By Bonnie Feldman and Tiffany Simms
There are no clear diet recommendations for treating autoimmune disease.
This lack of clarity is confusing, with books and scientists of integrative medicine recommending all manner of options. Two examples of the differences within the field are exemplified in the books The Inside Tract andThe Immune System Recovery Plan. While these books both focus on the importance of diet in repairing the gut and immune system, their approaches are unique and demonstrate that one size does not fit all.
A Healthy Gut
What is a healthy gut? And why should you want one?
Your gut is home to a community of microbes, known as the gut microbiome, which help break down food to extract nutrients and energy. Scientists are currently studying this community to determine its composition and various functions. One of its roles is interacting with our immune system to differentiate bad bacteria from good bacteria. Failure to do this may be one cause of autoimmune disease.
How to achieve a healthy gut is a debated topic, with just a few opinions represented in these books. Controversy abounds because scientists are unsure of how to best use diet to treat autoimmune disorders. An example is inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), which can be treated with better nutrition and diet. However, reviews of scientific literature demonstrate that IBD patients often follow difficult diet plans, and diet does not play a large role in guidelines for managing IBD.
A greater focus on food as medicine is necessary, which is a key component of the integrative medicine proposed in these books.
Two Stories of Food as Medicine in Autoimmune Disease
The Inside Tract
The Inside Tract is the story of a traditional doctor with alternative roots, who rediscovered integrative medicine after developing an autoimmune disease. Dr. Gerard Mullin started his career as a gastroenterologist, and continued on this path until he developed arachnoiditis, an autoimmune disease. After treating his disease with a major diet change, Dr. Mullin became convinced that fixing your gut is the path to healing your body. His book is an extremely detailed guide on how to repair your gut, with menus for different seasons and varying severity of symptoms.
The Immune System Recovery Plan
The Immune System Recovery Plan is another integrative medicine tale one that focuses on healing the entire immune system. Dr. Susan Blum worked in functional medicine, a growing subfield that focuses on each patient as a unique individual, before she developed an autoimmune disease, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis. Her disease has made her even more assured of the value of integrative medicine for treating chronic conditions. She is convinced of its ability to treat the causes of disease, not just the symptoms. Dr. Blum’s treatment process encompasses the entire immune system, including the gut, liver, and even stress levels.
These books demonstrate that two doctors with autoimmune diseases, interested in integrative medicine, can still come to different conclusions about the correct treatment. Both of their distinctive approaches may be valid ways to achieve a healthy gut.