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The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance--and the Cutting-Edge Science that Promises Hope

The Autoimmune Epidemic: Bodies Gone Haywire in a World Out of Balance--and the Cutting-Edge Science that Promises Hope [Kindle Edition]

Donna Jackson Nakazawa , Douglas Kerr
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Hailed by Mark Hyman, MD, as “a ray of light and hope” for autoimmune sufferers, this groundbreaking book provides research and solutions for those affected by autoimmune disorders including Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and more.

In the first book of its kind, journalist Donna Jackson Nakazawa examines nearly 100 debilitating autoimmune diseases—such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, Crohn’s disease, type 1 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis—that cause the body to destroy itself, mistakenly attacking healthy cells as the immune system fights off bacteria, viruses, and other invaders. As Nakazawa share the vivid, heartbreaking stories, including her own, of people living with these mysterious, chronic, and often hard-to-diagnose illnesses, she explores the alarming and unexpected connection between this deadly crisis and the countless environmental triggers we’re exposed to every day: heavy metals, toxins, pesticides, viruses, chemicals in the foods we eat, and more.

With the help of leading experts, Nakazawa explores revolutionary preventions, treatments, and cures emerging around the world and offers practical advice for protecting your immune system and reducing your risk of autoimmune disease in the future.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Informative 12 July 2012
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Very informative book if a little scary. Unless you are in a position to live on a remote island and be totally self sufficient we are all at risk. I bought this book to look into causes of endometroisis but very little information or refereces to this condition. Very American, all American references.

Good book and you will look at things differently after reading this.
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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The smoking gun? The canary in the coal mine? 16 Nov 2008
By Dennis Littrell TOP 500 REVIEWER
What is causing the unprecedented and alarming increase in the number of people with autoimmune diseases in recent years? What is causing the frightening rise in the number of children with autism? In this painstakingly researched and thoroughly documented book, Donna Jackson Nakazawa makes the case that pollution is the culprit. She argues convincingly that levels of pollution below those allowed by government standards enter our bodies and confuse our immune systems into attacking our own cells.

The case is not however proven by scientific standards. Although the circumstantial evidence is persuasive, it may take many years for the scientific proof to manifest itself. But you and I do not have to wait that long. A question that might be asked is, what else can it be? The rise in autoimmune disease is clearly correlated with the rise in man-made and man-delivered chemicals into the environment. What we need to do now is elect representatives who will enact legislation that will sharply reduce the number and amount of chemicals being dumped into our rivers, streams and oceans, that will stop the feeding of noxious substance and hormones to our animals, and that will switch from burning fossils fuels to more sustainable and non-polluting alternatives. We need to make the transition from Big Agriculture with its pesticides and its weed killers to small cooperative organic farming methods. The health costs to our people are now enormous and growing. We cannot expect bottom-line driven corporations to voluntarily give up besmirching the environment and poisoning our children. They have to be stopped through the force of law.

Meanwhile, we as individuals need to reject highly processed foods and being super-sized.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.4 out of 5 stars  100 reviews
114 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars View From a Family Member/Health Researcher 9 Mar 2008
By Robert Fazzi - Published on
The Autoimmune Epidemic is an extraordinary book. "Extraordinary" may be an understatement. My wife suffers from an undiagnosed form of autoimmune. She has gone through many years of excruciating pain and uncertainty. We visited countless doctors, had more medical test than seemed humanly possible, searched through volumes of articles and professionals journals (we both have extensive professional experience doing research), learned the trials (so many of them) and tribulations of steroid therapy and, of course, began exploring an array of alternative approaches, all to limited avail. This is all to simply say we fortunately or unfortunately know a lot about autoimmune disease and better yet, know when we have found a resource that it comprehensive, timely and thoroughly researched (48 pages of citations). The Autoimmune Epidemic provides a comprehensive review of the evolution, impact, potential causes and potential strategies for managing and possibly dealing with various forms of autoimmune disease. Many of the major types of autoimmune disease (Lupus, Crohn's Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, etc.) are explored in detail. The damaging affect environmental factors, some that we control and some that we don't, play on our immune systems are thoroughly analyzed. The personal stories are riveting. The connection and statistics related to the various diseases are made clear. The author, Donna Jackson Nakazawa is not only an accomplished writer (Parade Magazine, AARP the Magazine and author of Does Anyone Else Look Like Me), she is another victim, a statistic but not a quiet statistic in what we are learning is a serious and growing epidemic. If you have one of the many autoimmune diseases, if you know someone who has one or if you are looking for a well documented analysis of the evolution, present status, research and potential breakthroughs, this book is for you. You will be educated, informed and possibly enraged.
94 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reporting, Riveting Information 3 Mar 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
The librarians in my community have had the insight to purchase three copies and have them on our shelves in the month that this book was published. Important? Yes, quite.

There's a web site referenced in the book, from Chapter Three, entitled "Dirty Little Secrets," that includes history about what happened to children in a Buffalo, NY neighborhood. Nakazawa refers you to a web site and invites you to type in the zip code for Buffalo and then read the story that unfolds about it.

