How Radically Changing My Diet Helped Me Reverse My Autoimmune Disease
When it comes to autoimmunity, there are a lot of myths floating around in the world of conventional medicine. One of these myths is that autoimmune disease cannot be reversed, and must simply be “managed” through harsh medications or other procedures that merely mask your symptoms. I’m here to tell you that this is not true. Autoimmune disease is a sign that there is something deeper going on in your body, and by getting to the root cause you can reverse your condition and live a symptom-free life.
How do I know this? Because I did it myself, using a radical change in my diet as the foundation of my road to recovery. I want to share this information with you so that you or your loved ones don’t have to suffer anymore. Reversing autoimmunity IS possible, and it all begins with what you put on your plate.
The Path to Autoimmunity
When you’re growing up, you eat what your family eats. For me, that meant meals featuring traditional 1970s “health” foods: mostly brown rice, tofu, sprouts, and vegetables. My mom made much of our food from scratch–whole-wheat bread, plain organic yogurt, granola and oatmeal cookies–and had a garden where she grew peppers and tomatoes. We hardly ate any packaged, processed, or canned foods, and we always ate together as a family. At age fourteen, I even became a vegetarian. It was the picture of a healthy lifestyle–or so I thought.
Flash forward to my twenties. I had just spent two exciting years as a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Paraguay, and was back in the States completing my prerequisites for medical school. That’s when I got the news.
My mom had cancer.
It didn’t make any sense. My mother had been a vision of health: she jogged every day, taught yoga, and always looked ten or fifteen years younger than she was. And yet here she was at 59 with pancreatic cancer, a disease for which conventional medicine has no cure. All they could offer my mom was chemotherapy, and even that was just to delay the inevitable.
This was a pivotal moment in my life. I learned that you can be doing all the right things—or what you believe to be the right things—and still fall terribly ill. My mother died only five months after she was diagnosed. I entered medical school the following year—and one year later I was suffering from Graves’ disease.
Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition in which the thyroid overperforms, causing symptoms such as a racing heart, insomnia, anxiety, dizziness, and fatigue. Alarmed at my rapid weight loss, tremors, and other frightening signs that something was not right with my body, my friends finally convinced me to see a doctor. I was disheartened and frustrated when my physician dismissed my symptoms as “medical school stress.” My instincts told me there was an issue much deeper than this. I demanded a full lab workup, and it turns out I was right. I had an actual, diagnosable condition, and that was Graves’ disease.
How Our “Healthy” Diet Was Actually Making Us Sick
Little did I know that by eating a vegetarian diet, I was filling my body with inflammatory chemicals. It took me years of research to make the connection that the food I grew up on–gluten-filled bread, dairy, grains, legumes, and soy in all its forms–is what triggered my mom’s illness and my own autoimmunity. My father also had an autoimmune disease known as polymyositis (a condition marked by joint pain and muscle weakness), that I am now certain was worsened by the food that formed the basis of our family meals.
Gluten and Dairy
If you’re familiar with my books and programs, you’ll know that gluten and dairy are the two most inflammatory foods that I recommend everyone eliminate from their diets for good! These foods are a direct cause of leaky gut (a necessary precursor to autoimmunity), and wreak havoc on your immune system through molecular mimicry. This is when antibodies formed against gluten and dairy proteins in your bloodstream mistakenly attack your own tissues (the thyroid gland in particular) because of the structural and sequential similarities these proteins share with your body’s tissues.
Grains and Legumes
Grains and legumes contain harmful substances including lectins and phytic acid. Lectins such as agglutinins and prolamins are extremely difficult to digest and can be an aggravating factor in autoimmunity. Prolamins can cause cross-reactivity in those who are gluten-sensitive, so even gluten-free grains should be avoided. Phytic acid inhibits digestion and binds to certain minerals (specifically zinc, iron, and calcium) which are vital for our immune system to function properly, preventing their absorption.
Soy and Corn
As a vegetarian, I ate all things soy: tofu, soy milk, soy veggie burgers, Tofurky, you name it! Once I started researching the role diet plays in health, I realized just how damaging soy is to the body–especially in the quantities I was consuming it. Soy and corn are two of the most pervasive foods in the American diet, and also happen to be two of the most genetically-modified crops there are. GMOs have been linked to a number of disease, including rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid cancer, kidney disease, and infertility. Not to mention, both soy and corn can cross-react with gluten.
Nuts and Seeds
Vegetarians rely on nuts and seeds as a source of protein and fat. However, these seemingly healthy foods can trigger leaky gut and autoimmunity. Similar to grains and legumes, nuts and seeds contain protective compounds known as enzyme inhibitors to keep them from being digested. Their goal is to pass through your digestive tract unharmed so that when you eliminate them, they can produce a new plant. These enzyme inhibitors block the enzymes your body uses to break down protein, provoke inflammation, and activate your immune system–essentially a perfect storm for triggering autoimmunity.
Who would have suspected that the homegrown tomatoes and peppers from my mother’s garden were slowly poisoning us? It turns out these two vegetables, along with the rest of the nightshade family, have a dark side. For example, tomatoes contain an agglutinin that triggers an immune response by stimulating the production of antibodies. In fact, this lectin is used in vaccines for precisely that reason! You might want this effect to protect yourself against a virus, however you don’t want that kind of flare-up every time you eat a salad.
The Radical Change I Made to Reverse My Autoimmunity
After extensive research into the role foods plays in your health, and much experimentation with my own diet, I came to realize how the “healthy” foods I was eating were inflaming my body and setting me on the path to autoimmunity. My carb-heavy diet caused me to develop small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which in turn caused my gut to become leaky, and led to a whole host of digestive and immune issues.
Luckily, I had the opportunity to attend a talk by functional medicine pioneer Dr. Mark Hyman who explained that toxins, leaky gut, and food sensitivities were at the root of nearly every chronic illness. I also learned the role gluten plays in triggering autoimmune disease–especially thyroid conditions.
With this information, I began optimizing my diet by getting rid of the inflammatory foods I had been eating my entire life. I started eating animal protein again, which my body was craving. There are a number of essential nutrients in meat that are vital for thyroid function and other bodily processes, including B vitamins, zinc, iron, amino acids, and collagen. Without these nutrients, my body was unable to perform the processes that would have helped protect my immune system against autoimmune disease.
Once I eliminated the toxic foods that were making me sick, and made grass-fed, pasture-raised meat, along with continuing to keep a rainbow of organic vegetables and fruits staples of my diet–what would become the basis of The Myers Way®–I began to see my autoimmune symptoms disappear. I no longer suffered from panic attacks, anxiety, or IBS, and for the first time in years I had tons of energy and finally felt well. I dedicated my life to functional medicine and began sharing my discoveries with my patients and the rest of the world through my books, The Autoimmune Solution and The Thyroid Connection. And now I’ve made adopting this way of life even easier by writing The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook, which features the foods that I used to reverse my own autoimmunity, along with step-by-step guidance on how to tackle the underlying causes of your condition–whether diet, leaky gut, toxins, infections, or stress–to get to the root of your symptoms and start on the path towards lifelong wellness.
I, along with thousands of my patients and people who have followed my programs, are proof that autoimmune disease CAN be reversed, and it doesn’t have to involve expensive doctors or relying on harsh medications for the rest of your life. By following The Myers Way®, you can join me and the tens of thousands of others who have found relief from their chronic illnesses. The power is in your hands. Are you ready to take control? Get your copy of The Autoimmune Solution Cookbook today!