- FDA Approves New Multiple Sclerosis Treatment: Tecfidera (fda.gov)
- UPDATED: Biogen Idec rolls up FDA OK for blockbuster multiple sclerosis drug Tecfidera (fiercebiotech.com)
- Biogen Prices New MS Pill At $55K, Prepares For Marketing Battle (forbes.com)
I saw a Neurologist speak the other night. He explained that after deciding on Neurology, he opted for MS since there was so much promise. One of the newer neurologists in our clinic once introduced herself to our MS Club and remarked what an exciting time it was to be in the field of MS and how she looked forward to meeting each one of us. I couldn’t help but feel unimportant as a person, but (as with the drug companies), so important as a specimen. Of course, on the ground, it’s not as exciting and it’s not practical to wait for a cure. Certainly, we can be grateful that we know more about the disease, and have treatments that may help. But for the most part, it’s on us and so we take our health into our own able hands and give it our best shot. That’s what we do here.
What is exciting, is taking not only our health, but our lives into our own control. I can only speak for myself when I say that MS and OMS woke me out of my robotic and often painful existence. I had always been gritting my teeth, slogging through work, relationships, marriage, kids, future career, family… and health. I only thought of diet, exercise and taking care of myself mentally in service of my career and some vague idea of the future. I was putting my life on hold until retirement.
I believe that for the lucky amongst us, MS can be a wake up call and OMS the guide – it was for me. I always recommend people read “Overcoming Multiple Sclerosis” cover to cover and to try everything in it. Don’t skip over the chapter on grief, do the meditation. Read the recommended book lists and read biographies of inspirational people.
I decided from the beginning that I was going to live my life differently, fuller and made the following three vows:
1) Not wait to tell or show someone I loved them.
2) Not wait to live my life and wait for “someday”.
3) Say “no” when I needed to.
In practice, it means that while I’m still troubled by anxiety from time to time, I make my decisions and run with them. One of my first decisions was that I was going to make my previously difficult marriage work or move on – but only after I knew I had done everything I could and left nothing unsaid. This past month has been the turning point.
Committing and giving our best effort – it’s what we are doing with our health. We don’t know for sure how it will work out, but we can know we’re giving ourselves the best shot possible. I suppose it may be an exciting time to have MS. At least it can be if, as George recommends, you do all you can.
- 5 prescription drugs doctors had no idea could hurt their patients (ted.com)
- What is known - and not known - about your flu medication (macleans.ca)
- Profits over your dead body (arstechnica.com)
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, around the time I began working at 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 long as possible.
Because of my academic medical training, I knew 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 search 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 summer of 2007, I discovered Functional Medicine, an organization devoted to helping clinicians use the latest scientific discoveries to take better care of those with complex chronic diseases. As a result I developed a longer list of vitamins and supplements that were good for my brain. Then 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? I used what I had learned from the medical literature in Functional Medicine to create a new food plan, essentially built around ensuring that I was getting all those critical brain nutrients from whole foods, not just synthetic vitamins and supplements. 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 the nutrient dense diet, stressing plenty of vegetables and berries, 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.
Thomas Edison, over a hundred years ago, said, “The doctor of the future will give no medicine, but will interest his [or her] patients in the care of the human frame, in a proper diet, and in the cause and prevention of disease.” This became my new course, my passion, and my mission. I understood health and disease in an entirely new way. I became a new person, both physically and emotionally, both personally and professionally.
I began teaching residents and patients in our clinics how to care for themselves in a way I had only just discovered as optimal, using diet and health behaviors instead of drugs. Most patients were, in fact, very interested and willing to do what I suggested. The patients, as they adopted the diet and health behaviors, would steadily improve and need fewer and fewer drugs. The residents learned that diet and lifestyle are powerful treatments, often as effective as, or more effective than drugs.
I joined a multidisciplinary team that was taking care of veterans with traumatic brain injuries and again, I found that patients were often very eager to learn what things they could do to speed the healing of their brains. In patient after patient, I watched symptoms and the need for drugs decrease as diet and lifestyles improved.
Then I shifted my research focus. I wrote up the protocol I discuss in my book, Minding My Mitochondria- How I overcame secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and got out of my wheelchair, then sought and secured over $100,000 of funding to conduct a pilot clinical trial testing my interventions in others with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. In our study, Nutrition, neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) and secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (SPMS), we follow twenty individuals for thirty-six months as they use the same treatments I developed for myself. The first nine have already completed the first twelve months of the intervention, with favorable preliminary data, (one of our subjects is moving from cane and walker dependence to beginning to jog again), which was presented at the 2011 Neuroscience Conference in Washington, D.C. November 13 as a “Hot Topic.”
Furthermore, we then secured additional funding to add MRI scans to the second wave of participants. That study is underway and in December 2013 all 11 subjects will have completed 12 months and we will once again be writing up results for publication.
I continue to study the impact of nutrition in our traumatic brain injury clinic. I teach medical students and resident physicians about food as medicine, and about therapeutic lifestyle interventions. I travel across the country, giving lectures to the medical community and to the public about the care of the human frame, the proper diet for the human being, and the causes of disease.
