Most helpful positive review
532 of 538 people found the following review helpful
This info really works and Dr Wahls is the real deal
on January 30, 2012
I was very unsure about this diet at first, as it seemed to clash so strongly with so many of the wonderful health and diet books I had been reading.
Wahls recommendation of a low fat diet that was also very low in saturated fat is the opposite of what highly respected lipid expert Mary Enig PhD recommends, and what is recommended - based on a ton of very convincing evidence - in so many other great books based on maintaining or regaining health through eating the diet our bodies have evolved to do best on, such as Primal Body- Primal Mind, Primal Blueprint, The Perfect Health Diet, Eat Fat-Lose Fat, The GAPS diet and others.
So when a friend told me that in fact Dr Wahls has very much changed her stance on fats and saturated fat and now recommends cooking with healthy fats such as coconut oil, butter/ghee (from grassfed cows) and lard, I was really happy to hear it!
With that one big issue resolved, this is a diet that tallies hugely with what some of the very best experts in this field are saying and combines the best of what many excellent nutrition books have to say into one dietary plan that I feel is really the best diet out there for anyone battling a serious disease. It is just excellent. I recommend following it if you are ill, very highly.
Patients need to read up online about the changes Wahl has made in addition to reading this book, or else just get the information of the diet online while making sure it is up-to-date. (I hope so much that those that have written very pro-low fat fat diet comments about this book on the reviews page will read this updated information somehow. The right fats in the diet are so essential for healing, and for proper mitochondrial function.)
The book recommends eating soy products, rice and potatoes and also recommends a low-fat diet. The current diet plan does not support adding these foods to the diet and is a high-fat diet; high in healthy fats. It is a low-sugar and starch, dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free diet that minimises or eliminates grains, legumes and potatoes. (Some of us need to completely eliminate these. I know I do.)
Wahls writes, 'Raw dairy still has casein (protein) that looks like gluten to our immune system. That means raw milk still stimulates immune system problems. For those with food allergies / sensitivities it is still a major problem. Once sensitized - always sensitized. I avoid and strongly urge all with an a chronic disease or autoimmune disease to AVOID. Gluten grains - wheat, rye, barley, and the protein in dairy - can lead to an over active immune reaction -- which then can lead to autoimmune problems, asthma, rashes, mood problems and more. For many going gluten free, dairy free is the beginning of better health. Going fully paleo (no grain and no legumes) for many will lead to even more vitality. But for most - it is a transition that may take several weeks or months. It is ok to start small, but do start the journey..'
Wahls' current diet plan, as best as I can work it out, is as follows:
* Eating 9 cups of non-starchy vegetables and berries each day (3 cups each of greens, sulfur containing veggies, and colourful veggies) is essential. Choose organic and/or grow your own if you can.
* It is okay to take in some of your 9 cups in the form of freshly pressed juices.
* Eating good quality grass-fed/free-range/organic meats daily is essential.
* Cook with natural fats such as coconut oil, lard and clarified butter/ghee.
* Eating organ meats such as liver is recommended at least once a week. Liver is very important for B vitamins. Cooked medium rare is best.
* Bone broths are recommended daily. They are full of minerals and help heal the gut.
* Eating seaweed once a week or more is recommended.
* Eating nuts/seeds or nutritional yeast is recommended daily, including coconut milk.
* Eating sprouts is recommended, such as broccoli sprouts.
* Eating fermented foods such as unpasturised sauerkraut is recommended.
* Eggs are recommended, although people with autoimmune diseases should not have egg whites due to a problematic protein in the egg white. (They should be eliminated at first and added back after a few weeks, and only eaten if there is no reaction to them. Same with nightshades)
* Eating small amounts of honey or cocoa is okay, and so is eating natural flavourings in food such as spices and ginger.
* Getting enough Omega 3 fatty acids and not too many Omega 6s is important, so Omega 6 containing oils should be minimised and fish oil capsules taken, and foods such as hemp oil, seafood and flax oil eaten. The best ratio is 3:1.
