Challenging Degenerative Disease: How Much Healing Is Possible?

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intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. – Chances are you’ve heard
of the Wahls protocol, but when you join us for
this episode of The Practice, you’re going to get the
behind-the-scenes scoop on what it took for
once-conservative, academic physician to overcome direct conflict with the very material
she’s meant to teach her medical students and residents. Dr. Terry Wahls was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis, and found healing through the
power of food and nutrition, what she calls, therapeutic
lifestyle intervention. What Dr. Wahls has provided
through her research, and experimentation,
started like all truths. First, it was denied and
viewed by some as invalid. But time and rigorous
data proved her protocol, changed lives around the world, and challenged the
conventional medical view that neurodegeneration is unavoidable and irreversible. Dr. Wahls has sparked new
questions to be answered in the realm of multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases, that’ve been deemed irreversible. – It felt miraculous, and it was also the first time is like, how much recovery might be possible? – Join us on The Practice to hear Dr. Wahls’ personal
story with multiple sclerosis, and how she’s living proof
that healing is possible. (inspirational music) – Hi, I’m Dr. Sara Gottfried, and I’m thrilled to be here
with my friend Dr. Terry Wahls. Terry, welcome. – Oh, thank you for having me. I’m thrilled to be here. – I’m so happy you’re here, and, you know I heard your story years ago, and it still is so poignant
and so touching to me, so I’d love to start there,
I’d like to start with, what got you started with all of this? – Sure. So, I’m a academic internal medicine doc, which means I teach at
a major university here, at the University of Iowa, and at that point, I’m,
I’m teaching my residents to be very skeptical of supplements, of complementary medicine, fancy diets. But, God has a way of changing us. I started having problems with
my left leg, I was stumbling, and ultimately, I got evaluation that included MRIs of my
brain, my spinal cord, spinal tapped, nerve
conduction velocities, and I was found to have lesions at the level of my spinal cord. My neurologist reminded
me that 13 years earlier, I’d had an episode of dim
vision involving my left eye, so now I had lesions, had
abnormal spinal fluid, and I had episodes
separated by time and space, so I met the criteria for relapsing-remitting
multiple sclerosis. I was advised to begin
disease-modifying therapy which I did,
and, like many physicians, I immediately started reading the research to figure out what I should expect, and was quite dismayed to see that within 10 years of diagnosis, 1/2 will likely have to stop working because of severe fatigue disability, and 1/3 will have difficulty,
needing a cane, walker or wheelchair, and will experience
serious gait disability. So, I knew I wanted to treat
my disease aggressively. I sought out the best MS
center that I could find in the Midwest that was
doing clinical research, which was the Cleveland Clinic, saw their best people, they agreed that I had relapsing-remitting
multiple sclerosis, and they urged me to begin
disease-modifying drugs, which I did. I had just one episode of weakness, in the next three years, and so I, had I been on a drug trial,
that’d be a huge success, but, I was experiencing
continual, steady decline. My Cleveland Clinic physicians
told me about the work of Loren Cordain, which, I
read his papers, read his book, and decided that there
was a scientific rationale behind adopting the paleo diet. So after 20 years of being a vegetarian, and a lot of prayer and meditation, I gave up all grains,
all legumes, all dairy, and I went back to eating meat. And I continued to decline. The next year my physicians told me I’d converted to secondary progressive MS. At that point, functions, once lost, would likely continue to disappear, and so I went ahead and took mitoxantrone which was a form of chemotherapy,
I continued to decline, I did several rounds,
I continued to decline, then my physician suggested
I take the new biologic drug, and I was thrilled to take it. And I continued to decline. So then they switched me to
another disease-modifying drug. At that point, I’m thinking like, okay, the best people, taking the newest drugs, was not stopping my slide
towards a bed-ridden and demented life, potentially, and a life of potentially
