Tag Archives: rheumatoid arthritis

Deceptively Awesome, Poisonous Vegetables – EXPOSED!

(This is a long entry but if you or anyone you love suffers arthritis, any of the “itis-es”, or chronic pain…it might interest you.  These are very little known facts that are only recently being studied, no thanks to our lovely FDA and USDA.  If you don’t want french fries ruined for this group of people, don’t read it. I’m serious. I’m exposing the vegetables because we’re not on speaking terms.)

Imagine slobbering over your favorite food: a cheese pizza spilling all over its crust, slurping comfort mashed potatoes straight off the plate with no hands, a honky cheeseburger dripping condiments on your chin.  You’re so enthralled you don’t notice the stains on your white dress and your eyes are rolling to the back of your head. You don’t want this moment to end.

Now, imagine I come and slap it out of your hands.  Splat.

You blink at me, unsure of what just transpired. It stings a bit.  You’re confused, but it doesn’t process.  You start to take another bite, not defiantly but more because you are sure I did not just do that! One eye stays on me are your meal approaches your lips. But this time I snatch it and sit on it. That’s when you punch me and your own hand ends up on fire. You say it was worth it. It was and it wasn’t.

And that’s what happened to me.  I had inklings that some foods were having adverse reactions.  I continued eating normally, but with suspicions.  Eventually, they were verified by elimination.  You would think I was talking about starchy foods here as I do have a wheat allergy.  That’s not it;  leaving you to think maybe this is when she found out cookies are off the list. Nope.  Not it.  I can work my way around sugary treats (if I’m cleared for sugar): can you say gluten-free brownie (no flour)?

via gfdfw.blogspot.com; Thank you Bonefish Grill

I’m talking about vegetables. Wha she sayyy? Well some are faux-vegetable fruits, but otherwise known as healthy victuals, right? Wrong.

Apparently, there is a group of vegetables living secretly out there that are naturally toxic. More harmful to some than others, so some of you may come out of this article safely.

Of course, it’s the fun ones: tomatoes, potatoes, spicy peppers, bell peppers. The miraculous functions of the body help you clean out foreign agents that enter via mouth, skin, orifices…(fading out).  But in a chemical-overload world it can gradually affect our cleaning abilities at such high rates and begin to effect harm, defying nature’s intendion to battle it out for us so we can enjoy sucking ketchup packets dry (I never did that. Sure didn’t.)…

Well, just see for yourself in the following article (Random blue lettering will denote my personal commentary, in the voice of Tina Fey. The narrative itself, Alec Baldwin.):

http://www.getting-started-with-healthy-eating.com/nightshade-vegetables.html

Potatoes

During World War I, when the blockade of Denmark prevented the importation of food, the people of Denmark survived largely on potatoes as well as whole grain bread and porridge, cabbage, and milk. The death rate in Denmark actually fell during this time, as Mikkel Hindhede of the Laboratory for Nutrition Research in Denmark reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1920.

Hindhede noted that based on previous experiments, an exclusive diet of potatoes with fat will sustain good health for at least a year.

Additionally, both potato broth and raw potato juice have been used for healing purposes.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a staple of the healthy Mediterranean diet, along with olive oil, and other whole grain and vegetable foods. Mmmmm (rubbing tummy with closed eyes.)

Tomatoes are the best and most common source of lycopene, the pigment that makes tomatoes red. Lycopene is a carotenoid, a cousin of beta-carotene. It’s a unique antioxidant that, especially in food form, fights cancer and heart disease. It even survives heat and thus concentrates in cooked tomatoes.

Chile Peppers

Chile peppers are rich in Vitamin C and carotenoids. Besides being fun for their sharp taste and stinging sensation, they will clear your sinuses and are particularly good for colds.

That stinging sensation is the result of capsaicin, one of the nightshade alkaloids.
Stinging. So…. let me get this straight?

Alkaloids

Nightshade family plants manufacture drug-like chemicals within their tissues. These chemicals are of a type known as alkaloids.

Nicotine is the most well known of the nightshade alkaloids. It’s produced by the tobacco plant, which is a nightshade plant.

