The Wealth of Health
Perched on a mountaintop overlooking the picturesque Spanish Costa Blanca towns of L’Albir and Altea, SHA Wellness Clinic has the aspect of a fortress—or perhaps more accurately, a temple. People come to this pristine white ziggurat—studded with private balconies and patches of verdant living green—to supplicate themselves to the wellness gods by committing to a results-driven regimen that promises to realign body, mind, and soul.
Whereas the European wellness clinics with which it is often grouped—read, Lanserhof, Mayr, et al—subscribe to an older, if extremely well-developed, idea predicated on detoxification, vigorous chewing, and gut health (now with the latest in medical equipment and diagnostics), SHA has always been on the ideological, and scientific, cutting edge. Its embrace of holistic-East-meets-high-tech-West informs the bedrock of the institution’s fundamental mindset, which is that true health can only manifest when more than just the body’s ailments or deficiencies are addressed. So yes, at SHA you may drink mysterious fermented broths and consume fungi prepared in unimaginable ways, but you will also likely learn to cook delicious and nutritious plant-forward meals for yourself; you may be given intravenous NAD drips to rejuvenate your mitochondria, but you will also learn to decode why you are feeling the way you are feeling—run-down, bloated, anxious—and given the tools to bring yourself back on track.
Since its opening in 2008, SHA has drawn titans of industry, Silicon Valley billionaires, movie stars, and bold-name fashion types. During my visit, I repeatedly stepped into the tiny elevator to find it occupied by a very famous, and famously controversial, French designer, clad in a white terry SHA robe and slippers, along with his clipboard-carrying assistant (no eye contact was made). But the shorter-duration stays, like the 4-Day Rebalance Program that I experienced, are approachable enough to tempt the sort of clients who don’t have private planes: I met two non-wildly wealthy British women, each traveling alone, who told me that taking the time to invest in their health was well worth tightening their belts elsewhere. (And if they could literally tighten their belts more after visiting SHA? What a win-win).
Prior to arriving at SHA, you choose a program: Rebalance, the most general wellness regimen, can be 4, 7, or 14 days. Healthy Aging, which focuses on longevity and lowering biological age markers, can be done for 7 or 14. Advanced Detox, which tackles the detoxification of the liver and digestive system (yes, there will be colonics… and rectal ozone therapy), can last 7, 14, or 21 days, as can the weight-loss-centered Optimal Weight program. A brand-new 7 day program, the Leader’s Performance, is specifically designed to bolster the physical and mental performance of those in the C-Suite, with stress management sessions, cardiology consultations, ozone therapy, and even a hair health assessment.
As a four-day Rebalance Program participant, my visit began with the Advanced Preventative Diagnostic Circuit, a supremely high-tech health assessment that involved a battery on non-invasive diagnostics including a 360 scan that measured my body mass composition, visceral fat, cellular water content, hip to waist ratio, and trunk to leg ratio. My vital signs were taken; my vascular age (which I was told could be improved) was determined; something called glycol oxidation (also room for improvement) was measured; then I faced a sequence of challenges on a computer screen that evaluated my memory (decent, despite jetlag).
Over the next few days, I ping-ponged between treatments and consultations with doctors: I had a healthy nutrition consult, functional training, acupuncture, ginger therapeutic compresses, a Far Infrared Electromagnetic Balancing treatment that perplexingly involved lying on a table holding a metal ball, private yoga, a radiofrequency body-contouring Indiba treatment (which felt, delightfully, like a hot stone massage), a pressotherapy treatment with lymphatic drainage pants, and a Hydroenergetic Detox Cure, which I actually had twice, and which involved swallowing magnesium tablets, immersion in a hot tub with essential oils and multi-colored lights, a mud wrap, and being hosed down with a power jet by a man I had never met before while wearing paper undies.
In between, I took morning hikes, swam, and enjoyed some of the most delicious food I have ever eaten. Unlike typical spa fare, which can veer toward the cardboard or overly grassy—and when tasty, ‘tis tiny—the menus at SHA were creative, generous, and filling. After four days, I felt light of body and bright of brain. I wanted, more than anything, to stay, to keep going. Even some of the things I struggled with in the beginning—like, for example, not being able to drink water with meals (you can, if you are on a very loosey goosey program, drink wine—it is Spain, after all—but H2O is believed to impede digestion)—had begun to feel natural. I even developed a taste for apple cider vinegar and sauerkraut, which I was given as a side with every dinner.
One truly could emerge from SHA completely transformed. Depending on how deep you want to go and how much you are prepared to spend, there are endless add-ons: telomere measurement, melatonin biorhythm tests, food sensitivity tests, hormone profiles, intravenous laser therapy, chelation therapy, something called Virile Rejuvenation with Shock Waves, and a new ice plunge program. There’s a whole suite of advanced Regenerative Medicine therapies (including neural therapy, immunotherapy, and anti-aging stem cell therapy), brain photobiomodulation and transcranial electrical stimulation, hair transplants, dental work, and a gamut of advanced aesthetics, from Ultherapy to filler and neurotoxin injections to Fraxel to Profhilo. You can even get your fortune told: 3,500 Euros buys you the SHA VIP Complete, a diagnostic genetic test that analyses polymorphisms in 86 different genes associated with everything from obesity to cardiovascular risk to osteoporosis and skin quality. Because being forewarned, as they say, is being forearmed.
In the end, that’s what it’s all about: prevention. Or at least knowing that wellness isn’t about waiting to get sick and then recuperating. It’s about recognizing health is the long haul, taking stock day-to-day, and recognizing when to take a deep breath. SHA provides a lot of deep breaths. It’s abundantly clear why its devotees pay for that privilege.
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