Benissa Retreat: Benefits of Juice fasting & Detox

Andrew and Carol detox juicing on the terraceBenissa Wellness Retreat has been many years in the planning and is the fulfillment of a dream for the owners Andrew & Carol West. They have studied all over the world and their ambitious aim is to make their retreat: “The premier European centre for health restoration through diet and lifestyle”.

Just seven years ago, the couple, from Leicestershire, were suffering from crippling illnesses linked to obesity. Doctors had warned them that unless they radically overhauled their lifestyles they were heading for an early grave.

By chance Andrew, now 51, picked up a book explaining the benefits of a plant-based diet and, deciding to give it a try, he and Carol, 49, finally broke a cycle that had trapped them since childhood. “We both come from ‘large’ families and had been overweight all our lives,” says Andrew. Although they both attempted to lose weight and tried numerous diets, they didn’t manage to stick to any of them. “After each one we seemed to put even more weight on,” says Carol. By 2007 both Carol and Andrew had all but given up. “Doctors were considering an exploratory operation on Carol when by chance I dusted off a discarded book on healthy eating, which explained the benefits of veganism,” says Andrew.

In January 2007 the couple decided to start each day with a kale, spinach and ginger smoothie, and learnt how to make meat and dairy-free meals. “It was a revelation for both of us,” says Carol. Within weeks they started to lose weight and feel the results, so they decided to continue. The weight loss continued steadily and over the next few years Carol slimmed to a size 10 and Andrew reached 12st. It was the lightest they had been since school.

Inspired by their new lifestyle and wanting to share the benefits with others, Carol and Andrew began attending seminars and researching scientific evidence for veganism. In 2008 they opened a clinic offering colonic hydrotherapy, smoking cessation, hypnotherapy and counselling. This was followed by a move to Spain’s Costa Blanca, where they opened the Benissa Wellness Centre, a vegan weight-loss retreat. Since 2011 they have hosted over 5,000 guests, introducing them to the benefits of plant-based nutrition.

The clinic, located on a remote mountainside, offers detoxes, colon hydrotherapy, juicing, fitness and counselling.

Carol explains to us the benefits of Juice fasting and Detox:

What is a “Detox” program?

A detox programme is a time that you help your body to cleanse and heal.  It can be anything from a day of fasting to a longer period of feeding the body nutrients and allowing it to go through the processes of cleansing.

It is a period of rest for the digestive system and a time to help your liver to filter all the accumulated ‘’toxins’’ to give a feeling of wellbeing.

What benefits would you have by doing a Detox

The first thing people talk about is the increased energy, clearer skin, hair and nails growing stronger, a feeling of clarity, better digestion. 

Because the body is not having to deal with the huge job of digesting food it can transfer that energy to the rest of the body and it can quickly start to heal the small things, if you continue to detox it can start to work on the bigger things.

How important is diet for effective detoxing

Detox juicesDiet is key to detox, our body can take up to 70% of our energy trying to digest the food that we put into it.  Our small intestine is around 5 metres long and has the job of taking all the nutrients from the food we eat, it is also only 1” in diameter, so you can see the digestion has a hard job trying to work on all the food we put into our bodies each day.

By taking part in a juice diet for a day or longer you are allowing your body to just catch up with itself and to reset.

You don’t have to fast to detox, you can just ‘eat clean’, by eliminating all the difficult to digest foods like meat and dairy, and by taking out all processed foods like pizza or sandwiches, and more importantly the acidic drinks we all have each day like tea, coffee, fizzy drinks and alcohol – what´s left I hear you all crying!!  Fruits and vegetables, grains and pulses, this could have a huge improvement on your body if you were to follow it for a few days.  Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrition so we are feeding the body while giving it easy to digest food.

Can you tell us about the Obsidian program, what is involved and a typical day?

The Obsidian Programme has been developed to not only look at diet but also other aspects of our health such as exercise and mindset.  We use classes to help people to understand things like nutrition, we have cookery demonstrations, juicing demonstrations, there are on average 5 different exercise classes a day giving a variety of levels of intensity.  We also have mindset classes which help people to deal with issues they may have that have been holding them back, and importantly to help them to plan for the future.

A typical day at Obsidian starts with a morning walk, then a delicious juice for breakfast, a morning yoga session to stretch the body.  Then you have a choice of different classes such as boxercise, bums and tums, dancing with Nancy, then for lunch it is a choice of a juice, or a freshly made soup or a salad, after lunch the classes continue with maybe a mindset class or a different exercise class like zumba, we end each day with a rebounding class which is mini trampolines which we bounce to music its great fun.   Evening meal is a choice again,  a yummy juice from the evening menu,  or a choice of  soup, salad or a lovely hot meal from our kitchen, we serve lots of different foods from simple dishes like bean burgers to the more exotic like tofu and mango curry.

All of this is a very small summary of what we get up to each day at Obsidian.

Can a Detox program be combined with plenty of physical activity?

exercise for detox programExercise is important in many ways when you are going through a detox, but, everyone is different and every detox is different the body can react in many different ways, but if you have the energy a class or two is not going to harm you in fact it will actually encourage your lymphatic system to move and your lymphatic’s carry your toxins and fat cells so getting it to move is a good thing.  But exercise doesn’t have to be a full out boxercise class, it can just be a gentle walk in the hills, or a swim in the pool.

How can people best prepare at home before a Detox program?

The first thing to start to cut back on before a detox is coffee and tea,  these are the main culprits for a detox headache,  also cutting back on things like sweets and breads which we all have far too much of will help to start to prepare the body for what is coming.   Drinking plenty of water is also a good idea to start to hydrate the body.

What feedback do you get from clients during or after a Detox stay?

We have a huge age range at the Wellness centre from 20’s to 90’s and everyone is different, so say they have no symptoms at all with their detox while others can get very grumpy and tired and just want to sleep. But the one thing they all say after around day 3 is that they feel fabulous, lots of energy, more flexible in their joints, glowing skin, no bloating, not feeling hungry.

For anyone that stays with us because they have a specific condition they are trying to control like diabetes, the feedback is that the programme is so easy and so effective, many people can reduce or even stop taking some medications after following the programme.  And the lessons they have learned while they are with us they can take home and continue their journey to good health.

On returning home should clients adapt their diet or avoid certain things to prolong the benefits?

My husband has a favourite saying “if you always do what you have always done you will always get what you always got’  In other words if you go back home and immediately go back to your old ways then the conditions that you had will come back.  Many people are medicating their diet rather than their condition.

So – yes people should try to adopt as much of the programme when they go home to continue to see the great benefits.

Can a Detox program be used as a “quick fix” for people who overdo it or want to lose weight quickly?

A detox can help you to lose a few pounds, depending how long you do your detox for, at Obsidian our average weight loss is 1.1 pounds per day.

So you can lose on average around 7 pounds in a week with us, so it can be a quick fix for someone who has an event coming up like a wedding or birthday and they want to lose some weight so they can feel great or get back into an outfit that was a little bit too tight.

If you have overdone it, or as we say in English, “gone on a bender”!  Then a detox can help you to reset, but you may find the symptoms are a little more severe in this case as they body will have to get rid of all the ‘toxins’ you put in during your binge.

Are there certain situations where a Detox program is not advisable?

There are conditions that would denote that you take a different way to detox.

As I said before 99% of people can do a juice detox without any problems at all, just 3 days is enough to start to feel the benefits.

People who take pain killers on a daily basis should not consider a juice only detox as pain killers on an empty stomach can cause some major issues, so for anyone in that position we would suggest adding maybe porridge in very small amounts or by following the clean eating detox method.

For anyone on high blood pressure medication you should be aware that your blood pressure will normalize quite quickly and you need to be sure that you are checking it regularly as you do not want to be passing out from low blood pressure.   Consult your doctor before taking part in a detox and take advice as to how you can safely reduce or stop your medication.

Pregnant women, we have had some pregnant ladies at the centre, and they can juice without a problem but because of the baby we need to keep their calorie intake high so we ask them to eat as well as juice to ensure we are not depriving the growing baby of much needed calories, but the food they eat should be the clean eating variety

Do you have any important tips that people should know?

Planning is the key – if you are looking to do a detox at home, plan a time where you have nothing else planned, block out the time in your diary so that you can rest and relax if necessary.  Make sure you are not planning a big party or a night out in the middle of your detox.   Drink plenty of water during your detox to help the body to flush.

At Obsidian we take out all the acidic foods from your diet, this is a great way to start to improve your health.   Reduce your coffee and alcohol intake and you will see a difference.

I am often asked what should I give up first meat or dairy?  My answer each time is dairy, our bodies are not designed to digest dairy, and it is the biggest cause of mucus in the body, the mucus then causes inflammation especially in the digestive tract,  and studies have shown that dairy is toxic to female reproduction and has also been shown to have a direct link to prostate cancer.  So if you are going to give up one thing make it dairy in all forms.

Do you have a favourite juice, if so what is the recipe?

My favourite juice at the moment is a Beet Zinger.

  • 2 pears
  • 1 apple
  • ½ a lemon
  • 1” of fresh ginger
  • 1 beetroot.

Juice all the ingredients,  sometimes I will add half an avocado to the juice in a blender to make it thicker.

I have lots of favourites its hard to pick just one:

Detox Mango-Blueberry-SmoothieIf you don’t have a juicer but just have a blender, my favourite smoothie is a mango dream

  • 500ml of soy milk (you can use oat or almond milk)
  • ½  mango – skin and stone removed
  • 1 banana – skin removed
  • large handful of blueberries
  • large handful of raspberries

put them all in a blender and whizz till smooth.

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