A healthy mid-life means an easier menopause

The most important thing to know about the menopause is prevention, so if you are a woman in your midlife, getting the support and balance you need will help you in your menopausal years. This blog aims to explains the menopause in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) terms, and gives indicators on how you can support yourself as well as receiving treatments in-clinic.

As a therapist with a predominantly female clientele, and a 40-something woman myself, I have a particular interest in this subject. Many women suffer with the two main symptoms of menopause: hot flushes and dryness (an excess of heat and a lack of moisture). In addition to these symptoms, women can also feel emotionally unstable, have difficultly sleeping and concentrating, experience frequent headaches, feel lethargic and tired, irritable, anxious, depressed and nervous.

Although the menopause usually comes at around the age of 50, the decline in the ovarian follicles and in oestrogen occurs throughout our lives. The number of follicles at birth has already halved by puberty, and continues to decline up to the menopause. Thus the menopausal symptoms can start to appear at an earlier stage in life, so we are never too young to take notice.

In TCM, from our conception, our Kidneys store our vital life essence (Jing). Jing circulates over long periods, dominating our developmental stages (usually 7 year cycles in women and 8 year cycles in men). Our Kidneys dominate growth and reproduction. They also dominate water metabolism and bone, and produce marrow (brain). So you can see that our Kidney energy is very important in not only giving us our life force and will-power, it also governs our reproductive systems, and works closely with the lungs to moisten the body, as well as strengthens our skeletal system. These are all closely linked to common health problems in women (osteoporosis, dryness, infertility, irregular menstrual cycles and fatigue to name a few).

Thinking about menopause, anything that will weaken our Kidney energy is going to have an impact on our menopause. Our busy modern day lives seem to dictate a very stressful way of living. For example, parents going out to work as well as looking after children will often feel overwhelmed and unrested, causing tiredness, fatigue and irritability. Tobacco smoking will “burn fluids” and dry out moisture. Irregular diets high in beige carbs, processed foods and sugars will create “phlegm” (this is a TCM term for thick stagnation). Too much tea, coffee and alcohol is very “yang” in nature and therefore will add heat to the body and thus aggravate symptoms such as hot flushes. Not enough fluid/water intake will have an effect on moisture levels. Emotional stress will also deplete Kidney energy.

As women, we need to create space in our lives to allow balance. We need to replenish our Kidney energy with enough rest between busy times, we need to eat and drink in moderation and eat well; foods that are nutrient dense and foods that add moisture. Drink enough fluids. Only do what we can comfortably do and don’t over stretch ourselves. If we do all of this then we will naturally regulate our day-to-day emotional stresses, but anything lying deeper should be dealt with and not “carried” as this will also deplete the Kidneys, as well as create excess Heart energy adding fire/heat, exacerbating hot flushes, irritability and dryness.

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.

Reflexology for Diabetics

It is well known that people with diabetes need to lookafter their feet. In very basic terms, when the blood is not releasing the sugars into the cells ofthe body, the blood can get syrupy and thick, which means that it isn’t flowingsmoothly and is not getting to the extremities as efficiently and aseffectively as it should. Because of this, some of the smaller blood vesselsbecome restricted and nerve endings can start to become damaged, causingperipheral neuropathy.

My first ever reflexology client I booked after qualifyingwas an elderly lady with type 2 diabetes. She was keen to have her feet touchedand worked on because of the peripheral neuropathy she was experiencing. Hersymptoms were numbness and tingling, making it difficult for her to walk and difficultto sleep. She found the treatments soothing, comforting and relaxing.

It is well known that reflexology can improve circulation within the body: the main contraindication for the treatment is thrombosis and clotting, simply because the improved flow of blood could cause the clot to move. With this in mind, it is a great treatment for diabetics.

Being diagnosed with any type of diabetes, but especially atype 2 diabetes diagnosis in later life, can be very difficult to manage.  A massive change in lifestyle, eating habitsand general discipline around food choices, exercise, blood sugar monitoringand medication timings can be very stressful not just for those with thediabetes but also the surrounding friends and family. This is where regularreflexology treatments can be so beneficial for so many of life’s illnesses andproblems, because it is such a great stress-buster.

Regular reflexology will also optimize the condition and health of the skin of the feet and ankles. As diabetics will have restricted blood flow (particularly to the extremities), this can cause excessive dryness, making the skin fragile and thin, and causing serious problems if a wound occurs. Healing will take much longer and may lead to other complications such as infections and ulcers. Ensuring that the skin is thoroughly moisturized and nourished will be hugely beneficial in maintaining the overall health of the feet.

In addition to general reflexology, the specialized sequence of Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD) may also be a good choice to make in a multi-faceted approach to managing diabetes. Diabetes causes the lymph vessels to become weak and too permeable, compromising the flow of lymph and thus the immune system.[1] We know that it is likely that the RLD sequence has a causal effect on the lymphatic system through studies conducted and results published around managing breast cancer related lymphoedema.[2] Of course more research is needed to present evidence, but I wholeheartedly believe in the modality of reflexology and the powerful effect it can have on the mind and body.

