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Episode 188
The Doctor's Farmacy

Reversing Multiple Sclerosis And Autoimmune Disease With Functional Medicine

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The most profound cases of healing I see are in people who refuse to give up. Even if they’ve found some things that improve their condition, they continue searching for new ways to feel better and better.

This is how we break down walls in medicine. It’s how people who are told they’ll never walk again end up biking to work every day.

I’m honored to have one of those incredible people on today’s podcast to talk about her journey as a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis. Dr. Terry Wahls never stopped searching for answers and has changed the prognosis of MS and autoimmune diseases for herself and so many others in the process. Throughout this episode, we dive into Dr. Wahls latest tweaks and updates to the healing protocol that’s been so successful for her and countless others.

Dr. Wahls’ diagnosis led her to create The Wahls Protocol, which is responsible for her amazing recovery. While this program has provided her with a long-term framework for health, we discuss the new things she’s trying these days and the benefits she continues to discover. One example is hormetic stressors—we talk about hot and cold therapy, and Dr. Wahls explains how taking ice baths actually improves her sleep, as well as how to safely work your way up to the right level of temperature dysregulation for your body.

Diet is a huge component of Dr. Wahls’ healing process. With 9 cups of colorful vegetables and some fruits, it might be the most nutrient-dense diet on the planet. She explains the benefits of things like sulfur-rich foods, as well as the rationale behind embracing organ meats. I find this is something many people struggle to incorporate, but she provides some great tips on how to start including more high-quality organ meats in your diet with maximum flavor.

Dr. Wahls conducts clinical trials that test the effect of nutrition and lifestyle interventions on MS and other progressive health problems, like autoimmunity, neurological dysfunction, and traumatic brain injuries. We talk about some of her exciting research findings, as well as why the corruption of research funding has forced her to rely on private donors for these studies.

It’s people like Dr. Wahls who create the future of medicine. I hope you’ll tune in to hear her inspiring story and learn about some updates to her personal routine.

This episode is brought to you by HigherDOSE, BiOptimizers, and MitoPure.

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I hope you enjoyed this conversation as much as I did. Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD

Here are more of the details from our interview (audio):

  1. The development of The Wahls Behavior Change Model and importance of attending to mental, spiritual, and emotional aspects of overall health
    (7:00)
  2. Dr. Wahls’ use of hormesis (mild to moderate stress to the body followed by sufficient recovery and repair) to enhance her health
    (8:14)
  3. The role that stress played in Dr. Wahls’ life prior to her MS diagnosis, and how she now incorporates stress management in her daily routine
    (13:16)
  4. The Wahls Protocol diet
    (20:07)
  5. Unique challenges and successes of clinically studying The Wahls Protocol
    (31:37)
  6. Patient stories of remarkable health improvements and disease management
    (40:24)
  7. Dr. Wahls’ current study of Clinically Isolated Syndrome and Relapsing-Remitting Multiple Sclerosis: Dietary and lifestyle changes without drugs versus standard of care
    (44:55)
  8. Why the NIH resists funding diet and lifestyle research, and the idea of creating health vs treating disease
    (50:37)
  9. Multiple Sclerosis and the gut microbiome
    (54:27)
  10. Getting to the root cause of autoimmune disease
    (59:01)

Guest

 
Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

 
Dr. Terry Wahls

Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. Her secondary progressive multiple sclerosis confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years, but she restored her health using a diet and lifestyle program she designed specifically for mitochondrial health and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles, and the cookbook, The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions.

Transcript

speaker 1:
Coming up on this episode of The Doctor’s Farmacy.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Whether it’s anxiety, depression, diabetes, and some resistance, as long as we are managing our diet and lifestyle, we can have a rich, full life, relatively normal physiology, no evidence of disease, and do great. But if I think I can go back to that previous diet and lifestyle and not get sick, that’s incorrect.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Welcome to The Doctor’s Farmacy. I’m Dr. Mark Hyman. That’s Farmacy with an F, a place for conversations that matter. And if you suffer from an autoimmune disease or a neurologic condition like multiple sclerosis, you better listen up. Because today we have an extraordinary guest, Dr. Terry Wahls, a good friend of mine, a member of the faculty of the Institute for Functional Medicine, and a leader in re-imagining how we take care of really hard conditions like autoimmunity and multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Terry is a clinical professor at the University of Iowa, where she conducts clinical trials. She’s doing the hard work of research in this space, which is so necessary, and I applaud you for that, Terry. She’s a patient also, with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which is not a fun diagnosis, and confined her to a tilt recline wheelchair for four years. She was in a wheelchair for four years. And she completely restored her health using food and lifestyle, and designed that specifically to help her brain get better. And now pedals her bike to work every single day. She went from wheelchair to riding her bike 20 miles a day. And if you don’t think that is an argument for the principles of functional medicine, I don’t know what is.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
She’s the author of The Wahls protocol: How I beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, and The Wahls protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles. And the cookbook, The Wahls protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions. Okay, that’s a mouthful. You got to come up with shorter titles.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay, she conducts lots of great clinical trials. We’re going to talk about some of those today, to talk about the effect of nutrition and lifestyle, food as medicine, particularly for multiple sclerosis and other progressive health and neurologic conditions. She teaches the public and medical community about her approach using food and therapeutic lifestyle to restore health. And she hosts a seminar every August where everyone can learn how to implement the protocol with ease and success.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, welcome, Terry.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Hey, thank you much.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, we don’t have a lot of return guests on the podcast, but you are one of them. And the reason I wanted you back is because your work is so important, and it continues to evolve, and you continue to learn, and we continue to learn from you about how do we address these horrible conditions that are on the rise, the autoimmunity that is affecting 80 million people.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For people that don’t understand autoimmunity, as a single entity like MS or colitis or Crohn’s or Hashimoto’s, it’s common, but it doesn’t add up to massive numbers when we look at it all together. So when you look at all auto immunities together, it’s 80 million people, which is more than people almost than have cancer, heart disease and diabetes combined. Okay, that’s a lot of people.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And the question for you today, Terry, to start with, is how has your thinking changed since we last talked? How has your regimen changed? Do you incorporate the same principles? Are you adding new things? What’s different about your approach now?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, we’re adding new things. And I also have learned just how critical it is to deal with the mental, emotional, spiritual, so that people are willing to do the work. Because creating new habits, creating new daily practices, it takes effort. And for people to go on this journey with me, I need to spend more time on that mental, emotional, spiritual side. So I spend more time there.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And then, yes, we have created this really wonderful, robust process, Mark, The Wahls Behavior Change model that actually has 15, 16 steps to help people make these changes step by achievable step. And we personalize the diet and lifestyle recommendations to match what they’re willing and ready to do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s amazing. And Terry, what have you noticed about your own health, working with this over the last, I don’t know how many years it is now, over a decade, right?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yeah, over-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What have you noticed? What have you learned? What has changed? What are the things that you’ve changed in your own routine?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, I spend a lot more time thinking about hormesis, so that mild to moderate stress, and I do it in a wide variety of ways. I do temperature hormesis. So I-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Talk about hormesis. What is that?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, hormesis is a time where you have a mild to moderate stress on your physiology, followed by sufficient time for your physiology to repair, get back to homeostasis and rebuild itself. This is why strength training is so powerful. This is why high intensity interval training can be powerful. But you have to allow enough time to fully recover. It’s also why temperature training is so powerful. So, I take saunas probably six to seven days a week. Now, this will shock your listeners. I could take a sauna up to 125 degrees comfortably, 140 degrees comfortably, even 160. But then of course I follow that with a cold shower, and I do cold showers then for five minutes. And in the evenings, I’ll do an ice bath.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Ah, it sounds fun.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yeah, so it’s-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
A relaxing way to go to bed, just jump in an ice bath.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
What’s interesting, Mark, is you do that ice bath, it is the fastest way to fall asleep. I have the deepest sleep on the days that I do an ice bath.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Really. And you don’t follow it with a warm thing, and before you go to bed? You get in bed freezing? You get in bed cold.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
No. I get in bed freezing.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But my wife does complain about the cold legs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What you’re saying is heresy in some ways, because we always learned with multiple sclerosis that you never put people in a sauna, you avoid the heat, it’s really bad for them, right.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, that is true.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And then it’s better to fall asleep to the hot bath.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
You need to very gradually increase your temperature stress. So, many people with serious autoimmune conditions have difficulty with autonomic dysfunction, and they’ll have a lot of difficulty with temperature hormesis. So they’ll have to come at this very, very slowly. And as they heal and lower their inflammation and lower the inflammation in their brain, they’ll find that they can increase their temperature hormesis. And so we start with a room temperature bath, then a slightly cooler bath or slightly warmer bath, and gradually expand the temperature with which they can tolerate. But absolutely, you can’t put people immediately into a cold shower or an ice bath or immediately into a sauna, if they have a neuro immune condition. They will not tolerate it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, but over time they can, you’re saying. For you now it’s helped.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Over time, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think that’s interesting. And we talk about hormesis. It’s not a concept that most doctors know about, most people know about. I certainly hadn’t heard about it until the last decade or so. And essentially what you’re talking about is a stress to the body. It’s like what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, which is how intermittent fasting works or prolonged fasting or exercise. When you exercise, you’re creating a stress to the body. Those actually help cause a trauma or a stress, which then creates a healing response in the body. And that’s what you’re describing.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
As long as you have sufficient time to fully recover.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Hmm.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And for years when I was an athlete, because I did long distance running, I did martial arts, I did not spend enough time in recovery. And many athletes do this. We train so hard. We don’t spend sufficient time in recovery. And actually, we probably would have made faster gains if we would pay a lot more attention to recovery, as much as we-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What does recovery look like?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
In my patients, we talk a lot about this, that I want them to have their stress of their exercise or their temperature stress, but then they have to have a sufficient duration of the recovery before they can go back to that stress again.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, many of my patients, they’re severely disabled, so for them a two minute exercise may be all they can do and still function for the rest of the day. And so we discuss, you do the gentle exercise, and can you function normally later in the day? How long does it take for you to recover? And then gradually increase their exercise.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Interesting. Now, Terry, you talk a lot about the food as medicine, and we’re going to get into that a little bit more, but you touched on it a little bit, about stress and how that played a role, particularly in your case of getting MS. Can you talk more about that, and the stress of medical school and what happened to you?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, my trigeminal neuralgia began during medical school. And yet, looking back, I grew up on a farm, physically very active, lots of vitamin D, probably really a very good diet. Went into medical school, became a vegetarian, went very low fat, was no longer outside, so my vitamin D levels plummeted. I was certainly not taking supplements. I was not sleeping at night very much. We certainly had enormous amounts of stress in going through those clinical rotations.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It was during my third year of medical school that I started getting my facial pains, the zingers as I call them. And I would have them for the next 20 years. And they were gradually getting worse. That was during my clinical practice. I was very ambitious. I was in a position of leadership, again, a high-stress job. My zingers were getting worse. And then I developed motor symptoms, and had weakness in my left legs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, and the stress was clearly-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Clearly, stress was always there and was a big driver that was happening just before the onset of my zingers. And then I had a transient episode of dim vision in my left eye. And again, that was associated with stress. And I had some severe work stress just before the onset of my left leg weakness.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Ah. And so how have you dealt with stress in a different way, and how that helped you with your MS?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It’s interesting, during college, I learned how to do transcendental meditation, and during medical school, I quit that. And when I was diagnosed with MS, even though I knew that stress was a big factor, I did not go back to meditation. It was not until I was in the wheelchair, I went back to reading the basic science, working on my diet, again discovered functional medicine. And then I was like, “I got to do everything.” And that’s when I went back to meditation. I thoughtfully redesigned my paleo diet. I discovered electrical stimulation. And I think it was the combination of doing all of that.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, it made a difference.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And so now, my routine, Mark, is get up in the morning, I do my meditations, then I’ll do my exercise. Then I do my sauna, then I do my cold shower. And that routine-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
In the morning. How long that take you?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
In the morning. It takes me about two hours to do all of that. And I learned to put that in my schedule. And then in the evening, most evenings I will again do a round of meditation and a ice bath.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, really. Wow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And you know, sometimes I [crosstalk 00:13:01]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You don’t do a hot bath first, you just do the ice bath, alone?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
I just do an ice bath.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s brave. I like to do a sauna first.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And sometimes saunas, they’re really very nice, but the reason I keep going back to the ice bath is the quality of my sleep is better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, really? Wow. I’m going to try that. So you just get in a cold bath, and how long you stay there?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, I set my timer and I read for 20 minutes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
