Proper Nutrition for Lyme Disease Patients
Iwona Leger is a health coach and a Registered Nurse. She is passionate about helping her clients heal their bodies, eliminate or limit symptoms of illnesses and prevent diseases through nutrition and lifestyle modifications. She is a wife and a mother to two wonderful teenagers. Iwona works privately with clients, and also runs corporate wellness programs. She can be reached via email at
or her website, www.loveandpeashealth.com.
Transcript of Episode 5: The Power of Nutrition
Announcer: Welcome to Living with Lyme, the podcast where we educate, advocate and collaborate about Lyme disease, hear from experts as they share reliable information about how to live with Lyme disease, and now, here’s your host, nurse practitioner, Cindy Kennedy.
Cindy Kennedy: Hello. Welcome to Living with Lyme. This is your host, Cindy Kennedy, family nurse practitioner. Today, we’re talking with Iwona Leger. She is a wonderful health coach and registered nurse. Hi, Iwona. How are you?
Iwona Leger: I’m great. I’m great, Cindy. How are you?
Cindy Kennedy: I’m doing okay today. Thank you for being with us and I know you have quite a way with nutrition and you’ve helped countless numbers of people. Can you give me a little bit of background on how you became very infatuated with nutrition?
Iwona Leger: Yeah. Let me just take a few minutes as to not steal the time away from our podcast. I am a registered nurse by training. I have done nursing for 10 years but struggle with some health issues that my family doctor could not help me with. I started figuring out a way to heal myself and I kind of stumble onto nutrition as a default because nothing else seemed to work. When I start changing my own diet, I realized that there’s a lot of power in nutrition and eliminating certain foods from my diet and also adding some other foods to my diet-
Cindy Kennedy: Excellent.
Iwona Leger: … that I did not learn in nursing school and definitely did not practice as a nurse. That’s my little personal story. Then, the more I was learning about nutrition, the more I realized that I wasn’t necessarily able to use that knowledge with my patients because it’s not necessarily in the scope of practice for nurses. I ended up a couple years into my journey into nutrition, I ended up stepping back from nursing and became a health coach and then, threw myself into a lot more studying and learning and conferences and seminars and finding ways to help people heal their bodies or improve the symptoms or eliminate symptoms or prevent diseases through nutrition and healthy lifestyle.
Cindy Kennedy: I guess you’re only given one body. Isn’t that the case?
Iwona Leger: That’s exactly it. I think of my physical body as my temple and if I don’t take care of it right now, it’s going to crumble. Once it starts crumbling, it’s very hard to keep it together and rebuild it.
Cindy Kennedy: Right. I do want to let everyone know out there that Iwona was very helpful for me at one of the worst times in my life to help me rev my immune system so that I could help my body fight Lyme disease, so again, I thank you so much for that.
Iwona Leger: Yeah. That’s my pleasure and that’s actually … Let’s give some credit to your husband because I was doing corporate wellness program at the company where he works and he heard me speak about different topics and then something, one day, caught his ears. “Oh, this could help my wife.” He came and approached me and said, “Do you think you could help my wife? She has Lyme disease.”
Cindy Kennedy: Yeah. Joe’s-
Iwona Leger: Then, we connected and then, yeah, I’m glad that you were able to get whatever information I had available for you and take that and use it.
Cindy Kennedy: Thank you. Yeah. Joe really became very good about learning and helping. I think that is a very critical aspect when you’re dealing with either yourself or your loved one with Lyme. It takes more than just yourself. You have to get people in the family and friends all part of helping you heal. That being said, in terms of your diet for fighting infections like Lyme, what kind of information would you give someone?
Iwona Leger: Well, the very general information that I give most of my clients, and that’s true for Lyme and also a lot of other infections and also preventative, the best kind of diet that anybody could have is the kind of diet that supports the immune system.
Cindy Kennedy: Exactly.
Iwona Leger: There is a lot of illnesses and diseases that start in the gut and start with the weakened immune system. If we are consuming foods and medications and drugs that are lowering the immune system and causing gut issues which in turn, changes the immune system and the immune system is not able to function properly, a whole gamut of diseases could happen after that.
Cindy Kennedy: Exactly. Now, when we talk about gut health in general, can you tell the audience what is entailed in the gut? What part of your body is your gut?
