Greek physician Hippocrates, who is considered the “Father of Modern Medicine,” is famously quoted as saying, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” When it comes to treating chronic Lyme disease most patients find that paying strict attention to what they put into their body besides medicine and supplements can play a major role in their recovery. And beyond this, food can become a major factor in dictating whether a patient improves or declines based upon how their body reacts to their food intake.
Most patients and Lyme-literate practitioners who are aware of the importance of using food as medicine have identified these areas where eating the right foods can play an important role: Foods to Improve Gut Health, Inflammation & Immune Function, and Foods to Help the Body Detoxify.
Foods to Improve Gut Health, Inflammation & Immune Function
The walls of your intestines house 70% of the cells that make up your immune system, and a compromised immune system is one of the biggest issues chronic Lyme patients deal with. By boosting your immune system, you lower inflammation and manages the root causes of present symptoms. Your body can work to overcome Lyme disease for good, once individuals control inflammatory responses the Lyme disease is triggering. Great ways to help reduce an inflammatory condition is to remove grains, dairy, and sugar from your diet while also making sure to consume foods known to have anti-inflammatory properties. These include vegetables, nuts, seeds, coconut, bone broth, organic meat, and raw cultured dairy. Foods that are best for naturally raising one’s immunity include:
Cruciferous Vegetables: (leafy greens like broccoli, kale, cabbage and cauliflower) Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that are broken down by microbes in the gut to help reduce inflammation and the risk of bladder, breast, colon, liver, lung, and stomach cancer. They disarm carcinogens in the colon and usher them out through our solid waste function. Studies show that people who eat the most cruciferous vegetables show a lower risk of colorectal cancer by 18 percent, and the fact that these vegetables help reduce overall inflammation is a big deal to chronic Lyme patients.
Bone Broth: Bone broth is known to contain high levels of amino acids known as proline and glycine that can work to repair a “leaky gut,” as well as enhance immune function. An individual’s gut/digestive health is tied to overall immune functioning. Foods that work to replenish your gut with beneficial bacteria and also rebuild the lining of your gastrointestinal tract control inflammation and allergies, along with other symptoms they can trigger.
Fermented Vegetables: In order to kill off bad bacteria in one’s GI tract one must overcrowd their GI tract with “good bacteria” also known as probiotics. Probiotics work to help good bacteria grow and flourish within the gastrointestinal tract. Having a lot of good bacteria growing and flourishing within one’s GI tract makes a huge impact on one’s overall immunity and health. According to research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology, probiotics work to reduce infectious disease progression and symptoms. Vegetables that are fermented such as sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, and miso can be helpful and should be included in an individual’s diet on a regular basis along with beverages like kvass or kombucha that are fermented and rich in probiotics.
Beneficial Fruits: Bananas restore healthy gut bacteria and may reduce inflammation. They work to maintain harmony among microbes in the bacterial community, known as phyla. They are also known as an intestinal mediator and are recommended to help fight diarrhea as well as constipation. Bananas may also reduce inflammation, due to their high content of potassium and magnesium. Blueberries are high in antioxidants, vitamin K compounds, and fiber that helps it live up to its label as a superfood. Studies continue to show blueberries may help strengthen our memory, improve our immune system, and diversify our gut bacteria. Alkaline fruits like lemons, limes, grapefruit, avocados, tomatoes, and pomegranate seeds are good for patients seeking a low-acid diet as a means to fight inflammation. While these foods may be acidic outside the body, it is how they interact and become alkaline inside the body that is important to know.
Coconut oil: Coconut oil is a medium-chain saturated fatty acid that has a more neutral effect on heart health as compared to longer-chain saturated fats found in meat and dairy products. Coconut oil is metabolized quickly within the liver and is used as energy within the body. The oil also helps increase your body’s metabolism, therefore, helping you burn calories more effectively and efficiently. Coconut oil consists of three saturated fats: Caprylic Acid, Capric Acid, and Lauric Acid. Lauric Acid has been known to increase good cholesterol within the blood to help improve cholesterol levels and works to boost the immune system. Coconut oil also works to help restore normal thyroid function, which is a common issue among Lyme patients. Studies have shown it can also boost memory and brain function. Coconut oil bypasses glucose metabolism, getting energy directly to the brain cells that need it, which is another important factor for Lyme patients with cognition issues.
Another great property of coconut oil is its antifungal and antimicrobial ability. Some patients battling Lyme disease state that coconut oil causes a Herxheimer effect, therefore individuals should start slow… only adding 1 tsp. of the oil per day to your diet, and working your way up to 3-4 tsp. per day. Make sure when choosing a coconut oil to pick one that is both organic and unrefined. Refined oils have been dried and bleached and have lost many of their natural properties.
