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Learn about the top six dietary supplements that can enhance your medical treatment for Lyme disease and have the potential to accelerate your recovery.

There’s no question that antibiotics and herbal protocols are crucial for Lyme disease recovery. However, antibiotics and antimicrobial herbs alone are often insufficient for inducing a complete recovery from Lyme disease. High-quality nutritional supplements can complement your antibiotic and herbal Lyme disease treatments, enhancing your recovery process. 

How Can Supplements Help with Your Lyme Recovery?

Antibiotics and herbal protocols can have a powerful impact on the trajectory of Lyme disease. These interventions are vital for killing harmful Lyme bacteria and eradicating them from your body. However, these medicines do not typically address other aspects of your physiology that must be optimized for a successful long-term recovery, including:

  • Chronic inflammation: Lyme and co-infections trigger an inflammatory response that can impact numerous body parts, from the brain to the gut to the joints. (1, 2, 3) While some of the herbal protocols for Lyme contain herbs with anti-inflammatory properties, many Lyme patients benefit from additional anti-inflammatory support.
  • Nutrient deficiencies: Lyme disease stresses the body and can deplete nutrients such as vitamin D, magnesium, and B vitamins. The only ways to replenish these depleted nutrients are through dietary and supplement strategies. For more information on optimizing your nutritional status for Lyme recovery, check out my 3-part blog series on this topic: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.
  • Gut imbalances: Lyme infection itself, not to mention antibiotic treatment, can promote gut imbalances such as dysbiosis and yeast overgrowth. Many Lyme patients benefit from gut support from probiotics, which help crowd out harmful yeasts in the gut and restore a healthy gut microbiota, and stomach acid and digestive enzyme support, which assist with food breakdown.
  • Detoxification: Killing off Lyme bacteria creates waste that must be eliminated from the body for successful healing. The body's detoxification pathways can quickly become overburdened by the toxic debris created when antibiotics and antimicrobial herbs kill off Lyme disease. Supplements that support the body's internal detoxification pathways can alleviate symptoms caused by bacterial "die-off."

Next, let’s talk about the six supplements that can help you reduce inflammation, replenish depleted nutrients, correct gut imbalances, and detoxify effectively, accelerating your Lyme recovery process.

The Top Six Supplements for Lyme Disease

The following list of supplements for Lyme disease is not exhaustive; many more nutritional supplements can be helpful during the Lyme recovery process, depending on your unique health challenges. However, this list of six foundational supplements provides a solid place for most Lyme patients to start when it comes to selecting helpful supplements.

Vitamin D

Research indicates that approximately 42 percent of U.S. adults are deficient in vitamin D. (4) This is a BIG deal because vitamin D is vital for healthy immune system function and inflammation regulation (5, 6), both of which are, in turn, necessary for Lyme disease recovery. Interestingly, research shows that Borrelia burgdorferi reduces vitamin D receptor expression on immune cells. (7) Your body's requirement for vitamin D may thus increase if you have Lyme disease.

Vitamin D deficiency is most common in adults older than 65, those with minimal sun exposure, and those on long-term prescription medications or with poor dietary habits. Gastrointestinal issues that impair fat absorption can also contribute to vitamin D deficiency because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.

While daily sun exposure is the best way to increase your levels of vitamin D, the reality is that most of us don’t spend enough time outdoors to make sufficient vitamin D through our skin. If your vitamin D levels are suboptimal, supplementing with vitamin D can thus have a powerful positive impact on your recovery process. It is best practice to supplement with vitamin D at a dosage that allows you to maintain a serum vitamin D level between 40-60 ng/mL. Your optimal vitamin D dosage will depend on your current serum level of vitamin D and how far away you are from the 40-60 ng/mL target. I recommend partnering with a healthcare provider who can measure your vitamin D level and determine your optimal supplemental dosage of this vitamin.

Also, it is crucial to balance your intake of vitamin D with vitamin K2, another fat-soluble vitamin that works with vitamin D to regulate calcium metabolism. The best vitamin D supplements pair vitamin D3 with vitamin K2 in an all-in-one formula.

Magnesium

Magnesium is essential for human health, yet research indicates that up to 50 percent of the U.S. population is deficient! In addition, magnesium deficiency and Lyme disease can go hand in hand because magnesium is depleted by chronic stress, which you’ve likely experienced if you have chronic Lyme disease!

Magnesium deficiency can aggravate common Lyme disease symptoms, such as fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, lowered stress tolerance, and muscle weakness. Interestingly, an optimal magnesium intake is also crucial for helping your body properly use vitamin D. (8) For people with Lyme disease, increasing magnesium intake can significantly improve energy, mood, sleep, and possibly immune function.

While magnesium is available in certain foods, such as dark leafy greens and avocado, food alone is often insufficient for raising bodily magnesium levels because the amount of magnesium in our food has declined over the years due to industrial agricultural practices. This is where magnesium supplementation can be a lifesaver!