20 minutes, but not like ice, ice bath. How cold is it?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So when you first start doing this, Mark, I just do a cool bath. And then after you’ve done that for a few days, just run only cold water, do a cold bath. And then, so now you’re comfortable with the cold bath, then you have a bucket of ice. So you’re in your bathtub with the cold bath, you dump your ice in, and then I’ll freeze solid liter bottles of ice, because that’s the ice longer when it’s solid, [crosstalk 00:14:02] ice cubes.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Do you use the Wim Hof breathing method? How do you get ready for [crosstalk 00:14:06]?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yeah, I’ll do a cycle of the deep breathing and then I just get in. After you do it for a while, it’s really very comfortable. I step in, I let my feet get used to it, and then I settled down into the bath, and grab my book and I start reading.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow, okay then. I’m going to try that. Maybe. I’m going to try. I like the ice bath after the sauna. And 20 minutes is a long time. It’s a long time.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
You get comfortable really quite quickly. And I’d quit but the quality of my sleep is so much better when I do the cold bath, the ice bath, so I end up going back to it.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s great. All right, I want to switch topics a little bit because it’s fascinating to hear all your conversation about hormesis and these various practices that help enhance your health. And I think there’s a lot of those, whether it’s hot and cold stresses, whether it’s exercise, whether it’s fasting, whether it things like ozone or hyperbaric oxygen, these are all hormetic therapies. And there’s really cool machines in Europe they use for mitochondrial resuscitation, where they’ll basically bring your oxygen level to that would be if you were climbing Mount Everest, keep you up at that low oxygen level for awhile, and then bring you back down to sea level. And that oxygen deprivation creates a stress that reboots your mitochondria. There’s a lot of ways to actually to do this. And it’s really pretty amazing to see what happens to your body when you get a little stress; it actually does so much better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Now let’s talk about the research. Because one of the arguments around functional medicine is that there’s no evidence, it’s lack of evidence, it’s not evidence-based, blahbity, blahbity blah. Your case alone should be written up as a medical miracle.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, we did.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I understand, but it should be every neurologic society, every neurologist, everybody should be going, “How did this happen? What’s going on? The NIH should be spending billions of dollars funding research like this.” And you’re having to scrounge around from here and there. And even the MS Society at first shunned you and banned you, and now they ask you to speak and now they want your help.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So you’ve done a lot of the hard work around the research. So let’s talk about the clinical trials that you’ve done, what you’ve learned, what you’ve found and what they’ve shown.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Because your approach, and maybe for those who are just listening to podcasts the first time, let’s just back up and go, what is the Wahls protocol? What is the concept of the diet? Why are the principles the diet used in the way they are, and what are the key take-homes around that? And then let’s get into the research of how this works.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So first of all, we’ll talk about the dietary approach. So, the way you might think about it, and when I talk with the public, is a pre-Wahls diet is a Mediterranean diet, which everyone agrees is a great diet: more vegetables, legumes, more fish. So, nice, healthy diet.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And then the first level of my diet, we have people stress-, and the goal is nine cups of vegetables, three cups of greens, three cups of sulfur-rich vegetables in the cabbage, onion, mushroom family, and three cups of deeply colored things like beets, carrots, berries. And then I want them to remove gluten, casein and eggs, because they’re the three most common food antigens that can cause excessive immune response.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No more waffles.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
No, no more waffles.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, actually, I make cashew waffles. I make all kinds of great things. You can kind of cheat.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
There are things you can do. That’s the first level. And you can do that as a vegetarian. And that is fairly close to a gluten-free, dairy-free version of a Mediterranean diet.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Then the next level becomes more paleolithic. So we reduce the gluten-free grains and legumes to no more than two servings a week, we add in and stress organ meats, seaweeds. If you’re going to have nuts and seeds, we suggest that you have them soaked and sprouted.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Why organ meats? Because organ meats are something people avoid, right? Liver, kidneys, thymus.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yeah, but they don’t know how to make them. They’re actually .delicious.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It seems like the poor man’s food, kidney steak and kidney pie and all that stuff. What’s the rationale for the organ meats?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, first off, our ancestors would have eaten those. They’re a third of the carcass when you harvest an animal, so it would have been in the central part of the diet. And interestingly enough, if there is plenty of meat, they left the muscle meat behind and took the organs. So the liver, great source of vitamin A in the fat-soluble vitamins. So, A, K, a moderate source of E. A great source of the B vitamins, a great source of minerals that are very easily absorbed, as opposed to the minerals in plants, which are a little more difficult for us to absorb. And then great source of coenzyme Q, creatine, carnitine. So, really, really marvelous nutrition for us.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And a lot of those are mitochondrial nutrients, right?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
They are mitochondrial nutrients.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And which is important for healthy aging. Terry, it’s interesting, and I’ve done this before, you Google “liver nutrition facts,” and then the nutrition facts for the most amazing vegetable-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Kale.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
… you could possibly imagine, or grain or meat. And it’s like Michael Jordan high school basketball.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Liver’s going to be better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s that big of a difference. It’s shocking. It’s not just a little bit, it’s like 3, 4, 5, 10 orders of magnitude more nutrients in liver than in almost any other food, right?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Correct. Absolutely.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Which is shocking.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
The liver is absolutely a super food. The one nutrient it does not have is vitamin C.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So that’s a good reason to eat your salads and your berries, to get the vitamin C. Now, the caveat I’ll have is for my carnivore friends who eat only meat, I have to caution them to be careful about how much liver they have, because you don’t want to overdose on vitamin A. The liver is really great for you, six to eight ounces a week, so that’s up to a half pound of liver a week. And in order-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For the First Nation people in Alaska and everywhere, they actually would give it to the explorers because they wanted to kill them. So they’d give them polar bear liver, and they’d literally die, they’d die from vitamin A poisoning.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, liver is really great. It is our family’s favorite dish. So, my family makes liver for me on my birthday because they know it’s a special meal for us. We just really love that a lot.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
For me, it was a poor man’s meal because we were very poor in New York City when I lived there as a kid with my mom. And we would live in this tiny one-bedroom apartment, and we’d have liver and onions and rice. And I thought that was a fancy meal, chicken livers. I didn’t realize it was because we were poor.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, and it is actually quite handy, because it is relatively inexpensive. You can get organic liver very inexpensively, because the market doesn’t understand how valuable that nutrition is.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Another really great organ meat of course is heart. Heart is like filet mignon. That is just so delicious, incredibly delicious. And then oysters, clams, mussels, those are all organ meats-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, really.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
… really quite delicious and quite nutrient [crosstalk 00:21:51].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What about the liver toxicity of liver? Because people say, “Oh, liver, isn’t that the wastebasket of the body, where the toxins go, isn’t it bad to eat that?”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, so where the toxins go is really the fat of the animal. So, people like bacon. So, if you’re worried about toxicities, be sure that your bacon is organic. If you’re concerned about toxicities-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, liver is fatty.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Liver is fatty. I would certainly have it be organic. And I think that is prudent. My preference is, have liver, get it from organic animal.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So Terry, just to summarize the dietary principles, it’s getting rid of gluten, dairy and eggs.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Dairy, eggs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s getting rid of grains and beans. It’s getting rid of obviously all processed foods, sugar, alcohol.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Processed sugars. More vegetables, greens.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Lots more vegetables. Tell us about your nine cups of vegetables and the different kinds of vegetable categories. Because I think it’s really important to help people understand it’s not just any vegetable that you need. You need vegetables that contain certain compounds, which are medicines for the body.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Correct. We won’t have lots of greens. Greens are a great source of carotenoids, luteins, zeaxanthin, [inaudible 00:23:03]xanthin. These are essential nutrients for your retina, and also for your brain, because your eyes are really just extensions of brains. They’ll reduce the risk of macular degeneration, of cataracts, and dementia.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
You’re also going to get a great source of vitamin K. And in neuro immune conditions, MS, in cognitive decline. In epidemiologic studies, the vitamin K levels are extraordinarily low in those population groups.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Really.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, lots of reasons to get your greens.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Now we’re going to go on to why I want you to have cabbage, onion, mushrooms. So, the sulfur is really great, a support for your detox, great support for making glutathione, intracellular antioxidants, great support for your mitochondria. Also [crosstalk 00:23:58]-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it’s the broccoli family.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
In the onion family. Also, good for your blood vessel, endothelial function.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And then mushrooms. There are a wide variety of mushrooms that stimulate your natural killer cells, priming your adaptive and innate immunity. They also are associated with better nerve growth factor production in animal models. And in human studies, associated with much lower rates of cognitive decline and depression.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow. Well, I feel good about taking my mushroom powders every morning.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, pick your mushrooms. I have mushrooms in my tea every day.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing.amazing.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, lots of reasons to have your mushrooms.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay, so that’s the food part. Now, you’ve taken this approach-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
No, no, no, you didn’t get the colors yet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh, the colors. Okay.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So there were also three cups of colors. And I want to have a wide variety of colors.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Okay, wait, wait, before you go on, so the growth says five to nine servings. A serving is half a cup, so you’re talking about not five to nine, you’re talking about 18 cups, just so people get the idea.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
No, no, no, 9 cups.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
No, 18 servings, nine cups, 18 servings, right?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yes. Yes. And I’m not trying to have you eat more than what your appetite will allow you. The point of trying to have you do is you eat your protein, and we have strategies for vegetarians or meat eaters, and you eat lots of vegetables. You don’t need to be hungry, but you’re not eating junk. When you’re hungry, you’re eating these vegetables. And we want to have sufficient protein and lots of vegetables.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So when you do that, you’re going to poop. And of course, we have to make modifications for people who have inflammatory bowel disease ,who can’t have as much fiber.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So when we talk about this, Mark, this is for the public. This is for what you start. And then you assess your response. And if you’re having loose stools, you’re going to have less fiber. If you’re still constipation, more fiber, more fermented foods, more sauerkraut and kimchi.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s the food part. And you’re taking this along with the lifestyle aspects and the stress and the exercise and muscle stimulation and hot and cold therapies and all these other modalities. And you’ve studied them. And one of the challenges for traditional medicine is that when we look at research, we like to study one thing. Let’s study this drug for this disease in this patient. And-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
