I'll never forget looking at my computer screen and reading my blood work results. My blood work had come back diagnosing me with rheumatoid arthritis. On one hand, I was relieved to finally have answers to my pain, yet it began sinking in that I now had a lifelong chronic disease with no known cure, at least by western medicine standards. Now that I had a diagnosis, I was ready to tackle the pain and get better. Little did I know it would take me months before finding a doctor that listens, cares about me and looks at the whole picture.
After my diagnosis, I sought out a rheumatologist at one of the best hospitals in the US. I instantly thought that a well-known and prestigious hospital meant better care. I went to my appointment and told the nurse practitioner all about the pain I was experiencing and the diet changes I was making in an attempt to lower the inflammation in my body in an effort to heal. I instantly was met with a blank stare and, "I'm going to go get one of the MDs." The NP and MD returned to discuss my symptoms, plan of action, and the steps I was taking back home to reduce my joint pain. After a short meeting, instead of talking to me, they talked about me in the hallway outside the door only for me to hear them. They were laughing while talking about my diet changes and talking about how naive I was. I'll admit, I was naive, but what patient isn't naive after being diagnosed with a chronic illness? I didn't know how to tackle this chronic illness. That's why I sought out their care. They both came into the office and told me I needed to go on an immunosuppressant and stop breastfeeding my son. I walked back to the parking garage with my husband and shut the car door. I started sobbing. I was devastated by the care I received. I didn't feel like I was heard. They didn't see me as a mom, a wife, or a patient who was scared. I didn’t want to be on an immunosuppressant for the next 60 years only for it to potentially lose potency and stop working. Immunosuppressants don’t treat the underlying cause of the disease. They simply cover up the symptoms.
Shortly after that visit, I started seeing another doctor only to be disappointed once again. While this rheumatologist was perceptive to diet changes and other lifestyle changes, she barely made my appointments about me. Each appointment felt as if she was having coffee with a friend. She talked more about herself than the plan of action to help me heal. It wasn’t working. After leaving her practice I went over six months without seeing a physician. I felt so defeated. I was exhausted just taking care of my kids and I worried if I didn’t find answers to healing my joint pain I would have disfigured joints in no time. This thought alone gave me so much anxiety. So I did what every lost person does in modern-day society, I took to the internet looking for help and answers. Our family doctor is working on her certification in functional medicine, so I knew about the functional medicine approach but I never thought about seeing a specialist in this field for my joint pain. One day I was on the Institute of Functional Medicine website and after doing some research, I came across Dr. Anup Kanodia in Columbus, Ohio. He was the closest doctor to me. I wrote his name down on a piece of paper and held onto it for a few more months. Then one day, my joint pain was so bad, my husband told me to make the call.
I have now been under the care of Dr. Anup Kanodia for over six months and I have been so impressed with the care I have received. Functional medicine is different from conventional medicine in that it gets to the root cause of an illness and addresses all the factors that play into the manifestation of a disease. After my initial appointment meeting with the team, I have appointments with Dr. Kanodia every two months and have follow-up phone calls with my health coach. My health coach checks in with me to see how I am feeling and how any new supplements or therapies are working. On top of that, every couple of months I talk to my dietitian. She helps me with my food plan and makes sure I am getting enough nutrients to support my body on this healing journey. Dr. Kanodia and his team approach healing by looking at the whole body. Different practices such as stress reduction, optimizing sleep, and addressing any underlying gut health issues are just some of the approaches they take to treat their patients. I will tell you one thing, I wish he was the first phone call I made after being diagnosed. While I do not consider myself completely healed, I know I am on the right track to healing my joint pain and overall well-being since being with KanodiaMD.
I recently sat down with Dr. Anup Kanodia of KanoidaMD to discuss why autoimmune diseases are so prevalent, how they start, and the successful approaches Dr. Kanodia is taking to treat his patients.
Questions and answers
Q: Tell me about your training and your background in medicine. Why did you want to become a physician? Where did you study?
