Removing “anti-nutrients” for better immunity

The ‘incurable’ diseases are not as incurable as you think.

I expected to be bedridden and befuddled by now due to my “incurable” disease – secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. For seven years, I’d been going steadily downhill, despite taking the latest and greatest drugs. In 2007, I could only walk short distances using two walking sticks and could sit up for only a few minutes. Yet just one year later I completed an 18-mile bicycle ride with my family. The year after that, I did a trail ride in the Canadian Rockies.

How did that miraculous transformation happen? I am a practicing physician, former athlete and clinical researcher. I “knew” that once functions are lost due to progressive MS, they are gone forever. Ten years ago, when I first got my wheelchair, I began studying the research myself. I saw that our DNA accounts for less than 30 percent – often less than 5 percent – of our risk of getting a chronic disease, including autoimmune problems. The vast majority of our risk is due to the interaction of our DNA and the foods we choose to eat (or not eat), the toxins to which we are exposed, and our exercise levels and other lifestyle choices.

My research into diet and lifestyle intensified. In 2007, I used what I had learned about brain biology, ancestral health and functional medicine to design a diet specifically for the optimal health of my brain cells. The result was stunning: I halted the progression of my “incurable and progressive” disease and dramatically improved my mental and physical function. Simply by changing my diet and lifestyle, I achieved the unthinkable.

As a result, I have been transformed like Paul on the way to Damascus. I now see the world of health and disease very differently. I understand at the cellular level and the intellectual level what cells need to have to function optimally and how they react when they are starved for what they need to thrive. This knowledge has changed how I live my life and how I instruct my patients to live theirs.

Now, instead of just treating disease symptoms in my clinics, I teach people how to restore health and vitality. I teach the public and my patients how to eat for the optimal health of their cells, for if our cells become healthier, our organs become healthier. If our organs become healthier, our bodies become healthier. That is why maximizing the nutrition for our cells is the bedrock of reversing the decline associated with many so-called “incurable” diseases.

For our cells to properly function, they need the correct building blocks required for the chemistry of life. We must also remove toxins from our cells. To achieve both goals, we must eat a diet that provides the most vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and essential fats per calorie possible.

We must also remove the harmful anti-nutrients that increase inflammation and lead to more fatigue, brain fog and worsening symptoms across many diseases. Most people I know do not pour sugar into the gas tank of their car.

The mitochondria inside are cells are engines that create the energy in our bodies. And sadly, the modern diet has us pouring sugar into them. But if we give our mitochondria and brain cells the building blocks – that is the vitamins, minerals, essential fats and antioxidants they need to conduct the biology of life properly – our cellular engines will run like high-output supercars.

The foundation of my Wahls ™ Diet plans is 9 cups of vegetables (3 cups greens, 3 cups sulfur-rich vegetables, 3 cups of color) and grass-fed meat daily, and organ meat and sea vegetables.

In the U.S., half of us do not meet even the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for water-soluble vitamins (that includes C and B vitamins) and two-thirds do not meet the RDA for minerals like magnesium, calcium, and zinc. That’s the very least we need, and we’re not getting it.

Is it a coincidence that we have an epidemic of “incurable” diseases, including autoimmune diseases, here in America? Even if you aren’t “sick,” you may be among the 50 million or so who “don’t feel well.” Did you know that this could be due to having auto-antibodies showing that your immune cells are attacking themselves but are not causing enough damage to make an official autoimmune diagnosis?

People suffering from this won’t be diagnosed for several more years, after their bodies have sufficiently attacked themselves enough to demonstrate measurable damage. Some scientists are now classifying diseases like atherosclerosis, asthma, and allergic rhinitis as types of autoimmune disorders.

All autoimmune disorders are an interaction between the genetic (DNA) risk factors and the environment. While we can’t change our DNA, we can change our environment by modifying our eating habits and adopting health-promoting lifestyle choices.

In my book, “The Wahls Protocol,” I provide detailed guidance on how to maximize nutrition and remove anti-nutrition present in most U.S. diets, foods that deprive our bodies of the nutrients that they need, causing inflammation and eventually disease. I see it over and over in our clinics: as people learn to eat for the optimal health of their cells, excess weight falls away without hunger, energy improves, mental clarity improves, and disease symptoms diminish, no matter what the underlying health challenges are.

I teach people how to shift their current diet to one that provides optimal nutrition for their cells. I also provide a nutrient density analysis of a week’s worth of each of the various Wahls™ Diet plans, which provide two to eight times the RDA of the 31 key brain nutrients I identified in my research. “The Wahls Protocol” also provides a week of menus and recipes for three food plans, allowing you to choose the plan that best suits you and your family’s health concerns, health goals and food preferences.

In addition to seeing patients, I do clinical research. To change clinical practice, we must publish clinical research in peer-reviewed journals. I am one of the few researchers doing clinical trials that test the impact of structured Paleo diets (in the form of the various Wahls™ Diet plans) on patients with secondary progressive MS.

In another year, we anticipate completing our current clinical trial, Wahls Paleo Diet and Progressive Multiple Sclerosis, and knowing more about the nutrient density of these diets as well as their effect on disease progression, blood vessel health and cellular health.

If you want to start improving your immune health today, here are two things I have people who come to me at my practice do: Avoid phytates and lectins.

Phytates will act to bind minerals making them less absorbable and for some people. This can markedly increase inflammation

Lectins similarly can make minerals less absorbable and cause inflammation as well. They “stick” to your intestines and keep nutrients out.

The foods highest in phytates are grains, which is why the Paleo diet I recommend is so helpful for suppressing inflammation and increasing the power of our immune systems.

Lentils and beans, which do have quite a few nutrients, also have anti-nutrient lectins in them, as do eggplants and most grains, to a certain degree.


Dr. Terry Wahls

By Dr. Terry Wahls

Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she teaches internal medicine residents and sees patients in a traumatic brain injury clinic and a therapeutic lifestyle clinic for those with complex chronic disease. In addition, she conducts clinical trials testing the efficacy of diet and lifestyle to treat chronic disease. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using diet and lifestyle interventions and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and the paperback, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, and teaches the public and medical community about the healing power of intensive nutrition.  
You can learn more about her work from her website: She is conducting clinical trials testing the effect of nutrition and lifestyle interventions on MS. She is also committed to teaching the public and medical community about the healing power of the Paleo diet and therapeutic lifestyle changes to restore health and vitality to our citizens. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter at @TerryWahls. You can learn more about her research at here.