uncontrolled pain, because, trigeminal neuralgia
was part of my problem as well. And so, I start reading
the literature again, I start reading PubMed, I’m looking for the latest drug trials, then finally realized, I got to be reading about things that I can access. So, I start looking for supplement
studies, vitamin studies, and there really isn’t anything
in the animal models for MS, but there is for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s disease, so, I read a bunch of papers, and decide that
mitochondria are the driver in all these neurodegenerative diseases, and it’s probably the driver in MS even though no one’s talking
about mitochondria in MS, so, I began, again, researching and figuring out a supplement
cocktail for mitochondria. Now when I was about six months, maybe nine months into this I thought, (scoffs) you know, it’s not helping, you are wasting your money, and I quit. And I really couldn’t get out of bed to go to work the next day. Or the next day, or the next day, and, then Jackie comes in and says, you know honey I think you oughta
take your supplements again. And I did. And I could get up and go to work again. And I thought, wow, that
is really interesting. So two weeks later I do the same thing, and again, my fatigue is much worse, I can’t function, I can’t go to work, and on the third day I
take my supplements again and I could get up and go to work. So I realized, these supplements
are reducing my fatigue. Yes, they aren’t making me better, but I am very excited about that. I tell the institution review
board that I’m part of now that I want to review all the
studies related to the brain that are human, and so I’m getting more
and more comfortable reading research, more comfortable beginning
to experiment on myself, and, I decided that, I’m happy to take these
disease modifying drugs, because I wanna slow my decline, but clearly, my supplements are doing something really important. By the summer of ’07, I am so weak I can’t sit up
in a chair like this, Sara. I have a special chair, a zero-gravity chair that I can recline, my knees are higher than my nose. I am still working, the
VA and the university have redesigned my job multiple times. I could walk very short distances, like from here to the wall
there, using two walking sticks. I’m quite fatigued by 10 in the morning, I’m losing my keys, my phone, I had to replace my smart
phone three times that summer, so I’m beginning to have
issues with brain fog. My chief of staff calls me in to tell me he’s assigned me to the
traumatic brain injury clinic, come January, I’ll be seeing
patients without residence, and, I go home, I tell
Jackie and she goes, you know Terry, you can’t do that job. Couple weeks later, I review an article, or a research protocol that uses electrical stimulation of muscles in people who’ve had a spinal cord injury. Which gets me thinking,
could I use that for MS, I convinced my physical therapist to let me begin doing E-stim as part of my very simple, basic workout. Then, I come across the Institute
for Functional Medicine. They have a course on neuroprotection. I get the course, it’s
these big case notebook, and video lectures, that
I’m reviewing, taking notes, in the midst of my
brain fog so it’s really a lot of work.
– It’s not easy. It’s not easy with your brain
– It’s a lot of work. – totally intact. – And, I have a longer list
of supplements, I add those, and not much has really happened. But now I have another
really, really big idea, is like, I should figure out
where these nutrients are in the food supply, and restructure my diet to
stress more of these nutrients. So, I finally find the
Linus Pauling Institute of Micronutrients from Oregon, use that to restructure my paleo diet, and December 26th, I
start eating this way. Less meat, more vegetables,
a lot more vegetables, more organ mean. And, in the middle of January, I go off to the traumatic
brain injury clinic, and I’m watching my partners
for the first week, so, and I’m just watching, so
well, that week goes okay. I’m now entering my third week
of this new way of eating, I’m thinking, my energy’s
a little bit better, and I’m feeling a little bit
more clear in my thinking. And so now we’re in my fourth week, and now I’m gonna start
seeing the patients, so I’m getting up and doing
the exam and sitting down, and, and at the end of the week I’m like, you know that wasn’t too bad. (laughs) So, I can do this job. And, after the third month, I mail a letter, I get up and I take my cane, and I walk down the hall
