The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles - by Terry Wahls M.D.

Disease begins at the cellular level, when cells are starved of the building blocks they need to conduct the chemistry of life properly, and the root of optimal health begins with taking away the things that harm and confuse our cells while providing the body with the right environment in which to thrive. What your cells use to fuel the chemistry of life comes directly from what you feed yourself.

Treatment of an autoimmune disease with functional medicine involves optimizing the body's environment to minimize immune hyperreactivity rather than restricting normal immune activity through pharmaceutical intervention, as a conventional approach recommends.

We all have the same chronic disease--broken biochemistry and confused signaling between our cells. This leads to having too much inflammation and strained mitochondria, largely as a result of our lifestyle choices.

JOURNALING

Throughout this program, you'll keep track of a lot of things, including what you eat, your stress levels, your supplements, your pain and energy levels, and how you are handling each day and the challenges of your life. This is too much to just keep track of mentally. Instead, I want you to keep a written record.

  • For what or for whom am I grateful today?

  • What did I do today?

  • What helpful or happy social interactions did I have today?

  • How would I rate my stress today on a scale of 1 to 10? How would I rate my pain today on a scale of 1 to 10?

  • How would I rate my energy today on a scale of 1 to 10?

  • How did I feel today, overall?

  • What else do I want to write about today?

  • List one good thing that happened today.

THE WAHLS DIET 101

  1. Nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day, broken down as follows: Three cups tightly packed raw or cooked leafy greens, like kale, collards, chard, Asian greens, and lettuces (the darker, the better) Three cups deeply colored vegetables and fruits, such as berries, tomatoes, beets, carrots, and winter squash Three cups sulfur-rich vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, asparagus, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes, onions, and garlic.

  2. Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free

  3. Organic, Grass-Fed, Wild-Caught

WAHLS PALEO

  1. Reduce all non-gluten grains (presumably you are completely gluten-free by now), legumes, and potatoes to just two servings per week.

  2. Add seaweed or algae and organ meats to your diet.

  3. Add fermented foods, soaked seeds and nuts, and more raw foods.

WAHLS PALEO PLUS (KETO)

  1. Eliminate all grains, legumes, and potatoes.

  2. Add coconut oil and full-fat coconut milk. At least 5 tablespoons of coconut oil or 3/4 can (or more) of full-fat coconut milk.

  3. Eat just twice per day and fast twelve to sixteen hours every night.

Follow the urine ketones to get feedback on whether you are likely in nutritional ketosis. If you have zero ketones, you need to reduce the carbohydrates further and increase the coconut milk, coconut oil, and/or ghee until you see small to moderate ketones on the urine strips. You may have to eliminate starchy vegetables entirely, even the raw ones, or you may be able to tolerate small amounts now and then. Also remember that medium-chain-triglyceride-rich coconut fat will allow you to eat slightly more carbohydrates while still maintaining a state of ketosis, so keep the coconut fat coming in! Reduce protein to 6 to 12 ounces according to size and gender.

Coconut oil can be added to smoothies and used in salad dressing and for cooking meats and vegetables. Coconut milk can be added to smoothies, soups, and other recipes, used in coffee and tea, or consumed plain.

DIET TIPS & TRICKS

Aim for eating at least three different colors daily.

Good sources of sulfur include the cabbage family, the onion family, and the mushroom family.

It is very important to rotate the vegetables you eat for more variety. For example, I eat greens in rotation: kale one day, lettuce the next, then spinach, and then beet greens or chard.

When vegetables begin to look a bit stale, chop them and put them in a Crock-Pot on low all day with water or broth to make vegetable soup. Don't throw away the leaves on radishes, beets, or turnips. These can be used in smoothies or cooked and enjoyed. They are highly nutritious and count toward your daily quota of greens. The leaves on cauliflower, broccoli, and kohlrabi are also edible. Use them in smoothies and soups, and eat them steamed. Two easy ways to use greens: (1) Put them in a blender with fruit and/or orange juice or full-fat coconut milk and blend on high to make a green smoothie. (2) Sauté onions and mushrooms in coconut oil, add chopped greens, and stir until wilted (just a minute or two). If the greens seem bitter, add more coconut oil or some full-fat coconut milk.

Buy your food as close to locally and as fresh as possible.

Produce prep: When you bring home your vegetables, consider preparing them immediately. Fill the sink with water and wash everything. Dry with paper towels and put vegetables and fruits into ziplock bags or clear plastic containers so everything stays clean and is easy to see. For an even easier time later, prepare your produce: Scrub and trim off ends of root vegetables, snap the ends of beans, and tear up lettuce so it is salad-ready. Break apart broccoli and cauliflower into florets. Don't forget to reserve the outer leaves: Throw them in the Crock-Pot (or freezer) for vegetable soup stock. For your berries, it is better to wash and prep them just prior to eating. Also, berries have a shorter shelf life and are best consumed within one or two days of purchase.

Milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, whey (as in whey protein powder), and all other dairy products (except for clarified butter, also called ghee, which has the milk proteins removed) are not part of the Wahls Diet, Wahls Paleo, or Wahls Paleo Plus.

Whenever possible I want you to choose organic vegetables and fruits, organic grass-fed meat, wild game, and wild-caught fish.

Bone broth is savory, comforting, and delicious, and although we don't know exactly how it happens, the glucosamine in bone broth tends to go straight to the joints, where it is most needed.

Sea vegetables contain nutrient profiles you can't get anywhere else. In particular, they are rich sources for iodine, which has many important functions in the body. For convenience, I look for powdered kelp and dulse flakes. I suggest you start with a small amount of seaweed every other day for a month. I'd also mix up the types of seaweeds you eat. The simplest is to alternate between kelp powder and dulse flakes. Start with 1/4 teaspoon every other day for a month. If that is going well, then you can go to the equivalent of 1/4 teaspoon every day for a month. It is best if you are adding seaweed to what you are cooking and eating. Alternatively, if you can find fresh seaweed or dried seaweed, you can add that to your cooking. Here's how much seaweed I would like you to work up to eating every day on Wahls Paleo. Choose one of the following each day:

  • Fresh (or soaked and reconstituted): 2.5 ounces (70 grams). One ounce of dried seaweed will reconstitute to about 1 cup of fresh seaweed.

  • Dried flakes: 1 teaspoon in the form of flakes

  • Powdered: 1/4 teaspoon

Eat organ meats several times each week, for a total of 12 ounces per week. Leave the organ meats as rare as you are comfortable eating them. Well-done organ meats will be dry, tough, and less pleasant to eat. Gently cooked organ meats will be juicier and tastier, and retain more vitamins. Heart may the easiest to start with because you will think you are having a good steak.

Include plenty of raw fruits and vegetables in your diet and to use low-temperature cooking, for as brief a time as possible, of clean, preferably organ meat obtained directly from a farmer you trust. Order your meat rare when you can. I like to include raw plant food with every meal, whether a big salad or fruit for dessert, or the mixture of fruits and greens I put into my smoothie.

Raw nuts are important to include in your diet because they provide some key nutrients. I advocate eating raw soaked or sprouted nuts in particular, especially almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts.

GOING BEYOND FOOD

Reduce Toxic Load.

  • Promote natural toxin elimination through sauna use.

  • Clay + algae + sea salt facial mask.

  • Dry brushing of the skin

  • Spicy food (aloe, burdock, cayenne, dandelion root, dill, ginger, horseradish, parsley, peppermint, rosemary, saffron, turmeric).

  • Look for a natural brand of deodorant that doesn't contain aluminum.

  • Open your windows as much as possible to ventilate, and place a few green plants around the house; they will help detoxify your air.

  • Replace all the plastic food storage containers in your home with glass ones. An economical way to do this is to save glass jars from foods like pickles and salsa, and use those to store leftovers.

  • Filter your water. There are many levels of filtering available; even a pitcher with a filter can reduce toxins in your tap water. A reverse-osmosis system is superior because it is the only way to remove the various drugs that have likely entered your water supply; it is what I have installed in our home.

Supplementation

Because there is a lower intake of calcium in Wahls Paleo (approximately 950 mg) and Wahls Paleo Plus (750 mg) than in the Wahls Diet (1,450 mg), I suggest that you consider taking 250 mg calcium citrate once or twice a day depending on your gender, age, and which diet you are following. It is important to intentionally and consistently eat calcium-rich foods--like eating the bones in canned salmon, as well as almonds, bok choy, and collard greens--but supplementation is an insurance policy.

If you take molecularly distilled fish oil (as opposed to fermented cod-liver oil), you should also take vitamin E in the form of mixed tocopherols or tocotrienols at 200 to 400 mg per day. (Note that 1 mg equals approximately 1.5 IU per day; some supplements are labeled with IUs instead of milligrams.)

If you develop problems with constipation, I suggest you take in more fiber. The intent is to take in enough fiber to poop two to three times a day without having an accident in your pants! Look for soluble fiber products made from psyllium husks.

Stress Management

I recommend doing something stress-relieving several times each day, such as one thing in the morning and one thing in the afternoon or evening.

  • Spending time in nature.

  • Gardening.

  • Exercise.

  • Meditation.

  • Journaling. You should write in pen and not correct yourself. This is called free writing, and it helps you develop new insights into your experiences.

  • Regular contact with a supportive group of people.

  • Contemplate your higher purpose.

  • Forgive.

  • Yoga.

  • Massage.

