Minding your mitochondria | Dr. Terry Wahls | TEDxIowaCity

Minding your mitochondria | Dr. Terry Wahls | TEDxIowaCity


Translator: Armando Vázquez
Reviewer: Rhonda Jacobs So, I love doing Taekwondo
and was once a national champion. But a lot has changed since then. I went off to medical school,
became a physician. I had a son, and then a daughter. And I developed a chronic disease
for which there is no cure. In 2000, when I was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis, I turned to the best MS center
I could find, the Cleveland Clinic. I saw the very best doctors,
received the best care possible, taking the latest, newest drugs. Still by 2003, my disease had transitioned
to secondary progressive MS. I took the recommended chemotherapy. I got the tilt-recline wheelchair. I had one with a motor,
I could drive around. I took Tysabri, and then CellCept, but continued to become
more severely disabled. My disease had transitioned. I was afraid that I was
going to become bedridden. I turned to reading the latest research
using PubMed.gov. I knew that brains afflicted with MS,
over time, shrank. I therefore went to, every night,
reading the latest medical research about the diseases in which brains shrink. These diseases were Huntington’s,
Parkison’s and Alzheimer’s. I saw that in all three conditions,
the mitochondria do not work well, leading to shrinking brains. With more searching, I found studies in which mouse brains
and their mitochondria had been protected using fish oil, creatine and co-enzyme Q. I translated those mouse-sized doses
into human-sized ones and began my first round
of self-experimentation. The rapidity of my decline slowed
and I was very grateful. But I was still declining. Next, I discovered
the Institute for Functional Medicine, and through their continuing
medical education course, Neuroprotection: A Functional Medicine Approach to Common
and Uncommon Neurological Syndromes, I learned more brain cell biology
and what I could do to protect mine. This is some of what I learned: We have a billion cells in our brains,
with ten trillion connections. All of that connective wiring must be
insulated with something called myelin. And multiple sclerosis damages myelin. In order to make healthy robust myelin,
your brain needs a lot of B vitamins. In particular, vitamin B1,
which is thiamine, B9, which is folate, B12, which is cobalamin. It also needs omega-3
fatty acids and iodine. This is a synapse. Those beautiful golden drops
are the neurotransmitters. For your brain to make neurotransmitters, it needs a lot of sulfur and vitamin B6,
which is pyridoxine. These are mitochondria. They are so beautiful. And they are so critical to your lives because it is the tiny mitochondria
in each of our cells that will manage
the energy supply for that cell. Without your mitochondria, you would be no larger than bacteria. In medical school, I had to memorize countless reactions
involving my mitochondria, but I never learned which compounds
my cells could manufacture and which I needed to consume in order
for those reactions to happen properly. I now know that I need
a lot of B vitamins, sulfur and antioxidants
for my mitochondria to thrive. And so, I added B vitamins, sulfur
and antioxidants to my daily regimen. And then it occurred to me that I should get my long list
of nutrients from food, that if I did that, I would probably get hundreds,
maybe thousands of other compounds that science had yet to name and identify but would be helpful to my brain
and my mitochondria. But, I didn’t know where
they were in the food supply and neither did the medical texts, nor the food science texts
with whom I consulted. But, the internet did. And so – (Laughter) That’s really very helpful. So using it, I was able to design a food plan specifically for my brain
and my mitochondria. And now, before I tell you
what that food plan is, we’re going to check in
to see what Americans are eating. I’m going to start with you guys. So, I want you to think back
to the last 24 hours, add up all the fruits and vegetables
that you’ve eaten. Don’t include potatoes or corn,
because those are starches. Now, if you could cover a dinner plate
heaped high, raise your hand. Come on, don’t be shy, raise your hands. Okay, now if you could cover
two dinner plates, keep your hands up. Anyone have eaten three dinner plates? Look around, see how few hands are up. Okay? Now, we’re going to
check with another family. This is from Hungry Planet,
by Peter Wenzel, it shows what this American family
will eat in the coming week. Look closely and you are going to see
