Wahls Diet™: Mastering MS and Autoimmunity

A diet designed to help you mitigate and manage your MS and autoimmune disease flare-ups and restore your vitality.

Written by MasterHealth Staff

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Originally an MS diet created by Dr. Terry Wahls to improve the outcome of her secondary progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), the Wahls Diet™ has since been implemented by thousands. In addition to MS, it has been demonstrated to be effective at improving the outcome for a variety of health conditions, from autoimmune disease to aging.

 

Wahls Diet™ is the first level of The Wahls Protocol® making it a great start for beginners. It forms the foundation of the other levels of the Wahls Protocol®, including Wahls Paleo™, Wahls Paleo Plus™, and Wahls elimination because it excludes the two foods that are the most dangerous for autoimmune disease – dairy and gluten.

Dairy and gluten are removed from the diet for a few reasons. Firstly, they tend to be poorly tolerated by most people without causing any overt symptoms, so sensitives often go unnoticed. The food sensitivity leads to increased gut permeability (a.k.a  “leaky gut”), which triggers the recruitment of immune cells and inflammation.

 

The second reason is because the dairy and gluten protein structures resemble self-proteins, specifically the myelin in the brain. These immune cells become trained to remove the food proteins, and can mistakenly launch an attack on myelin instead, causing demyelination. This normally wouldn’t happen in a healthy immune system, but with long-term damage and inflammation, genetic changes can alter the course of immune function.

In addition to eliminating dairy and gluten, Wahls Diet™ calls for roughly 9 cups of vegetables divided into 3 cups of leafy greens, 3 cups of sulfur veggies, and 3 cups of deeply-colored veggies and fruit. This may sound like a lot if you have a more petite figure, which is why Dr. Wahls recommends reducing your intake to meet your appetite requirements.

wahls diet vegetables

The Wahls Diet™ also encourages switching from conventional animal protein to organic, grass-fed, or wild-caught. The rationale behind this switch is to reduce the toxic burden from environmental pollutants like antibiotics, hormones, and pesticides that the animals might be exposed to. 

 

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, it’s advised that you consume a combination of organic legumes and gluten-free grains in order to get a diversity of amino acids to make a complete protein.

The Wahls Paleo™ diet is the next level of the Wahls Protocol®, and a continuation of the Wahls Diet™. In addition to eliminating dairy and gluten, and eating roughly 9 cups of vegetables, Wahls Paleo™ calls for a few more dietary changes: 

  1. A reduction in all gluten-free grains, legumes, and potatoes to a maximum of 2 servings per week.

  2. The addition of enzyme-rich foods, including raw and fermented foods, as well as soaked nuts and seeds.

  3. The addition of mineral and nutrient-dense seaweed and organ meats.

The reason for reducing gluten-free grains and legumes is because of their high carbohydrate load, which contributes to an increased risk of metabolic disorders, weight gain, and inflammation.

 

These foods also contain lectins and phytates, two anti-nutrients. Lectins have been associated with increased autoimmune activity, since the lectin protein structure closely resembles self-proteins, which can lead to autoimmune reactivity via a process known as “molecular mimicry”. The immune system mistakenly targets self-proteins instead.

 

Dr. Wahls suggests that you increase your consumption of non-starchy vegetables and meats in place of grains, legumes and potatoes to fill your appetite.

Seaweed and organ meats contain a dense concentration of vitamins and minerals essential for the body. The best way to consume these nutrients is through the diet to improve absorption into the body.

 

Organ meats are also loaded with nutrients that help to power-up your mitochondria – the energy-producers of the cell – such as coenzyme Q10 and B vitamins.

 

Some people have a hard time stomaching organ meats. To get the same nutrients without the taste, we recommend you try Paleovalley’s organ meat capsules (this link saves you 15%, we also get a small commission).

ms diet

Soaked nuts and seeds, as well as raw and fermented foods are an excellent source of dietary enzymes, which help with digestion. Healthy digestion is key to reducing discomfort and inflammation while eliminating toxins.

Wahls Paleo Plus™ is the 3rd level of the Wahls Protocol®. The goal of this level is to achieve ketogenesis – the metabolic process in which your body burns ketones (from fat) instead of sugars for energy.

 

In order to achieve ketogenesis, all grains, legumes, cooked starchy vegetables, and fruit (except berries) are completely eliminated from Wahls Paleo Plus™. This is because carbohydrates from these foods are converted into sugars in the body, which are then used for energy.

