Friday, August 3, 2012

The Wahls Diet

So, I'm reading Minding My Mitochondria, which outlines a diet designed to calm down autoimmune diseases. It is sometimes referred to as The Wahls Diet. If you have MS, you may have heard of a few "MS diets" and two of the prominent ones are Wahls and Swank.

The best part is, they are completely different in what they allow and restrict. Thanks guys, that's not confusing at all.

After reading about both of them, I chose to try the Wahls diet. Not because I think food is magically going to make my neurological disease disappear, but because a little more energy would go a long way in my life. I felt like Wahls was more in line with my current ideas about what helps and hurts me, mostly because Swank allows certain types of dairy and I have been happily dairy free for years.

I sat down with my husband and mom, since they do most of the household stuff around here and discussed the positives and negatives. Here were some of our talking points...

  • It's expensive. Organic fruits and vegetables are expensive. Pastured meat is expensive. Our family already believes in and tries to eat this way, and since my income is so limited by my disability, we can't do everything.  
  • MS is also expensive though. In the long run, 40 extra dollars a week for the rest of my life would probably be cheaper than the costs associated with a few extra relapses or more extensive disability.
  • It is highly restrictive. The Wahls diet is no wheat, no dairy, no legumes at a minimum. Eliminating all grains and eggs is also suggested. I am already dairy free, and although completely worth it, it's quite the hassle when eating out of our house. Have you seen Greek food? It is full of feta, lentils, pita, and yogurt. It is also delicious. It's no fun to give up deliciousness. I am already limited to about 3 things at Thanksgiving.
  • How do we measure the benefit? How do we know if it is worth it? Although I have a lot of fatigue and some symptoms I'm functioning pretty well right now, which makes it hard to notice slight improvements. I'm on the upswing of remission anyways, so how do we know what is the diet and what is natural remission? We also already eat a pretty healthy diet, so I wouldn't expect to see as drastic a change as someone who eats poorly. 
  • On the flip side...what if I am gluten intolerant and it is manifesting as general fatigue that I was attributing to MS? What if my body has to work extra hard and waste energy to digest legumes?

The MS society supports a healthy diet, but not a specialty diet. As talked about in my honey post, I'm a sciency person. I like studies. I like scientific facts. These diets just don't have that. That doesn't mean they are worthless. As a clinical practitioner, I incorporate clinical studies into my patient care, but it is integrated with anecdotal evidence and intuition. I don't always have clinical studies to back up every exercise I do with someone, but I know it makes people better.

The diet can't do me any harm, so we decided it is worth a try to see what happens. I don't make drastic dietary changes quickly because I find them difficult to maintain. I'm going for a life long dietary change. I just don't think taking everything away at once is the way to do that. It took me 5 years to be completely dairy free, but I never miss it now. I had to slowly learn what aggravated me and what was worth it. It turns out, no dairy is worth it for me. But, if I had cut all of it out completely 5 years ago, I think I would struggle a lot more with it now.

I am a stubborn person who likes to find things out for myself. I don't like to be told to eat X, Y, and Z. I like to experiment and see how it fits into my life. I will keep you posted.


  1. I've studied this diet and like it alot, my only hesitation is I'm Vegan and it requires me to eat meat! Not sure how I feel about that.

    1. That is a tough call! I'm still phasing it in slowly since there were so many changes, but overall I like it.