Radical healing is more attainable than most people think. If I can come back after 7 years of steady decline due to progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), 4 of those years dependent upon a wheelchair, you likely can too. If I can come back from profound fatigue, poorly controlled MS-related pain, and brain fog, to now having a successful research program, teaching medical students again, writing books, and lecturing around the world, you too can transform your life. That is what I told every patient who walked into the Therapeutic Lifestyle Clinic that I ran for three years.
I am a general internal medicine physician at an academic center in the Midwest. I spent most of my clinical time at the Veteran Affairs hospital. I used to preach the benefits of the newest drugs and procedures. I used to be very skeptical about complementary and alternative medicines and practitioners. My thoughts changed when I developed a disease for which there is no cure.
When I was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting MS, I went to see the best doctors at the Marshfield Clinic, the University of Iowa, and the Cleveland Clinic. I took several disease-modifying drugs, including fancy biologic drugs costing $50,000 per year. None of them helped. I kept going steadily downhill and was on track to become bedridden and demented.
Then I began reading the science myself, the newest mouse and rat studies about MS and other progressive brain diseases. I experimented for years on myself with vitamins and supplements, eventually creating a diet and lifestyle program designed specifically for my brain.
The result astonished my physicians, my family, and myself. With progressive MS, functions once lost do not return. There is no spontaneous recovery. Yet within 12 months of starting my program, I went from being unable to sit up, struggling to walk 20 feet, needing a tilt-recline wheelchair, and battling brain fog and exhaustion to being able to do a 20-mile bike ride with my family.
I changed dramatically, as a person and as a physician. I practice medicine differently now. I spend my time talking to patients about the quality of their diet, their physical activity level, and their environmental exposures. I teach my patients how all these factors interact with their DNA to create a healthy, robust body or an inflamed, sickly, and disease-prone one. Of all these factors, diet quality is the most powerful. That is why we focus on teaching people why and how to eat for their mitochondria (the power plant of the cell) and their brain cells.
We teach cooking classes, helping people understand how easy and fun it can be to prepare meals at home, using ingredients and recipes instead of pre-packaged mixes. We talk about chemical exposures in their food and personal care products and how to reduce those exposures. We also talk about how to provide support to their liver and kidney so they can more effectively process and eliminate toxins. As they begin their new relationship with food and cooking, their pain steadily declines, energy and mood improve, and both blood sugar and blood pressure normalize. As they feel better, our patients address their chemical exposures, and their energy and moods improve even more. They begin to “youthen,” looking and feeling younger each time we see them.
Here are the top three things we ask people to do immediately to jump start their healing:
1) Eliminate sugar. Eating sugar and high glycemic foods such as bread and pasta feed disease-promoting bacteria.
2) Eliminate gluten (the protein in wheat, rye, and barley), and if possible eliminate grain entirely. Many of us have a genetic vulnerability to gluten, and consuming it increases inflammation. For that reason, we recommend people remove gluten and preferably all grain for 3 months.
3) Eat 6 to 9 cups of non-starchy vegetables each day to feed the health-promoting bacteria in the gut. Vegetables also help turn on health-promoting genes and silence disease-promoting genes.
These three changes are simple but hard to adopt. We are addicted to our disease-promoting diets and lifestyles. We warn our patients that the first two weeks are the most difficult, but things do improve the longer they stay with the program.
Radical healing is possible. I’ve seen it happen to those with autoimmune, neurodegenerative, and metabolic disorders. I’ve seen people with MS, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, asthma, post-traumatic brain injury, Parkinson’s, early Alzheimer’s, diabetes, obesity, and fatty liver disease transformed. I myself was severely disabled, struggling with severe pain and brain fog. I changed what I ate and what I did, and my health was restored.
My mission now is to change the world by creating an epidemic of health. To achieve that, I conduct clinical research that I hope will eventually change the practice of medicine. Because that will take a long time, I have written books for the lay public that explain why diet and lifestyle are so powerful at creating disease or health and how they can immediately start eating and living in ways that will improve their health and make them feel better.
Your health depends not on your physician, health insurance company, or the government. Your health depends on your decisions about what to eat and what to do each day. If you want to learn more about the Wahls Protocol® and how to implement these concepts in your life, you can attend seminars I offer to the public, or pick up my book, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, and the companion cookbook, The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life. Your healing journey could begin today.
Instead of becoming bedridden, I am riding my bike. Instead of being demented, I am writing books and grant proposals and conducting clinical trials. My terrible future was rewritten not by drugs, not by stem cells, not by surgery. It was rewritten by changing what I ate and what I did. You could do the same.
Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. 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.
You can learn more about her work from her website, www.terrywahls.com. 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 August where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success. Follow her on Facebook (Terry Wahls MD) and on Twitter at @TerryWahls. Learn more about her MS clinical trials by reaching out to her team MSDietStudy@healthcare.uiowa.edu.
Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. You can learn more about her work from her website, www.terrywahls.com. She hosts the Wahls Protocol Seminar every August where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success.