Yesterday, Reader’s Digest published an article I wrote on three, incredible women battling Lyme disease. I am so proud to call these women my friends. To view the piece on the Reader’s Digest website, please click here. Feel free to leave a comment about your own struggles with Lyme disease.
Please note: This article originally appeared on ProHealth on December 21, 2016
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 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.
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.
(“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 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…
“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
Please note: This article first appeared on The Mighty on August 24th, 2016.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.
Ungaro, A. (2011). Pilates Practical Companion. New York, NY: DK Publishing.
Q: How are you doing after Brucella treatment?
A: Recently, I’ve gotten a few emails asking me this question. I treated Brucella in August of 2014. I took a combination of 600mg of Rifampin and 200mg of Doxycycline for six weeks. This protocol is one in which Dr. Horowitz recommends for his Brucella patients.
To be perfectly honest with you, I am not sure if it did anything. Brucella has not popped up on any other tests and treating it didn’t seem to yield much improvement. Additionally, I wasn’t able to tell which of my symptoms were linked specifically to Brucella. I am still battling many of the same symptoms since I was first diagnosed in 2013 (fatigue, insomnia, burning sensations in my brain and spinal cord, jaw pain, and so on). However, I am battling some of these symptoms to a lesser degree now. All in all, I can’t say that I made any significant progress in treating Brucella.
At the present time, I am treating Borrelia (still) and Babesia. This new protocol remains challenging, and although I don’t yet feel any drastic changes, I believe there maybe some subtle shifts happening inside. I just try to take things one co-infection at a time, hoping that with persistence, I can beat Lyme, get my energy back, and go on with my life.
I am so ready for that to happen!
I am no stranger to hardship. In fact, I live it daily. Beneath the smiles is someone who is struggling–someone who awakens each morning and says, “Let’s give this life a shot again today.” Every healthy decision I make for my body gets me one step closer to my end goal–remission. However, the process is long and grueling, and with each setback, I live through brutal periods of discouragement often unseen by the world’s eyes.
Nearly a decade ago, the doctors diagnosed me with the first of a series of health conditions, called Interstitial Cystitis (IC)–an extremely painful, inflammatory condition of the bladder that substantially reduced my ability to work and profoundly impacted my quality of life. I was in agony, and I was not finding success with the available treatments. Chronic pain often brings about an inadvertent seclusion. In other words, I was heartbreakingly lonely because I quickly became isolated and unable to keep up with my active and social lifestyle.
Around the same time I was diagnosed with IC, I got married to my fiance, Tom. On our wedding day, he chose to walk the long, twisting road of illness hand-in-hand with me. I am not sure he fully knew what he was getting himself into, but he has never once questioned the challenging hand dealt to us.
Tom came into the marriage as a package deal–he and his sidekick, rescue dog named Seven. At that time, she was a feisty, seven-year-old, beagle with hazel eyes who pranced to the beat of her own bark. True to beagle form, “Stubborn” was (and still is) her middle name. Unlike other dogs, Seven never cared much for affection, cuddling or amusing her human owners. “She’s particular,” we said as she wiggled away from any attempts to snuggle with her. She was my first dog and has the distinction of being the most boisterous pooch on the block.
As one medical treatment after another failed me, I shed numerous tears. There were times I felt stuck and would crawl into bed, holding tightly to a small sliver of hope that I was in some such way still able to be helped. Typically, the days spent by myself while Tom was at work were the most challenging for me; the discomfort was unbearable.
Much to my surprise, Seven frequently appeared beside my bed, gazing up at me with almost human-like eyes. It was as if she knew I was hurting, and in her willful way, she tried her best to comfort me. Though she was cautious, she let me scoop her up, and I laid her beside me on the bed. Then, she allowed me to rub her belly for hours at a time. In her unique way, she helped me survive the bleak days of being newly diagnosed with a chronic illness no one knew much about.
