Wahls Protocol Book Review & Author Interview

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Photo of Terry standing by her wheelchair, arm raised in celebration

“Our mission is to create an epidemic of health.”
~ Dr. Terry Wahls

Who is Terry Wahls?

If you’re not familiar with Terry Wahls, you’ll want to watch this video about her incredible health transformation. She is a physician with multiple sclerosis, who went from a wheelchair to a bicycle through the power of a nutrient-dense paleo diet that emphasizes 9 cups of vegetables daily. She has since dedicated her life to clinical research and education, and is proving that her protocol works for others as well. She just published a book detailing not only her healing story, but a complete guide to help others do the same.

What’s the Wahls Protocol, in a Nutshell?

  • Level 1 – The Wahls Diet: This is the entry-level program for those transitioning from a typical American diet. The restrictions are no gluten, no eggs, no dairy (with the exception of ghee), no refined oils, limited sugar and no processed foods. The focus is nutrient density: she asks you to ramp up to 9 cups of vegetables daily (3 cups greens, 3 cups sulfur-rich, and 3 cups colorful). She also asks that you source organic, grass-fed and wild-caught foods, as much as your budget allows.
  • Level 2 – The Wahls Paleo Diet: This is her most popular level. It’s essentially a 90/10 paleo diet with a focus on nutrient-density and a little wiggle room to make life easier. You start with the details of the Wahls Diet listed above and add the following elements: (1) Reduce consumption of non-gluten grains, white potatoes, and legumes to only twice per week and remove soy altogether (with the exception of fermented soy). (2) Increase meat consumption to a minimum of 9 ounces daily. (3) Increase your healing foods to include organ meats, seaweed, fermented foods, soaked nuts/seeds, and more raw foods.
  • Level 3 – The Wahls Paleo Plus Diet: This is the diet Terry personally follows. It’s a ketogenic diet (high fat, low-carb and moderate protein), but unlike conventional ketogenic diets, it is specifically designed to include 6 cups of vegetables daily for nutrient density, while still maintaining ketosis through the chemistry of eating 5 tablespoons of coconut oil per day. It’s also stricter than the prior Wahls levels. It requires 100% compliance, eliminating all grains, legumes, soy and white potatoes, and limiting starchy vegetables to two servings per week and fruit to 1 cup of berries daily. Protein is reduced according to size and gender, with the emphasis of shifting the body to burning fat for energy. It also adds an element of intermittent fasting. This diet requires careful focus and monitoring to be done correctly (and the book tells you how), but Terry doesn’t recommend people start with Wahls Paleo Plus. She herself slowly transitioned through all phases of her protocol, and that’s what she recommends for others as well.
  • Level 4 – Troubleshooting: In the troubleshooting section of her book, Terry discusses functional medicine, optional lab tests, elimination diets, hormone issues, potential infections, etc. If you don’t find success with the Wahls Protocol, it’s time to discover what’s interfering with your personal healing. Terry also offers tips throughout the book for people having problems with different aspects of the protocol, such as difficulty digesting vegetables, or difficulty sleeping.

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How Does it Differ from the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol?

While the paleo diet is meant to be a permanent lifestyle change, the autoimmune protocol (AIP) is a temporary elimination diet designed to identify food intolerances. The Wahls Protocol is a permanent lifestyle change, and elimination diets are only recommended as a possible troubleshooting step in the future. This is similar to Sarah Ballantyne’s recommendation that people try full paleo first, to see if that puts their autoimmune disease into remission, and only do the AIP if necessary.

That said, the Wahls Protocol falls somewhere between full paleo and the AIP on the healing diet spectrum. Dairy is removed from the Wahls Protocol permanently, and eggs are removed for 3 months and then reintroduced to test for tolerance. Nuts, seeds and nightshades are freely allowed and only removed later if you don’t heal with the regular template. In contrast, the AIP removes all of these foods for the elimination period, and allows all of them to be tested for tolerance during the reintroduction period.

