The destination health resort industry has long pioneered healthy lifestyle programs and services. Whether guests are seeking to stave off the effects of everyday stress, learn how to optimize their health or cope with life-threatening conditions.
Culinary and nutrition programs have long been a fundamental core for destination health resort programs, but in the last decade, progressive organizations recognized the need for more interface with science and technology including advanced diagnostics, customized gene-based nutrition and brain health programs. Responsive to growing demographics suffering from obesity, diabetes, heart disease, chronic stress, unhealthy ageing, depression, digital addiction and cognitive impairment, a new generation of services and technologies increasingly available at destination health resorts, gene-based nutrition centres, brain health and behaviour clinics, medical centres, and active living residential communities.
Non-Pharmaceutical Approaches to Mental and Emotional Disorders
In response to a growing demographic seeking non-pharmaceutical approaches to mental and emotional disorders, expanding research efforts and pioneering organizations, including destination health resorts, are offering non-addictive solutions to confront a variety of mental health challenges. Depression, anxiety, substance addiction, less-than-optimal mental states and cognitive decline can be stimulated by a wide range of conditions. These include imbalanced brain chemistry, genetic/environmental factors, nutritional deficiencies, trauma, personal crisis, chronic stress and insomnia. Other factors may include technological overstimulation, political and economic insecurity, reduced connection to nature and limited opportunities to feel meaning in one’s social connections and life pursuits.
In the United States, epidemiological studies have identified social anxiety disorder as the third largest psychological disorder in the country after depression and alcoholism. According to the World Health Organization, depression—which can be expressed in sadness, lack of energy, mental fog, social isolation and absence of meaning in everyday life activities—affects hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Revenue projections indicate the global depression-drug market is expected to reach $16.8 billion by 2020.
Parallel to the growing depression-drug market are various programs and a wide range of medical and non-medical organizations throughout the world assisting individuals with non-pharmaceutical and non-addictive tools and resources for managing depression, mental disorders, addictive behaviours and cognitive challenges. These modalities can include customized gene-based dietary programs and technology-based brain wave modulation and neurofeedback training. Providing healthy non-pharmaceutical alternatives, these approaches are achieving measurable documentation of improved health, sustained cognitive enhancement, creative problem solving, and expanded states of awareness that contribute to an enhanced sense of wellbeing, mental clarity, purpose and joy in living.
Brain-Health Assessments and Healthy Aging Programs at Destination Health Resorts
Thailand, which has long been a pioneer in the medical tourism industry, offers brain-health packages at the Amatara Wellness Resort, which partners with Bangkok-based Brain Health Institute. With a focus on Alzheimer’s prevention, the program is designed for early intervention for those with a family history of the disease and for individuals who wish to maintain or improve cognition and brain health. The program includes blood panels, hormone testing, cancer screening, MRI, MRA, cognitive tests, nutritional and sleep evaluations followed with personalized lifestyle-management guidelines to preserve brain health and prevent factors that can contribute to future cognitive decline. Establishing a brain-health benchmark that can be monitored annually is also a valuable tool for tracking progress and providing early intervention if cognitive challenges appear.
Canyon Ranch, with multiple locations, offers a variety of brain health and healthy ageing programs. Programs have been under the direction of Richard Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, President of the Canyon Ranch Institute, Vice Chairman of Canyon Ranch, and Professor of Public Health at the University of Arizona, who also served as the seventeenth Surgeon General of the U.S. from 2002 to 2006. His book, Canyon Ranch 30 Days to a Better Brain: A Groundbreaking Program for Improving Your Memory, Concentration, Mood, and Overall Well-Being, provides a comprehensive lifestyle, nutrition and behaviour-modification program designed to improve memory, mood, quality of sleep, reflexes, the accuracy of mental processes, energy and overall health.
An important component of lifestyle choices and optimization of brain health revolves around nutrition, with increasing research addressing the role of digestive-system activities that affect brain-gut chemistry with impact on cognition, moods, bioelectrical thought processes and memory. When brain chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that contribute to mood balance, wellbeing and happiness are chemically compromised, depressive mental states, poor concentration and insomnia can occur.
The Second Brain – Understanding Brain-Gut Microbiome Connection
Pioneering research in digestive health was pursued in the 1920s by Dr Franz Xaver Mayer of Austria. His work, referred to as the Mayer Cure, focuses on detoxifying, rehabilitating and strengthening the digestive and psychoneuro-immunology systems. Facilities offering the Mayer Cure include Lanzerhof, a leading centre for regenerative and preventative medicine with several locations in Germany, and Oceano Hotel Health Spa on the island of Tenerife of the Canary Islands.
The Paracelsus Clinic in Zurich, Switzerland Globalnd, one of the largest centres for alternative medicine in Europe, also offers comprehensive health-promoting programs including internal cleansing, de-acidification and detoxification. With the objective to strengthen the digestive and immune systems, customized nutritional programs are designed to rebuild the intestinal membrane and provide a foundation for building “good” intestinal bacteria and reducing or eliminating brain-gut issues altogether.
Recognizing the need for offering integrated whole-body/mind programs, more destination health resorts and medical facilities are providing science-based nutritional programs focused particularly on genetic, behavioural and molecular neuropharmacology. David Perlmutter, MD, author of Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain, is one of many neuroscientists addressing gut microbiome-brain science and its interface with endocrinology, immunology, pathology and neurologic pathways.
Gene-Based Nutrition, Brain Health Clinics and Buck Institute for Research on Aging
After evaluating brain-health status through blood and genome tests, metabolic, behavioural and cognitive analysis, customized treatment protocols are designed to improve health and brain functioning. Nurse Practitioner, Pamela McDonald, of Penscott Medical Practice in Danville, California and author of the Perfect Gene Diet, has developed an award-winning program through her book, private practice and online course educating clients on diet and lifestyle choices based upon their genetic blueprint. Genetic testing provides opportunities for early intervention and risk reduction of conditions such as chronic illness, Alzheimer’s and heart disease. With so much misinformation about diets and nutrition, gene-based nutrition programs can provide a life-saving service for individuals who may unknowingly gravitate towards high-risk dietary programs such as ketogenic diets that are not compatible with certain genotypes.
The Brain and Behavior Clinic in Boulder, Colorado also embraces customized dietary protocols including the work of Dr Dale Bredesen of UCLA and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging for treating Alzheimer’s and cognitive decline with dietary modifications, supplements and lifestyle modifications. Working with a team of functional medicine specialists, clients are evaluated through a variety of health indicators including metabolic functioning, quality of sleep, frequency and type of exercise, diet, stress, emotional, behavioural, cognitive health markers and neuro-cognitive testing. Analysis and follow up includes lifestyle recommendations and specific plan including guidelines for a diet and protocols supporting brain health, nervous system, metabolic functions and cognitive rehabilitation.
Dr Lana Morrow, an award-winning functional medicine neuroscientist, is founder CEO and creator of THINK Interfaces, a non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical computer system that enhances focus, memory, and cognitive performance through brain training sessions. In collaboration with scientists and representatives from top international institutions including, Mount Sinai Hospital, New York Langone Medical Center, Pitie-Salpetriere Hospital in Paris, Sapienza University in Rome and Columbia University in New York, the patented, scientifically proven neuro-game series increases attention, focus and speed of thought while boosting dopamine production in the brain. THINK Interfaces is now being introduced into schools, universities and wellness centres.
Biocybernaut Institute, with locations in Germany, Canada and the United States, offers weeklong brainwave neurofeedback training programs that enable participants to learn how to control their own brainwave activity and experience expanded states of consciousness. Benefits include an increase in IQ, creativity, imagination, problem solving, sports performance, happiness and quality of interpersonal relationships. Clinical applications for Biocybernaut participants suffering from depression, anxiety disorders, addictive behaviours, trauma, memory loss, attention and hyperactivity disorders document relief from these conditions including alcohol and chemical dependencies.
Positioning for Evolving Gene-Based Nutrition and Brain Health Programs in the Hospitality Industry
As the health, wellness and medical tourism industries continue to evolve, the interface with science and technology will play an increasingly important role in market expectations for customized services and programs based upon science. Destination health resorts, hotels and lifestyle communities featuring health and wellness programs are uniquely positioned to integrate more science and technology-based services into their business model to serve growing markets seeking scientific and evidence-based life-enhancing programs. For organizations seeking to position for current and emerging markets integrating healthy lifestyle programs, science and technology, RLA Global provides a proprietary methodology to assist clients in identifying the most advantageous mix of concepts, services and strategic alliances.
About the author: Janice Gronvold, MS , RLA Global Senior Partner
Janice Gronvold has held executive and consulting positions with award-winning international health resorts. She has successfully pioneered alliances between conventional and integrated medical modalities within hospitality.