The Wahls Protocol – A Review
Author: Dr Terry Wahls
Reviewer: Stephen Walker
This book has the inspiring cover quotation “How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine” which is a brave claim when Multiple Sclerosis is a chronic disease with no known cure. As I have Secondary Progressive MS I was more than a little interested in reading her thoughts.
Dr Terry Wahls is a medical practitioner in the USA working in a brain trauma clinic. At one point Dr Wahls was confined to a wheelchair and unable to continue her work at the clinic. She was introduced to the work done by Dr Ashton Embry in dietary changes to help his son with MS. This started Dr Wahls doing her own extensive research in nutrition and how this can affect the way our bodies deal with illness. This led her to work done by Dr Loren Cordain who has published many medical article and a book called The Paleo Diet:Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Foods You Were Designed to Eat. She researched Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s dementia, Lou Gehrig’s disease and Huntington’s disease. She discovered that in all these conditions the mitochondria stop working well and lead to early death of brain cells, causing brain shrinkage.
Dr Wahls discovered The Institute for Functional Medicine who espouse treating the person as a whole rather than focussing in individual symptoms. This includes balancing the diet, environment and lifestyle. Dr Wahls immediately saw the potential in this and began further research into diet. It was from here she acquired the book Neuroprotection: A Functional Medicine Approach for Common and Uncommon Neurologic Syndromes which taught her how to improve her mitochondria and brain cells. Much of the Functional Medicine Nutrition relies on supplements
The Eating Plan
Dr Wahls was taking the supplements advised by the Functional Medicine plan but, felt there had to be a better way. Supplements utilize synthetic vitamins, naturally occurring vitamins are complex compounds containing many more benefits than the synthetic equivalents can provide. The Wahls Protocol was born. Western diets do not provide the vitamins and minerals essential for mitochondrial health, so Dr Wahls set about constructing a dietary plan that came as near as possible to a diet our paleolithic ancestors might have consumed. Modern farming methods and a changing environment mean that many of these early foods are no longer available, so the Wahls Protocol endeavours to recreate as much of it as is possible with the foods now available. These are, after all, the foods the Homo Sapiens body evolved to thrive on.
The Prohibited Foods
The first and most important rule of the Wahls Protocol is to remove gluten and all dairy foods from the diet. This is because the proteins in gluten and dairy closely resemble the proteins in myelin.It is believed this is the trigger for the Autoimmune System attacking the myelin sheath in Multiple Sclerosis. In a modern Western Society this is a huge lifestyle change and requires careful planning and determination to achieve.
The Replacement Foods
To compensate for the lack of carbohydrates and protein additional nutrition must be found from fruit and vegetable, not to mention organic meat and fish. Fish has long been considered as brain food and The Wahls Protocol goes a long way to confirm this belief.
The Wahls Protocol provides suggested menu plans but doesn’t provide to much help in sourcing the necessary ingredients. Many of the foodstuffs are completely alien to me, but it is possible to find suitable alternatives.
A Daily Diary
Dr Terry Wahls strongly recommends you keep a daily diary of both your diet and your progress with improvement with your illness. This book and this diet were devised with MS in mind but is equally relevant to many other chronic conditions.
The book is well written although some of it may seem a little daunting. I have a reasonable understanding of biology although I am not formally educated in the subject, and some sections of the book required several readings to fully understand.
As I mentioned earlier in this review, I also have Progressive MS and I couldn’t wait to get started on The Wahls Protocol. Anyone with a chronic disorder could benefit from this eating plan, so I would heartily recommend it.
It is not just a diet, it is a lifestyle change which could change your life.