Nine researchers authored the first report from Dr Terry Wahls’ study on treating autoimmune with a paleo diet.
Dr Wahls has Multiple Sclerosis and got herself out of a wheelchair using her Wahls Paleo protocol.
Dr Wahls is now in the midst of clinical trials to determine the effect of her dietary protocols (combined with the complementary non-pharmaceutical therapies) on other people with advanced MS.
MS is an autoimmune condition that affects the central nervous system. It disrupt communication inside the brain and between the brain and the rest of the body.
Through this study, Dr Wahls is taking on the medical establishment using the only tools it respects: clinical trials and peer-reviewed research papers. She is funding this research through a foundation she established, as virtually all other medical research is funded by pharmaceutical companies, who are (let's just say) disinterested in pharmaceutical-free treatment approaches.
The following is a brief summary of the first paper from Dr Wahls' research, published in May 2014 and titled A Multimodal Intervention for Patients with Secondary Progressive Multiple Sclerosis: Feasibility and Effect on Fatigue. The full paper can be found here.
Subjects in the study ranged in age from 45 to 57 years of age, and all had secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, an increasingly disabling autoimmune condition. Participants received their diagnoses between 3 to 35 years before the study commenced.
The study used a ‘multimodal’ approach, combining a mildly rigorous version of the Wahls Paleo Protocol, with the addition of supplements, stretching, electrical stimulation, meditation and self-massage. 20 minutes of stress reduction techniques a day, including mediation and self-massage, was a core part of the treatment plan.
Participants were carefully screened. One of many eligibility requirements for participants was an adult assistant to help with electrical stimulation treatments and food preparation.
This particular protocol was designed by Dr Wahls specifically for MS, as the combination of foods targets the reconstruction and maintenance of optimal brain physiology. Dr Wahls currently follows a stricter (ketogenic) dietary protocol herself, but she is aware that making dietary changes is challenging, especially for those living with a disabling condition, and so she tested a slightly more relaxed version of the Wahls Protocol through this study.
The Fatigue Severity Scale was used to assess fatigue at intake and throughout the study.
If you decide to self-assess using the Fatigue Severity Scale, note that the scale is only assessing your experience of fatigue in the past week, not your beliefs about fatigue generally, which could give you an anomalously high score.
As a person without an autoimmune condition, after 3½ months on an AIP-compliant version of the Wahls Paleo Plus I am experiencing less fatigue than I ever have in my adult life. Perhaps none. I got a ‘1’ (mean score) this morning, which is the lowest you can get.
This paper focused on outcomes relating to fatigue, as “fatigue is one of the most disabling symptoms of MS”. Outcomes relating to “quality of life, motor function, mood, cognitive function, and blood biomarkers” will follow in subsequent papers.
Fatigue Severity Scale scores for study participants decreased from 5.7 at the baseline to 3.32 (mean scores) at the end of the study 12 months later, despite less than 100% adherence to the protocol.
That was the first finding.
The second was that “it is challenging to adhere to a multi-modal intervention, as only 77% (10/13) of carefully screened subjects could continue beyond the run-in phase and only 60% (6/10) of these subjects continued adherence with such intervention for 12 months”.
Based on a graph depicting adherence to diet, it looks as though only one participant was 100% compliant with the diet component of the protocol throughout the study. Two others were close to 100%. Even so, most subjects (7/9) reported substantial improvements in fatigue, despite slightly haphazard fidelity to the protocol.
The report summarized these two findings as follows: “Adhering to this multimodal intervention is difficult, especially for severely disabled subjects… on the other hand, subjects who are capable of following this complex intervention are likely to experience reduced perceived fatigue, which is difficult to treat.”
A third finding, that no serious side effects or “adverse events” were reported relating to this treatment approach, was also significant, given the harsh and problematic side effects of most pharmaceutical treatments. As the authors of this report brilliantly stated (emphasis mine):
“There is increasing interest in development of combination therapies, using immune suppressant drugs with distinct mechanisms of action, but side effects limit the number of pharmacologic agents that can be safely used. Combinations of nonpharmaceutical treatments that are known to increase muscle strength and positively influence brain function by multiple mechanisms of action but with minimal side-effects may provide an alternative treatment.”
I laughed out loud when I read that.