I found a TED-video back in 2012 when I was reading a blog by a chiropractor Jason Ross (BLOG: Train Out Pain). In his blog he dropped a youtube-video link titled minding your mitochondria. The video was a recorded speech of a medical doctor Terry Wahls, who had been diagnosed with Multiple sclerosis back in 2000. She saw the best doctors and took the best medications prescripted, but yet in 2003 she was still declining in her condition. She declined to second progressive MS in which – as she said it – there has not been a single case of remission / or betterment of well being and performance past that stage. She was afraid of becoming bedridden, so she took the matters to her own hands and started doing research on pub med about her and related conditions.
She found out there were different approaches on treating her condition beyond the conventional care, and she started to adopt those methods. One of the changes for her treatment was the change of her diet. She switched her conventional food pyramid-like diet to a paleolithic era-style eating aka Paleo. This meant no grains and no dairy. She also took took eggs out of the equation since eggs are a typical know allergen that might cause inflammation.
She started to get better and her condition was declining slower, but she was still declining. This lead to her doing more research, since she was onto something (slowing the declining of the disease by nutrition while at the same time all the best meds and doctors didn’t help at all). She started to look autoimmune diseases in general such as Parkinson’s and found out that all of the autoimmune diseases shared a common link: In all the conditions, the mitochondria, the power house of the cells, was not working properly. She also found out that in MS specifically, the condition destroys Myelin (a fatty layer in nerve cells) which caused the symptoms of her disease. She started to look what different compounds and ingredients were involved in mitochondial function and found out vitamins (such as most if not all the B-vitamins), minerals and others that were critically important for the well being of mitochondria, thus the whole cell, since if your mitochondria is not working properly the cell cannot work properly, and with this logic, the whole organ comprised of many cells and lastly, the whole body as a whole, comprised of even more cells.
She invented a new diet for herself: A diet tailored for mitochondria. She comprised the food sources from which she would get properly the vitamins, minerals and other ingredients her mitochondria – thus cells badly needs, and she decided to take them from real food.
There is always a synergistic element involved in nature, meaning things work together in a co-operative manner, and one can have hundred if not thousands of synergistic involvements that cannot even be measured scientifically, since there are too many variables to consider, so the logical argumentation Terry followed on taking what she need from food versus drugs was that rather than getting the nutrients from synthetic vitamins(drugs) she should get them from real sources. Synthetic means not a natural compound found in nature. The digestion of the ingredients in the synthetic pill is compromised, since the body is not able to utilize the vitamins properly which means the vitamins, and your euros or dollars, goes to waste. The reason for this is that the synthetic c-vitamin in a molecular, spatial form is different than the c-vitamin found in nature. Your body has receptors that recognize the natural c-vitamin but has a hard time figuring out the synthetic twin. This is, of course, more complicated than that. Anyway, you will get more bang for your back if you eat your nutrients from natural sources.
With the help of this new diet, mindfullness via meditation, exercise and proper lifestyle changes she experienced a remission of her disease. A weelchair-crippled woman unable to walk transformed into a woman doing 20 mile bike rides with ability walk and function as humans are intended to do. As I understood, she is not stating she has ’cured’ her disease per se, meaning it has gone away on a cellular level, but she has gotten the disease in remission since 2009, from a condition (secondary progressive MS) of which one cannot get a remission from, as the conventional medicine side claims.
The Book – The Wahls Protocol
The book is, in my opinion, a must for anyone’s book shelf, especially if your profession is in the field of Health and Medicine, whether you are a doctor, physical therapist, osteopath, naturopath, psychologist or other form of mental healer.
Yes… the diet affects mental health also, with many factors, but to name a few of them discussed in the book: one of them is the gut bacteria in your small and large intestine which is governed by the foods you are eating. If your bacteria flora is off you are prone to a number of different problems such as but not limited to: leaky gut, memory problems, depression and obesity. The positive effect of a proper diet allows mild ketosis from time to time which is shown to better your brain function: it starts mitochondrial biogenesis which means you produce more mitochondria into your cells which in essence makes your cells more powerful and efficient. Efficient mitochondrial function is also shown to improve brain function thus say goodbye to Brain Fog).
