What I Use to Manage Herxheimer Reactions

(Please Note: This article first appeared on prohealth.com on March 21, 2017)

It was sunsets that  taught me that beauty  sometimes only lasts  for a couple of moments,  and it was sunrises that  showed me that all it  takes is patience to  experience it all over  again. ~ A.J. Lawless, “Patience”

It was sunsets that taught me that beauty sometimes only lasts for a couple of moments, and it was sunrises that showed me that all it takes is patience to experience it all over again.
~ A.J. Lawless, “Patience”

Let’s face it—no one wants to experience the dreaded Herxheimer reaction (AKA “herx”) when undergoing Lyme treatment. We’ve all heard horror stories about them, and for some Lyme patients, the thought of having to endure this reaction on top of disabling Lyme symptoms is too much to bear. In some instances, a patient may choose to delay or reject treatment altogether to avoid these unpleasant symptoms.

What is a Herxheimer reaction?

In his online book called, The Treat Lyme Book, Dr. Marty Ross states, “a die-off reaction can occur when treating the Lyme germ, some co-infections, and yeast. It occurs as bacteria or yeast die during antibiotic treatment. It is common to have Herxheimer die-off reactions when starting herbal anti-microbials or antibiotics when treating Lyme. These reactions can also occur when new antibiotics are introduced into a treatment.”

As bacteria or yeast die off, the body releases proinflammatory proteins (known as cytokines) in response to an influx of toxins. While some cytokine activity bolsters the immune system to fight infections, too many of these chemicals can have adverse effects. An overabundance of cytokines in the body leads to pain, fatigue, a suppressed immune system, cognitive issues and brain fog; essentially, a worsening of many of the symptoms of Lyme disease.

But are you powerless against toxins, increased inflammation, and excess cytokines running bonkers through your body? No, you’re not! Using a variety of supplements, lifestyle changes, and detox methods, you can lessen herxes and support your body during treatment. Over the years I’ve tried many things, and I’d love to share with you the ones that have helped me the most during the last three-and-a-half-years of my treatment.

1. Activated charcoal- In a previous article entitled, A Quick Guide to Seven Popular Toxin Binders  I mentioned the benefits of this low-cost supplement for reducing the body’s inflammatory responses to toxins. As someone who tends to be sensitive to many supplements and medications, I’ve found activated charcoal to be a gentler approach to binding adverse substances and facilitating their removal from my body.

Consult with your doctor before using any toxin binders, as they must be taken a few hours away from other medications, herbs, or supplements to prevent these remedies from getting absorbed, as well.

2. Glutathione- Glutathione is referred to as the body’s master antioxidant, and it helps to support the liver through the detoxification process. I’ve used this supplement in an oral form, called liposomal glutathione, and in an intravenous drip. Although this supplement can be a bit pricey, it’s one of my favorites for mitigating the effects of a herx, and it improves my energy, decreases brain fog, and helps me to sleep better at night.

3. Infrared sauna treatments- In the book, Beating Lyme Diseasechiropractic doctor, Dr. David Jernigan (2008) writes, “In the realm of assisting chronic or frequently occurring infectious illness, infrared sauna therapy is a vital part of any good treatment program. This is because of its ability to detoxify the body of heavy metals and toxins that are locked up in the fat cells.” (p. 183).

An infrared sauna is different from the steam saunas you might be familiar with at your local gym or spa. The temperature range for an infrared sauna is typically 110-130 degrees (depending on the machine), which is significantly less than a steam sauna. Infrared saunas heat the body from the inside out, allowing the heat to penetrate more deeply. A 30-minute sauna session improves circulation, reduces pain, helps you feel calmer, and assists your body with detoxification. Before investing in an infrared sauna, please consult with your health care provider. There may be some instances where sauna sessions are contraindicated.

4. Epsom salt baths- Magnesium sulfate, the primary mineral in Epsom salts, has a relaxing effect on muscles and the nervous system, and is an inexpensive way to diminish herxes. Not only does this mineral-rich salt reduce pain and inflammation, but it also boosts the detoxification capabilities of both the skin and the liver thanks to the compound sulfate. Sulfate draws out toxins through the skin and cleanses the liver by enhancing the production of bile. Since Epsom salts can lower blood pressure, you may want to begin with a foot bath to gauge how you feel using this method of detoxification.

5. Exercise as tolerated- While exercise is probably the last activity you feel like doing when you’re experiencing a herx, it can be one of the best ways to reduce your symptoms when done appropriately. Your lymphatic system–a network of tissues, organs, and fluid that eliminates waste and disperses immune cells throughout your body– is stimulated through movement and contractions of your muscles.

There are two important points to remember when incorporating exercise into your treatment protocol: First, don’t overdo it. If you feel exhausted after an activity, you’ve done too much, and you need to scale back. Second, don’t engage in strenuous aerobic activity, as this can suppress the immune system for up to 24 hours following exertion. When beginning an exercise regimen, you may need to consider seeing a physical therapist or a trainer, so you can have an individualized program to rebuild your strength and stamina without pushing yourself to the limit.