Try this now! Go to the EPA dot gov web site using /enviro/emef as a suffix and type in YOUR zip code, then look at the map that pops up. It's color coded with all the locations being monitored by the EPA right now. The water was RED in mine.

So many people I know and love have had autoimmune diseases and/or cancer. This book has made me wonder even more than I already had how this all fits together - nutrition, the environment, our health, our children, our sick or already lost loved ones. If you read this book, perhaps the puzzle will begin to fit together for you too.

Have you noticed how many CHILDREN you see in WHEELCHAIRS these days? I see several children every day in wheelchairs at our elementary school. Was it like that where you grew up as a child?

I picked up a flyer at my son's school last week about dealing with ASTHMA in your school-aged child that's being presented here this week to teachers and parents and families in our county school system. How many children did you know with ASTHMA or DIABETES when you were growing up? I lived in a community where there were 5,000 people in my church alone. I don't recall a single person with asthma in my group of friends, and there was one person that I knew of in that group of 5,000 with Type 1 diabetes - he was my family doctor.

Now, in our 740 student primary school, there are 17 children that I know with asthma and several with Type 1 diabetes and more with significant allergies and even more with some level of autism. All of these are autoimmune or related issues and are addressed in this book. What has caused this and how many more will have to happen before we get it?

This book's footnoted current facts and information about the environment, current medical advances, and many details about individuals with autoimmune conditions and progressions, including cancer will educate many people.

In Chapter six, called Shielding Your Immune System: Rethinking Food, Stress and Everyday Chemicals, there's a life-altering story about a 43 year old M.D. named Gerard Mullin. Mullin was a specialist in autoimmune disease as head of the Gastroenterology and Hepatology Division at North Shore University Hospital in New York. "He became a 43 year old disabled, unmarried, living alone, unemployed patient with a roaring autoimmune disease of his own, almost overnight." He says that for the first time, he "had become just another hard-to-treat patient that doctors didn't know what to do with." Mullin's personal experiences with his own health and the outcomes that he found to heal himself is wonderfully enlightening for anyone who takes the time to read this book.

Thank you, Donna Jackson Nakazawa for your work. I am awed at the clarity and skill in sharing this very technical information with excellent story-telling about the individuals whose lives have been forever affected, and many lost by their struggles with autoimmune diseases. Ms. Nakazawa has equaled the caliber of writing by the New York Times Reporter David Kirby, [Evidence of Harm] maybe even better.
54 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings it all together; Eye-opening 18 Feb 2008
By Lisa Coker - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I've been learning about nutrition and whole foods (instead of processed), "diseases of civilization", and brain health lately. This book really brings all those subjects together.

Full of thought-provoking, frightening, but hopeful examples of how - in the last several decades - we have created a toxic environment.

The most striking image was that of the "barrel effect." If one fills a rain barrel full of water - even above the top - the water will stay within. But when one more drop is added, the water just cascades down the sides. Many people, mainly women, seem to just fall apart suddenly with one autoimmune disease after another. We live in and consume this toxic soup for years and years, our body fighting it off as best as it can, until it just can't complete with the onslaught anymore.

If you wonder why each succeeding generation is suffering from more allergies, arthritis, neurological disorders, ms, etc. read this book.

If you have had doctors or family tell you that you are crazy or a hypochondriac, read this book.

Identify those things in your environment and diet you CAN change.

Change them.
45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Proceed to Read, With Caution 1 Mar 2009
By James Gerofsky - Published on
Donna Jackson Nakazawa has written a prophetic book, but not an entirely objective book. She is truly passionate about the topic of autoimmune disease and its potential links to environmental degradation and the lax regulation of foods and consumer products containing harmful substances. Given that she suffers from an autoimmune condition, one can understand her motives. However, the reader must account for that fact and take a step back from what she presents. There are legitimate reasons to suspect that many Americans are increasingly at risk of developing chronic autoimmunity because of "better living through chemistry". But much of the data and research needed to support this theory is incomplete. This is certainly a topic that needs public attention, but one that could be discredited if embraced too quickly.

The author interweaves human stories regarding the angst of having a strange and not fully understood medical condition with a bevy of facts and concepts about autoimmune disease. She also throws in a pinch of politics, as she narrates the struggles of communities seeking bureaucratic acknowledgment of disease clusters occurring near toxic waste sites. Her stories are compelling, and her knowledge of the processes of the immune system and its interactions with harmful substances such as mercury and TCE is extensive. Unfortunately, she fails give her readers "the big picture" of immunity and autoimmunity. As such, her references to CD44 proteins, toll-like receptors and other mechanisms of the immune system are scattered and disjointed.

