7 Easy Ways To Help Yourself Heal

I didn’t want to make the title too long, but it could have been 7 easy ways to help yourself heal that most people don’t do at all or don’t do nearly enough of.

Most of these are no-brainers, so obvious that they really shouldn’t need to be mentioned. But do I have to be reminded to do them? Yes. Do you? Well, let’s find out.

#1 – WASH YOUR HANDS!– Now that it’s cold and flu season this is more important than ever. I’ve done an admittedly unscientific survey about handwashing and it suggests serious problems. Lyme Disease has forced me to move many times and to live with many people. The common denominator. Nobody washes their hands before they eat.

Experts say the most important factor in avoiding colds and the flu is handwashing, and that we should wash our hands frequently, especially after using the washroom and before eating. My survey hasn’t included bathroom habits, but I suspect the worse.

#2 – EARLY TO BED! – Science tells us that the hours of sleep before midnight provide the greatest benefit. Does 10 p.m. sound reasonable? Can you squeak in 9:30 without feeling like a boring old fart? So you’ll miss a bit of TV. Nobody ever went to their deathbed regretting that they hadn’t watched enough TV.

#3 – GET OUTSIDE! – We were not built to spend 90 percent of our time indoors like most of us do. Studies show that outdoor air is generally much healthier than indoor air. The air is even better if you can get out to the country, or to the beach, or to a mountain. Of all the things that have helped me in my journey to getting well, fresh air is near the top of the list.

#4 – FLOSS YOUR TEETH! Are you kidding? No. This is no joke. Doctors who specialize in chronic illness are increasingly stressing the importance of oral health. Some go so far as to say that cavitations, root canals, hidden dental infections, and the like are some of the primary things that cause recalcitrant health problems.

The good news is that fixing dental problems in a careful way and paying strict attention to oral hygiene can be major factors in getting you well. So think floss before bed, and while you’re at it, brush those choppers two or three times a day.

#5 – GET OFF YOUR BUTT! – I understand that this doesn’t apply to many people with chronic illness who can’t get off their butts. But if you can, go for it! Doctors are nearly unanimous in pointing to our sedentary lifestyle as the cause of a myriad of ills.

We were built to move, so move as much as you can. If all you can do is stretch, then stretch. If you’re stuck at a desk, get up and take as many breaks as you can get away with. Go for walks as often as you can.If you can do it, park the car a short distance from your destination and walk in. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. You’ve heard this all before. Just do it! Nice slogan, eh.

#6 –  SMILE! – I’ve had severe chronic Lyme to the point where it almost killed me, so I know that sometimes it’s next to impossible to smile. But if you can, it’s going to help you a lot. Studies suggest smiling can cut stress levels, lower your heart rate, and even make you look younger and more attractive.

#7 – LAUGH! – Again, a tricky maneuver when you’re really sick, but worth the effort. By now, most everyone knows that laughter produces endorphins, which make you feel good and are good for you. My unscientific household survey also shows that most people don’t laugh much.

So lighten up everybody, for your own good! If you have an Internet connection, there are scads of funny things available on YouTube, iTunes, and other outlets. If you’re not big on the web, how about telling jokes? My elderly mom is a big fan of joke books. Most of the jokes are corny, but who cares? It’s not about winning Nobel prizes for Literature. It’s about making you laugh, and, more than that, it’s about helping you to get well.

Photo: Douglas Scortegagna

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Summer break! – Time to get outside

It’s ironic that something that increases your risk for Lyme is also something that’s very helpful for healing Lyme.

The crime many Lyme sufferers committed was having a love of fresh air and sunshine. If they’d stayed inside all the time, they probably wouldn’t have gotten Lyme in the first place.

But for me, having Lyme hasn’t killed my love of nature. In fact, I feel a lot better when I spend time outdoors. So that means I’ll be spending a lot more time doing that in the upcoming warm months and less time sitting inside blogging.

Thus, lymetips.com is on summer vacation. I may post a few times if something special comes up, but the plan is to increase the pace of healing by getting as much sunshine, fresh air and exercise as I can tolerate.

See you at the beach! And don’t forget the bug spray!

Photo: Eric Davidson

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

Seven free Lyme beaters

We’ve all heard the saying “Some of the best things in life are free.” But it’s also true that “Some of the best things that can save your life are free.”

A lot of you know that Lyme can be extremely expensive, with visits to medical practitioners, antibiotics, supplements and tons of other costs in most cases.

And you have to spend the money. Lyme can steal you everything you have, including your life.

But there is some good news. I’ve found there are many intangible factors involved in fighting Lyme, and I believe scoring high on these intangibles can make a big difference between getting well and not getting well.

Best yet, these things don’t cost a cent. So what exactly am I talking about? Keep reading and you’ll find out.

GROWING YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE

I’m one of many people with Lyme who’ve been very sick and have lost big things like marriages and careers.  There is a temptation to be angry at God.

After all, if you believe in God, you most likely believe He could have prevented you from suffering.

I was mad at God. But I believe I’ve worked through that, finally accepting that His ways are beyond my understanding. What I’ve been through happened for a reason. I don’t know what the reason is, but I’m okay with that now.

It also dawned on me that it makes no sense to cut myself off from the one Being who can most help me. I believe I’ve received great healing through prayer, and I’ve read studies that show prayer carries health benefits with it. Other studies show that actively practicing a faith leads to a longer, healthier life.

MAXIMIZING LOVE

I know from personal experience that when you are dreadfully ill with Lyme, it’s hard to think much about anyone but yourself. This is understandable, but it’s a dangerous approach.

