At one point in my Lyme treatment, I had supplements all over my apartment–evidence of things tried that often didn’t work for chronic Lyme disease or which my body couldn’t tolerate. For my birthday one year, my husband installed two giant, IKEA knick-knack shelves to store my array of pills. Those shelves, once filled to max capacity, have a slight droop in the middle from the heavy weight they held day after day. The extra bottles, of which there were many, spilled over into the refrigerator, the pantry, countertops, and baskets. I bought everything that anyone suggested might help me feel better.
Over the years, I have pared down my lengthy list of supplements for Lyme disease to the ones that are most helpful and affordable to me, and my shelving units now have some room to spare. Recently, I asked for recommendations from some Lyme support group members about the vitamins and supplements they feel have benefited them the most. Below is a compilation of the things that have been the most useful to most of us during our treatments. Of course, every doctor has specific recommendations that they want each of their patients to follow. However, this list can serve as an excellent discussion tool between you and your physician to ensure you have a variety of tools in your recovery arsenal.
The 10 supplements for Lyme disease every patient has in their protocol:
1) Vitamin C– This water-soluble vitamin plays a critical role in aiding our overtaxed immune system, supporting healthy inflammatory levels, increasing antioxidants, and optimizing adrenal function. Your body doesn’t store vitamin C, so you must obtain it through food or supplements. Although vitamin C dosing varies from patient to patient, our bodies typically require extra amounts of this nutrient to respond appropriately to the added stress of fighting an ongoing battle with infections.
2) Glutathione- Glutathione is known as the body’s master antioxidant, and it helps to support the liver through detoxification. This supplement is often a favorite among Lyme patients for mitigating the effects of bacterial die-off, also known as a Herxheimer reaction (“herx” for short). Glutathione helps the body to remove toxins and may increase energy and decrease brain fog.
3) L-theanine– This supplement is a personal favorite of mine for supporting sleep using natural treatments. Many people with Lyme battle insomnia so this is important. Additionally, other Lyme patients feel it reduces their feelings of anxiousness. L-theanine is an amino acid that forms the inhibitory neurotransmitter called GABA. By crossing the blood-brain barrier, L-theanine has a direct impact on the central nervous system and brings about a greater sense of calm without the next-day hangover feeling of supplements or medications.
4) Probiotics- Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that support healthy yeast levels in the body and help it to combat more harmful bacteria. They are a must-have for anyone undergoing antibiotic or herbal antimicrobial therapies. These valuable bacteria replenish the healthy gut flora that are often destroyed by our medications. Probiotics also aid in our digestion so we can better absorb the restorative nutrients that our bodies so desperately need and contribute to overall gut health.
5) Curcumin- Curcumin is a beneficial, anti-inflammatory compound extracted from the herb turmeric, and it has a long history of use in Ayurvedic medicine. Curcumin supports a healthy inflammatory response by mediating several inflammatory processes in the body. It’s also a great supplement to have on hand if you experience increased pain, and is an extremely popular supplement within the Lyme disease community for minimizing a Herx reaction.
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6) B12- Undoubtedly, many of us with Lyme disease will experience prolonged or intermittent periods of debilitating fatigue. This type of fatigue can be due to several factors such as poor sleep, nutrient deficiencies, toxin overload, and adrenal fatigue— just to name a few. B12, in an absorbable form such as methylcobalamin and hydroxocobalamin, promotes detoxification supports immune function, and may improve energy.
7) D-ribose- D-ribose is a specialized sugar that the body uses to produce energy molecules that fuel muscle cells, including skeletal muscles and the heart. Accordingly, supplementation with D-ribose shows promising results for persistent fatigue, pain and muscle stiffness. D-ribose can lower blood sugar, so some people find that it works best to take it with food.
8) Milk Thistle- Some medications put stress on the liver, and can cause liver enzymes to rise. However, thanks to certain herbs like milk thistle, we have options for supporting and detoxing this vital organ throughout our treatment. Milk thistle provides some reinforcements to the liver to effectively metabolize our prescriptions and remove toxins from our body. A word of caution about using milk thistle: if you are taking Mepron or Malarone, consult with your doctor before trying it, as it can lead to reduced amounts of those medications in the body.
9) Fish Oil- This essential fatty acid has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is extremely nourishing to the nervous system. In addition, it counteracts the dry eyes, mouth, and skin that so many of us develop with Lyme.
10) Melatonin- Since insomnia is an all too common complaint among Lyme patients, a preferred supplement for many people is melatonin–a natural hormone produced by the body in response to darkness. Supplementing with melatonin before bedtime might be an appropriate step toward helping you to fall asleep. Be sure to talk with your doctor about his or her desired dosing recommendations. Use of melatonin varies considerably among healthcare providers.
Though not a comprehensive list, these are just a few of the well-liked, natural remedies many Lyme patients take and have readily available as part of their healing protocol. However, it’s always best to consult with your practitioner for more individualized recommendations.
What are the supplements you need as part of your journey toward recovery? We’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a comment.
This article was first published on ProHealth.com on May 30, 2016 and was updated on June 9, 2019
Jenny Lelwica Buttaccio, OTR/L, is an occupational therapist and certified Pilates instructor whose life was transformed by Lyme disease, chronic fatigue syndrome and interstitial cystitis. She is creator of the DVD, New Dawn Pilates: pilates-inspired exercises adapted for people with pelvic pain. Jenny is a health and wellness advocate and blogger who writes about her journey on The Lyme Road as she continues to pursue her personal healing with the support of her husband and two rescue pups. You can find her on Instagram: @jenny_buttaccio or Twitter: @lymeroad