Watch the full interview above or listen to the full episode on your iPhone HERE.
In this weeks episode:-
- Internet fame with her famous Ted Talks: Minding my Mitochondria Over 1.3 million views on youtube & counting!
- From relying on a wheelchair to being able to bike ride 18 miles! The steps Dr Terry Wahls takes to help overcome her battle with MS (multiple sclerosis) [03:12]
- What is mitochondria & why it’s so important [06:10]
- What she was eating before MS & how much her diet has changed [07:30]
- Why Dr Terry Wahls decided to seek alternative means to conventional medicine [09:10]
- Her thoughts on being a vegetarian [16:20]
- Why inactivity is deadly [19:15]
- This is a must: Dr Wahls’ single piece of advice for optimum health/wellness [28:30]
- and much more…
Dr Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine. In addition to being a doctor, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000.
By 2003 it had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. She underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a wheelchair because of weakness in her back muscles. In her own words she says it was clear: eventually she would become bedridden by her disease.
To cut a very long story short, she ended up redesigning her diet for her condition so that she was getting those important nutrients not from supplements but from the foods she ate & created a new food plan.
The results stunned her physician, her family, and herself: within a year, she was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour.
If you would like to learn more about Dr Terry Wahls, click here.
Over 1.3 million views on youtube & counting! You can watch the Ted Talks Minding my Mitochondria here.
You can view all Health Session episodes here.
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Dr Terry Wahls: The transcript
Guy Lawrence: Brought to you by 180nutrition.com.au. Welcome to the Health Sessions podcast. In each episode, we cut to the chase as we hang out with real people with real results.
Hey, this is Guy Lawrence with 180- Nutrition and welcome to another episode of the Health Sessions. Our special guest today is Dr. Terry Wahls. If you haven’t heard of her, she’s a clinical professor of medicine. In addition to being a doctor, she was actually diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000.
By 2003, the transition into secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, get my words out, she underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a wheelchair because, simply, the weakness, and her back muscles had just disintegrated.
And, in her own words, she says it was clear eventually she would become bedridden by her disease. To cut a very long story short, she ended up redesigning her diet for her condition so that she was getting, simply, important nutrients not from supplements but from the very foods she ate and created a new food plan around this.
Over a period of time, the results stunned her physician, her family, and herself, she said. Within a year, she was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even completed an 18-mile bicycle tour.
And, I just think that the story is fantastic, you know, and whether you have MS or not or chronic disease or you’re, you know, in the best shape of your life, I think the overall message within this conversation is fantastic and it’ll definitely make you think twice about what you have for breakfast tomorrow morning.
As always, you know, if you’ve got any questions just drop us a line to HYPERLINK “mailto:email@example.com” firstname.lastname@example.org and, yeah, any shares or reviews are greatly appreciated. Until the next time, enjoy the show. Thank you.
Awesome. Awesome. Well, I’ll start with the introduction. This is Guy Lawrence and, of course, we’re joined by Stuart Cooke and our lovely guest today is Dr. Terry Wahls. Thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes.
Guy Lawrence: I have to say, I was just checking your YouTube TED talks video just now and I didn’t realize, but you have reached over 1.25 million people now with that…
Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes.
Guy Lawrence: …that talk, that’s a lot of people you’ve touched. Did you expect it to go as viral as it has when you did that?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, I wasn’t expecting a million. I was hoping, you know, I’d get a 100,000 or so, yet, when I last looked it was about 1.3 million. So, I’m very pleased.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. That’s amazing. Normally, it’s a double rainbow or something like that that tends to go viral and finally it’s something with a stronger message, so that’s awesome. So, what we’d thought we’d do just to start, Dr. Wahls, was…
Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes?
Guy Lawrence: …you know, we want to expose you to an audience over here in Australia, so could you basically share with us your story? Because we think it’s just incredible.
Dr. Terry Wahls: So, I’m a clinical professor of medicine here at the University of Iowa. In 2000, I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis. That was on the basis of a problem with foot drop and stumbling and abnormal MRI with lesions in my spinal cord, a history of optic neuritis ten years earlier, and oligo bands in the spinal fluid.
I went to the Cleveland Clinic, an international MS center, for a second opinion. They agreed that I had multiple sclerosis. At that time it was called relapsing-remitting, which meant that you have intermittent episodes that are acutely worse.
