Can You Cure MS by Eating Real Food?

This amazing TED story was published two weeks ago and already has about 60 000 views on YouTube. I suppose many readers have already seen it, but for the rest of you – here it is.

Dr Terry Wahls developed severe MS and despite cutting-edge medication she got worse and worse. A few years ago she could hardly move, couldn’t get out of her special chair. Then she started eating real food, hard-core Paleo. Probably the healthiest food you could find. She didn’t have time to discuss it in her talk but she also started taking vitamin D. She emulated a hunter-gatherer life.

Now, a couple of years later, she is walking, bicycling and riding again. Pretty amazing.

This is just an anecdote, it doesn’t really prove anything by itself. But there are many reasons to believe that our modern lifestyles and modern junk food is making millions of people sick. Dr Wahl’s story is a fantastic illustration of what could be possible.

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34 Comments

  1. Anne-Marie
    Very interesting video :) Thanks for posting.
  2. Fantastic and powerful. Thank you for pointing this in my direction.
  3. I think it's interesting to speculate on her experience, first using a range of supplements to provide missing micro-nutrients then finding actually using large amounts of real foods mainly green veggies/fruits was required to make those nutrients available to her.
    I'm not disputing the role of mitochondria in chronic illness but I wonder if Dr Wahls is overlooking the physical impact that the huge bulk of the vegetables/fruits she consumes inevitably has on gut microbiome?
    Here is a full text paper that discusses some of the issues.
    Modulation of the gut microbiota by nutrients with prebiotic properties: consequences for host health in the context of obesity and metabolic syndrome
    I think we still have lots to learn about the relationship between our gut flora and our mitochondrial function.
    I'd also be interested to know the role of FAT in Dr Wahls diet?
    She talks about omega 3 but where's the butter/coconut oil/olive oil?
  4. On the low-carb cruise earlier this year, my wife picked up a book by Sally Pacholok, R.N., B.S.N., and Jeffry Stuart, D.O., entitled Could it be B12? It looked pretty interesting, so I ended up reading it before she did. I was pretty skeptical about the subject of the book (subtitle: “An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses”), but as I delved into the book, I concluded, despite the anecdotal nature of most of the evidence cited, that the authors had several important points to make.

    One of the points was that even sub-clinical B12 deficiency could lead to symptoms of dreaded, 'incurable' diseases such as MS. That leads to a number of questions regarding the experience of Dr. Wahls (and Ms. Pacholok's book).

    1) Was the affliction she suffered really MS, or a B12 deficiency?
    2) Or was it perhaps a result of the various toxins in "healthy whole grains"?
    3) Is our understanding of MS good enough to distinguish it from a B12 deficiency (or celiac, or some other form of malnutrition)?
    4) Is MS actually a dietary deficiency (whether B12 or some other micronutrient, or collection of micronutrients)?

    I would like to see some meaningful studies that address those questions. One of the problems with current nutritional research is that most studies try to change too many variables at once, leading to a confounding of the results. In Dr. Wahls case, she made a large number of drastic changes, so there is no way to know which of those changes (or combination of changes) did the trick.

  5. Jaime
    Very interesting! I'll watch it when I get back home. Thanks, Andreas.
  6. LCNana
    Just watching that video has forced me to make some major changes in what I eat. I had been attempting to stay very low carb. I ate lots of meat, and lots of good fats, and very very few veggies and, as I feared sugar, no fruit. What the good doctor said made such sense to me and at my age (66) I want to avoid some of the negative effects of a poor diet as I get older.

    The kind of restriction I had been practicing never felt really natural to me so, I've begun to eat lots of greens, both cooked and raw, lots of coloured fruit and veg, and no eggs, no dairy, certainly no grains or starches. Meat consumption has gone down but I eat to satisfaction, and missing calories are supplied by the veg and fruit. I can feel the addition of all the fibre in my system and don't really like that...but I'm willing to let nature take its course in order to flood my cells with all the nutrients I may have been missing. I expect good things from this. Better skin, better mental clarity, better sleep, more satisfaction when I eat things I love. And I hope better health at the cellular level. So thanks for this link!!

  7. @LCNana -- I wonder if a blender might enhance the extraction of the micronutrients in kale, cabbage, et. al., so that you could get the benefits of the micronutrients with less fiber. I, too, have some difficulty with fiber since the rectal surgery I had about 7 years ago. Things generally go better for me if I keep my stools firm.

