Give yourself a pain break

Illness doesn't take vacations. You don't get to clock out for long weekends of R & R. There are no breaks, no furloughs, no specific date you can circle on the calendar, flipping the pages and counting the days. Dealing with Lyme is a full time gig, especially when your symptoms are acute or you're in the midst of a flaring herx.

Since nobody at Lyme Headquarters is going to pop their head out the door, shake your hand, and tell you to go home and put your feet up, we need to remind ourselves. Take the opportunity to take a break. The whole world celebrates at this time of the year. Being sick now feels a bit like being the kid at boarding school with no parents coming to pick her up for summer. So even if you feel lousy, you're in pain, you wish you could formulate a complete sentence without forgetting what you were talking about...take time out. I've done it, and you probably have too, so I know it's possible.

When I was in an acute stage, bedridden and miserable, pain-breaks were few and far between. I learned a couple of tricks, a little mental prestidigitation. One was to watch funny movies and laugh. Out loud. Belly laughter is more than physical, it's a state of mind. It takes complete control of your attitude. It's really hard to be miserable and laughing at the same time. And for those few precious moments, I didn't feel the pain. In fact I felt happy, normal, and like everything was going to be alright.

Another trick I discovered, which isn't a trick but really more of a visualization, is to imagine another person, someone you either know or don't know, who is suffering worse than you. Sadly, we don't have to look far. Hold a picture of that person in your mind, take a deep, relaxing breath, and as you breathe out imagine all the pain and sickness draining from them. Whenever I do this, I can vividly imagine that other person smiling and rosy-cheeked, and I instantly (even if only for a moment) feel better too.

A doctor friend of mine tells me these little tricks are very healthy. She says they can even help break the cycles of pain involved in many chronic illnesses, cycles known as the pain cascade.

So take a pain break. Get on the phone to a long-lost friend, or e-mail them if talking is too tiring. Send e-mail notes to all your loved ones wishing them a happy holiday -- e-mail is less expensive and less work. Cut and paste. Watch a comedy on TV or rent a funny movie and let yourself get caught up in the silliness. Find a kid and tell them a knock-knock joke. I bet they'll have one for you, and it just might make you feel better.

We'll be here after your break, to wish you well, as always.

Happy holidays, everybody. Cheerio.

Immune system support

A few subscribers have said they're curious about my own particular healing protocol. We all know that there's no silver bullet where Lyme is concerned (although we wish) and that what works for your cousin or someone on your Lyme forum may not work for you, and vice verse. So keep that in mind. For the record, I feel great these days -- nearly normal (what a concept! Was I ever?). My routine is a blend of Dr. Cowden's and master herbalist Stephen Buhner's Lyme protocols, with a handful of other stuff thrown in for good measure. I get enough sleep, eat organic vegetables and fruits, try to exercise every day, and take probiotics.

One thing that I've learned from my own experience, as well as from talking to Lyme specialists and others who are healing, is that when you take antibiotics you must replace the friendly bacterial flora in your gut. Otherwise, "you can cause problems for yourself that are just as harmful as the Lyme symptoms themselves," says cardiologist and Lyme researcher Dr. Lee Cowden, whose herbal protocol for Lyme disease has helped many people. Even long after you stop taking antibiotics, probiotics can assist in bringing balance to your intestines. The intestines play a central role in the human immune system, and getting better is in many ways dependent on supporting the immune system.

So I want to mention something else I also take daily, a lactobacillus-based supplement that supports my immune system. I take 2 to 4 capsules daily, more if I feel stressed. It's called Del Immune V. A friend of mine sent me some when I first got diagnosed and I haven't been without it since. She takes it religiously too, as part of her protocol for hepatitis C. I have seen its effect on her, and the stuff is good. It seems to banish dark circles under her eyes, and best of all it seems to help lift her back to her natural wise, warm and witty self.

Although I haven't taken pharmaceutical antibiotics for two years, I've continued to take this high quality probiotic from Bulgaria. Although I may run out of other supplements and let them slide from time to time, I try to never go without Del Immune. It's made from a strain of lactic acid bacteria -- lactobacillus -- more precisely known as Lactobacillus rhamnosus, DV strain. The lactobacillus is cultured, then digested with natural enzymes that are an exact match to the enzymes in the human intestine, creating a product that is made of cell wall fragments containing pieces of cell DNA.

No silver bullets, but smart choices. Like eating organic and treating your tummy, and your immune system, with care.

Expert Interview Series: Carol Fisch

Carol Fisch is Adjunct Professor Emeritus of Laboratory Science. She is also a stealth pathogens researcher, teacher, and, as she also suffers from Lyme disease, an advocate and activist for those suffering from stealth pathogens and neuroendocrine disorders. In her outreach education, she explores the possibility that people with a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are dealing with a bacterial complex that also causes Lyme disease, among other illnesses.

"Most medical professionals, when speaking of Lyme disease, are typically referring to an outdated and over-simplified version of the disease that was once taught and believed that the main causative agent being dealt with was the Borrelia spirochete. We now know there are many agents involved," explains Carol.

"Many patients given a CFIDS or Fibromyalgia diagnosis, or a Gulf War Syndrome or Neuroborreliosis Complex (Lyme disease) diagnosis, are dealing not only with a spirochetal disease that causes multiple damage to the host but a very complex organism that causes multiple damage to the host. It is indeed a very complex organism within itself. Borrelia burgdorferi is one of the players in Neuroborreloiosis Complex."

