Wahls Protocol for More Than MS With Terry Wahls

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Katie: Hello and welcome to the Wellness Mama Podcast. I’m Katie from wellnessmama.com and I’m here today with someone who is a personal friend and also someone who I really look up to in the health world for her research and all of the work she has done to help so many people. I’m here with Dr. Terry Wahls, who is a clinical professor at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials, testing the efficacy of therapeutic lifestyle interventions to treat Multiple Sclerosis related symptoms. In addition, she is the author of “The Wahl’s Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine” and the cookbook “The Wahl’s Protocol for Life”. What is even more amazing about her story, Dr. Wahls was a patient with secondary progressive Multiple Sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt reclined wheelchair for four years. She restored her health using diet and lifestyle that she specifically designed for her own work and she now rides her bike to work each day and I believe has done triathlons. She is in incredible shape, she is thriving and absolutely beautiful and amazing in person. I cannot wait to share her with you, so without further ado, lets join Dr. Terry Wahls.

Dr. Terry Wahls, welcome and thanks for being here.

Dr. Wahls: Oh, thank you so much for having me.

Katie: Well, I knew I had to have you back on when I realized you were one of my first guests ever on this podcast, Episode 25, I think. I’ll make sure that’s linked in the show notes if you guys did not hear it. It was an amazing episode and I figured 250 Episodes later, it was about time to have you back because I know you have been deep in the research, learning amazing things for the last few years and I just had to bring you back and share you with the audience again. So thank you for your time being here today.

Dr. Wahls: Oh, thank you so much for having me back.

Katie: And to start, even though you covered it in-depth in the first episode, I would love if you could just walk us through your story because there’s a lot of new listeners who aren’t familiar with your amazing story.

Dr. Wahls: So I am a professor of internal medicine and I had a very skeptical view of complementary alternative medicine. And I taught my young physicians to be skeptical as well, but God works in mysterious ways. I, in 2000 began to have problems with stumbling and was evaluated. As part of that, I got MRIs, spinal taps, lots of blood tests, and they diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis.

I wanted to treat my disease very aggressively. I sought out the best people in the country, took the newest drugs, including these new biologic drugs costing tens of thousands of dollars each month. But I went relentlessly downhill, within three years I’m too weak to sit up in a regular chair and I need a tilt recline wheelchair. I’ve had episodes of trigeminal neuralgia, which is electrical face pain that had started 20 years earlier and those have been getting steadily worse.

And by 2007 year, I was really on the verge of being forced into medical retirement. It was clear. I had a trajectory of becoming bedridden, demented, quite possibly horrific levels of pain that were not going to be controlled. But fortunately, I’d been reading the basic science, ancestral health principles, and functional medicine, and would ultimately create this diet and lifestyle program that to my amazement got me out of that wheelchair.

And with my neurologist’s blessing, I was able to wean and discontinue these potent disease-modifying drugs that had never done anything for me really. And so I’m off the drugs and I’m able to do a 20-mile bike ride with my family. So this of course radically changes how I practice medicine. It would radically change the focus of my research. And so, at first people here at the university thought I was pretty eccentric and a bit odd. Now as my research is being published and recognized by more and more centers and we have greater success with getting grants in larger studies, I’m being hailed as this brilliant visionary. So many, many wonderful things have happened in this story.

Katie: It’s amazing. I mean, truly you just don’t hear that…well, now you do because you’re helping thousands of people do it. But people literally recovering, getting out of a wheelchair, and going back to an active lifestyle. And now I know you personally, I know just how busy you are with all your research and all the people you help and you seem to have kind of endless energy. So you’re definitely a testament to the fact that it works. And I know that in the last few years, what I’m so excited to go deep with you on today is you found this for you, for MS, and you’ve realized through research that it actually has far-reaching benefits for a variety of conditions. Is that right, besides just MS?

Dr. Wahls: Yeah. Absolutely. So, if we go back 10 years when I changed my practice, so I’m using these concepts in primary care. So I’m for the first time reversing type 2 diabetes, reversing obesity, reversing rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, fibromyalgia, helping people with traumatic brain injury recover remarkable function. Then the VA here at the Iowa city, said, “We want to take you out of your primary care clinic and let you run your own specialty clinic.”

