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Diet and inflammation

Indianspices
What is diet’s role in healing Lyme?

The body’s response to injury is often inflammation. This is beneficial in case of a cut or scratch.

But when the body’s immune system is chronically switched-on due to a Lyme bacterial infection, the resulting inflammation can wreck havoc.

What you can do to fight inflammation

Stress and medication contribute to inflammation, but so does a diet of refined carbohydrates and sugary foods, as well as dairy, red meat, and cereals.

Be proactive in your own healing

Eat a mediterranean-style diet free of foods that are known inflammation triggers. Inflammation may not sound serious -- but according to medical experts it is no joke, which is why it is called the silent killer.

Healing from chronic Lyme is not easy for many of us. Why gamble with your health by consuming foods that may cause your body even more harm?

Increase your healing odds by eating anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fishes (salmon, sardines, and mackerel), walnuts, green leafy vegetables, and many spices and herbs.

Bright yellow turmeric with black pepper reduces inflammation hiding in the body, and contains anti-aging properties. It is included in the treatment of many debilitating diseases such as diabetes, Alzheimers and arthritis, as well as Lyme.

Look around in the produce section. Let your senses guide you. Choose organic, healthy, brightly colored fruits and vegetables which are high in anti-oxidants. Our diets should include about two and half cups of vegetables and fruits every day.

Exercise — not just on the days you feel like it.

The mind is not always our friend. Sometimes it is a bully, interfering with the needs of the body by arguing that it’s too tired or too sick to move around even just a little.

I speak from experience!

Don’t let your mind work against your body’s best interests. Make an effort to override it. Form new habits. This takes courage, so don’t be surprised if you think this is a difficult task. It is. But aren’t things that are worthwhile usually kinda hard?

Here’s a motivating factoid to encourage you to exercise even just a little:

Exercise oxygenates the blood and kills spirochetes, which cannot survive in a high-oxygen environment. Be a spirochete slayer. Your mind will even be impressed.

No one in this world is more invested in your healing than yourself. Not your mom, your doctor, your spouse or even your dog. Only YOU can change your habits if needed.

A tasty, organic mainly-veggie diet and regular exercise are part of my healthy healing journey. I exercise every day now, but it took years to formulate working-out as a habit. I realize this means my mind is particularly stubborn. At least now its habit is a healthy one that it won’t let me give up!


Manuka honey and shea butter

Honey is healing, and for centuries societies around the globe have applied it to cure infection caused by wounds and other skin injuries.

Skin problems associated with Lyme disease can include severe rashes and intense itching. Honey can be used topically to help reduce inflammation and soothe itchiness.

Manuka honey is a special, potent healing balm. Bees collect it from the Tea Tree bush, widely praised for its cleansing and germ-killing abilities.

Manuka honey’s healing properties are so dependable and effective that it is used by medical personnel in Emergency Rooms for patients with critical burns and gunshot wounds.

It is sticky, like all honeys. So it should be covered once applied, but mixed with shea butter Manuka can soothe and heal irritated skin.

For help with a case of seasonally recurring eczema, I discovered that spreading on a blend of Manuka honey and shea butter before bedtime helps reduce inflammation and soften rough skin.

If you try it yourself, remember to cover with a non-stick bandage so it stays on your skin instead of ending up on the sheets!

A remedy for inflammation — and a yummy late-night drink

In my house, Manuka is also our favorite go-to for soothing scratchy throats due to colds or allergies. On a chilly night I love curling up with our two little doggies, and a good book, and sipping on a hot steamy mug of Lemon-Manuka.

Into a cup of hot water, stir in one teaspoon honey and a squeeze of lemon. Add a dash of cayenne pepper for a cup of cozy warmth.

Avoid eating sugar if you have active Lyme symptoms. You do not need to add to your body’s troubles by consuming this non-food food.

The point is to reduce inflammation, and sugar can cause insulin levels to rise, which results in plummeting blood glucose and encourages silent or low-grade inflammation. Stevia is a good sugar substitute and doesn’t react in the body like sugar.

Okay, so your turn! What is your favorite anti-inflammatory remedy?
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Sugar cravings and nightsweats: What is your gut trying to tell you?


Causes of autoimmune disease.
Dr. Peter Muran is like the Sherlock Holmes of Lyme literate doctors.

