Interview with Dr. Ben Kim:

Getting Healthier from the Inside Out

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Dr. Kim, how did you become interested in fasting and natural hygiene?

When I was 19 years old, I began losing skin pigmentation throughout my body, a condition called vitiligo. For the next few years, I consulted with physicians in Canada and the U.S., all of whom told me that there was no known cause or cure for my condition, and that my best chance for recovery was a combination of steroids and light treatment. While I received these treatments, I found myself wondering about the root causes of my health challenge. In doing so, I began to develop a desire to understand the root causes of health and disease so that I could take more responsibility for my well-being. Years later while working as a chiropractor in a small Inuit village at the northern tip of Alaska, I found myself with a lot of free time in the evenings, as it was too cold to go outdoors much of the time. It was then that I began reading Herbert Shelton's books on health and fasting and felt an emergence of hope for better health. I eventually left my position in Alaska to pursue a supervised fast, which marked the beginning of my path to becoming a hygienic physician.

What was your fasting experience like?

Quite simply, it was a life-changing experience. The first five days were difficult, as I experienced headaches, gnawing emptiness in my stomach, lightheadedness, and hoarseness. But with each passing day, I noticed that my skin stopped itching, my intestines felt more comfortable, and my chronically congested sinuses were clearing up. In short, I could feel myself getting healthier from the inside out. Also, I noticed a wonderful sense of calm come over my spirit. After two weeks of fasting and several days of eating raw fruits and vegetables, I felt incredibly free and empowered.

How does fasting help a person recover from illness?

When going about our daily lives, we are not always aware of the damage that certain foods and habits cause to our bodies. In the case of a cut on our skin, we quickly learn that in order for our self-healing mechanisms to heal the cut, we need to avoid sharp objects. With internal health challenges, it's not quite as easy to identify which of our food and lifestyle choices are aggravating our inner tissues. So we tend to keep up the same habits that created our illnesses to begin with. A properly conducted fast provides an opportunity to avoid many of the root causes of illness, which gives the body's self-healing mechanisms a chance to successfully restore health.

Do most people experience discomfort during a water-only fast?

It depends on a person's health status and how well they have prepared to fast. Many people tend to feel hungry during the first 1-3 days, but this feeling disappears as the body begins to burn fat for energy. Common symptoms of detoxification that can arise during a fast include headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, skin rashes, itchiness, and various bodily aches and pains. I have worked with people who have experienced minimal discomfort throughout their entire fasts. I have also worked with people who have struggled through many days with one or more of the above symptoms. People typically tend to feel more comfortable with each passing day. The ideal goal is to break the fast when a person feels close to how she would like to feel for the rest of her life.

How long do health improvements from fasting last for?

Fasting provides an ideal foundation on which to build lasting health improvements. These improvements last for as long as we consistently make healthful food and lifestyle choices. Rather than view health as an ultimate physical state that we attain, it's important to understand that it is a state of wellness that we earn each day through our thoughts and behavior.

Does fasting increase our sensitivity to various stimuli?

Absolutely. Many people are amazed at how sweet romaine lettuce is, how flavorful a crisp apple is, and how satisfying a baked potato is following a fast. Fasting allows us to more clearly see and feel how our bodies react to different foods and stimuli. If we eat something that doesn't serve our health, we are more likely to receive feedback from our bodies right away through symptoms like itchiness, nasal congestion, diarrhea, headaches, and coughing. This feedback is essential to guiding our food and lifestyle choices.

Are there any drawbacks to fasting?

As I've already mentioned, some symptoms of detoxification are not pleasant or easy to endure. It's also true that it can take some time for a person to gradually regain energy and strength following a fast. Ultimately, a person is likely to experience even greater strength and energy levels than she did prior to her fast. With these points in mind, if a person understands the role that fasting can play in establishing a foundation for a healthful existence, it can be an immensely valuable experience.

Do you do blood work and other diagnostic studies during a fast?

I rely mainly on urine testing, vital signs, and close observation of each person's physical and emotional progress in guiding people through fasts. I rarely use blood studies only when clinically indicated.

