Inflammation Mitigation – A Hallmark of an Effective Diet against Lyme Disease

Hi all!

I’ve been doing tons of research and work now that I’m a third year integrative medicine student. As someone who has gone through the ‘good fight’ myself and have been declared remissed after 8 years of fighting, I wanted to share important dietary tips that have been clinically proven to assist in the process.

Before we start, I think it’s important to note that in managing a chronic disease with something flexible such as diet, a viewpoint is key to maintain: the food is not the fighter. It can be (i.e. fighting a cold with extra Vitamin C) but it is not the main goal of our diet to fight our disease. It’s important to see diet as a vehicle of healing the whole body in a holistic sense – aiding our broken and damaged cells, helping our methyl pathways do their thing and detox, and support myelination that may have been disrupted over the course of years of sickness. Those are great first goals for anyone’s diet!

It’s also important to know that diet changes are mind over matter. It will not be easy to stop cold turkey overnight if you’re addicted to conventional American ways of eating – and that’s okay! 

It’s also important to not rationalize. “Oh, one snack doesn’t hurt, Oh, I don’t like salad, so I’ll just ignore these 50 vegetables…” I was there at one point too – and I have since learned to love salad, health ‘shots,’ and smoothies. I can’t even tolerate fake sweetener in my coffee anymore! (and I’d have three a day before I committed to my dietary health…)

Change IS possible. But, it’s up to US to make it effective.

Why might you want to change? Besides Lyme Disease, you may be fighting methylation issues, genetic disorders, or other chronic illnesses that thrive off of inflammation (fibromyalgia, mycoplasma, gastritis…etc etc…)

What these foods do to the body is sickening, and will likely make you lose appetite for them when you think of the long-run consequences.

Your body is already on inflammation overload if you are fighting a chronic infection. Inflammation is simply irritation in your body from fighting/cell damage and apoptosis (cell death)… when the cells die or are damaged or if your body has been fighting an infection cytokines can be released, triggering a higher inflammatory response as it fights. Some cytokines are anti-inflammatory, but many are associated with higher rates of pain and can be secreted throughout your body. (Zhang & An, 2007).

We have enough pain being sick, why make it harder on ourselves with something we have complete control over? Inflammation can aid in symptoms like fatigue, brain fog, rage, anxiety, depression, joint and musculoskeletal pain, migraines, hormonal dysregulation, and allergic responses.

That being said, let’s start where it hurts but also where it is the easiest to begin – foods and groups of foods to avoid. 

In most literature, it is known that big sources of inflammation are commonplace in the American diet: gluten, corn, sugar, and dairy.

That seems like a lot at once to cut out, because, well, it’s everywhere. I took it a step at a time to slowly cut down on the inflammatory processes racking my body. I started with less gluten and no dairy, since I wasn’t that attached to cheese anyway. I then whittled down sugar and switched to gluten free. (I think home-made is best because I control what is in it and avoid sugars, but if I can’t then I allow myself room to get the store-brand. I love the Rudi’s brand personally (link here to purchase) – while it does have evaporated cane syrup and yeast, I prefer taking the hit for one or two slices of bread if I’m feeling extra edgy that day as opposed to consuming a bunch of mold inhibitors and higher levels of soy proteins/sugars. And again, that’s only if I am not in a life position schedule-wise to make my own. I’ll link my recipe soon.

I eventually (by making nearly everything I consumed myself) cut out all of these foods and am limiting my intake of soy and preservatives. Some easy things to start cutting down on are:

Pasta

Breads

Pastries

Corn Tortillas/Corn Products (i.e. fake “maple syrups,” sodas, “juices” or “juice drinks” processed breads or wraps, granola or cereal bars, jams, jellies… check your labels! Corn hides everywhere by different names like: maltodextrin, baking ‘powder,’ malic acid, high fructose corn syrup, vanilla (or other flavoring) extract, xylitol, distilled vinegar (in pastries) etc….) [so save yourself some time – eventually we want to cut out all processed things.]

Bottled Flavored Beverages (including flavored “waters”)

Cheese

Milk

Yogurt (there are non-dairy and non-soy alternatives that are great, or you can make your own.)

Cheese Products

Chips

Crackers

That’s just the short list.

I promise it is doable and it does get better! This is coming from a carbohydrate addict who loved her sugary Starbucks seasonal drinks (say that 10 times fast!)

Love,

Christina

Zhang, J.-M., & An, J. (2007). Cytokines, Inflammation and Pain. International Anesthesiology Clinics45(2), 27–37. http://doi.org/10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e

To My Husband – In the wake of my depression and anxiety

Dear husband,

I know that I just haven’t been the same since the baby came.

