Balanced Bites Podcast Episode #170: The Wahls Protocol with Dr. Terry Wahls

BB_PC_square-170 1. What’s new for you from Diane [3:27]
2. Introducing our guest, Dr. Terry Wahls [4:24]
How long should I stay strictly on the Wahls Protocol? [15:57] 
Managing the Wahls Protocol with a busy lifestyle [19:37] 
What if my doctor isn’t ready to listen? [23:35] 
Ketogenic Wahls Protocol and Hashimoto’s [26:44] 
Dr. Wahls’ take on coffee [29:18] 
How varied should our vegetable choices be? [30:19] 
Eating large amounts of fiber with Irritable Bowel Disease/Crohn’s/Ulcerative Colitis [37:39] 
Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Seafood Health Benefits [40:05]
3. Seafood Sustainability with Randy Hartnell [43:53] 
4. Update on Dr. Wahl’s research trials [46:42]
Dr. Wahls’ book updates [59:16]

Dr. Terry Wahls Tedx Talk
Wahls Research Fund
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DIANE SANFILIPPO: Hey everyone, Diane here again without my sidekick, but with an amazing guest for you guys. It’ll be her second time on the show, and I’ll introduce her in just a second. But this is episode 170 of the Balanced Bites podcast.
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[3:27] What’s new for you from Diane?
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So my only update for you guys this week, because I am not exactly sure if it’s even going to be valid, but I think it will be. The Practical Paleo Holiday Kindle version e-book thingamajig should now be available on the Amazon Kindle store and that is something that you can use on a Kindle device and also on an iPad or an iPhone. And if you were on my emailing list and you see the Healthy Holiday Recipes e-book, you don’t need to get that Kindle book, but I wanted to make it available to people who may not know about me already or not be on my emailing list or just are kind of out there searching for some more holiday recipes. So it will be in the Amazon Kindle store. I’m not exactly sure what the price is. It’s probably going to be $2.99 or less because it’s a pretty big e-book, but I wanted to keep it very reasonably priced. So you can check that out on Amazon.
[4:24] Introducing our guest, Dr. Terry Wahls
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So I just wanted to introduce my guest today. Like many physicians, Dr. Terry Wahls focused on treating her patients’ ailments with drugs or surgical procedures. That’s until she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which is MS in 2000. Within 3 years her back and stomach muscles had weakened to the point where she needed a tilt reclined wheelchair. Conventional medical treatments were failing her, and she feared that she’d be bedridden for the rest of her life. Dr. Wahls began studying the latest research on autoimmune disease and brain biology and decided to get her vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and essential fatty acids from the food she ate rather than pills and supplements. Dr. Wahls adopted the nutrient rich Paleo diet, gradually refining and integrating it into a regimen of neuromuscular stimulation. First she walked slowly, then steadily, and then she biked 18 miles in a single day.
In November 2011, Dr. Wahls shared her remarkable recovery in a TEDx talk that immediately went viral. I think most of you have probably seen it. If you haven’t, we’ll link to it in the show notes. Now in the Wahls Protocol, she shares the details of the protocol that allowed her to reverse many of her symptoms, get back to her life, and embark on a new mission, which is to share the Wahls Protocol with others suffering from the ravages of MS and other autoimmune conditions. And Dr. Wahls is here for her second episode, so if you didn’t already catch her on episode 130, definitely go back there and give it a listen. It was a fantastic episode. I know tons of people loved it, and you’ll hear more of her background and her story on that episode. But we wanted to just dive right in with lots of updates and questions for Dr. Wahls today because it is her second time on the show. So welcome, Dr. Wahls.
TERRY WAHLS: Hey, thank you. Very glad to be here.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So happy to chat with you. We’ve luckily been able to spend some time in person a few times at different events, and I always feel like we’re lucky to have you in this community. So I’m glad to have you on the show.
TERRY WAHLS: Thank you.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So you mentioned to me briefly before we started this interview that you have some updates about what’s going on as a result a little bit of, or a lot of, social media, and the interactions that you’re having with people. Can you tell us a little bit about the some of the updates from the National MS Society?
TERRY WAHLS: Well, this has been a wonderful evolution. Back in 2009, when I first started talking about diet, lifestyle, and MS, the MS Society in the Midwest/Upper Midwest region interviewed me, and then banned me as a speaker. Some of the other regions did have me continue to talk with them. But it was not a very comfortable relationship. However, it turns out that the MS Society has their media team monitoring the cyber chatter, and this year in particular after my book came out, the social media conversation on diets and lifestyle surged. And it was, you know, 6 to 8 times the commentary on drug therapies. And all of that activity got them to convey a wellness summit along with their national meeting this fall. And they also decided to have me come. So that’s when I was there and they were having their initial presentation. The social media person said that diet was the main topic, by far, again by a factor of about 6 to 1, and the main thread in that was The Wahls Protocol. And what I think is really remarkable is because this book ignited so much enthusiasm and conversation in the MS community, it got the MS Society’s attention. As a result, they decided to have an event where they reevaluate their programming and their research priorities around diet and wellness. And now instead of being a banned speaker, they made it very clear they’d like me to be part of their dietary workgroup to help set the research standards and the research priorities, as well as current programming around dietary recommendations.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: The whole thing gives me goosebumps, which is totally corny, but I’m just so excited about that, and I think it just shows how huge it is when, you know, one person makes this change and decides to keep track and write about it and tell other people about it. And then the conversation just goes from there, and I think what’s really…it’s just really remarkable and I’m excited for you, and I’m proud of you. I don’t know…I don’t know if that sounds weird, but I just feel like you’ve really….you’ve really taken to it. And I think it’s almost strange in a sense to have to understand like getting the content into a book and then having support from a team to help you sort of market it in a way…
TERRY WAHLS: Yes, yes.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: You’ve really taken, you know, the design of the book looks beautiful. It’s all of that stuff really matters, and you know, I talk about that on a business podcast, but I’m just really proud of the direction you’ve taken it in. Because I think it’s so approachable for people, and I think the number one reason why your work has created such a shift is that it gives people hope.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And I think people were just so hopeless before and they’re seeing change and they’re hearing the stories, and that also gives me goosebumps. Like there’s nothing more important than that for people who’ve been to ten different doctors and not had any kind of resolution or even a glimpse of a possibility of change. You know?
