This week’s blog, about kinesiology – the study of the body’s movements, which often includes a technique called muscle testing, was written for us by kinesiology expert and founder of Balanced Wellness clinic, Claire Snowdon-Darling.
Keep reading to find out what is kinesiology, how it works, and how this great all-round alternative therapy can help heal physical and emotional issues.
Intro to kinesiology
Kinesiology was discovered by Dr. George Goodheart in the 1960s. He was the first to identify that there were muscles that were not ‘locking’ or working, which meant other muscles became painful and overused. Where traditional therapies focus on the painful muscle, kinesiology identifies the root cause of the problem – the muscles that are not functioning and uses techniques to turn those muscles on.
What is kinesiology?
Kinesiology uses the theory of muscle testing (technique used to assess the strength of a muscle or group of muscles in the body) to discover the underlying causes contributing to various health issues. The causes are usually rooted in one or more of what we call the four “realms” or “The BEES”, which are:
Biochemical – This can include food we are intolerant to, chemical toxicity such as household chemicals, pesticides or pollution, and also vitamins and minerals we are depleted in.
Emotional – These can be old trauma or anxieties that are causing issues in our day-to-day life and creating physical symptoms.
Structural – Our posture affects our health, and making sure our entire system is working properly eliminates many symptoms. For example, when we are stressed, we can have a malfunctioning ileo-cecal valve (a valve that links the small intestine and large intestine), which structurally interferes with digestion.
How does a kinesiologist work?
Once the root cause is identified, we support you with solutions that include kinesiology techniques to strengthen the muscles, nutritional recommendations, structural work, energy reflexes and emotional coaching to guide you back to your full health potential.
Nutritionally – because of today’s unnatural farming methods and our tendency to eat processed and microwaved foods – most people in the UK are deficient in vital nutrients. During an appointment, it is likely that you will be recommended a programme of supplements to aid your recovery.
A skilled kinesiologist uses a toolbox of techniques, because we work with all of the four “realms”. This allows us to offer a broader range of support and to fully support you on your health journey.
How many sessions will I need?
The number of kinesiology sessions varies on the person, their problems and how well they follow any changes recommended to their diet and lifestyle. Generally, people feel a significant improvement within their first one to three appointments. Once optimum health has been attained, regular appointments keep the body balanced and prevent further ill health.
What is Functional Kinesiology and how is it different?
There are many different types of kinesiology. Functional kinesiology takes kinesiology a little further; it was created as a reaction to the global health crisis we are facing.
In functional kinesiology we focus on six pillars of health:
Blood sugars stability
Adrenal and thyroid stress
The digestive system and gut microbiome
The immune system
About the contributor:
Claire is an expert in menopause, digestion and emotional transformation and is the visionary founder of Balanced Wellness, where she has worked with thousands of clients since 2007. Through this work, she has developed a series of protocols which have been accredited as a new therapy and are taught through The College Of Functional Kinesiology, of which she is the Head. This training focuses on the six pillars of health: blood sugars, stress, hormones, digestion, immune and emotional transformation. She is also the co-host of the popular podcast Consciously Healthy.
Do you ever wake up feeling as if you never slept at all and have very little energy? Keep reading for some handy tips to help boost your energy without hitting the caffeine.
Be sure to eat at regular times
The food you eat can have a huge effect on your energy, as can the portion sizes and when the time that you consume them.
If you start to flag during the day, it could be because, unlike your muscles, the brain doesn’t have the ability to store up the energy it needs. Instead, it relies on a steady supply of oxygen and energy (glucose), which is delivered through the blood.
To regulate the amount of energy reaching your brain (too much and you might feel more tired, since the brain will shut down to try and process it), try eating smaller meals and snacks to help boost your energy throughout the day.
A well-balanced meal should keep your energy levels up for about four hours. In between, try some energy-boosting snacks to keep your body and brain ticking over. Great foods to get you through the mid-afternoon slump include bananas, nuts, oatmeal and dark chocolate. Yes, dark chocolate!
Get up and move about
Move your body! Get your blood circulating around your body with some simple exercise – as counter-intuitive as it might sound, it can really boost your energy. This doesn’t necessarily mean sporting some Lycra and heading to the gym; a short 10-minute walk can be just as effective if you can keep up a fairly brisk pace.
Exercise circulates oxygen around the body for a welcome energy boost and helps you sleep more soundly – uplifting your mood and improving your overall wellbeing. What’s more, the fresh air will help you to feel more alive and alert, too.
Tired? Could you be dehydrated? It can be easy to forget to top up your body’s fluid levels when you’re busy but if you’re beginning to flag it could be time to quench your thirst.
When the body isn’t getting enough water, it slows down blood circulation, limiting the flow of oxygen and nutrients to the brain. In mild dehydration, you might feel more tired and listless, but in extreme cases of dehydration, after only a short period of two hours, researchers in the U.S. reported a decline in brain function, including the reduced ability to perform complex problem-solving and carry out tasks that require a lot of attention.
