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Is the Wahls Protocol a more accurate paleo diet?

by (169)
Updated September 16, 2014 at 7:46 PM
Created May 24, 2012 at 3:55 PM

On the Paleo diet, we're not supposed to count calories, carbs, or anything really. But the Wahls protocol is a scientific approximation of which foods we should be eating based on indigenous diets.

Terry Wahls is a doctor who cured her MS (which I have as well) by eating three cups per day of; sulfur rich foods, leafy greens, bright colored food, and also grass-fed meats.

http://www.terrywahls.com/_blog/Terry_Wahls%27_Blog/post/One_Way_to_Adopt_the_Wahls_Diet%E2%84%A2/

She bases these off of the fact that indigenous tribes exceed the recommended daily allowance of vitamins and nutrients by 2 to 10 times that the SAD shorts.

So my question:

Is the Wahls Protocol a more accurate paleo diet?

Bonus speculation points:

Will Cordain and Wolff alter their diets to reflect her findings?

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15400 · July 18, 2012 at 5:54 PM

I stopped doing it due to complications that were caused by me taking PPIs. I am eating raw vegetables - a lot of them.

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2422 · July 18, 2012 at 7:40 AM

I know this is a delayed question. But how do you have room for protein/fat when you eat all those vegetables. I am eating a lot of vegetables (1 head of broc, 2 bell peppers, 3 cups of greens, 3 tomatoes, 5 large carrots, 3 cups of kimchi), and I feel like I can't physically eat animal protein/fat.

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15400 · May 28, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Wow - I did not know it, Julianne... I don't eat eggs or dairy either.

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169 · May 25, 2012 at 12:29 AM

I'm remembering when Cordain revised his recommendations regarding seeds and nuts. They do change their advise every so often.

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169 · May 25, 2012 at 12:27 AM

She is a medical doctor and researcher. A wonderful person to have on our side. Alexandra, I agree that once the damage has been done, it's not great for everyone. I used to have Celiac. Side note: people with Celiac are ten times more likely to get MS. Anyway, I think it's a good general diet based on our ancestry. The RDAs are based on different groups. For instance, the inuits had 10X the RDA of Omega-3s.

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2341 · May 24, 2012 at 11:01 PM

Dr Wahls does not eat eggs, or dairy - whe does a version of the auto-immune paleo diet

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867 · May 24, 2012 at 10:28 PM

eh...preaching to the choir there, brother. My diet involves more plants than animals.

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1196 · May 24, 2012 at 8:14 PM

I'm kind of relieved to read your answer, Dragonfly. My gut can barely handle about a cup of veges a day without pain.

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3742 · May 24, 2012 at 7:52 PM

She just eats a lot I think.

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41297 · May 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM

@Amy, you're are 100% right on with the therapeutic vs maintenance dosing.

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32518 · May 24, 2012 at 6:23 PM

If you can absorb the nutrients from plants, great! For those of us still healing gut dysbiosis, animal foods make more sense.

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1880 · May 24, 2012 at 5:21 PM

I'm not sure that a diet that helps someone with a particular health problem is necessarily the holy grail for everyone. Someone with hypothyroid condition would not necessarily do well eating such huge amounts of cruciferous veggies on a daily basis. Ditto for the high fiber content -- not good for someone with ulcertaive colitis like my brother.

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15400 · May 24, 2012 at 5:17 PM

@ Matt - when they dry seaweed, they dry them on the same equipment as they dry other stuff and, unfortunately, that other stuff usually has soy sauce. I cannot eat dried seaweed anymore - I have gotten sick so many times. Maybe in the future I will become less sensitive to gluten?

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15400 · May 24, 2012 at 5:16 PM

I am sicker than a dog... I hate celiac and gluten with passion.

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3014 · May 24, 2012 at 5:01 PM

VB, cool results! Were you a healthy person to start, or did you suffer from any diseases?

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11048 · May 24, 2012 at 4:58 PM

VB, have you noticed major changes in your health since following her ideas? I recall you saying you have health issues, but don't recall if they are autoimmune-related.

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41297 · May 24, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Seaweed with added gluten? Really?

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1492 · May 24, 2012 at 4:57 PM

great question. great answer.

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693 · May 24, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Can't get phytochemicals from animals, right? Plenty of advantages proposed for consuming glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables. May be that the constant duress from chemical exposure requires cancer fighting compounds in plants? Can you be a caveman in the modern world? Can't breath caveman air, that hasn't been around for quite some time. Caveman didn't have to withstand PCB exposure.

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15400 · May 24, 2012 at 4:38 PM

I do it. 9 cups per day. Her data comes from self-experimenting and recording her progress - she actually described the process in her 4 hour lecture series on TED.

