Welcome! This blog contains research & information on lifestyle, nutrition and health for those with MS, as well as continuing information on the understanding of the endothelium and heart-brain connection. This blog is informative only--all medical decisions should be discussed with your own physicians.

The posts are searchable---simply type in your topic of interest in the search box at the top left.

Almost all of MS research is initiated and funded by pharmaceutical companies. This maintains the EAE mouse model and the auto-immune paradigm of MS, and continues the 20 billion dollar a year MS treatment industry. But as we learn more about slowed blood flow, gray matter atrophy, and environmental links to MS progression and disability--all things the current drugs do not address--we're discovering more about how to help those with MS.

To learn how this journey began, read my first post from August, 2009. Be well! Joan

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Endothelial Health Program

The neuroprotective lifestyle program I created for Jeff in 2008, and would share with university researchers, grew out of a year of in-depth study; plowing through pubmed, and reading every book on the history and etiology of MS I could find at my public library or on the internet.

I call it The Endothelial Health Program, and it changed our lives.  Link to program

I am happy to see there are many more published papers on PubMed years later.  Finally, the discussion of endothelial health is becoming mainstream, and the Nobel Prize winning science of Nitric Oxide (EDRF) is reaching doctors' offices.

Highly regarded MS and Alzheimer's researchers are now actively looking at the endothelium, nitric oxide and hypoperfusion in neurodegeneration, and encouraging other researchers to do the same.  This gives me great hope.

Although multiple sclerosis (MS) has traditionally been viewed and researched as an immune-mediated demyelinating and neurodegenerative disease of the human central nervous system (CNS), its highly complex pathogenesis clearly includes a significant vascular inflammatory component and many therapeutic approaches achieve benefit by direct or indirect effects on cerebrovascular endothelial cells.
link to research

Substantial evidence suggests that the neurodegenerative process is initiated by chronic cerebral hypoperfusion (CCH) caused by ageing and cardiovascular conditions. CCH causes reduced oxygen, glucose and other nutrient supply to the brain, with direct damage not only to the parenchymal cells, but also to the blood-brain barrier (BBB), a key mediator of cerebral homeostasis. BBB dysfunction mediates the indirect neurotoxic effects of CCH by promoting oxidative stress, inflammation, paracellular permeability, and dysregulation of nitric oxide, a key regulator of regional blood flow
link to research

The Endothelial Health Program is not a diet,  or a "don't do this" approach.  It's not about following specific rules.   It's proactive.   It's about living in a way which reverses damage and protects the six trillion endothelial cells inside every human body.
Why?   Because these cells maintain the health of all your organs and your immune system.

The endothelium is actually your largest organ.  It is the lining of 60,000 miles of blood and lymph vessels, and it communicates with all of your other organs.  It is also the interface between your immune system and your vascular system, and is what controls the blood brain barrier and keeps harmful plasmic particles out of delicate brain tissue.  It controls how much blood, oxygen and nutrition your neurons receive. Maintaining endothelial health is neuroprotective.  link to recent pub science from Columbia University

This communicative lining is made up of trillions of endothelial cells, and if these cells become damaged or die, this vital, protective network disintigrates.   This is a problem in ALL diseases of neurodegeneration, such as Alzheimer's, Parkinson's,  and dementia.   PubMed now has hundreds of scientific papers on endothelial dysfunction and each these diseases.   But endothelial cell death and dysfunction can be reversed.

I had been hugely inspired by Dr. John Cooke's book, The Cardiovascular Cure,  Link to book  and reached out to him.  That's how Jeff and I originally connected with Stanford University.   The information was out there,  I was just compiling and connecting the heart to brain health.    This is a complete lifestyle, a new way of looking at rising rates of neurodegenerative disease as a result of our westernized, industrialized lives.  It was an attempt to reverse cell-damaging practices that had become part of our modern routines, and to return to our inherent nature, to allow for balance and healing.

It was an attempt to connect the heart and brain, to understand the vascular connection to MS.  And I did it for Jeff.

The basic tenets of the lifestyle program are:

1.  Movement.  Daily cardiovascular pursuits are essential and healing. Shear stress, created by an active heart pumping flowing blood over endothelial cells, maintains their integrity by increasing nitric oxide release.  Inactivity allows endothelial cells to die.

2.  Stress reduction. The acts of deep breathing, the practice of meditation, yoga, prayer, all reduce endothelial cell damaging cortisol and increase healing, vasodilating nitric oxide.

3.  Liver health. Decreasing liver damaging toxins--like alcohol, plastics exposure, chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals, drugs--and increasing liver protecting flavonolignans (like silymarin) and antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables, maintains endothelial cell health.