They advised me to take disease-modifying drugs and so I took a daily injection of Copaxone. Over the next three years, I had just one episode of worsening or one relapse, so I’d be considered a success, but the problem was I was gradually deteriorating and it was becoming difficult to have, to sit up in my office chair, my desk chair, because of back fatigue.
My physicians suggested that I get a XX?XX [0:04:39] inclined wheelchair because of the worsening back fatigue and that I take medication known as Novantrone and they told me that my disease had transitioned to secondary progressive MS.
And so I did that and, at that time, that’s when I realized that I wanted to do my own reading, my own research, to try to figure out what else I could do, and so I began searching pubmed.gov, reading the latest research, and I retaught myself a bunch of brain biology, immunology, and gradually began to add some vitamins and supplements to help my mitochondria, because I decided that mitochondria were key into my progressive brain disorders happen.
And the vitamins and supplements maybe slowed down the steepness of my decline, but they didn’t stop my decline. By the summer of 2007, I could walk short distances, two canes. I could not sit up in a standard chair. I had to be in a recliner or in bed, and that’s when I discovered the Institute for Functional Medicine, which is an organization which is committed to using the latest basic science to treat chronic diseases.
I can hear you. Can you hear me?
Guy Lawrence: Yes, I can. Well, it’s okay. Let’s proceed with the audio like this. I think this will be fine.
Stuart Cooke: Yeah. Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: So, I was interested, Dr. Wahls, in, I guess, mitochondria. So, for our audience, I wondered if you could just explain that, please. What is mitochondria?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes. So, mitochondria are, about 1.5 billion years ago, large bacteria swallowed up little bacteria that were capable of creating energy using oxygen, and that increased the efficiency of those bigger bacteria so that they were able to become multicellular which then eventually became animals and then became mammal and then became primate and then us, of course.
All of our cells rely on these little mitochondria to generate energy more efficiently to run the chemistry of those cells. So our brains are critically dependent on mitochondria. All of our other organs, you know, our muscles, hearts, glands are also dependent on the mitochondria.
Guy Lawrence: Right. Got it. So, essentially, like a battery for our cells.
Dr. Terry Wahls: A battery for the cells.
Guy Lawrence: Yep. All right. The next question I have here would be what you’re eating prior to being diagnosed with MS to what you’re eating now, and how much has that varied?
Dr. Terry Wahls: For years, maybe a decade, I’d been a vegetarian. I was eating lots of vegetables, some rice, and legumes. Then I began eating some fish, still a lot of vegetables, a lot of grain and legumes. I did not have a lot of junk food, just not a lot of processed foods. I was eating most of my meals at home.
When I was diagnosed with MS, I continued to be mostly vegetarian, although I did eat some fish. Then in 2002, I began a paleo diet after reading Loren Cordain’s book and began eating meat. I was eating, you know, vegetables, fruit, meat, but I continued my decline.
2003, I hit the wheelchair, you know, and continued to decline. In 2007, I had a long list of nutrients that were critical for my brain and reorganized my dietary choices to maximize the nutrients for my brain.
And when I created that structure, that’s when there was a dramatic improvement in my function and health.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. Right. The other thing that fascinated me as well was the fact that many people don’t look to seek alternative means to improve their condition, like, and just accept, I guess, “This is how it is. This is all we can do for you.”
So, my question would be what made you decide to really seek alternative matters to overcoming MS? Especially through the food you ate?
Dr. Terry Wahls: So, the first seven years I took straight conventional medicine, latest drugs from the top researchers in the country, but when I got into my wheelchair in 2004, that’s when I decided that it was clear that I was likely going to become bedridden by my disease, and at that time I began reading the science myself, slowly piecing together the fact that maybe some vitamins and supplements might be helpful, that maybe mitochondria were very important to the disease and no one was yet talking about that in the MS research community.
And then when I discovered functional medicine, that just deepened my understanding of what the latest science was saying about autoimmune types of diseases and XXthat I was launched and on my wayXX [0:10:18]
Guy Lawrence: How many vegetables do you eat a day now? Do you eat to get the quantities in, because you mention a lot of…
Dr. Terry Wahls: So I would say nine to twelve cups of vegetables a day.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. That’s a lot, and do you juice any of that?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Wow, that’s a lot, but these are XXaudio breaks upXX [0:10:38] So, I will have smoothies where I put my vegetables and some fruit in this high-powered blender I call a Vitamix. It blends everything, all the fiber is still in the juice, and so I’ll drink that smoothie, you know, 18 to 24 ounces of all of that.
I’ll have huge salads, maybe six cups of salad greens every day, and a lot of non-starchy vegetables with that.
Guy Lawrence: Are there any other dietary considerations to take in, you know, I’m just thinking for anybody listening to this with MS. I mean, because obviously, we’ve got chocolate, coffee, alcohol, all these little crazy things like that.
Dr. Terry Wahls: So I’m going to step back a bit. The structure that I teach is three cups of green leaves, three cups of sulphur-rich vegetables that I get out of the cabbage family, onions, XX?XX [0:11:39] mushrooms, three cups of bright colors, and the easiest way to determine that is the vegetable or plant colored all the way through? Eat protein, high-quality protein, preferably animal protein as much as desired, have some seaweed on a regular basis.
If you’re going to have coffee or tea, a couple of cups are fine. You can have herbal teas as desired. A glass of wine every day would be fine. I would specifically avoid gluten grains, dairy, and eggs.
That also means avoiding beer.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right, and why seaweed?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Seaweed for the iodine, selenium, and other trace minerals.
Guy Lawrence: Okay. Okay. And the next question I have for you was the diet you prescribe, would that, sort of, help anyone, even if they didn’t have MS but had other chronic diseases? I mean…
Dr. Terry Wahls: You know, in the hundreds of people I’ve seen in my clinics and the hundreds of followers that I have, I see people being helped with traumatic brain injury, psychological problems like depression, anxiety, bipolar, schizophrenia, and then we see diabetes, heart disease, obesity being helped, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel, inflammatory bowel disease, psoriasis, eczema, allergies, asthma.
So, I’d say, in general, if you have a chronic disease, feeding your mitochondria and feeding your cells will have the effect of reducing your symptoms, improving your function and your quality of life.
Guy Lawrence: Okay, and for anyone that is actually just, you know, is healthy and is happy with their health as well, I’m sure, eating like this would benefit them as well. I’m assuming.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes. I’ve had a couple of athletes contact me and tell me that their athletic performance has improved markedly.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, okay. That’s interesting. Yeah. IN your view then, as well, a question I was really was keen to ask, how much of the diet is contributing to chronic disease in the first place do you think? And even with your own condition, from MS, do you think that food is a big player in that?
Dr. Terry Wahls: I think food is a huge player. The chronic diseases that we have are a reflection of how your unique and my unique DNA interacts with my choices around food, the toxins to which I’ve been exposed, my exercise level, and my social/spiritual life, but the vast majority of all of this will be the food choices that we make.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, right, and why do you think the fact that most people don’t turn to food initially, like, it just baffles me, personally, you know? I think…
Dr. Terry Wahls: We’re addicted. We are very much addicted to white flour, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, that when you take that food in it stimulates the dopamine receptors, you release more dopamine in your brain, it enhances your pleasure.
We are addicted to those XXsphereXX [0:15:15] spikes. It becomes very difficult for them to select vegetables, berries, meats, other foods that are health promoting, and instead we do what rats do. They will starve themselves eating the sugar and white flour and kill themselves from the micronutrient starvation. We are absolutely doing that as well.
Guy Lawrence: You know, if somebody wanted to change their diet, should they just go cold turkey and start cutting out the things you mentioned, you know, the sugar, the grains, the gluten, or should they…
Dr. Terry Wahls: If you go cold turkey, you’re going to be going through withdrawal, and that’s going to feel very uncomfortable. If you wind down the bad food as you wind up the good food, that’s less uncomfortable, and, in general, I counsel people that this is a family decision. You’re going to be much more successful if you negotiate the pace of these changes with the whole family.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough. Then you mentioned, as well, the fact that you were a vegetarian at one point, as well, and I’m always interested in this topic in particular because I know one of the arguments is about the fact that you don’t get your essential fatty acids from animal sources.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on…what your thoughts are about, you know, fat in the diet.
Dr. Terry Wahls: My brain and your brain is 60 to 70 percent fat, and without cholesterol you have a hard time making healthy cell membranes, you have a hard time making hormones. We need cholesterol. We need to manufacture cholesterol. We need a lot of fats in the omega-3 variety, the docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), in order to make the XXmylanXX [0:17:16] structures in the brain.