and I mail a letter, and everyone’s stunned, because no one’s seen me walk in years. Four years, to be exact. And then, in six months, I’m walkin’
around the VA hospital without a cane. And at nine months, I get on my bike, and I’m
able to bike around the block. And, what you should note, Sara, is, I had fully accepted that progressive MS is only downhill, that functions once lost do not come back. So I had done the E-stim,
I had done the supplements, I’d done all this stuff, not to recover, because I knew recovery was not possible. I’d done all of this to slow the decline. And when you have a
neurodegenerative disease, part of the coming to terms with that is letting go of expectations. Letting go, and just
taking one day at a time. And so, as I had
this remarkable recovery, I didn’t know what it even meant. I was just taking it one day at a time. (voice breaking) But when
I got on my bike, you know, my son’s jogging on the left, my daughter’s jogging on the right, Jackie’s biking behind me. My kids are crying,
Jackie’s crying, I’m crying, as I’m crying now, it felt miraculous. And, it was also the first time it was like, how much recovery might be possible? That the conventional
understanding of neurodegeneration, of progressive MS, is wrong. And of course by that time, in my clinics, I’m talkin’ very little about drugs, I’m talkin’ a lot about
diet quality and exercise, and, therapeutic lifestyle. And so I’ve changed how
I’m practicing medicine. And of course, I would ultimately change
the research that I do, and I’m changing everything. – Your story is so intense. I agree, it is miraculous. And, you and I were both
trained in allopathic medicine. – Oh, yes. – There’s a few places
along the road that I hear, that I want to go back to, and maybe get a little more granular. – [Terry] Sure. – The first is, you had the openness, after you were diagnosed, to look at the work of Loren Cordain. And, that’s not true of
every allopathic physician. – No. – Was it the desperation? Was it, what was it that motivated you? Like you were just wanting
to search for other options besides what was on the table
from conventional medicine? – You know what really
helped was, I have two kids. When I was diagnosed with MS, my son was eight, my daughter was five, and I’m not wanting to
become a financial burden, so I spent a lot of time thinking about, what was my purpose in life, was it to have two kids that are successful, emotionally and financially, and, what could I do? I couldn’t teach them
resilience by mountaineering and backpacking and kayaking, but I could teach them
resilience by not giving up. I could teach them that I
could go to work every day, I could adapt as I was
getting assigned new tasks, not complain, I could give them chores. They weren’t too happy about
that, but they had chores, they had real work that
they would have to do. But it also meant, I had to be willing to do
everything that I possibly could. And so, when my Cleveland
Clinic physician said, you ought to check out the
work from Ashton Embry and Loren Cordain, I said well, okay. So, I read those papers, they were published in our
peer-reviewed journals, like okay, and it was sort
of tricky reading them because I was beginning to have
a little brain fog even then, and then I got a book for the public that was easier reading, thought okay, well,
it’s something I can do. So, it was a big deal to let
go of my vegetarian diet. Now, part of me had to laugh a lot, because I have, my parents were farmers, so they kept tellin’ me
when I was vegetarian, Terry, you are wrecking your health. (laughs)
And, my dad had already died, my mom had died about four months before
I had made this change. Thought, as I was going through prayers and being meditative about all this, I said, I feel so bad
that you guys died before, (laughs) you didn’t get be, hear me
– Vindicated, you got vindicated!
– say, you were right!
(laughs) I may have been wrecking my
health with those choices. And then, so I make the change
and, I’m not getting better, and I like well, how long does it take to rebuild a broken brain? Is this like a year? Two years? Four years? Five years? 10 years? I didn’t know, but I figured, I got to at least hope that it’s possible, so I better stay on this. So I was willing to stay on it. – I love that. So when I look back at my
experience in medical school, biochemistry I learned,
all the basic science, I had about 30 minutes of nutrition. How much did you have? – I don’t think I even got that. – Yeah. It’s a problem.
