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splenda

Sweet Alternatives: Splenda or Stevia?

Have you thumped your thymus lately?

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!

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