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Autoimmune Q&A with Dr. Terry Wahls

Practical Advice for Navigating Autoimmunity in Everyday Life

In Episode 136, Dr. Terry Wahls shared the clinical results of her latest research.  Wahls herself is a walking testimonial to the effectiveness of the dietary changes now known as “the Wahls Protocol™” — and clinical research is currently providing further evidence to reinforce her recommendations.

For those who experience the daily challenge of living with an autoimmune disease, practical how-to information is of more immediate interest than quantitative research studies.  And Dr. Wahls has graciously shared her knowledge of the subject with us, answering specific questions relevant to people suffering autoimmune issues when implementing the Wahls Protocol™.

Q:  I have an autoimmune disease — How do I cope?

A:  A guided plan.

Dr Wahls suggests a framework, a set of principles to guide you to optimal health. Her book, The Wahls Protocol, provides a detailed plan to help people interpret their individual situation.

Her general suggestions include:

  • Work with a practitioner.
  • Together, examine your family history, your lifetime of environmental exposures and current symptoms to design a nutraceutical support program specific to your needs.
  • This program should be monitored so that minerals are not over-replaced, creating even more problems.
Dr. Wahls’ overall premise is that every individual has their own unique set of genetic predispositions, which are influenced by a lifetime of environmental factors. [Studies such as this one provide the answer to the “why” and “how” questions you may have.]
So there is no single, uniformly correct recipe for autoimmunity relief.

Q:  I am having a flare-up!  How can I quiet the inflammation and how long will it take?

A:  Key Nutrients

While there is no one specific remedial cocktail, Dr. Wahls does suggest the following to help quell inflammation:

  • Bone broth – rich in minerals and the amino acid glutamine, which his very helpful to healing the gut.
  • Fish oil, cod liver oil, liver, mussels and oysters because of their essential fatty acids Vitamins E, A, and K.
Again, the answer depends on the factors mentioned above, as well the specific bacterial and yeast species in the bowels, which influence intestinal permeability and the extent to which a person will be sensitive to exposures.

Q:  I had my DNA tested and I have so many genetic polymorphisms.  What should I do?

A:  Tracking and Tinkering

Dr. Wahls recommends that each person should pay attention to their unique habitat comprised of their:

  • Unique set of genetic vulnerabilities,
  • Unique set of lifetime environmental exposures and
  • Unique intestinal make up (specifically the bacteria and yeast organisms living in their bowels).

Because of our individuality, regardless of the health protocol or prescription, symptoms and responses must be monitored, tracked and tinkered with.  More on that below!

Focusing too much on what tests like 23&Me reveal, while interesting, can be confusing and overwhelming.  We are in the infancy of our understanding of our genetics and their variations.  In fact, sometimes the results from genetic test can reveal polymorphisms that are conflicting.  Again, follow Dr. Wahls’ main recommendation to work with a knowledgable practitioner.

Q:  I seem to react to so many things – even “healthy” foods!

A:  The Elimination Diet

Strip out the typical allergens and then re-introduce one food at a time, following a specific protocol. Dr. Wahls’ book outlines the process in detail.

Keep a log of new health strategies you implement. Note your responses. Be adaptive, change things that aren’t working. Tinker! Your life is just one, giant experiment.

Some people may react to “seemingly healthy” foods and nutrient, like kale, beef, citrus, and spinach.

Is the answer food sensitivity testing?

Dr. Wahls explains that there are two main types of food sensitivity testing:

  1. Those that look for reaction at the cellular level – body’s cellular response to challenges from a wide array of substances and
  2. Cytotoxic testing, which involves observing with the microscope the reactions of the blood cells (principally the activity of the neutrophils) to the food extracts in the presence of the patient’s serum.

Both testing methods have been shown to be at best incomplete and at times unreliable.

According to Dr. Wahls, there is no one, single test that can reliably account for all the challenges to the immune system.  She cites lectin as an example of one such challenge for which no such test exists.

Q:  I am nutrient deficient.  Should I supplement?

A:  Practitioner Monitoring and Testing

It is easy to overshoot, which can then bring about its own set of issues.  Supplements are just that – supplemental and not meant to be habitual.

Sometimes our unique “habitat” of vulnerabilities and life stressors may lead to nutritional gaps and supplementation may be necessary.

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