Keys to thriving with Lyme disease (and other autoimmune diseases)

Keys to thriving with Lyme disease (and other autoimmune diseases)

Living with Chronic Lyme disease (CLD) for 20 years has been quite a journey. One that I am ultimately grateful for the longer I spend time here on earth. As a twenty something, I was unable to live life like a typical person my age and instead had to balance between medical treatment, doctor appointments, crippling fatigue, pain, and depression, vying just to be understood by medical professionals, friends, community, myself… 
 

After months of IV antibiotics, many rounds of oral antibiotics over many years, all of the different combos of medications you could think of, physical therapy, and constant doctor appointments, I found myself at the age of about 28 wanting to find a different way to handle this hand I had been dealt. 

(Me at about 26 years old performing and hiding my PICC line - IV port under a pair of leggings that I cut up so it looked like 'flare' instead of a medical device)
 

Early on in my Lyme journey (about 2 years in), I had a wonderful experience with an acupuncturist who helped me to think in more holistic ways about the healing experience. He not only helped me feel better for a while, but also gave me a beautiful analogy for how we heal. 

 

He described to me that If a bush had been burned, not to the point of total destruction, but if the leaves and flowers all were destroyed and maybe some of the overall structure was damaged, it would take some time to heal. It may seem as though nothing is happening at first, even if the bush was getting all the healing efforts it needed. But then eventually, you’d start to see new growth; a little bud, some leaves, and eventually it would be restored through consistent effort and patience.
 

This imagery has stayed with me for almost 20 years now and is something that I often come back to when either myself or someone I’m working with is feeling impatient with the pace of their healing.

As with most autoimmune diseases, there isn’t typically a clear cut way to approach healing, and even more so with Lyme Disease. It’s kind of the ‘build a bear’ of autoimmune diseases, as it often comes with one or more co-infections that also need to be treated. In addition, the severity of the case also often depends on how long a person has gone undiagnosed and the state of their body and environment in which they are sick. 

 

It’s for this reason that it’s hard to give off the cuff recommendations for treating Lyme symptoms. I typically recommend a few books from healers that I love, or to find a Lyme literate practitioner in your area. Also, although I am almost near the picture of health currently, at least compared to what I was, I still experience flare ups a few times a year and essentially have built my life around managing lingering symptoms and keeping my stress in check (easier said than done sometimes haha). 

 

So today I am going to share a few things that have helped me manage and treat Lyme disease in case it helps point someone in the right direction. Most of the time the approach is multifaceted (like us…like crystals) and it requires great gentleness, patience, & persistence. But it is worth it. As I approach 42 years here on this earth, I am so grateful that I started all of this self care stuff at a young age as it’s made me stronger for the next chapters ahead.

 

My heart goes out to anyone living with CLD or any chronic disease for that matter. You are not alone and I wish you the ability to enjoy your life, regardless of your diagnosis.

Here are some keys to thriving with Chronic Lyme disease or other autoimmune diseases:
(please note that this is not medical advice, only personal experience)

  • Address nutrient deficiencies. More often than not, nutrient deficiencies are playing a role in both stress management and autoimmune health overall. Nutrient deficiencies that are specifically linked to stress are vitamin D, Omega 3’s, Magnesium, Zinc, Iron, B vitamins, Selenium, and Amino Acids. Coincidentally, these are also deficiencies commonly associated with Lyme and other autoimmune diseases.

  • Eat whole foods. As much as possible, eat whole foods, meaning eat foods closest to their original form, i.e. lightly cooked vegetables, organic meats when it fits into your budget, and good fats. Smoothies are incredibly helpful when trying to reach nutritional requirements and I am a huge fan of lightly cooking baby spinach and kale and pairing it with my protein of choice. Recently we have been doing this rotisserie chickens as we have had limited time to cook, as well as organic eggs, and salmon. You can use a little olive oil and lemon pepper and you might be amazed at how satisfying and yummy this is while also being incredibly nourishing and healing.

 

  • Plant medicine. I highly recommend getting familiar with Stephen Buhner's books and work. His book, Healing Lyme, was a game changer for me. Also, I find Dr. Marty Ross’s website and offerings incredibly helpful as well. I cannot recommend that what I use for treating flare ups will work for everyone, as each person has a different experience and will need to utilize different plants. I can say that I successfully use Artemisinin if I am noticing flare ups from the co-infection Babesia (night sweats, very foggy thinking, extreme fatigue). I use Resveratrol (from Japanese Knotweed) if my joints are on fire or if I am noticing increased inflammation overall). And Ashwagandha essentially brought me back to life and is the plant that started me on my plant medicine journey in general. I use it whenever I am feeling especially run down or stressed out. I have also used Cats Claw and Otoba for treating Lyme itself. Read Dr. Buhner’s book or work with a practitioner to learn how to do this as you want to avoid herxheimer reactions (die off reactions that are quite terrible).

  • Support detox pathways. I wrote a Detox Guide that includes protocols to follow that will help you clear toxins and will help in treating Lyme disease. I follow this protocol at least once a month to help ensure that I am assisting my body as best I can and don’t give her more work to do.

