Day 51: Autoimmune Diseases

The Commonality of Autoimmune Diseases, John McDougall: Autoimmune Disease Reversed with Plant Based Diet

Welcome to Day 51!

You truly are at an important stage of the Juice Feast, when your body may release some very old matter… so stick with it! Don’t be suprised if you still see some old childhood toys come out before you are done.

The information today is on Autoimmune Diseases. T. Colin Campbell has shown quite conclusively that conventional and processed animal protein is a contributing factor in the development and worsening of these conditions, and conversely, that a plant-based diet can remedy the situation. We offer this file as part of the program to build your arsenal on data on the need for and efficacy of a plant-based diet for healing. Dr. Campbell writes in The China Study:

NO GROUP OF DISEASES is more insidious than autoimmune diseases. They are difficult to treat, and progressive loss of physical and mental func­tion is a common outcome. Unlike heart disease, cancer, obesity and Type 2 diabetes, with autoimmune diseases the body systematically at­tacks itself. The afflicted patient is almost guaranteed to lose.

A quarter million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with one of the forty separate autoimmune diseases each year. Women are 2.7 times more likely to be afflicted than are men. About 3% of Americans (one in every thirty-one people) have an autoimmune disease, a staggering total of 8.5 million people; some people put the total at as many as 12-13 million people.

The more common of these diseases are listed in the chart below. The first nine comprise 97% of all autoimmune disease cases. The most studied are multiple sclerosis (MS), rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Type 1 diabetes and rheumatic heart disease. These are also the primary autoimmune diseases that have been studied in reference to diet.



What about other autoimmune diseases? There are dozens of autoim­mune diseases and I have mentioned only two of the more prominent ones. Can we say anything about autoimmune diseases as a whole?

To answer this question, we need to identify how much these dis­eases have in common. The more they have in common, the greater the probability that they also will share a common cause (or causes). This is like seeing two people you don’t know, both of whom have a similar body type, hair color, eye color, facial features, physical and vocal man­nerisms and age, and concluding that they come from the same parents. Just as we hypothesized that diseases of affluence such as cancer and heart disease have common causes because they share similar geogra­phy and similar biochemical biomarkers (chapter four), we can also hypothesize that MS, Type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and other autoimmune diseases may share a similar cause if they exhibit similar characteristics.

First, by definition, each of these diseases involves an immune sys­tem that has gone awry in such a way that it attacks “self” proteins that look the same as foreign proteins.

Second, all the autoimmune diseases that have been studied have been found to be more common at the higher geographic latitudes where there is less constant sunshine.


Third, some of these diseases have a tendency to afflict the same people. MS and Type 1 diabetes, for example, have been shown to coex­ist in the same individuals. Parkinson’s disease, a non-autoimmune disease with autoimmune characteristics, is often found with MS, both within the same geographic regions and within the same individuals. MS also has been associated-either geographically or within the same individuals with other autoimmune diseases like lupus, myasthenia gravis, Graves’ disease and eosinophilic vasculitis. Juvenile rheuma­toid arthritis, another autoimmune disease, has been shown to have an unusually strong association with Hashimoto Thyroiditis.

Fourth, of those diseases studied in relation to nutrition, the con­sumption of animal-based foods-especially cow’s milk-is associated with greater disease risk.


Fifth, there is evidence that a virus (or viruses) may trigger the onset of several of these diseases.

A sixth and most important characteristic binding together these diseases is the evidence that their “mechanisms of action” have much in common-jargon used to describe the “how to” of disease forma­tion. As we consider common mechanisms of action, we might start with sunlight exposure, because this somehow seems linked to the au­toimmune diseases. Sunlight exposure, which decreases with increas­ing latitude, could be important-but clearly there are other factors. The consumption of animal-based foods, especially cow’s milk, also increases with distance from the equator. In fact, in one of the more ex­tensive studies, cow’s milk was found to be as good of a predictor of MS as latitude (i.e., sunshine). In Dr. Swank’s studies in Norway, MS was less common near the coastal areas of the country where fish intake was more common. This gave rise to the idea that the omega-3 fats common to fish* might have a protective effect. What is almost never mentioned, however, is that dairy consumption (and saturated fat) was much lower in the fish-eating areas. Is it possible that cow’s milk and lack of sun­shine are having a similar effect on MS and other autoimmune diseases because they operate through a similar mechanism? This could be very interesting, if true.

On a consistent note, Dr. Joel Fuhrman, M.D., in his book Fasting and Eating for Health, concurs with the Plant-Based approach:

Meat and Other Animal Foods Are Implicated in Autoimmune Illnesses

There is evidence that when peptides from animal proteins are absorbed, they not only can lead to the formation of antibodies against them, but also can cross-react against human proteins in the body. This may be because animal meats have amino acid sequences that are similar to those found in human tissue. Plant proteins are less likely to cause this reaction, even if their peptides pass into the bloodstream, because they bear little resemblance to human proteins.

When the immune system views the animal peptides in the bloodstream and attempts to attack and destroy them, the anti­bodies created can continue to attack other body tissues later. Because amino acid sequences in human body proteins are similar to those of the animal peptides, these antibodies can attach to and cause a reaction to one’s own tissues.


Please do get this information out there to any friends or colleagues whose loved ones who may be suffering to a greater extent than is necessary. When it comes to healing an autoimmune disease, placing one’s Center of Gravity on a Plant-Based approach is highly prudent.

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