Dr Terry Wahls, award winning functional medicine M.D. joins me to share her powerful story of healing from a crippling case of MS which left her wheelchair bound for four years. She developed a diet and lifestyle protocol that got her running and biking again, and has the power to reverse all chronic autoimmune conditions.
Functional Medicine M.D.
Dr. Terry Wahls is an MD and a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she conducts clinical trials. She became interested in functional medicine after her own health crisis and became an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner. She has 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. In 2018 she was awarded the Institute for Functional Medicine’s Linus Pauling Award for her contributions in research, clinical care and patient advocacy. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles.
Maria Marlowe: [00:00:33] Welcome back to the Happier and Healthier Podcast. Today, I’m thrilled to bring you Dr. Terry Wahls. Dr. Wahls is a traditional M.D. turned functional medicine M.D. who is most well-known for developing the Wahls protocol after healing herself from M.S. She at one point had ended up in a wheelchair and was just getting progressively worse. But then she decided to dig into the research to study functional medicine, and ultimately she drastically changed her diet and lifestyle. Lo and behold, her M.S. symptoms started to reverse and she was eventually able to get out of that wheelchair and even start biking and running again. She’s here to share some tips from her latest book, The Wahls Protocol, a radical new way to treat all chronic autoimmune conditions using paleo principles.
Maria Marlowe: [00:01:34] Before we get started. Check out these brands that make The Happier And Healthier podcast possible. If you’re looking for better health and especially better digestion, then you have to check out my favorite probiotic brand, Hyperbiotics. Digestive health is the root of our overall health. And it’s so important to get it under control and get it healthy. Not just so you’re not embarrassed with gas and bloating or constantly running to the bathroom or maybe never running to the bathroom because you’re constipated. It is so important that we nourish our gut and take care of our gut, because when it’s not healthy and it’s not working properly, it’s only a matter of time before we start seeing other health problems, whether that skin problems, auto immune problems and lower immunity, because our digestive system is so intricately linked with our immune system and so much more. So if you’re having digestive issues currently, gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, of course, definitely check with your doctor. But you probably also want to look into a probiotic.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:44] Dr. Wahls, thanks so much for being here.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:02:46] Great. Thank you for having me.
Maria Marlowe: [00:02:48] Well, as listeners of this podcast know, I actually mentioned you all the time on the show whenever we’re talking about autoimmune disease, because you have quite a unique and interesting story. Let’s start there.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:03:00] Sure. So I am a professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. And so it was a very conventional physician, very skeptical of special diet supplements, functional medicine. But, you know, God has a mysterious way of teaching us. So in 2000, I developed some weakness in my left leg, got a big evaluation, was ultimately diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. And again, being professor of medicine, I certainly believe in the best drugs. And it was technology. So did some research found the best center in the country, saw them, selected their best people, took the newest drugs and went steadily downhill. Now, two years into this, my physicians told me about the work of Loren Cordain. I read his books, his papers, and after a lot of prayer and meditation, I went back to eating meat. That was a big deal because I’ve got a low fat vegetarian for about 20 years. So I gave up all grain, all the grooms, all dairy and resumed eating meat, continued to decline. I was taking ever more aggressive drugs, including those new biologics. And it was very apparent, in next year I needed a recline wheelchair. It was very apparent that the best drugs, the best docs were not likely to stop this march towards a bedridden, demented and possibly intractable pain. Because another part of my symptom complex was trigeminal neuralgia, which actually it started during medical school back in 1980.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:04:32] And these episodes were more frequent, more severe in much more difficult to turn off. So I ultimately decided to start reading the basic science literature about the animal models for multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and would decide that mitochondria were a big driver in all of those conditions. And so I would continue to some research and would develop a supplement protocol specifically for my mitochondria. And I figured out that that made my fatigue slightly less and it slowed the speed of my decline. So I’m immensely grateful, but I am still declining. By the summer of 2007 I’m so weak, I cannot sit up in a regular chair. There’s a zero gravity chair with my knees higher than my nose. I have one work, one at home. And, you know, it’s remarkable that the V.A. and the university have been redesigning my job multiple times to allow me to continue to work. And one of the things that happened was I was assigned to the Institutional Review Board. So I’m helping review clinical trials for safety. I’m getting more and more comfortable reading the research. I’d volunteer to read all the brain related stuff, so I’m getting a longer list of things I’m taking.