The majority of patients who come to see me with Lyme disease often see several health care practitioners, searching for a diagnosis to explain their chronic fatigue, joint aches, muscle pains, headaches, memory problems, and sleep disorders.
They’re frequently diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or a psychiatric disorder, such as anxiety or depression. Typically, their physician is unable to find a cause for their symptoms, and they’re labeled with a disorder that requires taking medication for life.
Can we do better? We’re taught in medical school to search for “one cause for one illness.” Yet patients who come to see me with chronic symptoms often have many potential overlapping medical issues contributing to their chronic illness. Some of the biggest culprits? Food allergies, food sensitivities and nutritional deficiencies.
How can eating the wrong foods make us sick?
Many of the symptoms that we see with Lyme disease are due to inflammatory molecules in the body, called cytokines, which are produced during the infectious process. These can cause fatigue, headaches, joint and muscle pain, mood swings, sleep problems and cognitive difficulties. These same molecules are also produced when we eat the wrong types of foods, and can contribute to resistant symptoms.
What are five signs that foods could be negatively impacting your health?
1. Soon after eating a meal, you notice that you begin to yawn and feel tired.
It could happen minutes or hours after eating. This could be accompanied by feeling anxious, palpitations, shaking, feeling dizzy, feeling like you might pass out, or that you need a nap.This is often due to reactive hypoglycemia, which means that the blood sugars are swinging.
Solution: Eat small frequent meals, don’t skip meals, cut back on simple sugars and carbs, and eat a balanced diet with quality protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats (olive oil, coconut oil, avocados). A five-hour glucose tolerance test with insulin levels can also help determine if you have reactive hypoglycemia.
2. You suffer from chronic headaches and/or migraines.
You have headache pain upon awakening in the morning, several hours after a meal, or even a day after eating certain foods. This is often due to food sensitivities which act as migraine triggers, and/or trigger a hypoglycemic response.
Solution: Keep a food diary and write down everything you eat. Notice patterns of how certain foods affect you. Certain foods and additives are known migraine triggers (caffeine, chocolate, MSG, aged cheeses, for example). Sending off a food allergy profile can be helpful in determining which foods may adversely be affecting you.
3. You develop gas, bloating, episodes of belching, loose stools and/or diarrhea after eating.
Although there are many causes for these symptoms, this could be due to gluten sensitivity/celiac disease, food allergies/sensitivities, lactose and/or fructose intolerance, and/or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Solution: Keep a food diary, do an elimination diet, and see your health care provider and/or a gastroenterologist to get tested for these disorders. Occasionally a CDSA (comprehensive digestive stool analysis) through a laboratory specializing in nutritional medicine can help identify the cause of GI problems.
4. You suffer from chronic constipation, despite eating a high fiber diet and drinking at least two liters of fluid per day.
This may be due to Lyme disease affecting the GI tract, food sensitivities and/or a lack of adequate magnesium in the diet.
Solution: Do a food allergy/sensitivity profile, try off grains such as wheat, and do a blood test for mineral deficiencies, including magnesium, with a serum and red blood cell (RBC) magnesium level. Often, getting off sensitive foods and increasing magnesium in the diet (500 mg to 1000 mg/day) will help with chronic constipation.
5. You suffer from muscle and/or joint pain minutes to hours after eating meals.
This could be brief, intermittent pain, or a more sustained inflammatory response.
Solution: Do a food allergy/sensitivity test and stool analysis (CDSA test) to look for increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut), do an elimination diet and get tested for nutritional deficiencies, including zinc. (Zinc deficiency may increase inflammation in the body.) A trial off nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers) may also be effective in a small proportion of individuals.Food is medicine, but eating the wrong types of foods along with nutritional deficiencies can make you sick.