Archive for the ‘diet and nutrition’ Category

Lyme & Herxheimer Reactions – Dr. Rawls


Lyme + Herxheimer Reactions: Your Guide To Feeling Good Again

by Carin Gorrell & Dr. Bill Rawls
Updated 1/21/19

It’s one of life’s cruel jokes: You discover a new therapy for Lyme disease and are really optimistic about your odds of finally feeling better. Then, within a day or two of starting the regimen, your symptoms take a turn for the worse—intense fatigue washes over you, and you feel like you did during your last fight with the flu. Could it be the dreaded Herxheimer Reaction you keep hearing about from fellow Lyme sufferers?

Unfortunately, answering that question is no easy feat. So we asked Dr. Bill Rawls, author of the bestselling book Unlocking Lyme, to help explain Herx Reactions and the best ways to differentiate them from other possible issues. Keep reading for his advice, plus steps you can take now to feel better—without derailing your recovery.

Herxheimer Reactions, Defined

Herxing was first observed in syphilis patients by dermatologists Adolf Jarisch and Karl Herxheimer in the late 1800s and early 1900s, who noticed that sufferers receiving treatment often got worse before they got better. The phenomenon was dubbed the Jarisch-Herxheimer Reaction, and has since been shortened to Herxheimer Reaction or simply, herxing.

“The classic explanation of a Herxheimer Reaction in Lyme sufferers is that when Borrelia bacteria are killed off by an antibiotic or herbal therapy, parts of dead bacteria called endotoxins are shed,” explains Dr. Rawls. “These endotoxins then circulate throughout the body and cause an intense whole-body inflammatory reaction. And that makes the war against microbes that’s already going on inside your body worse.”

In general, Herx Reactions are more common and more intense with conventional antibiotic use than with use of herbs, says Dr. Rawls. “With herbs, the bacterial die‐off is more gradual and the immune response is less intense.”

Either way, the intensification of your symptoms can be disconcerting, and if you’re treating Lyme, the odds are good you’ll experience herxing: While there’s no clinical research on the prevalence of herxing, anecdotally it seems the majority of Lyme sufferers experience it at some point. And that’s actually good news: “It’s often a sign that the therapy is working,” says Dr. Rawls.

How To Tell If It’s Herxing—Or Something Else

Herx Reactions can feel like a red herring, for a few reasons.

For starters, symptoms vary from person to person, says Dr. Rawls, and they’re easy to confuse with other health concerns that are also highly likely in chronic Lyme sufferers, including a disease flare-up, adverse reaction to a new Lyme treatment, or food sensitivity (digestive issues are highly common in Lyme sufferers). What’s more, the timing of any of these issues can also overlap, making it difficult to track your symptoms to their source.

For help clearing up the confusion and determining what’s to blame for your symptoms, check out these helpful identifying characteristics from Dr. Rawls:


Symptoms: Intensified fatigue, muscle pain, and flu‐like symptoms such as headache, nausea, GI distress. You may also experience symptoms not listed here; Herx Reactions are highly variable between individuals.

Onset: Symptoms intensify in tandem with starting a new therapy.

Telltale signs: Symptoms may gradually improve with continuation of therapy, and worsen again when you increase the dosage or add a new therapy.


Symptoms: Intensification of fatigue, arthritis (joint pain, swelling, and stiffness), flu-like feelings, GI distress, recurrence of your usual Lyme symptoms

Onset: Symptoms are often precipitated by any type of extra stress to your system (including emotional stress, poor diet, toxin exposure, physical stress, lack of sleep, or a new tick bite). Symptoms are not related to starting a new therapy, though the two may coincide if you experienced stress just before starting the therapy.

Telltale signs: Your best clue is timing: A Lyme relapse typically occurs while taking a stable dose of treatment and in reaction to some type of stress, so look for recent lifestyle changes (i.e., diet changes, travel, sleep deprivation, relationships trouble).