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:05:52] Then I discovered the Institute for Functional Medicine. I take their course on neuro protection. Again, I have a longer list of stuff. And by this time, again, in the summer of 07, I’m so weak, I cannot sit up. I’m beginning to have some brain fog issues. My pain is getting much more severe, more, much more difficult to manage in. So it’s quite apparent that I will soon finally have to apply for medical disability. But I have another really big aha moment, which, of course, you and your tribe will go like. Why did it take you so long to see the obvious here? What if I redesign my diet in a very specific way, still following the paleo diet. But if I look for the food sources of all these things, I was taking in supplement form. What happens then? So again, that’s several more months of research and I finally get that worked out and I start this new way of eating December 26, 2007. So what I really have done is created a much more structured paleo diet. And over the next three months, it’s really quite remarkable. My fatigue is gone. My brain fog is gone and my pain is gone and I’m getting stronger. In fact, I can sit up at the table again.That is just stunning.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:07:13] And then it’s apparent that I am getting stronger because I’ve been doing my physical therapy. I’m able to do that a little more effectively. My therapist begins advancing my exercises and we add weight lifting. And then about six months into this, I get on my bike for the first time in six years and we bike around the block. My son’s jogging with me. My daughter is struggling with me. They’re crying. My wife is crying. I’m crying because this really feels miraculous. I had understood with progressive M.S. that functions once lost are gone forever and I’m continuing to work at this. In about another three months my wife sees that there is a bigger community bike ride the courage ride. And we sign up for that as a family. And of course, it’s like, well, however far I can go will be a big deal. And we go and in, in fact, I’m once again able to do the whole bike ride. So once again, you know, my son is crying, my daughter’s crying, my wife’s crying, I’m crying. And this really transforms how I think about disease and health. It transforms the way I practice medicine. And it will ultimately transform the type of research that I do.
Maria Marlowe: [00:08:34] That’s an incredible story, I think most people like you said when you think of M.S., you think it’s going in one direction and you were really the first to show that actually it can reverse. So I want to get back to you had mentioned that you had followed a vegan or vegetarian diet for a really long time. Yeah. What role do you feel that, that type of the diet had?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:08:59] You know, certainly for me, it was it contributed to my problems. Eventually, I’ve come to realize I have a severe reaction to gluten, dairy and eggs. If I have any of those foods in 6 to 24 hours, my electrical face pain turns on. Was it the sole factor as to why I got so disabled. Well, no, absolutely not. It’s just one of the contributing factors. Certainly we have much more recognition that develop an autoimmunity that typically is 200 to 300 different genes that increase your risk slightly. And then there’s this intermittent interaction with the foods that you eat, the microbes you have in your gut. The toxins which you’ve been exposed. Your physical activity levels, your smoking status, your nutrition levels, and probably other stuff that you haven’t yet figured out that all interact, that lead to the imbalances in the immune system, in the disordered chemical processes in your cells.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:09:59] So for me, it certainly may have been some Vitamin D issues, stress issues, toxic issues, food sensitivities, probable microbiome disruptions that all together that led to my illness. And it was by creating this very comprehensive diet and lifestyle program that is able to reset my immune function and recover and ultimately get weaned off my disease, modifying drugs with the blessings of my neurologist, you know, flourished to do extremely well.
Maria Marlowe: [00:10:36] So tell us a little bit more about this was protocol and what makes it different from a regular paleo diet. What are some of the highlights of this style of eating?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:10:45] So the paleo diet really focuses on what to remove. So typically they remove grain, they may remove dairy, legumes and depending on the restrictions, they might also remove nitrates. But they don’t give you a lot of guidance on this is what you need to eat. Well, when I integrated what I’d learned in the basic science functional medicine say these are the nutrients that science says. This is what’s key for your brain and mitochondria. And so I had a template to avoid this and be sure you’re getting lots of this. And so that template I do have a vegetarian & vegan version Yeah. I give them a little more guidance. So if it’s spiritually important to them to be vegetarian or vegan, we provide a process to do that. But if you’re willing to eat meat, we have a different process. The things to remove I have removed are gluten containing grains. So wheat, rye, barley and many ancient grains and then dairy protein. So that’s milk, cheese, yogurt. You can still have clarified butter. And then we also remove eggs. We ramp up a key set of vegetables, green, leafy things like spinach, Swiss chard, kale, parsley, cilantro.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:12:09] So green leaves that are not poisonous, for example. There are plants that are poisonous stuff to positively identify what you’re eating. Then sulfur rich vegetables. And that includes things like cabbage family, onion family, mushroom family vegetables, and then deeply pigmented stuff like beets, carrots, berries. I want people to have fermented foods such as sauerkraut and kimchi. I prefer that they have organ meat, liver once a week and oysters, mussels, clams. We talked about omega 3 rich fats. And then I have some guidance for who would benefit from a ketogenic diet and guidance for who would benefit from a more restrictive diet that is more of an elimination diet.
