Digestive wellness and stress
The digestive system is made up of a number of organs which are responsible for breaking down food for the body to use. The gut is now considered to be the bodies ‘second brain’. However, diet, lifestyle, stress, diseases and medication can lead to digestive complaints. In fact, 40% of people suffer with issues such as bloating, diarrhoea, constipation, abdominal pain, indigestion and heartburn.
The body’s autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic) is responsible for triggering and turning off our bodies stress response. These are the ‘fight or flight’ reactions, such as rapid heart rate and breathing, that we notice in times of increased stress.
These systems are also responsible for the digestion process, which in stressful situations, causes symptoms such as heavy sinking feelings in the stomach to diarrhoea and constipation. Over time stress can also allow destructive bacteria to multiply and adversely affect bowel function leading to further disease.
Our gut impacts our health
There is growing evidence that our well-being may be heavily impacted by messages from the gut being sent to the brain rather than the other way around. 90-95% of our serotonin lies within our gut, in addition to other important neurotransmitters. Serotonin is thought to help regulate sleep, social behaviour, appetite, digestion, memory and it is especially important in mood, with low levels being linked to depression. Therefore, a disturbed gut microbiota can affect our physical and mental health (1). Evidence is beginning to suggest that IBS may originate in a change in serotonin levels and its uptake though the gut wall, with high levels of serotonin in the system causing diarrhoea triggering the receptors to shut down which then leads to constipation (2).
The range of intestinal flora performs countless functions for the body and the quality of this flora is determined by the balance existing between the various bacteria populations. When certain microbes are missing from the gut, molecules from the mucosal barrier in the gut can pass into the circulation. These can produce an immune response in the body where it recognises self-cells as foreign, resulting in an inflammatory reaction which is the underpinning of all autoimmune illnesses. There is some evidence that including pre and probiotics can help with this and that by restoring gut microbe variety behaviours such as irritability, anxiety and social withdrawal could potentially be improved (3). Other conditions are also associated with digestive issues, autism, Parkinson’s and osteoporosis are now thought to be related to poor gut function.
Reflexology to support the gut
Reflexology is a natural, non-invasive holistic therapy where gentle pressure is applied to areas of the feet (or hands). The theory states that the feet/hands map parts of the body and through stimulating these different reflex areas the effects of stress on organs, systems of the body and the individual as a whole can be reduced. Reflexology is a method of promoting parasympathetic responses in the body to reduce the internal stress response – easing anxiety, helping with sleep and promoting balance and healing. Based upon the evidence of stress and the function of the gut, reflexology is ideally placed to support clients with digestive issues, however, to be effective it is vital that a full medical history is taken by a qualified therapist.
Reflexology may also promote gut peristalsis and therefore correct gut function. Many clients remark on how often their stomach gurgles during treatment! The Vagus nerve reflex is an important component of many reflexology treatments. Stimulating the Vagus Nerve (which mimics signals from the gut to the brain) not only has been found to improve memory and learning, but also has been used as a treatment for epilepsy, depression and may well be useful for other conditions from migraine to tinnitus to Alzheimer’s (4). Whilst reflexology cannot claim to cure such conditions, it can support clients with pre-existing aliments, reducing the impact and improving quality of life. Stimulating nerve routes to digestive organs through spinal reflex work is also a helpful to clients with digestive problems.
New research and developments in this field are all showing how important our digestive system really is to our overall health. It is worth considering what steps you can take to support it, whether this be increasing the variety of food you eat to encourage diversity in the microbiota or reducing your stress levels. The message is clear, look after your gut and it will help look after you!
Self-help hand reflexology for digestive issues:
Work one hand at a time, using the other hand to work the reflexes. Then swap hands. In cases of constipation, use a thumb to apply pressure and encourage correct bowel function. In cases of pain or inflammation, for example if suffering with colitis use a finger and apply only gentle pressure.
Emma Clark, MAR, BSc
I am delighted to say that to date all of my clients that have suffered with headaches or migraines have seen a huge improvement in these through reflexology. They have experienced fewer incidences or less severe attacks, and in some cases symptoms have ceased all together. Reflexology works to support sufferers of headaches and migraines through returning the body back into balance, allowing the harmony of body and mind to prevail in the midst of busyness, and pressures placed upon it by modern day living.
