Have you been diagnosed with Lyme disease and wondered, “what is the best diet for Lyme disease?” If you type this question into the Google search bar, you’ll find an array of dietary recommendations for Lyme disease patients, many of which are conflicting. The world of nutrition can no doubt be confusing! However, as a functional nutritionist specializing in nutrition for Lyme disease, I think a Lyme disease diet shouldn’t be confusing or overwhelming – Lyme disease creates enough overwhelm as it is! If you’re just beginning to focus on nutrition for Lyme recovery, I recommend starting with a Lyme disease detox diet because detoxifying your body of harmful substances that hinder immune function is vital for Lyme recovery. Read on to learn about the Lyme disease detox diet and how it can assist you in your Lyme disease recovery.
In This Article:
Why Does Detox Matter for Lyme Disease Recovery?
Detoxification is defined as the physiological removal of toxic substances from the body. Your body is constantly detoxifying substances produced both inside your body, such as bacterial byproducts, and substances acquired from your environment, such as heavy metals and pesticide residues. While our bodies harbor elegant detoxification mechanisms, the sheer number of toxins we face in our modern-day environment can quickly overwhelm our internal detoxification systems. This is why taking conscious steps to live a low-toxin lifestyle and engage in nutrition habits that support detox is vital. However, you may be wondering, what is the connection between Lyme disease and detox? Lyme disease is an infectious disease, so why does detox matter for Lyme recovery? There are several reasons why detox is essential for Lyme recovery:
- Chronic infections, including Lyme disease, release toxins into the body that cause inflammation and hinder healing. For example, Borrelia burgdorferi, one of the types of Borrelia bacteria that causes Lyme disease, produces a toxic compound called peptidoglycan that revs up inflammation. (1) Chronic inflammation, in turn, can worsen Lyme symptoms and hinder healing. Detoxification can help rid the body of these harmful inflammatory compounds.
- Various toxins, including flame retardants, plastics, pesticides and herbicides, and heavy metals, impair immune function. (2, 3, 4, 5) You need a well-functioning immune system to recover from Lyme disease, so detoxifying harmful toxins is critical.
- Many toxins disrupt gut function; a healthy gut is vital for proper immune function. Clearing harmful toxins may thereby support gut healing and immunity.
Principles of the Detox Diet for Lyme Disease
If you are interested in optimizing your nutrition to support Lyme recovery, then a Lyme disease detox diet is the perfect place to start because it will reduce your exposure to incoming toxins and give your body the nutrients it needs to detoxify effectively. The principles of my Lyme Disease Detox Diet are as follows:
- Eat foods that are free of toxins, such as pesticide and herbicide-contaminated foods, conventionally-raised animal products, and foods that contain artificial sweeteners, colorants, and other harmful additives.
- Eat foods that support a healthy gut and avoid foods that harm gut function.
- Supply your body with nutrients that support detoxification pathways.
- Eat your meals on a daily schedule that supports detoxification.
Let’s discuss each of these principles in turn.
Eat Foods That Are Free of Toxins
If you are trying to detoxify your body from Lyme disease, the last thing you want to do is to introduce more toxins into your body through the foods you eat. Unfortunately, many common foods in the modern-day diet are sources of toxins; we should do our best to avoid these foods. Pesticides and herbicides are two notorious classes of toxins that are heavily sprayed on many foods, including vegetables, fruits, and grains. I highly recommend purchasing organic vegetables and fruits as often as possible since toxic pesticides and herbicides are prohibited in organic agriculture. If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, refer to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists. These lists show you which types of conventionally-grown vegetables and fruits are lowest in chemical residues and therefore safe to consume and which types of produce are heavily contaminated and should only be purchased organic. The EWG updates this list annually, so I recommend checking it out once a year (typically, it is updated in the spring).
Meat, eggs, and dairy products from conventional grain-fed animals can be high in pesticide and herbicide residues (due to residues on the grains and soy these animals are fed), antibiotics, and synthetic hormones, such as rBST (recombinant bovine growth hormone). rBST is a genetically-modified growth hormone that makes cows produce more milk. Consuming conventionally-raised animal products regularly may expose your body to significant levels of these toxins, which are inflammatory and impair the immune system. Try to buy organic meat, eggs, and dairy products when possible. Grass-fed and pastured animal products are even better, as these foods may be lower in another class of disruptive toxins, mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are toxins produced by harmful types of molds. Mold often grows on grains, so even if an animal is raised organically, it may be transferring mycotoxins into its meat and milk if it is eating a grain-based diet. You may increase your body’s burden of mycotoxins when you consume meat and dairy products from grain-fed animals. This phenomenon is referred to as “mycotoxin carry-over.” (6) I suggest using the Eat Wild website to find farms near you that sell grass-fed and pastured animal products at a reasonable price.
Last but not least, it is critical that you avoid synthetic food additives, many of which demonstrate inflammatory and immune system-disrupting effects. (7) Avoid artificial colors, which go by names such as “Red 40” and “Yellow 5,” emulsifiers such as carrageenan, artificial sweeteners, and artificial flavors. Eating a diet centered around whole, minimally-processed foods will help you naturally avoid these harmful additives.