Maria Marlowe: [00:12:59] So these are some more new things that you’ve added on to the original.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:13:04] Right, you know. And then I also talk about histamines. I talk about five maps. I talk about oxalate, how to determine, are these likely an issue for you and if they are, how to address that. And I’m very keen on the benefits of fasting. But I want people to understand that who would benefit from ongoing permanent fasting? You know permanent not fasting, but permanent ketogenic eating, who would benefit from more of a intermittent ketogenic, i.e. that is switching more on metabolic switching from being ketosis to being in the fed state and how to manage that type of approach. So many more opportunities for personalization. And I’d also tell you, I have some guidance for those how to transition from our standard American diet to the walls diet in a more therapeutic diet, because we have to make these transitions at the pace that people are they and their families can manage. So I need for them to be successful step by step.
Maria Marlowe: [00:14:12] So you mentioned organ meat. And I want to talk about meat in general because I feel there’s a lot of misconceptions about it. So first, why organ meats? Why are they such an important part of your plan?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:14:23] Well, the organ meats have a very nice nutritional profile. They’ll be more packed with the mitochondria. So actually, they have a much, much higher amount of coenzyme Q, which is a key mitochondrial nutrients. They are superb sources of B vitamins. There bit a grass-fed animal. They’ll be a good source of vitamin K, vitamin D. Retinol, the pre-made vitamin A. And these are nutrients that are really very important for immune cell health and for mitochondrial function. There’s a lot of variability in the efficiency of our body’s ability to convert the plant quite noise into the fully functional vitamin A. And so if you don’t have enough vitamin A, your retina doesn’t work very well. We have blindness and dim vision because our retina doesn’t work well. We also have less effective immune cells, which means that these cells can’t protect you from infections such as Co-vid nearly as efficiently. And they also can’t protect you from the internal threats such as cancers and pre-cancers as official. So I would tell my patients who have a problem with infection, vulnerability or a problem with pre-cancers or a problem with autoimmune issues, they really want them to have liver once a week. If they wouldn’t do that, they would have them take the liver capsules.
Maria Marlowe: [00:15:52] And do you have any tips for adding liver to your diet? As you know, sneak it in. How do you add it in?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:15:59] Matter of fact we just talked about that on my Instagram post. So what I demonstrated was that I put some liver in my food processor and pulse it up. So I grind that up and then mix it with ground meat. And I might add, you know, some garlic, parsley, if you’d like things really spicy, some hot peppers. So you have a fully loaded ground meat. Yeah, just the more spice to it. That will mask the organ meat very nicely. So when you start, you might do a very small amount like 5, 10 percent and you generally not get a past 25 percent that people can perceive that difference.
Maria Marlowe: [00:16:42] I’m sure with the garlic and the spices and all that, it’s very… Yeah.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:16:46] The other thing, another great technique. So we’d make a liver pâté. So if I blow liver and onions and then blend it with olive oil, then you get the desired consistency. And then I would take a kale leaf, put a smear of pâté on the kale leaf, put a smear of guacamole on the kale leaf, then take some hot sriracha sauce, squirt that in and roll it up. And so the sriracha sauce, the guacamole mask, the pâté very nicely. So my kids actually I like that a whole lot and they like to make that as a treat for their friends. Of course, we don’t tell them what they’re serving, so they’re all done. That actually was pretty tasty.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:31] Yeah. Very inventive. I’ll have to try that.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:17:34] Yeah. No, it’s really quite delicious. We make liver and onions and make it big batch so I can make liver pâté and then that’s a huge hit.
