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The Dr. Terry Wahls Interview You Don’t Want to Miss

This is categorized both under health & fitness and politics & culture for a reason. The first is obvious. The latter is revealed in the last segment of the interview.

Unless you’re an Original Vampire that Nicklous staked for some reason and missed the last few years, decades or centuries until just now, you know about paleo and about Dr. Terry Wahls. I blogged about her TED talk here (now at nearly 1.5 million views), catching and riding the wave that made her sensational.

And as I describe in the introduction to the interview, I accidentally ended up in email with a family acquaintance over something her kids were doing. She’s suffered badly from MS for years and guess what she told me before I had any idea? She told me that she was seeing good improvement and progress with Dr. Terry’s pre and pro-scriptions (keep that in mind: do’s and dont’s). She had no idea I already knew, or knew anything about paleo.

Then we get into the meat and offal of the interview, and Dr. Terry describes how she’s come up with a real food formula for folks with these kinds of problems. I’ll put it this way: you could get on a dietary regime that shows significant potential to greatly ameliorate or even reverse MS, which is A BIG DEAL. For the why and the key, simply watch the interview.

We really delve into nutritional density, which has been a thing of mine for a long time, as long time readers know from my challenge to vegans on liver vs. fruit, and then later work I did for V2.0 of my own book comparing with grains. I ask her to compare The Walhs Diet or, Wahls paleo Diet with Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet’s Perfect Health Diet and sorry, but you’ll have to listen to find out her evaluation and judgment.

She fields a couple of reader questions, too. What would she do if Surgeon General?

Finally, since it’s Free the Animal around here, I have to have something for my free roaming animals to chew on, so we go all social. I ask her to talk about her son Zach who, as you may know, still has his mom beat, coming in at nearly 3 million views on his video clearly demonstrating before a governmental body and the world that what it really takes to raise a competent young adult is competent parents who care—regardless of their immaterial gender or preferences over which kinds of genitals they prefer to live and bed down with.

Alright, just to recap, there’s a book coming out: The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine. It’ll certainly be in my library, as well as short list of books to give others.

Richard Nikoley

I'm Richard Nikoley. Free The Animal began in 2003 and as of 2021, contains 5,000 posts. I blog what I wish...from health, diet, and food to travel and lifestyle; to politics, social antagonism, expat-living location and time independent—while you sleep—income. I celebrate the audacity and hubris to live by your own exclusive authority and take your own chances. Read More

21 Comments

  1. marie on October 17, 2013 at 00:06

    What a treat! Thank you and a huge thanks to Dr.Wahls for making the effort to teach and help, through her talks, her interviews and her book – it’ll go in my library too.

    Identifying root effects/causes in MS, relating them to other inflammatory diseases, extrapolating to general health and finding 31 types of foods that are necessary, that’s all just brilliant work and I’m looking forward to the journal article/s.
    On the practical side, giving guidelines in terms of specific “plates” of whole foods is simply inspired.

    Meanwhile, if her son one day gets to the point of running for president, I might have to revise my views on American politics 🙂

  2. Kayumochi on October 17, 2013 at 10:00

    Was heartening to see Richard not only humble but respectful to someone whose views (non-dietary) he may not agree with. Wish that came through more in his writing 🙂

  3. Richard Nikoley on October 17, 2013 at 10:03

    Golden Rule, Kayumochi.

    True guests of mine get treated like royalty, just as I would love to be treated. I think I can afford it.

  4. Paul C on October 17, 2013 at 10:16

    I have a 39-year-old sister-in-law with progressive MS that would never read that book, solely for the reason that Paleo suggests an idea that is ungodly. Imo, her brain lesions from the MS have altered her thinking somewhat, detracting from her ability to think clearly and making spirituality into zealotry.

    As a relative this is just as frustrating to watch as my other sister-in-law who is a diagnosed schitzophrenic who often believes she doesn’t need her medication.

    What would an anarchist say to those cases. Do you let people be as stupid as they want to be when their reasoning has been compromised. If the answer is yes then current government policies are doing a great job of staying out of it, for good or for bad.

  5. Richard Nikoley on October 17, 2013 at 11:03

    Paul C

    OK, how do I couch this? Long family history of fundamentalist baptist religion since I was about 10. Luckily, I had enough brains and sense of independence to realize I was being shepherded by moron and began the dumping at 18, fully complete by 20. Atheist before 30. Lovin’ it ever since, just because I really have a passion to go to Hell where all the cool cats are….but I digress.

    Thing is, I really do love my family. Even the fucking morons. One of my dad’s brothers is the fundamentalist baptist preacher who got the whole family into this pile of dogshit in the first place. But I love him. He knows all about me and just like the most pro priest, he treats me with respect and I reciprocate. I always have good conversations with him. That’s just the simple truth. I don’t play roles, or games.

    But to the essential question, “everyone gets to go to hell in their own go-cart.” That’s a quote from Billy Beck, ironic if you read up a couple of posts ago. I’d add: or their own private Idaho.

    That’s what you’re dealing with. Probably, until you can get someone to recognize that they are killing themselves by submitting to the proclamations of others, you’ll not get far. You may get someone to make an exception, but then you have to argue the rational behind each exception.

    Cure the disease, not the symptoms.

  6. Mart on October 18, 2013 at 12:27

    How come you didn’t bring up your resistant starch experiments? That issue needs to be a TED talk just like her MS one. You could change the lives more diabetics than anyone has done in the last 50 years or more.

  7. Richard Nikoley on October 18, 2013 at 13:23

    All in good time, Mart. All Roads Lead to Rome, but it still wasn’t built in a day.

  8. Mart on October 18, 2013 at 20:53

    Aha! Got me thinking Richard. Maybe you’re working on a formula to market. A proprietary mix of potato and tapioca and perhaps other resistant starches, combined with flavor and texture ingredients to make it more palatable. Some citric acid maybe. Maybe there are different flavors to offer choice. Mint. Vanilla. Chocolate. Could this even be dosed by processing it with the right recipe into clumps – chocolate box-sized portions? “Bete-Its”

  9. Mart on October 19, 2013 at 07:09

    and the drink mix: “Bete-Ease”

  10. St. George's Dragon on October 20, 2013 at 18:11

    Unfortunately, what didn’t get translated from the interview is that she’s really advocating an autoimmune diet for her patients. Her mantra is “nutrient density” but also avoiding foods that are potentially allergenic to autoimmune patients. I happen to think she’s about 70% correct here and 30% wrong.

    70% correct because she’s right that eating colorful veggies and antioxidants will reduce inflammation. And in some people with metabolic problems, reduced starches could aid in blood sugar control. But 30% wrong because she does not understand the long-term impact of a diet such as hers: it is not just lipids, inflammation, weight and blood pressure. That’s not all there is to health. There are such things as hormones, immune system, digestions and gut flora, etc. Studies like hers were done before. Who’ll dispute that doing low-carb Paleo will straighten out lipids for the vast majority of people? No one’s debating this.

    The question is, is her diet actually preventing hormonal dysregulation and keeping her patients from contracting other autoimmune conditions, which do come in clusters. Is it amenable to long-term health? She’ll never answer that question with her clinical trial. And here the problem really is her focus on “nutrient density”. Nutrient density is fine and it could lower inflammation in autoimmune patients. But the problem here is that hormonal and immune stress results from a diet that is nurient dense to the nth degree but not robust enough for a healthy hormonal and immuen regulation. I think PHD’s emphaiss on safe starches or a deit that incorporates resistant starches could do the job here. That’s the 30% she’s missing.

  11. julianne on October 20, 2013 at 21:17

    That was great!

  12. tatertot on October 21, 2013 at 09:12

    @St Geo’s Dragon – Excellent way to put it. When I watched the video, I thought the same thing–she’s missing something important, but couldn’t really put my finger on it. You hate to tell someone like Dr. Wahl’s that she’s ‘doing it wrong’ because you can’t deny her success, but just like vegan’s are missing meat, Dr. Wahl’s is missing starch.

    I had to give her a pass because she wasn’t really saying ‘no starch’ she was saying ‘no nightshades’, which can be problematic for some, and rice and beans are known to cause problems for those with severely compromised immune systems–I think that was the whole crux of the ‘there are no safe starches’ argument last year. Eventually, though, I think that Dr. Wahl’s protocol will become less effective for those it initially helps unless it leads to gut healing and a reintroduction of prebiotic, fermentable fiber, resistant starch, and starch.

