Autoimmune, the Cause and the Cure by mother-daughter team, Annesse Brockley & Kristin Urdiales is a book that highlights illnesses caused by a lack of nutrients in the food we eat.
This book is a story about a quest for wellness in one family and is built on Brockley’s personal healing and research which highlights that we need nutrients and enzymes to create and maintain health. Brockley and Urdiales explain that we get these from our foods, but sadly much of today’s food is lacking in nutrients and enzymes. Brockley’s need to become healthy pushed her entire family to radically change their relationship with food. This book is the accumulation of their intensive research and personal experience.
Based in Spearfish, South Dakota, the writers own approximately 30 acres where they are committed to creating a place where they can live, work and thrive. Their farm has vegetable gardens, raspberry bushes, apple trees, chickens, llamas, cool well water and clean, fresh air. They never use commercial fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides, because they have learned that what we put in the soil makes its way directly back into our bodies.
Now in its Second Edition, Autoimmune, the Cause and the Cure begins with Brockley’s painful story of lupus, an autoimmune disease. Before being diagnosed with lupus, Brockley had not given much thought to her diet. She assumed, as many do, that food in restaurants and on grocery store shelves would not cause her any harm. Moreover, she used to go long periods of time without fruits or vegetables which is not uncommon for many people in today’s over-processed, fast-paced world.
In Brockely’s quest to get well, she discovered that proteins both dietary (found in the food we eat) and body proteins (found in blood and tissue) need enzymes to break down properly. Brockely reviewed studies about enzyme shortages and their implications on health, such as one conducted in Germany in 2000 showing that when the enzyme, deoxcyribonuclease I is removed in mice, they develop lupus. (11) Naturally, Brockley began turning to her food sources and by extension the entire global production and reliance on toxic chemicals to try and understand why she was ill and how she could fix it. The very quality of her life depended on it.
Brockely & Urdiales’ experiences brought them to different areas of study including understanding organic farming, mass-food production, the use of chemicals in agriculture, water quality and even what toxins are bring used in skin care and in household products. Brockely & Urdiales also found a connection between the over-use of medications in children and illness. As an example, Brockley quotes The Daily Mail which stated that,
“Children given anti-biotics are twice as likely to develop digestive problems, research shows. Those prescribed penicillin and similar medicines are more at risk from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and Crohn’s disease. Scientists believe the drugs may encourage harmful bacteria and other organisms to grow in the gut, which triggers the conditions. A research team looked at 580,000 children over an eight-year period and examined records of their prescription and medical history.” (116)
In order to understand how she needed to be eating, Brockley zealously researched and even went so far as to visit many of the places that were producing her foods. She wanted to see it with her own eyes to know if it would really be healthy for her to eat – food became her medicine, so it had to be the best. On one such scouting occasion she discovered that the so called ‘free-rage eggs’ at her grocery store, were from chickens living in tight condition with only a small concrete access to the outdoors. It was access to this small outdoor concrete space that allowed them the designation of “free-range”, even though no chickens went out there because the food was indoors. (179) This was not good enough since Brockley’s research taught her that healthy and nutritious eggs are produced by chickens that are allowed to scratch in healthy soil and grass – eating worms and other foods natural to a chicken’s diet. In the end she decided the only way to get the eggs she wanted in her community was to get her own chickens. Today she says her chickens are the most pampered in the world and they reward her with most delicious eggs she has ever tasted! While she does not suggest that the only healthy eggs her readers can get is from their own chickens, she does implore people to rigorously discover where the food they are eating and feeding their families comes from.
Brockley and Urdiales’ research is impressive, including many studies such as those from the U.S, EPA which are accepted as some of the most reputable sources. They also present their research, and then simply ask the reader what they think. In one particular example, the author’s site the EPA as stating that chlorine is defined as a pesticide used to kill living organisms. Brockley and Urdiales simply pose the question, “Should we be drinking this?”
We spoke to Kristin Urdiales about her experiences writing this book and as a mom trying to make healthy choices for her family.
NM: You are a regular contributor to naturalmommy and some people who are reading this might be reminded about your delicious sauerkraut recipe! For those that know you or have read some of your writing they know that you are a mom who is dedicated to providing local, organic food to her kids. Can you tell us why organic, local food is so important to you?
