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Jeanette’s Immunity Lesson

July 9, 2012 (Updated: August 16, 2018)
Lily Moran

Some patients are more challenging than others. Jeanette was one of the difficult ones. An elementary school teacher for many years, Jeanette was continually coming down with colds, most likely due to sick children turning up in her classroom. The colds frequently turned into bronchitis or sinus infections. As a result, Jeanette was a very regular patient, coming to my clinic every couple of months with a new problem.

I urged her to eat more real food, instead of the takeout meals she liked, and to do all the other things I suggest in these newsletters — get plenty of sleep; drink lots of fresh, filtered water; take nutrients; exercise; and so on. But she resisted all my suggestions. “I don’t have time for that,” was her standard excuse.

There’s only so much a doctor can do when a patient insists on clinging to bad habits. But about two years ago, Jeanette came down with a case of the flu that she could not shake. As you may have guessed, the flu turned out to be Lyme disease, which she contracted during a field trip to a local park with her students.

We tried several different types of antibiotics, with limited success. Her swollen, aching joints just did not respond; and she was so exhausted, she had to take leave from work. Clearly, her immune system was so affected by her poor lifestyle choices that it was overwhelmed by the Lyme disease.

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Chronic Inflammation Decoded

Finally, I sat down with Jeanette for a heart-to-heart talk. As I explained to her, most people take their health for granted until a crisis of some sort occurs. Then they discover that years of poor diet, lack of exercise, and nutrient and sleep deficiencies have left them with scant resources for recovery. It can take months of supplementation, real food, sleep, and activity to restore their immunity and enable their bodies to even begin healing.

Lyme disease can be tricky, especially for someone with Jeanette’s health history. Roughly 10 percent of my patients with Lyme disease finish their antibiotics and find that certain symptoms stay with them. These cases are known as chronic Lyme disease, or Post-Treatment Lyme Disease Syndrome. Why Lyme disease becomes chronic is still a mystery, as is a definitive treatment.

In Jeanette’s case, I was able to convince her to actually make the lifestyle changes I had been recommending. Since she was on leave from her job due to illness, she had no excuses about limited time. She started a very comprehensive overhaul, cleaning up her diet, working with a trainer to become more fit, and all the rest. It took an additional six or seven months to get rid of her joint pain. By then, Jeanette’s new habits were firmly in place.

When she went back to work, even she noticed that she didn’t get sick the first time one of the children came in with a cold. “I get what you’ve been telling me now, and it makes sense,” she finally admitted. “The healthier you are, the better off you’ll be when something goes wrong. If I hadn’t been so stubborn about making the changes you were recommending, I probably could have gotten over the Lyme disease in a month or two and not spent most of a year dealing with it. But I guess the good news is that you were able to get me on track, and I’m never going back to my old ways. Life is so much better when everything’s working like it should.”

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