I have a question for you. When is the last time you took a day – or even a few hours – dedicated entirely to yourself?
Have you ever thought to take a whole week, or more, to rejuvenate yourself, detox, and heal?
That’s what the Swiss Mountain Clinic is here for – and I can explain firsthand how much it has helped me to detox and heal in the last two years.
In this article, I’ll review my entire Swiss Mountain Clinic (SMC) experience, and break down what you can expect, what my fellow attendees had to say, and how you can join, if you’d like.
- The history of the SMC and their mission
- The treatments available at SMC and which conditions they treat
- My experience with SMC and the healing results (including lab test results)
- What you can expect (and not expect) at SMC
- The non-treatment benefits of SMC (hello, scenic Swiss Alps backdrop)
- How you can attend SMC 2020, if you’d like
Here is a full review of last and this year’s trip and heads up on the upcoming one in 2020.
What is the Swiss Mountain Clinic?
Once known as Al Ronc Paracelsus Clinic (after the 17th century Swiss physician, herbalist and alchemist Paracelsus), the Swiss Mountain Clinic was renamed in 2019. It’s owned by German couple Dr. Petra and Ulf Wiechel. Dr. Petra and her daughter, Dr. Frederike, are M.D.s and practice holistic European medicine. This is somewhat akin to functional medicine in the US but it goes much deeper – more on that later.
Many of the patients who come there (you won’t meet many of them during our retreats) have advanced degenerative conditions such as stage 3 and 4 cancer, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
The clinic has carved out a name for themselves as a place that restores the body’s innate ability to heal by flooding it with nutrients and detoxing from the common offenders. This is all while offering a serene place to heal.
European holistic medicine is rather different from functional medicine in the U.S., what most people know as “alternative medicine.” European holistic medicine, especially German and Swiss practitioners, focuses a great deal on creating a healing environment to activate the body’s innate ability to repair.
This means that clean food, clean air, clean water, gentle movement (hiking and yoga), sauna, detoxification, meditation, breathing, self-love are not optional but a must.
As an herbalist, I was also impressed with how proficient they are in the use of herbs. They use herbs as medicine whereas in the U.S., a traditional M.D. would tell you that the medicinal benefits of herbs are “anecdotal.” The Swiss Mountain Clinic uses the power of energy medicine and advanced technology I’d never heard of before. Keep reading for proof of my life-changing results.
I absolutely adore Dr. Petra and Ulf and the team they created – they are some of the most giving, empathetic and caring humans I’ve met.
Swiss Mountain Clinic: Why I Went 2 Years In a Row
I first ventured to the Swiss Mountain Clinic in 2018. To be honest, I didn’t know all that much about what I had signed up for. My friend Robyn Openshaw (aka Green Smoothie Girl) invited me. She had attended the clinic every year for a decade, and I trusted her.
Sometimes, it’s fun to just sign up and go and let the experience carry you through a series of discoveries. Plus, I loved the idea of fresh mountain water in the Swiss Alps, as well as organic, vegan fare prepared by a Michelin star chef, and the escape from the U.S. and my daily routine.
Most importantly, I wanted to dedicate 100 percent of my time taking care of myself. No matter how much I try to allocate daily #MeCare (self-care) time at home, it doesn’t happen as often as I would like. Ever since I started running my business, I’ve learned that time is the biggest gift I can give myself.
I also appreciated that the facility is a zero-EMF zone, therefore there were no cell phones and WiFi. If a person needs to connect with loved one or can’t get away from work stuff, there is a wired ethernet internet connection in each room. This set-up allows us to really disconnect from the online noise, and only get on when absolutely needed – all in the name of complete restoration and detoxification.
In 2018, I only went for one week to do the liver detox. On day 5 and 6, I remember thinking: “This is when I’m beginning to feel really good, I wish I could stay longer.” But, it was time to go. The best analogy I can use is this: Imagine having just finished a great yoga class and instead of doing the savasana (resting pose) to fully integrate and take in the practice, you run off to the next thing. Ending Week 1 felt like running off to the next thing.
