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Autoimmune News: Index

From Patient Advocate Mary Shomon, November 2002

In this issue...
  • Things That Work: Thymic Protein
  • New Thyroid Testing Guidelines
  • Infections & Susceptibility To Autoimmune Diseases
  • Pregnancy Hormone May Treat MS
  • Epstein-Barr Virus Linked To Risk Of MS
  • Actress Teri Garr Has Had MS for 20 Years
  • Exercise May Boost Mood In Fibromyalgia
  • Probiotics – Watch Out for Dead Bugs Or Bad Bugs!
  • Vaccine Developed For Sjögren's Syndrome
  • Selenium for Autoimmune Thyroiditis Decreases Antibodies
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis And Type 2 Diabetes
  • Fish Oil And Diabetes -- News Updates
  • Nuts May Lower Risk Of Diabetes
  • Antibiotics For Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Linked To Intestinal Bacteria
  • Breastfeeding Reduces Lupus Risk
  • E. Coli May Trigger Crohn's Disease
  • South American Herbs And Autoimmune Disease
  • How To Live Well With Autoimmune Disease
  • Order Living Well With Autoimmune Disease
  • Alternative Medicine Magazine Review
  • Elaine Moore Review
  • Notes From Mary

    Table of Contents

    Book Introduction


    Autoimmune Risks/Symptoms Checklist


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    Author: Mary J. Shomon
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    Welcome to the second issue of The Autoimmune Report, my news and information report on autoimmune disease. This newsletter is copyrighted by Mary Shomon, and cannot be legally reproduced without permission. Feel free, however, to forward a single copy to someone who might be interested in reading the newsletter or subscribing to it in the future.


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    LIVING WELL WITH AUTOIMMUNE DISEASE: Just published, October 8, 2002! For more information, see


    One supplement that you may not know about that can of help for your immune system is thymic protein.

    The thymus is a gland located under your breastbone. In a newborn, it is similar in size to the heart, continues growing until age 2 or 3, then stays the same size until puberty, at which point it begins to shrink. By 40, the thymus is reduced to about one-sixth its original size, and the elderly have almost no thymic function.

    But the thymus is a critical part of the immune system. It is in our thymus gland there cancer- and infection-fighting T-cells mature. So a shrinking thymus leaves less space for maturation of T-cells, and reduces our immunity and ability to fight off infection.

    Some preliminary research has found that supplementation with zinc can help to restore thymic function. In addition, another supplement that can help is thymic function is thymic protein.

    To prepare thymic protein, thymus cells from cows are grown in a laboratory, and then purified. (Since it’s made of purified cells, and not a whole animal, there’s no risk of mad cow disease.) Clinical research is already underway, but anecdotal reports from patients and practitioners point to many positive results. Overall, thymic protein is claimed to:
    • strengthen the ability to fight infection
    • fight active infections, such as colds, herpes, shingles, flu, sinusitis
    • help treat chronic viral infections
    • decrease viral loads of viruses such as Epstein-Barr virus and others
    • increase white blood cell count
    • increase t-cell levels
    • increase white cell count
    • improveme symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia
    • help calm immune response in some autoimmune diseases
    In a small clinical trial of patients with Epstein-Barr virus, participants took 4 mcg of thymic protein, three times daily, for 60 days. After treatment, the Epstein-Barr virus levels were reduced in two-thirds of patients, and in one case, the levels dropped by 75%. Meanwhile, all of the patients reported reduced feeling generally better, with most reporting greater energy and needed less sleep.

    Dr. Jacob Teitelbaum recommends thymic protein for people who have chronic viral syndromes, chronic fatigue syndrome that appears to be viral in origin, or anyone who is exposed to or fighting off a virus. Dr. Teitelbaum also swears by it for himself and his own family.

    Noted natural medicine expert Julian Whitaker, M.D., Director of the Whitaker Wellness Institute in Newport Beach, California, has said that thymic protein is "likely the most powerful stimulant of the immune system ever discovered."

    Based on Dr. Teitelbaum’s recommendation, I’ve started using thymic protein, and have to report that I have had fantastic results with this product. With a preschool child who frequently comes home with various colds and viruses, I am frequently exposed to viruses. When I feel like I’m coming down with a something, I take 2 to 3 packets of thymic protein a day (it’s a nearly tasteless powder that you put under your tongue so it can be absorbed sublingually), and I have been able to ward off several colds in progress. I’ve also given it to my preschooler, and it prevented her colds from developing into full-scale illnesses with resulting ear infections.

