A bleak beginning
Andrei_R/Shutterstock “When I was first diagnosed with MS, I sought out the top experts in the field, but two years in, I was still declining,” says Dr. Wahls, whose MS had by then progressed to secondary progressive MS. As her back, and stomach muscles became weaker and weaker, Dr. Wahls found herself unable to walk without support or even sit up straight. She spent much of her time confined to a tilt-recline wheelchair. A mother of two who had relished the outdoor life, she started to fear that eventually, she would become completely bed-ridden. Dr. Wahls tried everything that state-of-the-art medical science could throw at her, including chemotherapy and the best disease-modifying drugs available. Nothing they tried had a meaningful impact. Even worse, the doctors were clear that her debilitation would never be reversible. Their goal in treatment was to slow down or stave off the disease’s inevitable progression, not to help her regain lost function. Dr. Wahls decided it was time to take matters into her own hands.
The mouse (study) that roared
Kirill-Kurashov/Shutterstock No stranger to medical research, Dr. Wahls started to look into animal studies on MS and other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), and Huntington’s chorea, which, like MS, cause the brain to shrink. By 2005, she was accessing every mouse study on neurodegenerative diseases she could find. “I started noticing that in all of these studies, mitochondria weren’t working very well, and were telling brain cells to die off too early. No one in science was talking much about mitochondria’s role in MS, but I decided it might be a factor,” she explains. Dr. Wahl’s research led her to create a cocktail of vitamins, and supplements, chosen for their ability to provide better support for mitochondrial function. Her supplements include creatine, carnitine, fish oil, and co-enzyme Q 10. “After six months, I’m not getting better, I’m cranky, pissed off, can’t function at all, and I say, ‘phooey on this,’ so I stop taking the supplements. Three days later, I start up my supplements, and I can go to work again. I kept repeating this pattern and getting the same results. I realized that clearly, the vitamins were doing something. They might not have been helping me recover, but they were slowing down the speed of my decline,” she explains. Feeling hopeful, Dr. Wahls was very excited to be the one discovering this breakthrough. “I’m starting to feel like part of the solution,” she says. But that was just the beginning.