A healthy diet is important for feeling your best, but for individuals with an autoimmune disorder such as multiple sclerosis (MS), healthy eating plans become even more critical. This is the belief on which the Wahls diet was founded. Developed by Dr. Terry Wahls, the diet implements paleo-style eating to aid in symptom management. Here, we learn more about the eating plan that has helped MS patients and sufferers of other autoimmune disorders manage their conditions more effectively.
How is Diet Linked to Autoimmune Diseases?
Autoimmune disorders are suspected to be caused by low-grade inflammation, or the inflammation that takes place in our cells. Research suggests that a microbial imbalance of gut flora could also contribute to autoimmunity. Eating plans such as the Wahls protocol diet aim to reduce inflammation by eliminating certain food chemicals which could contribute to gut dysbiosis and inflammation in sensitive individuals.
What Does the Wahls Diet Entail?
Like the Paleolithic (Paleo) diet, the Wahls protocol emphasizes the consumption of meat and fish and vegetables. It also encourages fat intake from both animal and plant sources and allows for brightly-colored fruits, such as berries, to be enjoyed regularly.
In order to minimize potential inflammatory agents found in common food sources, the diet is fairly restrictive. For instance, dairy products and eggs are prohibited, along with nightshade vegetables such as eggplant, tomatoes, potatoes, and peppers. Legumes, all grains, and sugars (except for those occurring naturally in fruits) are also restricted.
In recognition of the varying degree of severity in autoimmune disorders, as well as patients’ diverse food preferences and needs, Dr. Wahls has established three tiers of the diet. For instance, Level 3 calls for the elimination of all white-fleshed fruits, while Level 1 requires only the avoidance of all foods containing gluten and dairy.
Does the Diet Really Work?
In patients with MS, following a paleo-style diet has been shown to improve fatigue. Yet, because subjects involved in clinical studies are also typically receiving additional forms of therapy, it is difficult to isolate dietary tactics alone as the primary agent for achieving results. Nonetheless, Dr. Wahls attributes the diet to her own reversal of symptoms. Before she embarked on a healthier eating plan, Dr. Wahls’ muscles had weakened to the point at which she needed a tilt-recline wheelchair. After transforming her diet, she was able to bike nearly 20 miles a day.
While research on the complex ways in which dietary choices impact immune functionality is still ongoing. For patients with autoimmune disorders like MS, talking to doctors about anti-inflammatory eating plans is certainly not a bad idea. Beyond aiding with symptom management, a healthier eating plan could support better wellness outcomes and reduce risks for other serious conditions, such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.