Understanding puberty in girls from a TCM perspective

We can all remember the struggles of our teenage years; problems such as acne, the start of our periods, breasts forming, getting used to wearing bras, peer pressure, increasing levels of school work and home work, not being able to get out of bed in the mornings.

As a parent, I want my own daughters to have an easier time than I did. As a therapist, I am more aware of the strains put upon children and teenagers, and how this can effect them physically, psychologically and emotionally.

In my previous blog post, I explained in general terms about our Kidney energy being responsible for our growth and development, and reproductive health. If we experience a painful puberty it is likely that we will experience a more difficult menopause. We also want to optimise fertility, pregnancy and childbirth in between these two milestones, as well as general health and wellness, and they are all interlinked.

The following behaviours can have a significant impact on a young woman’s health:

  1. Early sexual activity. This can have an impact on uterine health at such a vulnerable time, causing imbalances such as blood stasis.
  2. Excessive physical work and exercise, During puberty, this may cause weakness and deficiency in the developing body (Spleen and Kidney), which in turn can lead to stagnation. Of course this depends on the individual constitution, but it is important to be aware of as a parent.
  3. Exposure to external cold. Young women are vulnerable to invasion of external cold, particularly during puberty. Social pressure to wear clothes that reveal the lower back and abdomen, going out without a coat and scarf, prioritising their physical appearance over their well-being can leave them prone to being attacked by the external pathogen of cold. If cold attacks the uterus, it will contract and cause stagnation.
  4. The use of tampons blocks the natural downward flow of blood and can cause stagnation. There are also many other health risks associated with tampons including the exposure to environmental oestrogens which is covered in a different blog post.
  5. Emotional stress and anxiety will have a massive impact on energy levels, depleting the Kidneys and creating excess Heart energy. If it is held onto then this can cause stagnation.

Taking care during this sensitive time will have a massive impact on our young women’s health as they get older. Common problems such as period pain, irregular periods, heavy/scanty periods, infertility, endometriosis, anxiety and depression, fatigue can all be improved through gentle communication, education and sensitivity around these issues at a young age.

If you are interested in receiving some acupuncture or reflexology sessions please contact me directly for an initial chat.

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston, PR4. She is a full member of the Association of Reflexologists.

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin Sea?

Vitamin Sea? What is this I hear you cry?!

During 2018 I discovered my love for wild swimming, and this has become a regular outing for me: in particular, sea-swimming, even during the winter.

What has this got to do with anything?

Well, there are many health benefits to cold water swimming, of which I won’t go into detail about here because they are not relevant to every reader.

What is relevant and universal to all, is the identification of that certain something that makes your heart sing, what excites you, what do you look forward to the most? What is that sparkly thing that gets you out of bed in the morning? What is that one element that keeps you going during the tough times?

We all have these special connections within our lives. Yours might not be sea-swimming, but it could be another sport, or it could be a particular place, activity, food, book, music, event.

It is also important to note that your special connection to something may change over time, and perhaps you fall out of love with it, or it evolves into something else. This is absolutely fine too. Don’t hold onto it if it no longer serves you. Change is always inevitable.

Continue to explore your life, try new things, keep going, be aware of everything, appreciate each moment and those moments that sparkle will stand out (if you are paying attention).

And if you do this, you will find a happiness, a contentment, an eagerness, and a drive that you wholeheartedly know.

But sometimes the hardest part is the identification. We don’t really know what it is we want, or what will bring us happiness or joy. This is where courage has to play a part; we have to face our fears. For example, it may be finding the courage to go forward alone, try something new, it might be doing something that gets the adrenaline pumping, it might be overcoming self-doubt, it might be perseverance, hard work, a struggle of some kind.

Set out to make small steps forward. The greater your fear the higher the sense of achievement. The more nervous you are, the more there is to gain. The steeper the learning curve, the further there is to travel and grow. Don’t compare yourself to others, go at your own pace. If you are surrounded in darkness, don’t try to pull the curtains drawn all at once. Be kind to yourself.

You are in control of your own well being, and what better way to be well? To find your passion and follow it.

Lung Season

As summer draws to a close we start to move away from the relaxed and carefree attitudes of the warmer and longer days, and move into more serious and introspective energies of autumn. This is the season of the Lung.