TERRY WAHLS: Well, you know, this was a very interesting…so I was at the meeting with the scientists and we’re talking about programming, we’re talking about research priorities. And mind you, many in the MS community think it was very unprofessional to have written this book before we had all these randomized controlled trials saying that it worked. But at the end of this conference, there was also a great deal of respect that what I was advocating was pretty safe and that we have implementation down, that we’re helping the public adapt these concepts in a safe way. And so there was a shift from criticism that I’ve seen over the previous year that I’m talking to the public to a lot of admiration now that I’m talking to the public at the same time that I’m doing the research.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And I think…I think one of the things that probably is a barrier for a lot of medical doctors is an assumption that people aren’t willing to do the work, and I think that that’s kind of upsetting that they might assume that, just because there are some, you know prescription interventions that tend to be recommended first. I think that it’s become a common practice that medical doctors assume that even if there is something that’s kind of seems fringe or whatever it is, you know. The Wahls Protocol is not simple. It is involved and-it’s simple in a sense. I mean, for those of us who eat Paleo, it’s really not so different. It just involves more food, and I can have you do a really quick review of what it is in a second here…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: But I think…do you know what I’m saying though? Just the mindset?
DIANE SANFILIPPO: It’s like how many people do we know that have gone to their medical doctor, who’ve had bloodwork done, etc., and they’re obviously in pain or obviously in a situation where perhaps they’re obese or they’re borderline diabetic, but the doctor doesn’t say anything.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Even if they don’t…even if they know that something could be out there. It’s something other patients of theirs. It’s like they assume that people won’t do the work, and I think we see something very, very different in this community.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. There are so many studies, Diane, that show if the doc doesn’t have health promoting lifestyle factors that they do diet, exercise, meditative practice, they don’t teach their patients those things. But if that physician or PA or nurse practitioner does pay attention to dietary means and lifestyle means in their own life, then they teach all those concepts to their patients. To really make that kind of change we have to get the medical schools, PA schools, nurse practitioner schools ensuring that their students adapt health promoting lifestyles and training.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah. So that we don’t see doctors standing outside the hospitals smoking cigarettes anymore. So there you go. Okay, but I digress. Why don’t you give our listeners just a really, really quick rundown of what the Wahls Protocol is.
TERRY WAHLS: Sure, sure.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I know there’s an entire book on it, so I want to just remind you guys that it’s The Wahls Protocol. You can grab it pretty much anywhere. But go ahead and give us a quick rundown.
TERRY WAHLS: We have 3 levels to the diet. A very simple entry level that is gluten free, dairy free, egg free. Stresses 9 or 6 cups of vegetables: greens, sulfurs, color, and a complete protein. I give guidance to those who are vegetarian or vegan how to do that diet more safely, and the potential risks if not done correctly. Then the next level we introduce organ meats, stress omega-3 rich meats. We also add seaweeds and the soaking and sprouting of nuts and seeds. Then on the third level, I reduce the carbs further and we up the fats and I put the person into ketosis. Then I talk about if you’re still having troubles, why you might want to go nightshade free and get food sensitivity testing to have more specific guidance. We also talk about stress reducing practices, exercise, electrical stimulation. But really, the most important chapters in the book are probably the first two chapters which explain the difference between functional medicine, conventional medicine, and why diet and lifestyle changes are so powerful. Because people really have to understand why they’re going to go through all the work of dealing with their food addiction and giving up food that’s cheap, very tasty and to which they’re probably addicted.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And I know you…I know you covered this in our first interview a bunch, and you’re actually…was it your first book? Or I don’t know if it was only your first or if you’ve written others before, called Minding My Mitochondria.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. Mm-hmm.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And I think that was kind of…that’s the turning point for people if they realize that so much of…so much of dis-ease is at a cellular level, and I think…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: when we look under the hood and realize that all of our bodies have the capacity for health if we give it what it needs and support it in certain ways, so again, just go back and listen to episode 130 because we covered so much of that, and we want to get into some more questions from our listeners because I put out a call for questions yesterday…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And got so, so many. I was almost floored. I think you’re probably somebody who’s gotten the most questions I’ve ever seen. And not only that, I would say 50 to 60% of the comments that I received were all just praise, so our listeners just want to thank you and tell you that, you know, you’ve changed so many of their lives already by putting this work out, so I’m just going to relay that message of gratitude from them.
TERRY WAHLS: Thank you.
[15:57] How long should I stay strictly on the Wahls Protocol?
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So I’ve got one question here, and I know that a lot of our listeners are familiar with an autoimmune protocol, which is similar to what you’re doing, but you’ve taken it to a different level because you were very specific about certain nutrients and healing, but they want to know how long do you recommend staying on that type of protocol to the same degree, and you know, is there something that people should look for? Is there a certain amount of perhaps lenience at some point in time? How can they manage that? So it’s a lifestyle over time vs. a therapeutic intervention perhaps?
TERRY WAHLS: So I think the reality is all of us being human, once we feel really well, we begin to think that magic has happened, we’re completely recovered and we don’t have to be as diligent with our dietary and lifestyle choices. And typically I see people making this decision between 3 and 6 months, and two things…one of two things can happen. So they’ll back off on the diet in some capacity, either through not as many vegetables or perhaps they want to introduce eggs or dairy, or even gluten. And I’d say about a third of those folks, what I see in my clinics or the trials, is they reintroduce things and they get, within 2 to 3 days, worsening pain, worsening fatigue, and they realize, oops, I can’t make this change. The other two thirds may have a very slow gradual decline, so in 3 to 6 months, they again are having a lot of pain and having fatigue. So my advice now to folks is be gluten and dairy free forever. You might be able to reintroduce eggs, but take careful note because if things change very, very gradually, you won’t have the insight to put it together with your food. And just the fortunate folks have acute symptoms.
If the person had to head down the nightshade removal and food sensitivity testing, they might find that they could reintroduce those foods and have them sporadically and do okay. But the gluten, dairy, and eggs are much, much less likely in the autoimmune person to be tolerated.
TERRY WAHLS: Certainly nearly everyone will try and their experience will be variable.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, I’ve seen this just with general food sensitivities as well where some people, you know, again that’s not an allergy, but an intolerance or sensitivity where, you know, say it’s to eggs perhaps. They can’t eat them every day, but they can eat them now and then without too much issue, and I think for some people just hearing that. You know, reintroducing a food sporadically so that it’s something that can be enjoyed, but not overindulged on perhaps over time is manageable, and I think, you know, everybody gets to make that choice in terms of how they’re going to keep their health in check.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah, it…and I talk a lot about keeping a journal. I think that’s one of the most powerful things you can do is pay attention to your two symptoms that you want to monitor most aggressively, and then keep track of what you’re eating and doing and you’ll learn what works well for you and what does not.
[19:37] Managing the Wahls Protocol with a busy lifestyle
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Right. So we have some questions now on the practical side as well here.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: About managing a busy schedule and a busy life. I know you have a very busy schedule and busy life, and you do quite a bit of traveling these days as well. Just advice for managing a busy schedule with the Wahls diet and also how do you do things when you’re at home vs. when you travel, etc. So somebody had a question, does she do a weekly cookup, but I am curious to hear what you have to say about that.
TERRY WAHLS: Okay. So I basically follow the third level diet, which is a ketogenic diet. So every morning I’ll have a ketogenic smoothie, so high fat, and then I’ll have a little bit of protein with that. During the summer I typically throw in garden herbs, so it’s a green smoothie. During the winter I’ll put in green tea or some algae make a light green coconut milk kind of smoothie. Then for the protein I’ll have a little bit of leftover protein from the night before. So last night we had curried lamb’s heart and onions, so that’s what I had. A little bit of that for breakfast. I won’t eat all day. When I get home tonight, I’ll make meat and some grilled…and some vegetables in a skillet. So I only cook one meal a day. My morning is a smoothie, and I’m the chef, so when I get home, I start simmering the meat in the skillet, chop the vegetables, throw in the vegetables, cook them for another 2 to 3 minutes, put the skillet on the table and that’s what we eat. We’ll have a big salad with that, and then I will have often a chia seed pudding, with just a couple berries for dessert.
And when I travel, I will take often things like liver jerky with me. I’ll take some spirulina algae, so I’ll have a teaspoon of spirulina algae in water. Drink that. So I know I’ve gotten some greens in every day. And when I go to a restaurant, I’ll let people know that I have a life threatening reaction to gluten, dairy, and eggs, and then I ask what’s safe to eat on the menu. And what I’m looking for is meat and vegetables. But I’ve learned if I tell them I have a life threatening reaction, and then have the waiter give me suggestions as to what’s safe, that seems to work out pretty well.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: That seems like a good approach, and I think a lot of times too, people need to understand that when you’re dining out and you do have a specific dietary protocol you’re following very closely like this, you really can’t be too picky, you know. I think people have to remember that sometimes…we talk about this when travelling a lot. We’ll eat grass-fed burgers without a bun very often because there aren’t a lot of options sometimes, and we just don’t mind. You know, we’re used to what we’re eating and it’s on a salad and call it a day. And it’s good.
TERRY WAHLS: And that works. You know, when I was first traveling and I couldn’t get the volume of vegetables, my energy would crash after about 36 hours. So then I would travel with a head of cabbage.
TERRY WAHLS: Because that, you know, transports very nicely. You don’t need your refrigerator. I’d cut off a wedge, eat my wedge of cabbage, then go have breakfast, usually sautéed vegetables. You know, these omelet bars, I’d go walkup and say, give me everything but the eggs and cheese.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: [laughs] Just sauté it for me.