A: As a young child, I had several family members who were in medicine, so I was naturally interested in the field. We didn’t have cable TV, so I became intrigued with watching shows on PBS—particularly the ones about health. At that time, innovators like Deepak Chopra, Christian Northrup, and Andrew Weil were featured, sharing their unique thoughts about how lifestyle and the environment affect our health. Things like pesticides, colored dyes, and trans fats were talked about back then, and when I asked my family members about those concepts, they didn’t feel it was necessary to incorporate that into their healthcare approach. I just didn’t see how they couldn’t pay attention to those things.
So in 8th grade, I started volunteering in nursing homes and children’s hospitals, trying to learn and observe as much as I could about healthcare in many stages of life. My mom had a friend who was an Obgyn, and they even let me assist in delivering a baby!
In high school, I interviewed early and was promised a seat at Northeast Ohio Medical University. So after graduating from the University of Akron (undergrad) and Northeast Ohio (med school), I did a family medicine residency at the Mayo Clinic. After that, I really started to deepen my knowledge at Harvard with a fellowship in integrative medicine. That’s where I was able to work with and learn from Dr. Mark Hyman, and completed my Masters in Public Health.
My father was an engineer, and it was very cool to see how he would help cities figure out how to generate electricity… but he never got to see how it actually affected people, how it made their lives brighter. I enjoy seeing results, firsthand. For every single one of my patients and anyone, I can reach with helpful information. That’s why I love the functional medicine approach. Because we see results at KanodiaMD—we see smiles return to people’s faces when they take their lives back!
Q: Why do you think traditional and conventional medicine has failed to treat autoimmune conditions?
A: Here’s the big picture: Conventional medicine just doesn’t seek to find the root cause.
The conventional approach is to just shut down the immune system (with drugs) to suppress the symptoms you’re experiencing. But WHY are those symptoms occurring? There is a reason. There is a root cause—and many times there are several root causes. The failure is not taking time to seek out the root cause(s) through testing, and not properly evaluating and valuing lifestyle as a driving factor of health.
Q: What is one thing that someone with an autoimmune disease can implement today without the guidance of a physician? This is something that would kick start their healing journey.
A: I like to recommend 3 super attainable main ways to kickstart a healing journey:
- Your mind is a powerful tool. Just knowing and accepting that there is a reason why your body is attacking itself can change your whole outlook and can launch your healing journey.
- Next, adopt a gluten-free & dairy-free food plan. These foods can actually cause a lot more harm to your body than you realize. Start by removing one, let yourself adjust, and then remove the other. Many are surprised how quickly they start feeling better!
- Prioritize sleep! Your body needs that deep restorative sleep to heal itself. Tip: see if you can get in the habit of waking up naturally without an alarm clock. Then you know you’ve gotten enough sleep.
Q: How is gut health connected to autoimmune conditions?
A: We hear a lot about intestinal impermeability, or more commonly, leaky gut. This is when your gut becomes unhealthy for various reasons (drugs, food, yeast overgrowth, etc.) and you develop spaces in your small intestine lining. Partially digested food, bacteria, and toxins can then leach into your bloodstream and become “foreign objects.” This causes our immune system to start attacking them, causing inflammation. In this process, the immune system also attacks some of our own body cells, because they are molecularly similar to the “foreign objects” (like cells in the thyroid, skin, hair, GI tract, etc.).
As reported by Harvard, leaky gut is now being researched in connection with multiple autoimmune diseases like lupus, type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, and multiple sclerosis. At KanodiaMD, we use lab testing to determine the level of intestinal permeability, so we can address it and begin to heal.
Q: Autoimmune conditions are conditions of the immune system. Why is it that conventional medicine wants to suppress the immune system with immunosuppressants? What are your thoughts on that and do you think we should uplift the immune system?