Kristin: Food truly is medicine for our family. I feel it immediately in terms of energy level, headaches, and brain fog if I am without the foods we talk about in the book for extended periods of time. How I feel has a profound effect on the type of mother, wife, and person that I am on a daily basis and what I am able to accomplish. For my children, we struggled early on with food allergies, and by incorporating organic, local, and of course fermented foods I have seen a profound improvement in their allergies. I want them to feel their best as they go through their day. We ourselves know how hard it is to pay attention we are hungry or eaten something sugary that causes a sharp drop in blood sugar levels.
NM: Kristin, Your books talks a lot about eating organic, antibiotic and hormone free animal-based proteins to restore the health of antoimmune suffers. (176) Can you tell us more about how you came to believe in the importance of consuming healthy proteins? Also, can you explain what you and your mom discovered about Salmon? (177)
Kristin: It drives me crazy when I hear something is good for you simply because it is a good source of protein, as if that’s the whole story. Yes we want good sources of protein, but we don’t want them along with huge doses of antibiotics, hormones, and other chemicals. Healthy proteins, or what we call “Pure” proteins come from animals that are raised the way you would think an animal should be raised. For example, when you think of a chicken, you picture it out on green grass in the sunshine and roaming freely with plenty of room. Unfortunately, this is not the way most commercial chickens are raised. Many of them are raised in cramped conditions, dark buildings, and on concrete. This type of chicken or the eggs they produce are going to be lacking in some essential vitamins and nutrients. For example, they will be lacking vitamin D from not being in the sun and omega-3’s because they were not raised on grass. Any animal that is not raised in a healthy environment is more likely to get sick and often will be given huge amounts of antibiotics to compensate for their inferior living conditions. This is going to be true of virtually any animal we can think of.
It should make sense to us that if that animal is not healthy, it cannot be a healthy source of food for us. When we think of farmed salmon (often called Atlantic salmon), they are not raised in a healthy environment. British government advisors call farmed salmon the most toxic food you can consume. In every batch they tested, the salmon contained at least three toxic chemicals: DDT, dieldrin, and hexachlorobenzene. Farmed salmon are actually not even orange but the pellets they feed them contain a dye. This dye, called canthaxanthin, is linked to human eye defects and retinal damage. Wild salmon are orange because of their natural diet of krill. So just because something is a “good” source of protein doesn’t mean it is good for you.
NM: Your mother’s quest for health seemed to lead you both on a path directly arriving at where and how food is produced. Can you tell us what stood out for you the most in your new understanding of our food system and what led you to your current food choices for your family?
Kristin: I think the fact that many things that are marketed as healthy truly aren’t. I was a good example of someone who bought everything at the health food store, but still had a lot of things that I was not doing right. If you opened my pantry ten years ago you would have seen it lined with canned organic goods. Then my mom saw a news special where the family that ate much the same way I did had their blood tested and they had extremely high levels of bisphenol-A (BPA) from all of the canned goods they were consuming. BPA is a potent endocrine disruptor. Just because I was buying organic didn’t mean that I was doing things right. Now I buy dried organic beans, soak them overnight, and then cook them in the crock pot. It is so easy, better for you and so much less expensive. Canola oil is another good example of a food that we thought was healthy but really wasn’t. My mom grabbed it out of the pantry one day and thought, “Mmm, what is a Canola plant?” Well she spent the rest of the day researching and found that Canola oil producers pay 5% of their profits into a fund designed to market it as a health food, despite the fact that it rapidly depletes vitamin E in the body; a potent antioxidant. Without antioxidants the body is exposed to dangerous free radicals that cause huge amounts of damage to our cells and among other things can lead to cancer.
NM: Why do you advocate raw, unpasteurized milk and fermented foods?
Kristin: First we would tell everyone to visit and have long conversations with their raw milk producers and really all of their major food sources. You want to make sure they are doing things the right way and in a really clean environment. I have been to the dairy farm that provides my raw milk no less than a dozen times. You find out so much by showing up and nicely asking questions. You can find out what producers are feeding their animals, if they are using antibiotics, hormones etc. Someone may think they are doing everything the right way, but they might be making some really big mistakes. Organic, all-natural, and free range may mean something completely different to you than it does to them.
As far as why these foods are so important, they contain enzymes, amino acids, and vitamins that are essential for our health. Among other things, these enzymes are critical for digestion. Without them, it may not matter how well we eat. If your body lacks the ability to digest and metabolize these foods, you can still be malnourished. In autoimmune disease, we traced back every symptom to missing enzymes in the body. These digestive enzymes can be replaced by eating the right foods.
