The Lifeco -- whose motto is “Adding Years to Your Life, and Life to Your Years” -- is an international wellness company with a reputation for improving its guests’ health in the framework of an enjoyable vacation.
Based in Turkey, it now has two resorts on the Aegean Sea, and one in Phuket, Thailand, on the Indian Ocean.
Lifeco’s original retreat, in Bodrum, on Turkey’s southwest coast, is where actress Kate Moss and model Naomi Campbell have been repeat guests in recent years. Long-time vegan Woody Harrelson had this to say after his Lifeco experience: “I feel like I am insured against illness.”
This praise was hard-won, and reflected in a recent prestigious award: The Lifeco was recognized as having the World’s Best Detox Program at the 2018 World Spa Awards.
A visit to The Lifeco begins with a refreshing fruit shake -- identified as an “immune boost” -- and an introduction to the juice bar, which is stocked with all sorts of exotic herbal teas, as well as a bottomless pot of “detox soup,” both available in unlimited quantities for the duration of your stay.
This is followed by a tour of the grounds: the main building (reception, juice bar, fitness areas - yoga sala and gym - spa and saunas) and adjacent dining area and library. Just across the way is the medical building: clinic, nurses’ station, and treatment areas.
There are six wellness programs to choose from, ranging from four to 21 days: three detox programs and three healthy nutrition programs. The detox regimens, as explained by a program specialist, are the Master Detox program, The Green Juice detox program, and the Green Salad Detox program.
Since I was there to detox, I wanted the maximum bang for the buck, which I was told is the Master Detox. Offered for up to three weeks, the standard length is seven days, of which I was scheduled to stay for six.
But first, I was in for a hi-tech surprise. At my intake screening, I stepped on a scale with handles that displayed a lot more than mere weight. After a few moments on the Body Composition Analyzer, I was handed a printout with diagrams and a slew of statistics: body weight, body mass index (BMI) -- amount, percentage and distribution of fat and muscle in the body (including the all-important visceral fat) -- percentage of water in the body, and more. The process would be repeated at the end of my stay, and comparisons made.
The daily Master Detox schedule commences with a morning fruit smoothie, alternating with tall glasses of green vegetable juice, for a total of five per day. With each drink comes supplements: herbs with minerals and enzymes, as well as probiotics, that continue to nourish and support the body, even as the digestive system is given complete rest.
In addition, there are two shots of wheatgrass juice per day, for boosts of energy. Not to mention the pick-me-up afforded by generous servings of consommé, seasoned with dashes of turmeric, cayenne pepper or other condiments.
Detoxers are encouraged to get some form of aerobic exercise every day. For this reason, there is an early morning walk on the daily schedule.
As I am not an early riser, I availed myself of the other alternatives: jumping on the mini-trampoline, “boot camp” calisthenics every other day, and riding one of the bicycles that are free to use. In warmer months, there is swimming in the pool, as well as at the nearby beach, where The Lifeco has its own facility.
Also recommended is yoga, two sessions of which are offered every day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. The same teacher leads xi gong sessions as well, three afternoons a week.
Additional activities include breathing exercises; juicing and food workshops in raw vegan cuisine, given by the resident chef; and lectures on nutrition and wellness. At your leisure, from the comfort of your own room -- or suite -- educational videos from The Lifeco’s digital collection are screened on the center’s own TV channel.
On my second day, I returned to the clinic with its state-of-the-art equipment for another interesting aspect of my check-up: a quick, painless pinprick and a drop of my blood was under a powerful microscope, and the image projected on a monitor. There were two important things the technician pointed out to me: my red blood cells were largely clumped together in strings, and little specks were floating in the open spaces surrounding them.
Apparently, the red blood cells are not supposed to be attached, while the little specks were detritus that was already being jettisoned from the cells, even after only one day of fasting.
This is the result of a process called autophagy: after just 16 hours of no solid food, cells start getting rid of non-essential elements that have globbed onto their linings, robbing them of vital nutrients. This detritus is the body’s accumulated toxins, now being expelled and heading for the lymphatic system, which will carry them to the bowels and kidneys, on their way to being excreted.
To help with that, there is a fascinating machine called the Angel of Water, which gently rinses the intestines. This keeps the new detritus from sticking to the linings, where undigested food and previously unexpelled waste has been building up, rotting and become toxic. During the fast, when no solid food is ingested and the digestive process is at rest, the bowel toxins have a chance to work themselves loose from the linings, and get washed down the drain.
The Angel of Water is one of those treatments that are free during the week, along with unlimited use of the steam room and the infra-red sauna, which facilitate perspiration -- i.e., the further expelling of toxins through the body’s largest organ, the skin.
In addition, a complimentary detox kit provides implements for ridding the body of other toxins: a brush for dry brushing of skin and sloughing off dead skin cells, and a tongue scraper, for use first thing in the morning.
Halitosis-causing bacteria are excreted through the tongue every night as we sleep; in fact, it is a good idea to spend five seconds to clean the tongue as part of daily morning hygiene throughout the year.
Day two is also when I meet with the doctor, one of two who are on The Lifeco permanent staff. Dr. Bedreddin Ulusoy was already familiar with my medical history from my intake form, and he is there to support my detox regimen and dispense advice on how to maintain my health when I return home.
During my stay, he will deliver an informative lecture on the life-extending benefits of intermittent fasting: how to trigger the autophagy response on a weekly or monthly basis, for keeping the body free of toxins on a constant basis.
Dr. Ulusoy also introduced me to a relatively new medical test: the AGE test, for the detection of Advanced Glycation End-products -- proteins and lipids that become glycated as a result of exposure to sugar -- in other words, more toxins.
The test is quick, simple and non-invasive, and helps you evaluate your risk for heart and cardiovascular disease. Dr. Ulusoy’s lecture also provides tips on how to prepare food that does not create AGE.
A few steps from the doctor’s office is the nurses’ station, where the medical treatments take place. These include an array of optional infusions, including ozone, which purifies the blood. Daily complimentary treatments here include oxygen to enrich the system, and exposure to simulated full-spectrum daylight, to combat seasonal depression.
Other complementary treatments, offered in the juice bar area, include the salt room, the photon machine, and the ultrasonic vibration machine.
The most enjoyable therapies, meanwhile, are available at the spa, whose menu of massages is extensive. Deep-tissue massage releases toxins stored in muscle tissue, while shiatsu massages acupressure points that stimulate the body’s chi, or healing energy. For sheer relaxation, there is something taken from local tradition -- a foam scrub in the hamam, or Turkish bath.
While each individual’s experience is different, in general, after the hunger pangs of the first 2-3 days subside, the desired feelings of lightness and well-being begin to set in.
All too soon, the week’s stay -- vacation, really -- is over.
The last day is when the long-awaited Part 2 results of the “Before and After” sequence are revealed. First, the slide with a drop of my blood goes under the microscope -- and the projection on the screen shows dramatic improvement. For one, the red blood cells had broken free of whatever had been gluing them together; and this time, with more of the surrounding plasma now visible, there was a dynamic view of healthy white blood cells floating around in the fluid clear of all toxic specks.
The final weigh-in also takes place in conjunction with phase two of the Body Composition Analysis. This news is also good -- in fact, better than expected: I had lost four kilograms in the six days, and 75% of that was fat, not water. This was the equivalent of 3% of my body fat, and just seeing that statistic in black-and-white enhanced the satisfaction I felt from doing the right thing for my health.
In the final analysis, as promised, results I could see as well as feel.
(From now until the end of February, 2020, two people staying in a double room can enjoy all the treatments described in this article, all for the price of one person.)