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 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 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

Q & A Sunday

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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!

Finding Strength In Two Senior, Rescue Beagles

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.

winona-hotel-seven

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.

DSC01898

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. 

Renew Your Sense Of Hope And Optimism This Year With Theses Four Steps

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 & A Thursday

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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.

A DIY French Green Clay Mask That Will Refresh Your Skin on mindbodygreen

Please note: This article was originally published on mindbodygreen on February 16th, 2016.

I love green beauty products, and I probably have a slight addiction to them. To my pleasant surprise, I awoke this morning to find one of my beauty articles published on mindbodygreen! Want to look like you’ve slept eight hours even if you haven’t? This is the mask for you.

Photo is the copyright of lymeroad.com and Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio

Photo is the copyright of lymeroad.com and Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio

I’m a professional insomniac. Despite having tried nearly everything to fix my sleep woes, I continue to toss and turn most nights. It’s an unfortunate symptom of a chronic illness, so it’s not likely to change anytime soon.

As expected, the lack of sleep takes a toll on my skin, so to combat my perpetual shortage of shut-eye, I’m eternally obsessed with finding a green beauty routine that keeps my skin looking as healthy as possible.

In the wee hours of a recent snooze-free morning, I lay in bed thinking of a way I could achieve great-looking skin even as my precious sleep eluded me. Enter thoughts of French green clay.

This mineral-rich mud forms a perfect base for a DIY mask that both exfoliates and revitalizes, and a protein-packed egg yolk provides an easily absorbable combination of nutrients to restore tired skin.

The day after my all-night bout of insomnia, a friend asked me why my skin looked so good and whether I had changed my beauty routine. I just smiled at her and said, “It’s thanks to insomnia!”

French Green Clay Mask To Revive & Refresh Your Skin

This clay mask takes about five minutes to prepare and contains a handful of get-your-skin-glowing ingredients. Best of all, these items are easily found online and at your local health or grocery stores, making it a cinch to look like you got a full night’s sleep (even if you didn’t).

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon French green clay (available from a health food store or online)
  • 1 teaspoon coconut flour (you can also use oat flour, almond flour, corn flour, etc.)
  • 1 organic egg yolk
  • 3 teaspoons filtered water, spring water, or aloe vera juice
  • 2 drops geranium essential oil (optional, for normal skin)
  • 2 drops lavender essential oil (optional, for acne-prone and sensitive skin)
  • 2 drop chamomile essential oil (optional, for dry skin)
  • 1 teaspoon avocado, jojoba, sunflower, or olive oil (optional, for dry skin)

Preparation

Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl. If you have dry skin, add your oil of choice (avocado, jojoba, sunflower, or olive oil). Next, gently mix in the two drops of your preferred essential oil.

Please note that you can still use this mask even if you don’t add any oil or essential oil — a mask using only the base will still slough off dead skin and leave your complexion refreshed.

Now you’re ready to apply the mask!

Cleanse your face with warm water to open your pores and remove makeup. Gently pat your face with a towel until there’s just a little moisture left on your skin.

Use your fingers to apply a thick layer of the clay paste to your face, avoiding the eyes, eyebrows, and lips. Let the mask sit for 15 minutes or until dry. Then carefully wipe the mask off with a wet, warm washcloth.

Follow up with your favorite toner, moisturizer, or facial oil. Ta-da! Gorgeous skin.

Use once or twice a week for best results.

Q & A Thursday

Today, I am very excited to announce the beginning of a new section on my blog called, Q & A Thursday. As people search for more answers, I find myself unable to respond to all the emails I receive. My hope is that weekly question and answer posts (or whenever I feel up to the task of writing them) provide insights into the more commonly asked questions. Wishing everyone continued hope and healing in the new year! May this year be a breakthrough year for us all!

 

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Q: I saw some photos of you online, and it seems like you’ve been doing better. How are you feeling now?

A: Well, how much time do you have? That’s a complicated answer.

