Chicken Pox: A Mother’s and Therapist’s Perspective

My youngest daughter has recently contracted the common virus known as Chicken Pox (herpes varicella-zoster).

The virus can cause a high temperature, loss of appetite and the well known spots or rash. The spots start off looking like red spots, then they blister and finally scab over.

Once the blisters have scabbed over the child is no longer contagious, even though the scabs are still present and can still look alarming, particularly to other parents! They can take up to two weeks to fade and disappear.

Chicken Pox
Chicken Pox

During the blistering and early scabbing stages in particularly, itching can be pretty debilitating. My daughter didn’t try to scratch the spots but just stood there and cried in despair! At this point I used Calendula and Oat lotion. I chose this over the “traditional” calamine lotion because I always want to avoid synthetic preservatives that are found in many products nowadays.

Calendula and oat lotion is deeply soothing and calming, with anti-inflammatory properties. In addition to this, it also contains Stellaria media (Chickweed) extract, a traditional herb renowned for cooling and soothing itching or red skin: ideal for Chicken Pox.

Chickweed
Stellaria media (Chickweed)

We had only one full day of itching and feeling miserable in general. I used the Calendula & Oat lotion regularly during this day, as well as giving her an oat bath. To do this I simply put half a cup of organic porridge oats into an old sock and knotted the top. Then I placed it under the running water when filling up the tub.

calendula_oat

I genuinely believe that the two above remedies reduced the time of itching and discomfort for my daughter (and subsequently me!) and am now prepared for my older daughter to contract the virus too!

In addition to the above, I really wanted to give reflexology, however my youngest daughter is very much a person who knows her own mind and would not be persuaded. I would have liked to give some short and gently zone therapy with emphasis on the thymus and lymphatics to help the immune system fight the virus, and the solar plexus for calming. My older daughter is more welcoming to the therapy and she is already receiving reflexology regularly in the anticipation of catching the virus.

It should go without saying, that in addition to topical lotions and medicines such as paracetamol, what the body needs the most in situations like this is water, and plenty of it.

Now that the worst is over for my youngest daughter, I am now applying Organic Rosehip Seed Oil to reduce any potential scarring. Rosehip seed oil contains vitamin A, vitamin C and the essential fatty acids omega-3 and omega-6, which are fantastic ingredients to encourage skin rejuvenation, moisture replenishment, and healing.

rosehip

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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What can we do for Eczema?

Eczema is dry, itchy, flaky, red and inflamed skin (and sometimes worse). It is largely a chronic condition meaning that it is long-lasting and can be controlled but not cured.

Those suffering with eczema usually suffer also with other conditions such as asthma and hayfever. This is because they are all types of allergies; the body has an inapproprate allergic reaction to antigens that are usually harmless (e.g. animal hair, pollen, dust). When the body reacts in this way it releases huge amounts of histamine which then causes inflammation, itching, sneezing, wheezing etc. It is usually the immune response that causes the damage to the body, not the allergen itself. (1)

So what can we do for eczema, and why do people suffer with eczema? I believe it has a lot to do with the gut. If we don’t have good gut health then the toxic overload is too much for our bodies and the skin will try to help by excreting those toxins. Remember that the skin is an outlet as well as a protective barrier and receptor. So cleaning up diets, eliminating processed foods, sugar, caffeine etc. and increasing the intake of vegetables and water is going to have a profound effect in the long term. I think we all have room for improvement with our diets!

But in the shorter term something is needed to apply to the skin to reduce the symptoms and give relief. This is particularly true for children whom are a large group of atopic (hereditary) eczema suffers.  Any petroleum-based products are not going to do this. The skin might feel soft and moisturised initially but after continued use the product will block the skin’s pores, causing imbalances in the skin’s natural equilibrium and resulting in even more problems.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and its replacement, Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are both known irritants. Beware of products labelled “sensitive”. Many products on the market are full of chemicals that have no place on the skin. However, most people can tolerate them. For those who can’t, the manufacturer removes the problem chemicals, and replaces them with some that are actually worse, on the basis that the customer is unlikely to react to both. (2)

The following products are those which myself and colleagues have seen to be helpful with treating eczema:

NYRO baby balm. This balm protects and calms the skin with a combination of gentle, moisturising ingredients, including olive oil, coconut oil and shea nut butter. Apply as required to affected areas. One mother kindly shared these amazing photographs of her daughter’s eczema, before and after using the NYRO baby balm for 6 weeks.

eczema before

eczema after

For small patches of eczema or dermatitis, consider the NYRO Stellaria Cream  which is fabulous at reducing itching. Chickweed, a traditional herb renowned for cooling and soothing itching or red skin, is the active ingredient in this formula.