– It’s shocking. You know, and we got, did I
get anything about exercise? I don’t remember that. I don’t remember anything
about stress reduction. – My perception, as I went
through my medical education, was that these were
considered kind of lesser, concerns, lesser subjects than
the latest immunology, the latest science paper,
the latest paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the latest Nobel Prize in medicine, and what that represented. And so, lifestyle medicine,
therapeutic lifestyle, was really, not something
that I was taught much about, I had to teach myself. But you had this openness, which I think is so, curious and also, your salvation. I like how you kinda framed it as, this was something I could do for my kids, like I wanted to show them resilience. – You know, absolutely. And had I not had children, I’m not sure I would’ve
headed down this journey. But having my two kids gave
me a great deal of pause, they’re watching. And I… you know, moms, we will do more for our kids than we’ll do for ourself. – Absolutely true. – And so, when I talk with my patients, I often take advantage of that, like, I know you may not be ready
to do this for yourself, but you have children
that are depending on you. And so, it’s, nearly always, they will do that. – Yes. I totally agree with that. I feel like, we know so much about what moves the needle
when it comes to your health, especially with lifestyle medicine. The change management is kind
of another beast entirely, and I think finding those ways, especially over a long
career in medicine, of, really understanding
how to motivate change is such an important part
of art and science medicine. – Absolutely. I’ve become more and more impressed with helping people grow their resilience, growing their internal motivation. Early on when I was doing my research, one of my key research
mentors is a dietician, who, her area of expertise is behavior change, and so, I learned a lot from
my dietician colleagues. And, utilized that in our research, and then utilized that
in my lifestyle clinic. And then working with the
behavior psychologist, so I spend more and more time
talking about resilience. Why people want to do this, and help them grow their
internal motivation. beCause that is really
the name of the game is, helping people grow their desire
to do this very hard work. – To define their why, I think the why is a big part of then getting to the what and the how. – [Terry] Correct. – So, I wanna talk a bit about your research, because I think this is, you’re adding to the evidence base in a way that I think is so impactful, and, I would say, if we
look at it objectively, there’s still some gaps
in our knowledge base. – Absolutely. – What are the gaps? And, how are you helping to address them? – At the university I had
a lot of pushback at first, people were very upset that I wasn’t, they were thrilled with my recovery, but they got really nervous
when I quit talking about drugs, started talking about vegetables. (laughs) You know, like oh my god, what are you doing? I’m talking about B vitamins
and fish oil and vegetables. – It’s so threatening. (laughs) – That, so, I had
complaints filed against me, so I had to go meet
with the chief of staff and the chief of medicine. And I had a cart full of all of my papers, and in the end, they were won over. And then, the local MS chapter
wanted me to come speak. And then I got interviewed by
their clinical advisory board, and then I got banned
because they were, afraid that people would hear my story and reject disease-modifying drugs, which are FDA approved, and
have, some proven benefits, and so they thought, they
were obligated to ban me. So then I had to go meet
with my chief of staff and my chief of medicine, say, okay Terry, what’s going
on, why are people banning you? So, we had to go through all of that. Now, and fortunately, as I
again went through the science, then they had me meet with the head of the complementary
alternative medicine clinic at the university, who taught me how to document
in the medical record, that I’m changing physiology,
I’m not treating disease, I’m just treating cellular health, and to be very careful to not overpromise. So, I, it was much more clear in all of my public talks after that. Fortunately, in that journey, became apparent to my chief of medicine, who then became the dean of
medicine, and my chief of staff, that it would be very important for me to document
everything that was going on. So I was given first the job
of writing up the case, which I did with my treating medical team, and then again–
– The N-of-1 case, of yourself.
– The N-of-1 case, yeah, very important. And that was an interesting
experience to get through, but we got that done, and then I got called
back by the now-dean, who gave me the job of,
this is so important, you need to do a feasibility trial. And I said, well, that’s not my research. I’ll get you the mentors, Terry, this is your job.