    Sometimes people wonder if taking something that stimulates the immune system would in fact be bad for someone with an autoimmune disease. Actually, many practitioners do not believe that immune-stimulating supplements such as thymic protein (or echinacea, one that people frequently ask about) are over-stimulating to people with autoimmune conditions. Rather, since autoimmune disease is known to be a dysregulation of the immune system – it is NOT an overactive immune system, as is sometimes erroneously thought. So something that helps the immune system function properly can actually help people with autoimmune diseases, rather than overstimulate.

    The product that Jacob Teitelbaum uses himself and for his family and patients – and the one I was introduced to and take -- is ProBoost, from Genicel Inc. Each packet has 4 micrograms of freeze-dried, purified Protein A from calf thymus cell culture, delivering 12 trillion active molecules.
    proboost.gif - 10097 BytesI am not going to pretend that this in an inexpensive product. I wish I could afford to use it every day or every other day (which is suggested for healthy people, to improve immune function) -- to see how I feel on it! But right now, I save it for when I’m feeling like I’m coming down with something, or fighting off viral symptoms. Then I take 2-3 packets a day, and so far, I’ve been able to beat several fall viruses without a typical multi-day viral attack, followed by additional days of post-viral fatigue.

    You might want to get one box, and the next time you feel like you’re getting a cold or flu, try it and see if it works for you.

    You can get it thymic protein at health food stores (but be prepared to pay as much as $75 or more for a box of 30 packets). Some websites have it for $53 to $72, but the best bargain I’ve found is at my favorite online store, Iherb sells a 30 packet box for $48.00

    (Click here for info and to order from Iherb.)

    If you try it, let me know how it works for you. You can write me at


    Particularly important news for people with autoimmune thyroid disease.

    The National Academy of Clinical Biochemistry, part of the Academy of the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC), has issued new Laboratory Medicine Practice Guidelines for thyroid testing.

    These practice guidelines are a fairly noticeable departure, and should have far-reaching effects on thyroid diagnosis and treatment.

    Of specific interest are the following findings from the guidelines:
    "It is likely that the current upper limit of the population reference range is skewed by the inclusion of persons with occult thyroid dysfunction."

    "In the future, it is likely that the upper limit of the serum TSH euthyroid reference range will be reduced to 2.5 mIU/L because >95% of rigorously screened normal euthyroid volunteers have serum TSH values between 0.4 and 2.5 mIU/L."

    "A serum TSH result between 0.5 and 2.0 mIU/L is generally considered the therapeutic target for a standard L-T4 replacement dose for primary hypothyroidism."

    "Thyroxine requirements increase during pregnancy. Thyroid status should be checked with TSH + FT4 during each trimester of pregnancy. The L-T4 dose should be increased (usually by 50 micrograms/day) to maintain a serum TSH between 0.5 and 2.0 mIU/L and a serum FT4 in the upper third of the normal reference interval."
    The complete text of the guidelines are available online at

    Note from Mary: It might be a good idea to print these out and provide a copy to your endocrinologists and physicians providing your thyroid care.


    According to research published in the September 19, 2002 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Jean-François Bach has theorized that the main reason autoimmune diseases are on the rise in industrialized countries is the reduction in infectious diseases in those countries. This theory, also known as the “hygiene hypothesis,” has been discussed in Mary Shomon’s new book, Living Well With Autoimmune Disease as well.

    Data does show a steady increase in the prevalence of allergic and autoimmune diseases in developed countries in the past 30 years. In particular, the allergic conditions that have seen increases include asthma, rhinitis, and atopic dermatitis, and among autoimmune diseases, multiple sclerosis, insulin-dependent diabetes (type 1 diabetes) — particularly in young children — and Crohn's disease.

    At the same time, antibiotics, vaccination, improved hygiene and better socioeconomic conditions have resulted in a noticeable decrease in many infectious diseases, including tuberculosis, rheumatic fever, measles, and mumps, among others.

    There is also a clear difference in the level of autoimmune diseases, with the lowest levels around the Equator, and with levels rising the as one heads north or south away from the Equator.

