Dr.Harald Stossier of the famed VIVAMAYR clinics needs no introduction. VIVAMAYR is known to be the preferred go-to detox place of celebrities and royalties from across the world. At VIVAMAYR, the focus is on eating right and rightly, which means not just eating the right kinds of foods but also doing mindful eating and chewing slowly. Weight loss, glowing skin and other superficial benefits are just incidental to the entire belief that if you take care of your digestive system, the rest of the things automatically fall in place. VIVAMAYR has medical centres in two places in Austria - Maria Worth and Altaussee, and day clinics in Vienna and London. Here, the treatment sees the marriage of ancient wisdom with modern science. Diagnostic tools like Applied Kinesiology are used and modern complementary medicine is combined with traditional therapies for treatment.
I spoke to Dr.Stossier, the Austrian physician and Founder of the prestigious VIVAMAYR medical centre in Maria Wörth on a range of topics from his philosophy, to his thoughts on Ayurveda, the future of Orthomolecular medicine and its role in cancer treatment, and of course, his India plans.
Anjana: Thank you so much for your time Dr. Stossier and the privilege. My first question to you is on how you drifted into complementary medicine while you were following conventional medicine. Do you think there are limitations in conventional medicine that made you drift?
Dr.S: No, I wouldn't say this. If you want to practice complementary medicine, you also need to know mainstream medicine. In Austria, you need to do undergo the studies at the University and get your medical degree and then, you can do something additional to the mainstream. I decided to do complementary medicine. I got additional qualifications in fasting, detoxification, homoeopathy etc. but mainly I do Modern Mayr Medicine, Orthomolecular Medicine and Applied Kinesiology.
A: As is with any practice which does not conform to regular ways of treatment, there are sceptics and believers alike. So is the case with Orthomolecular medicine. On the one hand, you have non-believers who say macro dosing on vitamins which Orthomolecular medicine proposes does more harm than good and then, you have propounders like Linus Pauling who through their scientific findings and successful trials established that it is indeed effective. The proponents believe that the strong pharma lobby and corporate and governments interests in maximization of profits will never make Orthomolecular medicine mainstream. What are your views on the same?
Dr.S: I can say that sceptics have no idea of physiology because we need different minerals, vitamins, trace elements etc. To produce energy, you need magnesium. People who feel tired all the time are often low in magnesium. The simplest thing would be to just add magnesium to your diet. You need magnesium to regulate blood pressure, prevent muscle cramps, and many other things.
In the meanwhile, we have a lot of knowledge and research on how these things work. Look at Vitamin D which is produced with support from the sun. So many people have a Vitamin D deficiency, just because they do not step out in the sun and even if they do, they are „over“protected by sun lotions. One of my colleagues, a general practitioner, measured the levels of vitamins and minerals in a rural area of Austria and found that 89 % of the people were deficit in one or more of these micronutrients. There is a difference between minimal concentration, to avoid a huge deficiency, or to optimize the metabolism to get the amount we need to feel well and stay healthy. Take the simple example of Vitamin C. People died because of its deficiency several years ago. We cannot produce this vitamin on our own and we need to take it through our diet or supplements. To avoid getting Scurvy, you need to take 100mg Vitamin C but this quantity is not enough for our entire metabolism. Vitamin C is proven to prevent colds. Linus Pauling, awarded with the Nobel price twice, calculated the exact amount needed. If we take moderate doses, we treat the infections and in higher doses, we can treat even cancer. It is difficult for those people who are not thinking in that dimension to understand this. They ignore its relevance and importance. Vitamin C is much cheaper than any cancer drug that is used in chemotherapy which costs a fortune.
Our main diagnostic approach is the functional muscle testing – Applied Kinesiology. We individualize the need for different remedies. If we test muscles and see the body's response, we know the deficiencies that are causing it. We know, if we test for an intolerant food, the muscle reaction will change. We have good results in therapy with different minerals and vitamins.
Only for a few substances like Vitamin A, we have the possibility of an overdosing. In medicine, when there is overdosing or also with VIVAMAYR's regular prescribed drugs, there is a reaction, people are more accepting and say "Oh, that is a side-effect of the drug. Shit happens" but if there is overdosing on vitamins or minerals, there is much hullabaloo.
A: There are claims that Orthomolecular medicine is effective in treating and curing cancer. Do you think it holds promise in being used in the mainstream for cancer treatment?
Dr S: Cancer is a very difficult disease. You can't say this or that - it is not that simple. For me, it is always a combination of different things. You have to have different strategies for different individuals as each body is unique. In the future, we need to look at personalized medicine. Let's say if three women have breast cancer, it is not the same for each one of them. All of them have different genetic backgrounds, emotional backgrounds, different sensibilities and hence, you cannot have the same treatment plan for all of them. It is a wrong strategy. I believe that treatments should be individualized and Orthomolecular medicine can help us do that. Orthomolecular medicine is excellent to support other therapies and sometimes, on its own, it is very effective.