Symptoms: An allergic-like reaction (hives, itching, skin rash, runny nose, watery eyes, wheezing). This is common in people with chronic Lyme disease, whose entire immune system is in disarray and more easily activated.

Onset: Symptoms develop within about an hour of taking a new medication or herb

Telltale signs: Your symptoms get better when you take an allergy remedy such as an antihistamine. *See your doctor as soon as possible if you experience signs or symptoms of a drug allergy. Call 911 if you experience signs of a severe reaction or suspect an anaphylaxis after taking a medication.


Symptoms: Fatigue, joint pain, muscle pain, general achiness, brain fog, irritability

Onset: Symptoms occur within hours to a couple of days after an offending food is consumed.

Telltale signs: Your symptoms get better when you eliminate the food(s) from your diet. Doctors can order testing for food sensitivity and heavy metal toxicity, however the best determinant of food sensitivities is an elimination diet.

If these guidelines don’t describe your experience with herxing exactly, take heart. In the beginning, you may go back and forth between knowing whether what you’re experiencing is Herx Reaction or something else, but with time, you will become better at distinguishing herxing and riding it out.

It’s Herxing. When Will It End?

If you’ve determined (or strongly suspect) that you’re herxing, your next question is likely: How long will it last?

Unfortunately, there’s no cut-and-dry answer — everyone’s experience is individual, says Dr. Rawls. Some may feel better after a few days or a few weeks; others may experience herxing for as long as two to three months (though symptoms tend to wax and wane throughout that time).

The good news is, there’s a lot you can do to help ease a Herx Reaction and move beyond the symptoms more quickly. The quickest solution would be to discontinue your Lyme treatment. But that’s not necessarily the best solution, says Dr. Rawls.

“Fundamental advice with herx is to continue therapy at whatever dose you can tolerate. Sometimes you will have to reduce the dose to stay comfortable, but you can increase again later” says Dr. Rawls. “If your symptoms improve over days to a couple of weeks, that suggests confirmation that it’s a herx.And as your symptoms improve, you can gradually increase the dose until the desired therapeutic dose is reached.”

If your symptoms do not improve, it may be an indication that the therapy is not working. In this case, Dr. Rawls suggests either increasing the dose or adding other herbs or other therapy. If symptoms gradually start getting better, then you know you’re on the right track.

That said, if your symptoms are debilitating, back off on your treatment dosage or even stop altogether, advises Dr. Rawls. Then, once your symptoms are tolerable, you can gradually increase your dosage again.

Smart Ways to Ease Herxing

The number one way to find relief from herxing is to address the underlying cause for needing Lyme treatment in the first place: chronic immune dysfunction.

“An impaired immune system is what makes people vulnerable to chronic Lyme,” explains Dr. Rawls. “Restore your immune function, and not only will your body be better at battling Lyme microbes, it’ll be stronger at withstanding the side effects of treatment and overcoming herxing as well.”

To begin, work your way through what Dr. Rawls calls System Disruptors, factors that can contribute to inflammation and intensify either a Herx reaction or a Lyme relapse. These include poor nutrition, emotional stress, environmental toxins like air pollutants and mold, physical stress, and excessive exposure to radiation from modern sources like computers, cell phones, and microwave towers.

Once you’ve begun to take the pressure off of your immune system by decreasing your exposure to these disruptors, your body will be better equipped to handle both microbes and the endotoxins they create as they begin to die off. The result: You start to feel better.

From here, there are a number of additional lifestyle habits you can adopt to help alleviate a Herxheimer Reaction—all of which also contribute to restoring immune function and thus contribute to Lyme recovery, says Dr. Rawls. Here, his recommendations:

1. Hydrate with fresh ginger tea.

A lot of liquids in general is a good idea, but fresh ginger tea in particular has potent systemic anti-inflammatory properties for reducing Herxheimer symptoms.