Ketosis is the state of your metabolism when it’s in ketogenesis, the process of burning ketones for energy. Ketones are formed from the breakdown of fats by the liver.

 

In Wahls Paleo Plus™, after reducing your carbohydrate intake it’s important to increase your intake of healthy fats to get into ketosis. Increasing your intake of fats prevents your body from breaking down muscle for energy. These fats can include coconut oil, full-fat coconut milk, or olive oil, depending on your lipid profile.

 

Have your doctor check your triglyceride and cholesterol levels to determine the best type of fat for you to be consuming – olive oil combined with time-restricted eating will be a healthier choice if you have higher lipid levels. 

 

As you enter a state of ketosis, you’ll likely find that your appetite is reduced. If that’s the case for you, it’s okay to reduce your vegetable intake to 6 cups, and your protein intake to 6-12oz per day (or less if you’re more petite).

The last step of Wahls Paleo Plus™ is to incorporate time-restricted eating to help your body spend more energy on healing and the removal of dysfunctional cells and other waste products. It’s suggested that you fast for at least 14 hours every night, which means you’ll be eating only once or twice a day. 

 

This may seem difficult, but you won’t be as hungry on Wahls Paleo Plus™, and 8 of those 14 hours will be spent asleep!

wahls-diet-paleo-plus

The Wahls elimination diet can be initiated at any stage of the Wahls Protocol®. This diet is temporary since the goal is to eliminate foods and reintroduce them to identify the culprit of your symptoms. It’s also often the most challenging level of the Wahls Protocol®, especially for families and younger children.

 

Dr. Wahls recommends starting this diet after implementing Wahls Diet™ and Wahls Paleo Plus™, since these levels of the Wahls Protocol® can often resolve many existing symptoms.

 

The elimination diet should be followed for a minimum of 100 days. For optimal results, a 6-month regimen is recommended to give your immune system enough time to eliminate any memory it might have of the eliminated foods.

When starting the Wahls elimination diet, It’s important to continue following the rules of your current Wahls Protocol® diet, whether it’s Wahls Diet™, Wahls Paleo™, or Wahls Paleo Plus™.

 

The additional restrictions for the Wahls elimination diet include the following:

 

  • Eliminate all nightshade vegetables and nightshade spices. This includes tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, potatoes (with the exception of sweet potatoes), and all pepper-based spices.
  • Eliminate all nuts, seeds, and seed spices (i.e. caraway, cumin, coriander, mustard, black pepper, etc).
  • Eliminate foods that are known to cause any symptoms for you.

 

After eliminating these foods for at least 100 days, you will start to gradually reintroduce one food per week.

 

Follow this procedure when reintroducing foods:

 

  1. Before eating, sit down for 5-10 minutes.
  2. Take your pulse for 1 minute and write it down.
  3. Eat a mouthful of the food, making sure to chew thoroughly before swallowing.
  4. Take your pulse for 1 minute immediately after eating. If your pulse increased by 10 or more, it’s an indication that you had a bad reaction and the food will need to be eliminated for another 6 months.
  5. If your pulse didn’t increase by 10+ points, eat up to ¼ cup of the food, chewing completely before swallowing.
  6. Repeat step 4.
  7. If your pulse didn’t increase by 10 points, eat up to 1 cup of the food.
  8. Repeat step 4.
  9. If your pulse didn’t increase by 10 points, eat the food 2 or 3 more times that same day. 
  10. As you continue to eat the food throughout the week, observe your symptoms. Did you have any gut, skin, breathing, or any other physical symptoms? Did you have changes in mental health or brain fog? Any changes denote an adverse reaction, and you should stop eating the food for another 6 months. If all goes well, it’s safe to begin incorporating the food into your diet again 1-3 times a week, while staying attuned to any changes in symptoms after eating it.

Tips to increase tolerance when reintroducing foods:

  • The skin and seeds of nightshade vegetables contain the highest concentration of lectins. Remove the skin and seeds (i.e. using tomato paste or sauce) and cook with a high pressure cooker.
  • For nuts, legumes and gluten-free grains, soak them for 6-24 hours, rinse and cook them in a high pressure cooker since the lectins (except gluten and casein) are denatured by the pressurization.

All levels of the Wahls Diet™ are part of The Wahls Protocol®, and each level is offered and supported in the mobile program available in the MasterHealth app.

 

The Wahls Protocol® mobile program guides you through the complexities of the protocol, provides you a personalized health program, exclusive videos, coaching, peer groups, reports on your health goals, and much more!

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