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Skeptical Analysis of the Paranormal Society

"Le doute n'est pas une condition agréable, mais la certitude est absurde."

—Voltaire

Destination Spas Cure Cancer?

SAPS goes undercover in a five-star destination spa. This article will be posted in multiple parts, so check back frequently!

Recently, one of our SAPS members was hired at a five-star destination spa. A destination spa is more than just a day of pampering. It's a stay - a combination of hotel and spa, with vigorous doses of exercise. Our member didn't realize, at the time she was hired, that spas were not just manicures, pedicures, and massages. No, spas are full of paranormal claims, the most impressive of which is a claim to cure cancer.

Though none of the spa's literature on their services makes this particular claim so blatantly, we were able to delve into what they do provide, and find more information.

The spa (which we shall not name) is located in Texas and caters to an all-female crowd. With only thirty rooms, the stay is, as promised, personal. It is tailored to suit the needs of the guest, whatever those needs may be.

Normally, only about half the rooms are filled. A regular stay on a regular package averages seven nights. Each package comes with meals, manicures and pedicures, massages, facials, and all sorts of other pampering activities. The meals are diet meals, and each guest only receives 1500 calories per day during their stay. This low-cal diet is combined with a daily exercise regimen, including swimming classes, gyrotonics, pilates, tai chi, and yoga.

A seven night package for a regular stay is $5,900. That is a basic stay, no cure for cancer included. If you opt for a more intense diet combined with "detoxifying" treatments and services that are specially designed for "detoxification of the body," the price goes up. A seven night stay on that package is $6,350.

Each guest, as soon after their arrival as possible, meets with the nutritionist, the nurse, and a fitness representative in order to further tailor the experience. The nutritionist often recommends bloodwork, which can run as much as $600 for things like metabolic panels.

The nurse is not an RN, but an LVN. A Licensed Vocational Nurse is "a non-degreed, healthcare provider with practical experience and basic education in nursing." LVNs are permitted to draw blood, administer medications, and start IVs... all under the supervision of a physician. (http://nursing.about.com/od/glossary/g/LVN.htm)

Though it is true that this particular destination spa employs a physician, the physician is off-site, multiple states away, and rarely has more than phone contact with any of the guests. Despite this, the LVN offers B-12 injections. B-12 is supplemented frequently for people suffering from anemia. It is a vitamin, and shouldn't be particularly dangerous in most cases. However, drug distribution is normally supervised by a physician because of the rare possibility of something going wrong.

In the case of B-12 injections a few things can, the most serious of which is a rapid progression of a hereditary disease known as Leber's Disease. Leber's Disease is characterized by optic nerve atrophy. B-12 can increase the severity and swiftness of the disease, potentially leading to blindness in some cases. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B-12)

SAPS became most interested in the spa because of the "detoxifying treatments," all of which were massively popular. These included herbal wraps, salt and sugar scrubs, linfogei, ionithermie, and lymphatic drainage.

When our member asked the nurse on staff what a detoxifying treatment was, she responded that they "flush toxins" in the liver and kidneys. Dictionary.com defines the word "detoxify" as "to rid poison or the effect of poison" or "to treat (a person addicted to alcohol or drugs) under a program of detoxification". (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/detoxify)

This is a true description of one of the services: the B-12 injection. B-12 has been approved as a treatment for cyanide poisoning. However, it seemed odd to SAPS members that so many of the other treatments were labeled as "detoxifying" without involving poison at all, and we put out feelers to find out what, exactly, that meant, especially as it is uncommon to find yourself poisoned in the middle of a spa.

After speaking with the nurse and the nutritionist, the SAPS member discovered that the toxins these services get rid of are actually things like food additives.

"Additive" is a very broad term in relation to foods, and according to the FDA's web site, refers to anything added to a food to make it taste better or last longer. It could be salt, beet juice, or something created in a lab.

Since the detoxifying treatments include a salt scrub, SAPS thought that detoxification more than likely referred to lab-created food additives.

When an additive is first propositioned for use, the FDA requires evidence that the additive is safe. According to the FDA's web site, this evidence is usually given in the form of animal testing. Then, if all evidence falls within the margins of safety, the additive is released for human consumption where it is watched further, and any and all adverse reactions are noted. This system has been in place since 1958. (http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~lrd/foodaddi.html)

Another possible toxin is pesticides. Pesticides are, of course, poison. They have to be, because we're using them to kill things and if they weren't poison, they certainly wouldn't be effective. The Environmental Protection Agency recognizes the possibility that in the past pesticides may have been used at toxic levels. The EPA has, in place, a program for review of older pesticides as well as a review of all new pesticides. (http://www.epa.gov/pesticides/regulating/index.htm#review)

While SAPS will never say that pesticides or food additives are a good thing (we simply haven't studied them enough to know) we do find it pretty safe to say that even if they aren't, the products sold at a spa simply cannot do anything about it.

In order to further understand how this is possible, we'll look at each spa service, its price, and its claim.

So stick around until next time, when we take a look at herbal body wraps, salt and sugar scrubs, mineral mud treatments, ear candling, acupuncture, and, above all, reiki.

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