Cutting the cost of Lyme

I’ve always been pretty good at finding ways to keep my wallet stuck inside my pocket, but since getting Lyme disease I’ve been forced to further refine the art of not spending money.

Make no mistake, getting well from Lyme can be very costly. There are often physician visits, antibiotics, lab tests, supplements, sometimes top-quality herbs, etcetera, etcetera. So I’ve found that creativity is needed to save some of those ever-shrinking funds.

You can always cut out frills, but you have to eat. When I first got sick, I had to change my diet and it was strange and difficult. But once I made the paradigm shift, I found the new normal to be far superior, and cheaper.

Successfully making these changes required seeing through a couple of food myths. The first: Vegetables and fruit are expensive. The second: Going gluten free is really expensive.

Eating lots of vegetables, health experts agree, promotes better health. And while some veggies are costly, many of the ones most helpful for people with Lyme are cheap, such as garlic, onions, leeks, cabbage, parsley, and carrots.

When I go to my fruit and vegetable store (a much better option than the supermarket) I aim at 30 cents per serving of veggies, and I easily meet that goal. And if you want to spice things up, you’ll find that spices are often the cheapest foods you can find.

Staying within that price range with fruit is tricky, often requiring buying sale items. I also buy the smallest pieces of fruit available, as this reduces both cost and sugar intake.

It’s not a myth that organic produce is expensive. If you can afford it, great, but even if you think you can’t, sometimes you can. My store sometimes has specials where the organic version of a veggie is cheaper than the conventional one.

I find it difficult convincing people that gluten free doesn’t have to mean breaking the bank. If you can’t imagine a world without packaged food, then gluten-free prices are ridiculous. But if you shift to eating fresh veggies, fruit, eggs, nuts, seeds, non-gluten grains like brown rice, quinoa and buckwheat, and moderate amounts of meat and fish, you’ll be off gluten with substantially reduced cost.

I’ve also learned that I can save a lot by eating prebiotic and probiotic foods. There are dozens of them, usually common everyday items, and you can find their names with a quick web search.

This reduces my need for expensive probiotic supplements. And some experts, like Dr. David Perlmutter, author of the bestsellers Brain Maker and Grain Brain, and Jeff Leach, author of Rewild, say that while bottled probiotics are good, eating a wide variety of probiotic and prebiotic foods is also important for gut health.

I’ve found several other areas besides food where I can fight Lyme inexpensively or without cost.

Lyme patients must handle exercise cautiously. If your body is exhausted, it’s foolhardy to do anything but light stretching. But for many, exercise can produce significant health gains. Dr. Joseph Burrascano, a leading Lyme physician, is among those who advocate substantial regular exercise for Lyme patients.

Fortunately, I can exercise, but I can’t afford gym memberships. So instead of paying hundreds of dollars, I bought a $10 book off Amazon outlining dozens of body weight exercises. These exercises use your body’s natural resistance as weights. Push-ups are one example.

Making this approach more valuable is the option to do it outside – in your backyard, at a park, or best yet at the beach or ocean. I’m allergic to mold and several other things, and the breeze coming off the water clears away a lot of the allergens.

That brings me to two of my favorite free Lyme helpers – fresh air and prayer.

No one would dispute fresh air’s benefits. Studies suggest outdoor air is generally much cleaner than indoor air, so I get outside as much as I can – of course guarding carefully against further tick bites. I also open my windows as much as possible, as long as there are no allergens around and as long as it doesn’t put me in the way of a draft.

Prayer, on the other hand, has its believers and its doubters. I’m a believer. Some studies say prayer promotes healing; others say it doesn’t. But in my experience, I feel I’ve seen important benefits.

The act of prayer itself usually promotes a state of calm, similar to what would happen in meditation, and being in a peaceful state helps everyone. And meditation, of course, can be free too. One method is a simple breath meditation, where you still yourself and follow your breathing.

Healing prayer with laying on of hands has many skeptics, but I feel I have received a considerable health boost as a result of it, and it hasn’t cost me a cent. If interested, you could find out about this option by asking around at local churches or by checking the web. Healing prayer by phone is also offered through many sources, one of which is well-known Lyme author Connie Strasheim, who has regular prayer calls. Information can be found at her website – www.conniestrasheim.com.

Perhaps the widest variety of useful, free resources can be found at the local library. I can get not only free printed books, ebooks, and audiobooks, but also free movies and music and free computer and internet access.

An ongoing battle with Lyme means that you never know when you can use that extra cash you kept in your bank account. Maybe you can try a new treatment that shows promise, or travel to see a top-notch physician. And while holding on to money may not be as much fun as spending it, I think I’m one of many people who derive no small amount of joy from finding new ways to save the stuff.

 

Three Lyme Mistakes to Avoid

If ever a disease could cure a perfectionist of perfectionism, it would have to be persistent  Lyme.

Is it possible for anyone on a journey through Lyme country not to make mistakes along the way? The truth is that no doctor, no patient, no anybody, fully understands this disease. With this total lack of 20-20 vision, everyone with persistent Lyme eventually falls into a pit of some sort or another.