Remembering to drink plenty of water can help fight feelings of fatigue and reduced mental (and physical) capacity.
Try to drink a glass first thing in the morning as it will stimulate the organs and systems in the body to wake up – this is a great way to start the day.
If water’s not your thing, then you can also benefit from other drinks, such as green tea or fruit tea, and eating foods with a high water content such as fruit and vegetables, eggs and fish.
There’s a lot of talk about gratitude these days but did you know that it can actually help boost your energy?
Some studies have seen a correlation between being grateful and increased productivity, and other findings include better sleep. What is for sure is that gratitude increases dopamine in the brain, which is also known as the “motivation molecule”. This neurotransmitter is implicated in learning and motivation, while low dopamine levels are associated with low-energy diseases such as depression.
What does this mean? Consciously focusing on gratitude will not only boost the chemicals linked to higher energy levels but will put you in a more positive frame of mind, boost the energy you have available and make all those mountainous tasks seem more like molehills.
Tap into your body’s energy system
If you’ve been following our posts on energy medicine, you’ll be beginning to understand that the body has a system of energy pathways that run like rivers throughout the entire system. You can use these pathways to increase (or decrease) energy as required.
The queen of energy medicine is Donna Eden, a leading figure in the field and someone whose radiant smile never fails to energise. Donna is an author, lecturer and one of the foremost experts on the subject of the human energy system. Try this quick energy hack on YouTube and see if it doesn’t give you an immediate energy boost – in under a minute!
Get some daylight
If you’re feeling sleepy, you might benefit from some extra sunlight. A lack of sunlight makes your brain produce more of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Getting more natural daylight will lift your mood and give you a much-needed energy burst (thanks to increased vitamin D, known to boost energy and muscle efficiency). So let as much light into your home or office as possible, and get outside and expose yourself to that wonderful, free mood-busting energy source in the sky!
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Everybody can suffer from fatigue from time to time but please remember to consult your GP if you suffer from low energy for a sustained length of time, which has no obvious cause such as late nights; your medical practitioner will be able to rule out any underlying health issues or even food intolerances that could be affecting your energy levels.
Are you the eternal optimist or does happiness seem to elude you? If the latter is the case, then all is not lost because happiness can be cultivated! In fact, often people who seem happy have made a conscious choice between being uplifted or feeling low – and if you practise this for long enough, it will become less of a conscious choice and more of a habit.
Keep reading for some quick tips to help you choose happiness.
Life is apt to throw us a curve ball every so often: a challenge, an emotional upheaval, a crisis – it’s just part of being alive. Much of what happens in the outside world is beyond our control and it can be hard to let go and allow things to happen organically. However, the more you push against something that’s out of your hands, the more exhausted and frustrated you’ll feel.
Try a few deeper breaths to calm your mind, then accept that you can’t change a thing; also accept the way you respond to any given situation (see the tip on self-acceptance below).
You don’t have to like whatever trials have come your way, but instead of trying to wrestle with life, channel your energy into finding ways to make the best out of whatever situation you find yourself in – you’ll feel much happier for it.
Smiling makes you feel happier, lowers your stress levels, lifts your mood and can even act as a natural pain reliever. If that’s not enough, it also reverberates with the people you meet, making you more attractive to others. What better reason to crack a smile?
If you find it difficult to smile right now, remember a funny moment: a film that made you split your sides with laughter; something funny a child said; when a friend did something zany. If you look hard enough, you can always find something to make you smile, such as the sight of a bird in flight or even a kindly nod from a stranger.
Trying to accept yourself is to play the long game. Start by acknowledging your flaws and weaknesses, remembering that everybody has them. Balance out these perceived flaws with an acknowledgement of the strengths you do possess.
If you’ve made mistakes (as everybody has), don’t hold on to those mistakes and use them to punish yourself. If it’s difficult to let them go, start by forgiving yourself for the inconsequential things – such as missing the bus or putting your proverbial foot in your mouth and unwittingly causing offence – and eventually you’ll start forgiving any bigger mistakes you may have made.
If you could be your own best friend, would you condemn them for a mistake or remind them that one mistake doesn’t cancel out all the wonderful things about them and tell them to be a little kinder to themselves?
You could also try talking to other people about mistakes they’ve made – and what they’ve learned from those mistakes; after all, a mistake is an opportunity to learn something new.
4. Learn to recognise what happiness FEELS like
Feelings of happiness can come and go in a few fleeting moments, and we can sometimes discount those happy moments because of their brevity.
It’s all too easy not to recognise what happiness is when you’re in the moment, perhaps because you’re too busy worrying about a future moment when that happiness will fade away again.
If you can learn to recognise what happiness feels physically – such as a warm feeling, a broad smile, butterflies in your stomach – then it will help you to cherish the happy times in the moments that they happen. It will also help you recall happy memories more vividly in the future, helping you to benefit from them over and over again.
