autoimmune research, lifestyle, microbiome

Personalized Nutrition to Modify Autoimmune Symptoms

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By Bonnie Feldman, Tiffany Simms and Ellen M Martin

Through our surveys of autoimmune patients and our Stanford Medicine X workshop, we found many autoimmune patients feeling ill-used and underserved by conventional medical care.

Many other blogs and web sites also spotlight these issues across the autoimmune community. Widespread are feelings that no one was listening, no one cared, no one was around to help.

Between difficult diagnoses and trial and error treatments, the much-hailed “breakthrough” biological blockbusters weren’t helping these patients.

So we turned to alternative approaches:

  • We said, based on dietary experiments and supported by microbiomics research, “We need food as medicine.”
  • We said, based on our chronic and mysterious aches and pains, “We need musculoskeletal integrity exercises, physical therapy, massage. We need help with posture.”
  • We said, based on our ongoing depression, anxiety and fear, “We need psychological and spiritual support: meditation, yoga, biofeedback.”
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We brought these needs to Stanford Medicine X 2015 for the lonely voices of autoimmune disease. We called for an integrated autoimmune health care team with the patient and primary care doctor at the center. Again, no one cared, no one wanted to help it, no one was listening. So with not much available in traditional medicine that could really help autoimmunity, we said, we need food as medicine.

During that time, there was not much science surrounding food as medicine, musculoskeletal integrity, and the well-being team, but we are getting closer.

November 2015, Cell published an article, Personalized Nutrition by Prediction Glycemic Responses, by researchers, David Zeevi, Tal Korem, Niv Zmora, Zamir Halpern, Eran Elinav, Eran Segal. They conducted an experiment where 800 participants eating exact meals showed high variability in post-meal blood glucose response. Using the microbiome, blood tests, food diary, questionnaires, and anthropometrics, they were able to produce a big data algorithm that can accurately predict diet modifications for more personalized nutrition and successfully post-meal blood glucose and its long-term consequences.

Earlier in August, Kara Fitzgerald, Mark Hyman, and Kathie Swift, published a study that followed a 56 year old woman with diabetes and other co-morbidities. Prior to the study she relied heavily on pharmacological therapies – pills on pills – however, during the study she was given direct treatment that included dietary, nutritional, and mind-body support. After 9 months, the woman improved significantly and eliminated some of the pills in her regimen. While the authors call for possible government involvement, they conclude that individualized therapies, education, and empowerment may be the key tools to change the fate of individuals like this woman.

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Both articles give hope for the existing autoimmune community and the many who are preautoimmune (those with genetic predisopostion and a mild constellation of symptoms). These two articles show that a “one size fits all” approach does not actually fit all.

How long will it take to move personalized nutrition and big data integration from diabetes to other autoimmune diseases such as IBD, Lupus, Sjogren’s, and more? How can we extend these algorithms to preautoimmmune disease prevention?

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Almost 2 years later, the autoimmune community is still waiting, but our integrated autoimmune care is slowly coming to fruition.


In the meantime, follow along as I begin to look for my personal suite of solutions. I am experimenting with food, tracking, musculoskeletal, well being, and digital health.

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