According to Nico Pauly (MNT-NR), migraine is a result of a sensitised sympathetic nervous system in connection with trigeminal nerve activity and inflammation in cerebra blood flow. Throughout your Sole Therapy Reflexology sessions, from the initial consultation, where we discuss medical history and lifestyle, and during subsequent consultations, I am looking for patterns in the occurrences and your potential migraine triggers. These can include:
Dr Robert Cowan, Professor of Neurology and Director of Headache and Facial Pain Program at Stanford University recommends lifestyle tips to reduce the perception of pain. These include:
Self-treatment through hand and facial reflexology can be also be very helpful. For more information contact Emma.
Its been a busy 6 months with the building work at home and I am now feeling that life is getting straight and the dust has finally settled (well most of it!). The treatment room was worth the wait and is really relaxing and I am so pleased to have had lots of positive feedback from clients about it too.
With the calm, I have been reflecting on my reflexology journey and how so many clients recommend others and re-book with me repeatedly. Its been, and continues to be a joy in helping clients with ailments and stress reduction. A lovely lady said to me this week "you are wonderful at this, you have a real passion to help people and an interest in finding the best way to do this". This made me wonder if people return not only due to the benefits clients experience but the fact that I look at my clients in a holistic manner, rather than 'walking symptoms' as modern medicine does. By understanding the client and their needs, and addressing issues in a holistic way, they receive a totally individualised, comprehensive an inclusive treatment that has proven to be hugely beneficial for many, and in some cases life changing.
it is true that my treatments are a bit longer than most reflexologists, spend time taking a comprehensive medical history and I always adapt treatments as things change. I try to go the extra mile, whether that is suggesting self-help techniques or researching latest developments, all to meet clients needs as much as possible. The little extras during the treatments, such as hot flannels, are things I would like if I were the client. I can do this because I am my own boss and I want to help people as much as I can.
I think perhaps all of these things combined are why I love what I do and is why my clients feel so positive about Sole Therapy Reflexology.
I'm very excited to announce that after completing my Reflexology Lymph Drainage (RLD) training in February and the subsequent practical work that I am now a fully qualified and registered RLD practitioner. RLD can be helpful for many clients, from those with auto-immune issues to digestive problems. As well as those suffering from lymphoedema, the client base for whom it was originally devised.
Please visit my the treatments section to find out more about this innovative, therapeutic technique, and how it may help you. Below is the evidence for its use with lymphoedema.
29/11/2017 0 Comments
Interesting research into Alzheimer's disease and the impact of stress on cells. We know that stress has a huge impact on our health and well-being, being a factor in over 70% of all diseases. This research sheds light on the impact it can have on a cellular level and progression of a devastating disease. See the link below.
With the nights drawing in and the weather changing it is a good time to think of helping boost our immune system. Taking time out to reduce the impact of stress the body is under can help and reflexology is an ideal way to do this. There are other things we can do also as we all know, such as eating well etc. How about trying this immune booster too. Helping to boost the immune system from the inside out with the use of ginger and lemon.
Ginger Shot Recipe
An interesting presentation at 'The Therapists' Network Annual Conference - Holistic Therapy Works' by Kate Munden, on how we process stress. It seems that trauma release exercises (TRE), that allow the body to 'shake' can be an effective way to aid recovery in those with post traumatic stress or have experienced stressful situations. TRE allows a way for the body to release the stress hormones produced at times of high stress, with shaking being found as a way to discharge the trauma effects.
Kate showed how we all have natural oscillation, and this can be felt by trying to stand completely still with your feet together. Something I wasn't aware off! Here is an interesting article that was in the press recently regarding shaking.
I am a mum of 2 young boys and prior to becoming a reflexologist I worked within health and education. I am a former Midwife and have also worked in adult education and schools with children with additional needs. As a Midwife, I became frustrated with hospital policies, time limits and staffing, all of which prevented me from being able to give the quality of care and time that I wished to give to families at this precious time in their lives. Working with children and adults in a variety of roles, has helped develop my knowledge and skills in working with people from all walks of life.