Other helpful things:
* Vitamin D should be over 50 ng/ml and under 100 ng/ml. (Take a test every 1- 3 months and take 4000 IU vitamin D3 daily, or more if needed. 150 ng/ml is toxic.).
* Having daily quiet time is important, to calm down our adrenals. Meditation, massage, nature and family time is also important.
* Epson salt baths, melatonin and herbal teas can help sleep.
* Minimise toxin exposure and quit smoking.
* B complex supplements or sulphur amino acids may be helpful (under a doctor's direction).
* Heavy metal testing and treatments such as clay baths and facial clay masks and saunas may be helpful.
* A good quality water filter is essential.
Wahls also supports ideas such as:
* Supplements can in some cases be helpful, but they can never replace a nutrient dense and healthy diet. A proper diet must always come first. Foods contain many beneficial cofactors and other compounds not included in supplements and many that we have not yet even discovered or named.
* Getting evaluated for potential food allergies, toxic load issues and more personalised nutritional needs by a practitioner of functional medicine is a very good idea. The Institute for Functional Medicine can help you find a provider in your area.
* Drugs are not the answer. Let food, good wholesome food be thy medicine.
* "Between the unexpected, unpleasant events in our lives and our response to those events is a space, and in that space we have a choice in deciding what our response will be. We can either give up or get up each day and do our best."
* "Epigenetics is how your environment talks to your genes. Our cells are capable of reading the state of our environment and activating or deactivating genes. This means that, based on the choices we make, we can turn on genes for health or turn off those health-promoting genes. In other words, it is your health behaviors such as diet and activities, that determine whether the health-promoting or the health-robbing genes are active. For some conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or hemophilia, our genes are an important factor, often the cause of the disease. But for the obesity, heart disease, mental health and autoimmune epidemics that are driving up the cost of health care in the U.S. and around the world, there are no single genes that are the culprit. Instead, for each of these problems, multiple genes are involved, and they interact in a complex way with the environment."
* We need to stop blaming our genes for our illnesses and work on making the best of the 70% that is under our control.
* "Yes, it does cost more to eat vegetables. But you will pay the price either way--for food that restores your health and vitality or for doctor visits, drugs, surgery and loss of work due to health problems."
* "Functional medicine is really looking at health of the cell. And what can we do to help the individual make the environment for their cells, an environment for doing the biochemistry life more ideal. So that comes down to the fruit you eat or do not eat, the quality of the air you breathe, the water you drink, the toxic load that is in your body is a result of the exposure you had over a lifetime because if you couldn't get the toxins out the day you were exposed to them, they get parked in your fat and did you know that your brain is 70% fat? So if you can't get the toxins out you had today with your whatever your exposure was, you're parking it in your fat and your brain which is going to create havoc over time."
Hard to argue with any of that! I agree with all of it. Most of the above are quotes from Dr Wahls, from her many websites.
Functional or holistic medicine just makes so much sense. It treats the actual cause of diseases, rather than just blindly drugging everything and focusing on endlessly chasing and minimising symptoms.
There are 3 basic principles of the type of medicine discussed by Wahls and others in this same field:
A. Get the good stuff in. Give your body the fuel and tools it needs to work at an optimum level. Good food, nutrients and all the proper vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Make sure you aren't deficient in any of the major nutrients as the different nutrients all work together.
B. Get the bad stuff out. Make sure your body can detoxify out all the toxic substances and toxic by-products of bodily processes properly. Stop as many toxins from getting in in the first place, and do things which aid detoxification to get rid of the ones you have.
C. Reduce your body's total load. The total load concept is that lessening the body's overall burden/work and stress level in one area, will improve health generally and improve the body's ability to heal because the body's total load (or burden) is lessened. Fixing one problem frees up bodily resources that can be then be used to help other parts of the body function getter or to heal. In other words, you need to look at the body as a whole in order to heal, and not just the one part of the body that is generating the most symptoms.