A number of drugs and pesticides are derived from nightshade alkaloids. Drugs include belladonna, atropine, and scopolamine; some pesticides are based on nicotine.

A few of the nightshade alkaloids:

* Nicotine (tobacco)
* Solanine (potatoes and eggplant)
* Tomatine (tomatoes)
* Capsaicin (chile peppers)

Commence riotous pandemonium!  Protest the smoking of vegetables!

Green potatoes are toxic due to the alkaloid solanine. When potatoes are exposed to light, the potatoes’ increased production of solanine causes the green tint. Do not eat green potatoes! They are toxic enough to cause poisoning.

Potato sprouts also contain enough solanine to be toxic. Cut out the sprout and its eye before use.

Due to these alkaloids, the leaves and stalks of these plants are poisonous. The ripe fruits and tubers also contain the alkaloids, but in much smaller amounts.

Capsaicin is what is so hot about hot peppers; it has both medicinal use and potential subclinical toxicity. Ay ay ay! I’m the only non-spicy latina. Gotta go back to bland.

Chronic Pain

In some people, the nightshade vegetables appear to cause arthritic pain, arthritic deformity, nerve pain, and other central nervous system problems. Preach!

When Norman Childers of Rutgers University reviewed the veterinary literature about livestock that grazed on nightshade plants, he connected the reported illness, crippling, and death to arthritis and other manifestations of chronic pain in humans.

The alkaloids found in common nightshade vegetables are powerful, with effects on various tissues, including the membranes of the cells of the body. They bioaccumulate: they remain unprocessed by the body and simply accumulate in tissues.
Lord have mercy!

In addition, nightshade alkaloids are cholinesterase inhibitors, just as organophosphate pesticides are. They affect the central nervous system and cause, among other adverse effects, pain. No pain, no gain?

Avoidance For Pain Relief

For sufferers of chronic musculoskeletal pain of any cause, Dr. Sherry Rogers, MD recommends eliminating the nightshade family for a three-month trial. Serious time. According to Dr. Rogers and Dr. Childers, most people with chronic pain get major or complete relief from nightshade avoidance.

This requires:

* Avoidance of nightshade vegetables and nightshade spices
* Avoidance of tobacco (or co-workers who blow smoke in your face, literally ruining the waking next hour)
* Avoidance of nightshade ingredients in processed food

Basically, I need to check into rehab.

Chile pepper or paprika is in cola drinks (hence “Dr. Pepper” as well as the more famous brands), snacks, breadings, meat flavoring, and more. Frequently these spices are listed on the label only as “Spices,” “Flavors,” or “Natural Flavorings.” I’ve learned this the hard way. Over and over. So, maybe I’m not quite learning it so much as just knowing it.

Potato starch, often in processed foods, may be listed only as “starch” or “protein” on labels. A true heartbreaker for I thought I had green light on some of the most finger-slurpin treats. Better than average flour mixes. My husband would eat my GF brownies! Which was fine because I was on the floor after I finished mine. (If you have no food allergies, I recommend this.  It would be healthy and delicious to ease up on wheat products.  American’s accidentally eat too much wheat anyway.):

All containing potato starch! Which explains why in less than 5 minutes of eating, I'm doubled over in agony, everwhere, conflicted whether I should desist the madness, or suck it up and sit in a vat of numbing ice and sleep it off.

Potato starch is a frequent filler in medications and vitamin supplements. Sneaky, sneaky.

More on How To Do A No Nightshades Diet

Unhealthy And Addictive Uses Of Nightshade Vegetables

The nightshade alkaloids appear to be addictive, which is amplified by the vegetables’ abuse in unhealthy foods.

I believe the combination of nightshade alkaloids with addictive food processing methods makes the following so addictive:

ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE:

* French fries made with trans fats, MSG, additives
* Pizza made with trans fats, white flour, artificial flavors, MSG, additives
* Commercial Mexican food made with trans fats, MSG, additives
* Commercial Szechwan food made with MSG, additives
* Commercially breaded foods
* Cola drinks
* Chile pepper in processed food

Speaking of which, this was taken on my cell phone. They actually SELL raw neurotoxins for about $1. Pop rocks and coke for your brain.

That’s right…EXPOSED.

