Healing Autoimmune

Healing AutoimmuneWe all want to be healed.

It’s natural.

Suffering may be the path to enlightenment, but most of us will avoid it if we can.

More and more people are choosing a healing path, the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) or an allied diet + lifestyle approach and are looking to those who have gone before to find out what that looks like.

What healing looks like.

We all want to be healed, and so we look for confirmation that healing is possible, holding on to the narratives of miracle-cures and magical-remissions like talismans for our future well-being.

But the reality is that healing autoimmune is slow, non-linear and perhaps always incomplete.

Once a body is in autoimmune response, it is always in autoimmune response.

And if we don’t get that at first,  it can lead to disillusionment and an unwarranted sense of failure.

In truth, most of the autoimmune bloggers that I know experience flares, even after strict commitment to the AIP for years. Many of them write about their setbacks on their blogs or social media. Some don’t.

Tara Perillo from Paleo Cajun Lady says “I always share my ups and downs in blog posts and social media. I feel like people are coming to us for the truth, not some perfect AIP fantasy land. I do try to end each negative post with a positive message, however. People appreciate that even we struggle.

Susan Vennerholm from Backcountry Paleo agrees: “I feel that sharing the ups and downs of living with AI is important. We’re not superheros, and I think when readers realize we all have challenges, it makes the journey feel that much more doable. The important message is that even with these setbacks, we keep at it.”

Other bloggers choose not to share information about their health challenges, for various reasons, including that it can create vulnerability during a time when they don’t have the strength to deal with critical comments (or lack of response) from readers.

As Rory Linehan from the Paleo PI explains, “I try to focus on the positive but mostly, when I’m going through a setback I don’t want to share it until I’m out the other end and I can gain some sort of insight on it. Then by the time I’m out the other end, things are rosy again. I’m conscious that I’d like to share more of the challenging aspects of dealing with chronic illness, it’s just I want to frame it in a positive and not a negative light – which is challenging.”

Emma King from The Bacon Mum elaborates “It’s really important to share, but when I was at my worst this year and in a flare I just couldn’t cope emotionally with any negative responses to my posts.”

Dora Siah from Provincial Paleo explains,  “Sometimes people just want to read the positive aspects to affirm that they’re doing the right thing. Especially the ones that feel defeated easily. Other times you get people wanting to hear about the difficulties others face, so as not to feel so lonely in their healing journey.

Eileen Laird from Phoenix Helix points out “Many bloggers do share their setbacks, but that doesn’t mean people find those posts. We tend to find what we are looking for, which is why when I wanted a cure, those are the stories I found.”

In this post I’m sharing a web-log of posts that get into some of the challenges faced by people who are healing through diet and lifestyle.

So we can look reality in the eye, while still maintaining our faith in healing (that’s the Stockdale Paradox~).

With tremendous respect (& gratitude) for the honesty, here they are:

