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In the spring of 2009, there was a war waging inside my body. I sat on the edge of my bed that morning and forced myself to get dressed. Lyme Disease had crept in and cunningly hijacked my health. I would soon learn the benefits of an integrative approach to managing Lyme disease.
I wondered how long I could go on ignoring the symptoms.
At first, I attributed my swollen knees to years as a long-distance runner combined with just getting older. Then one day, I noticed swelling in my wrists and ankles. Still, I dismissed the signs as the inevitable markings of mid-life.
Six months or so later, overwhelm settled in like an uninvited guest. I would later learn the term for this condition is “Lyme brain.” At the time, I was trying to homeschool four of our six kids and manage my daily responsibilities.
A friend called, somewhat irritated because I neglected to return her several attempts to contact me. As my health slowly eroded, it took every bit of energy to get through the day, so returning phone calls ranked low on the list.
When the short-term memory loss, coupled with difficulty completing sentences emerged, I went to see my physician. After a brief conversation and examination, she wanted to write me a prescription for depression medication.
Puzzled and perplexed at this diagnosis, I brought up Lyme Disease. After all, we live in the epicenter of the disease, so it wouldn’t be out of the question to suspect Lyme.
She agreed to run a battery of tests with a little persuasion, including the three Lyme tests.
The trouble with getting help
Two weeks slipped by, and one evening in early March, my physician phoned to say that the test results indicated acute Lyme Disease. She admitted not knowing much about the disease beyond a thirty-day round of the antibiotic doxycycline.
After we hung up, I knew I would be responsible for getting help in regulating the disease. Whatever energy I had at the end of the day, I researched and inquired about treatment.
Finding a Lyme literate physician that I could afford was a challenge. Ironically, our health insurance did not cover the costs of treatment beyond antibiotics.
Managing Lyme Disease, so What’s next?
One of the thorniest issues in Lyme disease is the use of antibiotics. While the IDSA and CDC say a short course of medications will knock out the illness, many patients find that not to be the case, including me.
“Since traditional antibiotic approaches fail to resolve symptoms in up to 25% of patients treated for Lyme disease and many suffer disabling effects of the disease, it requires a rigorous approach to treatment.
If the tick-borne disease thrives within your body, it can generate multiple issues in other systems of your body.
Reset the body
Three of the most important initial steps to take in eradicating the disease are:
- Controlling inflammation by removing gut-disrupting, inflammatory, hormone-unbalancing food groups from your diet and feed the body unprocessed, real food.
- Decrease immune dysregulation
- Reduce auto-immune activation
Nutrition will become one of the most powerful weapons in your healing arsenal. We often take better care of our cars than we do our bodies. That is until faced with a health crisis.
Improve gut health
Over 70% of the immune system resides in the gut. Restoring or improving a healthy gut environment should be part of your frontline protocol in reclaiming your health.
An anti-inflammatory eating plan provides the right foods to fight infection. It would help if you had an intestinal tract that can wage war on intruders like bacteria, viruses, yeast infections, toxins, food allergies, and stress.
We refer to a gut that is incapable of an aggressive attack on hostile enemies, a “leaky gut.” It’s no longer an effective barrier.
There are many ways to improve and strengthen your gut health. Your Lyme disease eating plan includes fresh fruits and vegetables, organic meats, herbs, and spices.
Your eating protocol should exclude processed foods, sugar, grain, and dairy.
The typical Western diet or Standard American Diet (SAD) increases inflammation and impairs your body’s ability to battle infection.
A recent study conducted by D.L. Katz of Yale University School of Public Health and S. Meller of Yale University School of Medicine studied several dietary plans and concluded that:
Probiotics offer a bounty of benefits—from digestive health to neurological wellness. Also, they restore a balance of healthy gut bacteria that supports your overall well-being.
Another tactic to bolster your immune system is to eliminate toxins in your body and reduce reentering chances.
To eliminate toxins, I recommend an effective detoxification routine. Some of the most powerful herbs and supplements for detoxification are:
- milk thistle
- Burdock root
- slippery elm
- Dandelion root
- Curcumin (liver support)
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) maintains immune health
Other detoxification methods are smoothies, Epsom salt baths/foot baths, ionic foot baths, or dry skin brushing.
It is also important to remember to remove environmental toxins like synthetic cleaning and body care products.
In some cases, the toxic contents in conventional make-up products could weaken my at-risk immune system or disrupt my endocrine system. Even without pre-existing health risks, you still want to part ways with the harmful contaminants in your favorite tawny foundation.
Here is a shortlist of the dirty cosmetic chemicals to avoid:
- BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) nicknames: benzoic and benzyl
- DMDM hydantoin preservative that releases formaldehyde (yes, the same liquid you used in high school biology class)
- Parabens (alkyl-p-hydroxybenzoate) a major endocrine disruptor
- Phthalates Family and the Phthalate cousins: DEP (diethyl phthalate), DBP (dibutyl phthalates), DEHP (diethylhexyl phthalates).
- Sodium Laurel Sulfate
Long term stressors that can negatively affect your adrenal system because your survival response to stress is on “over” drive. Dr. Aviva Romm explains that “when you are in a constant state of stress, the short-term beneficial responses to stress backfire which manifest in negative ways like:
- blood sugar problems
- brain fog
- sleep issues
- digestive issues
- food cravings
- frequent illness
- hormonal imbalance
- weight gain
If Lyme Disease or chronic illness has already manifested some of these side effects, your goal is to reduce stress so that you can manage these symptoms.
Sufficient sleep supports the body in fighting off invaders.
Tips for improved sleep:
- Structure your bedtime routine by going to bed at a consistent time and getting up at the same time each morning.
- Create an environment that welcomes sleep. Make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark, relaxing, and temperature regulated.
- Avoid consuming large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before your established bedtime.
- Establish a daily exercise routine. Physical activity during the day promotes sleep at night.
Look back to move forward.
I remember the exact day that my body started to respond to my Lyme protocol. Sometimes we have to look back so that we can appreciate moving forward.
Kneeling on the soft spring earth weeding and pruning, it felt wonderful to be back in my garden, a place I avoided since my diagnosis. Then I stood up and realized an increase in my energy level. A wave of relief flooded my body.
My war with Lyme disease was far from over, but I fought fewer battles. The side effects continued to dissipate as I continued to strengthen my body.
If managing Lyme disease or another chronic disease is part of your life narrative, give it your concentrated attention and intention. Hold fast and stay the course.
I ascribe the eradication of my Lyme disease to four integral components:
- My faith
- An integrative protocol
- Grit and perseverance
- The community of family and friends who offered compassion, support, and empathy
Resources to manage Lyme disease and chronic illness with an integrative approach