100 years of Buchinger: Combining tradition and progress – Otto Buchinger – A pioneer of therapeutic fasting
Today, 02.08.2020 a hundred years ago, the founder of our clinics, Dr Otto Buchinger treated his first patient in his clinic „Kurheim Dr. Otto Buchinger in Witzenhausen“.
The present-day Buchinger Wilhelmi Programme is based on the classical Buchinger therapeutic fasting, with added elements and methods from integrative medicine and inspiring incentives for the mind and soul. The Programme is constantly being honed in cooperation with university research centres and also takes into account the rapid progress in international fasting research in recent years.
How did Dr. Otto Buchinger develop his therapeutic fasting method?
Dr. Otto Buchinger was a doctor, philosopher, and pioneer of medical fasting. He lived an eventful life in eventful times: Born in 1878 in Darmstadt to a civil servant, he studied medicine, was awarded a doctorate and spent the First World War as a naval doctor until he was thrown off course in 1917 by an infected rheumatism of the joints caused by septicaemia.
His mobility was soon so severely restricted that he was forced to retire from the navy as an invalid. The personal strain and the powerlessness of conventional Western medicine led him to consider alternative forms of treatment. In 1919, he was referred to Dr. Riedlin in Freiburg, who prescribed therapeutic fasting following traditional methods. It was a resounding success, and saved his life, which he devoted from then on to developing and refining a method for a medically sound fasting therapy.
As a doctor, he focused on all aspects of integrated medicine. As a spiritual person, he concerned himself with the correlation between the body’s emotional and physical self-healing powers. As the founder of medical therapeutic fasting, he combined the two to create a holistic form of therapy – Buchinger therapeutic fasting – which he successfully applied and continued to develop in different clinics from 1920. In 1935 he published his most important work, “The Therapeutic Fasting Cure”, which is still in print today. In it, the “pioneer of fasting” systematically described fasting physiology and the diseases that are considered fasting indications.
Dr. Buchinger held “collective consultation sessions,” among others, in which music by Beethoven was played or poems by Goethe and Rilke recited. He was convinced that “[…] spiritual and cultural nourishment are equally important for human beings as food.” In the same way, he regarded fasting under experienced medical supervision and in an inspiring atmosphere not simply as a one-time corrective measure for an imbalanced state of health. Rather, he considered it to be the “true path of holistic medicine” that can help people achieve a more responsible lifestyle and activate their self-healing powers.
In 1953, Dr. Otto Buchinger was awarded the Federal Cross of Merit for his pioneering work.
Therapeutic fasting in the clinic on Lake Constance
In the same year, together with his daughter Maria and son-in-law Helmut Wilhelmi, he set up a new clinic in Überlingen on Lake Constance, which he continued to manage for several years as a senior consultant. Throughout his lifetime, he felt the need to fast regularly. It gave him strength for a long, healthy and active life, in which he achieved a great deal, before he died in 1966 aged 88.
Dr. Otto Buchinger was succeeded by Dr. Heinz Fahrner and Dr. med. Hellmut Lützner as well as Dr. Gisela Falzone and Dr. Karl Spiesske.
Both Dr. Heinz Fahrner and Dr. Hellmut Lützner published numerous articles in naturopathic and medical journals. They were followed by a further generation of doctors with Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo in Überlingen and Dr. José Manuel Garcia-Verdugo in Marbella, who developed the programme as we know it today.
Dr. Lützner in particular saw therapeutic fasting as a rest cure for healthy people and not exclusively as a method for treating illnesses.
From the fasting clinic in Überlingen to Marbella
The history of fasting made a leap to Spain in 1973, when Maria Buchinger-Wilhelmi opened a second fasting clinic in Andalusia together with her husband Helmut Wilhelmi. Maria, who became known as the “Grande Dame” of therapeutic fasting, devoted much passion and dedication to making the clinic one of the largest and most successful foreign enterprises on the Costa del Sol. Maria Buchinger-Wilhelmi was presented with the Federal Cross of Merit for her work in 1995, as her father did before her in 1953. In 2003 she was nominated “Entrepreneur of the Year” by Marbella’s trade association – the first woman and the first foreigner to receive this accolade.
100 years of Buchinger therapeutic fasting: Preserving established knowledge, integrating innovation
Ever since the fasting clinics were established in South Germany and in Marbella, they have been in family ownership. Up until 2017, both clinics were run by the third generation of the founding family: In Marbella, Maria’s daughter Jutta and son-in-law Claus Rohrer continued the work started by their mother and grandfather. The clinic on Lake Constance was managed by Maria Buchinger’s son Raimund Wilhelmi and his wife Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo from 1985.
During this time, much love and attention has been invested not only in enlarging both clinics, but also in continuously incorporating the findings of the latest scientific research.
Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo is considered one of the most esteemed fasting experts worldwide, has published countless publications on the topic of fasting, and has forged international partnerships with clinics and universities all over the world.
The Maria Buchinger Foundation was established in 2011 and continues to promote scientific research into and documentation of therapeutic fasting. It also awards research assignments and funds research, training and informative events.
Effectiveness of therapeutic fasting backed by scientific studies
The research department led by Dr. Françoise Wilhelmi de Toledo is currently working on several major studies. In early 2019, the world’s largest scientific study to date on the effectiveness of Buchinger therapeutic fasting was published. It observed a total of 1,422 fasting subjects, and revealed that therapeutic fasting according to the Buchinger method is safe and therapeutically effective as well as boosting emotional and physical well-being. Another study examines the pathological accumulation of fat in the liver, which can be reduced with Buchinger therapeutic fasting, preventing liver cirrhosis. Other studies deal with the effectiveness of the Buchinger Wilhelmi fasting programme on muscle function and on the microbiome.
100 years of Buchinger: Combining tradition and progress
Now, in 2020, we look back on 100 years of fasting experience. The fasting clinics in Marbella and Überlingen are being run by the fourth generation of the family. Otto Buchinger’s great-grandson, Leonard Wilhelmi, took over management of the clinic on Lake Constance on 1 March 2019. Katharina Rohrer-Zaiser and her cousin Victor Wilhelmi are in charge of the clinic in Marbella. More than 200 employees in Marbella and 350 on Lake Constance do all they can to ensure that guests feel well looked after at all times. Together with 18 doctors, the descendants of Otto Buchinger are continuing to shape the history of fasting – for the good and the health of more than 6,500 guests a year.