The importance of good gut health is paramount in expert guidance on living well, and living long. For a fast-track gut fix that lasts, look no further than the world-famous Original FX Mayr Centre, hidden in the banks of Austria’s glorious Lake Wörthersee.
The Mayr, as it is more commonly known known (it is so famous that it has its own nickname) is something of myths and legends: what goes on behind the closed doors? What’s its secret? Can it really be as marvellous as everyone says it is (Tatler magazine have praised The Mayr as ‘the most life changing spa in the world’)?
The staff there have long been beavering away, proselytising about the importance of gut health (more below). It’s only in recent years, with the popularisation of the clinic due to take-up from the glitterarti and Gove (Uma Therman, Gwyneth Paltrow and Michael McIntyre have all endured the Mayr’s rigorous regime known as The Mayr Cure, as has as our esteemed environment minister), that people are starting to listen. The clinic has gone from being perceived as an overindulgent and unnecessary getaway for rich hypochondriacs to a place of serious medical merit. And this is largely due to the Dr Stephan Domenig, the clinic’s Medical Director.
‘The Cure is simple and the outcome is really good. It works. It has a lot to do with intellectual transfer of knowledge,’ says Dr Domenig, and this is what’s interesting about the Mayr: it isn’t claiming to revolutionise its patients’ lives (although arguably, it does). What it offers is surprisingly simple: a punctilious routine that is built around three core principles of detoxing, cleansing and healing. In the most straightforward of explanations, this translates to going to the lavatory more often than not, starving to the point of anguish and in doing these two things – which take up more energy than one might imagine – the gut is free to rest and the body can regenerate. In fact, a disproportionate fraction of the body’s energy is occupied with breaking down and digesting food. By emptying the body and only ingesting very little, very gentle foodstuff, your body can successfully heal and regenerate.
So why are we all flying to Carinthia to spend large sums to do this? Because it would be very, very hard – in fact, I’d argue impossible – to replicate The Cure in everyday life. But lots of us are doing it, and we are a mixed bag.
During my stay, I share my time with a famous TV personality, a mother and daughter, some Italian wives dripping in diamonds that remain adamant that the whole thing would be improved by ‘just a bit of pasta,’ numerous men of varying degrees of health who appear to be travelling alone and a professional curtain twitcher who seems to be there simply to pass the time of day and talk loudly about how ‘alive’ she feels to any passing victim. The Mayr is not a haven for the super-rich, but a place to seriously detox, and dramatically improve your health.
Of course, there is some food, but I can’t pretend there’s enough to distract from the agonising pangs of hunger. What little there is is phenomenally delicious. Breakfast is a yoghurt and a spelt cookie, lunch is a three courser: celery soup with truffle foam, followed by truffled gnocchi on tomato ragout with spinach, oven tomato, courgette and potato-alkaline sauce. I couldn’t quite work out if it was delicious because I was starving, or delicious because it was delicious. I think probably the latter. Dr Domenig tells me that the menu is the single factor that has changed most considerably since his wardship. ‘We massively worked on the kitchen, so cooking standards are now way higher. We know precisely what we do and what we use, it’s very mathematical. The meals are very designed and controlled.’
Aside from detoxing and cleansing, what is there to do? As you’d expect from Tatler magazine’s accolade, there are a lot of luxurious treatments that cheer one up and assist the detoxing – examples include mud packs, alkaline baths, body scrubs and facials, but there are also more scientific treatments that you can opt in or out of, such as medical massages, electrolytic foot baths and kinesiology tests. Each patient is given a strict schedule on their second day (the first day is made up of consultations) which directs them throughout the week. The routine is rigorous, and it’s relentless, but it’s worth it, particularly if you take advantage of the Mayr’s pre-testing facility before arrival, which allows the clinic to hit the ground running with your individual Cure as soon as you cross the threshold.
So although the gut is, if you like, the raison d’etre of the Mayr Cure, in allowing the gut to rest, you are in fact allowing your health to completely transform for the better. ‘I deeply trust it’, Dr Domenig says of the Mayr Cure. And after seven very difficult days, I have to say that I do too.
Mayr Basic cure (7 days) from 1435pp Euros (£1268)
Accommodation from 1505pp (£1330) Euros for 7 days (cat B room single occupancy) or 1190pp (£1050) Euros for 7 days (cat B room double occupancy)