Devastating manifestation of multiple sclerosis
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic, debilitating disease that leads to a wide range of motor control issues -- sometimes resulting in the need for a wheelchair. It can strike at any age, but usually occurs between ages 20 and 40 years old. When the disease sets in, the immune system attacks proteins in the nerve protecting myelin sheath -- resulting in muscle tremors and weakness, loss of coordination, fatigue, imbalance and blindness. To date, drugs have proven to be ineffective for reversing the effects of multiple sclerosis. When Wahls discovered this fact through her own experience, she turned to diet in the hope of slowing the disorder.
The search begins
Due to her medical training, Wahls realized that MS is similar to other degenerative diseases like Huntington's, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, all of which share two common traits: compromised mitochondria and brain shrinkage. When the mitochondria are not fed correctly, they wither and die. And the brain shrinks.
Confined to a wheelchair, Dr. Wahls began her investigation of supplements that might help to feed the mitochondria and slow the progression of the disease. She discovered three essential nutrients: animal based Omega-3 fats, creatine and coenzyme Q10. Even after taking these supplements, her health continued to deteriorate, albeit at a slower pace. Not satisfied, she continued her search.
Diet - The secret to healing
During the fall of 2007, Wahls had a sudden epiphany. What would happen if she was getting these crucial brain nutrients from food instead of supplements? Realizing mitochondria thrive on B vitamins, sulfur and antioxidants, she began to formulate an eating plan.
Wahls adopted a modified paleo diet -- rich in roots, organ meats, seeds, nuts, oily fish and grass-feed meats. She also included eggs from pastured chickens along with seaweed -- which is a good source of myelin-repairing iodine. Wahls shied away from Omega-6 fatty acids, sugar, grains, dairy and legumes.
For sulfur, she consumed vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, onions, garlic and mushrooms. Typically, Wahls ate nine cups of non-starchy vegetables and berries each day. She included high quality fats like cod liver and salmon fish oils, chia seeds and walnuts along with extra virgin olive and coconut oils. Olive oil and avocados are excellent sources of oleic acid -- an important nutrient for those with MS. Choline is also crucial for myelin sheath repair. It's found in egg yolks, beef liver, chicken, turkey, scallops, salmon, sesame and flax seeds, collard greens, swiss chard and cauliflower.
Wahls called this diet Intensive Directed Nutrition. Soon she began feeling better and had more energy. Within three months, she was out of her wheelchair and was able to walk using only a cane. With the addition of exercise, electrical stimulation and meditation, Wahls continued to improve. Today, Dr. Wahls is a passionate advocate for conquering MS without harmful pharmaceuticals. She lectures around the nation and is currently writing a new book, "The Wahls Protocol. Defeating Progressive Multiple Sclerosis Without Drugs." Further information and resources can be found on Dr. Wahls' website.
Photo Credit: Karen Struthers