10 Keys to Beating Lyme

Everyone with Lyme disease knows how important things such as taking antibiotics and finding an excellent health care practitioner can be.

There are, however, many other factors involved in fighting Lyme that also make a huge difference. In my struggles with the disease, I can think of 10 things that have helped a lot.

I’ll start with love, as it is often called the great healer.

Love

You might think this is obvious. Having Lyme disease, however, can make it much more difficult to receive and generate love. The Lyme patient needs to recognize this and place a priority on maintaining and deepening important relationships.

Many people don’t understand how serious Lyme can be. Lyme sufferers are often sicker than people with cancer, but friends and family sometimes don’t realize this. In most cases, everyone rallies around a cancer patient. Often, this doesn’t happen with a Lyme patient.

In many instances, a person with Lyme must reach out to family and friends to keep relationships in good condition. It isn’t easy to accomplish this when you have little energy. If you can do it, however, it’s worth the effort.

Living in a Healthy Place

Most people spend the majority of time at home. This makes it critical that your home is a healthy place to live.

Because various Lyme-related issues have forced me to move many times, I’ve learned which type of places are healthiest for me. The places I like allow for lots of light and fresh air. They tend to have hardwood floors, not carpets.

It’s important to keep living spaces clean and uncluttered to limit problems with allergens such as dust and mold. As well, I find relatively small houses and apartments much easier to keep clean and free of allergens. I also place special emphasis on the bedroom when creating a healthy living space, as, like most people, I spend much of my time there.

Mold Avoidance

Many top Lyme physicians say mold is a leading reason some patients don’t get well despite taking large quantities of antibiotics.

Strict avoidance is the best approach to mold. Stay away from places that smell moldy or musty. If your house or apartment is moldy, seek out a mold expert who can determine which measures you should take. If you try to remediate the problem, proceed cautiously, because a poor job of mold removal can release many toxic mold spores and make things worse.

You can learn more about this subject at http://www.survivingmold.com. Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker, a mold treatment pioneer, founded this site.

Toxin Avoidance

We live on a toxic planet. There are toxins in the air, in food, in household chemicals, in building supplies, and just about everywhere else.

It can seem overwhelming, but it’s important to avoid toxins whenever you can. That means educating yourself. Two helpful resources are Create a Toxin-Free Body & Home Starting Today, by Dr. W. Lee Cowden and Connie Strasheim, and the Environmental Working Group’s website, www.ewg.org.

Sleep

Your mother was right when she said it’s a good idea to sleep eight hours each night. Nearly every Lyme doctor will tell you that proper sleep is essential to getting well.

Research shows that the most beneficial sleep hours come before midnight, so it’s best to retire by 10 p.m. or earlier. Sleep experts recommend turning off the electrical circuits to your bedroom and keeping the room as dark as possible. It’s also best to keep televisions, computers, and other electronic devices out of your bedroom. If that’s not possible, turn them off an hour before bedtime.

Emotional/Spiritual work

Dr. Dietrich Klinghardt is one of many holistic Lyme physicians who urge patients to deal with their emotional and spiritual issues. Traumatic things that happen to a person, often in childhood, can cause emotional blockages that weaken the immune system and allow disease to flourish.

Many healing modalities address these issues,  such as psychotherapy, prayer and various forms of counseling. The American Holistic Nurses’ Association website, http://www.ahna.org, provides a list of modalities along with a brief description of each.

Cold and Flu Avoidance

You can’t get well if you’re always getting sick. This truism resonates with Lyme patients whose taxed immune systems can’t afford to contract a cold or the flu.

While natural and over-the-counter cold and flu remedies can help, hand washing is the key to avoiding these illnesses. Jason Tetro, a microbiologist and author of The Germ Code, says you should wash your hands when you return home and whenever you touch anyone or anything you suspect harbors cold or flu germs. He recommends using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water aren’t available.

Fresh Air and Sunshine

Tetro also advises opening windows whenever possible. He says letting fresh air into the house cuts down microbial levels and gives your immune system a break.

Sunshine is a great way of increasing Vitamin D levels. Well-known physician Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum recommends getting lots of sunshine while at the same time avoiding sunburn.

Self-discipline

It’s not enough to know how to fight Lyme. You need the self-discipline to make yourself do what you need to do.

Making checklists helps me with this. I have one checklist that details the supplements I take and another checklist that has items like exercises, stretches, meditation, and deep breaths. Checking items off makes sure I get things done, and each check mark brings with it a small sense of accomplishment.

Laughter

Dr. Cowden developed an herbal supplement program to fight Lyme, but herbs aren’t the only part of his regimen. He also encourages patients using the program to make several positive lifestyle choices, including looking for ways to laugh every day.

Dr. Don Colbert, the author of many health books, prescribes 10 belly laughs a day for his patients. Along with this, he advocates watching classic situation comedies like The Lucy Show.

These physicians believe laughter is among the best medicines available. Fortunately, finding laughs is easy. You can, of course, watch comedy shows on television, or search for funny items at YouTube, at iTunes, or at http://www.archive.org, the Internet Archive.

Photo: Eric Davidson

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Life Lessons from Lyme

I’ve heard people say that Lyme has taught them so much they’re glad they got the disease. I can’t imagine ever hearing those words come out of my mouth, but I have learned some important things.

Some of these lessons are things that you commonly hear from people who’ve gone through potentially life-threatening illness. They may sound cliched, but I believe they bear repeating.

