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lymphatic system

What's Lymph got to do with it?

Lyme disease typically clogs up the lymph system, which is foundation of our immune system. The lymph system plays the role of our body's clean-up crew or garbage collector. It gathers waste products, dead microorganisms, damaged cells, and bacterial toxins that would otherwise trigger inflammation anywhere in the body. The lymph system is linked to the tonsils, the thymus, the spleen, lymph nodes and the large intestine. These organs are all about taking out the garbage. I know how my kitchen stinks if one of us forgets to take the trash out. Don't let your inner garbage sit around. It's toxic. Get it moving.

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.


Reference
Storl, Wolf D. (2010).
Healing Lyme disease naturally: History, analysis, and treatments. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.


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Healing from Lyme - Part 3

For several years, although I had worked my way to the point where I was well enough to work and follow a somewhat normal routine, I still doubted that I’d ever live a life of my own choosing again, where I wouldn’t wake up feeling like I had lead in my veins and my head wasn’t stuffed with cotton candy. Eating nutritious foods and exercising regularly are two important keys for maintaining my healthy state.

If you want to know how not to lie to yourself about your diet, try keeping a journal where you chart everything you eat. In one column write down the food you ate, and make a column next to it where you note how it made you feel. This is a very basic way to figure out exactly what you’re eating, not what you tell yourself you’re eating. Some doctors tell me that they have their patients keep a similar type of journal when they’re trying to identify food allergies.

My diet is made up of mainly vegetables, some tuna and wild Alaskan salmon, raw and stir-fried or steamed veggies & curry, some fruit, legumes, and breads or tortillas. Some of the bread I buy is gluten free and I like the pasta made from brown rice, but I am not particularly bothered by digestive issues, and regular bread works for me too. In general, if it’s wholesome food with not too many ingredients that I can’t pronounce or recognize, it works.

My current favorite food is a wrap. I love wraps because instead of bread, you’re using a thin tortilla, and you can pack them with all sorts of veggies and greens. Stir-fry is good for that too. A lot of vegetables taste excellent in a wrap or a stir-fry that aren’t that delectable when eaten raw or steamed. I don’t generally drink alcohol or eat sugar, although I will indulge occasionally in a beer or cookies, but not often. Alcohol and sugar pull the wool over my eyes. Literally. When I drink or pig out on sugary things I get Lymie. It’s awful to experience Lyme brain again. It’s so wonderful and amazing to have a clear head again, why go there?

I know you’ve heard this a million times, but remember to drink enough water! Liquids are needed to assist the lymph system. I drink water or tea all day long. Green, not black. Black makes me jittery. Coffee only as a treat very infrequently. Tea is alkaline, coffee is acidic and drinking it tends to make me feel chilly. Tea doesn’t do that.

Lately I’ve been drinking a lot of tea made from bamboo leaves. The bamboo leaf tea has about 350 mgs of silica per cup, it tastes great and also helps me sleep. This isn’t technically a real tea. It’s a tisane, or an infusion. Bamboo has the highest amount of silica, a basic mineral that our bodies slough off constantly in the form of dead skin cells, hair, and nail trimmings. Silica is the main ingredient in collagen, which is so essential to rebuild as collagen is destroyed by the Lyme bacteria.

Especially as we get older we need to be mindful of getting enough silica to maintain the levels we need for healthy hair, skin, nails and bones. Studies are showing that silica is the body’s delivery system for calcium. So if you have enough silica in your diet, the calcium can be delivered to the organs properly. As an interesting side note, studies are also showing that this tea can pull out the aluminum in the body and brain. Researchers are intrigued by this finding, and it may be quite useful in cases of Alzheimer’s.

Smoothies are a treat and a regular part of my diet. Delicious, fresh smoothies made of rice milk, berries, a banana and green food powder are very satisfying. Sometimes I put in protein powder if I’ve been working out particularly hard.

I’ve made other life style changes. The main one is that now I exercise religiously. I used to just dance and walk for exercise, but I wasn’t doing either with any sort of regularity. If it happened, it happened. Then about two years into my healing, my shoulder started to freeze up. I was so frustrated, because I was working really hard to clear up the nasty neurological, skin and heart problems I was having, and had begun to track some very good progress. Then one day I realized that I couldn’t move my shoulder and it was painful. It was disheartening. My partner suggested that I try some exercises, in particular push-ups. Hated those push-ups at first, but I was determined to fix this without drugs, and I did. It took about two years, but now my shoulder gives me very little trouble and I have full range of movement. That was the beginning of my now-regular exercise phase. I love working out now, but at first it was difficult. I hadn’t realized how out of shape I had gotten from being sick, and from my work life style, which is sitting at a computer all day (can you relate?).

I used an exercise CD at home for about a year before I had the nerve to join the Y and exercise in front of others. Then I decided to join a private gym that had something called a kinesis wall. Essentially, the kinesis wall is an apparatus with several stations that enable the user to get a rigorous, core-strengthening workout. Very much like Pilates. I took a weekly class with a very skilled coach, which got me started off on the right foot. I recommend classes instead of private coaching if you want to save some money. They’re fun, and also you meet other people, great for team spirit and camaraderie.

I’m fortunate in that I work at home. For the past 7 years I’ve been in charge of my own work schedule. That has been extremely helpful. If I’m honestly too tired to work I can take a nap. I can also stay close to the bathroom, which helps when you drink so much water.

My heart goes out to everyone who is suffering with Lyme and has to maintain a job where they have to leave the house every day. This can be a bear of an illness, and that life style can be merciless. If that is your situation, see if you can look into telecommuting, even part of the week. Staggering your work hours so you aren’t dealing with bad traffic patterns, a real stress-inducer, can help a little bit too.

So that’s where I’m at currently. Please tell me if any of this resonates, or helps to hear, or if you have an idea that you think could benefit others healing from Lyme. Do you keep a food journal, or an exercise journal? I’d love to hear about your journey and your results.


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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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Medical pro explains link between protein and healing

You know it's important to eat protein, but do you know why?

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.
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