This article is intended for customers from all countries other than Germany*
Fighting chronic illness is indelibly linked to diet and Lyme disease is no exception; we talk to Make Well's nutritional scientist to discover why a healthy diet is crucial in fighting off this tick-borne disease.
What is your background and where did your interest/specialisation in Lyme come from?
I come from a scientific background. Initially I studied for a Bachelor of Science Biology both at the University of Freiburg and the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, followed by the international Master’s degree in Nutrition and Biomedicine at the Technical University of Munich.
After finishing, I was convinced I wanted to go to nutritional therapy, aiming to help and inform people about the connection between their everyday nutrition and health; everybody eats every day, but nevertheless, most people know very little about it.
So I went on looking for jobs in that sector, and luckily found a place here at Make Well Nutritionals. As the company is specialised in herbal supplements to support the treatment of Borreliosis/Lyme disease, I started doing research on the topic, and was totally fascinated by it from the beginning.
At what stage of Lyme treatment should patients consider their diet?
Suffering from Lyme disease often requires an antibiotic treatment. Diet should be considered right when the treatment is started, as antibiotic treatments are very demanding on the body. Further, before the treatment, chronic disease and inflammation in most cases have already led to poor vitamin and mineral states, as it is very common that the nutrient resorption in the intestine is impacted in a negative way.
Both during Lyme treatment and afterwards, nutrition is a major component in terms of giving the body the best ability to fully heal, and maintaining health in the aftermath, meaning a balanced diet and the refill of vitamin and mineral storage is very important during all stages of Lyme treatment.
What are the benefits of a healthy diet during Lyme treatment?
The benefits of a healthy diet are numerous. Initially, strengthening of the immune system by sufficient supply of all vitamins and nutrients required; anti-inflammatory nutrition can also help to relieve the body of exogenous factors that can trigger further inflammation. Such exogenous factors may be a high sugar load, leading to insulin resistance and formation of advanced glycosylation end products; a shift in the omega 3 to omega 6 fatty acid ratio; as well as trans fatty acids from fried foods and toxins or pollutants taken up by the nutrition. Further, a diet rich in fibre and probiotics is critical for gut health, to prevent diarrhoea or constipation, to recover the internal microbiome, and finally to help proper digestion.
How does a healthy diet geared towards Lyme treatment differ from a general healthy diet?
The diets of both Lyme patients and the general healthy population should focus on the same broad aspects of a balanced diet. However, during treatment, Lyme patients should pay special attention to harmful and sensitive triggering substances, as their body and immune system are weakened from disease and treatment. They have an even higher demand of nutrients, and in many cases, supplementation is required to refill vitamin stores. Further, Lyme patients often face problems with digestion, and need nutrition that is more easily digestible.
Inflammation is a key component of a chronic Lyme infection. What are the effects of a healthy diet on inflammation?
A healthy and specifically anti-inflammatory diet can help heal the body and avoid other instances of internal inflammation. Nutrition can help to increase the input of antioxidants, which neutralise harmful free radicals that affect DNA, cells and tissues. Further modulation can be performed by increasing the intake of beneficial nutrients such as omega 3 fatty acids, which act as precursors for anti-inflammatory messengers. Other nutrients are known to have direct anti-inflammatory impact, such as ginger, curcuma, blueberries and papaya.
Are there different types of diet you'd recommend depending on the individual patient, or is there one overarching diet that's considered the best?
Overarching, it is recommended to eat as regional, seasonal and organic as possible in terms of meat, fish and vegetables/fruit. This is mainly to avoid the antibiotics, pesticides and hormones that are used in mass production and conventional farming. Further, premature harvesting and long transportation of fruit can influence their bioactive compounds, as well as seasonal differences.
Depending on the individual patient, the dietary prescription can be focused on individual existing parameters, such as persisting diseases like obesity, diabetes, coronary heart disease etc. Many existing diseases require special dietary attention.
Should patients undergoing Lyme treatment change their diet permanently, or is it a temporary measure?
A healthy diet should always be maintained permanently. Many patients will also realise that changing dietary habits makes them actually feel better in the long run, so many also want to stick to the healthier diet afterwards.
How does a healthy diet affect our immune system?
In a healthy balanced diet, all nutrients, vitamins and trace elements are present. These all help to ensure proper cell function and immune surveillance. All these elements need to be present and balanced for the immune system to be strong enough to work ideally.
If people eat healthily before contracting Lyme disease, does it give them a better chance of fighting the disease?
Yes. Patients on a healthy diet (which includes exercise) are usually in better body and mind shape. They suffer less nutrition-related problems that weaken the body and immune system, and both a strong body and a healthy mind are required for a successful fight against a chronic disease.