List of Nightshade Vegetables (Solanaceae Family)

Culinary Vegetables

Bell pepper (sweet pepper)

Italian pepper

Chile pepper Before my diagnosis, when I switched over to a natural diet, I quadrupled the amount and types of spices I would experiment with, not noticing all the while that it only makes perfect sense that food that makes you tear and lips crack might also have other adverse effects. Indian food, I will miss you dearly. Mexico, adios.

Examples of varieties:

fresh
Anaheim
Fresno
Jalapeño
Pimiento / pimento
Poblano
Serrano

dried
Ancho
Cascabel
Chipotle
Guajillo
Habañero
Pasada
Pasilla

Eggplant
Potato
Tomato
Tomatillo

Spices
Cayenne
Chili powder (some ingredients of)
Curry (some ingredients of) (WAIT I DIDN’T KNOW THIS ONE…HAND ME THE PAPER BAG. STAT!!!!)
Paprika

Sauces
Ketchup I will never love another french fry. Doesn’t matter anyway because I can’t eat potatoes.
Tabasco Parting is such sweet and spicy sorrow.

Culinary Fruit
Cape gooseberry
Goji berry
Pepino
Tamarillo

Other
Tobacco I could use this case against co-worker habits. Mwahahaha. (Yes, just breathing it makes my head pound and my brain irate.)

End of Article.

Now you may be thinking you’re home free; that it doesn’t apply to you.  And you may be right; but there are many alternative ways to have an optimum lifestyle and diet is the key.  Too much of any good thing is not a balanced diet, even certain veggies.  I lived with vague symptoms until I turned 27 years old, to be put on an anti-inflammatory diet and suddenly started feeling better.  I always felt healthy during vegetarian and vegan diets, but something was missing.   It built up until it was too late and only a few months ago I was enduring the most severe times of my life.  As a matter of fact, we couldn’t understand why every time I ate my organic and simply seasoned salmon I’d still end up stressed and bawling my eyes out 15 minutes later.  Who knew paprika was the culprit?  If you tend to feel sick after you eat almost every time… start getting curious and researching.  If you feel great when you skip dinner, sleep overnight, skip breakfast, and feel sickly again at lunch…be open to suspicion.  PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR BODY.   It’s trying to tell you something.

I imagined it was all in my head many times, that I was being paranoid; people thought I was ridiculous, a hypochondriac. Even doctors scoffed at my suggestions and referred me to psychiatrists. Not anymore.  If my Rheumatogolist did anything to ease the pain in my life, it was to point me in the right direction. So the best place to start is an ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DIET.  Understanding it makes for a successful experiment.  Your bones might start cracking less if you decide to do humor this diet, or all of a sudden you might lose  8 lbs of straight up inflammation like it happened to me.  If you could never get rid of belly fat or lose weight no matter how many salads full of colorful veggies you forced down your throat, check this book out.  The inflammation is can very invisible.  People will multiple sclerosis do as similar diet.  Some go hardcore and do the Paleolithic Diet (great for gluten-free and Multiple Sclerosis inductees) and live extremely wholesome lives after this; great moods and sharp minds.

The Inflammation Syndrome

P.S. Given the information, I really don’t know if this means you can have just a measure of these veggies if they’re not processed, but it would seem so if you’re generally healthy.  However, with my personal toxicity level, I’m leaving them out until Dr. Dana checks my food sensitivity readings after the detox. There is still hope, although not guaranteed, that I may be able to reintroduce certain foods in my life once my blood gets a good scrubbin.  I will not count on it, but it’s nice to have it in the bottom of the hope bag.  I may choose not to go back to a more leniant diet even if my body gets clean, only because with my post-damage genes it might be safer. And I’ll stay thin without so much struggle.

It’s not easy to cut some things out of your life, even if they’re not healthy for you. But sometimes after enough lashings you learn your lessons. And I’m staying away from the pasta. If not, I have a friend ready to roundhouse any cherry tomatoes I try to pop right out of my crackling knuckles.