Maria Marlowe: [00:17:43] And you mentioned that you use hot peppers and sriracha sauce. And I know that in some cases with autoimmune, you want to avoid the nightshades. Correct. So how do you determine?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:17:55] Absolutely. So if you have an autoimmune condition that involves your gut. So if you have symptomatic inflammatory bowel disease, you probably need the elimination diet. If you have an autoimmune condition involving your joints, such as rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, you will probably have to remove the nitrates and do more the elimination diet. When I see people with those categories, I’ll tell them that likely they’ll do much better if we put them on the elimination diet and we can start there if that feels like too big of a leap for them. We can start them on the level one diet and see how they do, because I will say yes, some folks even with a higher risk people, if I get them on the level one diet, they have a marked improvement in their quality of life, more success. And sometimes that’s enough.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:18:53] I certainly have other folks who have been miserable enough long enough with their severe inflammatory bowel disease or their R.A. They’re like, OK, I’ll go that way, explain them. This is an experiment. And if you’re ready to do the experiment, we can sort of stage it to level one for a hundred days. And if that’s good enough, you stay there. If it’s not good enough, then you go on to the elimination diet. Or we could do the elimination diet starting immediately. And you let me know which way you prefer to go. And many, Well, like to discuss straight away to the elimination diet. But not all there has to be driven by the patient and their family. What are they comfortable? Because they make it very clear if you’re going to do the experiment, you want to be sure, whatever the intervention is, you actually do that intervention. If you decide I’m going to do the elimination diet, that’s really too hard and you’ll do it about 95 percent. You will not have an answer at the end of your experiment. Could that diet have made a difference?
Maria Marlowe: [00:19:57] And I know the question that everyone is thinking right now is how long do they have to try different this diet change before they can start to see results?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:20:08] So again, it will depend on what is it that I’m treating. So I want people to go 100 days before deciding that this is a failure or that I need to go on to the next level of intervention. However, people often are able to tell me that within 30 days they can see that their energy is improving, their mood is improving, their pain is lessening, and that benefit tends to accrue over time. If it turns out that the person that I am. And so that’s for diabetes, obesity, neuropathy, M.S. often have big improvements within that first month. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, it turns out you’re very sensitive to tomatoes and you’re still eating tomatoes. You may not have a symptom reduction till we get get you all the way up for elimination diet. So that’s a very frank conversation I’ll have with folks. And I’ll point out that it depends on them. Do they want to be as aggressive as possible immediately? If so, then we’ll just go on an elimination diet. If it feels like that’s an overwhelming amount of change, then we’ll have a conversation like, OK, so intervention is the best. But let’s begin to explore what feels possible to you that you could actually implement 100 percent because implemented at 95 percent won’t answer the question, could this intervention help you?
Maria Marlowe: [00:21:35] I know that’s so frustrating for a lot of people. They feel if they’re following the elimination diet ninety five percent. They should feel a 95 percent improvement. But unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. And if you really want to see the impact a certain food has on your health, you need to follow the elimination 100 percent.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:21:56] If people add more vegetables to their diet, get rid of the processed food, even they’re still having some gluten there will be some minor improvements in health status. There’ll be some minor reductions in their inflammatory markers. And so it’s certainly a step in the right direction. They’re improving their long term health. That’s very clear. So if people aren’t willing to do the Wahls style, tell the how do you feel about the Mediterranean diet, eating more vegetables, having small legumes, reducing the processed foods. And if they’re willing to do that, I’ll send them to the dietitian and tell them to the mediterranean. And when you’re ready to take the next level. Give us a call and we’ll take you, we’ll support you.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:22:37] Because on a public health matter, if you can get people to drop the sugar, drop the processed food and eat more vegetables on a public health basis, that’s an improvement. And many clinical trials, there is an improvement in quality of life. Will they have the level of improvement that you and I see in people who embrace diet lifestyle more thoroughly? No, they would do better. But I do want people to continue to make forward progress. So it’s not my favorite recommendation. I’ll have that conversation. And say OK, what are you open to doing? And we can help get you the resources to begin that journey. It’s sort of like the people who have substance abuse issues. We have to tell them many, many times to stop smoking, many times stop their alcohol before they’re finally and they have to suffer for a long time before the person finally says, you know what? I’ll begin. And then we have to have several stopping periods for stopping the cigarettes. Stop it now. I’ll call before they’re finally successful on ongoing base.
