- Associated Press - Sunday, March 16, 2014

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) - While biking to work, Terry Wahls occasionally plucks wild berries for a snack from shrubs outside.

“I sometimes take a little detour through Hunters Run Park, and you can find a lot of wild, edible berries there,” she said.

The elderberries are a food that’s OK to eat according to the diet Wahls follows, which restricts consumption of dairy, gluten and legumes such as beans and peas.

This diet is detailed in Wahls‘ upcoming book, “The Wahls Protocol,” about lifestyle changes and Paleolithic-style food plans that Wahls recommends for combating autoimmune diseases and other chronic medical conditions.

Wahls is a clinical professor at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine and a staff physician at the Iowa City VA Health Care System. She is currently conducting research on the diet interventions in “The Wahls Protocol.”

The Iowa City Press-Citizen reports (http://icp-c.com/1gmStUL ) the book includes tips for adhering to Wahls‘ food plans as well as information about the circumstances that led her to create them.

In 2000, Wahls was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune disease that causes the immune system to attack the nervous system.

Though Wahls biked, skied and practiced tae kwon do before her diagnosis, MS inhibited her mobility to the point that she needed two canes to walk short distances and her doctor suggested she use a wheelchair. She said as her mobility declined, she feared she might become bedridden and began reading about possible therapies.

Based on that reading, Wahls started taking nutritional supplements, which she said reduced her symptoms.

“That is a very big deal, because now I feel like, OK, I’m figuring stuff out that my docs don’t know by reading the literature,” she said.

From there, she continued experimenting with her diet and came up with the plans detailed in “The Wahls Protocol.”

Zach Wahls, Terry Wahls‘ son, said before his mother changed her diet, she used to limp through the door after work and struggle to the dinner table.

“She was exhausted,” he said. “You could see it in her face, and you could see it in the way she moved.”

He said after she started the diet, her energy level increased, which made family life easier.

The most basic diet in “The Wahls Protocol” calls for eating nine cups of leafy green vegetables, nutrient-rich fruits and sulfur-rich produce per day while cutting out gluten, dairy and some forms of sugar and sticking to only organic meats.

Stricter versions call for reducing or eliminating non-gluten grains, legumes and starchy vegetables, and increasing intake of some forms of fat.

Wahls also emphasizes buying food locally, exercising and reducing stress and exposure to toxins.

Eve Adamson, co-author of “The Wahls Protocol,” said she met Wahls through a local community supported agriculture source they both use.

“We’ve created a partnership that originated in organic vegetables,” she said.

Adamson said she’s co-authored about 75 books, mostly about diets and health. She said after co-authoring a health book, she doesn’t usually stick with the diet it details, but “The Wahls’ Protocol” is an exception.

“For the most part, it’s my new philosophy,” Adamson said.

However, some medical experts are not convinced of the health benefits of Paleolithic diets.

Sue Clarahan, a licensed dietitian of 33 years practicing in Iowa City, said removing full food groups from the diet is a form of disordered eating.

Clarahan said the body needs carbohydrates, including grains and sweet foods, to fuel itself.

“There’s a place for them in the diet,” she said.

Abby Pollard, a clinical dietitian at St. Luke’s Hospital Unity Point Health in Cedar Rapids, said in an email that Paleolithic diets require people to omit groups of food rich in calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, antioxidants and other nutrients.

“Therefore, even a well-planned Paleo diet may result in nutritional deficiencies,” she said.

Pollard said these diets also can put people at risk for consuming too much protein and fat, which can lead to poor heart health.

“Overall, it is recommended to avoid any diet that eliminates or severely restricts entire food groups,” she said.

According to Wahls‘ book, her diets differ from typical Paleolithic diets in part because they call for consumption of nutrient-dense foods and local foods that may retain more nutrients than foods shipped from other areas.

Annette Reed of Iowa City, who also has MS, said she’s been following one of Wahls‘ diets for about three years based on tips she found in an earlier book that Wahls self-published.

Reed said she started the diet when MS inhibited her ability to walk and reduced her energy level and comfort. She said after six weeks on the diet, her pain and tiredness started to go away slowly.

“Week after week you suddenly realize you’ve got more energy,” she said.

Reed said the decision to follow the strict diet to avoid fatigue and pain was a simple one for her.

Likewise, Wahls said this decision wasn’t a hard one. She said she doesn’t miss the foods she gave up.

“Walking feels better than any food I might miss,” she said.

___

Information from: Iowa City Press-Citizen, http://www.press-citizen.com/

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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