These are the things that I use to improve my die-off symptoms. There are many additional options, so, with some trial and error, you’re likely to find something to support you through this challenging aspect of treatment.

References: 

Burrascano Jr., J. (2008) Advanced Topics In Lyme Disease: Diagnostic Hints And Treatment Guidelines For Lyme And Other Tick Borne Illnesses. Retrieved from http://www.lymenet.org/BurrGuide200810.pdf

Jernigan, D. (2008). Beating Lyme Disease. Wichita, KS: Somerleyton Press.

Ross, M. (2014, November 8). Herxheimer Die-Off Reaction: Inflammation Run Amok. Retrieved from
http://www.treatlyme.net/treat-lyme-book/herxheimer-die-off-reaction-inflammation-run-amok/

A Big Thank You Ravishly

Today, my first long-form essay went live on Ravishly. I was nervous and scared to write this piece, and I was flooded with an unexpected range of emotions. How could I write about the most challenging and dark time in my life? Well, I persevered, chipping away at the piece over a two-week period. I am very proud to say I did it! I was able to share my story and a story that mirrors the lives of so many other Lyme patients. I’m so proud to have accomplished this, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading it and find some hope in the story.

A big thank you to Ravishly for allowing me to write this cathartic piece!

Without further adieu, click here to read I’ve Never Met the Nurse Who Saved My Life.

5 Tips to Treat Lyme Disease When You’re on a Budget

(Please note: This post first appeared on ProHealth on February 27, 2017.)

Image made available by TaxCredits.net

Image made available by TaxCredits.net

 

Recently, I received a distressing message from a fellow Lyme patient named Amy, whom I’ve never met. She had reached out to me on my blog expressing her dismay over the ongoing medical costs to treat her illness. “We are financially drained, nothing left,” she wrote. “I still need treatment.” Amy wondered how I was able to afford the expense of constantly battling Lyme.

Unfortunately, Amy’s message highlights widespread issues among patients when trying to recover from Lyme disease–a lack of finances and other resources to continue the journey toward regaining our health. With dwindling bank accounts, we are often forced to decide between seeking quality treatment, paying our rent or mortgage, or putting food on the table.

Over the years, I’ve developed a few strategies to decrease the pressure of managing an ailment with a hefty price tag. Here are five tips to treat Lyme disease when you’re on a budget.

1.See if you qualify for financial assistance

Here’s a list of five organizations I found useful for receiving accurate testing, treatment, and medications.

 

  • Lyme-Tap [http://www.ilads.org/campaign/lyme-tap.php] provides need-based financial assistance to people for initial Lyme-related testing. Resources are available on a first come, first served basis and preference is given to children under 18 years of age. Please note: Lyme-Tap doesn’t pay for insurance deductibles.


  • RxAssist [http://www.rxassist.org/]- is a curated database of information from pharmaceutical companies and additional sources to help patients get medications at a reduced cost. Patients may qualify for this program if they meet the income guidelines and have no prescription drug coverage. In hardship circumstances, an insured person may still qualify for assistance.


  • Bay Area Lyme Foundation Tick Test [http://www.bayarealyme.org/lyme-disease-prevention/tick-testing/]- performs free testing to determine if a tick a person has encountered is an infected or uninfected tick. The service is offered as part of a larger data-collection project to help scientists locate areas where Lyme disease is most common. This program is for informational purposes only and is not used for the diagnosis or treatment of tick-borne infections.


  • LymeLight Foundation [https://lymelightfoundation.org/grants/]- offers grant opportunities to children and adults through age 25. An applicant must be under the care of a Lyme literate health care provider and be a U.S. resident. The maximum lifetime grant awarded to a patient is $10,000.


  • GoodRx [https://www.goodrx.com/]- Many people aren’t aware that the cost of medications can vary significantly from one location to another. GoodRx compares prices and discounts from pharmacies all across the country so that patients can locate the lowest prices for their prescriptions. These discounts and coupons can be used whether you have insurance or not, and GoodRx was a lifesaver for me whenever I had gaps in my health care coverage.


2. Understand what your insurance plan covers

Unfortunately, you might not be able to stay within your insurer’s network to see a Lyme specialist. But, are you aware you may be able to submit your bill to the insurance company for partial reimbursement or to meet your out-of-network deductible? Small savings add up over time and can make or break your ability to sustain treatment. Moreover, some private insurers now reimburse for Skype appointments, and this could offset travel expenses if your doctor isn’t local.

In addition to doctor visits, check which medications your insurance will pay for in advance. Not long ago, I was surprised to learn that my plan covered all but $10 of a $1200 drug. However, it didn’t cover any of the cost of a $200 antibiotic. Knowing which medications my insurance did and didn’t cover, allowed me to examine the discount coupons I mentioned previously, other prospective drugs, or herbal medications to see what was more affordable for me.

