Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Tracking my efforts to beat Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME), aka CFIDS, aka CFS

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Book Review: In Defense of Self

I've added a new review to my ongoing ME/CFS book review page.  The text of the new review is below.

Unless you have formal medical training, when you enter the online ME/CFS world, you're likely to be overwhelmed by the unfamiliar medical terminology.  No subject is more confusing than the immune system.  It seems that no one writes about familiar concepts like, "white blood cells," but rather types and subtypes of white blood cells with strange alphanumeric names like CD8.  My goal in reading In Defense of Self was to build a basic understanding of these concepts.  For that, the book was perfect.

Author William R. Clark, a professor of immunology at UCLA, explains the basics of the immune system in a way that's understandable to a lay person.  If it were any more simplified, it might seem patronizing, and if it were any more detailed, it might read like a medical text.  It will be a useful reference book for anyone's ME/CFS library.  It has a glossary of key immune system terms which should prove handy in your travels across the internet. 

The book is divided into two parts.  Part 1 is an overview of how the immune system works, and Part 2 examines various enemies of the immune system--everything from microbes to cancer. While I found concepts applicable to ME/CFS throughout the book, one could easily skip Part 2.  Part 1 is a brief 58 pages, but is, in my opinion, the heart of the book.  However, if you decided to skip Part 2, I would at least read chapter 12 regarding "Autoimmunity," because it discusses a number of concepts that should be familiar to ME/CFS patients. 

In Defense of Self does have it's limitations, which are probably intentional given that it's supposed to be an overview.  Notably, there is no discussion of Th1 versus Th2 helper cells.  And, as one might expect, there is no discussion of ME/CFS whatsoever (although Fibromyalgia is briefly mentioned in the autoimmunity chapters.)  Still, it's well worth the $11.54 purchase price in my opinion.  (★★★★)

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