"Physician, heal yourself" means more than a proverb to Dr. Terry Wahls. Suffering from multiple sclerosis (MS), Dr. Wahls customized the traditional low carb Paleo diet in an attempt to alleviate her symptoms. In a March 16 interview with the Iowa City Press-Citizen, she explained how she experimented with her diet before coming up with what she now calls "The Wahls Protocol."
And Dr. Wahls says that the benefits are not limited to MS. She believes that her version of the Paleo diet can be used for purposes ranging from treating autoimmune disease symptoms in children to relieving allergies. Her journey and complete diet plan are detailed in her new book "The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine" (click for details).
A clinical professor at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Iowa City VA Health Care System, Dr. Wahls is involved in research on her diet interventions to determine the disease-specific purposes for which the Paleo diet, traditionally used for weight loss and general health improvement, can be used.
Prior to her diagnosis in 2000, Dr. Wahls biked and performed martial arts. But the diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system, limited her to requiring canes to move even short distances. Seeking alternative therapies, she began her diet experiments.
Zach Wahls, her son, noted that her energy level and mobility have improved since she changed her diet.
"She was exhausted," he said. "You could see it in her face, and you could see it in the way she moved."
And now Dr. Wahls feels that she has succeeded in using food as her medicine. As for those who criticize the Paleo diet for cutting out food groups?
"Walking feels better than any food I might miss," she said.
Although readers will learn to customize the low carb diet for their own use, including weight loss, the basic food groups in "The Wahls Protocol" include:
- Leafy green vegetables
- Fresh fruits
- Produce and organic meats
- Healthy fats
Eliminated food groups include gluten, dairy, sugar, grains, legumes and certain vegetables.