A 120-year lifespan, the Ayurvedic norm, is gaining acceptance as a realistic goal. It is a realistic goal, and one being promoted, directly or indirectly, by groups and movements all over the world. My wife and I for years have had a greater-than-average interest in health and nutrition, and consequently greater-than-average knowledge of continuing attempts by the drug industry and allopathic medicine to ignore and minimize the importance of nutrition in human wellness. This interest and the desire to know more were intensified twelve years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer.

I already knew enough to seek care other than from a typical allopathic physician, and went to a Mexican clinic for diagnosis and treatment. It was recommended after testing that I undergo surgical removal of one side of my thyroid gland. At this time I decided that, whatever my remaining life span might be, I would reach its end with my parts intact. There had to be a better way. Since then I have been self treated and consider myself in permanent remission.

As our knowledge and perspective have grown over the years, my wife and I have come to realize that the onset of malignancy in my case (triggered by pipe smoking) came in some respects as a blessing. Without it we probably would not have been led into the changes we have made in our diet and lifestyle. These changes preclude the development of other chronic metabolic ailments. Barring injury, we are unlikely ever to require hospitalization or drugs. Nor are we likely to become bedridden or saddled with chronic pain. If everyone knew what we know, simply as informed laymen, the question of government-paid medical care would disappear as a political issue.

The secret to all this is simple–not easy, but simple–and the results are dramatic. First, detoxify the body. Then, eat simply. Other good health practices–rest, sunshine, fresh air, exercise and so forth–have their place but pale in comparison to diet. It's our considered opinion (supported by a wealth of clinical experience ignored by the medical high priests) that detoxification can cure and prevent any chronic metabolic condition (which we prefer not to think of as "disease") and can go a long way toward curing illness caused by organisms (which we do consider "disease"). This is because organisms–bacteria, viruses, parasites–thrive in areas of toxic accumulation in one's body, like flies in a garbage dump. Clean your body up and you'll seldom be bothered by any health problem. There are various approaches to detoxification which have proven successful for many. They differ primarily in areas of emphasis, with many common denominators. Some of them are wheatgrass juicing, bowel cleansing, macrobiotic diet, juicing and coffee enemas (Gerson therapy), herbal detoxification, parasite/pollutant removal, fasting and Ayurvedic treatments. A common denominator in all these programs is a simple diet, which must be continued after remission or cure.

Emphasis should be on the fruits and vegetables, especially raw or cooked "low and slow," as the macrobiotic people put it. It is important if you're ill to prepare fresh fruit and vegetable juices for immediate consumption–thus preserving the enzymes as well as the vitamins and minerals. Try to avoid processed, canned, fried and frozen food; meat and animal products, including eggs and dairy; anything refined or bleached, especially refined sugar and flour; food adulterated with chemicals–preservatives, herbicides, pesticides, fungicides and fertilizers. Buy food that will rot, and eat it before it does.

People who avoid meat consumption for spiritual reasons, adhering to the principle of ahimsaor nonviolence, are indulging in a practice that also pays dividends in good health. As a devotee of Sathya Sai Baba, I was pleased to learn that what he says about food, diet and health care dovetails beautifully into all this. Baba observers that most people tend to eat more than they should.

Converting my eating habits from bad to good has been a gradual process. It is a process, however, which has done more than help in my health. It has helped me develop my strength of character to a new level. It has been a spiritual exercise.

Mr. Peter C. Lang is a 63-year-old realtor who lives with his wife in Fresno, California. Mr. Lang is serving the Sathya Sai Baba Centre of Fresno and Clovis, California, as its president.