In 2019, I committed to 2 weeks and it was such a good thing to do – it felt just the way you do after savasana. Week 1 was about opening up and week 2 was about deepening and fully reaping the benefits of the program.
How the Swiss Mountain Clinic Helped Me
I had the benefit of comparing my 2019 results with those from 2018 as this was my second visit. The main markers that have improved were:
1. Improved Nutritional Deficiencies
This is an optional test, paid for separately, and it’s so worth it. Compared to 2018, my nutritional deficiencies improved a lot. I attribute that to being more committed and regular at taking supplements.
2. Detoxification Capacity Improved by 40%
Even though my heavy metal levels have not budged since last year, my detoxification pathways clearing heavy metals improved by 40% – and went from being 50% open to 70%. I attribute that to correcting my magnesium levels and working on the ANS/PNS (see next point).
3. A Calmer Nervous System
I’m really stoked about this one because you can take supplements to correct nutritional deficiencies but calming your nervous system takes a lot more work.
The ANS stands for Autonomic Nervous System and consists of the parasympathetic nervous system (rest, relax, digest, sleep) and sympathetic (flight and fight response). The vagus nerve is part of the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) – it ensures that we can digest our food, sleep well, have an orgasm, feel grounded and rested.
The PNS is vital for a number of bodily systems to function well including the endocrine (hormonal), mitochondrial (your source of energy), immune and detoxification (yes, stress, can inhibit detoxification pathways).
If you look at my 2018 results, you will see how deep abdominal breathing (which engages the vagus nerve) suppresses the sympathetic nervous system (flight or fight) and activates the PNS. This explains why so many people feel great after doing yoga or deep abdominal breathing – their vagus nerve and PNS are in full activation.
Frequent activities to activate the PNS will lead to a better functioning endocrine, immune, mitochondrial system, as well as detoxification.
I’ve walked you through documented change with my test results, but it’s equally important to tune in to how my body feels after this year’s retreat. I’ve noticed a few changes:
- I no longer need to take a nap after lunch or in the afternoons.
- My digestion has improved; I no longer react to certain high FODMAPs (like garlic).
- I have more energy throughout the day.
- Coffee withdrawals are minimal now. I attribute that to my body’s heightened ability to detox caffeine.
- I lost cellulite on my thighs and butt, and I toned down quite a bit.
How I Moved My Markers in the Right Direction
I was reflecting on the past year and what I had done that helped move the markers in the right direction. In spite of quite a lot of stress in 2018, I was pleasantly surprised that things have improved the way they did.
Here are a few of the stressors that happened in 2018:
- My best friend, Yasmina Yekelstam (Healing Histamine founder) passed away; I had never felt such intense grief and had no tools to deal with it.
- I also bought a mountain house and the house deal wasn’t going smoothly and there were days that I thought I would have no place to live; my house rent was terminated and I had to get out, yet the house deal wasn’t finalized. I then had to move.
- We also launched a new online program (Estrogen Reset) which my team and I had been working on for over 8 months (online program development and launches are exhausting to put it mildly and never go the way you had hoped for – most people fall sick after a launch as a result of overworking and stress).
Despite all of this, my parasympathetic nervous system has improved (it’s hard to know what moved the needle on this one and one year isn’t very long for the nervous system) and the detoxification pathways opening is a big deal (especially with my genetic variants that make me a super slow detoxifier).
Here are some of the things that have helped keep my PNS in good shape:
- I got a dog (Charlie, a Westie) who is the love of my life and makes me melt and laugh every day. I’ve just adopted another dog (Nella, a Jack Russell) and it’s double joy now. My dogs not only are a great source of happiness but also get me out on short and long walks, probably an hour per day. I attribute the love I have for them as a big release of oxytocin, the love and bond hormone which activates the PNS.
- Regular use (2-3 times per week) of the infrared sauna (I have Sunlighten, the same brand as the clinic).
- Castor oil packs: I use them 7 days on and 7 days off. Castor oil is also known to calm the sympathetic nervous system.