TERRY WAHLS: Just sauté it all for me and that works out pretty well. And then if I’m ordering from the menu again, I just ask…I let them know that I have life threatening reactions and then they’re usually very accommodating.
[23:35] What if my doctor isn’t ready to listen?
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay, so we have a question here, and I think quite a few people have similar questions, just worded a little bit differently. But some questions for people with loved ones who are suffering from MS, and their doctors are not aware or supportive of your protocol or any sort of dietary or alternative resources. Is there any, you know, recommendation or kind of advice for people that are in that situation where their loved one is so set on listening to what the doctor says? Is there any kind of little something that you’ve seen that helps make a shift for those people?
TERRY WAHLS: So there are a couple of options. One is to work with your primary care doc. Because if you go to your primary care doc and say look, I’m going to be eating lots of vegetables and meat, and I’m getting rid of the sugar and white flour. You could leave out the fact you’re going gluten and dairy free. But what they need to know is you’re going to eat lots of vegetables and then you say, are there any food medication reactions or food diagnosis reactions that we have to watch? And that’s the key question. Usually nearly always the doc will say, no, that’s fine. And if your primary care doc is not fired up about you wanting to eat more vegetables, you should probably look for a primary care person.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: [laughs] Um, yes.
TERRY WAHLS: See, what was treating the autoimmune problem, they may or may not be open to the impact of diet and lifestyle. They may feel like well, I don’t really know. And you can still do diet and lifestyle changes whether or not your physician who’s treating you for autoimmune issues is knowledgeable. You just need your primary care doc to let you know if you have a medication/food interaction potential. And then depending on your relationship, I’ve certainly seen many, many people tell me that they’ve gotten books, that they’ve given one to their primary care doc and other ones to their specialists and as they recover in front of the specialist’s eye, the specialist is like, man, this is very impressive. And I’ve been contacted by a number of especially physicians who have been turned on to my book through their patients and are now also giving copies of the book to other patients in their practice as well. So I mean, physicians, we want to help people. The problem is we don’t know much about nutrition, and as we see our patients recover, not everybody, but more and more the physicians are willing to say like, yes. There is something to this diet and lifestyle approach.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Right, they won’t deny when it’s right in front of their faces.
TERRY WAHLS: Correct. Sadly, the first couple times this happens, the physician will say, well, it was the drug. They’ll have to probably see it several times to realize, no, it’s not the drug. It’s the diet and lifestyle intervention.
[26:44] Ketogenic Wahls Protocol and Hashimoto’s
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Right. So we have a question here, and you know, if you are not sure how you want to answer this one or you know, just whatever works for you here. One woman is asking if you have any information about your ketogenic version of the Wahls Protocol and Hashimoto’s hypothyroid. And there’s been a lot of talk around the Paleo community, I’d say about for the last year, year and a half or so, about low carb diets potentially being harmful for those who have Hashimoto’s or hypothyroidism.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I’ve talked to some people who are saying that it’s simply not true and it’s a myth. And I’ve talked to some people who say, that’s, you know, something that they see in their patient practice, that folks with Hashimoto’s eating ketogenic or lower carb aren’t doing so well. And I know it’s not your area of specialty, Hashimoto’s, but I figured we’d throw this one at you and see what you have to say.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. So when you follow a ketogenic diet, we are getting the body to look at more like it’s in the starvation mode. And when that happens, we shift our biological processes and the hormonal milieu more towards repair. And away from preparations for reproduction. So a ketogenic diet would be very problematic for people who are trying to conceive and have kids. And because of that, it could make me wonder if this will have some impact on thyroid status and adrenal status. Likely yes. I don’t have enough experience to say definitively. I will certainly say we are all unique and we have a unique set of genes and a unique set of microbiome and experiences that have shifted which genes are on and off, so that the person’s reaction to a ketogenic diet might be very favorable or it might not be. Ketosis is not the panacea for every health problem. And if you’re trying to get into ketosis and you’re not feeling well, then a low glycemic index diet is probably the route to go and to not continue in that ketogenic vein.
[29:18] Dr. Wahls’ take on coffee
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay. Good answer that will help people out a lot. So what I’m going to ask you about here. I mean, there are so many…I’m looking at all the comments. Some of them are just, oh, you’re so lucky you get to chat with her, and just more of these “tell her thank you for me” etc. One quick question. Someone would like to know where you stand on coffee.
TERRY WAHLS: Well, yeah, I never acquired a taste for it, so I don’t drink coffee. However, having one or two cups of coffee. Now I’m talking about cups, not, you know, 20 ounce mugs as perfectly fine. My preference is if you want to use a whitener in the coffee to use something like full fat coconut milk. But I think coffee’s fine. I think tea is fine. Having said that, there are some people who cannot metabolize caffeine very well and if you’re that individual, then coffee and caffeinated tea will be a problem.
[30:19] How varied should our vegetable choices be?
