Listen to your gut. What is it telling you? If you have indulged over Christmas and New Year – and frankly, who hasn’t? – there is a good chance that it is begging you for a break.
Gut health has never been more in the zeitgeist. The numbers alone are startling. The 100 trillion bacteria currently residing in your gut weigh roughly the same amount as your brain, and may be exerting a similarly sizable impact on your current wellbeing.
After all, 70 per cent of your immune system is located in there. Imbalances between these good and bad bacteria have been linked not only to IBS, bloating, fatigue and low mood but also to neurological, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.
Those on the extreme end of this scale will know just how miserable it can be when things are not working as they should, but arguably we could all benefit from improving our gut health.
Little wonder, then, that the market for it is exploding. A stomach-churning number of supplements, workshops and now even holidays are proliferating. But many of these new retreats are gut-wrenchingly expensive and some have certainly not been set up by experts. So which supposedly gut-friendly breaks really stand a chance of helping to heal your microbiome, without destroying your wallet?
Goodwood Gut Health Programme Taster Day, West Sussex
Duration: one day
Price: £220 for a day package, and from £200 pn B&B
Designed by clinical nutritionist Stephanie Moore, Goodwood’s Gut Health Programme is the gold standard in microbiome and metabolism management. Over five nights at the country house hotel, your body composition is analysed, your abdomen massaged, your body brushed and your regular diet probed by a nutritionist while a programme of gut-friendly meals is served up by chefs. The premise is that pretty much every aspect of your health – from energy regulation, weight management and immune response, to stress resilience and sleep – requires a robust and balanced gut.
Still. Should you find it difficult to digest the £2,225 price tag, a more affordable fix is available. The Gut Health Taster Day will whiz you through the basics in a single day, including a body brushing treatment, abdominal massage, skin microbiome facial and three-course, gut-friendly, locally produced lunch. After which, you can roll into the health club to steam, swim and stretch.
Hawarden Estate, North Wales
Duration: max 2.5 hours
Price: from £30 pp (sessions are £300, with a maximum group size of 10). Accommodation on the estate from £150 for the Beekeeper’s Hut, sleeping two
Can there be a more idyllic place to destress your mind and gut than the Hawarden Estate – 3,500 acres of ancient woodland, rural parkland, magnificent lake and medieval castle? Its very modern revival now includes beautiful and characterful holiday homes, an award-winning farm shop, wood-fired saunas and hot tubs in the walled garden and a sincere, expert focus on wellness.
The Walled Garden School has a rolling programme of masterclasses in massage, yoga and more, while guests can also book a class in gut health and nutrition from local wellness and nutrition expert Emma Garland (aka the “Good Food Yogi”). Classes are bespoke – Emma talks to each group and tailors every class to their specific requirements. Expect, however, a practical focus on boosting the plant diversity and fibre in your diet, as well as sampling some fermented foods – key factors for promoting good gut health, boosting your microbiome and improving your immune system.
Gut Reset Retreat, Cheshire
Duration: four days, three nights
Price: from £720
Clarissa Lenherr, founder of an eponymous Harley Street clinic, is one of the UK’s leading nutritionists. Her retreats, in a manor house with indoor pool, cinema room and 12 acres to explore, are aimed squarely at those looking for help with digestive symptoms and bloating. Participants are fed three nourishing meals a day, guided through relaxing meditations and gong baths, taught healing yoga sequences and take part in nutrition workshops.
Amchara Gozo, Malta
Duration: three nights (longer stays available)
Price: from £850 pp
Amchara’s Gozo retreats are something of an insider secret (“a beautiful location and run by well-trained nutritionists,” says leading nutritionist Samantha Bloom). The setting is magnificent, all towering palms, blue skies, honeyed stone and glittering pool. The 16 apartments are pretty glitzy too (designed by Sadie Frost, who has been coming regularly for a decade or more).
Yet the approach is far from superficial. Personalised health screening, dietary programmes of juices, soups, broths and supplements, daily raw food demos, nutrition talks and yoga classes are all laid on as standard. Treatments ranging from reflexology to reiki, as well as more probing health screening, are bookable extras. Can’t travel so far? Amchara started in Somerset, where they still hold regular retreats, at a fractionally lower cost.
Mind-Body-Food Retreat, Dalaman, Turkey
Price: from £1,650, all inclusive
Duration: five nights
Nutritional therapy practitioner and intuitive eating coach Sarah Grant’s approach uses the latest research to help clients establish a stress-free, sustainable relationship with their bodies and diets. Her retreats, run with yoga teacher Emily Perrier, take place just outside the picturesque fishing village of Kalkan, in a small resort that meets the azure sea in a tumble of pretty terraces.
Over five nights (or eight, if you plump for the longer retreat), Grant delivers daily meditations and workshops focused on intuitive nutrition, while feeding you a carefully designed menu of local and largely vegetarian meals designed to nurture your gut. Perrier meanwhile leads two rebalancing yoga classes every day, overlooking the ocean. Once you arrive home you can have personal consultations with both women over Zoom to make sure you hold on to newfound habits.
The gorgeous gut retreat, Mallorca, Spain
Duration: four nights
Price: from £750 per person
Nutritionist Hannah Richards has an impressive CV. She is founder of London’s The Gut Clinic (and author of the book by the same name), was formerly the resident nutritionist at Petersham Nurseries and also co-ran Move Three Sixty, a Gym and Holistic Health Clinic in Hampstead.
Her Mallorcan retreats are run in collaboration with yoga and reiki therapist Jenni Enigk. Food is organic, seasonal and largely, but not exclusively, plant-based. Days are spent doing yoga, reiki and meditation. There are gut health masterclasses, cook-a-long meal workshops, nature walks and breathwork classes. In your free time, and at extra cost, you can book naturopathic nutritional consultations, brahma massage and more. Or, totally free – siestas and sea swimming in the sun.
Oceano, Tenerife Spain
Duration: 10 days
Price: £1,100 for the 10-day programme, plus £1,393 for 10 nights’ accommodation
This retreat is not exactly cheap – but it is good value. Hidden from the tourists, in the lush mountains on the northeast coast, Oceano is a destination not only for devotees of nature, but of the world-famous FX Mayr fasting method.
The dedicated FX Mayr Centre is founded on the belief that overall health rests on the health of your gut. Booking in for a 10-day detox programme is like checking your body in for a full service. A doctor will examine you and draw up a personal diet plan for the duration. There follows a rigorous process of lymphatic drainage, therapeutic massage, seawater baths, yoga classes, and – be warned – colon hydrotherapy.