Above all things, I try my very hardest to remain hopeful and optimistic during what is hands down the most challenging and grueling time in my life. When my symptoms ease up for a short period, I take full advantage of the opportunity. Those quick flashes of time are what you see captured in my photos–moments of promise and joy. I am doing better in those moments because, well, I am living.

In contrast, I struggle with intense, prolonged episodes of debilitating exhaustion. It’s never fully gone, but sometimes it lessens. Whenever I change my treatment protocol, the fatigue intensifies. I have recently begun treating Babesia, and if it’s possible to be exhausted from being exhausted, that’s pretty much where I’m at right now. I find it difficult to leave my house due to the lack of energy. I require more rest times throughout the day; it’s a bit reminiscent of the days before I started treatment and I am trying desperately not to freak out. Admittedly, I had a bit of a breakdown this morning.

But, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that Lyme is a roller coaster that never stops. While this ride has dipped down for the moment, I know it will eventually climb again–hopefully, sooner rather than later. In the meantime, I will continue to follow my treatment protocol and get back into the habit of a consistent detox regime.

Thanks for the question.

Lessons Learned Through Joy, Pain, and Self-Discovery

[Note: This article originally appeared on Pro Health on December 7th, 2015. www.prohealth.com. Christmas is a time for reflection over the past year, and celebrating the possibilities for the new year. It seems appropriate to me then, that I would post this article today. Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and a new year filled with joy, peace, and healing. Here’s to 2016!]

October 24, 2013, was probably an average Thursday in the lives of most people. For me, however, it was a life-changing day; it was the day I finally had some answers. After numerous doctors and ten years of seriously declining health–the last 18-months of which I spent bedridden–I listened sharply on the phone as my nurse practitioner informed me, “You have Lyme Disease. You’ve probably had it most of your life.”

I was both scared and relieved to hear this news. Scared because, well, I knew I would be embarking on one of the greatest challenges of my life, and relieved because I was no longer in the dark about what to call the mysterious illness wreaking havoc on my body. The list of diagnoses I had collected over the years–from Interstitial Cystitis and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis to Fibromyalgia, and Adrenal Fatigue–all suddenly seemed interconnected. I knew the path to reclaiming my health would require patience, persistence, effort, and faith. Nevertheless, I was ready to confront the illness that had sidelined me for years. Thankfully, I had the support of my loving husband and family.

On that fall morning in October, my nurse practitioner laid the groundwork for a treatment protocol that has slowly helped me to rebuild my life, one tiny step at a time. There are layers of damage to address as a result of going years–maybe even decades–with undiagnosed, systemic infections. I just passed the two-year treatment mark. I am not cured or well yet, but I am healing. I still have ups and downs; I have flashes where it seems like remission is in reach and stages where I can barely lift my head from the pillow. In spite of all the highs and lows along this bumpy road, I am forever transformed by the lessons learned through joy, pain and, self-discovery. Here are those lessons:

Learn to resist the urge to dwell in a negative headspace for long periods of time.

In the beginning, I had spent countless amounts of energy thinking about the past; what I once was capable of doing, and the social life I had prior to my illness. Dwelling on the past immediately ushered me into a very dark, negative place in my mind. Isolated from the things and people I loved the most, the loneliness was heartbreaking. I felt hopeless, lost and frustrated. I grew too fearful to even imagine a future where joy and dreams could exist. Sickness appeared to win and overtake the best parts of me.

I am not exactly sure when the shift in my thinking occurred; but my core, my spirit, the very deepest places of me, eventually changed. I let go of anger and gave myself permission to redefine my identity in spite of the struggles I faced. In contrast, by maintaining my focus on the present and not the past, I discovered more peace within my situation. Slowly, I began to see light and hope in the places once occupied by darkness and negativity. I still struggle, but I see an opportunity for personal growth in the midst of my troubles and I choose to embrace it. I am more content nowadays as I take on these health challenges, and much less likely to contemplate the gloomy side of things.

When one chapter of life closes, a new chapter begins.

Early in my treatment, I came across a wonderful quote from Pastor Brian Houston. It reads:

“Never ever confuse the end of an era in your life as the completion of your destiny.”

