Getting the medical community to recognize and treat Lyme disease with medicine is difficult and even with treatment, some of the symptoms linger. Many people have found tremendous benefit in changing the diet to reduce the symptoms of Lyme and maximize the immune response to let the body do as much as it can to combat the infection.
While there are sure benefits to ensuring “overall” nutrition or simply making sure you are getting enough of the “regular” stuff, there may be some additional guidelines you should consider such as inflammation, immune system, hormone support, preventing yeast, and detoxifying. Many of these issues can be addressed with three basic concepts.
You may not be able to – or may not want to go “all the way” with any of these concepts – but even changing your diet just a little can help.
These days, gluten seems to be the answer to everything. The concept of gluten-free eating provokes either an enthusiastic or a visceral reaction in most people. The problem is that truly eating “gluten-free” can be very difficult – and more expensive.
Gluten is the protein, most commonly in breads and other starchy products that gives the “gluey” and “stretchy” quality in breads. While gluten has allowed us to eat nice, soft white bread, fast food like hamburgers, pizza and packaged foods – it isn’t really what we were meant to eat. There are a lot of advocates of the “Paleo Diet” which is basically “eat like the cavemen did”. There are a lot of anti-advocates of the Paleo Diet as well and it certainly won’t address all of the Lyme related nutritional issues – but it does have one thing going for it – no gluten.
Our bodies were not evolved to eat a lot of gluten. When we were “hunters and gatherers” – eating grain was a “bonus” not a necessity. Primitives had to base food consumption on calorie value for least amount of effort expended. Gathering, threshing, grinding, and baking grain takes a lot of work – so we didn’t eat much.
Because our bodies were developed without the digestion of gluten as a major consideration, we respond poorly to gluten with increased inflammation. Inflammation is a major issue in Lyme disease – causing joint pain, edema, and headaches.
Again, consider the caveman. Processed sugar was not readily available in primitive days. Any sugar we consumed was naturally derived from fruits – or from the rare attack of a beehive. High sugar diets and diets comprised of simple carbohydrates (incidentally like white bread, white rice etc) are also inflammatory.
In addition, high sugar diets are yeast-promoting. This causes extreme problems in two obvious areas – but can also cause systemic problems. High sugar diets give yeast (Candida organisms) the exact food they like to consume. Proliferation of yeast causes rashes, fungal infections and a number of nasty skin conditions all over the body – it also affects the GI system.
The gastrointestinal system is the first line of defense for the immune system. Up to 90 percent of the antibodies used to combat infections are produced in the gut. Candida exists in a careful balance with other microorganisms in the GI tract but when excessive amounts of sugar are consumed, the Candida can take over. Immediately, this causes GI upset – diarrhea, gas, cramping, sometimes constipation – but over a longer period of time can decrease the immune system functioning, making it harder to combat sneaky diseases such as Lyme.
Incidentally, high fiber and complex carbohydrates from structured fruit (like apples), vegetables and WHOLE grains – don’t have the same immediate effect. One thing that can combat yeast formation is the use of Lactobacillus – either in natural yogurt or as a refrigerated supplement.
Oxalates are inflammatory chemicals that are present in some types of food. The list is varied but includes:
- Instant Coffee
- Citrus Peel
- Black Pepper
Eating foods that are high in oxalic acid or oxalates increases the inflammation in the body – again causing pain, headaches, fatigue etc. Supplements such as calcium citrate and magnesium citrate can bind oxalic acid – but Lactobacillus can also help. Other supplements are also thought to help like Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B6 and the Amino Acid Arginine.
You can’t solve all of the Lyme problems through nutrition – but in addition to ensuring that you have normal “adequate” nutrition – you should consider:
- Eliminating or reducing gluten
- Eliminating or reducing refined sugar and carbohydrates
- Eliminating or reducing oxalates
- Taking Lactobacillus supplements on a regular basis
Bonus: 1 Food You Definitely SHOULD Eat if You Have Lyme Disease
A diet that facilitates Lyme Disease treatment is largely defined by what you can’t eat. However, there is one food that is so helpful that it’s worth making sure you eat it. That food is coconut oil. Coconut oil has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties, making it a useful addition to any diet but particularly one meant to help the healing process. Plus, it tastes great!
At our house we usually buy this one because it’s organic, reasonably-priced, very neutral tasting and comes in a large container (because we use lots of it).
This is just the start of what you need to know about Lyme disease. Take a look at our Lyme disease topic page to get a fuller education on the subject.