Another fantastic product to try is the anti-inflammatory and deeply soothing Calendula and Oat Lotion, which is suitable for extreme dryness and sensitive skin.

calendula_oatOne particular customer has experienced great success with seemingly uncontrollable eczema by the daily application of organic virgin coconut oil. The Neal’s Yard Remedies coconut oil is raw, unrefined, unbleached, and processed without heat to retain its unique balance of nutrients. Applied directly to the skin, coconut oil makes an extremely effective conditioning treatment, gently soothing dry, sensitive skin or scalps.

As a reflexologist, I am very much aware of the power of stress and what it can do to the body. If you are suffering with eczema it could be exacerbated by stress, or vica versa. A course of reflexology might help the situation, calming the sympathetic nervous system and in turn stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and allowing the body to regain a state of relaxation and homeostasis. During the reflexology sessions particular emphasis would be paid to specific reflex points, particularly those of the digestive system, endocrine system, lymphatics and immune systems.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) the lungs are linked to the colon; they share the same meridian. This ties in with the commonalities between eczema, asthma and hayfever, and highlights another reason to look to improve digestive health. They are both organs of elimination.

Along with a cleaned-up diet, a cleansing and healing supplement such as aloe vera juice and/or beauty oil might also be used to help with the healing and replenishing process.  Aloe vera juice is an excellent digestive tonic. Beauty oil is a blend of avocado, hemp, flax and evening primrose oils.

(1) Ross & Wilson Anatomy & Physiology  in Health and Illness. p371

(2) Closed discussion thread

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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Reflexology and Fibromyalgia

What is Fibromyalgia? Fibromyalgia, also called Fibromyalgia Syndrome (FMS), is a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body. As well as widespread pain, people with Fibromyalgia may also have increased sensitivity to pain, fatigue, muscle stiffness, sleep disorders, problems with mental processes (“brain-fog”) e.g. problems with memory and concentration, dizziness and balance problems, headaches and migraines, digestive upsets. The exact cause of Fibromyalgia is unknown, but it’s thought to be related to abnormal levels of certain chemicals in the brain and changes in the way the central nervous system (brain, spinal cord and nerves) processes pain messages that are carried around the body. (1)

ID-100184055How might reflexology help Fibromyalgia sufferers? When we are stressed our bodies are on constant high alert, engaging our sympathetic nervous system ready to “fight or flight”. However this means that the parasympathetic nervous system is shut down, so things like digestion, relaxation and sleep patterns will not have optimum conditions to function properly. Pain is an obvious stress, both physically and mentally.

Reflexology is deeply relaxing which can help the body and mind break the constant stress cycle and seek re-balance. In general, we have around 7000 nerve endings in the feet, making them particularly sensitive and helpful for accessing the whole body. Reflexology might help manage and reduce the symptoms of Fibromyalgia through a tailored treatment plan specific to the patient’s particular issues. Depending on the level of intensity of pain, shortened reflexology treatments might be advisable to begin with. Below are the key symptoms of Fibromyalgia and the subsequent reflex points I can pay particular attention to during treatments:

  • Joint pain: concentrate on the relevant reflex points on the feet for joints concerned e.g. shoulder, knee, hips, jaw. Adrenal gland reflexes can be gently worked to stimulate the production of the body’s own anti-inflammatories and pain management.
  • Fatigue: pay attention to the adrenal glands and pancreas reflexes. This aims to increase energy and re-balance and regulate blood-sugar levels.
  • Sleep disorders: work the diaphragm reflex (to promote relaxation and calmer breathing), pineal and pituitary gland reflexes (to promote a re-balance of circadian rhythms and of the endocrine system in general).
  • Digestive upsets: general relaxation techniques to awaken the parasympathetic nervous system. Colon and small intestine reflex points in particular.
  • Headaches and migraines: concentrate on brain, spine, particularly cervical spine, head and neck area reflexes.
  • Dizziness and balance: concentrate on inner-ear reflex point.

