Nutrition 4: Lyme Disease and Post Lyme Syndrome
Living in the beautiful Berkshires and being diagnosed with Lyme disease is an all too common occurrence. As an avid hiker, I wasn’t surprised when a bout of unexplained fatigue and joint pain ended up exposing the presence of my own Lyme antibodies.
While Lyme treatment is common and often generalized, I found it difficult to find resources that could help me support my body with nutrition and lifestyle interventions both during and following my Lyme treatment, particularly in regards to the development of Post Lyme Syndrome.
What is Post Lyme Syndrome?
Post Lyme Disease Syndrome (PLDS) is believed to be a triggered autoimmune response following treatment. Some researchers believe to be an undetectable, persistent low grade infection. People who experience PLDS need to optimize immune support to keep inflammation low and ramp up detoxification both during and following a course of antibiotic or antimicrobial therapy.
How to support your body during and post treatment for Lyme Disease-
There are many ways to support yourself during and following your treatment for Lyme disease. Starting in the gut, where 70-80% of the immune system is located, is probably the most important.
Most of our immune response is triggered by the diversity of our microbiome. These microbes influence homeostasis, inflammation, and many other pathways and system interactions in the body. If these beneficial microbes are not supported, it can have a direct effect on immune reactivity.
4 Areas of Focus
- Supporting the immune system with food-
- Eat sulfur-producing foods- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, broccoli sprouts, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, bok choy, and kohlrabi are all excellent sources of gut friendly fibers and phytonutrients. One particular phytonutrient called glucosinolate is metabolized and utilized to feed the microbiome and can also aid in the production of glutathione. Sulforaphane, a product of the utilization of glucosinolate, is particularly concentrated in broccoli sprouts.
Allium vegetables like leeks, garlic, onions and shallots contain gut friendly prebiotic fibers. These fibers are fermented by beneficial bacteria and can enhance the immune system. Allium foods also contain antioxidant, anti-microbial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Eat prebiotic-rich foods- Prebiotic foods feed the good bacteria found in the gut. Plant sources of prebiotics include asparagus, dandelion greens, cooked and cooled potatoes and rice (resistant starch), onions, garlic, sweet potatoes, and jicama.
- Get adequate protein- The proper amount of bioavailable, high quality protein at every meal is a pivotal piece of gut health. Making sure to include organic and pasture raised meats, wild caught fish, wild game, nuts, seeds, nut butters, organic whole soy, beans, and legumes. Collagen peptide powder and bone broth should also be included to help repair the gut and support immune function while healing.
- Eat the rainbow– Including phytonutrient, antioxidant, and polyphenol-rich foods can help ward off oxidative stress and help protect the body during and after Lyme treatment. Foods that contain these compounds include deeply pigmented fruits and vegetables like purple sweet potatoes, cabbage, berries, citrus fruits and pomegranates, herbs like parsley and cilantro, spices such as turmeric and cinnamon, green tea and dark leafy greens.
- Eat anti-inflammatory fats- Choosing the right fats can have a direct impact on the body’s ability to heal. Processed, refined vegetable oils high in Omega-6 fatty acids can be pro-inflammatory. Opt for organic cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, olives, wild fatty fish, avocados, grass-fed meats, and ghee. For cooking, ghee, coconut oil, and avocado oil are best for medium-heat cooking or lower, and olive oil is great for low-temperature cooking, and for dressing food.
2. Support the gut-
- Remove food sensitivities- Common “heavy hitter” food sensitivities like gluten, dairy and eggs can drive inflammatory responses that start in the gut but can eventually impact the body systemically, even if no true allergies are present. Consider removing these foods from your diet during Lyme treatment to help combat any potential oxidative stress that can accompany food sensitivities.
3. Herbs for gut healing and immunity–
- Immunomodulators can help cells differentiate from invaders and host immune cells and help to stave off an immune reaction. Medicinal mushrooms like shitake, reishi and chaga as well as herbs such as licorice root, echinacea, astragulus and ashwagandha are all powerful immunomodulatory compounds.
- Mucilage herbs can rebuild the mucous membrane of the gut. If the gut is compromised it can let in potential “immune invaders” like proteins, toxic compounds and pathogens. Slippery elm, marshmallow root, DGL (deglycyrrhizinated licorice root), plantain and yarrow can be taken in herb capsule form and powder form or found in a variety of soothing herbal teas.
4. Self-care practices-
- Self-care during healing could be the largest piece of the puzzle, and sometimes the most overlooked. Taking a break from vigorous exercise and stressful schedules may sound impossible for some of us, but if healing from Lyme is the ultimate goal, they are steps you will need to take. Some good self-care ideas for Lyme recovery include:
- Restorative exercise like walking, yoga, and tai chi.
- Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts and lavender in the evening to induce restful sleep and ease muscle soreness.
- Get a massage, dry brushing, or an infrared sauna can help to stimulate lymphatic detoxification.
- Listening to music, reading, napping, lighting candles, and turning the lights low in the evening rather than using devices have also been shown to support immune health and healing.
Remember, supporting the body as a whole when healing from Lyme will be the defining factor that helps your body to fully heal and put you back on the path to health and vitality.