I can think of three BIG mistakes I’ve made. All of them happened before I was diagnosed with Lyme, but was without a doubt carrying the disease. Then, I was one of countless people around the world with some dreadful illness no doctor could figure out.

Mistake one was trying to go too fast. After making the doctor go rounds for a while, I found a naturopathic doctor (ND) who seemed to have an inkling of what to do. At the end of our appointments, he’d ask when I wanted to see him next. My response was always, “How soon can we do it.”

My haste was understandable. In a very short period, I’d gone from feeling well to feeling abysmal. When I started seeing this naturopath, I was still able to work half time, but my spare time and weekend hours were spent mostly in bed. The medical doctors couldn’t find anything wrong, but I knew something was seriously wrong. My health was slipping away, and I desperately wanted to stop the slide. Now.

So the naturopath tried various treatments that might have worked better if I’d given my body the time it needed to detoxify. As it was, I was pulling more garbage out of my system than my system could handle, and things got worse instead of better.

From my discussions with other Lyme sufferers, this is probably one mistake most people make. There was no way for me to know that I was going too fast. Maybe the naturopath should have insisted on a slower pace. But he didn’t have a clear idea of what was going on either.

The bottom line is that like any other person, I could not detoxify and get better any quicker than my body’s ability to detox and heal. I now wish I had been more patient.

Mistake two also had to do with a naturopath. I wasn’t getting better with the first naturopath, so I sought out another highly regarded ND in my city. He too wasn’t sure of what the problem was, but he was extremely confident in himself. So he proposed several things which he was sure would work. But deep down, I could hear my body warning me that I should be careful about his approach

So we ended up negotiating a fair bit. Now, I was going a lot slower, having learned from mistake one. I’d want to discuss his proposals at length, until I got a feeling inside that they had a good chance of working.

Naturopath No. 2 soon tired of this. It got to the point where he gave me an ultimatum. Do what I tell you or see somebody else.

So I’ll call my second mistake “Bowing to pressure from the doctor when you know in your guts he or she is wrong .” I would guess this is also on the top 10 list of errors for Lyme patients.

Again, I had a difficult decision. My health was continuing to slide, and my marriage was sliding with it. No other practitioner in town had a clue what to do.

I took his remedy, and it was a disaster. My health quickly worsened, which put further pressure on my marriage.

And this brings me to mistake three. I’ll call this one, “Not doing everything possible to maintain your primary human relationship.”

Looking back, I believe I tried very hard to do this. I did the best I could with the level of maturity I had at the time. But if I had to do it over again, I would have placed more emphasis on meeting my wife’s needs before I met my own. If I had done that, I might still be married.

My thinking at the time was that I had a very serious health problem that no one knew how to solve. Things were going downhill so fast that I feared it was life-threatening – and that may have been true. So when situations occasionally came up where my interests and my wife’s interests collided, I would sometimes feel the sick person’s view should prevail.

Lyme is known as a relationship wrecker, and I think it’s mainly because neither party usually understands the other party’s predicament. The caregiving one tends to think it can’t possibly be as bad as the Lyme patient claims, especially when there is no clear diagnosis. The sick person, on the other hand, tends not to understand just how difficult their situation makes things for their partner. Both lives are turned upside down.

I didn’t grasp at the time how important love and relationships are to the healing process. Back then, I followed our society’s more mechanistic view of human beings and how they get well. But I am not a machine. I am a human. And, like every human, I make mistakes.

 

Photo courtesy of joethegoatfarmer.com

Beating Lyme slowly and surely

You could liken living with chronic Lyme Disease to a high-wire act, or you might call it a knock-down, drag-out battle with a powerful and cunning opponent.

But I prefer a more peaceful comparison. To me, the daily struggle with Lyme is a lot like sailing.

Sailing? Here’s what I mean. To make progress in pushing Lyme into remission, you need to know how to take advantage of favorable winds, and how to avoid slipping backward when conditions are against you.

I’ll give you an example drawn from a recent daily journal.

I wake up feeling shaky after a rough night. A couple of small errors on my part along with a couple of unavoidable problems threw my hair-trigger immune system off course. As a result, I slept fitfully, waking numerous times, often with sweat pouring off me.

Not good. I think I got away with it this time, but too many sweaty nights with the immune system misfiring has a way of setting me back. Not only do I feel tired, but it eats away at my physical stamina.

So this day, I’m determined to pay close attention to my sailing, and concentrate on doing everything I need to do to successfully manage the day. I’ve been fighting Lyme for quite a while, so I’ve learned to follow signs my body gives me that let me know how things are going at a given point.

Some of what follows may sound over the top, but my body constantly gives me feedback on how it’s doing. Sometimes the clues seem odd, but after several years of seeing these signs repeat themselves, I’ve come to trust my interpretations of them.

I’ll start with clue No. 1, which isn’t the most pleasant way to begin. I’m speaking of my first poop of the day. Fortunately, it looks okay. Next come a bunch of other morning signs that present a mixed picture.

