My Detox Routine: Part 2 (Castor Oil Packs, Oil Pulling, Herbal Teas, Toxin Binders)

As a caveat to what lies ahead in this post: I am NOT a doctor, and the information presented here should not be taken as medical advice. Please consult with your doctor or naturopath before embarking on an intense detox regimen like the one presented below. Also, the products I recommend are products that I have used or am currently using with success, I am not being paid to recommend them (although, I wouldn’t object!).

———————-

Welcome to the second portion of ‘My Detox Routine’; to read the first part, click here. Today I’ll be writing about some of my favorite detox therapies- herbal teas, castor oil packs, oil pulling, and toxin binders. Each of these therapies are fairly inexpensive and easy to implement, and I do hope you’ll try a few of them! Let’s jump in.

Herbal Teas

IMG_0908.JPG

There are lots of different teas on the market today that can aid in detoxing your organs. I am a big fan of sipping on tea throughout the day, whether it be cold or hot, but it’s important to be picky about which types of tea you choose to enjoy. Many brands of tea on the market today (even the fancy, super expensive loose-leaf teas) have been sprayed with chemicals, have added GMOs and/or food coloring, and even contain mold. To read more about the safety of the tea you choose, check out this article.

A few simple rules to live by when selecting your tea are: always choose organic, check the ingredient list, and don’t assume that it’s safe just because it’s expensive. I also recommend staying away from caffeine as much as possible, as caffeine can wear out your adrenals more quickly than just about anything else, including processed sugar.

All of this knowledge in hand, some of my favorite types of teas are:

Organic, Decaf Green Tea: enjoy hot or cold with fresh squeezed lemon and a drop or two of raw honey or stevia in the raw. My favorite brand is Allegro, found at Whole Foods.

Asparagus Extract Tea: it doesn’t taste as bad as it sounds and is packed with folic acid, making it an incredibly nutrient-dense option. I buy mine here on Amazon.

Fresh Cilantro, Parsley, or Basil Tea: as shown above, steep about one half bundle of herbs in hot water for about ten minutes. Strain and enjoy a wonderfully detoxifying and fresh tea. Warning: Cilantro is a powerful heavy metal chelator, and doctor/naturopath supervision is recommended.

Castor Oil Packs

IMG_1038.JPG

Castor oil is derived from the castor seed and has been used as a health remedy for various ailments for centuries. Although the safety of the internal use of castor oil is much debated, there are many positive effects of using castor oil topically. The castor oil pack is the most common, and arguably most beneficial, of all castor oil therapies.

There are many benefits of incorporating castor oil packs into your healing protocol, but perhaps the greatest is the effect on the immune system. When castor oil packs are used on the abdomen, they have been proven to increase your number of lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are the body’s disease-fighting cells and are mostly created and stored in the lymph tissues. As I mentioned in the first post of this series, your overall health is largely contingent on the health of your lymphatics, as this is the system that collects toxins and debris from all of the tissues in your body. The escalation of lymphocytes that castor oil produces allows your lymphatic system to be quite efficient at clearing toxins, which contributes to your overall ability to fight illness.

Castor oil packs have also been shown to have a positive effect on detoxifying the liver, an organ that is in near constant need of support in the toxin-riddled world we live in. Additionally, in my experience, castor oil packs have been helpful in calming rumbly intestines and stomach aches.

One word of caution is that castor oil should probably be tested on a small patch of skin prior to administering a large dose. It has been known to cause skin reactions in some individuals. Do not take castor oil internally unless instructed by your health care practitioner.

Now, let’s look at how to make and administer a castor oil pack.

Supplies:

– three sheets of organic cotton, cut into squares large enough to cover your abdomen (from the tip of your sternum to about 3 inches below your belly button)

– 1-2 Tbsp Castor Oil

– 1 piece of syran wrap large enough to cover the cotton

– heating pad

Method:

To create a castor oil pack, simply stack up your three pieces of cotton and drizzle castor oil as evenly as possible across the top layer of cotton. Place on your tummy, cover top layer with saran wrap, and place the heating pad directly on top. The heat will allow the oil to work through all three sheets of cotton and into your skin. Leave on your tummy for 10-30 minutes. Remove, throw away cotton sheets, wash your tummy, and you’re done!

Oil Pulling

IMG_1042.JPG

Oil pulling is useful for cutting through plaque, whitening teeth, and removing toxins not only from the mouth but also from the rest of the body. Although oil pulling has gained popularity in the past year or so, it is thought to have originated thousands of years ago in India. While oil pulling is an exceptional (and cheap) way to maintain oral health, it can also aid in detoxing the entire body by stimulating the lymphatics. Some oil pullers have seen improvements in liver conditions, skin conditions, arthritis, and headaches.

Supplies:

– 1-2 tsp of coconut oil or another healthy oil, such as: cold pressed sesame, olive, or avocado oil

Method:

Simply gather the oil in your mouth and swish for around 20 minutes. As you’re swishing, try pulling the oil in and out of your teeth, and really work those muscles. The swishing movement works to stimulate the lymphatics, allowing you to gather up more toxins into the oil.

When you’re finished swishing, simply spit out the oil into a paper cup or trash can, rinse your mouth with warm water to remove any excess bacteria, and give your teeth a good brushing with your choice of natural toothpaste.

Toxin Binders

If you are in poor health and plan on doing a lot of detoxing, as I have been, then it may be helpful to take some toxin binders to help bind the mobilized toxins so they can be excreted. In my opinion, this is one of the most important aspects of any detox routine, and in my experience, taking binders makes the process much more tolerable.