So we did that. We called it the therapeutic lifestyle clinic and I went to primary care and to…the pain clinic had said, “Give me your most difficult cases, but people need to know they’re not getting drugs from me. We’re just going to use diet and lifestyle.” So I saw the most difficult people with refractory disease that were still having a great deal of pain, and time and time again, I stabilized them, I reduced their pain, got them off narcotics and got better control of a wide variety of disease states.

And many of these were serious autoimmune problems that they could not control even with multiple very potent biologic disease-modifying drugs. I mean, costing tens of thousands of dollars each month. So the VA nationally was very interested in what I was doing because I had this remarkable success. And the VA locally was very impressed because I was saving all this money in terms of the pharmacy cost because we’re having such a remarkable effect.

Katie: That’s amazing. Okay. So for anyone who’s not familiar, and of course, I highly recommend everything you’ve written, you go into it in detail in your books, but what are the basics of this diet and lifestyle approach and why do you think that makes it so effective?

Dr. Wahls: So we talk about the role of the environment, turning your genes on and off, and so we teach people how the mechanisms work. Then we teach them the basic tenants of the diet that our food’s been designed by the food companies because there’s a big profit motive to create food that creates us to be addicted to these foodstuffs and over-consume them. And so there’s a lot of food like chemicals added that are addicting and fertilize the wrong microbes in our gut.

So when people get rid of these foods that are so inflammatory. So it’s the big three: sugar, gluten, which is the protein in wheat, rye, barley, and many ancient grains, and casein, the protein in dairy. And then for many people eggs are a problem. So I have to take eggs out as well. I tell them really what you want to be eating are vegetables and your source of protein. I have a strategy for meat-eaters and a different one for non-meat eaters. So that’s the entry-level diet, and depending on their health issues, we may advance it further, more specifically for them. Then we talk about a meditative mindfulness gratitude type of practice.

And in many ways, they can do that. And we talk about the role of physical activity. And again, this depends on where the person is at in terms of beginning to increase their physical activity at a pace and tempo that is appropriate given their current level of function. Because some of my folks are so disabled they can just shuffle a few steps on their walker. And some are folks who just got out of the military. So we design activity programs very specific to the individual.

Katie: That makes sense. And one thing I love about your approach is that you also, instead of just focusing on the bad because a lot of dietary approaches do that. The things you have to avoid, you also really go into detail on how to support the body nutritionally and the things that your body needs. So can we talk about that part too?

Dr. Wahls: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. So, I think most people know that I really love the paleo diet. I’m very, very fond of that. But what people may forget is that in my own healing journey, I’d been vegetarian for 20 years. My Cleveland clinic doctors introduced me to the concept of the paleo diet. I adopted that, but I continued to decline. So the paleo diet wasn’t enough to recover me.

I stayed with it because scientifically I thought it made some sense. I didn’t know how long it would take to recover, but when I redesigned my paleo diet in a very specific way based on what I learned in functional medicine and the supplements I was using to support my brain, that’s when I came up with this dietary protocol that led to this dramatic restoration of strength. And so here are the key concepts. We want lots of vegetables in the following grouping, in three cups of greens, three cups of cabbage, onion, mushroom family vegetables, in three cups of deeply pigmented vegetables like beets, carrots or berries.

And for people who are not fine in the cups system if you take a big dinner plate and you cover the whole plate so you can’t see the bottom, that would be the equivalent of three cups. So we’re talking three plates of vegetables measured raw, and you could eat them raw or you can eat them cooked according to your preferences or needs. But that will give you an idea of the volume. It’s also… I’m not trying to make you over-consume.

So if you’re a very petite individual and in our studies, we had some very petite folks and they were eating more like six cups of vegetables. So we’re not trying to overfeed you, but there’s no need for you to be hungry. So if you’re hungry, we want you to eat more of the allowed foods. But there’s no need. This is not a weight loss program, although people who are overweight typically lose weight because they get back to the weight that they had often in high school or their early 20s without being hungry. I want to make that very clear.

Katie: Got it. So what’s the mechanism that’s going on, or why these specific groupings of vegetables?

Dr. Wahls: So the greens we’re doing that because I want to have a lot more carotenoids. These compounds are phenomenally important for the retina of your eye and for your brain cells. You’ll also get a lot more magnesium in them, more folate, and some of the compounds that are used in detoxification. The sulfur-containing vegetables are really important for how your body processes and eliminates the chemical trash that we make in the chemistry of life. And the pollutant synthetic compounds that are in air, water, and food that we eat, just because there are so many chemicals that we encounter in everyday in life. They’re also important for some neurotransmitters that we make in our brain.

And then the third area, the deep colors, colors are a really good marker for antioxidants. And these antioxidants again, are necessary for protecting ourselves as they do the chemistry of life. We have huge studies with millions plus people in them, when you combine them in these meta-analyses, that show us the more color that you eat, the better your brain is, the less cognitive decline you’ll have, the less cancer you will have, the less diabetes you’ll have, the less heart disease you’ll have.

And that’s also true, not just of the more servings of color, but also the more servings of vegetables in general. So I think the research is very, very good that particularly the non-starchy vegetables, incredibly good for us. And then I want to be sure that people have protein. So we talk about protein strategies for the meat-eaters and the non-meat-eaters. The meat-eaters, I tell them to eat a little less meat. I want them to still eat meat, but not quite as much as they would normally in a paleo diet, because I’m giving them a lot more vegetables. And the vegetarians, I’m trying to be sure that they’re having a sufficient amount of protein.

And the other thing I do is I talk about fat, that our brain is about 70% fat. And fat is involved in the wiring between brain cells. It’s in the fat wrapped around every cell in our body. We need fat to make some really important hormones like testosterone and all of our estrogen hormones, and our cortisol adrenal hormones. If we don’t have enough cholesterol to make those things, if you’re a man, you’re totally screwed because you need testosterone. If you’re a lady, you’re totally screwed because you need estrogen for your bones to work in both cases and for your brains to work independent of your fertility issues.

So those sex hormones are vital to us and we want our brain to work. So we need fat, we need some cholesterol. We want to be sure that we’re avoiding damaged fats. So I talk about if you’re going to cook with fat, it should be a saturated fat. Otherwise, you’re gonna use olive oil. Please use it cold as in a addressing or sauce after you’ve made something and to have lots of avocados, which is absolutely good for you, and lots of cold olive oil, fabulously good stuff for you.

Katie: Yeah. And it seems like that the vegetable key is something that almost every dietary approach agrees with. I know there’s a couple now that don’t. But in general, that’s one thing that most people seem to agree with is that we are probably not consuming enough vegetables in the U.S, but you take it to a really targeted level with, if I’m understanding it, removing the inflammatory components in food and then using really targeted nutrients to replenish those levels in the body. Is that what’s causing the shift in autoimmunity?

Dr. Wahls: Correct. That’s what’s causing the shift. And the other thing that I wanna observe is, say every other author out there writing about their recommended diet I’m the only one that does clinical research testing the diet that they talk about. I’m the only one who’s taken the time to actually do a research-level analysis of that diet to say, and this diet will provide this level of nutrients and that’s how it compares to the recommended daily allowance or the adequate intake recommendations.

So I’m really the only one who can say this diet would be safe long-term. Not only would it be safe, it’d be vastly superior to the average dietary consumption and equivalent or superior to the healthy eating plan that’s been recommended. Because I’m the only one that’s doing clinical research, and also, out there trying to teach the public how to do this stuff.

Katie: Yeah. And I know you are very deeply involved in that world. Can you walk us through the mechanism of what’s happening on a cellular level or what… I know it’s the body’s capacity to heal itself is incredible and we’re supporting that but what’s going on in the body when this change is happening.

