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During the last three weeks of January 2018 I will be leading the annual New Year's Detox program at my clinic—Preventive Medical Center of Marin, an integrative health center in San Rafael, California. This will mark 31 consecutive years that I have offered this 21-day course based on my book The Detox Diet. I don't just teach the class, I also participate in it myself because this is not just a concept for me but an intrinsic part of my own yearly health program. It's a core lifestyle component.

In fact, my own experience with the healing potential of fasting and detoxifying programs dates back even further— to 1976 when I did my first juice cleanse. As a young doctor trained in the Western medical system this experience was a revelation for me, not only physically, but also emotionally, mentally and even spiritually—it was a real transformation on many levels.

Since that time I have utilized various detox and healing/ rejuvenation practices extensively both for myself and literally thousands of patients, and I truly believe that these therapeutic approaches are among the most powerful healing resources I have seen and used—and I mean towards real healing of ailments and not just suppression of symptoms. I have also written extensively about detoxification, specifically in The Detox Diet wherein I discuss both the medical and health factors of the cleansing process.

Many common and chronic medical problems may be prevented or treated, at least in part and often dramatically, by utilizing a variety of detox diets as outlined in the book. I actually consider cleansing/fasting/detoxification (different degrees of the same process of reduced toxin intake and enhanced toxin elimination) to be the missing link in Western nutrition and a key to the health and vitality of our civilization.

Seasonal Detox Elson Haas MD

This was discovered long ago and is still true today even though modern medical science may make light of it in deference to the many quick and profitable (often pill based) solutions to symptoms and diseases. So I am always interested when I hear about research like the study recently completed by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. This study published online on October 26 in Cell Metabolism, sheds new light on the basic biology of the declining ability of cells to process energy over time, which leads to aging and age-related disease.1 It also explores how interventions such as periods of fasting might promote healthy aging. It is exciting to see cutting edge research support ancient and traditional healing modalities.

The Seasonal Approach
In addition to offering my community and patients this education and group support for guided detox and cleansing experiences at my clinic each January, I do similar programs in the Spring (a 10-day juice cleanse) and the Autumn (3- week detox program to prep for the holidays). This seasonal aspect is important because I have found that different approaches are more effective at different times of the year. For example, the 21-day plan I offer in January is ideal for cooler weather as it uses a foundation of cooked (warm) food, whereas fruit, juice and liquids are more appropriate for the warmer times. Smoothies, which mix the benefits of a liquid or juice cleanse with more blended foods and added nutrients, are great for the transition periods. You can mix and match these options to suit your local climate and use these guidelines to make a seasonal plan that works with your own schedule and needs.

As a guide for this approach I use the model of the year's cycles and elements found in Traditional Chinese Medicine, which I explored in my first book Staying Healthy with the Seasons. A key idea here is the significance of the transition times between the seasons/elements called the Doyo. The Doyo begins ten days before and extends ten days after each equinox and solstice so the actual dates vary from year to year—those given in the chart are approximate. These are also good times to detoxify the body and adjust to the new season. Of course, I usually pass on any detox around the Winter Solstice transition (Dec 10–Jan 1) because of all the Christmas and New Year celebrations. All the more reason to pick things up in January!

Some general and specific Benefits of Detoxification includes: an improvement in physical wellbeing, mental clarity, and spiritual energy (openness to the subtle), as well as the lessening of many symptoms like allergies, headaches or digestion upset. And you can also lower your body weight, your blood pressure, your cholesterol level, and likely use less medication for these conditions, if any of them are relevant to your situation. Many people claim they feel better than they have in years once they've completed these programs.

There are two other significant benefits of this process: detox programs can help lay the foundation for lifelong healthy habit changes, which are central to the lifestyle medicine approach that I advocate and teach. The second is addressing food reactions through specific elimination diets, such as avoiding more commonly reactive foods like wheat/gluten, cow's milk, soy, eggs, corn or peanuts. I discuss this approach fully in my book, The False Fat Diet. With this natural, seasonal dietary approach, you are also aligning yourself with the energy of Nature, which is after all the source of all health and healing.