Coming soon:

Stay tuned in the next few days and behold the story of what such a crass and sudden restriction of delicious vegetables does to a woman.  Hear the heartbreaking ups and downs of a love affair with tomatoes. See the horror of relapse, the concerned relatives, and wait until you hear about the secret escapades with the forbidden fruit, it will be ugly…  Outright, gory… And sssaucy. Will she overcome this healthy addiction, gone compl-lete-ly wrong? Next on 20/20.

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Filed under Foodsies, Indulgence, Loopy Lupus, Picture of Health, Stimulating the Economy, Under the Weather

Lovely Lady Lumps With Classical Stretch

I used to make the stairmaster cry. Push ups were my cake.  Asphalt was my playground.  Of course, for a time, I did it all for the love of eating cake in monstrous amounts on cheat day.  The secondary motivation behind inviting pain and suffering were of the aesthetic kind.  Not vanity, because every human appreciates the symmetry of healthy muscles and skin sat nicely upon them.  However, without the right balance, exercise is addicting to an unhealthy level, which I fit that category for quite a while.

It’s taken an illness and restrictive diet to understand the purest health factor of exercise.  It’s not just for the loaded burrito reward after burning 800 calories or for the knock-you-out tris after never ending dips.  No longer do I feel the need for an extreme burn in my thighs to feel like I am truly and wholly benefiting my body.  I can push my tendons and ligaments to their individual limits without exerting them.  When I finish a workout, I don’t drive to the nearest pizza shop and get my own large pie.  Mine own. My precious. And it’s no longer for the heavenly sound of size 3 jeans buttons snapping together.  I used to define my limits by how much and hard I worked out.  Even though I relished on gym days to the point of blowing off good times with friends until I got the last bench press set in, I didn’t realize I wasn’t getting the full benefit of exercise.

Nowadays, I can’t stack on the leg press with 45lb plates or can’t do a back row without dislocating something essential  -even if you offered me an iced cookie- but I can finish a kind and healing workout without making beer and cheese fries the focal point. Not only because my allergen diet doesn’t give me a choice, but because inside… I’m not the fat little girl anymore.  I’ve finally grown up, physically and foodie-ly.  (My vocabulary still needs some maturing.)

However, I still need a workout for my ailing and very sedentary lifestyle.  Sitting down and resting as much as a Wolf Girl (A Lupster) (an autoimmune condition sufferer) has to do for someone who use to squat metal for fun is indescribably intolerable.  When I see joggers around my neighborhood with their hair swinging to the beat without a care, I literally want to cry; or yank their ponytails down until they face-plant.  And no matter how much exercise is meant to maintain systematic fitness, let’s face it: gravity is always fighting our husbands’ favorite body parts.

There are so many reasons we need to keep moving, even those who hate sweating. It’s good for you, simple as that. No but(t)s. (Pun intended). The following exercise modalities have proved in so many ways to therapeutically affect your body and mind.  They may not burn enough calories to have a gluttonous cheat day though.  For that you need to add at least 20 minutes of interval cardio every other day.

Reasons for working out no matter how much exhaustion, laziness, or pain present (without mentioning weight or looks):

1) A body in motion, tends to stay in motion; A body at rest, stays at rest.  You may not want to lift a finger in the morning or after work, but as soon as you do a thorough warm up you suddenly have what it takes to move.  I’m going to put energy in this category too.  You have to kickstart your own ATP and mitochondrial production. What are those? The energy sources and powerhouses in the cells.

2) Cleans your blood from toxins, waste, and by-products. Stimulates your lymphatic system.  If you ate a lot of junk food, too much emotional stress, or sat next to a smoker, you want your body to clean it out. Help it. Otherwise it stays in your body for quite a while, creating the potential for overload; henceforth, disease.  The lymphatic system does not move on it’s own. Must be stimulated.

3) Endorphins.  Your life may still suck after, but you’re much more ready to handle it with grace.  I never cried on a treadmill. Trust me, I tried.  You could slap me after a run and I’d just giggle and squeal like a red muppet on crack.

4) Range of motion.  Use it or lose it and expand it.  The older we get, the more limited movement we have.  It’s also amazing the length our body will allow if we only teach it how to stretch, no matter what age.  It’s never too late to be bendy. *wink

5) Brain power.  As well as a stimulant for everything else we’ve mentioned, there are performance piano players, successful business men, novelists who go for a jog before working on a their masterpiece.  People with ADHD can manage their concentration better if they activate the brain via movement.