Dr. Wahls: So, life is we exist because of a series of self-correcting chemical reactions. And so the biggest thing we need to do is to stop the destruction that’s going on. When we are consuming these inflammatory foods they may leak into our bloodstream. And so these inflammatory proteins are recognized by our immune cells as a threat and the immune cells will then rev up, release more inflammatory very damaging proteins into our bloodstream that…again, depending on your specific genetics.

So in my case, my brain would be damaged and my spinal cord would be damaged. And then over time, I developed some psoriasis. So then my skin starts getting damaged. I also have asthma, so my lungs were getting damage. And I’m having to take more and more steroids and nebulizers for the asthma, creams for the psoriasis. And when I learn how to remove all these inflammatory foods, the asthma’s gone, the psoriasis is gone. And I had this dramatic steady improvement in strength and balance. And of course I’m doing intensive physical therapy, so I have this recovery.

So you have to stop the damage. And then in order to have my cells repair the damage to my skin, repair the damage to my lung, rewire my brain, I have to have all the building blocks. So in my case, I need, you need…and we all need a lot of the correct fats so your cells can come in and repair and replace the stiff molecules in my cell membranes that have the damaged fats with the proper fats in the cell membrane. So the cell membrane is fluid again. And then in the cellular structures in my lungs, again, I need the proper fats. I need to able to remove some of the toxins.

So the sulfur compounds from that sulfur group of families remarkably improved the cells in my lungs and also added to the flexibility of the small arterials in the muscles around the blood vessels. So my blood pressure improves. And the other thing that is really fun is if you look at photographs of me, serially, you see that I steadily was looking older and older, and at age 52, when I was at my worst, I looked much, much older than my stated age. And now each year I keep looking younger and younger, my hair’s getting more gray, but I’d say my face looks younger and younger and younger.

And I’ve done a biomarker looking at telomeres which is a lovely biologic marker of how old your cells are. And when I ordered that I braced myself for getting results that would say that my telomere age was 5 years, maybe 10 years older than my chronologic age. Because after all, I do have a progressive neurodegenerative disease with progressive MS. But it came back and I’m 12 years younger than stated age. And so biologically by giving myself the building blocks they need to do chemistry of life, they keep repairing the damage, but you have to flood it with the proper nutrition.

Katie: That’s amazing. And that speaks to the fact that even for listeners who maybe hopefully don’t have an autoimmune disease, because I have one and wouldn’t wish it on anyone, that there is a really strong anti-aging and potential longevity component to this type of diet, correct?

Dr. Wahls: Absolutely. We would see that in clinics that people would come back looking younger and younger and younger. That was very consistent. To me, it looks like visually people would get back, go back about 10 years. That was very common.

Katie: It makes sense because you’re focusing on a lot of the things that are largely missing from our modern diets. And you’re putting them back in in huge amounts, which makes total sense because I’m a very big believer in the body’s ability to move back toward health when you just give it the right building blocks, that’s been part of my own journey was realizing this is not a fight. You’re not fighting your body. You’re just supporting your body and it knows what to do if we give it those building blocks. Does that mean there’s also… Have you studied the preventative aspects of this type of diet as well as their hope for preventing some of these problems?

Dr. Wahls: I don’t have research to tell me the clinical trials. I do have clinical experience. In that, many of these families, they come in, they make these transformations. Because I tell them it’s far more successful as a family and so that they should get their kids when they’re home to eat this way, and realize that you can’t control what they do away from home once they’re off to school. But many of these families are recognizing that getting their children to eat this way begins to change the children’s behavior for better, begins to change their academic performance for better, and they’re seeing new, happier children.

And so we had this conversation, like, you have prevented big health challenges and probably big life challenges for those youngsters by having them begin to adopt a healthy lifestyle. And we certainly have folks who have like the APOE-e4 gene and who have parents who’ve had dementia and grandparents who had dementia. And so they’re like, “Oh, my God, I don’t want to get dementia.” And so they’ve adopted my diet and lifestyle program, and they’re doing extraordinarily well.

Katie: That was actually going to be one of my follow-up questions because I know with APOE are there some concerns with saturated fats for anyone who’s not familiar with it? Can you explain what that means?

