Life was difficult, but that time was still a profound gift. I knew what was going to happen. I had come to terms with the fact that the best doctors and the newest medicines were probably not going to prevent my becoming bedridden, possibly demented. My greatest fear, though, was the facial pain, intermittent electrical jolts of pain across my face. The episodes became more and more frequent and severe and harder to stop. My fear was that the pain would “turn on” one day and never stop. If that happened, every sensation–touch, sound, light, speaking, or swallowing–would be transformed into horrific electrical pain.
That was the future I feared. I’d been declining for 7 years due to progressive multiple sclerosis. I relied upon a tilt-recline wheelchair to get around. I was too weak to sit in a regular chair. I was beginning to struggle with brain fog.
That future did not come to pass. I am blessed in that I am a physician, professor of medicine, and clinical researcher. Once it became apparent that the latest medicine would not stop my decline, I began to search for something I could do myself. Using PubMed.gov, I read the basic science papers about animal models for multiple sclerosis and other progressive brain diseases. I discovered the Ancestral Health movement, the Paleolithic diet, and the Institute for Functional Medicine. I began experimenting on myself. Ultimately, I created a diet and lifestyle program designed specifically for my brain and my mitochondria, the power plant of our cells.
I did not expect to recover, knowing that no one with progressive multiple sclerosis recovers functions that have been lost. But I did. One year after starting what I now call the Wahls Protocol®, I was walking easily without a cane. I completed a 20-mile bike ride with my family. Most importantly, the pain was gone as long as I followed my dietary and lifestyle regimen.
This changed the way I practiced medicine and the research that I do. We have replicated the protocol I used in my recovery in two clinical trials. The first was conducted in others with progressive multiple sclerosis, showing that people can safely implement the protocol and that as a result, they experienced improvement in quality of life and reduction in the severity of fatigue. The second study was conducted in the setting of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis, which also showed reduced fatigue and improved quality of life. We used these concepts in our Therapeutic Lifestyle Clinic and have helped people reverse diabetes, heart failure, neuropathic pain, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, early cognitive decline, and more.
We teach our patients how their unique DNA interacts with a lifetime of diet choices, physical activity level, and environmental factors to create a healthy, disease-resistant body or a sickly, inflamed one. Then we use a kitchen to teach people why and how to implement the diet I used to recover my health. Our diet plan stresses exclusion of gluten, dairy, and eggs and increased intake of leafy vegetables, sulfur-rich vegetables in the cabbage, onion, and mushroom families, and deeply pigmented vegetables and berries. These two changes can have dramatic results.
Without my years in the wheelchair, I would not have discovered that creating health is about repairing diet and lifestyle choices. That is the root of how we create health. My goal now is to create an epidemic of health. To further that goal, I wrote The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles and the companion cookbook, The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions.
My message to my patients and the public is this: If I can come back from profound disability, so can you.
By: Dr. Terry Wahls
Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and the cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. You can learn more about her work from her website, www.terrywahls.com. She hosts the Wahls Protocol Seminar every August where anyone can learn how to implement the Protocol with ease and success. Follow her on Facebook (Terry Wahls MD) and on Twitter at @TerryWahls.