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Can Diseases Be Treated Through Dietary Changes?

Reviewing: Heal Your Soul, Heal Your Gut: A Beginners Guide to Healing Autoimmune Disease Based on Science and Ancient Jewish Wisdom, by Jill Friedbauer. Available on Amazon.com. ISBN: 9781721222476. Paperback, self-published, June 14, 2018.

Teaneck resident Jill Friedbauer has been working as a physical therapist for the past 16 years and has recently been certified as a Integrative Nutrition Health coach from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, the world’s largest online nutrition school, which certifies graduates as health coaches. Integrative nutrition is a philosophy based on helping clients make dietary choices that promote wellness, tailored toward each person’s specific health needs or concerns. Among others, famous names such as Dr. Mehmet Oz and Dr. Andrew Weil give webinars through the program as visiting instructors.

“We need health care, not sick care. Step-by-step health coaches are creating a new future for healthcare and for humanity. Together we are strong,” wrote Institute for Integrative Nutrition Founder Joshua Rosenthal, on the organization’s website.

“Our work is focused on the concept of bio-individuality. We guide and empower our clients to figure out what works for their own body,” Friedbauer told The Jewish Link.

It was Friedbauer’s concern for her own health that prompted her to write and publish an extraordinarily personal account of her own challenges facing increasingly difficult pregnancies, a lifelong fight against migraine headaches and ulcerative colitis, an autoimmune disease, through the lens of her strong Jewish faith. In the book, she heavily endorses the power of prayer, in addition to other recommendations for diet as well as activities that promote good health, such as tai chi. Peppered throughout the book are quotes about health, positivity and wellness from the Torah and by such diverse names as the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Mahatma Gandhi, Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis, Hippocrates and Reb Nachman of Breslov.

There have long been medical directives regarding nutrition as it relates to certain diseases. Physicians who treat gout and heart diseases, for example, often recommend that their sufferers refrain from eating rich foods (saturated fats) and, particularly, red meats. Type II diabetes sufferers are warned that excess carbohydrates and sugar-laden foods and drinks can worsen their condition. Now, Friedbauer explains, there are tested theories that espouse that the pervasive use of anti-inflammatory medications and processed foods can create, or contribute to the worsening of, symptoms of autoimmune diseases of those with a genetic predisposition and act as a trigger that unleashes the disease, in addition to causing other health problems.

“Those can include environmental triggers, such as in the case of leaky gut syndrome and stress. Also, certain viruses, such as Epstein-Barr and mononucleosis, which go hand in hand, can trigger autoimmune diseases in those with that genetic predisposition,” Friedbauer told The Jewish Link.

Through meeting with her own health coach, fellow Teaneck resident and frequent Jewish Link contributor Gila Guzman, Friedbauer was introduced to the benefits of the Paleo diet, which recommends against processed foods, gluten, sugar, dairy or caffeine. Rather, whole foods, proteins, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds are promoted.

“I was quite surprised at how quickly I began to feel better,” Friedbauer wrote. “Initially, I was only changing my diet with the hope that my ulcerative colitis would improve enough to stop taking harsh medications. However… the migraines from which I had suffered from age six began to disappear. I no longer had brain fog, and the belly bloat that made me look three months pregnant went away. Shockingly, over time, I also discovered that I no longer suffered from severe seasonal allergies.”

Friedbauer described that after about a year on the Paleo diet, she was able to, under her doctor’s guidance, stop taking the “harsh immunosuppressant” she had begun taking years before. She reported she is not averse to medications and takes preventative medications when required, but has not had an autoimmune flare-up sufficient enough to take a course of steroids in over five years. However, “There’s no cure for autoimmune diseases, so I am always on guard for symptoms,” she added. “It is something that is managed.”

In later chapters, Friedbauer espouses a myriad of health and wellness advice, much of it commonly known, about the importance of drinking water (a lot each day, but not during meals) and sleeping (how much depends on your body’s own biology), and taking personal time to “go love you.” She also provides favorite recipes for Paleo-friendly meals, and includes lists of acceptable foods as well as items she characterizes as “caution foods,” which can be inflammatory or problematic for some people. She also recommends organic, grass-fed or pasture-raised meats and while she recommends fruits, she cautions against moderate-to-high glycemic fruits, which can spike the blood sugar.

Foods are also recommended that contain gut-restorative bacteria, and she notes research that shows the strong connection between the gut and the brain, including “how 80 to 90 percent of serotonin is secreted in the gut,” she said. Friedbauer, in this chapter, discusses diets similar to Paleo, including the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), as a way to help people with her own condition, ulcerative colitis, achieve clinical remission. Another diet as well, the Gut and Psychology Syndrome (GAPS) diet, “took the SCD and noticed that it was also helpful for kids with autism, and as we learn the long connection between the gut and brain, we also found that the diet helps with those who have anxiety, depression, ADHD and a variety of other mental health disorders,” Friedbauer said.

One of the material points of this chapter is that with SCD, all the dietary changes of the Paleo diet will not fully place the disease into remission without the creation or recreation of healthy gut bacteria flora. Gut bacteria, she explains, can be thrown out of whack due to anti-inflammatory medications, antacids, mercury, mold, antibiotics, steroids or yeast overgrowth. For this she recommends avoiding sugar and eating organic produce that do not contain GMOs (genetically modified organisms), which have less frequent exposure to pesticides or other toxins. She also recommends ingestion of prebiotics (raw vegetables like onions, asparagus, garlic, radishes, carrots, jicama and leeks), that are good for the creation of friendly gut bacteria, and probiotics (unpasteurized fermented foods, like yogurt, kimchi, miso, sauerkraut, pickles and kombucha).

The book is beautifully designed by Julie Farkas. Each page is illustrated with beautiful pictures or stylized pull quotes which stand out, making each page easy for the reader to read and enjoy. The book rightly places Friedbauer’s own story front and center, while providing classic, solid ideas behind good eating, with a strong scientific foundation, and good living, as backup chapters.

Heal Your Soul, Heal Your Gut is available on Amazon.com and at this link: https://tinyurl.com/ybj7bbbl.

By Elizabeth Kratz

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