Conventional medicine failed me. Diet and lifestyle healed me. Don’t give up. If I can turn around my health, so can you.
I experienced 27 years of relentless worsening of face pains caused by trigeminal neuralgia, 7 years of relentless decline due to multiple sclerosis (MS), and 4 years in a tilt-recline wheelchair due to relentless worsening of my disability. I saw the best MS doctors in the country and took the newest drugs, costing tens of thousands of dollars each month. But after a year of following the diet and lifestyle protocol I designed for my brain, I was able to bike 18.5 miles with my family. After that, I radically changed the way I practice medicine and the focus of my research.
When I first began talking about the critical role of diet in the management of multiple sclerosis and autoimmune disease, the neurology community pushed back, saying there was no research to back up my claims. They banned me as a speaker, saying I was creating false hope. The registered dietitian community pushed back because my diet eliminated whole food groups and would leave people at risk for nutritional deficiencies. I am a physician and I know that the best way to address these concerns was with data. I confirmed the safety our study diet. I confirmed the superiority of our study diet. I confirmed the rigor of our science. I published the results in peer-reviewed scientific journals.
To assess nutritional adequacy, we analyzed our diet using rigorous methodology and the input of the registered dietitian scientists on our research team. We analyzed the diet using our menus and recipes and found our diet was vastly superior to the standard American diet. The reviewers asked us to also analyze the diet using the FDA food groups and modeling the diet at 100% and 60% adherence to the recommended intake of vegetables because people may not completely follow the recommended 9 cups of vegetables. We did that, showing again that the diets were still vastly superior to the standard American diet, and equivalent or better than the governmental dietary guidelines plan in terms of fiber, antioxidants, B vitamins, protein, and added sugar. It was lower in calcium, but had more magnesium and other minerals than the government’s plan. Note that weight-bearing exercise is much more important to bone density than calcium intake (which may increase the risk of inappropriate calcium in the blood vessels and heart valves). We published the analysis in Nutrients, a high impact nutrition journal for registered dietitian scientists.
To address the concerns about lack of research, I started conducting clinical trials, testing my protocols in others with multiple sclerosis. To start, we did a safety and feasibility trial in others with progressive multiple sclerosis, demonstrating that others could implement our protocol safely and tolerated it well. Then we did more research, and found that following the protocol was associated with decreased fatigue and improved quality of life, and reduced anxiety and depression and improved verbal and non-verbal reasoning. We also demonstrated improved mobility in half of the participants. In the setting of progressive MS, patients are told to expect a 10 to 20% decline in mobility each year; in a randomized wait list control study, we showed the diet can help mobility, reduce fatigue, and improve quality of life. The National MS Society awarded my lab a $1 million grant to compare the effect of the Swank (low saturated fat) diet to the Wahls Elimination diet. That study has been completed and we are currently analyzing the data, with plans to submit the results to international MS research meetings soon. To date, our research has been consistently positive. Adopting our study diets and protocols is consistently associated with better clinical outcomes. The research proves it.
My neurology colleagues and I agree that protecting brain cells is an important goal. We also now agree more and more that improving diet quality and adding more physical activity and stress-reducing practices are vital for protecting brain reserve. And we agree that more dietary studies are needed to understand the types of dietary interventions that are helpful for MS patients.
If you have a serious autoimmune condition or symptoms plus auto-antibodies but no specific diagnosis, I urge you to adopt the dietary and lifestyle protocols that we study in our clinical trials as part of your treatment plan. You can do this whether or not you are taking drugs. I also urge you to implement the program 100% to find out if diet and lifestyle changes could stabilize and regress your disease. Biologically there is a big difference between doing our protocol 95% and 100%–even a small deviation can greatly diminish impact.
You can pick up a one page summary of the dietary plan we teach our patients in our clinics and clinical trials at www.terrywahls.com/diet. You can learn more about the complete program that we use in my new book, The Revised and Expanded The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.The first edition came out in 2014. Since that time, we have conducted and published more clinical trials, refining our dietary interventions and lifestyle recommendations. There are more detailed recommendations and strategies to personalize the dietary recommendations, including directions for vegetarians, meat eaters, ketogenic eaters, and those who need to restrict oxalates, lectins, or histamines. I have updated the research on the microbiome, fasting, and neurorehabilitation strategies as well. Over a third of the book is new material. Even if you have the original book, the revised edition will be invaluable. You will not want to miss out on all of the updates on diet nuances and rehabilitation.
Work with your primary care doctor and specialists to monitor your health as you make these changes, so that medications can be adjusted as needed. It’s important to prevent overmedication, which can occur as your cells begin repairing you, correctly made molecule by correctly made molecule.More and more, neurologists and autoimmune specialists are contacting me, telling me that they have observed their patients stabilize on my protocol and are using it in their clinical practices. Your health is yours to reclaim. If you’re ready to feel better, pick up my book today and learn about the science that can restore your vitality and well-being.
Dr. Terry Wahls will be In Conversation with Dr. Michelle Robin about her 2020 edition revised and expanded book – THE WAHLS PROTOCOL: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles on March 17th, 2020 from 7pm to 8pm. Learn more and register for this great evening HERE.
Dr. Terry Wahls is an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. In addition, she has secondary appointments in the departments of neurology and epidemiology. In 2018 she was awarded the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Linus Pauling Award for her contributions in research, clinical care and patient advocacy. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day.
She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles (paperback), and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions.
She conducts clinical trials that test the effect of nutrition and lifestyle interventions to treat MS and other progressive health problems. She also teaches the public and medical community about the healing power of the Paleo diet and therapeutic lifestyle changes that restore health and vitality to our citizens. She hosts a Wahls Protocol Seminar every summer where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success. Follow her on Instagram drterrywahls, and on Facebook/Twitter at @TerryWahls. Learn more about her MS clinical trials by reaching out to her team: MSDietStudy@healthcare.uiowa.edu. Pick up a copies of her research papers at https://terrywahls.com/researchpapers/.
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