    Some of these differences are thought to be underdiagnosis in less-developed countries, however, it is not necessarily only due to that factor. Genetics, environmental factors, rates of infection, climate, sunlight exposure and diet are also potential factors.

    It’s not clearly understood how exposure to infections could protect against allergic and autoimmune diseases. It’s thought, perhaps, that infectious agents stimulate the production of regulatory cells in the immune system, and these regulatory cells prevent immunological dysfunction seen in autoimmune disease. It’s also theorized that exposure to infections provide competition for the immune response to other antigens, and perhaps immune system’s sensitization to external antigens minimize interest in or ability to target self.

    Source: New England Journal, Volume 347:911-920 September 19, 2002 Number 12


    Experts have long known that women with certain autoimmune diseases – including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and Hashimoto’s disease – have fewer symptoms, or even remission – during pregnancy. Based on this observation, researchers at UCLA conducted the first trial of hormone therapy specifically targeted to MS, and found that estriol, an estrogen hormone that is produced during pregnancy, may be a treatment for MS. In a preliminary study, the hormone, given in a pill form, was found to reduce symptoms in a group of women with early MS. The hormone could eventually provide an alternative to injectible anti-inflammatory drugs used for MS.

    After six months of treatment, the women with the early MS were shown to have less brain inflammation. Improvements disappeared when the women were taken off the estriol, and improved again back on the hormone. The hormone did not help those with more advanced MS.

    Additional studies are likely to take place to look at effectiveness, and longer-term safety of estriol, which is used widely in Europe, but not typically in the U.S.

    Source: Annals of Neurology, September 2002


    According to Harvard University researchers, infection with the common Epstein-Barr virus may increase the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). The researchers found that women who had significant levels of antibodies to Epstein-Barr, evidence of exposure to and activation of the virus, were four times more likely to develop MS than women who did not have high levels.

    Epstein-Barr virus is a member of the herpes virus family, and is most commonly known as the cause of mononucleosis, which is also known as the "kissing disease."

    Epstein-Barr virus is very common, and it’s estimated that as many as 95 percent of Americans have been infected with the virus by age 40, most in symptomless infection during early childhood.

    Previous research has shown that people who do not have Epstein-Barr antibodies rarely develop multiple sclerosis, so these new findings bolster the potential link between the virus and MS.

    The findings are controversial, however, and some experts say that it’s impossible to establish cause and effect between Epstein-Barr and MS because it’s difficult to identify which comes first, exposure or MS.

    Source: Harvard University research, December, 2001


    Photo: National MS Society
    In October of 2002, actress Teri Garr, 52, revealed that she has been dealing with multiple sclerosis for almost 20 years.

    Garr is best known for her roles in the films “Tootsie” and “Young Frankenstein,” and was also featured in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," "The Black Stallion" and "Dumb and Dumber,” among many other films.

    As is the case with many MS patients, Garr did not know she had the disease for several years. She first noticed symptoms in 1983, when he had a bit of a tremor and weakness in her leg. Garr, who has kept her condition from the public eye all these years, told USA Today, ''I didn't feel like it was anybody's beeswax. ''I was afraid I wouldn't get work. People hear 'MS' and think, 'Oh, my God, the person has two days to live.' ''

    Garr has gone public, because she started on the drug Rebif in June of 2002, and has now become a paid “ambassador” to talk about how Rebif is working for her.


    Researchers reporting in the journal Arthritis Care & Research have reported that exercise may help to reduce depression and anxiety in people with fibromyalgia, and help them improve their walking speed.

    In the Canadian study, it was shown that 23 weeks of supervised exercise improved the mood and physical function of patients with fibromyalgia.

    Specifically, the exercisers had reduced depression and anxiety, and were able to increase their walking speed by a half-mile per hour over the 23 week period.

    The researcher did warn people with fibromyalgia not to quickly begin a rigorous exercise program, however, because of the potential increase in pain. A slow and gradual increase in exercise level, only as physical abilities improve, is recommended.

    Source: Arthritis Care & Research 2001;45:519-529.


    Last month’s issue featured an article,
    “More Reason for Probiotics,” but before you rush out to buy any old probiotic supplement, recent news on the quality of probiotic supplements had added critical information to this important discussion.

