One Benefit of Lyme Disease…Dietary Awareness!

I came to Costa Rica thinking that here, I’d find healthier food than what I get back home in the States, since my travels around the world have taught me that food tends to be fresher and more natural abroad. I thought the same would be true of Costa Rica.

It is to some extent. You can pick fruit right off the trees here; I’ve got a noni, a couple of grapefruit and ten or twelve orange and papaya trees in my backyard, but beyond the fruit, the town I’m staying in lacks other good healthy staples, especially whole grains, nuts and organic meat and dairy.

The local supermarket sells white bread and rice only. No whole grains, no brown rice, no nothing. The only nuts for sale are peanuts, which are tainted with propylene glycol in order to preserve them. And while meat tends to be fresher than back home, the cows and chicks get antibiotics here, too. Surprisingly, they do sell organic coffee. (Praise God for the small things!).
Soft drinks and cow’s milk are the only beverages sold. Forget goat dairy or juice (although the locals do make juice from their backyard fruits!).

Before I came to this town, I had stuffed my suitcase full with brown rice and almonds, anticipating that I wouldn’t find these foods here. So I’m doing okay and eating relatively well. But as I look at the locals–young kids with obesity, my five year-old neighbor boy with ADD and his ten year-old sister who gets migraines–I see the result of the town’s dearth of wholesome foods.

It doesn’t get any better anywhere else around the country. In a few towns and in the capital of San Jose, some organic and whole grain food is sold, but on the whole, the people of Costa Rica have incorporated lots of junk into their daily diet, just as people from North America. The up-and-coming implementation of CAFTA, the Central American Free Trade Agreement, will make it even easier for fast food and synthetic garbage to make its way into the food supply.

I doubt Costa Rica is an isolated example of what’s happening to this world. Everywhere, fast food, sugar, hormones, antibiotics and harmful chemicals are making their way into people’s diets. While this saddens me, I am also grateful for being able to distinguish a healthy food from one that isn’t, for my sake and others’, and for understanding the ramifications of putting the wrong things into my body. If it hadn’t been for Lyme disease, I wouldn’t have realized how much trouble we are really in. I wouldn’t have taken the time to research and discover that my poor diet was part of the reason for my illness, and that if I hoped to recover from Lyme, I would have to change my habits. I am also grateful for this knowledge because it means I can educate others about the dangers of eating foods that really should not be called food, which is a huge blessing for me.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has had to get sick to realize how a poor diet can affect a person’s health. If you’ve begrudgingly changed your diet due to Lyme disease, be thankful. You’ll probably live longer than your so-called “healthy” neighbor who regularly ingests ketchup and potato chips, and you now have the great gift of dietary wisdom to offer others.

When I suggested to my neighbors that their poor diet was causing, or exacerbating their children’s migraines and ADD, they agreed that it would be good to find a way to stop using artificial products. But then the mother said to me, “Connie, people wouldn’t buy brown rice, even if it was sold here.”

Most people are led by their palates. This is tragic, because what they are essentially saying is that it’s better to eat something that pleases their taste buds for five minutes, than to ingest foods that give them more energy, and over the long haul, will keep them stronger, healthier and happier.

Perhaps this isn’t something many people can appreciate until they lose their health. Hence another benefit of Lyme disease. Truly, for some of us, diet is a serious quality of life issue. We can’t afford to eat junk on a daily basis, or our symptoms will morph into mega-monsters.

When you are fed up with having to forego treats and foods that you adore, remember that your discipline is paying off. Yes, I’m sure you still feel miserable–if you didn’t, you probably wouldn’t be reading this blog. But certainly you are much better off symptom-wise than if you had been eating Wonder bread and Twinkies every day. And just think of how you can help others who don’t realize that their so-called healthy fat-free strawberry yogurt is loaded with chemicals that are working diligently to kill them. Yes, educate them! This is one of the gifts that Lyme disease has given you. To save not only your life, but to help save the lives of others, by teaching them to make good dietary decisions.