When Amy walked in my office for my free initial consult, I wasn’t sure I could help her. She came to me seeking help for a rare autoimmune disease called Behcet’s disease (pronounced Beh SHETS) which is characterized by inflammation in blood vessels throughout the body.
Autoimmune diseases are conditions where the body’s immune system attacks its own tissues. Multiple sclerosis, lupus, type 1 diabetes, hashimoto’s thyroiditis, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and parkinson’s are some of the more well-known autoimmune diseases.
Behcet’s disease is one of about 100 autoimmune diseases that afflict some 24 million Americans. That’s 1 out of every 12 Americans. And they afflict women more than men, 1 out of 9, to be exact. They are the number two cause of chronic illness in America and one of the leading causes of death for women under the age of 65.
Here’s the scary part. The incidence of autoimmune diseases has tripled in the past few decades.
Why? What’s going on?
No one knows for sure but the evidence, like so many of our chronic diseases, points to industrialized living. Rates of autoimmune diseases are significantly higher in industrialized countries. Exposures to thousands of man made pollutants and chemicals in our food and environment are wreaking havoc with our body, in particular, our immune system.
We all carry a toxic burden as a result of our everyday exposure to chemicals in our food, water, air, house hold cleaning products and personal care products like toothpaste, shampoo, soaps, sunscreens, antiperspirants and makeup.
And while I certainly educate people on all these various exposures, the place I really focus as a Nutritional Therapist is diet.
And that’s where I focused with Amy.
When I looked at Amy’s diet in our initial consult, I knew there was major room for improvement. Amy was eating a lot of starchy carbohydrates, refined flours and processed foods. She’d told me she’d been eating this way for decades.
Amy was overweight, lacked energy, had high blood pressure and was also taking medication for polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Barrett’s esophagus and poor sleep and migraines.
I explained to Amy that while I didn’t know if dietary changes would help her autoimmune disease, I expected she would see improvements in her energy as well as slow and steady weight loss. I also expected her other symptoms to improve as well.
Amy was eager to wean herself off her powerful immunosuppressive medications and wanted to learn more about diet and nutrition so she signed up for my three month program.
The results Amy experienced, after decades of suffering, was nothing short of dramatic. So dramatic, it even surprised me. She experienced a major remission in her symptoms from Behcet’s. She lost weight (25 pounds to be exact), her blood pressure normalized, she had much more energy and she greatly reduced her use of medications.
Over the course of the next few blogs, I will detail the work Amy and I did together over the three months. In the process, my hope is that this blog series will offer hope to those suffering with autoimmune diseases.
While I would never claim that nutrition is a cure or will help everyone with autoimmune issues, the fact remains that autoimmune issues are skyrocketing and few people are given any dietary information.
As an example, when I googled “Bechet’s Disease”, the first site that came up was the website for The American Behcet’s Disease Association. It read like a typical health organization website.
There were pages devoted to symptoms, diagnosis and drug treatments (16 to be exact). Pages full of boards of doctors, research and conferences. And of course, pages to donate for more research. While I am not discounting the benefits this website may offer, not a single word on this extensive website was devoted to diet.
Sadly, there are few doctors who understand the power of real food to help their patients with autoimmune issues. And there are fewer health organizations that understand it.
Amy and I worked with the principles of traditional diets. These principles include healthy animal fats from wild or pastured sources, fermented foods, raw milk, properly prepared grains and the use of bone stocks to name a few. Furthermore, these principles exclude factory farmed animal products, refined sugars, refined grains and all manner of processed foods which promote inflammation in the body.
I work with all my clients on these principles.
If you are unfamiliar with these principles, a good place to start would be the website for the Weston A. Price Foundation, www.westonaprice.org. Weston Price was a dentist who studied the diets of traditional cultures in the 1930s and found remarkably better health compared to more industrialized societies.
In the next blog, we’ll hear from Amy herself as she details the work we did together and the changes she experienced.
Craig Fear is the creator of Fearless Eating and the author of three books, The 30-Day Heartburn Solution, Fearless Broths and Soups and The Thai Soup Secret. After years helping clients with digestive issues, Craig decided to pursue writing full-time. He intends to write many more books on broths and soups from around the world! Click here to learn more about Craig.