• Cindy Felan’s Journey to Wellness: Scholarship Recipient Finds Hope in Radical Remission

    Living with cancer is not for the faint of heart.  Cindy Felan was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer in 2014, and it had metastasized to other parts of her body.  After six years, she had exhausted all conventional treatment options.

    “A friend sent me a link to the OHI website which outlined the 3-week program,” said Cindy.  “I instantly knew I needed this drastic diet change in order to move to healing, but how would I pay for a 3-week stay?  I feel very blessed to have received a scholarship, and I thank OHI for making this amazing program available to people like me.”

    Why was Cindy so determined to come to OHI?  Six years of cancer treatments had left her physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted.  “I honestly did not believe I would be on this earth much longer,” said Cindy.  “But now that I’ve gone through OHI’s program, I feel like I finally have a roadmap to follow.  I know how to navigate food.  I know how to work around nagging doubt.  I know how to be inspired by people who have gone through the same healing opportunity as me, and have come out the other side.  By the middle of my stay, I had a spring in my step, and more energy than I had had in years.  By the end of my stay I even learned to love this cancer inside me.  To see these cells as a sick child that needs my help to get better was transformative.  Quite simply, my big takeaway from the OHI program has been HOPE.”

    For Cindy, hope and courage came to her in the most unexpected way.  “During my OHI stay, I was given a book by a lovely lady who intuitively knew that I need to hear a specific message.  The book was Radical Remission, and reading it has given me the courage to face my healing opportunity with an open heart.”

    Now that she is home, Cindy is determined to stay on track with the OHI program.  “The OHI program is very simple, but it is not easy.  You have to take command of your thoughts, emotions, and deeds.  If I could give anyone advice, it would be to set fear aside, and be what you are supposed to be.  Each of us has an internal compass to guide us through life.  All you have to do is pay attention.”

    Please consider contributing to the OHI Scholarship Fund to help those in need experience the benefits of the OHI program. Over the course of our 44 years, OHI has provided scholarships to individuals who could not afford to otherwise attend. In most years, we have been able to fulfill all requests for assistance through the generosity of our community. OHI invites you to join with us in celebrating our healing mission with a tax-deductible gift. Your contribution will help to make our community stronger, healthier, and more vibrant.

    Provide the Gift of Healing today by supporting the OHI Scholarship Fund with a tax-deductible:
    • One-Time Donation, or
    • Sustainable Monthly Contribution

    Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, or call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your contribution.

    Thank you for your generosity!

    Optimum Health Institute is a non-profit, religious organization. Your donation is tax deductible.

  • Staff Spotlight: Introducing Eryn Shropshire, Assistant Kitchen Manager at OHI San Diego!

    Even as a little girl, Eryn always knew she wanted to help others.  “I feel so lucky to be working at OHI” she said.  “I am able to help people every day through the power of food.  I just find that so inspiring!”

    Eryn pursued her interest in food right from the start.  She worked for two years at a large restaurant in SeaWorld, catering to guests with special dietary needs looking for custom vegetarian and vegan meals.  She then spent two years working in a Taiwanese bakery, creating gorgeous breads from around the world.  “The recipes were all so complex and interesting,” said Eryn.  “It was challenging, and really appealed to my creative side.”

    Eryn graduated from San Diego Mesa College in 2016 with a degree in Culinary Arts Management.  When applying for culinary positions, she kept repeatedly seeing a post for a job opening in the kitchen at OHI.  “I decided God was trying to tell me something,” laughed Eryn, “so I submitted an application.  As I learned more about the mission and values of OHI, I just knew I had to work here.”

    Eryn started in the entry level food prep position, and has worked her way up to the assistant kitchen manager position.  She also works a bit in the greenhouse, at the front desk, and in the store.  “I love being involved in the guest experience on so many levels,” said Eryn.  “When guests come to me with questions, I want to empower them with knowledge and tools so that they continue this program on their own when they go home.  I share my knowledge on everything from how to grow your own wheatgrass to recipes for fermenting foods to understanding how cabbage detoxes the liver.  I hope the information shared with them is something they will pass on to friends and family, and even more people will feel empowered to heal.”