2. Add some natural therapies to your regimen.

Some good ones to try:

  • Turmeric and Boswellia They’re excellent for reducing systemic inflammation associated with Herxheimer reactions, and it’s hard to take too much of either. Dr. Rawls recommends 175 mg of turmeric and 75 mg of Boswellia, twice a day for each.
  • Marine source omega-3 fatty acids They offer anti-inflammatory support, especially for high-fat tissues such as the brain. Both fish oil and krill oil reduce inflammation, but krill is better absorbed and also contains the antioxidant astaxanthin, which provides extra anti-inflammatory support. The suggested dose for krill oil is 500 mg, 1-3 times daily.
  • Red Root This herb is very good for stimulating clearing dead cellular debris from the lymphatic system. It also supports a healthy liver and spleen, optimal immune function, and swollen lymph nodes.
  • Chlorella Consistently taking this freshwater algae does wonders for healing an irritated stomach and restoring digestive function. It’s also great for detoxing and healing in general. The typical maintenance dose is 5 to 7.5g total a day. For additional support, we suggest 10g total a day. Chlorella can be taken any time of day. For best results, take with food. (Avoid products that also contain spirulina, a blue-green algae that potentially contains toxins.)
  • Adaptogenic herbs. These help reduce herxing and moderate the effects of stress. Some to try: Chinese skullcap (450 mg, twice a day), Cordyceps(450 mg, twice a day), Reishi mushroom (175 mg, twice a day), and Rehmannia (50 mg, twice a day).

3. Take enzymes.

There are a variety that will work to help break down immune complexes and reduce inflammation. Bromelain (from pineapple) is a good choice; the dose is 500-1000 mg, one to two times daily. It’s sometimes found in combination supplements for joint health. In general, it’s best to take enzymes on an empty stomach so they are absorbed directly.

4. Apply heat.

Heat can be very soothing during Herx reactions. A far infrared (FIR) sauna and/or a hot bath are excellent for removing toxins from the body. Adding Epsom salts to your bath can also help soothe muscles and joints.

5. Get outside and breathe fresh air.

Forests and beaches or shores alongside open water are especially beneficial. Take your shoes off and walk barefoot: called “grounding,” it’s a good practice for reducing inflammation in the body.

6. Relax.

Decreasing stress is key to normalizing the body’s adrenaline/cortisol response. Some ideas:

  • Meditate
  • Get a massage, or try abhyanga (the Ayurvedic practice of self-massage)
  • Practice Qigong or yoga
  • Try acupuncture or energy healing

7. Sleep.

Make 7-8 hours of shuteye a nightly goal.

8. Say “no” more often.

Only agree to doing what’s necessary, and let the rest go until you are back on your feet.

9. Avoid coffee and green and black tea.

They tend to dry and irritate the stomach lining.

10. Eat steamed cabbage.

It’s great for soothing an inflamed stomach.

11. Use lavender essential oil.

Research suggests it may be beneficial for easing insomnia, anxiety, stress, and postoperative pain. Apply it to the bottom of your feet before bed to help with sleep.

12. Laugh lots.

It raises your immune system and just makes you feel good.

Thoughts on Herx Prevention

There’s a decent chance that if you increase the dosage of your current treatment or introduce a new one to your Lyme regimen, the herxing may return. It’s not entirely avoidable, says Dr. Rawls, but there are steps you can take to help fend off and reduce symptoms.

A few days before you change up your therapy, Dr. Rawls recommends adding some turmeric and krill or fish oil to your daily routine; these help support a healthy immune response. He also suggests using calming essential oils such as lavender and frankincense to reduce your stress response.

And in general, the most successful approach to feeling your best is to focus on restoring healthy immune function. Do that, and you’ll rebound faster from herxing and most other maladies that may come your way.

Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease and recovery in Dr. Rawls’ best-selling book, Unlocking Lyme. You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.