3. Pare down your supplements

In a world with unlimited financial resources, we would be able to purchase every supplement our doctor recommends. Sadly, for many of us, this isn’t realistic. After several years of exhausting money on supplements that didn’t work for me, I began asking my doctor to pick her top two supplement recommendations for my treatment protocol. By doing this, I was able to tell which supplements were helping me and which ones were ineffective. Over time, I’ve slowly created an essential, supportive list of supplements that’s within a price range I can afford.

4. Resist the urge to hop on a treatment bandwagon

As you watch others invest in expensive endeavors, it’s easy to fear you’re missing out on a potentially life-changing treatment. I’ve been in that position (heck, I’m still in that position). Over the years, I’ve learned to watch and ask others how they’re doing with their treatments before jumping into something new. Although the wait is painful at times, this allows me to see if a treatment trend has helped several people before making a decision about whether it’s something I want to pursue for my healing.

5. Prepare for your doctor’s appointments

In the beginning, I often left my appointments without asking all the questions I’d hoped to ask. To gather my thoughts ahead of time, I began jotting down my concerns in a notebook as soon as they popped into my head. The night before my appointments, I organized those questions and brought my notebook with me to the visit. When my appointment was ending, I’d request to look at my notes and make sure I had sufficient clarification about any remaining matters. As a result, I began leaving my appointments with a solid plan, and I rarely had to spend money on back-and-forth email exchanges that increased my bill. Now, I can schedule my follow-up visits further apart (like every three months instead of two), which helps to lower my treatment costs.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, so let’s keep this discussion going. If you’ve discovered some tricks that have helped you to reduce the hefty price tag of treating Lyme, please leave them in the comments, so that others can be helped by them as well.

Shout out to WHAT’s GOO:D by the Vitamin Shoppe

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tell the story of my struggles with Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome, and interstitial cystitis for the Vitamin Shoppe. To read the article, What It’s Really Like to Suffer from Lyme Disease–And How I’ve Learned to Cope, please click here.

Six Ways to Combat Candida during Lyme Treatment

Please note: This article originally appeared on ProHealth on December 21, 2016

Photo credit to William Ismael

Photo credit to William Ismael

Yeast overgrowth is a common concern for Lyme patients who undergo long-term antibiotic therapy and certain herbal antimicrobial treatments. While numerous antimicrobials can affect the delicate balance of the gut flora, broad spectrum medications like amoxicillin, minocycline, doxycycline, and clarithromycin (just to name a few) pose the greatest risk of destroying healthy intestinal microbiota allowing yeast to flourish. One such yeast you’ve probably heard about is Candida.

Certain levels of Candida are a natural and ordinary part of the flora in the intestinal tract. When Candida levels are healthy, they aid in the absorption of nutrients, guard the intestinal tract against other pathogens, and support the immune system. However, when Candida levels become imbalanced and overwhelm the body–a condition known as dysbiosis–you may experience a whole buy carisoprodol europe host of symptoms in addition to those associated with Lyme disease.

Although it can be a challenge to distinguish the symptoms of Candida overgrowth from the complex expression of Lyme disease, some signs that your body is battling an upsurge of yeast include: digestive disturbances, bloating, fatigue, inflammation, hormonal imbalances, mood swings, brain fog, vaginal yeast infections and itchy skin. In fact, yeast overgrowth can lead to a spike in inflammatory cytokines–potent inflammatory chemicals in the body–leading to a worsening of many of your Lyme symptoms. Food allergies and sensitivities may also develop as a result of this imbalance in your body.

The majority of Lyme patients are likely to encounter Candida overgrowth at some point during their treatment. Using a combination of prescription medications (when necessary), anti-fungal herbs, and dietary changes, you can bring balance back into your intestinal tract. As naturopathic doctor and Lyme expert Dr. Nicola McFadzean says, “Since the gut has its own immune and neurological systems, keeping the natural ecology in balance is key.” Below are six ways to help keep Candida in check throughout your Lyme treatment.

1. Limit your intake of sugar.
Sugar and substances that break down into sugar in the body are foods that fuel yeast overgrowth. To control yeast, you’ll want to eliminate your intake of sugar as much as possible–including both simple and complex carbohydrates, alcohol, and fruit. If you’re waging an ongoing war with Candida, you might need to remove these items completely from your diet. While this step is not always an easy one to take, it’s one of the best ways to strengthen your immune system.

2. Add fermented foods to your diet.
In a previous article called, Six Things You Can Do To Improve Your Gut Health When You Have Lyme Disease [http://www.prohealth.com/library/showarticle.cfm?libid=29182], I discuss the benefits of increasing your intake of fermented foods. Foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, and kefir are gut-friendly nourishment that support intestinal health. Fermented fare provides your body with essential probiotics, enzymes, and vitamins that can help shield you from a whole host of pathogens.

