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.

Acupuncture for Infertility

Acupuncture is a tried and tested system of traditional medicine, which has been used in China and other eastern cultures for thousands of years to restore, promote and maintain good health.

Research has found that acupuncture treatments can have a positive effect on those trying for a baby and can actually aid the conception process.

Fertility focused acupuncture treatments can help to increase blood flow to the reproductive organs, balance hormonal levels, regulate the menstrual cycle and help improve the lining of the uterus and quality of eggs released. Additionally, conditions such as polycystic ovaries and endometriosis have also been shown to improve with acupuncture.

Benefits to male fertility have also been helped by acupuncture with positive effects on sperm count, sperm morphology and mobility.

Some of the positive effects of acupuncture in fertility treatments are thought to include:

  • regulates the menstrual cycle and promotes regular ovulation
  • regulates the hormones to produce larger numbers of follicles
  • improves the functions of ovaries to produce better quality eggs
  • enhances the vitality of sperm
  • relieves the side effects of drugs used in IVF
  • increases the thickness of the uterine lining so to encourage successful implantation
  • reduces the chance of miscarriage

It is known that stress has an adverse effect on the fertility hormones. Acupuncture can be used to support the process, thus enabling couples to cope with any stress and anxieties they may experience during this time. The acupuncture treatment can help promote a calm, positive and relaxed frame of mind which can bring a more successful outcome for conception.

Information for this blog has been taken from British Acupuncture Council

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist and clinical acupuncturist, working from Elder Cottage Clinic, Warton, nr. Preston.

Reflexology for Sports

Sports people of any level or ability are highly motivated to perform at their best and to achieve optimum results; often they look to holistic therapies to complement treatment received for injuries.

Reflexology for optimal performance

The psychology of sport encourages individual athletes and team players to look for ways to achieve that extra one or two percent that can give them the edge on their opponents. Consequently, many now use reflexology as part of their overall regime.

What can reflexology offer?

Reflexology may help to provide increased mobility, reduced pain and support or accelerate the recovery period after an injury.  Many athletes use reflexology in a preventative capacity to encourage balance in the body and improved health in general, such as improved sleep quality, reduced anxiety and improved mood.

How does it work?

Reflexology helps to increase blood flow and encourage lymphatic drainage. Research studies show that it can remove lactic acid from the legs four times faster than massage, helping post event recovery. Increased blood circulation helps remove toxins and increase the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the tissues, helping to support the body’s natural healing process and promote recovery from injuries. It may also assist in preventing common complaints and niggles from extended muscle exertion such as aches, pains, cramps and spasms.

What else?

The effect of stress has a very detrimental effect on the body, reducing blood flow and oxygen, causing energy to be depleted and thus functioning at a sub-optimal level. Reflexology helps to manage this by promoting deep relaxation, easing tension, giving the body time to rest and heal and it often improves sleep. It may also help with pain relief or reducing pain associated with injury.

Contact me for more information or to book an appointment.

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, acupuncturist, promoter of healthy living and independent consultant (Group Leader) for Neal’s Yard Remedies Organic.

Image courtesy of digitalart at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The Fascinating Psoas

The psoas muscles (major and minor) are the only muscles to join the upper body with the lower. The left and right psoas join the lumbar spine to the femur, thus joining the upper body with the lower body. This is quite a special function: think spiritually for a moment and the concept of linking the higher self with the earthy presence.

The psoas is at the core of our functioning  bodies, creating flexibility but also providing a deep stabilizer, “supporting the human body much like an arch does in building structures”. [1]

The psoas supports many of our internal organs or viscera. Think of it as a shelf for the intestines, kidneys, liver, spleen, pancreas and bladder. Any contraction of the psoas muscle will massage these organs, and due to the close proximity to them can “play a role as a reactor to these stimuli, thus affecting what is commonly termed as ‘gut feelings’.” [1]

The psoas meeting point is at the diaphragm at T12 or L1 (it can vary) and this junction in the body is known as the solar plexus. This area, a nerve network, is related to those ‘butterfly’ feelings we can get when we are nervous or excited. It is remarkable that the psoas muscle is also linked to the diaphragm and thus our breath, and those feelings which can effect the frequency of our breath such as nervousness, anxiety, excitement.

The psoas is one of the main muscles affecting the lower back, so with any lower back pain its condition warrants attention. Because of its deep central position, its closeness to our ‘gut feelings’ and our internal viscera, emotional tension can manifest in the psoas creating debilitating back pain and stiffness. If you suffer with lower back pain, ask yourself: do I feel supported in life? Am I worried/anxious/frightened? Is there a change forthcoming? Working through emotions is a key factor in dealing with back pain caused by the deep psoas, as well as finding the right balance of quality of motion and flow without restriction.