(laughing) And you can’t say no to the dean. – No, you can’t. – So, yeah, he got me the
dietician, Linda Snetselaar, who’s been an incredible
mentor, and Warren Darling. So, we wrote up the protocol, as precisely as we could, then I had to secure about
$100,000 worth of funding, and, thank you to our Canadian friends, they helped me secure that. And, we did the study. Because it was so radical, I had to have a little
pre-study ahead of time, because, if you’re
excluding whole food groups, the dieticians are very concerned that it will not be nutritionally sound. And my nutritionist said, this is the most nutrient-dense diet I’ve ever analyzed
(laughing) in the 35 years I’ve ever been doing this! – Why am I not doing this all the time? – She’s like, wow. So, we did get approval to do the study, but I was still restricted,
I could only do, we had money to do 20,
but I could only do 10, I’d have to file a
safety report, with the first 10 to show
that we hadn’t harmed anyone, and that the trend is
in the right direction. Because with only 10, you’re not gonna have
statistically significant changes. So, we did the first 10, and people who were overweight lost weight without being hungry, and that we had a
improved quality of life, clinically meaningful improvement, really quite dramatic
improvement in quality of life, as measured by the Short Form 36. And, we had the fatigue reduction, with a p-value, that was really quite large. On a seven-point scale, it reduced by 2.38. Huge.
– In 10 patients. – In 10 patients, p-value of .0008. – That’s amazing! That’s really amazing. – So, that was like wow,
that was really pretty good. So we, needless to say, we got
permission to do the next 10, and so we continued, and now I had to file a
report every three months, because of all the weight loss. (laughing) – You were too successful. – So, the good news
is, people lost weight, if you’re overweight, you lost weight, but nobody became underweight, so we were able to keep
people in the healthy weight. We also measured their mood, so we had favorable changes
with anxiety reduction, depression reduction, favorable changes in verbal
and non-verbal thinking, as measured by a computer
and pencil-paper test. We have MRIs on the second 10, and that data is not even published, because I’m trying to find a MS group, for the control group, so, we haven’t published that data yet. But it was very exciting data. – That is absolutely thrilling. – Then, well we have done some
other pilot studies, with, that have been randomized and controlled and they have been quite, quite
quite favorable as well. – So, one of the things that
you and I have talked about, that I think is really important is, that you practice functional medicine in your clinical work at
the Veterans Administration. – Yes. – And you did it very
affordably, in two visits a year, I believe about 20 minutes each?
– 20 minutes, 20 minutes each, yeah. – And you had great success. So can you share a bit about that? – So, in the primary
care clinics with the, were staffing residents, they could do primary care kinds of labs. And, yeah, we would talk a lot
about diet and lifestyle. And, the residents were
primarily running those visits. And I would occasionally get to go in and get them fired up about vegetables, and they would be stunned
with the kind of success that we were able to achieve. In the traumatic brain injury
clinic that I had been sent to, originally, to force me to
take medical retirement, of course it turns out to
be the perfect place for me because, there is nothing that
you can do for these guys other than give them psych drugs and say, well, you will recover to
whatever you are gonna recover, and I come in, say,
there’s a lot we can do, we can teach you to meditate, I can have you get a step
counter, start walking, I am going to put you on a gluten-free diet, either as a vegetarian or the paleo diet if you’re a meat-eater. I made this beautiful handout
about therapeutic lifestyle. And, I got 20 minutes, two visits a year. And, in my traumatic brain injury clinic, I couldn’t do any labs, so
all I got was education. I could talk to them,
and give them a handout. And I’d say about half these guys were willing to go on that
journey with me, you know, and– – They said yes, to the change management.
