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The incidence of Lyme disease in the United States has doubled since the ‘90s, with nearly half a million people contracting the disease each year. Sadly, many Lyme patients can suffer long-term, chronic health issues. And while antibiotics and other pharmacological treatments can be effective, they often fall short.
The BEST way to keep your body healthy when dealing with Lyme disease is to support your body’s natural defenses with proper nutrition. Treatment with antibiotics alone may not completely eradicate the disease and can even lead to antibiotic-resistant cells that are even harder to combat. Studies have shown that herbal remedies can be MORE effective than drugs at beating the disease.
Fortunately, you can give your body a fighting chance against Lyme disease by following 3 nutritional guidelines that will fight the bacteria and assist your recovery. With these nutritional tips, you can live a happier, healthier life.
3 Ways to Fight Lyme With Nutrition
1 | Ditch the Junk Food
The foods you choose to eat can either help or hinder your recovery from Lyme disease by impacting your body’s inflammatory burden. The Standard American Diet, rich in refined carbohydrates and industrial seed oils, increases the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune molecules that trigger an inflammatory response).
Many of the same pro-inflammatory cytokines triggered by the SAD diet are also triggered by Lyme disease and other tick borne infections. The SAD diet is also associated with an impaired immune response, which is the last thing you want when you’re battling an infection.
Before adding good foods to your diet, it’s important to cut out the bad ones. Here are a few foods that should be avoided if you’re dealing with Lyme disease:
- Processed foods
- Refined carbohydrates (found in candy, enriched bread, pasta, cakes, and soda)
- Excessive alcohol
It’s best to look for natural, organic, limited-ingredient foods that will fuel your body rather than slow it down.
2 | Anti-inflammatory Foods
Once you clear out the troublemakers, you can begin to support your body with solid nourishment. Shifting your food focus to foods that are packed with nutrients and those with strong anti-inflammatory effects is a good strategy to support healing.
Rather than opt for “cheap” carbohydrates in the form of processed grains and sugars, choose complex carbohydrates in the form of cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts), leafy greens, fermented vegetables, and other cultured foods.
Some anti-inflammatory superstars include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids: Preclinical research indicates that the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA can balance the inflammatory response in Lyme disease by impacting populations of immune signaling molecules. We recommend that Lyme patients consume at least 3-4 servings of fatty cold-water fish, preferably wild-caught, per week as a source of omega-3 fatty acids. When selecting seafood, use the acronym SMASH to remember which types of seafood are the most nutrient-dense and lowest in mercury – salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring.
- Cruciferous vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower provide sulforaphane, a phytochemical that reduces inflammation via the anti-inflammatory Nrf2 cellular signaling pathway. Activation of the Nrf2 pathway creates glutathione, which your body needs to manage Lyme-induced inflammation and mount a healthy immune response. Microgreen and broccoli sprouts are also an excellent source of sulforaphane and are easy and fun to grow at home.
- Fermented foods: Fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi contain probiotic bacteria and other bioactive compounds that reduce gut inflammation and improve the immune system of the gut, which has significant effects on systemic immune function.
No anti-inflammatory diet would be complete without anti-inflammatory herbs and spices. Many contain antioxidant phenols that help block glycation and the formation of pro-inflammatory advanced glycation end products, as well as help repair the intestinal damage linked to chronic inflammation.
Some of the top anti-inflammatory herbs & spices include:
- Cloves: This effervescent spice ranks among the most potent anti-inflammatory spices in the world, according to a study published in the Journal of Medicinal Foods.
- Ginger: One study suggests ginger is as strong and effective as many non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, except without the harmful side effects!
- Turmeric (curcumin): This is one of the most powerful medicinal herbs on the planet, and one I believe belongs in everyone’s diet.
- Cinnamon: Cinnamon is loaded with powerful antioxidants and may lower blood sugar in people with diabetes.
- Oregano: Numerous compounds in this common cooking spice, including thymol and carvacrol, help reduce levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Marjoram: A study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that this tasty Mediterranean spice not only heals gastrointestinal ulcers but also repairs damaged intestinal walls. This is where pro-inflammatory substances enter the body and cause serious damage.
- Sage: Studies have shown that sage supports healthy immune function and exhibits strong anti-inflammatory properties. It’s also inherently anti-cancer!
3 | Fight With Fiber
High fiber foods help keep your intestinal tract healthy. Healthy digestion and good bowel function is critical when you are working to resolve Lyme disease (or any illness for that matter). The recommended daily intake of fiber from food is 25 to 30 grams.
Fiber is useful for regulating blood sugar and the bowels. Again, assisting the body with detoxification by eliminating wastes. If you are not eliminating with regularity you need more fiber in your diet. There are 3 things to consider when evaluating your fiber intake:
- Elimination is your body’s major detoxification mechanism. When you poop, your body gets rid of the by-products of die-off and other metabolic waste. Normal bowel function consists of 1-3 well-formed, easily passed stools each day.
- Absorption is another important factor. While water, some minerals and alcohol can be absorbed in your stomach, most nutrients are absorbed in your small intestine. When the junctions between cells in the intestinal cell wall are damaged, it creates something called “leaky gut,” or intestinal permeability. A leaky gut can allow toxins, microbes, and antibodies to escape from your intestines and travel throughout your body via your bloodstream.
- Immunity: Up to 80% of the immune system is located in the gut. In fact, the gut is often called the “second brain” because it interacts with hundreds of hormones in the body by way of beneficial bacteria. This is key information for those with Lyme disease because we know that Lyme and co-infections can reside in the gut. That kind of imbalance serves to further stress immunity.
But fiber can be found abundantly in nature; you just have to know where to look. Nutrients for probiotic bacteria come in the form of certain kinds of fibers called “prebiotics.” Vegetables containing these fibers include:
- Dandelion greens
Lyme disease can become a serious illness if not treated quickly. Since pharmaceutical interventions can fail – or even make the disease worse – it’s imperative that you support your body’s natural defenses with proper nutrition. By cutting out toxic, inflammatory foods, consuming nutrient-rich foods that fight inflammation, and getting the fiber you need to maintain a healthy gut, you’ll be well on your way to reclaiming your health!
For more information about Lyme disease (and how you can reduce your risk), check out this article.