I recently did something I’ve always wanted to do but seriously doubted would be possible. In order to heal lingering symptoms of chronic Lyme disease I ate only raw fruits and vegetables for one month straight. Nothing baked, boiled, sautéed, roasted or dehydrated. No meat, eggs, oils, grains, beans, potatoes, nuts or avocados. Instead, I ate lots of bananas, berries, melons and greens and only trace amounts of fats here and there in things like chia seeds. I was inspired by the results I’d seen from people on a raw vegan diet called “the 80/10/10,” which is also the name of a book written by Dr. Douglas Graham (a nutritionist based in Washington State.)
Like other famous “plant-based” proponents, including Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. John McDougall, Dr. Graham has found that reducing the overall amount of protein and fat in the diet to 10 percent each of total calories – with carbohydrates from plant foods making up the remaining 80 percent of daily calories – helps reverse and prevent disease. If you want to learn more about the science behind plant-based nutrition and healing read the China Study or watch the film Forks Over Knives. If you want to go whole hog in the cleansing and healing department like I did then read “The 80/10/10 Diet.”
(Graham is a raw food advocate, whereas most of the other plant-based heavy hitters such as Campbell and McDougall include more cooked starches in their programs.) As a certified nutrition consultant I had found a lot of success with clients using a more conventional plant-based diet that includes cooked foods. I saw clients repeatedly heal themselves of everything from diverticulitis and IBS to heart disease, high cholesterol and obesity. (You can see those testimonies on my website here). When you do it right, the plant-based diet can worked wonders to reverse our most common health problems. I have even published stunning before-and-after cholesterol results from four clients in Natural Awakenings magazine.
But Lyme is different. Though the plant-based dietary changes that worked so well for my clients seemed to help relieve much the pain and fatigue that had plagued me for years before I started eating that way, I wanted to go further. Thanks to green smoothies and big salads with a cooked vegan meal at night I was able to get out of bed and work. I could go for walks. I could take care of my kids. But I was still tired and achy and suffered from food sensitivities at times despite the fact that I had experienced full healing by the standards of most acute Lyme sufferers.
I didn’t accept the argument that I was now just getting old, that everyone felt this way in their mid- to late 40s. That’s not what I was seeing on the 80/10/10’s YouTube channel, where there are many videos of people my age or older who have cured themselves of chronic conditions by eating large amounts of fruit and greens along with other vegetables. Not only were they healed but they were running marathons and ultra marathons, competing in Iron Man competitions, lifting weights and doing acrobatics. And they also seemed really happy.
So that’s why I did it. I didn’t want to drag myself through the rest of my life because that’s just what most Americans do. I wanted vibrant health. I wanted whatever the 80/10/10ers were on. I did not see these success stories – or depth of healing – with any other dietary approach.
So, in order to increase my chance of succeeding on this seemingly rigorous path I hired a health coach (Yulia Tarbouth), who has been eating the 80/10/10 plan for many years. I was surprised when one of the first things she suggested was that I drop all “overt fats” from my diet. “Isn’t it bad enough that I can only eat 10 percent or less of my calories from fat on this diet? I have to now drop all of the fat?”
Yes, my coach wanted me to drop nuts, seeds, avocado and oil (known as “overt fats” in the 80/10/10 world). It sounded horrible, like starvation. But I wanted deep healing. So I stopped eating these forms of fat over time and joined an online support group of people who are using a similar approach to heal all manner of chronic illness. The ones who were getting the best results seemed to be eliminating or reducing the fat from their diet and eating a lot of bananas and other sweet fruits plus greens for a period of time – sometimes weeks and sometimes months. [It’s kind of like a long-term juice fast with chewing.]
So how does dropping the fat heal Lyme disease? There are a couple of theories but one is that chronic Lyme patients actually suffer from extreme toxemia caused by exposure to pathogens, environmental toxins and a lifetime of poor eating habits that lead to fermentation (illness) in the gut.
The natural hygiene approach simply resonated with me at a deep level and that’s why I tried it.
