[This is the third and final post in the series about my stay at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida. The three-week Life Transformation Program is a multi-faceted detox (with raw, vegan food, lectures, treatments, classes and psychotherapy) designed to improve your health overall. Disclaimer: these posts reflect my own impression and opinion of the program; I was not compensated in any way, financial or otherwise, to write these reviews, and I participated as a paying guest just like everyone else there. I hope you enjoy this insider's look into the program and institute! For the first installment about the place overall and general philosophy, see this post. For details about the specific diet, see this one.]
[Waiting area at the Oasis Spa, where most of the treatments took place.]
Thanks so much to everyone for your great feedback on this series about my trip to Hippocrates Health Institute! I’m glad that for some of you, these posts offer a chance to examine more closely whether or not you want to go there yourself (because, let’s face it, it’s a pretty steep investment); or perhaps just a little insider’s peek into what it was like during three weeks at the place.
So far, I’ve talked about the general look and philosophy of the place (50 acres of gorgeous tropical landscape) and the food (fresh, organic, colorful and raw); and today, I’ll share finals bits of key information: the many and varied treatments offered, the educational seminars and lectures; and–the moment we’ve all been waiting for–the final outcome (as in, “so, did going there make a difference to your health?!”).
First, let’s back it up a bit. As I mentioned in the first post in this series, despite my best dietary intentions, some nagging symptoms had resurfaced after a long period of stress (and menopause–we can’t forget that one, now, can we?). As a result, my health goals at Hippocrates were several:
- clear the candida rash that had returned to plague me for the last 6 months
- reduce the redness and swelling of my chronic (and now worse) dry eyes and blepharitis (eyelid swelling)
- improve my digestion (which had, shall we say, slowed down in recent months); and
- improve my torn achilles tendon (which was about 5 weeks old when I left, and because of which I was still unable to really walk too well, or take any stairs without walking down them sideways, the way a little kid side-steps down a beginner’s ski hill).
[One of five saltwater pools on campus.]
Treatments and Therapies:
Blood Tests: Upon arrival and then two days before departure, each guest had blood drawn. Next, there was a 30-minute consultation with one of the directors or the head nurse to discuss results and carve out a treatment plan. They looked at complete blood cell counts, general chemistry (including glucose, blood minerals, protein, markers of liver function, diabetes risk, iron, coronary risk, thyroid, and Vitamin D levels), and a few other things.
I already knew that my CRP (marker for risk of heart disease) was high based on previous tests with my naturopath; given that each of my various chronic conditions manifests as inflammation, a high CRP number is no surprise (mine came out at 1.8, considered “medium risk.”).
But there were some surprises: my fasting glucose level, while not technically “high,” was higher than I’d like it at 96 mg/dl (high is anything over 100). Similarly, while my HDL and LDL cholesterol numbers were each good (98 mg/dl and 95 mg/dl, respectively), and the HDL:LDL ratio was equally good (2.1), the total cholesterol clocked in at 205, which is 5 mg/dl above normal. (Say what?!). I already knew that cholesterol levels are actually related more to liver functioning than eating cholesterol (since vegan diets are virtually free of it!), but the number was upsetting as an indication of sub-par liver function.
Interestingly, my liver enzymes were also a bit out of whack, with total bilirubin at 1.2 mg/dl (0.2 above normal) and direct bilirubin at 0.4 mg/dl (0.1 above normal). In this case, I know that enzymes can sometimes appear temporarily elevated if someone has just taken a course of prescription or over-the-counter drugs, or has stressed the liver in some other way (such as drinking a lot of alcohol or living in a polluted environment). At that point, I’d just wrapped up 3 days with the HH before he returned home while I continued on to Hippocrates; we had been eating in restaurants where I couldn’t always find entirely “clean” foods, and my allergies had been bothering me so much that I took some decongestants for a few days. It’s possible those numbers were related to that activity.
My treatment plan included various complimentary therapies each week. As with most people, not every available treatment was recommended (I had to forgo two because of previous problems with a bad back and IBS).
[Pamphlet describing available treatments at the Oasis Spa.]
Here’s what I did:
- Swedish Massage: one massage per week (promotes circulation, relaxation, general healing). With massage, the specific therapist can make a huge difference; I really benefitted from these sessions.
- Viofor machine: one treatment per week (electromagnetic therapy to increase circulation, other biological processes, oxygenation of tissues). This machine emitted electromagnetic energy that wasn’t detectable by the recipient. During the treatment, you lie on a bed with a pillow either behind your head or on your stomach, and just relax as the machine does its thing.
- Q Laser: one treatment per week (laser therapy to promote general healing). This treatment, after a short introduction, was self-administered in the treatment room. The Q laser looks sort of like a TV remote, but one that flashes intermittent lights (lasers) from one end in a strobe light-like fashion. You hold the flashing end against the part of your body that requires healing. In my case, we chose my eyes as the targets, so I held the laser against my lids for most of the 30-minute session. I also held it against my shoulders, since I’d pulled a couple of tendons there.
