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Conquering Autoimmune Disorders

Two alternative approaches offer hope to those suffering from chronic pain.

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Fifty million Americans are afflicted with autoimmune disorders—a complex cluster of health problems that includes lupus, fibromyalgia, psoriasis, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and at least 80 others. It’s insulting to have your own immune system turn against you, and then adding to injury, patients must also deal with a medical maze as they fight vague and confusing symptoms. Anxiety, depression, headaches, indigestion—try narrowing those down. Once a diagnosis is made, conventional medicine offers immunosuppressant drugs. Two books out in January 2015 address autoimmune diseases with an entirely different approach, using less invasive strategies to heal the body.

The Autoimmune Solution is by Dr. Amy Myers, an Austin-based physician who specializes in functional medicine and who herself dealt with an autoimmune disorder, Graves’ disease. Her book takes formidable medical concepts and terms—agglutinins, protein sequences, molecular mimicry—and digests them for laypeople into content that is actually readable: quizzes, metaphors, anecdotes, and diagrams. She takes us through four key steps: healing the gut, banishing inflammation-causing foods, removing toxins, and healing infections. And as a “reset,” she provides a detailed, 30-day protocol of eating healing, nutrient-dense foods to boost the immune system. She gets bonus points for including food preparation and planning notes, like “double the recipe and freeze two servings.” Some meal plans assume you have six hours a day to cook; Myers knows better. Reading this book feels like you’ve gotten a personal consultation with Myers at her clinic, and you’ll set it down feeling inspired and empowered. 

If food is the medicine prescribed by Dr. Myers, the mind is the powerful drug recommended by Vidyamala Burch and Danny Penman, authors of You Are Not Your Pain. Burch is the founder of Breathworks, which teaches mindfulness techniques to people living with chronic pain and illness, and Penman is a journalist. Like Myers, these co-authors write from experience and with compassion. They suffered injuries in terrifying accidents, yet used mindfulness to relieve pain and speed their recoveries. 

Their book shows how even very simple mindfulness practices, done 10 to 20 minutes a day, can conquer both the acute concerns of autoimmune disorders, as well as the secondary distresses, like worry and depression. Their 8-week program is easy to follow, and designed to reduce readers’ need for prescription drugs. 

Both books provide hope; taking illnesses that seem like life sentences and demonstrating how to reframe them, reduce them, even rise above them.


Kathryn Drury Wagner

Kathryn Drury Wagner is a writer and editor based in Los Angeles. She is the author of Hawaii’s Strangest, Ickiest, Wildest Book Ever!, a science and natural history “gross out” for young readers.  


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Book ReviewsHealingChronic Pain

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