  • The Difference between Reversing Autoimmune Disease and a Cure by Eileen at Phoenix Helix. “As my two-year healing diet anniversary approached, something surprising happened. Instead of feeling grateful, I would find myself crying for no reason, carrying a sadness I didn’t understand. It took me a while to realize it was a deep grief over not being cured.”
  • On Finding What Works by Emily at Field Notes on Healing. “I had to face the fact that a year using the autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, lifestyle changes, and functional medicine (along with the medication my doctor had prescribed me) were not enough to fully correct my rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.”
  • Endometriosis Surgery by Angie at Autoimmue Paleo. “I would be a liar if I said there is no part of me that isn’t having a little bit of a pity-party.  I have worked tirelessly for two & half years following Autoimmune Protocol & adopting Paleo lifestyle changes.  Those things dramatically improved my health & I had hoped they were enough to manage Endo.  They are not.”
  • Bending Not Breaking: My consent to surgery by Martine at Eat Heal Thrive. “I had to confront the reality in my very-much-ongoing healing journey that no amount of medication, clean eating, and stress management could address this current complication.”
  • My Personal Battles with Stress by Sarah at The Paleo Mom. “The truth is that the last year and a half have been super tough for me healthwise.  I have really struggled with both my physical and emotional health as the result of high stress.  Primarily, my complaints have been gaining weight, fatigue, joint pain and some tendonitis, mild depression, and active lichen planus lesions.”
  • An interview with Terry Wahls by Eileen at Phoenix Helix. “It takes a long time for your body to repair damage that took 35 years to develop. It might take 10 years to heal that… My stamina is incrementally improving, but I’m certainly not yet at the equivalent stamina of another 57 year old in good health.”
  • Am I an AIP Failure because I Haven’t Reached Full Remission? by Tara at Paleo Cajun Lady. “I have completely healed a stomach ulcer, various psoriasis rashes, inflammation in my intestines and colon, butterfly rash, fibroid tumors, bleeding gums, leaky gut, and the list goes on. But, I still have improvements to make. I still have symptoms to deal with.”
  • Accepting Illness by Christina at A Clean Plate. “When I say I feel amazing, I’m talking about being able to get out of bed, keep up with my household chores, hang out with my boyfriend, and eventually make it back to bed without anything bad happening. More often than not.”
  • I’ll Never be a Paleo Success Story (and why I’m okay with that) by Jaime at Gutsy by Nature. “The ever present danger for those of us who are using food as part of our healing strategy is that we end up letting an awareness of what we do and don’t eat become an obsession.  Where is the line between eating a healthy diet and disordered eating?”
  • What Does an AI Flare Look Like for Me by Alaena at Grazed and Enthused. “Why am I sharing these personal details of an autoimmune flare with the Internet? Because autoimmune disease can be a lonely place…”
  • Getting back to my Blogging Roots: An Update on my Life by Katy Haldiman. “During my journey, I have had some setbacks and struggles, which I believe is a common experience among people with autoimmune disease.  A return of migraine headaches was one such struggle for me.  A frequently drooping eyelid from myasthenia gravis was another.”
  • To Medicate or Not to Medicate… that is NOT the question by Slightly Lost Girl. “One of the things I often hear in the AIP community is, ‘I am sick, but my diet isn’t working, so I am going to give up and just take my medication instead.’ For me, there is a fundamental flaw in this statement. It is like saying ‘I got hurt in a car accident, so seatbelts obviously don’t work. I am going to just put a cast on my broken leg instead of wearing a seatbelt.'”
  • Biohacking Update: 17 months on the Autoimmune Protocol. This one’s mine: about the progress of my husband Matthew on the AIP. “After 16 months on the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP), we were back where we’d been at the worst of Matthew’s autoimmune crisis: he was almost completely incapacitated & unable to care for himself. Despite that, the AIP is working.”
  • Christie’s Story on Phoenix Helix. “I’ve felt close to remission many times in the past year. I have very little psoriasis left on my scalp or torso. Why I get so close and then have a step backwards, I have no idea. I wish I knew. I wish I understood everything my body is trying to tell me.”
  • In this Healing Stories podcast, Eileen interviews people who have had a variety of healing experiences on the AIP, including Melissa who, at one time, was bedridden for 18 months. As Eileen summarizes, at the time of this podcast, Melissa was “independent in self-care and no longer disabled. She needs to rest after periods of activity, but she has quality of life again. And she’s reduced her medication substantially. At her worst, she took 36 pills a day. Now she’s down to 8.”
  • Insecurity: What Happens Behind the Scenes by Angie on Autoimmue Paleo. “Even though I… am actively working here to form deep human connections, specifically around the struggle of illness and the journey to health, it is still sometimes really tough for me to be truly open and vulnerable.”

My deep appreciation to Eileen from Phoenix Helix for inspiring me to put together this post and for finding links for me~.

Eileen is reversing Rheumatoid Arthritis on the AIP. Recently she wrote on facebook:

Eileen Laird 2

Eileen Laird

I am not cured. I’ve never met anyone with autoimmune disease who was cured. Nor am I 100% symptom-free. Complete remission is rare with autoimmunity. I have improved my symptoms by 95% through the autoimmune paleo diet and lifestyle, and where I started (excruciating pain and disability) to where I am today (a full and beautiful life) is night and day. But it’s not perfection. In addition to diet and supplements, I take 1 Aleve tablet twice daily to manage my remaining inflammation. For someone with a severe form of RA, that’s amazing, and I’m grateful. It’s the only medication I take. I’ve been honest about this on my blog, but sometimes people miss these details. I’m sharing this today, because I want you to know that if you haven’t achieved perfect healing you aren’t alone. Some people need more medication than I do. Some people need less. Some people regain all of their abilities. Some people regain some. I interview a lot of people for my blog and podcast, and I believe every step forward is cause for celebration: any ability you reclaim, and pain you relieve, any energy you regain. That’s reversing autoimmune disease. It’s not about perfection. It’s about living your best possible life.

Ginger~Turmeric Yams

Yams 3I went through a long yam-free period when I was experimenting with a super low-carb variation of the Autoimmune Protocol. But I’m back~!

And having taken roots &  squashes out, I am now about to discern exactly what high-quality carbohydrates do for me.

Every 3-4 days I need some root foods or my vitality plummets. Which is exactly the level that Dr Terry Wahls recommends on her ketogenic (Wahls Paleo Plus) protocol.

I could have just taken her word for it, but I had to find out for myself. I triangulated her recommendation!

And now I understand the value of carbs for my peak performance.

Previously, we always made yam fries in the oven, which are heavenly, but when they get crispy they blacken, which isn’t at all healthful. So this is our new super-simple extremely delicious way to optimize life with yams~.