– They said yes. I made people really
nervous, they are like, oh my, (scoffs) but I learned to be very careful to, I wasn’t diagnosing or treating, I was just trying to optimize
their cellular function to make it easier for the
brain to do whatever repair that it was going be able to do. And, the director of the
traumatic brain injury clinic could quickly tell by the end of the year, who I had seen and who I hadn’t, (laughing)
because they were more likely to still be working, and still be romantically
involved with someone. My residents were getting
much more intrigued by the fact that, when they had me to come in
to talk to their patients, nearly always the patient was willing to make these big changes in their diet, and then when they did, their blood pressures would improve, the blood sugars would improve, and their pain would reduce. And so, there were two faculty staffing, and the other faculty would be a conventional
internal medicine doc, talking drugs, I’m talking biochemistry,
physiology, and vegetables, and I’m thinking you know,
this is not gonna work. And sure enough, finally the
chief of medicine calls me and says we got to take
you out of primary care, the residents are just
getting too confused. (laughs) I’m like, yeah I saw that coming. And he goes, then what surprised me, he said, I want you to
have your own clinic. And so, then we established the
therapeutic lifestyle clinic, and in that clinic I could now get to have some primary care labs, so I could do a vitamin
D, insulin, glucose, fasting lipids, homocysteine. That’s what, that was all that I did. And, the supplements I could use, vitamin D, B complex, and fish oil. That was it. I could, I got a dietician who I got fired up by our success, and so we taught in group classes, and we would do an initial intake, then we would have people
come back for support group as a group every other
month for six months. And we had marvelous
results, marvelous results. – So this is such an important
point that I wanna enunciate, because I, I think, with allopathic physicians who maybe have one foot
still in the allopathic world and they’re starting to check out personalized lifestyle medicine
or functional medicine, precision medicine, they look at kind of the
financial cost of the workup. Maybe it’s $10,000, $20,000
to get all the specialty labs, and I think this is so important– – (scoffs) You don’t need it. – To realize that you can
actually have great success, even with the short list of
labs that you were doing, even with the short list of supplements that you had on offer. – And keep in mind, in my
traumatic brain injury clinic, I could do no labs. No labs. And for the first two
years, no supplements. All I had was the opportunity
to talk with them, to explain that I thought diet was key, quality of sleep was key,
and movement was key, and to invite them to go on this journey, and say look, you’ve
been suffering for years. Would you be willing to do an experiment, and, I would urge them to do
the experiment for 100 days, when they were ready. And, people were often ready. My vets over time really taught me to value talking about
why they want to do it, what is their purpose. I spent a lot of time talking
about their hero’s journey, and, this opportunity for self-reflection, self-experimentation
is their hero’s journey that they could, if they
can reclaim their health, then this is the gift they could
give back to their buddies, they’re also struggling. – Huge. Huge. – So, they taught me a lot. And, at first when I first was discovering
functional medicine, I was so annoyed with the VA
that I didn’t have more time, I couldn’t get the
functional medicine labs, and I was sort of cranky about it, but you know, it was such a phenomenal gift that I had the tools. And the most important
tool is inspiring hope, explaining why this might work, and inviting them to do this journey, this journey of
self-experimentation for 100 days, at 100%, when they, whenever it is that
they are ready to do it, and then come back and
let us know how it goes. And come back and ask
for help if they need it. That is a very powerful intervention. – So I hope our listeners can borrow what you just described, because I think that 100-day commitment, that container, it’s actually considered a gong. You know, there is kind of this ancient process around choosing to commit to
a sacred goal for 100 days, so there is some history to this. So I want to take a step
back, and tell you that, I was on your Instagram account. (gasps) And you had a post that I really loved, and I loved it without
knowing this backstory, because I feel like this
post was hard-won by you. And the post, I am not
going to quote it exactly, but it was something like, vegetables restore biochemical pathways. Drugs disrupt biochemical pathways. Did I get it right? – Yeah, close enough That was very good, yeah.
