Welcome to the Align Podcast, hosted by me, Aaron Alexander. This is a place where we focus on optimizing your mind, body, and movement through exploring unconventional approaches and unique viewpoints on all things health, wellness, and life. I'm joined by top wellness experts and world-renowned thought-leaders, including Byron Katie, Bruce Lipton, Aubrey Marcus, Jim Kwik, Marriane Williamson, Ben Greenfield, Robb Wolf, Shawn Stevenson, Abel James, Mark Sisson, Wim Hof, James Clear, Zach Bush, Gabby Reece, and many more. Get ready for deep conversations that open you up to new perspectives and ways of life that will ultimately take your mental, physical, and emotional wellness to the next level. If you love this podcast, I would love for you to connect with me on Instagram, @alignpodcast.
I am a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A., where I teach internal medicine residents in their primary care clinics. I also do clinical research and have published over 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters, and papers. In addition to being a doctor, I am also a patient with a chronic, progressive disease. I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in 2000, around the time I began working at the university. By 2003 I had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. I underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in my back muscles. It was clear: eventually I would become bedridden by my disease. I wanted to forestall that fate as long as possible.
Because of my academic medical training, I knew that research in animal models of disease is often 20 or 30 years ahead of clinical practice. Hoping to find something to arrest my descent into becoming bedridden, I used PubMed.gov to search scientific articles about the latest multiple sclerosis research. Night after night, I relearned biochemistry, cellular physiology, and neuroimmunology to understand the articles. Unfortunately, most of the studies were testing drugs that were years away from FDA approval. Then it occurred to me to search for vitamins and supplements that helped any kind of progressive brain disorder. Slowly I created a list of nutrients important to brain health and began taking them as supplements. The steepness of my decline slowed, for which I was grateful, but I still was declining.
In the summer of 2007, I discovered Functional Medicine, an organization devoted to helping clinicians use the latest scientific discoveries to take better care of those with complex chronic diseases. As a result I developed a longer list of vitamins and supplements that were good for my brain. Then I had an important epiphany. What if I redesigned my diet so that I was getting those important brain nutrients not from supplements but from the foods I ate? I used what I had learned from the medical literature, Functional Medicine, and my knowledge of the Hunter-Gatherer diet—the most nutritious of any diet—to create my new food plan. At that same time, I also learned about neuromuscular electrical stimulation and convinced my physical therapist to give me a test session. It hurt a lot, but I also felt euphoric when it was finished, likely because of the endorphins my body released in response to the electrical stimulation. In December 2007, I began the Wahls Protocol™. The results stunned my physician, my family, and me: within a year, I was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour.