This is a transcript of the talk Dr. Terry Wahls gave on November 11, 2011 at the TEDx conference regarding her recovery from Multiple Sclerosis by researching and designing her own diet, using food as her medicine.
Dr. Terry Wahls speaking at
TEDxIowaCity November 11, 2011
So, I love doing Tae Kwon Do
and was once a national champion.
but a lot has changed since then.
I went off to medical school,
became a physician,
I had a son, and then a daughter.
and I developed a chronic disease,
for which there is no cure.
In 2000 when I was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis
I turned to the best MS
center I could find.
The Cleveland Clinic.
I saw the very best doctors.
Received the best care possible.
taking the latest, newest drugs.
Still by 2003
my disease had transitioned.
to secondary progressive MS.
I took the recommended chemotherapy.
I got the tilt-recline wheelchair.
I had one with a motor
I could drive around.
I took <i>pizavery</i>.
and then <i>selsept</i>
but continued to become
more severely disabled.
my disease had transitioned.
I was afraid that I was
going to become bedridden.
I turned to reading
the latest research.
I knew that brains afflicted with MS
I therefore went to
every night reading
the latest medical research
about diseases in which brains shrink.
These diseases were Huntingtons,
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
I saw that in all three conditions
the mitochondria do not work well
leading to shrinking brains.
with more searching
I found studies in which mouse brains
and their mitochondria had been protected
using fish oil, creatine and co-enzyme Q10
I translated those mouse-sized doses
into human-sized ones.
and my first round of self-experimentation.
The rapidity of my decline slowed.
and I was very grateful
but I was still declining.
Next I discovered
the Institute for Functional
and through their continuing
medical education course
a functional medicine approach to common
and uncommon neurological syndromes.
I learned more brain cell biology
and what I could do to protect mine.
this is some of what I learned.
We have a billion cells in our brain.
with ten trillion connections
all of that connective
wiring must be insulated
with something called <i>Myelin</i>
and multiple sclerosis damages <i>Myelin</i>
in order to make healthy, robust <i>Myelin</i>
you brain needs a lot of B vitamins
In particular vitamin B1, Thiamine
B9 which is folate,
B12 which is cobalamin.
It also need Omega-3 Fatty acids,
This is a synapse
those beautiful golden drops
are the neurotransmitters.
For your brain to make
neurotransmitters it needs a lot of
sulfur and vitamin B6,
which is pyridoxine
these are mitochondria
they’re so beautiful
and they’re so critical to your lives
because it is the tiny
mitochondria in each of our cells
that will manage the energy
supply for that cell
without your mitochondria
you would be no larger than bacteria
In medical school I had to
memorize countless reactions
involving my mitochondria
but I never learned which compounds
my cells could manufacture
and which I needed to consume in order
for those reactions to happen properly
I now know
that I need a lot of B Vitamins,
Sulfur and antioxidants
for my mitochondria to thrive
and so I added B Vitamins, Sulfur and
antioxidants to my daily regime.
and then it occurred to me
that I should get my long list
list of nutrients from food.
That if I did that I would
probably get hundreds,
maybe thousands of other compounds
that science had yet to name and identify
but would be helpful to
my brain and mitochondria
but, I didn’t know where
they were in the food supply
and neither did the medical techs
nor the food science techs
with whom I consulted.
but, the internet did
its really very helpful
so using it
I was able to design a food plan
specifically for my brain
and my mitochondria and now
before I tell you what
that food plan is
we’re going to check in
to see what Americans are eating.
I want you to think back
for the past 24 hours
add up all the fruits and
vegetables that you’ve eaten
don’t include potatoes or corn
because those are starches.
Now, if you could cover a dinner
plate heap high, raise your hand.
Come on, don’t be shy. Raise your hand.
Now, if you can cover two dinner
plates, keep your hands up.
Anyone has eaten three dinner plates?
See how few hands are up.
Now we’re going to check
with another family.
this is from Hungry Planet by Peter Wenzel
it shows that this American family
will eat in the coming week.
Look closely, and you’re
going to see a lot of
processed foods in boxes,
jars and other containers.