- H-Wave therapy: one treatment during the entire stay (promotes pain relief, lymphatic drainage, circulation). This machine resembled the kind of muscle stimulation machines I’ve seen at the physiotherapist’s office with wires and electrodes that stick to your skin. It was a 30-minute therapy that delivered what felt like targeted electric shock to various body parts. I used this to treat my swollen ankle, but it hurt so much that I had to ask them to turn down the intensity. Interestingly, the woman beside me, receiving the identical treatment, fell asleep and later remarked how relaxing it had been!
- Theragem machine: one treatment per week (light therapy that improves circulation, healing, tissue regeneration, immune function and reduces inflammation). This machine involved lying on a bed with two specific gemstones (they were chosen based on your particular condition) placed in a frame above your head while you lay still and listened to soothing music.
- Soft Laser machine: one treatment per week (neutralizes heavy metals and stimulates the immune system). Another laser that delivers beams across your body while you lie still (goggles required to protect your eyes from stray laser beams).
- Magnetic Resonance Stimulation (MRS) machine: one treament per week (provides low intensity electromagnetic frequencies to match those of cells; assists with natural cleansing and repair, and can increase bone density). Again, you don’t feel these electromagnetic rays as you lie still on a bed in the treatment room.
- Infrared Sauna: known to initiate detoxification to a degree higher than conventional, “wet” saunas.
- Hydrotherapy: alternating hot/cold soaks in mineral pools to increase circulation, move the lymph and reduce inflammation (I used this for my ankle)
- Individual psychotherapy: one treatment during the entire stay (assess stress levels and needs of each individual, then follow up in final week of stay) plus one group therapy session per week.
In addition, I was prescribed a list of supplements to take; because I had brought some of my own supplements with me, I ended up purchasing only a few new ones (digestive enzymes; chlorella tablets; anti-inflammation pills; Vitamin D drops; probiotics).
There were a host of other treatments available for a fee, including everything from acupuncture to hyperbaric oxygen chambers to seaweed and clay body wraps. I decided to purchase a deep lymph massage (to work on the inflammation in my leg) and, after hearing an amazing lecture by Jenny Lee, one of the acupuncturists, I purchased a session with her, too.
Finally, in addition to all the treatments were ongoing fitness courses, lectures and seminars that guests could attend whenever they wished. Topics ranged from how to sprout at home to fundamentals of raw foods to traditional therapies and how to use them.
Of all the therapies I tried, the machines that did the least for me (or, should I say caused no appreciable difference in my symptoms) were mostly those that emitted electromagnetic radiation or laser beams. I do know from previous experience at home that laser therapy can work wonders on swollen, injured tissues, so I’m not sure why those didn’t do much for me. The practitioner did mention that the Q Laser is normally employed over a period of time, and since I had only three treatments, perhaps I shouldn’t have counted on anything there. I did find that most of those therapies were extremely relaxing, however (since you’re basically lying still with your eyes closed for the full treatment period), so offered a good time to meditate and just chill.
[One of the many areas on the grounds designed for reflection and relaxation.]
My supplemental treatments (those I purchased beyond the complimentary ones):
These treatments, and the practitioners who administered them, really stood out. First, I had an acupuncture session with Jenny Lee, a master who has been practicing since 1986. She focused on my legs and ankles, as those were the areas that I mentioned; but in taking my pulses (in Chinese medicine, there are three major pulses in the wrist, each representing a set of organs), she noted, “problems with your kidney” (gasp! Some of you may recall the kidney infection I had last summer), so she set about treating that, too. By the time my 50-minute session was over, there was a very visible reduction in the amount of swelling in my ankle; it looked almost the same as the right one! Sadly, I wasn’t able to book any more appointments with Jenny as she was so busy that time slots were all taken. If you’re ever in the West Palm Beach area, I’d highly recommend her.
Another fantastic experience was the deep lymphatic massage with Linda Cloward, LMT. Part of the swelling in my ankle was due to lymphedema, or swelling caused by poor lymph drainage. The massage, while not exactly relaxing (there’s quite a bit of pressure, and swollen tissues are sore!) also produced a visible reduction in symptoms. I’ll be seeking out more deep lymph massage here at home.
Finally, the psychotherapies (individual and weekly optional group therapy) were instrumental, I think, in the overall effect of the program. One of the repeated tenets of the program is that food alone can’t effect appreciable changes in people’s health. In other words, you can eat the most perfect diet in the world, but if you don’t exercise, don’t address stress and don’t deal with your emotional baggage, it’s still possible to remain quite ill. The two therapists on staff were both exemplary, and I witnessed major breakthroughs during the three group therapy sessions I attended (sorry, can’t tell you any more than that as we all swore to keep it confidential).
