LILIPOH interviews Helen Ross, M.D.
Issue: Winter 2006: Gratitude and Love - Issue #46 Vol 11
Helen Ross, M.D. oversees the Reversing Diabetes Naturally program at The Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center in Patagonia, Arizona, a spiritual healing and retreat center founded by Gabriel Cousins, M.D.(author of Spiritual Nutrition and The Rainbow Diet). The Tree of Life program combines holistic medicine, alternative medicine, Native American, ayurvedic, homeopathic and herbal medicines, with raw food nutrition, yoga, meditation and time outdoors in a peaceful, beautiful environment into a comprehensive healing paradigm. Their program accepts Type 1 diabetics who are dependent on insulin and those diagnosed with Type 2 adult onset. In early 2006 an independent film crew documented six people who had been eating the traditional American fast- and junk-food diet and had been insulin-dependent diabetics for an average of five years as they journeyed through the 30-day Reversing Diabetes Naturally program. (The film is due out in early 2007, visit www.rawforthirtydays.com.) The “before and after” studies regarding the effect of a month of raw food and specific supplements produced outstanding results. Although one person whose blood sugar dropped from 500 to 200 in two weeks left the program because he was not willing to do the live-food program, the others had exceptional results. Within four days, all participants except the Type 1 diabetics were off insulin and oral anti-diabetic medications. By the end of one month, two people had blood sugars regularly averaging between 70-85. Two had dropped from an average blood sugar of approximately 250-450 to around 120. All their blood tests became essentially normal. In other words, by the end of one month the Type 2 diabetics had achieved a level of health according to their blood tests and daily blood sugar readings that was considered comparable with a normal non-diabetic physiology, i.e., the physiology of a healthy person. The Type 1 diabetic went from an insulin intake of 70 units to 5 units. Succeeding with a group who knew virtually nothing about live foods or the live-food lifestyle and who had no particular interest in it was a real test for this program.
Why a 30-day program?
It takes people time to get on the healing path. So many people come from a Standard American Diet (SAD) paradise, and it’s quite a shocker to move from Taco Bell and fast food burgers to eating raw foods, which is our primary diet here at the Tree of Life. It gives us a chance to help people develop new, different and better habits.
What are the components of the program?
The raw food diet, the supplements, enzyme therapy, and exercise are key elements.Exercise is crucial to people to help get their blood sugar under control – exercise is always key; it helps to get the blood sugar into the cells, where the cells need it, and out of the bloodstream.Enzyme therapy becomes very important because a lot of people, especially diabetics, have really sluggish digestion.After studying the literature, studies, and empirical and anecdotal stories to see which supplements work best overall for diabetics, we developed a supplement protocol, and we implement those right away.As for the diet, we are not trying to convert everybody to a 100 percent raw food diet. We show people a different way to feel better and healthier and to lose weight, and we happen to be eating naturally, and as raw as possible. What we recommend is that people try to be 80 percent raw, and the other 20 percent we suggest strongly that it not be meat, especially red meat and poultry that are pumped up with hormones and shot up with antibiotics.We advise them to stay away from dairy. Dairy is implicated in childhood diabetes because of the inflammation it causes the pancreas. I think inflammation plays a huge role, not just in diabetes but in pretty much every disease condition.We talk about food that is as unadulterated as possible, in a natural state. It’s all about quality of nutrient. Most cooked food is dead; this has to do with the heating – the enzymes in the vegetables are fragile and destroyed by a temperature of 118 degrees, or with animal protein, the heating, cooking or grilling process really distorts the nature of the protein. People choose to steam some food, but we suggest it should be crunchy when you eat it.When you are eating all raw food it is fibrous and bulky, and loaded with nutrients, so, theoretically, you would need less, as far as volume. And so we talk to people about cutting down the volume of food that they eat. People naturally lose weight. We don’t talk about dieting at the Tree, it’s a four-letter word. As you are probably aware, there is an obesity epidemic in this country, and probably across the world. People are eating lots of foods, but are at the same time malnourished. That sounds contradictory, but when you think about eating dead foods, people are really starved on a cellular level. There are no vitamins, no enzymes, there are no minerals; all you get are the calories.There is no fiber in meat or dairy, and very little fiber in general in cooked foods. It is the fiber in raw foods that helps people have regular bowel movements, helps keep the intestinal tract clean, and helps to pass toxins and keep the blood sugar under control. Fiber becomes huge with diabetics.Based on the lab tests, their history, and their physical exam, I develop individualized personalized nutrition plans.
What about spiritual and soul issues?
Our approach is holistic and very integrated. We address the emotional issues, because most conditions of disease processes come with emotional baggage. There are a lot of habits of conditioning evident in overeating and stress eating. When you are having a dramatic change in your way of eating, a lot of latent issues become manifest. A lot of people have held onto conditions for reasons maybe even unbeknownst to them.We are primarily a spiritual retreat facility, and that plays a huge role. We give people support in that regard. We gather together for ceremonies, especially at sunset. People can spend time with Dr. Cousins or myself and every morning they have an individual session, to touch base and see how things are going.If you are not so severe a diabetic, we may even suggest a five-to-seven day fast. We do water fasts. I haven’t ever believed in fruit juice fasts. We give four green drinks a day, depending on what is in the organic garden. We encourage them to drink herbal teas, water and take their enzymes and herbal fasting elixirs. The purpose of the four green drinks is to get a basic amount of sugar; all vegetables are sugar, but they are complex sugars; the good kind.Yoga is offered every day, and even if a person has never participated in yoga, they just show up, and do the best they can, and get moving.The center has almost 180 acres and the world’s largest labyrinth. There are very gentle hiking trails. Getting people outside and taking walks in nature is so beneficial. A lot of people lead fast-paced lives, and spend most of their time indoors, and because it’s sunny here almost all year, that helps to uplift your spirits. Even those of us who live and work here find it amazing how much better we feel, and how much more optimistic we feel, so the participants benefit from that too. So getting people physically and geographically away in a little different environment is very healing also. After the people leave the program, do they stay in touch with you?It’s mainly telephone follow-up at that point and ideally, like any good doctor, we like to have follow-up to see how people are doing. But we don’t try and put pressure on people. Sometimes people go home and they backslide and then they feel guilty. I tell them right up front, we are here to help you make better choices, and so don’t let guilt get the best of you. Oftentimes they come back for our Conscious Eating workshop, or to fast. Any time that you revert back to your old way of existing and eating and not exercising, yes, you could reverse your cure, your healing. People always remain vulnerable to recurrence because the problem is sugar and sugar is everywhere.