What to Eat When You Have Lyme…And Even When You Don’t!

I used to get depressed that Lyme disease obliged me to follow a “special” diet, and that following my crash in 2004, I could no longer eat the same foods as most of my friends and family members. No more pasta, cereal, milk, cheese, sandwiches, and all of the fun foods that “normal” people got to enjoy on a daily basis. Just one more thing to separate me from the crowd. As if Lyme disease weren’t punishing enough, I had to watch my friends eat the delicious foods I used to enjoy, right in front of me.

What I didn’t understand then, and for several years thereafter, was that I wasn’t being punished because I could no longer eat whatever I wanted. Rather, I was an unlucky (or lucky!) canary in a coal mine that emerged from Lyme disease with a diet that would probably save me from dying from cancer or some other malady ten, twenty or thirty years down the road.

Now that my Lyme disease infections are finally in remission, I realize that the strict diet that I have been obliged to follow for nearly seven years now has been a blessing in disguise. Because it’s not really a diet for sick people. It’s a diet that anyone and everyone should follow if they want to finish out this life without serious health problems. My “special” organic, gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and sugar-free diet is the only kind of diet that will keep most humans healthy these days. My pesticide, antibiotic and hormone-free food, free of genetic modification, isn’t an “alternative” way to eat anymore. Or at least, it shouldn’t be.

Because it’s not just the chronically ill that need this kind of “special” food. Nowadays, it’s everyone-whether they know it or not. And eighty percent of what is sold in “regular” supermarkets anymore is poison for the body. Processed food laden with chemicals and artificial additives and preservatives dominates the scene at these supermarkets, and what isn’t processed is nutrient deficient, genetically modified, and full of hormones, pesticides, antibiotics and only God knows what else. If it came from an animal, it was likely force-fed a diet of corn, something it wasn’t meant to eat and which made it sick (hence the antibiotics).

The contamination, manipulation and degradation of our food supply is reaching epic proportions, and no body can tolerate this kind of nonsense for long. Evidence of that is found in the growing numbers of people today with Attention Deficit Disorder, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, metabolic syndrome, and other maladies. These problems were once mostly confined to the elderly, but no longer. Many children today are overweight, sick and unhealthy. I don’t have many thirty-something or forty-something friends who don’t have a fairly severe health problem of some sort. That is sad, indeed.

So I no longer eat so-called “special” food because I have a body that’s prone to immune problems and infections. I eat it because it’s the only real food that’s left on the planet, and it’s what the human body was designed to eat.

Without chemicals.
Without hormones.
Without drugs.
Void of manipulation.
With nutrients.
While still looking like food.

Perhaps the one advantage that people with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses have is that they often develop an acute awareness for what the human body needs, because symptoms quickly remind them when the food scientists have messed with the biochemistry of their products a little too much.

Food wasn’t meant to be chemically manipulated and modified. If God had wanted food to be created another way, He would have grown granola bars from the ground, designed strawberries to produce their own pesticides, and cows to eat corn. But because we are going against the design of our Creator in the way that we farm and process foods, our bodies are paying the price.

Sadly, truly healthy foods are becoming few and far between, as environmental contamination increases, companies like Monsanto continue to pressure organic farms to purchase genetically modified seeds, and we continue to stuff our cows and fish with foods they weren’t designed to eat because the government subsidizes corn and soy production. (For more information on this subject, I highly recommend Michael Pollen’s book, “The Omnivore’s Dilemma).”

For nearly seven years now, I have not only avoided processed food, but also some common foods that at one time were healthy, such as milk, wheat bread and corn. I used to think that I had to avoid those foods because I had Lyme disease. Not anymore. I now know that they aren’t healthy for most people, because they have been manipulated to the extent that most bodies recognize them as an enemy, whether they manifest in symptoms or not. If I had been raised having Lyme disease during my grandmother’s generation, I am sure I would have done just fine eating these foods.

I believe that the day will come when disease will force the majority of our population to recognize the gravity of what’s happening to our food supply. One day, (if that day isn’t already here) only the strongest of the strong will get through their first twenty, thirty or forty years of life without disease, if we continue on the path that we are on.

