Can Low Carb, High Fat Ketogenic Diets Improve MS And Other Neurological Disease Symptoms?

Can Low Carb, High Fat Ketogenic Diets Improve MS And Other Neurological Disease Symptoms?

Dr. Terry Wahls, a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa, U.S.A., where she teaches internal medicine residents in primary care clinics, in addition to being a physician is also a multiple sclerosis (MS) patient. First diagnosed in 2000, around the time she began working at the university, by 2003 Dr. Wahls says she had transitioned to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, and underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease. She also began using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in her back muscles. At this point, she had resigned herself to eventually becoming bedridden due to the disease’s ravages — an outcome she wanted to forestall for as long as possible.

terrywahlDr. Wahls, who also does clinical research and has published more than 60 peer-reviewed scientific abstracts, posters, and papers, says that thanks to her academic medical training, she knew that animal model research of diseases is often 20 or 30 years ahead of clinical practice, and hoping to find something to arrest her descent into becoming bedridden, she used to search scientific articles about the latest multiple sclerosis research.

In so doing, she relearned biochemistry, cellular physiology, and neuroimmunology to understand the articles. Unfortunately, she found that most studies underway were testing drugs years away from FDA approval, and it occurred to her to search for vitamins and supplements that helped any kind of progressive brain disorder. She gradually created a list of nutrients important to brain health and began taking them as supplements, and while the steepness of her decline slowed, she was still getting worse.DrTerryWahlsMultipleSclerosis

In 2007, Dr. Wahls discovered The Institute of Functional Medicine, an organization devoted to helping clinicians use the latest scientific discoveries to take better care of those with complex chronic diseases by addressing the underlying causes of disease, and using a systems-oriented approach and engaging both patient and practitioner in a therapeutic partnership. By shifting the traditional disease-centered focus of medical practice to a more patient-centered approach, functional medicine addresses the whole person, not just an isolated set of symptoms.

As a result of this discovery, Dr. Wahls developed a longer list of vitamins and supplements that were good for my brain, and I had an important epiphany: “What if I redesigned my diet so that I was getting those important brain nutrients not from supplements but from the foods I ate? I used what I had learned from the medical literature, Functional Medicine, and my knowledge of the Hunter-Gatherer diet — the most nutritious of any diet — to create my new food plan. At that same time, I also learned about neuromuscular electrical stimulation and convinced my physical therapist to give me a test session. It hurt a lot, but I also felt euphoric when it was finished, likely because of the endorphins my body released in response to the electrical stimulation. In December 2007, I began the Wahls Protocol.”

DrWahlschairbikeDr. Wahl adopted the nutrient-rich paleo diet, gradually refining and integrating it into a regimen of neuromuscular stimulation. First, she walked slowly, then steadily, and then she biked eighteen miles in a single day.

Dr. Wahls says the results “stunned” her physician, her family, and her, and within a year she was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour.

The Wahls Protocol is based on Functional Medicine and the Wahls Paleo diet, Dr. Wahls restored her health and now pedals her bike five miles to work each day.

wahloutofchairjpgDr. Wahls’ experiences resulted in a book, “The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine” coauthored with Eve Adamson, in which she shares details of the protocol that allowed her to reverse many of her symptoms, and get back to her life.

Dr. Wahl’s adopted the nutrient-rich paleo diet, gradually refining and integrating it into a regimen of neuromuscular stimulation. First, she walked slowly, then steadily, and then she biked eighteen miles in a single day. In November 2011, Dr. Wahls shared her remarkable recovery in a TEDx talk that immediately went viral. In The Wahls Protocol, she shares the details of the protocol that allowed her to


reverse many of her symptoms, get back to her life, and embark on a new mission: to share the Wahls Protocol with others suffering from the ravages of multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune conditions.

Dr. David Perlmutter, MD, author of the #1 New York Times bestseller “Grain Brain:Grain Brain: The Surprising Truth about Wheat, Carbs, and Sugar–Your Brain’s Silent Killers,” notes that “In The Wahls Protocol, Dr. Wahls provides elegant first hand validation that diet truly represents the most powerful medicine. This book is totally supported by the most leading edge research and provides a beacon of hope

when compared to the ever changing landscape of pharmaceutical recommendations for multiple sclerosis.”