This is how most Americans eat.
And this how most societies
eat as they become
And it is likely why as
societies become more affluent
their health declines.
This slide is from work done by
Professor Loren Cordain.
He is showing the percentage of
Americans whose daily intake
is below the Recommended Daily Allowance.
for a variety of important nutrients.
One the bottom half the slide are the…
You’ll see that less than half of us
take in enough B vitamins,
vitamin C and vitamin A.
Now if you look at the
top half of the slide
you’ll see that two thirds of us
do not take in enough calcium
magnesium, zinc or iodine,
and 80 percent do not take
in enough omega-3 fats.
We, you, are all starving yourselves.
We are alive because of
complicated chemical reactions.
If you’re not providing
the building blocks,
that is the vitamins,
minerals, essential fats,
those reactions cannot happen properly.
Leading to the wrong structures being made
or structures simply not being made at all.
You set the stage for chronic disease.
This is why our children are
born with jaws that are too
small, leading to crooked
teeth and smaller brains.
This is why your blood pressure is. Your
blood vessels become stiff as you age.
This is why one in three American children,
or one in two if you’re
African American or Hispanic,
will become diabetic or obese
as children or young adults.
This is why, if you go to our schools,
every year we have more and more children
with severe learning problems
and severe behavior problems.
But it does not have to be this way.
For two and a half million years, humans
ate what we could gather and hunt.
They’re call foragers.
Also known as hunter gatherers.
That hunter-gatherer diet.
That paleo diet consists of leaves
roots, berries, meat and fish.
It’s locally obtained fresh in
season and of course organic.
The Inuits in the far north ate
than the Africans on the Savanna.
And yet when scientists have
analyzed these hunter-gatherer diets
They exceed the recommended daily allowance
2 to 10 fold depending
on the nutrient.
These ancient peoples
know more about eating for
optimal health and vitality,
than we physicians and we scientists.
The hunter-gatherer diet
has more nutrition than
than the American Health Association Diet,
more nutrition than the American
Diabetes Association Diet,
and more nutrition that the
USDA Food Pyramid Diet.
I therefore, started with
a hunter-gatherer diet.
I used those concepts
but I structured it
to be sure I was getting the nutrition
the vitamins, minerals
nutrients that I identified
as critical to my brain cells
and my mitochondria.
That diet is this.
Three cups of green leaves,
three cups of sulfur-rich vegetables,
three cups of bright color,
Three cups is a dinner plate, heaped high.
I start with greens because they are rich
in vitamins B, A, C, K and minerals.
and those are two types of kale.
Kale has the most nutrition per calorie of any plant.
(cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower)
The B vitamins will protect your
brain cells and your mitochondria.
Vitamins A and C support
your immune cells.
Vitamin K keeps your blood
vessels and bones healthy.
and minerals are co-factors
for hundreds of different
enzymes in your body.
Plus, having a plate full of daily greens
will dramatically lower your risk of
cataracts and macular degeneration
a leading cause of blindness in the US.
So, have more kale, more
parsley, more cooked greens
have more smoothies and greens,
have dehydrater kale chips,
which are so delicious my teenage
daughter and her friends love them.
I want you to have three cups – a plate
full of sulfur rich vegetables every day,
your brain and mitochondria need sulfur.
Your liver and kidney need sulfur so they
can remove toxins from your bloodstream.
The Cabbage family is rich in sulfur.
That includes cabbage,
broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts
turnips, rutabagas, radishes
collards and kale.
The onion family is also rich in sulfur.
Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots,
and so are mushrooms and asparagus.
Also, I want you to have
a plate, three cups,
preferably three different
colors every single day.
Colors are flavonoids and polyphenols.
These are potent antioxidantes
that will support
your retina, your mitochondria,
your brain cells
and the removal of toxins.
You can get your colors from vegetables
like beets, carrots, peppers, red cabbage,
or you can get them from
berries, and brightly
colored fruits like
peaches and oranges.
I want you to have high quality protein
that’s rich in omega 3 fatty acids.
Omega 3 fatty acids are very important
to insulate that wiring in your brain.
