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Interview with Elson Haas, MD
On Diet, Nutrition, and the Benefits of Detoxification
by The Share Guide
Elson Haas, M.D. has been in medical practice for over 25 years, and was instrumental in the development of the field that he has termed Integrated Medicine. He is the founder and director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin, an integrated health care facility in San Rafael, California, where he specializes in family and nutritional medicine, detoxification, and individualized health programs. He is the author of several bestselling books, including Staying Healthy with Nutrition, The False Fat Diet, and The New Detox Diet.
The Share Guide: In the introduction to your book, The New Detox Diet, you write that “the primary cause of disease is the accumulation of unnecessary wastes that are not properly eliminated.” Can you please explain?
Dr Elson Haas: Most people have daily habits of one or more of the SNACCs--Sugar, Nicotine, Alcohol, Caffeine, and Chemicals (in foods, environment, and medications). We use all of these substances to deal with life’s stresses, but they also tax and weaken the body and its functions, including our eliminative and immune systems. Thus, our cells and tissues can’t keep up, and we become congested and toxic. Many symptoms and problems relate to this, from stuffy noses and skin rashes to most inflammatory disorders. This in part comes from these SNACCs and refined foods, and a heavier, animal-based diet that is more acidic and contains more chemicals. This acidic, congested, and inflammatory condition causes the degeneration and aging in the human body. Thus, detoxification is the missing link in balanced health--and a key healing therapy for the common disorders that most of us experience as we age.
The Share Guide: Is it necessary to fast if you want to detox?
Dr Elson Haas: Fasting is only one (and more extreme) way to detoxify. We cleanse our body with many simple changes, such as drinking more water, eating more fresh fruits and vegetables (and their juices), exercising and sweating, bathing, breathing, and sleeping, while avoiding excessive eating and consuming junk food. My book, The NEW Detox Diet, provides several simple detox programs: the original Detox Diet (three meals, mainly steamed vegetables); a Smoothie Cleanse; and a Juice Cleanse.
The Share Guide: What if you start a fast and then stop? Is that detrimental to the body?
Dr Elson Haas: It’s not particularly helpful, since it takes a few days to begin to feel good. Fasting for a day or two is typically not detrimental; it’s just not as helpful as a longer plan that aligns with healing habits and a healthier body.
The Share Guide: Increasing water intake is very important for overall health, and for detoxing in particular, but there are obvious problems with tap water. What are your thoughts on this?
Dr Elson Haas: I definitely do not recommend regular use of tap water. I’d choose a good quality water filtration system for the home, rather than bottled water. The best ones utilize reverse osmosis and/or solid carbon block systems. I do not recommend the regular drinking of distilled water, mainly because of the electromagnetic aspects of how water and minerals move in our body.
The Share Guide: What culinary and/or medicinal herbs do you think are the most beneficial for detoxification?
Dr Elson Haas: A few general herbs are cayenne, garlic, cilantro, and mint. Lemon is a great cleanser, and I love the Master Cleanser formula of fresh lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne plus water. Also, the bowels need to keep moving for healthy detoxification, and there are many herbs for that, such as cascara sagrada and senna leaf.
The Share Guide: During a detox program, should we temporarily suspend our normal supplement regimen in favor of detox herbs and supplements?
Dr Elson Haas: Typically, I have people take some supplements during detox diets and much less during juice cleanses, mainly powdered vitamin C and minerals. There are also herbs for cleansing, and often some algae like spirulina to support energy, amino acid needs, and detoxification.
The Share Guide: What about detox for those who take prescription medication? Some medicines cannot be stopped.
Dr Elson Haas: This is where you need an experienced doctor or practitioner to guide you. Most medications are voluntary, to treat symptoms like pain and inflammation, which often gets better with detox programs. The more common medicines--such as those for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, or depression--may need to be lowered gradually as people’s health and well-being improve. Many people have reduced and even eliminated their daily medications after following my detox programs.
The Share Guide: Many people eat too much sugar, but aren’t there problems with sugar substitutes?
Dr Elson Haas: I am not a big fan of chemical nutrition. Most of us can get away with small amounts of most substances, even chemicals, yet it’s the persistent use and exposure to food and environmental toxins that cause us trouble over time. This relates to immune function, cancer risk, and overall health. Sodium saccharin is now less common, yet still available, and has been shown to be carcinogenic. Aspartame is a synthetic version of two amino acids, and many people have sensitivity to it. Found in diet sodas and diet foods, aspartame is a neurological irritant and can affect mood and energy. I don’t recommend any regular use, especially in youngsters. I have also seen some adults who use it have emotional issues that clear when they get away from their artificial sweeteners (and excessive sugar use). Using small amounts of natural sugars, from fruit juices to honey, maple syrup, or stevia, is the most natural solution.
The Share Guide: Please talk about the problems associated with Candida overgrowth. How common is this in Americans?
Dr Haas: Candida (yeast) problems are quite common in these modern times of high sugar use, routine antibiotic and steroid (cortisone/prednisone) prescriptions, and birth control use. All of these factors can alter the intestinal flora and allow the common yeasts to increase proliferation in the gut. Since yeast are fermenting organisms (used to make alcohol beverages) they can cause gas and bloating from the fermentation of dietary sugars and grains. Also, yeasts are related to fungus and molds, and some people can become “allergic” to them and have systemic immune reactions to these microbes in the intestinal tract (the most active immune area of our body). This can cause all kinds of problems from energy and mood disorders, to headaches and abdominal symptoms. Although most conventional doctors don’t address this issue, I think it is crucial for good health. I discuss this topic more fully in my books Staying Healthy with Nutrition and The False Fat Diet.
The Share Guide: Do you have any recommendations for how to do a detox program while still coping with day to day responsibilities such as work and family?
Dr Haas: I believe that the best detox programs are designed to fit into our lives. I have seen too many people go off to retreats for healing only to return to their old habits and lifestyles, and their problems as well. In my groups we do a variety of detox diets and juice cleanses, and make habit changes that last. It takes a few weeks to make these changes in behavior and make them stick. These detox groups are the most rewarding experiences for me and for the participants in my 30 years in medicine.
For more information from Dr. Elson Haas visit elsonhaas.com
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Dr. Elson Haas
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