A physician who specializes in natural, alternative, and complementary medicine, with a background in engineering and chemistry, he says disease doesn't just happen.

He explains that preceding every disease, including chronic Lyme, there is a pathway, a chronological timeline that led to the condition.

Take, for example, the classic killer heart attack.

“Someone doesn't simply have a heart attack and die,” says Dr. Muran, who, along with his wife, Dr. Sandy Muran, practices Functional Medicine at Longevity Healthcare in San Luis Obispo, California.

There are factors that lead up to the cause of death, he explains. If you take an engineering approach and look for the clues, you can discover a telling storyline.

The heart attack does not come out of the blue. First, an occurrence of some sort leads to the clogging of the arteries, and then, this disease of the arteries develops until they get blockage, and then finally, the result is a heart attack.


Nudge it with a sledgehammer?
As he sees it, the doctors' job is not to come up with a diagnosis so that a label can be slapped on the illness, and a code to treat it can be decided upon.

Instead, his goal is to investigate the chronology leading up to the illness, to locate just where along the line the imbalance occurred. Then, he says, the doctor's job is essentially to get out of the way and allow the body to heal itself.

But in their effort to heal the patient, doctors can make errors in judgement.

For example, it only takes a nudge, a very mild or slight tuneup of the hormonal system for tremendous results, says Dr. Muran.

“When Prednisone is given to manage a slight cortisol deficiency in the hormonal system, it's like using a sledgehammer when all you needed was a tackhammer.”

What does this mean for us patients? It means that we can have some degree of control in changing our particular situation.

While there is no way to change the fact that we got Lyme to begin with, chronic Lyme can be examined objectively, looked at and analyzed the way one would a story—or a crime.

And a good place to start looking for clues is in our diet. Conventional doctors are not schooled in nutrition, so we'll get little help from them.


SAD but true
Most Americans, finds Dr. Muran, live to eat, intead of eating to live. The SAD (Standard American Diet) causes stress and inflammation and creates imbalances in the immune system. Under these conditions, diseases which we could normally keep in check are instead allowed to flourish.

Dr. Muran finds that patients dealing with chronic disease often do have problems in their GI tract.

Night sweats, sugar cravings, and other disturbances are often a result of the inflammation and imbalance in the gut caused by an unhealthy diet.

He points out that we are not subjected to anything separate from the earth, or sterile. “Our GI tract has 100 billion cells living in it,” he says, which is ten times the number of cells that make up our body.

It doesn't take an engineer, or even a Watson, to recognize that our bodies have an ongoing and continuous relationship with the earth, meaning the flora and fauna that live inside us, and that actually play a key role in our wellbeing.

Our bodies are miraculous and resilient. Given half a chance to survive, we may even begin to thrive. Making positive shifts in our lifestyle and diet can help us manage chronic Lyme.


Members, for further information about Dr. Muran's approach to managing chronic Lyme Disease, please listen to our 4-part interview with him in our Lyme Experts audio interviews series in the membership portal.


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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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Genomes of 13 strains Lyme bugs mapped

Lyme can sure be a complicated puzzle. For example, knowing that Lyme is an inflammatory disease is one thing. But knowing what to do about that is quite another.  My personal approach often feels scattershot: add turmeric to my supplemental arsenal. Take daily doses of quercetin. Drink water, exercise, avoid sugar.  But doctors are far from being in agreement about therapies, and health websites and magazines are stuffed with pop advice. Some is helpful, some is contradictory or otherwise confusing.

But what can medical science tell us about dealing with chronic inflammation? There is actually good news in this area from a recent study.

Researchers have mapped the genomes of the 13 strains of bacterium that play the most prominent role in causing Lyme disease. This project may help us understand why a significant number of Lyme patients suffer with a chronic inflammatory response. The study may yield some answers to the problem of inflammation, an auto-immune response. More importantly, it may give us clues about what to do about it.
Apparently the discovery is exciting Lyme researchers because they have found that proteins on the surface of the Borrelia bacterium can signal the immune system by attaching to receptors on the surface of white blood cells. The white blood cells are the ones responsible for fighting off infection.
That tiny attachment triggers production of an external protein that traps and stops other white blood cells from controlling the production of antibodies. When this occurs, antibodies are churned out in large numbers, often non-specifically, which results in inflammation throughout the body.
Researchers conclude that through therapeutic intervention they may be able to detach that external protein, and thereby suppress the inflammatory response.
Here is the abstract of the article, online in the Journal of Bacteriology:

