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

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Autoimmune disease is the third major category of illness in the United States, yet very little is known about the many serious and chronic immune conditions. If you're one of the 50 million Americans suffering from one kind of autoimmune disease-whether it's lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or Crohn's disease-there's a good chance you'll develop another.

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Autoimmune disease is the third major category of illness in the United States, yet very little is known about the many serious and chronic immune conditions. If you're one of the 50 million Americans suffering from one kind of autoimmune disease-whether it's lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, thyroid disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, or Crohn's disease-there's a good chance you'll develop another.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Autoimmune disease is mysterious, difficult to diagnosis, and all too common. In fact, an estimated 50 million Americans suffer from its symptoms, which include fatigue, joint pains, depression, memory loss, numbness, and heart palpitations. In Living Well with Autoimmune Disease, Mary Shomon shares what she has learned while coping with her own condition.
Alternative Medicine Magazine
“...inspirational for those afflicted with mysterious conditions...offers solid, practical advice for getting your health back on track.”
American Autoimmune Related Disease Association
“A must read book.”
Alternative Medicine Magazine
“...inspirational for those afflicted with mysterious conditions...offers solid, practical advice for getting your health back on track.”
American Autoimmune Related Disease Association
“A must read book.”
Publishers Weekly
It took physicians two years after the author complained of weight gain, depression and fatigue to diagnose her with the autoimmune disease Hashimoto's thyroiditis. Autoimmune disease, which includes such conditions as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic fatigue syndrome, are estimated to afflict at least 8.5 million Americans. According to Shomon (Living Well with Hypothyroidism), because of the difficulty of diagnosis and tendency of some physicians to prescribe treatments that may have serious side effects, those with autoimmune illnesses are being shortchanged by the medical establishment. Since those who suffer from one are more vulnerable to other autoimmune disorders (not to mention that they may have a genetic predisposition toward a disorder), this informative self-help manual is badly needed. Drawing on extensive research, as well as doctor-patient anecdotes, Shomon's guide is designed to empower patients to participate in their own care. In addition to a detailed discussion of every type of autoimmune disease, the author provides advice on how to choose an appropriate medical team that will work to integrate conventional and alternative therapies. Based partly on her own experience, Shomon advocates an integrative approach to treatment that may include meditation, herbs, exercise and dietary changes along with antibiotics and hormones that together will minimize symptoms and maximize health. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
It takes a unique combination of knowledge and skill to present complex medical information accurately and make it understandable to the average nontechnical reader; unfortunately, this book does not meet that expectation. Shomon, who wrote Living Well with Hypothyroidism after her own diagnosis, is a self-described patient advocate and editor in chief of several newsletters for patients. Nowhere in the book does it indicate that she has a professional clinical background, yet she feels competent to interpret autoimmune diseases, which are highly complex and comprise between 50 and 100 different illnesses, such as type 1 diabetes, Crohn's disease, and lupus. Many of these illnesses defy cure, and clinicians and patients alike hope to be able to manage symptoms and minimize organ or joint destruction. Yet Shomon claims that her guide will go beyond symptom management to "discover cutting-edge approaches that can actually reduce and even reverse the autoimmune response [and] even cure autoimmune conditions entirely." Relying on interviews with patients and various practitioners, her own experience, and a mix of research sources, she discusses conventional and alternative approaches to more than 25 autoimmune conditions. Unfortunately, many of her references are not drawn from peer-reviewed resources but come from newswire services, electronic journals, newsletters, web sites, or press releases. Throughout, Shomon frequently interchanges IBD (inflammatory bowel disease) and IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), though the treatment and course of these two entities are completely different. And there are other such errors. Shomon has a deep personal interest in the topic, but is she the best person to interpret and present this highly important and complex information. This reviewer thinks not. Not recommended; a better choice would be Simone Ravicz's Thriving with Your Autoimmune Disorder.DLisa McCormick, Jewish Hosp. Health Sciences Lib., Cincinnati Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060938192
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/28/2002
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 544
  • Sales rank: 230,094
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.22 (d)

Meet 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.

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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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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 29, 2002

    Fresh, Integrative Medicine Approach and Practical Ideas

    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.

    8 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 19, 2002

    Nothing New Here

    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.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 6, 2002

    Another Winner for Mary

    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.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    You need to read if you have questions

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 13, 2013

    I haven't even read the book, but in the description of the book

    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. 

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Highly Recommended!!!

    Comprehensive, detailed all autoimmune disease so you can have great information and track all in your heritage!

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    Very Informative and Useful

    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!

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted November 23, 2012

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    Posted May 3, 2011

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