Recently Nana Kwaku and I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Kirt Tyson, NMD speak and to interview him. Dr. Tyson is the Chief Medical Officer at Balanced Health Medical Center. His research interests include Diabetes, cancer, and heart disease prevention and reversal. He is the author of the book “The Raw Truth: The Recipe for Reversing Diabetes” which is a guide that helps people with diabetes to regain control of their health. He also starred in the life changing documentary film “Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days” . Dr. Tyson attended Morehouse College and earned his Naturopathic Medical Doctorate from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ. He received a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from the T. Collin Campbell Foundation at Cornell University.
Ama: Dr. Tyson, Thank you for taking time out to speak to us. We saw you in "Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days." It was amazing to see you and the other participants healing your diabetes. It is a film we often recommend people watch. Tell me how long you have been a vegetarian and why did you become vegetarian?
Kirt: I have been a vegetarian since 2006. I made the transition after my participation in the documentary film Simply Raw, Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days where I attended the Tree of Life in Patagonia Arizona with Dr. Gabriel Cousens. And we implemented the raw food diet in the reversal of my Type 1 diabetes.
Ama: You eat mostly raw?
Kirt: I do eat mostly raw, 80-90% raw, the other part is 10-20% cooked vegan.
Ama: What kind of changes did you see in yourself?
Kirt: I noticed my vision came back. My health started to be restored, energy level increased and just an overall sense of health. You never know how sick you are until you start feeling healthy. So I just felt my life and my energy and my youth was coming back.
Ama: Sounds like it also had a big impact on you otherwise too, it changed the direction of you life in general.
Kirt: Yes because I was studying to be a heart surgeon. So in the film while I still planned to be a doctor at that point I wanted to go more into the prevention part of it than treatments surgery wise.
Ama: Where is your practice now?
Kirt: I practice in DC and in Phoenix Arizona.
Ama: I interviewed Aris Latham and I asked him about what's the best way to maintain the raw food diet and he said don't eat that one bite. How do you manage eating the cooked food and still maintaining your raw food?
Kirt: See, I keep it really simple. I am fine with just a salad. A salad with a nice apple cider vinegar and some seasoning, that does it for me. I am so busy most of the time that I am not that concerned with food and I just snack on some kale chips or those types of things.
Ama: A little cooked food doesn't send you back into eating more cooked food?
Kirt: No because I already know what it does to my body. So if I eat cooked food it's still pretty healthy clean cooked food. I feel much better on a raw food diet than on a cooked food diet so for me, how I feel, that's how I am able to maintain it.
Ama: How did your family and friends react when you changed your diet?
Kirt: My family and friends were really supportive. And they have also incorporated it into their lives as well. So prior to that they wouldn't have even considered a raw vegan diet. And now one day I was going to a restaurant to grab something to eat and my Grandmother and my Aunt had just walked into the door, just by chance, it was actually her first time getting something vegan. That was pretty cool. So when you can impact your family you know you are doing something good.
I think I have been able to have such a big impact on my family because they saw me with diabetes, which they've always believed to be incurable, then to see me get rid of it.
I don't ever talk to them about the raw food diet, as far as like pushing it on them. I just live it and when they come over I share it with them. Then they start picking it up in their own time. You know, again you start making that transition when you start seeing it right for you, and not when someone pushes you in that direction. So they overall have been pretty healthy so they haven't been feeling the need that they had to be vegan but now even still they have started picking it up and starting to incorporate it more, just because they have been seeing it through me.
Ama: How do you incorporate your understanding in the power of diet into your practice?
Kirt: My belief in diet is pretty much to basis of my practice. I start there for most conditions because I feel that healing comes from within. What you are fueling your body with, in terms of energy and support and emotions, really enable you to heal yourself. So the foods that I recommend are going to be green juicing, limited use of fruit, if any. And then the vegan raw food. We rarely consider cooked vegan until they have a state of health.
Ama: What tips to you have for someone who wants to transition to a healthier diet? Not for someone who is necessarily sick and trying heal.
Kirt: The tips that I give are first to educate themselves. So watching movies, reading books and how the current system of health is geared towards you becoming sick. Become of aware of that, you'll start actively making choices. And then that's when you can start getting involved in community. And incorporating and trying the foods and making it something that you can enjoy and share with others.
Ama: How is this diet important for us particularly as people of Afrikan descent?
Kirt: I feel like this diet is so important for the African American community and the community as a whole because it really leads to health. We're all being affected by diseases such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease, so disproportionately when it comes to the African American community because we're so entwined with the foods that we've been given over generations and generations. And a lot of the time we are in a less social economic situation so that we're going to the processed foods and the sugar foods and the fast foods and they are in the community being promoted as the foods that’s necessary to survive off of. When in actuality those are the foods that are leading to the diseases. I try my best to get out to the African American community to talk about health and food because we’re so disconnected from it. In our culture we've been given the scraps of food for generations. So those scraps of foods and the foods that we prepared from those scraps, we've passed on those recipes and acquired tastes from generation to generation.
But we've got to break out of that mold. Eating raw food doesn't turn you all of a sudden to a Caucasian American, right? Really it's just understanding your body and loving your body and feeding it the nourishment and foods that it desires and it needs. So it's breaking those centuries of thoughts to where you believe that you are not worth more than what you are getting.
Ama: I did a YouTube video recently about how many black vegetarians there are. They found that we are actually MORE likely to be vegetarian or vegan. So we've been lied to that this is a white thing. It's not. It's ours. This is truly ours.
Kirt: We ate from the land for years, centuries.
Ama: So you talked about it being a financial challenge for some people. Do you have tips for helping people make it affordable?
