Epsom salts and bath bubbles

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Increasingly recognized as a threat to overall well-being, stress and anxiety can be alleviated, at least temporarily, by a relaxing day at the spa. Quiet downtime in the sauna or a deep-muscle massage are very old remedies for our chaotic modern lives. And although these traditional spa services are familiar to most Americans, alternative therapies common in European spas are not widely practiced or understood here in the States. But old therapies are finding new fans in St. Louis.

“It does take awhile for things to catch on, because natural remedies are given so little attention, and often discouraged by doctors and our health care system,” explains Clay Juracsik of St. Louis Salt Room. He and his wife Lena opened the Salt Room last December in Maplewood. ”Salt rooms have been providing natural healing in Eastern European hospitals and health spas for decades. Since the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America often ranks St. Louis at or near the top for respiratory illnesses, we are long overdue for this form of therapy.”

Salt therapy (halotherapy) has its origins in 19th century Poland, where physicians discovered that salt mine workers seldom suffered from respiratory disease. It has been used to treat asthma, bronchitis, allergies and sinusitis in adults and children. “Generally people notice results after one visit, but for longterm benefits—the treatment of asthma, for example—it can take anywhere from 10 to 20 sessions. It sounds like a lot, but the sessions are very pleasant and beneficial for the whole body.” Juracsik’s 9-year-old daughter, who has asthma, was the first person to complete the 20 sessions. “After she finished, she went to Children’s Hospital six weeks later for a follow-up. They told us that her breathing had gone from 78 percent to 104 percent FEV (forced expiratory volume) and said she no longer needed medication.”

St. Louis Salt Room is the only facility of its kind in the Midwest. “There is a salt cave in Chicago, which utilizes the older form of the treatment,” Juracsik explains. “Our salt therapy uses modern equipment, developed by Russian engineers, which puts fine salt mist in the air.” In addition to respiratory conditions, salt therapy also is recommended for strengthening the immune system, improving sleep, eliminating snoring and relieving fatigue and depression.

The Salt Room may not yet be well-known, but it already has enthusiastic fans in the St. Louis holistic community. “I love the Salt Room—it’s phenomenal!” says Karen Gelb, lead therapist at Holistic Fitness in Shrewsbury. “It’s great that things like that are starting to come to St. Louis and the Midwest.”

Holistic Fitness offers a range of services, including an infrared sauna. “The sauna is wonderful—so many health benefits! We also have a chiropractor, a terrific nutritional counselor and a massage therapist who does energy work that includes Reiki and Pranic healing. But our specialty is colon hydrotherapy.”

Like salt therapy, most Americans are not familiar with colon hydrotherapy, sometimes referred to as ‘colonics.’ “It’s a trusted, age-old remedy, because 70 percent of your immune system lies in your colon,” explains Gelb. “So if you’re fighting off a cold, or something worse, and there’s an impairment in your immune system, you’re not going to win the fight. The idea of colonics is to treat the cause, as opposed to symptomatically treating the body with pharmaceuticals.” The human body was designed with a natural ability to heal itself, Gelb says. “But in today’s stressful world, there are so many toxins bombarding us that we’ve lost that natural ability. If you can just get back to a clean body, it’s a tremendous boost to your immunity.”

A colonic uses purified water to cleanse the colon with a specialized instrument that removes waste. “The benefits of colonics can be seen with more consistent bowel movements, weight loss, clearer skin and increased energy levels,” says Gelb. “And as the body acclimates itself to the colonic process, more toxic material is removed with each process. Once you’ve done it, and you start to feel better, it’s so worth it!” Gelb says even hesitant first-timers become enthusiastic clients. “When your body starts to feel like a well-oiled machine, you’ll get it! People always laugh, but I refer to colon hydrotherapy as your body’s oil change.”