3. Take a quality probiotic.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that restore and replace the healthy gut flora that been destroyed by long-term treatment. The dose of probiotics and the brand you’ll want to take will differ depending on your doctor and your protocol. However, they are a must-have supplement for anyone going through Lyme treatment. Additionally, they aid in digestion and help your body assimilate the nutrients that you take in.

To find the probiotic that’s right for you, it’s best to ask your physician for advice. They may have a preferred brand they want you to take.

4. Don’t forget about Saccharomyces boulardii.
Sacc what? Don’t worry. It’s known as Sacc B. for short. Sacc B is a beneficial yeast that functions as a probiotic in the body (surprisingly, not all yeasts are bad). Like the helpful bacteria mentioned above, this organism also contributes to defending the gut against disease-causing bacteria and yeast. Studies suggest that Sacc B might be useful for managing Clostridium difficile (C-diff)–a dangerous gastrointestinal infection that can be brought on by the overuse of antibiotics. One such study, entitled “Influence of Saccharomyces boulardii CNCM I-745 on the gut-associated immune system” was published in Clinical Experimental Gastroenterology in September, 2016. Many other similar studies show that Sacc B may support GI health in those with irritable bowel syndrome, as well as in those with urinary tract conditions–among other conditions that are relevant to Lyme patients.

5. Try herbal remedies.
In addition to dietary changes and probiotics, your doctor might decide to place you on a combination of natural anti-fungal treatments to correct yeast overgrowth. Herbs like garlic, olive leaf extract, pau d’arco, caprylic acid, oregano oil, and grapefruit seed extract may help support a healthy balance of yeast in the gut; they are sometimes used alone or in a combination Candida support formula. Be sure to consult with your doctor before adding any herbal remedies to your protocol. Certain ones may interact with your medications.

6. If the problem persists, there are prescription medications.
Anti-fungal medications like nystatin and fluconazole are commonly prescribed for treating yeast overgrowth. Nystatin is generally safe and efficient at killing yeast in the gut without toxic or harmful side effects. Fluconazole is a more potent medication, and it’s used when there’s a more serious or systemic problem with Candida. Some medications, including antibiotics and herbal remedies, may interact with this drug, so let your doctor know what you are taking before you begin fluconazole.

With a combination of lifestyle and diet changes, natural treatments, and prescription medications, symptoms associated with elevated Candida levels may greatly improve.

References:

Balch, J.F., & Stengler, M. (2004). Prescription for Natural Cures. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Crook, W. (2005). The Yeast Connection And Women’s Health. Jackson, TN: Professional Books, Inc.

McFadzean, N. ( 2010). The Lyme Diet. South Lake Tahoe, CA: BioMed Publishing Group.

Teitelbaum, J. (2007). From Fatigued to Fantastic. New York, NY: The Penguin Group.

Condensing A Year

(“I hear rumors that I am well. Someone mentioned it to ‘this’ person, ‘this’ person then told ‘that’ person, and finally, ‘that’ person told me that I am doing great. I am flattered people think I am doing so well, but the reality is much less glamorous.” More Than 43,000 Pills Later, October 23rd, 2015).

Where do I begin? I’m lying in bed typing, trying to push through the fatigue. I’m exhausted. No. I’m depleted. But that’s often the case with chronic Lyme disease. What can I say that you don’t already know? Some days are terrible. Some days are okay. I feel like a broken record sometimes–repeating the same verbiage day in and day out. Three years into treatment and yes, I’m still sick. Although you probably can’t tell by looking at me.  

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. October 2015-January 2016

My healthcare team uncovered a Babesia infection–a malaria-like parasite–and a high viral load. Since I didn’t have the obvious symptoms of these infections, I had some doubts about this diagnosis. I had done the immune-boosting, GcMaf therapy with Bravo Probiotic for several months, so I encouraged my nurse practitioner to intensify my treatment. I wanted 2016 to be my best year yet, and I thought I could tolerate an aggressive regime. Initially, I had some good moments. I went ziplining, celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary, Thanksgiving, and my birthday. Then, without much warning, I got knocked down. I crashed so hard I could no longer lift my head from the pillow. My mother, who I rarely get to see, had come for a visit over Christmas. Sadly, I spent two days of her time here lying in bed. After the new year, I spoke with my nurse practitioner, and she ordered me to stop all medications and have some blood work done. Sure enough, my test results confirmed elevated liver enzymes and kidney function, and I was told to stay off all medications until my overworked organs were back in their normal ranges.

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. January 2016-April 2016

Two months. That’s how long it took for my liver and kidneys to return to normal. Following this setback, I became angry. I was angry that I was undertaking such a fierce treatment protocol without the support of knowledgeable, local physicians. I was angry that no matter where I went for healthcare, I was thrust into the role of patient, advocate, and educator always having to point out the inaccuracies of testing and the old, erroneous treatment guidelines. Lyme disease is serious; in some cases, it’s deadly. I had to explain this bitter reality to every physician I met. If it weren’t for a select group of doctors willing to put their licenses and careers on the line for me, I would be dead. Period.