For those of you just starting treatment:

More on Herxing:


MSM – another detoxifier, gut support, & inflammation & pain reducer:

One of the hardest things to understand about this complex disease(es) is that you feel a whole lot worse before you feel better and this can take considerable time.  Managing the herx is a challenging job.  Many find sauna’s to be of great help.



Goodbye GMO, Hello Bioengineered: USDA Publishes Labeling Rules

by Marion Nestle

Goodbye GMO, Hello Bioengineered: USDA publishes labeling rules

Trump’s USDA has issued final rules for labeling food products of biotechnology, commonly known to all of us as GMOs.

Since GMOs have taken on a pejorative—Frankenfood—connotation, the USDA wanted to fix that.  And did it ever.

It drops GMOs, and substitutes “Bioengineered.”

Its logo depicts food biotechnology as sun shining on agriculture.Image result for bioengineering logo usdaAnd the rules have a loophole big enough to exclude lots of products from having to carry this logo: those made with highly refined GMO sugars, starches and oils made from GMO soybeans and sugar beets.

If the products do not contain detectable levels of DNA, they are exempt.  Never mind that GMO/bioengineered is a production issue.

When Just Label It was advocating for informing the public about GMOs, this was hardly what it had in mind.

Count this as a win for the GMO industry.

For more:

In New England, scientists from Harvard, MIT and Tufts University have begun genetically engineering white-footed mice — which in the wild carry the Borrelia microbe that causes Lyme disease and pass it along to ticks that feed on their blood — to produce antibodies resistant to both ticks and a particular Borrelia protein. The idea is that immunizing the mice will have a trickle-down effect to the local tick population…..

Another point to stress is that the CRISPR gene-editing technology (tinkering with genes) has been shown to create unintended mutations.  This article shows 100 deletions and insertions and more than 1,500 unintended single-nucleotide mutations occurred .  


Geneticist and virologist Jonathan Latham, Executive Director of the Bioscience Resource Project and editor of Independent Science News, has spoken out about the fallacy of industry talking points in the past.

“So far, it is technically not possible to make a single (and only a single) genetic change to a genome using CRISPR and be sure one has done so,” Latham reportedly explained.  This feat may not even be possible biologically; one small change to genome can inevitably lead to a host of other, unanticipated changes.

In fact, experts say that CRISPR could cause hundreds of unintended DNA alterations.

Go here to watch a short 2 min video:  What is CRISPR


While it all seems neat and tidy on paper and in a cool colored video, what happens in the wild could be an entirely different matter.  Releasing GMO mosquitoes to supposedly eradicate Zika has shown many undesirable effects:  The $18-million project, funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, involves mosquitoes that have been infected with Wolbachia bacteria, which stops viruses from growing inside the mosquito and therefore from being transmitted between people.

I wrote about that when it all went down:  (This link shows an important dog study you need to read about as well)  Take away:  in dogs, Wolbachia released into the blood stream causes wide-spread inflammation, something Lyme/MSIDS patients already struggle with.

Even the European union has ruled that CRISPR plants are GMO’s and should be subjected to the same rules:




The Candida Chronicles


Finally the long awaited first book on Candida and Yeast infections by Michael C Biamonte CCN. This is the 1st of a series of 5 books on what has been called “The scourge of the 21st century”. Candida in an intestinal yeast infection that is often undiagnosed. It causes dozens of symptoms that are often unrelated. Michael C.Biamonte is a New York State certified clinical nutritionist who has dedicated his professional life to understanding this syndrome and aiding those suffering with it for over 30 years. He is considered by many the worlds authority not only on the subject of Candida, but also how one can help themselves who have this condition.