    First, a recap. A probiotic is an organism that helps to balance the intestinal tract. Probiotics are also frequently referred to as "friendly" or "good" bacteria.

    Many people are familiar with acidophilus, one of the most well-known probiotics, and the "good bacteria" or "live bacteria" found in most yogurts. When you eat foods containing probiotics, or take probiotic supplements, the probiotics help to maintain a healthy intestinal tract, and can actually help prevent some illness, or fight off other illness and disease.

    These probiotic bacteria are those that when present in sufficient quantities in your intestines, will kill off and prevent overgrowth of harmful bacteria -- pathogenic bacteria -- that can lead to digestive problems and disease. can overgrow and become established, causing digestive and other health problems.

    More and more, it's thought that regular use of probiotics may be an important way to modulate the immune system, and help deal with autoimmune conditions. There is more even more research out that offers encouraging news about probiotics, for migraine sufferers, and for reduction of eczema and allergy risks.

    Read more about probiotics in general, in last month’s Autoimmune Report.

    Now, researchers reporting this week at the 130th Annual Meeting of the American Public Health Association have reported that a study of 20 different probiotic lactobacillus supplements sold in the Seattle area showed that out of the 20, 4 supplements contained dead organisms (lactobacillus need to be alive in order to have an effect).

    Even before this recent study, we’ve known that probiotics are notoriously unreliable, in terms of quality, and ability to deliver live bacteria. They can also be ridiculously expensive to get what is identified as a decent quality product. Many of the better products also require refrigeration, which means that you may be erratic at taking the product, and they don't travel well. Even then, consistency and delivery of most probiotic products is iffy at best.

    After looking at various products, I've agreed with a number of practitioners I've talked to in deciding that the best product on the market is "Acidophilus Pearls," from Enzymatic Therapy. Each tiny pearl - they come in a punch out pack of 30 -- is easy to swallow, no refrigeration required, no messy powders. The technology protects the live bacteria, and each pearl delivers millions of live bacteria, including both Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium longum. All you need is one per day - no need to take them all day long, or pills and powders with each meal. I've been trying for years to regularly take probiotics, and have never been good about it because of the refrigeration issue. Now, I keep it with my thyroid medicine, and take it every morning. Can you tell I LOVE this product!?

    You can get Enzymatic Therapy's Probiotic Pearls at most good health food and vitamin stores.

    If you want to buy online, the online store I use,, has a good buy on this product, for $11.00, for a 30-pearl pack (that's a one month supply.) Great bargain for a really helpful product. Get your Pearls from now.

    Source: “Yogurt Bacteria Supplements Often Duds, Dangerous,” November 12, 2002, Reuters Health


    Researchers reporting in the journal The Lancet have announced that a protein that triggers Sjögren’s syndrome in mice has been found, and has allowed them to develop a vaccine that prevents the condition in mice. At the same time, the researchers were able to produce a prototype vaccine that was able to stop the progress in mice who already had developed Sjögren’s syndrome.

    In a news release, researcher Michael Dosch, MD, senior scientist at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, said: “Our vaccine was able to stop Sjögren syndrome even after the disease had fully developed, an unusual finding, since in other autoimmune disorders it is impossible so far to stop and reverse the disease process once it is fully established. This finding is also exciting because it opens the door to further knowledge about treating selective organ autoimmune diseases, including the possibility of vaccines."

    The researchers are planning a larger study of Sjögren’s syndrome patients in preparation for a full clinical trial of the vaccine.

    Source: The Lancet, October, 2002


    German researchers have found that in areas with severe selenium deficiency, there is a higher incidence of thyroiditis. The researchers concluded that selenium supplementation may reduce inflammation in patients with autoimmune thyroiditis.

    Source: The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, Vol. 87, No. 4 1490-1498


    While the link between autoimmune thyroid disease and Type 1 diabetes (also autoimmune) is established, Czech researchers looked at the connection between autoimmune thyroid disease and Type 2 diabetes in people who were not overweight. In looking at patients' thyroid peroxidase antibodies, TG-antibodies, TSH levels, and ultrasound test results, the researchers found that 19% of Type 2 diabetics had autoimmune thyroid disease.

    Note from Mary: Findings like these argue that everyone with Type 2 diabetes should be thoroughly evaluated for thyroid function.