That’s a hard pill to swallow.

Eventually, I consulted with a Lyme Literate Medical Doctor (LLMD) in Indiana to re-work the previous protocol that caused me to tank. The treatments I endured from him were intense–like knock-you-on-your-ass intense. But I persisted because that’s all I knew how to do. Days went by, and I was stuck in bed again trying to figure out the next step (I’m always trying to figure out what’s next).  

In March, I began weekly intravenous, ultraviolet light treatments. It’s an alternative intervention, but I heard promising reports that people were close to remission with this treatment. It was a pricey and sometimes painful attempt, but the hope of improving my quality of life was dwindling. At this point, the tremendous financial burden this placed on my family and me seemed worth the risk.

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. April 2016-July 2016

For awhile, I was improving with the new combo of medications and the UV treatments. In May, my husband and I took our first plane ride in eight years. We went to Nashville to visit some friends. While I was nervous buy soma online usa about the large quantities of medication I had to bring with me, things went pretty smoothly. I came back from the trip feeling like I was making progress with my health–this time for good. I couldn’t believe I had conquered such a huge healing milestone!

In June, we adopted a new puppy. For a short time, I was the owner of THREE dogs! The puppy brought new energy into our apartment, and I enjoyed many walks with her through our neighborhood. Sadly, my upswing was short-lived, though, and I ended up in the emergency room after battling a colitis-type episode for a few days. While that episode resolved, I quickly began heading downhill once more. By July, I no longer saw benefits from the UVLrx treatments or my medications. The fatigue came back with a vengeance as I struggled to preserve the improvements I’d made. Sliding backward is a heartbreaking part of this illness, I’ve learned.

I’m still fighting Lyme disease. July 2016-October 2016 and beyond

So, shouldn’t I be used to this by now? I’m not. I’ll never get used to the anguish of the low points, or watching my dreams slip away. Sadly, my summer wasn’t what I had expected. I wasn’t able to attend my high school reunion, visit friends, family or do much of anything. In August, I stopped the UVLrx treatments at the six-month mark. Also, I tested positive for mycoplasma pneumoniae–another bacterial infection I had to contend with. 

“Maybe you’ve been reinfected. Do you recall any tick bites?” my nurse practitioner asked due to my increasing symptoms. How could that be? I’d hardly left the house the entire summer! I prayed she was wrong, but I was terrified she might be right. Could I have missed one, microscopic tick? What would I do if I had to begin this journey all over again? 

Then, life happened, and it forced me to put my health on hold. On October 6th, we put our almost 17-year-old beagle named Seven to sleep. Just typing her name still causes a dull ache in my heart. There’s no doubt it was her time, but it still hits me like a punch in the gut. She was my first dog, and when I was at my worst, I whispered in her ear one dispirited day, “You have to stay well until the day comes where I am strong enough to handle it.” I am grateful she upheld her end of the bargain. Even though I didn’t feel healthy, I managed her death without sliding further down the hill. Maybe I’m just too sentimental, but it sure felt like I hung on for her, and she hung on for me.

I connected with my nurse practitioner over a Zyto scan a few weeks later. The scan showed very high levels of oxidative stress, brain inflammation, and the Babesia infection from nearly a year ago.

But, there was good news too! After three years of treatment–three years of powerful medications–I no longer tested positive for Borrelia (the bacteria that causes Lyme) or the co-infection Bartonella. At least, for now. Insert happy emoji of the dancing lady in the red dress.

My nurse practitioner and I settled on a more simplified treatment plan of Malarone, tinidazole, and Tagamet. Although Tagamet is an antacid, it’s been shown to reduce brain inflammation, so I take it after meals to not interfere with my digestion. It’s still too early to tell, but I think it’s helping. Fingers crossed that it’s helping. I’m ready for a big shift to occur. I’ve been ready and waiting for a very long time…

The last of the golden fall sun.

The last of the golden, fall sun.

“A wind has blown the rain away and blown the sky away and all the leaves away, and the trees stand. I think, I too, have known autumn too long.”

-e e cummings

The Day I Told My Husband to Leave Me and My Lyme Disease

Please note: This article first appeared on The Mighty on August 24th, 2016.

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On a summer afternoon in 2013, I lay in my bed staring up at the ceiling contemplating how to cut my losses while my life spiraled out of control. I felt as though there was an anchor attached to my soul pulling me deeper into an abyss of unfathomable despair. My thoughts drifted to an existence of solitude, and for a brief moment, relief washed over me. I had already become disconnected from most of my family and friends — an unforeseen casualty of a prolonged hardship. During a period of panic and uncertainty, I considered whether or not I should also cut ties with my husband, Tom. I fantasized about living the rest of my days — however long that would be — without the expectations of someone else. Furthermore, Tom never asked to be my caregiver, so letting him go seemed noble to me. Why should we both have to struggle when he could escape this never-ending nightmare?

