Can you imagine waking up one day then being diagnosed with a condition that puts you into a wheelchair for the rest of your life?
Although, Wikipedia lists Multiple Sclerosis as an incurable disease, today we’re here with a remarkable woman who was sentenced to a life in a tilt-recline wheelchair with progressive MS… and went on to defy her diagnosis and reverse her condition with real food and lifestyle intervention.
Today, Dr. Terry Wahls bikes to work, speaks all over the country, and teaches others how to heal conditions commonly considered to be untreatable with cutting-edge science and a healthy dollop of good old common sense.
Also joining us for this interview is Caroleen Moise, the producer and director of Defying All Odds, a new documentary featuring the story of Dr Terry Wahls’ astonishing recovery from Progressive MS.
On this show you’re going to learn about:
- The body’s remarkable ability to heal itself and defy the odds
- Why more than a dozen new scientific studies are testing food as medicine
- The new documentary dedicated to Dr. Wahl’s journey from rebel to visionary
- And tons more…
Let’s go hang out with Dr. Wahls.
Dr. Terry Wahls & Filmmaker Caroleen Moise: The Healing Power of Food
Abel: Alright folks, returning to the show today is our friend, Dr. Terry Wahls.
Dr. Wahls is a functional medicine practitioner, clinical researcher and Professor of Medicine at the University of Iowa.
Though she is at the forefront of functional medicine, what sets Dr. Wahls apart is her experience using nutrition and lifestyle interventions to treat progressive health problems and heal her own MS, and later that of others.
Also joining us is Caroleen Moise, the producer and director of Defying All Odds, a new documentary featuring the story of Dr. Wahls’ astonishing recovery from progressive MS.
Welcome back Dr. Wahls, and thanks so much for joining us, Caroleen.
Dr. Terry Wahls: Thank you for having me.
Caroleen Moise: Thanks for having me.
Abel: So Terry, we’ve had you on the show a few times now. But there are still, I’m sure, people who are listening who aren’t familiar with your story, which is becoming more and more interesting as the years go by.
So could you just catch us up a little bit, and then Caroleen I’d love to hear from you, as well.
Dr. Wahls: Sure. So I am an academic internal medicine physician, which means I teach at a major university.
And you know, I was a very skeptical physician. I taught my patients and my resident physicians to be very skeptical of diet, supplements, complementary alternative medicine.
But God has a mysterious way of working.
In 2000, I began to have problems stumbling and was ultimately evaluated with MRIs of my brain, my spinal cord, my spinal tap and was found to have abnormal lesions in my spinal cord. Abnormal spinal fluid and a diagnosis of relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis was made.
I knew I wanted to treat my disease aggressively, so I sought out the best MS center that I could find, which was the Cleveland Clinic.
I saw the best people, took the newest drugs, but I went steadily downhill.
In 2002, my Cleveland Clinic physicians told me about the work of Loren Cordain.
I read his books, his papers, and after 20 years of being a vegetarian, I adopted a Paleo diet, giving up all grain, all dairy, all legumes.
But unfortunately, I continued to decline.
The following year I needed a tilt-recline wheelchair. My disease converted to secondary progressive MS, and in that state of the disease you expect things to get progressively worse.
I took Mitoxantrone; which is a form of chemotherapy. I continued to decline.
Then I took Tysabri, a biologic drug. I continued to decline. Then I was placed on Cellcept.
At that point, I went back to reading the basic science and would decide that mitochondrial dysfunction was key.
So I created a supplement cocktail to support my mitochondria. I slowed down the speed of my decline, and for that I was very, very grateful.
By the summer of 2007, I was so weak, I could not sit up in a regular chair. It was a struggle to walk 10 feet using two walking sticks.
I had progressive brain fog, and I was having problems with severe trigeminal neuralgia.
It was that summer, I discovered the Institute for Functional Medicine. I took their course on neuro protection. It had a bigger list of supplements that I was taking.
And then in the fall of that year, I had another big “Aha” moment like,
“I should redesign my diet and lifestyle, specifically based on what I had learned with functional medicine.”
That was some more research. And now I have a very structured Paleo diet.
I went back to my daily meditation, and the speed of change was remarkable.
Within 3 months, I was up out of the wheelchair walking with the cane.
In 6 months, I was walking without a cane.
In 9 months, I get on my bike and I biked around the block; the first time in a decade.
And in 12 months, I was able to do a 18.5 mile bike ride with my family.
Now this changes how I understand disease and health.
It would change the focus of my clinical practice, and it would ultimately change the focus of my research.
I switched my previous research to this new area of studying diet and lifestyle to treat multiple sclerosis and other chronic progressive diseases.
Why Tell Terry’s Story in Film?
Now Caroleen, I’d love to hear a bit more about your project, but also why you were interested in Terry’s story?
Caroleen: I’ve been in filmmaking for almost 14 years now. I started with fiction and I was doing short films.
And around 7 years ago I became Paleo. So that would be 2012.
I was so transformed by this new lifestyle and this way of living that I wanted to tell everyone. I wanted to convert everyone.
I would meet someone, and straight from the get-go, I’d be like, “Do you know about this new way of living—Paleo? It’s amazing. You cut the grains out, the dairy, you’ll feel better.”
But after a while, I realized that not everyone is interested in improving their health.
So, I thought, “You know what? I ought to do my first feature—I always thought it was going to be fiction, but I think it’s going to be a documentary about this lifestyle.”
Because you’ve got to be very passionate about your topic when you take on such an endeavor because it’s going to be with you for two, three, maybe even four years.
So I thought, “You know what? I love this enough, I’m going to do this.”
And my co-producer and I decided to make, We Love Paleo, which is also distributed under the name, Love Paleo.
And in the process of making this film, it was Cain Credicott from Paleo Magazine, he said, “Hey, you ought to look up Dr. Terry Wahls, because she’s amazing and she’d be great for your documentary”.
We already had 13 people. I thought that was more than enough.
But I looked her up, I delved into it, and I was like, “Wow! This incredible woman deserves her own film.”
Not like, she can just be an expert in my film for a total of five minutes. That’s not going to work.
And so I put it aside and I was, to be honest, I was eyeball deep in my current project. So there’s no room in my mind to even contemplate what that second film would be.
I wasn’t even finished with the first one, but I knew in my heart that if it was meant to be, it was going to happen.
And so after being picked up by a U.S. distributor, which galvanized me and confirmed that, yes, this is the right thing to do, I decided to reach out to Dr. Terry Wahls. I thought, again, this topic deserves its own film.
And I was feeling so grateful. I was like, “I’ve got to call her quickly before someone else gets the idea.”
To me, it was obvious that she ought to have her own film, because the journey is incredible.
Mind vs. Matter: The Path to Healing Progressive Disease
Abel: It is. And Terry to your point, it changes the way that we think about disease, and healing in particular.
But I’d love to get your perspective on—not that there’s a breakdown, but since you have both sides—mind versus matter.
How did you manage that during your healing and how are you managing that now?
Dr. Wahls: Well, as I was going steadily worse and worse and worse. I kept having to reimagine my life as a more disabled individual. And how was I going to help my kids, ultimately, to be successful adults?
And I had gotten to a place of acceptance, like, “I’m going to become bedridden. I’m going to possibly become demented.”
I was struggling with, “I may have refractory uncontrolled trigeminal neuralgia. Which is this electrical zings of pain every time you have sensory input.”
That was tough to come to terms with. Yet, I had no hope of recovery.
When I had read through what I learned from Functional Medicine, from the Ancestral Health Movement, I was doing all of that to slow my decline. Because I had accepted what my physicians had told me, and what I had learned is that when you have progressive MS it only gets worse.
There is no recovery; no spontaneous recovery.
And so, I implemented what I was learning and I redesigned my Paleo diet, and I added electrical stimulation to my muscles. I was doing that to try and walk; the little bit of walking I was still doing for a few more months. I didn’t think I was going to recover.
And what’s remarkable is that I have recovered.
I was walking with a cane again, and then around the block. Because I had accounted that progressive MS only progresses, and I was just taking each day as it unfolded.
I didn’t really know what any of that meant. It wasn’t until the day I got on my bike and I biked around the block, I’m crying, my wife’s crying, my kids are crying.
And if you could see me closely, I’m crying now, too, because I always get emotional thinking back to that day.
That was the day that it was apparent to me that, who knew how much recovery might be possible? That in fact, I might get much closer to normal function than anyone would understand.
And that the current conventional understanding of multiple sclerosis, of progressive multiple sclerosis, is incomplete. That likely there is considerable recovery that is possible, that our oligodendrocytes can repair, that we can rebuild synapses, and that we can rewire past damage in our spinal cord and in our brain.
But what a lot people don’t realize is that it’s a natural part of the process when you have a progressive disease. You go through anger, denial, bargaining and you finally get to a place of acceptance that this is your current reality. And you just take each day as it unfolds.
Abel: One thing I actually read today, and I didn’t look into it in great detail, but the headline of the study said that drinking soda makes MS worse, makes the symptoms measurably worse.
And not that there’s one perfect study or that’s a perfect example, but it does lend a little more ammunition and oomph behind the fact that we have some amount of control over our symptoms, no matter what we might be struggling with.
We have some control over our symptoms, no matter what we might be struggling with. Click To Tweet
Dr. Wahls: Absolutely. Certainly the evidence is slowly building that there are many elements of our diet and lifestyle that influence disease activity.
The amount of salt in the diet, the amount of vegetables in the diet, the amount of white processed foods, the amount of food additives. All have an impact on relapse rates, on brain volume, on quality of life, on disability scores.
When I was first launching my study, my very first dietary intervention study in 2009, I was the only one doing a dietary intervention study for MS at that time.
Swank had done a observational study, a cohort study, but no one else had done that. Then Vijay did a dietary intervention study.
But now, my colleagues are catching up. And in fact, I was just back at clinicaltrials.gov and there are 13 intervention studies that are going on right now. And it’s very exciting.
They’re looking at a wide variety of diets, gluten free, low-glycemic index, ketogenic diets.
Of course, I’m doing Paleo diets, there’s low saturated fat diets. It’s very exciting that we’re now beginning to really look at the impact of food.
Abel: Yeah, and where we’re coming from, not so long ago doctors were saying, “Diet doesn’t matter. It has no effect on your body.” That was somehow common knowledge.
Dr. Wahls: That was absolutely common.
When my TED talk went viral back in 2011, and patients were going to their physician saying, “Well, what about that TED talk? What about that physician?”
And I’m sure thousands of neurologists, probably hundreds of thousands of neurologists, were having to deal with their patients coming in and saying, “What about food?”
And in 2011, they were saying food didn’t matter.
But now, now that we’re getting the basic science down, we understand that food turns genes on and off, food effects our microbiome, food affects the cytokine levels.
And we have more epidemiologic evidence linking food, diet quality and disability status, brain volume and lesion load.
Now more and more of the neurologists are saying, “Well, yes food does matter, and the quality of your diet does matter.”
So it’s a very exciting time. And this is a very rapid time period.
In just 10 years, we’ve gone from “food doesn’t matter,” to the scientists saying food matters a great deal, to the clinicians who are now beginning to agree, “Yes, food matters a great deal.”
Abel: And in those clinical trials, it sounds like they’re using food as medicine in science itself, right?
Dr. Wahls: Yes, yes. These are food-based dietary intervention studies.
Most of the previous dietary studies were supplement studies, using fish oil, using a particular supplement, green tea extract.
It’s much harder to do a food-based study. It’s a different kind of science, but I’m very excited to see that it is happening.
Part of the reason it’s happening is that, when I wrote my book, The Wahls Protocol, and it became a bestseller, that drove public awareness and interest.
It created a lot of momentum and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, bless them, because they followed their constituents by what they do in social media, they saw this huge interest in demand and expectation.
So they did make food-based dietary research a research priority.
They funded some of these early pilot studies, which then allowed for investigators like myself to use those pilot studies to write for bigger grants, which now are why there are 13 intervention studies that are registered in the clinicaltrials.gov.
Abel: For people who are out there wondering if it’s worth it to try to clean up their nutrition plan, or their way of eating, or their lifestyle, what would you have to offer them to get them over that hump? Because it’s not easy, but for you, what an incredible example that is of the other side.
Dr. Wahls: Well, I think all of us want to have our brains working really well into our 50s, 60s, 70s, 90s and 100.
We’d like our body to be working well. We don’t want to become demented and so frail that we have to live in a nursing home.
And your best strategy for that is to eat these radical things known as vegetables, to eat high quality protein; meat is a good source. And then to get rid of sugar.
To get rid of the high glycemic index foods, a lot of these flour-based products, and to get outside, walk around, be out in the sunlight.
These lifestyle interventions are really quite profound.
And there’s a growing body of evidence that this is the most effective intervention that we have to lower my rate of early cognitive decline, to lower my rates of obesity, to lower my rates of diabetes, to lower my rates of mental health problems.
I care much more about my health-span than my lifespan. @terrywahls Click To Tweet
I want to live to 100 in great health, being able to play with my kids and my grandchildren.
I don’t want to live to 100 and be demented for the last 20 years. That’s not a very satisfying life. And I think most of the American public would feel the same way.
Diet, Toxins, and the Healing Process
Abel: I’m curious, how strict or dogmatic, as the years go by, do you have to keep your own lifestyle and eating habits?
Dr. Wahls: Oh, you mean for me personally?
Dr. Wahls: So, if I am exposed to gluten, dairy or eggs, within 6 to 24 hours, my trigeminal neuralgia turns on and I have horrific incapacitating trigeminal electrical face pain. So that keeps me very attentive to my diet.
Now in terms of toxin exposure, probably the most toxic thing I do is fly.
Because when you’re flying, you’re going to be involved in the pesticides, insecticides are in planes to keep the vermin out of the planes, the radiation from the altitude.
And the aerosolized jet fuels that get recycled through the cabin as part of the exhaust.
So if I fly once a month, I do okay. If I fly twice a month, I’m more likely to have increased neuropathic pain.
So I have to pay a lot of attention to my own detox protocols, taking saunas and taking my detox supplement interventions.
And I’m also very mindful to work at my stress reducing practices, because I’m so excited about the stuff that I’m doing, the research that I’m doing, the manuscripts that we’re writing, the revisions to my book, all of that stuff.
It’s hard to sleep at night, because I’m so excited. I’m so in love with my work.
So, in fact, in order to sleep well at night, I have to be very intentional about meditating every evening to quiet my mind enough to fall asleep.
Abel: Wow. One other thing I’d like to talk about, Terry, you mentioned this before we started recording, and actually it’d be better if you describe it, because I don’t want to put words in your mouth.
Can you describe how the world was perceiving you maybe 10 or so years ago compared to now. What’s changed?
Dr. Wahls: So here at the university, at the VA where I was working, people saw me go from walking around, being fairly athletic, to becoming more and more fragile, and then being in the tilt-recline wheelchair.
And then they see this stunning recovery and people are very excited about that. Then I changed how I practiced medicine.
And I’m talking more and more about vegetables, about sleep, about exercise, and less and less about drugs. And my partners are nervous about that. And so they’re complaining.
So, I have to go meet with my Chief of Staff and the Head of Medicine to explain and he’s not quite sure what I’m doing. But I come back with my papers.
Then he decided that, okay, I’m eccentric, but he’s assuring everyone that if I hurt anyone, I’ll go through peer review just like everyone else. But my recommendations are part of what we should all be recommending.
So, I’ve being viewed as this eccentric oddity. Some people think I’m a little dangerous, because I’m not doing drugs, I’m just doing these diet and lifestyle interventions, but at best, very eccentric.
But then my clinical results are remarkable in the traumatic brain injury clinic and the VA invites me, takes me out of primary care, and we create the Therapy and Lifestyle Clinic.
I go to the pain clinic and primary care and say, “Give me your most difficult patients. Let them know they’re just going to get diet and lifestyle. But I’m happy to take your most difficult people who have the most refractory pain.”
And we have remarkable success.
We’ve got our clinical trials going, and every year at the research week, we’re presenting the results from our trials, and we’re beginning to get our papers published.
Yep, remarkably positive. And then we start getting larger grants.
And so now I’m presenting my data to grant rounds at the various departments across the university, and the university is getting gifts to the Wahls Research Fund, because other philanthropists are cold-calling the university saying, “We’re so excited by the work that Dr. Wahls is doing. We’d like to support her research lab.”
Dr. Wahls: And so, I’ve gone from this eccentric oddity to now being seen as this brilliant visionary. So it’s very exciting, and it’s a very short period of time. It’s only 10 years.
Advice for the Visionaries
Abel: For the visionaries who are listening right now, who may not be accepted as such, what advice do you have for them?
Dr. Wahls: Well, if you’re a clinician, get case supports written up. Write case series. Try and get some partners to do a small feasibility study to show that others can implement this intervention, and show its safety.
We need the published peer review of literature. And so, if you aren’t a researcher, that’s fine. Just get a case support written up from what you’re seeing and get a case series.
That is incredibly important, powerful stuff, and it helps build the case for the researchers like myself, because we can use that in our grants.
Abel: What are some of the most exciting things that you’ve learned recently that may have surprised you?
Dr. Wahls: Well, who knew our poop could be so valuable?
I remember, when I was a medical student and as a trainee and resident, we made so much fun of our geriatric patients who would tell us that, “If I could just have a bowel movement, I knew I’d feel so much better, doc.”
And we’d laugh with them. But, of course, now I think back, those people were so very wise, because they’re right.
If we could rebalance their microbiomes, they could have a daily bowel movement, and would, in fact, be much healthier.
It’s the microbes in our gut that digest the food we eat, and the by-products of the other microbes that make the metabolites, the smaller molecules that will get into our bloodstream, and those molecules help us run the chemistry of our life.
And it’s probably these metabolites that are the mechanisms by which food has such a huge impact on health status.
It’s the microbial metabolites from digesting that food.
I think there will be a time, as we get better and better at analyzing really big data, that I’ll be able to go in and give a specimen of blood, so you get my DNA, a specimen of stool to get my microbes’ DNA and the metabolites in the stool.
And then we’ll be able to generate a very specific report to say, “You know what? You’re somebody who will not tolerate saturated fat. You should be on a Mediterranean high olive oil diet.”
Or, “You’re somebody who’d do very well on a ketogenic diet, and you might do great with a lot of coconut milk and coconut oil.”
Or, “You’re someone who would do much better on a very low saturated fat diet.”
But to have that kind of very specific information we’ll require our ability to get your DNA, your microbial DNA, your microbial metabolites, and then we could also add another layer, too. We have some prediction on what food sensitivities and food allergies you might develop, then we could get finally a really comprehensive picture.
And how far away are we from that? I don’t know. Maybe 10 years; maybe 15. It’ll come. It’ll come.
Health Effects of Technology & Air Quality
Abel: Well, and hopefully we’ll start to use technology more as a tool. But I’m also curious, especially with all of the WiFi, Bluetooth, 5G, EMFs. How does that enter into the electrical part of all of this?
Dr. Wahls: Well, that’s another area of controversy.
Is that a big health issue or not? I say that science is not clear yet.
I’m inclined to have a lot of concerns, that at least for some of us it’s going to have some adverse biologic effects.
In my clinical practice, I have people address diet, address stress reduction, address movement, address sleep. And then I tell them, “If you’re still having problems and you’ve addressed all those things, then the next things to think about is your technology around you.”
Think about dirty electricity, think about EMF, turn off your routers, think about shielding around yourself, and also think about spending more time outside grounded.
And I certainly admit that this is unknown science, but if you’ve been doing everything you can in the other aspects of your life and are still symptomatic, this is another area where you could align things more closely to what our ancestral mothers and fathers would have experienced.
Abel: Yeah. Another big blind spot that people seem to have, including myself, is air quality, because that’s certainly an input in many of our lives.
I got one of those little bluetooth sensors that matches up with my phone, and I’ve just been astonished by, especially indoor air quality or lack of quality, is just off the charts.
Dr. Wahls: And what we forgot or didn’t realize is, as we make our homes more and more energy efficient and tighter, there’s less air circulation.
Now, the off-gassing from all the synthetic products become a larger and larger and larger problem.
So that’s given me some pause as I thought about adding more insulation to my house and making my house tighter.
I’m like, “Well, I don’t know. Do I really want to do that or not?”
I think that’s a very big issue. And all the forest fires, and the change in air quality that happens because of the forest fires, and the change in water, because of the water contaminations.
And the amount of pharmaceuticals that are in the waste water, because such a large swath of our population is taking multiple drugs.
Abel: Yeah. Probably taking multiple everything from almost all directions is what it seems like.
Dr. Wahls: Yes.
Abel: But how do you manage all of this and not lose your mind?
Dr. Wahls: Well, just like you do everything else, you just do the best you can.
I have people start with one big intervention at a time. So, generally in my clinical practice, I have them start with diet.
Although, we do have some folks in my lifestyle clinic, in my proper care clinics, they couldn’t do diet. And so I have conversations with them like, “Okay, what in your lifestyle can you start with?”
And it might have been exercise, putting on a step counter. It might have been a meditative practice. But I ask everyone to start somewhere in diet and lifestyle.
I may have an opinion that I think diet’s the biggest payoff for them, but if it’s not where they’re at, then I ask them, “Well, where are you? What could you tackle?” And then work from there.
Abel: Right, so you iterate.
Dr. Wahls: We iterate. And I also believe deeply in motivational interviewing, in terms of, you have to grow the person’s internal motivation.
You need to find out what they’re willing to do.
I can educate, inspire, offer hope, explain the mechanisms by which these interventions can work, and then ask them based on all that, “What are you willing to do next?” And then we take it from there.
Dealing with the Haters
Abel: Great. Now to shift gears a little bit, I’m curious to go back around those 10 years, before you had been accepted as someone who was really doing great work that should be embraced.
What advice would you have for people who are dealing with the amount of negativity in the online space these days, or just in the appendages that is our phone now.
How do you deal with that and how do you persevere?
Dr. Wahls: Well, there’s always going to be haters. There’s always going to be people who are intensely skeptical.
There was a fellow who just wrote an intensely negative article about me in his online space, and someone alerted it to me.
So I contacted him from my university email, and then I sent him a couple of my papers and I said, “You know, I’d be happy to chat with you and your audience.”
And because I had some scientific papers, and I did this from a science standpoint, he in fact invited me on to his radio show, and we had a lovely conversation.
He was a bit skeptic and sort of abrupt at times, but I kept affirming the things that we could agree on, in terms of how science should be done and the usual processes. And we could find common agreement, and we could find areas where more research was needed.
And so, my advice is find scientific articles that back your point of view and send your critic that, and refer them to science.
If they’re not interested in science just let it blow off, let go of it. But if you can continue to use scientific studies, that usually is a place where we’re willing to agree.
Abel: What’s the best source for people who may not be in science but are interested in the research? What’s the best layperson’s guide?
Dr. Wahls: When I do internet searches for articles, you can see a lot showing up in Google. And if they don’t have any footnotes, I throw it away and I’m not interested.
If they have footnotes and they quote references that I can find in PubMed, okay, then I think it’s useful.
If they can’t quote any footnotes that reference a study in PubMed, I throw it away.
And the pubmed.gov is a searchable database for any of us.
We could go to pubmed.gov, type in your areas of interest, so like microbiome and your disease state of interest. You’ll see that there’s lots of research, and you can sort of scan through it.
You could look for review articles with your topics that will give you a high level discussion.
Abel: It seems like the internet mostly deals with low level discussions, and actually you can see that showing up in what’s happened to Ancestral Health over the years.
It seems like a lot of people have kind of missed the deeper conversations, the deeper exploration, of what this all means.
Instead people are just like, “I’m a carnivore now.” Or, “I’m Keto.” Or whatever.
But, how can we be a little bit more responsible with this, in a world that tempts us to be otherwise?
Dr. Wahls: Well, people, we have a lot of time pressure. We always want to go to the shortest, easiest answer and we’re always going to be fighting that.
My response is, you’ll want to look for scientific studies to explore and investigate and understand the mechanisms.
It’s a slower, more painful process. But if we’re going to have forward progress, that is what’s going to be required.
To that end, we have this amazing resource, pubmed.gov, that you could set up alerts to monitor the particular areas that you’re interested in, and if you have a particular question, again, you could put in your terms of interest and you could add in review or a clinical trial to investigate this further.
It really is the best way to get reliably sourced-information.
Abel: Is there anything else you could offer about how to manage the anti-science sentiment or the misinformation that abounds today?
Dr. Wahls: It’s going to get worse and worse and worse. There’s going to be a lot of antagonism.
And for me, I just let it roll off my back. And when I choose to engage, I engage from my university email, and I send them my papers. What really matters is, “Is it reproducible? Is it reproducible in others?”
That’s why the clinical trials, that’s why science is so important. And that’s why I take my role so seriously is to design the interventional studies and to test this prospectively.
Can it be reproduced and can it reproduced in others using randomized, controlled studies?
Abel: I’m glad that all of that is moving forward and that there are so many clinical trials in the world. That’s got to be exciting.
Dr. Wahls: It’s very exciting. It’s very exciting stuff.
Abel: It’s what we always wished for, isn’t it? So it’s not all getting worse. Some stuff is getting much better, too.
Terry Wahls: There’s a lot of stuff that’s getting better.
Sharing Dr. Wahls’ Story
Abel: So, Caroleen, to that point. What are you most excited about in terms of sharing Dr. Wahls’ story?
Caroleen: Well, I think there’s almost a misconception about neurological diseases, that they’re not reversible, and Dr. Wahls, along with the many patients that she has treated are proving otherwise.
And that’s very exciting to know, that it’s not just your standard illnesses that you can actually reverse.
There are diseases that are much more serious that you can have a direct impact on with lifestyle interventions, and that’s all within your control, and I think that is a less-known fact, so to speak.
And I think that putting that out in the mainstream is an important thing to show that, “Well, look how sick she was. She was bedridden.”
And this is something that affects the brain, one of the main organs in the body, the most complex thing in the universe they say.
So, if she was able to reverse that to a certain extent with her lifestyle intervention, what could it do for you at home watching or listening to this?
And it doesn’t necessarily need to be MS, but I think it’s important for people to see that such a grave disease was mostly eradicated.
Abel: And how empowering is that? If it’s done through your own action, not some outside surgeon or some pharmaceutical intervention.
It’s literally what you’re doing in your habits in your own everyday life.
Caroleen: And this is why I chose, as well, this beautiful quote that I go to bed at night thinking, “Oh, thank goodness I chose this as our tagline for the film.” The quote is: The power to heal lies within you.
The power to heal lies within you. @terrywahls Click To Tweet
And this is from Terry’s book. And it was so poignant when I read it, I was like, “Wow!” And it’s figuratively true and it’s also literally true. It had like a double entendre, as we say.
So I thought, this has to be the most powerful quote in her book to me, and I want that on our poster, on our film poster. So it’s now our official tagline.
Abel: And people have come back from so many things, whether it’s just having a little bit of extra weight or serious, serious diseases. It seems that we can all do something to improve our situations.
Caroleen: Absolutely. So in the film, we will have, not many, but we have a few people that come in and speak to that and tell us how they’ve been recovering and finding their health again with the Wahls Protocol.
So I think that it was important for me to include that in the film as well, to show that it’s not just a fluke, it’s not just Terry who’s got better and everyone else is doing worse.
On the contrary, and I’m really happy and grateful, and I feel very privileged to be the filmmaker putting this story out.
I mean, I admire this woman so much and her body of work and everything.
I feel that it is tremendous to be able to do that and show people what she’s done, and where she is at now in her life.
And so in the film, we will show many, if not most, aspects of Dr. Wahls’ life.