6) Strength. The more muscle you train, the less risk for injury in the long run.  Less chance of creating imbalance in the body through simple movements.

7) Balance.  In this world, everything makes us lose balance. Electric machines humming, toxic foods, polluted air, stress overload, sitting too long, standing too long, sleeping on uncomfortable beds, staying up too late, listening to Lady Gaga too long. This will balance your spine, relieve pains, heal your body, fight disease, your chi.

8 ) You poop better.

So, from someone who used to bring the pain, I can tell you the workouts I do now are just as gratifying,  if not healthier and nicer to your body and just as effective, if not more.  Here are the workouts that streamline my life. (Click on the underlined for links)

  • Namaste Yoga – By FitTV – (I don’t recommend this to everyone for conscious reasons).  I personally don’t want my mind slipping blank and becoming available, but I skip anything that give heebeedie-jeebeedie vibes.  Usually, it’s toward the end of a class or episode, I just click it off or walk out.  This has healed many of my back problems and taught me to breath in an anxiety-ridden world.  Ones that doctors wanted me to spend time and money at chiropractors and take pills.  It recreates balance and aids composure.  Right now, I only do this on my most painful days that I can barely move.  I prefer the two below.

  • Pilates – This one not so much for relaxation.  It’s the toughest one of the three, but the one that would attest to the impressive god-given mechanics.  If you don’t have serious back problems to begin with, this will make your core strength stronger than any Muscle Max huffin’ and puffin’ at the gym.  It’ll make you feel and look graceful and straighten up your posture.  Even though I preferred the thicker muscle look, my best and slimmest body has always been when I did Pilates regularly (and cardio every other day). I learned how to do mine best from a book when I was 15 before even trying Winsor Pilates. Understanding your movements are just as important as actually doing them in any workout.

Joseph Pilates - The Creator

 

  • Classical Stretch – the public broadcasting system that brought you Yanni Live at the Acropolis and Katy Perry on Sesame Street now brings a workout that I call Free Xanax.  This is my workout of choice since I had to cancel my gym membership (tear, tear, soooob).  I saw this on PBS one morning that my ankles were stuck, tried it for less than 15 minutes one day and bought the full season within the next week.  I thought it was for the elderly at first and felt embarrassed; then I realized she created this for athletes and dancers. Through a method called Eccentrics, it pulls from modalities such as yoga,ballet, pilates, PNF (used in physical therapy), tai chi (the Chinese are genius), and brings balance you can feel in 25 minutes.  Painless, easy, refreshing.  You feel light as a feather and smarter when you’re done.  You stand up straighter the next day and realize how bad your alignment was to begin with.  If you can endure the horrible music and cheesy jokes, this Canadian ex-ballerina has become a favorite of mine.  She will teach your body to move and get the loveliest lady lumps, slenderest arms, and girlish-defined delts you’ve had since you were 15.  I’ve been down on that couch, toxins festering in my unmovable joints, and a few minutes into this idiot-proof workout and I feel as if I took pain meds.  I beseech you to check this out. It’s free on TV! Honestly, I just wanted to say beseech.  She even has a video specifically for back pain.

 

Click to link to history and benefits

About two years ago I had begun studying to be a Personal Trainer with the aim to specialize in nutrition.  For reasons that weren’t obvious then, I know now that my joints and muscles, need to be much healthier if i want to play that part.  The desire to help chicks have a healthy attitude and outlook about exercise, image, and health still lies within.  I know women want to feel good, look good, and find quick, easy, and effective preventative/preservative medicine.  I’ve tried many workouts in the last decade; studied up on them thoroughly.  So I’ve done the work for you.  Just pick one. Get your butt in gear.

Bonus: Here’s a great post from a great blog about health and image. This blog is amazing.

Bonus 2: A funny.

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Filed under Housewifing, Loopy Lupus, Picture of Health, Stimulating the Economy

The Autoimmune Epidemic and My Highlighting Skills

Today I look horrible, but I feel great.

No, that’s wrong:

Today I feel horrible, but I look great!