    I have seen some blenders lately that do a decent job on fruits and veggies. There was one being demoed at Costo last time I was in there, but as I recall, it was pretty high-dollar.

    I remember back in the day when I kidded my stepson about getting a juicer... I told him that a juicer was only for people too lazy to chew, and prefer to drink, their salads. Now I wonder if a juicer might be worthwhile.

    P.S. "At the cellular level" is one of my pet peeves. EVERYTHING that affects the body is "at the cellular level," so the phrase is essentially meaningless.

    P.P.S. Dr. Andreas, what plug-in do you use that allows five minutes for the commenter to edit/delete?

  8. Mark R
    You can learn more about Dr Wahls at her website http://www.terrywahls.com/
  9. Galina L.
    LCNanna,
    It always ticks me when people say in one sentence "fruits and veggies" like there are the same or interchangeable things. As a person who regained health with LC, I can tell, they are not. My list of cured or at least greatly diminished conditions is very long - allergies(asthma, eczema), all pre-menopausal symptoms, various frequent infections, migraines, too long to mention all. I have been on a LC diet for 4 years now, with various modifications, and I can tell, the fruits are much more problematic to re-introduce without returning of some lost health conditions, while veggies are mostly harmless.
  10. Moreporkplease
    If you look at her diet as she describes it - 9 cups veggies- it seems by my carb counter to come out to about 75 net carbs a day. This is a low-carb diet; many active Atkins folks in maintenance Phase 4 eat this amount.
  11. @Moreporkplease -- Low-Carb is not "The Answer" but only a part of the answer. I am definitely impressed by Dr. Wahl's recovery methods, and they do strongly suggest that mainstream medicine does not have any useful information about MS (or diet, for that matter) but there are some other things amiss. For example, there are entire populations without MS who have never eaten seaweed for many generations. That doesn't prove much one way or the other, but after viewing what Dr. Wahl had to say, I'm inclined to eat some seaweed (and kale) and see what, if any, difference it makes to me.

    Kale and seaweed (and low-carb) are probably not "The Answer." Although there are probably some interesting pieces of "The Answer" to be found there.

  12. Diane
    My partner is not on LCHF like I am. He truly believes that it would raise his cholesterol and give him heart disease. I cannot persuade him, but when I find things like the above Ted Talk, I send them to him. Her story was really remarkable and it didn't sound like she needed to go high in saturated fat or meat to restore her health, so I hoped it would chip away at his defenses. But my partner is so resistent to changing his diet that when I asked him what he thought about the presentation he said that there are lots of people with MS who have spontaenous, unexplained recoveries so her diet means nothing.

    On a related note, I worked with an obese young man who got bariatric surgery and could only eat tiny amounts of food afterward. He lost an enormous amount of weight and became almost too thin. He also developed MS after the surgery and had to use a Segway with a little trailer to get around the work site. Sadly, he will never be able to eat 9 cups of vegetables a day. He would never be able to fit them all into whatever is left of his stomach.

  13. moreporkplease
    "there are lots of people with MS who have spontaenous, unexplained recoveries so her diet means nothing."

    Hi Diane

    There are several kinds of MS, one of which is called relapsing-remitting. This is the kind most common in women - where the disease worsens, then seems to improve for a while, but then alas returns more harshly than before. If this is the sort that Dr. Wahls has, then it shall soon sadly show itself - she will in due time have a tragic recurrence.

    MS overall is however deemed an incurable and progressive disease. To have true "recovery" and not just a remission - search Google, the rates of this appear quite low. A true spontaneous recovery would be somewhat unlikely.

    So we should just follow Dr. Wahl's and wish her the best. :)

  14. FrankG
    @Howard... so far as I can see the only one talking about "The Answer" is you. Let's please just keep this intellectually honest and avoid straw men. Thanks.

    BTW your seaweed argument is also specious. Dr Wahls does not claim that seaweed is the only source of iodine... just a good one.