Dr. Biamonte is the ONLY doctor who has actually cracked the code on how to heal the digestive tract and balance the mind and body without using prescriptions. The proof is in the thousands of patients he has successfully treated, including my son and I . This book is life changing and I strongly recommend it to anyone who suffers from candida, chronic fatigue or imbalances that cause illness. This book is the only prescription you’ll need.
– Jenny McCarthy

For more:  (Go to link for more details on each phase)

Remove some of the candida on the surface of your intestinal track through supplements.
With natural & herbal substances, kill or eliminate candida from most of your body.
Cleanse the whole body of candida through a regimen of supplements & remove poisons from your system.
Using blood & hair testing, identify and correct nutritional deficiencies through vitamins and diet changes.
Build, repair & stimulate your immune system to make sure it can keep candida in check.


For Free Podcasts from Biamonte:

More on Candida:

Wahls Protocol – Impact of Diet & Nutrition in MS & Other Neurological Diseases

Episode #87: Wahls Protocol with Dr. Terry Wahls, MD

By Better Health Guy

Why You Should Listen:

In this episode, you will learn about the Wahls Protocol and the impact of diet and nutrition in MS and other neurological diseases.

About My Guest: My guest for this episode is Dr. Terry Wahls. Terry Wahls, MD is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. In 2018 she was awarded the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Linus Pauling Award for her contributions in research, clinical care, and patient advocacy. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is the author of “The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine”, “The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles”, and the cookbook “The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions”. She conducts clinical trials that test the effect of nutrition and lifestyle interventions to treat MS and other progressive health problems. She teaches the public and medical community about the healing power of the Paleo diet and therapeutic lifestyle changes that restore health and vitality. She hosts a Wahls Protocol Seminar every August where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success.

Key Takeaways:

– How did Dr. Wahls go from four years in a wheelchair to riding her bike to work? – What is the 3/3/3 nutrition program?

– Why are greens, colored vegetables and fruits, and sulfur-containing foods so critical?

– How is the mitochondria and myelin supported through diet?

– Why are mushrooms and seaweed key components of the protocol?

– What protein sources are utilized?

– What is the role if intestinal hyperpermeability in autoimmune diseases?

– Are lectins a problem for those with neurological disease?

– What is the role of the microbiome in supporting health?

– Do infections play a role in MS?

– Does environmental toxicity need to be considered to maximize health potential?

Connect With My Guest: Related Resources: Diet: Papers: Interview Date: December 11, 2018 Additional Information: To learn more, visit

Disclaimer: The content of this show is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illness or medical condition. Nothing in today’s discussion is meant to serve as medical advice or as information to facilitate self-treatment. As always, please discuss any potential health-related decisions with your own personal medical authority.


More on Wahls:






Your Liver is Your Detox Organ. Here’s Why & How to Support it

Your Liver Is Your Detox Organ. Here’s Why & How To Support It

Image by Marc Tran / Stocksy

We humans are alive because of brilliant biochemistry, and while each system of our body has its own unique function, they are all inextricably linked and work together to keep us alive and thriving. When one system goes awry, it often affects other seemingly unrelated aspects of our health. This is especially true when it comes to detox, which is one of the biggest factors of poor health that I see in my patients.

With research starting to show the link between our increased toxin exposure and autoimmune conditions, it’s more important than ever for your body’s detoxification systems to be working properly. As your body’s largest organ, your liver is also the main detoxifier.

Why your liver is your detox organ.

Working in constant communication with your stomach, pancreas, gallbladder, and the rest of your digestive system, your liver is responsible for storing and converting nutrients from the foods we eat for our bodies to utilize. Through its role in the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrates, your liver works to ensure that blood glucose levels are stabilized to prevent blood sugar imbalances and other metabolic problems. It works to filter out toxins from the foods you eat and environmental exposures as well as acting as a blood purifier, clearing out your blood of these impurities and only utilizing the necessary nutrients. Needless to say, if your liver isn’t working well, your ability to detox is going to be greatly affected.

When your liver is overloaded with toxins, it creates a cascade of systemic chronic inflammation, which further affects your liver’s ability to rid itself of these toxins. It becomes a vicious cycle between toxin buildup and inflammation that can only be broken through limiting your toxin exposure and supporting your liver’s natural ability to detox.