We need a lot of fat to make all those things happen, and, unfortunately, fat has been so demonized that many, many people are relatively starved for these very essential brain nutrients with negative health consequences.
Guy Lawrence: And what would a vegetarian do then to get those essential fatty acids in?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, they’ll have to take in a tremendous amount of ALA, alpha-Linolenic acid. That’s in flax, walnuts, but the body will have to convert that to DHA, which is what your brain needs. That is a complicated step and we can make about five to seven percent of the vegetarian omega-3 into the form that we use in our brain.
And you could also project that those of us with a chronic brain problem probably have enzymes that are even less efficient than those conversions, and so I think it’s very concerning for people with a brain problem or a heart problem. Are they getting enough of these health-promoting omega-3s?
And particularly the animal form? That’s the form that your brain and your heart need.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, absolutely, and what about things like ghee and coconut oil?
Dr. Terry Wahls: So, that, ghee is a butter that has been clarified so the milk proteins are out of it. It’s a saturated fat. Coconut oil is a saturated fat. And both of those fats, I think, can be quite health-promoting. You certainly want to have organic sources for both of those fats.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, fair enough, fair enough. The next topic I wanted to cover with you, Dr. Wahls, was exercise. The first question, I guess, does exercise help MS and even people with chronic disease?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Tremendous number of studies that show that strength-training and aerobic-training, either, or, and both, are very helpful for multiple sclerosis, helpful for fibromyalgia, heart disease, depression, basically any chronic health problem.
Our brain expects us to move. In prehistoric times, men would move six to nine miles a day and women two to three. So inactivity is deadly.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I think it’s deadly to the mind as well as the body.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Absolutely.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, yeah, which is so important, you know, especially when you’re suffering with some sort of chronic disease, if it isn’t enough just trying to deal with that as well and then if you’re not moving, I’m sure the mind can, you can manifest all sorts of problems through your thoughts.
Were you exercising before? Before you were diagnosed with MS?
Dr. Terry Wahls: So, before I went to medical school, I was big in tae kwon do. I competed nationally and was very much an athlete. During medical school, I still did tae kwon do. I ran. I did biking, cross-country skiing. When I was diagnosed with MS, I knew that exercise would be critical to maintain function as long as possible, so I worked out every day doing strength and aerobic training.
As I got more and more disabled, I could do less and less. In 2007, I could do about ten minutes of exercise. If I did more than that, I was flat out exhausted for four or five hours, but I exercised every day, and I still exercise every day.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, and you do resistance-training in amongst that as well?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Yes. So, right now I’m doing pilates, biking, swimming, and I lift free weights.
Guy Lawrence: That’s fantastic. That’s amazing, and did you ever expect to be getting to this point when you, you know, were in a wheelchair?
Dr. Terry Wahls: You know, when I tell the story of how I got my bike down and decided to try for my first bike ride, my family came out, and we had this pow wow, would they helped me bike ride? And they decided that, yes, they would, and my kids, one ran on the right; one ran on the left, and my spouse biked behind me.
And I still get tears in my eyes talking about that because I had fully accepted that I would never have that come back in my life, but instead, you know, I’m biking. I’ve been able to do 18-mile bicycle rides. I’m lifting weights.
You know, I’m still not normal. My gait, in the morning, looks normal, but by the afternoon you can probably tell that it’s not normal. Standing for a lecture, I can do that for an hour. I cannot do that for two hours. I can walk a mile. I can’t walk longer than that. So I still have a ways to go to be normal, but I’m getting my life back, where, if I hadn’t made these interventions, I would be bedridden by now. Absolutely, I would be bedridden.
Guy Lawrence: But not only that, you’ve not only, you know, changed, turned your life around, you know, you’re touching so many people now with your story, which is a credit to what you’re doing, so, I just think that’s awesome. That really is.
Dr. Terry Wahls: I’m very grateful to have my life back.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I can imagine. I can imagine. With all this information, what do you think the future holds for medicine itself?
Dr. Terry Wahls: I think if physicians don’t get on board with realizing drugs are not the solution, it’s teaching people that lifestyle is how we create health, that teaching people how to eat a nutrient-dense diet, moving their bodies, meditating, creating spiritual and social harmony in their lives…If physicians won’t get on board, realizing that that is how you treat chronic disease, we will be replaced by another profession that understands that.
