There is currently no specific “Lyme disease diet”. Fortunately, most people make a full recovery from Lyme disease after taking antibiotics.
Preliminary research suggests that certain vegetable oils have antibacterial effects that can aid in the treatment of Lyme disease and reduce lingering symptoms. Additionally, anti-inflammatory compounds in certain foods can boost your immune system to help you recover from Lyme disease and other infections.
This article explains how an anti-inflammatory diet can be beneficial, how it works, what foods you should be eating, and whether they might be good choices for you.
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A study by researchers at the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University found that oils made from garlic and other medicinal plants help ward off the germs responsible for Lyme disease, especially the form of bacteria that causes persistent and resistant symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain.
Not eating enough protein is a known risk factor for infection. However, this problem is not common in the United States.
Aside from having enough high quality protein, eating patterns that include omega-3 fatty acids, fiber and micronutrients such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, B vitamins, selenium, iron and phytonutrients (beneficial plant compounds) have been shown to support the immune system.
Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and refined sugars have negative effects on the immune system. To simplify the recommendations, many experts advise following a Mediterranean diet that follows the guidelines above to reduce inflammation.
How it works
In addition to cloves of garlic, essential oils from cinnamon bark, myrrh trees, thyme leaves, allspice berries and cumin seeds showed a “strong killing effect against dormant and slowly growing forms of the Lyme disease bacterium”.
Essential oils are concentrated liquids derived from plants that are widely used in aromatherapy. In aromatherapy, the oils are inhaled through a diffuser or diluted in oil and applied topically (to the skin).
While this initial research is promising, essential oils are not a substitute for standard antibiotic treatment. The listed essential oils are not considered to be safe in large quantities. Clinical studies examining the effects of essential oils in humans are required for future recommendations.
Inflammation occurs when your body detects something harmful (like infection, injury, and toxins) and creates a response to fight it. While inflammation is a natural part of fighting infection, excessive or chronic (long-term) inflammation can lead to a variety of health problems.
Choosing anti-inflammatory foods can help slow down the inflammatory process. However, there is no direct research that shows a perfect nutritional pattern for Lyme disease.
Anti-inflammatory foods include tomatoes and leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale; Fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, and cherries; oily fish such as salmon and tuna; and a healthy oil like olive oil. Nuts and coffee, which contain polyphenols, an anti-inflammatory compound, can also protect against inflammation.
Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, a Mediterranean diet is considered a healthy life option. Rather than seeing it as a short-term choice to help your body recover from Lyme disease, a long-term Mediterranean diet can improve your body’s ability to fight off future illnesses as well.
What to eat
The Mediterranean diet is a diet rich in anti-inflammatory compounds. In addition to potential immune system benefits, a Mediterranean diet can ward off brain problems such as dementia and depression.
All fruits like berries, peaches, cherries and apricots
Beans, lentils, tofu and tempeh
Dried herbs and spices
Extra virgin olive oil, avocado and olives
Milk, natural Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
Non-starchy vegetables like eggplants, peppers, artichokes, and dark greens
Nuts like almonds, pistachios, walnuts and cashew nuts
Starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes and root vegetables
Water, coffee and tea
Whole grain bread and other whole grain products like quinoa, barley, and brown rice
Refined grains like white bread, white pasta, and pizza dough with white flour
Refined oils such as soybean oil
Foods with added sugar such as cookies, cakes, and sodas
Sausages, hot dogs, bacon and other processed meats
Lemonade, fruit juices and sweetened coffee beverages
Ice cream and processed cheese like American cheese
Make healthy swaps
Focus on choosing fresh foods over packaged foods, which tend to be more processed, and make vegetables a central part of your meal. First, try to think about foods to swap out, like fish for red meat or olive oil for canola oil.
Experiment with new foods like whole grains or try a new recipe made from beans and legumes. Buy a variety of spices and herbs, either dry or fresh, to flavor your food.
Increase fruits and vegetables
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes seven to ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day. So, look for ways to add more fruits and vegetables to your meals, such as: B. peppers with your eggs, avocado and tomato with your sandwich or an apple with whole grain crackers.
Fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna are high in omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation. Whitefish and shellfish are rich in protein, but not as rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
The Mediterranean Diet does not recommend specific times for meals. However, other studies suggest that eating most calories earlier in the day and extending your fast overnight by not eating at night can reduce inflammation.
Eating a diet with more focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans can seem daunting. You may be used to planning your meal around the meat, so putting the focus on vegetables and whole grains may take a little more planning and creativity.
Think about your meals ahead of time to make sure you have the right ingredients on hand. Fry foods in olive oil instead of deep-frying them, and try making your salad dressing with healthier oils and avocado.
While some alternative medical treatments (such as essential oil therapy) have potential risks, the Mediterranean diet is a nutritious diet that focuses on whole and natural foods. Herbal remedies may not be safe and may interfere with Lyme disease antibiotics or other medications you are taking.
Always talk to your doctor before making any significant dietary changes or taking any supplements, especially if you are experiencing an acute condition such as Lyme disease.
The Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes the benefits of a “healthy Mediterranean-style diet” in the eighth edition of the Nutritional Guidelines for Americans. According to the USDA, the Mediterranean diet offers a higher intake of fruits and seafood compared to a healthy US-style diet.
The nutritional content is similar, however, as the Mediterranean diet includes a lower intake of dairy products; The intake of calcium and vitamin D may also be lower.
Sustainability and practicality
Following a particular eating style is often easier at home than at social events. However, the Mediterranean diet is an exception. Since it includes a range of foods, the Mediterranean diet can be implemented well in both domestic and social eating situations.
The Mediterranean diet enables a wide variety of tasty dishes. Switching from high-sugar processed snacks or fast food can be a change, but with practice and creativity, the Mediterranean diet is flexible enough to suit most taste preferences and budgets.
The Mediterranean diet focuses on home-cooked foods rather than restaurant meals or processed foods. Depending on how you shop, you can prepare your own meals to save money.
While seafood, nuts, and olives tend to be more expensive, followers of the Mediterranean diet can save money by balancing their plate with lots of beans, lentils, and brown rice.
Buying seasonal fruits and vegetables and taking the time to prepare them yourself (rather than choosing pre-cut items) can help increase your meal allowance for the Mediterranean diet.
Excessive weight gain is considered to be pro-inflammatory. Although the Mediterranean diet is full of filling nutrients like healthy fats and fiber, it is possible to gain unhealthy weight if your energy supply is out of whack.
Continue to pay attention to the portion sizes and incorporate regular physical activity into the Mediterranean diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.
If there are certain foods that you cannot eat due to a food allergy or intolerance, such as nuts, speak to a registered dietitian about how to customize the Mediterranean diet for your body.
In addition to antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease, an anti-inflammatory diet can be beneficial. A Mediterranean diet is a diet that can be used over the long term to support your immune function.
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A word from Verywell
Diet is not the most important factor in preventing or treating Lyme disease. Avoiding tick bites, early treatment if infection is suspected, and following antibiotic treatments recommended by your doctor are critical to reducing the risk of severe symptoms.
While alternative therapies can seem tempting, they are not always the best course of action. Nonetheless, supplementing Lyme disease treatment through the use of food to reduce inflammation throughout the body will benefit your immune system and general health.