Update Jan 2016 – Since first writing this blog I have trained in Reflexology Lymph Drainage and carried out a case study on a Fibromyalgia client. Further info to follow.

(1) http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Fibromyalgia/Pages/Introduction.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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Barefoot Benefits

I have recently started to remain barefooted more often. Largely because we are now in summer and it is fantastic to take the opportunity to wear summer clothes and leave the sock draw alone. However, there are incredible health benefits to spending more time barefooted, not only from a physical point of view, but also on a more spiritual level.

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Did you know that the feet are the most sensory-rich parts of the body? Huge concentrations of proprioceptors are in the feet, found within the joints, connective tissue and muscle. The feet alone have as many proprioceptors as the entire spinal column! [1] Here surely lies the science behind the art of reflexology? But wait a minute – what are proprioceptors?

Proprioceptors are nerve endings and sensory receptors located within our joints, connective tissue and muscles – not just in the feet but all over the body. Proprioception is the ability to perceive the motion and position of our body. When our proprioceptors identify pressure or movement, they send messages to the brain to understand orientation. What is important to remember that the feet are rich in proprioceptive nerve endings.

When walking barefoot, our tactile pathways feel the surface of the ground, proprioceptors respond to pressure, and the terrain creates slight imbalances that create neuro-muscular strength, spacial orientation, balance, and coordination. [1]

There is a constant flow of information regarding the status and function of the musculo-skeletal system from proprioceptors to the spinal cord and the brain. When there is a breakdown in communication, or when improper information is supplied, efficiency of movement decreases. This breakdown can cause minor to severe problems with postural coordination and/or joint alignment, ranging from an occasional “niggle” to the source of chronic, unresolved pain. [2]

Shoes create a barrier between the sensitive soles of our feet and the ground. By going barefoot, proprioceptors are optimally stimulated, and the sensory experience is opened up. Are we, as a modern society, shutting down an important sensory area by continually wearing shoes? Are we disconnecting ourselves from our surroundings? Could the continual wearing of shoes be a major player in inflammation and pain? There is growing evidence to support the idea that “free electrons from the earth neutralize the positively charged free radicals that are the hallmark of chronic inflammation.”[3] But this is for a separate blog post.

Spending time barefooted also encourages presence of mind and conscious awareness. While walking barefooted, the information sent via proprioceptors inhibit other peripheral sensory input. This creates focus and awareness; we become more tuned in to our surroundings.[1] I have found that it makes me more “present” or “in the moment”. Having the heightened sensory experiences from the soles of my feet connecting all the way up through my body allows a more intimate connection with my environment.

It is truly amazing and exhilarating to feel the cool wet grass under my feet, or the sharp stones of the beach making me wince and focus only on the moment, the now. It is surprising how warm our garden path feels under my feet when it still feels chilly enough to wear a sweater and body warmer. These small observations represent an enormous sensory dimension that we are all excluding from our lives through shoe-wearing.

As Dr. Kacie Flegal rightly states, “It is never too late to encourage the proprioceptive in our own bodies as we continue to grow new neural connections, even as we age. Often, it is this system that becomes inhibited as adults. We lose balance and focus in our bodies and our lives and, as a result, may lose profound connections to our environment, ourselves, and other people.” [1]

I believe all of the above have strong links to the science behind reflexology. I believe that reflexology treatments awaken the sensory proprioceptors that are largely dormant from our constant shoe-wearing.  Rediscover yourself barefoot. Let’s celebrate our feet, touch them, use them, let’s set them free!

References

[1] Dr. Kacie Flegal http://www.naturalchildmagazine.com/1210/barefoot-babies.htm

[2] Dr. Dan Lommell http://www.lommell.com/new_page_123.htm

[3] J Altern Complement Med. 2007 Nov;13(9):955-67.

