Never Bet Against Occam: A Book Review

As a member of the Chronic Illness Bloggers Network, I was approached with the opportunity to read Never Bet Against Occam and to share my opinion here. While this is sponsored content, and I have received product in exchange for this post, all thoughts and opinions are my own. This post may also contain affiliate links.

Last year, I was sitting at my desk when a company wide email came through offering a support group for Mast Cell Activation Disorder. Dr. Afrin estimates that some degree of mast cell disease may affect as many as 14-17% of people but I was still surprised to see others diagnosed with the condition amongst our workforce of 11,000 people.

It was through that group - consisting of just three of us - that I first learned about the work of Dr. Lawrence Afrin.

As a child, I suffered from allergies and asthma. At night, I would wake unable to breathe. In High School, I was rushed to the hospital via ambulance when my breathing became too labored to even speak. I know about rashes and hives, about sneezing and itching, about medication reactions and seemingly being allergic to the heat, or the cold, or water.

I was allergic to wheat. and oat. and soy. and milk. and peanuts. I was allergic to cats. and dogs. and grass. and ragweed. and pollen.

But, I didn’t have a name for what was truly wrong with me until early last year: Mast Cell Activation Disorder.

Meeting the man who sent that first support group call was my first introduction to Dr. Afrin, the foremost expert on mast cell diseases in the country and the world. At that time, I read a nineteen page research paper on mast cell and felt that I was reading a primer on myself. And so, when Dr. Afrin published his first book, Never Bet Against Occam, I immediately signed up to review it.

When it arrived, I was shocked at the depth of the book. Never Bet Against Occam is a substantial read at more than 400 pages - though, half of those make up a useful appendix of information. My first thought was, "what patient with a chronic illness is going to make it through this text?" but the author’s knowledge and engaging voice make it a worthwhile read for patients and medical professionals alike.

The title of the book itself refers to Occam’s Razor, the idea that, when presented with multiple explanations, the one which accounts for the majority of the information is the one most likely to be the truth. It is Occam’s Razor which helps guide doctors to connect symptoms and to look for a single diagnosis to explain a patients variety of symptoms.

Surprisingly, sometimes a single - simple - problem can result in an array of disabling symptoms.

Dr. Afrin’s book is a combination of things - it is a historical account of how he became familiar with mast cells, it is a collection of case studies, and it even serves as a primer on this seemingly rare disease.

With insurance complications, and patient loads increasing, it can be difficult for doctor’s to spend the time necessary to suspect MCAD in a patient.  So, perhaps most importantly, the book covers the symptoms which might suggest a mast cell disorder, the initial testing that should be done, more advanced testing that is available, and ultimately, treatment.

While the book is full of helpful medical information, the part that I most appreciated was Dr. Afrin’s passion for this topic, his compassion for patience, and his recommendations on how to improve understanding of mast cell disease in the future.

It was refreshing to read a book which left me with so many “aha!” and “that's me!” moments.

You can find Dr. Afrin’s book on Amazon in both print and electronic versions.