Detox rituals that support your liver.

I’ve written in the past about various ways to make your life a cleanse. But to really boost your detox pathways and liver function, these targeted natural tools are my go-to for next-level liver and detox support:

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1. Dandelion tea

Methylation is your body’s biochemical superhighway that controls your body’s ability to detox. B vitamins act as fuel for methylation and are found abundantly in dandelions. Brew up a cup of dandelion tea to support methylation and help support optimal liver function.

2. Milk thistle

This plant is one of the most well-researched natural remedies for treating liver problems and has been used for years to treat a number of different liver conditions, including hepatitis and alcoholic liver disease. Milk thistle aids in eliminating toxins that have built up in the liver in addition to helping restore liver cells that have been damaged from increased toxin exposure. You can take it in a supplement capsule or as a tea.

Image by Yoyochow23 / iStock

3. Garlic

Garlic helps to activate liver detox enzymes that work to break down the toxins that enter your body in order to effectively eliminate them. Thankfully, garlic makes a delicious addition to almost any recipe, so don’t be afraid to load up while cooking your next meal!

4. Sulfuric vegetables

Vegetables such as broccoli, broccoli sprouts, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are considered sulfuric and contain the powerful antioxidant glutathione. This antioxidant is essential for activating phase 1 and phase 2 liver detoxification.

5. Beets

Beets are great for helping break down toxins through increasing enzyme activity so that your body can eliminate them quicker. I love roasting them as a side or adding them to a salad seasoned with garlic!

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6. Red clover

This is one of my favorites for its ability to rid toxins from not only your liver but your spleen and lymphatic system as well. You can take it in capsule form or as an herbal tincture.

7. Burdock root

As a tea or supplement, this root does wonders for removing toxins, specifically heavy metals. With its natural diuretic properties, it works to flush out toxins by increasing fluid excretion as well as boosting your lymphatic system.

You don’t have to adopt all these rituals to support your liver, but by making yourself a cup of dandelion tea, adding garlic and beets to your next meal, or taking a red clover supplement, you can support your detox pathways going into 2019.


More on Detoxification:

Briefly, MSM stands for Methylsulfonylmethane and is 34% sulfur by weight. Sulfur plays a crucial role in detoxification and is an important antioxidant for producing glutathione. If you aren’t getting enough sulfur, glutathione can not work. Even if you have a diet rich in sulfur (think cabbage, onions, garlic, broccoli, etc – essentially the stinky veggies – and many other food items as well) your body still could use supplementation.




Naturally Recovering Autism, Lyme Disease, & Coinfections

 58 Min

November, 2018

Naturally Recovering Autism (18) Lyme Disease and its Co-infections

With Karen Thomas and Dr. Jodie A. Dashore:

Want to hear Thomas’ weekly radio show?  Go here and sign up:


Herbs & Habits To Revive Your Gut

The Herbs & Habits You Need to Revive Your Gut Health

by Dr. Bill Rawls
Posted 10/19/18

“Stop eating gluten.” “Give up dairy.” “Cut out caffeine.”

Diet-related advice is always the first thing you hear when it comes to overcoming any sort of gut issue. That’s true whether you’re trying to avoid the abdominal pain or bouts of constipation or diarrhea that can come with a chronic illness like Lyme disease or fibromyalgia, or sidestep triggers for GI conditions like leaky gut syndrome or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

It’s good guidance, of course, but it’s not always easy – and it’s not always enough.

Fortunately, there are other effective tools you can use to help cope with digestive issues. The following four steps are additional, diet-free ways to hack common sources of GI distress. Put them into action and not only will you ease symptoms, you’ll also help prevent future ones. And as an added bonus, when you improve your gut health, you also enhance immune function and support your recovery from chronic illness.

Keep reading to learn four key habits to revive your gut health.

