Recommended Read: The Wahls Protocol

If you are interested in healthy living and using food as medicine, then The Wahls Protocol by Dr. Terry Wahls is an excellent read. I discovered Dr. Wahls after stumbling upon her TedX talk "Minding your Mitochondria." You can watch it here{link}. After watching her Ted talk, I couldn't wait to learn more and her book does not disappoint. It is easy to read and will inspire you to make more conscious decisions about what you eat in order to maintain optimal health.

Dr. Wahls' Background

In 2000, Dr. Wahls was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), an autoimmune disease that attacks the brain and central nervous system. She received treatment from the top doctors at the Cleveland Clinic, but, despite the latest prescription drugs, by 2003 she was in a wheelchair.

A practicing medical doctor, Dr. Wahls researched the latest studies to find a way to slow down her disease. She began a series of self-experiments and lifestyle changes that was so successful, her symptoms actually reversed. After starting her protocol, Dr. Wahls went from a wheelchair to being able to walk, jog, and take a 20 mile bike ride! Her personal journey to health inspired her to write the Wahls Protocol to share her experience with others with the hope that they too could replicate her results.

In the Wahls' Protocol, Diet is Key!

While Dr. Wahls’ protocol is an overall lifestyle plan, the major component of the book is its diet.

There are three diet levels to Dr. Wahl's protocol: the Wahls Diet, Wahls Paleo, and Wahls Paleo Plus. Each level is increasingly more restrictive with the last being a ketogenic diet. Her basic diet is easy to remember: eat 9 cups of fruits and vegetables daily - 3 cups of leafy greens, 3 cups of bright colors, and 3 cup of sulfur rich vegetables. She recommends eating organic when possible, adding grass fed/wild meats and fish, and avoiding eggs and dairy.

Dr. Wahls' diet focuses on using nutrition (vs supplements) to protect the brain and specifically the mitochondria. MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the brain and central nervous system. In MS, the brain begins to shrink over time, causing symptoms to worsen and become permanent. Dr. Wahls reviewed research in similar diseases that caused the brain to shrink. She noticed that in all of the cases, the mitochondria - the cell's energy centers - were not functioning well. Using successful studies in mice and functional medicine principles, Dr. Wahls identified various vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that the mitochondria need to stay healthy and to protect the brain from shrinking. She believed that if she obtained the same nutrients through food, her body would not only better absorb it, but she might also receive the benefit of millions of other compounds that were not yet identified by science.

When creating her food plan, Dr. Wahls’ found that the Paleo diet provided the highest level of nutrients. She adapted the paleo diet into her protocol, adding foods in amounts that would provide the building blocks that she identified as critical to the developing healthy brain cells and mitochondria.

Thoughts on the Protocol

There is a lot of buzz lately around the paleo diet as a cure all. I am skeptical about fad diets in general, particularly ones that eliminate select food groups. However, here are the things that set Dr. Wahls’ protocol apart for me:

  1. She is a practicing medical doctor and bases her protocol on legitimate medical studies.
  2. She does not advocate eliminating traditional medicine or prescription medication in favor of natural or homeopathic cures. 
  3. She admits that the full scale scientific studies supporting her protocol are not complete, but many people -especially those with MS- don't necessarily have time to wait. 
  4. Her diet is balanced and nutrient dense.
  5. Her results speak for itself.

Dr. Wahl's book makes a lot of sense. In order to be healthy, you need to give your body the building blocks it needs to stay healthy. The best way to do this, is through food. It is not a secret that the American diet is seriously lacking in nutrients. Our lifestyle encourages us to reach for pre-made meals or quick and easy solutions. This leads to many people eating a lot of processed foods with little to no nutritional value but chock full of chemicals and additives. It is no wonder that food allergies, cancer, and autoimmune diseases are on the rise.

I, thankfully, do not have MS, but do have family members who have MS and Parkinson's disease. In my youth, I often took my health for granted. As I've gotten older, I realize how important it is to take care of my body now, and not wait for a terrible diagnosis to start. Dr. Wahls' book gave me hope that I can still repair whatever damage I have done in the past and take care of my cells going forward. Prevention is key!

What do you think of the Wahl's protocol?  Do you follow any specific diet that you find helpful? Or do you feel that the paleo or "food as medicine"  movement is a marketing ploy? I find that people have very polarized views on this subject and am interested in hearing your thoughts! Let me know what you think in the comments* below.

Thanks for stopping by!

xx, E

*Please keep it classy! Different views are accepted, but disrespectful, name-calling, and bullying comments will be deleted.


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