After a few years of marriage, my health stabilized a bit, so my husband and I decided it was time to add a second dog to our little family. At the shelter, we met an overweight, six-year-old beagle named Caylie. She came with a list of health problems, but her easy-going and bubbly disposition made her irresistible. She had an unusual, scorpion-like tail, and deep, black eyes that pierced our hearts like lasers. Despite her health issues, she was perfect, and we adopted her on the spot.
From the moment we brought Caylie home from the shelter, she had an impressive talent. She bats our couch throw pillows around with her paws and perfectly stacks one on top of the other; she climbs to the top of her pillow peak with the grace of a mountain goat and rests the day away. Barely anything warms my heart more than watching her do this. It’s that cute; it makes me smile a hundred times over! With time, Caylie regained her health, and she and Seven formed a strong bond.
In many ways, Caylie is the exact opposite of Seven. She is playful, goofy, and consumes anything that remotely resembles food. She has an exceptional taste for the creamy, frothed milk topping of Tom’s homemade cappuccinos, Chicago-style pizza, and an occasional Altoid. At night, she often places her furry, little noggin on my lap and falls asleep. She’s the cuddle bug of the family.
Indeed, I wished the story of my chronic illness ended here–with one dog snuggled up on my lap and the other snoring peacefully in her fluffy bed. Nonetheless, it does not.
Sadly, my health didn’t remain steady. I declined with rapid intensity until I was too weak to get out of the bed. I remained bedridden for eighteen long months before two doctors finally diagnosed me with late stage Lyme disease–a chronic form of Lyme disease for which there is no cure and no linear path to healing. To say that my dogs have been a source of joy and strength for me as I fight to reclaim my life is an understatement. Through hearty tail wags, loads of personality, and frequent doses of silliness, Seven and Caylie remain my beams of light along a sometimes dark and deserted road.
Years have passed since we became a family of four. Caylie is now 13, and Seven just turned the ripe, old age of 16. My two senior, rescue beagles are nourishment for my soul to continue the long journey towards improving my health. I had no idea that a couple of white-faced, old pups would continually renew my sense of hope, and be the best medicine I’d ever find.
I’d love to hear stories about how your pets have helped you heal. Please feel free to leave a comment.
Update: On October 6th, 2016, Seven was laid to rest. Our hearts are broken, but we find comfort in knowing she is no longer in pain. Seven will always be our number one–the original member of @twosweetbeags. In loving memory of Sweet Seven Beags. January 2000 to October 6th, 2016. She was three months away from her 17th birthday.
Please note: this article originally appeared on ProHealth on January 20th, 2016.
By Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio
With 2016 well underway, many of us have recently reassessed our lives. We took inventory of what worked last year, what we hoped to improve upon this year, and constructed a well-intentioned plan to move forward in a fresh, new direction. Not surprisingly, several of us still resolved to achieve more, get in better shape, eat a healthier diet, be a better mother, father, partner, spouse, friend, etc. However, with Lyme disease and various overlapping conditions in the mix, often, our best-laid plans come to an abrupt halt. Many of us simply don’t have the strength and stamina to exert ourselves so intensely (myself included), which tends to leave us feeling frustrated and disheartened.
If this describes you, go easy on yourself. Thankfully, there’s plenty of time left to challenge the idea that you must muster up the strength to push more and try harder to have a better year. Instead, make 2016 exceptional by honoring your body exactly where it’s at, and accepting your current capabilities. By embracing a healthier mindset, may you feel uplifted and encouraged as you continue to heal. Here are four tips to renew your sense of hope and optimism this year
1. Remember that you are worth the struggle.
First, let me start off by saying–the trials you’ve endured, the tears you’ve shed over this illness, the obstacles you fought so hard to overcome—are not meaningless. Likewise, you battle a set of invisible symptoms on a daily basis that most will never see. Your unwavering determination and strength inspire others to forge ahead. Your vast knowledge helps others. Others see you as more than your illness, and your perseverance motivates them. The road to recovery is long, but please hold onto this certainty for 2016: You are worth all of the effort–all of the struggle– it takes to reclaim your health and life. Always remember, you are a person of great value to the world.
2.Find something therapeutic for yourself.