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay, so another question here about vegetables in the protocol.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: How important is it to have varied vegetables instead of your tried and true choices that are…I’m guessing she means that fit the bill…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: But are maybe not as varied as you’d like them to be.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. Well, you know, our ancestors for millions of years ate a huge variety of plants and animal species. And we think that it was over 200 different species that would be consumed in a year. And so if the more variety that we have, the more nutrient dense we will have, and probably the more favorable changes on our epigenetics, that is, what genes are on, what genes are off. Because every plant that we eat is a mixture of foods that are compounds that are incredibly good for us. There are a few things that are rather poisonous for us. So variety diminishes the adverse effects and maximizes the benefits. And the same is true whether you’re having animal foods or plant based foods. So actually I take it as a challenge. I’m trying very hard to make sure I’m hitting over 200 different species this year.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I’ve seen you posting about how many different plants you’ve eaten in a day, and so when people go to count, they can count their herbs obviously as well as vegetables.
TERRY WAHLS: and teas.
TERRY WAHLS: And teas.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Teas? Oooh. That’s good.
TERRY WAHLS: So when I realized that I could count the teas, like okay, actually now it’s totally easy.
TERRY WAHLS: I use a lot more spices. I have a much wider variety of teas. So I’m easily well beyond my 200 mark. But I think that’s a tremendous health promotion. It also means that when I go to the store, I’m very excited about trying these new vegetables that I see at, you know, I haven’t seen that before. So I am very much into giving that a try.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I was considering at some point in time, but I give myself too many projects, so I try and tell myself no. I was considering doing like a 30 day challenge that would include some measure, maybe like week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4, you know, eat this many types of plants or I guess drink or somehow consume.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: You know, week 1, week 2, week 3, week 4. Every day. And I think people would be surprised if they do cook at home especially where they’re using different spices and herbs and you know, making a dish easily, I throw a garlic and onions in there, there you go, too. But, you know, if you look at what you eat in a day, you could easily get well over 10 or even 20 different plants without thinking much about it, and so if you do start thinking about it, I feel you could get pretty high.
TERRY WAHLS: Right. Yeah. And tremendous health benefits from doing that. Those herbs in teas were traditionally our first medicinal foods. And they’re very, very health promoting in all the studies looking at these compounds. They do favorable things for how our cells run the chemistry of life.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: What are, let’s say, three herbs or spices and three types of teas that you would recommend that everybody start including in their diet, whether they’re on the Wahls Protocol or just kind of eating whatever they’re eating.
TERRY WAHLS: Turmeric and ginger. Wonderfully effective at rebalancing…actually, I’ll throw rosemary in there as well. Very good at Phase 1, Phase 2 enzyme detoxification rebalancing. Now in terms of teas, I like to have people go look…there are many varieties of detox teas that will include things like dandelion root, burdock roots, and nettles, marigold teas. All of these again help boost the production of bile and the Phase 1, Phase 2 enzymes, which improve the efficiency of our liver, kidneys, and sweat glands at handling that huge volume of synthetic chemicals that you and I encounter every day, regardless of how closely we try to live a clean diet and a clean personal care product use.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Awesome. I think that’s really important so it was turmeric, ginger, and rosemary for the herbs, and then teas, I think, you know there’s so many different like detox type teas. And one brand I love, and you can tell me if there are others that you know of, but one brand I love is called Traditional Medicinals…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And it’s an organic tea brand. I think they just have some really great teas. I’ve used their Cold Care teas and I’ve used their Detox teas, and everything that they have. Digestive aids and all that good stuff. I know they have some ginger teas as well, so good brand.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. It’s a marvelous brand, marvelous teas, and I encourage….have fun. Try a variety of different teas. And certainly go through these detox teas. I also love the various chamomile blends and that’s a typical evening tea that I have with coconut milk, and that’s my evening treat.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Mmm, that sounds good. What about…I’ve talked about organic spices vs. non organic. Is there a huge benefit that you want to recommend the organic spices vs. non?
TERRY WAHLS: Absolutely. Organic spices, and the other thing I recommend is growing them. They’re usually very easy to grow and having greens and some spices in your containers or as part of an edible landscape is really very nice and very, very fun. But absolutely, you know what? There’s a wonderful company here in Iowa. Frontier.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Oh yeah. Yup. Simply Organics, I think, is the main company.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. They are a marvelous source of organic herbs.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So they actually…I called them up before we went on tour for Mediterranean Paleo Cooking book tour, which I don’t know. Did we get you a copy of the book? We have a ton of autoimmune modifications in there, so hopefully that will be one much looked through.
TERRY WAHLS: I think I do have that.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay, so if you don’t have it, we’ll make sure we get you one. But I called up that company. It’s Simply Organic is the parent company, and I think Frontier is part of their little cooperative there.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And the company has been amazing, just sending us some goodies to hand out at book signings, and I’m a huge proponent of organic spices. Of course, you know, people are out to eat, can’t control all of that, but I think at home, having fresh organic, non irradiated, non GMO to get the most potent antioxidant power from the spices and everything that those spices are great for. You know, they really do need to be a more fresh organic spice…
TERRY WAHLS: Absolutely.
[37:39] Eating large amounts of fiber with Irritable Bowel Disease/Crohn’s/Ulcerative Colitis
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Than some of those, you know, the older ones sitting on shelves at discount stores and whatnot. Just kind of something that people should keep in mind. All right, so we’ve got one woman here, and I’m guessing she has perhaps Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis, I don’t know. She didn’t say, but I think she’s got a big issue digesting high fiber…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And so she looked at the protocol and saw it’s a ton of vegetables and she said slash fruits, but I think it’s not a ton of fruit, some fruit.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: But she said she can’t eat them without ending up in the hospital. What can she do?