One molecular pathway at a time.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah. I was talking to a doctor, a scientist, about dementia, and said, “Look, these patients, dementia is a syndrome. There’s many causes for it. It could be the microbiome, it could be gluten, it could be toxins, it could be Lyme,. It could be mold, it could be insulin resistance and it could be a lot- all of them.”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Multiple. Multiple [crosstalk 00:26:44].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And so it’s all [inaudible 00:26:44] nutritional deficiencies or hormonal imbalances and all these things. And I said, “What’s going on is that these patients need to support all these things in order to get better.” And she said, “Well, let’s just study one thing.” I’m like, “Let’s see, if diet is important, you eat right.”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
They’ll never get better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s important to exercise. It’s important to sleep right. It’s important to deal with stress. Are you saying we just study exercise, but not diet and the rest? It just doesn’t make any sense. It’s like, “Let’s just see if we can grow a plant by just giving it nitrogen. We won’t give phosphorus, potassium, we won’t give water, we won’t give sunlight, we won’t have healthy soil, but we’re just going to give it potassium and see if the plant can grow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It won’t work, yeah.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It just doesn’t make any sense.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
No.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’ve been so pioneering in creating these multimodal interventions somehow, where you look at multiple interventions, and they pass by the review boards for the research. And they’re actually clinically far more effective than anything we’ve seen for MN and these chronic autoimmune neurologic issues.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
I have a really unique reason I’m able to do this, Mark. I was on the institutional review board for the University of Iowa for years before I became disabled. And so they watched me become profoundly disabled, and then recover, walk and bike. I’m still on the institutional review board.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And so when I came with my first protocol, actually the review board declined.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Rejected the protocol. And the reason ultimately this all got to happen, the dean of the College of Medicine called the head of the institutional review board and said, “I really want Terry’s study to get approved,. So work with her to meet whatever concerns you have so she can do her little study. Because I want her to do that little single arm safety and feasibility study.”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So then the head of the IRB called me, arranged for me to meet with the pharmacy and therapeutics committee, because they were worried about the supplements. So we addressed the supplements. We had a pretty strict exclusionary criteria. We had to do a bunch of safety labs, so we got that part worked out.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Then they were worried about the diet, because it’s a crazy diet because it was excluding food groups, and nobody could follow this diet. So then I had to do a pre-study. And fortunately, we had someone find that that was me, so they analyzed my diet. And when the dietician analyzed my diet, and she had done dietary analysis research for about 30 years, she goes, “I have never analyzed a diet that was this nutrient dense in all of my years of research.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So we got approval and were able to do our little study.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Now, the people we enrolled had progressive MS, secondary progressive, prime progressive. They were using canes and walkers. They had severe fatigue. Nobody with cognitive decline got in because we excluded those folks.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And they were having like five servings of gluten, dairy and eggs every day, one and a half servings of vegetables a day. So really, a standard American diet. No exercise. They’re exhausted.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
At the end of 12 months, they’re having on an average eight cups of vegetables a day.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, dramatic change. And they were fully compliant with their diet 90% of the days. And then on the exercise, doing the exercise and the E-Stim every day, 75% of the days they had done their exercise and E-Stim.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
The average meditation minutes I think was 7.6 minutes per day. And the self massage was 3.6 minutes per day. So these exhausted people did remarkably well with this complicated, multimodal intervention, at the end of the year.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s impressive.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Now, the other reason I’m able to do my crazy research, Mark, is I’m not getting funded by the NIH.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They won’t fund you.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
They won’t fund you. We write grants, we get scathing reviews. We just got another grant back, scathing reviews and will realize-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Negative.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yeah, negative reviews.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Why, what are they saying?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, the reviewers clearly have a pharmaceutical point of view. They didn’t think people could do the diets, the Swank and the Wahls diets were too unpalatable. People wouldn’t follow the diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh my God.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
They thought it was unrealistic that we were going to follow people for two years. Why are we doing MRIs? Because you need drugs to have a favorable impact.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh my God. Crazy.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Okay, so we have that challenge. Now, the benefit I have, Mark, is because my work has been actually effective at transforming people’s lives… We’ve transformed the lives of people who are cold calling the university saying, “I believe in what Dr. Wahls is doing. I’d like to support her research.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
To fund you.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
They fund our research.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And so that’s how I funded the first study, the [inaudible 00:32:33] feasibility study. It was a group out of Canada, founded by Ashton Embry and his wife, Joan. They gave us the funds for that first small pilot study. And we had a PhD student that helped to help me run that study.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And the university and the VA gave me time, which of course is hard to get, to run the study.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
What did the study find?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, that was that very first study, which we showed that people could radically change their diet, they could do the meditation, the exercise and the fatigue severity- and on a fatigue severity scale, score goes from seven to one, seven total fatigue in every aspect of your life, one, no fatigue – dropped 2.38 points. And 0.45 is clinically meaningful.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
That’s a huge drop.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And the anxiety remarkably went down, depression remarkably went down. Verbal memory, non-verbal memory and performance went remarkably up. And half of our folks had improvements in their 25-foot walking time.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
For progressive MS, when you anticipate a 20% decline per year… As a group, we held them flat. So as a group, that was remarkably [crosstalk 00:34:03]. They didn’t get worse as a group. Normally they do.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
They didn’t get any worse, which normally they do. That’s why it’s called progressive, right?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yes. That’s why they call it progressive. That’s very exciting stuff.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So that was the first idea, that people could tolerate it, they would do it, and then they didn’t get worse, and they often got better, and had a reduction in fatigue. What were the next follow-up studies you’ve done, and what did they show?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, the next study was a small study. Again, funded by our donors. And now we just did the diet. And it was a randomized, a relapsing, remitting study. And in 12 weeks, so shorter duration, so it’s less costly to run, people again could radically change their diet. Fatigue went down. Quality of life went remarkably up. And the speed at what you could do a 25-foot walk, remarkably improved. And the hand function also improved, compared to the control group.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So Terry, you went from a reclining wheelchair to riding your bike 20 miles a day. How many people would see that level of change?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
In terms of the whole population, I don’t know, Mark, because-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Are you seeing cases like yours, where people are recovering?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yes. I am. So, one of the individuals in our study, Dawn, she was using a cane for short distances, walker for long distances. She had severe fatigue. She was making arrangements to sell her home, move to assisted living, because her son was finishing grad school and she knew she couldn’t manage once he moved out. And she enrolled in our study. And she was struggling driving 15 minutes to work.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
By the time the study ended, her son graduates, moves out. And we followed people for three years, by the way. So at that point, she’s taking her dog hiking for miles. She’s doing Pilates and weightlifting. She doesn’t really like jogging so she didn’t take up jogging, although she can run. And her son’s moved six hours away, and she’s comfortable driving to see him.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
I saw Dawn before the pandemic, when I was out giving some lectures in the community, so it was 2019, and she looks great.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s incredible.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
She’s still working. She would have been disabled and unemployed.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Another patient from our study, again, that I saw in 2019 with primary progressive MS. Again, primary progressive MS. When she enrolled with us, she needed bilateral support, two walking sticks. She had profound fatigue. Her score was 6.7 on a 7 point scale.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow, that’s pretty bad.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, profoundly bad. So, she’s walking comfortably now. We enrolled her in 2010, so now it’s nine years later when I saw her. She’s walking, doing well. She is in a band, a geriatric band that she plays in.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Wow.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It’s very fun. At my talk, she stands up like a revival, and she’s telling everyone in the audience about her experience in the study and how transformative heat in the study is.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And then here’s the other interesting thing that she also noted, Mark, is that she’s telling the audience that “If I stop Wahls protocol, I’m exhausted and I can’t walk.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s worse again.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It’s worse. So she can tell within 24 hours if she’s backing off on the diet.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So basically, this approach seems to, it puts it in remission, but it doesn’t cure it. Is that it?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, I don’t think anyone with a chronic disease is ever cured. We control it, we restore physiology, we can improve our health. But if I came to your house and had gluten, dairy and eggs, my trigeminal neuralgia would turn on within 24 hours and I would have incapacitating pain.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I see. Technically, you’re ‘re cured if you don’t eat that stuff. In other words, it’s like if your diabetes, your A1C is perfect, but if you eat sugar, it goes up. Well, I guess maybe somebody else wouldn’t. So you already have the tendency toward it, but it’s still kind of-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So I’m very careful to not claim cure, but I’m careful to say, “I’m very well managed as long as I take care of myself, [inaudible 00:38:40] the Wahls protocol. I can bike, I can hike, I’m pain-free and I do really very well.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s incredible.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
That is true for all of us who have, whether it’s anxiety, depression, diabetes, insulin resistance; as long as we are managing our diet and lifestyle, we can have a rich, full life, relatively normal physiology, no evidence of disease, and do great. But if I think I can go back to that previous diet and lifestyle and not get sick, that’s incorrect.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Right, I agree. I had this patient once who was diabetic, and I told him what to do. And he used it, blood sugar went to normal. He says, “Doctor, now my blood sugar is normal. Can I go back to eating my carbohydrates?” I’m like, “No, you can’t.”

