For every new medication that comes out to treat a chronic illness, a new diet is touted to cure that same illness. I’m sure we’ve all seen websites and comments on social media about “miracle diets” that can cure multiple sclerosis. Personally, I have always been a skeptic on diets as treatments for MS because no one could provide the science behind how or why it would be successful. That is, until I saw this YouTube video by Dr. Terry Wahls. For the first time, I saw someone break down the science behind diet, the foods we eat, and how to alter your disease.
Dr. Wahls' Story
If you’re unfamiliar with Dr. Wahls, the quick version of her story is that she is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College, where she teaches internal medicine residents. Needless to say, she’s a smart cookie. She is also an MS patient. She was originally diagnosed with Relapsing Remitting MS and it later transitioned to secondary progressive MS within three short years. Not long after that, she was taking heavy chemotherapy to alter her disease progression. And began using a wheelchair.
Dr. Wahls started researching current treatment options for MS, focusing on biochemistry, cellular physiology, and neuroimmunology. She investigated vitamins and supplements that had effects on progressive brain disorders. Dr. Wahls was able to slow her disease progression, but not stop it. Over time, and after more research, she had a complete list of vitamins and supplements that could and did slow down her disease progression. She then took this all one step further and looked into foods that could provide these nutrients, in place of supplements. For Dr. Wahls, this was life changing. After living on this diet, she no longer needed a wheelchair or cane. She had, in fact, stopped her disease progression.
'The Wahls Protocol'
After I watched Dr Wahls’ TedTalk and learned more about her story I began really listening to what she said. She claimed that diet could change the course of disease for someone with MS, and finally there was science there to back it up. When Dr. Wahls released her book about this diet, The Wahls Protocol, I bought it immediately. I read the whole thing very quickly and my mind was blown. Could this really work? Was I getting duped? Was diet really the key, and I had overlooked it?
I felt I had to try this diet. So I did.
The VERY quick overview is that The Wahls Protocol starts with a nutrient-rich paleo base. If you’re unfamiliar with the paleo diet, the basics are to eat grass-fed meats, organic fruits and veggies, nuts and seeds, and healthy oils. You cannot eat grains, dairy, sugar, salt, or carbs. Dr. Wahls takes the paleo diet a few steps further, though, and breaks down the specific nutrients found in each of the foods she tells you to eat, and how that food can directly affect your brain health.
It is truly fascinating. Her book is easy to follow, but I’ll be honest: the diet/lifestyle was very hard for me to maintain. I was willing to try it, though, because I trusted the science. I found myself eating things I’d never heard of before, things I had no idea how to cook or prepare. I was adding supplements and powders to my drinks that were completely foreign to me.
Dr. Wahls breaks the diet into a few different levels as to not overwhelm someone starting out, but I was overwhelmed even on the first level. I lived alone, worked a full-time job, and didn’t have a ton of expendable income to spend in health food stores. I felt great when I was succeeding on her plan, but I found that for me and my life, it just wasn’t sustainable.
In the end, the Wahls Protocol was not for me. But I have to say that I wholeheartedly believe in what she’s doing, her research, and its possible outcomes. Never before have I trusted the capabilities of a diet like I do with hers. I’m sure there are quite a few naysayers out there, and I cannot blame them. But I do encourage you to read her book and learn the concepts before making a final decision. If you’re someone who has a chronic illness that is continuing to progress, what have you got to lose?
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Jackie is an ulcerative colitis patient and the founder and Executive Director ofGirls With Guts. Since diagnosis, she has been blogging her IBD journey atBlood, Poop, and Tears. Jackie has worked hard to become a strong voice in the patient advocacy community, and pays it forward as Social Ambassador of theIBDHealthCentral Facebook page.