According to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA), an estimated 50 million people suffer from autoimmune disease in the United States (that’s about 1 in 5 people). The National Institute of Health recognizes a much more conservative number at 23.5 million, but that number is still higher than the estimated amount of those with heart disease (22 million) or cancer (9 million). In other words, if an autoimmune disease (such as Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis, lupus, multiple sclerosis, endometriosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and type 1 diabetes) or an “associated” autoimmune disease (such as fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue) is not affecting you personally, chances are, it’s affecting someone you love right at this moment. Furthermore, autoimmune disease is something that anyone could likely develop in the future.
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In The Autoimmune Solution, Dr. Amy Myers provides a comprehensive look at autoimmune disease and in particular, how food and other toxic elements in our environment affect our immune system and set off inflammatory responses. This inflammation can result in all sorts of symptoms, from frequent headaches and eczema to digestive issues and joint pain, and if not treated properly, can eventually accumulate into what we recognize as autoimmune disease. Meaning, even those who don’t currently carry an autoimmune diagnosis are potentially at risk.
For me, The Autoimmune Solution really hits home. I especially love the fact that Myers provides a unique point of view: she is not only a medical doctor, but also a patient. Diagnosed with her own autoimmune condition (Graves’ disease) while still in medical school, Myers experienced the frustrating web of dismissive (and sometimes, condescending) doctors, harsh medications and (sometimes, ineffective) treatments, all while being told the myth that these were the only ways to treat her condition. I felt like I was reading my own story, having been told that food and nutrition had no significant impact on autoimmune disease, and that conventional medical treatments were my only option. For me, believing this myth led to a dark, downward spiral of debilitating side effects and an illness that grew exponentially worse. Knowing that Myers had been in this position herself makes her perspective all the more powerful. I can’t tell you how many times I wished that some of my doctors had a better understanding of what I was going through — if only they could walk in my shoes, even if for a temporary time, so that they might have at least some idea of the pain and symptoms I was experiencing. Not that I would wish my condition (or any other autoimmune condition) on anyone else, but I do believe that having this experience would make them better doctors. The fact that Myers has this personal experience plus training and experience as a medical doctor, makes her perspective incredibly special.
Although medicine has its time and place, Myers believed that despite what the conventional doctors told her, there had to be a better way. So she began to research it. She discovered the power that diet and lifestyle have on our health, and developed a method in which patients can use food and other lifestyle changes as “medicine” to either heal, reverse or prevent illness in the first place. While she provides plenty of anecdotal success stories, her entire protocol is supported by proven science (so if you’re looking for evidence-based information, Dr. Myers provides it.)
I actually had discovered a healing diet long before reading The Autoimmune Solution, but I admit that I have been getting overly comfortable lately, letting certain foods “slip through the cracks.” The result is some returning inflammation that I am having to deal with right now. So reading this book couldn’t have come at a better time. Although she never really calls it Paleo, her suggestions closely resemble the autoimmune protocol (a modified version of the Paleo diet, specifically directed towards those trying to heal from autoimmune disorders). In addition, Myers explains how other toxins in our environment — everything from our cleaning and personal care products to the indoor air we breathe and the water we drink and bathe in — also affects our immune responses. Although I was already following most of the diet protocol, her suggestions for simple lifestyle changes are a good reminder of all the other things we can be doing additionally. It’s definitely time for me to take another look at some of the products I’m using, and it’s also the push I needed to officially look into a water filtration system for my home (I have been putting this one off for some time now).
The Autoimmune Solution is about as comprehensive as it gets, and although she is not the first one to recognize the powerful effect that an anti-inflammatory diet has on treating illness, Dr. Myer’s book provides a must-read, all-in-one “how-to” guide for anyone suffering from autoimmune symptoms. Dr. Myers not only provides the science and explanations as to how the inflammation develops in the first place, but also practical suggestions for how to reverse it. She supplies us with plenty of mouth-watering recipes and meal plans, along with specific suggestions as to how and where to start making her suggested lifestyle changes. It’s one thing to be told what we should be doing, but it’s altogether another to be given specific resources and tools so we can easily take action.
Whether you are new to dealing with an autoimmune disease, curious about those mysterious symptoms that have been plaguing you, or someone who’s been on this healing path for a while but could use a good reminder (like me), I believe The Autoimmune Solution can help. If you’re skeptical, I get it — I was, too, for the longest time — but I am now living proof that (the right) food is medicine, and the right lifestyle choices can change your life.