RIPON -- When Lynette Rubio got word back from her doctor that the strange cysts she had developed weren't cancerous, the news felt like a death row pardon. But her practitioner's caution that she would need to be re-tested every six months was a wake-up call, urging her to a healthier lifestyle. "I wanted to get everything in my body cleaned out, get on the right track," the long-time Ripon resident said. So when her sister made her a gift of a ten-day stay at Bella Vita Lifestyle Education Home, Rubio was eager to give it a try.
With its "Christian health principles" approach, no solid foods for the first six days, and only raw, vegetarian foods after that, the program sounded a bit radical, but Rubio was encouraged by word of mouth, especially from cancer patients who had experienced positive changes to their health from adopting Bella Vita practices. Although medical science has yet to give an official approval to such programs, the word of mouth testimonials and nutritional ideas behind the program appealed to Rubio.
Rubio and her sister first learned of the facility from the annual Health and Healing Crusade, held for the past ten years at the Lodi Grape Festival. They contacted Danny Vierra of Modern Manna Ministries in Lodi and arranged for Rubio to attend their November session.
The ten-day program aims to help guests cleanse and detoxify the body through all-natural and herbal methods. The goal is to improve health by ridding the body of chemicals and toxins that might be causing diseases, and to provide the nutritional base needed to boost the body's immune system. "The emphasis was really on health and getting clean," Rubio described her experience, "and making sure you're putting the right things in your body."
With a price tag of $2000, Rubio admitted that the program might seem a bit expensive, however she felt she got her money's worth. Held on several acres, the facility included antique furnishings, pool, sauna, jacuzzi, and nature trails with a scenic river view. The staff included a full time RN and a masseuse. Gym facilities included everything from racquet ball to treadmills, stationary bikes, and circuit weights. And for a program that didn't let participants eat solid food for almost a week, Rubio claimed she certainly didn't suffer. "It seems like we always had something to drink. Most tasted good, but you're just so full from drinking all the time! We had a raw breakfast of fruit on Day 7, and it was beautiful, but I couldn't even eat it, I was so full." With an embarrassed laugh, she added, "Just the cost of toilet paper alone was probably worth the price, because it's a body cleanse!"
Rubio attended a session that included six other people, several of whom were cancer patients and one of whom had been sent home by her doctors to die. "She was a pancreatic cancer patient, and when we started she couldn't walk up the stairs by herself, she had a terrible sore on her mouth, her skin was gray -- she looked dead," Rubio remembered. "By the time she left, the sore was gone, her color was good and though she wasn't going to the gym with the rest of us, she was taking walks outside." Furthermore, Vierra said a week after her stay, the woman reported that tests from her doctor showed tremendous improvements in her white blood cell count and liver results.
Though reinforcing vegetarian ideas with principles from the Bible isn't your typical approach to healthier living, what Danny Vierra teaches his guests makes good sense: Get fresh air, exercise, sunshine, rest, pure water, put good foods into your body, and keep bad foods out. Vierra also takes the scientifically sound concept that a positive outlook is good for your health and adds his own spin to it, encouraging Bella Vita guests to trust in God and to laugh, love and pray. Vierra's definitions of "good foods" and "bad foods" might raise an eyebrow in some folks, though.
With all the chemicals, hormones, and antibiotics put into commercial livestock these days, Vierra teaches the healthiest way to eat is a strictly organic, vegan vegetarian diet. Furthermore, eating raw fruits and vegetables keeps the natural health benefits in. "They served these crackers that were dehydrated, not baked," Rubio says. "If you put them in the ground, they'd sprout. None of the enzymes were killed." As for combining religion with nutrition, Rubio said that though the program had a definite Christian perspective and that many concepts were accompanied by a supporting passage from the Bible, it wasn't a case of recruiting guests to a particular set of beliefs. "It's not a case of 'if you eat meat you'll go to hell'," Rubio smiled. "And it's not about trying to convince people that doctors are bad." The emphasis isn't on other view points or approaches as being wrong, but simply on the benefits of vegan eating and a healthy lifestyle that incorporates mental, spiritual and physical wellness.
After ten days of the Bella Vita method, does Rubio intend to continue that lifestyle? "I hope so," she said. "I took [Vierra's] vegetarian cooking school about ten years ago, and I was able to stick with it for about two years." After she relaxed her eating habits, she felt there was a big difference between how good she felt as a vegetarian and how poor she felt on a more typical diet. "I can't remember things as clearly, can't concentrate as well. I know I'm an emotional eater; food to me is as bad as drugs or alcohol for other people. [The Bella Vita method] is not for every body, or every time, but for me it's really best to help me focus. It's a healthier way for me." After ten days, Rubio noticed her fingernails, usually paper thin, were strong, she had lost weight and felt "a newness in life". Her family commented on what they felt was a generally healthier appearance. "I feel really good," Rubio smiled.
For more information: www.modernmanna.org.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.