my mood to lift. It’s fall, and I am in the school business. Every fall I get excited about new schedules, new people, new notebooks, you name it. I love school. But with the newness comes anxiety. And with the anxiety comes a sort of spirit-clenching mental habit of worry. Did this get done? Did that get done? You know what I’m talking about. Some things are under our control, some aren’t. So anxiety is usually generated out of what I cannot control. This stuff makes me moody. So perhaps a gluten-free diet will help me accept the things (and people) that I cannot change.
Another change I can expect from eating no wheat is a loss of puffiness. I have to say, that is something to look forward to. Chronic Lyme symptoms have kept me aware of the importance of taking anti-inflammatory supplements, such as liquid cod liver oil, and turmeric capsules. But still I often feel a little puffy around the waist and in my arms and face. Exercise helps, but the puffiness returns when I eat bread.
The biggest benefit that I can expect is an improvement in my mental clarity. Now that’s really exciting, considering that I deal with college students. When it comes to the information age, you can never quite keep up with the generation below you! They’re intensely savvy with computers and everything that I need to be. So, maybe I’ll be better equipped to keep up. I’m definitely looking forward to that.
If this works as well as I think it may, I might just go another month. Anybody game to try it with me?
If you’re in an acute stage, it might be worth a try to eliminate gluten products for awhile. Avoid baked goods made from wheat, spelt, kamut, barley, triticale (a hybrid of barley and wheat) and rye. Especially if your stomach aches after you eat these foods.
However, bread is the staff of life. Changing your bread-eating habits can be an emotional, not simply a nutritional, issue. My partner makes the best french toast this side of the Mississippi. Since we struggled through our Lyme journey, he only makes it as a rare treat, and any resistance is futile. I sweeten it with fresh blueberries or strawberries instead of maple syrup (okay, maybe a dribble of maple syrup). I wouldn’t use sugar or syrup (sorry folks) if you’re experiencing symptoms. But I’ve discovered that if I only eat french toast as a treat, I can get away with it. These days, six years past my acute stage, I’ve returned to an old habit of relying on pasta for a yummy dish that cooks up quick after a long workday. I’m a vegetable fanatic, so my pasta sauce is crowded with fresh organic veggies whenever possible. Even though my symptoms are gone and my health is vastly improved, I’m still very careful when it comes to choosing what to put on my plate. Adopting a largely gluten free diet seems to work well for my whole family. Just takes a bit of adjusting, which is easy these days.
A few years ago, it wasn’t easy to find quick alternatives to gluteny products. Nowadays a lot of name brands offer GF products in the grocery store. Boxed mixes may tempt you because they’re fast and easy, but boxed food tends to contain too much salt, sugar, or other ingredients you may be sensitive to. If you possibly can, buy bulk from your grocery store. Try some of the alternative grains that you used to pass by in favor of the more familiar ones. I know I used to pass them by, simply because I was in a groove (more like a rut) and a little bit lazy when it came to trying new foods.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with more organic whole grains such as millet, amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa in our dinners. Couscous is traditionally made from semolina wheat, so it’s not gluten free. However, there is a brown rice couscous on the market which is indeed GF.
One of my favorites so far is quinoa, which cooks up extraordinarily quickly. I also love cooking in a wok, which takes very little time and transforms the air with the smell of hot, fresh veggies and warm spices. Pairing quinoa with stir-fried vegetables is fast and satisfying. It’s amazing, but lifelong habits actually can be transformed, and we can change our old emotional associations with that piece of buttered rye toast or whole wheat sandwich. It just takes a little doing. But the effort it takes to live a pain free, post-Lyme life where we are finally liberated from symptoms is worth its weight in gold.
Learn more about Lyme disease diet.
What’s your favorite gluten free diet food? If you eat mostly gluten free, have you seen, or felt an improvement in your health? Please feel free to share recipes! I’d love to hear from you.
There’s a profound sense of relief that resonates deep inside when a trained and experienced medical doctor tells you, “there’s nothing stronger than what goes on in your own body.” It felt like music to my ears to hear this. Yes, we need medicine -- sometimes very powerful medicine indeed -- but our own miraculous bodies are often resilient and strong and capable of healing themselves, if only we let them.
The main point I came away with after our talk was that immune disorders can be managed if we take a whole person, whole life, approach. Healing from Lyme is literally a life-changing experience. I’ve said in the past that I’d almost rather have something easily diagnosable, such as cancer, instead of this mysterious condition that is so difficult to treat. Dr. Muran set me straight. Cancer is much harder to get over, he told me, more devastating overall to health. Lyme is treatable. We just might not want to make the effort to change in the radical ways it seems to insist on, but if we do, we can get better.