In the end, I saw major improvements in each of the areas I was hoping to treat. My decades-long, chronic nasal congestion literally disappeared during my stay. Around the beginning of the third week, I remember thinking, “Hey! So THIS is what it’s like to be able to breathe through both nostrils!” Similarly, within one day, I abandoned the antifungal and hydrocortisone creams on which I’d been relying for months, in favor of totally natural treatments recommended (Neem cream during the day and a simple garlic-and-oil paste at night); thereafter, I used only the natural remedies and had no symptoms from the rash at all. My ankle improved significantly. And even my digestion, improved to the point that I’d have been a textbook case of “healthy digestion” (I think raw foods agree with me!). The only area where I saw no real change was my blepharitis and dry eyes (boo hoo).
As for my blood results, every category that had been problematic improved. Fasting glucose went down to 90 mg/dl, a comfortable margin from what’s considered high. HDL and LDL stayed about the same (93 and 92 mg/dl, respectively) but my total cholesterol went down to 175–a 30 point drop, and a healthy level. Finally, my liver enzymes also normalized, at 0.7 mg/dl for total bilirubin and 0.2 mg/dl direct bilirubin.
[Program graduates gleefully adding pins to designate their home cities to the already full world map.]
My changes weren’t nearly as dramatic, however, as those among people who entered with more serious health issues. Some of the stories at our graduation ceremony were truly awe inspiring. Each person, as s/he walked on stage, paused to tell her or his own story of healing.
One story that has remained with me since then, for instance, was from a young woman who appeared to be in her late twenties. With long brown hair and bangs that brushed her eyelashes, she wore a pale blue and white flowered sundress that flowed behind her as she marched up to the platform to tell her story.
“It started about ten years ago,” she began, “when I was diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder. For some unknown reason, my brain began to interpret all sensory input as pain.” In other words, any sensory perception at all, from a slap to the touch of a feather, was perceived as painful. She was basically immobilized, as any movement, any touch, any contact with another person became excruciating. “For my first blood test, I had to be wheeled into the nurses’ office in a wheelchair,” she said. “Then, after my second week here, I began to try to walk. As of the third week, I was walking everywhere.” The audience was rapt; tears began to well in my eyes. The woman stopped to compose herself, her own voice catching in her throat. Then she continued, “And now, as of two days ago. . . I am pain free. For the first time in ten years.” Of course, the audience erupted in applause; most of us were equally overwhelmed with emotion.
Other stories involved guests whose diabetes reversed; whose blood cancer markers disappeared; whose symptoms of osteoarthritis improved to the point that decades-long pain had subsided. One young man shared how he’d stopped a decades-long habit of daily marijuana smoking. While I was privy to only a handful of stories (those people who graduated while I attended), there are scores more in the Institute’s magazine.
[Need a bicycle? Take a bicycle! They were available, for free, to anyone who wanted one.]
Did everyone undergo a miraculous recovery? No, of course not. Apart from a few pounds lost or improvements in digestion or general sense of well-being, several of the people I knew during my stay experienced no obvious, measurable physical improvement. I came away from the trip with the sense that people who began with more severe conditions tended to witness more powerful changes as well. And given the complexity of some chronic illnesses, certain people required longer time periods to see results (one woman had been in residence there for three months, for instance). But everyone agreed that it was an incredible experience and that the atmosphere alone was filled with healing energy, love, and compassion. We all left feeling happier, and more filled with hope, than when we entered.
As for me, I was delighted in the outcome and my own improvements (although returning to my previous environment–with the selfsame allergens and toxins that were there before I left–has triggered a reprise of nasal congestion). As I continue to incorporate as much of what I learned at Hippocrates as I can into my daily life and refine the approach to suit my own needs and lifestyle, I expect to see more long-term improvements in my health.
Is it for you?
As with any approach to healing, I think whether or not a program is right for you depends on a multitude of factors: first, of course, is whether it has a proven track record. Beyond that, though, I’d consider the nature, severity and length of the illness up to that point; the person’s beliefs about healing and alternative vs. allopathic medicine; the person’s lifestyle and locale; as well as the overall sense of determination and hope that the person has. In fact, the major lesson I took home with me, I think, is this: true, and permanent, healing requires a multi-faceted approach that incorporates all components of body, mind and spirit. In other words, in order to truly reach the goal of ultimate wellness, a firm and unshakeable commitment to one’s own wellness is an essential co-requisite.
Yes, healing takes time. But I truly believe that with the right attitude, perseverance, and boundless hope, anyone can heal from an illness. Finding the right approach for you is just one of the myriad decisions along that journey.
Do you have other questions about Hippocrates or my stay there? Feel free to ask in the comments!
[My certificate--I made it through three weeks of heavy duty detox!]
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