I had tested positive for Lyme and its co-infections in the fall of 2008, when I was suffering from severe neurologic and nerve pain throughout my body as well as incapacitating fatigue and other problems. I lost years of my life to fatigue and toxemia. At its worst, in the early years, I spent hours writhing in pain, praying and waiting for the waves of suffering to pass. At one point the pain was so bad I was literally crawling up and down the hall of our apartment, a baby and a toddler in the other rooms, begging God to stop the horrible pain. The pain like that would last up to eight hours, break for an hour or two and then start up again for another eight hours. My brain was exploding, on fire, electrocuted. My limbs felt like they were burning, like someone had poured battery acid over my central nervous system. And it went on like that for three months straight and was only slightly less bad for another three years after that, lessening very slowly over time until it was lower grade but still horrible and accented with bone-numbing fatigue.
After a few years of this my husband left me and married our nanny and threatened to take my kids away from me if I did not agree to his financial terms in our divorce. I did not have the strength to fight. I became impoverished.
People still seemed to think I was making the whole illness thing up. Nobody in my life could relate or understand why I wasn’t getting “the right medical help.” Before I lost my old life, I spent tens of thousands on doctors and naturopaths and healing centers. The treatments only made me worse. Then, eventually, I was just alone and I had to figure it out. Lyme is not taken as seriously as something like Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s but the suffering can be just as bad or worse and the root cause is the same: toxicity and deficiency.
But somehow I just kept plugging along, dragging along, freelance writing for newspapers and magazines. Writing is the only thing I’d ever done for a living since my years as a staff reporter for The Associated Press and The Oregonian newspaper starting in my early ’20s. I continued to write and finally ended up going back to school and starting a new career in health counseling as I tried to unravel the mystery of why my body was completely broken down halfway through my life. But why could my clients get such great results on a conventional plant-based diet and why was I not getting those same deeply healing results?
For me, nearly 10 years into this thing, a diagnosis of chronic Lyme disease simply means a person is living in a body filled with toxins, toxins emitted by the Lyme bacteria and other pathogens and toxins from the environment – the poisons we breathe in every day, the mercury in our teeth and the chemicals in our food and water. Sometimes I think it should simply be called “Toxic Body Disease.”
So, in order to experience my full health potential, I set out to drop the fat from my diet for 30 days and starve out the critters that were emitting those toxins and let my body release other waste as well. The detox symptoms were tough – fatigue and headaches mostly – and lasted weeks. It took a lot of faith and patience for me to stick with it.
But as the month progressed I started to feel fewer aches and pain, more energy and less brain fog. I had eaten mostly fruits and vegetables and clean cooked foods for a year leading up to this point and I’m sure that helped me get through it more quickly than if I’d just gone cold turkey. Colonics and enemas helped tremendously as well. Now, after 30 days, the detox symptoms (fatigue and headaches) still come and go but the benefits are starting to outweigh the discomfort. This is what I’ve noticed so far:
Full body healing. Flat out: The Lyme symptoms are just simply much better than before I started. On my best days, I no longer have the period of fatigue but more like a sustained energy throughout the day. Some of the neurological and nerve pain and numbness in my limbs spiked at the beginning of the cleanse but has now gone away. I used to have balance problems and an unsteady gate as the result of ongoing nerve damage throughout my body. Now I feel like my balance is the best it’s been in years.
Better moods. Having Lyme disease is depressing in many ways. Losing years of your life to a painful and exhausting disease, losing relationships, your career, time with your kids, and having no sense of control over what is happening is simply depressing. So feeling healthy makes you happy and joyful. It’s like sloughing off an old interior skin of diseased gunk and being born into a new body, a new life and a new consciousness. I am becoming a better version of myself as one of my mentors likes to say.
Peace of mind. Anyone with long-term late-stage neurological Lyme disease knows that the anxiety is a problem. Not any more. Today, I get to choose if I want to have anxiety. If I eat fruit and greens and healthy levels of fat and avoid stimulants and irritants (grains, etc.) I get to have a sense of balance and peace.
Blissed out. Taking it one step further than peace of mind, some days I am just simply blissed out. There is no fear and I feel a deep connection to nature and it’s almost like all the beautiful green leaves and colorful flowers in Portland have come to life and I am seeing them through a high definition lense rather than an old Instamatic. There really is such a thing as a fruit high and it kind of feels like you have just gotten a round of really relaxing acupuncture that puts you into a soft “yin” state combined with taking some sort of happy herb. I think only people who eat a low-fat raw diet knows what I am talking about.
