TEDxIowaCity - Dr. Terry Wahls - Minding Your Mitochondria
Dr. Terry Wahls learned how to properly fuel her body. Using the lessons she learned at the subcellular level, she used diet to cure her MS and get out of her wheelchair.
In 2003 Terry Wahls, M.D., was diagnosed with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and soon became dependent upon a tilt-recline wheelchair. After developing and using the Wahls Protocol™, she is now able to walk through the hospital and commute to work by bicycle. She now uses intensive directed nutrition in her primary care and traumatic brain injury clinics. Dr. Wahls is the lead scientist in a clinical trial testing her protocol in others with progressive MS.
I am a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A., where I teach internal medicine residents in their primary care clinics. I also do clinical research and have published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters and papers.
In addition to being a doctor, I am also a patient with a chronic, progressive disease. I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in 2000, just as I began working for the University. By 2003 I had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. I underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in my back muscles. It was clear: eventually I would become bedridden by my disease. I wanted to forestall that fate as my long as possible.
Because of my academic medical training, I know that research in animal models of disease is often 20 or 30 years ahead of clinical practice. Hoping to find something to arrest my descent into becoming bedridden, I used PubMed.gov to begin searching the scientific articles about the latest multiple sclerosis research. Night after night, I relearned biochemistry, cellular physiology, and neuroimmunology to understand the articles. Unfortunately, most of the studies were testing drugs that were years away from FDA approval. Then it occurred to me to search for vitamins and supplements that helped any kind of progressive brain disorder. Slowly I created a list of nutrients important to brain health and began taking them as supplements. The steepness of my decline slowed, for which I was grateful, but I still was declining.
In the fall of 2007, I had an important epiphany. What if I redesigned my diet so that I was getting those important brain nutrients not from supplements but from the foods I ate? It took more time to create this new diet, intensive directed nutrition, which I designed to provide optimal nutrition for my brain. At that time, I also learned about neuromuscular electrical stimulation and convinced my physical therapist to give me a test session. It hurt, a lot, but I also felt euphoric when it was finished, likely because of the endorphins my body released in response to the electrical stimulation. In December 2007, I began my intensive directed nutrition along with a program of progressive exercise, electrical stimulation, and daily meditation. The results stunned my physician, my family and me: within a year, I was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour. In 2007 I was losing my phone and keys and was afraid my chief of staff would soon be calling me to his office to tell me that it was time to revoke my clinical privileges. I expected to become ever more dependent because of my illness. Instead, within a year of starting my regimen I regained the ability to commute to work on my bicycle, do my rounds on foot without canes or wheelchairs, conduct clinical trials and write grants, all by making changes to the foods I ate and keeping up with exercise and stress management. Getting my life back was a gift I did not believe was possible. Grateful to have that life back, I have spent the last three years researching, teaching, lecturing and speaking about my journey and how others may help themselves with intensive directed nutrition. I have recorded many of my public lectures. Fifty percent of the profits from the sales of the lecture DVDs and audio CDs is used to support clinical research in the area of nutrition, meditation, massage, exercise and neuromuscular electrical stimulation in the setting of progressive multiple sclerosis.