7 Myths That Can Steal Lyme Recoveries

Sorting out truth and myth is itself one of the keys to overcoming Lyme disease. And it’s not easy to do because considering how prevalent the disease is, the medical community hasn’t given it the research priority it deserves.

So a lot of my myth busting comes from many hours of reading the information that does exist and from personal experience.

Myth #1 – There’s no such thing as chronic Lyme disease. The grandaddy of the myths. My experience is that I received a clinical diagnosis of Lyme and received lengthy treatments of both antibiotics and antibiotic herbs for Lyme. More than a year after that, I tested positive for Lyme and several co-infections. That’s not iron-clad proof, but it sure looks a lot like chronic Lyme. Scores of others have similar tales.

Some doctors still hold to the “no such thing” mantra, while others have accepted recent science that shows Lyme bacteria can persist after treatment. So maybe we can call it “persistent Lyme” and stop  arguing about it and have everyone place their attention on dealing with the problem.

Myth #2 – Long-term antibiotics don’t work for persistent Lyme. A recent study published in The New England Journal of Medicine said that three months of antibiotics were not effective in treating Lyme in patients with lingering symptoms. Other major studies done in past years show mixed results. Some say long-term antibiotics do help, some say they don’t.

From information gathered from books, articles, and interviews by leading Lyme doctors and from reading testimonials, it seems the truth is that long-term antibiotics can, and often do, work. There are also many instances when they don’t work. It seems to depend on many factors, such as the practitioner’s skill in choosing the antibiotics, the patient’s compliance, and the patient’s willingness to work on many other things such as diet optimization and detoxification.

Myth #3 – Herbs don’t work for persistent Lyme. Shortly after I got sick, a naturopathic doctor told me “Herbs don’t work.” Well, I think he was wrong. After much study into the matter, and after using  a lot of herbs myself, I’d say herbs do work for many people, but they have to be extremely high-quality herbs, chosen by expert herbalists, and, preferably, administered by expert practitioners. Fortunately, the Lyme community has access to the Cowden, Buhner, Zhang  and Jernigan herbal protocols, along with other outstanding herbal products from Byron White, Beyond Balance and many others.

Myth #4 – It costs too much to eat a healthy diet. It’s probably true that crappy food is usually cheaper than healthy food, but with a bit of time and effort, good food can be found at a good price.

Health experts agree that vegetables are the centrepiece of eating well, and many people have the option of growing their own. Finding a local farmer’s market or a good fruit and vegetable store  are other good ideas. Fortunately, many of the vegetables best suited to Lyme patients, like garlic, onions, broccoli, and cabbage, are cheap. I eat three  veggies with my evening meal and they cost about a quarter a serving.

The two pieces of fruit I eat daily cost a bit more than that, but they too are cheap if you shop around and pick out specials. I also choose the smallest pieces of fruit in the bin, which reduces cost and sugar intake. I further save money by snacking on sunflower and pumpkin seeds, which cost about 25 cents a handful (note: all prices mentioned in this post are in Canadian dollars).

Choosing organic food is optimal, but that often is too expensive for many people. Still, keep an eye out for specials. I’ve often seen organic produce on sale that costs less than the same store’s conventional produce.

Myth #5 – It costs too much to use natural cleaning and personal care products. Reducing your toxic load is a key factor in fighting Lyme. Most commercial  cleaning and personal care brands contain many toxins, so it makes sense to look for natural alternatives. The Environmental Working Group’s website, ewg.org, is a good place to find substitutes.

But can you afford them? Probably yes. I made the switch, and it costs me roughly $100 a year. To do that, I needed to shop around a bit. Doing this, I’ve found it much cheaper to buy supplies at supermarkets, which have bulk buying power, rather than at health food stores. Also, I’m fortunate to be near stores which sell the Nature Clean line of products, which I find to be reasonably priced, effective and truly green.

Myth #6 – Gluten free is unaffordable. Many Lyme practitioners tell patients they need to eat gluten free in order to get well. Then the patients go to the supermarket and see the prices on foods marked gluten free. That makes them feel about as sick to their stomach as the gluten itself might make them feel. The answer to this dilemma? Eat basic foods that don’t have gluten in them. There are lots of them, such as vegetables, fruits, fresh meats, fish, and nuts and seeds. I find I can eat my fill of these sorts of foods for about $10 a day.

Myth #7 –  Some people are too far gone to ever recover from Lyme. Let’s just say I believe in miracles. I’m one of those people everyone had counted out. I had been housebound, spending about 22 hours a day in bed, for seven years. During that time, it would be a good week when I could talk on the phone for 20 minutes and watch TV for half an hour (that’s over the span of the entire week). I wrote about how I emerged from that hole in a post back in March called “5 things that got me out of Lyme hell”. The moral of that story is never, ever, give up. You never know when something totally unexpected will happen to lift you out of the pit.

Graphic: Nevit Dilmen

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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.