  15. Diane
    I don't know where anybody is getting the phrase "The Answer" from. She never uses that phrase in the video. From what I understood, she started her journey taking supplements based on research into what vitamins and minerals support healthy brain activity and mitochondria function. She decided later that she would try to get the nutrients she identified from food instead of pills because there might be lots of unidentified, unnamed nutrients in food along with the named ones. So it's not that seaweed is "the answer" it's just that it is a food source high in iodine, a mineral she identfied as being beneficial to health. Get it from seaweed instead of a pill and who knows what other beneficial things come along for the ride.
  16. "Get it from seaweed instead of a pill and who knows what other beneficial things come along for the ride."

    Dr. Wahl did mention that there might be many other micronutrients that we didn't yet know about somewhere in all that seaweed and kelp, and she implied that it was better to get the iodine that way. Still wonder about the millions of people who have never eaten seaweed...

    I have no doubt that seaweed is, if not really good for you, at least not as bad as wheat. But if there are other useful micronutrients in seaweed, I wonder where else they might show up. (thinking paleo here; there has to be some source for everything that is required, otherwise the organism dies)

    And, aren't there hundreds of different types of edible seaweed?

    I am not claiming Dr. Wahl is wrong. In fact, I think she is mostly right (and spectacularly so), but there is still a lack of information there. I don't have a problem with eating seaweed to see if it makes a difference (I already take iodine supplements), but if everybody who sees this video suddenly decides to start eating seaweed, there won't be any left... (black-market seaweed, anybody?).

    I hope to see some meaningful research on this topic soon.

  17. FrankG
    @Howard says... "Dr. [Wahls] did mention that there might be many other micronutrients that we didn't yet know about somewhere in all that seaweed and kelp, and she implied that it was better to get the iodine that way. Still wonder about the millions of people who have never eaten seaweed..."

    She does indeed suggest that it is better to get our nutrients from natural sources rather than from artificial supplements BUT once again, she did not state that seaweed is the ONLY natural source of iodine and any other as yet unidentified, micronutrients.

  18. FrankG
    I'd also add that with humans being opportunistic omnivores it makes little evolutionary sense for us to be reliant on any single food source. That is not to say seaweed is not a valuable nutrient resource... just that it is not the only one.
  19. I think we should remember that those from Seaweed eating cultures may have the gut flora that enables them to derive more micro-nutrients from seaweed than those from cultures that don't traditionally eat seaweed. Transfer of carbohydrate-active enzymes from marine bacteria to Japanese gut microbiota. As with any dietary change it may take a while before your gut flora adapt to those best suited to that regime.
  20. Gayle
    It should be noted that Dr Wahls has not recovered from MS (she has secondary progressive MS), her symptoms have improved. She is on facebook under *the wahls foundation* and posts about her eating, symptoms etc daily. She has clearly said she isn't recovered, she still can't run or do her former martial arts but she hopes that through this diet that someday she can. Basically she has halted the progression of the MS, which is fantastic!. She is my inspiration and has given me so much hope for healing my own neurological disease.

    It is SO good to see so many doctors thinking differently and getting behind real food and true healing of the body, especially when so many people like myself had given up on the medical profession.

  21. I saw this some months back and was blown away by her story. It did make me up my intake of dark green veg.
  22. I was recentley tol that I have PPMS I am so happy to come across your web sight it has given me alot more hope for recovery. Thankyou
  23. @ ROSEMARIE
    You may also find the diet/supplement information at Direct MS worth checking out.
    Australian scientists discover key to halt nerve fibre damage in MS Paper here
    Limiting multiple sclerosis related axonopathy by blocking Nogo receptor and CRMP-2 phosphorylation

    Crmp2 phosphorylation is also implicated in Alzheimer's progression, we know from earlier work it's beta-amyloid protein that's implicated in phosphorylation.

    We can clear or reduce beta-amyloid protein with both Vitamin D3 and CURCUMIN.

    The actual damage to mylene sheath is done by MMP9's and we can ilower the numbers of mmp9 with both curcumin and Vitamin D3. MS is an INFLAMMATORY condition so keeping 25()H)D vitamin D level above 50ng/ml maximizes it's anti inflamamtory action.
    Retinoic acid (RA), acting through the RA receptor β (RAR-β), inhibited myelin-activated Nogo receptor NgR signaling.
    So it looks like LIVER may be a useful addition to the menu.
    You may also be pleased to know that the new paper
    Nutrient intake and plasma β-amyloid. says "Our data suggest that higher dietary intake of ω-3 PUFA is associated with lower plasma levels of Aβ42, a profile linked with reduced risk of incident AD and slower cognitive decline in our cohort.