What I Love About This Book

  • It’s authentic. Terry’s honesty comes through from page one. She never claims to be cured – she still has MS, but it no longer interferes with her ability to enjoy a full and functional life. And while she and I have different autoimmune diseases, we’ve both experienced excruciating pain and the disabling power of our conditions (as well as our personal ability to reverse that process.) This gives her an empathy unique among leaders in the field, and I trust her advice.
  • It’s well written. Together with her co-writer, Eve Adamson, Terry has created a guide that’s packed full of information, yet engaging and easy to read.
  • It’s inspiring. Not only does Terry share her own healing story, but testimonials appear throughout the book from people she calls “Wahls Warriors”, who are healing everything from MS to Parkinson’s to cancer.
  • No false promises. Terry is honest that healing takes time. Although most people see improvements within the first few months, she says that deep healing takes years. She doesn’t sugarcoat this fact. This is a lifestyle protocol, not a quick fix. Of course, quick fixes are an illusion anyway.
  • She’s an excellent role model. You’ll see in the interview below how well she takes care of herself. No matter how busy her life becomes with her work as a physician, researcher, author and speaker, her health remains her priority. She walks her talk.
  • Filled with resources. In addition to clear guidance on each level of the protocol, the book includes meal plans, recipes, nutrient tables, and supplement recommendations. One of my favorite parts of the book is her list of the 31 micronutrients she has identified as necessary for healing, alongside the top food sources for each one. And yes – liver shows up more than any other food. (So, if you’re still not eating organ meat, it’s time to start!)
  • It addresses lifestyle. Terry knows that healing is about more than just the food, so her protocol emphasizes movement, stress management, a daily journal, quality sleep and detoxification, as well as finding your motivation for sticking to the diet. Ignoring these factors can cause a flare as easily as eating gluten.


This is an excellent book. My critiques are minor:

  • The Wahls Protocol is very specifically based on Terry’s personal experience, and there’s risk with that, because we’re all individuals. For example, Terry recommends people remove eggs from the very first level, because she has a severe food intolerance to eggs, but nightshades are freely allowed at all levels of the diet. If I wrote the book, I would have people remove nightshades, because that’s my severe food intolerance, whereas I eat eggs without a problem. See what I mean? We’re all different. That said, she addresses this in the book by allowing people to reintroduce eggs after 3 months, to test for tolerance. She also has a troubleshooting section where she describes elimination diets as a way to find other food sensitivities and personalize the Wahls Protocol accordingly.
  • There are only 38 recipes in the book. Terry herself doesn’t like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, so the recipes included are very simple. This makes them great for beginners new to this style of eating, but doesn’t offer much to the foodies among us wanting fresh ideas for our kitchens. However, this isn’t a cookbook, so the fact that she’s included recipes and meal plans at all is pretty amazing. It makes the book a very complete guide. I would love to see a Wahls Protocol Cookbook published in the future and wonder if that’s on the horizon?  – Update: The Wahls Protocol Cookbook was published in 2017. 

Interview with Dr. Terry Wahls

Terry was kind enough to talk with me about her continued personal healing, her clinical research, and the Wahls Protocol itself.

It’s been a year since our last interview, and I was wondering if your health has continued to improve or remained stable?

I have continued to improve. I’m actually very excited. I had to stop running in my early 20’s due to hip pain, long before I became disabled with MS. Now, I’m doing a combination walk/jog on my treadmill, and hip pain is no longer a problem. My guess is that this is the cumulative favorable impact of nutrition. I’m hopeful that I will get to the point that I can jog for a full 20 minutes. In addition, my physical therapist keeps steadily advancing the challenge of the exercises that I do, which demonstrates continued growth in my strength and stamina.

How many years have you been doing the Wahls Paleo Plus ketogenic diet personally?

It’s been at least 18 months, and maybe even 2 years. I had known about ketogenic diets for several years prior and was curious, but my research showed they were unable to provide the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that our bodies need. That’s not going to work long-term; if you’re nutritionally deficient, you will create disease, there’s no escaping it.

I worked to see if I could create a diet that was nutrient-dense and ketogenic at the same time, and that’s how I created Wahls Paleo Plus.

For the first 2 phases of your protocol (the Wahls Diet and Wahls Paleo), you mention its application for anyone with any health problem. When you get to the ketogenic Wahls Paleo Plus level, you focus on MS and neurological conditions. Is a ketogenic diet less helpful for other health issues, or even contraindicated for some?

Kids and adolescents should not be on a ketogenic diet without physician supervision, and this would only be done for very specific conditions, such as seizures. For most kids, Wahls Paleo will bang it out of the ballpark, improving obesity, diabetes and behavioral issues without any need to try ketogenesis.

As for adults, I think it’s a terrific diet for everyone, with the caveat that I wouldn’t go straight to Wahls Paleo Plus. Spend a month or two at the Wahls Diet and Wahls Paleo levels, and see if you get results. If you switch to a ketogenic diet too quickly, you often have side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

While prior research into ketogenic diets has been mixed, with some populations improving and others worsening, those were nutrient-deficient ketogenic diets. What I’ve created is completely new. I haven’t seen anything else like it in the published literature. In our current clinical trial we are seeing improvements far faster on this diet than we ever expected. It will be a year before we know the results, but we are optimistic.