- I have been doing some deep abdominal breathing (the 4-7-8 technique) and some meditation with Headspace (I love the voice of Andy Puddicombe, the founder) – but not as regularly as I wish.
That’s pretty much all I did differently this year – and it clearly moved the needle for me in spite of the stressors. I knew these were good things to do but to see them in actual lab tests and charts gives me the motivation to keep going – because now I know that it works!
This year I need to work on my high levels of mercury and aluminum. I didn’t want to start the heavy metal chelation therapy there because it takes about 6 weeks to complete a treatment, and I wanted to have a doctor who can supervise the process (I was in Switzerland for only 2 weeks). I will start chelation therapy in January with my functional MD, here in Colorado.
My last thought on this reflection is: I’ve started doing many things at the retreat (like regular IR sauna, dry brushing, eating more vegetables, going on morning hikes, etc) which I continued doing for most of the year that followed the retreat. I felt like the retreat initiated a bunch of new health habits which I stuck with.
How Swiss Mountain Clinic Impacted My Fellow Participants
On the closing day of this year’s retreat, we held a closing circle to reflect why we came here and how the retreat helped each one of us.
If there was an overarching reason and statement that prevailed throughout the group, it was: “It’s finally my time and I need to take care of myself.”
This was an emotional time for many women as they came to realize that for most of their lives they had cared for everyone else but themselves.
For years, they lived with pain, little rest, taking on two jobs (one as a career and the other at home), being present for their children, husbands and family members. For years, they didn’t see the urge to stop and carve time for themselves. Until their bodies started to speak up and protest.
Many became empty nesters, retired, had a wake-up moment (one lady had 4 heart attacks – I didn’t even know you can survive more than 3) – that brought us together – to uncover, commit, and heal.
Our group was a wonderful posse of women who in spite of having different conditions and symptoms, came together to heal and thrive. The group was extremely supportive and fun to be around, and I can’t wait to repeat that in 2020.
What to Expect at Swiss Mountain Clinic
Much of the charm and appeal of the retreat is the environment you find yourself in. The clinic overlooks the Castaneda Valley (Castagna in Italian means chestnut – the area is full of them). Even though you are in the middle of the Swiss Alps with peaks towering over you, the elevation is only 100 meters or 300 feet above sea level, so nobody gets sick from altitude sickness.
The clinic offers countless hiking trails, charming medieval villages, goat and sheep farms, opportunities to meet and pat local donkeys, roll in flowers (depending on the time of the year) and pick many medical herbs.
The second appeal is that the environment invites you to make the best of time there and give your body the opportunity to heal. This means showing up for treatments (details below) based on the schedule issued each day. This means using the healing facilities that are available to you. This means going for gentle or more challenging mountain hikes to take in the charm, serenity and calming energy of the place.
The focus of this retreat is liver detoxification in the first week. For people who choose to stay another week (or longer), custom-designed treatment options are available such as an energy-restoring program, an autoimmune protocol, a more intensive detoxification (this is what I did – a heavy metal detoxification) or a chronic infection protocol (one person treated Lyme).
If you have been following me for a while, got my book Cooking for Hormone Balance or participated in our online courses, you know how vital the liver is in hormone balance; from “dirty estrogen” detoxification, thyroid conversion (T4 to T3), bile production, sugar balance to cholesterol production.
There were two women with type II diabetes on insulin and their doses reduced by half after the 2-week treatment.
The liver is also paramount in neutralizing and eliminating heavy metals, bacteria, viruses, yeast, caffeine, alcohol and drugs. It plays a big role in metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates (including sugar and alcohol). It initiates a number of enzymatic processes that break down food to useful particles that the body can use.
It’s pretty typical for people to feel after the retreat:
- More energy
- Better sleep
- Less food cravings
- Having brighter eyes and better eyesight (yes, connected to blood sugar levels!)