Some of my favorite binders are: Pecta Sol, Medi Clay, and Zeolite. Keep in mind that binders should be taken an hour before and after any other medications or supplements.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series where I’ll cover infrared sauna use and Biomat sessions.

Xx, K

Lemon & Lavender Salt Scrub

IMG_0495.JPG

For as long as I can remember I’ve had deep lines on my forehead. What can I say, I’m an animated personality. I was never worried about or bothered by them, but when I entered into my late twenties I started taking inventory of every grey hair (yes, I have a few, okay, more than a few) and wrinkle. To remedy my wrinkles I tried numerous fancy moisturizers and face washes, but never noticed much of a difference. When I decided to transition my personal care items to clean, toxin-free products, the fancy (read: expensive) skin care products were some of the first to go.

I’ve been using one version or another of this salt scrub recipe for about 8 months, and I can promise you that my skin is healthier than ever. Those deep forehead lines? Well they are quickly fading away. Perhaps what I love most about this salt scrub is that it cleanses, exfoliates, and moisturized the skin in one simple step. It can also be used all over the body to do the same- this would have been great to use during the long, cold winters that I spent in NYC.

One last thing- keep in mind that this recipe can be adjusted to fit your needs, and feel free to try different types of salts, oils, and scents to see which suits your skin best.

Lemon & Lavender Salt Scrub Recipe

1 1/2 Cups Sea Salt
3-4 Tbsp Coconut Oil
10-15 Drops Lemon Essential Oil (I use Young Living)
7-10 Drops Lavender Essential Oil
1 Tbsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped and ground with pestle and mortar

If you try a salt scrub recreation, I would love to hear about it, as I am always looking for exciting variations. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter (@KaylaMarieDenny), or simply leave a comment below.

Xx, K

The Lyme Diaries: Jessie’s Story

If you’ve kept up with this blog or The Lyme Diaries series, then you know that Lyme touches lives all around the world. I’ve gathered stories from Lyme fighters in The Netherlands all the way to Washington state. This week’s story comes from my native state, Texas, a state where it is largely thought by doctors and the general public that Lyme does not exist.

However, Lyme Disease recently garnered news coverage (once again) when Texas A&M University presented findings that proved once and for all that Lyme Disease is endemic to Texas and northern parts of Mexico. This article states that, “the risk for Lyme disease is significant in the state of Texas and northern parts of Mexico. Funded in part by a grant to improve the diagnosis of Lyme in veterinary medicine, the findings refute previous discussion and speculation that Lyme disease is relatively non-existent in the southern United States.”

The article also goes on to state that 45% of ticks in Texas carry Borrelia Bergdorferi (the organism that causes Lyme Disease). This new evidence is startling and also proves that Lyme Disease has indeed become an epidemic here in the Lone Star State, a state where doctors are rarely equipped to diagnose Lyme, much less understand how to treat it.

It is my hope that with every news report, article, case study, personal story, and blog post, we are bridging the gap between ignorance and a cure. If you would like to lend your story, I would love to hear from you! Please visit the contact page and shoot me an email.

Sending love and light and prayers to all who suffer.

Xx, K

First Name: Jessie Shaw
Age: twenty-two (Que. The Taylor Swift song)
Gender: Female
Where do you live? Austin, TX

20140722-133004-48604048.jpg
Photo cred: Anna Kraft Photography

20140722-133003-48603845.jpg
Meet Jessie’s adorable pet bunny, Theodore Alexander.

20140722-133003-48603731.jpg
Bunnies make good therapy pets too!

When/Where do you suspect that you contracted Lyme?

I traveled a lot pre-Lyme and can’t pinpoint an exact time. I’m guessing it was in October 2010 at a campground in East Texas, because my symptoms began shortly after that point.

When did you first begin to feel ill or start to notice strange symptoms?

Well, I had chronic mono at the time, so it was difficult to tell where mono ended & Lyme began.

What were they?

I think the muscle pain was the first indicator something was off track. Like I mentioned, I was already pretty under the weather. But then I started spending evening after evening on the couch, leg muscles locked up in pain with little to no relief, and we started questioning the idea that this was a normal bout of chronic mono.

How many doctors did you see before reaching an accurate diagnosis?

My dad is a chiropractor, so all initial research started with him. We kept coming up empty, so I met with a natural doctor here in Austin. She was convinced it was simply the mono, despite having never encountered mono-related muscle pain before, because what else could it be? My parents (who are my main caregivers) & I remained unconvinced.

Were you misdiagnosed with anything prior to being diagnosed with Lyme? If so, what?

Well, at this point, Multiple-Sclerosis started making a quiet place at our table. It hung over us, slowly breaking in. This was just supposed to be mono, how’d we end up at MS? We kept looking and kept coming up empty. In the meantime my muscle pain continued, and I was just plain sick all the time. We were closing in on testing for MS when one day, my dad is watching this TV show, and a character in it had Lyme… misdiagnosed as MS. This caught his attention. He ordered a Lyme test on the off chance this TV show (of all things!) could be on to something. Turns out he was right to trust his doctor’s intuition. After a few tests, consulting with a couple doctors on the East coast and my new (fantastic) doctor here in Austin, we determined Lyme was my unfortunate golden ticket.

What are the main symptoms that you experience currently?

Well, I’m in remission at the moment. Meaning: we think the Lyme is under control & I’ve turned my attentions to helping my body heal. Symptom wise, I’m all over the map. I swing through fevers, nausea, exhaustion, brain fog, dizziness, and generally just feeling sick a lot. All a normal part of a body that’s been under attack & fighting this long. I’m prone to catching a lot of viruses. But alongside all those symptoms, I’ll have days I feel GREAT again too. My mom used to say, “Jessie, slowly but surely the good days will begin to outweigh the bad, and that’s when you’ll know you’re getting better.” I’m in the beginning of that process.

