Episode 7 of my collaborative project with Rory Linehan of The Paleo PI and Petra Chambers-Sinclair of BiohackU – two of my favourite peeps in this corner of the health caper world – is up and running!
The three of us all hail from different corners of the globe, and have very different life experiences, but we share both a friendship and passion for seeking health through an holistic approach. The intention behind our podcast is to seek out and interview others who share the same goal – and hopefully impart what we learn and have a little fun along the way. We hope you’ll join us!
This month, we interview Dr Terry Wahls. She gets real with new insights into her healing story, including how the extra time she spent with cadavers in medical school may have contributed to her illness; how full-contact free-sparring (with two men at a time!) taught her to triumph no matter what the odds; and how getting herself out of her tilt-recline wheelchair and back on her bike enabled her to hope again.
Terry is the author of several books, including The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles (paperback), and the newly released cookbook The Wahls Protocol Cooking for Life: The Revolutionary Modern Paleo Plan to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions.
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0.00 Introduction to the Healing Protocols: the global edition
1.29 Rory: Welcome to Episode 7: Interview with Dr Terry Wahls
2.03 Jo: We are familiar with the story of your health transformation. Why do you think your health issues may have occurred in the first place?
- 09: For all autoimmune conditions there are 200-300 genes that increase risk slightly. The vast majority of the people who have those genes won’t get autoimmune disease. Autoimmune disease is 3-5% genetics and 95-97% environmental factors. My mum was a smoker. I had a lot of tonsillitis, and a lot of penicillin, as a child. I grew up on a conventional farm and was exposed to pesticides, herbicides and agricultural chemicals. I was an artist, so was exposed to heavy metals from oil paints. I did metallurgy, and so was exposed to lead & solder. I enrolled in medical school, which involved long hours, lack of vitamin D, lack of sleep, and a high stress environment. I was so excited about gross anatomy I spent extra time with the cadavers, increasing my formaldehyde exposure. It was no surprise that Multiple Sclerosis symptoms began during medical school.
- Rory: Were you quite healthy until medical school?
- 30: Robust as a child. Competed nationally in Tae-Kwon-Do. Bronze medalist in welter-weight women’s full-contact free-sparring. My instructor would always have me fight two men at once who were bigger than me. I did get concussions on the farm, and I now know that if you have a concussion you have a higher probability of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Multiple Sclerosis.
9:41 Petra: You were doing a lot of research while you were very sick. Could you tell us how you developed the Wahls Protocol?
- 20: As I was doing my research, I had been told all through medical school and my treatment, that when you have progressive Multiple Sclerosis, there is no cure. I still had young kids. It looked like I was headed toward bedridden and demented. In 2007, I was not reading in the hopes of recovering. I designed my intensive nutrition program and began electrical stimulation of my muscles in an attempt to slow my decline. I let go of expectation. Even when I was having improved function and improved mental function, I didn’t know what it meant. I was still taking it one day at a time. I had not yet begun to hope. On mother’s day, I asked my wife if she thought I could try biking again. I took my bike out: my family came out and we had an emergency meeting to decide whether it was safe for me to ride my bike. I rode my bike around the block. And that is when I allowed myself to have hope again. I have continued to improve and get stronger since then.
15.58 Rory: You touched so many people. I found your TEDx talk when I was at my lowest point. You gave me that hope, and you are committed to sharing this information with as many people as possible. Could you tell us about your clinical trials?
- 00: My first trial was a safety and feasibility trial, in which we saw an improvement in the quality of life and striking reduction in fatigue. The second study was randomized and at 12 weeks we could show that there was improvement in quality of life, reduction in fatigue, and improvements in walking speed and hand coordination. The next study is being analyzed now. As we have gotten more money we have been able to analyze more data. Papers are coming out showing favorable improvements in mood and thinking ability. Another paper was just accepted that covers improvements in gait, including before and after videos in improvement in gait. Because of these early successful studies, we now have another study funded by the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. I am also preparing to study my dietary approach in treating ALS.
20.33 Jo: You mentioned meditation. Could you tell us how spirituality or mindfulness fits for you?
- 11: For myself it has been very important to have a meditative practice: a prayerful practice. It has been very important for my patients as well. We spend more and more time talking about this issues in my seminars. It is understanding this that gives us the inner motivation to sustain these diet and lifestyle changes.
22.13 Jo: We’re excited about your new book The Wahl’s Protocol Cooking for Life. Can you tell us about the genesis of this book and what people can expect?
- 15: In my lifestyle clinics I worked with a wide variety of people, including a lot of people who were on disability and many who didn’t know how to cook. We taught people how to implement my protocol without adding to their food budget. Food doesn’t have to be organic, grass-fed or wild. I wrote this book to give people with limited resources access to a healing strategy, if they’re ready. Using ingredients that people can get wherever they are.
27.55 Petra. Question from listener: Can you tell us about resistant starch, specifically if cold rice become less ‘resistant’ once it has been warmed up?
- 31: Resistant starch feeds the health promoting bacteria living in our bowels. When rice is warm it is more easily digestible by the human and when it is cold it is becomes less easily digestible by the human and will fertilize the bacteria. Caution: don’t eat raw potato starch. I have a very simple solution: 9 cups of vegetables. You want to poop snakes.
30.31 Rory: Two questions: 1.) We’re interested in your advice for someone who is just starting out on a healing protocol; and 2.) Who has been the most influential person as you have pursued your own healing protocol lifestyle?
- 37: If you are newly diagnosed and it is possible to delay medication and you are ready to commit to the protocol 100%, that would be best. If you are already on disease-modifying medication, stay on it. Still embrace diet and lifestyle treatment 100% and see how you respond. After an appropriate length of time with good results, work with your health care team to slowly come off the medication. I discuss this at length in my book.
- 38: I have been very influenced by Viktor Frankl. As I was getting more and more disabled, I realized I could have given up, or I could inspire hope and bravery by doing the best I could. My children were still very young, and it was Viktor Frankl’s work that enabled me to model courage for my kids. If I wanted them to be resilient in the face of great adversity, I had to be resilient in the face of great adversity.
34.18 Where to find Dr Wahls online
To learn more about Dr Terry Wahls, check out her website at terrywahls.com where you can learn more about her story, the Wahls Protocol and her books.