Create Space

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the season of the Lung is all about organisation, setting limits and protecting boundaries. It’s element is metal (air); clean, pure and purposeful. It is a great time to have a clear out, get organised and tidy up, creating space. It is important to be letting go of any strong attachments you have to people, objects and experiences: attachment can hinder opportunities to learn and for growth.

Breathe in, Breathe out

The Lung is all about breathing in the new, and letting go of the old or the waste. It is no surprise then to find that the Lung (yin) is paired with the Large Intestine (yang). Yin is fluid and yang is flow. We must have fluid in order to flow. If the fluid becomes depleted, or stagnated, or in excess, then this will consequently effect the flow. Traditional Chinese Medicine understands that life is all about balance: if the body and mind are out of balance then this is where dis-ease can occur.

Grief

The emotion of the Lung is sadness (grief). If we spend a lot of time re-living the past in our minds, or having strong attachments, this can deplete our Lung energy and create deficiency. Of course it is only natural and healthy to experience sadness and loss, but it must be resolved and not prolonged. It must be experienced and learned from, not perpetually endured. Grief cleanses us of what is not needed in our lives. Chronic deficiencies in Lung energy lead to depletion and consequently to depression and other issues.

Things we can do

The Lung is the only yin organ with direct contact to the exterior, and therefore we must take care of this delicate organ by protecting our wind gates and wrapping up warm with collars and scarves as the colder weather prevails.

The climate of Lung season is dryness. We can eat warm and foods that are cooked for longer; nourishing and moisturising, supporting the body and the immune system.

If we live in balance with nature, Autumn is about contracting and slowing down, looking inwards, getting ready to rest (for the winter).

Spend time deep breathing and visualising letting go of everything that no longer serves you.

These are just some simple things we can pay attention to during the season of the Lung. The element of metal gives us our sense of self worth, our own self-value. We must look inside ourselves for that.

Next up: winter – season of the Kidneys.

 

Jackie Marsden is a Reflexologist, Acupuncturist and Foot Reading Practitioner, based at Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, Preston.

Image courtesy of Graphics Mouse at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Winter is here so where will we get our Vitamin D from?

Generally known as the “sunshine vitamin”, our main source of Vitamin D is from the sun. It is needed in the body for healthy teeth and bones, but it also has links to other diseases such as mulitple sclerosis, depression, cancer, autism (lots of research is ongoing).

sunshine

Vitamin D is make via ultra violet (UV) light, and this type of light comes with health warnings during the summer months which is why we wear sun cream. There are 3 types of UV light: UVA, UVB and UVC.

UVB is the one which makes Vitamin D. During the winter months, the UK is at too higher latitude (above 35 degrees north of the equator) meaning only UVA hits the earth’s surface. There is insufficient UVB for the body to make Vitamin D during the winter months here in the UK.[1]

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, which means that it can be stored within the body (unlike water soluble vitamins such as B and C which cannot be stored and any excess will be excreted via the urine). Some people can store enough Vitamin D to last through the winter months without any problems.

However many people might be deficient in Vitamin D because they don’t go outside very much.  Examples include disease and illness forces them to stay indoors, they live a sedentary lifestyle watching TV for large proportions of the day, they work long hours in front of a computer, or they use so much sun block during the summer that their skin is not exposed to the UVB rays.

This is why a supplement is a good idea particularly over the winter months in the UK and other northern hemisphere countries. Combine the insufficient UVB and the little Vitamin D we get from our diets (oily fish and eggs) gives you a good reason to supplement.

In the UK the recommended amount is 400 international units (10 micrograms) a day for adults at risk of deficiency because of lack of sunlight. [1] But as we are all at risk of this during the winter months, my own opinion is to supplement daily.

Research data from the University of Aberdeen[1] suggests that Vitamin D status was higher for people who took sunny holidays abroad, and for those who were taking fish oils. The latter can be explained 2-fold: fish oils do contain small amounts of Vitamin D, and also fish oils are an essential fatty acid which optimises the body to store Vitamin D (remember Vitamin D is fat soluble).