I start breakfast with a powdered probiotic. If it tastes weak, that suggests my body is asking for more of it due to some gut problem. But it’s strong. Yay. I then dig into a meal of quinoa crispbread, sunflower seed butter, and an apple. All is good except for the apple peel, which is hard to chew today. Yesterday, I had no trouble with a similar peel from the same bag.

That suggests there’s something in that peel my body doesn’t want today. I get resistance to my morning snack as well. I scoop out my usual sized handful of pumpkin seeds but only want half. I take these two signs to suggest my body is getting too much stimulation from foods and supplements, and this is part of what is edging my immune system out of balance.

The other morning signs don’t tell me much. The dumbbell I lift seems a tad heavier than usual, but that probably reflects a slight weakening of my body due to the previous night’s difficulties. I get a similar signal when I drink my daily solution of magnesium chloride crystals. It’s a bit weaker than usual, suggesting that my nervous system could use a bit more magnesium after a sweaty sleep.

At lunch, I get more resistance to food. About three-quarters of the way through the rice and eggs, my body tells me to stop. Again, too much stimulation, it seems. So I cut back my supplements a bit,  hoping this will improve my appetite.

I don’t reduce my midday dose of baking soda and water. Sodium bicarbonate, strangely enough, is a key indicator for me. When the baking soda tastes weak, it usually means my immune system is in danger of overreacting, and could use more of the sodium bicarb to increase alkalinity and slow things down. When it tastes moderate, this is a good sign. When it tastes strong, it suggests my immune system is engaged in some fight and doesn’t want to alkalize.

By now, I’m getting a message that I need to chill today, and avoid unnecessary stimulation. Unfortunately, I have to work on my taxes in the early afternoon. Always good for a shot of stress. When I take a break, I walk by a mirror and notice that my right ear is crimson. This redness suggests that I am indeed stressed and starting to overproduce histamine.

Time-out. Enough taxes for the day. Now is a good time to drive over to the beach and do some light exercise. It works. When I return, I feel relaxed, and my ear is back to normal.

It seems my body is now getting back in sync. I want all the pumpkin seeds this time at my afternoon snack, and, when I do another set of dumbbell exercises, they feel lighter than in the morning.

But at dinner, I’m still fussy, turning half the broccoli away, and leaving behind a bit of chicken as well. Once again I make a small reduction in supplements, and decide that a relaxed evening is in store.

So that’s what I do. I add a little extra meditation and prayer time, watch a comedy on TV, and head to bed. The signs are now positive. My evening dose of bicarb tastes as it should, my ear looks fine, and all other indicators seem in order. I’m finished sailing for the day, and I guide my body into harbor, er, bed. Looks like a good night ahead.

Photo: Eric Davidson

Boring Lyme to death

This blog post is going to be a real snoozer.

Rest is one of the most powerful weapons I’ve found in fighting Lyme Disease. So I’ll try to liven up the topic by talking about things like power napping, mega-meditating and super sleeping!!!! Now didn’t those exclamation points perk you up?

Maybe the most important trick to dealing with chronic Lyme is never to let yourself get tired and rundown.

I came across an article a while back that described it this way – “It’s a question of whether your voltage is adequate for your immune system to keep it (Lyme) under  control.”

I like that. It’s about your voltage. And how do you keep your voltage high? By making frequent visits to your battery charger, otherwise known as your bed.

I’ve still got a way to go before fully getting over Lyme, so I spend a fair bit of time charging myself on my queen size battery pack. Not usually for very long. Five minutes here, 10 minutes there, a few times throughout the day. A little rest after meals, a little rest after exercise, and a longish sleep at night.

If I were working in an office, this would be more difficult, but I know a friend who spends lunch hours and breaks taking catnaps in his car. I remember another friend who installed a small couch in his office and did likewise.

Even when driving, naps can be managed. If I drive for an hour, I’ll find a place to stop and shut my eyes for five minutes. I could go farther, but I stop before I get tired, so I won’t get tired. Keeping the voltage high.

Experts suggest that getting to bed early can be extremely helpful for anyone managing a case of Lyme. They say the hours of sleep you get before midnight are considerably more valuable to your health than any other sleep hours.

Taking their advice, I’ve gradually pushed my bedtime back from 10 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. I’ll make exceptions for social events of course, but I diligently try to stick to a regular lights-out time whenever possible.

This is not a particularly exciting way to do things, but it works. Frankly, I just want to get fully well, and I’m willing to sacrifice all the late night TV in the world to reach that goal.

So you may be thinking that anyone doing this sort of thing might as well become a monk. I don’t think that’s necessary, but I find that it’s a good idea to take a page from the monk’s playbook and meditate regularly.

Following their lead on living a peaceful, restful life would also be sure to give Lyme a hard time. Come to think of it, I wonder if monks get Lyme disease. Hmm.

I do a very simple 20-minute meditation exercise once daily. It’s called “Soften and flow”, and it works, reliably shifting me into the parasympathetic nervous system relaxation response if I’m not there already. You can find tons of other meditation approaches on the web.

So that’s all I have to say about sleep, naps and meditation. You could say I rest my case. Anyone still reading? Anyone still awake?