This article is intended for customers from all countries other than Germany*
The importance of good gut health for overall wellbeing has been an increasingly hot topic over the last few years, and for good reason. Studies have suggested that our gut flora could influence everything from immunity to addiction and even our emotions. So, how do you achieve a healthy microbiome? Nutritionists and practitioners advocate the regular inclusion of pre- and probiotic foods in our diet. But what about probiotic pills? And are all good bacteria created equal?
In this article we'll be discussing the importance of the microbiome for sufferers of chronic illness and how the inclusion of prebiotic and fermented foods - along the the right kind of probiotic pills - can help boost immunity and overcome illness.
What is Lyme disease?
Lyme disease is an illness contracted via bite from an infected tick. The disease presents itself with flu-like symptoms such as fever, chills, headache, and muscle and joint aches in its earliest stages. The earliest stages are known as acute Lyme, but if left untreated, can progress to chronic Lyme.
The symptoms of chronic Lyme disease are persistent, and include fatigue, chronic pain, lowered cognitive function, joint and muscle pain, and issues with speech. Since Lyme disease can mimic other illnesses such as MS (Multiple Sclerosis), fibromyalgia or ALS/MND (Lou Gehrig’s disease), it hasn’t been known and studied for very long. The earliest instance of the disease dates back to the 1980s, but early fossil records of ticks show that it’s been around for millions of years.
The treatment of both acute and chronic Lyme is an antibiotics course, with the strength and administration (capsules versus intravenous) differing depending on how far the illness has progressed.
Probiotics and Lyme disease
So can probiotics help treat Lyme disease? It has been said that, although probiotics aren’t in any way a cure for the illness, they can help aid in recovery from it. This is due to the fact that probiotics are a form of healthy bacteria, and a lot of healthy bacteria often gets wiped out during the heavy antibiotic treatment required to rid the body of Lyme disease.
As the antibiotics make their way through the body, they kill as much bacteria as possible without discrimination. When the good bacteria in the body is killed off with everything else, the body becomes out of balance, thus threatening the digestive system along with the immune function and the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
People who suffer from Lyme disease are especially at risk of having decreased function because their immune system is already heavily compromised. When this happens, it makes the body’s ability to fight off the Lyme disease bacteria that much harder.
Which probiotics are good for Lyme?
There are many different types of probiotics on the market, all of which promise to help restore the healthy gut flora needed for the body to function properly. There are different strains of bacteria in different versions of probiotics as well, some that serve different purposes. Lactobacillus rhamnosus is one of the positive lactic acid bacteria of our commensal flora. It is often found in yoghurt and may benefit the immune system and brain function.
Not all probiotics are made equal, though, and they come in a wide variety of different forms. The dosages come in colony-forming units (CFU) and are generally effective between 1–2 billion per day. For those fighting chronic illness, upwards of 20 billion CFU may be required, as their level of healthy bacteria is much lower.
Types of probiotics that may be helpful in treating the brain, heart and immune system issues that happen because of a Lyme infection are of the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium variety. The best probiotics to take are ones that come with ‘live cultures’, but if they come in pill form, they have a higher likelihood of not surviving the trip into the stomach. The best way to ingest probiotics is through foods such as yoghurt, cheese and fermented foods.
Despite the probiotics being different in their exact composition, the presence of different strains of lactobacteria is important. Also, the combination with prebiotic substances (like inulin from psyllium seed husks) may not only benefit digestion, but also favour the growth of the live bacteria.
The role of the microbiome in combating chronic Lyme
The microbiome (the genetic material that makes up all the microbes in the body) is essential healthy function. It plays an important role in helping the body regulate the immune system and protect itself against harmful viruses and bacteria; it also helps to digest food and essential vitamins and nutrients.
When the microbiome isn’t doing its job, the body will not function properly because it won’t be able to properly absorb essential vitamins, and the immune system will function at a lower level. This is especially true in chronic illnesses such as Lyme disease. The only true treatment for Lyme so far is via antibiotics, and a strong course of the medicine can often throw off the proper function of the microbiome by killing off good bacteria that it needs to thrive. When it comes to Lyme disease treatment, the microbiome needs to be running at its best so that the immune system can do what it needs to do to alleviate and rid the body of the damage the Lyme bacteria has done during its hostile takeover.
In the case of chronic illness, the microbiome tends to take a longer time to function properly, if at all, and thus the illness lingers over a long period of time. Doing things that will help restore the microbiome, such as taking probiotics, can lead to the alleviation of chronic illness symptoms in those who suffer from them.