Back to Nature
PHOTOGRAPHY Simon Murphy
WORDS Charlotte Hogarth-Jones
Ten years ago, visiting a spa meant an afternoon enjoying a massage and a facial, followed perhaps by a pedicure and a chilled glass of champagne. How times have changed.
Today there’s more emphasis than ever on treatments that deliver real and long-lasting benefits. A holistic approach to wellness has seen mindfulness, meditation and Ayurvedic practices enjoying a huge surge in popularity. At ESPA Life at Gleneagles we’ve taken things one step further and become one of the only spas in the country to have an in-house naturopath.
Louise Westra, who has practised naturopathy at Gleneagles for nearly five years, describes it as “a traditional system of healthcare that works to ensure you have the best experience possible in your body”. Using treatments and tonics based on natural ingredients, plus complementary therapies such as massage and acupuncture, and advice on diet and exercise, the practice concentrates on the whole person rather than just their health complaint. As Louise puts it: “You can’t remove the individual from the equation.”
Louise’s passionate enthusiasm for her subject and depth of knowledge are impressive. She trained and practised in Australia, where naturopathy has long been in the mainstream, before returning home to work in the UK. “There are now as many visits to naturopaths as there are to GPs in Australia,” she says. “But the British think of naturopathy as simply wandering into a health food store – they aren’t aware that there’s this whole other world of botanical medicine out there that has immense benefits.”
Her own interest in the subject began while researching remedies for the severe digestive pains she suffered as a teenager. Growing up in rural Hampshire, it seemed obvious to her to seek a solution through diet, exercise and the natural world. “It was very much the outdoor life, in the open air,” she recalls. “My father shot game and my grandfather had an incredible garden where I used to pick strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb, and run through tall sticks of runner beans.”
Louise’s own experiences give her a natural empathy and she stresses that central to the practice is her ability to listen carefully to a client’s history. She begins with an in-depth 75-minute consultation and points out that this is more time than many of us will ever spend talking to a medical practitioner. During the appointment she carries out a range of diagnostic tests – from iris analysis to bio-impedance tests – and questions clients about their medical, nutritional, emotional and physical wellbeing. It is a truly 360-degree survey. Clients attend a follow-up session, at which they receive a bespoke programme of supplements. Louise makes her own herbal tonics for clients alongside spa treatments and lifestyle recommendations and often clients will return to see her in order to fine-tune the programme and monitor their progress.
The impact of this approach is impressive. “Someone came to me recently with a history of chronic insomnia,” says Louise. “I spoke to her about her existing health complaints, which she was certain were under control. We made a natural tonic to address these, as well as to help her oxygenate overnight and to support her nervous system and adrenals glands that produce hormones, including adrenaline. A week later she was sleeping well for the first time in years.” Other success stories include a long-term asthma sufferer who has experienced her first winter since childhood without using an inhaler and a client with ulcerative colitis who, after eight years, has finally come off medication.
So, with dramatic results like these, why have the British been missing out? “There’s a lot of confusion about naturopathy,” says Louise. “A naturopath isn’t the same as someone who’ll give you an Indian head massage or reiki – it’s a clinical discipline.” Gleneagles provides the perfect, stress-free environment for this holistic approach, with the beautiful surrounding landscape and abundance of local produce playing their part. Louise, a keen cook, has even devised a range of dishes especially for the ESPA Life menu. Each is nutritionally balanced and delicious – from salads made with baby spinach, sheep’s milk curd, walnuts, quinoa and pomegranates, to an indulgent raw chocolate cake. “We all have limited time to spend when it comes to looking after ourselves,” she says. “So you’ve got to ask, ‘What’s going to deliver the very best, longest-lasting benefits?’” Looking at Louise, who radiates health and vitality, the answer is very clear.
To book your own naturopathy consultation with Louise, as well as spa treatments, contact ESPA Life on 0800 731 9215.