a lot of processed foods in boxes, jars, and other containers. This is how most Americans eat, and this is how most societies eat
as they become more affluent. And it’s likely why as societies
become more affluent, their health declines. This slide is from work done
by professor Loren Cordain. He is showing the percent of Americans whose daily intake is below
the Recommended Daily Allowance for a variety of important nutrients. On the bottom half of the slide are the – you’ll see that less than half of us take in enough B vitamins,
vitamin C and vitamin A. Now if you look
at the top half of the slide, you’ll see that two thirds of us
do not take in enough calcium, magnesium, zinc or iodine, and that 80 percent do not take in
enough omega-3 fats. We, you, are all starving your cells. We are alive because
of complicated chemical reactions. If you’re not providing
the building blocks, that is the vitamins,
minerals, essential fats, those reactions cannot happen properly, leading to the wrong
structures being made, or structures simply
not being made at all. You set the stage for chronic disease. This is why our children are born
with jaws that are too small leading to crooked teeth
and smaller brains. This is why your blood pressure’s – your blood vessels
become stiff as you age. This is why one in three
American children, or one in two, if you’re
African American or Hispanic, will become diabetic and obese
as children or young adults. This is why if you go to our schools, every year we have more and more
children with severe learning problems and severe behavior problems. But, it does not have to be this way. For two and a half million years, humans
ate what we could gather and hunt. They’re called foragers,
also known as hunter-gatherers. That hunter-gatherer diet,
that Paleo diet, consists of leaves, roots,
berries, meat and fish. It’s locally obtained, fresh,
in season, and of course, organic. The Inuits in the far north
ate very differently than the Africans on the savanna. And yet, when scientists have analyzed
these hunter-gatherer diets, they exceed the recommended
daily allowance two to ten fold, depending on the nutrient. These ancient peoples know more about eating
for optimal health and vitality than we physicians and we scientists. The hunter-gatherer diet
has more nutrition than the American Heart Association diet, more nutrition than
the American Diabetes Association diet, and more nutrition
than the USDA food pyramid diet. I therefore started
with a hunter-gatherer diet, I used those concepts, but I structured it to be sure
I was getting the nutrition, the vitamins, minerals, nutrients that I identified as critical
to my brain cells and my mitochondria. That diet is this:
three cups of green leaves, three cups of sulfur-rich vegetables, three cups of bright color, grass-fed meat, organ meat and seaweed. Three cups is a dinner plate heaped high. I start with greens
because they are rich in B vitamins, vitamins A, C, K and minerals. And those are two types of kale. Kale has the most nutrition
per calorie of any plant. The B vitamins will protect
your brain cells and your mitochondria. Vitamins A and C support
your immune cells. Vitamin K keeps your blood vessels
and bones healthy. And minerals are co-factors for hundreds
of different enzymes in your bodies. Plus, having a plateful of daily greens will dramatically lower your risk
of cataracts and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness in the U.S. So, have more kale, more parsley,
more cooked greens. Have more smoothies and greens. Have dehydrater kale chips, which are so delicious – my teenage
daughter and her friends love them. I want you to have three cups, a plateful of sulfur-rich
vegetables every day. Your brain and your
mitochondria need sulfur. Your liver and kidney need sulfur so they can remove toxins
from your bloodstream. The cabbage family is rich in sulfur. That includes cabbage, broccoli,
cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas,
radishes, collards and kale. The onion family’s also rich in sulfur. Onions, garlic, leeks, chives, shallots,
and so are mushrooms and asparagus. I also want you to have
a plate, three cups, preferably three different colors,
every single day. Colors are flavonoids and polyphenols. These are potent antioxidants
that will support your retina, your mitochondria, your brain cells, and the removal of toxins. You can get your colors from vegetables like beets, carrots,
peppers, red cabbage… or you can get them from berries and brightly colored fruits