A special note to M.E. patients on the Wahls protocol:
Myalgic Encephalomyelitis is a neurological disease similar in some ways to MS, which also causes demyelination and mitochondrial dysfunction.
For those with my particular neurological disease, Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, it is important that activity levels be kept always within very strict limits, or else relapse will occur. (Death is also a risk in M.E. if overexertion is severe. This is not about symptoms or feeling fatigued, but a problem of cardiac insufficiency, reduced circulating blood volume and POTS and so on which is very serious and non-negotiable. Overexertion always causes a worsening of the disease.) But of course activity levels can and should be raised slowly to keep in line with health improvements in M.E. - this is something that happens naturally anyway.
For those unfamiliar with the disease, many M.E. patients are housebound and almost entirely bedbound (and far too ill to use wheelchairs for even small periods of time in a day or week) and limited with even basic communication and reading; which is also part of why I am trying hard to summarise the work of Wahls for them as much as possible. 30 minutes of gravity opposing exercise is probably a great recommendation for almost everyone but should be ommited by M.E. patients unless they can do this without becoming more ill or symptomatic.
Also, Wahls says: 'It is common to have some level of detoxification (more fatigue, headache) in the first week which resolves and then improves markedly by week two.' I would say that for M.E. patients this statement is not quite right and is an enormous understatement. M.E. patients will often have quite severe healing reactions to supplementation and changes in diet. These can be severe enough to make a patient no longer able to feed themselves or do other tasks of daily living, as well as leave them in agony. They can also last FAR longer than just a week!
It is important for anyone ill to make the dietary changes gradually, and for patients with M.E. this caution should be taken very seriously. Jumping in with both feet too fast could leave you very very ill for months afterward. Healing reactions are a good sign that healing is occurring, but need to be controlled so they don't become overwhelming. Switch to the full diet over a few months at least. Slowly but surely is the way to go! Improvements will almost certainly be slow too, so patience is necessary there as well, especially when the illness has been severe for many years or even several decades or more.
M.E. patients will also often do far better eating cooked veggies rather than raw, which can be too difficult and painful for us to digest. (For more M.E. patient-specific tips and cautions see the HFME website.)
This diet is described as an MS diet, but really this diet is the diet we have all evolved to be best suited to. All of us need such a nutrient-dense and low-toxicity diet, and so I hope people with all sorts of diseases look into the Wahls diet and not just those with neurological diseases. The diet can also help where there is not yet a correct diagnosis. We all need the right amounts of the nutrients that enable healing, no matter what disease we have.
For some people following this diet plan will be enough, but for others a higher level of intervention will be required in addition to the diet. The first step toward healing has to be an excellent diet and good gut health, combined with minimising toxin exposures. If more help is needed then, as Wahls explains, it is best to see a Functional/Holistic medicine expert so that it can be determined what extra supplements or other supports you may need. The key is learning about your own 'biochemical individuality.' There are so many tests now which can be done to determine where your detoxification pathways are failing, which nutrients you need more of or have problems utilising or why your gut is still not functioning right.
For those that can't find or can't afford to see a Functional/Holistic medicine expert, or cannot see any medical expert due to being housebound etc., an excellent companion to Wahls book are the books by Functional/Holistic medicine experts such as Dr Sherry Rogers. Dr Rogers tells you exactly which tests may help you, how to treat more complex gut problems and how to go about following a more intensive detoxification regime involving a detox cocktail and FIR sauna use. Dr Rogers books are to some extent `do-it-yourself' health books but ideally Dr Rogers recommends that you get well with the help of a qualified practitioner that will be able to order the appropriate tests for you, and also help you interpret them.
