Due to the recent discovery that people with Lyme disease universally suffer from hyperammonemia, the excessive accumulation of ammonia in the liver, jaws, heart, and brain, and in rare cases the entire body, certain dietary changes can help reduce the severity of the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Ammonia is very alkaline with a pH of 11.6. Many doctors have been taught that most sick people have acidic bodies (<7.0 pH). The reality is not that simple. People may be predominantly acidic but may also be extremely alkaline in the areas of ammonia accumulation. This is why many people worsen when they are given dietary recommendations such as eating fresh fruits and vegetables, which work to alkalinize the body. Drinking alkalinized water would also tend to aggravate symptoms related to hyperammonemia. While there are many people who have been helped by these alkaline diets and alkalinized water, it is likely that they did not have a significant accumulation of ammonia and therefore did not experience a worsening of their symptoms. It appears that alkaline diets can aggravate the already over-alkaline, ammonia regions of their body: the brain, jaws, heart, and liver. The ammonia conditions must be cleared before addressing the more acidic regions of the body. High protein foods such as grains and meat contain an amino-acid (the breakdown unit of protein) called L-arginine. L-arginine in foods and as a nutritional supplement should not be taken in cases of hyperammonemia. Research reveals that ammonia (NH3) + arginine + manganese = increased nitric oxide (NO) up to 53% in astrocytes (brain cells), leading to increased brain swelling. “Manganese in excess is neurotoxic and causes a CNS disorder that resembles Parkinson’s disease (manganism). Manganese accumulates excessively in astrocytes, which renders these cells more vulnerable to its toxicity.”[i] When localized brain swelling increases due to ammonia, symptoms, which may be mistakenly called a Herxheimer reaction, increase dramatically as the brain energy metabolism becomes disrupted. The primary symptoms of profound fatigue and increased pain-sensitivity can escalate to critical.
Heart symptoms of all types can be improved by the clearing of ammonia and its source, the bacteria.
Armed with this knowledge, health care professionals would be wise to instigate a cycled, protein-poor diet for Lyme patients during treatment to minimize aggravations from arginine. A general guideline for cycling on and off the avoidance of arginine-rich foods might be two weeks of avoidance and one week back on protein foods to avoid problems due to depleting the body of protein.
While strict dietary limitations may not absolutely necessary for some individuals, it is a good recommendation for those people with severe brain toxicity and highly reactive symptoms to decrease their intake of arginine-rich foods.
Foods that are high in arginine, and therefore should be avoided until ammonia issues are resolved are carob, coconut, chocolate, dairy, gelatin, oats, meat of any kind, soybeans, walnuts, white flour, wheat, wheat germ, buckwheat, granola, oatmeal, dairy products (cottage cheese, ricotta, nonfat dry milk, skim yogurt), nuts (coconut, pecans, cashews, walnuts, almonds, Brazil nuts, hazel nuts, peanuts), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower), poultry (chicken and turkey light meat), wild game (pheasant, quail), seafood (halibut, lobster, salmon, shrimp, snails, tuna in water), chick peas,.[ii],[iii] )
Many people suffering with Lyme disease also have various viral issues as well, such as Human Herpes Virus-6, Epstein Barr Virus, and others. Arginine feeds viruses. The amino acid L-Lysine blocks arginine’s ability to feed viruses, so it will benefit everyone to boost the dietary intake of L-Lysine. If you must have meat, fish is the best choice. It is high in L-Lysine, which may be adequate for combating the effects of the arginine in the fish.
Lysine rich foods include legumes, eggs, lima beans, potatoes, and brewers yeast. You may also purchase L-Lysine as a nutritional supplement from a health food store, or as low as about $6 from Life Extension (which we have used for years).
Dietary changes can lessen the severity of virtually every symptom related to Lyme disease, however the source of the ammonia, the Borrelia, must be resolved, and the body’s ability to clear out the accumulated ammonia must be treated before dietary restrictions can be lifted.
[i] Rama Rao K, Reddy P, et al, Manganese induces cell swelling in cultured astrocytes. NeuroToxicology Volume 28, Issue 4, July 2007, 807-812.
[ii] Cooper, M.D., M.P.H. and Kenneth, H. Advanced Nutritional Therapies, Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.
[iii] Murray, N.D., Michael, T., and Pizzorno, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Rocklin, California: Prima Publishing, 1991.
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This article is a follow-up from the article printed in Healthy Referral (Winter 2010/11) titled “The Alkaline Brain: Lyme Borrelia-induced Hyper-ammonemia“