TERRY WAHLS: Well, you know, actually, I talk about this in the book that if you have gut issues, the thing to do is to start with soups. And I first have people start with bone broths and stress that they still need to go gluten free, grain free, and then introduce vegetables in the soup and then put them through the Vitamix in the soup and gradually increase. Some folks will not be able to tolerate the volume of greens that I advocate and will need a smaller amount of greens. And in that case they’re going to be probably low on the vitamin K2, and they may need to think about a K2 supplement. But you start with soups. You don’t have anything raw and you gradually increase the volume of vegetables that have been cooked in a soup and blended according to how your bowels respond.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay. I’ve often given a similar response to people who’ve not eaten meat in a long time and want to reintroduce meat, and I have them start with broth, and then a little bit of meat and move on. They don’t blend it, but [laughs]…
TERRY WAHLS: But you have to go very slowly.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: But starting with the broth…yeah. Just to get people’s bodies readjusted and sort of used to it again.
TERRY WAHLS: And you know, they may do well with…let’s see, there’s this probiotic VSL3 that was specifically designed for inflammatory bowel disease. It has some very nice research with it. So that would be useful as well.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Is there a specific brand on that or?
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah, it’s called VSL#3.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay. I know people will ask if we don’t tell them exactly what it is.
TERRY WAHLS: Oh, yeah. Of course.
[40:05] Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Seafood Health Benefits
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Can you talk a little bit about the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids and getting, you know, a fair amount of seafood into the diet?
TERRY WAHLS: Well, our cell membranes are a mixture of cholesterol, saturated fat, omega-6 fats, and omega-3 fats. And the omega-6/omega-3 fats are vibrating, help make the cell membrane very fluid. For most Americans, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is very, very skewed toward omega-6. That ratio might be 15 to 1, as high as 45 to 1. And when it’s that high, you’re much more likely to have autoimmune problems, mood problems, including severe depression, homicidality, suicidality. A big attention deficit problem. And this comes from eating a lot of vegetable oils and grain fed meats and farmed fish. The traditional foods would have been much more grass-fed meat and grass or algae fed fish, wild fish, and the ratios would have been more like 3 to 1 or 1 to 1, depending on the society. And so some people start taking fish oils, which is helpful, but if you don’t get rid of all of the vegetable oil, and you still have the ratios too strongly skewed to the omega-6.
Furthermore, if we look at blood tests of cell membranes, if you compare taking fish oil to eating grass-fed meat, wild fish, I get a much more favorable response from the food than you get from taking fish oil. So while fish oil might be helpful, the food is vastly more effective.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I love that. What are some of your favorite seafood options? One of our sponsors here on the podcast is Vital Choice, a really…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Often wild caught, yeah, seafood company.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah. Vital Choice has tremendous products. I’m very fond of salmon, of course. I also actually like…love pickled herring.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Me too! [laughs]
TERRY WAHLS: Which is very, very nice. And I like oysters and mussels, and oysters and mussels, sardines, all of that also qualifies as organ meat. It is very, very potent nutrition.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: We are big fans of sardines on this podcast…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And it’s one of our ulterior missions to get people eating more sardines because I think a lot of people are kind of scared of them. Especially most of us grow up eating tuna fish, and I find that they’re really not that different. I mean, of course there’s some bones in there, and when I very first ate a tin of sardines years ago, after I kind of…I joked, I put my big girl panties on, and you know, said all right, I’m going to do this. I think people…we get pictures of people staring at the tin, like they’re just somehow paralyzed about it. [laughs] And it’s really not that big of a deal. It’s a little crunchy. You get some little bones in there, which is great. Get some calcium. A good source of that.
TERRY WAHLS: Yeah, and it’s lower down on the food chain, so less concentration  of you know, biosynthetic toxic compounds, so smaller fish and sardines of course are types of smaller fish.
[43:53] Seafood Sustainability with Randy Hartnell
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I recently sat down with Randy Hartnell, the president of Vital Choice to help me answer some of the most frequently asked questions we get about seafood. Here’s a portion of my interview with Randy.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Randy, can you talk to us a little about sustainability and seafood?
RANDY HARTNELL: I’m happy to. That’s another issue where there have been some pretty scary headlines over the past few years. There was one not too long ago where they predicted…somebody predicted that the oceans would be empty in 40 years, and I’m happy to be able to share with people that you know, something really wonderful has happened over the last ten years. There’s been a real increase in consumer concern for sustainability and seafood, in particular. There are over 30 different organizations now devoted to promoting sustainable seafood. Probably the one sort of gold standard is the Marine Stewardship Council or MSC. Your listeners can look that Basically what they will do is they will go in and certify a particular fishery, ensuring that it’s being managed on a sustainable basis, which means that there will be fish there to harvest in perpetuity, and consumers are starting to look for those. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a program. Like I said, there are just dozens and dozens of them. And it’s having a real impact. What it does is it not only rewards the people that are practicing responsible fishing practices, but it also encourages those who aren’t to clean up their act because they start losing their markets. So just in the last couple years you’ve had McDonald’s and Wal-Mart and you know, all these mainstream stores pledging to only source sustainable seafood. And the result is that a lot of fisheries around the world are stabilizing, rebounding. That’s one side of it. The other thing is that you know, we’ve got tremendously expanding population on this planet. We’re going to need more food to feed them. And we’re, you know, we can’t keep bulldozing rainforests to grow terrestrial plant, you know, foods, and 75-80% of the planet is ocean and there’s a lot of potential for aquaculture. You know, fish don’t need any fresh water. They don’t need land. They don’t need antibiotics, fertilizers, and all sorts of chemical inputs, and so the seafood really is, the more you look into it, the better it looks. It’s definitely one of the most sustainable foods on the planet.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: That’s awesome to hear, and it’s great to hear, too, for those of us who do look for those signs that those organizations are really out there making a difference. So thank you for sharing that.
