In this week’s podcast, Jesse talks to Terry Wahls, MD. Terry is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City. She is also both a patient and a researcher of the neurological disease Multiple Sclerosis, or MS. She has managed to significantly reduce MS’s impact on her own life by self-experimentation after a deep study of basic science research and animal-model neurological studies in mammals like mice.
Dr. Wahls managed to make a dramatic (although still incomplete) recovery from her Multiple Sclerosis, and went from being wheelchair-bound to completing an 18-mile bicycle ride less than one year later. She was invited to give a TedX Talk about her recovery, and has published a book, Minding My Mitochondria. She is also busy writing a second book, The Wahls Protocol, where she details her self-tested recovery program in a way that is easier to understand in layman’s terms.
Brain Health: To Eat More Healthy Food, or Less Unhealthy Food?
Terry explains how everyone has a unique story that leads to their health being what it is. People react to different foods or toxins in different ways, due to various enzyme efficiency levels, body stresses, hormones and many other factors. It’s very difficult (and perhaps realistically impossible) to determine your own exact needs, so according to Dr. Wahls, eating a diet that is abundant in good nutrients while minimizing exposure to toxins is the most effective protocol to follow.
Dr. Wahls believes it’s mostly a matter of creating an optimal environment for your cells that leads to peak whole-body health. When cells have the necessary nutritional hardware to repair themselves, they do so — which leads to foundational gains in the health of your organs, and to organism-level health improvement. While drugs might be good at giving immediate results, in the long term, a healthy nutrient-rich diet is much more effective.
Dealing Out Drugs and Feeding Your Brain Nutrients
Dr. Wahls stresses that the first thing on anyone’s wellness list should be a healthy diet. She says it would be necessary to look into each unique person’s family history of brain health and disease proclivities to set up an effective drug protocol to improve mental performance… but a nutrient-rich diet is likely a sure-fire win for just about anybody.
The chemicals in your body and brain need to be present in the right ratios to work effectively, Wahls tells Jesse. Since science doesn’t always know exactly what the proper ratios are, often the best we can do is to get our micronutrients from natural food sources and assume that their naturally-occurring ratios are likely what our bodies evolved to handle most effectively.
And although a nutrient-rich diet of natural, unprocessed foods will probably make for a more expensive trip to the grocery store, plunking down the cash now for a healthier diet is an investment in your brain and overall health, which will pay off as you get older. It may cost a bit more to eat high-quality meats and vegetables, but in the long run you’ll save money on medical bills.
This Week in Neuroscience: The Rise of the Zombie Ants
So this isn’t going to be the beginning of some kind of zombie ant apocalypse, but it’s cool and related to neuroscience.
Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is a “parasitoidal fungus” that infects some ants which have been exposed to the fungus. After an ant has been infected, the fungus increasingly takes control of the ant, making it going into convulsions and fall from tree colony it was living in. The fungus then forces the ant to clamp down into a leaf with its mandibles. To whatever extent you believe an ant has free will, at this point it is no longer behaving of its own free will. The unfortunate ant dies there while the fungus consumes the rest of its tissues and eventually grows a plume of spores out of its head… diabolically positioned to best infect the other ants and infiltrate deeper into the colony.
This battle between ants and fungus isn’t something new. Fossilized plants have been discovered showing evidence that this biological battle predates the existence of the human species by over 40 million years. Read more here.
Key terms mentioned
- Zombie Ants – Ophiocordyceps unilateralis
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Paleo Diet
- Terry Wahls’ Site
- Minding my Mitochondria – The Book
- Minding Your Mitochondria - The Ted Talk
- The Institute of Functional Medicine
- Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation
- Immunosuppressive Drugs