Iwona Leger: Well, okay. Digestive system.
Cindy Kennedy: Exactly.
Iwona Leger: Let’s talk about the digestive system for a second and then we have … Basically, anything that we put in our mouth, anything that goes through our mouth and gets digested in the stomach has to then travel through a small intestine and all the nutrients and some other things that we necessarily don’t want get absorbed, and then, everything travels through the large intestine and bowel and then go to elimination. The key with the immune system and the gut health, and a lot of people say, “Oh, it’s a good bacteria and a bad bacteria and you have gut issues,” a lot of it happens in the small intestine.
Here’s what I’ve learned after I came across nutrition and did not really understand from nursing school and as a nurse. What I finally understood is that the small intestine, the lining of the small intestine, it’s very, very thin, very fragile lining with one cell deep lining and the cells are stuck very close together and they are not supposed to allow through anything that does not belong past that lining. It’s basically like a bodyguard. Let’s say bodyguards. When that lining gets damaged, things that should not be getting through that lining into the blood sometimes get through and that would include some undigested food, some undigested protein, some other bacteria, some other pathogens and they could get through that lining. That’s called leaky gut syndrome.
Cindy Kennedy: Okay. You’re supposed to have these lined up really close and they’re like your soldiers. They protect you.
Iwona Leger: Exactly. They basically bounce off anything that should not be permeating through that wall and-
Cindy Kennedy: Sure.
Iwona Leger: Go ahead.
Cindy Kennedy: I’m thinking visual. I’m thinking cracks or openings that things pass through that should be held on.
Iwona Leger: That’s exactly it. When we have some kind of, let’s say, undigested protein particles that now get through that opening and into the blood stream, very often, the immune system will mount up a response to that protein, piece of the protein, that undigested protein as it was an invader and it will mount up a response and produce antigens to that. As much as it is discussed in the conventional medicine, as much as it should be, there’s a lot of diseases that are linked to exactly that problem. A lot of autoimmune disorders are linked to that, of the body mounting up the autoimmune response, and immune response to that particle and now, we have autoimmune reaction where the body is attacking some other tissues in the body, immune system. Preventing the leaky gut syndrome and healing the leaky gut if that already happened is very, very important and it’s unfortunately very misunderstood still.
Cindy Kennedy: I see. A lot of people, in their initial treatment for Lyme disease, are treated with antibiotics. How does that impact a leaky gut?
Iwona Leger: Well, there will be a couple of things. One, the antibiotics will definitely damage the lining and two, the second part that antibiotics will do, the antibiotics will destroy the good bacteria that we have in the intestines because the idea of antibiotic is to kill the bacteria, to kill the Lyme pathogens or some other core infections that come with Lyme. When a patient is taking antibiotics for extended period of time, they are destroying those bacteria they are supposed to but they’re also destroying everything else.
Cindy Kennedy: The good stuff as well.
Iwona Leger: When we kill the good bacteria in a stomach, some other … Yeast and funguses and some other things could start growing and completely taking over our digestive system. We can’t digest the food properly. The immune system is not working properly when we damaged that lining and when we kill the good bacteria.
Cindy Kennedy: What do we eat to help prevent that?
Iwona Leger: To help prevent that, for anybody … Let’s exclude Lyme patients right now and the antibiotics right now. Let’s just talk about everybody. What we should be eating is whole unprocessed, minimally processed foods. Eat as little sugar as possible. Eliminate alcohol if possible. Eliminate alcohol a lot because all of that, we’re damaging the lining.
Cindy Kennedy: Now, that not fine.
Iwona Leger: Well, I’m saying this as I’m just coming back from a three-day booze cruise.
Cindy Kennedy: No. I see. Detoxing, I guess, huh?
Iwona Leger: Actually, yeah. I am actually detoxing but the idea of things that don’t belong in our body like visually, the way I think of it is anything that I could imagine scratching and kind of damaging like a silky lining, all the scarf, like sugar and salt and some greasy things that were just … they will be damaging that lining. I think of anything like an apple, a banana, beans and unprocessed meat and things that are not from the package, things that are not from the box, things that are not prepared by someone else and we just heat it up, things that we could ourself put together.