[46:42] Update on Dr. Wahl’s research trials
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Let me see. We had a couple of other questions here. There was a question just in general. Somebody wanted to hear an update on whatever you can talk about. I don’t know what stage things are at now with the research that you’ve been doing.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, so if you can talk about the trials.
TERRY WAHLS: So we published the results of the first ten that went through. Very exciting. We now have a paper that has the first twenty that went through, and we’re in that little comment/revision dance.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Twenty folks who went through the protocol?
TERRY WAHLS: Went through the protocol and we have, you know, a very exciting favorable results that we’re reporting on fatigue and quality of life. And we put this…this will be going into an open access journal, so once it’s accepted and edited, it will available for people to find and download. So we’ll get that up on our site once that’s available. There will be some really wonderful charts and graphs that just are so exciting. Since we’re following this group for three years, we have…as a matter of fact I’m seeing one of those folks today. Then we’ll have the three year experience, which will be very, very interesting. So that will be the next big set of papers coming out. We have in development papers that will be talking the changes in gait. And when that goes…when we go to publish that, we’ll have the videos of gait at the beginning and gait at the end, which will be very, very fun to see. I expect…that will be the next paper that we’ll be getting submitted and looking for a place to get published. We’re also analyzing the MRI findings, and I can tell you from our…this is in a second group of ten, we had MRIs at one month into the protocol and at 12 months into the protocol. And we’ll be reporting some very exciting MRI changes when that comes in. And that paper…those papers will probably take another year to make their way through, you know, all the painfully slow publication process.
We have another study that compared the original Wahls diet to the ketogenic diet to usual care, and that is just being finished, and we’ll be analyzing that data. And I have another study that’s in the IRB for review that we will be enrolling people with relapsing remitting MS who have fatigue. We’ll watch them for 12 weeks with what’s called usual care, repeat all the assessments again. Then we’ll intervene for 12 weeks and repeat all the assessments. So everybody will be their own control. And that’s very exciting. And we have another grant that’s being reviewed by the MS Society right now, and next Monday, I’m meeting with one of the scientists that I met at that wellness meeting that the MS Society had, and we’re talking about putting together a grant that will be at both institutions and we’ll compare exercise and diet to a control group. And that will be…we’ll send that back to the MS Society. I’m very excited about…except that will be a much larger study, since we’ll be at two sites. So from my perspective, wonderful things are happening. I’ll also tell you, Diane, that the University of Iowa Foundation, research foundation, created a Wahls Research Fund where people could make donations to my group, and the public has been remarkably supportive. The study that is in, that we’re going to be starting next is basically funded by the public. We had some major donors and thousands of public people giving us the money to get this next major study going. So the University and the College of Medicine have become very impressed by the level of public engagement and support for my work, which is…does not happen very often actually. This is a relatively unusual thing, but I think it’s because unlike most of the researchers, I have a more entrepreneurial side. I’m reaching out to the public, and I have it as my mission to change the world as much as I can as quickly as I can, so I’m committed to telling the public what I’m doing and letting the public also decide that, you know, what I’m doing is pretty safe, low risk, and it’s worth trying.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Yeah, and it’s worth their donations, if it’s something that’s important to them as well, and I think I’m definitely somebody who, you know, I’m wary about donating to a lot of just kind of random charities out there, when you just don’t know what’s going to happen with the money, especially when it’s medical or health oriented. You don’t know where that money is going, and I think people are looking for a place to donate money, especially, it’s the end of the year and I think a lot of people think about that this time of year.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And we’ll put a link up to…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I’m sure there’s a link somewhere on your website.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: We can get a link to, you know, if people want to donate to that, I think it would also make a really great gift for anyone that you know who would find a donation in their name to be a fantastic gift, too.
TERRY WAHLS: And what we can tell people is 95% of the money goes to research. Like there’s no other charity out there that 95% of the money goes to research. The University has a 5% overhead, but everything else goes to support the research that we do, which is amazing. An amazing ratio.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: I think it’s pretty awesome. You know, one of the things that you just mentioned, having an entrepreneurial spirit, which I think is really cool, and I think I’ve…I don’t know. I think that’s one of the things that has sparked in you that I find really intriguing, and I think that’s the thing that makes me proud and excited because there are tons of scientists and researchers and medical doctors out there who just can’t always bridge the gap between what they’re doing and the extremely scientific side of things, and the general public who can benefit from their work. And it’s part of the void that folks like myself and Liz kind of fill. You know, we’re that bridge mostly between. But I think it’s awesome that you can take on that role because your information, you have a really great way of translating and conveying the information that is very scientific, but in a way that people can understand. I think part of that’s because you know, you’ve done this in your everyday life, so finding a way to talk about it is much more practical. I’m curious from your perspective, just kind of personal insights on what’s surprised you the most about this journey and where you’ve kind of landed today because I’m sure not many years ago, this was never a picture that you would have had for your life, and I’m just kind of curious about that.