    Source: J Endocrinol Invest 2002 Oct;25(9):779-84


    Compound May Help Ward Off Diabetes

    According to findings presented at the annual Experimental Biology 2002 conference in April, 2002, an omega-3 fatty acid that is found in fish oil may be able to improve insulin function in people who are overweight and susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes.

    The researchers found that taking daily supplements of 1.8 grams of the fish oil docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) produced a significant improvement in insulin sensitivity among overweight study participants.

    Study participants were all insulin resistant – or pre-diabetic – and after 12 weeks of DHA supplementation, 70% of the study participants showed improved insulin sensitivity, and in 50%, it was considered a clinically significant change.

    Nutrition experts currently recommend a daily intake of 0.6 grams of omega-3 fatty acids, preferably from fish. That works out to two servings a week of cold-water fish – such as halibut, herring, mackerel or salmon.

    SOURCE: Experimental Biology 2002 conference in April, 2002

    Fish Oil May Cut Fat in Diabetic Patients' Blood

    According to researchers, fish oil supplements may help reduce some fatty substances in the blood of people with diabetes. People with type 2 diabetes typically have high levels of fat in the blood, as well as lower levels of HDL (the “good cholesterol”).

    Fish oil supplements of 4 grams per day over eight weeks were able to lower levels of triacylglycerol (TAG), a fatty substance linked to heart disease. Two subtypes of HDL also rose.

    The fish oil did not, however, have any effect on the ratio of cholesterol to LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) , an important measure of risk of heart disease risk.

    The fish oil, therefore, was found to partially, but not entirely correct the imbalance in blood fats found in type 2 diabetes patients.

    Source: Diabetes Care 2002;25:1704-1708, October, 2002


    Research data presented in June, 2002 at the 62nd Scientific Sessions of the American Diabetes Association reported that suggest that eating nuts helps prevent diabetes. The research also found that supplementation with zinc in overweight women with insulin-resistance can improve insulin sensitivity, even when the women did not have a measured deficiency in zinc.

    These findings were derived from the Nurses' Health Study, which looked at dietary questionnaires completed in 1980 by 83,818 women, aged 34 to 59 years, without a history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, or diabetes. During 16 years of follow-up, 3,206 women developed type 2 diabetes.

    After adjusting for various diabetes risk factors, the greatest reduction in diabetes risk was among women who ate nuts more than five times a week.

    The connection was not affected by economic level, family history, body mass index, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, and dietary variables.

    In a separate study, Brazilian researchers found that zinc supplementation enhanced insulin sensitivity in obese women who were not deficient in zinc. The women were given 30 mg. daily of zinc, and insulin levels were noticeably reduced in the group taking the supplements, but unchanged among those in the placebo group.

    Source: ADA Annual Meeting: Abstracts 1644-P, 569-P. June 16-17, 2002.


    As I discuss in Living Well With Autoimmune Disease, some innovative practitioners use antibiotic therapy to treat a variety of autoimmune conditions, including rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, scleroderma and ankylosing spondylitis, among others. So far, the evidence in support of these protocols has been primarily anecdotal – but more and more, the traditional medical literature is supporting an infectious process for certain autoimmune diseases, and use of antibiotics as treatments.

    Researchers recently found that treating patients for infection with Helicobacter pylori – the bacteria that is known to cause ulcers -- appears to reduce the severity of rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

    Many experts believe that RA has some sort of infectious trigger, and Italian researchers studied this connection, looking at almost 60 adult RA patients. Among those patients, almost half tested positive for H pylori infection.

    All the infected patients were successfully treated for H pylori, and among those patients, they had significant improvement in all clinical indices of rheumatoid arthritis. Those who were H pylori-negative had little change during the 2-year study period.

    Among other factors studied, they also had lower erythrocyte sedimentation rates -- SED rates, a marker for inflammation -- and antinuclear antibody levels – evidence of autoimmune activation -- compared with the uninfected patients.

    These results suggest that H pylori infection may have a role in triggering RA.

    Antibiotics – including amoxicillin, tetracycline, metronidazole, or clarithromycin – were part of the treatment protocol for H. pylori.

    Since the use of antibiotic treatment was not done as a separate control in the uninfected group, however, some experts argue that the success was a result of the antibiotic treatment (which can eliminate a wide variety of bacteria), and not necessarily the eradication of the H. pylori strain.