Part of the problem with Lyme is that most people don’t know how bad it can be. Often people with Lyme are sicker than people with cancer, but friends and family don’t realize that. In most cases, everyone rallies around a cancer patient. Often this isn’t the case with Lyme.

I wish I’d understood this a long while ago. I wish I had found a way not to be self-absorbed when I got really sick. I wish I had realized that the best way to receive the love I needed to get well was to give love and put others first, even though I knew I had a life-threatening illness. If I could have managed all these things, I might still be married.

It seems to me that in many and perhaps most instances, it’s the person with Lyme who has to reach out to family and friends and keep relationships in good condition. Doing this isn’t easy when you have zero or little energy, but if you can do it, it’s more than worth the effort.

EXERCISE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN

I’ve found that Lyme is a physical battle. The stronger you are physically, the better chance you have of beating the disease. One of the most respected Lyme physicians in the world, Dr. Joseph Burrascano, recommends patients start a serious physical fitness plan.

Of course, many people with Lyme aren’t able to do that. When I was bedridden, I tried to do a bit of light stretching whenever I could. Then when I got a bit better, I tried walking a bit. Then I could walk a bit more, and then eventually I could do more and more exercise.

I said these things cost nothing. Well, exercise can be costly if you go to the gym, but it can also be free. Walking can be the Lyme patient’s best friend. And I’ve found that I can get a lot of benefit from body weight exercises like push-ups. To find out more, Google body weight exercises, and you should be able to find dozens of them online.

LAUGHTER

There is nothing funny about Lyme, but keeping your sense of humor is very helpful in overcoming the disease. We all know the cliche about laughter being the best medicine, and while studies don’t actually list it as the No. 1 med, they do show a clear benefit.

I’m a laugh junkie. The only things I watch on TV are comedy shows and sports. There is a ton of funny stuff on YouTube, and you can download comedy programs from iTunes and other web sources. One particularly useful site is the Internet Archive, which is at http://www.archive.org.

MEDITATION AND DEEP BREATHING

Much of the Lyme battle is about staying calm and reducing stress. Recent research tells us one of the Lyme bacteria’s primary survival strategies is to overstimulate the immune system and throw it out of balance.

Meditation and deep breathing help me stay in balance. I do a 20-minute meditation daily, along with three sets of three deep breaths. I try to keep it simple to make it easy to do every day.

With the meditation, I focus on a few key words, and for the deep breathing, I just take deep breaths, preferably outside in the fresh air. There are plenty of techniques for both practices that you can find on the web, and it can be either very simple or more complex. Many experts swear by specific breathing techniques, but I find benefit from simply taking the deep breaths and not worrying about how I’m doing it.

MUSIC

Music, as everyone knows, can either pump you up or chill you out. Both approaches can be valuable to someone with Lyme.

I find listening to classical music a fantastic way to shift my body out of the sympathetic nervous system fight or flight mode to the parasympathetic relaxation mode. But there are times when various other forms of music bring me joy as well as a much-needed emotional lift.

GETTING OUTDOORS

Getting outdoors and taking care not to get further tick bites I should say. Air quality experts say outdoor air is far cleaner than indoor air, so I follow their advice and get outside as much as possible.

The beach is my favorite destination. I have allergies and the breeze off the water literally blows a lot of allergens away.  If I had an ocean nearby, I’d go there too because there’s no doubt that I feel best when I spend a lot of time by the water.

When I’m indoors, I’m a fresh air fiend as well. Not only does the oxygen you get by opening windows help in the fight against the bugs, it also cuts down the levels of allergens in your living space, as long as it’s not an allergy season for you.

 

Photo: Eric Davidson

The double-edged sword of exercise

Exercise. Sometimes it’s been my best friend and sometimes it’s been my worst enemy.

I’ve always been an athletic person, so it’s difficult to admit that exercise was probably one cause of my getting sick with Lyme.

Here’s what I mean. It appears I was carrying Lyme and various coinfections for years until the perfect storm hit and several stressors gave the microbes the upper hand.

Things like picking up a bad flu bug, working in a sick building, living in a moldy house, and doing too much exercise.

There were few activities I enjoyed more than cross-country skiing. I’d go for miles and miles, and I’d always feel exhilarated when finished. Until suddenly I started feeling exhausted.

I had no clue the last thing I needed was to further wear out my adrenal glands, which Lyme was stealthily battering. The doctor said I was fine, but I soon knew I had to stop knocking myself out on the ski trails.

As my health began spiraling downward, I gave up exercise altogether. The Lyme took off, and I quickly found myself bedridden.

My first mistake was too much exercise. My second was too little. While the idea of expending energy for anything besides essentials seemed preposterous, doing no exercise contributed to my getting weaker and weaker. At one point, I had to switch from 16-ounce water bottles to eight-ounce bottles because the larger container was too heavy.

Eventually, I decided I’d do whatever exercise I could manage. It was a good move, if you’ll pardon the pun.

I started with the invisible nautilus. I figured I had enough strength to do exercises I once did at the gym – things like arm curls, bench presses and leg raises – if I used zero weight.

Slowly I advanced to wall pushups. Then I could start walking again. One day to the first telephone pole on my street, a few days later to the second telephone pole and so on. I was walking at the speed of a 95-year-old, but I was walking.

In retrospect, I credit exercise as a factor in a return to much-improved health. The arm curls advanced to two-pound weights, then three pounds, four pounds and upwards and onward. The walks got a bit longer and longer. Moderate exercise became possible once again.

I haven’t strapped on the cross-country skis yet, but I look forward to the day when that happens. The key for me with exercise is always, always, always, do only what I feel confident I can manage and no more. So now that I have a grasp of what my limits are, exercise has once again become a real good buddy of mine – all the time.