The best forms of supplemental magnesium are magnesium glycinate, magnesium malate, and magnesium threonate. Magnesium threonate helps brain function, including focus and attention, because it can cross the blood-brain barrier. Magnesium glycinate and malate have systemic effects on the body and can help improve your energy level, insomnia, anxiety, and muscle cramps.

NAC

N-acetylcysteine (NAC) is a supplement derived from the amino acid L-cysteine, a precursor to glutathione. Glutathione is one of the most critical antioxidant molecules in the body and is essential for helping your immune system fight Borrelia burgdorferi. (9) Glutathione also plays a vital role in detoxification. (10) Supplemental NAC boosts glutathione levels and may thus help the immune system in Lyme disease and alleviate die-off reactions triggered by Lyme antibiotic treatment by facilitating detoxification.

Probiotics

Antibiotic treatment for Lyme disease can wipe out beneficial bacteria, causing uncomfortable gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, and bloating. In addition, by altering the gut microbiota, antibiotics can promote leaky gut and food sensitivities. While pharmaceutical antibiotics are sometimes necessary for Lyme treatment, there are measures you can take to protect your gut microbiota, including taking probiotics during treatment.

Probiotics are live microorganisms that confer benefits when consumed and generally improve the gut microbiota, the community of microorganisms that live in your gut. Numerous probiotic supplements are available on the market, with widely varying quality. I recommend selecting a probiotic that provides at least 10 billion CFU (colony-forming units) of probiotics from the Lactobacillus and Bifidobacteria families, as these are the most well-studied types of probiotics. While on antibiotics, you should also consider taking Saccharomyces boulardii, a probiotic yeast that inhibits the overgrowth of Candida, a yeast that commonly overgrows during antibiotic treatment, causing symptoms such as oral thrush and yeast infections in women. (11)

Fish Oil

Omega-3 fatty acids are a type of “essential fatty acid,” meaning they cannot be synthesized by the body in adequate amounts and must therefore be consumed through food. Two omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), have powerful anti-inflammatory effects (12) inside the body and may alleviate inflammation in the eyes, joints, gut, and brain triggered by Lyme disease.

The primary source of EPA and DHA in the diet is seafood. I strongly encourage people with Lyme disease to eat wild-caught seafood several times weekly. However, even if you are eating seafood a few times a week, your body may benefit from additional omega-3 fatty acids due to the significant inflammatory burden posed by Lyme. This is where fish oil can be quite helpful! Fish oil provides a concentrated source of EPA and DHA and has been found to improve mood, joint function, and eye health. (13, 14, 15) Many individuals with Lyme disease benefit from supplementing with fish oil. Be sure to choose fish oil sourced from wild-caught fish that is thoroughly screened for contaminants such as mercury and PCBs.

Sulforaphane

Sulforaphane is a phytochemical that our bodies can make when we eat cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, and kale. Sulforaphane has anti-inflammatory effects on the brain (16) and may thus alleviate brain inflammation caused by Lyme disease. In my nutrition practice, I've found supplemental sulforaphane extremely helpful for clearing brain fog, a common manifestation of brain inflammation. It also induces the expression of genes and proteins involved in detoxification. (17) However, the amount of sulforaphane our bodies can make from cruciferous vegetables is highly variable, making sulforaphane supplementation a wise choice. Look for a product containing stabilized sulforaphane, which is more likely to provide clinically significant amounts of sulforaphane than products containing only broccoli extract.

Parting Thoughts

High-quality nutritional supplements can profoundly impact your Lyme disease treatment process by reducing inflammation, replenishing depleted nutrients, supporting your gut health, and enhancing detoxification. One final thought on nutritional supplements: I recommend purchasing supplements from trusted brands, such as Pure Encapsulations and Thorne Research, to ensure you get what you're paying for. I have no affiliation with either of these companies, but I know they create high-quality, effective supplements that guarantee you're getting what you paid for! Be careful about ordering supplements from Amazon, as some may be adulterated with fillers and contaminants, including pharmaceutical drugs. (18) When you purchase high-quality supplements from reputable companies, you are making an investment in your health that will provide a high return over time!

 

The above material is provided for information purposes only. The material (a) is not nor should be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, nor (b) does it necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of Global Lyme Alliance, Inc. or any of its directors, officers, advisors or volunteers. Advice on the testing, treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history. 

 

GLA Contributor

Lindsay Christensen

GLA Contributor

Opinions Expressed by contributors are their own. Lindsay Christensen, MS, CNS, LDN, CKNS is a Clinical Nutritionist at Ascent to Health and ADAPT Certified Functional Health Coach. If you have Lyme disease and need one-on-one nutrition support, consider working with me in my clinical nutrition practice, Ascent to Health. In my practice, I help clients with Lyme disease restore their energy, mental clarity, and gut health so that they can feel their best and be fully engaged in their lives. In addition, I help my clients uncover the factors standing in the way of a full recovery and optimize their health from the ground up, using science-based functional nutrition and lifestyle strategies.

Email: lindsay@ascent2health.com

Website: https://www.ascent2health.com/