The Story Behind the Detox Diet

When The Detox Diet was first published in 1996 it was a small book with big ideas. Elson’s book made a huge ripple in the health-minded community as there were few medical doctors as compassionate about nutrition and even fewer writing about the topic of detoxing as a primary tool for healing and disease prevention.

I had just graduated from Bastyr University and remember the excitement in the Naturopathic community as Elson’s book made the rounds. It was thrilling to see a popular book written by an MD who doesn’t focus on treating the symptoms of disease with medication or invasive procedures and specifically uses detoxification for healing. This was an era when the medical and allopathic worlds were divisive. A book written from the perspective of a medical practitioner addressing the ‘underlying cause’ of disease was nothing short of revolutionary.

Before the publication of The Detox Diet there were few publications specifically addressing detoxification from the medical community. Most of the books on the market were full of old wives tales and hippy folklore. I remember rolling my eyes at some of the misinformation I would see repeated in books of that era such as ‘we carry 10 pounds of undigested material in our gut including swallowed gum that will never digest’. I remember a photo that showed up in numerous books of a deteriorated intestine full of holes and black tissue laying on a table next to a healthy intestine. No one alive has intestines that look like this I can assure you. It was as if the authors of those books thought they needed to scare people into eating better.

The Detox Diet was a seminal book that brought sound information and cleansing guidance to the people and started a wildfire of detox enthusiasm during the nutrition movement of the 90’s. Spas and clinics that provide detox workshops began to pop up across the country. Juicing books became popular and organic food started going mainstream.

When the first version of the Detox Diet came out I was opening my nutrition practice in Sun Valley, Idaho where world class athletes and the hollywood elite set the pace for health trends. My clients were asking me to guide them through a detox process and to provide support such as recipes, menu plans and supplement recommendations. During my tenure in practice in Idaho I took thousands of people through cleanses, fasts and individual nutrition sessions. My medical nutrition practice became focused on toxicology and detoxification to a great degree.

Detoxification can get very specific and I rely on tests to identify specific toxins when a client is experiencing symptoms that warrant lab work. These tests can identify a toxic load of a specific substance or organism such as mercury, lead, candida, parasites, or uric acid. Cleansing and fasting jump start the process to removing most toxic compounds and reduce the load on the body’s elimination and detoxifications pathways.

My detox classes were so popular it seemed that everybody in our little mountain town showed up at my house (home/office) for a 3 week cleanse eventually. Many of my clients would bring The Detox Diet to class and I would supplement the book with my recipes, menu plans, non-toxic kitchen guidance, lab test information, supplement recommendations, details about the toxins we were most likely to have been exposed to in our town and instructions for reducing exposure in the future.

The detox workshops were always raucous with all of the sharing of new information, sampling new detox recipes and the telling of personal stories of healing. One of my class participants Richard Calcagno was a patient of Dr. Haas’s who suggested that a merging of our materials would make a comprehensive book for those who couldn’t come to a workshop. I called Dr. Haas and thus The New Detox Diet (2004) was born.

The New Detox Diet Revised Edition, the 2012 version, is the 3rd edition and the most comprehensive, including current research and references for those of you interested in reading original studies, additional recipes, guidance for teens and avoidance of new and dangerous toxic compounds that are ubiquitous in our environment, putting us all in a position to protect ourselves from exposure and bioaccumulation.

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