Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for her brain and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is also the author of numerous books including The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine.
In the beginning of our conversation, Terry tells her story of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis back in 2000. She was eventually forced to do her hospital rounds in a wheelchair and was headed for a fate of being bedridden and possibly demented.
All of the medical experts told Terry that recovery was impossible. And yet, she never lost hope. Every night, she continued to dive into the research.
It wasn’t until Terry applied everything she learned from the medical literature, the Institute of Functional Medicine and her knowledge of the Hunter-Gatherer diet that her health finally began to turn around.
For Terry, “disease (and health) begins at the cellular level.” She recognized that she needed to design a diet for healing her cells, in particular her Mitochondria, the energy factories inside her cells.
The foundation of her diet is to cut out sugar and processed foods and replace them with leafy green vegetables as well as other colorful veggies. She says: “The average American has less than 2 servings of vegetables a day. We are clearly starving ourselves for nutrition.”
Unprocessed fat is also incredibly important for the body and the brain. She says: “When we went on the low fat craze for heart disease, we inadvertently started starving our brains of the fats we need to make myelin [insulation of nerves in the brain and spinal cord]. And that may be part of why there is such a dramatic increase in anxiety, depression, learning disorders and cognitive decline.”
Terry also recognizes the role of gut health in her autoimmune disease, in particular the community of trillions of microorganisms dwelling in her bowels. She says that “we depend on the microbes to help us run the chemistry of life.” The overuse of antibiotics, plus a high sugar and low fiber diet, contribute to an imbalance or dysbiosis in the gut. Thus, we are missing many of the important microbes needed to produce optimal health, energy and vitality.
In her book The Wahls Protocol, she writes this empowering message: “Your doctor cannot cure your autoimmune disease. Your medication can only ease your symptoms, sometimes with side effects that make you feel even worse… The power of healing is within you.” According to Terry, “The first thing we have to do is make the decision that I’m worth the effort, that I’m important and it’s worth it to me to take better care of myself.”
Terry offers the reminder that even during her darkest days when her body was steadily deteriorating, she realized that her young children were still watching her, and she could model resilience for them. This gave her the meaning, purpose and motivation to keep going.
Back in 2007, it was assumed that Terry would never get better from her disease, because it had never been done before. However after redesigning her diet and lifestyle, she transformed her health and did what all of the “experts” considered to be impossible.
Dr. Terry Wahls’ story has inspired people all over the world. I hope you enjoy our wonderful conversation!
You can learn more about Dr. Terry Wahls and her inspiring work here: https://terrywahls.com/