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Story - Food

May 17, 2017 9:34 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Cookbook Designed To Mitigate Symptoms Of Chronic Lyme Disease

May 17, 2017 9:42 AM

Laura Piazza panicked. She couldn’t see straight, or walk in a straight line. Her fever climbed steadily, reaching 104 degrees Fahrenheit before she got to the emergency room.

She pleaded with the doctors. “Please,” she recalled insisting. “I think I have Lyme. I was bitten by a tick.”

That was six weeks earlier.

Her primary physician had tested both her and the tick for Lyme disease, but the results came back negative—despite her persistent symptoms, including fatigue, low-grade fevers, swollen glands and body aches.

She received the same feedback from the emergency room staff. If she didn’t have the telltale bullseye, she didn’t have Lyme, they said.

How wrong they were, and how far medicine has come since 1999, she said during a recent telephone interview. Not only did she have Lyme—which they eventually diagnosed properly, after she broke out into a rash while lying on the hospital bed—but it would develop into something much worse, a chronic condition she still lives with today, as do between 10 and 20 percent of approximately 300,000 people diagnosed with Lyme disease annually.

“The infection was able to spread to the point where the antibiotics they gave me weren’t sufficient,” she said. “From that point on, things weren’t right. I had fevers, I was constantly tired, I was 24 years old and had colitis. It wasn’t until 10 years later that my sister, who’s a doctor, asked me random questions after learning about chronic Lyme disease, which was controversial. She told me to find a Lyme-literate doctor.

“I found out I had two other tick-borne illnesses, as well. Ten years had gone by and I had no idea,” she continued. “That started my journey, of my eyes opening to this other story of Lyme disease that you just don’t hear about unless you’re sick, unfortunately.”

Ms. Piazza devoured everything she could read on the topic, eventually coming across “The Lyme Disease Solution” by Dr. Kenneth B. Singleton, himself a former Lyme patient. In it, he outlined realistic ways to help treat Lyme symptoms, including changes in diet.

Determined to make a change, she sent the list of recommended ingredients to the one person she knew could help: her mother and home economics consultant, Gail Piazza.

Over the years, she had taught Dustin Hoffman how to separate eggs on the set of “John and Mary.” She was a food stylist for Emeril Lagasse’s cookware line. She developed recipes and tested products for Farberware, All-Clad and Williams-Sonoma. And, now, her newest client was her own daughter.

“I decided, ‘Well, this doesn’t look so hard.’ I’ve been developing recipes for 30 years,” Gail Piazza said. “I never developed recipes for someone who had an illness or was sick, but what difference does it make? Everyone wants the same thing: food that tastes good.”

In an unexpected partnership with Dr. Singleton, the mother-daughter team—longtime Hampton Bays summer residents—published their experiment as “Recipes for Repair.” They recently released the second edition of the cookbook, just in time for Lyme Disease Awareness Month.

“This is not a diet, it’s a way of life,” Gail Piazza said. “There’s a learning curve here, so be prepared. That’s my motto for the cookbook, for everything. If you’re prepared, it won’t be overwhelming.”

The first of four phases is the most intense, with less than 100 items to choose from to make each meal. It consists of proteins, vegetables, fruits and herbs, with no members from the nightshade family and ingredients that are known to cause inflammation, Ms. Piazza explained. Slowly, each phase reintroduces new ingredients, allowing participants to see what makes them feel healthy.

The first 10,000 copies sold out, prompting the expanded second edition, which includes 52 new recipes and updates from Dr. Singleton. Of the 182 recipes, 155 are vegetarian, 136 are egg-free, 111 are Paleo-compliant and every single recipe is gluten free. This includes favorites such as Chicken Fajitas, Meatloaf, Coconut Chicken Tenders, Homemade Pasta, Chocolate Banana Ice Cream and, Laura Piazza’s favorite, Sloppy Joes.

“My mom is such a caring person. She was able to take her talents and try to nurse me back to health,” Laura Piazza said, noting her stomach pains, indigestion, heartburn and throat congestion have lessened since she started the diet. “I’m not back to normal. I definitely feel better than I did in the past, but the fatigue is still a pretty big problem for me. It kind of tricks me. Sometimes I’m feeling better to the point when I’m not fatigued, and then I push myself too hard and can barely get out of bed in the morning.”

She sighed, and continued. “It’s just tricky. You push yourself and feel like you’re not sick and then you suffer the consequences. It’s rare you hear somebody say they’re cured. Often they say they’re better. I definitely say that I’m better, but I’m not all the way there yet.”

For more information about “Recipes for Repair,” visit

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