We lived in an old, second-story Chicago apartment where watching new cracks form in the plaster became my daily entertainment. I crashed in 2010 and then again in 2012, leaving me stuck at home and in bed, intolerable to sound and unable to sleep. I took combinations of medications and supplements in amounts that could knock out a small elephant. But they often had little to no effect on me. My brain and spinal cord burned with pain; my muscles ached with exhaustion, and I could no longer sit or stand for more than a few minutes. Too weak to talk, I communicated with my mother in Minnesota through texts. Regrettably, I couldn’t bear the idea of hearing the sadness in her voice or the possibility of her seeing me in this condition. My body had given out on me, and I suddenly realized this mysterious ailment wasn’t going away on its own.

Before my illness, I was an occupational therapist, an athlete, a pilates instructor, and the creator of a well-respected exercise DVD. Since I had carved out a unique niche in an up-and-coming health and wellness space, my career path looked bright and full of potential. Then, without warning, it all slipped away.

The illness that derailed me in the prime of my life was chronic Lyme disease. Steeped in medical and political controversy, Lyme disease is an ostracized diagnosis. Physicians are taught that this disease is difficult to acquire and easy to treat. However, nothing could be farther from the truth. Lyme disease can affect every organ, joint and muscle in the body, and its symptoms mimic many other diseases. Sadly, there is no cure and no linear path to healing. At best, there is remission. Lyme is nothing if not unpredictable and destructive.

After the fatigue and pain had beaten me down each day, Tom got what was left of me — which was never very much. Although I was his wife, I was also his patient, and sickness was a prominent third entity in our marriage. I constantly needed his assistance, and therefore I couldn’t tend to his needs or reciprocate his affection. On an occasion, we had rare buy soma watson online moments of joy and laughter, but they were always short-lived by a flood of symptoms. There wasn’t anything I could do to change my fate, but Tom, well, he could be spared from this tragedy, I thought. I became convinced I could release him of his caregiver duties if I finished out my remaining days living with my parents in Minnesota, and I prepared myself to tell him to move on with his life and find someone else.

One day, I called Tom into the bedroom and beneath an outpouring of tears, I uttered, “You need to leave me before this ship sinks. I’m not getting any better… you don’t need to sink along with me.”

Quietly, Tom sat on the edge of the bed and listened to me as I continued, “There’s still time to save yourself. You don’t deserve this! You can remarry and have the family you’ve always wanted,” I sobbed, knowing that those things weren’t possible for me.  

The heaviness of my words took my breath away as I realized I was letting go of the person I loved most in this world. My heart couldn’t endure the pain, so I covered my head with a blanket; I was no longer able to look at him.

Suddenly, I felt a gentle arm wrap around me and heard these tender words, “Jenny, if you think I’m going to leave you, you don’t know me very well. I’m the type of guy that would sink with the ship. I’m not leaving you. I love you. I need you in my life. Where would I be without you? Probably alone and a lot less happy.”

The tears slowed to a trickle and then halted. Tom could be a little rough around the edges sometimes, and I liked to think I’d softened him up a bit over the years. As an image of us laughing together popped into my mind, a small smile formed on my lips. “That’s true,” I mumbled from under the blanket, “Youwould be alone and a lot less happy without me.”

At that moment, Tom’s words reminded me of my worth in our relationship, which I had unknowingly lost somewhere along the way. I realized Lyme disease might have stolen a lot from me, but it didn’t diminish my value as a woman, wife, friend, or partner. Though, I’m embarrassed to admit I believed the lie that I was somehow “less than” more times than I can count.   

Three years into aggressive Lyme disease treatment, and I am still working toward recovery. Though I’ve made great strides, our life together looks nothing like most other couples our age — no children, no financial stability, and no grand plan for the future. We live simple, quiet lives with three dogs and the constant struggle and uncertainty of a chronic illness. During those previous months of intense struggling, I’m thankful Tom refused my offer to leave. I know I would be alone and a lot less happy without him too. Today, there’s a lot of love between us and a mutual understanding that we are stronger together than apart as we continue to fight this ongoing battle. 

Six Things You Can Do To Improve Your Gut Health When You Have Lyme Disease

Please note: This article first appeared on Prohealth.com on July 20th, 2016

Many of us with Lyme disease are on strong antibiotic, antimicrobial, or supplement protocols. As we attack a multitude of infections, we often cycle through periods where we experience gut issues; things like bloating, pain, loss of appetite, difficulty digesting food, constipation, and diarrhea are common complaints.

If you’re like me, you’ve already implemented the necessary dietary recommendations. You avoid sugar, alcohol, processed foods, dairy, and gluten, and yet, your gut difficulties persist. Thankfully, there is good news! There are many things you can do to minimize gastrointestinal discomfort and keep your belly happy during treatment. Plus, a healthier gut will improve the function of your immune system and reduce inflammation–two things your body needs in spades when battling this illness.

