BOOK REVIEW: 'The Last Best Cure': Science Journalist Expands Treatment Horizons for Her Debilitating Autoimmune Disorders

Reviewed by David M. Kinchen
Donna Jackson Nakazawa
Donna Jackson Nakazawa

“But what you really need to translate for people — those for whom Western medicine has done all it can — is this: all the science is pointing to the fact that your brain is your last best cure.”

– Anastasia Rowland-Seymour, MD, Assistant Professor Internal Medicine, Johns Hopkins, quoted on the website of Donna Jackson Nakazawa,


  I wouldn't wish the cluster of autoimmune disorders that afflicted science  reporter and author Donna Jackson Nakazawa on anyone, but something good came out of her affliction: a wonderful book entitled "The Last Best Cure" (Hudson Street Press, 320 pages, appendix, notes, index) that should bring  hope to millions with similar problems.


  One out of two adult Americans -- 133 million people -- suffer from at least one chronic condition: back pain, arthritic conditions, migraines, thyroid disease, cancer, Lyme's disease, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, irritable bowel and digestive disorders and chronic pain. Experts predict that these numbers, which have been rising steadily by more than one percent a year, will rise 37 percent by 2030.


  One day Donna Jackson Nakazawa found herself lying on the floor to recover from climbing the stairs. That’s when it hit her. She was managing the symptoms of the autoimmune disorders that had plagued her for a decade, but she had lost her joy. As a science journalist, she was curious to know what mind-body strategies might help her. As a wife and mother she was determined to get her life back. 


Over the course of one year, Nakazawa researches and tests a variety of therapies including meditation, yoga, and acupuncture to find out what works. But the discovery of a little-known branch of research into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) causes her to have an epiphany about her illness that not only stuns her—it turns her life around. 


 Nakazawa shares her unexpected discoveries, amazing improvements, and shows readers how they too can find their own last best cure.  


The breakthrough, she writes, came when she stumbles on little known research into Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE), showing that the imprint left on the mind by childhood trauma and adversity plays a significant role in how well our immune system functions when we become adults -- and how healthy we can be later in life.


  After a year of mostly nontraditional treatment in Baltimore, where she and her family decided to live to eliminate the long drives from their home in Annapolis, MD, Nakazawa's improvement floors even her own doctors. She has not only recaptured her joy, she has gained more energy and has even saved money. Yes, this is a book on medical issues that dares raise the question about paying for treatment and saving money where it can be saved. Using her science journalist's background to research every strategy that she tests in her own life, she shares her discoveries with readers who may experience similar issues.


  I was particularly drawn to her critique of sitting (Pages 203-4): She writes "Sleeping is restorative. Sitting is the opposite. A woman who sits just six hours a day is 40 percent more likely to die within fifteen years compared to a woman who sits less than three hours a day. People who site for must of the day are 54 percent more likely to die of a heart attack." She goes into considerable detail on the scientific reasons that make sitting so harmful, making me feel guilty that -- so soon after my recent cardiac incident that resulted in two more stents -- I'm sitting at my Macintosh writing this review.


  That -- and an overnight sleep study just concluded -- grabbed me and I put on my own reporter's porkpie hat and found that excessive sitting -- something computers have created anew -- has generated a great deal of study. A brand new report -- -- shows the deleterious effect of sitting on people with diabetes or signs of onset of diabetes.   From the above referenced story:

Just getting out of the chair and moving a little may help ward off type 2 diabetes among individuals at risk even more than engaging in strenuous physical activity, British researchers found.

After adjustment for potential confounders such as body mass index (BMI), time spent sedentary was significantly correlated with negative metabolic factors including 2-hour glucose level (β = 0.220, P<0.001), high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (β = −0.123, P=0.029), and triglycerides (β = 0.206, P=0.001), according to Joseph Henson, PhD, of the University of Leicester, and colleagues.

Time spent in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity also was associated with those metabolic factors and with BMI and waist circumference, but after adjustment for sedentary time, the association with glucose, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides was no longer significant, the researchers reported online in Diabetologia.

This weaker association with moderate-to-vigorous activity suggested that individuals at risk for diabetes should be "encouraged to simply sit less and move more, regardless of the intensity level," they wrote.

During the past 10 years there has been an increased focus on sedentary behavior as a risk factor for chronic disease independent of vigorous physical activity, with the realization that different physiometabolic pathways are involved, such as lipoprotein lipase metabolism.


Maybe Ernest Hemingway, a very productive writer who put his typewriter on top of a chest of drawers and wrote standing up, was on to something. Then again, don't keep your favorite shotgun too close to that typewriter or laptop crowned  chest of drawers!


(For a fascinating look at various positions assumed by writers -- Hemingway wasn't the only vertical writer -- see this piece: His contemporary, six-foot-six inch Thomas Wolfe, 1900-1938 "Look Homeward, Angel," "Of Time and the River,"  "You Can't Go Home Again"   placed  his typewriter on top of his refrigerator.)  


Summing up, Nakazawa's journey through non traditional medicine will open up possibilities for many sufferers who've exhausted the limitations of Western medicine.

 About the author

Donna Jackson Nakazawa is an acclaimed journalist, public speaker, and author of the award-winning book "The Autoimmune Epidemic". An alumna of the MacDowell Colony and Yaddo, Nakazawa is a graduate of Duke University.   //
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