Look at heart problems and the treatment approach. Of course, through surgeries and procedures, you get instant relief but there are long term problems with the drug used to treat heart conditions which by themselves cause more harm.
A: Many people believe that detox clinics are mushrooming, because it is a good business proposition and that we really do not need spas to detox as our body detoxes every single moment. I believe though that though our bodies are indeed detoxing constantly, the mechanism is derailed as we abuse our bodies by our faulty lifestyles, food habits etc. and the body then becomes incapable of handling the toxic overload on its own. What are your views doctor?
Dr.S: Yes, you are right. Our bodies are detoxing every moment on their own. When you breathe, you inhale oxygen and the body expels carbon dioxide the very next moment. Hopefully, if your digestive system is good, every morning, you expel the waste of whatever you have eaten or digested, by going to the toilet and having a good bowel movement.
I will explain the need for medical detox. If you want to clean the living room, you first clean it and then not dirty it again by going in with dirty shoes. It will then stay cleaner. The same is the case with our bodies. We train people to eat the right way, not produce too many toxins. But we also use detoxification, cleansing and other strategies to treat diseases. That's the difference. We have the diagnostic first, then, we have the medical strategy to treat diseases in a natural way. We don't use anti-diabetes, anti-hypertension drugs etc. We try to aid the body to cleanse itself to eliminate the toxins and stay as healthy as possible.
A: So, you are basic re-tuning the body's systems to make it function better?
Dr.S: Yes, that's correct. Every religion and society propounds fasting regularly. It wouldn't have stayed relevant after thousands of years if it weren't effective.
A: You have said that raw foods are difficult to digest and should be eaten in the first half of the day. I believe since raw foods are difficult to digest, they should not be part of any food plan for treating people with a weak digestive system as they simply do not have the capability to digest the same. I see nutritionists all over propounding the raw food treatment and they put you on a raw food diet. I think that is a wrong approach to treatment. Even wheatgrass juice is totally overrated and hard to digest. It is not for everyone. What are your views?
Dr.S: Yes, you are right. I agree totally. Raw foods have a lot of vitality. Nutrition is not just about our food intake but much more about how we can metabolize and digest this food.
It is not the food that gives us energy. It is the ingredients from those foods that our bodies have to extract that give us the energy. If the body is unable to do that, then we cannot derive any benefit from that food. Therefore. food is important but even more important is our digestive system. This is what we train people to do - look at their digestive systems. Raw foods are okay but not after 4 p.m. Let me clarify two things. Are we talking about health and nutrition or are we talking about therapy? If it is therapy, we avoid raw foods completely because we want to rest the intestine and in that case, we use only boiled, steamed foods, cooked foods which are easier to digest. Raw foods are indeed difficult to digest. We do not use raw foods as part of our treatment plan. For our daily life and as part of healthy nutrition we recommend to eat raw food, especially salads, fruits and juices not after 4 pm.
A: Is the gluten fad just a hype? Our earlier generations ate gluten, wheat etc. if they were locally grown and available, and lived perfectly healthy lives. I believe gluten can be consumed by anybody with a healthy digestive system unless you have Celiac or are gluten intolerant or have a weak digestive system. If it is locally grown and we are exposed to it from early on, we adapt to it quickly and we don't really need to give it up.
Dr.S: I think you are absolutely right. Eating habits have changed and people are eating more processed foods and there is a high inflammation process in their digestive systems. In addition, if you have gluten which has a glue-like property of binding/sticking, it creates problems, In industrialized countries, breads are made with much higher concentrations of gluten and this is difficult for us to digest. Wheat is the most used cereal in many countries. It was different a generation or two earlier but now, it has changed.
A: Yes, and GMOs, pesticides, the Green Revolution etc. have all destroyed our crops and the planet. I think that is one of the main reasons why we are seeing a rise in gluten intolerance and even in auto-immune disorders.
Dr.S: Yes, also the heavy metals.
A: What are your views on veganism as many believe dairy is not good, it feeds cancer etc. Should everybody avoid dairy or only those people who have lactose or casein intolerance?
Dr.S: Lactose is a problem worldwide as when we become older, our enzymes become weakened and we are unable to metabolize the lactose. In the Western world, 50% of the people are lactose intolerant. You are right about casein. The problem lies also in the quality of the milk. This problem is not so much in Asian countries but more in Western civilization. Also in India, in the past, you did not have so much dairy. Before we had cheese made of raw milk, today it is pasteurised milk. This processing damages structures of fat and protein molecules of the milk and we get a different product. Additionally, there is a difference between A2 and A1 casein in milk. It reacts differently. A1, which is most common in traditional milk cows, creates more problems than A2.