  24. Lainey
    This sounds great.....I have several auto immune problems.....I am allergic to Iodine...my throat closes up, I get a bad headache and so forth......so if Iodine is so important for a healthy immune system...what do I do???
  25. Summer
    She's conducting clinical trials. Others are experiencing results as well. The initial study is a feasibility study -- seeing whether or not others are willing and able to implement the intervention as well as collecting data. As it's not presently a controlled randomized study, one cannot draw causal conclusions, but it's still very exciting. Check out http://www.TerryWahls.com or The Wahls Foundation (on Facebook) for more information. Dr. Wahls & team are currently working on funding to begin the first phase of randomized trials.
  26. Dr Wahls approach is to improve mitochondrial function.
    If you find the role of mitochondria somewhat confusing there is an interesting lecture here

    Dr Alex Vasquez introduces Mitochondrial Dysfunction in Inflammation, Allergy, and Autoimmunity.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zvgGDrCRqs

    It's aimed at doctors so is fairly detailed.
    I think restoring mitochondrial function (like maintaining a natural vitamin d level to maintain optimum anti-inflammatory reserves) is simply common sense. We don't need further research to know keeping the engine tuned and tyres inflated make driving safer and more economical in the same way running the human body closer to the original specifications at which human DNA evolved is simply common sense.
    There are some good ideas in this paper explaining ideas for restoring mitochondrial function.
    Mitochondrial Energetics and Therapeutics
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3245719/

  27. Bill
    There is too much money to be made involving these killers like cancer, ms, diabetes, etc. to actually cure us by simpley eating the proper foods.
  28. Terry Wahls, M.D. presenting at the Ancestral Health Symposium 2012 (AHS12) Minding My Mitochondria
    This is a more recent and longer presentation than the original, covers much of the same ground but there is a Q&A session at the end that is worth watching.
  29. Diet problems, transfer of mothers' toxins prior to birth, environmental junk, vaccinations, poor mental attitudes, some effect of heredity, and drugs (including big pharma) are most likely to correspond to health problems. There is one other unmentioned anywhere except the Bible. (I know - most of you will think, " Oh boy, here we go, another weirdo.") Too bad for you.
    Anyway, in the New Testament the Corinthian church was informed that many were sick and some passed on because of their lifestyles that were contrary to Scripture. God sometimes uses illness as a wake up call and in cases like this, no diet, medication, etc will do any good. Only a turning to God and His ways can be effective - of course a proper diet is very important also. Spiritual health - the correct relation to God is far more important than physical health since we are all headed for the grave eventually and I prefer to end up in God's glorious abode than Satan's Hell.
    As a side note, the problem with this nation as a whole is that of rejecting God and His ways. However, He is not mocked and will soon be done with the warnings and the real judgement will commence.
  30. Mom of many
    To Stan, I don't understand what you're trying to get at. Do you believe only the unsaved get diseases like MS? I am a born again believer (12 years) and I have MS (diagnosed last year), so that throws that idea out the window!

    Like a couple of others on here, I too wonder if Dr. Wahls is just in remission right now, but diet is just helping her in feeling better with a lot of the MS symptoms that are daily our plight. I don't believe traditional medicine has all the answers, but I believe we need to be really careful about just dismissing its benefits. People have died before by trying to fight certain diseases, like cancer, the all natural route.

  31. Patricia Webb
    Dr. Wahls has secondary progressive MS. There are no drug treatments and it is not remitting.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc

  32. Trent Black
    Here is how you start, and stop, Multiple Sclerosis attacks. It is sugar diet related.

    http://youtu.be/tUKqBg5DDCQ

  33. Trent Black
    Sorry, here is the link:

    http://youtu.be/h5JNzKZ7HQY

  34. HomegirlwithMS
    If I had as much money as Dr. Terry Wahls, I'd be eating this way all the time. Hell, I'd hire a chef to cook for me, and I'd live in a nice house and drive a nice car, and never have to go to the food bank again. Maybe I'll write a book, and get rich too! Highly suspicious of anyone who sells anything, via the suffering of others. Yeah, Dr. Wahls, foot my food bill for one year, I'll eat anything you purchase for me!
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