Raise your hand if you feel completely overwhelmed now and then by the usual, chronic illness rigmarole! Okay, maybe all the time (my hand shot up too). As an occupational therapist, my training taught me that a productive treatment session possesses healing, restorative, and therapeutic qualities for the patient. From a personal perspective, I learned a valuable lesson about a year into my Lyme treatment when I realized nothing felt therapeutic. My muscles held an abundance of tension, and my mind was regularly fearful. From herbs and supplements to medications, it didn’t matter what I put into my struggling body. I always reacted harshly to all of it.
Out of desperation, a quick Yelp search led me to an acupuncturist, named Tina, who had treated at least one other Lyme patient. She kindly agreed to see me that very day. I was so weak at this particular point in my illness that my husband carried me to her office and laid me down on the table. On our first visit, Tina evaluated me, and we agreed on a gentle treatment plan utilizing massage and acupuncture to relax my nervous system. Upon completion of our first session, I felt different, lighter. It was as if years of tension had melted away. This experience underscored the importance of utilizing various therapeutic modalities to help improve my health. It was a piece of the puzzle that had been missing.
Perhaps a detox bath, a massage, reading a good book, or prayer is therapeutic for you. Whatever it is, do it often. Don’t neglect to include these beneficial elements into your protocol. Your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
3. Allow yourself to feel happiness.
Most of us believe our happiness is dependent upon our circumstances– we’ll feel happy if we are well, if we have enough money, if we were around nicer people–if, if, if.
I hear these “if” statements often. We place our delight and joy in future pursuits that may or may not ever happen, and we deny ourselves the ability to experience happiness now. In 2016, let’s try a new approach. Release yourself from the thought that you can’t be happy until your life looks a certain way. Instead, notice the little gifts and sweet surprises that each day brings. While it’s true this won’t end your hardships; it will boost your spirit as you walk the long road to recovery.
4. Stop measuring your progress by how others are doing
There is no easy answer as to why some people get well while many of us continue to be ill. What I can tell you is, your journey through this illness is uniquely yours. You will repeatedly hear about someone who got well seeing a specific doctor, using a particular treatment, trying a bold therapy, or taking a special supplement. While it’s good to stay informed of your options, it’s important to remember there is no surefire way to recover. No matter what treatment option you choose to pursue, your body tolerates what it can, and it heals at its own rate. Healing will always be unique to you and your body and different from anyone else’s. So, please stop measuring your progress by how others are doing. I mean it. Stop it. This type of comparison is instantly depressing and will immediately kill your sense of hope and optimism. Rather, focus on how far you’ve already come, because, believe it or not, you’ve already made it a heck of a long way.
I would love to hear what things you are doing to remain hopeful and optimistic in the new year. Please feel free to leave a comment.
Q: Have you tried incorporating acupuncture into your recovery?
A: I get asked this question quite often–usually by people who have success with acupuncture as a therapeutic tool.
With the same positive results as so many others, I too experienced the incredible benefits of integrating acupuncture into my protocol. In 2013, I went to my first session; I could barely stand, walk, or sit upright. After my second visit–in a rare moment–I was able to go shopping for 2 hours. That was an activity I hadn’t done in two, long years. The results were nothing short of dramatic. For me, acupuncture jump-started my healing, and I continued to go for an entire year. Unfortunately, it became too cost prohibitive for me, and I had to quit going at the end of 2014.
Recently, my treatment protocol intensely increased to tackle Babesia and overcome the plateau I experienced most of 2015. At the same time, I began reading Dr. Horowitz’s book, Why Can’t I Get Better? In his book (2013), he writes, “Acupuncture and Chinese medicine are clearly useful adjuncts in certain treatment-resistant patients, even though we may not fully understand why it works” (p.118).
Once again, I feel as though acupuncture could be a vital part of my current treatment along with the medications, herbs, and supplements I take. I now go once a week, and I feel hopeful that my stalled healing will get a much-needed boost.
To hear more about my experience with acupuncture, please listen to my podcast on Lyme Ninja Radio.