What are your views on food combining?

I think that proper food combining is essential to experiencing excellent health.

But what about the view that there is no scientific support for the merits of food combining?

While I appreciate the merits of the scientific process, I think it's important to realize that some things in life are difficult to measure. Or, there are some things that people don't have interest in measuring. In these cases, we have to rely on experiential evidence to guide us in our decision-making processes. Let's not forget that scientific investigations cost money, and not all of them are undertaken with a completely unbiased foundation. In speaking about the merits of food-combining with a hygienic physician like Dr. Keki Sidhwa, who has helped tens of thousands of people recover their health over the past several decades, one is compelled to believe that it deserves appropriate attention. I consider this kind of experiential evidence in the absence of motivation for profit or recognition to be immensely valuable.

Would you share an important lesson or two that you've learned through your experiences with fasting?

Towards the end of my first water fast, I remember almost begging the doctor to let me break my fast and have some watermelon juice. He and I both knew that from a physiological perspective, I could have benefited from a few more days on water. In an effort to encourage me to continue with the fast, he said, "Don't you want to see more of your skin color come back? It's embarrassing for you." Thinking about his question allowed me to realize how attached I was to the belief that unless all of my skin color returned, I wasn't going to be good enough. It was then that I realized that I didn't want to wait for my skin color to completely return before giving myself permission to live as fully and meaningfully as I could. I think that many people can relate to this idea. We have a tendency to believe that things will be so much better once we have financial security, a healthier body, a life partner who values us, and respect from our family and friends. Perhaps the most important lesson that I've learned thus far is that we don't have to wait for just the right circumstances to feel blessed. Each moment is a new chance to experience something special.

What is the principal message you want to impart to your patients?

It is not my intention to impart a principal message to anyone. In the process of sharing thoughts and memories, I have noticed that people create opportunities to learn lessons from their own unique life experiences. Also, I prefer not to refer to people as patients. I believe that I learn from people who come to me with health challenges, just as they might learn from me.

How can you be so sure that fasting and natural hygiene are the ways to optimal health?

I've often wondered about this expression, "optimal health". If we are strong and well conditioned, but our minds and hearts are consistently filled with worry, frustration, anger, sadness, apathy, jealousy, and loneliness, are we, in fact, optimally healthy? Beyond physical indicators of good health like a strong and flexible body and well-conditioned organs, I think that "optimal health" includes a feeling of emotional well being that each individual must learn to experience on his own. I believe that fasting and a hygienic lifestyle can be immensely helpful in attaining this feeling and state of health.

What is your long-term vision for your clinic?

It's the same as my short-term vision for the clinic: to help one person at a time.

Dr. Ben Kim's Background
and Professional Credentials

Dr. Ben Kim studied at the University of Toronto before going on to earn his Doctor of Chiropractic degree at the National University of Health Sciences in Illinois. He graduated summa cum laude and class salutatorian.

After graduating, he travelled to the arctic of Alaska where he helped to establish a chiropractic clinic for a group of Inuit villages. Following his time in Alaska, Dr. Kim completed a residential internship at the TrueNorth Health Center in northern California for board certification in therapeutic fasting supervision by the International Association of Hygienic Physicians.

Dr. Kim has a special interest in natural hygiene and the impact that our food and lifestyle choices have on the environment. An enthusiastic tennis player, he also has a special interest in sports medicine and injury rehabilitation. He is a graduate of the Contemporary Medical Acupuncture Program at McMaster University and is in his eighth year of clinical practice.

Margaret Chuong-Kim, M.A., completed her undergraduate training at York University in Toronto, Ontario, graduating with an Honours B.A. in psychology. She went on to earn her Master of Arts degree in Counselling Psychology at the Toronto campus of The Adler School of Professional Psychology, based in Chicago, Illinois.

Margaret has a special interest in Adlerian and Solutions-Focused approaches to counselling.

Click here to visit Dr. Kim's
website and to learn more
about his approach to health

Dr. Kim's interview was originally published in the Summer 2003 Edition of Health Science magazine.

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