Carol says she would like to see the medical community work more harmoniously together in an effort to find answers to the complicated challenges of these illnesses. She is hopeful that such unity is possible and imminent. As she says, "we have a long way to go but in working together hopefully we can come up with answers that help all of us to live healthier and more productive lives."

Carol's experience includes having been a medical laboratory advisor for tick borne illness testing. She is well-versed in microbiology, immunology and parasitology and has an excellent understanding of Cell Wall Deficient Organisms (CWD). I spoke with Carol about the significance of her work and research on Dec 11, 2008.

Members can log in and listen to the interview.

Let's Get the Lyme movie on Oprah

Dr. Mehmet Oz of the Oprah & Friends Network aired a 45-minute interview with director Andy Abrahams Wilson and medical correspondent Kathy Fowler on his nationally syndicated talk radio show November 26, 2008. Dr. Oz, a renowned surgeon and health expert, said "I was so moved!" and called Under Our Skin "a beautiful film...a whole different way of thinking about reporting on health."

Moved as he was, Dr. Oz expressed interest in trying to get Under Our Skin on Oprah, where he is a regular guest contributor. But first, in order to gauge viewer interest, Dr. Oz and Oprah need to hear from you. Here's what you can do -- and please remember to praise Dr. Oz's coverage of the issue and the film.

So now we know that we are on Oprah's radar... that is a big deal. But so far, there has not been an impressive enough response to Dr. Oz's show.

We need more. Get your friends, family, co-workers, doctors, nurses, anyone and everyone you know to write Dr. Oz. There are Lyme groups around the world - everyone needs to be passing this info along and getting everyone to email in. Can everyone post it everywhere.. email in. Ask friends and other people who know what you are going through to contact Dr. Oz.

Getting on Oprah would be a very huge deal.

Here is the info again to Email Dr. Oz.

Also, you can leave comments on Oprah's community forum.


Memory games

One Lyme symptom I really hate is the word-finding problem. You know how it is. You're talking to a friend and suddenly the word you're looking for seems to have been sucked into a black hole. It's not merely gone -- it's non-existent. Frustrating, huh? The good news is, you can improve your word recall by playing memory games. It doesn't take long, maybe 10 or 20 minutes a day. As with physical exercise, when you're consistent you see improvement., and offer different types of memory games, ranging from easy to very difficult. With practice, you can improve your brain processing speed and other cognitive functions. Games are addictive!

You don't have to go online, of course. Take that puzzle-in-a-box down from the shelf, dump out the zillion little pieces on a card table and pull up a chair. Our family always has at least one puzzle going around the holidays. It's a comfortable way to pass a rainy day together. Improving your concentration and recall by focusing on detail is an active, healthy way to participate in your healing journey. And you won't be thinking about Lyme bugs.

Natural-born killers

There's a spot of good news in Lyme research this week. Scientists trying to ferret out the role of NK (natural killer) T cells in white blood cells know that dysfunctional or deficient NK T cells seem to lead to autoimmune diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and rheumatoid arthritis -- the kind that plagues the knees of many chronic Lyme sufferers. It seems that these natural-born killer T cells play a big part in helping to clear out bacterial infection. Read on:


Research Shows Important Role of NK T cells in Fighting Lyme Disease

SAN DIEGO – (December 3, 2008) A research team led by the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology and Albany Medical College has illuminated the important role of natural killer (NK) T cells in Lyme disease, demonstrating that the once little understood white blood cells are central to clearing the bacterial infection and reducing the intensity and duration of arthritis associated with Lyme disease.

Click here for the full press release.

Getting enough protein

Jean Reist, RN, tells me she is concerned about her vegetarian or vegan Lyme patients. She worries that they aren't getting enough protein, which is crucial in a healing diet. Protein, she says, is required to maintain a fully-functioning immune system. Being one of those people who hasn't eaten red meat since 12th grade when I ditched school to sit and scarf down Macs and fries with my buddies, I listen carefully when I hear Lyme specialists discuss the need for protein.

Protein works through the lymph system to help carry nutrients to your cells, and carry away the waste. Jean says she practically begs her patients who won't touch meat or fish to consider eating an egg or a slice of cheese. Her concern is that many people who call themselves vegans and veggies often fail to educate themselves about alternative sources of protein. Instead of eating a balanced diet, they simply consume more pasta and grains: more carbs.

Carbohydrates increase inflammation, which is exactly what we Lymies are trying to avoid. So although it's very easy to fix up a plate of spaghetti with a quick and tasty marinara sauce when you're cold and tired, it may only exacerbate your Lyme symptoms.

Meat, cheese and fish is all good, if it works for you. However, many health and diet professionals believe it is possible to get enough protein on a high quality vegan or vegetarian diet. You must educate yourself. Protein is available in foods such as phytoplankton, beans and kelp. Mmm, right? I know some of you don't consider phytoplankton food, unless you're a Baleen whale fitted with a special feeding mechanism.

Although I haven't consumed fast food since high school days, I am not a vegetarian. I have a weakness for salmon and goat cheese. I do take supplements, however, like so many people dealing with Lyme, and because I know that protein is a must for keeping my immune system in check, phytoplankton capsules are high on my list of daily requirements.

If you're a vegan or vegetarian, how do you get enough protein? I'd love to hear from you.

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.