Have you ever had a doctor tell you that “diet has nothing to do with it”? I’m pretty sure I’m not the only Lyme patient who has ever heard that from a conventional doctor. I’m no expert, but I know a line of bull when I hear it. As it turns out, diet does have something to do with it. When I asked him to say a few words about our eating habits, and about the role of sugar, Dr. Muran offered some basic widsom: don’t live to eat, eat to live. Diet should always be nutritional. Become aware of how the foods you eat affect you. In other words, instead of ignoring that bloated sensation, recognize that your body is giving you feedback. When beginning to work with a new patient, Dr. Muran conducts food allergy tests to help distinguish food sensitivities from a reaction to bacterial infection.
During our hour-long conversation, he touched on subjects that are close to our hearts, including of course the astounding immune system and GI tract, diet and nutrition, exercise, the function and role of the body’s secondary responders: the hormones, cortisol, insulin, and adrenal. He doesn’t go into detail, but intriguingly also mentions the importance of the role of meditation.
We also talked about his approach to handling herxes. The Herxheimer reaction is a double-edged sword for Lyme patients, because we know it is generally a sign that the Lyme bacteria are dying -- good. But with that die-off, more symptoms or more severe symptoms may also emerge -- not good. Instead of pushing the patient and risking more stress to their system, his recommendation is to back off the newly introduced antibiotic or treatment causing the herx. Reduce it to a point where the patient can stabilize and continue to heal without additional stress.
On a personal note, I was surprised and gratified to discover during our talk that Dr. Muran actually played a central role in my own healing although I never knew his name. I lived in San Luis Obispo at the time I discovered I had Lyme, and the naturopathic doctor who treated me was new to the field at the time. I was aware that he was given guidance every step of the way by a group of Lyme experts in California. That group included Dr. Muran and Dr. Steve Harris, who incidentally are both featured in Connie Strasheim’s excellent book: Insights into Lyme Disease Treatment. Also included in the book are Dr. Lee Cowden and master herbalist Stephen Buhner, both of whom are featured guests in our own interview with experts’ series.
Listen to my conversation with Dr. Muran on managing Lyme disease.
For further information about Dr. Muran’s approach, please visit his website page on Lyme disease: http://www.alternativemedicinehealthcare.com/immune-health/lyme-disease.www.longevityhealthcare.com
Tel: (888) 315-4777
My own history of healing from Lyme seems similar to that of the person who responded, LymeAngl, although I followed the r Cowden's updated Lyme protocol">Cowden protocol for four years (after treating for six months with powerful antibiotics), taking 30 drops 3x daily, alternating between Samento and Banderol.
LymeAngl’s point about diet being everything is critical in my opinion. I have had a healthy diet my entire life, but then went gonzo with healthy food, fresh organic juices daily, fresh sprouts and fresh dark green everything, such as spirulina, chlorella, and leafy greens when I learned I had Lyme. I maintained that frenzy of healthy food consumption long after my horrid symptoms and the ‘daily dizzies’ began to slowly fade. Today, 6 years after my diagnosis, I am a devotee of a clean diet and exercise and believe they are two very important branches of a healing path.
I have written here about slipping off the health food wagon, the results of which have been disastrous for me. Beer and wine don’t work. Sugar is the worst. Coffee I can handle very infrequently, but I stay healthy now because I pay close attention to my daily habits. I exercise MORE, not less, as I get older; I consume no sugar or alcohol, and I have never been a soda drinker. I drink more water than most people are probably able to (because I'm fortunate to work at home, near the loo). I hardly ever drink coffee but I do drink green tea. I don't have a sensitivity to gluten which is fortunate. My diet includes a fair amount of dairy but I stay away from cow milk, which has never worked for me. Goat cheeses, lots of herbs and spices, and as much fresh organic produce as I can swing. I read labels voraciously and have learned to attend pot lucks and dinner parties without caving in to peer pressure, while at the same time not devolving into a buzz-killing 'health food lecturer' about the evils of sugar. Everyone is aware of the dangers by now & they need to wake up and make their own choice. It does, however, never cease to amaze me how much actual junk food people can consume, all while fervently believing that their diet is perfectly healthy. I’m a people person, always have been, so people’s quirks and imperfections tickle me to no end, but sometimes it's just too surreal to witness how strong the disconnect can be between somebody’s words and their actions.
For example, the other day I sat and watched someone woof down a sugary maple scone and a cup of coffee with sugar & cream, while describing to me her newly found enthusiasm for ‘cleansing.’ When I pointed out that scones are probably not the best cleanse-food she pouted, saying she had to have SOME fun. Ridiculous. What's “fun” is living life the way you choose to every day, not strangling in the grip of your own unconscious habits, not being held prisoner by disease.
I'm convinced that the key to healing from serious disease is to approach it from as many angles as you can discover. Never give up.
Please read about my "100 Perspectives."
A hot cup of ginger tea is comforting, and along with a pair of thick wool socks, can even help thaw your popsicle toes. Peel fresh ginger and slice it thin, add hot water and a drop or two of stevia. Curl up on your couch with a good book, and savor the moment. Read this article about 5 foods that warm you up.
