My Zero Carb Experience with Lyme Disease by Alison Lyons

alison lyons

When I first went to the gastro with all my stomach issues and food intolerances, they tried to get me on a FODMAP diet. I was like…. uh, I just told you everything but meat makes me inflamed and sick and you’re telling me to eat a diet of nothing but the foods that make me inflamed and sick? Needless to say I didn’t return back to any of those doctors.

Zero Carb is really the only way my Lyme stays under control and allows me to be pain free. But I’ve struggled against eating an all-meat diet for years because of all the pressure I have received from doctors and family to keep trying to get plant foods back into my diet. Additionally, I did not know another single person who was eating an all-meat diet, so I felt very alone, isolate and unsure about the path my body was telling me to follow. As a result, I was pretty miserable.

Since finding the Zero Carb group Zeroing in on Health on Facebook (through The Andersen Family interview that a friend shared with me), my mindset has completely flipped. I have stopped fighting it. I now realized that I need to just listen to my body and eat the way it responds best and tell all my doctors and family to just accept that this is the way it is.

My god what a difference all this has made – less pressure from those around me, making friends with other people who eat like me, knowing I’m not alone anymore. I know it sounds melodramatic, but stumbling across the Zero Carb community, and all these people that follow a diet free of plant foods, has literally saved my life on every level (emotionally, psychologically, and physically).

Over the years that I have been struggling with this, I have attempted to add other foods back in periodically (mostly because those around thought I should), but every plant food I tried would cause a negative reaction (burning in my small intestines, morbid bloating, headaches, fatigue, high blood pressure).

By October 2013, I decided in earnest that I needed to just stick with meat and stop trying to please others around me. However, I recently got derailed yet one more time when my nutritionist encouraged me to try eating some blueberries. Unfortunately, this little experiment caused me SEVERE pain and cause many previously dormant symptoms of the Lyme bacteria to rear their ugly head.

Up to this point, I hadn’t had carb/sugar cravings at all for quite a while. But once I tried those blueberries, my brain chemistry just went bonkers from the fructose, and I immediately began to experience HUGE carb/sugar cravings. For the next few weeks, I found myself unable to resist my desire for more fruit and I just got sicker and sicker. I finally got a grip on myself, and I am now back on track and eating only meat again. The cravings are almost completely gone, and – once again – I am feeling so much better.

At this point, you might be wondering how long have I had Lyme Disease, and how did I arrive at an all meat diet? Well, when I was about 8 years old, I was bit by a tick. I got the classic EM Lyme rash (massively, it took up the entire inside of my right thigh). When my mom finally noticed it, she panicked and took me to the doctor.

This was Texas in the 1980’s, though, and the doctor told her that the rash did look exactly like the EM Lyme rash, but it couldn’t possibly be that because Lyme didn’t exist in Texas! I remember my mom arguing with him about why we vaccinated our dogs for it, but in the end he refused to send us home with the antibiotics used to treat it in the early stage of an infection.

My mom is a health nut, so I wasn’t allowed much sugar at all while I was growing up. No sodas, no candy, and it was very very rarely that I was allowed desserts. We ate mostly baked chicken, rice, and veggies. I played a lot of sports, and I did well in school. There was very little stress in my life throughout this time, so my immune system stayed strong enough to keep the Lyme bacteria in dormant state.

Around the age of 27, I began working at an insanely stressful job (a newspaper with long hours and very low pay), and I suddenly started having some strange symptoms emerge. I was really into triathlons at this point and so I desperately tried to ignore the symptoms I was experiencing. I didn’t want to give up training and the races I was competing in.

Looking back, I’m astounded at my stubbornness and how I kept training for triathlons through all of that – it was mostly profound fatigue, headaches, and brain fog. I’ve always been an avid reader and usually average around 50 books a year, but that year all I could finish was 1. I thought I was getting adult ADD or something. All the fatigue and headaches I chalked up to the stress of my job. But, I didn’t yet realize that the stress was impairing my immune system and allowing the Lyme bacteria to thrive.