  13. St. George's Dragon on October 21, 2013 at 10:24

    The crux here is that clinical trials like hers have been done before, though not specifically with autoimmune patients. We’ve had VLC/ketogenic studies on obese and neurologically challenged patients. They have consistently shown stellar lipids and weight loss. But then that was basically the limits of these studies: lipids, weight loss, metabolic panels like liver enzymes. No one doubts that the VLC/ketogenic diet will spank any other diet in terms of giving you perfect lipids, liver enzymes, blood sugar, and weight loss. But that assumes Health = Lipids + Metabolic Panel + BMI + BP + BG control.

    There’s more to health than that and some of the ill effects of a VLC diet encroach rather unawares and are longer-term rather than the short-/medium-term measured in clinical trials. Hers is basically a VLC diet when she excludes all starches (not just potatoes but all grains, tubers, legumes). And the confounding factor here is that autoimmunity is measured in terms of “inflammation”, a generic term if there ever was one. Those on a VCL diet will generally show reduced inflammation when measured as CRP or ESR; these markers do not really signal autoimmune activity but arterial and non-specific inflammation, which get elevated on a SAD diet. So she can declare victory on how a VLC/ketogenic diet could “lower” inflammation and be amenable autoimmune diseases. But there is no way to really tell in fact it really is.

    You need specialized knowledge for that: you need the ability to interpret general and specific autoimmune antibodies for those diseases that come in clusters, you need hematological markers that closely associate themselves with autoimmune conditions, like secretory IgA, T cells, and you need hormonal biomarkers (T3/T4/FT3/Rt3/IGF-1/leptin) which may portend dysregulation. It’s almost an impossible task because biomarkers for gut dysbiosis and hormonal dysregulation are difficult to test. You basically need to organize a fire drill just to test your salivary cortisol.

    But it’s easy to be hoodwinked by these results. Triglycerides that fall to the 30s, HDL that exceeds 50, ALT in the 10s, BMI=21, HbA1c=4.7. Not every population known for longevity have such stellar lipids. The octogenarian Okinawans, for example, probably have triglycerdies above 100, say 100-150, given their starch-heavy diet. So would the Kitavans. Their HDL might not be 80 but more like 50-60, their A1c more like 5.3. Which are all fine but not stellar.

    Extreme diets that exclude starches may be ideal for lipid management and blood sugar control. But it’s like gutting your old Chevy’s exhaust system to get better performance and gas mileage. You might rev up your engine faster but you may have to deal with the fumes that could do you in unawares.

  14. Richard Nikoley on October 21, 2013 at 11:44

    St George:

    Loving your comments. This is good. Everyone is operating on different core parameters, different clinical results if involved in such, different focus.

    I loved this bit of insight the best, signalling to me that you are really thinking:

    “You need specialized knowledge for that”

    Ha, I have been thinking of specialization per se for 20 years, chewing on the double-edgedness of it. Nothing like a specialist who knows more than anyone on earth about one little thing that could be very important. The problem is, who’s going to integrate it, build the jigsaw, paint a picture, etc?

    That’s essentially why I’m a synthesizer and dot connector.

  15. Kira on October 21, 2013 at 12:46

    Hi Richard and Tatertot
    I posted before on the topics of RS and you gave me some great advise. Here is an N=1 update:
    Still doing 2TBS of Tapioca Starch stretched throughout the day, and having great results with IBS: mostly properly formed BM – the major problem which was never resolved by Paleo alone… Also interesting, that no such positive changes was noted by just adding daily potatoes in their whole form, prior to RS experiment. So to reiterate, I changed NOTHIG else – still doing Paleo style diet plus dairy, plus some Superfoods that most Paleo people don’t accept as food but that wok for me personally (like Chia Seeds, Spirilina, Acai berries, Goji Berries, Raw Cocoa, a really clean Green Powder), and some supplements….

    I don’t know if the Tapioca RS addition is helping bcs its a fermentable prebiotic fiber, and its finally making my expensive probiotics work. OR simply just bcs its additional fiber, but I am happy… So thank you again!

    PS Also want to note another experiment that I attempted before RS: Konstantin’s Monastirsky’s “Fiber Menace”, which is based on an idea of fiber resulting in nothing more than unnaturally bulky stools but causing IBS/IBD UC and Diverticulitis – scared the hell out of me, and convinced me to reduce the fiber content – never helped my IBS either. Just saying;-)

  16. darcylu on October 22, 2013 at 12:20

    Hi Kira, St. George’s Dragon, tatertot, Richard, etc.

