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You can hardly read a newspaper or walk into a book store these days without being confronted with a book on ‘Gut Health’, the latest author to join the fray is Dr Michael Mosley, best known for the 5:2 Diet. I smile as I have been talking about gut health for a very long time, ever since I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (UC) when I was 23. It is also why I have been so passionate about The Gut Makeover Retreat at Cugó Gran hosted by nutritionist Jeannette Hyde, best-selling author of ‘The Gut Makeover’.

It is funny how fast things have evolved even since ‘The Gut Makeover Retreat’ launched two years ago; at that time, it was revolutionary and there was nothing like it. Then, it was simply called The Gut Retreat, which, looking back, was quite brave, however I admired Jeannette’s gumption and it does state exactly what it is all about. Then, Jeannette’s book went on to become a bestseller and the retreat was renamed The Gut Makeover Retreat, since featuring in many of the top spa guides.

I spent most of my twenties in and out of hospital, until my friend Victoria sent me to a serious medical spa in Austria. That experience raised a lot of questions in me and spurred me on to study and then qualify in Naturopathic Nutrition. I now treat clients with serious gut disorders, write about health/wellbeing, and advise some of the leading spas and health retreats in the world on their communication and PR. For me, nutrition has been so profoundly life-changing that I integrate it into everything I do!

My Ulcerative Colitis has now been in remission the past 15 years and I have managed to maintain this solely through nutrition, lifestyle and mindset. I can’t magic the UC away (it is incurable), but I have learned to manage it and remain symptom-free. I now look on my colon as a positive barometer of my overall wellbeing. Perhaps the biggest lesson learned is to never underestimate the importance of being true to oneself and that the body never lies. Of course the mind and body are intrinsically linked; this is something that Traditional Chinese Medicine has for centuries taught, although Western medicine has only relatively recently acknowledged the link as new scientific evidence emerges.

When I was first diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis, the official medical line was that there was no evidence that diet contributed to the cause of the disease, and there was no evidence that nutrition helped prevent it. A low residue diet was recommended as possibly helpful in times of flare-up. When I was studying nutrition, there was some emerging medical research “into the role of the billons of bacteria in the colon and that some of these bacteria are considered good for the large intestine and others harmful.” Back in 2004, “early research suggested that UC could be improved by changing the balance of bacteria in the colon using probiotics and prebiotics”.

[“Food and IBD” The National Association for Colitis and Crohn’s Disease. Copyright © NACC 2003.]

Strengthening your gut’s good bacteria is what lies at the heart of Jeannette’s ‘the gut makeover’. She achieves this without resorting to probiotic supplements, but agrees with me that probiotic supplementation might be called for in more severe inflammatory bowel disease (IDB) cases.

The official Crohn’s and Colitis UK literature on Food and Diet and IBD has changed significantly and is today much more detailed on the benefits of nutrition. Of course, research into the microbiome and gut health has accelerated rapidly in recent years and we need to acknowledge this and be thankful.

The Gut Makeover book is one of the few health eating plans or books that I have ever endorsed. We all have different genetic make-ups, personalities, diets and lifestyles, and so there can’t be one universal diet plan for all. However, for Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers, I think The Gut Makeover book offers sensible advice and is an excellent starting point. The 28 day plan is inexpensive to do, as I recently put to the test myself (I saved around £150 on my food shop) and you don’t have to ‘climb the Himalayas’ to source the ingredients – unlike so many other faddy and unsustainable nutrition books. Participants typically lose an average of seven pounds in 4 weeks on Jeannette’s plan without counting calories or controlling portion sizes at meals.

What I really like is that Jeannette keeps it simple. Here are some of her golden rules which I also endorse:

  • Jeannette Hyde emphasises the importance of variety. YES! Most people eat the same foods every day / week. Go for lots of different coloured vegetables and fruits. As Jeannette says, if your plate is always “beige”, something’s wrong!

  • Eat seven plants a day and at least 30 different plants a week. This reinforces the first point but Jeannette is clever in quantifying it more so that people can grasp it more easily.

  • Incorporate gut friendly foods. Yes! There are certain foods that help your gut’s good bacteria to flourish. So don’t just have your usual little gem salad for lunch, why not add some chicory or fennel, or swap salad leaves for artichoke hearts instead?

  • Aim for eight hours sleep a night.

  • Fast for at least 12 hours between supper and breakfast to give your gut a proper chance to rest and repair.

For Inflammatory Bowel Disease sufferers, I would just add that if you are experiencing a flare-up, you would do best to avoid raw food until symptoms have stopped presenting for at least fourteen days. The Gut Makeover doesn’t cover this, however a lot of the other ‘recommended foods to avoid’ during an IBD flare-up, do feature in the ‘Repair’ section of Jeannette’s plan.

Where the book doesn’t venture deep – excepting to say that the gut and brain are interlinked and therefore you will also be mentally and emotionally calmer – is where I would encourage all IBD sufferers to do further exploration for themselves. Chiefly, to explore other factors aside from food and drink which may be contributing to stress. It is amazing how often we can spend time doing the things we resent or dislike and this too can manifest in physical symptoms. Gut problems can be attributed to ‘undigested’ emotions, especially anger and loss/grief. Of course how we respond to stress, our moods and emotions, are hugely influenced by what we eat and so that leads me back to why just so much in life really starts with what we eat.

Sometimes, all this mental and emotional cogitating is a lot easier to do when you are far removed from your everyday life, and therein lies the beauty of The Gut Makeover Retreat at Cugó Gran. Participants on this Gut Makeover Retreat get to seriously relax and enjoy total privacy in the most luxurious villa and country estate in Menorca. The retreat supports guests through the first five days of The Gut Makeover plan, and effectively recalibrates their health and nutrition, to put them on the right path. Your motivation and focus is that much greater on a retreat and you have the company and support of others without any of the possible negative influences at home.

Guests learn about, and enjoy delicious, imaginatively and freshly prepared gut-friendly cuisine with a small group of like-minded people. For “gut-friendly foods”, picture artichokes, asparagus, chicory, fennel, oily fish, and lashings of extra virgin olive oil.

Unlike most other retreats, on the Gut Makeover Retreat at Cugó Gran, there is no fasting or sense of deprivation, and indeed for many participants, the delicious cuisine is one of the standout highlights in their feedback. Pilates sessions, Rosalena Facials and Li’TYA massages encourage guests to reconnect with themselves, and promote mindfulness and breathing. Better still, there is not an Epsom salt or colonic in site, things that are inadvisable for IBD sufferers!

Most importantly for me, participants learn to really love food again, in all its delicious variety, and they depart with a practical eating plan which delivers long-lasting health results which can be easily incorporated in their daily routine once home.

The next five-night Gut Makeover Retreats start on the following dates in 2018:

• Friday, 27th April 2018 • Wednesday, 6th June 2018 • Wednesday, 10th October 2018

If you would like to talk to me about how The Gut Makeover Retreat at Cugó Gran might benefit you, call me on 07930 370175; alternatively you can find more information at or

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