Foods to Help the Body Detoxify
While all of the above foods are known to help the body detoxify, we wanted to point out a few others that specifically do so. Garlic is known to stimulate the liver into producing detoxification enzymes that filter toxic residues from the digestive system. Mung beans have been used by Ayurvedic doctors for thousands of years, and not only are they are easy to digest, but they absorb toxic residue from the intestinal walls. Certain seeds and nuts can have anti-parasitic and detox properties. Flax seed, pumpkin seeds, almonds, walnuts, hemp seeds, sesame seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds are all excellent options. Studies have shown that pumpkin seeds and black walnut oil can effectively fight intestinal parasites like rope or tape worms. And all of the above seeds and nuts help move toxins out of the body through our body’s solid waste function.
Consider a Paleo Diet
Originally called the Caveman Diet when first developed back in the late 1970s, the concept stemmed from the healthy diet our ancestors might have eaten. The diet typically includes vegetables, fruits, nuts, roots, and meat, while excluding foods such as dairy, grains, sugar, legumes, processed oils, salt, and alcohol or coffee. A diet that is nutrient-rich, fiber-rich, and alkalizing can help control symptoms of Lyme disease. Your diet plays a vital role in the level of inflammation that is present within your body. Inflammation causes changes within your endocrine, immune, and central nervous system that makes the symptoms of Lyme disease even worse. A Paleo diet works to help balance different systems within the body, especially the immune system, thus improving overall health. Paleo diets cause lower inflammation levels due to a high-antioxidant diet. Over time Lyme symptoms can become progressively worse as the disease raises the body’s inflammation levels and causes autoimmune reactions. Due to this the immune system becomes severely weakened. To help keep inflammation to a minimum, one must avoid chemical exposure, reduce toxins, and improve your innate defense system. A way to improve this is by removing processed, inflammatory foods from your diet. A Paleo diet promotes foods that are easily-digested, nutrient-packed whole foods. At the same time the Paleo diet removes foods that can worsen autoimmune reactions such as:
- Gluten: Common allergen tied to lower immune function and gut inflammation.
- Dairy: A1 casein which is found in dairy can trigger allergies and cause indigestion. Dairy is not only inflammatory, but many individuals have trouble digesting it, since about 65% of the human population lose the ability to digest lactose properly after infancy.
- Sugar: Sugar helps to feed bad bacteria, yeast, and fungus that can live and grow within your gut.
- GMOs, artificial sweeteners, and additives: Your body does not know how to handle these chemicals. Foods that are genetically modified are linked to worsened autoimmune reactions.
Switching to a Paleo diet also helps individuals have better control over their blood sugar levels and a healthier gut. The Paleo diet helps to provide essential macronutrients which help aid in disease recovery. Foods with high antioxidants such as veggies/fruits, healthy fats from nuts/seeds/natural oils, probiotics, and protein from animal foods which support hormonal balance. Hormonal balance and mood are also improved when switching to a Paleo diet. Battling Lyme disease is both stressful and emotionally draining, luckily the Paleo diet includes foods that are grounding, and hormone-stabilizing known to make you feel happier. A perfect example of this are omega-3 fatty acids found in wild-caught fish; consuming the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have been linked to positive moods and less depressive symptoms. Nutrient-rich Paleo diets help your immune system function at its very best, working to clear symptoms of Lyme disease and help prevent future complications. For recipes and more details about the Paleo Diet, click here. For ideas on healthy Paleo snacks, click here.
Consider a Ketogenic Diet
The “keto” in a ketogenic diet comes from the fact that it allows the body to produce small fuel molecules called ketones. This is an alternative fuel source for the body, used when blood sugar (glucose) is in short supply.
Ketones are produced if you eat very few carbs (that are quickly broken down into blood sugar) and only moderate amounts of protein (excess protein can also be converted to blood sugar). The liver produces ketones from fat. These ketones then serve as a fuel source throughout the body, especially for the brain. The brain is a very hungry organ (as it should be, it is the body’s control tower) that consumes lots of energy every day, and it can’t run on fat directly. It can only run on glucose… or ketones.
How Burning Off Fat Stores Helps Get Rid of Lyme
On a ketogenic diet, your entire body switches its fuel supply to run mostly on fat by burning it 24/7. When insulin levels become very low, fat burning can increase dramatically. It becomes easier to access your fat stores to burn them off. If you have Lyme, your body can be significantly impaired due to the overgrowth of bacteria, fungus and parasites. Because these organisms feed off of sugar, eliminating “sugary” complex carbs is your ticket to wellness!
The Lyme bacteria cannot survive because it does not have fuel, just like a vehicle will not run properly without gasoline.
Read more about the Ketogentic Diet and Lyme Disease by nutritionist Christie Korth.
The above material is provided for informational purposes only. The material is not nor should be considered a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.