By: Kate Scott
One of the most important aspects of a comprehensive Lyme treatment protocol is diet. Not the sort of diet that promises to help you lose ten pounds in thirty days or pack on muscle like a body builder, but an eating plan that will help your body cope with and heal from chronic illness. Unfortunately, nutrition is usually given too little attention by doctors, even many Lyme doctors, which is why it’s important for patients to proactively seek out information. Here are five eating plans you should evaluate in your quest for healing.
1. The Lyme Diet
This eating plan, as outlined in Dr. Nicola McFadzean’s book, The Lyme Diet, is absolutely fundamental to healing from chronic Lyme disease. It is the foundation on which any additional dietary modifications (as outlined below) should rest. The Lyme diet is anti-inflammatory and supports the immune, digestive, hormonal, and detoxification systems. It is alkaline and low in oxalates, which are naturally occurring substances found in many healthy foods that can cause pain and inflammation in people with leaky gut syndrome (i.e. most Lyme patients). It also addresses issues such as gluten and dairy sensitivity, contaminated seafood, and the dangers of chlorinated water.
For many patients, implementing the principles of the Lyme diet will provide enough nutritional and anti-inflammatory support for healing to occur, but for those who need specialized help, it may be necessary to adopt or incorporate elements of one of the following eating plans.
2. The Paleo Diet
The paleo (paleolithic) diet takes us back to our hunter-gatherer roots and cuts out many foods that were introduced to man’s diet following the agricultural revolution. (That includes grains, legumes, dairy, potatoes, and all refined foods.) The paleo diet is high in protein and fiber, low in carbs, and contains a moderate to high amount of healthy fats. It is also higher in potassium and lower in sodium that the standard American diet.
The paleo diet has been lauded for its ability to reverse autoimmune disease. There is a huge overlap between Lyme and autoimmune patients because chronic infection is one of the primary causes of autoimmunity. The paleo diet may be helpful for a wide range of patients, but especially those with comorbid autoimmune disease.
You can read more about paleo in The Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, Ph.D. If you have an autoimmune condition I also recommend checking out The Wahls Protocol by Terry Wahls, M.D. Wahls healed her own progressive multiple sclerosis with this dietary protocol and it’s been a lifesaver for a number of people with various autoimmune diseases.
For paleo recipes see The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook Mickey Trescott and The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook by Angie Alt. There are dozens of great paleo cookbooks out there, so you won’t lack for inspiration.
3. The Ketogenic Diet
The Ketogenic diet is basically the paleo diet, but with fewer carbs, slightly less protein, and more fat. When carbs are restricted to the extreme degree that they are in the Ketogenic diet, the body is forced to burn fat for energy instead of glucose. This causes the body to produce ketones.
The Ketogenic diet has been getting a lot of love in the Lyme community lately, and a lot of skepticism in the mainstream medical community. Why? Well, ketones can build up to dangerous levels in diabetic patients, causing a condition called ketoacidosis, which can lead to diabetic coma and death. For this reason, it’s important for people on a Ketogenic diet to closely monitor their ketone levels and keep them within a safe range.
The Ketogenic diet has been used therapeutically for pediatric epilepsy since the 1920s and studies have shown that it does reduce certain types of seizures. There is also growing interest in using it for autoimmune conditions and Alzheimers.
To learn more about the Ketogenic diet’s role in Lyme treatment, I recommend listening to the interviews with Dr. Nikolas Hedberg and Jimmy Moore from the Chronic Lyme Disease Summit. The interview with Dr. Mercola also covers the diet’s affect on the mitochondria.
If you have epilepsy or Lyme-induced seizures, the Ketogenic diet is definitely something you should research. Most of the diets on this list are safe for Lyme patients to implement (gradually, of course) on their own; however, the Ketogenic diet does have some unique risks and should be overseen by a knowledgable physician. The Ketogenic diet is incredibly healing for some people and damaging for others, so research, talk to your doctor, and make sure to go slow and monitor your ketone levels if you try it.
4. The GAPS Diet
GAPS stands for Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a moniker devised by Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride for neuropsychological conditions caused by dysbiosis and leaky gut. Lyme patients almost universally suffer from some level of dysbiosis caused by infection and/or antibiotics and the GAPS diet can be very effective at restoring the digestive system to optimal health.
The GAPS diet emphasizes cutting out irritants such as gluten, lactose, sugar, starch, and all processed foods. It also requires drinking tons of bone broth, which is extremely healing for the gut, and taking probiotics.
I strongly recommend looking into the GAPS diet if you have significant psychological symptoms such as anxiety, panic attacks, depression, or A.D.D. You can read all about it in Dr. Campell-McBride’s book, Gut and Psychology Syndrome. For recipes check out The Heal Your Gut Cookbook by Hilary Boynton and Mary G. Brackett.
5. The Body Ecology Diet
Like the GAPS diet, the Body Ecology diet focuses on healing the gut, but places a greater emphasis on probiotic foods. Kefir and cultured vegetables are at the heart of the Body Ecology diet and are consumed with every meal. (Check out “Heal Your Gut with These 5 Delicious Probiotic Foods” for more.)
The Body Ecology diet was specifically designed to combat candida, so if that’s a problem for you, definitely give it a try. To learn more, read The Body Ecology Diet by Donna Gates.
To recap, if you’re not on the Lyme diet, start now. It’s the bare minimum for success. If you have autoimmunity in addition to Lyme, look into the paleo diet. If you have epilepsy or Lyme-induced seizures, ask your doctor about the Ketogenic diet. If you have neuropsychiatric symptoms, try the GAPS diet. And if candida is a major roadblock to your healing, try the Body Ecology diet.
All of these eating plans are not mutually exclusive. I recommend that you read about all of the aforementioned diets and incorporate elements of each that work for you. Paleo is great, but it can be enhanced with the addition of high quantities of bone broth and cultured vegetables. Likewise, the Lyme diet can be improved upon by emphasizing gut-healing foods, and you may find that you need to cut out additional food allergens. Your biology is unique and your diet should be too!