My Experiences So Far; Using the Wahls Paleo Plus Diet to Repair My Gut Health.

As you know, I’ve been dealing with gut health problems for awhile now, especially since I contracted infectious colitis in 2014. Not a lot was published about gut health in 2014, while, now, “leaky gut” is a major buzz-word. I’m able to research a lot more of my symptoms and actually get some answers! 

I came across an article for the Wahl’s diet and was intrigued. Dr. Terry Wahls was able to put her MS into remission and is very passionate about spreading the word of her success. She feels it will help many other autoimmune diseases, which was hopeful for my Celiac disease. Much of her findings are still under clinical trial but I was excited when I started to read. The main part of her diet is to heal the gut and reduce inflammation while improving brain function.

Dr. Terry Wahls, with her book. 

I took her video course on MindBodyGreen and became even more interested. She is not a sparkly self-help type. Dr. Terry Wahls was very stiff on the video, very formal (almost awkward), and was eager to share facts, not emotion or buzz-words. Her formality on camera made me trust her more. When she encouraged further research and gave me the science to do my own referencing, I trusted her further. 

I ended up buying her book. And sitting on it for a year. I wasn’t ready. 

My gut health declined and I found another book, an easier solution. One that wasn’t such a drastic change. It was The Gut Makeover by nutritionist Jeanette Hyde and proposed a jump start to your gut health with a four-week eating plan. I read her book, learned a lot, followed her eating plan and felt amazing! So, as is human nature, I stopped. I blogged a lot about it because I was excited. But when I stopped, I felt like I was back at square one.

I continued to follow some of The Gut Makeover and added more and more back in. While I was still following 80% of the plan, it didn’t feel like enough.  I did the Gut Makeover in full for a second time and it still didn’t feel like enough. 

My symptoms: leaky gut, IBS, bloating, cramping, moods, fatigue, headaches, joint pain and brain fog, seemed to need next level care. I picked up the book “The Wahls Protocol” and started to read, out of desperation mostly. Plus, it didn’t involve having to shop for a nutritionist and I didn’t have the energy. I thought it would be a good start. 

The first thing Dr. Wahls wants you to do is keep a journal: How much you slept, how you felt as you woke up, what you ate, what you’re grateful for, among other things. I loved this as it would allow me to reference what was helping or hindering. Plus, if this diet didn’t seem to work, I could use it to take to my doctor. (Dr. Wahls encourages you to work closely with a physician you trust and to continue taking any meds you are already on).

Later on, Terry Wahls encourages you to take care of your mental and physical self. You MUST move, each day, she says- and stresses that changing only your diet isn’t enough. I love this overall health approach! There is no miracle here, only hard work and mindful eating. 

I decided on the highest level of the Wahls diet, Wahls Paleo Plus. Although it is similar to ketogenic diets, in that it adds more fat and lowers carbs (and doesn’t allow popcorn or corn! *sob*!!), it is not a traditional keto diet:

“Wahls Paleo Plus is much more balanced than the traditional ketogenic diets in use because it has a somewhat higher carbohydrate intake from non-starchy vegetables”, so it doesn’t require the addition of vitamins and other supplements. 

The Wahls Protocol, Chapter 7, Page 6

Dr. Terry Wahls encourages a long transition phase to the Paleo Plus diet (WPP) so that the body can adjust. A sudden jump into the diet can cause nausea, diarrhea, bloating and severe cramping. I decided to follow her advice and have been in the transition phase for the last 3 weeks. This is week one of the full-on diet. Already, I feel a shift for the better. 

The goal is to reach mild ketosis. What is ketosis? Dr. Wahls describes it like this:

“…ketosis means you are burning fat, rather than sugar, as your primary fuel source. Specifically, when your body is in a state of nutritional ketosis, the liver begins producing ketone bodies- acetoacetate, acetone, and beta-hydroxybutyrate. The brain cannot burn long-chain fats because long-chain fats can’t cross the blood-brain barrier. Instead, the brain uses for fuel what can cross the blood-brain barrier: ketone bodies. Thus, your liver will burn fat and produce these small molecules known as ketone bodies as a by-product of burning the fat. These then proceed to cross the blood-brain barrier to be burned as fuel in your brain cells’ mitochondria. The longer you are in nutritional ketosis, the more enzymes for burning the ketones will be upregulated- that is, increased- making it increasingly easy for your body to utilize the ketones.” 

The Wahls Protocol Chapter 7, Page 7

Wahls Paleo Plus is actually a modified MCT ketogenic diet and it seems to be working for me, even in just the transition phase.

“The diet has the benefits of ketosis and high fat for brain health and low carbohydrates to reduce inflammations and stabilize blood sugar, but is also nutrient-dense beyond other ketogenic diets. ….Wahls Paleo Plus is designed to be workable in the real world.” 

The Wahls Protocol, Chapter 7, Page 12

Of course, not all diets fit all people, no matter how healing it was for some. Dr. Terry Wahls has Wahls Warnings in the book on who should avoid the diet and what medications may clash with the eating plan. I would insist you read the book from cover-to-cover before proceeding on this diet, as internet information seems to be spotty. 

This is my first week on the diet in full. I’m trying hard to stay within the approved foods list. I miss corn, peas and popcorn. I miss snacking but not because I’m hungry- just for the comforting habit of it all. 

Already, I’m rarely hungry. I eat brunch, a small snack of vegetables, and dinner. I still have a snack at night before 7:30 p.m., which allows me to fast for 12 hours in between the snack and breakfast. Last night, I think I was snacking out of habit more than anything! I was uncomfortably full afterward. Tonight, I’m going to skip the snack; give my gut more digestion time and a longer break.   

I’ll keep you updated! 

If you’re on the Wahls Diet, I would love to hear your experiences in the comments. 🙂

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