A: You advocate a low-protein and high-fat diet and say that unsaturated fats are what people should be eating more. We have been using ghee since childhood, it is part of our eating culture in India. In Ayurveda too, we are told that ghee is good for the joints, rich in nutrients etc. Just a few years ago, cardiologists asked us to avoid ghee as it damages the heart but now again, we hear ghee is good. These contradictory beliefs confuse people. Ghee is largely saturated fat. So, do you advocate ghee's usage since you promote the use of unsaturated fat?
Dr.S: Ghee is heated butter. If you heat butter, you destroy the unsaturated fatty acids, which are the most important ingredients of the milk fat butter. Ghee is excellent to mobilize the fat-soluble toxins from the intestines. But the nutrition value of ghee is zero. We need long-chain unsaturated fatty acids which we need to develop our brain and if we heat them, we destroy it.
A: Do you think there is some synergy between Ayurveda and your treatment method since you also believe in being sync nature and Ayurveda also talks about prakriti which means the same things. Are there elements of Ayurveda that you incorporate in your method of treatment?
Dr.S: Yes, of course. I got the inspiration from Ayurveda to incorporate the concept of fatty acids in my therapy. We use not just ghee but a lot of unsaturated fatty acids and also Epsom salts to help people eliminate toxins from their bodies. But we use cold pressed oils, not only sesame oil but also linseed, hemp etc containing Omega 3 etc. In Ayurveda, you also have the Panchkarma treatment for detoxification and there are a lot of alkaline fruits and vegetable foods used, and we also use alkaline foods and powders to alkalize the body and help people detoxify. There are similarities but of course, there are differences - socio, geographic but the idea is very similar. The only thing is Ayurveda does not focus so much on mindful eating and chewing.
A: In India, now almost all nutritionists are advocating intermittent fasting and it has become a fad especially after Molecular Biologist Yoshimori Ohsumi won the Nobel Prize in Physiology in 2016 for his findings on how autophagy sets in. Do you think intermittent fasting is for everybody and can it be like a blanket prescription or do you think it should be done by only select few? What are your views?
Dr.S: The Nobel Prize was given for the recognition of the process of autophagy. They have found a process in our genes which helps us keep our bodies clean, be healthy and live long. The strongest factor to start the process of autophagy is fasting as after a couple of hours of fasting, the process starts. Then the recommendation was to do so-called intermittent fasting. However, intermittent fasting has to be in the physiology that means that we eat more in the morning and less in the evening, the body then has enough time to start the process of cleansing when you have your breakfast in the morning after an early evening meal the previous day. But, I see that due to social reasons and otherwise, people have their last meal very late at night at 10 or 11 pm, and then do 16 hours intermittent fasting. That is absolutely stupid. 16 hours intermittent fasting helps if you follow the rules of the physiology of eating less in the evening and more in the morning. There are many other aspects too. You need to have a healthy routine, for instance, once in a week eat less, one month in a year allow your body to detoxify. The most important thing is to listen to your body - it helps everybody. You need to find the right form of eating.
A: Many people suffer from Leaky Gut and there is an increase in food intolerances. How do you think this can be treated and what are your views on the use of peptides to treat the same?
Dr.S: Leaky Gut is the result of our "bad eating habits". If we create inflammation in the intestine by this or in case of a dysbiosis ( overgrowth of bad bacteria, fungus or parasite infections), we damage the intestinal barrier. In that case especially, protein particles, amino acid chains, can enter the body and irritate the immune system. This is the start of food intolerances. A therapeutical strategy is to re-establish the intestinal barrier, optimise the digestive process by changing eating habits and use Orthomolecular substances to support that process. In that strategy, peptide like the amino acid L- Glutamine is an important and helpful supporter of the healing process. You can find more detailed information in my new book about food intolerances and down load it at www.intestinal-health.com.
A: What do you think are the big changes needed for people who cannot go to detox clinics?
Dr.S: People should eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. Dinner should be eaten very early and it should be very light. We should respect and follow the laws of nature and be in sync with it. Support and respect nature. Indulge in mindful eating. It is important to eat slowly, chew properly, enjoy the meal and focus on it. Have heavy meals early in the day. Drink plenty of water between meals. That is my key message.
A: Lastly, do you have India plans?
Dr.S. Yes, we are greatly interested in India and we are planning day clinics in the near future.
A: Thank you very much Dr.Stossier for this enlightening discussion. It was indeed a pleasure.
Dr.S: Thanks to you.
Images Courtesy : VIVAMAYR