I knew that my moods would swing crazier than the monkey’s on the bed book I read about 11 times a day. I knew I might feel sad at times when I folded his onesies that he outgrew. I was ready. I had my essential oils and my motivational Pinterest board.

I had prepared my third trimester. Oh, that turbulent trimester. We were so busy getting ready and choosing a hospital and drafting birth plans. I was the commander and you were the general, waging a war on pre-birth anxiety by picking out a calming playlist on Spotify and indulging in the occasional massage and coffee date night – savoring our last times together as a couple.

The birth happened. It was a hard time and the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. Looking at that little face, I felt so invincible. I felt that I had climbed Mt. Everest and God himself handed me this miracle as a reward. But, I couldn’t remember the pregnancy. I couldn’t feel much else besides exhilerated and exhausted.

The first weeks flew by. We didn’t sleep. We laid on the floor, calming the baby at 3 in the morning feedings and holding eachother, desparately trying to get a moment of rest. You would light the candle I loved and hold me through my anxious moments. I got so anxious when he cried.

The doctor saw me at my four week appointment. I was doing great recovering. Did I feel sad? No, I felt so tired. I felt so tired and numb. But that was just the exhaustion.

I changed doctors because the smell of the lobby made me want to dry heave.

I stayed at home a lot. It was safer that way. Loud noises would jarr me. I couldn’t believe he was almost two months old. Two months old and still spitting up all the time. I worried. I googled. I would worry some more. You would hold me through my panic attacks and help me keep breathing.

I got sad. I was so sad all the time. Sad at being anxious. Sad that motherhood was slipping through my fingers. Sad because how could he even be here after that traumatic pregnancy? How did I learn to feel so numb and how could I feel normal again? My hormones had leveled but my mental state had not. Everything hurt. Nighttime was the worst. Everything stung. You would pace the floor with me and call doctors with me that whole month. You would tuck in the baby, I would be busy panicking. You would talk to me until everything started to make sense again. Thank you for putting me back together.

At month five, the sun is starting to come out. I still cry a lot. I still rely on your warmth, comfort, and patience. But what I can tell you is I feel the jagged edges healing. It is painful because the scabs break off. It is anxiety-provoking because it’s not on my schedule. But I can tell you that you and God got me through it.

Through the horrific postpartum haze, I got to see in a whole new light how wonderful of a man you are – why God brought you to me – and your strength in your softness. You took the time to study me throughout our marriage and our pregnancy. You helped me to savor the new life we made and to climb over the mountains of depression and anxiety and emotional isolation. Thank you for holding my hand and putting what love is into action.

You are my rock, my partner, and my soulmate. I couldn’t love you any more after all of this.

Xx

Mycoplasma – the stealthy culprit

If you mention mycoplasma in any doctor’s office, you’ll likely get the same response –

“Everyone has mycoplasma. It’s not a big deal. It couldn’t have anything to do with your case.”

If you hear this, run far and fast. Especially if you’ve been fighting chronic illness for years, it’s like you’re throwing open the door and inviting the mycoplasma in for a tea party.

According to the CDC, the most common symptoms of mycoplasma infection in children and adults are:

  • Sore throat
  • Fatigue (being tired)
  • Fever
  • Slowly worsening cough that can last for weeks or months
  • Headache

HOWEVER – these are not the only symptoms! You can have neurological, gastrointestinal, and hormonal issues from these infections. If these symptoms linger or if your chronic disease (such as Lyme/fibro/other inflammatory processes) is not going away/lessening/showing any sort of variation in flares or herxes, I encourage you to get tested. Here’s why:

It’s well known that there are over 200 types of mycoplasma infections – these can disrupt your flora, attack your body, and enter your cells, disrupting your immune system function. These microbes do not have a cell wall, and are therefore not easily killed with an antibiotic regimen. A more holistic approach to the attack may be needed if your infection lingers.

According to Dr. Rawls, “Mycoplasma are spread by biting insects (ticks, mosquitoes, fleas, biting flies), sexual contact, contaminated food, and airborne dropletsTo gain access to needed resources, mycoplasma generate inflammation in the body by manipulating the signaling mechanisms of the immune system (called cytokines). Inflammation breaks down tissues and allows the bacteria to gain access to the host’s resources. Mitochondria are prime targets for energy; fatigue is always a factor in mycoplasma infections.” (Rawls, 2016).

So, the next time your doctor brings up chronic fatigue syndrome, IBS, or fibromyalgia – it may be worth asking to have the test run for this. DO’s and PA’s are more likely to be attune to what mycoplasma can do and can assist you in ordering the proper tests. Yes, everyone has some levels of this in their body – but to those of us who are already sick, this can be the determining factor in whether or not we are healthy after years of being ill.