TERRY WAHLS: So in 2007, it was just utterly obvious that my pain was getting steadily worse and my greatest fear was that my pain would be permanently on, and that every sensory input would be transmuted into horrific pain. And I had come to terms with that I was going to be bedridden and demented. My biggest fear though was pain. So now fast forward 7 years later. I only get pain if I accidentally get into gluten, and I do get pain, so I’m very glad for that barometer. And my function continues to improve. And my research is successful, and I’m having more and more scientists here at the University approach me with some ideas about how to steady the frozen blood that we have in our subjects. Because we have freezed blood as we go. So once we see that people, yes, in fact, are responding, now we can begin this conversation with our basic scientists, what are the things that we should go look at? What kind of biomarkers may have changed? So my stature in the College of Medicine and in the University has grown immensely in these 7 years, from being…people didn’t know what to think when I first started on this journey after I recovered in 2009. But I’ve gotten very good mentors with me, a sound research design, and it’s just fascinating to see, you know, I mean I was called into the Dean of the medical school, who wanted me to review my research program, show her the videos because she was aware of these changes and the funding that’s coming in. I would never have predicted that I would have this kind of change in stature at the University. Or across the world for that matter, This was not the life that I thought I was going to get to have.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: What is…even before…I’m really curious, you know, even ten years ago, fifteen years ago, because, you know, one of the things I like to talk about a lot on this show is not just about, you know, health and what we’re eating, but mindset and kind of the way that people design their own lives and make choices to create the life that they want. And I think maybe ten or fifteen years ago, this probably wasn’t even an inkling, you know, of a thought of this is what I would be doing in ten or fifteen years.
TERRY WAHLS: Now I will tell you in 2000, axtually in ’99, I started getting my MBA because I wanted to influence healthcare, and I figured that we needed physicians, leaders in organized health systems and thought I would be able to do that through the BA. Now as it turns out, yes, I’m influencing healthcare, but at a much more basic and fundamental level, you know, with that TED talk, nearly 2 million views and my book and all my lectures. Now I’m going straight to the public to influence health, and that was my goal, but I’m doing it far more successfully in this role than I ever would have as a physician administrator. And so that actually resonates much more deeply with me.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: And you know, kind of the bigger picture here too is that as much as we never want to wish pain or unwellness on people, when it triggers this kind of change in not only your life, but now millions of people’s lives. I think it’s just…you realize the message in that struggle, you know, and that journey of what you kind of went through and how…I mean, there’s no greater reward than changing one other person’s life, so for it to affect this many people, I’m just…I don’t know, I’m just kind of beside myself for you, so I think it’s amazing.
TERRY WAHLS: You know, I tell people I am profoundly grateful for my MS. I am profoundly grateful for the seven years of decline, the 4 years in the wheelchair, the horrific pain that I’ve endured. Because without that I would not have learned all of this stuff. I wouldn’t have learned the biology that I did; I wouldn’t have learned the critical role of diet and lifestyle. And I wouldn’t have this amazing recovery story to use to teach people that, you know what? If I can come back from that level of disability and profound pain to a highly functional life. You know, I’m not quite normal yet, but man, I’m pretty good. Then that offers tremendous hope to anyone who’s willing to tackle diet and lifestyle, that recovery is possible.
[59:16] Dr. Wahls’ book updates
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Well, I want to give you a few minutes here as we kind of wrap things up to just let folks know what the update is on your book that’s been out for quite some time now…
DIANE SANFILIPPO: but I think you’re releasing it as a paperback, which is fantastic.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: What do you want to tell folks about that?
TERRY WAHLS: So the paperback will be out, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. It will be out December 30th. Again, making this even more accessible to individuals. I’m very excited. We’ll be out going around the country again talking about the book, promoting it, answering questions and getting people fired up.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Awesome. Well, is your website.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: T-E-R-R-Y-W-A-H-L-S. That is Dr. Wahls’ website, and where can people find you on social media? What’s Facebook, Instagram, where are all those spots?
TERRY WAHLS: So Instagram is @drterrywahls. Facebook is Terry Wahls, pardon me. Terry Wahls, MD. And Twitter is @terrywahls. You know, if you go to my website,, you can go to the Shop page. We have a variety of support programs to help people get started with each level of the diet, and we also have a membership site.
TERRY WAHLS: And in theory, the spring we’ll be having a conference targeting professionals and health coaches on teaching the Wahls Protocol. Also, I’m working on those details, hopefully in May.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: Okay, we’ll definitely let people know if that comes up, so keep us posted and we’ll share the word on that. Thank you so much for being here. I love chatting with you. Any time you want to come back and talk about whatever’s going on, definitely let me know. And I know our listeners appreciate it and they absolutely love hearing from you.
TERRY WAHLS: Thank you so much.
DIANE SANFILIPPO: So that’s it for this week. You can find Dr. Wahls at Find Liz at, and find me, Diane, at Don’t forget to join our emailing lists for free goodies and updates you don’t find anywhere else on our websites or anywhere. While you’re on the Internet, please leave us a review in iTunes. It helps us spread the word about the show. We’ll see you next week.

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