RECIPES (SEE APPENDIX FOR MORE)

Smoothies

I recommend that you start the day with a smoothie that provides some of the 9 cups of vegetables and fruit and high-quality protein. The ratio I recommend starting with is: 1 part greens; 2 parts fruit or juice, coconut milk, or other nut milk, preferably unsweetened. Add water and ice and combine in a high-speed blender until desired consistency. As you get more used to the taste of green smoothies, you can gradually shift your ratio until you get greens and fruits in an approximately 1:1 ratio or switch to greens only and an approved nondairy milk. I personally always use full-fat coconut milk in a can to make smoothies and soups and to add to my teas. Spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, or nutmeg can also cut the bitterness and add more nutritional benefits. I like to add 1 to 2 tablespoons of nutritional yeast, because it is a powerhouse of B vitamins, minerals, and RNA.

Skillet Meals

The basic principle of this versatile recipe is to cook meat in a skillet with coconut oil, vinegar, and spices, then to add greens in the last 2 minutes of cooking. Experiment with the types of animal protein, cuts of meat, and seasonings you use, and remember to rotate through different greens to maximize the health benefits. Here are the basic proportions:

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • Your favorite seasonings to taste (experiment!): garlic (add with greens), ginger, fresh or dried herbs (basil, rosemary, thyme, etc.), dried spices (cumin, curry powder, chili powder, turmeric, paprika, even cinnamon)
  • 1–2 tablespoons vinegar and/or citrus juice: apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon organic kelp powder, like Starwest Botanicals organic kelp powder (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon iodized sea salt
  • 1–2 pounds meat or fish: nitrate-free bacon (cooked before the main protein source, with excess fat drained from pan), ham, steak, chicken, turkey, pork, salmon, lamb, heart, liver
  • 6–7½ cups greens and other vegetables: broccoli, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, spinach, turnip greens, plus cabbage, carrots, eggplant, mushrooms, onions

Liver, Onions, and Mushrooms

  • _½ pound bacon (nitrate-free)
  • ½ pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 teaspoon organic kelp powder, such as Starwest Botanical organic kelp (optional)
  • 1 pound onions, chopped
  • 1⅔ pounds chicken livers
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon iodized sea salt_

In large skillet, fry bacon. Pour off all the fat. Add mushrooms, kelp, and onions, and cook for 3 to 5 minutes over medium-low heat. Add livers, vinegar, and salt. Cook over medium heat for 2 to 3 minutes. Make sure to leave the livers medium-rare because overcooking will make them tough.

Bone Broth

  • Water (filtered or reverse-osmosis water), enough to fill the pot or Crock-Pot
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3–4 cloves garlic
  • 2–4 tablespoons cider vinegar (1 tablespoon per quart of water added is a good place to start)
  • 1 teaspoon kelp powder or 1 tablespoon dulse flakes (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon iodized sea salt
  • Bones (knucklebones are particularly good)
  • 4 chicken feet (optional but recommended)
  • Any vegetables in your fridge that are getting a little bit limp_

Heat the water to steaming or a light simmer and add the rest of the ingredients. Simmer anywhere from 4 hours to 2 days. If any foamy materials come to the top of the pot, skim them off and discard. After you turn off the heat, allow to cool. Strain out the vegetables and bones.

Red Chili with Beans

  • 8 cups bone broth
  • 1 pound ground bison meat
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 15-ounce can black beans, drained
  • 2 6-ounce cans tomato paste
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon organic kelp powder, such as Starwest Botanicals organic kelp (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon iodized sea salt_

Put all ingredients in kettle. Simmer 30 minutes.

Seafood Stew

  • 1 13.5-ounce can full-fat coconut milk
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or bone broth, or store-bought broth)
  • 1 pound mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash (omit on Wahls Paleo Plus)
  • 1 teaspoon organic kelp powder, such as Starwest Botanicals organic kelp (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon iodized sea salt
  • 1 pound oysters or scallops (use 2 pounds for Wahls Paleo)
  • 2 cups chopped cauliflower
  • 1 cup minced fresh cilantro_

Place coconut milk, broth, mushrooms, onion, squash, kelp powder, and salt in a pot. Heat to simmering until squash is nearly tender, 5 to 10 minutes. Add oysters or scallops and cauliflower, bring back to a gentle simmer, and turn the heat off. Let stew sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and serve. Add coarse ground pepper to each bowl as you like.

Salads

I recommend piling your plate with fresh raw leafy greens of all types, chopping other vegetables you have, and adding them (cucumber, carrots, radishes, bell peppers, mushrooms, green onions, or whatever you like, but try to include sulfur-rich vegetables to balance the greens), drizzling with a cold-pressed olive oil and a splash of fresh lemon juice or vinegar, and adding some animal protein like steak, chicken, or fish.

Sautéed Red Cabbage

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 4 cups chopped red cabbage
  • 1½ tablespoons sliced fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar_

Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add cabbage, ginger, and vinegar. Sauté for 2 to 4 minutes.