And so I’m encouraged that there are more and more young physicians and more medical schools embracing functional medicine, thinking that lifestyle interventions are going to be key, but that is the future. I’m not sure which profession is going to be at the cutting edge of that, however.
Guy Lawrence: yeah, fair enough, and do you think drug companies inhibit this message?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, there’s a lot of money to be made with drugs, procedures, quick fixes. That’s what’s funding the research. It’s very difficult to get research that looks at medicine from a systems standpoint.
I mean, you and I, we are incredibly complicated biochemical systems, and, when we’re chronically ill, multiple parts of that system are screwed up, wrong, not working well, so, if you want to restore health, you try to correct as many systems as possible.
That’s a very messy research design. That’s not what’s being funded by our basic science institutes in any of our countries. So the type of research that I’m doing, which is a much more complex systems approach, it’s very hard to get funding for it. It is outside the mainstream paradigm, but that is the future. We have to do systems biology. We have to do systematic repair of these broken thought systems.
Guy Lawrence: If, for people that are listening to this now, obviously outside of the States and they have MS, where would be, what would be the best thing for them to start, the best place to start for them?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, I’d tell them to go to my website, terrywahls.com, and I have a lot of information there. I have books. I have lectures. I have stuff that you can download and see virtually, so you can still get it even there in Australia. We have newsletters. I have my current book. We’ll have a new book coming out next spring, The Wahls Protocol.
So I’m working very hard at putting this information out to the public. At the same time, I’m doing these scientific studies testing my intervention, showing that it’s safe and effective, and we’re getting ready to launch the next study.
So I try to do things in parallel, create tools for the public, and create the science for my medical colleagues.
Guy Lawrence: That’s fantastic. Did you have a video? I notice you had a video series on there as well, so I’m guessing people can, you know, get there and start watching these things and take actions right away.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Absolutely, I think it’s very helpful.
Guy Lawrence: Absolutely.
Dr. Terry Wahls: People need to understand the why. Why it makes sense to give up food that you love. Why it makes sense to do the work of exercising in order to stay motivated to sustain these very uncomfortable changes.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah, I think it’s very important, as well, to have some kind of support network behind you when doing this, as well. You know, get support of the family and then make the decision to actually say, “I’m going to do this and not deviate and, sort of, try not to get distracted with many other things.”
Because there’s so much information out there, as well, and it can pull you in all sorts of directions without actually, I guess, it confuses the matter, you know? We tend to have a habit of doing that, human beings, for some reason.
Have you got anything in the pipeline for the future?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, we have the book, The Wahls Protocol. I’m working on that. That will be released March 3rd, so that’s coming up really fairly soon. I will be going to the Ancestral Health Symposium in August, presenting some of our research there. We’ll actually talk about two of our studies there. That will be a lot of fun.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic.
Dr. Terry Wahls: And we are writing up and submitting our research findings, so, again, making good progress there.
Guy Lawrence: Fantastic, and I’ve got one last question for you, Dr. Wahls, and it’s a question we ask everyone that comes on our podcast, and that would be, if you could offer a single piece of advice for optimum health and wellness, what would that be?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Eat a lot more vegetables. Ditch the junk food.
Guy Lawrence: Eat a lot more vegetables. Ditch the junk food. Absolutely. Absolutely. I actually had a nice big salad for breakfast this morning with a little bit of grass-fed steak on it, so I’m quite proud of myself.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Perfect.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. For sure.
Dr. Terry Wahls: That’s my perfect breakfast as well.
Guy Lawrence: Yeah. I’ve been doing that a lot recently and I definitely feel good about it. Just to mention your website as well, so the URL is?
Dr. Terry Wahls: Terry. T. E. R. R. Y. Wahls. W. A. H. L. S. dot com. When people go there, do sign up for the newsletter, which goes out every, once or twice a month. We have a lot of videos and there’s a lot of educational material right there.
Guy Lawrence: Guy Lawrence: Fantastic. I’ll put the appropriate links on our website, too, and when we send that out.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Thank you much.
Guy Lawrence: Thank you for your time. Apologies for the technical errors. I have no idea what happened there. it, yeah, that’s the first time that it’s done that for us, so we’ll look into it.
Dr. Terry Wahls: All right. Thank you much.
Guy Lawrence: You’re welcome. Thank you.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Bye, bye.
Guy Lawrence: Bye, bye.
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