Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Diet and Exercise: The Great Conundrum

Food glorious food!

"I can't eat that..."
"Because I have Lyme Disease..."

This is an excuse I feel like I use on the daily. It's part of life with Lyme. I have found, and others I have talked to with Lyme as well, that if you are not willing to change your diet, you will struggle to beat this disease. For the past two years I have changed my diet to work against Lyme, and it is a struggle. I had to work super hard at first, but now I feel like following a strict diet is one way I can have total control over my disease.

Food has always been a love of my life. In fact, it has been the love of my life. I wrote my mission president before my service for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I told him I was in a relationship with food. I love food. Fast forward, however, and a year or so later I'm home early from my mission, with Lyme. For 6 months I relied only on prescriptions to help me. I had heard the suggestion to quit gluten and sugar within the first 2-3 months of my diagnosis. It wasn't until after the holidays and the opening of 2015 year that I decided to quit gluten and sugar.

I knew there was no way in heaven I could quit both at the same time, so I chose to quit the one I knew I could live without: sugar.

The sweets and candy's wasn't actually that hard, the hard thing was giving up my addiction to Diet Mountain Dew. I started drinking it on my mission to stay awake and survive the chronic fatigue that was controlling my life. I kept up the addiction after the mission and into my treatments because I was still very tired, I would fall asleep while driving 10 minutes to work. However, the inflammatories that are in gluten and sugar are what Lyme thrives on. So caffeine and sugar had to go. It took about 2 months, the first 2 weeks I was brutally cranky and tired, but after that I started to find I had more energy, I was still chronically exhausted, but I had more energy in that exhaustion. I had conquered the sugar cravings, and gluten was next.

Gluten is my favorite food, which I didn't realize until I had to give it up. It took about 6 months for me to quit. I feel like I sound like a smoker, or an alcoholic, but I seriously could have gone to a Gluten Anonymous meeting: "Hey I'm Sadie, and I'm addicted to gluten." I loved, and still love bread,  pastas, cereals, and basically anything with gluten.

So to give up this love of my life I would say it took about 6 months before I was finally completely off gluten. I would make it 4 or 5 days going strong and then the cravings would hit by the weekend and I would be craving pasta and pizza with a giant loaf of bread to go on the side. What did help was my mama quit gluten for her own personal health issues too, and that made things easier on both of us. Mostly because I think I had someone to complain to about how bad I missed eating my favorite cereals in the morning.

Once gluten was given up I stayed strong and off of both of those things, the doctors suggested to go off of dairy too, especially at the beginning of 2016 when my gal-bladder took a hit from all of the antibiotics I had been taking for the past year and a half. It actually wasn't htat hard to quit diary, I never drink milk, I think of it as cereal sauce, and I hadn't been eating cereal for about 9 months a the point of me quitting diary. I drink almond milk, and cook and use that instead. Sometimes I will really crave cheese, and that is hard, but dairy was the easiest of all the groups to give up.

Recently however, after almost 2 years of being off sugar, I have been put on the paleo diet. It is a diet of meats, veggies, nuts and berries. It limits almost all sugars and all grains. I used to eat rice and quinoa every day after I quit gluten. Now I can't eat any of those things. It was hard at first, but no where as near as hard as gluten.

After suffering through the paleo diet this summer, I was then put on the diet from hell. For about a month I could only eat 11 things: Greet yogurt, almonds, pecans, eggs, fish, organic grass fed beef, avocados, spinach, kale, berries, and broccoli. I was MISERABLE! I was hungry ALL THE TIME! I wasn't a big fan of the paleo diet, but being on the new diet, I just wanted to be back on paleo, I missed all my veggies and chicken! So I sucked it up, and did the diet. I was very cranky the first 2 weeks of the diet, trying to figure out how to stay full, eating at least every 2 hours. Now, after that diet, I feel like I can do paleo, and that is what I am back on again.

 The harder thing is trying to eat with friends. It is hard to go on dates and explain what I can or can't eat. Because I don't go out to eat, but that is a big thing to do on dates. I don't do that. So when I end up going on dates instead of saying "Yeah I can eat that piece of meat, wrapped in lettuce, oh and is the beef grass fed, or organic, because I can't have it if not." That is just tedious to have to deal with on a first date. So limiting my food makes my life a lot harder than it needs to be on dates.

Sometimes I cheat, and I regret it the next day. I notice a difference when I eat sugar, and I notice an even bigger difference when I eat gluten. I get brain fog and just can't think, or move. I'm slower mentally, and physically. And where ice cream or a bowl of noodles might be celestial to my tastebuds, the next day they are not!

Now those are the hard things about limiting my diet. I haven't gotten to the best parts! I feel better, I feel healthier. I feel like I can tangibly control something about my health that doesn't involve taking a substance that comes from a doctor or a health store. And I think that is the best part--being able to control something about my situation.

Exercise: Cheaper than therapy

I have talked about limiting your diet if you have Lyme, but there is more than just healthy eating that I can control and do to kick this disease into remission. Exercise. Working out. This is something that is almost like voodoo to someone with a chronic illness. Especially when they deal with chronic pain. The problem with Lyme is the Herxhimer Reactions (to read about those click here).

If you don't want to read all about it in a different post I guess I can recap it: So when you over work your body and it heats up you naturally kill off lots of bacteria. When you kill off too much of the bacteria too fast it is hard for your body to detoxify all the dead bacteria carcasses floating around in your body. So you get itches, aches, pains, and extreme fatigue.

I love playing, I love to swim, and I love sports, and hiking and working out. The most important thing with I have found is to know your limits. I know mine, but unfortunately I will push them past their limits. It is not always the best, in the moment the adrenaline might be fine, but I usually regret it after I finish whatever it was that I was doing.

It is a great conundrum to me because, for example, if I'm in a basketball game because I know how I should be able to play. I know how good I am, but with my body being infected with Lyme, I can't go as hard as I would like too. So I work harder, trying to play through the pain, and the cramping, stiff muscles and I get more frustrated and down on myself, I miss more shots because I get in my own head. Then after the game, even the next day, I feel the aftermath. As soon as I sit up in the morning my body just aches. I usually describe it as feeling like I got hit by a bus.

As good as exercise is for those who want to beat this disease, you have to exercise, even if it is just a walk. I remember when just getting up and showering was as if I had ran a marathon. You have to exercise.

All in all, it is hard to discipline yourself. If you struggle with Lyme and desperately want to feel in control of something in your life besides going to the pharmacy every other day, I would recommend changing your diet, educating yourself on a healthy life style, and pushing yourself to work out, but not to over do it.

-The Lyme Warrior.