The best foods for Lyme disease are nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory foods. Read on to learn how to improve your diet and reduce symptoms of Lyme disease!
The chronic fatigue, brain fog, and joint pain that come with Lyme disease can make it hard to sort through all the information online about this diet or that diet. Luckily, this article will teach you the best foods for Lyme disease so you can stop guessing.
Truth is, antibiotic treatment is not enough for many people who have Lyme disease. The infection commonly triggers food sensitivities and autoimmune reactions. Fortunately, the functional medicine approach offers nutritional interventions for Lyme disease patients.
Read on to learn practical strategies for improving your diet and reducing symptoms of Lyme disease!
What is Lyme Disease?
Lyme disease is a bacterial infection caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi. It is contracted from the bite of a black-legged tick carrying this bacteria.
It is the fastest-growing infectious disease in the United States, with the CDC estimating 300,000 new cases of Lyme disease per year, and records show that it may be closer to 400,000. What’s more, a shocking 1.5 million people have chronic Lyme disease.
This is because even with timely diagnosis and appropriate antibiotic treatment, more than 20% of individuals develop chronic symptoms such as fatigue, pain, sleep disruption, and cognitive difficulties.
This condition is known as chronic Lyme disease; There can be two different presentations of chronic Lyme disease. In the first scenario, there is active infection that is causing continuing inflammatory symptoms. While in other cases, it is more of a post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome (PTLDS) and is characterized by symptoms that manifest within six months of treatment and persist for six months or longer. This is more related to inflammatory damage that lingers after successfully treating infection.
To diagnose Lyme disease, healthcare practitioners look for specific symptoms, physical evidence (such as a rash), and possible exposure to infected ticks. Laboratory testing is helpful if used correctly and performed with validated methods. That said, testing lacks strong sensitivity and specificity and often results in false negatives. A variety of specialty tests exist that can help us narrow in on this diagnosis, but often, Lyme disease can be a clinical diagnosis. Your provider may diagnose the infection based on symptoms and presentation rather than a positive lab test.
Symptoms of Lyme Disease
While a rash can develop around the original tick bite and expand outward, not everyone will develop a rash. Lyme disease also progresses through stages that can overlap and cause a variety of symptoms.
It’s important to be aware of indications of the infection other than the rash. Here is a list of the common symptoms of Lyme disease:
Swollen lymph nodes
Joint pain and degeneration
Anxiety and depression
How Can Nutrition Help Patients with Lyme Disease?
Nutrition cannot cure Lyme disease. However, it’s important to recognize that you are in a chronically inflamed state. Poor dietary choices are like pouring fuel on an already burning fire. Therefore, diet can ease symptoms and improve overall health while complementing other Lyme disease treatment protocols.
In all cases of Lyme disease, a proper diet can improve energy levels, support cognitive function, and reduce chronic inflammation.
Before discussing the best foods for Lyme disease, let’s review what your diet needs to support your overall health and immune system. First, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease promotes an increased inflammatory environment in the host. This inflammation shows up in tissues throughout the body, from the brain to the joints.
Research indicates that nutrition can drastically impact inflammation within the body. As it follows, Lyme disease is inflammatory, so anything that can reduce inflammation is beneficial.
To remove inflammatory foods from your diet, you should avoid three categories: processed foods, refined carbohydrates and sugars, and industrial seed oils.
These foods increase the risk for chronic inflammatory disease and an imbalanced gut microbiome and are potent inflammatory triggers.
Add Anti-Inflammatory Food
Anti-inflammatory, nutrient-dense foods alleviate Lyme disease-induced inflammation and support the healthy functioning of your immune system. Here are some of the best food groups for Lyme disease that are also anti-inflammatory powerhouses:
Grass-fed, organic animal protein: This includes grass-fed, organic beef and free-range, organic chicken and eggs. These protein sources are full of amino acids, iron, and vitamin B12 which support energy production and cognitive function.
Wild-caught seafood: This is the most significant source of omega-3 fatty acids and DHA. Wild-caught seafood is also rich in selenium which is required for antioxidant enzyme activity. Opt for low-mercury wild seafood.
Non-starchy vegetables: Non-starchy vegetables provide dietary fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, and phytochemicals with anti-inflammatory and gut health-supporting properties.
Healthy fats: sources of healthy fats include olive oil, coconut oil, avocados, wild-caught seafood, and nuts and seeds. These types of fats help maintain a healthy inflammatory balance.
Best Foods for Lyme Disease
The best foods for Lyme disease are based on vital macronutrients your body needs to fight inflammation.
Research demonstrates that vitamin D is often low in patients with chronic Lyme disease and is associated with a prolonged healing trajectory. The bacteria that causes Lyme disease, Borrelia burgdorferi, also reduces vitamin D receptor expression in immune cells, indicating the increased need for this vitamin.
Eat fatty cold-water fish (salmon and mackerel) and pastured egg yolks to support levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin A is essential for the normal function of many immune cells, including natural killer (NK) cells, macrophages, neutrophils, and B and T lymphocytes. What’s more, vitamin A deficiency increases susceptibility to infection and chronic inflammation. Vitamin A deficiency has also increased inflammation in an animal model of Lyme disease.
Pre-formed vitamin A (retinol) is the form of vitamin A that the immune system needs. It is found only in animal foods.
Eat egg yolks, salmon roe, beef liver, and grass-fed dairy to support levels of vitamin A.
Vitamin C protects the body’s cells against reactive oxygen species produced by immune cells to destroy pathogens like the bacteria that cause Lyme disease. These are referred to as free radicals and damage the immune system. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant and stimulates the activity of immune cells, including neutrophils, lymphocytes, and phagocytes.
Eat broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, strawberries, and citrus fruits to support levels of vitamin C.
Glutamine is an amino acid produced by the body and found in food. It supports your body’s immune and digestive systems. For example, it supports the integrity of the intestinal barrier, the layer of cells and proteins that lines your intestine, and helps maintain healthy immune function.
Sources of glutamine include bone broth, collagen-rich meats such as oxtail, collagen peptides, and gelatin.
Selenium functions as a cofactor for glutathione peroxidase, an antioxidant enzyme that neutralizes harmful free radicals.
Selenium also regulates the production of cytokines and eicosanoids, signaling molecules derived from polyunsaturated fatty acids like omega-3 fatty acids. These molecules help initiate the immune response.
Not only that, but selenium deficiency impairs innate and adaptive immunity and increases the lethality of some viruses.
Eat Brazil nuts, salmon, tuna, and shrimp to support levels of selenium.
Work with Peak Health Institute
As you can see, there are a lot of factors that go into a nutritional protocol for Lyme disease. Your personalized protocol will depend on factors such as nutritional deficiencies, food sensitivities, and food allergies.
Ultimately, the best foods for Lyme disease are those that are nutrient-dense and anti-inflammatory.
At Peak Health Institute, we help you overcome the debilitating symptoms of Lyme disease through an individualized, patient-centered, science-based approach. Contact us today to learn more!