My fasting experience at TrueNorth Health Center
My parents and I just got back from spending nine days at TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California.
TrueNorth Health Center is a place where people come from all walks of life to try the unconventional healing method of fasting and to learn about healthy living. The main reason why we wanted to try this extreme measure was because my mother has been suffering from Type II diabetes for the past 30 years. After we moved to the United States in 1976, my mother became obese due to unhealthy eating habits and lifestyle. Even though she was fortunate enough to not have developed any life-threatening diseases such as cancer or heart disease, she had her share of health problems.
Over the years, my mother dealt with her health issues relying on doctors and medications, but when her conditions only got worse, she abandoned all conventional methods and took charge of her own health. One of the ways she got better was by doing 10-day fast in Korea about 20 years ago. She lost about 30 pounds and was able to overcome many of the health issues she was dealing with at the time. Unfortunately, due to lack of proper education on healthy diet and lifestyle, she eventually became susceptible once more to other health issues including diabetes. Even though she was able to manage her diabetes on her own from getting out of control through hard work of watching her diet and exercising, it was becoming more and more difficult as she got older. Like most of us, she didn't have the proper knowledge and that's what took us to TrueNorth Health Center. TrueNorth Health Center doesn't just focus on natural healing process of fasting but provides a comprehensive educational system where we can learn to heal our bodies using a healthy diet and lifestyle.
After doing a lot of research including reading The Complete Guide to Fasting by Dr Jason Fung, MD, I learned about fasting and how it can be very effective in reversing many health issues such as diabetes. Since I have never done any fasting myself, I was initially very skeptical and concerned especially since my mother was in her 80's, but when we learned that every patient at TrueNorth is medically supervised multiple times a day by knowledgeable doctors, we felt more comfortable about giving it a try.
As for me, I currently don't have any major health issues, but I wanted to try it as a preventative measure and for the experience. I wanted to see what it was like to fast and to learn more about it. We were also able to convince my generally-healthy dad to come with us who was very reluctant at first. So, we signed up not knowing exactly what to expect.
TrueNorth Health Center is an old apartment complex that has been turned into a health center. After checking in, we got a full tour of the whole facility and were assigned a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom suite where we stayed for nine days. It was an old building in an old part of the town but very clean and well maintained.
On the second day, we met with our assigned doctor, Dr. Streuker and had a three hour meeting to evaluate our health including complete physicals. He even ordered us a thorough lab work to get a clear picture of our current health before starting our fast. Most of the lab works are covered by insurance especially if you have Medicare. So, the only cost you are responsible for is the nightly rate they charge for the stay which can run anywhere from about $150/night to about $200/night per person depending on whether you choose your own private suite or share one with other people.
We couldn't start fasting until all the lab works came back so we had to wait 3 days before fasting. During those first 3 days, we ate three meals a day (included in the cost) at the dining hall where they served whole food plant-based, SOS (Salt, Oil, Sugar) free meals. Even though I've been on a plant-based diet for the last three years, I was still including salt in my diet and minimal amount of oil and sugar so it became a little bit challenging to eat completely SOS free. They all tasted pretty bland. According to the people who work here, it takes about 3 to 6 months to get used to eating that way, but they were all loving the health benefits they were receiving from the SOS free diet.
Since we only had nine days there, we were only allowed to fast for three days. Patients are required to stay another half the amount of time spent on fasting. For example, if a patient has fasted for 10 days, he/she must stay another 5 days for re-feeding which is crucial in patient's safe recovery from fasting.
So, all three of us started fasting on Wednesday. On the first day of fasting, I woke up famished and worried about my willpower to fast. By the end of the day, I was weak and getting hunger pains. My parents on the other hand did great on the first and
second day. By the third day, we were all pretty weak and were experiencing some lightheadedness. Even though my parents didn't have any trouble getting up in the morning and moving around for the first two days, I was so weak that I often had to lie down to rest and took many naps.
After three days of fasting, we were put on re-feeding for two days. All three of us did well on the fast for most part but my mother got sick after drinking her first juice and got nauseated, but the doctors were on top of it and knew exactly what to do to make her feel better instantly. After starting out with a juice, we worked our way up to raw food and then eating normal by the third day.
For the entire stay, doctors and medical assistants came by twice a day to check on us and to take our vital signs. Everyone including the housekeepers were very caring and exceptionally friendly. They treated everyone with kindness and compassionate that is hard to find in other places. We were all very well taken care of, and we stayed very busy attending lectures, meetings and watching educational health videos.
The daily lectures were presented by caring and knowledgeable doctors who talked about various health related topics such as healthy eating, how to properly fuel our bodies for vitality, proper movement and the science of how our bodies work. They were all very fascinating and very very educational. They also held many classes on light yoga and stretching which were all included in the cost.
During our stay, we also met many people from all over the world. We met a young woman from Australia who had fasted for 30 days and another woman from Oregon who fasted for 12 days to treat her numerous medical issues. Another woman from England came in hopes of curing a degenerative disease that was making her go blind. The oldest patient was 85 years old just one year younger than my dad. A lot of people came out of desperation to get well while others came purely for the education and for the experience. I felt extremely lucky to be there in good health.
Did we accomplish what we came to accomplish? As far as getting the education we need, we definitely did. Was my mother able to successfully treat her diabetes? With only three days of fasting, probably not. Her glucose numbers were all over the place from 80 mg/dL during the fast to 194 mg/dL right after the fast. As far as my father who had slightly high pressure typically in the range of 133/77, it slowly went down to 108/60 over nine days. For me, I started out with all normal vital signs with no major health issues so my vital signs pretty much stayed the same the whole time but, I personally noticed immediately that I was sleeping better and waking up more refreshed after fasting. Even though I lost over 6 pounds over nine days which put me at a low BMI, I felt great overall and my stomach felt unusually clean and comfortable with no digestive problems. We didn't expect miracles and it's not cure-all. Only time will tell if we got any long term benefits of three day fasting but we definitely came back more empowered by what we have learned during our stay.
If I had to rate this place from a scale 1 - 10, I would give it a 10 for sure. TrueNorth Health Center has met my expectations and more with their genuine desire to educate others on healthy living and the impeccable service they provide. I highly recommend it to anyone not just for those who have health problems but also for those wanting to learn more about living a healthier life. It was definitely one of the most amazing things I have ever experienced.
As for the time my parents and I spent together, it was priceless. It brought us even closer, and it made me realize even more how lucky I am to have such a wonderful parents. I'm thankful for their health and for their unconditional love.