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So, you just got a $2 million gift to support your study on the clinically isolated syndrome and relapsing-remitting MS. So talk about that.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, yeah. That was a very exciting study. We were about to launch that just before the pandemic. We’re going to have newly diagnosed MS, clinically isolated syndrome folks, baseline assessments, baseline MRIs, basically give them the Wahls protocol, and have monthly support calls. Bring them back in a year, repeat all the assessments, including the MRIs. And then the pandemic happened. So, unfortunately, we had not started our study, so we had to redesign everything, and reimagine the study.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So, the study is now a virtual study. It has three arms.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Again, newly diagnosed folks who have been offered drugs and have declined drugs. And we basically put them on the Wahls diet, a stress reduction program, and an exercise program. And we do virtual assessments every three months, and monthly support calls.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Then the control arm are folks who are, again, newly diagnosed, and are taking disease modifying therapy. And they can have whatever diet and lifestyle interventions that they want.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And then the third arm, we said that we needed a third arm now because we can’t get the MRIs the way we hoped. What we’re doing is we’re abstracting the medical records here at the University of Iowa of newly-diagnosed folks with MS and clinically isolated syndrome. And we are counting in everyone from their medical records their number of lesions, the number of relapses in the progression of symptoms, or remission of symptoms during that time period.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So it’ll probably be another eight months of data collection. Then we will analyze our data.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
With MS there’s often white matter changes in the brain. In other words, there’s just scarring in the brain that you can see on an MRI. Do you see changes in that as well?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
We’re we’re going to find out. I do know that in our intervention arm, we do have some folks who are having more relapses, who have elected to go on drugs. We are also having some folks who have had their follow-up MRIs, and lesions have disappeared, and they’re not having relapses. And their neurologists are like, “Wow, this is really amazing.”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So we’ll see what happens at the end. Certainly the vast majority of folks in our intervention arm are reporting symptoms are going down. Their motor problems are reduced, their sensory problems are reduced, vision is improving.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Impressive, impressive. So, how is this research being received now? What’s different about it? Because it seems like you hit a lot of resistance at the beginning. The MS Society wouldn’t even talk to you, like you’re a quack. And now they’re wanting to talk to you, work with you. What are you seeing?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, why all this is happening, I think the Ted talk went viral. I got a book deal, the book was a bestseller. The MS society monitors social media, and they saw that when my book came out, all of the attention, which led them to prioritize and create a wellness conference. And they actually tracked me down and got me to the wellness conference. I was one of the scientists there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s amazing.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And then they made a priority to fund dietary and lifestyle research, and funded the wave study.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Really.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
So that one was funded by the MS society.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s so great, Terry. And the work you’re doing is so important, and putting the foundation of research behind it and showing the efficacy. Have you seen your neurological colleagues who specialize in MS start to change at all what they’re doing, have a different view. Are they still stuck in diet doesn’t matter. Where are we at?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, we’re still making a lot more progress. There’s more research that the microbiome is altered. There are more people doing dietary intervention studies. Now we have some small studies about calorie restriction, fasting, eugenic diets, the paleolithic diet, Mediterranean diet, Swank diet, McDougal diet, all these small studies. Our Wave study is the largest study to date.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
We have a protocol in front of the IRB for a couple more studies that I’m really excited about.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
One is a study of the online program that I run. So we’re going to evaluate the dietary intake and whether or not that is associated with changes in quality of life and fatigue. That’s going to be very, very exciting, because if an online program can do those things, then that makes this-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Accessible.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
… available to everyone. And then we have plans for another study, a big study, Wahls diet, ketogenic diet, dietary guidelines that will include MRIs at baseline and at two years. And that will be a study funded by again, a very generous donor.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
It’s amazing though, you think there should be something funded by the NIH, right? There should be funding by the government.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
The NIH should be funding this.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And now we’re having private donors doing it, which is fine, but it’s unfortunate that you can get millions and billions of dollars to study drugs, but you can’t get 5 cents to study lifestyle or nutrition.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
That’s because there’s this dedication to thinking we can understand biology molecular pathway by molecular pathway. But biology is a network of balancing and counterbalancing pathways.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely. And I think-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
If we’re going to create health, we have to study complex systems, and you have to support the entire system.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s right. That’s what functional medicine is, it’s treating the system, not the individual symptoms or diseases. And then when you do that-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It’s the only way to create health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
You’re not actually treating MS, you’re just creating a healthy person by getting them off crappy food, getting them a real diet, getting them exercise, reduce their stress, sleep better, take a few supplements to optimize your metabolic pathways. You’re not really treating MS specifically, right?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Right, correct.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And that’s what people don’t realize. This is not an MS treatment, this is a health treatment.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
This is a health treatment.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And for anybody with an autoimmune disease, it’s going to be a very powerful model.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
When I first had my recovery, my partner started complaining about what I was doing, and I got called in. They had to speak with the chief of staff and the chief of medicine at the university. And then I got sent to the Complementary Alternative Medicine Clinic. And my chief of medicine sat me down and said, “Terry, you got to talk about it differently because you’re making people upset.”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And what I learned, and the way I shifted my conversation, Mark, was that I told my patients that, “We’re going to monitor drugs and your disease, but we’re going to focus on supporting how your cells run the chemistry of life. And we’ll just watch, see if I have to adjust your medicines, if you run the chemistry of life a little bit better. And so we’re going to do it through diet and lifestyle.”