Maria Marlowe: [00:23:42] It’s true.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:23:43] That is the nature of health behaviorism.
Maria Marlowe: [00:23:45] Baby steps lead to big results over time.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:23:48] Correct. And so we just want to help people make forward progress. I have such a long line of people waiting to see me. I can’t let them take up the chairs if they aren’t fully. So we figure out what they’re willing to do. And then I refer them to other practitioners in the community who can help them with those baby steps.
Maria Marlowe: [00:24:07] I wanted to ask you about red meat, because I know that’s a controversial topic and a lot of people are scared to eat red meat, but your diet includes red meat. And I’d love for you just to share more about that.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:24:22] You know, and the vegetarian and vegans are very upset because I let people eat meat. My paleo eaters are very upset because I created a program that could work for the vegetarian and vegans. So everyone’s a little bit cranky with me because I take care of the population as well as I can. Now, as I designed what I do, I think about reading the basic science. I think about my clinical experience for myself and my patients. And I think a lot about ancestor health principles and evolutionary biology. If we look at our ancestors and, you know, mammals been around for 200 million years, we’ve been feeding our young breastmilk for 20 million years. And when the young get weaned, they don’t get more breast milk until, you know, the last eight thousand years. That’s when we’ve had the dairy possibility for some humans. So that’s a pretty new food. Let’s sort of think about, OK, when did we start eating meat in this period? It would look like. About six million years ago, we separate from the primates. And as we were doing that, we were eating more meat in our diet.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:25:30] And our evolutionary biologists think that it was the meat, that was the shellfish, it was the clams, it was the oysters, it was the bone marrow that we got from the carcasses we harvested after the hyenas and lions were done that let us grow those big brains. And then about 200,000 years ago, we started cooking our food. And once we started doing that, we didn’t need as much fermentation in our guts or intestines get smaller and our brains got bigger again. And so we have millions of years eating meat. Now, the meat that we were eating was different than the factory farmed meat that we’re eating now because that was all grass fed. So it has a different fatty acid mixture. But from an evolutionary standpoint, we have a very long history eating meat. I have a very hard time thinking that meat is bad for humans because our biology evolved eating meat. The factory farms that we’re consuming now is a different kind of product and that may be less healthful than grass-fed grass finished wild game meat.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:26:40] And so I’ll certainly acknowledge that what I think the science is much more clear is that the bacteria in our bowels help us digest the food, get those big molecules that’s in the food broken down into smaller molecules that get into our bloodstream. And it certainly looks like we rely on these bacteria to properly digest our food, allow us to assimilate it, and then run the chemistry of life properly. Is the meat the problem or is it the processed food that is the problem that fertilized the wrong bacteria?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:27:16] So we have some of the incorrect processes that are happening, not because there’s meat in our bowels, but because we have sugar, we have processed grains, sort of this high glycemic index load, a vastly higher load of new rapidly digested carbohydrates that are feeding the wrong bacteria in use. I think that’s more likely to be the big problem.
Maria Marlowe: [00:27:42] I’m looking at your office. I see some poop emojis. So I take it you really are into the microbiome and digestion. Is there anything else that you want to tell us about that or any ways that we can improve our our digestive health?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:28:00] I think if we reflect on, you know, when I was in medical school, I’m such an old, old geezer when I went to medical school. We’re also excited about the human genome project and that science was working towards understanding our genes, because if we understood our genes, then we would not deal with chronic disease is terribly disappointed when we figured out that we have about twenty five thousand genes.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:28:29] You know, corn and wheat have about a hundred thousand genes. And we thought we’d have hundred thousand genes because that’s how many proteins we have to make. So it’s very baffling, very confusing. Of course we did take our poop was at all valuable. But every farmer, traditional farmer understood that the poop you put on the soil has a huge impact on fertility of the soil in that all that manure and incredibly valuable stuff. Science has come a long way now to realize that we are an ecosystem, that we rely on those bacteria, digestion or food, making vitamins. Breaking down the food that we eat into smaller molecules that get into our bloodstream. Because if we go back several thousands of generations as we develop these random mutations that make several enzymes not work. If your bacteria could still do that enzymatic step. Then your ancestral mother still had reproductive success, and at that moment that enzyme got exported from your ancestral mother’s DNA to her microbiome and that microbiome, DNA got transmitted vagina by vagina by vagina. And so the other seventy five thousand genes that we need reside in our microbiome as we became more narrow in our microbiome because we changed what we eat. We added all the sugar, added all those white flour, quit eating so many vegetables, quit eating so many starchy vegetables.Then we’re missing more of those genes and our health declines.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:30:13] So we talk a lot about poop. That’s why I have all those poop pillows and poop hats. Yes. You know, I tell my patients and I tell the public we need to monitor our poop every single day. When you have a bowel movement, you stand up and you look in the toilet or on the ground. If you’re just pooping on the ground and you decide am I pooping rocks, logs or logs dry or are they sort of smooth and I pooping snakes, pudding or tea. And there are some other group scales that go by numbers, but that’s way too complicated. People all understand rocks, logs, snakes, pudding & tea. We get that part very easily. If you’ve got pudding and tea, you have too much inflammation and you probably need to cook your food, have more bone broth. It may have to help you with your leaky gut and gut inflammation. If you’re pooping rocks, you got the wrong microbes and you need more fiber. You need more fermented vegetables, more raw vegetables if you’re pooping snakes and getting into your pants, you still have to back off because it’s socially just not going to work that put on your pants.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:31:19] So in the end, you want bowel movements that come easily, very comfortably and you can control and you either dial up the fiber or you dial back the fiber. So it’s a bit more nuanced, but I don’t know that I’ve added a microbiologist immunologist to my study team. We study the microbiome. You know, I have many conversations about the microbiome. We don’t know what species are associated with best health or what species are associated with the worst health, because in the microbiome, they’re swapping genes all the time to what you need are what are the processes. And so that’s a different test called metabolite test for just basically tens of thousands of metabolites in the bloodstream and urine and stool to understand how these chemical processes are happening. And can you do them all if you can’t do them all, you’re missing key microbiomes. So we just do the simple thing poop, look at it and then adjust your diet so you could have easily passbooks and keep waiting for a scientist. Me and my medical team to get a fuller, nuanced understanding of which processes we rely on the microbiome to do for you.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:32:37] That has to be the best explanation of poop and how to use it, how to use it, and why it matters. A very great explanation. Are there any specific gut health tests that you recommend that if someone does have some got health issues? Yeah, absolutely. Take a dump & look at it. Simple enough.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:33:02] So that’s really simple. We can get a more sophisticated analysis that’s available commercially that will say these are the predominant species that you have in. That can be really interesting. It’s really interesting. Just as researchers, as researchers always look at that, we will say, yeah, the research is sort of not clear what the species mean or don’t mean what’s helpful. It’s not helpful. What’s much more important is what processes can those microbes do for you. And so the test I run would give me a report on about 20000 processes. There are no commercial tests that can do that yet. So I don’t think there are times where it. Yes, it may be useful to look at what species you have. And should we use some herbals to try and get a better balance that may be useful. I can make many of those decisions based clinically as I talk with you. You look at your symptoms. Just look at your rock, log, snake pudding tea questionnaire that we have and then begin with some herbal approaches.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:34:25] And I don’t rely on that testing nearly as much as made my functional medicine colleagues, because I’m pretty much more familiar with the research and that the research is not as clear about which species that is harmful. It’s much more nuanced in terms of what are the processes that can happen. It’s sort of like we thought as soon as we got the human genome sequenced, we deal to treat every chronic disease we had discovered like, well, that was that not going to help us that much? It’s a much more complicated interaction between your genes and all of the environmental factors. And so we can get the names of all your microbes. But once again, it’s much more complicated process. So you got to we didn’t know the names, but what processes can those microbes do for you in those microbes are promiscuous. They’re swapping genes all the time. So just because you’re microbe is X, Y, Z, it doesn’t mean that it can do process ABC.
