In the spring of 2007, my future was clear: I was headed toward being bedridden and possibly demented.
I have secondary progressive multiple sclerosis and had been experiencing seven years of steady decline.
I had already tried to improve my diet, switching from a vegetarian diet to a Paleo diet that included meat, but even with these dietary changes, my decline continued.
By 2006, my torso muscles were so weak I could not sit in a regular chair. Instead I reclined in a zero-gravity chair with my knees as high as my nose. I used a tilt-recline wheelchair and two walking sticks to walk short distances. I knew that soon, I would be totally incapacitated.
Astonishingly, that future did not come to pass. Instead, I used my basic science knowledge and information about brain health from the Institute for Functional Medicine and the Ancestral Health movement to create a diet and lifestyle program designed specifically for my brain.
The results stunned my family, my physicians, and me. Within one month, my brain fog was gone. In three months, I no longer felt fatigue and was able to walk with a cane. After six months, I no longer needed a cane. At nine months, I got on my bike for the first time in five years and pedaled around the block. And after 12 months on this new diet, I completed an 18-mile bicycle tour with my family. The following year, I did a trail ride in the Canadian Rockies.
I was transformed in how I understood disease and health, both as a person — and as a physician. I have since changed not only how I live, but how I practice medicine.
I see patients in a therapeutic lifestyle clinic– people with complex chronic health challenges, often including obesity, one or more autoimmune conditions, diabetes, and mental health diagnoses. There is so much demand to be seen in our clinic that we now offer group classes so more people can jumpstart their journey back to health.
In these group classes, we teach people how to recognize their own symptoms of poor health and then show them how diet, stress levels, activity levels, hormone balance, gut health, and body toxin load contributed to their current health challenges. We then review how to create a more nutrient-dense diet, how to remove foods that often worsen inflammation (such as gluten, dairy, and eggs), how to begin dietary changes, and how to sustain them.
On follow-up appointments, I never get tired of seeing the transformation in my patients. They usually report less pain and show lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. This often allows them to reduce or eventually even eliminate certain medications.
Most strikingly from an external perspective, I watch my patients transition to a youthful exterior with each subsequent appointment clinic visit. Excess weight falls away without hunger. Autoimmune diseases stabilize and regress, often so much so that people are able to discontinue their immune-suppressing medication.
What is this diet that is such powerful medicine? It is a diet created specifically for your brain cells and mitochondria. The primary focus is on:
- Increasing vegetable and berry intake to 6 to 9 cups per day (depending on your size and gender)
- Eating a complete protein daily, such as 6 to 12 ounces of meat.
- Eliminating gluten-containing grains, as well as dairy and eggs.
- Limiting gluten-free grain products (such as rice and quinoa) to two servings per week.
What amazes me most is that those who adopt the diet and lifestyle recommendations, regardless of their specific mental health, neurological, or medical issues, show tremendous improvement. In other words, this diet seems to help just about everyone. What I designed for myself because of my autoimmune condition has far exceeded my expectations in its power to heal multiple conditions and increase health, even in those not suffering from an obvious health issue.
I have also changed the focus of my research. I now conduct clinical research that tests the efficacy of diet and lifestyle changes in the setting of multiple sclerosis. We have several studies underway. The first study focused on whether my diet and lifestyle program would help others with progressive multiple sclerosis.
We are very pleased with our initial findings, which show that the intervention is well tolerated and is associated with a marked reduction in the severity of the fatigue. We’ve published our first paper on the results, and a second is currently under review. This is just the beginning of our research exploration into the transformative power of this protocol.
The take-home message is that the Wahls diet and lifestyle programs are potent interventions that can, by providing our cells with the building blocks they need to properly conduct the chemistry of life, reduce the symptoms of most chronic health problems and help the body repair itself. The more we test the diet on various conditions, the more we recognize how powerful it is.
We have had great success using the protocol to treat people with obesity, diabetes, fatigue, chronic pain, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, post-traumatic stress disorder, and traumatic brain injury. No matter the illness, we have seen many people bounce back, recovering the mobility, strength, and happiness they thought were gone forever. Imagine what it could do for you.