Ginger~Turmeric Yams (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

 from petra8paleoYams

Preheat the oven to 320 (or preheat the BBQ on low)

  • 2 small yams
  • 1 finger turmeric root
  • 1 finger ginger root
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • ½ teaspoon Himalayan salt (or similar)

Peel and dice the yams. Place them in a small dutch oven with a lid or on a square of (heavy duty) tin foil of sufficient size to wrap them up.

Peel and finely dice the turmeric and ginger.

Place the turmeric, ginger, coconut oil and salt in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt the coconut oil & let the spices sizzle. Pour this mixture over the yams. Wrap the foil, if using, around them to create a plump package.

Bake (or BBQ) for 40-50 minutes, or until soft.

Biohacking Tip 3: N=1

n=1An n=1 is an experiment with one participant.

In the Biohacking world, the reasoning behind n=1  is that universal solutions to complex health problems have limited effectiveness, as we each have unique histories, genetic profiles, environments, and patterns of responding.

Just One~

“Every discipline, profession, and field of endeavor has benefited from breakthrough insights generated by in-depth single cases.” ~Michael Quinn Patton,

For example, Dr Terry Wahls invented the Wahls Protocol and used it to reverse the disabling symptoms of Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

After she got up out of her tilt-recline wheelchair, she started clinical trials to research the impacts of nutrition and lifestyle hacks on other people with MS.

But she started with an n=1.

An n=1 isn’t always focused on oneself. I help design & document the n=1 experiments of my husband Matthew as he works to manage and reverse his autoimmune conditions.

I also run my own n=1.

Healing OptimizationHe’s going for healing: I’m going for optimization.

They’re on the same continuum.

So, I’ve got two n=1 research studies on the go, and I document them both here~.

N=1 Research

The following are 2 (of many) approaches to conducting n=1 biohacking experiments.


Unlike experimental designs which have subject and control groups, and compare outcomes based on different treatments in each group, in an ABAB research design, an individual can compare self to self over time.

To do this effectively, an A-B-A-B time series is used:

  • A: Take a measurement before the intervention;
  • B: Measure again during (or after) the intervention;
  • A: Cease the intervention for an appropriate time period: measure again.
  • B: Yup: Measure again during (or after) the intervention is reinstated.

Repeat until you are as sure as you need to be.

ABABQuantitative researchers will tell you that to be effective, the data gathered through an ABAB research design needs to be quantifiable (taking the form of numbers). But all they really mean is that it needs to be quantifiable if you want to put it on a graph.

Graphs are fun. But they’re not necessary.

However they are useful if want to be able to quickly & easily track change over time. To get some ideas about using graphs (& what kind of quantitative data you might want to track) check out Chart Myself.

ABAB is a research design that works really well for n=1.

Autoethnography is a methodology that is inherently n=1. Here’s a super-brief introduction:


According to Michael Quinn Patton “autoethnographers struggle to find distinct voice by documenting their own experiences in an increasingly all- encompassing and commercialized global culture.”

In other words, we blog!

Blogs aren’t all autoethnographic, of course, but the blogging phenomenon is an example of the popularization of autoethnography.

Autoethnographic documents can take almost any written form. They are usually written in the 1st-person.

Carolyn Ellis describes her approach to autoethnographic research: “I pay attention to my physical feelings, thoughts and emotions. I use what I call systematic sociological introspection and emotional recall to try to understand an experience I’ve lived through.”

Here are some criteria for judging the quality of completed autoethnographic research (adapted from Laurel Richardson):

  1. Contribution: Does this research contribute to my understanding?;
  2. Aesthetics: Is the resulting text “artistically shaped, satisfyingly complex, and not boring?”
  3. Impact: Has this process generated new questions? Inspired new research? Resulted in action? Deepened self-knowledge?
  4. Expression of a reality: Does the text include self-awareness and self-exposure? Could an unfamiliar reader enter into this experience?

Autoethnography is controversial in research circles, of course.

Some condemn it for its ‘rampant subjectivism’. But ultimately, the criteria by which to evaluate any methodology is it’s usefulness, given the purposes of the research.

If you find an autoethographic approach useful, then it is.

An N=1 example

Barry Marshall was an internist with a theory: that stomach ulcers were caused by Helicobacter pylori and could be treated with anibiotics.

H. pylori colonizes in the viscous epithelial mucus layer of the human stomach

H. pylori colonizes in the viscous epithelial mucus layer of the human stomach

Marshall couldn’t prove his hypothesis with mice, because Helicobacter pylori is only active in primates. And he wasn’t allowed to experiment on human subjects.

So he decided to use an n=1 approach.

He took some of the bacteria from the gut of an infected person, put it in broth & drank it.

He then “developed gastritis, the precursor to an ulcer: He started vomiting, his breath began to stink, and he felt sick and exhausted. Back in the lab, he biopsied his own gut, culturing H. pylori and proving unequivocally that bacteria were the underlying cause of ulcers.