Maria Marlowe: [00:35:15] So dietary changes make up the bulk of your protocol, but I know there’s also some lifestyle changes as well. I mean, you talk about some of those. Sure.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:35:28] So I will step ahead or back. Maybe here is the better way to put this. The biggest reasons people succeed or fail is our ability to adopt and sustain diet and lifestyle choices and our habits. Our daily lives are governed by automatic behaviors that are subconscious. It takes a whole lot of effort for us to change our behaviors. And it is a phenomenally big ask to have people give up today’s pleasures for tomorrow’s benefits, which is why it is so difficult to get people to stop cigarettes, to stop gambling addictions, to stop alcohol and substance abuse. It’s profoundly, profoundly difficult.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:36:12] And our food choices are all driven by pleasure. And the food industry pays food scientists a lot of money to develop products that give us the intense pleasure and cravings to drive overconsumption. It’s one of the first things that we do is we go through a number of steps to help people grow their internal motivation, do the work that’s gonna be required to create these new habits. And so a big question that walk people through is what do you want your health for? Why do you want to do this? And then help create linkages between their inner passion, what they care so deeply about, and what are the next steps that we can take on their healing journey. And so that’s sort of the Wahls behavior change process that we walk people through. That is a very big part of the vision in my book to help people be much more successful then in that we can talk about the issues of loneliness and connection.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:37:14] If we are lonely and isolated, that really drives up the inflammatory molecules and accelerates high blood pressure. diabecity, which is a combination of diabetes and obesity, mental health problems and autoimmune issues. Cancer also. So finding ways to help people stay connected to friends, to family, to what matters deeply to them. Very, very important. We talk about gratitude. Know you might think about now, many of us are severely stressed by what’s happening in our communities with this pandemic and the isolation, economic stress. So I’m talking about this with my family and with my tribe is that if we are still alive, there are things for which we can still have gratitude. So, you know, if I’m feeling stressed and truly I am and and truly most of our listeners are right now, I spend all time, every day thanking my family for what I’m grateful for, telling them, like, you know, I’m so grateful I’m not having any optic neuritis, that I can see. I’m grateful that the sensation on my face is normal. They don’t have these incapacitating bilateral face pain. And that I know we will get through all of this. And I’m grateful that my daughter’s year semester in Italy was occurred in 2016 as opposed to 2020. And my daughter’s like you know, mom, you are just so amazing. But I am getting more appreciative of how useful is to find things that you were grateful for every day.
Maria Marlowe: [00:39:03] Yeah. It completely changes your whole attitude and perspective when you can focus on gratitude because it is easy to focus on all the negativity and that just takes you in that downward spiral and you’re not going anywhere positive. So if we can just take those few minutes in the morning or throughout the day to focus on what we’re grateful for, then the rest of the day becomes a bit easier.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:39:27] Yeah. I mean, humans are we’re wired to create or seek pleasure and comfort and to avoid loss. And so that drives a lot of our behavior if we can intentionally stay connected to people that we care about and stay connected to, as difficult as these times may be. There are still things for which I can be very pleased for a grateful and very joyful about and know that we will all get through this together and visualize the better place that you will discover in your life in the lives of people that are important to you.
Maria Marlowe: [00:40:04] Yes, very comforting words. Is there anything else in terms since this is a very timely subject in terms of staying calm and sane while on self-quarantine and staying healthy, keeping your immune system up?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:40:18] Yeah, sure. So there you go. I want to acknowledge that there’s no cure for COVID Things are changing quickly. So please always check back with the CDC and the debate, your website and the Corona virus. In the meantime, what I’m telling people is for a public health basis to help protect the health care workers and the hospitals. Yes. Maintain that 6 foot space all around. Wash your hands a lot. That’s great. To protect our hospitals. To protect you and your family, we have to really pay attention to our self cares. So in terms of your self talks of messaging or voice talked about that, in terms of nutrition, there are some key nutrients that we know are vital for immune cell health. Vitamin C. Very, very important for immune cells. Then there’s some evidence that vitamin C in high doses can be very helpful as we’re fighting infections, both viral and bacterial foods that are good sources of vitamin C are greens, citrus and sauerkraut. So I have lots of heads of cabbages in my refrigerator and I’m making sauerkraut. So we have sauerkraut all the time with all of our meals. So keep that going and then you can talk with your personal physician about should you take additional vitamin C supplements as well. And that may be beneficial, but clearly adding greens, sauerkraut, citrus to your diet now every day. Very, very helpful. We want to have plenty of vitamin A. That your requirements for vitamin A during infection also go up.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:41:58] I don’t want you to get toxic on Vitamin A. So my advice is liver once a week. That is very, very helpful. You know, six to eight ounces again, to support your immune cells. If you can’t do the liver, then you could my shop page to all start come forward shop. We have some organ meat capsules and could use that alternatively. Zinc is another key nutrient very important for immune cells. So the food sources for zinc, oysters, mussels, clams and liver. And what I like about the organ meats is that those minerals are easily absorbed and you have all of the required minerals because your most nutrients, & have co-factors. And so if you have a food based source of these nutrients, it will be in the proper balance and ratios with other micronutrients as well. So that’s another reason why liver once a week is really very helpful. And again, you could speak with your personal physician about would you benefit from taking a modest amount of zinc during this pandemic crisis? And so, yes, that may be appropriate to have a zinc supplement. Another nutrient that we can see that’s very helpful is selenium. And we know that in a number of localities where these coronaviruses have been more deadly, are parts of the world that have low selenium intakes, eyes and have a higher rate of slam deficiency insufficiency. So I’m telling my folks have a Brazil nut every day, maybe two.