Dr. Wahls: Yeah. So APOE-e4 is a gene that regulates in part how we handle fats. And there’s been a big debate if you have APOE-e4 what does that mean? We know it increases your risk for Alzheimer’s. How should we feed that person? Should we put them on a low-fat diet? Should we put them on a high-fat diet? If we use a high-fat diet, which kind of fat should be used? So there’s a lot of research questions about that.

What is very clear that we all agree on, you want them to not have any sugar. You want them to not have white flour, that you’d rather that they have a relatively low grain or no grain diet. They would probably do well in a ketogenic diet. If you do a ketogenic diet the agreement is that avoiding MCT oil, coconut oil would be preferable, probably avoiding butter is also preferable. So now olive oil would be what’s recommended. It’s also what I’d recommend.

And I have plenty of APOE followers who use my diet, lots of olive oil, and will eat just once a day so that they will have like 16 to 18 hours to 20 hours of not eating. That means that…and they can eat like 80 grams of carbs, lots of olive oil. They’ll go out of ketosis, but in 12 hours they’ll be back because they’ll have used up all of their glycogen stores. They will be back in ketosis for about eight hours if they eat once a day. And that’s worked very well for them. And many of these folks…I mean, I’ve met some of these APOE folks in their late 80s and 90s who are still traveling. Still going to meetings, still run into me at a variety of Ancestral Health meetings and still playing chess. It’s very impressive. I’m like, “Wow, these folks are doing well.”

Katie: That’s amazing. And you touched on another question that was on my list, which is fasting has obviously become very popular in the last couple of years, whether it be intermittent fasting, water fasting, there’s a lot of different forms. I’m curious how you see this fitting in with your approach. Is there a place for it, and if so, how can someone who also likes to fast in some form integrate that?

Dr. Wahls: That is a great, great question. In fact, in my book, I talk a lot more about fasting. Because I think the research is absolutely so very compelling about the benefits of ketosis, about the benefits of either calorie restriction. So we’re eating only about 70% of what we need. So you’re chronically hungry all the time. That one’s very difficult for people to do forever for the rest of your life voluntarily. But you can do this severe calorie restriction for a week out of each month. And that’s really the fasting-mimicking diet. Great benefits for doing that.

And that’s much easier to sustain. You could do severe calorie restriction two days a month or two days a week, and there’s also good benefits with that. You could do a high-fat diet, lower in carb, good benefits with that. It’s not quite so clear if we should do that for the rest of your life or not. There are circumstances where I think it’s definitely helpful. I have to agree if you’ve got cancer or severe seizure disorder. And then I talk about the fact, if we look at what our ancestral mothers and fathers had to deal with, once we migrated out of equatorial regions and moved into areas where there is winter, our ancestral mothers and fathers were in ketosis during every winter or during the war or during drought. But we don’t really have any societies that are in ketosis nutritionally for the rest of their lives. For that reason, my stance is that ketosis the rest of your life is uncertain.

There’s clinical circumstances where I think it’s the right thing to do, but I’m not comfortable recommending that for everyone. I am very comfortable saying seasonal ketosis. That would’ve been the equivalence of the winter for your ancestral group. There’s plenty of evidence that that would be probably very good for you. When you go longer than that, now we’re back to, I’m not really sure what the risks are if you want to do that the rest of your life.

Katie: Okay, cool. And to circle back. So you mentioned a couple questions ago about this being a great approach for families and having a lot of benefits for children, which makes sense because they have even faster cellular turnover and they’re growing and they’ve got more hormone production. I’m guessing there are some parents listening going, “That’s all great and all, but how do I actually get my kids to eat nine cups of vegetables per day?” Do you have any suggestions for families you’re actually implementing?

