Chronic Illness - AIP, Healthy Habits

I tried the Wahls diet and here’s what happened

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I never realized how much food had an impact on me until I started the Wahls diet, and it completely transformed my life.

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Wahls diet (actually called The Wahls Protocol), or other anti-inflammatory diets (AIP) for chronic conditions? Maybe you are curious to know more about what this diet is and if the Wahls protocol actually works.

I have rheumatoid arthritis but, according to Terry Wahls, the Wahls protocol is supposed to help treat all chronic autoimmune conditions. And I believe it can.

I have been struggling with chronic health issues for well over a decade now and the Wahls diet has proven beneficial in so many ways (!), especially with my “undiagnosed” conditions. This is not to say that there are only benefits associated with the Wahls diet. This blog post was actually written over 2 years ago (I just never got around to finalizing and publishing it). However, a lot has changed since then and I will be posting other articles discussing the Wahls protocol more thoroughly in the coming weeks.

Nonetheless, if you are curious to read my review of the Wahls protocol as someone who suffers from chronic autoimmune conditions (including Rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s syndrome), then keep reading. I will be discussing here all the surprising benefits I experienced after switching to the Wahls diet.

Wahls diet recipe
My lunch! Doesn’t this make you happy?

How and why I started with the Wahls Protocol

Towards the mid/end of 2020, I discovered the Wahls diet and it changed my life. It was also around that time that I (finally) received the diagnosis: I had rheumatoid arthritis. (Note: I’m no doctor but in French, it’s called rheumatoid polyarthritis, and according to my doctor, polyarthritis and arthritis are not the same. I don’t know. Look it up if you are interested?).

When I heard Terry Wahls’s story, however, I didn’t yet know that I had an autoimmune disease or rheumatoid arthritis. Back then, the doctors were still telling me that I had nothing.

However, I had been dealing with chronic pain for years and it was becoming frankly, unbearable. I could no longer use my hands because my wrists were so inflamed (although I did not know back then that they were, in fact, inflamed), I could not work, was forced to quit my job, and the chronic stomach pain I had been dealing with for the past 10+ years was becoming a nightmare. I was spending my evenings lying on the bathroom floor, clutching my stomach and burping like a mad woman. For HOURS! I was also severely depressed and frankly, at the end of my rope.

I had just spent the last 6 months taking care of my health full-time and trying to figure out ways to heal both mentally and physically when I discovered the Wahls protocol.

What is the Wahls diet?

In her book The Wahls Protocol, Dr. Wahls shows us how

dietary tweaks like eating more vegetables (especially those that are sulfur-rich, leafy greens, and deeply colored), along with the elimination of common inflammatory foods like gluten and dairy, can help reduce the inflammation that is often at the heart of pain, mood problems, weight issued, and autoimmune conditions”.

She also stresses the importance of making lifestyle changes that go beyond just the food we eat.

The way I see it, the Wahls diet is an anti-inflammatory diet, in the sense that its goal is to have an anti-inflammatory effect, but it’s more than just that. I encourage you to read her books and do your own research if you are interested in knowing more about or trying this diet.

Does the Wahls protocol work?

I have Rheumatoid polyarthritis, Sjogren’s syndrome, chronic stomach pain (and other chronic issues), and the Wahls diet definitely helped with my autoimmune disease symptoms.

I don’t know if this diet works for everyone, I’ve only tested it on myself, but I can tell you that it is the only thing that’s alleviating my symptoms and allowing me to work and have a life.

Now, how long did it take to work? I don’t remember exactly, especially since I transitioned to this diet gradually over a couple of weeks, or so. But I can say with confidence that after a month, I was already experiencing some incredible benefits (such as no more brain fog, no feeling of being depressed, and a lot less stomach pain).

Disclaimer: as always, I would like to remind you that I’m not a doctor and have no medical training. I only share here my experience regarding my own mental and physical health journey. The information contained in this blog is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your doctor or other medical experts about your health, especially before making any drastic changes to your diet. Thank you!

Ok, so with this out of the way, let’s talk about all the benefits I experienced after trying the Wahls diet.

13 surprising benefits I experienced after switching to the Wahls diet

Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet not only had benefits on the symptoms of my autoimmune conditions, but the positive effects of the Wahls protocol went even beyond that!