And that’s all that really matters.

Okay, but serious time now. Seriously. No jokes.  Seriously.

Before I knew what was developing in my body, I had heard about certain diseases like Rheumatoid Arthritis, Mononucleosis,  Thyroiditis, Diverticulitis, and Diabetes 1.  I didn’t know they were autoimmune diseases.  I didn’t know what autoimmune was.  The first hint I got was about a year ago when doctors suspected I have Rheumatoid Arthritis; not your average arthritis.  That’s when I learned what autoimmune was.  Had I not been forewarned about my active ANLs and ANAs, I still wouldn’t know what an autoimmune disease really is.  I perused articles online (ignoring the severity of many, since Wikipedia states you’re gonna die from the common cold). I scanned  books about RA. When I read about RA, it seemed so similar to Lupus. But I just couldn’t have lupus, could I? It’s such an ugly word and I prefer a disease with a cool name like Hodgkins or Syphilis.  It doesn’t matter.  Lupus, RA, etc., they’re all in the same family.

Then I found this book. The Autoimmune Epidemic.  Epidemic is a serious word.  And you’re just gonna have to read for yourself how truly shocking and controversial this bug attacking my organs is, and how many people are at risk.  You thought cancer was popular?  I’m VIP.  (Not actually comparing the degrees and severity of the disease, just the occurrence). You can call it the indie disease, because the media sure isn’t giving it any attention (unless they’re pushing a med that causes incontinence).  Why not? Why is the general public unconcerned when it’s very likely you know a few people suffering one of these autoimmune diseases?

If you don’t like to read but are okay with skimming, I’ll highlight parts of  the book excerpt below worth having in your memory bank. It’s long so I don’t blame you if you don’t read it thoroughly. I borrowed this book from the library and since I was juggling books about allergen-free cookies and blogs, I only managed to read half.  The scary half.  I’ve yet to read the last hopeful half that won’t make me want to hide the book in the freezer.

One last note: A reminder that this blog does not advocate Autoimmune Disease/Lupus Awareness.  At least not as adamantly as some dedicated superstars out there.  It’s generally about how to live life with an obstacle in the way, which even the healthy have hurdles.  But since this is my obstacle, it will get mention from time to time when I find quality information….Now, scroll I say. Scroll!

http://donnajacksonnakazawa.com/autoimmune_epidemic_excerpt.htm

Foreword to
The Autoimmune Epidemic
by Douglas Kerr, M.D., Ph.D.

As a faculty neurologist and neuroscientist at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore Maryland, I have spent the last decade evaluating and treating patients with autoimmune disorders of the nervous system. I founded and continue to direct the Johns Hopkins Transverse Myelitis (TM) Center, the only center in the world dedicated to developing new therapies for this paralyzing autoimmune disorder. Increasingly, I see that more and more patients are being felled by this devastating disorder. Infants as young as five months old can get TM and some are left permanently paralyzed and dependent upon a ventilator to breathe. But this is supposed to be a rare disorder, reportedly affecting only one in a million people. Prior to the 1950s, there were a grand total of four cases reported in the medical literature. Currently, my colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and I hear about or treat hundreds of new cases every year. In the multiple sclerosis clinic, where I also see patients, the number of cases likewise continues to climb.

Autoimmune diseases have not always been this common. The prevalence of autoimmune diseases like systemic lupus erythematosus, or lupus, multiple sclerosis, and type 1 diabetes is on the rise. In some cases, autoimmune diseases are three times more common now than they were several decades ago. These changes are not due to increased recognition of these disorders or altered diagnostic criteria. Rather, more people are getting autoimmune disorders than ever before.

Something in our environment is creating this crisis. What you will read about in the following pages is a powerful and touching and scholarly exposé of what those things may be.

The immune system in our bodies is charged with an amazingly complex task: to recognize and ignore all the cells and tissues within our body and—at the same time—to attack any and all “invaders,” foreign cells, viruses, bacteria, or fungi. Our wondrously complex immune system can successfully protect our bodies while recognizing and eliminating billions of distinct infections with which we come in contact. When functioning well, the immune system immediately recognizes a virus or bacteria that has gotten into our body and initiates a spirited and robust attack on the invader, allowing us to recover from a cold after only a few days. But this precisely choreographed dance between the immune system and the tissues it is designed to protect goes badly awry in autoimmune diseases. In such diseases, the immune system mistakes friend for foe and begins to attack the very tissues it was designed to protect. The soldiers guarding the castle turn and attack it.