    Experts agree, however, that controlled studies are still needed.

    Source: Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2002; 16(7): 1291-1299 "Eradication of Helicobacter pylori may reduce disease severity in rheumatoid arthritis" August, 2002


    In a Finnish study, researchers reported that certain types of intestinal bacteria may be connected to the rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

    Scientists studied fecal samples from 25 rheumatoid arthritis patients and 23 control patients who did not have RA, but who did have joint pain without inflammation.

    The researchers discovered that RA patients had substantially less anaerobic bacteria, including those belonging to the Bacteroides, Prevotella and Porphyromonas families.

    Anaerobic bacteria do not need oxygen to survive.

    Specifically, those with RA had about half the level of anaerobic bacteria as those without RA, suggesting that these bacteria may help in maintaining an intestinal barrier, or in protecting the immune system in some way.

    Source: 2002 International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases, March, 2002


    Researchers have found that breastfeeding is associated with a reduced risk of a woman developing systemic lupus erythematosus. The study was based at the Epidemiology Branch of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, Durham, North Carolina.

    The researchers also found that natural onset of menopause occurred at a younger age in the women who developed lupus, versus a control group who did not have the condition. The researchers speculated that earlier menopause may be some sort of marker of susceptibility to developing lupus.

    Source: "Hormonal and reproductive risk factors for development of systemic lupus erythematosus: Results of a population-based, case-control study," Arthritis and Rheumatism 2002 46(7):1830-1839


    French researchers have reported that the bacteria E. coli may be the trigger in some cases of the inflammatory bowel disease known as Crohn’s disease.

    The investigators found that when E. coli bacteria infects the cells of the intestine "natural killer" immune cells mount a reaction, releasing an immune-stimulating protein called gamma interferon. In this way, E. coli may be triggering conditions such as Crohn’s in people who are susceptible.

    The research may lead to further testing to determine if antibiotics can be used as a treatment for active Crohn's disease.

    Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition


    Anthropologist and herbal expert Viana Muller, PhD, has been involved in research, growing, harvesting, collecting, propagation and distribution of certified organic and wildcrafted South American medicinal herbs. Here, she shares some thoughts about South American herbs and autoimmune disease.

    Mary Shomon: Some practitioners theorize that autoimmune diseases can be triggered by: While we have courses of action for allergies and sensitivities and bacterial infections, preventing or treating many of the viruses implicated in autoimmune disease is less clear-cut. Are there South American herbs that can help bolster immune defenses and perhaps prevent viral infections such as Epstein Barr virus or HHV6 or Coxsackie -- or help treat viruses once one has been exposed and perhaps has a chronic infection or viral syndrome?

    Dr. Viana Muller: A high quality camu-camu fruit powder grown wild in South American rainforests has produced spectacular results with all types of herpes viruses, including Epstein Barr and Herpes Zoster (shingles). I have seen it work much faster than Acyclovir, the standard anti-herpes medication and better than L-lysine--the most common holistic treatment.

    I've also seen camu-camu drastically reduce the rate of outbreaks of genital herpes outbreaks--from once every six weeks to once in eight months.

    Another herb which grows deep in the rainforest which has proved to be very effective for managing chronic hepatitis C is a climbing vine whose botanical name is Desmodium adscendens (sometimes called amor seco or Strong Back herb). People with liver pain from this condition have found relief in 24 hours and over a period of 60-90 days their elevated liver enzyme levels drop dramatically. But it doesn't actually kill the hepatitis virus--it works on liver repair.

    The herb which has shown in animal studies to kill the hepatitis virus is called "Chanca Piedra" or Break-Stone. It looks like a small fern and grows in swampy areas of the rainforest.

    Mary Shomon: Do you feel there are any South American herbal remedies that can help bolster the immune system or prevent autoimmune disease?

    Dr. Viana Muller: The four most effective South American botanicals that I know to bolster the immune system--and help prevent autoimmune disease or reverse it--are: the camu-camu fruit, maca root, cat's claw bark, and graviola. It is crucial for consumers to realize that just because the bottle has the name of one of these botanicals on the label, it doesn't mean that what is inside the bottle will be effective for them. For example, there are many companies that use a small amount of camu-camu fruit--with no guaranteed natural Vitamin C percentage, derived from the camu-camu fruit itself, in their product. This type of product is virtually worthless. You want a product that has a guaranteed 8% natural Vitamin C/bioflavonoid level.

