Sunday, April 26, 2015

Book Review: "The Wahls Protocol" by Dr. Terry Wahls

I recently read Dr. Terry Wahls' book, The Wahls Protocol, released in December, 2014. Dr. Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. She also does clinical research and has published over 60 peer-reviewed articles, abstracts, posters, and papers. She was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in 2000, and had progressed to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis by 2003. She started out her journey by seeking what she knew - the best allopathic doctors and drug therapy available for her disease. But she continued to decline and became confined to a wheelchair, and was told she could continue to progress with no possibility of recovery.

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 do highly recommend reading Dr. Wahls' book (which you can probably find at your local library). Also, I recommend her website, where she posts updates, articles, and blogs.

I would appreciate your comments on this topic.  Let me know your thoughts and questions!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Colon Hydrotherapy Interview with Stephen Holt, MD by Functional Forum

If you are unfamiliar with the work of Functional Forum and the Evolution of Medicine Summit, these people are producing lots of very helpful and quality information on functional and nutritional health. Many of their recent discussions revolve around the human microbiome and gastrointestinal health, a topic that should be near and dear to GAPS patients in general. They produce interviews and lectures for health care practitioners, so some of the discussion may get a little technical at points. However, it is my opinion that the average person without health care training who is motivated and interested in learning about their body and their health will be able to understand and apply most of the information.

Check out this great interview on colon hydrotherapy with Dr. Stephen Holt, who has been a gastroenterologist for over 40 years. Starting out as a strictly allopathic doctor, Dr. Holt has since developed a strong interest in nutritional healing and he has also done many years of research on the human microbiome. Take advantage of this great opportunity to learn! I have personally found it so helpful to read and listen to other viable voices in the health care community in addition to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride (hereafter abbreviated Dr. NCM). No one doctor has all the answers. Plus it is really affirming to know that it isn't just one doctor saying these things. There are a large body of medical practitioners out there who agree! More and more research is backing up Dr. NCM's science, and adding to it. So keep learning!

Don't have enough time? Here's an idea: listen while you cook your GAPS food for the week. I frequently utilize my cooking and cleaning time to listen to podcasts and audiobooks. I love to be able to learn while at the same time getting my chores done!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Welcome to My Etsy Shop! (Keep Reading for a Coupon Code!)

I recently opened an Etsy shop. There have been certain body care products that I have found beneficial to make for myself since starting GAPS and a chemical-free lifestyle. You already know from my blog that I am passionate about healthy living. One aspect of this that I have begun exploring more in recent months is healthy skin care. My motto has become: "If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin!" Related to this, I began to create some home-made skin care products that meet my standards. And as I've shared some of them with friends, they have become so popular that I've decided to sell them! So far, you will see lip balm in my Etsy shop, in three great flavors: coconut-lime, grapefruit-anise, and plain coconut. And deodorant, in four great scents: lavender, jasmine, cedarwood-clove, and just shea.

If you'd like to try out my products, now is the time! I'm offering a 25% coupon code in celebration of opening my Etsy shop. But hurry, it expires May 15th. Enter NEWCUSTOMER2015 at checkout to receive your discount. And share the news with your friends!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Spring Garden Time!

Ah! I love this time of year! It's garden time again! It doesn't look like much yet, but I couldn't resist sharing what is happening in my little plot of land. Also, it's fun to compare the bareness at the beginning of the season with the (hopefully!) lush growth later.

A blank slate
I periodically recommend gardening on my blog. If you are struggling to afford a GAPS lifestyle, it is really one of the best ways possible to supplement your diet with fresh, local, organic produce. Also, gardening comes with other benefits. People who garden get vitamin D from being out in the sun. They get exercise. They tend to be less depressed. It is relaxing, and contact with the earth promotes healthy regulation of your sympathetic and parasympathetic systems, helping your stressed body to become calm.

Baby Mizuna - Newborns!
For me, personally, gardening is one of most therapeutic activities I do for my health (and enjoyment!). Plus, it is so rewarding! And amazing! Every year, as I stick those tiny little seeds in the earth, I feel a little sense of trepidation. Will it really work? Will those dry little specks of dust really sprout and grow? And then... They do! Amazing! A miracle really. Gardening is one of those activities that impress upon my heart the power and glory of a Creator. All I do is stick those seeds in the ground and pour some water on them and let the sun shine down on them. But what makes them grow? I know we can explain biologically the process of germination and plant growth, but it doesn't explain why. It is still God that makes that process happen every single time. And He does it for us. A little picture of His grace. He provides food. He gives rain and sun to grow it for us. A picture of our utter dependence upon Him and His amazing grace towards us sinful rebellious creatures. A picture that is visualized most fully in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ to be our "true bread and true drink" (John 6). Christ, who, like the little seeds in my garden, submitted himself to death and burial in the earth in my place for my sin, and then, miracle of miracles, rose up from death to new life (like my seeds!) to give me (and anyone else who would turn from their sin to put all their trust in Him) forgiveness and new life in Himself. Beautiful, isn't it?

Purple Muscari
“And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:1–10 NAS95)

Daffodils - The Happiest Flower!
Just like those little seeds can't boast that they had anything to do with their new life and growth, every Christian has no boast except Jesus Christ. I see many parables of the Christian life in my garden, and it feeds my soul even as it feeds my body.

So my GAPS tip of the day: Get out and garden! Need help getting started? There are plenty of gardening forums online. A great way to design your garden to be almost completely self-sufficient is to create a "Back to Eden" garden. You can watch the documentary and find helpful tips at their website along with other helpful sites listed below: 

Kale - Some Plants are Survivors