In winter, it feels as though we’re purposefully being slowed down by external forces, such as bad weather and shorter daylight hours. Don’t fight the urge to stay indoors, sleep in and take naps if you can. Hibernate. You are not alone if you’re feeling antsy or a little blue. This is the ‘dead of winter’ after all, the time of year when average temperatures in the northern hemisphere plunge to their lowest. Be kind to yourself while you’re healing. Call your best friend and laugh. Watch a great movie. (Or a chick flick!) Make a handmade card for a child. Doing something -- even a small something -- for someone else is also a powerful healing act.
I like to remember one of my grandmother’s favorite sayings: When winter comes, can spring be far behind?
My mother raised five rambunctious kids. She tells me she often prayed for guidance. Her favorite prayer was: God, grant me patience, and give it to me RIGHT NOW! Patience is certainly a virtue in healing chronic or post-Lyme disease. But cognitively knowing it and embodying patience in everyday life are two different things.
Here in the mountains of NC, we've just received our first snow. Although I welcome the changing seasons, I find myself getting a tad anxious about the coming winter. It's hard to be patient when you have no control. And of course, who has control over the weather? Last winter was no picnic for people with Lyme. The cold weather poses many more challenges to people who struggle to keep their body temperature at an even keel. Plus, skin conditions that are common with Lyme and co-infections are exacerbated by winter weather, little sun exposure, and snug clothing.
Seeking personal inspiration and practical advice about treating Lyme, I looked back through our posts and conversations with healthy post-Lyme survivors. How do these people remain strong? Are they just made of different stuff? Do they worry, like I do, about tiny signs of Lyme's return, a sore that won't go away, a persistent itchiness. The occasional Lymie surge of dizziness that fades almost as quickly as it comes on.
Then I found Darryl Crews' advice about treating Lyme disease, which I want to share with you. I so appreciate his level-headed approach to treatment. Also, not surprised to see 'patience' right there at the top of the list:
1. PATIENCE, DETERMINATION, WILL POWER, DEDICATION, DISCIPLINE: Your chances of recovery are good if you happen to possess these qualities.
2. MEDICATION: Treat all known infections thoroughly with specific antibiotics. Treat aggressively until infection load is reduced to a point where the immune system can take over. Consider IV if you have neuro symptoms or fail to respond to orals. Learn to embrace herxes and avoid under treating at all costs.
3. DETOX: Address die-off daily to decrease toxins and reduce herx intensity. Consider using supps/herbs, sauna, Epsom salt baths, coffee enema, colonics, etc.
4. SLEEP: There's no such thing as too much. Quality deep sleep is a vital part of healing. Lyme causes fractured sleep. Auto CPAP is my all-natural sleep-aid of choice.
5. SUPPLEMENTS/HERBS: Daily support is required to assist the body with balancing nutrients, detoxifying and boosting your immune system.
6. EXERCISE: Thick blood harbors infections and toxins. Daily exercise will keep the blood flowing. Keep it basic for 10-15 mins twice a day (calisthenics, walk, cycling, swim, stair climbs or yoga.)
I especially like #4. My treatment routine includes meditation and deep breathing at night and again in the morning. Sleep is indeed essential, and these little habits help create the space for a good night's sleep.
I've come to accept that my approach to treating Lyme is unique, and if it's working, it's the right thing to do. But those dark clouds outside the window, that nippy breeze lifting leaves off the trees. What Lyme treatment approach can fend off cold weather? I'm still treating with teasel tincture and hoping it will help keep my body warm, as it has been doing for several months now. And come to think of it, it's lunchtime. A nice pot of carrot-ginger soup sounds perfect. Ginger is a warming food.
What is your attitude about winter? How do you stay warm enough and protect your skin? Lyme treatment, especially treating for chronic Lyme disease, is different for for everyone, but there is so much we can learn from each other.
Ginger R. Savely, RN, FNP-C is a primary care provider who specializes in treating Lyme disease symptoms.
She has bachelors degrees in both Psychology and Nursing and graduated summa cum laude in her nursing class at the University of Texas where she was named Outstanding Graduating Senior. She has masters degrees in both education and nursing, and recently earned a doctorate degree in research.
Ginger is a member of ILADS, a prestigious group of world experts on the treatment of Lyme and other tick-borne diseases. She was honored by her peers by being selected to receive the 2004 Texas Nurse Practitioner of the Year Award. Ginger's clinic is called TBD Medical Associates and she is located at Union Square Medical Associates, in San Francisco. She can be reached at Ginger Savely.com.
It's great to get Ginger's perspective on nutrition, and as we talked about what Lyme patients can do to include diet and nutrition in their protocol, she mentions Dr. Royal Lee, who first recognized that processed foods cause many health problems. She points out that MDs are not trained in nutrition, and that in general, most interested citizens know more than their doctors about food and its effect on their health. MDs are trained to fix the current problem, not to counsel patients about eating a healing diet.