1. Nourish Your Gut Lining

In a healthy gut, the cells in the intestinal mucosa – which line your intestines and create a barrier to troublemakers like pathogens – fit neatly together like puzzle pieces. But over time, gut disruptors like toxins and gluten can inflame, irritate, and compromise the intestinal mucosa, allowing them to sneak across the gut-blood barrier and triggering symptoms like abdominal pain, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, or indigestion (all classic signs of leaky gut).

Here are some things to try to nourish and restore your gut health:

  • Take herbs with mucilage, a demulcent that acts like the mucous barrier in your gut. These can help serve as barrier to foreign substances until you’re able to rebuild your mucosa. My favorite mucilage-containing herb is slippery elm.
  • Try carminatives. These are natural substances that lessen intestinal spasms and reduce gas. Cardamom and fennel are two excellent options to ease these troubling symptoms.
  • Drink ginger tea. It’s great for soothing the stomach, plus it offers antiviral and other antimicrobial properties if you’re fighting pathogens.
  • Avoid anti-inflammatory drugs and alcohol. This includes over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve) as well as numerous prescription drugs. Both medications and alcohol contribute to ulcer formation in the stomach.

2. Enhance Sluggish Digestion

If your gut is dysfunctional and inflamed, odds are you’re producing less of the digestive enzymes and stomach acids you need to properly digest a meal. As a result, your liver gets congested, and food moves through the digestive process at an increasingly slower pace.

While you’re working to help restore your gut health, the following tips can help support digestive function until it’s back up to speed.

  • Take digestive enzymes. Supplementing with an assortment of enzymes (such as protease, amylase, alpha-galactosidase, lipase, and others) can help your body digest protein, fat, and carbs until it’s able to restore normal enzyme levels. It also promotes nutrient assimilation and conversion and excretion of waste.
  • Support normal liver and gallbladder function. To encourage healthy bile flow, take 400 mg of milk thistle daily. It contains silymarin, which is a powerful antioxidant and promoter of liver health. Additionally, the herbs andrographis and artichoke extract provide similar properties.
  • Sip apple cider vinegar (ACV). When taken with meals, ACV can help increase acidity in the stomach to support digestion, after which the acetic acid in vinegar is neutralized in the small intestine to acetate and absorbed into the bloodstream. Acetate can help dissolve calcium oxalate crystals in tissues that can contribute to kidney stone formation. Take 2 tablespoons of ACV in 6 ounces of water with a drizzle of honey with each meal. Note: If burning or discomfort occurs, use of ACV should be discontinued until gut healing is more advanced.
  • Normalize bowel function. Vitamins A, B, and C and minerals like zinc and magnesium help your body produce digestive enzymes, ease gut inflammation, and aid in the growth of beneficial bacteria. Note that excess vitamin C can be converted into oxalate, so don’t take more than 2,000 mg a day, and if it bothers you, nix it altogether.
  • Add omega-3 essential fatty acids to your diet. Found in krill oil, fish oil, flax oil, and borage oil, these beneficial oils reduce inflammation in the gut and encourage normal bowel movements.

3. Restore Bacterial Balance in the Gut

For significant intestinal dysfunction, antimicrobial supplements may be necessary to help facilitate the growth of beneficial bacteria and deter the growth of symptom-inducing microbes. Herbs with antimicrobial properties offer the advantage of inhibiting the growth of pathogenic organisms without adversely affecting normal bacterial flora. The good news is that once your gut health is reestablished, normal microbiome balance can generally be maintained with diet alone.

