She’s a force of nature, a woman possessed with a passion for a cause that is deeply personal to her. A tilt recliner wheel chair once her form of transport, now replaced by a bicycle that she regularly uses for 18-mile cycles.
In 2000, Dr. Terry Wahl was diagnosed with MS, an autoimmune condition that sees the body attack the fatty sheath that surrounds the nerves. This fatty sheath ensures smooth and rapid communication between nerve cells and the rest of the body. Degeneration of this fatty sheath known as myelin, can over time lead to disability. By 2003 Dr. Wahl was using a recliner wheelchair.
Despite having access to the best neuroscientists, taking the newest drugs, trying chemotherapy, her condition was worsening. She would not accept conventional wisdom that nothing further could be done to halt the progress of the disease. She turned to research. She looked at the most recent research on brain cells and mitochondria- the part of the cell that produces energy. Dr. Wahl had noted how other neurodegenerative conditions also resulted in brain shrinkage and poorly functioning mitochondria. Could this shrinkage be halted? Could the mitochondrial function be improved?
Her research revealed that fish oils protected brain shrinkage and that fish oil and B-vitamins were crucial for making myelin, the fatty sheath that covers healthy nerves. However, she found that 80% of individuals are deficient in fish oils and 50% deficient in B-vitamins. The research showed how our brains are being starved of the basic, fundamental nutrients we need to not just thrive, but to prevent brain neurodegeneration. A long-term deficiency of these nutrients being a pathway to chronic illness.
Dr. Wahl began self-experimenting. She started implementing a nutritionally dense, structured paleo diet, exercise, mediation and electrical muscle stimulation. More on which can be found in her book The Wahl Protocol.
I had the privilege of meeting Dr. Wahl last year. She was a speaker at the functional medicine symposium I attended in San Francisco. She seemed a little surprised I’d travelled almost 5500 miles for a one-day conference. The reality is, I had travelled all that way not just for a one-day conference, but to hear Dr. Wahl speak. To listen to her present her most recent findings on the powerful impact a nutrient-dense diet can have on MS.
Dr. Wahl was delighted when her decline halted and then she began to improve. She got stronger and was soon out of her recliner chair. Within a short period she was back walking the hospital corridors where she worked. She was eager to report her findings to the MS society, who promptly told her to Stop! You’re giving people hope.
Like the trailblazer that she is, she didn’t stop. Far from it. She was recently awarded a grant for a over a million dollars to continue with her ground-breaking research.
She had to have at some point on her journey, negotiated with herself. You’re on your own now, this is uncharted territory. You’re breaking the norm, you’re a dissident, a rebel with a large cause. It’s all heart from here. Passion fuels a cause far more than anything I’ve every known.
Here’s to the trailblazers, the scientists breaking the mould and making a stand for what they believe in. Your actions will follow your beliefs….make them powerful beliefs.
The journey into MS research, continues.