Patients looking for guidance in diet and nutrition generally cannot get it from their LLMD. Although there are exceptions, and many doctors do go on to study diet and nutrition as part of a healing approach, in general, MDs are just not trained to think in that way.
So, what's a Lyme patient to do?
To help her patients educate themselves about healing from Lyme disease, Ginger recommends that they read a book called The Fourfold Path to Healing, by Thomas Cowan. She says it's a must-read for Lyme patients. The 100 Perspectives that is available on this website is also a "cross-training" approach that I've taken for recovering from Lyme. Getting better requires looking at the bigger picture of health, and not simply taking the antibiotics prescribed by a doctor, even an LLMD.
Attitude is another part of the big picture that Ginger spoke with me about. Lyme symptoms often manifest in our emotions and mental states, and it is well-known that holding onto anger can be very damaging to the immune system. She discusses how she has observed that patients who hang on to anger or have bitterness toward the world can throw a wrench into their own healing process.
Listen to my conversation with Ginger Savely in the member’s portal.
We all know that suffering with Lyme symptoms can really push you to the edge. So when an expert says, "do this thing, e.g., take a handful of vitamins, and you'll feel better," we will go to just about any length to do that thing.
If you take upwards of 30 different supplements per day (or if it just feels like you do), and you are a bit depressed by the amount of time, money and energy you spend on them, then Ginger Savely, FNP, is on your side. She is on the hunt for products that give us "the most bang for our buck." Instead of taking 30 pills, you can get the same amount of supplements in just a couple of products such as Green Vibrance, which includes many of the vitamins we want in our healing diets, and fish oil.
Ginger is a nurse practitioner with a doctorate degree in research, who owns the SF clinic where she primarily sees patients with Lyme and Morgellons disease, of whom a high percentage also have Lyme. But Ginger's work does not stop there. She is a lifelong learner (and a former Lyme patient herself), who is currently enrolled in advanced courses in clinical nutrition and diet.
She began treating Lyme patients over a decade ago, and over the years gathered her recommendations into a pamphlet that she provides new patients. One patient, after looking over the material, told Ginger that she "sat down and cried," after reading it. She simply felt overwhelmed by the amount of things to take. She felt she would never be able to take all the supplements she needed to take.
Her patient's response made an impression, and Ginger then began to listen to her own gut instinct, and change the way she views diet and food. She says that instead of putting the emphasis on vitamin supplements in isolation, she now sees diet and food choices as a central component in healing Lyme disease.
Ginger has long suspected that the isolated vitamins we consume may not be the most efficient way to supplement our diets. And she readily admits she has been guilty of it herself, advising her patients to include vitamins recommended by popular research studies. Yet in her gut, she's always been curious as to just how effective these vitamin pills are.
Asking her patients didn't clear up the matter much. They would often say they took a long list of supplements, not because the vitamins made a difference in the way they felt, but because they were afraid to stop, just in case they might feel worse.
But Ginger's instinct has pointed her in a different direction. In terms of eating well to support a healing diet, she might say it's back to the future.
What does she advise her Lyme patients to do now? Get your healing supplements directly from the food you eat. Eat the old-fashioned way, by which she means the way we ate 100 years ago. Don't shy away from a little bit of animal fat, she says. The chronic illnesses that are currently such a problem in the western world, such as heart disease and diabetes, have come about since we started cutting "healthy" fats from our diet and replacing them with refined carbohydrates and refined sugar.
Eat the way your grandparents (or your great-grandparents) did. Whole foods, meat with a little fat on it (preferably grass-fed and organic), organic veggies. Above all, no refined carbs or sugar, which have absolutely no place in a healing diet.
On the occasions when Ginger does indulge in sugar, she feels "foggy" the very next day. She is a self-described sugar-holic, so she understands how difficult it is for some people to give it up. Yet after a few initial suggestions, she says, patients who agree to drop sugar from their diets seem to need no reminding. The body knows it will heal faster without it. After a couple of weeks of going without, it simply doesn't appeal to them anymore.
If you do eat sugar, keep it to the whole foods variety which at least includes a little nutritional value. Blackstrap molasses, unrefined honey may be tolerated by some people. Agave sweetener is processed in the exact same way that refined sugar is, and we have been "sold a bill of goods on that," she says.
If you don't eat sugar, antibiotics will have a better chance of working, and you may heal more quickly. Ginger observes that her patients who indulge in refined sweets do seem to take a slower route back to living a vibrantly healthy, post-Lyme life.
Ginger is featured in our Expert Audio Series. You can hear her interview for free by signing up for our LDRD newsletter.
I remember when I was told that my Lyme-induced skin rash was nothing but a bad case of eczema. The nurse practitioner I'd gone to for help asked me in-depth questions about my rash, my diet, and my health history. She seemed puzzled that I was not the type who might suffer from eczema. I had never overused antibiotics, my Mediterranean-type diet included fresh greens and did not include sugar or alcohol. I was very much in love with my life-partner and running a small business that satisfied my financial needs, and which gave me time to spend with family and friends.