Granted, some people with Lyme disease and other chronic illnesses can’t tolerate some of the healthy foods that much of the population without Lyme can, which further complicates trying to put together a formidable diet plan during recovery. When you can’t eat most grains, dairy products, or anything processed (not to mention nightshade vegetables and high-glycemic fruits) it seems to leave precious few choices: brown rice, quinoa, some nuts, greens, and organic meat, basically. And if you have low stomach acid, as many with Lyme disease do, digesting raw green vegetables can be a challenge. It’s ironic that the sick are often admonished to eat lots of raw green veggies, when their bodies have trouble digesting them. Cooked vegetables may be a better option, but when you cook vegetables, you also remove their nutrients. And then there’s fish. We are told to eat wild fish, but no more than twice a week because of its mercury content, and only a few varieties. But then we are told not to have too much red meat, either, because it’s acidic and not so good for the body. And then there are chickens, most of which have cancer and are loaded with arsenic. So what are people who suffer from Lyme disease, or anyone, for that matter, supposed to eat? It can be maddening.

It’s easy to feel backed into a corner. Like you can’t come up with enough options at mealtimes. I used to feel that way, and I still do at times. But not just because I lack stomach acid or because Lyme has made me allergic to tomatoes, but because of the bad decisions that humanity has made with its food supply.

As depressing as our food supply problems are, I am grateful that getting Lyme disease opened my eyes to the reality of these problems, because I believe that I will live out the second half of my life in a healthier manner than the first half, and experience fewer health problems down the road as a result.

So on a more positive note, what foods can people with Lyme disease (and the so-called “healthy” folk) eat? First, I would recommend looking for an organic farm in your area. Some states have small, organic farms that people can purchase their food from directly. Many of these farms practice sustainable farming, and offer food that is more nutrient-rich than what you could even purchase at a health food store. This is because the food isn’t picked early and doesn’t have to travel across many miles. It also isn’t produced in mass quantities, which inevitably allows farmers to practice traditional methods of farming, such as crop rotation, which keeps soil more nutrient-rich and reduces environmental contamination. Also, small farms are often able to treat their animals more humanely than large farms, which must produce meat for consumption in mass quantities and consequently, keep their animals in overcrowded living conditions. Also, living within driving distance of a local farm may allow you to visit the farm and observe their practices.

If you can’t purchase food directly from a local farm, I suggest doing a Google search to find out whether there are seasonal farmers’ markets in your city or town. This is another good way to get fresh, local food without having to visit a farm. Buying organic food locally also reduces the demand for mass-processed, genetically-modified, manipulated and contaminated foods. That said, some so-called organic farms use genetically modified seeds, so be sure to ask yours about their practices.

Following is a list of foods that I believe are healthy for most people with Lyme disease, when purchased organically:

-Low to moderate glycemic fruits
-All vegetables except for those belonging to the nightshade family (including tomatoes, eggplants, and mushrooms), and potatoes, which skyrocket blood sugar levels
-Olive, grape seed and coconut oils
-Almonds, walnuts, cashews, pecans, and most other nuts (except peanuts)
-Nut butters that don’t contain additives
-Some unpasteurized dairy products (which can be obtained by purchasing a share of a cow from a local organic farm).
-grass-fed, hormone-free, antibiotic-free meat from cows
-chicken, turkey, lamb, duck, ostrich, and other unprocessed meats (read: no turkey sausage!)
-wild-caught fish, including sardines, salmon, tilapia, and occasionally, tuna
-brown rice and other types of rice, except white rice!
-legumes (but not from a can!)
-almond or rice milk, if it doesn’t have many additives and isn’t consumed daily
-sparkling water in glass bottles and caffeine-free tea without additives. I recommend Dandy Blend, an herbal beverage that tastes like coffee. Avoid fruit juices because of their high sugar content.
-kimchi, sauerkraut
-gluten-free bread (occasionally). I haven’t found many people with Lyme disease who can consume bread, even gluten-free bread, on a regular basis and still feel good. There is some debate among doctors about whether people with Lyme disease should eat grains of any kind. Personally, I have found that the only grain that I can consume on a regular basis is brown rice, and I make sure to eat it with protein, to lower its impact upon my precarious blood sugar levels.

Learning to cook with spices and sauces can be a creative way to dress up boring dishes, when you feel like you are only allowed to eat five foods! Just make sure that your sauces don’t include thickeners that harm the body. Tapioca flour seems to be a decent choice (although I still don’t know enough about this type of flour
to definitively say that I think it’s okay for people with Lyme).

By implementing some of these food choices, and shopping at farmer’s markets and organic farms, you will not only be supporting the development of a healthier and more sustainable food supply, but will also be providing your body with the nutrients that it needs to effectively heal from disease. Happy Eating!