Optimum Health Institute (OHI)
Optimum Health Institute - San Diego 6970 Central Avenue, Lemon Grove, CA 91945 Phone: 800-993-4325 www.optimumhealth.org
Optimum Health Institute - Austin 265 Cedar Lane, Cedar Creek, TX 87612 Phone: 512-303-4817 www.optimumhealth.org
From Cynthia: I first learned about OHI from an exceptional cancer survivor who was part of the Education Advisory Committee at the National Foundation for Alternative Medicine. OHI was the first stop on her healing journey, where she stabilized and began to heal her late stage IV pancreatic cancer. She has continued to return at least once a year and to enthusiastically recommend it to others who ask her how she created her miracle of healing. Based on her recommendation, I visited OHI San Diego myself several years ago. I was impressed with the quality of the classes, the enthusiasm and caring of the staff, and the incredible value OHI represents for the very ill individuals who definitely require a multi-week stay. At OHI, many who would not be normally be able to afford a residential healing program have the opportunity to participate. I came away wishing there were more OHI’s around the country so many more people could use them on a regular basis.
A Serious Health-Building Lifestyle Program Embracing Body, Mind & Spirit
The Optimum Health Institute (OHI) has a very simple philosophy that it communicates clearly throughout all components of the program: The body is a self-cleansing, self-healing organism when it is given the proper tools to work with. These tools include a raw organic diet, freshly juiced wheatgrass, maximum fluid intake, exercise to encourage lymphatic drainage and energy movement, colon cleansing and the detoxification of mind and emotions. OHI promotes whole person healing and their program emphasizes self-discipline and the value of taking responsibility for oneself.
The Institute strongly emphasizes the need for mental and emotional detoxification as key components for optimal healing and wellness. This is not suggested to be a “quick fix” solution to chronic or degenerative illness, and a 3-6 month commitment to this type of whole-person protocol is minimal in order for deep changes in the body to manifest and stabilize.
There are no medical personnel available at OHI, because this program does not provide medical treatments, health evaluations or health recommendations. All persons, regardless of health status, follow the same standard diet (with slight modifications) and detoxification program and are responsible for their own care while participating. Since this is not a treatment protocol but a natural health-building lifestyle program, many different diseases and stages of wellness are present in those participating in the program. No discussion of type of illness is ever mentioned in the registration process; in fact it is requested during orientation that one’s reason for being at the Institute not be discussed with others at all. OHI teaches that there are no diseases, simply different “health opportunities.”
"Healing circles," generally only taking 3-5 minutes or so, are held before every meal, creating a real sense of community among guests. The feeling of connection from being in a supportive and caring community is no doubt also an important part of the healing process.
The Optimum Health Institute is a non-profit organization and a non-denominational mission of the Free Sacred Trinity Church, based on the ancient Essene tradition. Don’t let the term “church” mislead you; this is not a religious program in the least and even the spiritual aspects of the program are made more accessible by the substitution of certain phrases and words, such as the term “alpha technique’ rather than meditation. OHI sees its mission as helping people reconnect with their “Source,” no matter how they view that Source.
An Interview with One of OHI’s Founders: Pam Nees
Pam has been at Optimum Health since it’s inception in 1976 and she is now the last surviving founder. In its 30 years of operation, she notes that well over 75,000 individuals have visited the Institute and been transformed in some way. She emphasized that visitors are definitely “guests” and not “patients” and are treated as valued guests.
Pam feels strongly that self-responsibility is integral to the success people achieve: “We are responsible and accountable to every cell in our bodies for the choices we make.” She describes many guests as arriving “fragmented” and out of balance. “What OHI tries to do,” she explained, “is to try to pull the pieces back together again, to integrate each of them back into a truly wholistic being. “ Over the years, she has witnessed many miraculous results in healing the hearts, minds and bodies of visitors. Of course the physical healing is always the most obvious and dramatic, but the mental, emotional and spiritual healing happens just as often. Pam remarked that the OHI protocol is so “low-tech” that people can’t believe the results can be as profound as they are. She went on, “It’s so simple, people don’t believe it can really work.” But it does, sometimes in ways that are nothing short of magical.
Interestingly, in agreement with other discussions within these chapters, Pam noted that she has observed the same pattern of a very stressful or traumatic event happening 18-24 months before cancer manifests in an individual. She often asks guests what was happening in their lives during this time period to get them to think about this. She has also observed the extremely high levels of stress many people are dealing with in today’s world and how OHI attempts to teach them how to lessen its impact or release much of it.
Pam explained that since there are no healthcare professionals on staff, guests are required to be in contact with their own doctors or other healthcare providers while at OHI. This is because of the rapid body changes that occur during serious detoxification. She noted that the need for prescription medication is generally diminished very quickly and many times dosages need to be reduced, sometimes significantly so.
Key to Lifestyle Changes and Healing: OHI’s 40 Classes Each Week
The Optimum Health Institute recognizes the importance of educating guests in how to change their lives, lessen stress, embrace a healthier diet, detox their bodies, balance their emotions and attain a more positive mental attitude. For this, they offer 40 classes every week. Of the 40, 14 are directly concerned with mental, emotional and spiritual healing; the rest are related to diet, instruction in food preparation, physical detoxification and exercise. Titles for the 14 include “Your Life is a Gift, Mind/Body Connection, Advanced Alpha Technique, Emotional Detoxification, Mental Detoxification, ‘You’ Validation, Self Esteem” and others. A group toning class is especially powerful. There is a formal “Release Ceremony” held each week, during which all those who wish to let go of anything in their lives (including an illness, relationship, job or anything else) write the message on a paper and then during the ceremony all the papers are burned together—quite a powerful symbolic ritual.