The book goes more deeply on the issue illustrated in the TED-video back in 2011. In the book she illustrates her method and how you can apply the knowledge she had acquired and turn it into practise. In the book, in my opinion, Terry is able to make a respectable case on why what you put in your mouth has a great impact on your health (on a a cellular level). I think this book is great for anyone, not just people having issues with autoimmune diseases. It gives you a place of reference from where to draw guidelines and actions on how to conduct your diet (and lifestyle in general such as meditation, proper sleep etc.). Eating a lot of different variant of vegetables, tubers, fruit and berries such as leafy greens, the rainbow of colours (blueberry, kale, carrot etc.), sulfur-rich vegetables such as cabbage, onions and garlic with focus on eating fermented foods once a day such as fermented cabbage is not a bad place to start for anyone, right? Or eating high quality meat such game or wild fish? I don’t see a problem eating mushrooms, tubers or quality fats either. I think you get the point.
As Terry outlined in the book, every disease starts with cellular dysfunction and since the solution offered in the book is to restore your cellular function and furthermore, optimize your cellular function via nutrition, since nutrition is the fuel for the cells, I don’t see any harm for an indivual not dealing with autoimmune disease to take advantage of the information shared in the book. As a disclaimer, I am not advocating doing the exact protocol as in the book, if you are not dealing with autoimmune disease etc, but rather – as we know, people are individuals and what works for you may not work for someone else – test and see the concept and what you find out works for you make them stick and discard the rest. For example if you are an athlete doing +20-30 hours/week demanding exercise(such as olympic weightlifting) I most likely wouldn’t recommend going full on ketosis, as in the third phase of the Wahls Protocol, since most likely you will need some carbs in there for optimal recovery and performance. There are again, exceptions, but as a first line of action, I would be more cautious and add in the carbs. Sure experiment and see what works for you and act accordingly.
What I found especially interesting was the issue on mitochondrial function. As Terry Wahls illustrated in the book, the cellular health is everything and at the base level the first player in need to fix is mitochondria. ”In order your cells to be healthy, your mitochondria needs to be healthy.” Get the mitochondria functioning properly, then everything else follows. I am getting a curious question at the moment… How do you give your mitochondria what it needs to be thriving exactly? Good question, son. Luckily Terry Wahls answers this question in her book so… go and get the full information how to fuel your mitochondria with nutrition by acquiring the book. (and I’m not getting any advertising revenue from this buy-suggestion either, just a fan of her work.)
Another interesting factor which has been on the surface for a while is environment. In the book Terry says environment plays a huge role on our health. Genes do play a role in our biomechanics, but environment is the key player, the chief in charge constituting about 70-95% of risk of developing autoimmune problems, obesity, heart disease and mental problems. (The Wahls Protocol, page 24). This is good news, folks. This means you have a direct impact thus control of your own heath… not your genes (there are of course exceptions in gene-related diseases so I am aware of that also, just wanted to put that out there). I believe in some cancer association site there was a similar ratio (70-95%) of genetics versus environmental factors regarding developing a disease. Ultimately, this gives you an absolute responsibility for yourself. I believe some people don’t like to hear this since then there is no one else to blame for their condition, a good example would be severe obesity / obesity (as you see, I am not seeing this book only from the perspective of autoimmune diseases, rather I am connecting the dots from what I have read, done and experienced and using the books information as a frame of reference for health principles where to draw general diet guidelines – not suspecting dogmatically completely to the information, since there are always the context of the situation which one must take into account for correct action – And the correct answer to everyone is to maximize your mitochondrial = cellular health). Under the blame though there is the real monster lurking underneath: Responsibility. Who put that cup cake in your mouth? Not me. Who does your groceries shopping? Not me. Okay… enough of roasting. There are issues regarding to the matter of responsibility beyond the scope of this article, such as trauma, unresolved issues from childhood and gazillion of other things, so I wholeheartedly note that the issue is a lot more complex than just do the right thing, it’s not that hard (it might be).
Anyway, I would say the book is a great piece of information to anyone and gives you a place of reference where to draw certain general guidelines on how to optimize your cellular function using nutrition as a tool. Not a bad place to start adding the foundation for your well being.