Dr Mercola also suggests a Vitamin D supplement is optimised if taken alongside some healthy fat.[2] He also argues that 400IU is not enough and recommends a higher dose, however a study carried out by the University of Aberdeen showed that when the daily amount was increased from 400IU to 1000IU the marker of Vitamin D only increased by a small amount, revealing that the body is reluctant to increase to much higher levels.

It is important to remember that although you can take too much Vitamin D, there is a wide safety margin. So whether you decide to take 400IU or 1000IU or somewhere in between, it is generally a safe amount to take daily over the winter months.

As with all vitamins and minerals, they don’t work in isolation, which is why I use those formulated by Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic which are synergistic blends from plant sources surrounded by superior absorption capsules which are released within 15 minutes of entering the stomach.

Why not try the Multi Mineral and Vitamin Boost which is a synergistic blend of plant-sourced vitamins B, C, D and E and zinc. Combine with a healthy fat, such as the Organic Beauty Oil, Omega 3-6-9 or a teaspoon of coconut oil, or take a look at the Vitamin D supplement which is sourced from algae.

[1] FutureLearn course: Nutrition and Wellbeing University of Aberdeen http://www.futurelearn.com

[2] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/05/10/vitamin-d-recommended-dietary-allowance.aspx

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and independent consultant (Team Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. Jackie leads and mentors a growing team of consultants (many of whom are therapists integrating organic products into their existing businesses) via the NYRO social selling channel, holding regular team meetings, one-to-one coaching via phone and facetime, and a closed facebook group. All views are my own.

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Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Do you suffer from the Winter Blues?

I always feel a little sad during August. Towards the end of this month the long summer days are noticably getting shorter and the summer holidays are drawing to a close. Businesses and shops are no longer focussing on summer products and are now looking at autumn/winter collections.

Inevitably, the autumn and winter will be soon upon us. Are you one to suffer with the winter blues? Some people suffer with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which although the actual cause is still unknown, it is thought to be a depression brought on with the shorter days, lack of daylight and darker mornings. Symptoms include low mood and lack of interest in life (1).

Lack of sunlight is suggested to cause an upset in the balance of the endocrine glands situated in the brain, and thus the production of the hormones serotonin and melatonin. Serotonin is known to influence mood, social behaviour, sleep and memory, whereas melatonin is connected to the body’s natural circadium rhythm (natural body clock), sensing the onset of darkness/night time and thus makes us sleepy at the right time.(2)

Reflexology would aim to help improve the symptoms of SAD, with a treatment plan focussing on the endocrine, digestive and nervous systems (note that serotonin is also produced in the intestines). A course of treatments would endeavour to rebalance the body, asking the body to ignite its self-healing processes, and thus improve mood and feelings of lacklustre.

Alternatively, the Lumie Bodyclock Iris 500 might be able to help. (3) An alarm clock and aromatherapy diffuser all-in-one combines light therapy with aromatherapy to gently wake you up in the morning and help you fall asleep at night. The Lumie is designed to reset your natural bodyclock and provides relief with its wonderful alternative to the usual jolting alarm clock sound.

The light source turns on gradually in the last 30 minutes of your sleep, mimicking a natural sunrise. This alongside your favourite essential oil (geranium or lemon for example) helps you ease into the day gently. The lamp can also be used in the evening to help you fall asleep, thus encouraging the natural secretion of melatonin and natural onset of sleep, alongside the appropriate essential oil, such as lavender.

The Lumie has two separate chambers for essential oils which makes it easy to switch between essential oil blends, one for night time and one to wake up to.

Lumie

The Lumie is not just for people suffering with SAD, but can also be a wonderful aid for boosting energy levels, healthy sleep patterns and improved sports training. The Lumie is available from my webshop, or alternatively order with  me direct via phone/email to receive £25 worth of complimentary aromatherapy oils of your choice for to get you started.

(1) http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/Seasonal-affective-disorder/Pages/Introduction.aspx

(2) Ross and Wilson Anatomy and Physiology in Health and Illness 12th Edition

(3) https://uk.nyrorganic.com/shop/jackiemarsden/area/shop-online/category/burner/product/9383/lumie-bodyclock-iris-500/

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and an independent consultant for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic. All views are my own.

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