    Mary Shomon: Is there any evidence for use of South American herbal remedies for treatment of autoimmune diseases? (lupus, MS, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid diseases) and other conditions?

    Dr. Viana Muller: There is strong anecdotal evidence for the use of maca to strengthen the immune system and I've personally seen some remarkable turn arounds with various autoimmune illness. A 43 year old woman with severe asthma since the age of 18 is able to go off of her daily asthma medication (6 pills a day) after one two weeks of taking one teaspoon of organic maca extract powder per day.

    A 68 year old man with Parkinson's Disease who is no longer able to walk regains his strength and muscle control to the point that he can walk again and his muscle tremors are less severe.

    A 42 year old woman who has had severe eczema since she was a teenager--especially on her face--whose face cleared up in 2 or 3 weeks using 1 tsp of organic maca extract powder per day. After two months, she gets occasional small outbreaks--especially if she is under stress--but it goes away very quickly.

    Scores of women with hypothyroidism who take 3 to 6 caps a day of organic maca extract a day who are either able to reduce their dosage of Synthroid, Unithroid, or Armour, or whose symptoms are much improved in the following areas while maintaining the same dose of their thyroid medication: increased energy, more regular menstrual periods, less bleeding and less pain with the monthly cycle; increased hair and nail growth.

    Mary Shomon: Some autoimmune disease treatment involve use of fairly strong drugs, such as methotrexate, or Remicade, or strong non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. What are your thoughts about how South American herbs might help complement their conventional treatments and minimize the negative side effects of strong drug treatments?

    Dr. Viana Muller: Cat's Claw (Uncaria tomentosa) has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been used as adjuvant therapy for helping to offset the side effects such as nausea felt by many undergoing chemotherapy. It is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women, but otherwise is quite safe.

    Mary Shomon: Food sensitivities have been implicated as triggers in a number of autoimmune diseases. From a practical standpoint, are there any role for South American herbs in helping someone with an autoimmune disease deal with food allergies and sensitivities?

    Dr. Viana Muller: Leaky gut syndrome has been helped by Cat's Claw Extract (boiled bark or alcohol based extract). Camu-Camu has also proven helpful for getting rid of headaches brought on by food allergies, including sugar!

    * * *
    Note from Mary: My favorite South American herbal product is the cat’s claw extract, which I use when my stomach is upset, and when I feel run-down.)

    Viana Muller, PhD, is co-founder and President of Whole World Botanicals, a company that is involved in research, growing, harvesting, collecting, propagation and distribution of certified organic and wildcrafted South American medicinal herbs. As an anthropologist, Dr. Muller has been making rainforest herb collecting/study trips to the Amazon River Basin since 1989. To contact Dr. Muller, or get certified organic and wildcrafted South American medicinal herbs, contact:

    Whole World Botanicals
    PO Box 322074 Ft. Wash. Station
    New York NY 10032


    If you have a family history of autoimmune disease, a diagnosed condition yourself, or mysterious symptoms, you need my new book Living Well With Autoimmune Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn't Tell You...That You Need to Know. The book, which was just published in early October, is a complete guide to understanding the more than 80 mysterious and often difficult-to-pinpoint autoimmune disorders -- and finding the conventional and alternative keys to diagnosis, treatment, recovery...and even prevention or cure.

    An estimated 50 million Americans suffer from the conditions, with symptoms ranging from fatigue to joint pains to depression, to numb hands and feet, to heart palpitations. These are all signs that the immune system has turned upon itself, causing autoimmune conditions such as thyroid disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and irritable bowel disease. All too frequently, these symptoms are overlooked or misdiagnosed for years!

    Once diagnosed, doctors may prescribe pain relievers, hormones, or immunosuppressants to treat the symptoms, but when a patient asks about the cause, the life-long health implications, or how to heal such conditions, doctors simply shrug their shoulders.

    Living Well With Autoimmune Disease is the first book that to recognize that these conditions are closely related, not standalone, and frequently stem from toxic exposures and underlying dysfunctions that may be treatable using nutritional and alternative approaches to complement traditional treatments.
    The book features: This is the second book in my "Living Well..." series published by Harper Collins. My first book in the series, Living Well With Hypothyroidism, is a bestseller now in a 16th printing with over 100,000 copies sold.