    When Eryn first interviewed at OHI, the benefits of the raw, organic, vegan diet really resonated with her.  “There is a video we show new guests that details our founder’s passion for helping people with health opportunities,” said Eryn.  “At the time, my mother had just been diagnosed with cancer, and I felt that I was meant to be at OHI so I could better help her.  The more I learn about the benefits of raw food, the more I’m able to share that with my mom to help her heal. Now that I eat all organic myself, I have no more headaches, no inflammation, and much more energy.  I get so much out of working here, and in return I’m able to give so much back to other people in my life.”

    So what is the one thing Eryn looks forward to each week as a new cohort of guests arrives?  “I love establishing a connection with individual guests,” smiled Eryn.  “Guests come here for different reasons, many of them are in crisis, and I want to hold space for their healing to occur.  It’s a very humbling experience when people share their personal stories with me.  It makes me want to redouble my efforts to ensure every guest walks away from OHI feeling truly transformed.”

    Eryn says no two days are ever the same at OHI.  “You never know what you’ll get here,” said Eryn.  “It’s such a supportive, non-judgmental space, and when guests embrace the truths we share with them about food, about their body, and about the power of positivity, all things suddenly become possible.  I truly love it here at OHI.  Coming to work doesn’t feel like work.  It feels like coming home to friends.”

    Optimum Health Institute is here for you! We will motivate you to stick with your commitment to health and discover new ways to empower yourself. Explore the holistic healing program offered at OHI. This program offers three week-long sessions, where you will learn to cleanse the body, quiet the mind and awaken the spirit.

    Call OHI at (800) 588-0809 or visit www.OptimumHealth.org today for more information.

  • OHI Program Tip: Inflammation & Joint Health

    Inflammation is a normal response triggered by the immune system to protect the body against injury and infection.  However, chronic inflammation — characterized by redness, swelling, heat, pain, and loss of function — is believed to contribute to conditions like arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and more.  Inflammation can occur in response to trauma, illness, and stress.

    Inflammation can also be caused by unhealthy foods, including:

    Sugar:  Research shows that when we eat sugar, it triggers the release of “inflammatory messengers” known as cytokines.

    Saturated fat:  Research studies have proven that saturated fats trigger inflammation in fat cells called adipose tissue, which increases the inflammation associated with arthritis.

    Refined carbohydrates:  Refined carbohydrates have been linked to higher levels of inflammatory markers in the blood.

    When you eat these foods, the resulting inflammation attacks joint tissues and can cause joint swelling, increased joint fluid, cartilage and bone damage, and muscle loss.  Nerves in the joints are also activated, causing pain.  The inflammatory chemicals may directly activate other nerves of the body, and lead to pain as well.

    What can you do about inflammation?

    There are the four simple things you can do to help reduce inflammation overall, and improve your long-term joint health, and OHI’s program touches on each one to give inflammation the knock-out punch!

    Eat anti-inflammatory foods:  Spring is a great time for a deep cleanse with OHI’s all-raw, organic, plant-based diet, allowing you to get a baseline for better health.  Our program eliminates the top three inflammation trigger foods of sugar, saturated fat, and refined carbohydrates, and focuses on nutritional superstars that rid the body of inflammation:

    • Wheatgrass juice: Wheatgrass is a major anti-inflammatory food.  Studies have found that chlorophyll, a compound found in wheatgrass, decreases inflammation.
    • Sprouts: Few foods can rival sprouts for their anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and detoxifying qualities.  Broccoli, mung bean, chia seed, red clover, lentil, and radish sprouts are integral to an inflammation-busting diet.
    • Healthy oils: While the OHI plan avoids fats overall, certain fats like omega-3 fatty acids are an excellent choice to help fight vascular inflammation.  Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in flaxseeds.
    • Water/hydration: Hydration helps our bodies flight inflammation by flushing out toxins.  Most of the water in our bodies is stored in joints and connective tissue (tendons, ligaments), where water acts as a lubricant.  When we get dehydrated, our bodies look for water in other areas, including our joints, and redistribute it where it’s needed.  Taking water from your joints enables toxins to remain, which fuels pain and inflammation.  So DRINK!  DRINK!  DRINK!

