Dr. Terry Wahls is a professor of clinical medicine at the Carver school of Medicine in Iowa City.
In today’s show, Dr. Terry Wahls shares her incredible story and journey of reversing multiple sclerosis and other chronic diseases with a healthy diet. Dr. Wahls has firsthand experience with multiple sclerosis. She was diagnosed with it in 2000. In November 2007, she started a new diet based on her own personal research into nutrition.
You can see the dramatic change in her health in the real pictures below.
Today, Dr. Wahls focuses on cutting-edge medical and nutritional research on how to reverse Multiple Sclerosis and other degenerative diseases. She continues to educate the public on the importance of good nutrition, exercise and other science-based approaches for disease prevention and even reversal.
Doctor Wahl’s Personal Battle with Multiple Sclerosis
Terry was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2000. By 2003 the disease was re-classified as secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. She took the recommended course of chemotherapy and that didn’t seem to help much.
She took a second look at all of the medical literature she could find on the disease after she began using a wheelchair in her daily life.
That’s when she found some research showing that certain vitamins and minerals could help alleviate her symptoms. She took some supplements, but those didn’t seem to help slow the progression of the disease. In December 2007 she got an inspiration and decided to change her diet so that she got more of these vitamins and minerals from the foods themselves rather than from the supplements created by health food companies. She thought maybe it wasn’t the vitamins themselves that made the difference, but it was actually eating the whole fruits and vegetables that came with all the vitamins along with other nutrients and enzymes that made the difference.
After a few weeks on her new diet, her health took a dramatic turn for the better.
In just three months, she was out of her wheelchair and could walk with a cane. Five months later, she could walk without a cane. And just nine months after that she was able to do an 18-mile bike ride!
Doctor Wahls says her incredible recovery is due to the power of intensive nutrition. Her personal battle with multiple sclerosis changed how she views disease and health. It changed how she practices medicine. It also changed the nature of her research.
Doctor Wahl’s Pilot Study on Multiple Sclerosis
Doctor Wahls currently has a pilot study going to test the dietary changes that reversed the effects of her multiple sclerosis. The study includes:
- Teaching people how to eat a specific diet that may help with multiple sclerosis
- Teaching people how to meditate
- Teaching people how to do self massage
- Giving people a personalized exercise program
Patients are also given an electrical therapy device and they begin doing electrical stimulation. They also get a lot of coaching and support through weekly phone calls with Doctor Wahls and her team, and the patients are followed for 12 months to track the results.
Doctor Wahls presented her data at the 2011 neuroscience conference. It was a hot topic at the conference because generally speaking multiple sclerosis is a degenerative disease that doesn’t get better over time. People generally decline a little every year.
The fact that the Wahls diet has been shown to stabilize and reverse the effects of multiple sclerosis in even a few patients is very encouraging.
The Wahls Diet Plan
Dr. Wahl’s diet includes nine (9) cups of vegetables and berries every day, as much of it should be raw as possible or lightly cooked. This includes three (3) cups of brightly-colored fruits and vegetables, three (3) cups of leafy greens, three (3) cups of sulfur-rich vegetables (cabbage family, onion family, asparagus, mushrooms).
Doctor Wahls recommends that people limit starchy vegetables and whole grains to no more than 2 servings a week. Doctor Wahls encourages people to have high quality protein.
The History of the Human Diet
Here is a timeline of human evolution as it relates to food.
- Our species has evolved over the last 2.5 million years.
- Grains and starchy vegetables entered our diet about 10,000 years ago.
- Processed white flowers didn’t enter the human diet until about 2000 years ago.
- 200 years ago use of sugar and flour spiked in the human diet.
- 75 years ago we began using processed vegetable oils which prior to that time would’ve been industrial waste products.
- 50 years ago we began using high fructose corn syrup.
The result of all those changes is that we have a huge amount of calories without any nutritional benefits. That’s a big problem.
We are much more likely today to develop sensitivities to the protein in wheat and dairy called gluten and casein. All of this sugar and carbohydrate storage in our bowels causes the growth of different types of bacteria that our biology isn’t designed to handle. The growth of this type of bacteria confuses are biology. That results in inflammation.
We also have more toxins in the environment from farming practices (like using pesticides) that we have difficulty flushing out of our systems. We have genetically modified crops on top of that, which then consume a much higher rate of pesticides.
The Results of Our Radically Changed Diet
Our population is starving for the building blocks of life that we need to do the biology of living properly. Many of us are exposed to toxins that we aren’t getting rid of properly. The consequence is that the molecules that are made as part of the process of life are being made improperly, which is negatively affecting the health of our population.
Health effects include:
- Our blood vessels becoming stiff.
- Our hearts become weaker.
- Our brains are affected.
- We are more irritable, and cranky.
Furthermore we can develop things like:
- High blood pressure.
- Heart disease.
- And, in Terry’s case, multiple sclerosis.
