Lyme disease is more prevalent in the east and upper eastern states. This bacterial infection begins with a tick bite – and left untreated, can result in chronic Lyme disease. But with more knowledge about chronic Lyme and ticks, we are better able to enjoy our outdoors, prevent infection and heal it if needed.
Prevent Tick Bites
The black-legged deer ticks are the biggest carrier of Lyme disease in this area – and it’s prime tick season at least through fall, but even freezing temperatures don’t kill them.
You can take several precautions to avoid ticks and tick bites such as:
- Wear long pants and sleeves with a hat when in wooded areas or areas with tall grass
- Use bug spray that deters ticks (those with DEET or natural repellents without DEET)
- Wash your clothes immediately after being in these areas
- Check your hair and body and shower right away before ticks have a chance to attach. (Also check your pets.)
Recognize Symptoms of Chronic Lyme Disease
Chronic Lyme disease, which acts like an autoimmune disease, has gained more attention in the past decade and can be mysterious. With chronic Lyme, the bacteria hide in various places of your body and symptoms may not surface until years later. Chronic Lyme and mold illness (Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome) can exaggerate symptoms of one another, for example.
With Lyme disease, you may experience some of these symptoms.
Symptoms common within 30 days of your bite
- “Erythema migrans” rash (this is where the center resembles a “bullseye” with redness surrounding it)
- Body aches
Symptoms you may develop later with chronic Lyme disease
- Joint pain
- Erythema migrans rashes on other parts of your body
- Brain fog, forgetfulness or difficulty concentrating
- Poor sleep and chronic fatigue
- Nausea or loss of appetite
- Impaired muscles
- Numbness or weakness in your arms or legs
- Heart complications
Chronic lyme disease can be debilitating – keeping you from normal life and work activities.
Yet less than 50% of patients with Lyme disease recall getting a tick bite or rash. If you are concerned you may have Lyme, start with this simple online checklist. https://www.lymedisease.org/lyme-disease-symptom-checklist/
Help Treat Chronic Lyme Disease Through Lifestyle Changes
Conventional medical practitioners will likely treat your infection with antibiotics. However, this treatment doesn’t necessarily cover all the damage done to your body – the inflammation and cellular damage.
Like with other diseases or autoimmune disorders, you can reverse or reduce damage and help your body heal through simple lifestyle changes.
Eat more nutritious foods
Leafy greens and a colorful array of vegetables provide vitamins and minerals that support a healthy gut – and a healthy gut is central to a healthy immune system. These foods also help reduce inflammation throughout your body. You often do not even see or feel this type of inflammation, yet it tends to be the root of many symptoms and diseases. That’s why reducing it can result in fewer, less severe symptoms.
Also, eat fewer foods that tend to cause inflammation, such as grains, conventional dairy and sugar.
Get good sleep
The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get 7-9 hours of sleep each day. Sleep is when your body has a chance to restore and repair. If you have Lyme, your body likely needs more sleep because it has extra healing to do. Give yourself grace, say no to too much busyness and give your body its best chance to heal.
Take the right supplements
You will find lots of supplements that can help you heal from Lyme disease. But it’s best to consult with a functional medical practitioner (is there a local one you can suggest here?) who will look at your big picture and help you choose the right ones. For example, if mold is also an issue, certain supplements that would normally help you heal from Lyme could make you worse instead.
Reduce your stress
Stress adds to your body’s inflammation and keeps your body in that fight-or-flight mode (sympathetic nervous system at work) and out of the restorative rest mode (parasympathetic nervous system). Have you ever heard, “oh it may just be stress causing it” and gotten annoyed? This is partially true! And this is why it’s important to find ways to keep your stress at bay. Try daily:
- Prayer or mediation
- Nature walks in one of our many amazing parks
Exercise regularly without overdoing it
Any movement – even light walking – will stimulate your lymphatic system. If inactive, your lymph has a greater chance of getting clogged, which means your immune system won’t get the cellular support it needs.
Just don’t work out to the point of exhaustion because that puts undue stress on your body when it’s trying to heal! Consider at least one of these activities. Start with what you can handle now and then add even just a couple of minutes each day.
- Yoga (link to local?)
- Rebounding (mini-trampolining)
- Light weight lifting
- Leisure bike riding
Unfortunately, deer ticks are common in Maryland. But they are part of our earth’s food chain and as with other creatures, knowledge gives us the power to prevent harm from them. We should not let them keep us from enjoying the significant nature we are surrounded by.
If you suspect or have Lyme or chronic Lyme disease, know that you have options for treating it – do not panic because that only adds stress to your body. When you incorporate these healthier habits into your lifestyle, you will help your body heal from Lyme. You might be helping it heal from other diseases or inflammation, too. And you will be building up your ability to prevent sickness in the future.