– Close enough, okay. So, I absolutely loved it, in fact I clipped it, I put it in a talk, I gave credit to you, told everyone to follow you on Instagram. And, I feel like, that’s kind of a, it’s part of the victory
that you have experienced in academic medicine, in the VA system, and I just kind of loved it on its own, but I especially love
hearing the backstory of it. – Yeah, you know, when I think of, in my life and academic medicine. So, 12 years ago, as
all this was unfolding, and I become this new kind of physician, very eccentric, very odd, I, people didn’t really quite
know what to make of me. I got invited to give grand rounds, because I was invited to
give the same talk I gave for my promotion talk, which was supposed to be
about my previous research, but I did it on my case
report of myself anyway, and people either loved that talk or thought I was just
like, way too eccentric and shouldn’t be–
– They didn’t know what to do with you. – Yeah. So I got a lot of pushback, but, I adapted, changed my
messaging a little bit, and then got launched on doing this little feasibility study. And every year we have our research week, and so, we wouldd have posters
up from our research lab, and we would start having
these stunning results, and then I started showing
the gait change videos, and then we started getting
our research published. And so now I have got, and then the university
started getting cold calls from people around the globe saying, we have heard about Dr. Wahls, and we would like to contribute
to the Wahls research fund. – Oh, I like it. – And so, second time they got a cold call with a six-figure donation
to my research lab, I got another appointment with the dean. (laughing) He goes, okay Terry, what is going on? This has never happened at
the the university before. And so, I have gone from
this eccentric oddity, now, to this brilliant visionary, because, one, I am a
little socially awkward, and I am sort of oblivious mostly, but I am willing to do the research, and because I am not a PhD, I am an MD, sort of steeped in my own experience, and what I have learned
through functional medicine, I ask questions that really matter and then hire the PhDs
to help me make sure that I have appropriate measures. But I don’t let them tell
me what questions to ask. I ask the questions that really matter. – So I want to get to those questions. What are the questions that
are leading you forward? – So, the next question that
we are trying to explore is, in the newly diagnosed MS patient, or newly diagnosed autoimmune patient, if we put them on a therapeutic lifestyle, or we have a newly diagnosed MS patient, we put them on a drug-based therapy, and we follow them for a year. And we will follow them
with clinical measures, follow them with ocular
coherence tomography, some very detailed optic nerve functions, and MRIs. Do we harm them? Are we equivalent to the best
that drugs have to offer? Are we better? And, we are raising money, I am, we are about 40% of the way there with the amount of money
that we need to raise, but I, I am very optimistic
that we will secure the funding and we will be able to get
20 people in each arm to begin to answer that question. – A number of years ago, you published your seminal
work, “The Wahls Protocol.” You are now revising it, and I know you have been
editing for a long time, you have been integrating new research, there is a lot of data, new
data that is going into it. Tell us about that. – Well, it is so exciting. When I wrote “The Wahls Protocol,” people weren’t really talking
too much about the microbiome, we weren’t talking yet about epigenetics, so, we have all of the
microbiome data that has come in. We have more information that, it is not necessarily the
species of the microbiome, it’s what the species can
do, it’s their metabolites that help us run the chemistry of life, that have this huge impact, so that will be a very, very
interesting conversation. And there is a lot more that we
understand now about fasting. – Yes. (laughs) – And, yeah, the many ways that we can get more
ketones into our system, with time-restricted feeding,
intermittent fasting, periodic fast, the fasting mimicking diet, so we will be talking about that. My research was just beginning, so, we can talk about the fact that I now have several published studies, and the fact that, when my book came out, the neurology community
thought what I was doing was potentially dangerous, that, and now the National MS
Society actually likes my work, they have given me over $1
million to fund our studies. – That’s fantastic. – And, they are funding
more dietary studies. When you go to, and you put in multiple
sclerosis and diet, and there are several studies
that are going on now. My study, the Swank versus Wahls diet, studies of Mediterranean
diets, of low-fat vegan diets, of low-fat, saturated fat diets, of a low glycemic index
diet, of ketogenic diets, of a fasting mimicking diet, so, people now agree that diet matters, and diet is an important area of study. And then we can look at the microbiome. There are so many studies
going on now for understanding, what is the impact of a microbiome. – Yes. Really important. – So. – So as we start to wrap up, I want to, pose a question to you. So, my, I think a lot about