One of the easiest ways for me at least to get good amount of green, leafy vegetables which are by far the most nutritious is I make green smoothies. I put green, leafy vegetables in a blender. I put some fruit. I put a banana, frozen mango and add water and blend it. That’s one of the best things for me. That’s just in general for gut health and to prevent the leaky gut. When you already have taken antibiotics and you wipe all your good flora and you don’t have the good bacteria anymore, you have to replenish the good bacteria. You have to-
Cindy Kennedy: Okay. How do we do that?
Iwona Leger: There’s couple ways. One way is taking probiotics which they could be bought in a health food store. The best quality probiotics would usually be in a fridge. The good probiotics don’t actually withstand higher temperature so if you have probiotics on like Walmart shelf or Kmart on a regular shelf, not in a fridge, chances are it’s probably not very viable and not very active anymore. If you buy it in a fridge, you could buy it in a capsule form or in a liquid form, usually, the health food source have a much higher turnover of these [inaudible 00:12:15] so they would probably be fresher so that’s one way to do that. The other way to do it is to eat foods that are naturally fermented.
Cindy Kennedy: What is that? I’m thinking of pickles myself but-
Iwona Leger: Yeah. Pickles definitely but it has to be the sour pickles, not the ones with the vinegar. Some companies add vinegar, distilled vinegar to the pickles. That is not what we’re looking to do. We are looking to have the bacteria that naturally occurs in vegetables, on vegetables, on the skin like on cabbage, for example, when you make sauerkraut and then on cucumbers when you’re making pickles. You basically don’t want to add anything but water and salt to that. You shred the pickles or you shed the cabbage. Add salt, a little bit of water. Massage the salt into the vegetables. Cover it. Put it in a jar or like some kind of pot. Cover it and let it ferment and it will bubble. It will smell a little bit because it’s fermenting. It’s now the bacteria that was on the cabbage is now using the sugars in that vegetable so food is multiplying.
Cindy Kennedy: That’s safe.
Iwona Leger: By the time these … Go ahead.
Cindy Kennedy: That’s safe, correct?
Iwona Leger: Yes. Pickling and fermented foods are used all over the world all the time. I grew up in Poland and I grew up on sauerkraut. Thank God because I was a very, very sickly child and I was taking antibiotics once a month for pneumonia or bronchitis. If the doctors were not prescribing probiotics with antibiotic at the same time and my mom was not feeding me sauerkraut on top of that, I probably would have a very, very damaged gut lining and probably would be very sick all of my life but I’m fine. I’m fine because my mom was always giving me sauerkraut to cover and make sure that I have that probiotic, the good bacteria replenished and then multiplied again.
Cindy Kennedy: You grew up at a household that was well ahead of its time.
Iwona Leger: Well, yeah. We all think like … I used to think that we were way behind the time but now, I know that we’re not. Now, I know that we were ahead because now … Let me just say one more thing about dairy and yogurt actually. I want to say about yogurt. A lot of people in United States think that yogurt has the good bacteria because it’s fermented. Years ago, when the companies use raw milk to make yogurt, that was the case because you had the bacteria in the milk and the bacteria was eating up the sugar of the milk and fermenting it and then you had yogurt and it will have kefir. I’m not sure how to pronounce that.
Cindy Kennedy: Kefir.
Iwona Leger: Kefir, which was also fermented milk product but what happens now in United States is if you’re buying yogurt in a supermarket, that milk has to be pasteurized first. All of the milk has to be pasteurized before they make cheese, before they make milk, butter or anything like … It has to be pasteurized. Raw milk is not allowed for the big companies. You could only get raw milk from a farmer if you like it.
Cindy Kennedy: Right. Pasteurization is heating, correct?
Iwona Leger: Exactly. Once you heat it up, you are destroying the bacteria completely so now, you have … When they make yogurt from it, it’s usually lots of sugar added and stuff and it has consistency of what yogurt used to be but it doesn’t have a good bacteria. The only … There’s couple companies that claim that they have the good bacteria. I think Activia is one of them, that they have the good bacteria for the gut but that’s basically added powdered probiotic to a yogurt that’s made from pasteurized milk. It’s not the naturally occurring.
Cindy Kennedy: I see.