    I follow a strict Wahls/Paleo lifestyle (22 months), and it has changed my life, miraculously. I won’t go into details of the “what” but I have Progressive MS, and I can now walk unassisted (no wheelchair, walker, cane, motorized shopping cart, husband’s arm, walls, posts), I can drive again, and I now work out at the gym everyday, and train with amazing personal trainers who are waking up my muscles.

    I mostly 9-12c organic veggies, berries (3c greens, 3c sulfur, 3c deeply colored) plus some wild seafood, humanely raised/free-range/grass-fed/local poultry/meat, some nuts and seeds (and their milks and oils). I also eat sea vegetables/dulse, and prepare everything at home from whole foods as much as possible.

    Sweet potatoes, winter squashes, chia seed, goji berries, and raw cocoa are all certainly included in my diet consistently. These have never been excluded by Dr. Wahls, as far as I have seen. Spirulina has been on my shopping list, but I forget why I have never gone through with trying it, but there is some reason, and “clean Green Powder” sounds like processed food, but because I eat a lot of greens every day, I have no need for it.

    Certainly, after a lot of experimenting with my own body, I have given up nightshades AGAIN, because I do so much better without them. I have also given up egg whites again for the same reason. I would be willing to try raw dairy in the future if I could get it, but until I have the opportunity, I am fine without it.

    No neurologist or MS drug, diet (Zone, low carb, low fat) even when eating a lot of the same foods that I eat now (wild Alaskan Salmon, organic veggies, etc) or anything else I tried ever helped me, until my daughter urged me to check out Dr. Wahls first book. My daughter didn’t really know how bad my life was before. If I had been suicidal, I would be dead by now, because I had no hope left. I could barely move, or even lift my arms because of severe debilitating fatigue, 24/7/365. I slept on the couch for a few years, because there was no point dragging myself upstairs to bed or to shower even. I rarely left the house, and would only shower the day before an appointment, or family event. I couldn’t shower and dress and leave the house in the same day.

    It was no life. Now my life is amazing. I work my butt off every day on this lifestyle – my healing foods, my healing exercises, and I even meditate now. My positive attitude is a key component, always.

  17. Terry Wahls on October 24, 2013 at 10:35

    Terrific conversation going on here. In the Wahls Protocol I lay out the rationale for the Wahls Diet (gluten free + 9 cups veg/fruit), Wahls Paleo and Wahls Paleo Plus and show the shift in nutrient density (that is how many vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, essential fats) as you transition through the diets. The diets have been very specifically constructed to maximize the nutrients our brains need for optimal function. I limit the foods on the highest food allergy/ sensitivity risk and then teach people how to do the elimination diet if they need to go further.
    Key is that I am doing clinical trials testing my protocols in others – presenting our research findings, submiting papers, and getting more grants to do more research. If you want to change clinical practice – of other health care practitioners – published scientific studies like mine are going to be needed.

  18. Richard Nikoley on October 24, 2013 at 11:15

    Hi Terry:

    Thanks again for taking the interview and being so fun. My only regret for the interview is not spending time talking about how, from my perspective, you have improved in appearance since your TED talk and when I saw you at AHS12.

    FTA is a rather special place in the paleosphere. I use very bad words sometimes, so do my commenters, and nobody takes anything as given. Let me put it like this: you are in league with Paul Jaminet, now. Both of you could be wrong, or some combination of wrong and right but it strikes many of us as moving to the next level, beyond just plain restricting an entire class of food (LC) and eating as much bacon as possible (“Paleo”).

    ….And, spending 80% of your time considering what new LC or Paleo “Treat” you can come up with.

    I think nutrient density is a very fine theme and it struck me as intuitive some years ago. I think it absolves a multitude of sins.

  19. […] The Terry Wahls Interview You Don’t Want to Miss […]

  20. Angelyen on November 12, 2013 at 18:28

    I’ve watched this video and the TED Talk immediately after. Until today, I thought the old adage, the older you get, the younger you look, was just empty flattery. Wow. She literally looks 10 years younger.

  21. […] and guess who Richard Nikoley got to speak opposite of, in the next room. A few months back, I was pleased to interview Dr. Wahls for this blog and what's perhaps unique about it is that I asked her permission to discuss her partner […]

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