In her book, she chronicles her own amazing experience from wheelchair-bound invalid to once-again-healthy practicing physician. In 2007 she discovered Functional Medicine, and she began intensively researching her own illness to discover potential root causes and effective treatment modalities. Over time, this lead to the development of her "Wahls Protocol," a natural treatment regimen focused on intensive nutrition, stress management, and other lifestyle factors. She regained much of her health, and now rides her bike to work and maintains a mostly normal lifestyle.
I read Dr. Wahls book out of interest for what other doctors are discovering about nutrition and lifestyle factors related to chronic disease. Dr. Wahls' research and writing is recent, and she is well-qualified, so her experience ought to reflect the latest developments in nutrition-based medicine. I was excited to find that much of Dr. Wahls' book paralleled and/or confirmed the knowledge we already had via resources like Dr. NCM and Gaps and Psychology Syndrome. Most of Dr. Wahls' protocol based on her "groundbreaking" research was similar to, and compatible with what I already knew on the GAPS diet. But even if her protocol is not as groundbreakingly new as she supposes, Dr. Wahls' work is invaluable in confirming the value of nutrition-based medicine and adds much credibility to a nutritional approach to healing chronic disease. Also, she is uniquely positioned in her roles as a clinical professor and clinical researcher to have a direct impact on bringing nutritional medical modalities into the fold of mainstream evidence-based allopathic medicine. She has even been able to develop and begin performing clinical trials using her protocol and plans to publish evidence-based peer-reviewed research on the topic. This is hugely good news for nutritional medicine!
So what are the similarities and differences between Dr. Wahls' approach and that of Dr. NCM in the GAPS diet?
- Both are focused on nutritional healing and other adjunctive lifestyle therapies (stress management, sunshine, exercise, bathing, enemas, etc.) to assist the healing process
- Both are based on scientific research, not merely personal experience
- Both are based on generally the same pathophysiological and etymological medical knowledge
- Both recommend a paleo-type diet with additional restrictions on starches/sugars, and with special focus on nutritional density and promotion of specific highly-valuable traditional foods (like bone broths, seaweeds, fermented foods).
- Both value the human microbiome and recommend probiotic treatments and foods.
- Dr. Wahls brings more in-depth research into mitochondrial function and the specific nutrition that will maximize mitochondrial energy; whereas although Dr. NCM is clearly aware of the impact of chronic disease on mitochondrial function, and the GAPS diet does address this issue indirectly, she does not directly emphasize mitochondrial healing as a primary treatment modality/goal for overall healing of chronic disease.
- Dr. Wahls provides more specific guidelines for how to balance what types of vegetables and fruits someone on her protocol should eat, as well as how much they should eat in order to achieve certain minimum nutritional density guidelines for healing; whereas Dr. NCM tells you what you can and can't eat, but does not discuss proportions or specific amounts. For example, Dr. Wahls recommends limiting your fruit consumption mostly to berries for their high antioxidant and nutritional profile, and discourages "white" fruits like apples and pears.
- Dr. Wahls has several different "levels" to her protocol. The patient can determine how drastically they are willing to change their eating habits, and pick the level that most suits their needs and desires. While there is benefit to this for patients who are unwilling to make a commitment to the full protocol recommendations (something is better than nothing), it is my belief that the lower levels of Dr. Wahls' protocol are just insufficient for accomplishing significant healing from chronic disease. Whereas, Dr. NCM makes it very clear the level of commitment that is required to accomplish healing nutritionally.
- Dr. Wahls introduces more intensive research into the benefits of a ketogenic diet for mitochondrial function and more efficient healing; whereas Dr. NCM discusses this more in passing and does not necessarily promote it's benefits.
- Dr. NCM emphasizes the role of the human microbiome, gut function, and probiotic therapy more than Dr. Wahls. In my opinion, Dr. Wahls' nutritional guidelines do not go far enough in consideration of gut healing; whereas this remains Dr. NCM's specialty. Dr. NCM's thorough introduction diet and specific guidelines for daily consumption of bone broths, probiotics, and probiotic foods remain unique to her GAPS diet. Also, Dr. Wahls is not so concerned about the impact of specific carbohydrates on a damaged gut's function; whereas Dr. NCM remains more aware of the impact of the wrong kinds of carbohydrates being introduced at the wrong time.
- Dr. Wahls places slightly more emphasis on the benefits of seaweed consumption for detoxification, specifically of heavy metals; whereas Dr. NCM is hesitant to introduce seaweeds until later on in the healing process due to their polysaccharide content.
What I Took Away from the Book:
- Now that I am well into my GAPS healing journey, I should not hesitate to introduce regular seaweed consumption into my routine.
- I should try to follow Dr. Wahls' recommendations for the quantity and types of vegetables and fruits I eat, while sticking to Dr. NCM's specific carbohydrate recommendations.
- I should definitely try to maintain a mildly ketogenic diet as much as possible.
- I should continue to be very diligent about Dr. NCM's recommendations for gut healing and function - daily broths, probiotics, and fermented foods, as well as the GAPS introduction diet protocol as needed.
- I should not underestimate the value of adjuctive therapies to the healing process - stress management, sunbathing, bath soaks, enemas, exercise, grounding, etc.
I would appreciate your comments on this topic. Let me know your thoughts and questions!