The Cure Controversy: 4 Reasons Your Doctor Might Be Skeptical that Autoimmune Conditions Can Be “Cured.”
The idea that autoimmune conditions can be reversed or “cured” is controversial. Actually, it would be controversial if mainstream medicine were even discussing the topic yet. Your doctor may tell you there is no cure for your autoimmune condition and respond negatively, even condescendingly, if you suggest a cure is possible. Let’s take a look at some really good reasons why she might feel that way.
- Doctors are busy, highly trained professionals who are expected to abide by a “standard of care” which aligns with what is taught in medical schools, what similar doctors practice, and what the insurance industry will allow them to bill for. The idea of reversing autoimmunity hasn’t yet reached medical schools and hasn’t been the subject of extensive medical studies reported in peer-reviewed journals, so the topic is off the radar of mainstream medicine.
- Your doctor is trained to view the word “cure” as something she can predictably “do” to you, typically via medicine or surgery. For instance, she can “cure” your staph infection with antibiotics if you take a certain medication, or she can stitch up a wound. Your doctor cares about you, but since there is no pill or surgery that can cure autoimmunity, she may sincerely feel there that nothing she can do to reverse your condition. If you think about it, many doctors have to deal with life and death scenarios every day and can’t afford to “guess” or “try something new” in a serious situation. We can’t blame them for relying on conservative approaches to chronic illness!
- Reversing autoimmunity requires extensive assessment of multiple health stresses. Most doctors aren’t yet aware of how to assess autoimmune triggers and heal the underlying imbalances causing the condition. This vision of medicine constitutes a huge paradigm shift for the treatment of autoimmunity and chronic illness. Additionally, the assessment process takes time – time that many doctors don’t have and most insurance companies won’t pay for.
- Even if a doctor believes in the body’s natural ability to heal, the healing process requires lifestyle changes that most doctors don’t trust you to make! Doctors know that most of us act like unruly teenagers with our health, and when that health finally fails, we feel sorry for ourselves and refuse to change the habits that got us sick in the first place! Many doctors even treat their own health this way! Your doctor is trained to seek predictable results. Trusting you to take care of yourself is a gamble because she sees a lot of patients she can’t even trust to take a pill every day, let alone make real life changes.
99.9 percent of the “cure” is in your hands, not your doctor’s! Do you trust yourself to take care of yourself?
The situation is analogous to the 1980s and 1990s, when conventional medical wisdom held that that heart disease could not be reversed. Doctors like Dr. Dean Ornish and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr. were dismissed when they suggested diet, exercise and stress reduction could actually reverse and prevent heart disease. That is, they were dismissed until they proved their point with controlled studies followed up with peer-reviewed papers in top medical journals and groundbreaking books.1,2,3 Today, there is no doubt that heart disease can be reversed with lifestyle changes.
Despite conclusive evidence that heart disease can be significantly reversed with lifestyle changes, the medical establishment is still mainly oriented to offering you a daily statin pill, until things progress to when they need to give you a $25,000 angioplasty or a $50,000 arterial bypass. They don’t yet appreciate the value and practice of prevention and lifestyle intervention. If you look at the following evidence, you’ll see that the lifestyle changes are far more effective than the pills!
In April 2013, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that, “a 2010 analysis combined the results of 11 studies and found that taking statins did not lower the death rate for people who did not have heart disease.”4
95% of people taking statins do not have established heart disease. But let’s suppose you do. A 2010 paper by Dr. David Newman, based on large meta-analyses of statins showed that for patients with pre-existing heart disease that took statins for 5 years, 96% saw no benefit at all and 11% suffered some harm like muscle damage or diabetes.5
We’re spending billions on these drugs that do little good and even cause harm! Compare that with the results obtained with life changes.
Dr. Ornish states: “Our studies show that, with significant lifestyle changes, blood flow to the heart and its ability to pump normally improve in less than a month, and the frequency of chest pains fell by 90% in that time.”6 Dr. Esselstyn studied 18 patients who had an eight year history of 49 coronary incidents such as “angina, bypass surgery, heart attacks, strokes and angioplasty.” During the 12 years of the study, making significant lifestyle changes, only one patient suffered a coronary incident, and that was a patient who had left the program for two years.7
The difference is that it’s both easy and accepted by mainstream medicine and insurance to offer you a pill for your condition, but it’s outside the box to determine all the factors in your diet and lifestyle that got you sick in the first place. Ultimately though, lifestyle changes are the only true effective method for reversing both heart disease and autoimmunity.
You just have to be willing and able to make the changes necessary to heal!
It’s important to note that curing/reversing heart disease, autoimmunity, or any condition doesn’t mean that all the damage done by the illness can be fully regenerated. If you had a heart attack and some of your heart muscle was destroyed, that damage remains even though your heart may be able to compensate. If long-term autoimmune attacks have damaged your thyroid or other tissues, we don’t know how much, if any, of the lost tissue may be regenerated. This is no reason not to halt further destruction and possible collateral damage to your health by reversing the ongoing condition. Removing the factors that make you sick results in better health at all levels and prevents a host of health problems in the future.
Uncovering the roots of autoimmunity involves consideration of even more variables than those concerning heart disease. This debate will soon approach the stage that the controversy over reversing heart disease reached 25 years ago. It may be more challenging to design studies to demonstrate that removing stress in all its forms: emotional, toxic, GI, infectious, and so on, leads to a reversal of autoimmunity. That’s because there are so many variables and the triggers vary by individual. Science is already discovering the links between various stress factors and autoimmunity but it’s generally one variable at a time being identified as a trigger.
Still, the dawning of this knowledge is inevitable as patients themselves, with the help of enlightened and open-minded practitioners, demonstrably and quantifiably reverse their autoimmune conditions by removing the root triggers that disturbed the immune response in the first place. I think this is a great start to ending the cure controversy!
- Lancet. 1990 Jul 21;336(8708):129-33.
- Ornish, D.; Brown, S.E.; Billings, J.H.; Scherwitz, L.W.; Armstrong, W.T.; Ports, T.A.; McLanahan, S.M.; Kirkeeide, R.L.; Gould, K.L.; Brand, R.J. (1990). “Can lifestyle changes reverse coronary heart disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial”. The Lancet (U.S. National Library of Medicine; PubMed) 336 (8708): 129–33.
- Esselstyn CB Jr. et al. “A Strategy to Arrest and Reverse Coronary Artery Disease: A 5 -Year Longitudinal Study of a Single Physician’s Practice.” The Journal of Family Practice, 1995 December; 41(6): 560-68..
- Esselsyn CB (1 Aug 1999). “Updating a 12-year experience with arrest and reversal therapy for coronary heart disease (an overdue requiem for palliative cardiology).”. Am J Cardiol 84 (3): 339–41, A8.