As I stood to leave, she peered pensively over her glasses at me and tapped her pen against her chin for a second. "You really must do something about whatever is stressing you out so badly," she said.
When I returned a blank look, she threw me a doctorly look and added, "think about it."
On the drive home, I soul-searched, but still couldn't locate a source of stress along the magnitude she was referring to. It wasn't as if I was living in a bubble, I had certainly had my challenges and bumps on the road of life. But at the time, things were going well. As a naturally self-reflective person, I felt a little embarrassed. Out of touch with myself. Was I making myself sick? By the time I pulled into my driveway, I had concluded that there must be something really wrong with me -- mentally and emotionally, not physically.
Months later, when a different doctor had my blood tested at IGeneX and I received a positive diagnosis for the Lyme infection, I felt that odd sense of relief familiar to many people with this disease. The illness, the mysterious symptoms, the long journey to a positive diagnosis, and the diagnosis itself is so hard-fought and hard-won. And finally, the physical and mental stress of treatment itself. It was a little like that old joke about the tombstone engraved with "I TOLD you I was sick!"
If you think stress might be a contributing factor to your illness (or like me, even if you don't), here are 7 things to do to eliminate or reduce tension and anxiety every day.
1. Set strong boundaries.
2. Take time for yourself.
3. Find areas of your life to maintain control.
4. Learn when to say "no, thanks."
5. Surround yourself with supportive and proactive people.
6. Ask for help when you need it.
7. Love yourself.
How do you deal best with the everyday stresses in your life, as you heal from Lyme? Please let me know in the comments. I'd love to hear from you!
The emotional link between good times and sweet treats begins early in life. For some, candy or soda pop was the reward offered for being "good," quiet or out-of-the-way. For others, a piece of cake is sheer comfort. And heaven is a plate-full of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies. Later in life the pattern continues, reflected in the sensual language used to describe our desire for instant gratification. That gooey chocolate cake looks quite tempting. The box of See's isn't simply sitting on the table. It's trying to seduce you into peeling off the cellophane and lifting the cover.
Under certain circumstances, our resistance to sugary enticements can take on mythic dimensions. You don't want to hurt your lover's (or your friend's or your mother's) feelings, which seem to pivot on whether or not you accept their sweet offering. For some this is a willpower test of Biblical proportions.
Except when you have Lyme disease, and you know that indulging comes with a price. Remember how much it hurts to herx? That's all it takes. Just think back to the brain fog and headaches, or the last time your knees ached non-stop, or when even the satin sheets felt like sandpaper on your hypersensitive skin.
If you have an urge for some sweetness in your life, instead of splurging on a dessert try this: give yourself a present. A little luxury doesn't have to cost a lot, and it's a powerful way to help break a pattern you might have established in childhood. Sugar doesn't equal happiness. Buy tickets to a movie you've been wanting to see. Curl up with a new mystery novel and a cup of ginger tea sweetened with stevia. Call a friend. Rent a comedy. Pop some popcorn and pass it around, but when it comes to Valentine's candy, think about how really great you'll continue to feel if you simply say no thanks. And that will be the icing on the cake.
In some stages of Lyme, you may not feel much like eating, or you may not know what to eat at all. Everything is so different, even your taste for certain old favorites. If you've altered your diet because of Lyme, sometimes you really just crave "normal" food.
Chili is hearty and healthy. It's nice and normal, and one of our favorite comfort foods around here. Here's the basic recipe. Trust me - it's simple and won't make you think too hard. Plus, it'll make your house smell great. Sometimes I switch out the peppers for carrots, or skimp on the chili powder. The herbs are the key to making this dish really scrumptious and satisfying. Add some simple corn bread and you've made a wonderful winter dinner.
2-3 cans dark red kidney beans (drained)
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 green peppers, chopped
2-3 T olive oil
1 28-oz can whole tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
3-4 T chili powder
2-3 T cumin
1-2 T fresh parsley
2-3 T oregano
1 1/2 cups of water
1 cup cashews
1/2 cup raisins (optional)
Heat oil in large pot; saute onions until clear, then add celery, green pepper, and garlic; cook for 5 minutes or so. Add tomatoes (with juice; break the tomatoes into small chunks) and kidney beans; reduce to simmer. Add chili powder, cumin, parsley, oregano, water, cashews, and raisins (opt.) Simmer as long as you want. Garnish with fresh parsley or grated cheddar cheese (if you like cheese, try goat, which is easier to digest).
Happy Winter Solstice to everybody.
Here's to your health!
However, many people do recover from this profound illness. I recently took a road trip with my significant other, attended a family reunion, and reconnected with friends I cherish. Life is so astonishing sometimes, so precious, that now I have complete days when I totally forget how sick I've been, and what a long, slow climb it was back to a state of health.
I've been collecting Lyme success stories almost from the time I was diagnosed, because I felt strongly that if someone else out there had healed from Lyme, then I could too. My parents brought me up to share good news, so I'm still gathering success stories that others can learn from and be inspired.