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15400 · May 24, 2012 at 4:35 PM

No, but they consume 100 x times more of them than we do. Even Koreans and Japanese (Okinawan) traditional diets include wild greens, mushrooms and other wild plants that make up for the lacking macronutrient component. If you look at every single indigenous tribe you can see how many additional wild plants they gather and eat. In the tropics 80% of all food comes from plant sources, not from meat. On some days they don't even have meat.

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8004 · May 24, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Yeah...I can't imagine our ancestors finding that much variety *every day.* Most likely Wahls needed/needs such an intense influx of those nutrients because she was missing out on them for so many years prior to and during the worst of her MS. I'm not saying it's not *required* for maintenance, but I'm guessing those huge doses of greens and veggies went to feed a body that was probably malnourished. In time she might be able to dial back on those amounts and maintain her health & great feelings. Like any supplements or foods being used as such: there's a therapeutic dose & a maintenance dose.

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8004 · May 24, 2012 at 4:30 PM

And really, there is no "Robb Wolf diet." He recommends the basics: no grains, no dairy, no legumes. Stricter limitations if you're trying to reverse an autoimmune condition. And carb intake to match performance needs and goals or fat loss efforts. And I would also argue there's no "Loren Cordain diet" either. I think above all, they both support Eating. Real. Food. Nothing that came about as a result of "food scientists" tinkering in chem labs and factories, and nothing that could sit on a shelf and not rot for 5 years.

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660 · May 24, 2012 at 4:14 PM

Just to clarify it's 3 cups/day EACH of sulfurous, leafy, and colorful fruits and veg (!!). I saw her TED vid. and was moved to eat a greater variety of veggies for sure, but 9 cups takes some serious commitment. I can do 5 cups on a *great* day. Question: do you know where her data comes from re: indigenous peoples exceeding the USRDA by 2-10x? Hadn't heard that bit and am curious as to who these people were!

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6 Answers

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2349 · May 24, 2012 at 4:24 PM

First, there is no ONE paleo diet. Paleolithic humans lived all over the globe at various altitudes and in various environmental conditions. Their diets are similar in what they did not contain (grains, legumes, vegetable oils, processed foods, added sugar, etc.) but varied greatly in what they did contain, see e.g., the oft cited Kitavans and Masai peoples.

Second, Dr. Wahls uses the Paleo template as a starting point, but did not base her specific recommendations on the diets of indigenous people. She designed her diet to maximize intake of the micronutrients she believes best supports mitochondrial function and will help control/reverse her MS.

If you haven't already, watch her TedX video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLjgBLwH3Wc). She explains how she started with supplements and then moved to "real food" to get these nutrients.

To answer your questions:

1) Dr. Wahl's diet is a version of the Paleo diet. But I don't think it is "more accurate" because that assumes there is "one true paleo diet," which there isn't.

2) Cordain and Wolf will not revise their recommendations because their recommendations are perfectly consistent with Dr. Wahl's.

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169 · May 25, 2012 at 12:29 AM

I'm remembering when Cordain revised his recommendations regarding seeds and nuts. They do change their advise every so often.

E7adfe31507efb7c935f618a829f56d6
1492 · May 24, 2012 at 4:57 PM

great question. great answer.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f
8004 · May 24, 2012 at 4:30 PM

And really, there is no "Robb Wolf diet." He recommends the basics: no grains, no dairy, no legumes. Stricter limitations if you're trying to reverse an autoimmune condition. And carb intake to match performance needs and goals or fat loss efforts. And I would also argue there's no "Loren Cordain diet" either. I think above all, they both support Eating. Real. Food. Nothing that came about as a result of "food scientists" tinkering in chem labs and factories, and nothing that could sit on a shelf and not rot for 5 years.

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10919 · May 24, 2012 at 4:08 PM

Are there really any hunter gatherer groups that eat THAT much plant matter in THAT much variety? I think if you're suffering from MS and that cures it, go for it... but 9 cups of veggies a day would give me a distended, bloated, uncomfortable stomach.

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41297 · May 24, 2012 at 7:04 PM

@Amy, you're are 100% right on with the therapeutic vs maintenance dosing.

Fd70d71f4f8195c3a098eda4fc817d4f
8004 · May 24, 2012 at 4:35 PM

Yeah...I can't imagine our ancestors finding that much variety *every day.* Most likely Wahls needed/needs such an intense influx of those nutrients because she was missing out on them for so many years prior to and during the worst of her MS. I'm not saying it's not *required* for maintenance, but I'm guessing those huge doses of greens and veggies went to feed a body that was probably malnourished. In time she might be able to dial back on those amounts and maintain her health & great feelings. Like any supplements or foods being used as such: there's a therapeutic dose & a maintenance dose.