Dr. Wahls: So yes, many. Talk about food nonstop. Remember that our kids are being overwhelmed with marketing to get them to eat terrible foods to which they’ll become addicted. Get all the food that you think is wrong out of the house and have plenty of food that is good for them in the house so that when they’re hungry, there’s food that is tasty and available. So fruit, nuts, guacamole, for example, would work really well. My kids loved kale chips and would take kale chips to school. Their friends love that. My kids actually loved… We made some liver and onion treats, bacon-wrapped liver that they loved. They would bake for their friends, and the friends loved it as well. So it’s possible to make food that is very, very tasty.

Having the kids help with shopping, cooking, and teach them how to cook beginning at age 5 is incredibly helpful. And if mom and dad are excited about these meals kids will emulate what they see us do. The other thing that is so important is to get extended family on board with this. And to recognize that many kids during elementary school, you’ll have much better success at controlling their decisions of what they’re going to eat. When they go to junior high they might start cheating and they’ll experience their health consequences. And hopefully eventually come back and say, “Mom, dad, I feel bad, I’d like to improve my diet.” And then you can help them. Because you want them to make their poor choices and come back to you before they go off to college before they move away from home, where it’s harder to get back connected to you to get re-schooled on good choices.

Katie: What about with kids especially, so I have six kids and they’re all extremely active to the tune of like running around the neighborhood multiple miles per day, sometimes up to 10 miles per day. Do kids have a higher need for adding in more things like fruit and starchy vegetables? And is there a place for that?

Dr. Wahls: So absolutely. And here the question is you’re going to have to have enough protein to be sure that they can meet their protein needs. And is the child obese already on the path to type 2 diabetes, already on the path to a serious autoimmune disease, or are they healthy athlete? So we really have to personalize based on, am I treating a healthy athlete who’s on football doing a lot of weight training, or is on distance-sports in track. So we have to personalize that. Or, do I have a youngster who has already developed multiple sclerosis or inflammatory bowel disease, or type 2 diabetes, or severe behavioral problems?

Katie: Yeah, it’s sad and scary to see the numbers rising for young people who are going through all of those problems.

Dr. Wahls: One in two children. Now, when I talk to my pediatric friends, one in two children are having serious health problems. A little side note, I’m incredibly excited. A good friend of mine, Elisa Song and I are discussing, putting together a future pediatric medicine conference for the fall of 2020. Because we’re all so alarmed by what we see going on in the public and that clinicians and families are trying to find pediatricians and family docs who will take care of children with complex issues from more of an integrative diet and therapeutic lifestyle perspective.

Katie: I definitely have to keep an eye out for that one. I’m also curious because I’ve heard from a lot of parents who are having especially daughters go through puberty early. I’m curious if an approach like this, there may not be studies, but I know that like for instance, green vegetables help bind to excess estrogen in the body and excess estrogen-mimicking products in the body. Do you think an approach like this can help children have an easier hormonal experience through puberty?

Dr. Wahls: Well, yes, absolutely. I think it would help prevent and delay that early-onset puberty. It will also help prevent that estrogen dominance. So that greatly reduces the severity of pelvic pain in severe cramping, severe bleeding. It’s funny, my daughter… And many, many of our patients have all come in to say, “Really paying attention to my diet makes all the difference in terms of the severity of my pelvic pain, the severity of the menstrual bleeding. When I’m not following the diet, the period is heavy, hard. I’m miserable. When I’m on the diet, it is so much more manageable.”

Katie: It makes sense.

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Katie: Also, a question I’ve had for you is there’s kind of that debate in the health world of do we ever need supplements or why can’t we get everything we need from food? And I would say your approach is probably the best one I could possibly think of getting close to getting everything we could possibly need from food because you’re consuming such a wide variety of micronutrients and enough antioxidants. What’s your take on the role of supplements and if we need them and how to know if we need them?

Dr. Wahls: Well, my diet was designed and we measured and we verified that, yes, we’re meeting all of the RDAs. So we’re doing extraordinarily well there. I do recommend everyone get their vitamin D level. And then work with your personal medical team to take supplements either by sunlight exposure or by an oral supplement to get your vitamin D in the top half of the reference range.

