Thursday, December 07, 2017
Throwback Thursday: Diet and ME/CFS & Lyme
ME/CFS is an immune disorder, and the particular type of immune dysfunction in ME/CFS causes our immune systems to over-react to the presence of allergens. This means that it is very, very common for ME/CFS patients to suddenly develop food intolerances and allergies to foods they have never had trouble with before. In fact, food intolerances are often behind the gastointestinal symptoms that are an integral part of ME/CFS, and eliminating the problem foods can dramatically improve GI symptoms.
That's what happened with me. Before ME/CFS, I drank about a quart of milk a day and loved cheese, ice cream, and other dairy products. I was skeptical when Dr. Bell, one of the first ME/CFS experts who is now retired, suggested I give up dairy, I didn't think it would help, but I tried it for 2 weeks. I didn't see much difference, so I added dairy back into my diet - Wow! Instant cramping, gas, and other GI problems. I gave up dairy...and my GI symptoms went away completely.
A recent study done by Dr. Peter Rowe (another top ME/CFS expert) showed that a full 30% of the young people with ME/CFS in the study were dairy intolerant - and the number is likely the same in adults, thanks to our immune dysfunction. The study also showed a dramatic improvement in quality of life when those kids who were dairy intolerant gave up dairy.
Note that if you are lactose-intolerant (for me, it is both lactose and casein, the protein in milk), lactose is a common ingredient in many medications. The blog post at that link explains how to manage lactose intolerance generally and lists medications that contain lactose.
There have not been studies done on other common allergens, like gluten, soy, eggs, etc. in ME/CFS, but again, our immune dysfunction makes us prone to food intolerance and allergies, so it's a good idea to check with elimination diets.
In the last few years, my son and I have switched to a Paleo diet (with our own modifications), and it has definitely helped with ME/CFS, Lyme and other tick infections, and yeast overgrowth. Paleo basically means no grains, no dairy, no sugar. This blog post describes our approach to eating Paleo for immune disorders, with an explanation of why it's a good diet for patients with these diseases/conditions, how we manage it, and lots and lots of recipes and resources to help make it easier (and delicious!).
In addition to diet being essential in managing yeast overgrowth, diet is also very important in improving methylation, a critical step in improving both ME/CFS and tick infections. Several dietary components, including dairy, gluten, and gliadin, block one of the methylation pathways.
Finally, for details on how diet has helped my son and I improve over the years, see My ME/CFS Improvements in 2014 and How My Son Went From Couchbound to College.
How about you? Have you discovered any food intolerances or allergies? What kind of diet has helped your illness?