A: Conventional medicine’s approach is indicative of modern society’s need for instant gratification. Today’s healthcare system is centered around the easiest and fastest way to make people “feel better.” Take a pill. Get a shot. They don’t address the person’s lifestyle and encourage them to modify it. It takes more time and effort to convince someone to change their diet, exercise, and stress levels. It can also be more challenging for the patient to make those changes. Conventional doctors just aren’t being educated on how to look at treating the root cause or even how to work with patients to make healthy lifestyle choices.
With autoimmune diseases, conventional medicine will tell you to zero in on shutting the immune system down, because then the problem is fixed. Wrong. We need to examine WHY the immune system is turned on and then work to balance it. We don’t want to shut it off, but we also don’t want to uplift it into overdrive. Balance should be the goal.
Q: Epstein Barr Virus (EBV) is in the news a lot lately. Have you seen a connection between autoimmune diseases and other viruses? Lyme or EBV for example?
A: Yes, I’ve seen a connection here. Someone could be feeling fine, and then they contract Lyme or get sick with a virus and they never fully recover. An underlying autoimmune issue was probably already brewing and the sickness they contract is a catalyst to make it develop into a full-blown autoimmune disease.
Similarly, if someone has a leaky gut and then they get a bad flu, cold, or even mono, it can ignite reactions in the body and cause an autoimmune response.
Q: In addition to having a health coach check in once a month on the journey and working with a dietitian on nutrition and diet, what are some therapies and other areas of the KanodiaMD method that are used in helping someone heal from their illness?
A: Two things we like to focus on aside from the expert care here at KanodiaMD are lifestyle modifications and additional healing elements:
Lifestyle modifications include:
- Visualization - Using the power of the mind to imagine what it feels like to feel good again
- Water Absorption - The body is over 99% water, so if you’re not not absorbing it properly it’s very hard to heal
- Sleep - Focus on quantity and quality
- Supplementation - Ensuring your body is getting the proper nutrients
- Stress Management - Finding ways to recognize and decrease stress
Additional Healing Elements you can find at KanodiaMD:
- Lab Testing - We have an in-house lab and work with various testing partners
- IV therapy - Nutrient infusions to optimize healing
- Oxygen / Ozone Therapy - To rebalance the immune system and curb the autoimmune response
- Supplement & Nutritional Food shop
Q: What is one book, medical or non-medical, that you think someone with a chronic illness or autoimmune condition should read?
A: I like the work that Amy Myers has done and like to recommend her book, The Autoimmune Solution: Prevent and Reverse the Full Spectrum of Inflammatory Symptoms and Diseases.
Q: What are your goals for KanodiaMD?
A: Our mission and main goal at KanodiaMD is always to help people take back their lives. Not only that but to live your best life. We want good health to support you toward your dreams and empower you, not prevent you from truly living! Seeing a transformation in our patients is why we do this!
We also have a very exciting goal for the near future. We’re launching a new state-of-the-art kitchen we built at our offices called The Nourishing Plate. Because nutrition is so important to a large majority of our patient’s lives, we want to teach people how to keep your plate nourished and your tastebuds happy. Keep an eye out for more on this soon!
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add about autoimmune conditions, food, and nutrition, or the KanodaMD method of treating patients?
A: I would love for people suffering from autoimmune conditions to know these two things:
- There is a reason that your body is attacking itself. There is help available, so don’t lose hope!
- Autoimmune conditions are typically not attributed to just ONE cause, there is usually a combination of two or three causes at play. So if you only try to correct one thing (like just diet), you may not be as successful as you would be with getting a full assessment that addresses food, stress, sleep, nutrient levels, etc.
I’ve helped thousands of people improve their lives, including the gracious author of this blog, Laura. Autoimmune is simply a misalignment. When we balance the system, you get to take your life back.
Wow! I am so thankful to Dr. Kanodia for taking the time to answer my questions on functional medicine and how this practice of medicine can help treat the root cause of the disease. I hope this has been eye-opening and helpful for you! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments!
Dr. Kanodia sees patients in his office and also has a Telehealth option for long-distance patients. To learn more about Dr. Anup Kanodia and his practice, visit his website here and make sure to follow on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on all things happening at his office.