2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Knowledge Base

Welcome to our extensive library of articles on health concerns and ailments, alternative therapies, nutritional supplements, and much more. Please mouse over the letters to get started. We hope you enjoy browsing.

Hospitals, Health Spas, and Feeling Great

Posted 04/16/2012

Here’s a good general rule for the rest of your life: all things considered, you’re better off avoiding hospitals and instead, every year or so, checking yourself into a resort/health spa for a few days.

Personally, I don’t care much for hospitals. Whenever one of my patients ends up in one (fortunately a rare event) I secretly wonder if I’ve failed him or her professionally. Was there something I missed that could have prevented hospitalization?

It’s true that a lot of state-of-the-art advances in medical science lurk behind the bombastic architectural pretensions known as “major medical centers.” But there’s also a lot of well organized, insanely overpriced over-doctoring. This results in over-diagnosis, over-testing, and over-prescribing of pharmaceuticals and surgical procedures. It also produces a smorgasbord of hospital-acquired infections, drug reactions, iatrogenic illnesses (those inadvertently caused by a physician or by procedures used to diagnose or treat you), and sheer physical and emotional exhaustion of patients.

Most people leave hospitals grateful to get out alive. For many of us, our initial hospital stay includes a moment when we shed for the first time our personal myth of immortality. As we’re wheelchaired through the long corridors to our waiting transportation home, the sentence that invariably crosses our minds is “I could have died in there.”

Before opening WholeHealth Chicago, I spent many (many!) years making daily hospital rounds. Today I rarely enter a hospital—mainly I’m a visitor. Like many office-based doctors, I prefer using hospitalists, a new medical specialty of physicians who have no practice of their own, but supervise the hospital stays for patients of non-hospital physicians like myself.

It was during those hospital-filled years of my callow youth that I realized many illnesses I was treating could have been prevented by simple lifestyle changes. And thus were planted the first seeds of WholeHealth Chicago.

Since today I average just two or three hospitalizations a year (see? I do really try to keep people away from hospitals), hospitalists don’t make much money from WholeHealth Chicago. Our most recent hospitalization was for a woman who suffered all sorts of post-operative complications, including kidney failure, from what probably was an unnecessary bit of orthopedic surgery.

See why I’m skittish about hospitals? But health spas are another matter altogether…
Since we first opened WholeHealth Chicago, we’ve consistently sent far more patients to health spas around the country than to hospitals. I learned early on that this is a very European thing to do, and that the health insurance of several European countries even includes spa coverage when recommended by a physician. Ours, sadly, does not.

With patients whose work and financial circumstances permit spa time I’ve often seen a single stay at a resort/health spa change their lives forever. This is not an exaggeration. Whether it’s a patient with an medical condition like rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, or heart disease or someone with a stress-based disorder such as fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, or irritable bowel syndrome, there seems to be one key “spa moment.” Dozens of patients have told me a variation of “I suddenly realized that good health was a real possibility. I was able to recapture what feeling truly great actually meant.”

You have to admit, a moment like that can be pretty empowering for someone who’s felt crummy for so long they can’t remember what feeling good was like.

But it’s really nothing mysterious.

That “spa moment” is your body giving you a preview of the possibilities.
Giving you the hint that if you escape a stressful environment, surround yourself with natural beauty, feed yourself healthful whole foods, exercise gently, treat yourself to massages, facials, hot baths, acupuncture, and energy healing, and have utterly no place to go except for a nice walk, you can indeed feel great without doctors or drugs.

After that first spa experience, many people make dramatic changes in their lives. They may leave a stressful job or relationship, make a career change, or even pick up and move. Many re-order their lives to accommodate the stress-relieving features of spa life. Daily eating habits almost always improve and, at least for a while, they’ll exercise regularly, meditate, attend yoga classes, and go for an occasional tune-up at a day spa. If they start to feel poorly again, most know exactly what to do to get their groove back.

Health-oriented destination spas are located everywhere in the world and have a vast array of pricing. The oldest in the Chicago area, Heartland Spa, has an excellent selection of spa activities, a very healthful detoxifying menu, and the advantage of allowing you to avoid the stress (and expense) of air travel. Just 90 miles south of Chicago in Gilman, IL, you can drive yourself, take Amtrak out of Union Station (they’ll pick you up on the spa end), or, if you live in the Chicago area, they may arrange for a complimentary limo to and from your home. Heartland is always running package specials, so click here for their website.

After you’ve sampled one spa, you can go to spafinder.com and find spa treatments in every price range. You might even make yourself a spa regular, detoxing each Spring instead of getting plastered in a Cancun disco every night and coming home with herpes.

Be well,

David Edelberg, MD


PS:  This postscript has nothing to do with spas. I was pleasantly surprised when the AMA Journal of Ethics asked me to write an article about what I felt were the moral failings of physicians in their attitude toward women with fibromyalgia. I was definitely surprised when they accepted it for publication, since alternative medicine is not exactly a favorite subject of the AMA. Generally, you need to be an AMA member to access articles (although I am not—maybe they didn’t check), but this article is available to the public. The theme of the issue is “Coping with Foreignness in Medicine.” Read the Introduction and then scroll down to the article, Fibromyalgia Confounds Allopathic Habits of Mind.

Leave a Comment

  1. Mark Evans says:

    Congratulations on your article.
    I had no idea that spas provided lasting results. I thought they were pablum for the idle rich. I guess I should be more open minded.

  2. Don Schoenbeck says:

    Well stated Dr. Edelberg. Regardless of instances of good intentions, the health care crisis in this country can too often be characterized by inefficiency, greed and too little personal responsibility.

  3. Addie says:

    To make matters worse, there are hospitals in Chicago called Ressurection. What a horrible name for a hospital: No one will EVER take me ito that place!

  4. Jill says:

    I agree Dr. E, as there is so much involved in the psyche on the body’s ability to heal itself. There is a drastic difference in mindset and tone between the environs of a hospital and a spa. No one takes a ‘hospital vacation’!
    Wellness is a state of mind as well as a state of the body, and spas build my commitment to health while hospitals generally create anxiety and a depressed feeling. I’d rather do all I can to prevent dis-ease.

  5. Judy Kayser says:

    Congratulations on your article, which I thought was very informative and well written

  6. Kate M. says:

    My hospital horror story: I started having chest pains that I recognized as a recurrence of an esophageal ulcer. Of course my internist at the time insisted I make sure it wasn’t heart-related and sent me to the ER, just to be sure. I didn’t eat lunch because I was in the ER. And then I had to stay overnight on the telemetry floor. I didn’t eat dinner because it was everything good for a heart pt, but bad for a GI pt. Broccoli and tomato sauce, etc. Did’t eat breakfast for the same reason. Tried to ask for something different but nobody listened. Was released just at lunchtime and never got to eat then, either. Not that I’m crazy re hospital food! Went from the hospital back to work, stepped off the elevator and fainted dead away. Back to the hospital via ambulance this time, and yet ANOTHER night on another telemetry floor, before they finally listened and let me eat! Cost? $25,000. Diagnosis? Dehydration. Low blood sugar. And esophageal ulcer. Oy.

  7. Irene Frederick says:

    Dr. E. . . . Thanks sooo much for taking your time and energy to write these weekly articles. I love your writing style (witty, humorous) and your point of view!!!
    I learn a lot, and I’m entertained along the way!!! You Rock!!!

    With appreciation . . . Irene Frederick

  8. angie says:

    Todays Google Offers has a super deal for Heartland Spa. I would’ve never paid attention to it if it wasn’t for Dr. E’s newsletter.

  9. As the owner of The Heartland Spa and Fitness Resort, I wanted to thank you for your positive and kind words. We celebrate our 29th year this November and are extremely proud of the reputation we’ve built and the lives we have changed by promoting healthy living. People are so stressed today and they need a place to relax, unwind and unplug. That’s what The Heartland is all about. I am truly honored to be mentioned in your newsletter. As a thank you, if I may, I would like to send you some gift certificates to share with your patients. I know they will enjoy all that The Heartland has to offer! Thanks again, Dr. Edelberg.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our


The Knowledge Base


Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!


Upcoming Workshops

The Next Lyme Academy Begins
Tuesday, October 4, 5:30-7 pm
Here’s a special invitation for patients of Dr. Kelley who are currently being treated for Lyme disease. Dr. Kelley’s new, four-week Lyme Academy starts on October 4, continuing over the following three Tuesdays.


Awakened Body, Quiet Mind
An innovative workshop series for relieving mind/body stress and tapping into your true power and natural health.
4 Group Sessions with Meghan Roekle, PsyD
Four meetings using a unique combination of embodiment meditation and mental inquiry for deep healing.
Thursdays from 6:00-8:00pm; beginning October 20th

Recent Health Tips

  • Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers!

    I’d been reading Ally Hilfiger’s new autobiography Bite Me: How Lyme Disease Stole My Childhood, Made Me Crazy, and Almost Killed Me, preferring the Lyme parts to those devoted to fashion and her MTV “Rich Girl” series. Her symptoms were typical of chronic Lyme and …Read More »
  • Making It Easier To Say No To Statins

    Making It Easier To Say No To Statins

    Patients and doctors alike are understandably nervous about taking/prescribing any of the cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins. You as a patient especially don’t want to hear “You’ll be on this pill for the rest of your life.” And if you’ve followed some of the recent …Read More »

October Sale: 20% Off Urban Moonshine Products


All Urban Moonshine products are 20% off for the entire month of October!

Urban Moonshine creates beautiful herbal formulas that focus on prevention, improving quality of life, and empowering people to create home herbal apothecaries.  More>>