Exploring The WAHL'S PROTOCOL

NUTRITION NOTES FROM MAGALI BRECKE LAC (and kitchen director at KWBB)

Let's get the quick and dirty done first shall we? See bullets below for the 'cliff-notes' on Wahls, then go and do your own research- OR stick around and read on for my musings. 

WHAT is Wahls: Paleo-inspired anti-inflammatory dietary protocol, strongly informed by Functional Medicine

WHY Wahls: Originally designed for treatment of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) symptomatology- now used as nutritional therapy for myriad diagnoses beyond autoimmune. 

HOW Wahls: 1. HIGH plant food consumption, clean protein, approved fats, very low-carb eating 2. Decreasing toxic load and exposure 3. Stress management 4. Exercise 

Ok so you stayed with me...lets go a little further but keep this simple: we will go into only the dietary portion of Wahls in this post. Please, please! do explore the other tenets of this protocol- exercise, stress management, and toxic load reduction! These simply cannot be ignored if one is working towards full recovery. 

Alright now, if any inkling about this diet/lifestyle has come your way, it's likely one of the following: treatment of MS, consuming 9 (nine!) cups of veggies per day, or the "Paleo Plus" diet. 

First: it's not just about MS! It happens that Dr. Wahl's has been diagnosed with MS, and used the protocol to lessen her symptomatology- but lest we forget, MS is an autoimmune condition. And what's the talk of our nutritional/health times? Let's say it allllll together now: AUTOIMMUNE-INFLAMMATION. Point being, autoimmunity looks different on everyone; mounting evidence shows that even those of us without pronounced symptoms, may have more insidious manifestations of autoimmune-inflammation. Thus, the Wahl's Protocol can be seen as dietary treatment for all manner of autoimmune disease (and further, ANY disease if I'm honest with my professional opinion- research SHALL back this in the years to come). 

Secondyes, 9 (NINE!) cups of vegetables (an some fruits) are recommended per day following the Dr's orders. From three groups, three cups each: sulphur-rich, leafy greens, strong colors. So why not just supplement this nutrition in pill form? For many of us this might increase compliance and regularity- BUT, Wahl's relies heavily on whole, intact, plant matter. Being complex creations of phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, fruits and veggies support our cells optimally when consumed whole. We have seen repeatedly that high doses of isolated or synthetic nutrient compounds can be more harmful than beneficial (beta carotene being an infamous example). The lesson here is: get it from food. Indeed 9 cups per day is daunting, but doable. (Perhaps a further post is in order, describing short cups for getting your daily nine?)

"...the Wahl's diet gives the person 1.5-8 times the supply of vitamins and minerals than the Standard American diet does, even without enriched flour."

Third: is Wahl's related to Paleo? Like Crossfit-uberbuff-lifters-Paleo? Yes, and no. I find it much easier to umbrella many contemporary low-carb diets under the "Primal Food" header, or even "Traditional Foods"- mostly because "Paleo Diet" is often muddled with the Crossfit ideal, which is not what Dr. Wahls intended. The Paleo relation comes from the high protein, high veg, high fat, low carb ideal- likewise the attention to quality of ingredients. 

The Wahls Levels

Three levels make up the Wahls diet; whether to do them sequentially or to cold-turkey it (Paleo Plus baby!) is user's choice. This choice, like with any other radical lifestyle change, often depends on the severity of suffering and willingness to crack the whip (on oneself of course). Before we go into levels, lets bullet out the basic dietary tenets of Wahls:

  • three cups GREENS
  • three cups COLORS
  • three cups SULFUR-RICH
  • NO added sugar
  • NO dairy
  • NO gluten!
  • NO eggs
  • NO processed/microwaved/irradiated food
  • NO vegetable oil (except un-heated olive oil)
  • moderate FRUIT
  • moderate GF GRAINS/LEGUMES/STARCHES
  • highest quality meat and vegetables: grass-fed, organic, wild-caught

Pretty basic right? Kidding, I'm not that pretentious...this is major! This is life changing!  Alas, this post is about informing, not soap-boxing. So, add all the above rules to the level of choice, as seen below:

  1. Wahls Diet (above rules only)
  2. Wahls Paleo (further limit grains/legumes, add fermented foods/nuts/seeds, animal protein everyday, add seaweed and organ meat)
  3. Wahls Paleo Plus (increase fat, reduce meat, reduce to 6 cups veggies per day, eliminate all grains and legumes)

A newly minted Paleo subscriber might feel a bit confused at the final level; Paleo Plus. What' the rationale here? In a word: ketosis. Dr. Wahls believes that in order to derive maximum benefit from a low-carb diet, one must get the body to run on fat, rather than sugar (carbs!). In the spirit of fast-facts, let's leave it here: nutritional ketosis (fat as fuel) benefits brain health, reduces inflammation, and regulates blood sugar- jumpstarting the body-wide healing process. Wahls ketosis is particularly dynamic in that nutrient density remains high (traditional ketosis diets rely heavily on supplementation) because we keep our veg intake at 6 cups. 

There we have it, the simplest Wahls breakdown I could muster. Note that this post did not go into the other lifestyle changes, as listed above, nor did we expound on the fantastic supplement regimens in the book- comment below if you would like more Wahls exploration!

Magali Brecke