Borrelia burgdorferi
is a causative agent of Lyme disease in North America and Eurasia. The first complete genome sequence of B. burgdorferi strain 31, available for more than a decade, has assisted research on the pathogenesis of Lyme disease. Because a single genome sequence is not sufficient to understand the relationship between genotypic and geographic variation and disease phenotype, we determined the whole genome sequences of 13 additional B. burgdorferi isolates that span the range of natural variation. These sequences should allow improved understanding of pathogenesis and provide a foundation for novel detection, diagnosis, and prevention strategies.

Consider the spirochete: a minute, ancient creature. And yet it can cause so much distress. Something so tiny and simple can wreck such collosol havoc. Now perhaps the discovery of this microscopic external protein, only recently become visible to scientists, can help bring about healing.
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How many vitamins are too many?


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.


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What's stressing you?

Stress is believed by many to be a huge contributor of illness. Struggling with Lyme disease symptoms is stressful not only on your physical and mental bodies, but also on your emotions. And to top it off, even your own awareness of the stresses in your life can be a source of anxiety.

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!



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Sweet seduction: Valentine's Day temptations

Whether you're snuggling close with your sweetie at the movies, or you doubt the merits of all this Valentine's Day mush, the challenges of a Hallmark holiday can strain the discipline of even the most determined person. When boxes of chocolates appear in every store window, and someone hands you a dish of Candy Hearts bearing messages such as "Be Mine" and "Tweet Me," how easy is it for you to just say no?

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.
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Eat your (fresh organic) veggies!

Summertime means fresh, organic veggies and fruits. I'm a sprouts fanatic. They're easy to eat and digest. I've always liked them, but even more so since I've been fighting Lyme. Sprouts are just so delicious and appealing.

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:

Bok choy
Brussels sprouts
Cabbage
Cauliflower
Collard greens
Kale
Kohlrabi
Mustard greens
Turnips
Radish
Watercress
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Add spice, reduce inflammation

Do you have an appropriate Lyme disease diet?

Low-grade or chronic inflammation accompanies a bacterial infection such as Lyme disease. Chronic fatigue and lethargy are produced when the body is busy fighting infection. Reducing inflammation is key in regaining vitality and healing. It's smart to include foods in your diet to help achieve those goals.

Help your body reduce damaging inflammation with the following:

* Eliminate refined sugar and processed foods
* Reduce stress in your daily life
* Get enough early morning sunshine


Add some spice to your life -- specifically, turmeric and ginger -- to help reduce inflammation. They are both part of the same family of plants.

Turmeric is used to lend mustard its yellow color. It is used frequently, though sparingly, in Indian food. The active substance, curcumin, is a powerful, yellow dye that will stain countertops and plastic food containers. It's also a well-known anti-inflammatory. Turmeric can be taken in capsule form or you can sprinkle it onto your food. I like it on my eggs for breakfast, or added to the stir-fry veggies we often cook for dinner. A general rule of thumb is to use about a teaspoonful or less in cooking. More than that will make your food taste bitter.

Ginger root is the underground stem of the ginger plant. The powder and the grated root are often used in cooking and baking. Ginger has medicinal qualities, and due to its anti-inflammatory element has long been used to aid in arthritis and ulcerative colitis. Among other uses, ginger is antibacterial, and effective as a digestive aid.

Nearly all of the people we've interviewed for our Lyme success stories have said that modifying their diet has improved their health significantly.

* What changes to your lifestyle and diet are helping you heal from Lyme?

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Lyme bugs crave sugar

Lyme bugs love sugar. However, Lyme symptoms may flare if you help yourself to the enticing cookie buffet. Cravings for certain foods, such as holiday desserts, are emotional, not physical. A plate of sugar cookies and a steaming mug of hot cocoa goes so perfectly with gray skies and long winter nights, right? Lyme disease, and any chronic disease, re-educates us about our cravings and appetites. Sugar makes the bugs happy and carbohydrates can increase inflammation. Lyme forces us to reconsider what makes us truly feel good. What foods add value to your healing? What foods subtract from it?