Update: Terry’s advice on ketogenic diets has changed. See this podcast for details.

Among people doing the AIP, it’s very common across all autoimmune conditions for people to learn they have nightshade intolerance. I realize you don’t eliminate nightshades from the Wahls Protocol. I’m curious if you’ve ever personally eliminated nightshades for 30 days and reintroduced them, to test your own sensitivity?

We all can have a unique set of foods to which we are intolerant. My approach is to have a very short list of what you take out of your diet, to maintain the greatest nutrient density. At the first level of my program (the Wahls Diet), I tell people to go gluten-free, dairy-free and hopefully egg-free, and then to eat their 9 cups of vegetables daily. In my medical practice and clinical trials, this leads to dramatic health improvements for most people. If a person isn’t improving, I then suggest the removal of soy, legumes and nightshades, and then reintroduce them item by item, to test for tolerance.

The more foods you take out, the more likely it is you’re going to have nutrient insufficiencies. You’ll also have greater resistance to the diet from the people themselves and their doctor or nutritionist. I intentionally designed this diet to be one people and their physicians could more readily embrace.

To answer your question about my experience, I have eliminated nightshades, reintroduced, and do not have a problem with tomatoes or peppers, which is great because I love them. I don’t do potatoes, because they’re too starchy for me. With eggplant, I am sensitive. If I eat it, my heart rate soars, and that’s sad, because I love it, too. I’ll try eating it again in another year. I explain this process of using your heart rate to assess food intolerance more thoroughly in the book.

How do your manage the stress of working not just full-time, but overtime, between your work as a physician, research scientist, author and motivational speaker?

I used to love not needing much sleep, and I’ve since learned that was really stupid. Now, I go to bed between 9 -9:15pm every night and get up between 5- 5:30am every day. I meditate in the morning, afternoon and before bed. And if I’m having a particularly stressful day, I’ll take an Epsom salt bath. I’m very aware that keeping my stress hormones down is important, and I’m attentive to that. If I’m not, I’m much more likely to flare in my face pain. I’m quite grateful to my face pain now, as horrific as it is, because it’s such a useful barometer on how I’m doing on my diet and lifestyle. If my pain increases, I have to ask myself: What’s not up to snuff that I have to pay more attention to?

Many people experience health setbacks during the writing of a book, due to the added stress, as well as sacrificing sleep to meet deadlines. Did this happen to you?

I’m happy to say that it didn’t.

Many many years ago, one of my mentors said, if you want to write an article about something, schedule yourself giving talks about that topic, and you’ll find it’s much easier to write. Since I’ve been lecturing about the Wahls Protocol since 2008, it was very easy to write all this content. I’ve gotten terrific feedback in talking with my patients on how to explain the science at a level that anyone can understand.

My co-writer Eve was also invaluable, giving me pointers on topics I hadn’t thought to cover. Had I not had her, I would definitely have been much more stressed. The biggest challenge was being able to sleep at night because I was having so much fun, it was all so exciting!

Tell me more about the clinical trials.

Update 2020: I interviewed Dr. Wahls in Episode 145 of my podcast, and she shared the results of all of the clinical trials to date. Listen for details.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

Our mission is to create an epidemic of health. This epic of autoimmune disease that continues to grow every year is affecting more people at younger ages. The government is not going to stop that, health policy is not going to stop that. But all of us could, by learning to eat a more nutrient-dense diet, and taking out the foods and toxins that are more likely to create disease. In my protocol, I’ve given people one way of doing that, and I’m unique in that I have proven through scientific studies that my diet provides the 31 micronutrients your brain and body need. No other diet, including the autoimmune protocol, has done clinical research. I’m very proud of the Wahls Protocol. Here’s to creating an epidemic of health!

Update ~ 2020 Expanded & Revised Edition


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Wahls Protocol Series

For more information on the Wahls Protocol, check out my series of articles and interviews.

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81 comments on “Wahls Protocol Book Review & Author Interview”

  1. I “liked” you on FB some time ago! I devour everything I can about healing Paleo diets. I’ve experienced a lot of improvement but I’l still trying to find the best version for me.

  2. And the winner is….Tracy Cornell! Congratulations! Expect an email from Amazon with a link to your free copy. Thanks to everyone for participating.

