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:
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”)
Yogurt (there are non-dairy and non-soy alternatives that are great, or you can make your own.)
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!)
Zhang, J.-M., & An, J. (2007). Cytokines, Inflammation and Pain. International Anesthesiology Clinics, 45(2), 27–37. http://doi.org/10.1097/AIA.0b013e318034194e