Iwona Leger: Might as well take the probiotic capsule. If you think that you get in yogurt the good bacteria, you’re probably getting ton of sugar and you’re not really getting the probiotic. You could just get the capsule with probiotic in it and skip all that sugar in the yogurt.
Cindy Kennedy: Right. It’s important to read labels, to really understand. I think people are under the impression that it has to say sugar but there’s other words that mean sugars, correct?
Iwona Leger: Absolutely. There’s 41 different sweeteners that are used in processed foods. Some of them, you could figure that they are sweeteners. There’s honey, there’s dextrose, there’s corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup but some of them are hiding. Some of them, you would not know that that’s a sweetener. Mannitol. Some people might not know that mannitol would be a sweetener. Agave nectar, stevia, some people might not know that that’s a sweetener as well. There’s a lot of different names for basically sugar and sugar-like substances that-
Cindy Kennedy: Right. If somebody wants to use something to sweeten whether it be their tea or whatnot and you’re thinking of something more natural, what would your suggestion be?
Iwona Leger: There are three things that I recommend to my clients and I don’t recommend that as a health food but I say if you have to use something to sweeten your food, those are the three to use. Maple syrup is one of the least processes sweeteners, honey, and then the third one is date sugar.
Cindy Kennedy: Date?
Iwona Leger: Date. Sugar made from date, D-A-T-E. It’s the dried fruit. Sugar made from dates is basically a very finely chopped off dried dates. It’s not processed. It’s not … It doesn’t go through the processing system that the sugarcanes or corn goes through to get that sugar or corn syrup. It’s basically very finely chopped up dates. It will not dissolve. It will not necessarily be great for tea or coffee but it’s good for baking.
Cindy Kennedy: I see. Okay.
Iwona Leger: If you’re baking muffins or cakes, you could use date sugar instead of white sugar. It’s a lot less processed.
Cindy Kennedy: Wonderful. If you could provide us maybe with a couple of your fun recipes that may be great for the listeners to find on the website, that would be fun. This has been just a wonderful talk and I know you’re really big into organic. If I could send people to maybe my website, would you provide us with the list of things that really should be organic and things that are not necessarily need to be organic?
Iwona Leger: Sure. There is a list of, they call it dirty dozen and clean 15.
Cindy Kennedy: Excellent.
Iwona Leger: It’s a list of fruits and vegetables that are recommended to buy organic like every single time you buy them and try to avoid them if you can get them organic.
Cindy Kennedy: I like that.
Iwona Leger: Then, there’s a list of other foods that it kind of don’t matter but to make it very simple, the way I go, the way I remember things that should be organic, that I should be getting organic, if I am peeling the skin of the food that I’m buying and I’m not going to be consuming the skin like banana or avocado or … cucumber, I guess you could peel the skin or not but if I’m buying organic cucumbers, usually I don’t peel the skin but if I can’t buy organic cucumbers, I try to wash them. I try to wash the wax on the cucumbers and then sometimes, I peel it.
Cindy Kennedy: Excellent.
Iwona Leger: The idea is that if you can afford to buy organic, do. If you cannot, don’t let that stop you from eating foods that are really healthy for us. Even if we buy conventionally grown spinach and kale and Brussel sprouts, they are still way better for us because the nutrients in those foods will help us detox the pesticides that are possibly still on the skin.
Cindy Kennedy: I see.
Iwona Leger: Don’t let that stop you from eating the healthy foods.
Cindy Kennedy: Well, and for everyone that’s listening, Young Living who I represent does have a wonderful fruit and vegetable spray that I’ll give you more information on through my essential oil area and my website. Iwona, I have one question for you.
Iwona Leger: Yeah.
Cindy Kennedy: If you were given lemons and you needed to make lemonade, what would be your lemonade in life? What have you learned that is most important to you?
Iwona Leger: To enjoy every moment.
Cindy Kennedy: Got it. All right.
Iwona Leger: To not wait.
Cindy Kennedy: Perfect. All right. You take care, okay?
Iwona Leger: Thank you. Okay, thank you very much.
Cindy Kennedy: You’re welcome. Thank you for listening. This has been Living with Lyme and I’m Cindy Kennedy and I hope you all have a great day. Thanks for listening.
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