What does your treatment regimen look like?

Right now I’m focusing on supporting my body. I monitor my energy output a lot (I have a job again, crazy!), I do regular detox baths, take daily supplements, and I just started using essential oils. I also exercise when I can; moving your body helps the lymphatic system pump strongly and rebuilds my muscles from all their atrophy. I swim, walk, rebound, and do yoga etc.

How much do your symptoms prevent you from living a normal life?

I have to be more aware of how actions effect my body. If I’m going to hang out with friends, I need to factor in time to recover and time to prepare. I have to be flexible; if my body says it needs to rest I’ve learned to be okay with canceling plans. Also keeping things low-stress is high on my priority list. It can be so liberating to just say no! Nobody should feel guilty for saying no to stress.

What do you like to do in your free time and how is this different than before you were sick?

I got my very first diagnosis the day I graduated high school, so it’s difficult to compare then with now. Everyone’s life is totally different from high school, you know? So that can be confusing sometimes. I do know when I’m not feeling sick I’m a naturally productive person. Now I spend much more time under my covers with my BFF Netflix. Some days, that’s really not so bad. It’s a good balance.

What do you want people to know about Lyme?

I don’t know. This is a hard one for me. Sometimes I get fed up with the ignorance of the general public and want to walk away. I have to remind myself I wouldn’t know either, if this wasn’t my experience. I think I want people to know Lyme is serious. I’d say the majority of the responses I’ve experienced are dismissive or uninformed. I would love to see a world where the Lyme community’s experience is more widely understood, and the gravity of it realized. I think that would make it easier on all of us.

What are you most thankful to have gained, or what important lessons have you learned, from your experience with Lyme?

Lyme has changed my life. It’s taken me a while to accept that. You want to pretend it’s not happening, that life will return to “normal” after you survive (if you survive). But that’s not how it works. I’m grateful for the strength I’ve developed. I’m grateful for the perspective shown me. I’m grateful for the empathy it allows me. I’m grateful for the freedom battling Lyme has given me; once you fight for your life you’re more picky with how you live it. This is a gift.

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Prevention

This post concludes the Lyme Awareness Month series, and thankfully I’ll be moving on to some topics that are a little bit more fun in the coming weeks. Speaking of, next week, I’ll be posting some details about a giveaway that I’ll be doing, so stay tuned for more on that!

Below are some preventative measures to help keep you and your family safe. Prevention is the absolute biggest key in safeguarding yourself against this illness, so please be sure to share this information with friends and family, especially as the summer months approach and outdoor activities become more frequent.

Lyme Disease has been found in every single one of the American states and is present all over the world. This is not a disease that is secluded to the Northeast anymore. It’s everywhere.

Ticks come in all shapes and sizes, and young ticks (nymphs) can be as small as a poppyseed. Do you have freckles? One of those freckles could very well be a tiny tick. Just saying…

Make sure to conduct a full body tick check after you’ve been hiking, fishing, hunting, or even gardening. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read about people falling ill after doing garden work in their own backyard.

– Be leery of moist areas– leaning up against tree trunks or sitting in an area of thick underbrush, such as on a pile of leaves, is not a good idea, ticks love these areas.

– Dress to protect: Wear a hat, long sleeves, pants, and high socks in light colors when participating in outdoor activities. Light colored clothing will help you to more easily spot a tick, and it’s much harder for ticks to attach through a piece of clothing. Also keep your hair pulled back if you have long locks.

– Consider using insect repellent such as Deet or a natural alternative like Geranium essential oil.

– If you begin to feel fluish or discover an odd-looking rash after spending time outdoors, get to your doctor immediately. Lyme Disease can usually be successfully treated with a short course of antibiotics, but only if it’s caught in it’s early stages.

– Don’t rely on blood tests for a Lyme diagnosis. Lyme blood tests such as the widely used Elisa, are notoriously unreliable, catching only around 70% of cases. Therefore, Lyme is often a clinical diagnosis given only by experienced LLMD’s (Lyme Literate MD’s) .

– You can still have Lyme even if you don’t get the characteristic rash. Most doctors rely on the presence of the bulls-eye rash to confirm a Lyme diagnosis. In reality, however, fewer than 50% of Lyme sufferers recall a bulls-eye rash, and in some studies this number was as low as 15%.

Never be afraid to get a second opinion. Most medical doctors aren’t adequately trained in diagnosing or treating Lyme, so trust your intuition, do your research, and don’t be afraid to get a second or third opinion.

– Be aware of similar conditions. “[Lyme] can mimic every disease process including Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis), Fibromyalgia, Autoimmune conditions including sero-negative rheumatoid arthritis and MS, Psychiatric conditions including depression and anxiety, and cause significant memory and concentration problems mimicking early dementia. It is called the “Great Imitator” and inaccurate testing – combined with an ongoing scientific and political debate that questions chronic infection – makes it difficult for sufferers to find appropriate care.” (‘Why Can’t I Get Better?’, Dr. Richard Horowitz)

Lyme Disease Awareness Month: Common Questions

20140510-175237.jpg

As with most chronic illness, Lyme Disease is often misunderstood by outsiders and sometimes even by those who suffer from it. I’ve been asked loads of questions during the past two years since my diagnosis, and many times I find myself stumbling over my words and searching for ways to simplify Lyme in a way that can easily be grasped. It’s no easy task, and I’m still working on my spiel, but the more I speak out the better I get at explaining things (or at least that’s what I’d like to think). Keeping these things in mind, I decided to write a short post answering the most common questions that I get asked about Lyme. If you have a burning question or just generally want to know more, you can always contact me or post in the comments.

