We’re going to approach this issue by answering the following question submitted by a visitor to the blog. Most of the people I work with in my practice come to me with a similar type of scenario. The diagnoses may be different, but the complex web that becomes a tangled ball of yarn is very common and the most challenging aspect of their healing journey.
“Hello I’m a 27 year old male. I have Lyme and coinfections affecting cns causing extreme neuro excitation glutamate and adrenaline. Add to that sibo and unknown gut infections and zero peristalsis of the gut. Also neurological reactions to foods, but I don’t think it’s actually sensitivities. Everything I do backfires in one way or another. Done hcl, ox bile, phenibut, pc, various anti microbials, prodovite, minerals, etc. Want to treat Lyme without killing myself but no way to calm cns. Been consulting with extremely knowledgeable practitioner, but only getting worse. Where would you begin in a case like this?” ~ Keith
I am sorry for the struggles you are going through. Unfortunately, this is a very common catch 22 that many people get caught in when dealing with these complex types of conditions and there is not an easy or quick solution. Most of the backfiring is usually due to excess sympathetic nervous system activity that may have been present prior to the condition, but got worse over time; or has developed from the presence of the conditions themselves, but then it perpetuates the conditions and prevents one from taking the steps that are necessary to improve. When this occurs, then the best course of action is to get back to the basics and proceed forward very slowly.
Always Start with Diet
The first place one should always start, regardless of the condition or the circumstance, is with their diet. Many improvements can be made with diet alone, and if the proper diet is not in place, one is not likely to see long-term or significant changes with any other treatment strategy that is used. It is absolutely critical to remove foods from the diet that will contribute to excess sympathetic nervous system activity, feed microbes, impair immunity, and harm the gut, like coffee or any other caffeine-based substance, alcohol (including red wine), chocolate (including dark chocolate and raw cacao), grains (both refined and whole), sugar of all kinds, artificial sweeteners, flavorings or additives, legumes, and any high carb food.
Even many foods that people believe are healthy like honey, bone broth, fermented or cultured vegetables, kefir, too much fruit or nuts, and alternative grains can elevate glutamate and histamine levels and encourage sympathetic dominance. The diet should consist primarily of animal protein and fat and be complemented with low-carb vegetables to the degree to which one can handle them. Lots of animal protein is needed to provide the brain with the nutrients that are required to form neurotransmitters that regulate sympathetic nervous system activity and fat is required for proper transmission of those neurotransmitters.
Eggs, ghee, butter, and heavy cream are acceptable as well if tolerated. Nuts, seeds, and fruit should be minimized. High histamine and high glutamate foods need to be moderated as well. You must exercise caution with seafood, as most of it is contaminated with toxins that will increase sympathetic nervous system activity. Wild Alaskan Salmon is the cleanest source, but it may still be high in histamine, depending on how it was processed.
Ensuring that you have sufficient levels of cholesterol in your diet is vital as well, as cholesterol is needed for the production of all your steroid hormones that will help manage the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. It is also essential in the formation and function of neurons and production of bile salts that assist with absorption of fat and fat soluble vitamins. Furthermore, it is cholesterol that interacts with the sun to create vitamin D, one of the most important nutrients for the immune system and brain function.
Focus on Reducing Sympathetic Dominance
When we’re dealing with multiple health conditions that create this type of chaos, a significant amount of time must be spent on reducing sympathetic nervous system activity. Then you work on bringing other treatment options into the picture very slowly. As the sympathetic nervous system calms down, your tolerance for other things will improve, and backfiring will decrease. This is a long-term (sometimes life-long) project, not something that is done for a temporary period of time. One must basically redesign the way they live to support more parasympathetic nervous activity, which is discussed in more detail here.
One of the best ways to achieve this goal is with the daily use of mindfulness-based meditation and a very particular type of deep breathing exercise, which you can learn more about on the following page. Get adequate rest, commune with nature, smile regularly, reduce emotional stress as much as possible, and learn how to exercise in the right way. Exercise that is too intense or long-lasting encourages sympathetic nervous system activity. Minimize exposure to environmental toxins, electronic technology and social media. Make time for solitude, avoid psychotropic medications, focus on the positive, and slow down and smell the roses.
You should definitely consider one of the brain retraining programs, as significant improvements can be made. Additionally, you should also take a look at other factors needed for managing the balance between GABA and glutamate and histamine levels, both of which fuel sympathetic dominance.
Less is More with Supplementation
There are many supplements and herbs that can encourage sympathetic nervous system activity like glutamine, glutamic acid, whey, cysteine, aspartate, protein powder, amino acid formulas, zinc in excess of 40 mg, 5HTP, glutathione, tyrosine, too much calcium, St. John’s Wort, olive leaf, curcumin, and even some types of probiotics (those that increase D-lactate or histamine) to name a few.
However, once the sympathetic nervous system is hypersensitive, anything under the sun can become a problem. Therefore, supplementation is best if it is reduced to little to none for a period of time, then introduce one at a time as the system begins to calm down a bit. The sicker one is, the slower they should go with supplementation. The same is true for herbs and other natural antimicrobials. Killing off too many microbes at one time, especially when the system is in overdrive, perpetuates sympathetic dominance. You should take a look at this page on supplementation for a more in-depth discussion on this topic.
Balance Acceptance with Hope
On one hand, we need to have acceptance for the health conditions we are dealing with, their impact on our lives and where we are in the healing journey; yet on the other hand, we must hold onto hope that things can get better in the future. Pursuing health too aggressively and desperately will perpetuate sympathetic dominance, but giving up will get us nowhere. So there must be a fine balance between the two. Take a look at my pages on finding peace and happiness in the midst of the storm and harnessing the power of hope.
As you can see, unraveling the tangled ball of yarn that may develop when dealing with a complex health condition is not an easy task. It’s important to understand that achieving optimal health does not necessarily mean that one has overcome all their health conditions; it may mean that you are living life as fully as possible and at the highest level of health that can be achieved under the circumstances; while continuing to strive for more improvements.