By Наталья Видович (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons While we have a long way to go until health insurance covers mani/pedis (we can dream, right?) many traditional doctors are bridging the gap between the medical world and the spa world by examining the effects of spa treatments on our health. Since inflammation in the body can lead to many diseases, detoxing, cleansing, and reducing stress are increasingly important to our longevity. Many spa treatments can help with that, and research is proving it. Dr. Andrew B. Newberg, Director of Research at the Myrna Brind Center of Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital, has studied the effects of the spa lifestyle on our health — and you might want to pay attention to the results. IF YOU WANT TO… Reduce Stress: Try Yoga “Yoga practices can benefit a person in a large part through its stress-reducing aspects,” Newberg explains. “Reducing stress lowers the amount of the stress hormone cortisol, which usually suppresses the immune system.” Newberg also reminded us that yoga reduces blood pressure, and with heart disease still the number one killer in America, this is a perk worth sweating through a Vinyasa class for. Detox: Try Colonics Although he points out that the data is a bit more controversial, “Studies have shown that colonics can help to reduce the toxins in the body,” says Newberg. “Toxins can interfere with a variety of physiological processes and also cause inflammation.” No wonder words like “detox” and “cleanse” have become so ubiquitous in the wellness industry. Live Longer: Cut Calories “In animals, reduced calorie diets have been shown to result in prolonged life spans,” says Newberg. While similar tests on humans are still new, these studies have shown that lower calorie diets “might lead to less inflammation and other causes of disease.” We all know that being overweight ups our risk factor for many diseases, and Americans are known for our way-too-large portions. Cut back to eating only what you need, and your overall health will surely improve. Reduce Disease Risk: Go Vegetarian “Overall, the most healthful way of eating is to move to a plant based diet,” Newberg says. “These are natural foods that make it very hard to gain weight and also reduce inflammation in the body.” Can’t give up your meat? “Eating a diet that is high in proteins and lower in sugars and carbohydrates has a similar effect,” Newberg reports. But that doesn’t mean you should spring for a steak dinner every night: “In general, red meats, and especially processed meats, are generally very bad for our health,” he reminds us. Feel Happier: Get a Massage “There is a small amount of data that support the use of massage for improving both physical and mental health.” Anyone who’s ever fallen asleep face-down in the cradle can attest to that! But it’s not just about relaxation: “Massage techniques can reduce stress and alter the brain’s functions,” Newberg added. Will this new information make you more likely to visit the spa regularly? We hope so! Taking better care of yourself is never a bad idea.