November 20, 2012
Week At The Spa Provides Tangible Health Benefits
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Just one week at a health spa improves emotional and physical well-being, with measureable improvements in health, a new study finds.
"Programs such as these have never before been formally evaluated for their safety and physiological effects," said lead author Dr. Andrew Newberg, director of research at the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine.
The researchers´ pilot study is one of the first to attach scientific data to the outcomes of a health and wellness spa stay.
The week-long program included diet modification, meditation and colonic hydrotherapy, voluntarily participation in low-risk hatha and Vishnu flow-yoga programs, and a juice-fast cleansing very low calorie diet of approximately 800 calories per day.
Stress management was provided through daily structured meditation and yoga programs, as well as time for personal meditation, deep breathing and heightened awareness.
In preparation for their visit to the spa, participants were asked to modify their diet three to four days prior to their arrival by replacing their normal diet with fruit, sprouts, raw and steamed vegetables, salads, herbal teas, prune juice in the morning, laxative teas or herbal laxatives nightly and avoiding pasta, meat, cheese, caffeine, alcohol and processed foods.
The participants, which included 13 women and two men between the ages of 21 and 85, had no history of significant medical, neurological or psychological conditions. Each underwent a thorough physical evaluation before and after their week at the spa, including weight, Body Mass Index (BMI), blood pressure, complete blood count (CBC) liver function, EKG, and tests to determine their levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, thyroid hormone and the concentration of metals such as mercury and lead in their blood.
The researchers also evaluated various psychological and spiritual measures among the participants before and after their week at the spa.
The results showed the spa program resulted in a weight decline, on average, of 6.8 pounds, a 7.7 percent decrease in diastolic blood pressure, a decrease in mercury, sodium and chloride levels, a 5.2 percent decline in cholesterol level and lowered mean BMI.
Declining cholesterol levels seemed to be curiously associated with a decline in HDL's, the good high-density lipoproteins, which is of some concern, though they remained within the range regarded as beneficial.
Hemoglobin levels rose by 5.9 percent, but no statistically significant changes in liver or thyroid function or EKG measurements were observed.
While no serious adverse effects were reported by any participant, the researchers noted changes in the participants' sodium and chloride concentrations, suggesting that those interested in going to a spa program should check with their physician to make sure they do not have any medical problems or medications that could put them at risk for electrolyte disturbances.
Improvements in anger, tension, vigor, fatigue and confusion were also seen, as was a statistically significant improvement in anxiety and depression levels measured by the Speilberger Anxiety Scale and the Beck Depression Index.
Participants also reported significant changes in their feelings about spirituality and religiosity.
The researchers noted that it was not possible to differentiate the effects of each of the individual elements of the program to determine which components were responsible for the changes observed.
"This will require an evaluation of one or more elements–such as yoga, very low calorie diet or colonics–in isolation to determine which elements have the most significant effects,” said Newberg.
The researchers plan to study the effects of a spa stay among people with specific diseases, such as diabetes.
Their complete findings will be available in the December issue of Integrative Medicine, A Clinician's Journal.