1.) What is Lyme Disease?

Lyme Disease is the most prominent infectious disease in the world. Last year 300,000 cases were reported, making this an epidemic of greater proportions than both AIDS and breast cancer combined. Lyme Disease is a stealth bacteria in the shape of a corkscrew that has the capability to inhabit and invade all parts of the human body, including deep tissue, joints, bones, and even vital organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, and liver. To put it simply, Lyme Disease is a deeply debilitating bacterial infection that is easy to catch and difficult to eradicate.

In addition to the Lyme bacteria, what is referred to as Lyme Disease in fact also includes an umbrella of other bacteria, viruses, and parasites (known as co-infections) that are often times passed along with the Lyme infection. These co-infections can be just as debilitating as the Lyme bacteria itself, and they also make treating the illness much more complicated. In effect, a person battling Lyme Disease is not only only fighting one disease or infection, but many. The most common co-infections are bartonella (Cat Scratch Fever) and Babesia, which is a cousin to Malaria.

2.) How do you get Lyme disease?

Lyme Disease is most typically known to be contracted by the bite of an infected Deer Tick . Although these facts are true, Lyme Disease is also carried by at least 8 additional species of ticks, including The Lone Star Tick, which is common in Texas. Research has also shown that other vectors such as fleas, flies, spiders, mosquitos, and mites also carry Lyme Disease and may be just as common vectors for the disease. As if this weren’t enough, there have been many research studies that confirm that Lyme Disease can be sexually transmitted and can even be passed through the placenta during childbirth. Sadly, many mothers unknowingly pass this disease on to their babies.

3.) I thought Lyme disease was easily treatable with a course of antibiotics. Why are you still sick?

If caught in the very early stages, a 28-day course of antibiotics is sufficient in most cases, and although recent evidence shows that antibiotics don’t clear an early infection in up to 36% of patients, the chances of full recovery with little to no residual damage are much greater in the early stages of the disease. If, however, Lyme Disease goes untreated for more than 6 months, it is then considered a chronic infection, which requires a much more virulent effort that can sometimes take years to eradicate.

4.) What are the symptoms of Lyme disease?

Lyme is most commonly known for causing joint pain, fatigue, and flu-like symptoms. But did you know that it can also cause symptoms like, neurological impairments, heart defects, vertigo, seizures or seizure-like activity, muscle spasms, hormone imbalance, and air hunger? There are presently over 50 different symptoms associated with Lyme, and since it can literally effect every body system, it can be quite devastating. I’ve listed out my symptoms here to give you a better idea of what life with Lyme can look like.

5.) What is the treatment for Lyme disease?

The most common treatment for Lyme is the use of either high doses of antibiotics, often times administered intravenously like chemotherapy, or a variety of powerful herbs. Both antibiotics and herbs have been shown to kill high quantities of Lyme pathogens, but since no two people are infected with the same pathogenic makeup, it’s often times difficult and time consuming to find a combination of therapies that works. The result of this type of trial and error approach is that it can often take many months or years to find a treatment plan that works for each individual, which is a drain on time, resources, and energy.

6.) How long does it usually take to get better?

That depends greatly on how sick the individual is, how long they have been infected with Lyme, if there are co-infections or other complicating issues present (such as heavy metal or mold toxicity, or a secondary illness), and how well one can tolerate the common pharmaceuticals and herbs are that are used to eradicate illness. Some individuals may heal from Chronic Lyme in 10-14 months while others are confined to bed for 8, 9, 10 years.

7.) Can Lyme Disease kill you?

I’m not going to lie, I’ve googled this question on more than one (very low) occasion, somehow hoping that this disease either wouldn’t get the best of me or that it would at least take me quickly. The google results were never quite satisfying, but suffice to say that Lyme can certainly be fatal in some cases. If the infection is allowed to spread for long enough it can cause serious implications, such as sudden heart attacks, seizures, and strokes, even in young people. The disease process with Lyme is often slow and cruel, but even though it may not be fatal as quickly as a terminal illness like cancer, it certainly should be taken very seriously as it has the capability to be just as deadly.

8.) Where can I learn more about Lyme Disease?

Visit ILADS.org or LymeDisease.org for more information about chronic Lyme Disease, or feel free to contact me with any questions at all.

May: Lyme Disease Awareness Month

The reason I started this blog was to share my story in an effort to help educate people about the horrors of a disease that has gone largely unnoticed and has affected me greatly. In many ways this blog has been an outlet for me and has also helped me to connect with some truly wonderful people, which were both aspects that I hadn’t really foreseen before I started typing. I am grateful for all that I’ve learned throughout my illness, but I certainly would never have chosen this path for myself, and I cringe to think of how many others walk it with me, which is why awareness is so important. It’s important because this all could have been prevented.

Misconception about Lyme Disease is rampant among the government, insurance companies, medical community, media, and the public alike, and it’s going to take a massive amount of work to set things straight among these entities. I have full faith that we will see a huge shift in the next few years though. May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month, and I plan to take full advantage of this month to help educate, answer questions, and raise awareness for a disease that has become a silent epidemic.

Last year the CDC reported 300,000 new cases of Lyme, which is up 10 times from the amount that had previously been reported, and also does not include the tens of thousands of individuals who remain undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with various other illnesses such as, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fribromyalgia, and more. The escalated number of cases reported may have been news to the public at large, but Lyme patients have been calling for revised numbers for many years now. Just to put the 300,000 marker into perspective, the CDC has reported 50,000 new cases of HIV per year, and in 2013, there were 232,000 new cases of breast cancer reported. This makes Lyme Disease more prevalent than HIV and breast cancer combined. Yet, only $9 million dollars of government spending was allocated to Lyme Disease in 2014 as compared to the billions that are thrown into cancer and AIDS research.