like peaches and oranges. I want you to have high-quality protein
that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids are very important
to insulate that wiring in your brain. It’s also critical
for the development of your jaws so you can have straight teeth
and a larger brain. Therefore, have wild fish,
in particular salmon and herring. Also have grass-fed meat every day. Our ancient societies
all valued organ meats. And organ meats are concentrated sources
of vitamins, minerals and co-enzyme Q. They are particularly potent
at supporting your mitochondria. Therefore, have organ meats
like liver and onion, heart, tongue, gizzards, sweetbreads once a week. The ancients would travel great distances
or trade to ensure access to seaweed. Seaweed is a rich source
of iodine and selenium. Your brain needs iodine
to make myelin, the insulation for the wiring. It also needs iodine to remove toxins, in particular, mercury,
lead and heavy metals. And adequate iodine lowers your risk
of breast cancer and prostate cancer. Studies have shown that 80 percent
of Americans have a relatively low iodine. Therefore, have seaweed
at least once a week to ensure and maintain
adequate iodine levels. Most Americans can’t imagine
eating nine cups, three platefuls of vegetables
and berries every day, but, if you’ll commit to having nine cups
of these incredibly healthy, wonderful-for-you
vegetables and berries every day, before you have grain, potatoes, dairy, you will have dramatically increased the vitamin and mineral
content of your diet. Plus, you will have dramatically
lowered the risk of food allergies. Food allergies and food sensitivities
are far more common than we realize. They’re difficult to diagnose,
and in particular, sensitivity to gluten,
the protein in wheat, rye and barley, and to dairy,
the casein protein in dairy, is associated with a wide variety
of health problems, including, but not limited to: eczema, asthma, allergies,
infertility, irritable bowel, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue,
arthritis, chronic headache, neurological problems
and behavior problems. Yes, it will cost more to eat
these beautiful vegetables and berries, but I assure you,
you are going to pay the price. You will pay the price now for food
that restores your health and vitality, or you pay the price for doctor’s visits, prescription drugs, surgeries,
missed time from work, early retirement and nursing home care. The choice is yours. Okay. Seven years – I get the best care, the latest, newest drugs. I continue to get more disabled. By November of 2007, I could not sit in a chair
like you are now. I had be reclined
in a zero-gravity chair like this, at home or at work, or in bed. I could walk short distances
using two canes. I was losing my keys, my phones. I was having nightmares
that my chief of staff had pulled my clinical privileges. That is when I designed a diet specifically for my brain cells
and my mitochondria. That’s when I began – I became a modern-day hunter-gatherer. Three months later I could walk
between exam rooms using one cane. The month after that I could walk
throughout the hospital without a cane. At five months I got on my bike
for the first time in a decade, and I pedaled around the block. Nine months into my new way of eating,
I pedaled 18 miles. The following year I did a trail ride
in the Canadian Rockies. I am the canary in the coal mine, here as a warning to all of you. We have a choice: We can continue to eat
that delicious, convenient, tasty, processed food, and watch ourselves and our children grow steadily more overweight,
depressed and diabetic; [and] … we can continue to watch
health care costs balloon out of control, bankrupting us individually
and collectively as a country; or … we can eat for our mitochondria, eating vegetables and berries, grass-fed meat, organ meat and seaweed, and have more vitality. We all have a choice. I choose to teach the public about the healing power of food
and to conduct clinical trials. We are testing my interventions
and others with secondary progressive MS. We’ll present our research on Sunday
at the 2011 Neuroscience Conference. The results are breathtaking. We all have a choice. I challenge you to become
modern-day hunter-gatherers, and eat for your mitochondria, become ambassadors for your mitochondria. For if I can rise up from
a tilt-recline wheelchair doing this, imagine what eating
for your mitochondria can do for you, your family, your country,
your community, your world. We have a choice. What will yours be? Thank you. (Applause)