Dr. Wahls’ TEDx Talk on Overcoming MS

On November 11th, Dr. Wahls was part of the TEDx conference in Iowa City, TED: ideas worth spreading. Using the lessons she learned at the subcellular level, she used diet to cure her MS and get out of her wheelchair.The following video is her entire TEDx speech:

Epigenetics: How Your Environment Affects Your Genes

I’d like to talk about epigenetics today, which is how your environment talks to your genes. Our cells are capable of reading the state of our environment and activating or deactivating genes. This means that, based on the choices we make, we can turn on genes for health or turn off those health-promoting genes. In other words, it is your health behaviors such as diet and activities, that determine whether the health-promoting or the health-robbing genes are active.

picture source: scienceinschool.org

A recent article describes using a nutrition behavior approach to help people lose weight. People in this study made two changes at the same time: eating 5 or more servings of non-starchy vegetables and increasing their physical activity to 30 minutes or more of walking each day. Not only did they successfully lose weight, the markers of inflammation in the bloodstream improved. This combination of more vegetables and more activity was helpful to them, and will help many types of illness, not just obesity.

The vast majority of diseases I see in primary care clinics, including high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, mood problems, autoimmune problems, osteoarthritis and memory problems, are a result of how your genes are interacting with your environment. Eating foods that are high in carbohydrates, such as flour, potatoes, and high fructose corn syrup, will turn on genes that promote weight gain and inflammation. Eating greens, sulfur-rich and brightly colored vegetables, and grass-fed meat and avoiding starches turns on genes that lower inflammation and lead to a trimmer waistline.

Important Factors Influencing Epigenetics

picture source: truthaboutabs.com

Another important factor influencing the epigenetics of your cells is exercise. Our bodies expect us to be physically active and to occasionally need to run from predators who would like to have us for lunch. When we maintain daily activity, walking 10,000 steps a day for example, genes that lower inflammation and lead to a slimmer waistline are activated. On the other hand, if you are not active, genes that worsen inflammation will activate and lay fat down around your intestines. That fat in turn, churns out more inflammation. The best defense is to slowly increase your activity. A pedometer that counts your steps is a great way to start.

The three components of exercise are aerobic activity, stretching, and strength training. For most adults and especially those with MS, the muscles are often stiff and shortened. For that reason, a regular program of stretching every day will be very beneficial. Yoga, tai chi, and pilates offer excellent stretching routines. Alternatively, consult with a physical therapist or athletic trainer to help get your stretching program going. Resistance training builds muscle strength and also helps prevent loss of muscle. Again, working with a physical therapist or athletic trainer can help you design a strength training program specific to your needs.

By Dr. Terry Wahls

How Much of Your Health Problems are due to your Genes?

picture source: scientificamerican.com

Many Americans who are overweight and/or have diabetes, heart disease, mental health problems or autoimmune problems blame their conditions on their genes.

So do their physicians, who often prescribe medication to control disease symptoms without ever talking about the impact of personal choice on health. I talk about the influence of our genes on health and vitality in more detail in this short video clip:

For some conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or hemophilia, our genes are an important factor, often the cause of the disease. But for the obesity, heart disease, mental health and autoimmune epidemics that are driving up the cost of health care in the U.S. and around the world, there are no single genes that are the culprit. Instead, for each of these problems, multiple genes are involved, and they interact in a complex way with the environment.

Walter Willet, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard University, authored an article entitled “Balancing life-style and genomics research for disease prevention,”
published in Science and the U.S. National Library of Medicine: The article notes that lifestyle choices regarding diet, activity and smoking account for 70 percent of the risk for developing colon cancer, 80 percent of the risk for heart disease and 90 percent of the risk for diabetes and obesity.

In terms of multiple sclerosis (MS), once again science shows that it is a complex interaction between multiple genes and our environmental choices. Jorge Oksenberg, a professor of neurology at the University of California at San Francisco, reports that it is a complex interaction between the genes and the environment that leads to the development of MS. If an individual has one parent with MS, the risk of developing MS is 3 percent and if both parents have MS, the risk grows to 30 percent.
By Dr. Terry Wahls

What Environmental Factors Increase Likelihood of Enjoying Optimal Health?

Here is my interpretation of the medical literature as to which environmental factors increase optimal health:

1. Eating more than 9 servings each day of non-starchy vegetables and berries
2. Daily physical activity, such as walking more than 10,000 steps each day
3. An optimal vitamin D level
4. Normal stress hormone levels maintained by effective stress management
5. Close ties to family and/or friends
6. Lowering the levels of toxic compounds stored in the fat and in the brain

My recommendation to patients, family and friends who want to reduce the severity of their health problems and lower the cost of their health care is to adopt more health-giving behaviors. Some people address everything all at once. Others pick the one behavior they are most confident they can adopt and sustain. Later, as that habit becomes ingrained and energy improves, an individual can successfully add another health behavior. Remember, your health depends much more on your behaviors than on medication, which may control current symptoms but will not reverse disease. To do that, you must adopt more health behaviors. You may be surprised by how much improvement is possible.

Lowering our resting cortisol or stress hormone levels is an important health behavior. One way to do that is through meditation and mindfulness practices. Kilpatrick has shown that individuals who do daily mindfulness practices have reduced cortisol levels and improved connections between their brain cells, both of which are really good for you.

For many people meditation seems intimidating. Many studies have examined the health benefits of transcendental medication done 20 minutes twice daily. Taking the time to focus on breathing and visualization for even five to ten minutes twice a day is also helpful. I encourage you to learn more about visualization and meditation.

The “Soft Belly Meditation”

picture source: anandamarga.org

Sit comfortably in a chair. Close your eyes. Focus on the air coming into and out of your nostrils. As the air comes into your nostrils, imagine the word “soft.” As the air exits your nostrils, imagine the word “belly.”

Meditate for 5 minutes, twice a day. As you become more proficient with meditation, add more minutes to your meditation sessions or more meditation sessions to your day.

Find us on Facebook to get important updates about M.S. and The Wahls Foundation.

By Dr. Terry Wahls

Intensive Nutrition to Overcome Multiple Sclerosis

Dr. Terry Wahls is a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa and has been battling Multiple Sclerosis since the winter of 2000. After her symptoms progressed to near complete debilitation, Dr. Wahls began restudying the available medical literature on the disease with immense intensity. Her findings have led her to a miraculous recovery within less than a year. This is her remarkable story:

By Dr. Terry Wahls

Protected: Overcome Multiple Sclerosis, Food As Medicine

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