It is interesting to map the psoas muscles on the foot from a reflexology viewpoint. You can see that the psoas covers the medial arch of the foot, which is hugely important in supporting and maintaining posture and gait. It covers a very large area of the foot which only highlights (in my opinion) of its huge importance in our lives, providing support in a physical, mental and spiritual perspective. If you suffer with lower back pain, why not try reflexology or self-treat by massaging the area in red shown on the foot map?

I have been on a personal journey with this muscle. Emotional tension building up this year put me in a debilitating situation with such terrible back pain and restricted motion. It was only when discovering the psoas muscle and its functions and representations did I manage to heal myself and come through the dark and into the light.

Liz Koch says “the psoas is no ordinary muscle but a profound segue into the rich, inner and outer world of awareness and consciousness.”

[1] The Vital Psoas Muscle: Connecting Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Wellbeing by Jo-Ann Staugaard-Jones

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, promoter of healthy living 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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[Yoga Series #3] Engage the Pelvic Floor for Spinal Health

When we talk about pelvic floor muscles it is usually relating to urinary and sexual health, pregnancy or post-partum issues and problems. But actually the pelvic floor is also fundamental to our spinal health.

ID-100197696The deepest muscles of the pelvic diaphragm run from front to back (pubic joint to coccyx). The more superficial layers are those including the anal and urethral sphincters. During yoga the focus should be on engaging the deeper fibres which encourage an upward motion of energy, permitting the diaphragm to lift the base of the rib cage forward.

I have a tendency to over extend my lumbar spine and stick out my bottom: this isn’t good for spinal health, and my yoga journey is now showing me this.

To be able to flex the lumbar spine, the psoas, abs and pelvic floor must concentrically contract. So my natural tendency to over-extend, in combination with attempting postures of deep lumbar-flexion (for example a standing or seated forward bend) without engaging the core muscles properly will lead to pain. Combine this with other personal issues such as emotional stress and poor posture during work (treatments, sitting at desk, driving) has led to much discomfort.

In yoga there are three main diaphragms (pelvic, respiratory and vocal) which come together in movements that are coordinated with inhaling and exhaling. These coordinated actions of the diaphragms (in yoga these are known as “bandhas”) create more stability in the body, protecting it from injury by redistributing mechanical stress.

For example, when performing a forward bend, if the thoracic, abdominal and pelvic cavities are not supported with the breath, then there is no single centre of gravity. This puts extreme pressure on the posterior spinal muscles with a pivotal point in the lumbo-sacral junction, which is vulnerable to damage (exactly where my back pain has been!)

Have you ever reached or bent over to do something and automatically held your breath? The body does this to try and protect our spinal structures.

Actively employing the breath which engages all three diaphragms including the all important pelvic floor muscles, offers the spinal column complete support during a forward bend, by centering gravity in the pelvis, legs and feet, and allowing the spine to relax and allow in space. Remember – build the foundation! This is explained beautifully in [1].

In understanding this during the yoga practice, as well as daily activities, I have managed to reduce my lower back pain considerably. As always, stepping onto the yoga mat takes us on a journey inside the body.

For some fabulous diagrams of the pelvic floor muscles see [2].

[1] Yoga Anatomy by Leslie Kaminoff, Amy Matthews

[2] http://www.dailybandha.com/2015/05/the-pelvic-floor.html

Image courtesy of cooldesign at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Jackie Marsden MAR is a qualified reflexologist, promoter of healthy living 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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Prebiotics and probiotics

Do you know the difference between pre and probiotics? If not read on to discover more.

Probiotics are commonly known as good bacteria and are widely available in supplement form, and they can also be found in some yoghurt. On the other hand, prebiotics are fibres that stimulate the growth of beneficial bacteria that are already present in your gut. [1]

Many of the beneficial bacteria in our lower intestine feast on fibre which we can’t digest ourselves and so passes through the stomach and small intestine to be dealt with by the bacteria in our large intestine (gut). So eating a diet which is high in fibre is hugely beneficial to our gut health, because the fibre is the food for your good bacteria.

ID-10099484But do we need to take a probiotic supplement? Lots of research has been done on this and while there is mixed results from the findings, many people are agreeing that taking a probiotic supplement can help with the treatment of Travellers Diarrhoea and other gastrointestinal problems, to upper respiratory tract infections, allergies, various skin disorders, diabetes, weight loss to infantile colic.[1]

Another good time to be taking a probiotic supplement is during and after periods of antibiotic use. Antibiotics are good at killing all the bacteria, good and bad, so it is important that we put good bacteria back into our bodies to maintain a healthy gut. My mother suffered with oral thrush during courses of antibiotics for years until she discovered probiotics.