Eat Foods That Support Gut Health
Approximately 70-80 of your immune system lives in your gut (8), making a healthy gut essential for proper immune function and Lyme disease recovery. Your gut is also a significant elimination route for toxins (pooping is a crucial mechanism for detoxification!)
Many foods in the modern-day diet compromise gut health, including refined carbohydrates such as table sugar and bread, high intakes of grains, and industrial seed oils. Refined carbohydrates promote the growth of inflammatory gut bacteria that mess with immune function and detoxification. (9) Industrial seed oils such as canola and soybean oils are highly inflammatory and can promote gut dysbiosis, an imbalance between good and harmful microorganisms in the gut. (10) Grains can impair gut health due to their high levels of antinutrients, plant defense compounds that protect grains from pests and disease but that mess with our gut health when we consume them. Grains also tend to be contaminated with mycotoxins (discussed above), which can promote leaky gut, gut dysbiosis, and immune dysfunction. Removing refined carbohydrates and industrial seed oils from your diet and significantly minimizing your intake of grains or removing them can aid gut health and Lyme disease detox.
To support your Lyme detox, prioritize foods that help gut health. Helpful foods include organic vegetables (aim for at least 5 servings a day!) and fruits, organic and grass-fed/pastured animal foods, wild-caught seafood, healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado, and nuts, and functional foods such as fermented foods (which supply your gut with probiotic bacteria) and bone broth (which contains collagen protein for repairing an inflamed and damaged gut).
Supply Your Body with Nutrients That Support Detoxification
Your body has internal detoxification mechanisms that require various nutrients to function correctly. If your diet lacks these nutrients, your ability to detoxify from Lyme disease may be impaired. Our bodies detoxify toxins through phases called Phases I, II, and III. These phases happen simultaneously, as toxins move from one phase to the next. Therefore, consuming the nutrients that support each phase is crucial to keep detoxification chugging along. Your body requires dozens of nutrients for detoxification, and this blog doesn’t provide an exhaustive overview of all of the necessary detox nutrients. For more comprehensive nutritional support for detox, consider working with me one-on-one in my nutrition practice.
So, what happens in each of these phases of detoxification? In Phase I, your body makes toxins water-soluble, preparing them for the next step, conjugation, in Phase II. To support Phase I, you need B vitamins, vitamin A, flavonoids, and thiols (substances found in Allium vegetables such as garlic and cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli), just to name a few necessary nutrients. Meat, poultry, and seafood are excellent sources of B vitamins, while vitamin A can be found in egg yolks and beef liver. Flavonoids are found in a variety of vegetables, fruits, and culinary herbs.
In Phase II, you need glutathione and several other compounds, including glycine, to make toxins more water-soluble and ready for excretion. Whey protein is an excellent source of glutathione for those who tolerate dairy products. Glycine is found in bone broth, collagen peptides, and collagen-rich cuts of meat, such as oxtail. Your body also needs adequate amino acids, the building blocks of protein, to support Phase II. Therefore, eating high-quality protein sources, such as organic and grass-fed meat and poultry, is critical for Lyme detox.
Finally, Phase III of detox involves the actions of tiny transporters in our cells that remove toxins from within our cells into bile and urine for elimination via our intestine and kidneys. For Phase III, we need dietary fiber, adequate fluids (preferably filtered water), and bitter foods that stimulate bile flow, such as dandelion greens and arugula. Drinking lemon water can also assist bile flow.
Eating a diverse and nutrient-dense diet can supply your body with the nutrients it needs for proper detoxification and support your Lyme detox.
Eat Your Meals On A Schedule That Supports Detox
When it comes to detoxification, when you eat is just as important as what you eat! Taking periodic breaks from eating, referred to as “intermittent fasting,” helps your body detoxify by allowing it to break down and clear circulating toxins and regenerate tissues. Unfortunately, many people eat all day and night, from when they wake up until they go to bed. This means their bodies are not being given the opportunity to detox. To support Lyme detox, I recommend the following meal timing strategies:
- Eat most of your food during daylight hours. This is when your body is biologically “wired” for optimal digestion. This also means you are not eating much during nighttime hours, which is when your body is wired for detoxification.
- Fast for at least 12 hours between dinner and breakfast the next day.
- Finish your last bites of food for the day at least 2-3 hours before bed. This allows your body to digest much of your food before you head to bed, thereby allowing your body to focus on detoxification while you sleep.
Detoxification is vital for Lyme recovery, and choosing the right foods can make all the difference in your body’s natural detoxification processes! If you are interested in learning more about how nutrition can support your Lyme disease recovery process, join my course, Life Beyond Lyme™! In this course, you’ll learn how to use powerful nutrition changes to regain your energy, mental clarity, gut health, and immune function, so you can reclaim your health and thrive with Lyme.
If you need one-on-one support, consider working with me in my private practice; you can learn more about how we can work together by contacting me here.