I finally found a new job and – on what was supposed to be my first day at that job – I went for my usual morning run. About midway through, I was attacked by a dog. Animal control never found the dog, so I was forced to agree to the rabies vaccine. That was the final straw for breaking down my immune system. After those rabies shots, my left arm went numb, then my left leg, then the left side of my face developed bells palsy. It got so bad that I couldn’t walk, which was insanely distressing for me being an endurance athlete. I had just finished my first MS150 (a race that raises money for Multiple Sclerosis research) only 3 months before and the first suspected diagnosis they had for me was MS. The irony made me sick.

An avalanche of other symptoms started, though, and tinnitus was one of them. I could hardly hear anyone because the ringing in my ears was so loud. Someone on an MS message board told me that MS and Lyme are often misdiagnosed for one another because the symptoms are so similar, but tinnitus is one symptom that is very Lyme-specific. As soon as I read the word LYME, my memory jarred back to my childhood and that tick bite. Found a Lyme doctor, got all the right tests and sure enough it was Lyme.

I was terrified of the high dose long course antibiotic treatment usually prescribed for Lyme. I didn’t want to damage my stomach, so I insisted on trying to treat the Lyme with an herbal protocol first. For a year I took about 160-200 pills a day and changed my diet (no fruit/carbs/sugars to feed the lyme and no gluten/nightshades/inflammatory foods) and sure enough it all started working. My immune system was beefed back up and able to repress the Lyme bacteria once again.

However, by the time my symptoms finally started to go away, I suddenly began having stomach problems. My stomach ballooned out and I looked 8 months pregnant. I had a lot of tests done and finally decided to try an elimination diet. I discovered that trace amounts of gluten were the culprit. So, I became more vigilant in regards to gluten and sure enough the pain and bloating in my stomach went away.

Then a few weeks later my stomach ballooned back out again. I did another elimination diet and added foods back in one by one and found dairy to be the problem this time. Removed all dairy, felt better for a few weeks, then bam… stomach ballooned out again. Took everything out, added it back in one by one and found soy to be the problem this time. This maddening cycle went on for about a year until I was down to eating only potatoes and sunflower seeds.

At this point, I had been a vegetarian for 14 years and was refusing to try to add meat back into my diet. But – because I was only eating potatoes and sunflower seeds – I was getting very deficient in nutrients and my kidney function began to decline. All my doctors finally cornered me and said that if I wanted to live then I was going to HAVE to eat meat again.

I started with chicken. My kidney function improved almost immediately and I started feeling better. I slowly worked my way up to adding beef and turkey back in to my diet as well. I actually started feeling good for the first time in years. But all of my family, friends, and doctors were still putting tremendous pressure on me to find out what was wrong with my stomach, encouraging me to take steps to heal it and heal it in order to get vegetables back into my diet.

So – even though I felt so much better on just meat – I kept testing out foods at their urging. “What about SEAWEED? What about THIS? What about THAT?” Everyone was constantly trying to think of something that might work and pressuring me to try it out. Eventually, I would succumb to their suggestion and I would ALWAYS react terrible to whatever it was this time. This process of testing different foods kept my body, and especially my digestive tract, in a constant state of inflammation. It was a nightmare.

Then I started reacting to some of the foods that – up to this point – had been safe… like chicken. I couldn’t figure out what was going on until I started reading about how common leaky gut is with Lyme disease. I finally realized that I lost the ability to foods when I ate them too many days in a row or in too high of a quantity (anything over 10 oz in one sitting was problematic).

By the point I figured that out, though, I had already lost chicken, beef, turkey, pork, bison, and lamb. So for the last 2 years or so I’ve been eating mostly fish, duck, elk, kangaroo, and venison. If I stick only to those meats, and am careful about the amount I eat, and frequency with which I eat them, then I don’t become sensitive to them and I stay out of pain.

I’ve been working with a nutritionist to heal the leaky gut. Lots of probiotics / sauerkraut juice (can’t handle the fiber in the cabbage itself), colostrum, fish oils, enzymes, trace minerals, MSM, etc etc. We found that I also have a candida infection that could be adding to the leaky gut and food intolerances as well, so I was taking a lot of oregano oil and monolaurin, which are basically natural antibiotics/antifungals to kill off the candida.

