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Round 8: The Lyme Diet

Posted Aug 28 2011 7:24pm
When it comes to my food, I don't handle change well. And with Lyme, for most people, drastic changes are necessary. For example, I was recently diagnosed with a wheat allergy, most likely due to my weakened immune system causing leaky gut syndrome. I was also diagnosed with Candida, another common diagnosis for Lymies, which means I should avoid wheat, sugar and yeast. Being on a yeast-free diet also means avoiding certain meats, fruits and vegetables...and anything in a can. I've had a dairy allergy/lactose sensitivity for as long as I can remember, so I'm used to avoiding dairy. Many of the leading Lyme docs suggest that following a wheat/dairy/sugar-free diet is a big key to health for Lyme Disease sufferers because those foods suppress the immune system. Also, due to chemical sensitivity prevalent in Lyme Disease patients, it is important to only eat organic fruits and vegetables and antibiotic and hormone-free meats. Many doctors also recommend no flour whatsoever, little or no fruit, little to no red meat (some say no meat at all), no processed foods, very small quantities of potato/rice/legumes, no alcohol, no caffeine and so on. Then there's other docs that recommend a low alkaline diet. There are many other recommended diet changes, but you get the point.

In case you haven't guessed by now, figuring out what I CAN eat is quite the chore. I've heard many nutritionists say: "If you only buy from the outer aisle of the grocery store, you will be much healthier." This is true, but for someone who was raised eating crackers, pasta, pizza, cookies and other baked goods, it can be quite challenging to switch gears. (Plus, as my husband likes to point out...the ice cream is in the outer aisle!)

Have you ever gone to the grocery store and tried to find something pre-packaged that is organic, wheat-free, sugar-free, dairy-free AND yeast-free, that isn't also taste-free? I challenge you. It is nearly impossible.

I find it ironic that eating this 'healthy' requires much time and energy. Have you ever met someone with Lyme Disease? Energy is not exactly at the top of our list. In fact, many people with late stage Lyme have chronic fatigue. Some can barely move without suffering excruciating pain and many are bedridden. So, getting up and cooking an involved meal is not an option. I know many Lymies who are eating everything they shouldn't eat because: 1. They need to eat, 2. Eating the right way is too expensive or too involved and 3. They don't have anyone around to help. For this reason, they are most likely not healing as well as they could be.

The Great Snack Hunt
Here's a perfect example of me searching for something to eat:
"Hmmmm...let's see. I could do fruit. But, I already had fruit today and Burrascano says most fruit is a no-no. I could have gluten-free pretzels with almond butter. Nope, the pretzels have yeast and the yeast-free diet dictates no nut butters. <SIGH> How about a bowl of cereal? Well, they all have sugar except this one...puffed rice. I'll take it. Wait, the Almond and Rice Milk has sugar...and probably a bunch of other ingredients I'm not supposed to have. I could do chips and salsa. Hmmm...better not. I know I shouldn't do a lot of carbs and tomatoes are supposedly a bad idea too. Nuts? Nope, not good for Candida. Popcorn? Well, I'm not sure, so I'd better skip it to be safe. Leftover hamburger? No, I should save that for breakfast since I'm supposed to have protein in the morning and if I eat another egg I'm going to hurl. How about hummus with carrots and celery? OK, that will have to do. I've had that for every single snack time since Tuesday, but at least it's safe to eat. Wait, are they safe to eat? Ah, forget it. I'm too exhausted to eat."

Meanwhile, this is what I'd rather do...drive my butt to Five Guys and order these:

My good friend Kathy also has Lyme. I call her the food Nazi. She is very passionate about eating right to heal more effectively. And she's right. Whenever I think of eating something I shouldn't, I think of my friend, the food Nazi. She's like a little voice in my head: "Don't eat that crap!" Sometimes it works! And sometimes, I tune her out and eat it anyway. I always regret it, though. I find myself at the point where I'd rather not eat sometimes. It is just too exhausting.

I know I need to be diligent about eating right so that I can heal. I need to let go of what I want to eat and only eat what I need to eat. I realize I need to change my idea of what breakfast looks like and accept that meat, fish and vegetables are better choices than cereal, fruit or my favorite, pancakes. I know I need to stand up to family and friends who say: "Ah, one little bite won't hurt." Or "You're wasting away! Here, have a french fry." They are only trying to help and may not realize the importance of the diet in my journey to wellness. I need to embrace this healthier diet because it means a healthier me. And I need to remember that following this strict diet helps reduce symptoms significantly. I just need to keep it up and eventually I will crave the healthier foods and stop caring so much about the stuff I can't eat.

Thanks for letting me vent! I'm off to find some celery. MMMMM....celery. I LOVE celery. It's SOOOO good. Just as good as Chocolate Cake and Ice Cream. Yup, keep telling yourself that Melissa. Hopefully it will sink in eventually.


P.S. For my chronic disease friends who have the energy (or the help), there is a
great book entitled Recipes for Repair: A Lyme DiseaseCookbook that takes your diet to bare bones and then slowly adds certain foods back in. This is great for Lymies, but also anyone else who is suffering from a chronic disease.
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