Kirt: My biggest tip for making anything affordable is to do it yourself. When it comes to raw food, don't make too complicated. You can get a great salad that you prepare, organic, that can last for three or four days, three times a day for 20 or 30 bucks. When you try to go out it gets expensive. Not because of the ingredients are expensive but because it does take a lot of time to prepare so the cost goes up. So if you can prepare it on your own then you're in a much better space.
Ama: Are there websites or resources that you recommend to people?
Kirt: My own recipes come from stuff that I previously ate and I just try to recreate them. So if you like to eat, I never really liked cooking but I like to eat, so I had to learn to prepare raw foods. So I would just find things that I enjoyed eating and just try to doctor it up to make it raw.
There's Dr. Cousens' Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine is a great source of recipes, my book, as well as the website From Sad To Raw has recipes that I like to use. And the cooking network. I just recreate what they have in a raw version.
Ama: Tell me how you do that.
Kirt: I just figure out the ingredients, figure out the flavors that they’re going for and then I find the raw ingredients that replaces either the cooked or the animal based ingredients.
Like for my breads, to get the flavor of the white bread I use white miso and it gives you the fermented flavor of the white bread. Then you just use flax seeds or almonds as the base.
Ama: Briefly what it was like to be at Tree of Life?
Kirt: Being at the Tree of Life was a life changing experience. That was my first time ever being out west to begin with so that was a new experience just to be there. But then being in an environment to were preparing foods for you that were actually healing for us. But then at the same time educating us about the foods and why it's healing us. Also just having the opportunity to rest and heal. We live such a hectic and high paced life that having a chance to sleep and just allow the body to rest and not have the worries about the day-to-day was a big factor in beating diabetes.
Ama: So is food everything? If I just eat vegan am I going to be health?
Kirt: It's a good start but it takes water, it takes your emotions, your community, exercise, definitely. It’s a good start but it takes more than that. You also need to go into fasting too. Because no matter what we're eating it's still been damaged just by our progression as a human race, industry and everything else.
NKO: What do you feel the role of juicing in the initial treatment of diabetes.
Kirt: For type 2, I feel that juicing can be pretty much a primary role. I've seen it work very rapidly as far as weight loss and coming off of medications. Juicing for me when I am working with my type 1 diabetics doesn't usually go as smoothly. I get of a lot of highs and lows with the juicing. What works best for them has been the raw foods. Maybe because of the fiber that's in there helps them maintain blood sugar levels that are more balanced. So I haven't been using the juicing as much with my Type 1 diabetics, it is mostly been more beneficial with the Type 2s. That's been my experience.
Ama: And you said you don't use fruit juices.
Kirt: No fruit juices. Just vegetable. So just vegetables. And this is dark green and a little bit of lemon and ginger is mostly what I use. Then maybe throw in a little bit of broccoli if your body can handle it. Things like that.
NKO: Fruit is too glycemic?
Kirt: For most of them. Type 1 I've never, Type 2 if they're still on their medication then over time as they are loosing weight it comes off. As a Type 2, you cannot be vegan and not come off of your medication if there is weight loss and exercise and things like that. Again my thing is not just to promote weight loss for Type 2 diabetes but I want to promote a healthy lifestyle that promotes health in the long run so that is why I prefer to promote a vegan and a raw vegan diet for them. So some Type 2 diabetics don't want to go raw but we do vegan and they come off their medication. I just find it happens a lot quicker when they do raw and juicing.
Ama: It sounds like what you and Dr. Opare do is different. You do a juice FEAST while Dr. Opare does a juice FAST.
NKO: We do a modified Aerola style fast, modified to raw food diet. So we limited amount of juice every day, fruit and vegetable juice. And we do enema daily, dry massage,
Kirt: Do you do coffee enemas?
NKO: No, just daily water enema. And limit the amount of juice. The total amount of juice is about a quart, depending on how big you are. A lot of water. And people seem to do very well.
Kirt: Yeah, I can definitely see how that would work.
NKO: But too much juice and you can have a problem. If you are religious with that program, we've had people fast for up to 60, 90 and even over 100 days.
Kirt: Is this Type 1 or Type 2?
NKO: These have all been Type 2. I haven't had any Type 1 want to try it.
Kirt: Yeah I understand, Its very scary for them. In the mindset they have been locked into for so many years.
NKO: But I find many of them can get off their medication the first day. But we taper them down, if they are on a SAD diet, we taper them down for four days, going to vegetarian, then vegan, then raw. And then start with a cathartic to clear out the system.
What do you think the role of addiction is when it comes to your diet?
Kirt: Well, that's another part of it. You've got to help them with their addictions because we are so addicted to food in general. The psychological aspects, meaning the emotional connections to it. As well as the physiological changes that happen when we are eating these processed food we've got to understand that these foods that we are eating, that we are not preparing ourselves, are being created laboratory wise. There are scientists who are figuring out which chemical receptors are going to be activated to make us want to come back for more and more. We've got to break both a mental and a physiological connection with the foods. And that's the only way you can maintain it. And then the physiological aspects start to change when you start to educate yourself. You know, that's how you break out of the mold. The food industry is good. It's a billion dollar industry for a reason.
Ama: And the medical industry, it's all together.
Kirt: They have to keep their product fresh. That's why they have their taste testing and focus groups and all the rest. They're figuring all this stuff out.
Ama: It's sad, you go into the grocery store and there is nothing to buy, this isn't food!
Anything else you want to say?
Kirt: Healing starts from within. You have to work on yourself. Don't leave your health in the hands of the medical profession. Start with what you eat, of course exercise and sleeping. Listen to your body because your body knows best.
Ama: Where can people find you?
Ama: Thank you again Dr. Tyson. Thank you for helping to spread the word about the healing power of healthy eating.