Borrelia, one of the principal causative pathogenic agents of Lyme disease, has an affinity for connective tissue, and both the organisms and inflammatory chemicals created by the immune system to fight Lyme can damage this tissue. The joints, ligaments, muscle, brain, eyes, skin and heart, are all made up of large amounts of collagen, a major component of connective tissue, and as such are among the most widely affected by Borrelia.
The body makes four types of collagen, and each type is found in specific areas or organs of the body as follows:
Type I Bones, ligaments, tendons and skin
Type II Cartilages and eyes
Type III Liver, lungs and arteries
Type IV Kidneys and some other internal organs
Type V Surface of the cells, hair and placenta
As you can see, the body’s connective tissue network is immense. Therefore, repairing and restoring damaged connective tissue by replenishing the body with collagen and other building blocks of connective tissue, can be important for achieving a full recovery from Lyme. Some ways to do this include through specific supplements, as well as through food.
First, fresh bone broth made from pasture-raised chickens, 100% grass-fed cows and wild fish may be the most effective and least expensive way to repair connective tissue. Bone broth provides all the necessary constituents for rebuilding certain types of connective tissue, and also helps to heal and seal a leaky gut, which is found nearly universally in everyone nowadays.
Making bone broth is easy. Simply add some bones from grass-fed cows, pasture-raised chicken, or wild fish to a large pot of water, or to a slow cooker, and simmer for anywhere from 12-48 hours. If you have histamine issues, you may want to use an Instant Pot, which creates bone broth faster than a slow cooker and creates less histamine in the process. Many stores now sell pre-made bone broth, and while this is a more expensive way to get it, if you don’t have time or energy to cook, it’s a great option. US Wellness Meats has some great bone broths.
To flavor the bone broth, add some celery, carrots, garlic and onions to the mix, along with your favorite spices and herbs. Bone broth is also fantastic for rehabilitating the adrenal glands, which are often taxed by Lyme disease, and is highly recommended by adrenal fatigue experts such as Michael Lam, MD.
Consuming gelatin from reputable companies such as Great Lakes is another great way to get collagen for connective tissue rebuilding. I like Great Lakes’ Collagen Hydrolysate product, which comes from grass-fed cows. Gelatin is relatively tasteless so mixing it into a green drink or smoothie is a great way to consume it.
Bone broth powders are a nice secondary way to get enough connective tissue precursors into your diet. I like Dr. Josh Axe’s bone broth powders, which you can mix with coconut oil and green veggies to make a great, nutritious breakfast smoothie. NeoCell and BioCell are two other collagen products that may be helpful for some.
Master herbalist Stephen Harrod Buhner, in his book, Healing Lyme, shares that silicon is a crucial component of collagen, and is also used to repair myelin nerve sheaths, which are damaged by Lyme disease in the central nervous system. He notes that low levels of silicon have been found in people with heart disease, since it is very active in the heart’s collagenous tissues. Because Lyme also affects the heart, taking silicon may help to protect it as well as the CNS against damage from Borrelia and the immune system. A typical dose is about 6-20 drops daily.
In addition, Stephen advocates taking glucosamine, which may have the most scientific evidence of any supplement for supporting collagen production and joint function. A therapeutic dose of glucosamine might be 500-750 mg, twice daily.
Stephen mentions additional connective tissue-healing supplements in Healing Lyme, just a few of which I share here. Another, pregnenolone, is a hormone that not only helps to mitigate symptoms of a variety of connective tissue disorders, especially pain related to arthritis, but also strengthens the adrenal glands and is a precursor for many other important disease-healing hormones.
Other supplements that may be helpful for supporting healthy collagen production include the amino acids lysine and proline, since collagen contains high amounts of both amino acids. In addition, the body uses Vitamin C to transform lysine and proline into hydroxylysine and hydroxyproline, the forms of the amino acids used by the body to rebuild collagen. Without Vitamin C, collagen cannot form fibers properly and bones, cartilage and skin don’t heal effectively. Consequently, supplementing with Vitamin C may also be important for some, if not most people with Lyme disease.
In addition to these things, the body uses a variety of nutrients found in food to rebuild collagen. For instance, William Rawls, MD, in his book Unlocking Lyme encourages a diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables, sardines, eggs, celery and olives to help protect and support healthy collagen production in the body.
Not all collagen supplements are created equal, and what your body needs is likely to differ from what someone else with Lyme disease needs. Personally, I like to get as much nutrition as I can through food, because I believe that the body absorbs and utilizes nutrients better through food than through supplements. That said, food may not provide enough of the necessary constituents to rebuild connective tissue, and you may find that your recovery progresses faster if you also add a glucosamine/hyaluronic acid or other supplement recommended by your doctor to your regimen.
Further Reading and References
Buhner, S. 2005. Healing Lyme. Raven Press: Randolph, VT. Pp. 138-142
Rawls, B. 2017. Unlocking Lyme. First Do No Harm Publishing. Pp. 211-213
Connie Strasheim is the author or co-author of 11 wellness books, including the recently released New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Real Healing Strategies that Work. (October, 2016) and Beyond a Glass of Milk and a Hot Bath: Advanced Sleep Solutions for People with Chronic Insomnia. (March, 2017). She is also a medical copywriter and an editor at ProHealth.com, as well as Editor of the Alternative Cancer Research Institute (ACRI). Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine, and she collaborates with some of the world's best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease and insomnia, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. To learn more about her work, see: www.ConnieStrasheim.org.