It can be challenging to manage coexisting conditions. How can you treat one condition without making the other worse? If you have Lyme disease and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), you’ll want to follow a diet that will help manage the symptoms you experience for both conditions. Check out the information below to discover how to follow a diet that works for both Lyme disease and IBS patients.
What foods should you avoid?
For Lyme disease patients, it can be really helpful to avoid eating refined sugars. Eating too much sugar can feed Lyme-causing spirochaetes (bacteria) and candida (which is a common Lyme disease co-infection). Even seemingly healthy fruits can cause problems if they’re high in fructose. If you still want to include fruit in your diet, stick to fruits low in sugar, such as berries, avocado and citris fruit such as lemon or lime. People with IBS should also avoid high-fructose items, which can cause stomach upset. If possible, all industrially processed foods should be avoided during treatment.
It’s also a good idea to eliminate gluten from your diet. Since gluten, the protein found in wheat, favours inflammation in the gut, this can be especially harmful to Lyme patients trying to reduce inflammation. Gluten can also wreak havoc on the digestive system if you have IBS, coeliac disease or a gluten sensitivity. Try adjusting to a gluten-free diet and see if your IBS symptoms also improve. While experimenting with your change of diet, you may also like to try gluten-free alternatives, such as quinoa or amaranth, along with grains with a lower gluten content and a longer way of processing, such as rye-based products.
If you’re dealing with IBS and Lyme disease, consider also cutting dairy from your diet. Dairy products, similar to gluten, can be highly inflammatory and difficult for the body to digest – both of which are problems for Lyme patients. Likewise, dairy and lactose can be harmful to IBS patients as well. Lactose (found in milk, cottage cheese, ice cream, etc.) can result in abdominal pain and gas for people with IBS due to a lack of the enzyme lactase. If this is missing or present in low amounts, lactose can reach the colon for fermentation. You can see if your IBS symptoms improve after switching to lactose-free milk or an alternative like almond or soy milk. If you can’t live without cheese, brie and camembert are acceptable options.
What foods should you be eating?
Following a Lyme disease treatment diet means that you should be eating more whole foods that are nutrient-rich. It’s great to include a lot of omega 3 fats in your diet. Animal-based fats from fish, like salmon, can help reduce inflammation in the body. IBS sufferers can also benefit from eating fish, since it’s high in protein. Nutritionists also like to recommend eating more leafy greens (like spinach, kale and collard greens) because they have antioxidants to protect against cellular damage. This can be helpful in alleviating joint pain, which is a common symptom for Lyme disease patients. Eating more nuts and seeds is also helpful for both Lyme disease and IBS, as a way to get added protein.
Overall, you should be trying to eat a balanced diet, with lots of natural, unprocessed foods. For IBS patients, you might find it easier to digest five or six small meals throughout the day instead of three larger ones. A healthy diet (minus preservative-loaded or high-fat foods and greasy fast food) can help you get your health on track.
What foods may be beneficial for Lyme and IBS?
Nutritionists recommend adding in fermented foods into your diet for Lyme disease patients because they can work as detoxifiers to give you a healthier gut (as well as improve your immune system with a more balanced microbiome). These foods can include fermented vegetables (such as cabbage, carrots, kale and celery), fermented raw milk (like kefir), kimchi and tempeh. However, for some people with IBS, some of these foods can lead to increased gas and bloating. You can try out one of these fermented foods and see how you do; if you notice any negative changes, you can always go back to avoiding them.
What is the low FODMAP diet?
The low FODMAP diet is popular with IBS (and IBD) sufferers. If indicated, itmay also be integrated into a Lyme disease treatment plan. FODMAP stands for:
- Oligosaccharides = fructans and galactooligosaccharides
- Disaccharides = lactose
- Monosaccharides = fructose
- Polyols = sorbitol and mannitol
Researchers believe that the small intestine is not able to properly absorb FODMAPs very well, which increases the amount of fluid in the bowel – leading to more gas. The bacteria in the colon is easily fermented, so the increased fluid and gas results in bloating and slow digestion. Eating less of these types of carbohydrates can result in a decrease in IBS symptoms.
Here are the foods you should try to avoid on the low FODMAP diet:
- Lactose = milk, yogurt, pudding, ice cream, cottage cheese
- Fructose = fruits (such as apples, pears, peaches, cherries), sweeteners (honey and agave nectar), products with high fructose corn syrup
- Fructans = vegetables (such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, garlic, onions), grains (wheat and rye), added fibre (inulin)
- GOS = chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans, soy products
- Polyols = fruits (similar to the list above), vegetables (such as cauliflower and mushrooms), sweeteners (such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, etc., which are found in sugar-free products and cough medicines)
Following this diet means a rather strict limitation of several important food groups, which are, step by step, re-entered at a later stage. Due to the complexity of the diet, it is advisable to discuss and plan with a nutritionist or doctor to avoid negative impacts.
To make sure you’re following the best possible diet during your treatment for IBS and Lyme disease, it’s helpful if you keep a food diary. This can help you better understand which foods are making you feel worse or exacerbating your symptoms. Keeping track of these things can help educate you on what foods work for you. That way you can eliminate problem foods or just try to avoid them when you can. Monitoring your symptoms will also let you know how your diet is affecting your Lyme disease and IBS conditions.