20140506-163707.jpg

A recent study suggests that chronic Lyme Disease patients experience a lower quality life than those with most other illnesses, stating that, “chronic Lyme disease is associated with a worse quality of life than most other chronic illnesses, including congestive heart failure, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and arthritis… The survey also shows that patients with chronic Lyme disease have high disability and unemployment rates. Over forty percent of patients with chronic Lyme disease reported that they currently are unable to work because of Lyme disease and 24% of patients report that they have received disability at some point in their illness. This compares with 6% of the US population who are unable to work due to illness.” (LymeDisease.org)

Despite mounting scientific evidence toward the sophisticated nature of the Lyme bacterium and it’s ability to withstand intensive treatments, the existence of a chronic form of infection (chronic Lyme Disease) is still disputed among many medical professionals, and this is the root of the incredible injustice in patients’ rights and treatment options in the US, Canada, Australia, Western Europe, and elsewhere. All the while, the rate of Lyme Disease continues to grow exponentially each year.

20140506-163715.jpg

My heart breaks for all of those left in the trenches with this illness, myself included. When emergency rooms won’t see you and countless doctors dismiss you as simply being depressed, it can be a hard road to travel. By treating chronic Lyme Disease, brave doctors run the risk of having their licenses revoked or being sued by unobliging insurance companies for the long-term prescription use of antibiotics, a common treatment for chronic Lyme. Research is limited because funding is so little. More and more people are becoming sicker and sicker with every passing day, and people are dying. The need for more health advocates who are willing to treat this disease is crucial, and the need for awareness and immediate change is dire.

It is for all of these reasons and more that I’ll be publishing a few more posts this month to answer common questions about Lyme Disease as well as some tips for prevention. This disease can pick anyone- there is no genetic precursor, diet plan, or healthy living style that can protect you from the bite of a teeny tiny tick. So know that this could happen to someone you know and love, it could even happen to you, but I pray it’s not so, and that is the reason I write.

Xx,
K

PS- To show your support for those who fight tick borne illness, consider buying a t-shirt (here) from one of my dearest friends and bravest warriors I know, Melissa Cox at LipstickWarpaint.com

20140506-175733.jpg

The Lyme Diaries: Kristen’s Story

Like so many of my closest Lyme friends these days, I met Kristen on the wonderful world of Instagram. For me, Instagram has been such a wonderful place to connect with others who are navigating this crazy world of illness and healing, and I am so grateful for the support system I’ve found there.

Kristen writes a blog called The Lethal Lymie , and I encourage you to check it out if you’re interested in learning more about her story, treatment plan, and especially her time at the Sierra Integrative Medical Center, where she has been in intensive treatment for the past few weeks. Even though Kristen and I haven’t spent a lot of time chatting, I have learned a lot from her journey, and am thrilled to be able to share some of her path toward healing with you.

X, K

First Name: Kristen
Age: 30
Gender: Female
Where do you live? Tennessee, but I’m a New Englander at heart

20140504-230407.jpg

When/Where do you suspect that you contracted Lyme?

May 2011 from a tick bite while camping in Arkansas. However, the tests showed I had it prior to this tick bite.

When did you first begin to feel ill or start to notice strange symptoms?

My symptoms began 3 days after the tick bite in May 2011 when I started my 2 weeks of Doxycycline. What I thought was a reaction or sensitivity to the medicine, was really a Herxheimer reaction.

What were they?

Daily migraines, joint pain (knees, elbows, wrists), weakness in knees and ankles, lower back pain, fatigue, irritability/moodiness, depression, fits of rage, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, eye pain, finger and toe numbness, skin sensitivity, muscle weakness, jaw pain, ringing in ears with pain, teeth/jaw pain, migrating pain all over body, and neck stiffness.

How many doctors did you see before reaching an accurate diagnosis?

The first Lyme test I had came back positive, so I knew at that time that I had Lyme. I did see an Infectious Disease doctor a month later to follow up on all my symptoms. He tested me again, the test came back negative, and he told me that I didn’t have Lyme, and that my original positive test was not accurate. I saw a LLMD a couple months later and started treatment.

Were you misdiagnosed with anything prior to being diagnosed with Lyme? If so, what?

No. I am one of the lucky ones.

What are the main symptoms that you experience currently?

Fatigue, joint pain (mostly in knees and shoulders), migrating stabbing pains, weakness, brain fog, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, speech problems, depression, light and sound sensitivities, jaw pain.

What does your treatment regimen look like?

After being on oral antibiotics from August 2011 until December 2013, I am currently getting treated at Sierra Integrative Medical Center. I am no longer taking over the counter or prescription drugs. I am getting 4 different treatments via IV and injections at SIMC, as well as changing my diet to gluten free, sugar free and focusing on cleaning out my body and ridding it of all toxins.

How much do your symptoms prevent you from living a normal life?

A lot. The fatigue really did me in. I think that was the main cause of my depression. While working in sales and marketing, depression is not the best thing to be carrying around. And then there’s the fatigue. Having to wake up, shower, dry my hair, put on make up, and get dressed, I was done for the day before I even left the house. Then having to fake it. Putting on a happy face and surviving another day was completely draining. All I wanted to do was crawl back into bed and sleep forever. On top of that, I would have the pain. Pain in my head all the way down to my feet. Looking back, I’m really not sure how I made it this far. I’m so grateful for my loved ones. I have recently quit my day job to focus on healing.

