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BLOG The Health Benefits of Turkey

3 May 2016 / Lifestyle


Healthy Living

It is no secret that a new trend of tourism is on the rise; health tourism. Thirty million people travel to receive medical care across the world each year and spend over $150 billion on anything from dental work and life saving procedures to plastic surgery. In 2015, Turkey became one of the top ten medical tourism destinations in the world, compared to 17th just 5 years ago. While 109,000 medical tourists visited Turkey in 2010, this figure rose to 583,000 last year, mainly due to the rise in tourists from Libya, Iraq and Germany. Turkey has been considered the best medical tourism destination after the US and Germany in quality, with many health centres in Istanbul making almost half of their revenue from their foreign patients.

Levent Baş, the vice president of Turkey’s Medical Tourism Development Council reported that European people usually visit Turkey for optical care, dental treatment, plastic surgery, hair transplant operations and in vitro fertilisation treatment. It also shouldn't go unnoticed that millions of Euros are also being ploughed into new hospitals across the country which aim to benefit visitors and expats, like the new Muğla University Hospital, set to open later this year. But while Turkey may offer surgical procedures at a fraction of the cost in western Europe, it is holistic therapies and the natural benefits of the country that are attracting tourists, as well as it being the perfect location to detox and practice general well-being.

Tourists travelling to health resorts, spas, retreats and wellness centres has been on the rise for years and Turkey has also been offering a slice of the action. In 2014 it was widely reported in the UK tabloids that supermodels Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell had been spotted attending the high brow and much sought after detox centre ‘LifeCo Spa’ in Bodrum. This is just one of the many health spas that are appearing around the country, many offering holistic therapies and an extended time to practise mindfulness and body strengthening. However, despite the rise of purpose built resorts, Turkey’s natural resources have much to offer the discerning holiday maker when it comes to health and wellness. Here are just a few reasons why Turkey has become one of the leading destinations for health tourism.

Vitamin D

Of course it is a well known fact that much of Turkey offers long days of sunshine and with a careful dollop of suncream and a decent hat, the benefits of the sun can hugely outweigh the dangers. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin”, the body produces vitamin D due to the skin’’s response to sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin in a family of compounds that includes vitamins D1, D2 and D3 and can affect as many as 2000 genes in the body. Vitamin D also has several important functions; vitally, it regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and facilitates normal immune system function. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D is important for normal growth and development of bones and teeth as well as improved resistance against certain diseases. Amazingly, you only need 10 minutes of exposure to the sun each day to be rewarded by the benefits of vitamin D. If there is anything that Turkey has plenty of, it’s sunshine!

Local Produce

While tourism is a huge industry in Turkey, so is agriculture and it is not just us humans who benefit from the sunshine, so does the land and what is grown from it. Particularly if you are staying in one of the coastal destinations of Turkey, practically everything you eat will have been grown, caught or produced locally, meaning that barely any time at all will have passed between the food being cultivated and reaching your plate. There are a huge amount of health benefits when it comes to eating locally produced food, least of all the fact that it will be preservative free and most likely organic.

When grown locally, crops are picked at the peak of their ripeness rather than being harvested early in order to be shipped and distributed to retail stores. In fact, it is most likely that the fruit and vegetables you find on your plate in Turkey will have been picked within 24 hours of you eating them. Foods are seasonal too which leaves them full of flavour and taste. When food has a shorter time between harvest and your plate, it is less likely that the nutrient value has decreased which means that you are getting the most from your food. Locally produced food may be great for your health and bodies, but by choosing to eat naturally grown, local produce, you are also contributing to the local economy and environment too. The vast majority of food served in Turkey is home grown. Even the fish and the meat will be fresh with the fish usually caught that day from local rivers or the sea and if you choose to cook for yourself in your apartment or villa, every town and village will have its own farmer’s markets where you can experience for yourself the colours and smells of the fresh food that will make its way to your plate!

Mud Baths

The most well known place in Turkey to experience a natural mud bath is Dalyan in the Muğla province. Many other resorts, such as Marmaris and Kalkan also offer day trips to Dalyan with the mud baths being the main draw alongside the famous ‘Turtle Beach’. It may seem swimming in mud, covering yourself in the clay dirt and then baking in the sun is just the sound of a good day out, but the natural mud offers a number of health benefits. Relaxing in a mud bath can have incredible anti-inflammatory properties, alleviating any aches and pains, and the clay draws out any toxins and impurities in your body and your skin. Soaking yourself in mud can also help to relieve the symptoms of psoriasis and rosacea, while many have reported a marked improvement in spinal symptoms such as spondylitis. So why not combine a day of fun with true health benefits and baby soft skin!? Other mud baths can be found in Çesme near Izmir and Black Island near Bodrum.

Thermal Springs

With Turkey being a volcanic country with a lot of geothermic activity going on below the surface, it is unsurprising that thousands of natural thermal springs can be found across the country. Apart from the fact that slipping into a hot spring or thermal bath can be a great way to unwind and melt your stresses away, like the mud baths (and often paired together), thermal waters can have great health benefits and can even help to prevent and treat disease. A thermal bath or hot spring occurs when water seeps deep into the soil and when it rises, it brings with in a multitude of minerals, including iron, fluoride, zinc, sodium and calcium. The heat relaxes the muscles, making them great for aiding the healing of ligaments and supporting injuries, the waters can provide better circulation, treat skin complaints such as acne, rashes and eczema, a thermal bath can improve the nervous system and detoxify, boost immunity and relieve anxiety too.

Some of the top spots in Turkey to experience thermal baths include Pamukkale, the cotton castle of limestone travertines, Yalova, a resort favoured by Atatürk, just an hour’s ferry ride from Istanbul, Sultaniye in Köyceğiz near Dalyan which pairs with a mud bath, and Ayder on the Black Sea Coast, nestled in the evergreen forests.

Retreats

Health, wellbeing and detox retreats are the growing trend at the moment and some will incorporate all of the above health benefits on top of offering holistic therapies. There are a few places in particular that deserve a mention and it would be foolish to begin with any other than the ‘LifeCo Spa’ which attracts supermodels and the rich and famous. ‘LifeCo’ is a 7 day residential detox course and has a reputation as being extremely thorough. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, meat and dairy are all banned, replaced by a juice-fast cleansing programme and gruelling digestive treatments. The spa is located on the Bodrum Peninsula, in a grove of mandarin orange trees, pines and palm trees with a blissful climate and gardens of honeysuckle and jasmine. But it is not a place for the faint hearted with intrusive daily treatments such as colonic irrigation and visits to the cryosauna (a very cold fridge!). As you can imagine considering it’s clientele, a week’s stay will cost you a fair bit too.

Another firm favorite is ‘Juicy Mountain’, situated high in the mountains of sun-drenched southern Turkey, the closest airport being Dalaman, with stunning views and sunsets. This unique rustic retreat is miles away from anywhere and is the perfect place to detox both the body and the mind. The retreat is run by health author Jason Vale, and combines a juice diet with fitness and yoga. The accommodation has no airs or graces, with not a television to be found, but it is wonderfully idyllic, organic and spiritual.

The Natur-Med Hot Springs and Health Resort is an oasis for those who need to look after their wellbeing and need rest and healing. With its natural resources, they offer a variety of health activities and natural treatments for chronic illnesses and everything one might need for mental and physical wellbeing. The resort is located at Davutlar-Kusadasi in the Samson Mountains near the Aegean Coast and centres on programs for specific problems, such as chronic diseases, weight loss, pain treatments, depression, anti-ageing and skin diseases. Naur-Med’s approach is to educate their guests to maintain a healthy detoxification routine which they can incorporate into their every day lives. As well as enjoying a healthy and balanced diet, activities include hiking, thermal baths, breathing exercises, pilates, yoga and water gymnastics. There is also a series of therapies offered such as ozone therapy, acupuncture, blood pressure relaxation therapy and magnetic field therapy.

Yoga holidays are also on the rise and a great example of this is the package holidays offered by companies such as Spectrum Turkey in Dalyan. Everything here at the owners’ home is included, from your accommodation to your every day juices. The package also offers ten Hatha yoga classes and morning meditation every day as well as a trip to the local hamam. The nice thing about this particular retreat is that you have free time during your stay to explore what the local area has to offer.

With yoga becoming such an important activity in Turkey and indeed across the world, it is exciting that it is almost time for this year’s ‘Dream Yoga Festival’, aptly titled “Breeze of Serenity”, a culmination of years of like-minded souls coming back together to share and further their practices, while doing so in one of Turkey’s most sacred, off the beaten path and relaxing spots, the very popular Kabak Valley. Situated in Fethiye, between its point on the Lycian Trail and the stunning Mediterranean Sea, Kabak is a nature lover’s paradise, where the mountains, forest and sea collide, all with a wide range of thoughtfully designed cabins, bungalows and tree houses as well as tents for people to best experience it. The festival boasts 20 teachers and hundreds of participants, making it one of the best health and spirit congregations to happen in Turkey. Turkish teachers and expats come together and offer classes of all kinds, appealing to the masses. You can enjoy a variety of yoga, workshops on Budokon ( a combination of yoga, martial arts and meditation), zen practices, Tai Chi, courses on love and healing, astrology and percussion workshops. Classes run from 7am to 7pm, open to anybody and accommodation can be provided if you wish at a cost but with free entry to classes.

The “Dream Yoga Festival” is in its third year this year and will run from the 19th of May to the 23rd. Why not combine a series of classes in yoga, martial arts and mindfulness with the other fantastic health benefits that Turkey has to offer? Take in the mud baths, the thermal springs and the warm sunshine as you stretch out those muscles and find inner peace and return home a new and healthier person! Turkey itself is a natural spa holiday waiting for you to take advantage of!

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