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And that’s why I documented in the chart that I’m supporting their health, and then we will watch for side effects on their medicines. I had to learn how to talk about in a way that was more comfortable for people, and to make sure that people did not think I was treating disease, that I was working on creating better health.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s how you say functional medicine is the science of creating health, and disease goes away as a side effect.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
That is exactly right. And what we’re simply doing is monitoring the drugs to be sure people are not over-medicated.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
N, exactly. Right. Well, I had a huge problem when I wrote my book Blood Sugar Solution, because people started following the book, and it was a number one bestseller, and people were following the program and we’re getting all these calls, “My blood pressure’s too low, my blood sugar’s too low.” I’m like, “You don’t need your medication.” So I had to put in a big warning that says, “If you’re on medication, this program can be dangerous because it will prevent you from needing those medications. And if you’re taking them, your blood sugar and your blood pressure are going to go too low, so you need to taper off them with your doctor.” So let’s-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Yeah. We did that as well. We put all these mornings in my reprints in the book to say, “If you’re on meds you have to work closely with your doc, because you may need to [inaudible 00:49:02].

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Exactly. So let’s switch topics a little bit. I want to talk about the microbiome. You mentioned it briefly. But I remember years ago, maybe 20 years ago, I had an MS patient. And she said to me, “Dr. Hyman, well, I have irritable bowel. And whenever my irritable bowel gets bad, my MS gets bad. When my irritable bowel’s better my MS is better.” And I was like, “Oh. Noted. Noted.” When patients say that stuff to me, I pay attention. And that was before even the word microbiome was in the culture at all.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And in functional medicine, we always address the gut. We always address the gut as a way of dealing with inflammation. And MS is an inflammatory disease. So what is the story of the microbiome in MS, and why is there such a link? And how does it all connect? And what do we do about it? How does the Wahls protocol affect the microbiome?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Well, we have a greater appreciation that your microbiome is talking to your T cells, your T regulatory cells. It affects your immune tone of how many pro-inflammation molecules you’re going to make, and which immune cells are going to be active.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
We also know if you have a leaky gut, you probably also have a leaky brain. And these immune cells and these inflammatory molecules are getting into your brain and activating the immune cells in your brain called microglia. And your microglia are continually sensing the environment, and either making it very inflammatory, which is causing a relapse, or very reparative, which is rebuilding the myelin that’s been damaged. And that is going to depend on what you’re eating and what you’re doing. And so it is part of why I talk to my patients, “Are you pooping rocks, logs, snakes, pudding, or tea?” If it’s pudding or tea, you need less fiber.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Oh my God.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
If it’s rock or dry logs, you need more fiber and more sauerkraut, and kimchi. If you’ve got snakes and they’re getting into your pants, then you probably still need to have less fiber. Snakes are ideal, but only if they don’t get into your pants. Isn’t that way easier than the Bristol chart, one to seven?