Have you recovered from Lyme disease? Are you well on your way to a healthy, post-Lyme life?
People take so many different paths back to living a productive life. Many are able to follow a Lyme-literate doctor's protocol until they're Lyme-free. Many aren't able to afford that luxury, and so they use a combination of protocols and techniques that seem to help. Some are on a strict diet, and they claim that it has helped them walk away from Lyme. Some use herbal therapies and devices such as the rife machine. And considering how bone-crushingly weary Lyme can make us, I'm always impressed by the numbers of people who swear that rigorous physical exercise played a central role in their healing. Many of the people we've interviewed in our Lyme success stories, such as arryl's Lyme success story">Darryl, who races bikes and works as a professional Hollywood stuntman, talk about applying the mental rigor, discipline and intense focus they honed as a competing athlete, to the path of healing.
Walking away from Lyme is something we all desire to do one day. If you've been successful in doing so, please consider sharing your success story with others. You never know when something you say might trigger an idea in someone's head and help them turn their health situation around for good. You won't be telling other people what to do. You'll simply be relating your own experience, which is in itself, a powerful sort of medicine.
Contact me directly for further information about sharing your Lyme success story.
When everyone else reaches for chips & dip, reach into your picnic basket instead for these yummy snacks recommended for people on an anti-inflammatory diet:
Celery and carrot sticks, or radishes with hummus. Raw veggies are better for you at room temperature, and not cold straight from the fridge.
For a delicious protein snack, spread tahini or almond butter on rice crackers.
For breakfast, cook steel cut oatmeal. A generous dollop of coconut oil keeps it from sticking to the pan, and imparts a delicate sweetness to the oats. Try fresh spinach in the morning along with scrambled eggs. Greens are fresh and tasty, and will satisfy without giving you that over-stuffed feeling.
For lunch or dinner, soup and sandwiches are quick and casual.
Rye bread can be a tasty substitute for wheat bread, but read the ingredients to make sure there is no wheat flour. Good sandwich fixings include sliced turkey (or tofurky, my fave), avocado, tomato, ground mustard and goat cheese or feta. Feta is reportedly much easier to digest than cow cheeses. Add fresh chopped greens from your garden, or layer on the sprouts - use mung bean for a delectable crunchiness, clover, or broccoli sprouts.
If you're a soup nut like me, make a delicate butternut squash soup, or a fragrant tomato bisque. Fresh corn soup is also delicious paired with a spinach, beet, walnut and goat cheese salad.
Mexican food is fast and festive. Make fish tostadas, using tilapia or salmon, piled onto corn tortillas, with dark green leafy lettuce, ripe slices of tomato, black beans, fresh salsa and guacamole, if you like.
"[Chronic inflammation] is an emerging field," says Dr. David Heber, a UCLA professor of medicine and director of the university's Center for Human Nutrition. "It's a new concept for medicine."
The article continues: "The theory goes that long after the invading bacteria or viruses from some infection [such as Lyme bacteria] are gone, the body's defenses remain active. The activated immune cells and hormones then turn on the body itself, damaging tissues. The process continues indefinitely, occurring at low enough levels that a person doesn't feel pain or realize anything is wrong. Years later, proponents say, the damage contributes to illnesses such as heart disease, neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease or cancer." LA Times article, 8/16/09
When you get a splinter, or a mosquito bite, or suffer an injury such as a broken bone, your body's immune system instantly responds to the pain and offense by sending more blood to the wounded area. The tissue swells and reddens while the healing work gets underway. While it's fairly easy to see a mosquito bite or detect a broken bone, chronic silent inflammation inside the body, which is what Lyme disease may cause, may go unnoticed for years because, as the article states, it occurs at a low level and doesn't hurt. The immune system doesn't switch off.
What can be done? Although more studies are necessary to determine the results scientifically, many people (including me) believe that their eating habits affect their health and can even help bring down chronic inflammation. Choosing foods rich in antioxidants is probably smart, and may even help you feel better while healing from Lyme infection. Antioxidants may slow down or inhibit the tissue damage caused by free radicals at the sites of inflammation.
The Mediterranean diet, for example, is high in antioxidants, including dark green leafy veggies, whole grains such as steel cut oats, nuts, oily fish such as salmon, and bright-colored fruits such as blueberries, pomegranates, dark cherries and raspberries.
Following an anti-inflammatory diet also means eliminating, or at least reducing food that can cause inflammation. Such foods include those with saturated fats, trans fats, corn and soybean oil, refined carbohydrates such as white sugars, red meat and dairy.
On a sunny day it's nice to come home from the grocery store or farmer's market and toss together a mouth-watering salad of greens. You might add in fresh ripe tomatoes, peas, shredded carrots and/or beets, and top it with a handful of broccoli or clover sprouts and drizzle on your favorite dressing. I like to crumble bits of organic goat cheese on top too. Raw foods can be beautiful to behold, and so full of zest and prana. The nicest part is that afterwards, you don't feel sluggish. Just clean and energized.