Below is a list of tips I’ve learned over the years to improve gut health during Lyme treatment. While I wish I could say I do all these things daily, the truth is that sometimes I forget, and my stomach lets me know it. When tummy troubles arise, I get myself back on track by incorporating a few of these strategies into my routine as soon as possible.

1. Drink bone broths every day.

A fresh, homemade cup of slow cooked bone broth contains an array of easily digestible, gut-friendly nutrients and is relatively inexpensive to make. The gelatin in the broth helps heal the gut lining and amino acids such as arginine, glycine, and proline reduce inflammation in your body. Some people report difficulty tolerating bone broths when they first try to drink them. If this describes you, a meat stock cooked for just a few hours will still provide ample health benefits and may be easier to tolerate. On a personal note, I prefer to drink two cups of meat stock per day.

2. Increase your intake of fermented foods.

Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha, pickles, and kefir are some of the best foods for maintaining gut health. They provide the body with useful probiotics and a bounty of enzymes and vitamins that protect you from a variety of pathogens. Furthermore, fermented foods can reduce Candida overgrowth–which is an ongoing problem for some of us. Although many people prefer to make fermented foods themselves, I choose to buy mine from a delicious neighborhood deli for convenience.

3. Give juicing a shot.

Did you know that juicing vegetables and fruits helps to rebuild your gut and purge your body of toxins? That’s right! Like some of the other foods I already mentioned, juices are full of minerals, enzymes, and antioxidants. Additionally, since juicing requires little to no digestion, the vital nutrients found in juice are quickly absorbed and ready to nourish your healing body.

When making your juice, it’s best to use low-sugar fruits like apple and kiwi to help sweeten your drink. A favorite combination of mine is to blend apple, celery, romaine lettuce, and lemon into a tasty and refreshing summer beverage. To maximize buy soma muscle relaxer nutrient absorption, drink your juice within 15 minutes of juicing it.

4. Try a comprehensive digestive enzyme before meals.

Many factors inhibit the body’s natural production of digestive enzymes. Supplementing with these enzymes assists your body with the breakdown of food, so you can utilize the food you consume for fuel. When choosing a digestive supplement, you should look for one that contains hydrochloric acid (HCL) to aid protein digestion, amylase to aid carbohydrate digestion, and lipase to aid fat digestion.

A word of caution about digestive enzymes: If you have a history of stomach ulcers, please consult your doctor before taking a supplement that contains HCL. Should you need a digestive enzyme, there are plenty of products on the market that don’t contain HCL.

5. Take probiotics.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that replenish the healthy gut flora often destroyed by our medications. Long-term use of antibiotics and antimicrobials can leave the gut imbalanced. Therefore, probiotics are a must-have for anyone undergoing these types of treatments. In addition, these valuable bacteria aid in our digestion, allowing our bodies to take advantage of the vitamins and minerals we take in.

If you are new to adding probiotics into your protocol, it’s best to ask your physician for advice. They may have a preferred brand that they want you to take.

6. Use castor oil packs.

With its potent healing properties, the topical use of castor oil dates back to ancient times. As a child, I remember using it as a hot pack on my swollen glands when I had a sore throat. Years later, I am once again enjoying the restorative properties of castor oil for gut health. When a castor oil pack is applied to the abdomen, it encourages the flow of lymphatic fluid, lessens inflammation, and diminishes pain.

Here’s how to make a quick and easy castor oil pack:

  • First, you’ll need a wool flannel cloth and a bottle of pure, cold-pressed castor oil, both of which you can purchase online or at most health food stores
  • Saturate the flannel with the oil and place it over your abdomen or areas of tenderness.
  • Next, cover the flannel with plastic to protect fabric, clothes, and linens from the oil. I typically use kitchen plastic wrap.
  • Finally, apply heat using a heating pad to facilitate absorption.
  • You can leave the pack in place for up to an hour.
  • When you’re finished, make a paste of baking soda and water to remove the excess oil from your skin. Rub the paste over your abdomen and rinse it off.
  • You can store the flannel in a sealed bag in the refrigerator for 25-30 uses.


This list just scratches the surface of the variety of options that are out there for protecting your gut throughout the course of your treatment. With some trial and error, nearly everyone can find ways to optimize their digestive health during the road to recovery. Please remember, it’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider for more individualized recommendations.

Five Ways Pilates Can Help You Heal From Lyme Disease

Please Note: this article first appeared on ProHealth on March 22, 2016

It’s no secret to those who know me that I love Pilates. In fact, I’ve written about it a few times in the past (and probably will again) Pilates is a unique system of exercises, created by Joseph Pilates, designed to enhance strength, flexibility, posture, balance and to foster a connection between the mind and the body. 

In this article, I share with you some of my journey toward wellness, and ways in which Pilates is a useful, therapeutic tool to help you on your road to recovery.