Here are some ways to restore bacterial balance in the gut:

  • Use herbs to reduce the pathogenic organisms. Gut-friendly herbs, including berberine, andrographis, cat’s claw, sarsaparilla, and garlic, support the growth of friendly, normal flora and suppress the growth of pathogenic bacteria. Coverage includes common pathogenic bacteria, yeast, and protozoa. These herbs can be used alone or in combination for a synergistic effect against problematic microbes.
  • Stock up on ginger. You’ll notice ginger is recommended for many aspects of gut health. Not only does it have the ability to soothe the lining of the stomach, but it offers activity against many common gut pathogens.
  • Eat prebiotic foods. Prebiotics like inulin and fructo-oligosaccharides are fibers that provide nourishment for favorable bacteria. These substances are found naturally in onions, garlic, chicory, and Jerusalem artichoke.
  • Increase your intake of fermented foods. Daily consumption of yogurt or other fermented foods is important for seeding the intestinal tract with favorable bacteria, but concentrations of bacteria in yogurt are often not adequate if significant dysbiosis, an imbalance in the gut bacteria, is present. Probiotics may provide additional support.
  • Consider probiotics. Evidence of probiotics’ benefits for various health concerns is marginal at best, but they have been shown to help folks with IBS. It’s really trial and error, however: Because every person’s gut microbiome is different, some people gain benefit from a probiotic and others do not. The best probiotic to consider for IBS is one that contains both lactobacillus and bifidobacteria species.

4. Manage Your Stress

Stubborn and overwhelming stress is often a primary driving force behind digestive dysfunction. That’s because chronic stress tells your body to stay ready to fight or flee, which in turn puts digestion on hold – it’s simply not a necessary function when you’re in survival mode.

This inhibits the movement of food from your stomach through your intestinal tract. Stress also halts the flow of bile in the liver and gallbladder, which normally aids in the digestion of fats and acts as the vehicle for carrying neutralized toxins out of the body.

As you can see, putting stress back in the box is essential for allowing the gastrointestinal tract to perform its job. Try the following tips for reining in stress and supporting normal digestion.

  • Take stress-modulating herbs. Herbs such as ashwagandha, Chinese tree bark, and l-theanine help maintain normal adrenal function, so your body is better able to handle stress. (The adrenal glands are responsible for allocating resources in the body and preparing the body for stress, including the secretion of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.)
  • Practice gentle exercise and stretching. Mild forms of exercise such as yoga, qigong, and walking encourage relaxation and enhance digestion. In fact, research published in the journal Psychology, Health & Medicine found that walking twice a week helped IBS sufferers experience a decrease in overall GI symptoms and well as feelings of anxiety.
  • Prioritize sleep. If you’re not getting enough sleep, stress will remain your constant companion. Reach for herbs that promote healthy sleep, such as passion flower and motherwort. Bonus: Motherwort also helps reduce intestinal spasms.
  • Drink a mug of chamomile tea. Research suggests that sipping a cup of chamomile tea can help bring on both relaxation and sleep. It’s also excellent for calming the intestinal tract.

If you’re interested in trying an herbal approach to restoring gut health, I encourage you to learn more about my holistic gut health protocol. It includes many of the herbs I recommend above and used myself to overcome my own gut dysfunction, all in one easy-to-follow and comprehensive program.

Finally, remember that no matter where you’re at with gut health, patience and persistence pay off. With time and effort, digestive function will return to normal. You may always have to watch what you eat, but making smart lifestyle choices a central part of your everyday life will go a long way toward sustaining recovery.

Dr. Rawls is a physician who overcame Lyme disease through natural herbal therapy. You can learn more about Lyme disease in Dr. Rawls’ new best selling book, Unlocking Lyme.

You can also learn about Dr. Rawls’ personal journey in overcoming Lyme disease and fibromyalgia in his popular blog post, My Chronic Lyme Journey.


For more:  Recitas, author of “The Plan,” calls MSM the wonder supplement for your gut. It can alleviate allergy symptoms, helps with detoxification, eliminates free radicals, and improves cell permeability. She states that with given time, MSM will start to actually repair damage caused by leaky gut – a common problem with Lyme/MSIDS patients. It can also help the body’s ability to absorb nutrients from food. Many Lyme patients struggle with paralysis of the gut where the muscles of the stomach and intestines stop being efficient. MSM helps this muscle tone as well.