Then depending on your health issue, there may be a compelling reason to take additional supplements, additional Omega-3’s, additional vitamin K. And perhaps additional other targeted supplements based on your specific health story and your symptoms. So I really like to personalize that. I talk about this in my book. I give people a very nice discussion of what are the factors that I consider, what are the labs I use to evaluate? So people could work with their primary care doc, get the labs that I’ve suggested and then they could sort of work through with their primary care doc, what additional supplements might be right for them.

Katie: That makes sense. Another thing I’m curious about because I’m just thinking of the aspect of chewing nine cups of vegetables. What do you think about smoothies? I know that there’s some debate there as far as if they’re good for the gut or not. What do you think?

Dr. Wahls: So smoothies can be very helpful. A lot of people with my community, neurologic disorders, we can have difficulty chewing all of that food and begin to have difficulty swallowing. So, for them, fabulously helpful. For people who are really busy, if you’re like…and who don’t want to do time-restricted feeding, having a smoothie and a protein bar makes it easy for them to get the calories in, in the morning in their busy, hectic day for work.

So I think that’s great. And personally, I often make a green smoothie in the evening with fresh garden herbs with a little olive oil, a few green grapes. And I have that as part of my evening beverage. I also, because I want to have plenty of enzymes, I chew a little bitter kale before my meal to get my digestive enzymes activated. So it’s the chewing and the bitter flavors that really help with your digestive enzymes. And you do want to have a lot of chewing. So I mean, I make sure that I have a vigorous piece of meat that’s going to require a lot of chewing for every meal because that chewing is a very important part of the digestive process.

Katie: Absolutely. And especially, I say that to parents a lot for kids because that’s actually, especially chewing things like tough meat is for the jaw development and the mandible maxilla developing correctly. You actually need pressure. And like in the U.S. we give, babies only like soft baby food and we give kids these soft foods that require no actual chewing and we’re seeing that change in their jaw structure as a result. I think you’re right, there are so many benefits to chewing as well, but smoothies are a good way to get it in, work quickly if you’re just trying to make sure you hit your levels.

Dr. Wahls: Right. If you do smoothies, you want to use some bitters before the meal and you want to be sure that you’re eating something that requires hard work to eat. Incredibly important for our children. There’s a great book “Jaws” that talks about that very issue. So all this airway obstruction problem, sleep apnea has to do with our lack of chewing when we’re children. And then lack of chewing as adults.

Katie: I will link that book in the show notes if you guys want to find it. Dr. Wahls, what’s exciting for you in the research right now? I know that you’re constantly still researching.

Dr. Wahls: Oh, so we have this great… We’ve had several studies, using the diet that I studied showing favorable results, reducing fatigue, improving quality of life for people with MS. We have a big study funded by the MS society comparing a low-fat diet to the Wahls diet. We’ll be finishing that study in January and probably publishing those results sometime in 2020 or 2021. That’s very exciting.

We are in the process of working to get approval to do a quasi-experimental study where we’ll be taking people newly diagnosed with MS who want to use diet and lifestyle, have been offered drugs and have declined drugs. We will enroll them and treat them with Wahls Protocol, compare them to a cohort of groups newly diagnosed with MS, getting usual care at the MS clinic. And so that’s going to be an incredibly exciting study.

We’re raising money to analyze the freezer full of blood that I have from all of my previous studies. I’d like to see what are the changes in the biomarkers, as people adapt the Wahls Protocol compared to those who don’t. So that’s very, very exciting that we’re working on looking at changes in neurofilament, changes in the metabolome, changes in gene expression. We have collected the poop so we’ll be looking at changes in the microbiome between adapting the Wahls diet before and after. So it’s exciting. It’s hard to sleep at night because I’m so excited about all the wonderful things that are going on.

Katie: That is really exciting. And I know you are, like I mentioned, in the beginning, one of the busiest people I know. So I’m so grateful. I want to make sure I respect your time and we have about, I think 10 minutes left. A few questions I love to ask toward the end. The first is, what are some areas that you feel like are still not known or misunderstood about your area of expertise?