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s the best description of poop I’ve ever heard. A little graphic and visual, but I think we all get the point.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Everyone laughs, and they all get it. They all understand it. And they understand snakes in the pants are a problem.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
So a lot of times in functional medicine, we treat the gut directly. We really focus on gut reparative therapies, the five R program in functional medicine. Do you need to do that with the Wahls protocol? Or do you just do the general approach, and it works? Or do you need to get dive in there and say, “Oh, this person has extra [inaudible 00:51:52] information, or they have [inaudible 00:51:54], or they have this and that parasite?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
You know what is interesting, Mark, is when I went through my personal transformation, my only clinic practice was at the VA. and at the VA you really can’t do any functional medicine labs, zero. And the supplements I could get were B vitamins and fish oil, and that was it.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And what I discovered is, by basically doing the Wahls protocol, man, I was reversing disease left and right. And so what I learned was behavior change, group clinics, group visits, and the power of starting with the Wahls protocol, listening closely to how people responded, and making adjustments based on their response.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
If someone had a parasite or really bad gut, don’t they need probiotics, don’t they need other things to help?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
They may. And there’s no doubt if I could have done functional medicine testing, I could’ve recovered people more quickly. And there are people who I couldn’t recover as well as I would’ve liked, that had I been able to do functional medicine testing, I could have probably done better.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Incredible. So, the microbiome is a huge role in our immune system and across the spectrum of diseases, and especially in inflammation, and we’ve talked about that a lot on the podcast.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I do think that the work you’re doing is so radical, because it does affect everything. It affects your nutrient levels, it affects your microbiome, it reduces inflammation. It helps to optimize the function of all the systems in your body that you were talking about.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Let’s just shift a little bit. Because we’ve been talking about multiple sclerosis, and your latest book is really about the auto-immune spectrum, not just MS, which is part of that. So why is this effective for that? And what are the things that people can do if they have an autoimmune disease?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
I want to get back to so why do we develop an autoimmune process? Why does my innate immune system get overly activated? Why do I begin to develop auto antibodies against specific structures in my body?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And so there’s only a few basic reasons why that’s going to happen. If I have an autoimmune disease and I take disease-modifying drugs, but I don’t address the root causes that led to the autoimmune process, people will develop another autoimmune diagnosis about every 5 to 10 years.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And I certainly see that in my tribe. People come in, they see me, and they’ve had several autoimmune diagnoses. And as we work with they get better control of all of their conditions. So, because the Wahls protocol… Well, I designed it obviously for myself, and it’s focused a lot on the brain. It addresses the root causes of why these autoimmune processes are developing. So it helps psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, allergies, asthma, myasthenia gravis, MS.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And frankly, people reach out to me, tell me that they have a disease that I have to look up because I’ve never heard of it, and their physicians had given up hope. And they had stumbled on my work, implemented my work, and are steadily improving.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And I’ve also had people with genetic disorders, muscular dystrophy, for example-

