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Vegetarians with Lyme disease

When I interviewed Jean Reist, RN, for our Lyme experts' series, I could hear the angst in her voice. She worries that her vegetarian patients do not get enough protein. As she explains, the lymph system doubles as a grocery delivery-person and trash collector in our immune system. The lymph carries the nutrients to each cell, then turns around and carries the trash away. Without sufficient amounts of protein, the lymph cannot do its job and the system gets slogged down.

Reist's Pennsylvania clinic is located in the heart of what many consider a Lyme epidemic, and a significant number of the patients she treats for Lyme disease are vegetarians. Her chief concern is that many patients calling themselves vegetarian don't actually eat many vegetables. According to NAVS , the North American Vegetarian Society, a vegetarian diet can factor into radiant good health. However, getting enough iron and protein takes some knowledge and a little mealtime planning. It's easy for people to make the mistake of assuming that the absence of meat in the diet equals a healthier diet. Not true--especially if it means they've stopped eating meat and simply replaced it with pasta, potatoes and bread.

Generally speaking, vegetarians seem to benefit from an impressive amount of health advantages, such as lowered risk of heart disease, fewer cases of chronic disease and Diabetes Type 2, and on average, they live longer. However, eating a vegetarian diet doesn't automatically guarantee better health. Reist strongly suggests that her patients add eggs, cheese or fish to their diet as they struggle to heal from Lyme.

If you're a vegetarian or vegan with Lyme, how do you know you're getting enough protein? Do you include a wide array of veggies in your diet, and do you include legumes, which are rich in iron?


Why should you share your success story?

Not too long ago, I was unable to think, walk, talk or write due to the Lyme bacteria attacking my brain and speech centers. When I think about how hopeless and helpless I felt then, I can hardly believe it. So thoroughly has my life turned around for the better that it's hard to conjure even a wisp of memory of the dread and fear that enveloped me. I wasn't myself.

I've recovered, fortunately, and now find that my experience is very typical of people who've recovered from Lyme. We don't want to think about the dark days, don't care to recall them. Living an engaged and vibrant life again is an experience more precious than gold. Who wants to remember a brush with death from a Lyme infection, when there is still a lot of living to do? However, those of us who have recovered (or are in the process) can do more good by sharing our success stories than by slamming the lid down on that sick, shadowy time in our lives.

Lyme is the fastest growing vector-borne illness in the US. Each day, more kids and more adults -- from every walk of life -- are experiencing the harrowing mental confusion and searing pain that can accompany this multi-stage disease. Lyme disease-educated doctors are in short supply, and even amid increasing numbers of people diagnosed with Lyme, a cloak of mystery and misunderstanding still surrounds this illness and its treatment.

Lyme has proved to be a very personal disease, affecting each of us differently and to varying degrees. However, sharing our personal experiences is a valuable way to help. What works for you may not work for another person diagnosed with Lyme. Yet hearing about your struggles and listening to the elation in your voice can work a world of wonder for someone who is hurting.

We collect Lyme success stories and share them with the people who need them most. If you're beating Lyme and you want to tell others, please feel free to contact us.

How to hike & garden: Tick-free

Ticks are incredibly resilient critters. They have lasted for millenia due to their wily survival tactics. We're not required to admire them for this, however, we should be as determined in our efforts to avoid them as they are persistent in going after their goals--namely, a warm meal and a ride.

How do you avoid ticks? In particular, how do you avoid them in tick havens such as the US NE region, and pretty much anywhere that constitutes wilderness (including the parking lot at work, if there are hedges, grasses, trees or bushes nearby).

Are you like me? Since being struck down by Lyme and making the long, slow climb back to health, I've really lost my taste for hiking and gardening, activities that were a constant of my pre-Lyme life. However, I don't want to be afraid of the outdoors, and I know you don't either, especially this time of the year when the air smells like flowers and tulips are blooming in the colors of little girls' Easter dresses.

Taking precautions on a hike can be as simple or as elaborate as you like. You may want to stop short of duct-taping yourself head to toe, as the mother does to her son in the new movie, Lymelife. Wear white or light colors so ticks can be seen easily and eliminated a.s.a.p. Use a strong repellent. Tuck your socks into your pant, and check yourself (and the kids) when you get home.

Gardening, for me, has moved indoors. Growing plants is just too fun to give up altogether. On walks through my neighborhood I admire the results of other people's green thumbs, but here at home I get great satisfaction from growing sprouts. Not only do you get quick results, you can save money on the store-bought varieties, and guarantee freshness. Broccoli and clover are the house favorites.

So here are the main points: Wear white. Tuck your pants into your socks. Perform tick checks thoroughly after you've spent time outdoors. Grow sprouts. Don't be afraid of the big bad tick. Just outsmart it with your own wiles and tactics.

Happy spring!

Review of Lymelife

Lymelife is categorized as a comedy, however, it's the sort of black humor that scorches because it strikes a chord. Charlie (Timothy Hutton) is depressed and on antibiotics for Lyme disease. Here's an excerpt of film reviewer Rob Nelson's critique of the movie, which previewed at the Sundance Film Festival last fall:

The film centers on thin, 15-year-old bully magnet Scott (Rory Culkin), whose older, bulkier brother, Jim (Kieran Culkin), prepares to ship off to military duty, and whose longtime crush, Adrianna (Emma Roberts), reluctantly begins to return his timid gaze.

Adrianna's pill-popping father, Charlie (Timothy Hutton), shoots self-made targets in the woods with a rifle, dressed in suit and tie.

Alec Baldwin plays Mickey, Scott's father, whose underappreciated wife, Brenda (Jill Hennessy), duct-tapes her youngest son from head to toe to protect him from Lyme disease. Periodic cutaways to wandering deer and the real or imagined threat of wood ticks -- not to mention scenes of believably harsh marital bickering -- serve the pic's point that these frightened, emotionally starved people, kids included, are animals at best.

Read the entire review of Lymelife from Variety online.

Lyme goes to the movies

Can it be a good thing when characters in movies and soap operas have Lyme disease? Yes. Getting the word out to movie fans and soap opera devotees can help shape and inform public opinion. Martin Scorsese produced Lymelife , starring Alec Baldwin, Cynthia Nixon and Timothy Hutton. The film will be available on Netflix, and is scheduled to be released on April 17, 2009. The story takes place in the NE in the 1970s:

15-year old Scott Bartlett's family life is turned upside-down after an outbreak of Lyme disease hits the community spreading illness and paranoia. Scott's parents -- a workaholic father, Mickey, and an overprotective mother, Brenda -- are on the verge of a divorce as his older brother Jim is about to ship off for war. Complicating matters, Scott has fallen in love with his next door neighbor, Adrianna...

Stories are powerful conductors of information. They portray genuine emotion and can move people to action. Of course, the appearance of Lyme on TV and in the movies may give some false information as well. We can almost count on a certain degree of misinformation being transmitted through fiction regarding Lyme disease, which is confusing enough to understand in real life. I had to laugh at the recap notes for TV's long-running soap, The Young and the Restless, as Kay was suspected of having Lyme disease on Wednesday and received a diagnosis on Thursday. This is particularly funny since I think of soaps as a medium where characters can remain pregnant for at least a year.

What are your thoughts on these stories? Are they doing a service, or adding to the misinformation about Lyme disease? Tell us what you think.