1. The Wahls diet reduced the symptoms of my chronic autoimmune disease

I’ll start with the most obvious benefit: the Wahls protocol proved to be remarkably effective in reducing my chronic pain:

  • My wrists almost completely stopped hurting, that’s after a decade of worsening pain. Before trying this anti-inflammatory diet, my hands and wrists were almost out of order: I could not rotate my wrists and could not perform basic, everyday tasks such as using my hands to support myself, using a mouse at work, or even washing my hair. So I had to shave it all.
  • My chronic stomach pain and excessive burping stopped.
  • I was also experiencing pain in other random areas of my body (back pain, foot pain, etc.). All this: gone.
  • I began running regularly, exercising, even started boxing again after a 12-year hiatus!

2. I stopped having nightmares

After switching to the Wahls diet, I stopped having nightmares. I would have never imagined that these horrible nightmares that haunted my nights had something to do with food. But I guess they did.

Before trying the Wahls protocol, I was spending every single night screaming, crying, and running away from “bad people” in my dreams. It was exhausting, physically and emotionally. I would wake up drained, sad, tired…

I can’t explain it scientifically (again, not a doctor), but this diet positively impacts my brain in ways that are very, very noticeable for me. Notably, through my dreams and nightmares.

Wahls diet salad

3. No more brain fog

To continue on the same theme, I noticed only after switching to the Wahls diet, how much my brain was clouded and foggy. After a few days on the Wahls diet, it’s as if the sun rose for the first time on my brain. Quite literally.

And during the first few months on this diet, as soon as I ate something “I wasn’t supposed to”, like bread or cake, I could feel in a matter of seconds the veil come back. Now it’s not as instantaneous.

I don’t know if the cloudiness and fog were due to inflammation in my brain (I’m just speculating here), but I know that this anti-inflammatory diet brought me a level of clarity I didn’t even know I could experience.

4. It improved my ability to focus

Before this diet, I could not focus on anything for more than 30 seconds. It honestly was becoming a problem. Now, there are other things I did that I believed improved my ability to focus (like running outside in winter, for example), but, after adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, it became easier to focus on tasks, and for longer periods.

5. Food started to make me happy

One of the surprising benefits of switching to the Wahls diet is its impact on my relationship with food. I thought I loved food, but I realized I didn’t. Not really. But this diet slowly began to change that.

By forcing me to learn about every single ingredient I was putting in my mouth, by forcing me to experiment with so many fruits and vegetables that had been, up to that point, absent from my life, I slowly developed a new, healthier relationship with food.

I learned to notice and appreciate the smell, texture, and taste of each nut, seed, spice, fruit, or vegetable, I learned to cook, and I learned to appreciate cooking.

And overall, this helped transform me into a much happier, and grateful person.

6. I became a lot more grateful

Adopting an anti-inflammatory diet such as the Wahls protocol forces you to pay more attention to your food, and eat with intention.

Furthermore, the Wahls diet is a very specific diet with a lot of “rules” to follow. Here in Canada, I have access to an abundance of fresh food from all over the world and this diet forces me to acknowledge how blessed I am every day.

I don’t know if I would have been able to follow such a “restrictive” diet if I was still living in my home country (Haiti).

I’m also forced to be grateful that such a diet even exists! Had it not been for the Wahls Protocol, I would certainly not have the quality of life that I have now. This is not to say that my life is easy now; it’s not and I still have to deal with my fair share of challenges every day.

But at least I have a life, and this blog!

7. It reduced food waste

Yes, one of the unexpected benefits of the Wahls diet is that it helped reduce my food waste.

I don’t know if this is because I have to plan carefully everything I will eat in advance, or if it’s because I go to the grocery store more often (you can’t really stock up on fresh produce weeks in advance), but the fact remains: ever since adopting the Wahls diet, I throw away less food.

What your groceries look like on the Wahls diet

8. I have a lot more energy

Only a few days/weeks after switching to the Wahls diet, I noticed how much more energy I had! It’s as if my body feels lighter or spends less energy digesting and processing food, thus leaving me with more energy to actually, you know, function.

Which brings me to the next benefit I experienced with this diet:

9. I need less sleep

Before adopting the Wahls diet, falling asleep was a challenge in itself, but once I was asleep, it was almost like I was in a coma. A nightmare-filled coma.

And I would need like 10 hours of sleep to feel like I had slept enough. But even after 10 hours of sleep, I would wake up groggy, tired, and aching all over.

Now, I need a lot less sleep. 8 hours of sleep is ideal but even with 4 or 5 hours of sleep, I feel energized and ready to tackle the day. And that’s without coffee or tea.

