“Too many of us have spent years, sometimes decades, failing to provide our cells with the building blocks they need to conduct the chemistry of life properly.”
Nearly 20 years ago, Dr. Terry Wahls, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa and medical doctor spent 4 years confined to a wheelchair. Prior to wheelchair confinement, she walked short distances with two canes. She was losing her keys and phone, and experiencing behavioral and emotional challenges which compromised her work and her life.
In 2000 when she was diagnosed with MS, she sought out the best MS center she could find, the Cleveland Clinic, and was administered the latest and most powerful drugs to counteract MS. By 2003 her disease had transitioned to secondary progressive MS. She took recommended chemotherapy and began using the recommended tilt-recline wheelchair. She feared becoming bed-ridden.
Study and research
In 2003, she began research which would culminate in the creation of the Wahls Protocol which healed her body and her neurological system. She began to understand that in progressive MS, the brain begins to shrink. In MS, the mitochondria - the powerhouses of our cells - do not function optimally, which leads to shrinkage of the brain. She used Coenzyme Q, fish oil and creatine which she had read were used in studies with mice in an experimental treatment. She translated the rodent-sized doses to human size, and saw a definite slow in her decline. However, she was still declining.
Next, she began to study functional medicine on neuro-protection, she discovered more brain cell biology principles and how to properly support those functions. With a billion cells in our brains and 10 trillion connections, this connective wiring must be insulated with something called myelin. MS damages these connections. We need Vitamin B1, B9, B12, Omega 3 fatty acids and iodine. For our brains to make neurotransmitters, necessary for these connections to function, we must have also have sulfur and Vitamin B6, and antioxidants.
Adding these nutrients to her daily dietary intake caused Dr. Wahls to realize that she needed to obtain these from real food. She didn't know what foods could supply these nutrients since the medical books she consulted didn't seem to provide this information. She started to conduct further and more concentrated research on this topic in other publications and online. She started to consume more fruits, vegetables, and traditional proteins and fats.
Renewal, healing, hope
After Dr. Wahls began the journey to heal her body and neurological system, she began to participate in physical activity she hadn't for years. Three months after starting her diet she could walk throughout the hospital without a cane. Nine months into her new diet, for the first time in a decade, she pedaled on her bike 18 miles. The following year, she participated on a trail ride on horseback into the Canadian Rockies.
What the research shows about modern, industrialized diets
2005 research from professor Dr. Loren Cordain, PhD, et al shows that those maintaining the Western Diet do not consume enough essential nutrients to maintain wellness and functionality of our brains and bodies. In short, modern diets - embraced by the majority - are setting the stage for chronic disease. Our children are being born with smaller brains and teeth that are malformed (too small) that don't come in properly. These conditions are occurring due to the start of their lives being abnormal, beginning with the habits of the parents prior to conception and the presence of nutrient-deficient diets at birth and into infanthood, and the continuation into childhood, adolescence, and adulthood of gross malnutrition.
Less than half of us intake adequate B Vitamins, Vitamin C and Vitamin A. Two-thirds of us do not intake enough calcium, magnesium or iodine. Eighty percent of us do not intake adequate Omega 3 fatty acids.
Processed diets and chronic disease
NOTE: this is particularly true of the industrialized, processed, modern versions of these foods as opposed to the real, truly natural versions of these foods such as sprouted organic Einkorn wheat and raw milk from healthy animals raised on pasture)
- Irritable bowel
- Chronic fatigue
- Neurological and behavior problems
- Behavior problems
Watch the full presentation from TED Talks with Dr. Terry Wahls:
Dr. Wahls' prescribed diet
Hunter-gatherer diets in Africa consist of the following: leaves roots, berries, meat and fish or the Paleo diet. Locally obtained, fresh, in season and organic. The Inuits in the north consumed different primary foods, but when scientists analyze these diets, they exceed the recommended daily allowance 2 - 10 fold, depending on the nutrient. These 'ancestral' diets have more nutrition than recommendations of the American Heart Association, USDA or Dietary Recommendations, and the American Dietetic Association.
Dr. Wahls' dietary recommendations as critical for brain cell and mitochondrial support, necessary for overall wellness:
- 3 cups of green leafy vegetables: kale, parsley, cooked greens, rich in Vitamins A, B, C and K and minerals; protect brain cells and mitochondria, Vitamin A and C supports immunity, K keeps blood vessels and bones healthy, and minerals are co-factors for hundreds of different enzymes in the body. Daily greens lowers the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts, a leading cause of blindness.
- 3 cups of sulfur-containing vegetables: cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, chives, rutabaga, onions, shallots, mushrooms, asparagus. Brain and mitochondria need sulfur, and kidneys need sulfur for detoxification.
- 3 cups of bright colored vegetables: flavonoids and polyphenols, potent antioxidants that support the retina, brain, mitochondria and removal of toxins. Carrots, beets, red cabbage, berries, brightly colored fruits such as peaches and oranges.
- 3 cups of grassfed meats: protein should be rich in Omega 3 essential fatty acids - insulate the brain wiring, and critical for development of a larger jaw important for straight teeth which provides space for a larger brain. Wild fish, such as salmon and herring and grassfed meats.
- Organ meats: (1x week). Vitamins, minerals and Coenzyme Q, particularly important for mitochondria.
- Seaweed: (1x week), have seaweed which is rich in iodine and selenium. The brain needs iodine to produce myelin and to move toxins, lead and heavy metals out of the body. Iodine reduces risk of breast and prostate cancer.
Cover image: https://unsplash.com/photos/tfKYDsCp7RI Eric Ward