I am a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa, and for most of my career I believed wholeheartedly in the power of modern medicine, in our latest greatest drugs, in our ever-more-expert procedural interventions. In 2000, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. No one asked me about or mentioned lifestyle, but they did talk to me about drugs. I received the best care possible in the opinion of conventional medicine, and took the latest, greatest drugs, but still my health declined. After three years of treatment, my doctors told me that my disease had transitioned to secondary progressive MS, and I got a tilt recline wheelchair. I was increasingly afraid, for both myself and my family, because it was clear to everyone that I would soon be bedridden. Watch my full story here.
I went on a desperate quest for information, discovering the key to slowing and reversing my autoimmune condition was to support my brain, cells and mitochondria. Mitochondria are located inside cells, and work to produce energy. I decided to get my vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids from the food I ate, rather than pills and supplements. My protocol is based on a nutrient-rich paleo diet, and it helped me reverse many of my MS symptoms and get my life back.
Now, I understand, both on an intellectual level and quite literally at the cellular level, the power of eating and living for the health of the cells and the mitochondria. I changed how I practiced medicine, and I now help my patients realize the top seven factors that influence disease development:
1. Nutrient Deficiencies
A diet without enough fruit and vegetables is lacking in micronutrients, and this has been associated with higher rates of cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and multiple sclerosis
2. Unrecognized Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities, such as to gluten, are often an unseen part of many disorders including psychological problems, neurological problems, autoimmune problems, skin rashes, asthma, allergies and more.
3. Toxin Overload
Our environment is full of toxins from vehicles, factories, plastics in our homes, mercury dental fillings, and chemical farm sprays. These chemicals interact with our cells, the signals that are sent between cells, and our mitochondria, interrupting normal function and increasing inflammation.
4. Excess Stress
Chronic stress disrupts hormone balance and increases overall inflammation. Practicing meditation or other stress-reduction activities on a daily basis can help reduce stress levels and protect your cells from inflammation.
5. Not Enough Exercise
Our ancestors walked 5-15 kilometres on average each day, and our brains and body expect us to move daily. Insufficient physical activity over the course of a lifetime greatly impacts the chances of developing dementia before the age of 60.
6. Lack Of Sleep
Not receiving 7-9 hours of sleep a night greatly interrupts normal biology, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, early memory decline and autoimmune issues.
7. Inefficient Enzymes (DNA)
The DNA we inherited from our parents gives us a unique mix of efficient and inefficient enzymes. It is the interaction between these enzyme efficiencies and inefficiencies, and our diet and lifestyle choices, that determines which chronic diseases we acquire.
If you’re keen to learn more about how diet and lifestyle may play a big part in our most common chronic health problems, you won’t want to miss the 10 Day Plant-Based Challenge presented by Food Matters TV.