But what triggers autoimmunity to occur? Throughout human history, our exposure to such myriad infectious agents has triggered an evolutionary arms race. Our immune system has evolved increasingly sophisticated countermeasures and recognition systems to combat the increasing diversity of the infectious agents with which we come in contact. But this increasing sophistication comes with a cost: an increased chance of the system breaking down. We have evolved right to the edge of the immune system’s capacity.

Now, over the last 40 years, something has been pushing that system over the edge. Something is causing the immune system to increasingly make mistakes in which the line becomes blurred, the immune system attacks the body itself, and autoimmune disease occurs. In all likelihood, much of the reason for this often catastrophic mistake of the immune system comes from the countless environmental toxins to which we are currently exposed—toxins that interfere with the way the immune system communicates with the rest of the body. To paraphrase W. B. Yeats, when that communication is lost “things fall apart, the centre cannot hold.”

The numbers are staggering: one in twelve Americans—and one in nine women—will develop an autoimmune disorder. And since it is clear that not every patient with an autoimmune disease is correctly diagnosed, the prevalence is certainly higher than that. The American Heart Association estimates that by comparison, only one in twenty Americans will have coronary heart disease. Similarly, according to the National Center for Health Statistics, one in fourteen American adults will have cancer at some time in their life. This means that an American is more likely to get an autoimmune disease than either cancer or heart disease. Yet we hear much more in the press about heart disease and cancer than we do about autoimmunity. And this silence is mirrored in relative funding by the National Institutes of Health, the major funding agency for biomedical research in the United States. Though the NIH has expanded funding for autoimmunity significantly over the last several years, the 2003 expenditure of $591.2 million is still only a fraction of the money spent for heart disease and cancer. The NIH budget for cancer is over 5 billion dollars, ten times that of autoimmune diseases. The NIH budget for cardiovascular disease is over 2 billion dollars, four times that of autoimmune diseases. We have not yet recognized the urgency of the autoimmune epidemic.

Why is the prevalence of autoimmunity increasing at such alarming rates? There is almost universal agreement among scientists and physicians that the environmental toxins and chemicals to which we are increasingly exposed are interfering with the immune system’s ability to distinguish self from non-self. Most of the risk of autoimmunity comes from environmental exposures rather than from genetic susceptibilities. So, have those environmental exposures changed over time? The answer is clearly yes. One example of this comes from a 2003 study in which blood and urine samples from Americans were tested for 210 substances, including industrial compounds, pollutants, PCBs, insecticides, dioxins, mercury, cadmium and benzene. The volunteers, none of whom had any occupational or residential risks for such exposure, had detectable levels of 91 of these. In other words, these are ordinary people with ordinary lives who have numerous toxins in their body from ordinary exposure. In a 2005 study, researchers found 287 industrial chemicals, including pesticides, phthalates, dioxins, flame-retardants, and the breakdown chemicals of Teflon, in the fetal cord blood of ten newborn infants from around the country—transmitted to the infants by their mothers’ exposures before and during pregnancy.

We are facing both an increasing prevalence of autoimmunity and an increasing exposure to environmental toxins. Is it clear that the increased exposure of environmental toxins is causing the increase in autoimmunity? Several lines of evidence suggest that this jury, too, has issued the verdict — “guilty.” Researchers recently showed that when added to the diets of rats, PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid, a breakdown chemical of Teflon and one of the chemicals found in the blood panel screenings mentioned above), causes significant impairments in the ability of rats to develop an appropriate immune response. Similarly, other researchers showed that mice given organochlorine pesticides were much more susceptible to getting the autoimmune disease lupus than control mice.