In short, I’ve become the physician of the future that Thomas Edison foretold, and I’ve made a commitment to spread this message of hope and healing around the world. My public lecture. “Minding Your Mitochondria,” given at a TEDx conference, was posted to YouTube on November 30, 2011. This seventeen-minute video, tells my story, explaining what I did and the science behind eating a nutrient dense diet, has received over one million views. People around the globe are now learning they are alive because of chemistry and that chemistry cannot happen properly without a diet based on plentiful nutrient dense vegetables and berries plus some protein from animal sources such as fish. Health can be reclaimed.
I have a dream for us all, not just those with MS – that all people, young and old will understand how their choices create health, that children, parents, grand parents, policy makers, employers and employees – will know that growing stronger, faster, smarter, younger, and falling health care costs – are not about taking drugs or having surgery, but instead about eating vegetables, berries, fish, and seaweed – and eliminating the sugars and processed foods from our diets. Health care costs could actually plummet as our health soars if we choose to eat the way our DNA expects. I have seen it in my patients and in our clinical trial. We become what we eat. Our health can be improved and often fully restored. Learn more at my website www.terrywahls.com. Register your email to receive newsletters and updates about my work.
Dr. Terry Wahls
Dr. Terry Wahls LLC
Minding My Mitochondria 2nd Edition
The Wahls Protocol (working title due out May 2014)
I witnessed a solar eclipse recently. I won’t claim that I saw it exactly, but I was definitely around while it was happening, and the men in my household were onto it right away. My 12-year-old wandered up to me at 7am and said vaguely “Mum, there’s something funny with the light,” which I ignored, thinking it was a request for home maintenance – how many mums does it take to change a light bulb? My husband, however, took his comment more seriously. “No, really, look at the light outside, it’s very strange.” And then I remembered the solar eclipse. In my defence, it was also our youngest daughter’s birthday that day, and being eight years old does tend to eclipse everything. We watched from the verandah as the light, which had indeed gone funny, stayed that way for a while and then went back to normal again. Living 100km north of Brisbane we didn’t get the full eclipse, just the edge of it really. Further north at the top end of Queensland the whole sky would have gone black, like it was night time. People flooded in from all over the world to see it, booking out hotels for up to three years in advance, and holding street parties in the morning to celebrate the event. Back in the Dark Ages though, a total eclipse would have been terrifying. WIthout understanding the science behind it this sudden, unexpected plunge into night time must have made ancient civilisations and cultures believe the world was about to end.
It’s interesting. Science has come so far in helping us understand the universe, our physical place in it, the natural laws within which it operates. But in some ways we are still living very much in the Dark Ages. And sometimes the very science that has helped to explain so much of our world seems to work against our spiritual and emotional maturity. The more we know the less we understand. And half the time we don’t even realise there’s a problem.
Healing is a good case in point. Many of us who have embarked on a journey of overcoming multiple sclerosis (however far we are along it – and who’s to know anyway?) are likely to have encountered hostile, aggressive, sceptical or in some way negative reactions to our assertion that it is possible to recover from MS. The textbooks, and therefore many of the neurologists who study them, say that ‘MS is an incurable, degenerative disease of the central nervous system’. My own attempts to prove them wrong have brought support from close friends and family, and from my GP, but scepticism from the MS specialist I choose to consult. For the first two annual visits, which I pay for, we just about managed to make our conversations fall into the category of debate and discussion rather than open argument. I’m continuing the ‘discussion’ in the hope that my recovery might help to change his mind one day.
That day might come sooner than I think. Because the science that ‘proves’ that MS is currently incurable and progressively disabling, is also being used to ‘prove’ that it is not. We have Professor Jelinek to thank for that. Firstly for providing the evidence-based recommendations that give us the blue print for healing MS, and secondly for following up those who are adopting it using well constructed research techniques. The five-year results, published last year in the journal Neurological Sciences, show a 20% improvement in physical and mental health for people with MS. A new study, Holism, looking at lifestyle factors in MS was also launched last year and will add to the statistical evidence.
So how long will it all take? How long before the typical reaction to a diagnosis of MS is ‘I’d better change my diet’ or ‘ok, perhaps it’s time for a holiday’? Not that either of those two things is enough on its own, and perhaps that’s one of the problems. Yes, it is possible to overcome MS, but it is not easy.
So I’m imagining the future. A neurologist’s office in Australia in 2028, just 15 years from now. A young woman has just been diagnosed with MS. She has her whole life ahead of her; recently married, planning children, enjoying her career. And as they sit there facing each other, the young woman and the neurologist, the sky outside suddenly turns black. It is the next total solar eclipse down under, the one that has been accurately predicted to occur in July of that year. Outside there will be parties in the street, and people will have travelled from all over the world to witness the event. No longer living in the Dark Ages, this will be a day to celebrate.
And what of healing? Will it have emerged from the Dark Ages too? Will the young woman with MS be given some hope and the tools to bring about her own recovery?
Let’s hope so. Let’s hope that neurologists everywhere will have seen the light, even if it has gone a bit funny.