From Bed-Ridden To Walking :Meet The Woman Who Tackled MS With Diet

Well-known in the MS world for her groundbreaking work on nutrition, Dr. Terry Wahls reflects on her personal experiences living with MS, her recovery, and how she copes.

In 2004, Dr Terry Wahls, a medical academic at the University of Iowa, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Terry was 45 at the time. Her left leg was weak, and she had abnormal spinal fluid, spinal cord lesions and vision issues.

Nutrition brings hope

Because animal studies are conducted about 10 to 20 years ahead of clinical trials, Wahls began researching drug studies that were based on animal models.

“Then in 2005, it occurred to me I should be looking for vitamin supplement studies,” recalls Wahls.

Based on studies of vitamins and supplements for other brain-related diseases, she started experimenting with what she calls “vitamin cocktails.”

Health and wellness touch each of us differently. This is one person’s story.

Research suggests that a quality diet improves some symptoms of MS. However, the effects of the Wahls Protocol aren’t yet fully established.

A tilt wheelchair user for four years straight, Dr. Terry Wahls marvels at the fact that she now rides her bike every day to her job at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Although Wahls noticed symptoms while she was attending medical school in 1980, she didn’t receive a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis until 2000. By 2003, the disease advanced to the secondary-progressive stage. She began using a wheelchair due to back pain and fatigue.

Since Wahls lived in the Midwest, she sought out treatment from the Cleveland Clinic’s Mellen Center for Multiple Sclerosis in Ohio.


“I believed in the best drugs,” she says. “The problem was I had steadily declined… I could see that conventional drugs were not likely to stop my decline into a bedridden, potentially demented life, so I started reading the animal studies.”

Nutrition brings hope
Because animal studies are conducted about 10 to 20 years ahead of clinical trials, Wahls began researching drug studies that were based on animal models.

“Then in 2005, it occurred to me I should be looking for vitamin supplement studies,” recalls Wahls.


Based on studies of vitamins and supplements for other brain-related diseases, she started experimenting with what she calls “vitamin cocktails.”

“I figured out that my fatigue is somewhat less with this vitamin cocktail that I’m developing targeting my mitochondria,” she says.

A few years before, her doctors at the Cleveland Clinic referred her to Dr. Loren Cordain’s research on the benefits of the paleo diet. After being a vegetarian for 20 years, Wahls switched to this diet, which meant giving up grains, legumes, berries, and more — as well as going back to eating meat.

“I had not eaten meat in a very long time, so it was a very big decision to go back to eating meat and to reconcile that,” she says.

“But I continued to decline. I stayed with [the paleo diet] because I thought the science that [Cordain] laid out and the papers he referenced made sense, and at least I was doing something.”

While following the paleo diet, she kept experimenting with vitamin supplementation. By 2007, after taking a course on neuroprotection at the Institute for Functional Medicine, Wahls added even more vitamins and supplements to her cocktail, bringing the total to about 17 vitamins and supplements.

“I could tell that helped my fatigue a little bit, so that was very encouraging to continue to read and experiment,” Wahls says.

Then in the fall of 2007, Wahls had her big aha moment: She decided to redesign the paleo diet to maximize the nutrients she was taking in pill form.

“In three months, my fatigue was remarkably reduced, my mental clarity remarkably improved. In six months, I’m walking around again — with a limp and with a cane — but I’m walking around.”

As a result, the Wahls Protocol emerged. The diet she created focuses on stressing certain foods rather than just removing food.

“This diet is really the only diet that’s out there that’s designed intentionally for the nutritional needs of mitochondria and brain cells,” Wahls explains.

She designed the diet so that people who are meat eaters, vegetarians, or those who follow a ketogenic diet could follow it.

“All these other diets focus on what you can’t have. They don’t tell you how to maximize the micronutrients and nutritional needs for your brain and cells,” according to Wahls. (source)

MS Diet Details

Terry’s plan included 9 servings of nutrient-dense vegetables per day, animal-based omega-3 fatty acids and seaweed.

Vegetables included:

  • Dark leafy greens such as chard, collards, kale, spinach, beetroot leaves, and watercress.
  • Sulphur-rich, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, and radishes.
  • Deep colored fruits and vegetables such as carrots, beets, and berries.


Animal and plant-based proteins included:

  • Modest amounts of grass-fed meats
  • Omega-3 rich fish such as wild salmon, rainbow trout and sardines

Terry also eliminated refined sugars, processed foods, grains, and pasta

Since our microbes play an essential part in our well-being, they create healthy energy levels, allow us to efficiently digest and absorb nutrients, produce fatty acids and synthesize vitamins.

This diet led to an improved quality of life for Terry, and others with MS. While Terry cannot state that this diet can ‘cure the disease’, if you are struggling with MS, forming healthy eating habits while working alongside a medical practitioner is just one way that you can work to control and improve your quality of life and the symptoms of disease.

If unhealthy lifestyle choices are triggering your symptoms to worsen or progress, this lifestyle program may work to reduce symptoms. Terry has also reported that patients who follow the lifestyle have been prescribed lower doses of their prescription medications.

Terry encourages people with autoimmune conditions such as MS to begin to implement what makes sense. We know that vegetables are good for us, so find a way to eat more vegetables. We should know how important omega-3 is for cognitive function and inflammation, so include more wild-caught fatty fish, hemp seeds and seaweed. Nutrition just makes sense. Once you see small improvements to your health, you will be more inspired and further inclined to educate on the subject, so that you can benefit more.

Always consult a medical professional before starting a diet or making any major lifestyle change. If you have symptoms that are worrying you, seek advice from your doctor.

source: www.healthline.com