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15400 · May 24, 2012 at 4:36 PM

I actually follow her protocol EXCEPT:

  1. No flax oil (NO-NO for me - makes me sick)
  2. No matcha tea (I have it but I don't like it)
  3. No sea weed - cannot find the one with no gluten in it
  4. No turmeric - don't like the taste
  5. No nuts - I have gastritis

What I follow is: 1. 3 cups of greens 2. 3 cups of cabbages, including red cabbage 3. 1 cup of onion 4. garlic and ginger 5. 1 cup of mushrooms 6. rainbow colors - carrot, beets, red onion, green onion 7. bone broth

Additionally, I consume bitter vegetables (chicory root, arugula)

I have stopped eating eggs (they do not really agree with me) and eat liver very rarely (cannot find grass-fed liver where I live).

MY VERDICT:

Absolutely love it. My energy levels are at all times high. TOTALLY RECOMMEND IT. TOTALLY. The best part of Paleo I have ever learned.

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15400 · July 18, 2012 at 5:54 PM

I stopped doing it due to complications that were caused by me taking PPIs. I am eating raw vegetables - a lot of them.

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2422 · July 18, 2012 at 7:40 AM

I know this is a delayed question. But how do you have room for protein/fat when you eat all those vegetables. I am eating a lot of vegetables (1 head of broc, 2 bell peppers, 3 cups of greens, 3 tomatoes, 5 large carrots, 3 cups of kimchi), and I feel like I can't physically eat animal protein/fat.

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 24, 2012 at 5:17 PM

@ Matt - when they dry seaweed, they dry them on the same equipment as they dry other stuff and, unfortunately, that other stuff usually has soy sauce. I cannot eat dried seaweed anymore - I have gotten sick so many times. Maybe in the future I will become less sensitive to gluten?

F5a0ddffcf9ef5beca864050f090a790
15400 · May 24, 2012 at 5:16 PM

I am sicker than a dog... I hate celiac and gluten with passion.

Thumbnail avatar
3014 · May 24, 2012 at 5:01 PM

VB, cool results! Were you a healthy person to start, or did you suffer from any diseases?

32f5749fa6cf7adbeb0b0b031ba82b46
41297 · May 24, 2012 at 4:58 PM

Seaweed with added gluten? Really?

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32518 · May 24, 2012 at 4:24 PM

Liver and eggs will give you most of the nutrition Dr. Wahls is talking about.

Seeking out nutrient & calorie-dense foods makes way more evolutionary sense to me.

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15400 · May 28, 2012 at 2:46 PM

Wow - I did not know it, Julianne... I don't eat eggs or dairy either.

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2341 · May 24, 2012 at 11:01 PM

Dr Wahls does not eat eggs, or dairy - whe does a version of the auto-immune paleo diet

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1196 · May 24, 2012 at 8:14 PM

I'm kind of relieved to read your answer, Dragonfly. My gut can barely handle about a cup of veges a day without pain.

Ce41c230e8c2a4295db31aec3ef4b2ab
32518 · May 24, 2012 at 6:23 PM

If you can absorb the nutrients from plants, great! For those of us still healing gut dysbiosis, animal foods make more sense.

7e6644836cdbcbe2b06307ff7db92d31
693 · May 24, 2012 at 4:46 PM

Can't get phytochemicals from animals, right? Plenty of advantages proposed for consuming glucosinolates from cruciferous vegetables. May be that the constant duress from chemical exposure requires cancer fighting compounds in plants? Can you be a caveman in the modern world? Can't breath caveman air, that hasn't been around for quite some time. Caveman didn't have to withstand PCB exposure.

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867 · May 24, 2012 at 4:17 PM

Are there any indigenous groups that track their macronutrients?

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867 · May 24, 2012 at 10:28 PM

eh...preaching to the choir there, brother. My diet involves more plants than animals.

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15400 · May 24, 2012 at 4:35 PM

No, but they consume 100 x times more of them than we do. Even Koreans and Japanese (Okinawan) traditional diets include wild greens, mushrooms and other wild plants that make up for the lacking macronutrient component. If you look at every single indigenous tribe you can see how many additional wild plants they gather and eat. In the tropics 80% of all food comes from plant sources, not from meat. On some days they don't even have meat.

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41297 · May 24, 2012 at 4:17 PM

There's definitely a spectrum of animal to plant ratio in paleo. You have a handful of folks who forgo all plants for an animal-centric diet. You also have a handful of folks who forgo nearly all animal products for a plant-centric diet. Most people adherents are closer to the former than the latter. Terry Wahls is probably more on the plant-centric end of the spectrum.

As to what's most paleo, that's a hypothetical and something we'll never know with certainty.

As for what is most beneficial, well that varies from person to person, but I myself think a more plant-centric diet is ideal, just on an ethical and sustainable level. For treating some diseases, there certainly may be deviations from the median.

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3742 · May 24, 2012 at 7:52 PM

She just eats a lot I think.

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