In this interview, IFM’s co-founder, Jeffrey Bland, PhD, interviews 2018 Linus Pauling Award Winner Terry Wahls, MD, IFMCP. Dr. Wahls’ professional and health journeys are intertwined, and she describes the impact of Functional Medicine on multiple sclerosis and on her own life.
“I am profoundly grateful to Functional Medicine, which has transformed me as a person, as a physician, and as a researcher.” - Dr. Wahls
After receiving a diagnosis of multiple sclerosis in 2000, University of Iowa Professor of Medicine Terry Wahls, MD, began taking disease-modifying drugs but continued to decline slowly. Resolving to stay as active as possible, she began researching complementary therapies like diet and nutrition.1
After advancing to secondary progressive multiple sclerosis in 2003, she lost the ability to sit up for long periods and was confined to a tilt recline wheelchair. She realized that, even with advanced treatments, full disability loomed.1,2
She began researching nutrients important to brain health, such as alpha lipoic acid, B vitamins, and coenzyme Q10, and began supplementing her diet with them.2
In 2007, faced with having to stop working soon, she took an IFM course on neuroprotection and applied the learning to her supplement regime.1 She also learned about electrical stimulation (e-stim)—neuromuscular electrical stimulation therapy for muscle atrophy—and began combining regular e-stim with daily exercise2 and meditation for stress reduction.1 She also eliminated common food allergens and boosted her ability to excrete toxins.2
Her decline stopped.1
After reasoning that nutrient-rich food would be more easily assimilated than supplements, she replaced the supplements with an intensive food-based nutritional regimen. Within months of this replacement, she was back to sitting in a desk chair, walking, and riding a bike.1,2 The loss of function from progressive multiple sclerosis had been reversed.1
Next, she set out to test her approach in other progressive multiple sclerosis patients and found that those who followed the Wahls ProtocolTM for 12 months had a significant reduction in fatigue.3
Her work has inspired many nutritionists, clinicians, researchers, and patients.
- Wahls TL. How I beat progressive MS with a Paleo diet & functional medicine. MindBodyGreen. Published March 3, 2014. Accessed June 6, 2019. http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-12809/how-i-beat-progressive-ms-with-a-paleo-diet-functional-medicine.html
- Wahls TL. The seventy percent solution. J Gen Intern Med. 2011;26(10);1215-1216. doi:10.1007/s11606-010-1631-3
- Bisht B, Darling WG, Grossmann RE, et al. A multimodal intervention for patients with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis: feasibility and effect on fatigue. J Altern Complement Med. 2014;20(5):347-355. doi:10.1089/acm.2013.0188