The Diet and Detoxification Program
These components of OHI’s program consist of raw food, exercise and daily enemas. There are daily classes with detailed instruction in bodily processes such as elimination and digestion. The second and third weeks of the three week program focus on teaching participants how to prepare the raw foods and create meals upon returning home. There is detailed instruction given about how to do the daily enemas, which include a wheatgrass juice implant.
Daily menus generally include watermelon for breakfast and raw vegetables, sprouted seeds or grains and fermented foods for lunch and dinner. The diet created by well-known health pioneer Ann Wigmore is used, including her fermented drink called Rejuvelac. The food program is kept as simple as possible and there are no sauces, dressings or salt available, although presentation is quite attractive and food amounts are more than ample. There is a three-day juice “fast” (optional) included in the middle of the first week program in order to give the detoxification process an extra nudge.
Raw vegetarian food creates a highly alkaline diet. Raw is used because of the belief that the natural enzymes present within digest the foods consumed quickly and easily, without additional strain on the body, thereby allowing most of the body’s available energy to be directed toward detoxification and healing. Also, much current nutrition-related literature refers to the very positive effect an alkalinizing diet has on many illnesses. There is also an emphasis on proper food combining, which is believed to enhance the digestive and detoxification processes.
There are workbooks, study guides, cookbooks and videos available at the store for those who wish to have this kind of support for either doing the program at home or reviewing and reinforcing what was learned while visiting. A simple, inexpensive but well thought-out enema kit is available for purchase in the store.
Other OHI Details
The entire program consists of 3 weeks, although any number of weeks can be taken. In order to experience all the classes, including food preparation, the full 3 week program is required. Check-in is Sunday afternoon and check out is by 10AM on the following Saturday, unless multiple weeks are booked. There are optional colonics, massages and chiropractic visits available onsite at extra cost and these are paid for separately. They are not required to be successful in the program and there are no other health-related services available on the property.
The maximum number of persons who can be served in the residential program is 150; there is also a commuter program available at reduced cost. First timers are strongly advised to be onsite for at least the first week of the program.
Guests care for their own rooms, as there is no maid service between check in and check out; this even includes collecting toilet paper from the community closet as needed. This is not a spa-like atmosphere, but a serious, self-directed health program. Participants must also juice their own fresh wheatgrass, although all other foods and juices are provided. Since there is no maid or room service available at the Institute, a person attending must be able to care for him or herself, or have a support person available. There are rooms available without stairs for easy wheelchair access. Seriously ill persons may wish to consider the full 3 week or even a 4 week program. Since the Institute has deliberately tried to keep costs as low as possible, this option is a possibility for many persons with a chronic health challenge.
There is a voluntary talent show on Friday nights that is very popular with both guests and staff.
Costs: The very reasonable weekly costs for the entire program, including food, room and board and all classes ranges from a shared (double) room with twin beds and shared bath at $585 to a two bedroom, two bath townhouse at $950. A suite is available for $1250 and the standard private room with bath is $765 single occupancy.
The “Missionary” Program: Also of note, the Institute has a program for those who cannot afford even these low rates. In exchange for 18 hours of work per week, persons who are accepted (called “missionaries”) can take part in the program at no cost. There is an application process that must be followed and the minimum length of time commitment requested for this type of arrangement is 3 months. There will be a minimal cost for housing.
Location: There are two Optimum Health Institutes; one near San Diego (Lemon Grove) and the other in Austin, Texas. They offer the same program; Austin is slightly more upscale and a bit more expensive. Lemon Grove and OHI are located about 15 minutes from the San Diego Airport.
The Institute appears to be almost a tropical oasis created in the midst of a network of major highways and shopping centers and the highway noise can be distracting at times. Some of this can be bypassed by requesting a “preferred deluxe” room on the Central Avenue side of the facility. Grounds are immaculate and the rooms are quite nice, although not upscale by any means. The Institute has purchased a townhouse development next door and also uses many of the apartments in an adjoining community, in order to be able to offer its programs to more persons.
There is a small meditation room/chapel onsite, as well as a store where some natural personal items are sold, along with books, videos and equipment to support a raw food diet such as seeds for sprouting, juicers, dehydrators, etc.
A path around the perimeter of the gated property is ¼ mile long for those who want to walk or jog. There is a large jacuzzi onsite, as well as an unheated swimming pool. No other exercise facilities are available. Comfortable lounge chairs abound throughout the grounds, making for easy communication and connecting between participants. Since the weather is generally beautiful, many people choose to eat meals outside.
More Notes: Many guests present during my visit had been to the Institute multiple times; there is a high return visit rate and very positive regard for the program. I personally met at least a dozen people who come once or twice every year to detoxify themselves and renew their dedication to wellness, and there were probably more. One elderly gentleman present had made over 70 visits during the last 26 years.
There were a variety of anecdotal stories of successful healing or improved health situations given by program participants, including cancer patients, during the regular Friday morning “Testimonials” gathering. Some of these were quite profound, including a gentleman whose massive neck tumors had softened and shrunk significantly and who was able to speak and swallow after 3 weeks; he had decided to stay for another 2 weeks of the program.
I was also quite surprised to learn that OHI has never paid for advertising during its 30 years of providing these programs. All those who come have discovered the Institute through word of mouth and the Institute is filled to capacity many weeks. Although the facilities are simple, many celebrities have completed the program.