Since finding my path to healing from autoimmune disease through real foods, I've been very passionate about sharing my experiences with both the health care providers that treat me as a patient and my colleagues in the professional realm. I've enthusiastically approached my personal physicians with mostly disappointing, but nonetheless, what I have found to be predictable responses. The first GI physician that diagnosed me with Crohn's disease was adamant that diet would not help me at all. I was repeatedly told by her that I was in denial for believing that a change in diet could possibly help my symptoms. A primary care physician immediately became concerned about the possibility that my "drastic" diet would "starve my brain of glucose". She was also extremely focused on the status of my reproductive health, stating, "But women need to eat pasta and breads...how will you get enough folic acid otherwise?" (My response after an initial stunned silence: "Umm...have you ever heard of dark, leafy greens, broccoli, citrus fruits, or nuts?...Or, another option would be taking a supplement.") With other physicians, my attempts to sing the praises of the Paleo diet fell on deaf ears. When I first started this journey, it was shocking to me how a gastrointestinal doctor, who treats diseases of the digestive system, could complete an assessment without obtaining a general diet history. Nothing in-depth, nothing fancy, just a simple, "What do you usually eat?" would be better than nothing. Sadly, I found that is not the case. Not one of the many GI specialists I have seen ever questioned me about my diet or showed any interest in what I was eating, even when I shared my success with the GAPS diet and Paleo in relieving my symptoms. Since experiencing a tremendous amount of healing, the most recent GI specialist actually suggested that my biopsy results from the initial colonoscopy could have been mixed up with another patient's! That is certainly an interesting theory, but I was there and I lived it. It was a dark period in my life in which I was very ill and I suffered a great deal. No amount of mixing up biopsy results could eliminate that fact. Why is it so hard for physicians and other health care providers to acknowledge that diet may just have something to do with the immune system and digestive disease?
My experiences with talking with my colleagues who are nurses and other health care providers have been more positive. Most show interest in learning about the Paleo diet and agree that diet does impact autoimmune disease. My attempts to convert them to Paleo to help with their own health issues has not been successful though...yet.
I belong to a Facebook group for health care providers with inflammatory arthritis. At first, I was excited to find others who have inflammatory arthritis and work in health care. However, after a few weeks of being in the group, it's become quite disappointing. My attempts to engage group members in discussion about nutrition and alternative treatments, even mentioning my success with these methods, falls on completely deaf ears. As far as I can tell, there isn't a single member in this very active group that has any interest in doing anything other than taking toxic medications that gives them horrible side effects, in addition to not relieving their pain and symptoms. I find it sad and frustrating.
But it is encouraging to realize that interest in the Paleo diet as a way to prevent and treat disease and maintain health is growing within the health care field. There are sites such as Primal Docs and the Paleo Physician's Network that allow those to find a Paleo-minded health care provider. There are also a few physicians who maintain blogs about the Paleo diet, such as Caveman Doctor and Paleolithic MD. But it is important to remember that the best way to spread the news about the healing power of real foods is to continue to talk about it-- tell your own doctor about your experiences, tell your neighbor, your co-worker, and your friend. In the process, you just may help someone find the missing piece to their own health issues.
What have been your own experiences in sharing your diet changes with your health care provider?