Additionally, stress can take its toll on the good bacteria of the gut.

The topic of pre and probiotics can get very complex as there are many different species of bacteria and some species can be beneficial for specific health concerns. For example, research at the University of Aberdeen has shown that eating a bowl of oats every day can clearly change the proportions of different types of bacteria in the gut, and their research has shown that some of the species that particularly increases when people eat more oats can be very good for us. These bacteria produce chemicals which are good for our hearts and for our gut lining. [2]

So my personal recommendation would be to take probiotic supplements during periods of ill health and stress, or to combat particular health concerns. But during times when health is good then eat a diet with lots of fibre including oats, and indigestible carbohydrates (oligosaccharides, dietary fibre and resistant starch). Examples of these are onions, garlic, beans and lentils, cashews, and cooked potatoes that have been cooled.

probioboost

For a good, high quality supplement see Pro Bio Boost supplement from Neal’s Yard Remedies. This is suitable for vegetarians, and contains Bacillus coagulans, Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifido Blend 3 Strain and Inulin (a type of prebiotic/indigestible carbohydrate derived from plants). No GMO and no synthetic binders or fillers.

Alternatively, the Organic Fibre Blend Cleanse help to maintain a healthy digestion with a cleansing blend of apple, flax seed and chia seed. Contains psyllium husk and Bacillus coagulans to help promote the natural health of your gut.

 

[1] Monash University https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/food-as-medicine/1/steps/82004

[2] http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/4s0XkHq0HxZhjd5V2lQ2LRm/do-probiotics-do-any-good

Image courtesy of dream designs at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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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Holistic Approaches for Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a neurological condition which affects around 100,000 people in the UK. Most people are diagnosed between the ages of 20-40, but it can affect younger and older people too. Roughly three times as many women have MS as men. [1]

MS is when the body itself attacks the myelin sheath in an auto-immune response. The myelin sheath’s function is to insulate the nerves. When it is compromised it causes the neurotransmitters to function less effectively, slowing or blocking messages between body and brain. This creates tingling sensations, fatigue, tremors, pain and trouble balancing.

Dr Mercola states “While your body does have the ability to repair myelin naturally, this process tends to become less effective as you get older. Now, however, researchers [from University of Cambridge] have uncovered a natural option that might play a major role in boosting the repair of damaged myelin in people with MS: vitamin D.”[2] This emerging research is also presented by the Multiple Sclerosis society.[3]

I have been aware of MS right from the beginning of my reflexology career through my tutor, Julie Crossman, and her experience with her close and continued work with MS sufferers. During my training and professional career it is always the nervous and digestive systems I focus on within a reflexology session for an MS sufferer. A course of Reflexology Lymph Drainage would aim to help too from the auto-immune angle: isolating the immune system reflexes intends to boost and seek rebalance.

Delayed nervous responses such as moving a hand away from a hot surface, or weakening bladder control can be debilitating. The latter example causes further problems because many sufferers deliberately drink less to try to reduce this symptom but in doing so can cause bowel problems and constipation. Less water is not going to help anyone: our bodies need around two litres per day to carry out its vital functions.

ID-100140238My advice alongside following a healthy diet (full of fresh fruit and vegetables and a good water intake), would be to take a high quality Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement, alongside a Vitamin D supplement (ensuring you intake lots of leafy greens too), Vitamin B complex, as well as boosting your antioxidant levels. The NYRO supplements are superior because they are plant-based and organic, and are synergistic blends. Vitamins and minerals don’t work in isolation so it is important to take a good quality Multi Vitamin and Mineral supplement alongside a healthy diet to give yourself a good foundation.

Reflexology can also be beneficial from an emotional angle. Dr Mercola states “More often than not, some form of hidden emotional wound can also be found in patients suffering with autoimmune diseases like MS.” This has also been my findings from other readings of the condition by Ann Gillanders. The profound relaxation that reflexology invokes can create an emotional release for some people.

[1] https://www.mssociety.org.uk/what-is-ms

[2] http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/12/21/vitamin-d-multiple-sclerosis.aspx?e_cid=20151221Z2_DNL_art_2&utm_source=dnl&utm_medium=email&utm_content=art2&utm_campaign=20151221Z2&et_cid=DM93237&et_rid=1273927785

[3] https://www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-research/emerging-areas/vitamin-d

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 Praisaeng at FreeDigitalPhotos.net