10. I have a lot less anxiety

Yes, food also impacts my reactions to stress and anxiety, and, ever since adopting the Wahls diet, I’ve become a lot less anxious.

I go into more details here:

Related post: How I got rid of my crippling anxiety for good.

11. It reduced my depression

One thing I did not expect when trying the Wahls diet was that it would have any effect on my depression. And yet, it did.

It’s been shown that regular consumption of anti-inflammatory foods can reduce the risk of depression and the Wahls diet definitely had a significant impact on my depression.

Now, to be honest, I had already seen major improvements on my mental health before adopting this diet, but it’s as if, by adopting an anti-inflammatory diet, it consolidated everything and got me out of depression “for good”.

My mood was less up and down, my emotions were less all over the place, my mind was clearer, my thoughts sharper…. Everything just felt better.

12. I stopped losing weight (yes, but…)

This, and the following point, are specific to ME and the issues I was dealing with before trying the Wahls diet.

As a matter of fact, and judging by the comments reported in the Wahls protocol book, most people seem to report losing weight after switching to the Wahls diet. But it was not the case for me.

Before trying this diet, I was not overweight. On the contrary, I seemed to burn food like a California wildfire, and the more I ate, the more I was losing weight.

But once I switched to a paleo/keto-style diet, and started eating fewer carbs, cereals, and starchy foods, it all stopped and I slowly started gaining weight again.  

Trust me, when you are skinny as hell, eat like an ogre but keep losing weight, and start to feel (and look) sickly… gaining even a pound is a big deal.

13. I eat less

To expand on my previous point, before trying the Wahls protocol, I was constantly eating. I was eating so much, I’ve had people comment that I was just like a baby: either eating, pooping, or sleeping.

Yep.

Sexy, right?

I could not spend more than 2 hours without food or I would get sick, literally. If I stayed hungry for more than 30 minutes, I would start getting intense stomach pain and feel extremely weak and light-headed very suddenly, to the point where I could not even function.

Well, all that stopped with an anti-inflammatory diet.

Now, I cannot explain why all these things happened. Again, I’m not a doctor and I’m not blessed (or rich) enough to be followed by Wahls protocol-trained physicians. Unfortunately.

However, what I do know is that all these benefits were possible only thanks to the Wahls diet this diet transformed my life, and even though I don’t know what the future holds, I’m grateful for Dr. Wahls, for Tom Bilyeu for interviewing her on his channel, and for all the blessings this diet has brought into my life.

Have you tried the Wahls diet? Or perhaps you found another way to deal with your chronic autoimmune condition? What is it? Don’t hesitate to leave me a comment! It truly makes my day when readers reach out.

Read Next: What I eat on the Wahls diet when I don’t feel like cooking.

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About Steph

I am a personal growth/self-management enthusiast. I was able to completely transform my life using everything I share here. I hope this blog helps you transform yours as well.
View all posts by Steph →

3 thoughts on “I tried the Wahls diet and here’s what happened

  1. This sounds very promising. Some of your symptoms, prior to the Wahls Protocol, sounds like they may have been parasite related. The diet may have forced them to evacuate your body.

  2. Hi ! thank you for sharing your experience. I am currently trying the Whals protocol and I also burn fats very very easily. Same symptoms as you. I was worried to start loosing more weight by cutting grains etc. But the thing is, now that I follow this diet, I am not hungry anymore… I am even worried because I used to be a person who needed to eat all of the time. Today I ate chicken and cabbage, a bit of dark chocolate, a hazelnut milk and blueberry smoothie. It is dinner time and I don’t feel hungry at all even though I walked for an hour and have Multiple Sclerosis…. Do you think I should be worried ? I have to say when I eat my plates are probably wayyy too packed with food. I think I am so scared of loosing weight I am eating too much perhaps ? I don’t know what to do ^^

    1. Hi V., thank you for leaving a comment. I am definitely not the right person to answer your questions, unfortunately. I will say though, when I began the Wahls diet, I was so scared of not eating enough and not getting enough nutrient, I would PACK my plate with food, just like you. I was eating a lot. Too much. But somehow it’s only when someone pointed it out, that I finally realized I was, in fact, eating too much. Now I don’t need as much food as I used to (pre Wahls diet), but it took a long time and a lot of testing and adjusting to find the right balance. (Still adjusting, btw). What you’re going through is not easy but I wish you the best with everything!

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