4.  Vitamin D/UV ray increase. Skin makes vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun. Because of sunscreen and our indoor lives, many people are not receiving enough of this potent hormone.  And our circadian rhythm is affected.  Vitamin D creates endothelial cell health by increasing nitric oxide.  UV rays release nitrates from the skin, creating vasodilation. 

5.  Sleep.  Sleep deprivation creates endothelial dysfunction and cell death.

6.  Eating whole, organic foods.  Eating a diet of whole foods (unprocessed foods; foods that retain the natural state) provide ample levels of nutrition, vitamins and antioxidants. Antioxidants bind with free radicals to minimize the damage they cause to the endothelium.  Vitamins B and C are hugely protective of endothelial cells.  A lack of B vitamins increases homocysteine, which kills endothelial cells.

7.  Eating healthy fats   Increasing omega 3 (DHA) fats found in fish, olives, flax seed, avocados, walnuts, etc.  and decreasing transfats and highly saturated animal fats improves endothelial cell health. 

8.  Probiotics and gut health.  The endothelial cells of the gut's lining communicate with the rest of the body and rely on "good" bacteria.  

9.  Essential minerals.  Magnesium, calcium and zinc are all important in the preservation of endothelial cells.

10. Anti-inflammatory food sources, spices and herbs. Curcumin, Salvia, Ginko, and Garlic are all shown to decrease inflammation and regulate blood viscosity, preventing hypercoagulation, allowing for better shear stress.  Proteolytic Enzymes, both serrapeptase and nattokinase, are enzymes which reduce inflammation and pain and help blood viscosity by regulating clotting. Bromelain, found in pineapple, is one of the best anti-inflammatory substances known.

11.  Reducing glucose and gluten.  Sugary baked goods, simple breads, pastas and snack foods are damaging to endothelial cells. 

12.  Smoking cessation.  Please quit...smoking kills endothelial cells.

13.  Laughter, joy, community, purpose, loving relationships.  
All of these things increase nitric oxide and improve endothelial health.

That's it.  Simple, right?  Yes and No.  It took our family a couple of years to utilize all of the strategies.  Jeff was NOT thrilled that I changed our meal plans.  He was resistant at first, but after the first several months of MS disease stability, he embraced his new life.  

And then he went even further.  Jeff has added his own twist on endothelial health by incorporating neuroplasticity.  He has become an expert in the dictum of "use it or lose it."  He got back on his bike, back on skis, back to composing, conducting, performing and public speaking.  The things that had become challenging, like balancing or staying up all day, became an activity to face head on and in doing so, rewire his brain.   Receiving his venoplasty treatment at Stanford allowed for increased perfusion of his brain and healing.  But he kept that shear stress going by remaining active and engaged.   His grey matter looks normal on MRI, and he's had remyelination of MS lesions.  He is my hero.

This model for health is called "a systems approach." as opposed to a mono-therapeutic approach utilized by pharmaceutical companies.  It is much more expensive and difficult to clinical trial a lifestyle when compared to a singular drug or supplement,  but it can be done.  UCLA recently published on a systems approach in disease reversal in Alzheimer's.  Link to UCLA study   My dream would be to fund a gold standard clinical trial of this program.  Maybe someday.

What's ahead?  God willing, more of this.   We have no idea of what tomorrow may bring, but we consider the gift of this lifestyle program to be our message of hope. 

So please, share the program.  Try it out, let me know how you're doing.  Always work with your own physician, to modify the program to suit your individualized needs.  I don't have a book to hand you, but I think that's OK.  I was given this direction as an answer to prayer, and will continue to share it for free.

Be encouraged, 


bounty from our organic garden---full of colorful phytonutrients (nutrients from plants!)

hiking provides UV ray exposure, calming nature, and exercise


  1. Thank you for your knowledge and dedication! You are a ray of sunshine in what can be a dark and gloomy disease.

    1. more than happy to be able to offer some hope and healing strategies, Robin. Take care of yourself.

  2. Thank you for your knowledge and dedication! You are a ray of sunshine in what can be a dark and gloomy disease.

  3. Hi, beautiful Joan! I am sharing this with my older sister, Julie, who has MS and is struggling with her weakened left side. Julie has been so strong throughout the challenges she has faced through the years, but we want her to be as physically strong as possible as she gets ready for her 60s. Thank you VERY MUCH for sharing your discoveries!! Love and hugs to you and Jeff!!