allopathic physicians, and, we, we both trained in that model, and we both had reasons why we looked for an alternative. What would you say to
an allopathic physician who is watching us or
listening to us right now, who is maybe frustrated with the amount of time
that they have per patient, frustrated with the lack of efficacy with a lot of the pill for every ill, that we were trained to do, and maybe is somewhat
fearful about stepping away from the devil they know? Right, the allopathic model. So what would you say in terms of this arc that you have been on over
the course of your career, what would you say to
that allopathic physician? – Well, if we don’t begin teaching our patients how to create more health in their lives by adapting a nutrient-dense diet, if we don’t help people understand that our diet and lifestyle
is how we became ill, and that medications may control symptoms, but they don’t get to the root
cause of why we became ill, your patients will continue
to get steadily worse. And furthermore, you will
ultimately be replaced by other professions that will have those
conversations with your patients. It is not that we have
to be necessarily expert in that intervention, diet and lifestyle, we can refer our patients
to health coaches for that, but we have to be expert
in helping them understand that a therapeutic lifestyle is the key to creating a healing
environment for their cells. And if we don’t create that healing environment for their cells, the problems that were
driving the development to all their symptoms, all
their chronic diseases, will continue, and they will
develop worsening symptoms, even more, and higher doses of their
current medications, additional diagnoses,
additional medications, and then worsening disability. I would also caution you in that, you yourself are at risk, because of the enormous emotional strain, physical strain, financial strain, that we physicians are under. And if we don’t ourselves take care of a therapeutic diet and
lifestyle for ourselves and our family, our health will decline. So my first recommendation is, begin doing this for yourself. And then begin talking to your patients about why diet and lifestyle
are at the root of health. – Impeccable, beautiful. Love it. Any last thoughts or ideas
that you wanna share? – You know, I would say it, one thing that, has been shown in a number of studies, physicians and health
practitioners who use elements with therapeutic lifestyle
in their own lives, whether that is a stress-reducing practice, physical activity, or therapeutic diet, find ways to introduce it
and use it very successfully in their own clinical practice. If they don’t use any aspect
with therapeutic lifestyle, they never implement it in their practice. So one of the things I have been pushing, at the two medical
schools, at the, in Iowa, the school in Des Moines University, and at University of Iowa, is that we need to be
teaching our medical students, and all of our health
professional students, how to use a therapeutic
lifestyle in their own lives, so our students can survive and thrive during their medical training, or nursing training or
physical therapy training, so that, our students don’t suffer from depression, anxiety, and suicide. – Absolutely. – We have certainly have had that happen at the University of Iowa, we have had that happen at
Des Moines University. – So when you practice
these things yourself and then you teach it and pay
it forward with your patients, it creates this, this sense of alignment that I think is essential. – It is very easy to talk about how you implement these concepts if you are doing them yourself. It is very easy. It is very easy to talk about how you manage these dietary changes if you have already mastered them. It is very easy to talk about how I add in a quick meditation, if that is part of my practice. It is easy to talk about
how I got a step counter, and it was easy to get
to 10,000 steps a day, if that is something that you have done. And patients know when you are
speaking from your experience. They love that. They love you sharing
that part of your life. – Absolutely. Especially the struggles,
because it is not always a, it is not like an on-off switch. – That’s right. Then they know we are real. They love hearing your
personal hero’s journey, your struggle. And the fact that yes,
it is not always all up, it doesn’t always go
the correct trajectory, it’s usually up and down. And, your patients will treasure that. – So if people want to support you, if they want to donate
to your research fund, how can they do that? – Well, if you go to my
website,, we have a link on there
for the About Research, and you will want to direct your donation to the Wahls Therapeutic Lifestyle Fund. – Perfect. Thank you so much, Dr. Terry Wahls, it’s just an honor to be with you. I love your work. I think you are changing the world, and I, am just so happy to support you. – I’m so grateful. I’m grateful for the entire journey. And, I’m glad you are my friend. – [Sara] Oh same here, thank you. – [Narrator] Thank you for being with us for this episode of The Practice. You will find extensive show notes, including links and supportive materials over at While you’re there, explore other topics and use the Ask & Answer button to ask your burning questions and give your insights about the topic. After all, the future of
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