I’m not sure how close I was to checking out, but at one point I asked my doctor if I was dying. I hoped she’d tell me it wasn’t nearly that bad. But all she said was “I’m not sure.” Although I’m still on a journey to recovering full health, I’m a lot better than I was. And I think I’m well enough now to put into practice the following lessons that I hope I have truly learned from my fight with Lyme.

It’s about love. Treat other people with love. Treat yourself with love. Do things you love doing.

Be grateful. If you believe in God, constantly thank Him for what you’ve got. If you don’t believe in God, just be thankful.

Let a lot more things go. There are times when you have to stand on principle and argue, but, really, those times are rare. More often, it works out best if you just drop it.

Do stuff that matters. Spending time with family matters. Meaningful work matters. Anything that makes a positive contribution to life matters.

Don’t waste time. When I’m planning my days, I ask myself, ‘What can I do that’s important today?’ I’m not saying never watch TV or anything like that, because sometimes that’s a good use of time. But I try to make a real effort to use this most valuable resource well.

Be positive. Be enthusiastic. When Lyme is really bad, this is a challenge. But if you can pull it off, no one is better off for it than you.

Put others first. I don’t know about you, but I get a lot of satisfaction from helping people. Especially family. One of the many reasons I love having a son is that there is nothing that makes me happier than helping him out in some way. There were many years when I could do precious little for him because of Lyme, and that was very, very difficult.

Forgive, forgive, and forgive some more. Nearly everyone with Lyme has endured more than their share of mistreatment. Doctors telling you’re making it up, friends and family members telling you to get off your butt when you’re seriously ill, and worse. It can be difficult to forgive, but it is essential. Otherwise, you’re just loading yourself down with bitterness and anger. Personally, I don’t have the excess energy to carry those bags.

Take great care of others. If you think of something nice to say about someone, don’t hold it in. Say it. Let people in your life know how much you appreciate them.

Take great care of yourself. I’ve made a pledge to myself to do things, say things, eat things, etc., that are going to lead to full health. I fall short sometimes, but I try.

Like nearly everyone else, I’m tougher than I think. Lyme can dole out an unbelievable amount of punishment, and I hope those bugs are impressed that we humans are built to absorb a lot of distress. When you think you just can’t take it anymore, the truth is that somehow you nearly always can.

Take your time. More often than not, rushing is counterproductive. After Lyme has stolen so much, it’s tempting to try to catch up too fast. I have to work hard to guard against this. Being a Type A personality likely contributed to my Lyme woes. Remembering to slow it down is a daily challenge.

ENJOY LIFE! When you’re having an off day, think of how much better it is now than when your Lyme was at its worst. Enjoying life then may have been next to impossible. So if you’re now in a position where it’s fairly easy to enjoy life, go ahead and do it. Every day.

Photo: Eric Davidson

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

Food Fight!

Have you ever had a food fight with yourself?

No, I don’t mean smushing a cream pie in your face or whacking yourself over the head with a jumbo pizza. I mean having an argument between your inner self and your outer self over which morsels of food on your plate you should eat and which you should shun.

This happens a lot with me, and I suspect I’m not the only person with Lyme with this dilemma. I think it results from Lyme causing people to have off-the-charts sensitivity.

According to the smart doctors, Lyme overstimulates the immune system as one of its survival mechanisms. It tries to get you flail away wildly instead of attacking it with a calm, measured, effective response.

Let’s face it. Those of us managing a severe case of Lyme are walking a tightrope. One false move here or there can bring misery. And I think this is what my finicky eating is all about.

My food fight goes something like this.

The outer me notices halfway through the meal that I haven’t touched the steamed kale. I push my fork towards it, but it’s like there’s a magnetic pull preventing me from reaching it. Then I go for a hefty chunk of salmon sitting next to it. Again something seems to be warning me away.

If it were a conversation, it would go as follows.

Outer self: “Hey, what gives. We’re really skinny. We need to eat.”

Inner self: “Look, I’m overstimulated as it is, and if you make me eat this stuff, it’s going to get worse, and I’m going to overreact to that stupid Lyme.”

Outer self: “Are you sure?”

Inner self: “Remember the last time you force fed me. We kept waking up all night sweating and felt lousy in the morning. You didn’t check the scale, but all that sweating means we didn’t gain weight, we even got a bit skinnier. The same thing happened the time before and the time before that. Clueing in yet?”

Outer self: “I guess you’re right. Sorry about that. I’ll try not to do that again.”

Inner self: “Hey, it’s your funeral.  Wait a minute. It’s our funeral. Smarten up, eh!”

One of the advantages of Lyme making me super sensitive is that I get a lot of feedback from my inner self. Especially when it comes to food. Yesterday, it was hold the parsnips, the day before no more cabbage and parsley please. Green veggies, for some reason, bring out the most red flags.

Yogurt is another one. I just stick my spoon into the tub and wait for inner self to say whoa with that magnetic pull feeling. Some days it comes after a few spoonfuls and some days after half the container.

The last while I’ve learned to negotiate with my inner self. I’ll lobby for a few extra forkfuls of chicken or those last two pieces of carrots, and the force field will ease off a bit. But I don’t push it. I’ve learned through experience that my inner self knows a lot more about what’s going on inside than I do, and when the outer me has a full-blown food fight with the inner me, all of me ends up losing.