What do you like to do in your free time and how is this different than before you were sick?

I like to lay in bed, in a dark room, with my husband and two dogs and watch movies. Before I was sick I was very active. Working two jobs, working out 5 days a week (cardio and weights), cooking yummy delicious meals, taking the pups for walks, hanging out with friends and family. I pray and hope that I can do all those things again without feeling like I’m dying.

What do you want people to know about Lyme?

I want everyone to educate themselves before it’s too late. I want them to know that Chronic Lyme does exist, and it is an invisible illness. I want them to know that 2-4 weeks of antibiotics will not cure Lyme, the testing isn’t accurate, ticks are not the only carriers of Lyme, and most doctors don’t know anything about chronic Lyme. And if they do get a tick bite, they need to see a LLMD to make sure they are ok. I wish everyone would watch the documentary “Under Our Skin”.It was a huge eye opener for me when I was first researching.

What are you most thankful to have gained, or what important lessons have you learned, from your experience with Lyme?

My relationship with God has been strengthened and I will always be so very grateful for that. I have learned a lot about myself and others and I have learned about compassion. I have learned to appreciate the little things. And I am so thankful for the friendships that I have made along this journey. I have met some very strong and inspiring people, and I hope to help others as they have helped me.

xoxo
Kristen

Liebster Award

20140410-213705.jpg

I am so excited to have been nominated for the Liebster Award this year. The Liebster Award is given to up and coming bloggers as a way to help honor their work on the internet and also to help bloggers and readers to discover new blogs. Liebster is a German word and means, sweetest, kindest, nicest, dearest, beloved, lovely, kind, pleasant, valued, cute, endearing, and welcome. Seems like quite a compliment to me! If you’re nominated for the award, you are asked to answer several questions about yourself and then pay it forward by nominating a handful of other new bloggers. It’s all about building a community and connecting with others, which is one of my favorite things to do, so naturally I am thrilled to participate.

I was nominated for this award by Megan over at The Recipe For Healing. If you aren’t familiar with her recipes, I suggest you acquaint yourself because she has some amazing creations on her blog and Instagram page (@therecipeforhealing). A few years ago, she used the GAPS Diet to heal herself from a nasty Lyme Disease infection and hasn’t looked back. Her dedication to clean, whole, and healing foods has definitely been inspiring to me on my own road to recovery. Below are the questions that Megan asked me to answer along with my responses:

1) How did you eat before you decided to change your diet?

I have always been a relatively healthy eater and was lucky to grow up in a home with many home cooked meals and few preservatives. Since I played competitive soccer from the time I was 10-18, I was always aware that what I put into my body would be used for energy later on, but as with most people at the time I was lured by foods that I thought were healthy, but were actually often packed with chemicals and preservatives and were void of healthy fats.

For many years I believed that fat was the enemy, which is totally wrong thinking. During and after college, I went through a period where I ate relatively little animal fat or meat. I thought that this was a healthier way to live, and even though I was eating lots of fruits and vegetables, I was lacking in what I believe are two essential foods groups for my body type- healthy fats and animal protein.

Post college, I became more and more dependent on sugar and caffeine as I became more and more sick with an unidentified illness (which years later was finally diagnosed as Lyme). I would reach for a piece of candy, coffee, or tea when I became stressed at my fast-paced job, and since my adrenals and thyroid were a mess due to the effects of Lyme, I truly depended on these things to help me make it through the day.

After I became so ill with Lyme that I had to move back home to Texas to live with my parents in May of 2012, I knew that diet was one of the first things I wanted to address. I had been living off of Thai takeout and decadent brunches for months (okay let’s be real- years), and the sharp contrast of clean, home-cooked meals that my parents fixed me were a dream. It wasn’t long before I transitioned onto an anti-inflammation diet that consisted of a limited assortment of fish, vegetables, and fruits, and this is where I was first introduced to ghee, my BFF nowadays. Gluten, dairy, and sugar were prohibited on the diet, but since I had eliminated gluten in 2009 and dairy oftentimes caused tummy aches, I didn’t have much of an issue with adjusting to the diet, other than having to eat fish twice a day, everyday for several months. Basically, the rest is history- I’ve been eating organic, clean meals since August of 2012 and am hooked.

2) What are your favorite foods to eat, cook and bake? Have you always enjoyed being in the kitchen?

My favorite foods to eat are probably baby back ribs, fish, and sweet potato fries. I’ve been fighting off some candida recently and have had to eliminate the sweet fries, and boy am I missing them! The foods I probably eat the most are eggs, hamburgers and lamb burgers, steamed or raw green beans, and all types of assortments of coconut flour biscuits and muffins. I also try to consume at least one cup of bone broth per day and when my tummy isn’t in knots, I can eat my weight in hummus with carrots and celery.

Just to be clear, I am currently not well enough to cook for myself, and so most all of my meals are prepared by either my dad or my good friend, Betty, who basically works as a personal chef. I usually come up with the menu for the week and then we take it from there. I can’t wait until I am well enough to get into the kitchen though. I used to love baking with my grandmother, so that’s what I’m looking forward to most.

3) What made you decide to start a blog? What do you wish to accomplish with it?

When I was finally diagnosed with Lyme Disease, I learned a lot about an illness that I had previously discounted as being easily prevented and quite curable. Those two misconceptions could not be further from the truth, and I wanted to be a voice of awareness while also providing a place for chronic illness sufferers to come and know that they are not alone.

4) If you could do/be anything, what would it be? There are no limits.

I would be a completely, 100% healthy individual, and I would travel. Everywhere. I want to live in so many different places that I’ve lost count. One day, I will travel again and live in a place that invigorates me the way that Brooklyn & NYC did when I lived there.