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 vorakorn / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Reflexology for Band of Sisters

I spent the summer solstice, 21 June 2014, giving reflexology to a wonderful group of women who have a loved one with a career limiting /ending injury or illness attributable to service in the forces since 2001.

Help for Heroes Band of Brothers and Band of Sisters offer a listening ear, emotional support, and fellowship to our heroes and their families. Band of Brothers offer support for the wounded, and Band of Sisters offer support for the families.

I was privileged to be invited to participate in a pamper weekend for Help for Heroes Band of Sisters members on a respite break at the new Phoenix House Recovery Centre in Catterick Garrison. Members enjoyed a well-deserved time out, with the opportunity to bond, form new friendships and have a break from pressures at home.  Meeting other women in the same situation can make a huge difference: realising that they are not alone can be a huge relief.

Therapies on offer were full body massage, Indian head massage and reflexology. Reflexology proved hugely popular and my slots filled up the fastest! Every client of the day relaxed deeply into their treatments, closing their eyes and snuggling under the blanket, while I sensitively worked away at their feet. Before beginning the day, I checked that none of the ladies were allergic or hypersensitive to anything, and then I put a drop of balancing geranium and a drop of calming lavender into a small bowl of hot water and allowed it to diffuse through my therapy room. With the lights dimmed and my Relaxator chair at the ready, comfort and luxury awaited the Band of Sisters members! Afterwards I gave them each some Neal’s Yard sample sachets to take away so they could give themselves a mini-facial.

20140620_Pamper 505Alongside the complementary therapies on offer, the members could also participate in other interesting activities such as cup cake decorating, jewellery making, NIA[1] and pilates, or just choose to relax and unwind as they wished.

The summer solstice is a highly spiritual time for some, described in many ancient texts as the time of enlightenment: the return of the individual into the divine source. It feels apt that I was called to give my therapy to these women on this particular day; the act of healing is not just about one individual giving to another, but on a more spiritual level it is also the becoming of one: joining, energy and flow.

[1] NIA – Neuromuscular Integrative Action. A blend of yoga, martial arts, and dance, is one of the latest trends in mind-body fitness fusion.

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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What is Reflexology?

I recently participated in a pamper evening, and it surprised me that many did not know what reflexology was! I don’t remember a time when I have ever not known what reflexology is, which upon reflection, says an awful lot! So here is a brief guide to what reflexology is, where it came from and what it aims to achieve.

Reflexology – What is it?

Reflexology is a “hand’s on” treatment which is applied to the feet (or hands) but its philosophy is to treat the whole body i.e. it takes a holistic approach to healing. It is based on the idea that the feet are mini-maps of the body, and by applying pressure techniques to particular reflex areas on the feet will have a stimulating effect elsewhere in the body.

It is a fact that there are over 7000 nerve endings in each foot, so by therapeutically stimulating these nerve endings will achieve a deep sense of relaxation. It is estimated that 75% of disease is stress-related, so regular relaxation is highly recommended.

Overall, through tension-relieving and energy releasing, a reflexology treatment aims to promote the body’s self-healing abilities.

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Where did it originate?

Reflexology has been known to man for thousands of years, practised by the early Indians, Chinese and Egyptians. However, reflexology as we know it today has its origins in America with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist Dr William Fitzgerald, who founded “Zone Therapy” in the early 1900s. He discovered that certain areas, when applied with pressure, relieved pain and created numbness, but also when the pressure was removed, the cause of the pain was largely reduced too. Once these areas had been mapped they were known as “zones”. Dr Fitzgerald’s physiotherapist, Eunice Ingham, took great interest and became a pioneer in Zone Therapy throughout the USA. Ingham then devised a map of the body within the feet and the hands, developing and evolving “Zone Therapy” into “Reflexology”. Dawn Bayly brought Reflexology to the UK in 1966 after studying with Ingham in the USA and set up the Bayly School of Reflexology. Hanne Marquardt and Joseph Corvo also discovered Ingham’s Zone Therapy and worked on and evolved variations of Zone Therapy around the same time, the latter also taking into account the pressure points in the face.

Reflexology is an holistic therapy, working on the whole body and the person, not just the symptoms of the illness or disease. It has become one of the most popular forms of complementary therapy practised today.

