Living Well with Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know

Living Well with Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know

by Mary J Shomon

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A complete guide to understanding the mysterious and often difficult-to-pinpoint disorders of the immune system—and finding the keys to diagnosis, treatment, and recovery.

An estimated fifty million people suffer from symptoms including fatigue, joint pains, depression, or heart palpitations — signs that the immune system has turned on itself, causing conditions such as thyroid disease, hepatitis, or multiple sclerosis. And while doctors may prescribe treatments to relieve these surface ailments, when asked about the life-long health implications of an autoimmune condition, they often just shrug their shoulders. Yet much like cancer, having one autoimmune disease puts you at high risk for developing another, and understanding the underlying immune process can reverse a patients approach to a dysfunction—for the author, it changed the way she ate, the vitamins and supplements she took, and the types of doctors she visited. Living Well with Autoimmune Disease is the first book that goes beyond the conventional treatments by showing you how to work on your underlying autoimmune dysfunction with natural and alternative therapies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060938192
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 10/08/2002
Series: Living Well (Collins)
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 544
Sales rank: 213,225
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.23(d)

About the Author

Diagnosed with a thyroid disease in 1995, Mary J. Shomon has transformed her health challenges into a mission as an internationally known patient advocate. She is the founder and editor in chief of several thyroid, autoimmune, and nutrition newsletters, as well as the Internet’s most popular thyroid disease website, She lives in Kensington, Maryland.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One


When I was first diagnosed with hypothyroidism, I didn't have any idea what or where the thyroid was, or what it actually did. My doctor phoned to let me know that my thyroid was a little underactive, called in a prescription to the pharmacy, and that was the extent of the diagnosis and treatment. Months after I began thyroid hormone replacement, I was still struggling with continuing symptoms. My hair was falling out and clogging the drain. I was waking up each morning with sore and achy joints and muscles. Just a few hours of typing on the computer would set off a major attack of carpal tunnel syndrome in my forearms and wrists. My eyes became scratchy and my vision blurry due to dryness. My hands and feet frequently tingled and went numb.

I decided to find out more about my condition and read a book from the 1970s explaining that the main cause of hypothyroidism was actually an autoimmune disease called Hashimoto's thyroiditis. The book offered little insight into the causes and treatment for this condition. All it suggested was that having one autoimmune disease could increase the risk of developing other autoimmune conditions. The prospect of having one poorly understood condition was frightening and was made far worse by the idea that I was also at higher risk for lupus, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, or worse.

I asked my doctor to refer me to an endocrinologist -- a specialist in endocrine diseases. When I consulted with the endocrinologist, I asked her if I could be tested for Hashimoto's thyroiditis. "We could do that," she responded, "but what's the point of spending the money? Because the factthat your hypothyroidism may be caused by an autoimmune disease is not going to change anything." But the truth is, my hypothyroidism was ultimately caused by an autoimmune disease -- Hashimoto's thyroiditis. And that does change everything.

It changes the way I should eat. The symptoms I should monitor more closely. The vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements I should take. The types of doctors I should visit. The ways I should manage stress. Even the water I should drink. And it changes the way I should feed my young daughter and care for her health now to protect her in the future.

That's why I wrote Living Well with Autoimmune Disease. Because autoimmune disease does matter ... and because we need to know more.

Variations of my story are repeated every day when a patient with autoimmune thyroid disease wonders, as I did, if the tingling and numbness are actually signs of impending multiple sclerosis. Or when the woman with lupus asks how she got the condition and is offered nothing more than a shrug of the shoulders from a doctor. Or when a person with Sjögren's syndrome worries that the dry eyes and mouth are a harbinger of other autoimmune diseases to come but is told there's nothing that can be done to prevent them, so why worry. Or when a pregnant woman wonders whether her baby will be at greater risk of developing an autoimmune disease someday.

But for most autoimmune diseases, the best that medicine can do is keep some of the symptoms at bay. The root cause of the condition, or any potential to cure the autoimmune disease, is rarely -- if at all -- addressed. And that means you may ultimately feel afraid.

Afraid because once the immune system has turned on you, you may start on a seemingly downward health spiral characterized by development of other autoimmune conditions.

Afraid because multiple autoimmune conditions are frequently accompanied by dramatically worsening allergies, heightened chemical sensitivities, hormonal imbalances, and a host of other debilitating and life-changing symptoms.

Afraid because you've perhaps only just learned to deal with your diagnosed condition and now you suspect that every new symptom, every new ache or pain, might signal the onset of another new and insidious autoimmune disease.

Afraid because, for the most part, doctors throw up their hands when you ask, "What can I do about my autoimmune condition?" And afraid because your doctors just shake their heads, perplexed, when you ask, "How can I avoid getting more autoimmune-related diseases?" And afraid because most doctors don't have an answer to the critical question: "Is there anything I can do to help prevent my children from developing autoimmune diseases?"

Afraid because, over time, chronic malfunctioning of the immune system can ultimately lead to various cancers.

