Healing Arthritis: Your 3-Step Guide to Conquering Arthritis Naturally by Susan Blum
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
This book had a great start as it promised to explore the relationship between gut health and different classifications of arthritis (particularly those caused by an auto immune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis.) She even provided some of the mounting scientific evidence. Then the narrative quickly takes a nose dive.
Blum is an MD with a MPH and founder of the Blum Center for health. She also takes a more wholistic approach to treating patients. The problem is many of the treatments she advocates by her own admission predate the research she provides to justify them. Clearly, the research is starting to support the notion that our microbiome does play a role in many disease processes including auto immune disorders. The problem is there is a still a lot we don't know. Blum's approach is presented as scientifically based, but it's really not. That is not to say that some of the treatments she advocates for are useless, it's just I'm not sure they are for the average person.
Though she admits it is always best to get what we need through the diet and promotes a healthy diet (two areas which have a lot of support among health professionals of all flavors), she also promotes a number of supplements at therapeutic doses. But should we really be blindly taking therapeutic doses of a supplement without some oversight?
So unless you're a doctor who is in a position to do more extensive testing and follow-up, I'm not sure her program is safe for everyone. As far as the science...maybe the science will get there, but despite her claims, I don't think it's there yet.
Just because we know the microbiome is a factor that is likely contributing to our health, doesn't mean we understand all the nuances. And just because we don't understand all the nuances doesn't mean we can't experiment a little. So as an alternative to drugs, under supervision, maybe some of the supplements she suggests are a lesser evil. Maybe not.
However, it sounds as if her treatment protocol predated the research to date and now she's saying, "Look, we were right." Yet while the research certainly supports the notion that the microbiome plays a role, to say it validates her treatment approach is misleading, IMO.
On one hand, I hate to give this just 2 stars as I feel there is some good stuff here. I do support a more personalized approach to medicine. I do believe that the gut is a much more significant player than we ever realized, and I totally agree that diet is so important to our health on so many levels. On the other hand, I think she twists and molds what we do know to fit her views and approach, rather than basing her approach on what we know. And I get it. That's often how progress happens. Visionaries push the boundaries. Still, when writing a book for the masses, you have a responsibility to make it clear that what you are doing while logical based on what we do know, is not necessarily proven.
I'll use a personal example to illustrate. I have a patient who sought the advice of a naturopath regarding her daughter who had several chronic issues. The naturopath immediately diagnosed her with a mold allergy even though there was no testing to confirm. She put this girl on a pretty strict diet that is healthy albeit restrictive. As one might expect, the girl lost weight and started to feel better. Case closed!? The family is now convinced that the girl has a mold allergy. She is currently sticking to the prescribed diet. But if I've learned anything about restrictive diets it's that they are difficult to maintain over the long haul. And this girl may be needlessly restricting certain foods based on the diagnosis of a mold allergy that has no basis other than a suspicion on the part of the naturopath.
Some people might say...well, who cares. The girl is feeling better. And they are right. And maybe it won't matter in the long run. Similar to the way many people feel better after they cut out gluten, not necessarily because they had a sensitivity to gluten but because by default when they cut out gluten they also cut out a lot of processed crap and generally eat better quality foods. Again. Then who cares? I guess I kind of feel like we shouldn't be treating people blindly. We shouldn't just take a supplement because someone says it's good for us. We should have a basis for what we do and some objective way to measure success.
Why can't we just promote healthy eating as being good us.
Again, yes some people have mold allergies. And some people don't tolerate gluten or lactose or soy. But many of us do. We know from experience that the best diets are the ones that people follow consistently and restrictive diets are hard to follow consistently.
After reading this book, I feel as if Dr. Blum treats many of her patients the way this naturopath treated my patient's daughter. Blindly. How is that personalized or medicine?