I wish my Whole Foods bill could be covered by insurance. Then again, that has been my sentiment about a lot of things that I believe can help my medical condition, including a lovely restorative spa vacation. In early December, I received the disturbing news that my medication, which is covered, wasn’t working as well as my MS specialist felt that it should be. This was very disheartening because I had put so much trust in the Copaxone. From the day of my first injection, I really thought everything would be fine. I had been on it for 9 months already and hadn’t experienced any symptoms, but my MRI showed new lesions. I suppose all good things must come to an end and now a seed of doubt had been planted.
As I’ve said before, timing really is everything. Just days before that dreadful call, my daughter had sent me an email, asking if I had ever heard of Terry Wahls and if I would consider altering my diet to help prevent MS relapses. I told her I hadn’t heard of her and that I really had pretty good eating habits already. It had only been a couple of days and I hadn’t yet looked into her suggestion, but after receiving the call, I needed a new plan. I Googled The Terry Wahls Foundation. I found several snippets of videos at first, and books for sale. I wanted free information, I didn’t want a scam. Why I blindly bought into $50,000 worth of Copaxone, but resisted spending $38.00 on a book is truly a mystery to me and I’ve since splurged on a couple of great books. One of the video snippets mentioned eliminating grains, refined sugar and processed foods completely. So that is where I began, no grains or sugar, to the extent of reading labels on everything, which is pretty simple when you eliminate the next thing, processed foods. When is the last time you had to read a label on a carrot?
I traded my coffee, with its no fat half and half, which is loaded with hidden sugar, to yummy chai which is delicious black. Both contain caffeine so there was no withdrawal. It wasn’t very difficult even with the holidays fast approaching. My husband’s work party was days away and I had already ordered the stuffed chicken, but my plan was to eat around the stuffing, skip the tortellini in the soup and eschew the bread basket. The party was a piece of cake (grainless of course). When the appetizers came around I chose only the skewered chicken and the shrimp; I passed on the stuffed mushrooms and fried breaded zucchini. The woman beside me was sorry she ordered the vegetarian meal as soon as she saw my chicken; we traded and I fell in love with the healthy alternative. It was a beautiful portabello mushroom stuffed with butternut squash, walnuts and cranberries. I wasn’t missing anything and I danced all night in my heels!
Within the first 5 days after eliminating grains, sugar and processed food, I dropped 6 pounds. I didn’t change my diet as a means to lose weight, but I must say, knowing that I previously carried 6 pounds of grain induced bloat gave me the feeling that I was onto something. That weekend I found the Terry Wahls TEDxIowaCity YouTube lecture, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc, which describes in detail her nutrition plan. That video has since gone viral. I watched it twice and took notes about the food that Dr, Wahls used as medicine to feed her mitochondria. She went from being wheel chair bound, to riding her bike to work everyday after researching and putting into practice the nutrients involved in sustaining a healthy brain. I have already posted the lecture link on this site, and if you haven’t watched it in its entirety now is the time to do so. Where I had previously focused on only eliminating, I was now learning what I needed to add and I was seeing that it was even more important than what you take away. The concept of focusing on what you are gaining, rather than what you are giving up began to become embedded in my mind and really motivated me. That and the prospect of preventing my lesioned, black hole ridden brain from shrinking away was all the motivation I needed to go straight to the nearest produce department. In a nutshell, Dr. Wahls suggests adding 9 cups, though I have heard it can be 6 for women, of a combination of leafy greens, sulfur rich vegetables and brightly colored fruits and vegetables. She also added grass fed meats, wild caught salmon, seaweed, and organ meats. I have adhered to all but the organ meats and seaweed, which is proving to be more difficult to enjoy than I expected. While the 9 cups of greens and colorful vegetables are a daily need, and one in which I have come to really enjoy, the organ meat and seaweed is supposed to be once a week, seaweed for its iodine and organ meats for the many nutrients they provide. I am not a nutritionist, I still need to research either a way to make these last two things palatable, or supplementally available to me. I buy grass fed meats when the stores I shop carry them, but am not a purist at this point. And wild caught salmon seems to always have bones, where the farm raised do not, but I’m a work in progress. All I can say is that I have never eaten better. Recipes are not really necessary because I eat whole food, unadulterated beautiful whole foods seasoned with fresh herbs and olive oil. My salads are amazing and the combinations I make are limited only to your imagination or produce drawer. I have lost a total of 15 pounds and as bratty as it may sound, I am feeling a little too skinny, but it’s not for lack of eating as I definitely get my 9 cups and then some, every single day. If it sounds like a lot of food, well that’s because it is. Most people say that breakfast is the hardest habit to change, but I have come to enjoy my giant bowl of raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries, accompanied usually by an egg. We are all creatures of habit; just make the change and it will become your habit. There are many sites that are dedicated to grain free diets. Modern Hunter Gatherer, Paleo, Caveman, they are all based on the same principals and a quick Google search will give you access to recipes for grainless muffins, and breads if you need a fix. My husband has learned to make the most delicious pancakes using almond flour and buckwheat flour, all grainless, and when he releases that recipe, I will share. A really great resource for health in general and grainless diet in particular is http://www.marksdailyapple.com/. When I came upon this site, one of the first thing I saw in its archives was a link to the Terry Wahls lecture; I had come full circle. I don’t feel deprived in any way, although on occasion I think about pizza. The idea of preventing MS relapses surely outweigh any craving I may have, so staying the coarse hasn’t been too much of a chore. Grainless or brainless…