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:43:41] To be sure that your selenium intake is adequate, the next nutrient I think about is Iodine, because again, our immune cells use Iodine as they’re killing off the bacteria, the viruses. If you have too much Iodine and you can have some thyroid disease, if you have two little Iodine, you’re more vulnerable to infection and thyroid disease. So a kelp capsule a couple times a week, seaweed in your diet. One time a week I think can be very helpful. And it’s a way if you use the food basis, that’s always preferable than taking supplements, I should say. Sorry, preferable. It’s safer if you have a practitioner who’s comfortable with integrative medicine, functional medicine, they can help you sort out and monitor what’s the correct dose for you if you’re using food. And I felt like that in my in my book that the kind of protocol that I used in the last protocol would be anticipated to optimize your immune cell function so that you’ll have a balanced response to the viral infections that will self-correct. Because when you get infected with viruses, our immune cells has to rev up to fight off the virus and then they have to properly rev back down when the virus is gone in. That’s where having a fully healthy and optimally function immune system will make both arms of this process work better. The revving enough to fight the virus and the rubbing back down When you’ve controlled the virus.
Maria Marlowe: [00:45:14] This brings up a great interesting point in terms of the foods that you’re saying that are helpful for making sure our immune system is strong. They’re the same foods that are in the Wahls protocol. So the Wahls protocol is specifically for people who are trying to reverse symptoms of autoimmune conditions. But would you say for the average person, it’s still a healthy diet or are there any tweaks?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:45:39] No, I think it would be great if you completely healthy. You have to go gluten free or not. If you’re healthy, no meds, no symptoms probably not required, however, because if your blood sugar is a little bit high, that’s severely compromises your immune cells. This is a great time to ditch the grains. If you’re a vegetarian, you need gluten free grains and legumes. So those people still need need that everyone else. I’d much rather you have more non starchy vegetables and meat and eliminate the sugar and processed foods. Yeah, having some legumes and gluten free grains now to have on hand for shelf stable food because we don’t know how long we’re gonna be have greater constraints on our ability to shop. I can understand why some people will make that choice and that could be a very reasonable choice.
Maria Marlowe: [00:46:32] One last question I’d love to ask, which ask all my guests. Is there just one tip you can leave our listeners on how they can live a happier and healthier life?
Dr. Terry Wahls: [00:46:43] Well, I think the most profound decision you can make is know what you want your health for, because my success in making any change depends on the clarity that I have and understanding why I want to go through the work of creating these new health habits. And so as I was profoundly disabled and having to adjust my life as a progressively more ill, more disabled individual, the fact I had great clarity on wanting to raise two children who would be successful adults emotionally and financially left me thinking like, okay, I’m not going to use athletics will use wilderness travel. What what tools do I have? But I finally get a point. The only tool I really had was I could give up and go to work every day and I could give them more chores than I could acknowledge that life was difficult. But we do the best that we can because if I didn’t do that, I’d be teaching them that when life is difficult, you give up. And I knew that was not the message I want to teach. So what does your why get deeply connected to? What is your why?
Maria Marlowe: [00:47:53] Dr. Wahls, thank you so much for being here and sharing your insights. For anyone interested in learning how to reverse their symptoms of autoimmune disease. Check out Dr. Wahl’s book, The Wahls Protocol – A radical new way to treat all chronic autoimmune conditions using paleo principles. To celebrate the launch of the book, I’m gifting one lucky listener a copy. Simply head over to my Instagram @mariamarlowe for instructions on how to enter.