Ms. Nakazawa provides an extensive notes section that backs up much of what she asserts. However, there are curious gaps for some of her more important and interesting claims. For example, on page 53 she talks of the "education process" in the thymus for T-cells, without any references that might assist the interested reader. On page 75, she says "if you were to look today at a chart detailing increasing rates of autoimmune disease . . " However, no citation follows. It would be nice to know where to find those charts or even see them in the book! Then on page 150, she talks about the process by which mercury forms hybrid proteins in the body, without any citation.

Regarding the studies listed in the notes about the influence of toxins on autoimmune response, one sees that most are mouse studies. Most of the supporting materials regarding disease clusters are small studies or local reports from about 12 cities. Nakazawa does not list any national studies comparing incident rates across a large number of toxic sites, and offers no references to investigations seeking common etiological factors across cluster victims. She focuses on a lupus cluster in the city of Buffalo and an academic study that was started after much bureaucratic footdragging. However, Ms. Nakazawa leaves us hanging, as the study was "not yet wrapped up" at the time of publication.

Furthermore, most of the autoimmune incidence studies that Nakazawa cites are time-limited and based on small geographic areas (sometimes in foreign nations). The only nationwide study cited regards lupus over the years 1950 to 1992. Nakazawa does not provide any sources concluding that all or most autoimmune conditions have an increasing incidence trend (although many studies show an increasing PREVALANCE, partly because of better recognition of autoimmune disease by medical workers in recent years). The author herself admits that reliable nationwide information regarding autoimmune conditions is not collected, as with AIDS and cancer.

Two more points: in several places, Nakazawa indicates that autoimmune diseases are primarily triggered by the process of viral molecular mimicry. Other sources, including The Merck Manual and William Clark's In Defense of Self, say that mimicry is one of several possible autoimmune "vectors", which may be relevant in different proportions to different diseases. I.e., one size does not fit all. Ms. Nakazawa does acknowledge these other factors, but conflates them under her "barrel" theory (which might be better described as a "tipping point" or "transition from order to chaos"). By putting everything into her allegorical barrel, environmental toxins always get in on the act. Also, Nakazawa gets behind the autism / thimerosal theory despite recent studies that conclude against it. Thimerosal, a mercury-based substance added to vaccines as a preservative, was removed from infant vaccines in California in 2001; however, studies there show that the child autism rate continued to climb.

The central premise of "The Autoimmune Epidemic" raises an obvious question: why now? Before the formation of the EPA in 1970, US citizens were exposed to many toxic pollutants that have since been eliminated or controlled. Also, since the late 1980s our economy has deindustrialized, and much of the toxic residue from our industrial past has been contained in Superfund cleanups (if imperfectly). Our paints and gasoline no longer have lead, we no longer dust our gardens with DDT, we no longer clean our paintbrushes with benzene. I feel that Ms. Nakazawa owes us a more careful analysis of whether the average American is now exposed to greater or fewer toxins. Perhaps we are exposed to different ones; but why should that set our immune systems reeling, when the old ones didn't?

In my opinion, the immune system and its disorders are an extremely important health topic. Many important discoveries are expected which will greatly increase our knowledge of the body's workings and its complicated responses to disease and injury. This will set the groundwork for therapeutic advances rivaling the antibiotics revolution of early 20th century. Toxic chemical exposure from the environment and from home products and the food chain could well be a contributor to the increasing incidence of certain autoimmune conditions. However, commercial interests having high levels of resources will challenge any public policy response. Recall how long they dragged out the global warming debate. Donna Jackson Nakazawa has taken a brave first step in garnering public attention, but carefully developed scientific evidence will be needed if her "epidemic" contention is to hold.
19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Medical Provider Must 2 May 2008
By M. G. Traub - Published on
I agree with many of the other reviews - everyone in the medical community should read this book. It is not only extremely well-written and thoroughly researched, but it also conveys the true anguish and fear that patients with autoimmune disease experience. I had to take numerous breaks from reading because it was so emotionally draining. Donna is a phenomenol writer who is able to truly get to the heart of this problem by enabling the reader to "feel" the impact of autoimmune disease through the personal stories of several people (not just her own, and not just lupus as another reviewer implied). I have actually found a real appreciation for my own body, as I have 4 different autoimmune disorders, but thankfully none have caused me the severe disability that others have experienced.

I am happy Donna covered the dietary approaches to managing immune function. I am a dietitian and I have long suspected that diet plays a key role. Personally, I have found relief in many of the supplements that are mentioned in Chapter 6- fish oil (omega 3), ginger, turmeric (curcumin), and vitamin D. And, although I know there is truth to the need to focus on a whole foods diet, I think this is going to be very challenging to achieve in a country that runs on processed foods. Regardless, being mindful of everything we put in our bodies really is the only way to insure optimal health. I used to take the stance that we can't be obsessed with every little thing, but I am definitely changing my mind about that. It seems that all the little things - pesticides, chemicals, food colorings, preservatives - are adding up to big problems.

Before reading this book I thought I knew a lot about autoimmune disease. But, the truths surrounding our toxic environment and the ignorance surrounding treating this problem are far beyond what I could ever imagine. This book truly is life changing.
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