What can it do for me?

Reflexology may bring relief to a wide range of conditions such as stress, anxiety, asthma, irritable bowel syndrome, sciatica, depression, back pain and is safe and suitable for all ages.

Reflexology offers an individual some dedicated “me time” to relax and unwind, offering deep relaxation and combating stress.

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 copyright Jackie Marsden 2016

Perimenopause : an overview

What is Perimenopause?

Perimenopause is when the body begins preparation for the stage in life where child bearing will not be the biological focus. This usually happens in a woman’s 40s and is a gradual build-up to menopause, when the menstrual cycle ceases completely. Perimenopause starts with a gradual decline in progesterone and can cause some of the following symptoms:

  • Weight gain
  • Cracked, dry or loose skin (caused by less collagen)
  • Low sex drive and/or more difficulty reaching orgasm
  • Anxiety
  • Tearfulness (especially week before period)
  • Restless sleep
  • Increased menstrual cramps
  • Night sweats [1]

These uncomfortable symptoms are because the body is trying to adjust to the relative oestrogen excess.

Not only do the sex hormones (oestrogen and progesterone) have to make the transition, so do other hormones. For example, cortisol levels (a stress hormone) will increase, and insulin resistance can be more common. Because of this, it is vitally important to eat a healthy, balanced diet and to find ways of managing and/or coping with stress.

Before menopause, the ovaries are the major oestrogen secretors. However, as they become less active during perimenopause and menopause, the balance shifts until finally around half of the body’s oestrogen and progesterone is made in the adrenal glands. If stress levels are high, the adrenal glands will always prioritise the secretion of the stress hormones over the creation of sex hormones. Thus, finding ways of lowering stress will ensure the adequate amount of sex hormones is produced in a woman’s body in her 40s and beyond, maintaining balance.[1]

In addition, the body might look elsewhere for oestrogen once the ovaries start to slow down. This could easily lead to weight gain because fat cells are a key source of oestrogen storage. Furthermore, if a woman is already obese before menopause then the fat cells may create too much oestrogen in comparison to progesterone, leading to increased oestrogen dominance. [1]

Oestrogen dominance is also likely during prolonged periods of stress. This is because the stress hormone cortisol competes with progesterone. Thus progesterone levels decrease, inducing an imbalance of oestrogen and progesterone. [2] Signs of decreased progesterone, and oestrogen dominance, are:

  • Decreased sex drive
  • Irregular or otherwise absent periods
  • Bloating
  • Breast swelling and tenderness
  • Mood swings (irritability and/or depression)
  • Weight gain (particularly abdomen and hips)
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches, especially pre-menstrual [3]

ImageHow to cope

Find ways of managing/coping with stress that work for you. Ideas: regular reflexology or massage treatments, daily meditation, regular exercise, better time management, spending more time outdoors, spending time with animals/nature, keeping a diary or journal.

Eat a healthy balanced diet. Try to avoid white, refined carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, cake and biscuits. Make a switch to fresh vegetables, white meat and fish, pulses and whole grains.

Switch to organic. Eating organically can be expensive; if you cannot afford to go completely organic, try to avoid the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Dirty Dozen”. This means if nothing else, always buy the following as organic produce (or avoid altogether): apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, peppers, kale and courgettes. The EWG’s “Clean 15” is a list which can be classed as “safe non-organic”: asparagus, avocados, cabbage, melon, sweetcorn, aubergine, grapefruit, kiwi, mango, mushrooms, onions, papaya, pineapple, frozen peas, sweet potatoes. [4]

Reduce use of stimulants such as caffeine and alcohol. Stimulants send the body’s hormones on a roller-coaster ride of high peaks followed by low drops creating a multitude of problems including cravings and fatigue.

Don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t eliminate everything from your diet and make yourself miserable. Allow yourself that morning coffee; enjoy a piece of cake once a week; switch to a darker variety of chocolate with less sugar; enjoy a weekend glass of wine.

References

[1] Is it me or my hormones? by Marcelle Pick 2013

[2] The Optimum Nutrition Bible by Patrick Holford 2004

[3] The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup 2009

[4] Environmental Working Group http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/

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 stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net