It was important for me to show her, not only with her patients but also at the university, and when she’s speaking mainly there’s a beautiful segment at the IFM Convention.
And then we have her in her garden doing exercises. And so I don’t want to reveal too much, but we see multiple facets of her life, and I thought this is important and we need to show that this is a normal person.
Yes, she’s a scientist. She’s a very capable intelligent woman. However, she’s still a human being, and she has a personal life with a wife and family and she’s doing things like all of us are.
And again, it’s all about showing that this is a normal person. You can do it, too. You have the ability of taking things into your own hands.
Abel: Yeah, and man, the world just needs this more than ever. So, I applaud both of you for moving this forward.
But before we go, can you tell us how we can help and also where we can find your work?
Caroleen: If I may, I want to tell people that this is going to be a film like no other. I want to tell them that it’s not your standard documentary with Terry talking to the camera and what not, and some B roll footage.
It also has animations, as Abel, you might have seen in the trailer.
So when she talks, she’s explaining things, and then we wanted to show people, we wanted to have a visual reference of, what is a neuron, what is the mitochondria.
So we have superimposed animations being done, and that’s being done by an award-winning animator that I found in Europe.
And so, we have all these things coming together, like flashbacks, because obviously we have archivals and we have photos and archival media.
However, it wasn’t enough to fully recount the story, because it’s so rich. So we needed to go back in time and I said, “Well, let’s do it. We’ll combine flashbacks and animations and a studio interview and a lot of action.”
And it’s never been done before. I’ve looked for it, I couldn’t find it.
So to me as a filmmaker, it was very important to bring something unique, but also something that’s coherent. And we’re working on that right now and I think it’s going to be brilliant.
I really do believe that it can be an amazing film.
And again, we’ve never seen that done anywhere else in any other documentary. So it’s going to be a feat in itself to achieve that.
So I’m very, very excited. I could relate to Terry when she said sometimes she can’t sleep at night, because she’s so excited. So it’s the same for me.
And so, basically, the film is crowdfunding right now on Indiegogo under Defying All Odds Documentary, which is crowdfunding until March 16th, and we’re halfway there.
And we’re not asking for a lot of money actually. We’re asking for $25,000 to complete the film, because 60% of it is already shot and edited.
And so people have asked me, “How can you do the film for such little money?”
And the answer is, “I’m the producer/director, but also the editor, and editing costs a lot of money.”
Caroleen: And if you edit your own film, and you color correct your own film, and you only use key people for the things that you don’t know how to do, then it becomes much easier to keep the costs low. And so that’s what we’ve done.
Abel: Right on. And Caroleen, I just want to say, tip of the hat for not going on Instagram and Snapchat and just talking about whatever every day.
You’re taking on a big project and doing it for real in a time when, I don’t know, the world doesn’t necessarily encourage that, you know what I mean?
So just, thank you for putting all that effort into such a project.
Caroleen: Thank you so much for saying that, because it is true that we seem to live in a world that’s more and more shallow.
And to be honest, I didn’t know I had it in me, but I’m so passionate about it. I am so set about being in alignment with my purpose.
And no one cares if I want to make films. Who cares? But the thing is, how much value can you bring to others? What’s your purpose? How can you help your fellow human beings?
And I found mine, and it’s in putting these messages out, and helping people see how much control they have over their own lives.
I think that’s very important, and again, I try to do it with the medium of film, and that’s what gets me most excited; the two passions combined into one and following my purpose.
That’s, I think, what gives me that determination and perseverance. I’m very, very privileged to be able to make this film. I can’t wait to show it to the rest of the world.
Where to Find Dr. Terry Wahls
Abel: I can’t wait to see it. And Terry, before we go, What’s the best place to find you and your work, as well?
Dr. Wahls: So find me at TerryWahls.com and you can pick up a one page summary of my diet at terrywahls.com/diet. And that’ll really give you a great one pager to put on your refrigerator, and get you started with reclaiming your life.
Abel: Wonderful. Well thank you so very much to you both for taking on this project, and doing the wonderful work that you’re doing. I’d love to have you back on the show to see what movies you’re making next.
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