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The “incurable” diseases are not as incurable as you think.I expected to bedridden and befuddled by now due to my “incurable” disease – secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. For 7 years, I’d been going steadily downhill, despite taking the latest, greatest drugs. In 2007, I could walk short distances using two walking sticks, and could sit up for only a few minutes. Yet, just one year later, I completed an 18-mile bicycle ride with my family. The year after that, I did a trail ride in the Canadian Rockies.
How did that miraculous transformation happen?I am a practicing physician, former athlete and clinical researcher, and I knew that once functions are lost due to progressive MS, they are gone forever. Ten years ago, when I first got my wheelchair, I began studying the research myself. I saw that our DNA only accounts for less than 30% -- often less than 5% -- of our risk of getting a chronic disease, including autoimmune problems. The vast majority of our risk is due to the interaction of our DNA and the foods we choose to eat (or not eat), the toxins to which we are exposed, and our exercise levels and other lifestyle choices. My research into diet and lifestyle intensified. In 2007, I used what I had learned about brain biology, ancestral health, and functional medicine to design a diet specifically for the optimal health of my brain cells. The result was stunning: I halted the progression of my “incurable and progressive” disease, and dramatically improved my mental and physical function. Simply by changing my diet and lifestyle, I achieved the unthinkable. As a result, I have been transformed like Paul on the way to Damascus. I now see the world of health and disease very differently. I understand at the cellular level and the intellectual level what cells need to function optimally, and how they react when they are starved for what they need to thrive. This knowledge has changed how I live my life, and how I instruct my patients to live theirs. Now, instead of just treating disease symptoms in my clinics, I teach people how to restore health and vitality. I teach the public and my patients how to eat for the optimal health of their cells, for if our cells become healthier, our organs become healthier. And if our organs become healthier, our bodies become healthier. That is why maximizing nutrition for our cells is the bedrock of reversing the decline associated with many so-called “incurable” diseases. For our cells to properly function, they need the correct building blocks required for the chemistry of life. We must also remove toxins from our cells. To achieve both goals, we must eat a diet that provides the most vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fats per calorie possible. We must also remove the harmful anti-nutrients that increase inflammation and lead to more fatigue, brain fog, and worsening symptoms across many diseases. Most people I know do not pour sugar into the gas tank of their car, but sadly they do not understand that they must treat their mitochondrial engines just as well as they treat the engines in their cars. If we give our mitochondria and brain cells the building blocks -- that is the vitamins, minerals, essential fats, and antioxidants they need to conduct the biology of life properly -- our cellular engines will run smoothly. The foundation of the Wahls™ Diet plans is 9 cups of vegetables (3 cups greens, 3 cups sulfur-rich vegetables, 3 cups of color) and grass-fed meat daily, and organ meat and seaweed weekly. In the US, half of us do not meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for water-soluble vitamins (C and B vitamins) and two-thirds do not meet the RDA for minerals like magnesium, calcium, and zinc. The result is rising health care costs and worsening health for ourselves and our children. In the US, there is an epidemic of “incurable” diseases, including autoimmune diseases, which affect 25 million Americans. Another 50 million people who don’t feel well have autoantibodies showing that their immune cells are attacking themselves, but are not causing enough damage to make an official autoimmune diagnosis. These individuals will not be diagnosed for several more years, after their bodies have sufficiently attacked themselves enough to demonstrate measurable damage. Furthermore, some scientists are now classifying diseases like atherosclerosis, asthma, and allergic rhinitis as types of autoimmune disorders. All autoimmune disorders are an interaction between the genetic (DNA) risk factors and the environment. While we can’t change our DNA, we can change our environment by modifying our eating habits and adopting health-promoting lifestyle choices. In my book, The Wahls Protocol, I provide detailed guidance on how to maximize nutrition and remove anti-nutrition present in most US diets, foods that deprive our bodies of the nutrients that they need (causing inflammation and eventually disease). I see it over and over in our clinics: as people learn to eat for the optimal health of their cells, excess weight falls away without hunger, energy improves, mental clarity increases, and disease symptoms diminish – no matter what the underlying health challenges are. In addition to seeing patients, I do clinical research. To change clinical practice, we must publish clinical research in peer-reviewed journals. I am one of the few researchers doing clinical trials that test the impact of structured Paleo diets (in the form of the various Wahls™ Diet plans) on patients with secondary progressive MS. In another year, we anticipate completing our current clinical trial, Wahls Paleo Diet and Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and knowing more about the nutrient density of these diets as well as their effect on disease progression, blood vessel health, and cellular health. It is exciting work. I also travel around the country and the world, spreading the message that food is medicine or the slowest form of poison, depending on our choices. To learn more about me, get a copy of our research abstract presented at the Society for Neurosciences meeting, or to learn more about the Wahls™ Diet plans, visit www.terrywahls.com and www.wahlsprotocol.com. You can also pre-order “The Wahls Protocol” on Amazon here.
Terry Wahls MD Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa and assistant chief of staff at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Iowa City VA Hospital System. She sees patients in a traumatic brain injury clinic and a therapeutic lifestyle clinic. She also is the author of Minding My Mitochondria: How I Defeated Secondary Progressive MS and Got Out of the Wheelchair and the forthcoming The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine (Penguin), due out March 13, 2014. Dr. Wahls has two adult children and lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with her wife, Jacqueline.