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Gluten-free

Diet and Supplements

Lyme makes excellent troubleshooters of us. People with Lyme disease are an innovative species. We tend to reach out and try new things. We've got to, because sometimes that's the only way to find the best remedies and treatments for our particular situation.

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.

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Gluten free cooking can taste good

Gluten is the protein in grains that makes bread chewy, the glue that makes it rise and holds it together. Increasingly, people dealing with Lyme disease symptoms are adopting a gluten free diet. Some LLMDs recommend it, based on the rise of increased gluten sensitivity seen in Lyme patients.

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.

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