The following guest blog is by Vanessa Colleran of True North AIP. Vanessa is a Canadian healing herself of Lyme Disease & two diagnosed autoimmune diseases, using the Autoimmune Protocol. She is also a certified Primal Blueprint Expert through Mark Sission of Mark's Daily Apple & is studying through the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition to become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. You can find Vanessa here:
I have Chronic Lyme Disease. Well, at least I think I do.
How strange to not know right? Even while I sit down to write this, it's hard for me to say those words and really believe them. There is so much doubt and uncertainty surrounding this disease it can leave you with more questions than answers. The reason for this is that that there is still so much that is unknown about Chronic Lyme and the best way to diagnose and treat it.
I have to be completely honest here. I wish I was diagnosed with something else. Not that I wish to have any other disease (of course !) and not that I discount the agony that other people suffer with other diseases. But I do wish that I was diagnosed with something that was at the very least, extremely black-and-white. Something that wasn't so controversial, something that my western medicine doctor didn't deny even existed, something where the symptoms were clear-cut, something where the treatment was easily defined and where progress could be monitored as steady improvement, instead of the waxing and waning vagueness of Lyme Disease. But I didn't get that disease . . . I got Lyme.
I have been suffering from a fairly acute onset of autoimmune disorders (Psoriasis, Reynaud’s Syndrome) as well as a long list of other complaints (extreme fatigue, brain fog, insomnia, sinusitis, allergies….) for about nine years now. Collectively, these have all contributed to a fairly tough existence on all but the few "good" days. Prior to this, I was active and healthy and barely spent a moment in a doctor’s office. Since the onset though, I have spent the last nine years in and out of GP’s and specialist’s offices, getting CT scanned, x-rayed, ultra sounded, blood pulled time and time again . . . all with the hope to identify what it was that triggered such a dramatic decline in my health. All of these tests were not able to provide me with any answers.
Fast-forwarding to a year and a half ago, I started on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) after hitting what I guess you could call my rock bottom. It was an act of desperation to make this radical a shift in my diet, but one I was willing to commit to in the hopes that something . . . anything . . . could be improved. Little did I know that it was going to be this diet that led me down the road to getting the Lyme diagnosis to begin with.
They say after having been on a dedicated autoimmune protocol for a period of time, you should start to see some improvements in your autoimmune disease. You are going to certainly notice a difference in many of the other symptoms that you have. But if you don’t start seeing any change in the "big stuff," your specific autoimmune disease(s), then you need to dig a little deeper and see if there is something, like an infection, that could be keeping your immune system suppressed and preventing further healing. This is exactly how the journey looked for me.
After months on AIP and seeing dramatic improvements in my energy levels, sleep, etc. . . . my "big stuff" wasn’t budging. My skin wasn’t healing. And since it was my skin that was having enough of an impact on my quality of life, I needed to keep going. So I dug a little deeper and visited a naturopath whom I knew was going to be able to test me for the most obvious culprit(s) and for her that ended up being Lyme. Had my test result come back negative, she would have still recommended treatment based on my symptoms alone, as they were so indicative of someone that was indeed battling more than autoimmunity.
So what exactly is involved with treating Lyme Disease? How can someone take a disease that is wrapped up in so much doubt and controversy, and devise a plan to help treat it? It’s to keep it simple and address the following:
- Diet / Nutritional Supplements
- Immune Support
Since my focus on my health journey up until this point had been primarily centered around the diet, this was the first thing I wanted to address as I was certainly curious about the recommendations that were going to be made. And after being on the AIP for what felt like forever at the time, I certainly wasn’t interested in any more restrictions! But what I was happy to hear was the exact diet the naturopath recommended . . . was for the most part the exact diet, AIP, that I had just mastered. And when I thought about it . . . it made a lot of sense.
With Lyme Disease, you have an immune system that is working hard at keeping the bacteria and inflammation under control, but is struggling to keep up.
With Autoimmune Disease, you have an immune system that is out of control causing inflammation and declaring a war on your own body.
What is needed in both of these situations, the common thread, is nutrition. And the LAST thing you need in either one of these scenarios, but especially in a combined situation like I have, is to continue to add to the insults and make your immune system work harder. Your focus needs to be on a diet that is nutrient dense and void of anything that can:
- continue to damage your gut and cause intestinal permeability (aka leaky gut…one of the 3 predisposing factors in any autoimmune disease)
- or suppress your immune system or add to your bodies already inflamed condition.
In regards to diet, “Micronutrient deficiencies that arise from not eating enough nutritionally dense foods (or not digesting those foods properly) contribute to a defective immune system and hinder the body’s ability to heal. A variety of mineral and vitamin deficiencies have been very strongly correlated with autoimmune disease.” -Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, The Paleo Approach.
In regards to supplements, “To heal and feel better requires a multivitamin with an essential set of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants. A good multivitamin improves functioning of the immune system, muscles, brain and nerves, hormones, organs including the kidney and liver, detoxification, and decreases inflammation. It also protects the body from the toxic effect of prescriptive antibiotics.” -Marty Ross, MD, Treat Lyme and Associated Diseases.
So without me even realizing it, I had already taken the biggest step I could to help my body get strong enough to fight this infection or any other infection I might be dealing with, by adopting the Autoimmune Protocol. Making a shift to this elimination diet, my ND explained, is the hardest part of the treatment protocol and what she finds her patients struggle with the most, but the work is imperative. With any disease you may be trying to heal yourself from, if you don’t have your diet correct, then all the time and money spent on medications and other treatments might end up being a big, fat waste. It’s the diet, the provider of basic nourishment and building blocks for all of your body systems . . . the immune system being in the spot light here . . . that is essential for any healing to happen. Make this your starting place. Don’t get paralyzed by all the unknowns and uncertainty surrounding this disease as there is much you can do immediately to begin feeling better again.
If I were to be asked for advice from someone that may just be starting out on the long road with Lyme & AI disease, what I would do first, I would say this. For me, it’s twofold:
- Address your diet. And be honest with yourself about this. Healing from Lyme can take on average 2 years so you’re already in this for the long haul. Healing from an autoimmune disease takes just as much of a commitment. Take the steps to ensure you can provide your body with the basic nutrition it needs to strengthen the immune system and heal. Reach out and get help if you need to. Angie Alt has a great program called SAD to AIP in SIX, where she will guide you and a community of others just like you, through this transformation in a gentle, supported way. Check out her program here: http://autoimmune-paleo.com/groupcoaching/
- Let your symptoms and your history be your guide and trust in those. There are many problems with the testing surrounding Lyme. You can easily obtain false positives and false negatives in your tests, so don’t let the result of any one test stall you. If your symptoms and history lean towards Lyme as a possibility . . . then trust this part of your story.
A couple great places to get started: