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herxes

Mind your brain health!

Whether we’ve recently received a diagnosis of Lyme disease, or we’re dealing with recurring symptoms, eating right and exercising are core considerations of a good protocol. We know the importance of foods rich in Omega-3, lean proteins, and a rainbow of vegetables which are high in antioxidants and key vitamins. The physical health of the body is usually our main focus in healing from Lyme.

But what about mental health? You know, brain fog. One of the most disturbing things about Lyme is that the bacterial complex can actually cross over the blood brain barrier. That means it may affect your cognitive abilities, the ability to pay attention; your speech centers, creating stutters or slurs; your memory; your balance and more. I’ve found that
herxing can bring on a ridiculously frustrating case of brain fog, even when other symptoms have faded.

What is really hard to explain to someone who has never been through it, is the unique torment of days filled with sensations and events that you can’t know with certainty even exist. Did I hallucinate that smell, those sounds, or is there someone else in the house? And if that isn’t real, how can this physical pain be so tortuous? My heart goes out to anyone who is at that stage of Lyme.

As Winston Churchill famously said: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.”

Having been dragged by Lyme through the murk and come out on the other side, I can now look at that component of the disease with some objectivity. Yes, it’s crucial to take your
antibiotics (whether conventional or alternative), nourish your body with whole foods and detoxifying fruits like strawberries and blueberries, exercise and stretch whenever possible, and by all means rest.

But because of this mental component of Lyme, it’s also absolutely necessary to
exercise our brains, and therefore help keep our minds fit. The general rule is to try new things.

Try this:
Play music - dust off your violin or sit down at the piano
Go to a museum or concert - if you’re not well enough to do so, take a virtual museum tour online


Play games - try lumosity.com or brainmetrix.com
Paint
Write
Cook
Play Sudokus or do crossword puzzles
Read a book - on an iPad or the old-fashioned paper kind
Try learning a language

Almost anything can be learned online, either with a live teacher/virtual classroom or software program. If you have a yen for learning something, from Yoga to Mandarin Chinese to how to improve your fingerpicking technique on the ukelele, the important thing is to try something new. When you can.

Make a promise to your mind that you’ll do whatever you can to help your brain stay fit so that when you come out on the other side of Lyme disease, you will be smarter and healthier than ever. For it’s true what Nietzsche said: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.”

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Detox diet and chronic Lyme

The trick with any Lyme treatment is that detoxing will almost certainly bring on a Herxheimer reaction, referred to quite generously by some as a healing crisis. As anyone who’s experienced a Herx knows, it can be as bad as or worse than the Lyme symptoms themselves. Personally, I find it impossible to tell the difference.

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.

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Matthew Wood tells how teasel works

I feel great! It could be the sunshiny weather, or the fact that I am not Lymie anymore, having survived a recent herx. But I think what really lifted my spirits was talking with herbalist Matthew Wood, about the effectiveness of the herb teasel on Lyme and co-infections. I got a major energy boost from listening to him describe the way teasel works. After our conversation I immediately went to Amazon and ordered his book, The Book of Herbal Wisdom: Using Plants as Medicines which has a comprehensive chapter all about this strong herbal medicine. I can't wait to learn more about it.

Teasel is considered a common weed that can frequently be found growing alongside highways. It is not an herbal antibiotic. Matthew explains that instead of killing the bacteria itself, it actually changes the environment in the body in order to engage the body's own capabilities to kill off Lyme bacteria. By warming the cells and muscles, it invites the Lyme bacteria into the bloodstream, where the body can then detox.

The detox or herx reaction from teasel is apparently a force to be reckoned with. In Matthew's experience, people using it as a part of Lyme treatment notice this reaction starting in about the second week of use. Only a very few drops of this powerful herbal tincture can cause reactions. He is well-known in herbalist circles for recommending low dosages, and tells about a woman who called him after treatment with the happy news that she could tell the teasel was working at a very deep level of healing.

Matthew's latest book was co-written with Wolf D. Storl. Wolf is a German man who writes about healing himself of Lyme disease using teasel, in Healing Lyme Disease Naturally: History, Analysis, and Treatments. It is due out from Amazon in April and can be pre-ordered.

Matthew lives and practices in Minnesota, and teaches about herbal wisdom all around the world. He is a Registered Herbalist and holds a Master of Science degree from the Scottish School of Medicine at the University of Wales.

LDRD members, please login to access interview.
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Support while detoxing

With all the talk about Swine Flu, there's an abundance of common sense about how to stay healthy making the rounds on the Internet, such as washing your hands regularly and supporting the immune system. Immune support is as central to keeping the flu bug away as it is in healing from Lyme disease. And one important step in keeping healthy is detoxification. Detox is part of the one-two punch in Lyme management (along with antibiotics) that RN Ginger Savely describes in our experts interview series. But what happens when you try to detox too quickly?

Anyone dealing with Lyme is painfully familiar with stressful "Herxheimer Reactions," which occurs when toxins - Lyme bacteria - in the body die off faster than the organs of elimination can handle. Learning how to manage Herxes is important yet tricky business. Essentially experienced as an increase in symptoms, Herxes can include nausea, headaches, brain fog, vertigo or mood swings, bringing more stress to an already stress-loaded system.

Some experts and patients say the Herx just comes with the territory, that it's unfortunately one of the crummy things that Lyme patients must endure in order to get better. However, others claim that painful Herxes are more likely to occur when the organs of elimination lack sufficient support. For example, Jean Reist, RN, claims that the intensity of a Herx can be reduced and in some cases eliminated altogether. How? By supporting the lymph system, an important part of the immune system and a major player in elimination. The lymph must be maintained in order to carry toxins away from the cells. An act as simple as drinking plenty of water each day and routinely jumping on a mini-trampoline can help move the lymph, and reduce the effects of a Herx.

The organs of elimination include the liver, the bowel, kidneys, skin and lungs. Yes, deep breathing, which is used in meditation and yoga practice, is a way to remove toxins from your lungs, so remember to support your body in healing by taking a deep relaxing breath.
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