The two most damaging myths on autoimmune disease

I’m speaking on MS in Vienna next Weds and started to think about what I wanted to say. And there are two myths on diet and disease that are pretty much ubiquitous. They’re both damaging, and they apply not only to MS, but to pretty much every autoimmune disease, and apply to most other chronic diseases.

  1. Conventional wisdom: diet has nothing to do with disease. If you want to get well, take your meds and go to your doctor. Don’t waste your time and money with diet changes. Move along; these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.
  2. Some alternative views: Nutrition heals everything. (positive thinking does, too.) So if you go on the Swank diet, the Wahls protocol, raw foods, gluten-free, Paleo, etc. or think happy thoughts, your disease will go into remission or be cured. If it doesn’t, you’re doing it wrong/not trying hard enough/not seeing the right practitioner.

Both are a complete and utter load of horsie poo, and are damaging to health in a global way.

It’s ridiculous to think that what we eat doesn’t affect our body’s function,gardensept09 and the new dietary trials and increased awareness is a huge plus. It’s equally problematic to suggest we have no control over our health and our doctors are the wizards of all. Almost everyone I see has some physiologic benefit from dietary change—I can’t think of any exceptions to that rule, but I’m qualifying with “almost” just in case.

But oh my GAWD what an awful burden we put on people when we create a culture of personal responsibility for curing disease. It’s a guilt and shame producing cesspool, and undermines the potential good in healthy changes. BTW, Dr. Wahls does not claim to have cured her MS. She is clear that she’s learned to manage it and eliminate many of the symptoms. That is a beautiful thing…as long as we don’t start using it as a weapon and clubbing people with it.

A decade or so in this field has also given me the humility to know that while I can guarantee that the Twinkie diet will not work, I don’t always know with certainty which of the whole-food, low sugar, balanced ways of eating will fit best for a given person. Nutrition can help you live as fully as possible. That’s just not as sexy as saying nutrition will cure all diseases.

[end of rant]

About Cheryl Harris

Life played a funny trick on me. I've studied nutrition for years, and much to my surprise, found out that I could manage many of my health issues via diet. I've been GF for years, and I've got a bunch of allergies and sensitivities. But it definitely doesn't keep me from cooking, baking and enjoying my food. Thanks for stopping by.
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8 Responses to The two most damaging myths on autoimmune disease

  1. Wow! Awesome post, Cheryl! I’ve actually been thinking along these lines lately as I see folks promoting their diet as THE way to go and then you see them sharing posts about their own health suffering and trying a different route, trying to get back on track, etc. Now before you think that’s contradictory to your main message here, please hear me out. Goodness knows I know none of us is perfect, so I’m not pinging on that, but the message to me when I read these posts is that well, no maybe their diet is not THE ONLY way to go, maybe things are more complicated. I will say again and again that I think the gluten-free diet will help many, most people even, but it’s not the complete answer for everyone.

    The only caveat I’d add is the folks who go on a gluten-free diet, but are not truly gluten free, are contributing to their potentially not getting well. They’re the folks who consume wheat grass, sprouted grains, etc. Sometimes gf is part of a larger diet, such as candida, and they don’t think they have gluten issues, so they don’t think they have to be that strict. I so often hear the, “but I’m not celiac, so I can consume these; if you’re celiac, do not consume these.” That’s just wrong. Lack of an immediate reaction and visible reaction does not mean your body is not reacting. And usually it will show you over time, but because these folks have already assumed that do fine with that “gluten,” so when they start having issues again, they start looking for other causes and say going gluten free really wasn’t their answer.

    I realize that I’m muddying the waters a bit as far as your message, but these are the things I’m thinking about lately.

    Thank you for this post. Off to share ….

  2. Hi Shirley,
    I think that’s a post well-worth writing, and not contradictory at all. Obviously I share your view that a gf diet can be an extremely powerful tool. I actually saw someone earlier this week with normal tTGs but elevated DGPs…so fortunate both were run, or she would have just dismissed Celiac as a potential problem. And don’t get me started on NCGS!

  3. Kat says:

    Great article. So often I read from people who claim doing such and such will cure yours/or their illnesses. Basicly many things I have done have helped some. Going gluten free was the biggest improvement, but it certainly didn’t cure the autoimmune issues I have. Each person is different and all we can do is keep an open mind and do what seems to work best for us. Thank you for making people THINK….

  4. Jill says:

    Great post! We just had our 5th medical intervention to get pregnant and it wasn’t successful. Just yesterday I was crying and thinking Ive done everything I can, Im on a strict gluten, dairy, soy and sugar free diet. I take my vitamins for MTHFR and still no baby. It was a good reminder that while I can do everything I can to try to help sway the odds, some things are beyond our control.

  5. Debi says:

    Great post, Cheryl. I wholeheartedly agree. And I love that you added Dr. Wahls statement about not “curing” her MS. I see so many people touting these diets as “cures” and have engaged in reminding people that there are no “cures” for the autoimmune diseases that we usually see improvement in when diet is changed to remove the foods contributing to ill-health. Usually the people who claim they cured themselves on a certain diet really have no concept of what “cure” really means.

  6. Jill,
    I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine how hard that has been for your family. We can make it more likely to get what we want, but sometimes parts are out of our control. Wishing health and happiness your way!

  7. Thanks for your kind comment, Kat!

  8. Debi-
    “cure” may mean different things, and who knows, maybe some people are cured. but what frustrates me is the idea that it’s a moral failing if you’ve done everything you can and you still have some symptoms. It pisses me off…

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