In spite of the fact that Lyme disease cases are growing in number, there is still much confusion about how best to diagnose and treat this complex condition. Caused by the bacterium borrelia burgdorferi, Lyme disease is transmitted by blacklegged ticks (also known as deer ticks) infected with this bacterium. People who visit a doctor after noticing early symptoms of Lyme disease such as fever, body aches, or a rash resembling a target may receive blood tests to check for antibodies against borrelia burgdorferi. If the tests are positive, patients are generally treated with antibiotics for 10 to 21 days, and many make a full recovery.
Unfortunately, diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease isn’t always this straightforward. Many people don’t realize they’ve been bitten by a tick, and some exhibit atypical symptoms not usually associated with Lyme disease. Others don’t experience any symptoms at all. And although more and more health professionals are being trained to diagnose Lyme disease, it may not be the first thing a physician thinks to test for, particularly if the patient isn’t displaying commonly recognized symptoms. An asymptomatic person can have Lyme disease for a very long time without having any idea. As far as effective treatment, oral antibiotics don’t always work, and many people are allergic to them.
The difficulties associated with catching Lyme disease in its early stages and treating it successfully mean that some people end up with chronic Lyme disease, also known as post-treatment Lyme disease syndrome because it affects those for whom antibiotic treatment has failed. For people with chronic Lyme disease, symptoms like joint pain and muscle aches can persist to the point that they greatly interfere with quality of life. But when conventional treatment isn’t an option, how can patients with chronic Lyme disease manage these symptoms?
Food can be a highly useful tool for reducing the inflammation that’s frequently associated with Lyme disease. Altering the diet to include a variety of anti-inflammatory foods allows Lyme patients to be proactive about reducing symptoms in a safe and drug-free way.
One of the reasons anti-inflammatory foods can be helpful is that there are so many of them, allowing patients many options to choose from to suit their own tastes and lifestyle. Here are some of the most powerfully anti-inflammatory foods.
Cold-water fish like salmon and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to reduce inflammation.
A key component of the Mediterranean diet, olive oil is rich in “good” fats like monounsaturated oleic acid that have been shown to reduce inflammation.
Broccoli and other vegetables in the Brassica family (like kale and cabbage) contain sulforaphane, a compound that acts an antioxidant to reduce levels of inflammatory compounds in the body.
This beverage owes many of its anti-inflammatory properties to polyphenols like ECGC that appear to have anti-inflammatory effects.
Almonds and other nuts are another good source of anti-inflammatory “good” fat. They’re also high in fiber and protein, making them a healthy and nutritious snack.
Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, and other berries are rich in anthocyanins, a type of antioxidant that reduces inflammation.
Many common culinary herbs and spices also have strong anti-inflammatory effects. Turmeric, the bright yellow spice often used to flavor Indian curries, has been shown to reduce inflammation thanks to an active constituent called circumin. In one study involving patients with osteoarthritis in one or both knees, participants who took a turmeric formulation showed a 58% reduction in overall pain and stiffness compared to controls after 90 days. They were also able to reduce their need for over-the-counter analgesics like ibuprofen by 63% compared to patients receiving conventional medical therapy alone. Both cinnamon and ginger also contain potent anti-inflammatory compounds. For Lyme patients struggling with inflammation, regularly using these spices when preparing meals may help alleviate symptoms.
Almost as important as knowing which foods may reduce inflammation is being aware of those that can exacerbate it. These include:
- Refined carbohydrates
- Processed food
- Hydrogenated oils
- Fried foods
People with Lyme disease should aim to consume alcohol, dairy products, and meat in moderation, since these things have also been shown to cause inflammation in the body.
With so many anti-inflammatory dietary choices, Lyme patients can easily incorporate these beneficial foods into their mealtime routines and their Lyme disease treatment plans. Tossing a handful of frozen berries into a smoothie for breakfast, having a cup of green tea in the afternoon instead of coffee, and swapping olive oil for butter when preparing dinner are all simple ways for people with Lyme disease to reap the benefits of anti-inflammatory foods.