When you think of a relaxing day at the spa, your mind generally conjures up images of someone massaging every last knot out of your shoulders or layering on a mud mask. What doesn’t usually come to mind is having your blood drawn — a procedure typically reserved for the doctor’s office.
But if you happen to live like one of the #RichKidsOfInstagram — jet-setting about for lavish long weekends (or you’re a globe-trotter and simply understand the finer things in life) — you might have noticed that some of the higher end spas have become extremely interested in your medical history in recent years.
Many of the top spas around the world are investing in medical services in order to deliver wellness practices to correct what ails you — whether it’s related to weight loss, energy loss, your immune system, your digestive system, or simply stress.
In order to achieve this, they’re working with their patients on getting blood samples prior to their spa stays to make sure they’re offered just the right treatments. Of course, we had to learn more about this crazy trend. We spoke with multiple spas about this newfound blood thirst — and even lent a vein — in the name of research.
Your Blood Horoscope
At Espace Chenot at L’Albereta — a health and wellness spa picturesquely situated in a vineyard in a small wine region of Northern Italy called Franciacorta — Dr. Elena Rossetti, the in-house doctor, told us that the staff works to pair their medical knowledge with appropriate treatments for each patient. That’s where the blood tests come in. “Based on the results of the blood tests and anti-ageing tests, the doctor proposes a personalised process.”
We had the opportunity to try out Ozone Therapy — one of the spa’s star treatments — during a recent trip to Franciacorta. The treatment is given to patients multiple times a week during their stay to, purportedly, boost the metabolism, help the immune system, improve memory, and assist with weight loss.
Dr. Rossetti explained that during Ozone Therapy, 100ml of your blood is drawn, mixed with oxygen, and then basically put back in your body. “The oxygen is nutrition for the cells, so it helps them to grow,” says Dr. Rossetti.
If we were patients at the spa (and staying the normal two weeks suggested), she would recommend this treatment up to 10 times during the stay in order to truly get the most out of it, and then to return once a month for maintenance. Considering each treatment costs about £130 a pop, this is pretty much a 1%-only type of deal.
The doctors measure the therapy’s effectiveness by conducting more blood tests throughout the treatment and at the conclusion, testing for things like cholesterol and glucose levels.
As for the procedure itself, it took all of 15 minutes. Blood doesn’t make us queasy, but this is definitely not for the faint of heart. Being hooked up to a machine and seeing so much blood taken out (and mixed in a glass bottle hanging above our head) was a little unnerving. Our first thought was along the lines of: What the hell? I want my blood back… Thankfully after mere minutes, the entire 100ml of blood was back where it belonged and we were on our way.
OUR FIRST THOUGHT WAS ALONG THE LINES OF: ‘WHAT THE HELL? I WANT MY BLOOD BACK…’
After Ozone Therapy, it was time for a massage, which Sara Suardi, the spa director, informed us was to go hand-in-hand with the treatment. The Chinese massage technique is said to help boost metabolism and purge the body of the mental and environmental aggressors that can show up on your skin.
We thought the blood part was going to be the weirdest, but the massage was one of the strangest and most intricate ones we’ve ever had — and being in the beauty business, we’ve experienced hundreds.
The therapist concentrated her efforts along the spine with a vibrating stone, and then she went to work hand-massaging the stomach for about 20 minutes.
Massaging the stomach and digestive organs is said to be good for your digestion, but it is also very uncomfortable if you feel like you’ve been eating a lot for the past few days. But that discomfort did lead to some positive results — typically, traveling can cause a little bit of, um, blockage, and this massage worked out any evacuation (read: poop) issues. So, whatever her magical hands did, it worked.
For a lengthier stay, a guest would receive multiple treatments like this throughout the week. But even after our one treatment, we noticed some great results: Immediately after, we didn’t struggle at all with jet lag or feel run-down, and we were nonstop touring a new country, which can be pretty exhausting.
In Saint Lucia, The BodyHoliday has also been doing medical analysis to recommend appropriate treatments. But instead of going through rigorous rounds of testing when they first arrive, guests receive a series of online questionnaires. The spa sends them a lab-test kit with step-by-step instructions in the mail. The kit might even ask for a stool sample (depending on the guest’s needs). Side note: This might be the only situation in which sending poop in the mail is considered acceptable. Although we’d hate to be the post-office employee who has to handle that particular package.
On arrival, guests go through a non-invasive test (i.e. no blood removed from your body and swished around in a jar over your head) to analyse more than 130 blood parameters. Those are grouped with the results from the test kit for a complete pre-treatment health profile.
The BodyHoliday’s Wellness Centre leader Dr. Arun Pillai tells us that the aim of this kind of treatment is “to take people to a place of more efficient cellular and improved metabolic function, and a better immune function.” This is done through a combination of specialised treatments, healthy food, and “advanced nutritional supplements specifically aimed at correcting any measured imbalances.”
Dr. Pillai says that, unlike many other spa treatments, this practice is rooted in functional science.
“This is purely based on medical science. The goal of the examinations is to determine changes in composition of…chemical reactions shaped by the blood…that have interconnections with oxygen consumption and carbon-dioxide exhaust regulated by organisms [that] have influenced the level of protein and lipids in cell membranes,” Dr. Pillai tells us.
Other well-known (and celebrity-frequented) spas — like Canyon Ranch — have been using medical science to assist with wellness treatments for years, but do not (as of yet) use any blood tests to determine treatments. Instead, according to Canyon Ranch’s medical director, Stephen Brewer, MD, physicians help direct their guests toward a healthy-living plan throughout their stay.
Only time will tell whether more spas will use medically directed approaches in the future. But since the majority focus on beauty and relaxation, rather than diagnosing health issues, this isn’t something we see becoming the norm anytime soon. Yet, as Dr. Pillai so accurately points out, a blood test can speak volumes — and if we have to spill a little blood in order to whip our immune systems into shape, so be it.