Terry sees her condition as a result of the fact that she’s not getting the nutrients that she needs for the building blocks of life. When she changed her diet to get the building blocks that she needed her condition improved significantly.
Each successive generation of the human race is having more problems with diabetes, gluten sensitivity, heart disease, and mental health.
We’re reaching a point where we’re not going to be able to use medications to make ourselves well because the Western diet is at the root of the problem. Our medications can help alleviate symptoms but they won’t attack the root of the problem. The only way to restore health is to eat food that gives us the nutrients we need to sustain life. We also need to help people get rid of the toxins in their bodies.
If we don’t take these steps were going to continue to have an explosion of healthcare problems which is going to increase our healthcare costs and bankrupt Western society.
Government will never respond appropriately to this health problem because there’s too much profit to be made thinking of health strictly in terms of drugs and procedures.
The only way this problem is going to be solved is through people learning that they control their health by controlling the food that they eat. It will be individuals making individual choices about what they eat that will reverse this health crisis.
“People have gotten this crazy idea that they can blame their genes as to why they’re ill, take no responsibility for their actions. That’s unfortunate. All 20,000 genes that I have interact with the environment and the choices I make to show up as my disease. I can shift my choices to health promoting behaviors and watch myself grow younger and stronger every year.” – Doctor Terry Wahls
Terry is pleased to see that her patients are open to this idea. The first-year medical students that Terry interacts with are also very open to this idea.
As medical students get further along in their training they’re more likely to be seduced by procedures, drugs and fancy gadgets.
The Importance of Nutrition in Your Diet
The importance of nutrition in your diet cannot be overstated. The food pyramid we’re most familiar with in the United States was designed by food companies to sell more of the types of food they are marketing. The food pyramid is not designed with science of health and food in mind.
In countries where you aren’t allowed to have a job with a food company and sit on nutrition boards, the recommended diet looks a lot like the Wahls diet.
Why Grains are a Problem for the Human Diet
There are 2 problems with grains in the human diet.
Grains have a protein in them called gluten. The gluten protein has two health effects. It gets into the human bloodstream and activates our pleasure center. So we become addicted to bread and sweets. It will trigger a massive immune response from our white blood cells which think that the gluten is an invading germ.
That increased inflammation can cause a host of medical problems. One-in-eight Americans has a genetic makeup to be sensitive to gluten. Typically a gluten sensitivity is very hard to diagnose. People can have symptoms for years or decades before the problem is identified.
Gluten sensitivity can present in any organ of the body at any time and there isn’t a reliable blood test.
Doctor Wahls recommends anyone who has a chronic disease should go off gluten and dairy for a month and see how that works for them. The reason that Doctor Terry Wahls includes dairy along with gluten in her recommendation is that the protein sequence and dairy called casein looks very similar to the gluten protein that causes problems for 1 out of every 8 Americans. If you are having an immune reaction to the gluten protein you’re likely reacting to the dairy protein as well.
2. Gut health
Eating gluten and dairy will cause you to grow the wrong types of yeast and bacteria in your bowels. These bacteria will cause more problems with information and obesity.
When you eat too many grains they also replace the healthy food you need in your diet. That means that you’re not getting the amount of nutrients you need to maintain a healthy body.
Why You Must Get Nutrition from Food and Not Vitamin Supplements
Supplements can and do help in giving your body what it needs to be healthy.
The problem is that vitamins and supplements manufactured by health companies don’t contain all the hundreds or thousands of compounds that work together in food to give you a healthy diet. So there are missing ingredients in the vitamins and supplements that you buy over-the-counter that can only be found in healthy organic food.
When Terry began taking vitamins and supplements, nothing changed with the progression of her disease. When she began focusing on the food in her diet she actually reversed the health effects of multiple sclerosis in less than a year!
She believes that it was the unknown and yet undiscovered compounds in these foods working together with the vitamins and nutrients which she knew about that gave her the building blocks of life she needed to reverse the health effects of her disease.
At least 90% of the human population is missing nutrients in their diet because we’re eating so much processed food that has almost no nutritional value.
The Health Effects of Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup
High fructose corn syrup increases the fat in the liver. It can increase the chances of fatty damage to the liver, and have other long-term negative health effects.
It will also push calories into fat around your belly, and belly fat is not healthy fat.
The Health Effects of Legumes in Our Diet
Legumes can deliver a (very) mild poison into the human body. They also have a higher insulin load than Doctor Wahls would like for patients with diabetes or multiple sclerosis.
There have been studies that show legumes are actually healthier than a lot of what is being consumed in the American diet.
Doctor Wahls and her team are looking into studying a Paleolithic version of her diet centered around meat versus a vegetarian version of her diet with legumes in it.
Doctor Wahls recommends a maximum of 2 servings of gluten-free grains and legumes a week.
Links and Resources Mentioned in This Interview
For more information about Dr. Terry Wahls, visit www.terrywahls.com
See Dr. Wahl’s bestselling book The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles on Amazon.
See Dr. Wahl’s TED Talk on Minding Your Mitochondria here.