His finding was generalizable to the population at large.

Obviously, I’m not recommending that we all undertake risky and experimental n=1 experiments.

What I am suggesting, is that there is no reason why a n=1 should be dismissed as lacking validity (or generalizability).

Depending on your circumstances, there may be nothing more useful than a methodical inquiry into the way that you, a distinct organism with a unique history, genetic profile and environment, respond to a particular intervention.

This is a Scientific Revolution~

The world is flatThe earth is (or is not) flat.

Evolution is (or is not) due to natural selection.

Nutrition has nothing (or everything) to do with systemic inflammation in the body.

Mental health is (or is not) connected to gut health.

Each of these statements represents scientific paradigms.


Thomas Kuhn was a scientific historian who popularized the word ‘paradigm’, which we now use freely as a synonym for worldview.

According to Kuhn, a paradigm was more specifically the scientific beliefs that define a particular historical period.

It was Kuhn who noticed that throughout history, science has evolved, not gradually (as one might expect) with each generation of scientists standing on the shoulders of the giants that came before, but through sudden radical tipping points.

Shoulders of giantsHe first came to this realization when comparing Aristotelian to Newtonian physics. The two were so fundamentally different, he concluded that they weren’t part of an evolution in thought, but that at some point Aristotelian physics must have been simply tossed aside and replaced.

This would have constituted a revolution: a profound shift in the entire scientific paradigm through which ‘reality’ was defined and perceived.

According to Kuhn, such shifts have occurred repeatedly throughout the history of science, and it is evident (to me) that we are nearing one again.

Michael Crotty explains “the prevailing paradigm is quite simply taken for granted within the contemporary scientific ethos. Any challenges that are mounted tend, at the start at least, to be dismissed out of hand.”

So, we end up with a widespread grassroots movement in which chronically-ill people are successfully reversing their ‘incurable’ autoimmune conditions, while the mainstream medical community continues to insist that nutrition has little or nothing to do with systemic inflammation and autoimmune.

This kind of tenacious adherence to the current scientific/medical paradigm was evident in a mini-experiment Matthew and I ran last summer, in which we interviewed three medical professionals in one day about the role of nutrition in treating autoimmune. Find those results in Have you heard the one about the rheumatologist, the ear-nose & throat specialist & the functional medicine doctor?

The Breeding Habits of Paradigms

According to Michael Crotty, a given paradigm “establishes the parameters and sets the boundaries for scientific research and, in the ordinary course of events, scientific inquiry is carried out strictly in line with it”.

This is how a paradigm perpetuates itself.

If we view a paradigm as a living system, we might even say this is its method of reproduction.

Scientists (and everyone else) are acculturated into the paradigm, and then research reinforces this existing consensus about reality. As Kuhn explains, “normal research, even the best of it, is a highly convergent activity based firmly upon settled consensus acquired from scientific education”.

Until something destabilizing happens.

Or, more likely, a number of destabilizing things happen, such as:

  • Dr Terry Wahls develops the Wahls Protocol, gets up out of her wheelchair & starts clinical trials to research nutritional and lifestyle treatments for multiple sclerosis;
  • Sarah Ballantyne publishes The Paleo Approach documenting the science behind the Autoimmune Protocol (AIP);
  • An increasing number of people with diverse ‘incurable’ chronic autoimmune conditions find that they are reversing those conditions through adhering to strict dietary protocols, like the AIP, that have been specifically designed to reduce systemic inflammation and improve gut and cellular health;
  • Dr-Terry-Wahls

    Dr Terry Wahls

    Biohackers like Dave Asprey (and me) find that healthy people who follow these protocols experience previously unimagined levels of well-being and capacity.

In this way, a new paradigm emerges & gains momentum.

According to Kuhn, eventually there will be a tipping point and the new paradigm will ascend.

I don’t know how close we are to a paradigm-shift, but it is apparent that the old paradigm is lagging.

I don’t know what we’ll call our new paradigm. But until we decide, I’m calling it Biohacking~.

Have you heard the one about the rheumatologist, the ear-nose & throat specialist & the functional medicine doctor?

life is everywhereYesterday Matthew & I went to appointments with three different doctors in two different towns regarding treatment for his autoimmune conditions & unexplained nausea.

We figured if we had to spend a ridiculously hot day catching ferries, driving & waiting we might as well do some research.

Before we left we came up with three questions for Matthew to ask each doctor. I armed myself with a notebook & pen so I could transcribe their responses.

These were our questions:

  1. What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?
  2. What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?
  3. Given that I have a history of negative side effects from medications, what would be the best course of treatment going forward?

At each visit, we waited until the end of the consultation before we broke out our questions.

The responses were illuminating:

What is the origin of autoimmune conditions?

Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “There’s something perverse going on in your immune system & it turns on itself. Why does it come? We don’t know. It could be a genetic predisposition or viral. The ear is immunologically active.”

Rheumatologist: “I don’t know. I’d win the Nobel prize if I did.”

Functional Medicine Doctor: “I wouldn’t say it’s well understood at all. The question is what sets the immune system up to act abnormally. What triggers it. Genomic analysis is important. As people go through life there’s triggering events, exposure to gluten when there is a genetic predisposition to intolerance, parasitic infection, exposure to metals or chemicals, significant emotional trauma. The process that keeps the abnormal immune response moving forward, I think, is largely related to diet, sleep and stress.”

What is your opinion about treatment based on dietary changes?

Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “I think it is hogwash. But it works for some people. It is something we advocate based on how we understand the pathenogenisis. It might work for some people.”

Rheumatologist: “There have been a lot of studies on dietary manipulation and autoimmune. They’ve done elimination diets between control and subject groups and there is no difference. It’s like in medieval times when people worshiped the sun and then the sun rose and they thought they’d caused it. In those days people believed that nightshades should be avoided. There’s no scientific evidence for that. A falsehood is being perpetuated on the [inter]net all the time. You have to go to the websites that are scientific and have reliable information.”

Functional Medicine Doctor: “That’s Hippocrates’ theory.” [He pulled out a handout depicting the Functional Medicine Matrix and described it to us] “These are the foundational principles: nutrition is right in the centre.”

Functional Medicine Matrix

Functional Medicine Matrix

Given that I have a history of negative side effects from medications, what would be the best course of treatment going forward?

Ear, Nose & Throat Specialist: “If we concentrate on an ear thing, I’ve told you what we can do in terms of ear things. It would be safe to infuse your ear with prednisone, but just to try it just because you can doesn’t make sense.”

Rheumatologist: “Every drug has its own bad side effects. At times the treatment may be worse than the disease. At times the disease may be worse than the treatment. It’s a trade-off.”

Functional Medicine Doctor: “What we’ve just talked about for the last 45 minutes. Try and look at the system. No matter what your background, if you try to do something beneficial at one part of the system, it will affect the whole system.”


The  Ear Nose & Throat Specialist and the Rheumatologist (who we saw first) had no advice, tips, ideas, leads, tests, treatment suggestions, research reports or referrals for Matthew during each of those brief appointments, even though he has been on disability leave from work since January 1st due to debilitating nausea which is only getting worse and has been to a string of other specialists who have also turned up nothing and offered nothing. If we hadn’t learned about Functional  Medicine (on the internet from other Autoimmune Protocol bloggers), Matthew would have now exhausted all options available through the Western Medical System. His livelihood and life would be completely on hold, maybe forever, without a single medical ally willing to stick with him to find a solution.

Comparatively, Dr Cline, the Functional Medicine Doctor (who is also an MD) had two treatment recommendations based on the results of the stool test he ordered last visit: a powerful probiotic that Matthew could order online or purchase from the onsite store, and CBD (non-psychoactive cannabis) to disrupt nausea and pain, which he could order online. He gave Matthew a requisition for blood tests; gave me one research report and promised to e-mail more; and offered to loan us (at no charge) a kit to test the electricity in our house, with instructions for how to deal with any problems we might find. Then he asked Matthew to come back in a month when the results of his genomic analysis would be available.

Dr Terry Wahls’, also a Functional Medicine Doctor & an MD, wrote an article titled ‘what your neurologist & rheumatologist won’t tell you‘ which supports the findings of the mini-study we conducted yesterday. Dr Wahls’ recent paper on treatment for autoimmune multiple sclerosis using a paleo diet & complementary non-pharmaceutical therapies also, interestingly, reported no serious side effects.

Dispatch from the Paleo Front Line

Dr Terry Walhs: Up from the Chair ~photo by KC McGinnis

Dr Terry Wahls: Up from the Chair ~photo by KC McGinnis

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.

(I’ve also been doing an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP)-compliant version of the Wahls Paleo Plus protocol for the past 3½ months. You can find the most recent update on what I’ve experienced here.)

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.

The Study

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.

Dietary guidelines for the study included:Diet

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.FSS

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.

The Findings

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.Fatigue

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 [2 week] 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.Fod adherence

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.

Wahls Warriors

The first time I read the phrase ‘Wahsl Warriors’ as describing those who are adopting Dr Wahls’ dietary protocols, I squirmed a little bit.

It sounded so self-aggrandizing.

So American.

And we Canadians are very sensitive to any encroachment of self-aggrandizing Americansism.

But I’ve come around.WW

If anyone should get a dispensation for some self-aggrandizement, it’s Terry Wahls.

I’m not a joiner. At all. But even so, I’m considering a T-shirt with ‘Wahls Warrior’ splashed across the front.

