A much longer version of this article appears in the August/September 2018 issue of Paleo Magazine.
A growing body of research demonstrates that the Paleo diet is a powerful tool for reversing chronic diseases, including metabolic syndrome, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Encouragingly, many Lyme-literate healthcare practitioners are also having success with chronic Lyme-disease patients whom they help implement a Paleo diet. There are four primary reasons why a Paleo diet may be beneficial for Lyme patients:
- It removes inflammatory foods from the diet.
- It provides the body with antioxidants that quench inflammation.
- It provides vitamins and minerals that support a healthy immune response.
- It optimizes gut health.
Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium responsible for Lyme disease, produces symptoms by provoking immunological and inflammatory responses throughout the body. If left untreated, these adverse physiological responses can cause neurological, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular damage. As such, reducing inflammation is of the essence. The Paleo diet’s avoidance of pro-inflammatory foods such as grains, industrial seed oils, and sugar is highly beneficial for Lyme patients because it significantly reduces the body’s total inflammatory load. The consumption of fruits, vegetables, wild-caught fish, and grass-fed meats further supports the quenching of Borrelia-induced inflammation by providing the body with antioxidants and essential fatty acids that inhibit oxidative damage in cells and tissues.
In addition to reducing inflammation, optimizing the body’s immune response is essential in the fight against Lyme disease. Vitamin D, vitamin C, zinc, and selenium are just a few nutrients that optimize immune function. Fortunately, the Paleo diet is full of foods that contain these nutrients:
- Vitamin D: Found in eggs, beef liver, and fatty, cold-water fish
- Zinc: Found in oysters, liver, beef, lamb, chicken, pumpkin seeds, and cashews
- Selenium: Found in Brazil nuts, salmon, tuna, and shrimp
- Vitamin C: Found in broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peppers, strawberries, and citrus fruits
Seventy percent of the human immune system resides in the gut; therefore, when the gut is healthy, the immune system can function optimally and efficiently fight pathogens such as B. burgdorferi. A Paleo diet that is naturally low in sugar and contains plenty of fiber and fermented foods inhibits the growth of Candida, an opportunistic pathogen that frequently plagues Lyme patients who have undergone multiple rounds of antibiotics; such a diet also populates the gut with beneficial bacteria. Together, these four components of the Paleo diet make it an effective strategy for reducing inflammation, optimizing immune health, and promoting recovery from Lyme disease.