In our interview, Lifestyle, Health, and Well-Being, Dr. Elson Haas, Founder and Director of the Preventive Medical Center of Marin, one of the leading Integrative Medical Centers in the country and host of The Autoimmune Hour, Sharon Sayler share a wide-ranging conversation exploring how to take control of your own health and wellbeing through becoming an Integrative Patient, plus:
- Ways to tame a misguided immune system
- How to uncover whether you have hyper and hypo immunity
- The difference between reaction and response
- The 5 keys to staying healthy and staying healthy with the seasons
and much more…. Here’s a quick Q&A about elimination diets and eating with autoimmune from that show:
SHARON: In reading your book, Ultimate Immunity one of the things that surprised me was before the autoimmune condition, there were plenty of markers that this was coming yet they were all missed or suppressed. I thought I was living a healthy lifestyle and what was interesting to me what was I call these little “sneaker cheats” where “Oh, I could have this cookie this time.” And you don’t realize how that adds up.
I get confused now in this condition where I’m continuing to optimize my health… When I first started, I was put on a tight regimen of “no dairy, no gluten, no sugars, no nightshades, no eggs” and it goes on and on.
I’m curious. What’s the best way for a person to know what they can eat? How do we discover when that changes? Is there a time when I’ll be able to eat a wider variety of foods again?
HAAS: What you’re talking about is doing a test. I speak around the country and I speak to the public and I also speak to doctors and practitioners.
Doctors don’t necessarily embrace what I say. Everything we do in medicine is experimental because it has to be experiential by the individual, by the patient.
And what you’re suggesting when you do an elimination diet like that is you’re doing a test on your life and your body. You look at that and that’s one of the things I do. I do allergy testing in my clinic in Northern California. I do desensitization. I do a lot of elimination diets.
One of my other books is called “The False Fat Diet” which looks at all the different ways that we can react to food. There are food allergies and then there’s hypersensitivity; there are immune reactions; there are gut reactions and all that.
So people need to consider doing that and you only have to do it for a couple of weeks. That’s why I do regular detox programs for my patients in the clinic.
I usually have people get away from fried foods and even red meats or various things like that. Each person decides that test and then they would do it for a couple of weeks and then they say, “Okay, this is better.”
I know if we did this, Sharon, in a national level, I would say that 50% or more of people’s common symptoms and complaints like headaches, digestive issues, skin rashes and things like that would improve greatly, if not, go away.
I’ve seen this all the time in practice. People get away from things that they’re overdoing in their body or they can be tested to see that they’re having reactions but, the best test when you talk about food allergies, for example, is the experiments that you do with yourself where you eliminate a bunch of things.
You can tune in more subtly. You can get somebody to do kinesiology on you and read, “Okay, you shouldn’t do almonds. You should do garlic.” Sometimes, they’re not your regular foods. Or they’re very common foods. It could be pineapple or things like that.
How To Be Your Own Best Doctor is one of the courses I teach which is you as the integrative patient getting your team together and all the things that we talked about so far. And, to me, that’s what’s empowering for people.
When I was a med student in Ann Arbor, Michigan and working with people, I said, “Doctors are used to taking people’s power and telling them what to do.” And many people are so trained that way. They expect the doctor to make the decisions for them.
I was different. I was trying to empower people right from the get-go. You need to tune into what’s going on.
I saw easily that when people were stressed and they had a lot of what I call “trauma and drama” in their lives, they had more problems. If we touch on autoimmunity for a second, we’re trained that the first comment about that is that it’s self-attack. It’s an attack on self.
Is it psycho-emotional and spiritual? Is that a genetic factor?
Some people are set up where we make antibodies. We have immune reactions to everything that we take in from the environment ─ and even things from our body.
But part of the autoimmune issue is that we’re misguided. Our immune system is misguided and how I break it down in Ultimate Immunity is that we can have hyper-immunity or hypo-immunity.
When we’re depleted and deficient and we don’t fight off infections and viruses and bacteria as well, we get sick more easily. When we have hyper-immunity ─ that means things are overly surveillant and they’re looking for trouble ─ we’re getting autoimmune issues; we’re getting allergies.
And the beauty of the integration or natural, Eastern, and Western is this idea of too much or too little which is common in traditional Chinese medicine.
So when we’re autoimmune or very allergic, we want to find ways to calm down the immune system and that’s kind of a mind-body thing as well as getting rid of foods and other substances that might be setting off reactions.
There are a lot of ways to approach it. And that’s the simplicity of what I wrote about in Ultimate Immunity. It’s understanding how the immune system works and what it does when it gets too much or too little. To me, that’s a good way to balance.
And if you see a traditional Chinese medicine person, they’re always looking at “There’s a little too much here; there’s a little too little here. Let’s get everything flowing better.” Their whole idea of energy, medicine, and healing is that when things are flowing well through our body and the meridians and all of our channels or the lymphatic system and the circulation system, we should feel healthy.
Usually, when we don’t feel healthy is because things are jammed up and that comes from stresses or from climates.
In traditional Chinese medicine, we talk about the internal harms or devils which are the emotions ─ fear, worry, sadness, etcetera ─ and the external ones which are extreme weather ─ cold, heat, dryness, wind, etcetera.
I’ve always looked at myself as a philosopher physician in trying to understand health and healing, and that’s what Staying Healthy with New Medicine. It’s all the things I’ve learned about health and healing. [Everything] all have strengths and they all have weaknesses like caffeine has certain benefits but it also has some side effects. With alcohol, it’s the same. All the drugs that we take have potential benefits.
So it’s always a dance of the doctor and patient in finding out… My approach in healthcare is lifestyle first, natural therapy is next, drug last. I’m always looking at “What can this person do in terms of my five keys to staying healthy?”
Good nutrition, fitness, good sleep, managing stress, and a healthy attitude.
A lot of times, I work on people’s attitudes first. Especially when you’re chronically ill, it’s hard to have a wholesome attitude. It’s hard to say, “This can get better.” But I always want people to believe and see themselves healing.
Thank you, Dr. Haas, for sharing your insights. To listen to the full interview in either podcast or videocast now use this link: https://www.UnderstandingAutoimmune.com/DrHaas. Share it with family and friends too!
More about our guest: Dr. Elson Haas is the author of eleven health books and has traveled the world assisting under-served communities. As a lifestyle and preventive medicine physician, Dr. Haas encourages patients to find their inner source of healing and to protect their health, honor their bodies, and discover that health is mostly a result of how we live, and is much more in our own hands than we realize. Learn more at https://elsonhaasmd.com/
And, as always, join me next week for another show and have a great adventure whatever happens this week for you.