Are these data absolutely definitive? It’s not clear that the type of exposure these animals had is the same type that humans have. It’s not clear that lupus in animals is the same thing as lupus in humans. It’s not clear that a rodent’s immune system is the same as a human’s. Much more research needs to be done on this subject — in the form of both epidemiologic (human population studies correlated with exposures) and animal studies. Meanwhile, the difficulty in finding the smoking gun/definitive evidence of causality is increased exponentially by the number of chemicals to which we are exposed. Do we have to give animals the 287 compounds found in the fetal-blood-cord study cited above to examine their combinatorial effect on the immune system? Not only is such research impractical, it is unethical and probably still wouldn’t be viewed by some as definitive.

There are some who might say that this is nothing more than another case of ranting “the sky is falling” when it’s really not. I suspect those might be the same people who believe that the undeniable warming of the planet is simply a geological cycle that has nothing to do with human activity. But taking these positions—that environmental exposures are not adversely affecting our bodies’ health or that we are not causing our planet to get hotter—is dangerous. To miss the opportunity to change is to not only deny the evidence and miss what may be a fleeting opportunity to reverse these trends, but also, ultimately, a selfish position. What about our children and their children? If we have the opportunity to make a healthier future for them but fail to act either because of indifference or denial, what will tomorrow hold for them?

What is just as disturbing is that only 5.4 percent of the NIH budget for autoimmunity is dedicated to environmental factors that underlie autoimmunity. We need to recognize the urgency of the autoimmune epidemic. And we need to take steps to combat it. Future research is unlikely to define a single cause for autoimmunity, but rather varied triggers that include environmental exposures and infectious agents interacting in complex ways with an individual’s immune system. This research will, in all likelihood, clearly establish the link between these exposures and autoimmunity and will begin to define how these exposures cause autoimmunity. We won’t be able to eliminate autoimmunity in the future. Genetic predisposition and infectious triggers will always be with us. But the fight against autoimmunity needs to be fought on several levels: more extensive research, development of better therapies that more effectively treat these diseases, and action to decrease our environmental exposures. The last action will require personal responsibility, political action, and corporate accountability. If we do these things, autoimmunity will be a cluster of rare diseases that we treat with effective medicines. If we don’t, autoimmune diseases will increasingly devastate families, including five-month-old babies, and will increasingly tax our health-care system. If we don’t act now, it will be too late.

The book that follows is astounding. It is a combination of touching personal stories about individuals affected by autoimmune diseases and rigorous research of the medical and scientific literature. It is the kind of book that will scare you. It will make you angry. It will amaze you with the courage of some of the people described in the book. Ms. Nakazawa examines all of the theories about autoimmunity in detail, from heavy metals to toxic chemicals to viruses to vaccines and finally to the hygiene hypothesis. The Autoimmune Epidemic is every bit as compelling as Upton Sinclair’s groundbreaking novel The Jungle and every bit as necessary as An Inconvenient Truth, the startling movie featuring Al Gore and directed by Davis Guggenheim, that shows us that global warming is upon us and may at some point in the near future be irreversible.

You will leave this book with no reservations about the veracity of the conclusions: put simply, there is no doubt that autoimmune diseases are on the rise and our increasing environmental exposure to toxins and chemicals is fueling this rise. The research is sound. The conclusions unassailable.

Ms. Nakazawa introduces a term, “autogen,” used to describe chemical triggers of autoimmune disease, drawing upon the term “carcinogen,” which denotes chemical triggers of cancer. This term, which should become part of our society’s lexicon, may serve as the clarion call for change that emerges from this book. The change needs to take the forms of personal responsibility and societal change. Companies should have to determine the effect of chemicals in developing autoimmunity as well as cancer, and state and federal legislation is needed to compel corporations to make this happen. This book will inspire you to want to do something to protect yourselves and your loved ones; to do what you can to restore a healthy balance between our environment and our bodies. What that something is will vary depending on the individual. At a personal level, no single recommendation fits all individuals and the degree to which an individual alters his/her environment will depend on the levels of exposures and his or her susceptibility to autoimmunity. The Autoimmune Epidemic ends with a logical and empowering solution to protect yourself and your family and, in so doing, to begin the process of cleaning up our environment in order to help reestablish a balanced immune system in our bodies.

Reading The Autoimmune Epidemic is a necessary first step. Reading The Autoimmune Epidemic is a life-altering event. It needs to be.

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