I call myself the "last chance" doctor because many of my patients are nearly out of hope by the time they come to my office. Merris, who described herself as a prisoner in her own home, was one of them.
Merris has celiac disease, an autoimmune condition that affects the intestines. When people with celiac disease eat any food containing gluten, their immune system attacks the villi, tiny structures in the intestines. The result: diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain, nausea, and absolute misery.
The standard treatment for the disease is a strict avoidance of gluten. Merris had tried that for a year and a half, but it didn't work. Her doctor suspected that she had refractory celiac disease — a severe and potentially fatal condition that's treated with powerful immune-suppressing steroids and other dangerous drugs.
Merris wanted a better solution. And when she saw me on TV one day talking about treating inflammation with food, she decided to give me a chance.
After she'd followed my protocol for only four days, Merris's severe diarrhea completely stopped. Within a month, her pain and cramps vanished. She no longer needed any drugs except her thyroid medication. After being unable to sleep for more than an hour or two at a stretch, she could sleep soundly through the night.
At 66, Merris now says, "I feel like a teenager." And she's radiantly healthy, as you can see in this video.
What's the moral of Merris's story? That when it comes to autoimmune disease, the wrong foods can hurt or even kill you — and the right foods can heal you. Before I talk about these foods, here's a quick look at what autoimmune disorders are.
What is autoimmunity?
Autoimmune problems arise when your immune system mistakenly identifies certain tissues in your body as invaders rather than "self." When this happens, the immune system releases chemicals that cause a cascade of destructive inflammation.
There are more than 80 types of autoimmune conditions, and they strike in different ways. In multiple sclerosis, for instance, the central nervous system comes under attack. In rheumatoid arthritis, it's the joints. In Crohn's disease and celiac disease, it's the gastrointestinal tract.
Autoimmune disorders tend to cluster in families, and they tend to affect women more often than men. Sometimes, symptoms of autoimmune disease are mild. But often, as in Merris's case, they're crippling or even potentially fatal.
We can't cure autoimmune diseases. However, we can often send them into remission. And that's where diet comes in.
The healing power of food
Traditional doctors do realize that food plays a role in certain autoimmune conditions. For instance, they understand the damaging effects of gluten in celiac disease. But here's something that few of them know: Diet plays a big part in worsening or treating virtually any autoimmune condition.
Why? Because when you eat pro-inflammatory foods (for instance, sugar and flour), you exacerbate inflammation, the core feature of all autoimmune disorders. Unhealthy foods can also worsen intestinal permeability ("leaky" gut), throw your hormones out of balance, and lead to severe nutritional deficiencies — all of which can worsen the symptoms of an autoimmune disease.
Conversely, by eating healing foods, you can reduce inflammation, balance your hormones, foster healthy intestinal flora that help heal a leaky gut, and correct severe nutritional deficiencies. When you do this, you can often drive an autoimmune disease into remission.
So my autoimmune protocol doesn't start with dangerous pills or injections. Instead, it starts in a patient's pantry.
My Autoimmune Protocol: Stage 1
My protocol for patients with autoimmune conditions begins with my 30-Day Reset. During this time, I ask these patients to eat a diet completely free of these foods: