An interview with Dr. Elson M. Haas
From supplying us with energy to triggering powerful feelings or emotions, the things we put into our bodies play a major role in nearly every aspect of our lives. Doesn’t it make sense, then, that living more healthily in all aspects of your life throughout recovery will have a direct impact on the process of fighting addiction?
We spoke with Elson M. Haas, MD, a practicioner with over 25 years in the field and an expert in a litany of fields, including nutritional medicine and detoxification, to learn more about this inescapable connection.
Q. What unhealthy nutrition habits do you most frequently see?
A. Most Americans, addicts or not, have SNACC habits, which stands for the daily use of sugar, nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and chemicals. Although we can handle most of these substances, when we use them daily or become dependent they can undermine our health.
Q. Why is recovery the ideal time to start caring about proper nutrition?
A. As we embrace the desire to overcome undesirable habits and addiction that bring our life down, let’s make it a big change and address as many aspects of our life as we can. Don’t replace alcohol with sugar and caffeine, or nicotine with candy, or hard drugs with poor food habits, a nicotine addiction, and pot after pot of coffee, make positive changes that can improve your entire life!
Q. We hear the word “detox” used so often and in so many ways. What does detox mean to you?
A. I prefer to think of detox as a general term for cleaning up our body and life. Even if our main focus is a particular substance, we can make this an opportunity to address our whole lives.
The way I suggest beginning with my patients and detox groups is to start with a new attitude and the affirmation, “This is the only body I have, and I am going to treat it with love.” When we embrace this, we will care more about what we do and what we feed ourselves, our fitness program, our emotional behaviors and stress, our work plans, and especially the loved ones in our lives.
Q. What are your top three tips for people looking to integrate healthy living into their recovery plans?
My first is to have an overall plan, and stay focused! Know how you will tackle recovery, what you want to accomplish with your health, and specific life changes you’d like to see. A healthier diet plan, one that focuses on beneficial foods like fresh fruits and veggies, grains and beans, nuts and seeds, and quality proteins like eggs and fish should be part of this as well.
Second is to work emotionally to change habits. The physical side is only one part of the battle, the rest is mental and seeking the help of a therapist within or outside of your program can be a major help.
Third, exercise! It relieves stress, supports the detox process, reduces sleep issues and helps you to have a more positive outlook on life.
Beyond these there are many tools you can use. Stress management training can allow you to seek healthy outlets for the strain that that naturally comes with life, and learning how to relax and breathe properly is priceless to anyone, whether they are an addict or not.
This may seem like a lot to take in at once, but if you can put just a couple of the ideas from this interview into practice it’s a good start. Take a few deep breaths, embrace one step at a time, and watch your life improve.
Dr. Hass is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of Malibu Beach Recovery Center's parent company, RiverMend Health, and Medical Director of Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984. Dr. Haas is also the author of a dozen books in the areas of health, nutrition, and detoxification.