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Brave New Medicine
A Doctor's Unconventional Path to Healing Her Autoimmune Illness
Average: 3.6 (34 votes)
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In this revelatory memoir, Doctor Cynthia Li shares the truth about her disabling autoimmune illness, the limitations of Western medicine, and her hard-won lessons on healing—mind, body, and spirit. 

Li had it all: a successful career in medicine, a loving marriage, children on the horizon. But it all came crashing down when, after developing an autoimmune thyroid condition, mysterious symptoms began consuming her body. Test after test came back "within normal limits," baffling her doctors—and baffling herself. Housebound with two young children, Li began a solo odyssey from her living room couch to find a way to heal.

Brave New Medicine details the physical and existential crisis that forces a young doctor to question her own medical training. She dives into the root causes of her illness, learning to unlock her body's innate intelligence and wholeness. Li relates her story with the insight of a scientist, and the humility and candor of a patient, exploring the emotional and spiritual shifts beyond the physical body.

Millions of people worldwide are affected by autoimmune disease. While complex conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) are gaining attention, patients struggling with these mysterious ailments remain largely dismissed by their doctors, families, and friends. This is the harsh reality that doctor-turned-"difficult patient" Li faced firsthand.

Drawing on cutting-edge science, ancient healing arts, and the power of intuition, this memoir offers support, validation, and a new perspective for doctors and patients alike. Through her story, you can find the wisdom and heart to start your own healing journey, too.

Publisher Reviews
  • “I love this book—a harrowing and somehow also charming account by a brilliant doctor of how she healed her body, mind, spirit, and soul from a debilitating autoimmune disease. After her doctors had given up on her, with a husband and two little children at home, she broke out of the constraints of Western medicine and found her way home to health, renewal, and her own true self. This beautifully written, prescriptive book is going to change—and even save—people’s lives.”
    Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author of Bird by Bird and Almost Everything

  • Eat, Pray, Love meets Anatomy of an Illness meets a Deepak Chopra workshop in this engaging, exquisitely written doctor-as-patient memoir. Cynthia Li humbly, humorously, and honestly unearths the roots of her debilitating illness, but the gifts don’'t stop there. With 15 practical, grounded tips for how to heal, this book also serves as an unconventional, whole health prescription, sure to facilitate the healing journey of others. With raw transparency and the kind of courage we need among both doctors and patients, Brave New Medicine charts a new terrain, bridging conventional medicine with functional medicine, nutrition, environmental health, intuition, and spirituality—all in a highly entertaining, hard-earned miracle story.”
    Lissa Rankin, MD, New York Times bestselling author of Mind Over Medicine and The Daily Flame, and founder of the Whole Health Medicine Institute

  • “In Cynthia Li’s spellbinding book, we encounter the moving story of a physician struggling with her own autoimmune illness. Li's writing is so intimate—and so exacting—that it cuts like a knife. She raises fundamental questions about the future of medicine, her own future, and about being a doctor and a patient at the same time. The result is a beautiful book that will be read and remembered for years to come.”
    Siddhartha Mukherjee, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Emperor of All Maladies

  • “Each year brings a new stack of ‘how-to’ health manuals, but Cynthia Li’s book is different. It’s a moving, personal—and sometimes unsettling—investigation into the deepest questions surrounding chronic illness. What makes us sick? How do we live with the uncertainty of a mysterious condition? How do we define health in an age when conventional medicine focuses almost exclusively on disease management? The answers Li arrives at in her exploration changes her as a person, and the way she practices medicine. Her book is full of wisdom for both health care practitioners and those suffering from chronic illness.”
    Chris Kresser, MS, LAc, New York Times bestselling author of Unconventional Medicine

  • “It is a major concession to admit how much Li’s book inspired me, given how deeply skeptical I am about alternative medicine. When Li, a physician herself, develops a terrifying syndrome that regular medicine can’t even identify, she becomes her own doctor, charting her symptoms, doing experiments, and seeking help from whoever offers it. Emotionally, she rises from a crouch of defeat to the confident stride of an explorer—and you will find yourself rising with her.”
    Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Natural Causes, and founder of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project

  • “This is a memoir for our time. Cynthia Li is a superbly trained physician of internal medicine whose life comes to a halt by a life-threatening, complex illness the mainstream medical community doesn’t know how to treat. Her struggle is replicated thousands of times over by others who face similar mystery diseases. While the path to recovery is rarely simple, Li’s journey and scientific explanations offer hope to many who are suffering. She writes with insight, wisdom, and passion. Her honesty will touch you deeply. Don’t miss this book.”
    Michael Lerner, author of Choices in Healing, and president and cofounder of Commonweal

  • “Cynthia Li is an extraordinary physician with a comprehensive understanding of autoimmune disease as a practitioner and a patient. The insights she provides in this new book are essential for any patient suffering from autoimmunity. Her book challenges the current health care system model that is in such serious need of revision. This is a must-read for anyone suffering from an autoimmune disease.”
    Datis Kharrazian, PhD, DC, award-winning researcher, clinician, and best-selling author of Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My Lab Tests Are Normal

  • “Cynthia Li shares a deeply personal and inspiring journey, wherein she falls through the cracks of the conventional medical model but then discovers her own lifesaving path through functional and integrative medicine. Her book also includes an excellent resource, filled with practical tips for those who want to learn how to take natural steps to recover their own health and vitality.”
    Akil Palanisamy, MD, integrative medicine physician, and author of The Paleovedic Diet

  • “Beautifully written, heartbreakingly honest, and deeply inspirational. This is the story of a doctor whose personal experience transforms her view of what it means to be sick, and what it means to truly heal. Millions of people living with autoimmune disease (myself included) will see themselves reflected in these pages.”
    Eileen Laird, host of Phoenix Helix, a podcast dedicated to autoimmune health

  • “Cynthia Li has written an insightful, captivating account of her own spiral into the depths of a chronic disease, from which prospects of recovery seemed bleak. Li questions the foundational principles learned in her extensive medical training, including the meaning of the term ‘health.’ Emerging from those dark days, Li has a message of hope for others with similar conditions: autoimmunity can be reversible. There is much to be learned by both patients and health care professionals from this deeply personal account.”
    Ted Schettler, MD, MPH, science director of the Health and Environment Science Network, and author of The Ecology of Breast Cancer


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