I also have a few MTHFR gene mutations, so methyl b12 and methyl folate were added into the regimen at the end of last year. I was healing enough that I was actually able to very carefully rotate in a few small things I had developed intolerances to like lemon and lime. But I can only have a very small amount every few days.

With this small victory my nutritionist put pressure on me to test out berries. This was a huge, huge, huge mistake. Looking back I don’t know what he was thinking suggesting berries.  Yeah, the berries were an epic failure. I reacted horribly and my brain exploded on that sugar. I went completely crazy with sugar cravings.

I hadn’t realized how eating a meat-only diet had completely eliminated all of my cravings. I was desperately trying to add foods back in just because of the pressure from doctors and family around me, and because of the isolation of eating this strange way all alone… not because I desired any of those foods.

The cravings got so out of control that I found wholly myself unable to resist the urge for more sugar and started eating dates. I reacted horribly to them,and just eating a single bite would cause about 4-7 days of unbelievable pain. But I could not – for the life of me – seem to quit eating them. It was horrible. Up until now, the Lyme symptoms had been in complete remission for almost 3 years by adhering to an all-meat diet. But this little fruit escapade caused the Lyme bacteria to resurface with a vengeance, and all my symptoms returned. I was devastated.

However…It was in the middle of this mess that I stumbled across the interview on the Andersen family. I was so blown away to find someone who had been through such similar circumstances, but had managed to get it all under control with an all-meat diet.

When I began reading through the rest of Esmee’s blog where The Andersen Family interview was published – discovering that there were tons of people who ate a diet of meat only – I was so happy and so relieved to have found OTHERS eating this way that I nearly cried. The isolation I had felt for so many years because of my dietary restrictions had caused me much more suffering than the actual lack of plant foods.

With this discovery, a lot has changed for me in the last couple of weeks. I realized that I was busting my butt and breaking the bank to heal my stomach and for what? Because of the Lyme I will NEVER be able to eat fruit or other plant foods. For the first time, I feel free to just fully embrace being a blood-thirsty unapologetic carnivore. 😉

It is so much easier to eat only meat now that I have a little support group so-to-speak and now that I’ve sifted through so many of the supportive articles posted in the Zero Carb Facebook community Zeroing in on Health.

I have shared a lot of these new resources with my parents and best friend, and this has helped to relieve their minds as well. They have stopped putting so much pressure on me to try and add various plant foods back in to my diet. In fact, they have been reading so much material from Esmee’s blog that they’re starting to get a little curious about the benefits that Zero Carb might offer them as well.

So yeah. It has been one heck of a roller coaster. I was pretty distressed about the Lyme symptoms resurfacing, but now that I know I don’t need any plant foods to be perfectly healthy, I expect to be feeling much better very soon. Prior to the fruit binge, I had been eating only meat for quite a while and was feeling so good that I had been able to resume exercising, especially swimming, again. I am looking forward to getting back to that in the near future.

I’m fully on board with Zero Carb now since the berry debacle, and I finally realize that – for me – there’s no moderation with fruit or any other plant foods. Even a minuscule amount will cause me to go completely mad with cravings and pain. My doctor’s recommendations to constantly try various supplements, medications, and foods has only served to keep me in a state of chronic inflammation and pain. So, I’ve decided to do what is best for my body and just abstain from all plant foods from this point forward.

I’m still taking a few supplements like probiotics, enzymes, and herbs for immune support, but I’m done with adding any more new ones for now. I think if I stick with the supplements that I’ve already been taking safely for a few years now – and eat only meat and drink only water – the Lyme bacteria will go back into remission and may – over time – be completely eliminated from my body. Charlene Andersen’s story has given me great hope.

Thank you for listening and letting me share my story. Perhaps it will inspire others with Lyme to try a Zero Carb, All-Meat diet and see if it will assist them on their own path back to well-being.

alison lyons1

Please visit my Testimonials page to read the stories of others following a Zero Carb diet.

If you are interested in meeting others who practice an All-Meat diet, please feel free to join us in the Facebook group Principia Carnivora for support.

 

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