I STAYED AT AN EXCLUSIVE AUSTRIAN HEALTH SPA TO TRY AND FIX MY CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITION

“Could I have a glass of water?” may be a harmless question at most restaurants. Here at Vivamayr, a luxury medical spa near Klagenfurt in Austria, it made other guests turn round in their seats to gawk at the newbie.

The waitress kindly but firmly let me know that unless you need it to take medication, drinks are not allowed with meals during the “Mayr cure”. Why? So as not to dilute the digestive juices.

Calming your digestive system is the basis of “the cure” as the belief is that many health problems originate in the gut. Get it working well again and you’ll see most other systems and processes improve too.

But how a stay here gets your gut in shape varies hugely between guests. This is the central tenet of award-winning Vivamayr’s approach: personalisation.

There is no one size fits all approach for a stay here because every body is different. Everyone has different lifestyles, foods and stressors that throw their system out of balance. Your body is always trying to get back into balance, doctors here told me, and with the right diet, treatments, supplements and exercise we can nudge it back into equilibrium.

Prepare for your stay by deciding what you want to work on

I turned up to my first consultation with my doctor with a shopping list of ailments. While he said it was useful to know all of it, he counselled me to choose one or two things to focus on during my week-long stay.

I have a long-standing chronic condition, which some say is caused or exacerbated by poor gut health, and some hormonal imbalances. So we decided to focus on these.

I would recommend telling your doctor about any and all health problems you have or have had recently. I forgot to mention an eye problem and a treatment I did interrupted its healing, landing me in the local hospital. It wasn’t serious thankfully but it’s still worth mentioning everything.

Back at my first consultation, my doctor performed various tests, some conventional like blood tests and others a bit more out there, like using muscle tests to determine if various supplements made my body stronger or weaker.

I was then “prescribed” my treatments and appointments for the week, as well as some supplements. My treatments ranged from IV drips to osteopathy to cryotherapy to Nordic walking.

Most treatments were new to me but the staff carefully explained what would happen and the likely benefits. Each day was a fun journey of discovery through the world of wellness.

Get ready to learn a lot about your body

My prescribed diet was definitely less than I eat at home but it wasn’t too extreme. It’s worth knowing that if your goal is weight loss then you’re likely to be put on a fasting diet. This sounds extreme but the daily monitoring and testing by doctors reassures you that nothing dangerous is happening to your body. “The cure” is adjusted and fine tuned daily based on how your body is responding to the new diet, treatments, exercise and routine.

Read more about Vivamayr's recommendations for a gut-friendly diet here.

Many of the practitioners I met around the centre told me that guests find “the cure” to be an emotional rollercoaster and this was definitely my experience. A detox stresses out your body, after all, but ultimately does it good, if done safely and under doctor's supervision.

I got new information about my body at almost every appointment and while this is empowering, it was overwhelming at times as I am prone to health anxiety. It will take a while for all of the information and advice I was given to sink in, and probably more time to replace old habits with healthy new ones.

What can Vivamayr treat?

People come here looking for help with a huge range of health issues. Some of the most common are post-COVID recovery, immunity and skin issues, allergies, diabetes and weight loss.

With these issues, specialist programmes are in place for you to follow. The programme I was on was tailored to what I was dealing with.

What’s the atmosphere like at Vivamayr?

I would describe the mood as meditative. No one moves quickly or speaks loudly. There’s no background music playing. This is all intentional, of course. 

The atmosphere and décor are designed to be calming. It works well when you’re on the emotional rollercoaster of a fast, or if you’ve gone cold turkey on booze or cigarettes as many of my co-guests had.

The staff are friendly and helpful if a little detached. This is comforting, in a way, as they are dealing with so much personal information and you’re sometimes telling them really private details about yourself - overfamiliarity would feel out of place.

There is also a detachment between guests when you’re inside the hotel. I suspect this is partly because many people come here to get away from it all, including small talk with strangers.

If you do want to get to know your fellow guests, the best time to chat is when out on group activities such as hiking.

Is it OK to go to Vivamayr on your own?

Absolutely. There were lots of other guests on their own so I didn’t feel out of place.

There were also couples, mothers and daughters, and pairs of friends. It was the fourth visit for one guest I spoke to. She was here on her own but she said sticking to the diet and rules was “easier” when she came with family.

Depending on your individual schedules, you may not get to spend much time together. But you can sit together at mealtimes, which are of course slow and leisurely affairs.

What is the recommended length of stay at Vivamayr?

This depends, you guessed it, on the individual. If you come here with serious or long standing issues, a longer stay will allow for more time to get you back in balance.

The general advice is “come for as long as you can” with the average length of stay being 10-12 days. Some programmes are recommended for 3 or 4 weeks.

I was recommended to come for a week to really feel the benefits and I felt it was a good length of time. 

The first half of the week was a shock to the system, getting used to the reduction in food and feeling the effects of all the treatments. But I got into the swing of things by day 4 and I could happily have stayed in the Vivamayr bubble for longer.

What is there to do in your free time?

How much free time you have will depend on the length of your stay. 

I had 5 or 6 appointments and treatments a day, except at the weekend when some departments are closed. But if you come for 2 or 3 weeks you’re likely to have less appointments each day, leaving you more free time.

It’s normal for your energy to be low during the first few days of treatment, as you’ll likely be eating less food than usual and your body will be detoxing. So you might not feel like doing much beyond sunbathing on the lake jetties or relaxing in one of the saunas.

Once you’ve got your energy back, there’s plenty to do in the surrounding area. You can borrow a bike and cycle around Lake Worthersee, go walking in the nearby hills, take the ferry across the lake or join one of the group cooking classes or excursions.

How I felt at the end of my Vivamayr stay

My Vivamayr doctor had his work cut out for him. Chronic health problems are notoriously difficult to solve. I’ve tried a long list of remedies and been to many specialists over the last 10 years. Consequently, I knew it was unlikely that a general practice doctor would have the missing piece of the puzzle. But I definitely got some benefits from my stay.

In consultation with the doctor, I paused some medication while at Vivamayr and I didn’t have a flare up in symptoms. Of course it’s impossible to know whether this was due to “the cure” or just because I was very relaxed which is known to help in the way the body processes pain.

There were some surprising benefits. Eating relatively bland food really sharpened my taste buds. Dessert was added to my diet half way through the week and the first few spoonfuls were an explosion of flavour. It just goes to show that we get so used to things like sugar that we practically stop tasting them. So cutting back on it can make it all that much more enjoyable.

The habits that are encouraged at Vivamayr aren’t rocket science. We all know we should eat slowly, stay off screens and get a good night’s sleep. 

But it’s much easier to stick to these healthy routines when everyone around you is adhering to them and you have professionals holding you accountable every day. 

If you can continue these good habits at home, a stay here could do wonders for your health and happiness.

The writer was a guest of VIVAMAYR.

2023-10-28T04:06:27Z dg43tfdfdgfd