    1. Hi dearest Kate--I hope this information might be encouraging to Julie. Many people have used these neuroprotective strategies to deal with MS as they age, and they've been helpful. Jeff would also tell her to use her weaker left side as much a possible, as stroke victims do when doing physical therapy and rehab. It's all about neuroplasticity. Norman Doidge has written 2 books Jeff loves, "The Brain that Changes Itself" and "The Brains Way of Healing." All based on scientific studies. Big hugs back to you!!! Let's all help each other get through our golden years with health and hope. xoxoxoxox

    2. Thanks Joan, I found the The Brain that changes itself on you tube documentary .

  4. hi Joan, i feel like i am a broken record, but i really have found benefits in marijuana that simply amaze me. i understand much of the reefer madness history, but - not only am i finding marijuana to be accepted by the human body. marijuana seems to have some sort of protective effect against cancer. holy cow! where is the media? Jimmy Carter cured his brain cancer with marijuana that he bought at Harborside dispensary. but, he also used a new, experimental drug. so, the issue is purposefully clouded.



    has anybody addressed the miraculous dietary aid that is marijuana?


    people love to act like smoking marijuana and smoking tobacco are similar. they're not! marijuana is a vasodilator. tobacco is a vasoconstrictor. knowledge is power. tobacco is bad for endothelial health. marijuana is not.


    1. Hi Ben--If you have any peer-reviewed and published science links on marijuana and endothelial health (not newpaper articles or websites), I'll gladly read! I have to consider the science when making any recommendations to people. I found too many contradictory studies when I was looking in 2007. Thanks, Joan

    2. hi Joan, i was considering deleting this post b/c you are exactly correct. the science just isnt there. the fda lists marijuana as more dangerous than heroin. but, the articles, the anecdotal evidence is unbelievable. "some sort of protective effect in the lungs against cancer". isnt this huge? why am i the only person freaking out?
      i dont want to dump articles on you, but that is all that i really have. the best medicine for Chron's, Alzheimer's, diabetes, epilepsy, and cancer and we cant get any scientific studies. hmmmpff. what do you think, Joan?




  5. Thank you for sharing Joan. Stress is enormous for inflammation, I'm glad to see you included stress relief. With the stresses everyone faces today, adrenal insufficiency is on the rise. The severe fatigue and internal inflammation associated with it makes it harder to follow some things, even wanting to eat, but it's important to keep doing our best to keep fighting for our health. It was wonderful to finally meet you in Quebec and thank you for all your hard work.

    1. So true, Brenda...stress really can kill, as it disrupts the HPA axis and all our hormonal communication. And cortisol kills endothelial cells. Deep belly breathing during stressful times releases nitric oxide, increases melatonin and decreases cortisol. It really works. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3139518/ It was great to meet you (finally!!) Hang in there, do the best you can each day, and don't beat yourself up for not making some "goal." Every little thing is healing...xo

    2. Thank you for the tips, I do try 4x4 breathing when I can calm myself enough to remember how to calm myself. It can be so complicated to untangle multiple diagnosis symptoms, but internal inflammation has such an impact

  6. Hi Joan,

    I learned today that I have 'intestinal metaplasia' in my stomach. It did sound a bit similar to the endothelial but not sure if there is a connection. Have you heard about the association? I know you are not a doctor ,but would value your opinion. If not, also fine!

    1. Hi Job---intestinal metaplasia refers to the irritated lining of your esophagus caused by acid reflux and inflammation. Doctors want to keep an eye on it, because this irritation can become cancerous if allowed to continue. You physician will recommend a diet/anti-acid treatment to reduce reflux and irritation. You're right, there is a connection to endothelial dysfunction caused by oxidative stress and inflammation. Here's a paper where you can learn more. Good luck!! Joan (not a doctor :) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2291500/

  7. Thank you always Joan from me here in ENGLAND UK for all your hard work .

  8. Just re-read this for the umpteenth time. Always a good reminder to keep fighting! Thank you Joan.

    1. YAY! Good to hear from you, Jan. Repetition is a good thing, because it encourages healthy habits, and those bring results. Keep fighting, keep moving, keep on keepin' on. xo, Joan

  9. So important to revisit these fundamentals each year and be reminded to prioritize the management of my health ahead of running my business. A workaholic living with MS for 36 years and always inspired by Joan.

    1. Hi There Just! Glad you come back to these healthy tips---I'm married to a workaholic, and he appreciates the reminders, too :) Stay well, keep moving, enjoy!

  10. Thanks. That is so interesting. I did not realize the cardiovascular component, but was just finishgn fixing my Mytral Valve and my blood has been going the wrong way for years. I still feel non-invasive the medical device I have for blood flow, is a great tool to get blood circulation to the brain and body, brings the nutrients oxygen to the cells and detox the cellular waste. Helps the white blood cells adhere and do their job. Endothelial health is key too. Life extensions sells a product with Pomegranate and their are other products

    1. Hi AJ---Thanks for commenting! I hope that your mitral valve repair brings you many more years of healthy cerebral perfusion. Doctors become so compartmentalized, they forget that the heart and brain are connected. Keep moving, keep eating well, stay positive. Wishing you all the best, Joan

  11. Also PQQ Supplement from Life Extension helps increase blood brain flow. I take in the morning. I also like the Ketogenic diet to burn fat for fuel and help speed up metabolism.