    Take part in regular exercise

    At OHI, our program places a huge emphasis on lymphatic exercise and stretching.  The lymphatic system needs your help to move the fluid through the body because it doesn’t have an automatic pump like the heart.  The lymphatic system is stimulated by gravity and muscle contraction, so moving your body is the key to moving fluid through the lymphatic system.  OHI guests take advantage of our daily Gentle Lymphatic Exercise class and Stretch class to beat back inflammation.

    Get daily sleep

    Sleep is the foundation for good health, and giving yourself complete rest every night is one of the best things that you can do to improve your wellbeing.  OHI teaches guests how to quiet and focus the mind so they can get the most rejuvenate rest possible.

    Actively engage in stress management

    OHI’s Guided Meditation Classes, Mental Detox class, Vision Board class, Rock Painting class, and the Pray, Eat, Live class are all great de-stressors.  Our practice of gratitude journaling is also a great choice to eliminate stress, and keep positive.

    Make 2021 the year that inflammation becomes a thing of the past for you!

    Our caring staff is eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

    “7 Evidence-Based Benefits of Wheatgrass,” by Rachel Link, MS, RD, www.healthline.com

    “Sprouting is the healthiest (and least expensive) thing you can do for your brain health,” by Ilene Ruhoy, MD, PhD, www.mindbodygreen.com

    “Fats and Oils,” Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org

    “Fight Inflammation by Staying Hydrated, by Leslie LaPlace, Goodwin House, www.goodwinhouse.org

    “Arthritis Overview,” Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.org

    “Causes of Inflammatory Joint Pain,” Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org

    “5 Classic Signs of Inflammation,” The Journal of Inflammation, www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov

  • Staying Connected Safely in Our New Abnormal

    Sunny Spring greetings to our OHI community, I offer warm blessings and great optimism as we forge ahead into a constantly changing new world. As the flowers of the season begin to open, we are seeing some relief as the world begins to reopen. On the other hand, the corona virus is still a threat, and we must proceed with caution as we continue to strive for normalcy.


    You may recall from our January newsletter, how I mentioned that we are striving for normalcy or, as I like to call it, our new abnormal. We looked at two ways of protecting ourselves during our current circumstances and beyond: Situational Awareness and Self-Care. In this issue I want to expand on how we can remain safe by keeping mentally and physically healthy by examining the importance of staying spiritually and socially connected; and doing so by utilizing Safety Bubbles for two or more people.


    For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”  Matthew 18:20


    I share this Biblical verse because it offers clarity for our confusing times. While isolating from other people may be good for combating Covid19; it is detrimental to our physical, mental, and spiritual health. Over the past year, many people have discovered a method for connecting with a small number of friends and family while limiting vulnerability. The concept is called Safety Bubbles or Pods.


    The Importance of Both Spiritual and Human Connection

    Some state governments, such as California, have restricted church attendance during surges of Covid19. However, we can be in safe community gatherings of two or more that allows us to stay spiritually connected.


    Human connection. We live for it; we are hardwired for it; and we are highly motivated by it. We greatly desire relationships because they make us feel important; they build our confidence; and give us a sense of belonging. But, perhaps more importantly in these times, they improve our overall health.


    I’ve written about the importance of belonging and social acceptance in a previous newsletter; both of which are matters of survival that date back to our days of living in caves. In the harsh habitat of early man, giving and receiving support from your family, clan, or tribe meant the difference between life and death. And, today we are finding that this is still true.


    Social media simulates a sense of community, but it falls short. There’s nothing like the one-on-one bonding with people that we enjoy in person. Video calls have enabled us to replicate this as much as possible, but we are still left wanting when it comes to seeing and reading body language – a vital part of communication which is hard wired into our systems from our pre-language days.


