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The Road to Health July 19, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
Tags: , , , ,
medical tourism, global health, travel, medical procedures abroad, healthcare

Medical tourism. How far down the road will you travel to surgeon-shop?

The state of US healthcare looms near-crisis and unemployment levels remain steadily high. Over 16% of US citizens are without health insurance, and the rate is climbing. This combination will spur over 1.6 million Americans to seek affordable medical treatment abroad this year.

Granted, many of the procedures are elective: dental veneers, liposuction or breast augmentation. But some necessary treatments are plainly a better deal in other countries. A hip replacement will cost $43,000 in the US, but only $9,000 in India. The physicians are usually US or UK board certified, so quality of care is not necessarily compromised.

Medical tourism has grown so quickly that 50 countries now recognize it as a major national industry.  There’s a Medical Tourism Association & Global Healthcare Congress, medical travel companies, and guided tours for travel companions.

And even if you’re not signing up for heart bypass surgery which is likely to cost $144,000 in the states, $25,000 in Costa Rica and only $8,500 in India, you may just pick up a few packs of antibiotics without prescription the next time you’re vacationing in Mexico.

Here’s a breakdown of treatments by country provided by mint.com:

Cardiology: India, where over 20,000 heart procedures are performed with a 98% success rate; South Africa

Cancer: Singapore Johns Hopkins at 40% discount.

Cosmetic Surgery: Brazil-for you or your pet!; South Africa where a “Surgeon + Safari” is popular.

Dentistry: Costa Rica, at a discounted rate of 70%; Mexico, which hosts 50,000 Americans each year.

Fertility/IVF: Barbados and Israel offer 50% savings.

Everything: Thailand accepts 400,000 patients each year for all the above plus transgender operations.

Don’t feel beholden to the US practices to provide optimum care. If you happen to be traveling anyway or want to combine a health treatment into your travels, it’s easy to do. A successful global free market will be created where competitive industries win. And contrary to popular thought, most people do not just travel for a better deal, but in search of the most advanced medical technologies, to receive better care, and quicker access to care, according to a McKinsey consultancy firm survey. Do a bit of preliminary homework and be wary of malpractice laws.

Further reading:

Patients Beyond Borders

The Healing Waters: Mineral Hot Springs January 24, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , , ,
Hot mineral springs, mineral spa, thermal water, travel

Heat and minerals combine for natural healing

More accessible than thalasso spas or hammams, mineral hot springs are natural geothermal waters heated through contact with volcanic magma or the earth’s crust. Temperatures range from 15° above ambient ground temperature to 176° F. Hot springs have been used for healing purposes by indigenous peoples since prehistoric times all over the earth.

Mineral Therapy

Interaction with several layers of earth and clay contributes essential minerals to the waters. Even trace amounts of minerals can have a significant therapeutic effect when absorbed through the skin. Mineral content and chemical compositions most often found include:

Arsenic: while toxic in large quantities, trace amounts encourage plasma production and tissue growth; beneficial for fungal infections on the skin; arthritis.

Bicarbonate gas: increases circulation and opens peripheral blood vessels. Use in tepid to warm waters can alleviate symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease, hypertension and mild atherosclerosis; relieves stress.

Boron: increases brain activity, strengthens bone and builds muscle.

Chlorides: beneficial for rheumatic conditions, arthritis, stress, arthritis.

Iron: increases blood production and strengthens the immune system.

Lithium: alleviates depression; helps with digestion.

Magnesium: converts blood sugar to energy; promotes healthy skin.

Potassium: regulates heart rhythms and decreases blood pressure; eliminates toxins.

Sulfates: treat respiratory ailments and skin infections. Also beneficial for liver  and gastrointestinal conditions.

Help Yourself

Balneology is the scientific study of naturally occurring mineral waters, and is incorporated into routine medical care in Europe and Asia. It is not practiced in the United States where preventive health has been pushed aside in favor of morbidity treatment. Given the number of mineral hot springs in the US, this is unfortunate. Two-time Nobel Laureat (for chemistry and peace), Dr. Linus Pauling noted, “Every sickness, every disease, every ailment can be traced to a mineral deficiency.” Being in charge of our own health destinies, however, we may avail ourselves to the many therapies of mineral springs.

In the late 1880’s, Doc Holliday, gunslinger of OK Corral legend, ended up living in Glenwood Springs, CO where he used the hot springs to treat his tuberculosis. In the early 1900’s, Teddy Roosevelt occasionally hunted in Colorado, and found the hot springs and vapor caves there beneficial for his health conditions.

Carson Hot Springs in Nevada, was enjoyed by settlers on their way to the Gold Rush, and a resort there even began bottling a healing “new Mineral Water” as early as 1895.

Three thousand years ago, American Natives occupied what is now known as Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The Quapaw and Caddo tribes there still consider the hot baths a sacred and integral part of their culture.

Check for mineral hot springs in your area or when traveling. Many websites offer mineral content of their springs, and you will be surprised at how many more elements are common than the few listed above. Also be aware of rules and regulations–some spa settings will be pricey, and more natural settings are likely to attract nudists. But there are so many mineral hot springs, you can be sure to locate the perfect one. A handful of US hot springs:

Glenwood Hot Springs, CO.

Faywood Hot Springs, NM.

Crystal Hot Springs, UT.

Virginia Hot Springs, Allegheny Mountains, VA.

Goldmeyer Hot Springs, WA.

Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic National Park, WA.


Some springs are extremely hot and can be fatal. Check with your doctor to know your body’s tolerance with your health conditions. Surrounding ground is also hot and has often melted soles off of shoes.  

The Healing Waters: Hammam January 17, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
Tags: , , , , ,
Hammam, healing waters, communal bathhouse, medicinal spa

Traditional hammam, Morocco

Snowed in and shivering this week, my mind wanders to other forms of medicinal healing waters, specifically those of the traditional hammam, “spreader of warmth,” also known as “the silent doctor.” Originating from Roman thermal baths, hammams were, and in many places still are, communal bath houses common in Turkey, Morocco, Spain, Tunisia, and a variation in Japan. In eastern cultures, hammam visits may be the only time women leave the house, so it is also a place for socializing. It’s possible to find old hammams still frequented by weekly bathers, or updated experiences in sterile spa settings. But the wash routine remains and you will leave the hammam refreshed and cleaner than perhaps ever before.

The hammam is reserved for women to use during the day and men at night, or on separate days of the week. It is customary to bring your own toiletries, undergarments, towel, kiis (exfoliating mitt), two buckets, optional small bowls for rinsing, optional floor mat, and something to wrap around your wet head upon your departure. Spa hammams, of course, use their own skin care products and allow men and women use of separate areas of the spa.

Hammam rooms are centered around a gushing flow of thermal water. The first room you will enter is the preparatory warm room. You will wear dark underwear but no bra. Fill your buckets with warm and cool water. Use the cool water bucket to rinse off the marble or stone floor space where you will sit, and to rinse your body. Spend time here to relax, allow your pores to open and your cares to flee.

Move to the hot room where you will spend ample time sweating to detoxify and cleanse your skin.When you reach your tolerance for heat it’s time to move on.

Enter a second warm room where you will wash. As a courtesy, someone may offer to wash your back. Do not interpret this as anything else. Or, an attendant may assist you if you have previously asked and paid for that service. After your skin is washed with the kiis, and also your hair, use the warm water bucket to rinse.

From here, you enter the cold room to begin to adjust to outside temperatures. Often there are benches and showers to use for a final rinse before a deep-pressured, abrasive massage on the stone floor. Remaining dirt and several layers of skin are removed, joints are cracked. Your skin is olive-oiled and then covered with a special lotion and you’re ready to be on your way. Remember to cover your wet head, as is custom, or someone is likely to do it for you.

Arabs tailored bath houses from early Greek and Roman ones, became an important hygienic aspect of religion and were often connected to Islamic mosques. Residents of and travelers to Cairo 500 years ago supported over 300 bath houses. You will even find some there today dating back to 1300. It’ll cost you between 2 and 3 of today’s dollars in a traditional hammam, or upward of 200 at a spa.

Heat, steam and massage have been enjoyed and used medicinally from ancient tundra dwellers to Jordan. “The silent doctor” still has us yearning for renewal from this ancient water therapy.

HAMMAM Spa, Toronto.

Riad Kniza, Marrakech.

Amanjena, Morocco.

Miraj Hamman Spa, Vancouver.

The Healing Waters: Thalassotherapy January 10, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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El Arco, Cabo San Lucas, spa, thalassotherapy

Sea water therapy for body, mind and soul

Although thalassotherapy is one of the ancient health regimens of Greece and Egypt and even Hippocrates, it remains one of the best-kept secrets.

Through the last half of the 18th century and the 19th century, Dr. Richard Russell’s hype of thalassotherapy benefits spurned a multitude of seaside resorts in England, and Duchess Berry’s in France. Today its greatest popularity is near the Dead Sea, and yet, it is a relatively obscure therapy.

Now almost entirely a spa experience, thalassotherapy is based in coastal cultures. It was believed since ancient times that the sea fog and the sea itself contain restorative trace elements of magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium and iodine and are absorbed through the skin. Hippocrates observed that fishermen whose hands were often cut would never develop infections. In 1904, French biologist Rene Quinton proved that sea water contained the same elements as blood plasma and were curative.

Methods of Therapy

Thalassotherapy pools contain seawater pumped from far offshore, used within 48 hours at 98 degrees to maintain the vital microbes, minerals and plant life essential for healing. Immersion into this warm bath often with pressurized air jets, promotes the creation of healthy cells while the mind moves into harmony with the body’s nervous, respiratory and cardiovascular systems. Daily therapy over six days has a lasting effect for six to eight months as evidenced in people with diabetes, asthma, arthritis, heart ailments, hypertension, cellulite, stress and skin problems.

Massage increases circulation and respiration, heals sore muscles and eliminates toxins. Seaweed dilates blood vessels, allowing for more immediate entry into the bloodstream, and opened pores allow the skin to be more receptive to the natural ingredients. Marine mud, algae paste, seaweed wraps and salt scrubs are optional components.

Thalassotherapy Spas

Should you find yourself along the sea, inquire about thalasso spas. Treatments can be costly, but not prohibitive. The results you see and feel will override any reservations you have for future therapies. Here are just a few:

Biarritz Thalasso Resort – three locations in coastal France.

The Royal Myconian Hotel and Thalasso Center – Mykonos Island, Greece.

Playa Grande Resort & Spa – Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Zoetry Paraiso de la Bonita – Rivera Maya, Mexico.

Kempinski Hotel/The Dome – Turkish Riviera.

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