Fresh, raw food diets have been used with success to ease the pain of many chronic diseases. But your body must be at a stage where eating raw foods can help boost your vitality, and not simply give it more work to do. During an acute stage of Lyme disease, raw foods may be too harsh to digest. Before you become a raw foodie, talk with your Lyme doc. If possible, consult a nutritionist who is educated about Lyme disease.
During early or acute stages of Lyme disease, your body might not be able to handle many raw foods. However, since raw veggies are rich in enzymes, they can be very beneficial in later stages of Lyme.
Sprouts, though, are a helpful food to eat during any stage of Lyme. You don't even have to go to the store or the market for these - grow your own!
Given the right conditions, teeny-weeny vegetable seeds grow into flavorful veggies. Sprouted broccoli, clover and radish seeds can contain many times the nutrients of the mature vegetable. Broccoli sprouts are one of my favorites because they contain sulforaphane, a long-lasting antioxidant that has powerful anti-bacterial qualities.
Going raw is a personal choice, up to you and your doctors. You can always add more leafy green vegetables to your diet without going totally raw.
Veggies with sulforaphane:
It has been a year since a nasty little tick gave me the disease from HELL. But I am back among the living. And living well. Feeling better than ever! Something I did not think was possible a year ago. Some days were so hopeless and I was too tired to read in bed or walk down my driveway to get the mail let alone work or go out with friends.
I dreaded the full moon and nights of restless sleep and days of endless exhaustion. The joint pain was incredible and I could not think through the brain fog to function in any normal sort of way. I will forever look back on May 2008 as the beginning of my year in HELL.
Never mind the swirl of doctors and pills and tests that we have all gone through and the endless researching and reading to find an answer. I absolutely was consumed with finding a cure - I was not going to let this ruin my life. I was absolutely glued to my computer screen searching every LD site I could find.
Then later, when Under Our Skin came out (I bought an advance copy), I watched it over and over while I cried seemingly endless tears. But I refused to allow this to happen to me. Mine is a story of strength and perseverance and just plain stubbornness on my part. Even from the beginning I made my mind up that this THING was NOT going to get me. I was going to beat it.
And I have beat it. Thanks to self-determination, excellent nutrition, LOTS of exercise, and meditative positive thinking. Also, with support from my husband and an excellent local LPN, the only one in the medical community who would listen and help me with meds and support, and a team of online supporters.
I have WON this battle. I am symptom free now for over 3 months. No meds, no brain fog, no fatigue, no rash, nothing. I really am free of this dreaded disease. I now have my life back - whoooooooppppppeeeee!
It's difficult to eliminate the borrelia bacteria, so inflammation results, causing pain and wrecking all sorts of other havoc. On top of that, we must deal with the psychological or physical stress caused by the pain. And aside from the toxins that accompany and make up the borrelia bacterial complex, dealing with environmental toxins is generally a daily effort.
Antibiotics and herbal protocols are excellent help, but what else can be done about inflammation? This is where some people with chronic illnesses turn a critical eye on their diet and nutrition. And many claim that an anti-inflammatory diet can be a huge help in maximizing their healing protocols and helping to alleviate the intensity of Lyme symptoms and flaring herxes.
So, you're starting to feel a little normal after such a long fight with Lyme. Don't surrender to that deep dish cheese pizza! (Of course, a little treat now and then does the body good.) Steam delicious veggies instead, such as Swiss chard, kale, or mustard greens. Fix organic brown rice or rice noodles to go with them. If you can tolerate it, a bite of organic dark chocolate can make a yummy dessert.
Watch this blog for interviews with nutritionists and herbalists who work with Lyme patients, and delectable recipes for an anti-inflammatory diet. Remember, you don't have to change the way you eat forever -- you just have to give your body a break for a while, so your immune system response can strengthen. Eliminating foods made with wheat and dairy -- or at least, limiting them -- may boost your energy and reduce inflammation and pain.
Protein works through the lymph system to help carry nutrients to your cells, and carry away the waste. Jean says she practically begs her patients who won't touch meat or fish to consider eating an egg or a slice of cheese. Her concern is that many people who call themselves vegans and veggies often fail to educate themselves about alternative sources of protein. Instead of eating a balanced diet, they simply consume more pasta and grains: more carbs.
Carbohydrates increase inflammation, which is exactly what we Lymies are trying to avoid. So although it's very easy to fix up a plate of spaghetti with a quick and tasty marinara sauce when you're cold and tired, it may only exacerbate your Lyme symptoms.
Meat, cheese and fish is all good, if it works for you. However, many health and diet professionals believe it is possible to get enough protein on a high quality vegan or vegetarian diet. You must educate yourself. Protein is available in foods such as phytoplankton, beans and kelp. Mmm, right? I know some of you don't consider phytoplankton food, unless you're a Baleen whale fitted with a special feeding mechanism.