The truth of his words gripped my heart with such conviction I have yet to forget them. He was right. There was no denying that an era in my life had ended. Although I grieved those devastating losses for months, I began to hope and affirm a new beginning; a season of healing and anticipation, in my life. I anchored my thoughts to the idea that I still had a purpose and a destiny, and I have not looked back.

Even though I am strained beneath the weight of a controversial illness, I know I still have a unique set of gifts and talents worth sharing with the world. I accept that Lyme disease is my present circumstance. Thankfully, circumstances can and do change. However, the destiny for my life does not. It’s so freeing to write that!

Take time to celebrate the small victories.

Yes, I still have a chronic illness, but I repeatedly test the notion that I can’t enjoy life. I frequently take mental vacations from my illness– from obsessing over it, Googling it, and chatting about it. Instead, I try to celebrate small victories and nurture my adventuresome spirit.

I snap pictures of just about everything I do. That’s become my approach to maintaining a celebratory, productive outlook. When progress seems slow to come, I can look at these visual reminders and see there have been several small victories. These accomplishments help me to combat adversity and renew my optimism.

I hope I will one day beat Lyme disease altogether. I am steadfast in my determination and more resilient than I realized. Ultimately, there are many more healing milestones to celebrate along the way.

My current treatment is aggressive and will continue to be intense for a while. Although someone else could be angry about their experience with chronic Lyme disease, most of the time, I am not. I choose to stay grateful that I have a body that refuses to give up. Another person– a different body– may have quit a long time ago. In the middle of all the chaos, there have been moments of immense happiness over the last two years. I live for those moments. They are the fuel for my soul to continue this healing journey.

This Fatigue Tho! Part 1

Full Disclosure: The kind, generous folks at Mitosynergy gave me samples of their products to review, provide feedback, and see if the products improve my energy levels (I already use their MitoLipo product).

Mitosynergycollection

Fatigue–like it’s a miracle I can lift my head off the pillow most days kind of fatigue–is my worst symptom. Even with more than two years of treatment under my belt, this symptom has barely budged. I have already tried dozens of things to try to combat this type of “sick” fatigue. Over the next month, I will document my progress to see if there is any improvement using the Mitosynergy products in my situation.

To begin, I filled out a Brief Fatigue Inventory to better track my progress and note any measurable changes.

Brief Fatigue Inventory:

0 is no fatigue, 10 is as bad as you can get.

1) Rate your fatigue level now.
Rating: 8

2) Rate your usual level of fatigue during the past 24 hours.
Rating: 8

3) Rate your worst level of fatigue during the past 24 hours.
Rating:9

Note: I had horrible insomnia last night, and I was exhausted to the point where I did not know if I could walk to the bathroom.

4) During the past 24 hours, fatigued has interfered with your:

A. Generalized Activity
Rating: 7

B. Mood
Rating: 6

C. Walking ability
Rating: 5

D. Normal work (including work outside the home and daily chores)
Rating: 7

E. Relations with other people
Rating: 7

F: Enjoyment of life
Rating 6

Note: Even in the moments of craziness and uncertainty, I still find moments of joy.

I will incorporate the following products into my current treatment and detox protocols:

1) MitoMelts– a powder that you take under your tongue with mitochondrial-specific nutrients to optimize neuromuscular health. The product tastes pretty good–like a SweetTarts candy.

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2)GreenTeaSynergy Plus– a room temperature tea you sip throughout the day. It has a blend of green tea, noni, and Humic Acid; with Humic Acid shown to have viral inhibitor properties.

GreenTeaSynergyPlus

3)MitoMudBath Extreme Cleanse– a detoxifying mud bath with a blend of peat, pine essential oil, wintergreen essential oil, sulfur, and glycerine. This product drains easily, even in an Old, Chicago tub like mine.

MudBath1

Getting ready for my first mud bath.

Getting ready for my first mud bath.

I will write an update on this new addition to my treatment in the next few weeks. I hope and pray I can make a significant dent in this fatigue once and for all!