    Human Connection is Vital Because It Prevents Disease

    “Isolation is the sum total of wretchedness to a man,” wrote Thomas Carlyle, a 19th Century essayist and historian. And, research bears this out. According to NBC news, measures meant to keep seniors safe are killing them. The confinement meant to protect the most vulnerable is threatening their lives. Joshua Uy, associate professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Perelman School of Medicine said, “The isolation is robbing them of whatever good days they have left – it accelerates the aging process. You see increased falls, decrease in strength and ability to ambulate. You see an acceleration of dementia, because there is no rhythm to your day.” The lack of external stimulation is causing serious weight loss, cognitive decline, and depression; all of which increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.


    And, this doesn’t just affect seniors. According to Science Magazine, “A lack of human connection can be more harmful to your health than obesity, smoking and high blood pressure.” And, Kipling D. Williams, with Scientific American, notes that when social connection is abruptly cut off it can cause sensory distress and social pain which affects the same portion of the brain as physical pain.


    During your isolation utilize your time by maintaining current relationships and rebuilding those with whom you’ve fallen out of touch. You will create a much stronger sense of connectivity by talking on the phone than you will by sending a text or an email. Make a contact list of close friends and family to call and check in on daily or every few days. You will want to include friends from your OHI cohort as well. Next start expanding that circle by calling people you have not talked with in a while – former classmates, coworkers, and other long lost friends. So many people are alone with little to do these days that you will very likely brighten their day while uplifting your own.


    The desire for closeness, intimacy, and human touch is a fundamental need. Even if social distancing (which ought to be called physical distancing) is good for us, it simply does not feel right. Covid19 has weaponized our innate hunger for personal contact. The good news is that there is a way around this dilemma.


    “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”  Galatians 6:2


    The solution to satisfying our need for human contact is to form an exclusive gathering of people called a Safety Bubble, Pod, or QuaranTeam. This is where you select a group of people, ideally numbering ten or less, that all agree so follow strict social distancing protocols with anyone outside of the group. When you create a bubble you will be able to interact with the other members without wearing a mask and social distancing.  You will be free to hug, kiss, talk, share food, and use each other’s bathrooms.


    Safety Bubbles Are About Managing Risk, Not Eliminating Risk

    Gideon Lichfield, editor in chief, of the MIT Technology Review, who has become an expert on safety bubbles stated, “What’s most important is to just be completely on the same page with the people that you’re with so that there are no surprises… it’s important because, all of us have friends, multiple friends, but you can only be in one of these bubbles at a time. It’s really not safe to be, you know, bubbling with multiple families, for instance, where you have no idea what everybody’s really doing.”


    The bubble you create should include everyone who lives in the home. You may bring in additional households as long as everyone agrees to abide by the same rules. Then everyone will be allowed to come and go freely from each other’s homes. This works because you are only exposed to one another.


    Covid19 testing allows for the elimination of the quarantine phase. If testing isn’t readily available, only introduce a new member once that person has quarantined successfully without symptoms for 14 days. When members must leave the bubble to perform essential tasks such as shopping for necessary goods that cannot be delivered, they must follow strict social distancing and hygiene. If anyone within the bubble shows symptoms, fever, cough, or loss of sense of smell or taste, they must self-isolate or leave the group immediately.


    In order to form a safe and cohesive group, you must begin with a number of extensive and somewhat intimate conversations about personal habits. What precautions are they taking? What are their views on social distancing? Do they meet with people from outside their home? Do they eat in restaurants? How often do they leave their home, and for what reasons? Periodically re-evaluate whether or not the bubble is working; there must be ongoing conversations, so that everyone remains in agreement. There can be no secrets in a safe bubble.


    The goal is to break transmission chains from the outside world; and no one in the bubble has contact with anyone from outside of it. That way no one within the bubble can become infected. The bubble is designed to increase social interaction while limiting the hazard of exposure. Think of it as a risk management system.


    Precautions Will Still be Necessary Even After Getting the Vaccine

    Safety bubbles will remain important after the vaccine because the CDC is recommending that after getting both doses you must still: wear a mask over your nose and mouth; stay at least 6 feet away from others; avoid crowds; avoid poorly ventilated spaces; and wash your hands often. They say this is necessary because of the possibility that vaccinated people may continue to spread the disease and cause reinfection of someone who has recovered from Covid19.


    OHI’s Covid19 Safety Record

    We would love to have you come and visit OHI where you can enjoy a needed break from the isolation of lockdown. We have made our campuses so safe that you can feel comfortable leaving your bubble and entering ours.


    We consider it absolutely vital to maintain full precautions especially for our guests with health opportunities. Our comprehensive safety plan includes three pillars: 1) Minimizing infectious diseases from entering the OHI campus; 2) Sterilizing the campus, guest rooms, and public areas to reduce the likelihood of disease transmission; and 3) Conducting Covid-19 testing twice weekly with our on-campus community members: guests, missionaries and staff. We have implemented mandatory testing for our guests, called TestTheTeam which has been shown to be as accurate and as sensitive as the RT-PCR – the gold standard in Covid19 testing, best of all it is easy and non-invasive.


    Additionally, we’ve been tracking our safety record since the beginning of the pandemic. Our safety record measures Covid19 virus transmissions between staff-to-staff, staff-to-guest, missionary-to-guest, and guest-to-guest. I am proud to share we have had zero on-campus transmissions at OHI Austin. We did, however, have three instances at OHI San Diego. The three instances where Covid19 was transmitted between guests was a result of guests who did not follow our mask and physical distancing protocols. I am happy to report since January, we have had zero transmissions of Covid19 on our San Diego campus.


    Other safety measures that keep our community safe: 1) We have smaller cohorts on campus of guests, staff and missionaries; 2) We installed special oxidizing Molekule air purifiers in all of our guest rooms and common areas; and 3) We use electrostatic spray disinfection systems, and only safe, non-chemical cleaners.


    Here in your OHI bubble you can resume and reaffirm your commitment to good holistic healing habits for your body, mind, and spirit. Restore your routine of cleansing and nourishing your body after months in quarantine; quieting and focusing your mind to re-stimulate creativity and mindfulness; and  renewing and awakening your spirit to rediscover your purpose. Plus, you’ll reunite with old friends and new.


    OHI is the safest place you can be outside of your own home. Make OHI your home away from home safety bubble. Call us to book your reservation today: (800) 588-0809. Or visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org.


    Wishing you health and wellness in this blessed Spring season.


    Yours in prayer,

    Robert P. Nees, Jr.,

    Senior Pastor and Chairman

    Optimum Health Institute of San Diego and Austin

  • Intermittent Fasting – The Basics

    Fasting has been a common practice for thousands of years. Fast forward to the 21st century, and there is tremendous interest in the practice of intermittent fasting (IF) and its benefits – losing weight, reducing cravings, accelerating fat loss, gaining muscle, and giving the digestive tract a rest – all resulting in being healthier overall. With a new year upon us, let’s learn more about IF…

    What is intermittent fasting? 

    Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. There are different methods for intermittent fasting, but the overall approach is the same – you can eat what you want, but only during a specific time period.

    Popular types of intermittent fasting programs 

    There are many variations of intermittent fasting. Here are four popular approaches to consider:

    The 16:8 Method (also known as the Leangains Protocol). You eat over an 8-hour period in the middle of the day, and fast entirely for the remaining 16 hours.

    The 5:2 Program. With this approach, you keep your calorie consumption to 500-600 calories on two non-consecutive days a week, and eat normally the other five days. This calorie limit is separated by a 12-hour fast, so you consume 250 calories in the morning and another 250 calories at night.

    Eat-Stop-Eat Program. You fast for 24 hours once or twice a week, and eat normally the other five or six days a week.

    The Warrior Diet. You fast for 20 hours a day, and eat one large meal every night.

    Many people find the 16:8 method to be the simplest, most sustainable, and easiest to stick to – which is why it’s the most popular of the four methods.

    How Does IF Impact Your Body? 

    When you fast, several things happen in your body on the cellular and molecular level. First, fasting initiates cellular repair processes. This includes autophagy, where cells digest and remove old and dysfunctional proteins that build up inside cells. Second, when you fast your body adjusts the levels of Human Growth Hormone (HGH) to make stored body fat more accessible to be burned as fuel. Your insulin level drops, and lower insulin levels also make stored body fat more accessible. Fasting also increases the release of the fat burning hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline). Because of these changes in hormones, fasting may increase your metabolic rate by 3%-14%.

    A 2016 study done by the Journal of Translational Medicine found that people who practiced IF for 8 weeks lost more body fat than those in the control group.

    NOTE: The success of intermittent fasting is based on the premise that fewer calories are consumed overall. For those that binge during their eating periods, they may not lose any weight.

    The Pros & Cons of Intermittent Fasting 

    Here are the pros and cons to consider when deciding whether IF is a good fit for you:


    You stick to one schedule. With IF, you’re not as worried about what you’re “allowed” to eat. Instead you just concentrate on sticking to your fast schedule.

    You savor your meals. When food is not available to you all the time, you truly appreciate the meal in front of you, the enjoyment of eating, and the feeling of satiation.

    You kick your bad snacking habits. IF forces you to stop eating at a certain time, and control your grazing behaviors.

    You may bust through a weight loss plateau. If your weight loss efforts have plateaued, IF may kick-start your metabolism. Your body learns that there is no glucose available for fuel, so it burns fat stores instead.

    You might get your pre-diabetes under control. Every time you eat, your body releases insulin to shuttle sugar from your bloodstream to your cells for energy. But people who are pre-diabetic are insulin resistant, which means the cells don’t respond well to insulin and can’t take up glucose, so your blood sugar levels stay elevated. Going longer between meals may help because your body pumps out insulin less often.

    You get an anti-aging boost. IF creates a slight stress on your cells’ mitochondria (the energy powerhouses), which gives them a nudge to rev up their functioning, and promote cellular repair, which can lead to being more energetic.

    You can reset your circadian rhythm. Eating close to bedtime is a sure way to negatively impact your circadian rhythm. Conversely, practicing IF gets your body on a regular cycle of eating and fasting. Refraining from eating close to bedtime results in resetting your circadian rhythm and improving your sleep.


    You might feel irritated, tired, dizzy, or lightheaded. When you skip a meal, your blood sugar drops, which can affect your mood and energy levels. You can combat this by eating more protein- and fiber-rich meals with some healthy fats when you are scheduled to eat so you feel satiated. At OHI, we recommend plant-based proteins like nuts, seeds, leafy greens, legumes and sprouts.

    High-Blood Pressure and Diabetes medications may need adjustment. For diabetics on medication like insulin or Glipizide, the fasting/eating cycle of IF could cause sharp drops/spikes in blood sugar, which makes their medications less effective. Additionally, IF can cause a rapid decrease in blood pressure, therefore people using high-blood pressure medication, need to be aware of this side-effect and consult their physician before participating in IF.

    Bottom Line: Always consult your physician or health care professional before participating in an IF program.

    By incorporating the principles of intermittent fasting with an all-raw, organic, plant-based diet, OHI guests reach new levels of healthy living and spiritual awareness. Our caring staff is eager to give you all the unconditional support, inspiration, and transformational tools you need to bring your body, mind, and spirit into healthy balance in a serene, peaceful setting. Visit our website at www.optimumhealth.org, and call us at (800) 588-0809 to make your reservation.

    “What is Intermittent Fasting, and Does It Help You Lose Weight?”, by Tiarra Mukherjee, September 25, 2019, Prevention.com 

    “Intermittent Fasting 101 — The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide”, by Kris Gunnars, July 25, 2018, Healthline.com 

    “4 Ways Fasting Benefits Your Spiritual Health”, by Maria Walley, Grottonetwork.com 

    “What Is Intermittent Fasting, and Will It Help Your Sleep?”, by Michael J Breus Ph.D., Apr 11, 2019, Psychologytoday.com