Sometimes we think we're choosing a healthy substitute when we're actually only making the problem worse. Tod Thoring, ND, recommends that you work with not just one doctor on your healing journey, but several. If possible, consider consulting a Lyme-literate nutritionist or naturopath.

Jean Reist, RN, who treats Lyme patients at a Pennsylvania clinic, told me that one of her patients decided he'd quit sugar, although he was addicted to Coca-cola. She'd informed him that his daily habit would keep him from healing, and that was enough to help him quit cold turkey. He got well enough to return to work, so he went back to his construction job. However, he missed his daily fix, so he picked up some Diet Coke and swigged it down.

Within days, his energy was totally drained and he was feeling sick again -- too sick to go back to work. His Lyme symptoms returned. He dragged himself back to Jean's office and told her about switching to Diet Coke. She told him that although it didn't contain sugar, it contained an artificial sweetener called aspartame, which is also sold as NutraSweet. The effects of substitute were even worse than regular sugar.

If strings of Christmas lights and gently falling snow make you want to bake a pumpkin pie, think about the Lyme bugs. They want more sugar -- don't let them have it. Although the herbal sugar substitute stevia is not sanctioned by the FDA as an artificial sweetener, many people use it in place of sugar. Try some in a cup of hot green tea, with a thin slice of fresh ginger. Ginger has long been promoted by herbalists for its overall soothing and warming effects. It may not replace the hot chocolate, but it will help take the chill off the cold winter nights.

Members, please visit the Interviews with Experts page for interviews with Tod Thoring, ND, and Jean Reist, RN.
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Lyme lowers body temperature


Lyme disease lowers body temperature.

Staying warm in the winter can be more challenging when you're fighting Lyme disease. You may even notice your symptoms increasing after you get a chill. When you wake up to a frosty morning, reach for a steaming hot cup of herbal or green tea to help shake off the fatigue. Add a slice of warming ginger. Lyme bacteria thrive in cool body temperatures, and many people suffering with LD actually have lowered body temps. That's why it's so important to get regular exercise and choose your beverages and foods wisely.

One of the nicest things (okay, sometimes the ONLY nice thing) about snowy weather is the occasional Snow Day. When I lived with roommates, and the snow happened to be piling up on a weekday night, we'd get up early and begin our Snow Day vigil at the kitchen table, where we could keep an eye out the front window. We'd make a big pot of coffee and tune into the local radio station to listen for the list of school closures, since we were all teachers at three different schools. I always wondered why I'd start to get chilled after my second cup.

One of the problems with coffee is that it cools your body, instead of heating it, like some spices and herbs will. For a real burst of warmth, add just a touch of cayenne. If you need sweetener, try agave nectar or a drop of stevia, not sugar, which is a no-no when you've got Lyme. Staying warm and healing is your goal through the chilly winter months.
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Craving Sweets? Sugar and its effects on Lyme

I recently met a very sweet Coloradan named Bea who was diagnosed with Lyme disease about a year and a half ago. Same time as I was. (Coincidentally, also the same time as singer Daryl Hall was, but that's a blog of a different color.) Anyway, Bea told me that after six months of taking antimicrobial herb supplements she's healthy, finally, after a terrible nine year battle. She said she's also changed her diet. I asked her what the main change was. “I used to love Little Debbie's and ice cream,” she said.

Sugar is bad for our health. Pretty much everyone knows that. So why do we continue to eat it? Well, it's in more foods than you may know, including bread, breakfast cereals, peanut butter, mayonnaise and ketchup. Do you eat microwaveable meals? They're full of added, refined sugars. Why? Sugar is addictive. Giant food corporations know that if they can hook someone on the sweet stuff they've got a steady stream of cash flow from the junk food junkies.

One of sugar's major effects on our bodies is to raise the insulin level. As a result, it suppresses the growth hormones and depresses the immune system. Lyme bacteria feasts on sugar and replicates, while the sugar also destroys the body's natural defenses against disease. Sugar is what to eat if you want to stay real sick. Just ask Bea, who is a healthy survivor of Lyme disease. “Now I understand that sugar feeds the Lyme bacteria,” she told me. “So I don't eat that stuff anymore.”
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