In “Grain Brain,” Dr. Perlmutter, a board-certified neurologist and American College of Nutrition Fellow, declares war on a common foodstuff, attributing a bewilderingly wide assortment of maladies to the consumption of gluten, a substance found in bread and other staples North American diet. Contrasting modern humans against idealized humans of the distant past, Dr. Perlmutter concludes that the former, whose average life expectancy at birth is about twice that of their Paleolithic ancestors, have gone off the proper track. He addresses the objection that gluten has been part of the human diet for many millennia by asserting that recent changes to crops (such as chemical adulterants and mineral depletion of soils) have transformed a once-safe food into a “terrible scourge.”

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Another resource referenced by Dr. Wahls is “The Paleo Answer: 7 Days to Lose Weight, Feel Great, Stay Young” by Loren Cordain, whose best-selling The Paleo Diet and The Paleo Diet Cookbook have documented the diet he contends humans were genetically designed to eat: meats, fish, fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and other foods that mimic the diet of our Paleolithic ancestors. In The Paleo Answer, Mr. Cordain details a prescriptive 7-day plan with recommended meals, exercise routines, lifestyle tips, and supplement recommendations, as well as insights from the author’s research over the last decade, such as why he contends vegan and vegetarian diets are not healthy and why dairy, soy products, potatoes, and grains can be harmful to our health.

For more on low carb ketogenic (Paleo) diets as disease-fighter protocols, see this article by The Examiner’s Joanne Eglash

Dr. Terry Wahls, MD
The Institute of Functional Medicine
The Examiner

Image Credits:
Dr. Terry Wahls, M

Charles Moore is a syndicated columnist for several major Canadian print newspapers and is the Science and Research Section editor for Multiple Sclerosis News Today.
Charles Moore is a syndicated columnist for several major Canadian print newspapers and is the Science and Research Section editor for Multiple Sclerosis News Today.
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  1. Courtney Graves says:

    I do the Ketogenic diet, It was scary befor the leap. I have never looked back. I have 95% less pain, and I am out of bed all day everyday for the first time in 5 years. I feel fantastic. This article is 100% TRUE.

  2. I have been researching the benefits of a ketogenic diet for awhile now. Considering the significant risk factors and side effects present in all of the currently available MS drug therapies prescribed in the US, and being a patient whose treatment regimen has included taking several of the them, and experiencing no marked improvement in either ADL functioning or slowing of lesion proliferation, as well as experiencing a significant decline in overall health and well-being due to the comprimization to my immune system, I believe symptomatic treatment, combined with nutrition-based therapy, could provide better treatment outcomes for MS patients than any of the currently available immune modulating therapies being used to treat the disease. It is my opinion that, if nothing else, implementing better nutrition certainly doesn’t do anything to hurt the body, and a holistic and functional approach to treatment appears to make the most sense to effectively treat and reduce symptoms of not only MS patients, but many other individuals suffering with a wide variety of autoimmune disorders.

  3. Mandy Edwards says:

    I’m had a spinal cord injury in 2008. Overnight I went from dedicated sportswoman committed teacher and mum to wheelchair bound helpless woman in nappies and dependant
    on my others. Ten years later I’m walking a bit but
    registeted disabled and reliant on a long list of meds to manage the chronic neurological pain.
    I’m so excited to see this research and will keep you all updated. If it works for me it will work for anyone as traditional medicine can’t improve me and only manage the symptoms. My son now 23 has just become symptomatic ( genetic disorder) so this could change both of us!
    Thank you for this hope…
    Mandy from UK

  4. Brad says:

    Cutting carbs is just small part of the picture. We must do everything in our power to combat and mediate the onset and management of this disease. I have found the Eastern Internal arts offers time-proven wisdom on how we can improve our health and energy in naturally effective ways. This way we can be in charge of our own health, and without the negative side-effects. I think we can learn techniques and principles to start to take charge of our own health. I’ve found some good holistic tips and techniques from the eastern arts here

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