S3 E1 – Real Food on a Budget w/ Terry Wahls

Welcome to The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast Season 3: Real Food on a Budget. We’re dedicating this season to discussing an aspect of natural healing that often gets left out of the conversation: affordability. We’ll be chatting with experts and peers from the AIP community about how to best balance money with your health priorities.

This season is brought to you by our title sponsor, The Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA), a holistic nutrition school that trains and certifies nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants with an emphasis on bioindividual nutrition. Learn more about them by visiting NutritionalTherapy.com, or read about our experiences going through their NTP and NTC programs in our comparison article.

Season 3 Episode 1 features an interview with our friend and role model, Dr. Terry Wahls, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. Dr. Wahls successfully recovered from multiple sclerosis using diet and lifestyle strategies, and currently studies the interplay between diet, lifestyle, functional medicine, and autoimmune disease.

As a medical doctor, Terry has a lot to share in regards to the high cost of medical testing, lower cost approaches, and whether a “real food” approach is elitist. Scroll down for the full episode transcript!

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Full Transcript:

Mickey Trescott: Welcome to the Autoimmune Wellness podcast, a resource for those seeking to live well with chronic illness. I’m Mickey Trescott, a nutritional therapy practitioner living well with autoimmune disease in Oregon. I’m the author of The Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook, and I’m using diet and lifestyle to best manage both Hashimoto’s and Celiac disease.

Angie Alt: And I’m Angie Alt. I’m a certified health coach and nutritional therapy consultant, also living well with autoimmune disease in Maryland. I’m the author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook, and I’m using diet and lifestyle to best manage my endometriosis, lichen sclerosis, and Celiac disease.

After recovering our health by combining the best of conventional medicine with effective and natural dietary and lifestyle interventions, Mickey and I started blogging at www.AutoimmuneWellness.com, where our collective mission is seeking wellness and building community.

We also wrote a book called The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook together that serves as a do-it-yourself guidebook to living well with chronic illness.

Mickey Trescott: If you’re looking for more information about the autoimmune protocol, make sure to sign up for our newsletter at autoimmunewellness.com, so we can send you our free quick start guide. It contains printable AIP food lists, a 2-week food plan, a 90-minute batch cooking video, a mindset video, and food reintroduction guides.

This season of the podcast, real food on a budget is brought to you by our title sponsor, The Nutritional Therapy Association.

Angie Alt: A quick disclaimer: The content in this podcast is intended as general information only, and is not to be substituted for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Onto the podcast!

1. Welcome back to season 3 [1:40]
2. A little bit about the upcoming season [8:49]
3. Conversation with Dr. Wahls about food on a budget [15:06]

1. Welcome back to season 3 [1:40]

Mickey Trescott: Hey everyone! Mickey here. Welcome back to the Autoimmune Wellness podcast. We are in our third season. How are you doing today, Angie?

Angie Alt: I’m good. I’m kind of in shock that we have been doing this for three seasons now.

Mickey Trescott: I know. It’s been a lot of fun putting everything together. And I think we would go through these long breaks where we’re like; we’d forget about the podcast. We’re like; yeah, we don’t have a podcast. And then we’d start thinking about doing it again, and we’re like; oh yeah, that’s a lot of work.

Angie Alt: Oh yeah, I do a podcast.

Mickey Trescott: We’ve been getting fired up, and we’re really excited to introduce our topic for this season. It’s one that we have been thinking about for probably years now, huh Angie?

Angie Alt: Yeah, we’ve been talking about this a long time.

Mickey Trescott: We’ve been talking about it for a while. And it is Real Food on a Budget. {dun-dun-dun!} We really want to dig in how to make nutrient dense, healing foods accessible for everyone. So Angie, you want to talk a little bit about how we came up with this topic?

Angie Alt: Yeah. I mean, we’ve long been hearing kind of the rumblings from the autoimmune community, the AIP community, that finding a way to make these dietary changes affordable is this big barrier to adopting the protocol over the long term. And those rumblings were pretty much confirmed at the beginning of this year when we ran our giant reader survey. Seriously; thank you to everyone who participated and gave us your feedback. That was very valuable to us.

But no big surprise; you guys pinpointed affordability and accessibility to high quality, healing foods as one of your biggest challenges. So we kind of knew that that was something that was out there all along.

Mickey Trescott: Yep. And some of the specific challenges that we’ve both personally been through at different points in our journey, and things we’ve heard from you guys in comments on the blog and in social media, and in the survey, are things like people that can’t get started just because they literally can’t afford it. They don’t have the current budget for it. Right?

Angie Alt: Right. I mean, it’s hard. It’s a big budgetary move. We definitely felt that in the beginning of our journeys when we kind of shifted our families’ budgets to focus on that. My husband and I sit down and do kind of a big overview of our spending at the beginning of every year from the previous year, and we saw it again this year. Whoa; that food budget. It’s a biggie. It’s hard to adjust all those other areas of your life to focus on that priority.

We also hear a lot about people not being able to find high quality food in their area.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah, not being able to afford them, so people don’t have access to a quality grocery store that sells high quality food. Or, if they do, maybe those foods are exorbitantly expensive. Because as we’ve seen a rise in organic and grass-fed and even the convenience foods that weren’t around when we started AIP; a lot of these things now are infiltrating into maybe even more rural and more food desert-y areas. But the price tag goes way up because those retailers know that they have something nobody else does, and they want their customers to pay for it. So that’s really frustrating.

Angie Alt: Yeah. Another area is people saying that affording the high-quality food and the medical care that they might need at the same time together is a challenge.

Mickey Trescott: This is a huge one.

Angie Alt: Yeah, it is. It really is. It’s a hard one to get around, right? You just have to kind of believe that focusing on diet and lifestyle is eventually going to help you bring those medical care costs down. I’ve definitely seen that over the long-term for myself. But in the beginning, it’s really tough to walk that line.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. If some people are going through some really important medical procedures or medical treatments or seeing certain doctors that they really need to see, they literally might not be able to start with the food to the extent. We have some ideas for you guys later, but they might not be able to do it at the current time.

Another issue that people have is that, maybe they try AIP for a short period of time. Which is what we advocate. You guys know at this point, AIP is not forever. But maybe they experience some success in the very beginning, but then they find it too expensive to maintain. Right Angie?

Angie Alt: Yep. I see this a lot. I get a special view of this because of my group programs. I see people at the very beginning giving this a big shot and really dedicating a lot of their financial resources to it. And then maybe the financial resources kind of burn out at some point, and they go; how do I maintain this? I’m not quite there where I need to be, in terms of my healing, but I don’t know if I can stretch my budget further. So we’re going to dive into that some, too, over the next few episodes.

What about a really tough on, Mickey. Integrating a healing diet while needing to be on social welfare programs, like food stamps. That can be really challenging, because there are limitations on what you can buy with some of those programs.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. This is something that we haven’t had an onslaught of people writing to us. But through the years, I have had some especially thoughtful blog comments and emails from people that say; this is my issue. I’m on this government program. I have a fixed income, and I really want to try AIP. How can I make it work for me?

We’ve got some ideas for you guys. We’re actually going to be interviewing a social worker later on in this podcast series. And hopefully give you guys some ideas about prioritizing. Because that’s actually something that I don’t think anyone in our community has started talking about yet.

Angie Alt: No, and we’re excited to talk. I have a lot of personal feeling about this, and I’m really excited to help figure out ways to make this successful for everybody. Even those on the lowest incomes.

Ok. And finally, another big one. Confusion about how to make smart compromises in food quality or budget priority. I think it feels like there’s only one way to do AIP, and I need to go buy everything at Whole Foods. And people aren’t quite sure about doing that.

Mickey Trescott: Mm-hmm. If people don’t know that this is a struggle for them, it will become apparent. There may be a misconception for a lot of you guys that you need to be drinking a $5 bottle of kombucha every day. Or buying that organic grass-fed meat at Whole Foods, or whatever. And not really understanding how to make those compromises to kind of sustain this long-term. So hopefully we’re going to clear some of that up for you guys.

There may be some other things that you guys are feeling. Hopefully in 8 episodes dedicated completely to this, we’ll cover it for you guys. So, Angie, you want to dive into why this topic is personally important to us?

2. A little bit about the upcoming season [8:49]

Angie Alt: Yeah. You know, we wanted you guys to understand that this isn’t just motivated by what we’ve learned from all of you and what the community has been asking for. Mickey and I are not independently wealthy, either. And we recognize that the process of shifting your budget to focus on high quality foods that fuel healing is by no means an easy undertaking. When we first began AIP ourselves, it was difficult to figure out where the money to eat like this was going to come from, or how to source the best foods at the lowest prices.

Not only that, but we have personal experience living very low income. Mickey lived paycheck to paycheck when she was first diagnosed. And when I first got ill, I was a single parent, and I was on welfare at that time. I was working a job, and going to school, and needing some additional support. And it was really tough. Those experiences left really powerful impressions on us, and they played a really big role in our efforts to address this issue with this podcast season.

We don’t believe that healing food only belongs to the rich. And we want to figure out ways to make this successful for everybody. So what can they expect this podcast series, Mickey?

Mickey Trescott: First, we’re going to do an episode on every facet of food sourcing and kind of break that down for you guys. All your options. Everything from purchasing meat and fat to vegetables and pantry items. There are so many options. There’s just this huge spectrum of everything from going to the farmer’s market, to buying things online, to buying clubs that we’re really going to dive in and give you guys some really creative ideas. I’m sure a lot of them you’ve never even heard or considered before. That might help you guys solve some problems.

Some of these things are going to be great ah-ha moments for some of you. And some of them might not be applicable. But our hope is that there is going to be something here for everybody.

We’ll also be talking about some tricks that help you stretch your food budget. So things like meal planning and batch cooking, and minimizing waste. So, you guys are probably sick of hearing us talk about meal planning and batch cooking. But there are more benefits to it than just saving you some time. And it’s not just about what you buy and where. So how you’re using these ingredients. How you’re stretching them. Especially that waste piece, we haven’t talked about a lot in our community. But just to maximize that, and get the most value and healing out of it.

And then we’ll also be addressing how to create and prioritize your food budget. As well as have a conversation like Angie said about even those on the lowest incomes. So things like food stamps, WIC, using food pantries, and some creative ways that if that’s you, how you can still make healing changes in your diet. There are definitely options for you.

Along the way, we’ll be interviewing some people who have a specific expertise on the topic of the episode, which will help us go much deeper than our own experiences, into the range of options. And we’re going to be learning along with you guys. There are some areas that I feel like Angie and I are very strong in, and then there are some areas where especially we’re bringing in a few experts that we have some great questions for them, and I think we personally stand to learn a lot from them. So we’re excited about that.

And then lastly, we will be interviewing members of our AIP community to share their number one money saving tip, and how they’ve hacked eating this way over the long-term. So this way, we can get a broader perspective of what’s working for a variety of people living in different areas on different budgets. For instance, someone living in San Francisco. They might have a different tip on what saves them money than someone living in rural Oklahoma. Sourcing might vary really widely from New York City to St. Louis.

So, the good news is that we know people hacking AIP literally all over the world. So wherever you find yourself, know that there are options for you. It might take a little thinking outside the box. And through sharing some of these experiences of our community, we can really hone in on kind of taking stock of that landscape and seeing what’s out there.

Angie Alt: This is going to be a good season, guys. That’s it for our first half of this episode. We’ll be back after the break with a guest who will help us take stock of exactly what we are up against in tackling this problem. We’ll be right back.

Angie Alt: We wanted to introduce you guys to our title sponsor this season of the podcast, The Nutritional Therapy Association. The NTA is a holistic nutrition school that reconnects people to healing foods and vibrant health. They provide practical and affordable nutrition education through their courses, empowering individuals to launch new careers, and heal themselves, their communities, and the world.

The NTA trains and certified nutritional therapy practitioners and consultants with an emphasis on bioindividual nutrition.

Mickey Trescott: I personally discovered the NTP program in 2012 when I was in the middle of my own healing journey with AIP. I was actually sitting on my kitchen counter, looking at the local community college class list that I got in the mail, and I saw the program. When I looked it up online, and found that it was based on real food and ancestral perspectives, I knew that it would be a perfect fit to my personal chef work, and a major piece to shifting my career. And while I was going through the program, I actually wrote the first iteration of the Autoimmune Paleo Cookbook as my community project. And the rest is history.

Angie Alt: After becoming a certified health coach in 2014, I was excited but knew that I wanted to dive much, much deeper into nutrition. And Mickey, obviously, had glowing things to say about NTA. After I looked over the program offerings, I knew that the NTC course was perfect for me as a virtual coach. It ended up being one of the most intense learning experiences of my life. It was absolutely bursting with ah-ha moments as I made the connections. Not only for my existing clients, but for myself and the autoimmune path I had been walking.

Mickey Trescott: You guys can learn more about The Nutritional Therapy Association as well as their programs, events, and resources at www.NutritionalTherapy.com. While you’re there, make sure to check out their free 7-day nutritional therapy 101 course.

3. Conversation with Dr. Wahls about food on a budget [15:06]

Angie Alt: Onto our interview! Today we are speaking with Dr. Terry Wahls, who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa. She is also a clinical researcher, and has published over 60 peer reviewed abstracts, posters, and papers. And has most recently been delving into studying the interplay between diet, lifestyle, functional medicine, and autoimmune disease with patients with multiple sclerosis. A disease she has successfully recovered from using those tools herself.

Seriously, you guys, if you have not seen her TED Talk, go do it already. You’re living under a rock if you haven’t seen it. We really can’t emphasize enough how much we respect and admire Dr. Wahls’ work. Thank you, Terry, for joining us today from Iowa. As you know, we are just kicking off our very focused podcast season dedicated to helping folks make a healing diet and lifestyle fit into their budget. We know this is an area of expertise for you, so we’re excited to pick your brain and get an assessment of exactly what our movement is up against here.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Great. Very glad to be here.

Mickey Trescott: So Terry; We are facing both exorbitant costs in our medical system, which you know really well as a doctor, as well as the artificially deflated cost for low-quality food. I think that’s something not a lot of people are talking about.

As a doctor that works within this system, and is passionate about helping people from all walks of life get better with dietary and lifestyle changes, what’s your take on the struggle here and kind of where we’re at?

Dr. Terry Wahls: You know, a lot of people get introduced to functional medicine really get taught how to use some very high cost testing, and supplements, that can be very helpful. And unfortunately, they’re not as familiar with just how much can be done without testing. Without these high cost supplements. That is the advantage that I had by working in the VA. I had to live within the constraints of the VA. So I learned a great deal.

Mickey Trescott: Can you tell us some of those experiences? And for people that don’t know exactly what that entailed. Because I’ve seen you speak at conferences, and talk about some of these cases, working with the VA. What does that mean that maybe you weren’t able to run some testing and stuff?

Dr. Terry Wahls: Well, when the VA agreed to let me begin doing functional medicine, I had been doing functional medicine with no testing, just as part of my traumatic brain injury clinic. I would talk about diet and lifestyle as part of a 20-minute appointment I got twice a year with these folks. And even with that very limited time constraint, I made handouts I could give to people. We were able to achieve great engagement. And for many folks who were willing to go with me on the diet and lifestyle journey, we had terrific success.

And then based on that success, the VA chief of medicine came back and asked me to create a functional medicine clinic. And in those conversations back and forth, we agreed that I could have group visits. I would be able to take no additional functional medicine testing. I could just do basic primary care labs. And no fancy supplements. I could order B vitamins and fish oil, vitamin C. And that was it.

Even with those constraints, we had phenomenal success. And my tools were really very simple; diet and lifestyle. Cooking classes. We talked about gardening, hunting, fishing. And teaching people how to cook at home.

Angie Alt: That’s so awesome. I love that you just tapped into what they had available. Even hunting, fishing, growing their own food. That’s such a smart way to tap into what their skillset already was to address those needs.

What kind of recommendations were you making? And what results did you see working with people in that way?

Dr. Terry Wahls: The first thing we did, we had to create demand and interest. So we’d have large classes. People could get referred to my initial group class where we told my story in the principles of functional medicine. We talked about epigenetics, microbiome, ecosystem medicine. And then said; if you want to work with us, and come to the more intensive classes, you have to sign up to be willing to do gluten free, dairy free, lots of vegetables. And we’ll refine it further from there.

If you can commit to doing that, then they could come work with me. Then they would come in after that initial class. I’d say about a third of the folks would say; no, that’s too hard. And two-thirds would sign-up to come to these group classes. In those group classes, we’d have a more intensive instruction about functional medicine. Why it works, why the microbiome is so important, why diet is so important.

Then we’d have a big cooking class, where we’d help them understand a new relationship with food. We’d make cooked greens and a green smoothie, so they could understand that this food is easy. It’s fast. And it can be delicious.

After that, have classes once a month that would focus on some aspect of diet, or movement, or stress reduction, or life purpose. And then we’d have monthly group classes where they could come with a group that talked about their strengths, their challenges, and get coaching from everyone else in the group.

Mickey Trescott: Terry, that sounds like a really comprehensive and incredible program that these folks had access to. It’s really, really amazing what you’ve thought of. I want to ask; you mentioned cooking instruction, which I know is a really big barrier for a lot of people. What’s your assessment on; some of these probably had no idea what they were getting into when they had their 20-minute appointment with you. And you’re recommending all of these changes; biggest, probably, their diet. Many of them, I’m sure were just eating a Standard American Diet. How did you see that teaching people how to cook that maybe had never cooked before, and how people got over that obstacle?

Dr. Terry Wahls: So the first couple of years I did this, I didn’t get to have my group classes or cooking classes yet. When I first started, it was just education that I could do in a 20-minute appointment and give them a handout. So, I was introducing the concepts. We had a lovely handout with some information. And some books that we recommended.

I couldn’t get everyone fired up, but we had remarkable success. I’d say about a quarter of the folks really began making big changes that would grow over time. With traumatic brain injury, getting anyone to improve instead of steadily decline was noteworthy. And because of that success, then that led to creating the therapeutic lifestyle clinic, where we could create these ongoing programs.

I’m still struck that that 20-minute conversation with folks that were having traumatic brain injury; PTSD, losing their jobs, losing their families. Saying; you’ve been struggling for years with this problem. Would you give it a month of gluten free, lots of vegetables, and see what happens?

Mickey Trescott: Terry, do you remember any particular cases to you that stand out?

Dr. Terry Wahls: Oh yeah.

Mickey Trescott: That you could give us a little snapshot of maybe what this person’s life was like, and what they were staring down.

Dr. Terry Wahls: So here’s a gentleman who had multiple traumatic brain injuries, blast exposures during the war. Exposed to burn pits. He had a terrible case of bloody diarrhea. He kept coming back. He was treated with antibiotics, and then treated for inflammatory bowel disease. And med boarded out. He put on 100 pounds, in spite of his inflammatory bowel disease. And was back stateside. His marriage was failing. He had tried going to school. Was flunking out of school. Saw me.

I said; look. I think you’ve got undiagnosed gluten sensitivity. And I think that there’s probably a toxic body burden. So I pitched gluten free, cooked vegetables, soups and stews, grain free. In 20 minutes. He came back; flunked out of school. He was now divorced. I talked with him again. Gave him another pitch for gluten free, cooked vegetables, grain free. The next time I saw him, over a year later, he in fact had implemented that diet. And he’s begun to lose weight.

And then I see him 6 months after that; he’s now finally 100% grain free. 100% on the diet. He’s lost 50 pounds. His energy is improving. I see him 6 months later; he’s in school and he is now absolutely 100% on the diet. Continuing to lose weight, and his grades are doing well. He has since completed his degree in graphic design. He has a small business. Remarried and thriving.

Mickey Trescott: That’s incredible.

Dr. Terry Wahls: So the first time I said all this to him, he sort of thought about it. He sort of tried it intermittently. He didn’t really buy into it. It was the second visit that he bought into it. It wasn’t until the third visit that he actually started doing it 100%. But even when he wasn’t doing it 100%, he could tell that things were beginning to improve.

Angie Alt: That’s awesome. Terry, I heard you mentioning a lot about the different kinds of group work that you did with people. Do you think that group programs are a smart way for us to save money in health care?

Dr. Terry Wahls: I think change; behavior change is difficult to sustain. It’s much easier with peer support, peer education. So I think groups can be very, very effective. In many ways, more effective than individual appointments. I think physicians, we do a good job of helping people understand why to do something. Why a mechanism or intervention works. To help get curious. Get excited. But then, to sustain, to grow the internal motivation, that’s best done with a health coach or a nutrition professional who has been really trained on motivational interviewing. Group support to sustain this relationship over a year. At least 6 months, but preferably a year. And then to give these people a way to create community, that can be sustained away from the health coach and the clinical practice.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah, you’re speaking straight to our hearts, Terry.

Dr. Terry Wahls: I certainly see that the public demanded interest in health coach and nutritional professional who understand behavior change, internal motivation, group dynamics, growing. I certainly see the demand for that in functional medicine practices growing. Even here at the university and conventional primary care practices. I see great awareness of motivational interviewing. Of group behavior. Of heath behavior changes. So even my conventional medicine primary care specialty care clinics here at the university are beginning to talk about health coaches, health behaviors, motivational interviewing. And I’m cheering them on, of course.

Mickey Trescott: And ultimately, Terry, I mean this is going to help reduce the cost burden on our system. Because if people are asking a doctor to hold their hand for implementation; like you were saying, the challenge you were having at the VA. It was really up to your patients to kind of take it on themselves, especially in the early days, to kind of figure out how to make those changes.

Now, if we have this army of health coaches educated at a much lower cost than an MD, ready and willing at a much lower rate per hour to work with people and help them figure out these seemingly simple problems, like what do I eat for breakfast. Or what do I bring to lunch. That’s going to save the whole system money in the long run.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Oh, absolutely. And many more of my academic internal medicine colleagues are understanding that health behaviors are what we have to address if we’re going to control diabetes, or high blood pressure, or mental health issues. They don’t necessarily understand that yet for autoimmune issues in general. But many more specialists are getting that health behaviors are where health happens, as opposed to the drugs.

Mickey Trescott: Totally agree. So Terry, here’s a big can of worms. Do you feel that what all of us collectively are advocating for in terms of dietary healing is elitist? And if so, how can we change this and make it more accessible for everyone?

Dr. Terry Wahls: It’s not elitist at all. That’s just a bunch of hogwash. That is just a bunch of elitist hogwash. You don’t need to have fancy testing to tell people they need to eat more vegetables. Try 100 days of a grain free diet and see what happens.

People are figuring this out. That’s why there’s so much information on the internet. That’s why all the YouTube channels are successful. That’s why these self-help books are successful.

Now, there certainly are people who have resources who are happy to buy my time to come do a concierge practice with me. Which I love, because then I can provide information on social media through my staff to the public. So yes, there will always be people who have money that are willing to buy more intensive support. And there’s a lot of free support available through social media. And there are low level programs available through group classes. Through health coaches.

And so, there’s a huge spectrum of support that people can access. They can access stuff that’s free. They can access stuff that you pay progressively more, according to the resources that you have available. But that’s what our society has done forever, from the beginning. There’s information that’s freely available, but if you have money you can buy more support if you want.

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. Well, Terry, Angie and I are both here and able to do what we do, because of your TED Talk. Honestly, that was one of the things that was a tipping point for me being able to get motivated to make the dietary and lifestyle changes that I did. And what we do, a lot of it is just getting the word out to everyone without a pay wall or anything. To just help people. Like this podcast. Figure out what they can do better. So we’re definitely in agreement there.

But we are aware that a lot of people say; I can’t afford this. Or this is just for rich people. And I think some of that barrier is a little bit of perception. Yes, some people are on very low incomes, and have to be very creative. And that’s part of what we’re trying to do here, is give them some options and some different ways of thinking things. But you know; you’ve worked with some of the poorest people through the VA, and you’ve seen the types of changes they’ve been able to make and the benefits they’ve gotten in their life from doing that work. And it can be really powerful.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Absolutely. The people I took care of for years were food stamps. On disability. They had no money. They were doing this based on their gardening, their hunting, their fishing. They would go to the farmer’s market. And brilliant ideas. They would walk around the farmer’s market and ask people at the end, what’s the best price you can give me if I take everything that’s left. And they could figure out how to get a trunkful of food. Sometimes it was organic, sometimes it wasn’t. For pennies on the dollar. And many communities here in the Midwest have too much deer. So you could go to the local meat lockers and get venison for free.

When people say it’s too expensive, it’s elitist; often I see that as an excuse. “I don’t want to have to take responsibility for making any effort. I want to continue to say it’s not my problem, because I don’t have all that money to get those expensive supplements and to get those tests.” They don’t need the supplements. They don’t need the tests. But they do need to eat vegetables.

They do need to learn to cook at home. And you can have very inexpensive vegetables. And you can grow food. You can go to city lots; empty city lots. You can go to the farmer’s market and say; what is the best price I could get at the end of the farmer’s market for everything you’ve got left?

Mickey Trescott: Yeah. There are lots of creative ideas. Hopefully we’ll be exploring a lot more of them in this podcast series for people listening. But I love getting your perspective on that, Terry. Because we totally agree.

Angie Alt: Every time Terry talks, I feel like saying hallelujah.

Dr. Terry Wahls: It is such a miracle to have my life back. And when people tell me they feel hopeless, I feel sad for them, but the first thing to understand that as long as we’re alive, life is a series of self-correcting biochemical reactions. The more we can help our bodies have what’s needed and remove the things that are harmful. And all that begins with food. Getting rid of the sugar, getting rid of the processed food. And cooking at home is the first step.

Angie Alt: Yep. Solving our healthcare crisis starts in our kitchens, everybody. You heard it from Dr. Wahls. Terry, will you let our listeners know what you’re up to in your work currently, and where they can find you online?

Dr. Terry Wahls: So find me at TerryWahls.com. I’m on Facebook, Terry Wahls, MD. Instagram, Dr. Terry Wahls. Twitter, Terry Wahls. I have a seminar in August where we go over all of these concepts. We have a health professional workshop, and certified health professionals. So you can learn more about that at TerryWahls.com. I’m working on a study comparing the Swank Diet and the Wahls Diet. We’ll do that for another two years. And this month we’re submitting a full grant proposal comparing the Wahls diet as a safety and feasibility in the setting of ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. SO that’s a very exciting step.

Angie Alt: Yeah, wow. That’s really exciting. Thanks for giving us that update.

Dr. Terry Wahls: Oh, and I’m going to Australia in April. We’ll be doing a bunch of events in Australia, as well.

Mickey Trescott: Cool. Maybe if people listening in, any of our Australia folks, you guys check in with Terry and see if she’s coming to a location near you, because that would be fun to catch her.

Dr. Terry Wahls: The link for that is DrTerryWahlslive.com.

Mickey Trescott: Cool.

Dr. Terry Wahls: I’ll send those links to you guys so you’ll have all of that.

Mickey Trescott: Great. Yeah, we’ll put everything in the show notes. Thank you so much, again, Terry for agreeing to have this conversation with us. I know we’re talking about a little more the finer details of making this stuff work. But I think people are going to be really grateful to just hear our discussion about this. For all you guys listening in, we’ll be back next week. We hope you guys are enjoying the beginning to this podcast series. And we’ll see you guys all soon. Take care everyone.

Angie Alt: Thanks for joining us on this episode of the Autoimmune Wellness podcast. We’re honored to have you as a listener, and we hope that you’ve gained some useful information.

Mickey Trescott: Did you know that we have dozens of informative articles about living well with autoimmune disease, and over 250 elimination phase compliant recipes on our website, updated multiple times per week? Make sure to click on over to AutoimmuneWellness.com. Follow us on social media. And sign up for our newsletter to find out about all of this new content.

We’re either at Autoimmune Paleo, or at Autoimmune Wellness on any of these channels. You can sign up for our newsletter at the bottom of any page on our website. Don’t forget to connect with the AIP community by using the hashtag #AutoimmuneWellness.

Angie Alt: If you enjoyed the podcast, please leave us a review in iTunes, as this helps others find us. See you next time!

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About Angie Alt

Angie Alt is a co-founder here at Autoimmune Wellness. She helps others take charge of their health the same way she took charge of her own after suffering with celiac disease, endometriosis, and lichen sclerosis; one nutritious step at a time. Her special focus is on mixing “data with soul” by looking at the honest heart of the autoimmune journey (which sometimes includes curse words). She is a Certified Health Coach through the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, Nutritional Therapy Consultant through The Nutritional Therapy Association and author of The Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook: Eating for All Phases of the Paleo Autoimmune Protocol and The Autoimmune Wellness Handbook. You can also find her on Instagram.


  • Donna says

    I listened with great interest to this program. I am thrilled that you are addressing this issue.
    I have honestly always felt that Functional Medicine was either for the rich or for those willing to sacrifice everything in order to get healthy. BEFORE: AIP our food budget for two adults was around $400.00 a month. I was growing/freezing green beans and tomatoes in season here in SW Michigan and growing and drying my own herbs. This was eating organic fruits and vegetables and in season buying organic locally and freezing them. AFTER: AIP; 100% organic and GMO-free foods now costs us (same husband and wife) $1,000 a month in food bills. This includes locally raised organic and hormone free meats from a local farmer we trust. These meats cost us $4.00 a lb. We eat a lot of stews and soups to try to make more meals per pound. We buy our salmon and organic coconut oil from Sam’s Club.
    Yes, this has become a financial burden but one that we feel we both need to do. In order to do this, we have cut every “want” from our budget; this means no cable TV, no vacations, no eating out, no Starbucks, no Smart phones, no flat screen TV’s, no new clothes or new vehicles. When we are on the road to doctors apt’s we carry a salad and a can of Salmon. I have Autoimmune Hashimotos and eat AIP (now going 12-15 hours in-between eating meals like ketosis) and my husband has fronto temporal lobe dementia and he is eating Ketogenic, going 17 hours in-between meals, also two meals a day. I do buy Kombucha but I make each bottle last 3 days. We do not see this as bringing our health care costs down because we use Functional Medicine and this means we pay out of pocket on top of paying for Medicare and BCBS every month. We are seniors citizens living on a fixed income. But we are choosing to spend this money for nutrient rich healing foods in lieu of $6,000-$9,000 per month for a memory care center. It is very hard but we are holding on as long as we possibly can. In 2016 our out-of-pockets (doctors apts./blood work/supplements/foods) were $14,500 for the two of us. On the positive; Functional medicine is working for us and we are getting better so we persist. But 95% of the people I talk to in person, in my Senior Exercise Group and on my on-line support groups lists all say they cannot afford Functional Medicine or paying out of pocket. We are the exception to the rule…

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Donna, thank you for sharing your story in such great detail. I 100% understand the challenges you face and the choices you make in order to prioritize your health. As you’ll hear throughout this season, Angie and I have been in similar situations at times of our lives. It is frustrating to see that real food and functional medicine are not accessible to everyone. A lot of us are in positions to do what you and I have done, heavily prioritize and shift the budget to focus on what we believe will yield the best long-term benefit. But there are folks out there who actually can’t do that because their income is so low. In episode 6, we’ll be chatting with a former social worker about how folks can do a healing diet even on the very lowest of incomes and on state assistance like SNAP or welfare. While not everyone may be able to go “all-in” and get themselves on a diet full of organic food and pasture-raised meats, we do believe that everyone can do some prioritizing to best use those resources they do have access to for getting themselves better quality food. This is a tricky subject, thanks for weighing in! And wishing you and your husband success on your journeys.

  • Logan says

    Hello! Thanks so much for doing this series. Quite frankly, I have to say this episode was extremely disappointing. I want to address some of Terry’s surface-level suggestions.
    Let’s start with hunting. I live in a large city in the Pacific Northwest. I do not own a car nor do I own a gun. Hunting is not a feasible alternative to acquiring meat. I actually grew up hunting, which means I know how, and some folks don’t even have that knowledge base let alone the resources.
    Let’s move to gardening: I live in an apartment with no balcony. Certainly, I can grow a few herbs and veggies in small pots in the space that I have but not in a way that will significantly reduce my food costs.
    Now, farmer’s markets: the farmer’s markets in my city are a hip place for the wealthiest in the city to go. The produce is insanely priced, including the nonorganic produce, and there are no tricks of the trade that Terry describes. I even have friends that work at the farmer’s markets, and I’m not able to get any sort of “pennies on the dollar” produce and meat.
    Cooking at home: I feel like this is a redundant suggestion. On a restrictive diet like AIP, you’re going to have to cook nearly every meal at home anyway because going out is generally fruitless since most places don’t adhere to the protocol. Furthermore, I am someone who cooks every single meal at home, shops for produce in season, and buys inexpensive cuts of meat, but I still find it incredibly difficult to adhere to a 100% AIP diet because sacrificing grains results in spending a LOT more on other food items and especially meat.
    I love what you’re trying to do with this series, but this really fell short for me.

    • Angie Alt says

      Hi Logan! Thanks for listening & offering your feedback. We hope that you’ll keep listening as we release episodes. While not every tip that we offer in every episode will work for every person, we hope that everyone listening might hear the one thing that is a worthwhile tweak for them. Unfortunately, it’s not realistic for us to tailor the tips to fit each person’s individual situation. I’d encourage you to stick w/ us, perhaps our thoughts or the thoughts of our guests in future episodes will be just the hack that makes sense for you.

  • Mary Alice Hoffman says

    It will be with great interest to learn how to compromise and still do AIP. If you can find bargains while not giving up quality (no GMO’s, no pesticides, antibiotics, manure into the soil or water where vegetables are grown) and wild caught fish rather than farmed, that will be very informative. Also all the pantry products that are needed in preparation in AIP recipes, I’d love to know who sells these at bargain prices. Is it August that this information will become available?

    • Angie Alt says

      Mary Alice, we are releasing all the episodes over the next several weeks! You don’t have to wait for August.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Mary, we will be talking about all of these topics as we move through the season! How to find bargains, how to prioritize, and where to source those expensive pantry ingredients. We will be releasing a new episode every Monday until June!

  • Barbara Rae Robinson says

    While I was reading the transcript, I stopped long enough to order Terry’s book and to call the doctor’s office where I used to go, but stopped because she started charging a monthly fee I couldn’t afford then. I’m going to go back to her if she has any openings in her schedule. The traditional doctor I have been seeing for a year has messed up my thyroid medication and thrown me into crisis mode. I’m going back to a strict AIP diet instead of just Paleo. I will get well again. And I won’t get lax about my diet ever again. I know what the consequences are. No, I didn’t go back to gluten. But I’ve been eating nuts and eggs and some dairy. We have our own chickens, so giving up eggs again is going to be difficult. Maybe I can get them back someday. In the meantime, I’m going to heal. Waving to you, Mickey, up there on the ridge. I’m down below.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Barbara – I have a feeling you and I have the same ex-doctor. There is a big issue with quality doctors who practice functional medicine within the insurance system having too many patients and needing to move to subscription models to both free up their time to do the deep work w/ folks as well as generate more income that they aren’t getting from their insurance reimbursements. What this means, is the cost goes way up for us. I’ve been seeing Dr. Bruner at Synergy Women’s Health for my thyroid treatment – she is a conventional OBGYN but she takes insurance, and I’ve found her to be quite forward-thinking about my thyroid treatment. Sending a wave back, neighbor!

  • Linda Leal says

    I am excited about this series. Thank you for the time and thoughtful consideration for all of us. I read this as I was eating a $25 naked hamburger on a bed of arugula, slaw and sweet potato fries. It’s a rare treat, and every time I eat it I think of how much more I could have stretched this in my high quality food grocery shopping.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Linda, we hope you find some actionable steps in this series! Thanks for listening/reading!

  • Paula says

    So glad you’re doing this series! We’ve managed to budget in grass-fed beef by buying half a cow at a time, but it’s pricey! I only buy organic items that are on the Dirty Dozen list. I buy the majority of our groceries at Aldi. And I try to use up every bit and piece of food in some way or another. But I still want to get our grocery bill down even more since I retired recently and we’ve had our income slashed in half.

    Can’t wait for the rest of the series!

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Paula, I think you’ll like what we have in store for you!

  • Carol Annibella says

    Dear Angie & Mickey,
    Thank you so much for all your work helping those of us w/various forms of autoimmune disorders. Bought Angie Alt’s very helpful “Alternative Autoimmune Cookbook” and Sara Ballantyne’s ” Paleo Principles” ( also in your public library) studied them, followed them, erring, slipping up sev times but gradually learning and am in FULL remission from 55 years of worsening, life limiting Irritable Bowel problems & worsening hip/knee joint pains, insomnia & foggier brain functioning. Had already been totally grain free X 3 years but limited relief from IBS. Now am intoo 3rd month of grain, dairy, alcohol, legume, nut, seeds, sugar, bean, nightshade free eating. Had to adjust & learn to add & use the FODMAP protocol w/great success & relief of a few leftover problem bowel symptoms, mainly abdominal gas, bloating and pain that would reoccur even on the strict AIP protocol. As an aside, sleep improved 100%, faster brain synapses, even better coordination, improved concentration & memory, no more Abd pain , bloating or unexpected diarrhea, joint pains reduced by 75%+. Am now reintroducing very very slowly 2 items I miss the most…2 squares of 85% cocoa chocolate daily and 1 cup of org coffee w/1-2 tsp grass fed 1/2 & 1/2 cream every few days. OK so far. Plus walking, added spiritual enrichment, & prayers daily as Angie’s book, Sara B., & Mickey suggests. No cost to use these adds !

    I realize this stringent diet requires a learning curve, discipline and great patience. But look at the rewards. Lost all my hearing due to an autoimmune disorder & heavy stress back in 2013, then found out from Dr Sara B. that AI disorders can progress to include other AI problems. Whoa! Can’t thank you all enough, including Dr Terry W., for teaching us better ways to heal on our own many times. Am also finding a few more affordable, unadulterated foods even at my Krogers, growing a few of my greens & many herbs in summer & some year around even in Colorado.
    Am a retired Nurse Practitioner w/an MS in Nursing & 50 years of nursing experience and what I didn’t learn or find out on my own about my own problems was enormous. Thankfully, I have a cochlear implant and can hear people live now but if I hadn’t stumbled onto your blog, the books & followed the advice stumbling some till I learned what my personal needs require, I could have become really debilitated and discouraged. Don’t give up. There will be ” slips” , and several, but see them as good learning experiences and get back on the program for your life’s sake.
    Carol Annibella

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Carol! Thank you SO much for taking the time to write this up. I’m so happy to hear you are doing so well, and that you have so thoughtfully been able to implement the protocol. If you would ever like to share with the AIP community in a formal writeup, we’d love to have you as one of our “Stories of Recovery” features. You can sign up here: https://autoimmunewellness.com/stories-of-recovery-interest-form/

      Wishing you continued healing!

  • I was so happy to see you are doing a series on doing AIP on a budget. I have severe Psoriasis and haven’t been having much success with traditional medicines. My niece has to eat gluten free. While talking to her at a family get together, she mentioned to me the AIP eating theory. She recommended your website and I am very glad she did. I am a retired teacher who mostly taught at private Christian schools, this means I have no retirement so have to rely totally on my Social Security income. I will be moving into a Senior living HUD apartment in the near future. I want to do this to help my Psoriasis but have been very worried about the cost while assuming new expenses with the apartment. I choose this particular apt. complex because a local farmers market donates all produce they don’t sell to the residents of this complex. I am scared of meal planning, it really intimidates me.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Hey Susan! We’re glad you are here, and keep listening, because we have some info coming up about those on very low and fixed incomes.

  • […] and practical for you to do. The key is making smart compromises and not to get overwhelmed. The Autoimmune Wellness Podcast had a great episode that talked about eating ‘Real Food on a Budge… They discussed how to prioritize foods with a limited budget. It’s super helpful if that’s […]

  • Izzy says

    Thank you so much for this series of podcasts, and for all your great free resources.

    I am new to AIP. Although I first learned about AIP over a year ago, financial constraints had me too intimidated to start. My partner and I were already trying to feed a family of four on an extremely low income in a region with very high cost of living…

    But I kept getting sicker and sicker. My quality of life and capacity to function kept shrinking. Various primary care doctors over the years have not been able to pin down a specific diagnosis, and the drugs I’ve been prescribed sans-diagnosis have only made things worse. I also don’t have access to specialists or the necessary testing with our limited health coverage.

    My beloved couldn’t watch me suffer anymore, so we sat down and discussed the things I had been researching, and I gave him a few articles to read. He said we would find a way to make it work, and we decided to try an AIP protocol for me in lieu of spending our tax check on other things.

    I’m only about two weeks in, but I am at least 90% compliant at this point, and already staring to feel much better! 🙂 I had hoped the protocol would help, but am still truly surprised at the reduction in many of my symptoms.

    Dr. Wahl’s story of working around similar limitations to help her patients at the V.A. has been so inspiring. I can’t wait to listen to the rest of this series.

    Keep up the good work.

    • Angie Alt says

      Thanks for sharing Izzy! Great work being creative & we are so happy to hear it’s working.

    • Mickey Trescott says

      Thanks for sharing your story Izzy! Wishing you continued success and that you are able to continue to make AIP work for you.

  • (Not the first) Logan says

    I have a large family and have had a great deal of success lowering food costs in the past by working with a grassroots food coop. We were self organized and worked with an independent grocer who would order bulk cases of fruits and vegetables for us, we’d do the distribution. I think we paid 8 percent over wholesale to the grocer for ordering for us. We were also able to order UNFI natural foods through him. We also ordered through Frontier and Azure together–we even had a special shipment of olive oil straight from Italy every year. Our collective power enabled me to access quality foods that at the time would have been completely out of reach for me by my very limited budget in a remote region of the country. Our group was made up of people who were interested in healthy foods for a variety of reasons: religion, health, veganism. It was a very empowering experience and I agree with what Wahls says, it’s elitist BS to say poor people can’t eat well!

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