Its also critical for the
development of your jaw
so you can have straight
teeth and a larger brain.
Therefore have wild fish — in
particular salmon and herring.
Also, have grass fed meat every day.
Our ancient societies
all valued organ meat.
Organ meats are concentrated sources
of vitamins, minerals and co-enzyme Q.
They are particularly potent at
supporting your mitochondria.
Therefore, have organ meats
like liver and onion,
heart, tongue, gizzards,
sweet breads, once a week.
The ancients would travel great distances,
or trade, to insure access to seaweed.
Seaweed is a rich source
of iodine and selenium.
Your brain needs iodine for to make myelin
– the insulation for the wiring.
It also needs iodine to remove toxins – in
particular, mercury, lead and heavy metals.
And adequate iodine lowers your risk
of breast cancer and prostate cancer.
Studies have shown that 80 percent of
Americans have a relatively low iodine.
Therefore, have seaweed
at least once a week
to ensure and maintain
adequate iodine levels.
Most Americans can’t imagine
eating nine cups, three
plate fulls, of vegetables
and berries every day.
But, if you will commit to having
nine cups of these incredibly healthy
wonderful for you vegetables
and berries every day,
Before you have grain, potatoes, dairy,
you will have dramatically increased the
vitamin and mineral content of your diet.
Plus, you will have dramatically
lowered the risk of food allergies.
Food allergies and food sensitivities are
far more common than we realize.
They’re difficult to diagnose
and in particular
sensitivity to gluten, the
protein in wheat, rye and barley
and to dairy
the protein. The casein protein in dairy
is associated with a wide
variety of health problems
including, but not limited to,
eczema, asthma, allergies, infertility
irritable bowel, fibromyalgia
arthritis, chronic headache,
and behavior problems.
Yes, it will cost more to eat these
beautiful vegetables and berries,
but I assure you, you are
going to pay the price.
for food that restores
your health and vitality
or you pay the price for doctor’s visits,
prescription drugs, surgeries,
missed time from work,
and nursing home care.
OK. Seven years. I get the best
care, the latest, newest drugs.
And I continue to get more disabled.
By November of 2007
I could not sit in a
chair like you are now.
I had to be reclined in a
zero gravity chair like this.
at home or at work or in bed.
I could walk short
distances using two canes.
I was losing my keys, my phones.
I was having nightmares
that my chief of staff had
pulled my clinical privileges.
That is when I designed a diet
specifically for my brain
cells and my mitochondria.
That’s when I began,
I became a modern day hunter gatherer.
Three months later, I could walk
between exam rooms using one cane.
The month after that, I could walk
throughout the hospital without a cane.
At five months I got on my bike
for the first time in a decade
and I pedaled around the block. (2008)
Nine months into my new way of eating
I pedaled 18 miles.
The following year, (2009), I did a
trail ride in the Canadian Rockies.
I am the Canary, (<i>small bird,</i>)
in the coal mine,
here as a warning to all of you.
We have a choice.
We can continue to eat that
delicious, convenient, tasty,
and watch ourselves and our children
grow steadily more overweight,
depressed and diabetic.
We can continue to watch
health care costs balloon out of control
bankrupting us individually and
collectively as a country.
Or we can eat for our mitochondria,
eating vegetables and berries,
grass-fed meat, organ meat and seaweed
and have more vitality.
We all have a choice.
I chose to teach the public
about the healing power of food
and to conduct clinical trials.
We are testing my interventions and
others with secondary progressive MS.
We’ll present our research on Sunday at
the 2011 Neuroscience Conference.
The results are breathtaking.
We all have a choice.
I challenge you to become
modern day hunter gatherers
and eat for your mitochondria.
Become ambassadors for your mitochondria.
For if I can rise up from a
tilt-recline wheelchair doing this
imagine what eating for your
mitochondria can do for
you, your family, your country,
your community, your world.
We have a choice.
What will yours be?
Dr. Terry Wahls at TEDxIowaCity
There is also a subtitle file SRT for the same talk here.
The video has hardcoded English subtitles.