In unprocessed milk, for example, there are 60 enzymes that are killed during the pasteurization process. The death of these enzymes is how they determine the pasteurization process was successful. One of these enzymes, phosphatase, helps your body absorb calcium. So there is calcium in pasteurized milk, but your body has a very difficult time absorbing it without the necessary enzyme. There are 59 other enzymes that are meant for equally important purposes. Pasteurization also results in the loss and/or adulteration of vitamins A, D, and E. Up to 60% of these fat-soluble vitamins are lost. Vitamin C loss is upwards of 50%. Vitamin B6 and B12 are completely destroyed.
Kurt Oster, Chief of Cardiology and Chairman of the Department of Medicine at Park City Hospital in Bridgeport, CT states, “Milk has been changed over the years by processing into an unrecognizable, physiochemical emulsion, which bears very little resemblance to original, natural, and nutritional milk.” Many traditional foods contain the enzymes needed to help your body digest them. Much of today’s processing strips our foods of these enzymes, leaving the entire burden of digestion on our bodies.
NM: Increasingly, people working in the environmental field are releasing information about the importance of healthy soil. Soil is full of life and that life is responsible for nutrients in our food. Your book brings up the issue of healthy soil, especially in regards to vitamin B12. Can you discuss this further?
Kristin: Vitamin B12 is essential to our health and virtually every autoimmune disease is associated with a deficiency and an inability to metabolize vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of practically every cell. Its jobs include DNA replication, red blood cell formation, mobilizing energy stores, and also maintaining the myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells (think diseases like multiple sclerosis).Vitamin B12 is made by microorganisms that are often found in bodies of water and soil. Animals ingest them as they are grazing, and we get vitamin B12 by ingesting animal proteins. Plants do not need B12 so they have no mechanism to produce or store it. To be a good source of B12 that animal had to be out on pasture and sadly many of our animal proteins come from animals that have never been out on pasture but spend their lives on concrete. In addition to having good dietary sources of B12, we need to be able to digest and metabolize it and that goes back to including fermented foods in our diet that can help us break down all of the foods we are eating.
NM: Your book highlights how all-pervasive toxins are in our daily lives. Everything from our food to our clothing to our toothpaste as well as our body care products are full of toxins that you argue are making people ill. One thing that stands out is how your research revealed how dioxin, a form of chlorine, which is very toxic, is used as a bleaching agent for everything from milk cartons to toilet paper and tea bags. How do you process this information as a mother and what advice do you have for parents who are feeling overwhelmed and disheartened from the reality of all this information? What are some of the best ways to access alternatives to these toxic products?
Kristin: It can be overwhelming, but there are so many wonderful natural alternatives and information available to us. One website I love to look up all of your bath and body products is www.ewg.org. They have compiled government data from different data bases for many of the products we use. EWG has assigned these products a toxicity rating from 1 to 10. I was shocked when I looked up an organic baby bath gel that I was using on my son and it had a toxicity rating of 5, which is way too high especially for a baby product in my mind.
Changing things often takes a lot of time and research in the beginning, but then you know what you are using is safe and when we are talking about approximately 70% of what we put on our skin soaking directly into our bloodstream, it becomes really important to use only the most natural products. On our website www.naturehaditfirst.com we carry many of the products that we use in our own family. When we are out of something, I simply pull from our inventory. As I was growing up, my mom would always give me research or articles bringing out something I should avoid. My answer was always the same, “Great, then what should I do about it?” I believed my mom, so I just wanted to know what I should do instead. We have tried to gear our website to this principle. We have spent a ton of time researching the products we carry. On our blog posts, we may bring out something you should avoid or change, but we will always offer an alternative.
NM: What are some of your future plans regarding your book? Should we be anticipating another mother-daughter project?
Kristin: We have just published our second book Fibromyalgia The Cause and The Cure and have begun researching our next book on multiple sclerosis. We have also been approached about doing an herbal book and potentially a cookbook for autoimmune sufferers. In the beginning, when we first started writing there was a lot of yelling and neither of us got out of our pajamas all day, but we are starting to get better at the process. I am really thankful to be working with my mom and doing something we both love. I hope my own children will become part of this someday. My 9 year-old son, Keenan, is already packing books and products for shipping.
This book is an eye opener and is especially useful for someone suffering with an autoimmune disorder or knows someone who is. To purchase Autoimmune or for more info please click [here].