In 2000, Terry Wahls, a young, athletic doctor, began to develop multiple sclerosis (MS). Even with proper medical attention, she became wheelchair bound within four years and appeared destined to a limited life. However, she researched modern nutritional studies dealing with the brain, nerves and muscles, experimented on herself by taking added nutrients through a paleo-type diet and regained the ability to walk without canes within a year. After using her protocol to cure patients with MS and other chronic issues, she has published The Wahls Protocol to help everyone to achieve health and vitality (also terrywahls.com). Wahls believes a proper lifestyle – healthy diet, stress reduction and exercise – creates an environment for our genes to turn “on” to a disease-resistant body.
When our lifestyle causes our body to produce too many inflammatory molecules, our immune systems can overreact to cause high blood pressure, blood sugar rise, memory fog, irritability, skin rash, weight issues, chronic pain, etc. Unfortunately, medications prescribed to mitigate these effects have other undesirable side effects. But a proper diet can more effectively reduce inflammation with no side effects. Common foods like processed food, gluten and dairy are inflammatory foods. However, many vegetables can help reduce inflammation through promoting the growth of beneficial bacteria in our guts. These gut bacteria, known as the gut microbiome, are important regulators of disease and health as they interact with man’s immune system. The vegetables also provide essential nutrients for optimal health.
Level 1 of the Wahls protocol is for people needing to improve an unhealthy diet. In addition to eliminating gluten, dairy and most sugar, Wahls recommends daily eating three cups of tightly-packed leafy greens, three cups of deeply-colored vegetables and fruits (berries, tomatoes, peppers, beets, carrots and winter squash) and three cups of sulfur-rich vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, mushrooms, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, turnips, radishes, onions and garlic) in addition to fish and meat. The Level 2 diet for people with autoimmune and chronic diseases adds organ meats and whole seafood, seaweed, fermented foods, raw vegetables, raw nuts and seeds. Level 3 diets should help people with severe chronic diseases, especially with neurological disorders (dementia, epilepsy, brain injury, Parkinson’s, MS, ALS, Huntington’s and psychiatric disorders). It adds coconut oils and fats so that the brain can use ketones for energy and avoid the inflammatory glucose. In all three cases, Wahls recommends eating organic produce, grass-fed meat, free-range poultry and wild-caught seafood.
Wahls gives many tips to help people ease into her eating plan, which may require a drastic lifestyle change. The book provides a template before each food category of recipes to allow flexibility in substituting preferred ingredients or level of the diet. No recipe should require more than 30 minutes to prepare. Even if you aren’t ready to eat nine cups a day of vegetables and fruits, adopting some aspects of the diet will show you how healthy, natural food can taste wonderful and give you renewed energy and the ability to enjoy life.