Love,

Christina

References:

CDC – Mycoplasma Pneumoniae infection. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/pneumonia/atypical/mycoplasma/about/signs-symptoms.html

Rawls, B. (2016). Mycoplasma, the most common Lyme co-infection. Rawls M.D. Retrieved from https://rawlsmd.com/health-articles/mycoplasma-the-most-common-lyme-coinfection

Seeking Healing – The paradigm shift from seeing health instead of sickness.

For some of us, it has been not months, years.

Years turn into decades. Decades of just ‘not feeling well’ and ‘feeling off…’ with or without an official diagnosis. Some of the diagnoses that we carry around like lopsided suitcases get us laughed at in emergency rooms, in times where we need help most.

We have all been there, hearts sinking, dealing with the doubt and the confusion – not just what we struggle with internally, but that which others put onto us.

When will I get better?

I grappled with this for years with the Lyme diagnosis. Then came the POTS diagnosis. Then came the CIDP scares, the genetic mutations, the stomach issues, the mycoplasma, the thyroid issues… and I shook my fist.

I shook my fist at God and at every single person I had left. I hid. I hid in anger. I hid from all these terrible letters that spelled out one thing in my teenage head: YOU WILL NEVER GET BETTER. One after the other. It was like a never ending marathon.

I felt like a bird flying, trying to get shelter from the storm. Just before I would land every time, the tree would disintigrate. I was TIRED.

My mindset was the key factor, here.

Even after I was declared “in remission,” I still felt so ill. All the time. New issues arose. It was a never ending puzzle.

After nearly a decade of being a professional sick person and trying to live around it, I finally felt better. It was the day that I mentally let it go. I let go trying to heal. I let go trying to solve and to understand. I literally verbally told my body I was sorry for being so angry and I wanted to help it heal. I believed it could heal, something I never felt or thought in so long. I cried. A lot. It was a months-to-years long process of this constant grappling.

I am finally free. Do I still ache sometimes? Yes. Do I have that never-ending coat-like exhaustion? Yes. Am I getting better, on the uphill slope? Yes. Because I choose to be. Our brains listen to what we say to them and respond accordingly. I thought this was bogus until a few months ago I had a two-month long bout of chronic nausea to the point where I could not eat. I obsessed on what could possibly be the cause of the nausea until the endoscopy came back clear. Only when I let it go and accepted that it would have good days and bad days was I able to eat again. I had my first good day. Yes, I cried then too.

We are always capable of healing. Our body is amazing and not yet fully understood. When you get those letters in the doctor’s office, don’t see them as sealing your fate, or as another mountain to climb. See it as a curve in the road to your own healing. A step in the staircase. An opportunity for your Father to prove Himself all over again to you, in a bunch of new ways.

Love,

Christina

anti-inflammatory dinners: one-pot wonder meat, rice, and veggies

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Low-Histamine, Anti-Inflammatory, Gut-Healing. 

Ingredients: 

  • 2 yellow squashes (chopped)
  • 2T extra-virgin organic olive oil
  • 1 LB ground turkey
  • 2 C rice
  • 4 C low sodium or unsalted chicken broth ** (Can also use bone broth).
  • 2 eggs (optional, I don’t have a histamine issue with eggs but some people do)
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion (chopped)
  • 3T garlic salt (to taste)
  • Pepper (to taste) ** (Black pepper can release histamine, not recommended if you have histamine issues)
  • Pinch of allspice
  • 2T seasoned salt (to taste and based on dietary needs)
  • Parsley (to taste/optional. Great for gut health!)

Notes: This is a loose play on an Arabic dish (heshwe) that is great for realigning your gut, detoxing your histamine bucket, and very healthy/well-rounded use of calories for what you intake.

Directions

  1. Get the olive oil in the bottom of a soup-pot (won’t spill over when rice expands) or high-walled sautee pan. Brown the ground turkey with your chopped sweet onion until it is fully cooked.
  2. Add in your rice, chicken broth, squash and seasonings. If you choose to add parsley, this would be where you add it.
  3. Place the lid on your pot and set the heat to medium to impart the flavors into the rice and squash, slow-cooking style. You will need to let this sit, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the liquid is gone.* (Be careful – dependng on the efficiency of your stove or what broth you use, you may need to add a little water/oil mixture to keep it from sticking and burning to your pot. Monitor every time you stir to make sure the liquid content is adequate.)
  4. Once the rice is cooked, taste and season accordingly to your style of cooking. Add the eggs. Stir until eggs are cooked and incorporated.
  5. Serve! Best served hot.

I make this at least once a week and LOVE this recipe. Let me know how you like it!

Xx