Beyond Drug Therapy For MS-Related Fatigue
Fatigue is the number one reason people with MS leave the workforce. It is also a top complaint in my traumatic brain injury and therapeutic lifestyle clinics. Using conventional treatments for MS-related fatigue, people may experience very modest reduction in fatigue severity. Most MS neurologists push their patients to take disease-modifying drugs, but few talk to their patients about how to use diet and health behavior (i.e. lifestyle) changes to reduce MS-related fatigue and improve quality of life. That is because most neurologists have received little or no education on nutrition or on the health behaviors that are strongly associated with improving quality of life and reducing the need for medications for chronic disease symptoms.
Diet and lifestyle interventions are my area of expertise. I am a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where I teach medical students and residents. I am also a patient with progressive MS and experienced 7 years of progressive decline despite seeing the top MS neurologists at the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic. However, based upon my review of the research, I created a dietary and lifestyle program that took me from a tilt-recline wheelchair (that I needed for four years) to being able to bike 18 miles with family in less than 12 months. It also resolved my fatigue completely in under six months.
As a result of my own dramatic response to diet and lifestyle interventions, how I understood health and disease was transformed. I also changed the way I practice medicine. Now I teach people how to create more health in their lives. As they adopt the diet and lifestyle changes we teach, pain diminishes, mood stabilizes, and energy begins to soar. In short, they begin getting their lives back as their chronic disease symptoms fade and the need for medications slowly declines, sometimes to none at all, even for those with autoimmune diseases. When people in my clinics complain of fatigue, I focus on improving the quality of their diet and increasing their physical activity level. I instruct patients to increase the vegetables and berries in their diet to 6 to 9 cups per day, divided between leafy green, sulfur-rich, and deeply colored categories. In addition, patients are encouraged to exclude gluten-containing grains and casein (which is dairy protein). I also encourage each patient to visit a physical therapist who can help design an exercise program specific to that person’s issues with motor function. The program should include stretching, balance training, and strength training.
I also do clinical research at the University of Iowa on the use of diet, stress-reducing practices, and exercise in the setting of multiple sclerosis. We have published data from the initial pilot study showing that the protocol is well tolerated and can be implemented and sustained by study participants. Furthermore the fatigue as measured by the fatigue severity scale score, which goes from 7 to 1, 1=no fatigue, dropped by 2.38 points from a baseline of 5.70 to 3.32 at 12 months (p=0.0008, highly significant). A second paper showing that quality of life was also markedly improved is currently in press. Two more papers describing the changes in gait and MRI after 12 months of the study intervention are in development and will be submitted for publication in 2015.
I am also committed to teaching the public about dietary and lifestyle changes they can make to improve their health, increase their energy, stabilize mood, improve motor function, and reduce pain.
We use this approach of examining and then improving the entire human ecosystem to treat autoimmune conditions, mental health problems, and medical problems in the Therapeutic Lifestyle Clinic at the University of Iowa, often with tremendous success at restoring health and regressing disability. If you would like to learn more about my work, visit www.terrywahls.com. If you are ready to begin the diet and lifestyle changes I study in my clinical trials, pick up my new book, The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way To Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles and begin your journey back to health.
Dr. Terry Wahls
Dr. Terry Wahls is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa where she teaches internal medicine residents, sees patients in a traumatic brain injury clinic, and conducts clinical trials. She is also a patient with secondary progressive multiple sclerosis, which confined her to a tilt-recline wheelchair for four years. Dr. Wahls restored her health using diet and lifestyle changes and now pedals her bike to work each day. She is the author of The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine and The Wahls Protocol: A Radical New Way to Treat All Chronic Autoimmune Conditions Using Paleo Principles. She teaches the public and medical community about the healing power of intensive nutrition. You can find more information about her work at her website www.terrywahls.com and follow her on twitter @TerryWahls and on Facebook at Terry Wahls MD.
Terry Wahls, MD, talks about her popular regimen for progressive MS.
With no clearly proven treatments available for progressive forms of multiple sclerosis (MS), the door has been opened for what are usually called alternative or complementary therapies. One that has gained many adherents in the MS community is the Wahls Protocol, a regimen of diet, exercise (including electrical neuromuscular stimulation), and meditation techniques.
MedPage Today asked for comments from its eponymous developer, Terry Wahls, MD, clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City. Wahls is an MS patient and devised the protocol initially for herself. On her website, she claims to have climbed out of a wheelchair and improved enough to complete an 18-mile bike ride within 1 year. READ MORE: MedPageToday.com