Dr Sherry Rogers writes in `Detoxify or Die',
`I have to laugh when people ask me if I do alternative, herbal, acupuncture or holistic medicine. 'No,' I reply. 'We do state-of-the-art medicine. In other words, we find the biochemical, nutritional and environmental causes and cures rather than blindly drugging everything. Sure, herbs are gentler, safer and more physiologic than drugs and holistic medicine attempts to incorporate many diverse modalities, etc. But there is no substitute for finding the underlying biochemical causes and cures. This is real medicine. This is where medicine should and would have been decades ago, if it had not been abducted by the pharmaceutical industry.'
Following a super-high-quality diet is also the foundation of Dr Rogers' treatment plan and so starting with the Wahls diet (which is the best there is) and then moving on (if necessary) to follow Dr Rogers' advice on advanced detoxification techniques just makes so much sense. The best book of hers to start with is Detoxify or Die. It is just brilliant and very easy to read as well. It has so much good information and support for sauna use and so much more. Her book 'The Safe, Effective Way to Prevent and Heal Chronic Gastrointestinal Disorders' is also excellent.
In addition to books by Dr Sherry Rogers I'd also recommend books and articles by Dr Lawrence Wilson (particularly his book on sauna use), Dr Klenner, Dr Abram Hoffer, Andrew Saul, Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and any and all of the vitamin C and orthomolecular experts such as Linus Pauling and Dr Thomas Levy. Other excellent books on diet and nutrition (with huge amounts in common with the Wahls diet) include Primal Body-Primal Mind, The Primal Blueprint, The Perfect Health Diet and Deep Nutrition as well as books on the GAPS diet for the treatment of dysbiosis and a diet-based plan to heal the gut.
Gut health is so important and if gut health is poor, then your body can't properly use all the wonderful nutritious food you are eating. Many of us need to heal the gut first of all, and this may at first involve supplements such as Betaine HCL, enzymes and probiotics, as well as dietary changes, as these books explain. All of these books, along with Wahls book, are far more than just standard Paleo diet books.
Combining the excellent Wahls diet with the advice on detoxification by Dr Rogers (including the use of an FIR sauna and a daily detox cocktail and 'oil change' nutrients and digestive supports) has seen me finally start to slowly improve my health this last year and a half. I'm slowly improving month by month from a very severe neurological disease - thanks in part to the work of Dr Wahls and Dr Rogers, and others like them - that has left me housebound and almost entirely bedbound for many years. I have been housebound and almost entirely bedbound (and far too ill to even use a wheelchair, or even the phone) for over 10 years and I got ill when I was just 19. Getting slowly worse and worse year after year was terrifying, especially when I was so ill and disabled already.
I wish so much I had had this information early on in my disease, rather than coming to it more than 10 years in. Healing is so much easier the earlier you start it.
I wont know how much of my damage is irreversible until I improve a lot more (a LOT more I hope!) and find out where I plateau. But for those that have been ill 'only' 5 or 7 years or less, or that are not severely ill, I do think these approaches could be curative or very close to it. At the very least they will undo as much damage as can be undone.
My big dream is to get to a 30% function level, where I can live independently.... I'm still so far away from that currently, but I am at least making slow but sure progress now! Being able to cook a little this last year after 8 years or more not being able to even make myself a cup of tea has been just so wonderful. Cooking myself an egg is a joyful experience! It is so wonderful to now each month be getting small UNsymptoms and UNdisabilities!
I have learned so much about health that I would never have known if I had not become so ill and been forced to learn it!
The Wahls Foundation is a nonprofit organisation that hopes to raise funds to do research on this diet. Buying this book helps fund their research. The book is mostly recipes and reading more of her ideas online is so helpful. I'd highly recommend watching all her free videos online (watch out for the loud sound on some of them - ouch!), plus her FB page and blog and website. They are all so helpful.
Dr Wahls is the real deal and is clearly motivated by a genuine desire to help ill people improve their health. I wish her and her Foundation all the best and thank them for all their wonderful work. This is real cutting edge medicine.
Best wishes for future health to anyone still reading this far!
Jodi Bassett, The Hummingbirds' Foundation for M.E. (HFME) and Health, Healing & Hummingbirds (HHH)