    Living Well With Autoimmune Disease has a website,, which features a chapter of the book, as well as the table of contents, and reviews, including Publisher's Weekly,, and reviews from some of the nation's leading integrative medicine practitioners and authors.


    The book is available at local and online bookstores everywhere, and the list price is $14.95


    Order now online at for Iherb's special price of $10.00, plus shipping

    Order online at, for $10.47, plus shipping

    Phone Orders

    Call toll-free at 888-792-0028


    It was very exciting when, as I flipped through my November/December issue of Alternative Medicine magazine, I discovered a 2-page review of my book! Here’s a short excerpt from the review:

    altmed.jpg - 4051 Bytes“The author of this book, Mary J. Shomon, was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition in 1995 and has since become a lay expert on the subject... Shomon devotes several chapters to alternative medical approaches. Rather than simply treating the symptoms of an autoimmune disease, a holistic approach seeks to mitigate the disease itself by removing toxins from the body, treating food allergies, strengthening tissues, and regulating immunity. The author offers specific recommendations from a wide range of therapies...Living Well with Autoimmune Disease should not only prove inspirational for those afflicted with these mysterious conditions, but also offers solid, practical advice for getting your health back on track."

    (FYI, If you don’t get Alternative Medicine, it’s a great magazine. I had a subscription BEFORE they reviewed my book! ;-) It’s $19.95 for 9 issues over a year. Subscription information is featured at their website,, or you can call 1-800-333-HEAL).

    I’m also honored that one of my favorite health authors, Elaine Moore, who wrote Autoimmune Diseases and Their Environmental Triggers, and my absolute favorite book on Graves’ and hyperthyroidism, Graves' Disease: A Practical Guide, took time to review "Living Well With Autoimmune Disease" as well. Elaine said:
    Should be required reading for anyone with an autoimmune disease. In Living Well With Autoimmune Disease, Mary shows the reader how to successfully take charge of their autoimmune condition. Mary empowers her readers by showing how the best of both conventional and alternative medicine can be incorporated into a lifestyle plan. She not only teaches us about cutting-edge therapies, she explains how lifestyle changes contribute to healing. Showing us how diet, stress, and environmental toxins affect immune system health, she invites the reader to take charge and reduce their symptoms. By including anecdotes, symptom lists, and recommendations from a wide array of medical practitioners, Mary makes this book very user friendly and a welcome addition to any personal library.
    More information on Living Well With Autoimmune Disease and ordering information is available at


    I mentioned this last month, and I just wanted to reiterate how important it is for every autoimmune patient to do one important thing that can have a tremendous impact on our health – contribute to the American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA).

    Founder and President Virginia Ladd was a tremendous help to me in putting together Living Well With Autoimmune Disease, as was the Chairperson of the AARDA National Scientific Advisory Board, Noel Rose, MD, PhD, who is sometimes called the “father of autoimmune disease” because of his pioneering research and leadership in the field. Together with an esteemed board, and dedicated members, they have made AARDA the top-notch organization it is today.

    A donation of $24 will get you a membership and subscription to their bimonthly newsletter,
    In Focus.

    Or contribute whatever tax-deductible donation you can. You can even contribute online, using your credit card.

    Those of you who know me, know that I rarely am so unconditionally supportive of medical organizations, but AARDA is TRULY working for patients (not pharmaceutical companies) and is lobbying for research, legislative changes. It’s a group that is making real changes for autoimmune disease patients, and it deserves our support.

    If you or a member of your family have an autoimmune disease, you need to support AARDA!

    For more information about this worthwhile group, see
    aarda.jpg - 5620 Bytes

    Live well,


    The Autoimmune Report is published monthly by Mary Shomon. Please invite your friends to subscribe! Send them a copy with your recommendation. The Autoimmune Report is copyright 1997-2006 by Mary Shomon.

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    The Autoimmune Report, "Living Well With Autoimmune Disease" and this website are © Copyright Mary Shomon, 1997-2006. All rights reserved. Mary Shomon, Editor/Webmaster
    All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician or health practitioner before starting a new fitness regimen. Please see our full disclaimer.