5) Who are some of the people that inspire you to eat clean?

Oh, there are so many. It probably sounds trite to say this, but literally every beautiful and healthy meal that I see posted in Instagram or Pinterest inspires me to eat clean, think up delicious meals, and take pretty pictures of them.

And here are my nominations for the Liebster Award…

Incredible Edibles by Erin M. Harker– I just recently discovered Erin on Instagram (@incredible_edibles) and was immediately drawn to her beautiful pictures. Turns out she’s got the creative recipes to back them up. As if this weren’t enough, she’s got some seriously killer dish ware that I am quite envious of.

Lemons ‘n Lyme– Victoria was actually featured in The Lyme Diaries several months ago, and since then, she and I have kept a running dialogue of our treatment protocols, diets, and gains or setbacks in fighting Lyme. Her blog is one of the first Lyme and healthy food blogs that I discovered and is part of the reason that I felt encouraged to start my own blog. She has some seriously delicious recipes for both paleo and raw food lifestyles, and she also shares the same heart that I do for spreading Lyme awareness. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook too.

Plateful Paleo– I’ve been following Rachel on Instagram (@platefulpaleo) for several months, and though I don’t know her personally, I always enjoy her posts of beautiful and well-thought out foods. She’s also from Houston, as am I, and I love to see what foods and paleo-friendly restaurants she finds in this city. Her blog has some seriously delicious recipes, so check her out!

My questions are:

1.) Why did you choose your particular diet plan and what health benefits have you seen from it?

2.) What inspired you to start your blog and what is your favorite part about blogging?

3.) What foods do you eat most often?

4.) What is your favorite “cheat food” or comfort food?

5.) What do you want your readers to know about you? (It can be anything)

December: Neuropsych Eval & Holidaze

20140409-133732.jpg

In my post from a few weeks ago, The Pain Game, I mentioned that I had regressed in a few ways and that my pain level in particular had been affected by some events that took place in December. I do realize that we are now almost halfway through April (how did that happen?), and I had intended to post a summary of events much, much sooner, but life with chronic illness does not always allow the luxury of planning ahead.

So, at last, here’s the story…

In mid-December I completed a full neuropsychological evaluation to measure my cognitive function. The ultimate goal of the evaluation was to have an additional form of hard evidence proving that I am and have been unable to work in any capacity since May of 2012. At this point I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve been denied disability benefits by both social security and my private disability insurance company, and this test is one of the things that my lawyer insists will help me win my case.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, a neurophsyc evaluation is a comprehensive oral and written exam used to test a “subject’s cognitive, motor, behavioral, linguistic, and executive functioning” (for those inclined to read more, check out this article via Medscape). There are various degrees of testing and the length of test time can range from anywhere between 2-3 hours to around 10. During the evaluation, the facilitator asks simple questions to measure things like short term memory, word recall, analytical skills, simple math skills, vocabulary, and even the patient’s emotional well being, such as whether or not the patient is depressed, anxious, etc. It’s usually preferred that the testing be completed all in one day, but there are certain patients who require multiple, shorter sessions, and this was the case for me. I had planned to come in for 3-4 hours for two consecutive days, but my body basically shut down after only 2 hours of testing on the first day. By the sheer grace of God, and after a day of rest in between, I was able to return to complete the remainder of the evaluation, with a little help from a fully reclined Lazy Boy, a microwaveable heating pack, an ice pack, and a mom who answered many basic questions about what I am able to do on a daily basis, etc.

I left the doctor’s office feeling drained, teary, and in an escalated state of pain, which was an effect of my mental over-exertion. Nonetheless, I felt accomplished for taking care of what I needed to and was hopeful that I would recover quickly before Christmas, which was only a few days away.

Fast forward to a few days after the evaluation…

I was feeling better and was slowly regaining my strength, but I was still extremely fatigued and in more pain than I had been for several months. And even though I was excited about the holiday season and having loved ones in town, the heightened activity level around the house was hard on me during a time when I really needed total stillness and quiet to recover from the pain and fatigue.

If you aren’t familiar with the type of pain that Lyme has caused for me, and for many others for that matter, you can refer to my post, The Pain Game, for more details. Also, for the readers who do not struggle with a chronic illness, I want to explain what I mean when I say that I was ‘extremely fatigued’. It’s not a normal fatigue that a nap or a few days of rest will fix. It’s a deep, aching, all-encompassing type of fatigue that cannot be helped no matter the amount of sleep or rest. For me, fatigue is a state of being, but when I become severely fatigued from over exertion, I become weepy, achey, and largely feel as if I’m going mad. Depression isn’t something that I have struggled much with during the course of my illness, but if I have my days of being down in the dumps, it’s most likely because I’m so tired that I can’t think straight. During these times of extreme fatigue, I effectively turn into a small child who cries dramatically, and sometimes uncontrollably, because they haven’t developed the ability to communicate, but rather, my ability to communicate has been engulfed by fatigue. Several months ago, I ran across this article about what the writer describes as, ‘crushing fatigue’. To this day I have not forgotten the honest and effective words she uses to portray what fatigue feels like for the chronically ill, and if you have a moment, I encourage you to read it.

20140409-133749.jpg

Needless to say, the holidays were considerably less enjoyable in this state. Due to my level of fatigue, sensory overload was at an all time high, causing every opening door, sneeze, conversation, or running dishwasher to irritate all of my senses. Despite all of my hopes, I was not in a great place, and on Christmas day I locked myself in my parents bedroom, where the noise from cooking and chatting was minimal, and cried uncontrollably for two hours. I still don’t fully understand why, I just remember sobbing to my mom, saying, “I am just SO tired”.