[1] http://revistaseletronicas.pucrs.br/ojs/index.php/scientiamedica/article/view/10095

[2] http://www.reflexologylymphdrainage.co.uk/abstract-2016.html

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

Coping with Seasonal Allergies

POST102 million people in the UK suffer with seasonal allergies.

Generally speaking, early symptoms are caused by tree pollen, and later symptoms are caused by grasses and weeds. This is known as seasonal allergic rhinitis (or more commonly referred to as hay fever).

Symptoms that continue all year are called perennial allergic rhinitis and commonly relate to indoor allergens, such as house dust mites, pets and indoor moulds.

In response to exposure of an allergen (e.g. pollen) the body’s immune system overreacts and releases chemicals (histamines) which cause inflammation. Histamines work quickly, causing sneezing, itching and runny nose. The eyes may also be affected, with itching, redness and watering (allergic conjunctivitis).

Other chemicals released during this overreaction can cause a blocked or stuffy nose and sinuses, which may lead to headache and difficulty sleeping.

Rhinitis is often regarded as a trivial problem but studies have shown that it severely affects people’s quality of life. It disturbs sleep, impairs daytime concentration and the ability to carry out tasks, causes people to miss work or school, and has been shown to affect children’s school exam results. (Source Allergy UK).

Treatments that suppress the symptoms of rhinitis or hay fever are antihistamines.

Quercetin is a natural anti-histamine i.e. it is known to inhibit the manufacture and release of histamine. It is also high in antioxidants.

  • Quercetin is an flavonoid (plant pigment) commonly found in fruits and vegetables, especially onions, citrus, and apples.post5
  • In this new supplement, Quercetin and Nettle complex, it is blended with other ingredients (such as nettle) to have a synergistic effect. Nettle is known for antihistamine affect too, but also believed to be soothing and anti-inflammatory for skin problems such as eczema, hives, redness and itchiness.
  • Other ingredients include bromelene which is an anti-inflammatory (found in pineapples). Reduces swelling/inflammation in the sinuses.
  • And liquorice – this also has anti-inflammatory properties but also has de-stressing qualities.
  • Since over-the-counter and prescription antihistamines can have side effects like drowsiness, seizures and dry mouth, our natural option is a good choice.
  • Use with Vitamin C for an optimal effect.

Zinc also helps with hayfever. Zinc reduces histamine levels and will enhance Quercetin.

  • If you suffer with regular colds/infections – you could well be deficient in zinc. post6Zinc will reduce a cold by up to 7 days, because it is toxic to viruses.
  • Zinc is amazing for skin – crucial skin healing and repair, acne, blemishes etc. balances sebum.
  • Zinc balances the reproductive organs so it’s a great choice for couples wanting to conceive. Great for bones and nails.
  • NYROrganic zinc has a great base of carrot, alfa alfa and bilberry. No fillers.

NYROrganic Summer tea is full of natural remedies:

  • Eyebright herb for reducing inflammation around the mucus membranes.
  • Nettle and liquorice (already mentioned above).
  • Plus peppermint to calm and boost immunity.

TOP TIP: Pop the used tea bags into the fridge and then place on the eyes for calming itchiness.

Any of the White tea range will be hugely antioxidant so great for any allergies/hay fever.

  • White tea facial mist – lovely and refreshing, and cooling for the face. Use as a toner and as a facial spritz throughout the day over make-up.POST8_white_tea
  • White tea toning eye gel. Again this contains the Eyebright herb for reducing inflammation around the mucus membranes, more specifically the eye area here. Keep in the fridge for that extra cooling effect.
  • White tea enriching facial mask  – the kaolin clay cools and calms the skin.

OTHER TOP TIPS:

  • Apply the bee lovely lip balm around nostrils to prevent the pollen/allergens from entering the nasal cavity.
  • Some people with an allergy to pollens (especially tree pollens) may be affected by cross-reactions between their pollen allergy and certain foods. For example, they may find that when eating certain fruits, vegetables or tree nuts, especially raw, they get an itchy mouth or throat.
  • Keep windows closed when indoors. This is most important in the early mornings, when pollen is being released, and in the evening when the air cools and pollens that have been carried up into the air begin to fall to ground level again.
  • On high pollen days, shower and wash your hair after arriving home and change your clothing.
  • Avoid drying washing on a clothes-line outside when pollen counts are high.
  • Wear wraparound sunglasses when outdoors to keep pollen allergens out of your eyes.
  • Start taking a spoon full of locally sourced honey every day as early in the year as possible to build up immunity/resilience. (Source Allergy UK)
  • Get some reflexology. Reflexology Lymph Drainage has helped others manage rhinitis.

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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