  3. My wife is dealing with multiple issues including Parkinsons. I liked your FB page and am subscribing. I look forward to looking deeper into your blog!

  4. I would love to win to give this book to a friend who has recently been diagnosed with MS. She is a 35 yr old single mom of 5 beautiful children. Thanks

  5. Thanks so much for the opportunity to win the Dr. Wahls book. I subscribed and also liked on facebook.

  6. I have MS and have just discovered your website. I also have knowledge of a diet and lifestyle regime developed by a doctor in Australia for overcoming MS which has had great success so I would be very keen to read about yours. I have subscribed to your newsletter by email.

  7. I subscribed to your blog by email. I have Multiple Sclerosis I am 37 yrs old and my memory is getting worse like little things remembering my phone #, where I parked my car, remembering what I was going to say. I am blessed that I can still walk I have alot of back pain from time to time. When I saw this book and read Terry’s story and watched her you tube videos she has given me HOPE! She is a true blessing to all of us with MS!!

  8. I signed up to your FB page a while ago. I would love to win a kindle copy of The Wahls Protocol as I really need help to “cure” my MS.

  9. Christina Ummel

    I just found out about you from my chiropractor. I have liked your Facebook page and am excited to research your website and Facebook page more. I was diagnosed with MS in April 2001 and my mom was diagnosed with MS in March 2000. I also have psoriasis and my mom also has crohns disease and she is a survivor of colon cancer.

  10. I liked your page on Facebook. My son and brother both have MS. My son changed his diet and lifestyle as soon as he was diagnosed. I am trying to convince my brother!! He needs to read Dr. Wahl’s books and your blog!

  11. Hi, I’m already subscribed and I follow you on Facebook 🙂 can I still enter? Thanks for everything you do!!

  12. I would love a copy of this book. I think it would help me immensely to dial in on my diet and my RA. I follow you on FB and have learned so much! This would take it to the next level for me!

  13. I already like you Fb page, and would love to win a copy of this book. My mom was recently diagnosed with MS, and I have been following the paleo diet to help show her the positive changes that can result. I know Dr. Wahls takes it a step further with her protocol, and am excited to learn more!!!

  14. I have been a subscriber for some time. I would love to get this book. I really appreciate all the information you have provided on your blog. Thank you.

  15. I have both subscribed to your blog and liked you on FB. I would very much like to read Dr. Wahls book on kindle. Always looking for help with dealing with autoimmune disease – RA, Fibromyalgia. Thank you for providing so much helpful information.

  16. I like on Facebook! I’d love a chance to get a kindle copy!! Ps, thanks for your auto immune recipe round ups. They’re very helpful to this non-creative / still-learning-to-cook foodie!

  17. LIKED your FB page AND subscribed to your blog! My 37 yr old daughter has Sjrogrens so I would LOVE to see if this protocol could help her! It would mean so much!

  18. Jennifer Miller

    I’ve liked you on Facebook for a while now. I would love to win the book! It would be a great help in trying to heal my MS!

  19. My daughter introduced me to your FB Page about a month ago in an attempt to help me “Cure” my RA 🙂 I also subscribed to your newsletter at that time 🙂 I would LOVE a free copy of Dr Terry’s Book! Over the past year I have gone gluten free & corn free & eat very little sugar, that doesn’t come naturally in my foods. It has help my inflammation and I have lost 58 pounds 🙂 But lately I am experiencing flares that are nearly unbearable. I am on medications, both methotrexate & infusions of Remicade….but I want so badly to rid my body of these drugs! Thank you for your help! I am learning so very much!!

  20. Eileen, I have previously liked your Facebook page Pheonix Helix and I am subscribed to your blog as well. Thank you so very much for offering this book giveaway. I have Terry Wahls on Facebook and follow her posts. I am amazed at how far she has come. I have a friend who cares for her brother who has an advanced case of MS and I am always trying to find helps for her. They do not eat healthy and she has no idea how to cook healthy for him. She has been asking me to make bone broth for him. She needs tools to use and this ebook would surely help her and I know it will help me to understand how to help her care for him better. I also sent her a link for the trials going on that Terri mentioned in er interview with you. Thanks again for offering this book. I know it will help anyone who receives it.

  21. Eileen,

    This is such an amazing post!!! I finally had the time to read more about this amazing lady and have her book on my wish list. I so enjoyed reading the interview questions, and as always, your review of the book was very comprehensive.

    I both like you on FB and subscribe.

    Thank you for the giveaway!