Afraid that there's no way to recapture your health, no way to slow or halt the inexorable march of an immune system gone haywire as it launches each new attack on another part of your body.

Afraid that there are no answers.

But there are answers.

You just aren't likely to hear them from the typical HMO (Health Maintenance Organization) doctor, who may not even recognize or easily diagnose many autoimmune conditions, much less know how to treat them -- particularly given the constraints of the typical HMO-mandated 15-minute-or-less appointment.

And the answers aren't likely to be forthcoming from the average primary care doctor, or GP, or ob-gyn -- the doctors most of us see for our day-to-day medical care. These doctors rush through dozens of patients a day and barely have time to keep up with key developments in the most studied conditions such as heart disease and cancer, much less time to delve into complicated and often misunderstood autoimmune diseases.

And even those doctors who consider themselves experts in treating the most common autoimmune diseases rarely venture into the uncharted territory of actually dealing with the autoimmune process itself. Most are content to focus on treating symptoms. So endocrinologists give insulin for diabetes and thyroid hormone replacement for thyroid disease. Rheumatologists prescribe pain relievers and immunosuppressives for rheumatoid arthritis. Gastroenterologists offer surgeries and drugs for Crohn's disease. But ask these doctors about the autoimmune implications of the conditions and they may draw a blank.

Living Well with Autoimmune Disease. Copyright © by Mary Shomon. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Living Well with Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As an woman with autoimmune condition, Graves' disease, I have been desperately looking for information to help me in my efforts to improve my health. I am very grateful for Mary Shomon's book, because it's a fresh approach, and doesn't back off of looking at alternative and natural medicine options, but does include all the standard information (symptoms, how it's diagnosed, traditional treatments) that some people want. As for me, I struggled for years with symptoms that were vague, and were pooh-poohed by the numerous doctors, until finally hitting on the right doctor to get a diagnosis. That was when my horror story just began, because I had to go through the dreadful maze of antithyroid drugs, radioiodine and thyroid treatment. What a mess. Since that time, I have suspected that I might have other conditions as well [symptoms of Raynaud's, arthritis, hair loss, I am even worried at times that I might be getting lupus], but most doctors look at me like I am losing my mind when I raise the risk of autoimmune disease, or complain about these symptoms as related to my Graves' disease. I learned a great deal reading about the more than 30 conditions discussed in depth. They're grouped according to the organs or systems under autoimmune attack (like hair & skin, gastrointestinal, and such), which I've not seen done anywhere else. There's a chapter that's just a list of symptoms and various things that put you at risk for autoimmune diseases. It's particularly detailed -- that list alone would have made this book worth its weight in gold to me back when I was struggling with mysterious symptoms and my GP and I couldn't figure it out. It would have saved me months of fear, and helped us narrow down the field pretty quickly, instead of going to a neurologist, an infectious disease specialist and a gynecologist before they figured out I had Graves' disease. The writer has included information I had not seen in any other book, including the use of antibiotic and anti-pathogen therapies, how supplements and diet can help the immune system without suppressing it, the role of diet, detoxification and food allergies in autoimmune disease, and natural antiviral therapies. I'm taking the book to my latest practitioner [my current doctor is actually pretty understanding on these conditions] and he and I will use the book to continue finetuning my efforts to feel better. (FWIW, I'm also using Elaine Moore's terrific book on Graves' disease, Mary Shomon's other book which is on thyroid problems, and the Paleo Diet, which are all helping as well.) As a fan of integrative medicine, I'm glad to see someone finally look at autoimmune disease from this perspective, and offer me some practical things I can actually do to help my own health. I can wholeheartedly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
With this newest addition to her wellness series, Mary's done a fantastic job of explaining a complex subject. In Living Well with Autoimmune Diseases, Mary integrates the best of both conventional and holistic method and offers a wellness plan that can benefit anyone who has an autoimmune disorder. Once again, Mary empowers her readers to take charge of their health and live well despite having an autoimmune disorder.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Autoimmune Disease is a daily problem that everyone may have and not know it. Doctors don't always thing of that being a problem with many different symptoms, But you know something is wrong ask can it be. Educate yourself it does make it easier to talk to your doctors. Once confirmed you have a disorder find all the information you can don't go blindly with what your doctors says.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was disappointed. I didn't learn anything new. And I found several factual errors. I was recently diagnosed with lupus and have read several books on autoimmune disease recently. This was by far the worst one as far as quality goes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I haven't even read the book, but in the description of the book, a couple disorders that are listed aren't even autoimmune (i.e. Fibromyalgia and CFS). Before the book is even opened, there's a factual error. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Comprehensive, detailed all autoimmune disease so you can have great information and track all in your heritage!
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Teenyvictory More than 1 year ago
Direct and clear - wonderful to finally read something that helps you to help yourself! The Atkins Vita-Nutrient book to which she refers readers is also very helpful even if it is 10 years old!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago