I've wondered about the state of my gut health for some years now. Why has my stomach always been so bloated (apart from when i wake up and lying horizontal when it's beautifully flat). Why do i fart like a beast after eating and beyond? Why is it so tricky for me to lose weight (ok, perhaps i do eat too much) And surely the redness of my skin is down to more then just choosing the right creams for my skin? I know i've had a red chin for as long as there are pictures of me as a kid looking like i've stained it with Ribena (partly true) but can this also be down to genes, or is there really something up with my digestion?
I started to look closely at the state of my skin last year when i had an appointment with a well-known dermatologist. i left with a 'prescription' for suitable SPF skincare but felt dissatisfied, like i'd been cheated out of a more in depth discussion because the consultation was so superficial...my diet wasn't even brought up I was sure my sometimes sore and inflamed cheeks were due to what was going on inside my body. And then when my Nan, lying in her hospital bed recently asked me why my skin was so red, i knew it had reached fever pitch. My skin was the worst it's ever been and something needed to be done about it.
From that first dermatologist appointment a year ago, my life has changed considerably and i've been through a few stressful patches in the last 6 months or so, perhaps that's the reason why. At the end of Summer 2015 i took the career jump i needed to without any financial back-up...it was just something i had to do with the biggest leap of faith i could muster. I spent the rest of last year and the beginning part of this year building up my new future, often with slight concern but never any real doubts. There were many moments of extreme financial worry in that time, which, i'm learning, goes hand in hand with being freelance. And then, as life tends to throw you all the curve balls it can muster at the same time, there was an unexpected relationship split that sent shockwaves through every inch of me, rocking me emotionally for around 5 weeks (it felt like 5 months), testing me beyond measure but also, on a positive note, paving the way forward. This time now was all about me, my wellbeing and love for myself, above all else.
I'm a great believer that life might throw you stones at times but amongst those hard-hitting, bruise-causing moments are glimmering gems waiting to be discovered. I guess a not so chance encounter with the PR for the Lanserhof Lans in Innsbruck, a brilliant health clinic dedicated to curing all manner of gut issues, was presented to me and here i am, months after our initial meeting and again, having a few more life changes in that time, finding myself here, at their temporary home in Kitzbuhel, Austria, on day one of my epic gut detox.
I already realise this is the place to come for some profound physical and emotional healing. Yes, there are yoga retreats across the world and other medical companies offering all sorts of fixes, but aside from the famous Mayr Clinic, this is one of the best. i knew the bare bones of what it offered some time ago, but i didn't go into too much detail, worried it'd put me off. You have to to commit to a hardcore detox regime. But until i got the brochure through last week and needed to fill out a health questionnaire, i didn't quite realise just how in depth this process actually is. The idea that the small intestine is the root of all health concerns sat well with me. I'd recently realised the emotional trauma i've been feeling led to a decrease in my appetite and not great toilet habits - it was a sign of a totally out of whack sacral chakra. i could even feel it was out of control. and if you really do have a second brain in your stomach then mine was on overdrive. I was interested to see if clearing the gut would also clear my mind and give me a total sense of inner strength.
The original Lanserhof Lans is in Innsbruck but it's undergoing a snazzy new refurbishment and rather then turn guests away, the company decided to relocate for the summer and bring the institute, and it's long-serving staff (some have been with them for 25 years) to Kitzbuhel. Like many people i suspect, i've always tried to detox at home but the temptations of being able to go out when you like, enjoy lunch at a cafe, dinner at a restaurant and even tuck into my own fridge proved too much of a temptation and i would fail after a couple of days. it doesn't help that i'm a total foodie too, but was i really lacking that much willpower? It's thought that to really detox and work on issues, one has to change their surroundings. if those surroundings just happen to be in a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains then so be it.
First up, breakfast. I was led past the breakfast buffet and thought my luck was in when i saw pastries and cold meats displayed, thinking i'd be eased in gently, (especially as i hadn't eaten since a tiny scone on the plane quite some time ago) but it turned out this was just for the rest of the guests (at the original Lanserhof, this torment wouldn't even be there). instead, i was led to my own table, dedicated to me for the duration of my stay, and could chose between porridge or buckwheat toast with a protein and tea of coffee. The protein i opted for was a soft cream cheese. tomorrow i may go for the avocado, or the turkey breast; there is actually a protein menu. Tea was the Lanserhof blend without a black tea nib in sight. Detox tea. Coffee is a malted version; not a variety that would get die-hard espresso fans salivating, i'm sure. On my table was a book about eating at Lanserhof and from now on in, i'd have to chew every mouthful 30-40 times, MINDFULLY (in other words, with no distractions, no talking, no reading and another important thing, no phone) before taking a small sip of water, masticating the food in my mouth further, before finally swallowing. I quickly realised that not only could i NOT take a large portion of food (because my mouth would then be over-stuffed and i would swallow some accidentally therefore, breaking all the rules) but that i often ate far too fast. This is a form of eating therapy and one we should practice at every meal time. The thorough chewing activates your saliva glands (which takes a lot of concentration) but as this isn't practiced by most people, you lose the ability to exercise this muscle. Basically, the saliva glands re-learn how to produce saliva of a certain quality and quantity to properly digest food. Food that doesn't then sit in your gut for YEARS (yep...this is so!) fermenting away. My portion of food was tiny, but with this proper chewing method, i felt full. it is like learning to eat all over again.
Next up was my first consultation with Dr Georg Kettenhuber. We discussed my issues, my targets and he had a feel of my belly. Turns out that hollow noise upon tapping my stomach is a lot of trapped gas (that explains the farting!) and the issues with my skin are most probably down to food intolerances as well as a need for a bloody good clear out. thankfully, he didn't see any real need to put me on the tea only diet (hooray!) but i'm allowed a small breakfast and lunch and that would be it. For the entire day. To supplement my plan, i have a range of supplements including liver bitters (the strongest bitter taste ever) some acid-base balance capsules and some other gut strengthening stuff (i'm putting my full faith in the doctor!) and tomorrow, i start the epsom salt drink upon waking. Which should yield some interesting results...eek.
After a dip in the pool, a bit of an explore of the facilities and a look at a daily programme i could join in with, i fell asleep for 30minutes, deciding day 1 should just be about resting and documenting my experience and thoughts. Soon enough, Lunch. again, at my table, taking my prescribed supplements just before eating, as directed, a fairly sizeable boiled potato was served with sheep milk cheese and linseed oil; never has such simple and bland food tasted so good. Such a small portion would normally be gone within 2 minutes. But, thanks to the chewing action, it took me half an hour. And i was full up.
After lunch, i had a blood test to detect certain intolerances and then a Detox Drainage session which involved some neck massage, small and large intestine massage and then cupping which i'd never experience before. it was quite painful especially along my collarbone and up my spine. But the therapist seemed happy and i clearly wasn't retaining too much water. Then i was hooked up to a fandango machine and my body composition analysed...my body fat is too high, which i suspected anyway, but it was actually quite satisfying to know that i have the body basis an athlete has with a very good muscle mass and water levels plus good cells. if i really wanted to train, i could achieve fantastic results. i just need to work on getting my fat levels down, do whatever exercise i can fit into my lifestyle, and i would be reasonably fit. Tomorrow, i believe i'll get the results of the tests back so this might tell a different story altogether so i'm not on the home run just yet.
I went for a short walk in town but started to feel a bit weak and dizzy plus, as the doctor warned, Kitzbuhel is full of temptation with it's cute restaurants and bars so i've decided to reserve exploring the local area until Saturday when i should feel so much better. I decided to read by the rooftop pool before falling asleep again. The sun was out and it was rather glorious being surrounded by mountains normally covered with snow.
Dinner is served between 5.30 and 6.30pm so very very early. And dinner was a small serving of honey, and yep, i had to chew this 30 times (so difficult as there's not much to actually chew) and 'eat' my tea with a teaspoon. Pudding was 2 slices of orange. Lucky me. And here i am, in my room after an evening swim and steam, trying not to crawl the walls. TV is discouraged, and i'm thinking that includes pre-downloaded programmes from the BBc on my iPad, as is work. But i need something to distract me from this really empty stomach feeling. However, knowing this fasting is doing me the world of good is enough to keep me going, for the time being at least.