It’s been a few months now, but I still don’t feel as though I’ve recovered from December and the neuropsych eval. My level of pain has been dramatically effected, and I never saw a sharp decrease in my pain level the way I had hoped. And in case you’re wondering if I’ve won my disability case yet, the answer is, no. Sigh. But one day at a time.

“So don’t worry about tomorrow. Tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34 NIRV)

XX, K

How To Have a Less Toxic Nail Polish Addiction

20140401-144740.jpg

If you know me well or follow me on Instagram, then you know that I have a not-so-mild obsession with nail polish and nail art. What you may or may not know though, is that nail polish is essentially a small bottle of chemicals that have easy access to your bloodstream once applied to the nail. Not to mention the brain cells it kills with toxic fumes! So now your next question is- Isn't this a conflict of interest for your chemical-free, natural, clean lifestyle?

Yes, I concede that it is, however, it is one that I will allow for two reasons: 1.) For a very long time, painting my nails was literally the only creative outlet that I could take pleasure in, and it helped to keep me sane and escape my world of pain and sickness for a short time, and 2.) It makes me happy, and anything that makes me happy is worth doing (within reason, of course), I figure that whatever damage the nail polish toxins are doing are being counteracted by the happiness I feel when I look down at my nails and see something prettily painted upon them. Judge if you want, but everyone deserves to have a guilty pleasure or two, and painting my nails is mine.

Even though most popular brands of nail polish are in and of themselves quite toxic, the polish world has made much positive progress in creating less toxic polish formulas over the past few years. New brands of polish are popping up everyday, and indie nail polishes are on the rise. Nowadays there are more options than ever, and you can even buy vegan or water-based nail polish with all natural ingredients, which are virtually void of toxins and are even safe for the minis in your life.

20140401-144759.jpg

Before we get into my recommendations for leading a clean nail polish life, let’s cover a few basics…

What does 3 Free, 4 Free, and 5 Free mean?

For many years, most nail polish companies included three very scary ingredients in their formulas: formaldehyde, toluene, and dibutyl phthalate. The combined effects of these three ingredients have been known to cause reproductive issues, disturbances in the endocrine system, nervous system impairments such as dizziness, fatigue, and headaches, and have even caused cancer in lab rats. You can learn more about these chemicals here, but suffice it to say that you don’t want these toxins to be absorbed into your blood stream (heads up: toxins can enter straight into your bloodstream through your nail bed). Luckily, most big nail polish brands like OPI, Essie, Butter London, China Glaze, and SOPI have removed these three toxins, and therefore, such polishes are referred to as ‘3 Free’, meaning they are free of the three big nasties.

But even if a polish doesn’t contain these three dangerous toxins, you can bet that most contain all kinds of other harmful chemicals, and some brands have taken it a step further by removing formaldehyde residue (4-Free) and camphor (5-Free). This article in Slate describes some of the hurdles that still exist, even in these less toxic brands of nail polish.

So now that I’ve taken all of the fun out of painting your nails, let’s get into a few very basic rules that I try to live by when it comes to my polish habits.

1.) Only use nail polish brands that are 3-Free or higher

I’ve made it a personal rule that, moving forward, I will only allow myself to purchase polish brands that are 4 Free or (preferably) 5 Free, but since I have a boat load of 3 Free polishes (hello, Essie), I do still allow myself to use them. You can bet that I threw out all of the polishes that weren't at least 3 Free though, because, well… formaldehyde. Personally, my favorite brands right now are Julep (4-Free), Zoya, and Deborah Lippmann (both 5-Free). If I'm feeling really dedicated then I go with an organic line like Mineral Fusion or Karma Organics that can be found at your local Whole Foods.

Psst… This site is a great resource for checking out the level chemical contaminants in different nail polish brands.

20140401-144732.jpg

2.) Replace your traditional alcohol or acetone-based nail polish remover with a naturally based one

I’m sure that by now most women know that acetone is not only terrible for your nail health, but can also be harmful to your general health. But even most non-acetone polish removers are loaded with their own toxic chemicals. Luckily, there are lots of other options out there today for the health conscious consumer. My nail polish remover of choice is by Karma Naturals, it may be more expensive than your typical alcohol- based nail polish remover, but it lasts about 10 times longer, plus, instead of stripping your nails of the moisture they need, it actually replenishes moisture as it gently removes polish. I will warn you that it requires a tad more elbow grease than what you may be used to, especially for those who use acetone, but there’s no doubt that with a bit of effort you’ll have a much healthier nail as a result of ditching your old remover. I bought this bottle on Amazon almost a year ago, and it’s still about 1/2 full.

20140401-133528.jpg

3.) Proper ventilation

This is probably a no-brainer for anyone who’s ever walked into a nail salon, but proper ventilation makes an enormous difference. Turn on a fan, open the window, make sure to paint to your nails in an open space instead of a smaller closed off bathroom. And for goodness sakes, ladies, try not to get too close to that open bottle while applying your polish, the smell alone could knock you out.

4.) Try not to let the polish touch your skin, and/or clean up quickly upon application

Just as nail polish toxins can seep into your body through your nail bed, they can certainly be absorbed by the skin, so make sure to use your toxin-free remover or a hot bath to remove any excess polish that has gotten onto your skin or cuticle area.

With these four easy rules, I hope that you feel a bit more comfortable, or at least less guilty, about partaking in a potentially toxic habit. Good luck ladies, now let’s see those manis!

XX, K

20140328-130133.jpg

20140328-130143.jpg

20140328-130331.jpg

20140331-183551.jpg>