And I definitely think someone should reverently provide Dr Wahls with a satin superhero cape with ‘WW’ on the back.

What proof? The Autoimmune Protocol

bacteriophage 2


Bacteriophage therapy was discovered 11 years before antibiotics, in 1917.

After World War II, everyone (except a few entrenched Soviets) abandoned bacteriophage & focused exclusively on antibiotics until most hospitals on the planet were colonized with antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

In case you’re not following #superbug, the gist is that “the World Health Organization has warned of an emerging global health security threat, painting a post-apocalyptic image of a world sent back to the pre-antibiotic era, where a routine cut or infection could be deadly”, according to Kelly Crowe, medical sciences correspondent for the CBC.

Some people who have contracted superbugs in hospitals are travelling to Russia where (thanks to those recalcitrant Soviets), bacteriophage therapy is still available.

And it’s worked.phagestructure

At least anecdotally.

Turns out virtually all bacteria are vulnerable to infections by one or more viral bacteriophages. It’s just a matter of finding the right match.

Plus they’re cute. In a cyborg/war-of-the-worlds kind of way.

But until a course of treatment has been proven through a clinical trial, any and all anecdotal data, no matter how intriguing, are considered unreliable.

Clinical Trials

So, let’s say you have a gastroenterologist. Nice guy. Conscientious.

Friendly, relaxed bedside manner.

The kind of guy you can trust to scope your intestinal tract (from both ends).

Mention Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) in his presence & he closes up like a venus flytrap. Folds his arms across his chest, shrinks back against the wall & launches into a list of flaws in the SIBO research methodology.

And flawed methods=inconclusive results.

And inconclusive results mean that SIBO has not been proven to exist. So, therefore, it doesn’t.

Clinical drug trials costs $30-$50 million and are funded by pharmaceutical companies. When they think there is a reasonable chance of realizing a profit.

The Autoimmune Protocol

The Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) is the antithesis of a drug, really.

Not only is there no way for a pharmaceutical company to make money from it, but if validated, the AIP would (by design) dismantle the pharmaceutical empire.

Take my husband. Six months into the AIP, he’s no longer taking methotrexate, dilaudid or tramadaol. Aside from 2-4 over the counter Tyleneol Arthritis a day, he’s taking no pharmaceuticals at all.

After just six months.

I could insulate a suburban house with the prescriptions he’s received for his primary health issues over the past 12 years. And then wallpaper it with the scrips he’s been issued for the horrendous side effects of all those drugs.

He’s off all of them.Methotrexate

Dr Terry Wahls is currency running clinical trials on all 3 levels of her Wahls Protocol and has established a foundation to fund her research. By necessity.

The 2nd most radical thing you could do to advance the health of humankind right now might be to send her a donation.

The 1st would be to work on healing yourself with food. Then share what you learn with the rest of us.

Because that’s what we’re doing here.

Learning & sharing with each other. Anecdotally.

Hacking this whole health thing.


  1. What if most diseases are caused by inflammation in the body, and inflammation can be significantly reduced through diet?
  2. What if cellular health is determined by food, & nutrient-dense food enables the body to heal itself, maybe even in the face of a #superbug apocalypse?

I read about Bacteriophage in an article by Lisan Jutras in the July/August 2014 edition of The Walrus. It inspired me to write this post.

Biohacking update: 40 days on the Wahlspaleo+

Bison heart

Quick summary

  • Loving it? Yes;
  • Hungry? No;
  • Reduced stamina for high-intensity exercise? Currently hacking that.

For a review on what’s legal on the Wahls Paleo Plus see this post.


For the first month on the WahlsPaleo+ my energy for daily life seemed lower & my stamina for exercise was definitely reduced.

So I decided to experiment with scaling back my exercise. I walked most days. Did a couple of easier hot yoga classes. A couple of run-walks.

Just to see.Chard 2

I thought, maybe my usual regime is just a counterbalance to a higher carb diet, and a more gentle approach will be amply sufficient for me when I’m eating mostly green leafy things.

But I missed the intensity.

I’m a super intense person. And somewhat-intense physical exercise seems to be cathartically necessary for me. A way to transmogrify some of that intensity.

After a month of daily walks, I was slumping on my ball-chair at work. Losing my core strength. My stress levels were higher. I was fidgety & discontented. That was enough data for me.

On day 31 I decided I’d resume my usual pattern of exercise & if I didn’t have my usual stamina, I’d just modify.

At the same time I added Upgraded MCT oil into my diet, and almost immediately my energy was back up.

I’m LOVING the MCT oil.

I’m having it in coffee & I’ve been quite the green tea purist for a bunch of months now. But it’s just really good in coffee, it almost seems to want to be in coffee & also seems to mitigate the negative effects that coffee has on me (including a spike & crash in energy).

As far as my energy for daily life goes, so far it’s increased significantly since the MCT: 2 tablespoons a day.

Another hack I’m going to try to increase my endurance is adding higher-carb vegetables twice a week after I exercise. So far I’ve excluded all high-carb vegetables (roots & squashes), but they are legal on the WahlsPaleo+ twice a week (as long as you can maintain ketosis) and I want to see if I can use them to leverage my stamina further.

An offal update

In April, I  made a Paleo New Year resolution to eat organ meats. So far I’ve had bison liver, chicken liver and bison heart, and it’s not even mid-May.

I’m feeling pretty proud.

That’s me & Frida & a bison heart at the top of this post. Ventricles, aortas & all.

I made cinnamon beef stew with that bison heart & some lamb (minus the carrots). It was completely yummy, but I admit I did do my best to unremember the aortas while I was eating it.

A sad story about cashews

Unlike the AIP, the WahlsPaleo + does allow small amounts of soaked nuts & seeds.

I included a quarter of a cup of my beloved cashews (soaked & dehydrated: I bought them that way) a few times during the first month. I wasn’t sure how they were affecting me, so on day 30, I thought I’d test them. I ate 2 cups of soaked & dehydrated organic cashews (& nothing else) for supper.

Would they kick me out of ketosis? Would I have any adverse reactions?

The answer was Yes.

I was in an absolutely foul mood the next day and a pretty bad mood for 3 days after that. My energy levels also tanked.

Conversationally, I told my vegetarian teenager what a bad mood I was in and she said smugly, maybe it’s your diet.

Because (according to her) that’s what I always say to her.

She is a little bit right. But I still think I do admirable job about keeping my mouth shut about her abominable vegetarian food choices most of the time.

In any case, she was a little surprised when I agreed with her. It was my diet that was making me so cranky.

Sad as it is, I think I’m removing cashews entirely.

 Coconut oil nauseacoconut oil

65% of daily calories come from coconut oil on the WahlsPaleo+.

Though Dr Wahls doesn’t mention ‘Upgraded MCT Oil’ in her book, I’m now an MCT- devotee, so I’m including it my coconut oil quota.

But adjusting to that much coconut oil can take a while.

I did experience coconut-oil induced nausea at first, and woke up in the middle of the night with wicked stomach cramps a few times in the first couple of weeks when I consumed a lot of coconut oil before bed.

But I’m adapted & no longer have any trouble.

Two more month 2 adjustments:

Oil pulling

If you’ve never tried oil pulling, you should.

At least once.

It’s an old Ayurvedic trick.

It’s weird & wonderful & makes me feel good. I used to do it, but fell out of the habit. Now I’m back at it.

Just pop a big spoonful of coconut oil in your mouth and let it melt. First thing in the morning is best. Swish the melted oil around your mouth for 20 minutes (set a timer).

Then spit it out. Don’t spit it in the sink because it’ll harden up as it cools.

I rinse my mouth with salt water after.

Warm lemon water

This is another habit that fell by the wayside that I’ve reinstituted in month 2 on the WahlsPaleo+. Just because it makes me feel good.

That’s my criteria.

Squeeze a lemon into a mug. Fill the mug halfway with cold water, then top with boiling water.

Drink it up.




Victorious Offal Muffins (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

Bison liver~!

Bison liver~!

I’ve been victorious!

I was an offal wimp, but now I’m initiated.

When I made a resolution to venture into organ meats for my Paleo New Year I got heaps of helpful comments.

I decided to incorporate as many of these tips as I could into my offal adventure, including:

  1. Bison liver, as a great introductory level offal (thanks Alice!);
  2. The Paleo Mom’s 50/50/50 burgers as a way to ease in (thanks Kate!);
  3. Putting offal in ice cube trays. A tip from This Sidney Life (Though I thought it was unlikely I’d ever feel inspired to throw a cube of icy offal into my supper, this suggestion did inspire me think of my muffin tin like an ice cube tray…);
  4. The Paleo PI’s post about pureeing offal as a way to slip it in to other dishes; and
  5. The reminder that liver loves onions (thanks to my offal-loving husband Matthew).

I also employed another strategy that I am rather proud of.

bison liver pureeRather than buying offal fresh from the butcher and then a couple of days later thinking oh dear and slipping it in the freezer like I usually do, I bought it frozen at the beginning of a long string of errands.

How devious.

By the time I got home it was already slightly defrosted so I couldn’t in good conscience refreeze it.

But that was only necessary the first time.

Offal muffinsI hesitated about calling these Offal Muffins.

First off, they are only 33.3% offal

Second, they aren’t awful at all.

Okay, I didn’t love them on day one. I ate the first one with grim determination. Way too much grimness & an almost comical amount of determination. I’d been steeling myself for some time, and the bison liver slurry that I created in my food processor for this recipe was still pretty fresh in my mind.