  • Manage your stress. Ok I could spend the next year writing about this and I probably will. This is a whole category in itself. Too much or too little stress can set off many chain reactions in our bodies that cause flare ups. Managing stress requires a truly holistic approach of both internal and external solutions. This one is a biggie.

  • Here are some plants that can help with stress management:Motherwort, Lemon Balm, Oatstraw, Kava Kava (please note that regular use of Kava Kava can be dangerous for your liver so this should be utilized sparingly- more on this later), Skullcap, Ashwagandha, Tulsi (Holy Basil), & CBD. 

  • Get support. In addition, working with a therapist or counselor is an incredible way to move through stress and find real world solutions and ways to help create less stressful environments.

  • BREATHE. Breathwork is an immediate helper that we have access to at all times. Setting timers or prompts around your home and workspace can be helpful to make sure you are BREATHING (takes deep breath). Box breathing and alternate nostril breathing are two of my favorite go-tos when I’m feeling panicky.

  • Bubbles. Sometimes you need to live in one. Sometimes you need to pop it. This is a balancing act of learning when to retreat into your bubble and make sure everything you’re putting into your body and into your mind are primarily healing based. And then also learning when to trust your strength and resilience and just go have some fun…which is also incredibly healing. Both are needed. 

  • PLAY. Playtime is undervalued in our culture and it offers incredible healing as well as it gives meaning to our very lives. This can include social time with friends but I really want to encourage you to think about ways to play, like feel like a kid and play. For me this includes training in jiu jitsu, as it is both benefiting me physically as well as mentally because I am with my friends and we are essentially rough housing…which is my inner child’s favorite activity haha. This also includes playing with our kitties, getting outside, and making sure I get plenty of belly laughs as often as possible. 

  • Build strength. If you’re currently in the throws of Lyme then this might sound like pure torture. I get it. But after many years of trying to avoid the strength building part, I have finally engaged with strength training in a way that not only makes me feel more confident in my body and her resilience, but it’s also preparing me for the long haul. Strength training can be anything from body resistance training through yoga to swinging kettlebells, but I encourage you to find a few strength workouts that you can choose from depending on how you’re feeling and try to do them about 2x a week.

  • Nature. If you know me at all, you know that I’m going to tell you that spending time in nature is one of our greatest healers and teachers. It doesn’t matter if it’s the grandest mountain or a tiny local park. Put your hand on a tree, touch the dirt, breathe the air, tell the trees and the rocks everything that’s weighing on you. Howl into the wind. Ask the birds to carry your prayers to the Great Spirit. However you want to connect is up to you but CONNECT with nature as often as you can. Having a bird feeder by your window is a great way to stay connected even if you can’t get outside. Oh and open your windows and get as much fresh air as you can when the weather permits.

  • Avoid large amounts of processed sugars. They WILL cause you pain and cause flare ups (brain fog, joint pain, fibromyalgia symptoms, etc). This doesn’t mean you can’t have sweets from time to time, but learn what amount works for you. For me, I love dark chocolate and can snack on dark chocolate chips whenever I want, however having a serving of dessert, i.e. a slice of cake, a brownie, a donut, etc, is something I only do on very special occasions because I know I will pay for it later if I eat more than a serving. Sugar is tucked in everywhere in our culture so it’s hard to avoid if you aren’t paying attention. Sugar = inflammation = feeling like shit.

  • Avoid large amounts of alcohol. For all the same reasons. I have never been a big drinker, so this is definitely easier for me, however, if you are accustomed to having drinks more often, try making medicinal cordials or elixirs as a step in the direction of less inflammation. I love the book The Herbal Kitchen for many reasons, but one is that she has a plethora of fancy, fun, and medicinal elixir & cordial recipes. If you can limit your alcohol consumption you can bring down your inflammation…and you can feel better.

  • Sleep and Rest. Be gentle with yourself if you need more sleep than usual. Allow yourself time to rest when needed. Even 15 minutes with your eyes closed during the day if you are feeling depleted, will help boost your energy and mood. Allow yourself at least 8 hours of sleep at night and make your bedroom a healing sanctuary. Signal to your body that this time is for restoration and healing and your body will respond accordingly over time. 

  • Be gentle with yourself. If you are living with Lyme or another chronic condition, it is an ever changing landscape of symptoms, feelings, etc. Know that most of what your body needs to heal from Chronic Lyme or other autoimmune disease, is also what will support your body even if you weren’t dealing with these complications. This is what I love about a holistic approach. What is good for you is good for you. Our bodies know infinitely more than we can comprehend, but we can support it with the right nutrients, herbs, elements, and environments.

Ultimately it’s about creating a good quality of life, focusing on building purpose and not having to focus on treating symptoms every single day. At first that may be where you start, but with time, consistency, patience, and gentleness, you can create a life that feels good, even if your body doesn’t always feel good. Life is full contact and we’re going to deal with lots of challenges, so my philosophy is make yourself as resilient and strong as you can while also staying connected to your purpose. Stay connected to why you are here and be the blessing to this earth that you are meant to be. 

 

This was long but I hope it’s been helpful to someone. I will delve into these areas in more depth over time but for now, this is a great starting point for someone. And the woods are calling me now…so I must go.

 
From my heart to yours.
 
Xo,
Greta 
The Kitchen Witch

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