Although I haven't consumed fast food since high school days, I am not a vegetarian. I have a weakness for salmon and goat cheese. I do take supplements, however, like so many people dealing with Lyme, and because I know that protein is a must for keeping my immune system in check, phytoplankton capsules are high on my list of daily requirements.
If you're a vegan or vegetarian, how do you get enough protein? I'd love to hear from you.
We're investigating the varying opinions on the benefits of raw food in a healthy healing diet. Since this is such a big subject, let's start small. Consider the lowly sprout. You know how tiny seeds, jammed with nutritious compounds, grow into scrumptious vegetables. Sprouted veggie seeds such as alfalfa, clover, and radish can contain many times the value of the mature veggie.
So which is better for you? Broccoli sprouts or mature broccoli? A study of the tiny, peppery-flavored broccoli sprouts done in 1997 at Johns Hopkins discovered that they contained 20 times more sulforaphane than mature broccoli. Both the sprouts and the fully-grown vegetable (which, by the way, we love steamed with a spot of Bragg's) contain high levels of sulforaphane, a long-lasting antioxidant with anti-bacterial and anti-cancer qualities. Be an organic gardener and grow your own baby veggies. Broccoli sprouts are easy to grow right in your own kitchen. Eat them around their peak of potency -- when they're about three days old.
Whether you go raw or not, it's always a good idea to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. Eat more broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, in order to benefit from sulforaphane. Write these tasty foods on your grocery list: Bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, kohlrabi, mustard greens, turnip, radish and watercress.
According to Jean Reist, R.N., one good reason to get sufficient amounts of protein in your diet while you're healing from Lyme is to keep your lymph system working effectively. The lymph, or lymphatic system, is a major part of the body's immune system. Protein is necessary for transporting trace minerals through what is known as the extracellular matrix within the lymph system. Imagine the matrix as the white of an egg that's just been cracked open. You don't want it to congeal, as an egg white does in a hot pan, because it would get clogged up with toxins. You want your matrix to stay loose, efficiently transporting nutrients to the cells, and transporting that toxic waste away.
Vegans and vegetarians often eat soy products to boost their protein intake. Yet Reist, who treats Lyme patients in her Pennsylvania clinic, worries that the patients who eat soy may risk getting too much copper in their diets. Soy is high in copper, and evidence suggests that patients trying to heal from Lyme must also get rid of an overload of metals, including copper, mercury, lead and aluminum. She asks her patients to consider eating animal protein such as eggs, fish or whey while fighting Lyme.
Reist observes that vegetarian patients sometimes eat a lot of pasta and grain, which may be easy to prepare, but are high in carbohydrates. She says that for Lyme patients, loading up on pasta and grain instead of protein is not a good idea, for many reasons. For example, the grains wash away magnesium, and she says that Lyme patients tend to have a magnesium deficiency. In addition, carbohydrates drive inflammation, and as you probably are already aware, a big part of overcoming Lyme is fighting the accompanying chronic inflammation.
Jean Reist, R.N., participated in our ongoing expert audio interview series, which is available online for LDRD members.
Eating foods that help keep you warm will also help you achieve better balance, and support your immune system. Curries and salsas, though they may seem to be warming foods, are eaten in countries with warm climates, to help induce perspiration and cool the body. What is important now, especially if you're healing from Lyme, is to eat foods that help keep your body temperature normal.
Delectable, fragrant soups simmering on your stove can cheer up long, dark nights, and in addition, are warming and help keep the body's inner fire burning. Include a variety of grains with your winter meals, potatoes and other root vegetables, along with leafy greens, aduki and black beans, winter squash, walnuts, and a bit of meat - if you eat meat, that is. Greens are always important, and many people healing from Lyme employ raw foods with great success. However, during the coldest part of the year you should avoid raw salads, in fact in some schools of thought it is said that in winter, all foods should be cooked.
Thanks to Lesley Tierra, L. Ac., Herbalist, for the above information which is gleaned from her book, The Herbs of Life: Health and Healing Using Western and Chinese Techniques.
When I brought this up at the dinner table (yes, we ignore the rules about what can and cannot be talked about at dinner around here, and come to think of it, we don't even eat at a table, but never mind), I was reminded that in fact, many people don't take charge of their own healing. Not only that, but in our culture taking on responsibility for your own healing is a revolutionary act, a heroic act. A lot of people expect the doctor to make them better, presto change-o. Take this magic pill. Don't worry that the doctor doesn't even bother, to tell you what it is or what the generic name of it is, what the adverse side effects might be or even how long to continue taking it.
We live in a culture where we're unaccustomed to taking responsibility for our health. But healing, just as all art and acts of creativity, is way too important to be left solely up to the professionals. I love the advice I got from my Naturopath for healing Lyme disease. He recommended gathering a small group of medical advisors and consulting with them for the maximum of quality information. Imagine your healing journey as a road trip, he told me, and these advisors are in the car with you. Who do you choose to have along for the ride?