- Feeling less inflamed – from eating a highly anti-inflammatory diet that supports liver detoxification, gut repair and sugar balance
- Feeling rejuvenated from the infrared sauna, Bemer, IV infusions and other treatments (see below)
- Rejuvenated by the daily hikes (3 per week are organized, the rest you can do yourself)
Emotionally, people report:
- Feeling like the body is getting 100% attention and healing
- Giving ourselves permission to shut everything down and focus on “me”
- No worries about shopping, cooking and cleaning – it’s all done (but unlike take-out, it’s super healthy food)
- Feeling charmed by the Italian part of Switzerland; the charm, quirkiness, and natural beauty of the Alps
- A new community and friendships with women who are just like us
Bringing an open mind and heart will set you up for the best experience.
You should not expect the following at the Swiss Mountain Clinic:
Firstly, if a person suffers from many chronic conditions, expecting to be “cured” in one or two weeks is unrealistic and unfair to oneself and the clinic. For people who stay for the second week, more chronic conditions do get addressed. You should be of a mindset that you continue a home-based or a functional practitioner-supported version of the treatments back home to regain full health.
Another issue is the language barrier – bear in mind that the staff working at the clinic is very international and for most nurses and practitioners, English is their 3rd or 4th language. Within one year, their English has improved a whole lot but it’s not like conversing with a native English speaking nurse. Nevertheless, the staff at the SMC are some of the most caring practitioners you will ever meet.
Is the Swiss Mountain Clinic Right For You?
By taking care of the liver, so many good things will happen that it’s nearly impossible to say who specifically this retreat is for – because really, it would benefit anyone.
I would say that the biggest compelling factor is: If you intuitively feel like you need to press the reset button, you are fed up with the status quo, and you want to dedicate a week or two for yourself, then this retreat is perfect for you.
If you suffer from any of the following, the Swiss Mountain Clinic might be for you:
- Hashimoto’s and hypothyroidism
- Any other autoimmune disease
- Estrogen dominance (symptoms include lumpy or fibrocystic breasts, fibroids, uterine polyps, thyroid nodules, stubborn hip/butt weight or cellulite, period issues)
- Hypertension, high blood pressure
- Diabetes (type I or II), insulin resistance or hypoglycemia
- Chronic digestive issues (GERD, constipation, loose stool, IBS, constant bloating)
- Feeling chronically exhausted, moody, impatient
- Sensitivity to fumes, perfumes and any other smells (might be a sign of liver issues)
- High LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and triglycerides
- A history of cancer (past or present)
I would not recommend this retreat to anyone who is dealing with a number of serious chronic conditions, needs frequent hospitalization and medical supervision, or has ongoing medical procedures (such as chemo). Also, anyone who expects to “be fixed and cured” after a 1- or 2-week stay would be unrealistic and unreasonable and I would recommend seeking help elsewhere.
If you join either of my weeks in 2020 (June 21-28 or June 28-July 5), we will also be foraging for herbs and making our own infusions. Many highly medicinal herbs are found around the clinic, including nettles, wild arugula, yarrow, mullein, plantain, pansy, chestnuts, rosemary, thyme, mint, peppermint and more.
What Kind of Treatments Will You Find at Swiss Mountain Clinic?
The Swiss Mountain Clinic is a state-of-the-art clinic that practices European holistic medicine. Drs. Wiechels look at the underlying causes of the conditions (liver is the focus of the first week) and pay as much attention to the emotional, physical and psychological triggers to a condition.
The clinic marries the latest science and technology (in the form of treatment, equipment that you won’t find in the US) with the importance of breathing, energetic recharging, music therapy, joy as well as, of course, organic, vegetarian/vegan food and gentle movement.
Here are some of the treatments offered in the first week:
- Liver hyperthermia (warming of the liver promotes liver cell regeneration)
- Darkfield live blood analysis (amazing what your blood can tell you)
- Colon hydrotherapy
- Nutrient IV infusions
- Analysis of your autonomic nervous system, and other diagnostics
- Full-body massage and foot reflexology
- Access to 2 infrared saunas (the benefits are many) – recommended daily or 2-3x per week
- Access to 2 Bemer units – recommended 2x 8-minute sessions per day
In the second week, the clinic recommends additional lab tests and personalized care based on the doctors’ findings. It often consists of nutrient IVs, ozone infusions, or hyperthermia to give the immune system a chance to reset.