In truth, what I attempt to do in my writing and practice is to place your health and that of your family back into your own hands, because so much of it is up to you. I want to help you to become your own best doctor. It really matters how you live—what you do, what you eat, and what you think and feel. Take hold of yourself and your habits as the New Year begins, and do what you can to be vital and healthy! Make the New Year the New YOU!



Morning (upon arising): Two 8–oz glasses of water (filtered, spring, or reverse osmosis), one or both glasses with half a lemon squeezed into it.

Breakfast: Begin with one or two pieces of fresh fruit (at room temp), such as apple, pear, banana, grapes, or citrus. Chew well, mixing each bite with saliva.

15–30 minutes later: One medium bowl of cooked whole grains (non-gluten)—such as millet, brown rice, amaranth, quinoa, buckwheat (raw or cooked). Flavoring: For a sweeter breakfast taste, use two tablespoons of fruit juice, or for a deeper savory flavor use the “better butter” mixture mentioned below with a little salt, or soy sauce.

Mid Morning (11 AM): One–two cups (6–12 oz) veggie water, saved from steamed vegetables. Add a little sea salt or kelp and drink slowly, mixing each mouthful with saliva. You can also add some green nutrient-rich powder or a vitamin C powder product (C combined with alkaline minerals like magnesium, calcium, and potassium).

Lunch (Noon-1 PM): One-two medium-sized bowls of steamed vegetables; use a variety: such as potatoes and yams, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beets, asparagus, kale, chard, and cabbage and include some roots, stems, and greens. CHEW WELL!

Mid Afternoon (3 PM): same as 11 AM—One–two cups veggie broth saved from steamed veg.

Dinner (5–6 PM): Same as Lunch—vary ingredients.

Evening: Herbal teas only, e.g. peppermint, chamomile, rooibos, or blends.

Seasonings: “Better Butter” Butter/canola or flaxseed oil mixture: mix half a cup of cold-pressed canola oil (or olive or flaxseed oils) into a soft (room temperature) half-pound of butter; then place in dish and refrigerate. Use about one teaspoon per meal or a maximum of three teaspoons daily. Other seasonings can include herbal salts like garlic.

NOTE: You may feel a little weak or have a few symptoms, such as headaches, during the first couple of days; this will pass. Clarity and feeling good should appear by day three or four, if not before. If you start to feel weak or hungry during this diet, assess your water intake and elimination; if needed, you can eat a small portion of protein (3–4 ounces) in the mid-afternoon or with lunch. This could be fish; free-range, organic chicken; or some beans, such as lentil, garbanzo, mung, or black beans.


  1. Chew your food very well and take enough time when you eat.
  2. Relax for a few minutes before and after your meal.
  3. Eat in a comfortable sitting position.
  4. Enjoy what you do eat and focus on nourishing yourself.


  1. Heather J. Weir, Pallas Yao, Frank K. Huynh, Caroline C. Escoubas, Renata L. Goncalves, Kristopher Burkewitz, Raymond Laboy, Matthew D. Hirschey, William B. Mair. Dietary Restriction and AMPK Increase Lifespan via Mitochondrial Network and Peroxisome Remodeling. Cell Metabolism 2017;6;884–896

Elson M. Haas, MD

Elson M. Haas, MD is a medical practitioner with nearly 40 years experience in patient care, always with in an interest in natural medicine. For the past 30 years, he has been instrumental in the development and practice of Integrated Medicine at the Preventive Medical Center of Marin (PMCM), which he founded in 1984 and where he is the Medical Director. Dr Haas has been perfecting a model of healthcare that integrates sophisticated Western diagnostics and Family Medicine with time-honored natural therapies from around the world.

This educating, writing doctor is also the author of many books including Staying Healthy with Nutrition: The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine, 21st Century Edition, The NEW Detox Diet: The Complete Guide for Lifelong Vitality with Recipes, Menus, & Detox Plans and more. His latest book is Staying Healthy with NEW Medicine which integrates Natural, Eastern, and Western Approaches for Optimal Health. Visit his website for more information on his work, books and to sign up for his newsletter.