The word “challenging” does not even begin to describe the starting point of my health struggles. For years, I battled an ever-growing list of strange symptoms until a doctor diagnosed me with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in 2010. Despite doing everything right; all that my doctor told me to do, I became more frail by the day, as weight inexplicably dropped from my 5-foot 6-inch frame.

Soon after my diagnosis, a series of soul-crushing events occurred; I lost my job, my car, most of my friends, my ability to sleep, financial stability, and my physical strength. During the next three years, I spent 18 months bedridden, only able to get up for a few minutes each day.

Sadly, I began to believe that my chances for a better quality of life were quickly slipping away. In a last ditch effort to find some help, I saw yet another doctor. He carefully combed through my medical history as my spent form draped over the chair across from him. When he lifted his head from his desk, he calmly said, “I think you have Lyme disease.”

Though armed with a new diagnosis and a heap of information, an entire year passed before my weak body was able to tolerate any treatment. In October 2013, a nurse practitioner created a gentle protocol for me that paved the way for healing to finally begin. I had an enormous uphill battle in front of me, but I was ultimately glad to be moving forward.

Along with my medical treatment, I promised myself that I would faithfully integrate Pilates into my protocol. Initially, it was a monumental task due to the level of physical decline I experienced from years of being homebound and incapacitated. However, I persevered, and stuck to my decision to make movement-based, exercise therapy a priority. Pilates has been a crucial part of my rehabilitation as it has safely allowed me to explore my current relationship with my body, my strength, and limitations, as I progress toward restoring my health.

I believe that nearly everyone–yes, both males and females–battling Lyme disease can benefit from incorporating the Pilates method into their treatment regime. Here are five ways Pilates can help you heal from Lyme disease.

1. Pilates reconnects your mind and your body.

Chronic Lyme disease can make you feel as though your body has betrayed you, and that you have no control over what’s happening to you. In contrast, a consistent Pilates practice reinforces the connection between the mind and the body and allows you to see that although many things may not be in your control, you still have the power to make specific changes to movements in a manner that feels best to you. When you focus your attention on the muscle groups working order soma overnight delivery during an exercise, you become acutely aware of the slight adjustments each muscle is making to rebuild your body.

Understanding that your mind and body work together to develop a stronger you is a very encouraging thought.

2. Pilates balances your body.

If you’ve experienced prolonged periods of inactivity or bed rest, you’ve probably noticed an increase in muscle weakness, tightness, and perhaps, even an increase in pain. These are the results of a body that has become imbalanced and deconditioned. With an emphasis on strength, flexibility, stability and mobility, Pilates provides a balanced workout for you. With each session, you will slowly notice an increase in muscle tone and joint range of motion.

3. Pilates reduces restrictions and poor movement patterns.

As I mentioned earlier, stress, pain and lack of movement take their toll on you. Your body adapts in the best way it knows how—by overcompensating in some areas and under compensating in others. These types of maladaptive patterns lead to muscle misalignment. Fortunately, Pilates allows you a chance to release restrictions throughout your tissues, adjust poor movement patterns, and improve your postural alignment. As renowned Pilates instructor Alycea Ungaro explains:

“As you exercise, you must always be aware of your alignment. Your workout is an opportunity to self-correct your misalignments. By learning to strengthen your weaknesses and correct your poor habits, you can restore optimal alignment to your body.”

As you engage the right muscles needed for each exercise, you will discover you can let go of excess tension and effort. Soon, you will see the advantages of new, more efficient movement in your body.

4. Pilates develops a strong core.

The core (AKA the “powerhouse”) is made up of the muscles in your abdomen, low back, hips, and gluteal area. Your core is always on duty; in fact, it’s constantly working to provide support and stability to your spine. When you’re sedentary for an extended length of time, your core begins to weaken, which decreases your ability to move efficiently.

The source of energy and the starting point for all exercises in the Pilates repertoire is your core group of muscles. As you strengthen this area, your balance will improve, and your movements will require less energy. You will sit and stand with better posture and more comfort.

5. Pilates adapts to your current level of fitness.

When traditional exercise programs often deplete you of energy, Pilates can be customized to suit your current fitness level. In my early days of recovery, I dealt with severe orthostatic intolerance problems and relentless fatigue that only allowed me to practice Pilates in a supine position. Thankfully, there are hundreds of exercises and variations that can be done lying down, so I never lacked options.

Similarly, you too may deal with severe fatigue, pain, or other concerns making most forms of exercise impossible to do. In such circumstances, Pilates can be used as a restorative tool to gently rejuvenate your mind, body, and spirit.

If you are considering incorporating Pilates into your pursuit of wellness, I suggest that you invest in at least a few sessions to learn the foundational principles of the method before undertaking a personal practice. With a solid list of benefits, Pilates truly is a fitness solution for those of us with chronic Lyme disease.

References:

Ungaro, A. (2011). Pilates Practical Companion. New York, NY: DK Publishing.