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Yeah, tell us about that.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
… who found my work. He actually has been coming to my seminar since the very first one. And he talks about yup, he still has muscular dystrophy, but he’s far more functional since implementing the Wahls protocol, and he’s not getting worse.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think it’s important to understand for people that people can get better from all sorts of things when they change their diet. And I’ve seen this across the spectrum in my practice. So what you’re speaking to is such an important fundamental principle.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
People with cystic fibrosis. People with Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease. It makes a lot of sense that if you have the standard American diet, standard American lifestyle, you’re going to accelerate the damage from those genetic diseases. If we help you address diet and lifestyle, gentle hormesis, you will have the best quality of life and best function, given your genetic circumstances.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
I think that’s right. Terry, I think we think of Down syndrome or cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy as these intractable progressive conditions, which are autosomal dominant inherited conditions that you can’t really modify or change. If you have a gene that affects folate metabolism or vitamin D metabolism, you can modify. These are called mild, single nucleotide polymorphism. They’re just slight variations in our genes, they’re not mutations. These are mutations, and they profoundly change your biology.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
But what I found again, like you, just observationally in my practice is I’ve had many patients like this. So, I don’t know, let’s see if we can help you. Let’s do this, let’s look and see under the hood what’s going on. What’s often amazing is they have the worst metabolic health you could imagine. Their metabolic and biochemical pathways are all messed up and haywire. That there are certain functional things that go wrong that you can modify through understanding the biology of the disease. And whether it’s muscular dystrophy, whether there’s mitochondrial issues, or whether there’s Down syndrome, where there’s huge insulin resistance and inflammatory pathways and methylation problems, you can really impact them by changing their diet, by certain types of supplementation.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And it was striking to me to see that, where people can have really dramatically improved quality of life. You’re not curing Down syndrome or muscular dystrophy, but you are modifying the course of the disease, and you’re actually improving their overall health and quality of life.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Absolutely. I spent a lot of time trying to tell people the goal is to have the best function that we can for you. And the way to do that is nutrition, sleep, stress management and consistent, gentle hormesis.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think in terms of the autoimmune in general issue for people, do you suggest they just try the Wahls protocol? Is there another strategy you have for them or-

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Oh, yeah. I want to figure out where they’re at. I want them to know what they want their health for. So we deal with the mental, emotional, spiritual, and then we have them with the Wahls protocol. And I stress this as a family intervention. It’s a negotiation. What is the family willing to do, and to do all of this together.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
And depending on the circumstance, I might put them on the Wahls elimination diet. I might run them through food sensitivity testing so we can be very precise. Or they may need to start at the Mediterranean diet because that’s all the family is willing to do. So there’s a clear negotiation. What are you willing to do? Because whatever the intervention is, I want it to be 100%. Doing the Wahls diet at 50% is not very helpful.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Cut down from six Diet Cokes a day to three a day. That doesn’t work.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Doing the Mediterranean diet at 100% is better than doing the Wahls diet at 50%. So I want to have a negotiation: what can we do at 100%? And in my VA practice, sometimes what we had to start was meditation, because we had to find a lifestyle intervention that they could do 100%. And when they mastered that, then we could begin adding the next layer and the next layer and the next layer.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Amazing. So Terry, your work is so important. You’ve touched so many millions of people, and you’re bringing hope where there was none, especially in the field of MS. It’s one of those horrible conditions that I’ve treated in so many patients. And it’s remarkable, when you follow these principles, and I’ve followed similar principles over the years, treating these patients with great success. And hopefully this will get more into the mainstream. But what you’ve done is you’ve created access points. You’ve got your books, you’ve got your cookbook, and also now you have these online programs. So tell us a little bit about the online programs that people are listening and they want to join. Where would they go? How do they find it? What is the program?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Several times a year we have a free five-day challenge. And that is five days of lessons that people get from me. Two lessons a day to help you on your journey of adopting a diet and lifestyle. And then we have the auto-immune intervention mastery course, again which is online, so we have people from all over the globe. There are five modules, lots of lessons within each module to take you through the emotional aspect, the food aspect, the exercise movement aspect, and the supplements, and supplemental, what are the additional things that you can do? And in the online course you also get access to seven group calls, where I come in, I provide more information, answer questions, and provide a lot more clarity. And we’ll be having our five-day challenge starting August 15th, and the auto-immune mastery course starts August 30th. And then the seven weeks. We have put literally thousands and thousands and thousands of people through those programs.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Where can people find that?

Dr. Terry Wahls:
Oh yeah, Terry Wahls, T-E-R-R-Y, Wahls W-A-H-L-S.com. And you’ll see links to the five-day challenge and to the auto-immune course there.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
Well, I know how tough it is to put that stuff together. And I really appreciate you doing the work so everybody can get the benefit, because it’s not easy I know to run those things. And I encourage people who are listening, if they have an autoimmune disease, if they have MS or they know someone, to please share this podcast with them and let them know about this program, let them know about Terry’s work. It’s game changing. And I can’t thank you enough for showing up and figuring it out for yourself.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
That’s what I did. I was so sick from so many different things. My job in the world was getting sick and then getting better and figuring out how to tell everybody how to get better. So I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, but for both of us it’s led to some pretty remarkable findings.

Dr. Terry Wahls:
It’s been good.

Dr. Mark Hyman:
And good things in the end. So if you’ve listened to podcast, you loved it, go to TerryWahls.com, learn more about her work, get her books, join her course. And if you loved it, please share with your friends and family on social media. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts. And leave a comment. We’d love to hear from you what’s worked for you, how have you struggled with disease and autoimmunity and how have you helped yourself? And of course, we’ll see you next week on the Doctor’s Farmacy.
speaker 1:
Hi, everyone. I hope you enjoyed this week’s episode. Just a reminder that this podcast is for educational purposes only. This podcast is not a substitute for professional care by a doctor or other qualified medical professional. This podcast is provided on the understanding that it does not constitute medical or other professional advice or services. If you’re looking for help in your journey, seek out a qualified medical practitioner. If you’re looking for a functional medicine practitioner, you can visit ifm.org and search there. Find a practitioner database. It’s important that you have someone in your corner who’s trained, who’s a licensed healthcare practitioner, and can help you make changes, especially when it comes to your health.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

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