There’s More than Treatments at the Swiss Mountain Clinic
Beyond the daily treatments, there are many other activities that make this retreat such a special and nourishing experience.
Food and the Cuisine
The food is organic, most of it is locally grown, and the clinic is in the process of setting up a medicinal herbal garden (it will be ready in 2020). The food is vegetarian and some is vegan. The kitchen is very open to customizing the food to a person’s diet (this includes low FODMAP, AIP, etc). The food is DELICIOUS – cooked by a Michelin-star chef. The serving staff is beyond caring – they remember every person’s requests and quirks.
If you haven’t been in an IR sauna, you will feel its power and benefits in days. Our participants have reported deeper sleep, less pain, and feeling deeply rested and relaxed. The Sunlighten sauna at the clinic offer 3 wavelengths – short, mid and far infrared. Each has a purpose in healing so you are getting a complete IR treatment.
I was always very skeptical of this “magical” mat, even though I’ve heard many transformative stories from practitioners I respect. I just thought it was too simple to be true – just lie down on this black mat for 8 minutes and feel better.
Well, I’ve come to the other side – yes, the Bemer really works. The basic premise is that the Bemer creates waves that stimulate microcirculation which is responsible for bringing in nutrients to each cell and removal of cellular debris and toxins. This explains why so many of our participants reported relief from headaches and backaches in just one session.
Exercise, Yoga and Breathing
None of it is compulsory, but it’s highly recommended to join at least 3 organized hikes per week to get your body and the lymphatic system moving. There are often visiting yoga and breathing instructors. I also teach the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
This year my good friend Dr. Anna Cabeca attended the retreat and gave a talk on bioidentical hormones, the green keto way of eating, maca, and answered many questions from the audience regarding women’s hormones. Dr. Petra also delivers talks on liver health and liver flush.
There are a couple of day trips organized by the clinic to the nearby towns, castles, churches, museums and ice cream parlors (just joking). It’s a great way to explore Switzerland beyond the clinic.
Music concerts / Gala
You can’t do Europe without encountering classical music concerts – the clinic always varies the repertoire and the artists. My favorite was this year’s concert performed at the local church.
Want to join us in 2020?
Do you want to heal, start a new health routine, and press the reboot button? If you are drawn to these treatments, then think about joining us for the 2020 retreat – I will be there from June 21st to July 5th.
If these dates don’t work for you, you can join any other retreats led by a number of my colleagues. Find more dates here.
On December 4th, I will be doing a webinar to walk you through the experience and take live questions. Please join the webinar here.
Here’s What You Should Know if You Decide to Come
Let me share a few tips that I’ve found very helpful to make the most of the trip.
1. Arrive a few days earlier (if coming from outside of Europe)
Jet lag is no fun to deal with and you may lose 2 to 4 days to get adjusted. Poor sleep isn’t optimal when you are detoxing (since we detox in sleep). To adjust to the local time, I therefore recommend arriving 2 to 4 days earlier. You can spend time in Milan or Lake Como, see below.
2. Start the detox 7 to 10 days before coming to the clinic
You will be sent instructions on how to prepare prior to coming to the clinic. Giving up caffeine, meat and sugar will help you smoothly transition to the full detox. Many people suffer from caffeine withdrawal headaches for days during the detox week, making it an unnecessarily unpleasant experience. Follow the instructions is my advice.
3. Explore Milan and Lake Como
If you can arrive 2 to 4 days early, I recommend hanging out in Milan or the iconic Lake Como. Milan offers many sightseeing possibilities. I go shopping there each year (and hire a personal shopper to make the most of it) to spruce my wardrobe for the year. Milan isn’t polluted or stressful like most metropolitan cities.
Want to meet up this summer?
If this speaks to you, join me at the Swiss Mountain Clinic in 2020. The dates for my first week are June 21-28 and then June 28-July 5 for the second week.
The link to put down your deposit is here – the seats go fast and the early reservations get the best room views. There is also a concierge service that can answer any questions you may have – you can email Helen at [email protected].