Quit caffeine. Quitting caffeine became relatively easy once my body became cleaner. I had so much energy that I could not stand more than a couple sips of coffee so one day I just stopped. I noticed this really helped reduce my anxiety levels throughout the day and balanced my moods.
Belly fat reduced. I finally have a waist that goes in. I don’t really need to explain why this is nice. It just is.
Down 20 pounds. I don’t weigh myself much and don’t really care about my weight. However, because I was carrying some extra fat and fat is where we store toxins such as heavy metals it’s nice to know that I have passed lots of toxic fat out of my body during this program. Less toxic load equals more energy and better health.
New friends and support. My raw foods support group on Facebook, the Vegan Fruitarians, helped keep me on track. Far more than just another raw foods site, the group aims to help people with chronic ailments detoxify using raw fruits and veggies, and supports people on all different parts of their journey. If you are serious about wanting to heal on raw foods then find a group of like-minded people online and get to know them and lean on them for support. People who have healed more than us offer a wealth of information and resources that doctors just cannot provide.
No more mucus. This actually started before I went 100 percent raw. I have been eating a high raw diet for close to a year. But even on an imperfect raw diet I have experienced significant healing. I have not been sick for close to a year and I have come in contact with tons of colds and flu via my kids. I also experience zero seasonal allergies or sinus problems. Raw food advocates would say that’s because I’m not eating the “mucus producing foods” such as meat, dairy and cooked oily starches.
No more body odor. I don’t wear deodorant because I don’t stink like I did when I was eating cooked foods. According to Klein that’s because I have slowed the toxic fermentation inside my body with my diet and allowed my body to detoxify itself of yeast, bacteria and parasites that contribute to body odor. My breath is also a lot cleaner, according to my partner.
Reduced grocery bills. I find inexpensive sources of fruits for my smoothies by buying in bulk or searching the dollar tables for perfectly ripe and usable fruit. It’s always there. Eating raw – bananas galore, melons, greens, frozen berries (optional avocado, nuts and seeds later on) means my grocery bills can be as low as $30 to $50 a week depending on what I am eating. Bananas are super cheap and they are the bulk of my diet. I also no longer eat in restaurants so that saves me a ton of money.
I have a purpose. As someone who is healing rapidly from a disease that so few seem to overcome, I have something to say to the world. And I want to give this information. I’m grateful that I spent 20 years as a writer for newspapers and magazines before I came to this new life and now I can blend the two worlds. I feel lucky that God gave me these gifts. But I don’t have any illusions. Few people will want to go through the detox and eat a healthy diet for the rest of their lives. Many people who are sick and toxic just prefer to avoid the weeks or months-long discomfort required to cleanse the bugs and waste out of their body and heal at a deep level. But I figure there’s got to be some other fighters out there – people like me who want to get all the way well and live a really good life.
Postscript: I should mention that I do now take supplements that are key for me. They are: B vitamins (I like Megafoods B vitamin complex); B12 methyl form from Jarrow (super cheap), a single DHA pill a day (vegan one by Nordic Naturals) and probiotics. I also LOVE CBD oil. It’s a miracle for me and healing Lyme in terms of bringing down anxiety and boosting moods and helping any detox episodes that come and go! See info down below.
Are you a fighter? Send me a message or leave a comment! I would love to hear your story!
To learn more about our new line of Lava Love Volcanic CBD oils for Lyme and other chronic conditions visit us here!
Elisabeth Dunham is an award-winning former staff reporter for several national and major metropolitan newspapers who made the switch to holistic health counseling after recovering from a long-term serious illness. Unable to tolerate drugs and supplements, she decided to overhaul her diet and lifestyle and was surprised at the positive impacts on her health. While others diagnosed with the same disease never seemed to get better despite round after round of drugs, she began to regain her health and was eventually able to return to work and school. She is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition’s dual program with the State University of New York and the founder of Lava Love, Bend, Oregon, based company that creates and sells all natural bath and beauty products made with volcanic ash from Oregon volcanoes.