Dr. Wahls: Well, when we change the diet what is happening with the microbiome, we are beginning to understand what species change. But I don’t think it’s really the species. I think it’s the genes within the bacteria. So it’s really the processes that we’re dependent on. And so the studies that are going to be looking at what’s called the metabolic processes that the microbes can do for us. The studies that we’ll be publishing on that metabolome I think will be the most exciting. So I think that’s probably a very important mechanism of how diet is so profound.

And another area that I’m becoming more and more impressed with is the importance of what I call as the resilience factors. So I spend more and more time in clinic and I spend more time in my books talking about how we grow the internal resilience to do this work. How do we help people have more desire to make these changes, to deal with the discomfort? And so I see more research on what are the emotional pillars associated with success and how do we nurture that for people? Because I don’t think people struggle from lack of knowledge, I think they struggle from lack of emotional resilience. Lack of internal motivation, and so deepening the understanding of how we help people nurture that in themselves, I think will be incredibly important.

Katie: That’s fascinating. I think you’re right, especially in today’s world. Like, when you and I both probably started this, there was not this huge amount of knowledge that there is now and there wasn’t access to all of this, but now people largely, I think, know what they should do or know what helps them feel good, and it’s continuing to do it day after day that seems to be the struggle.

Dr. Wahls: It is hard. And I think there are not as many people in this space talking about these resilience factors or paying sufficient attention to how we help people grow their internal motivation. So I’m working on that in my faculty role, trying to incorporate more of that in my lectures. And in my seminar that’s what we really focus on is that we spend a lot of time on the resilience, the purpose, the meaning, and to help people really blossom their resolve.

Katie: That’s fascinating. And I look forward to keeping up with your research on that because I think you’re right. That’s a huge key that we’re missing. A couple other questions I love to wrap up with. If there is a book or number of books that have dramatically changed your life, if so, what are they and why?

Dr. Wahls: Well, I love my book, “The Wahls Protocol” and the cookbook. There were a huge amount of work writing them, yeah, and getting them out there. Another book that I’ve just read, “The Nature Cure” that was written by a German physician talking about some of the traditional healing methods including leeches. And that was really fascinating looking at some of these traditional practices, what are their health benefits and what research is out there. And so, that was quite fun reading. And another book that I read many, many years ago, Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search for Meaning.” And his big thesis there was between every event in your life, and your response to it, there’s a space and that space defines your character. And so that was very inspirational for me as I was going through my profound disability that I could keep thinking about. I wanted to be a role model for my kids, and so I couldn’t give up. I had to keep doing the best that I could.

Katie: That’s one of my favorite books as well. I love that you mentioned that one. And lastly, any parting advice you want to leave for the listeners today, especially maybe listeners who are struggling with autoimmune disease or in that place of a health crisis like you were.

Dr. Wahls: The first thing to do is to remove the inflammatory foods, get rid of sugar, gluten, dairy, I’d encourage you also to get rid of eggs, and then ramp up the green sulfur color. You need to know that this is an experiment that you should run, ideally for 100 days, but at least for a month. But you want to do it 100%. If you’re having occasional cheat meals, you’re keeping the inflammation going. And so you won’t know, could diet help you? So talk to your family, pick a start time, purge your house so only the right food is around you. And then run the experiment and see what being all in 110% on the diet could do for you.

Katie: Awesome. And I know you have a lot of resources for that. I’ll make sure that your website and your books and all of your resources are linked in the show notes at wellnessmama.fm. So if you guys are listening and you’re driving or running or whatever it may be, don’t worry about writing that down, go check out the show notes and you can find everything there. Dr. Wahls, thank you so much for coming back and sharing more on this and for all the research you do.

Dr. Wahls: Thank you so much. Thank you so very much.

Katie: Well, thank you and thanks to all of you for listening, for sharing one of your most valuable assets, your time with both of us today. We’re so grateful that you did and I hope that you will join me again on the next episode of “The Wellness Mama Podcast.”

If you’re enjoying these interviews, would you please take two minutes to leave a rating or review on iTunes for me? Doing this helps more people to find the podcast, which means even more moms and families could benefit from the information. I really appreciate your time, and thanks as always for listening.