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There are 100 million Americans who have autoantibodies and symptoms but no specific diagnosis. These people are told by their doctors to wait and see, to come back next year for more tests. They aren’t given any advice about interventions to take in the meantime. Yet science has shown that the development of autoantibodies precedes the development of autoimmune disease by several years. This is called the prodrome period, and it’s the best time to prevent damage. Rather than wait and see, patients with autoantibodies should take action. The prodrome period is the time to get to the root cause of what is causing the body to attack itself–to address the diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors that caused immune cells to become confused and start attacking the body.
Does this sound familiar? Are you one of the 100 million with symptoms and no clear diagnosis? Or perhaps you are one of the 25 million who now has an autoimmune diagnosis. Autoimmunity is a condition where the body’s immune cells are confused and attack healthy and undamaged parts of the body, leading to problems like inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, asthma, or multiple sclerosis, depending on which cells are confused. Most specialists rely on immune suppression to stop these unnecessary attacks.
Is your medical team guiding you to adopt a diet and lifestyle that leads to a calmer, less reactive immune system? Or is your medical team waiting for your disease to progress and then prescribing potent disease-modifying drugs advertised on television and radio to control serious autoimmune conditions? These biologic drugs are often very expensive, costing thousands to tens of thousands of dollars each month. And the drugs often have annoying — and sometimes deadly — side effects. But we take those drugs, because autoimmune diseases are unpredictable, usually progressive, and often lead to early exit from the workforce, difficulty walking, using our hands, and even thinking.
Because I have multiple sclerosis, I follow the development of drugs to treat MS very closely. For years, there was no therapy and patients were at risk of developing profound disability. In 2000, the disease-modifying drugs for MS cost $8,000 to $10,000 per year. Currently the disease modifying drugs are $60,000 to $100,000 per year. The rapid escalation in costs of disease-modifying drugs exceeds the rate of inflation by a factor of 7 or more. The annual cost for MS drugs tops $9 billion dollars per year. In 2011, Americans spent $100 billion on autoimmune drugs.
The top-selling biologic drugs are powerful. They treat autoimmunity by turning off a particular step in the immune pathway. These high cost drugs control symptoms fairly well but only for a short time. In this paper that examined how long symptom reduction lasted using biologic autoimmune medications in rheumatoid arthritis, the remission was less than a year for over half of the patients. Only 14% had a remission lasting more than two years! The cost of care for a multiple sclerosis patient is estimated to be $4 million dollars. Unfortunately, patients typically develop additional autoimmune diagnoses if the disease processes that led to the first autoimmune diagnosis continue to smolder in the background. What many physicians are not telling their patients is symptom reduction from the potent biologic drugs is often temporary. It takes too much time for physicians to teach you about the power that you have over what happens to you.
Rather than relying on expensive drugs that suppress our immune cells, the more effective route is to look at the root cause of why we develop autoimmunity and address that instead. As our science unravels the mechanisms that contribute to the development of healthy immune and abnormal autoimmune responses, more scientists are acknowledging roles of vitamin D, diet quality, the mix of microbes in our bowels, and toxin body burden in the development of autoimmunity. More clinicians are seeking training in utilizing these diet and lifestyle factors in the management of their patient’s autoimmune diseases. We should be using diet, lifestyle, and toxin exposure reduction for those in the prodrome period as well as those with an autoimmune diagnosis.
Your physician may not have told you that diet and lifestyle changes are often much more powerful than drugs at stopping disease progression and can even lead to regression of symptoms. Within weeks of making changes to their diet and lifestyle, our patients report less pain, better memory, and more energy.
I know this from my personal transformation. I have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and spent four years dependent upon a tilt-recline wheelchair, unable to sit up, struggling to walk 10 feet using two walking sticks, suffering with worsening trigeminal neuralgia, despite taking the newest drugs from the best MS clinicians in the country. Within a year of starting the diet and lifestyle program I created for specifically for my brain, I was out of my wheelchair, walking and biking again, and my pain was gone. How I understood disease and health was transformed. And the focus of my research was transformed. I now study diet and lifestyle interventions to treat MS-related symptoms, with remarkably positive results. If you want a one-page summary of the diet we have used in our research, check this link. If you want to read the papers from our research lab, check this link. Get to the root cause of why your immune cells are launching an attack. Help immune cells become less reactive and stop the damage, reduce your symptoms, and improve your quality of life. Begin your journey towards more wellness and vitality.
In addition to clinical practice, I do clinical research testing the effect of a therapeutic diet and lifestyle to treat autoimmunity. The results are consistently positive. Eating the standard American diet, smoking, and/or sitting all day accelerates the rate of damage. Our therapeutic diet and lifestyle slow autoimmune damage and often reverses it. My new book, The Revised and Expanded Wahls Protocol – A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, guides people through the approach we use to address complex chronic autoimmune conditions. In the revised edition I cover the latest research on the microbiome, how we can silence disease promoting genes by changing what we eat and do, the latest research from our lab, how to personalize the various Wahs™ diet plans to address histamine, oxalate and FODMAP issues, and the latest on fasting and ketogenic strategies. I also provide guidance on neurorehabilitation, and how to work with your primary care team to implement the Wahls Protocol® concepts if your specialist knows nothing about diet and lifestyle. In addition I spent more time discussing the science of behavior change, food addictions and how to more effectively grow your internal motivation to adopt and sustain these key diet and lifestyle behaviors that are part of the Wahls Protocol®. It is 30% new material, so even if you have the original book do pick up the revised edition. It will be invaluable support to your healing journey. If you are ready to reclaim your health, pick it up today.