But the thing is, bison liver made me feel good.

Having been on the Autoimmune Protocol for 3½ months and then the Wahls Paleo Plus for the past couple of weeks, I now get pretty rapid feedback about whether & how much my body likes particular foods.

It loves bison liver.

To the point where I was looking forward to having another of these muffins for breakfast before I even went to bed on day one.


Or at least, unexpected.

Dr Terry Wahls recommends 12oz of offal a week.

Each muffin is 4oz in total, and contains 1.33oz of bison liver (as well as 1.33oz of bacon & 1.33oz of ground lamb), meaning that 9 of these are required to meet Dr. Wahls recommended dosage in a given week.

Recently, I eat one of these most days, so I’m not quite hitting the target yet.

But I’m not worrying too much about about dosage. Just now, having figured out how to cook & eat offal is a victory.

Hence Victorious Offal Muffins

Victorious Offal Muffins (AIP & WahlsPaleo+)

 from petra8paleo

  • 1 lb bison liverDay~supper
  • 1 lb ground lamb
  • 1 lb bacon, cut in small pieces
  • 1 cup caramelized onions
  • ½ cup fresh herbs: basil, marjoram, sage, thyme (or 2 tablespoons dried)
  • 1 teaspoon Himalyan salt (a little more if your bacon isn’t very salty)
  • 2 tablespoons sea vegetable flakes

Advance prep: Make caramelized onions (see recipe below). Not necessary, but yum.

Preheat oven to 350.

Fill the sink with hot soapy water as you’ll probably want to wash your food processor right away.

Puree the bison liver in a food processor.

Mix the pureed bison liver & all other ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl with your hands. Line a 12-muffin tin with paper muffins cups, and heap each with the meat muffin mixture. Pack it in & pile it high.

Place a baking sheet on the bottom rack to catch any wayward bacon fat and place the muffin tray on the top rack.

Bake for 40 minutes.

Once cooled, these muffins freeze beautifully.

To reheat, just wrap in tin foil & pop in a hot oven while you prepare your vegetables.

Caramelized onions

  • 1-2lbs onionsCaramelized onions
  • 2 or so tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup bone broth

Next time you have to spend awhile in the kitchen, peel & slice a pound or two of onions, thinly, like apples & then separate each slice into its natural layers. Melt a good amount of coconut oil in a large pan on very low heat & add the onions. Stir occasionally, adding a couple of tablespoons of bone broth whenever brown bits start to stick to the pan.When the onions are browned, reduced and gloriously sticky, they’re done. Refrigerate or freeze.

Tracking the Wahls Paleo Plus

The Wahls Paleo Plus is a ketogenic version of the Wahls Protocol.

I outline the basics of what you can eat on the WahlsPaleo+  in this post. Additionally, we’re supposed to eat fermented foods, sea vegetables and bone broth each day, and 12oz of offal and 16oz of high omega-3 fish each week.

I’m only on day 18 of the WahlsPaleo+ but I’m pretty intrigued so far.

I was able to get into ketosis fairly rapidly (2-3 days) and have been playing around with quantity of coconut oil & levels of ketosis since then, to find out more about how this all works. I’ve kicked myself out of ketosis (briefly) twice by letting my coconut oil consumption get too low. The 1st time by accident and the 2nd time as an experiment.

I’ve developed a tracking system that I have been using in my experiments so far.

On a daily basis I use worksheets that I keep in a binder in my kitchen. Not only does the daily worksheet help me track my food, but it also helps me plan it.

I’m aiming for 2-3 cups of sulfur-rich & coloured plant-food, and 3 cups of dark green leafy vegetables each day over two daily meals. With my daily worksheet I can always see where I need to fill any gaps.

As long as I have a range of plant-foods on hand, I can simply select the carbohydrates I wish for from each category and then just decide how to prepare them. It actually makes mealtime super simple, and I’ve stopped the maniacal meal planning I was doing on the Autoimmune Protocol.

Here’s my daily workbook (for the day I ate the 2 meals depicted, above):

WahlsPaleo+ worksheetThen, because I’m nerdy and I like to track data, every few days I transfer my daily worksheets into a weekly record. This enables me to to notice trends (such as the relationship between ketosis levels & energy levels, or how much high omega-3 fish or offal I’m consuming).

My weekly record looks like this:

WahlsPaleo+ weekly

This was the week that started auspiciously when I ate nettles for breakfast two days in a row. You can also see where I fell out of ketosis when my weekend supply of blue-raspberry fudge disappeared. And, though I’m still a long way from Dr Wahls 12oz weekly target for offal, I actually ate offal twice, which I think is laudable. Knowing I’m tracking it makes me eat it!

Hey, I’ve finally uploaded these tracking sheets here!

Daily Wahls Paleo Plus worksheet

Wahls Warrior