It begins around 1900 with the Swiss physician’s crusade to combat the ill effects of tuberculosis through improved diet. Far from being a nutritionist, Bircher-Benner first conceived the idea while studying medicine at the University of Zurich, experimenting with the effects raw food had on the body, and later using himself as a lab rat after falling ill with jaundice. The conclusion? His recovery was proof-of-concept for the health benefits of raw apple, nuts and oats mixed with water, lemon juice and condensed milk. A bowl of this Apfeldiätspeise (literally ‘Apple Diet Meal’, as Bircher museli was then known) will stay with you for the day, he reasoned, and probably for the rest of your life, too.
But Bircher-Benner’s research wasn’t so far-fetched. It became such a game changer that by 1904 he opened Lebendige Kraft, a chalet-style health sanatorium in the foothills of the Zürichberg, the city’s east-facing mountain. Switzerland’s reputation was such that thousands had begun to flock to health clinics in the Alps for the tangible healing properties of the sun, air and diet – but Bircher-Benner was also a shrewd businessman. Instead of opening on a sun-drenched Alpine ridge, he opened his sanatorium close to Zurich’s five-star Dolder Grand Hotel to lure in its affluent guests.
When it comes to the vital business of food and leisure in Switzerland, the doctor’s philosophy continues to influence the country’s national psyche. The Swiss all but invented healthy living, and embracing the great outdoors is so ingrained in their culture that mountain air, plentiful sunshine and a good diet is practically a human right.How Switzerland transformed breakfast – BBC Travel
In Europe, practically everyone takes a few weeks off each year to travel to a sanitarium, where nature, healthy raw vegan or vegetarian foods, sunshine and fresh mountain air would help to heal whatever ailed that person.