  22. I’ve signed up for both. Such a great review! I’m having great success with AIP so far, but I think it’s always great to have additional sources of information and new point of views on healing approaches!

  23. Thanks so much for the opportunity to get this free copy. I have been doing KD [MS symptoms and seizures] for about 18 month now but I know that something is missing. Your review has shown me the possibility that Dr. Wahls has that missing ingredients. Thanks again.

  24. Already subscribed but have been spreading the news about this protocol. My gut is so damaged from 5 months of Cdiff & antibiotics that I cannot take medications or prednisone so this is what I am trying.

  25. I didn’t enter the giveaway because I already have the book. I just wanted to say thank you for doing this interview! In just 6 weeks I am seeing quite a lot of improvement on the Wahls Paleo. Actually, I am still in the process of fully implementing it. For me the huge improvement came when I totally cut out grains and started taking digestive enzymes. It is SO exciting to see improvement in areas that I was told by dr.s would only get worse.

  26. I was already a Facebook follower & am now subscribed to your blog. Thanks for the contest and all the info you share regularly!

  27. Hi Eileen,

    Thank you for your review and the interview, it is such amazing territory. I would LOVE to read the book and understand more about the specific steps and caveats. I’ve been on AIP for almost a year now, and sad to say it is not doing what I hoped it would do (although it most likely has stopped me deteriorating). I am already subscribed to your emails and have liked your page on facebook too..

    PLease keep doing what you are doing!

  28. Just subscribed! Thanks for such inspiring information. Have been
    checking in with your blog for some time now and love the success stories.

  29. What a great book! I heard Terry Wahls on the radio the other day…can’t wait to read her book. I’m subscribed to your newsletter and I “like” you on Facebook.
    Thanks 🙂

  30. What great timing! I have been going back and forth between the research and recommendations of both a vegetarian raw diet approach and a ketogenic diet to heal follicular b-cell non-hodgkins lymphoma. I’m told this particular form of nhl is the slow-growing kind that will make chronic appearances for the rest of my life and quite frankly I just don’t believe it’s impossible to heal. Prior to cancer I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and interstitial cystitis and after doctors were unable to help me cure myself I did indeed heal like 98% thru something similar to Dr. Wahls’ level three. I didn’t remain strictly adherent to that diet. In fact the cancer diagnosis made me question, in spite of the dramatic improvement (much to the dismay of my doctors who often admonished me for not taking a drawer full of meds and using food as medicine) if eliminating so many foods had harmed my body. Well I’m back on the ketogenic diet wagon thanks to this review and will order a copy of the book pronto! I wish there was a moderated forum for followers of the Wahls diet…one for each level/condition. It would serve well to bolster and share with each other. Coconut oil bark made with organic cinnamon and “green” stevia (not the bleached kind) made it possible for me to ingest five tablespoons of CO a day when following the prior protocol and I picked up that recipe from a forum for that diet. Hey it would hold us over until the Wahls cookbook makes it to print! Congrats on your healing Dr. Wahls and thanks for your work to share what you’ve learned. You had to be incredibly open minded and I hope to be following in your footsteps soon.

        1. Bobbi, all that means is that you have to ask to join. There’s a join group button in the upper right corner. Click that, and usually the admin will approve your membership within 24 hours.

  31. I already subscribed to your blog, but added a like to your facebook page as well. I am very interested in changing my health through diet. I am very interested in reading Dr. Wahl’s book, as well. Thanks for sharing your review!

  32. Eileen, I have been a subscriber for several weeks now and always appreciate your posts. I am definitely intrigued with your reference to Dr Wahls protocol including a finely tuned ketogenic diet, as I have been on a ketogenic diet for nearly 6 months and recently suffered a massive adrenal crash. As a sufferer of severe CFS for nearly 16 years, doing ketogenic Paleo balanced my blood sugar wonderfully, but I was almost beyond the most minimal functioning otherwise! I am definitely interested to learn how to negotiate that fine line. And also very eager to learn how to assess food intolerance by measuring my heart rate after eating – My diet is very clean, yet I still often find my heart rate increases after some meals. What a wonderful tool. I’ll definitely be buying this book if I’m not the lucky recipient!

  33. Just yesterday I found your wonderful site. I both “liked” you on Facebook and signed up for your blog, then. I feel as though I’ve been thrown a life line. And now you’ve introduced me to Dr. Wahl. Many, many thanks!

  34. What great resources we now have to help those of us with autoimmune diseases. I’m looking forward to reading Wahls Protocol! I am already subscribed to your inspiring blog.

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