5. Do something that makes you feel better
Once you’ve identified what happiness feels like in your body, find out what makes you feel happy and do more of it. This could be making time for a warm bath, carving out some time to do some journaling or something creative like knitting, going for a walk in the park or having a chat with someone who always makes you feel better.
You could also try doing something nice for somebody else. This could be something simple, like bringing someone a cup of tea. Research has shown that altruism actually fires up the part of the brain that processes food and sex – so when you give something to someone else, you end up feeling happier yourself; what’s more, that feeling of generosity can spread out to others in a domino effect.
What makes you feel happy?
Sometimes we look for happiness on the outside without realising that it’s internal; and if happiness is internal, then we have greater control over it. It’s a matter of deciding to be happy even when our external environment might not support it. Deciding to be happy is to weave together all those moments of happiness and use them, rather like putting coal into a steam engine, to fuel your present moment and help you power through life.
Use the tips above to help cultivate happiness.
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As part of our energy medicine series, today’s post covers a method of psychological trauma therapy that blends conventional Western psychology with Eastern approaches to health and wellbeing: energy psychology.
In the first part of the series we talked about the body’s energy system: how each of us has a system of energy pathways which transfer and regulate vital energy flow throughout the human body, and how management of this energy (through various means) can support our wellbeing.
Today’s post was written by psychotherapist and energy psychology expert Sandra Figgess of MEET in Oxford, a charity offering trauma-focused therapy to local residents.
Read part 2 to find out what energy psychology is, how it can be effective in helping to heal both physical and emotional pain, and how aspects of this incredible therapy can be used as a self-care tool.
What is energy psychology?
Energy Psychology is a branch of Energy Medicine which brings together established Western understanding of how our minds works with an understanding of how energy moves in the body – which has been recognised for thousands of years in the East.
A brief history…
Energy Psychology began with a spontaneous experiment that took place in California in 1979 when a psychologist called Roger Callahan was struggling to help a patient, Mary, who had a very severe water phobia and experienced anxious feelings in her stomach when anywhere near water. Callahan had become interested in aspects of Chinese medicine and had been learning about the system of energy-carrying pathways in the body, known as meridians, which form the basis of acupuncture. One day he decided to see what would happen if Mary tapped a point just under her eye, which is one end of the stomach meridian. To his amazement Mary leapt up and ran towards the swimming pool shouting, “It’s gone!” The anxious feeling in her stomach had completely gone and the long-standing water phobia never returned.
Callahan’s other patients did not respond as dramatically to tapping a single meridian point, but he carefully built up a way to discern which meridian points needed to be tapped with each client and developed some set tapping sequences to overcome common problems. He called this treatment method Thought Field Therapy (TFT).
In order to establish the sequences of tapping points, Callahan relied on a technique known as muscle testing, a diagnostic method used in alternative medicine, based on the strength or weakness of the muscles, which is known as Applied Kinesiology. (There is some evidence for the efficacy of applied kinesiology: Anne Jensen recently completed a doctorate in the University of Oxford department for Evidence Based Medicine that demonstrated the accuracy and precision of manual muscle testing.)
Callahan taught his method widely, and one of his students suggested a simpler form of meridian tapping, which did not require muscle testing but simply tapped on the same meridian sequence. This became known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) or just “Tapping” and is very widely used both as a self-help technique and as a therapy method.
There are numerous YouTube videos which teach the use of Tapping, including this brief introductory clip from EFT Founding Master, Judy Byrnes.
How does energy psychology work?
Tapping on meridians is the best known form of energy psychology, and the method that lends itself most easily to random controlled trials to demonstrate its efficacy; however, there are a great many other ways of working psychologically with the body’s energy systems. These include methods that work with the chakras – or energy centres – to release disturbed energies that are associated with past traumatic events, and methods that work primarily with focused intention.
Typically, when working with the chakras, the therapist and client will talk and/or use muscle testing to identify a significant experience from the past which may be replaying in the present, and find a short form of words to encapsulate the connection between the two.
For example, “Because of all the times my father shouted at me when I made mistakes, I am afraid to learn new things.”
The client will then hold one hand still on the chakra that holds the energy of the statement most strongly, while moving the other hand down through the chakras from crown to root, repeating this statement on each chakra. The therapist will also move down his/her own body at the same time. During this process, there may be signs of energetic release through yawning, sighing or tears. There is often a sense of calm at the end of the process, but new insights, memories and associations can also come up, and the client can move through a variety of emotions such as anger, sadness, shame. During therapy, many associations and links between past and present can be released in this way.
Is it effective?
Tapping (including both TFT and EFT ) now has a substantial evidence base which demonstrates the effectiveness of these methods in providing relief from pain, anxiety, depression, food cravings, Trauma and PTSD. Over 200 review articles, research studies and meta-analyses have been published in mainstream professional, peer-reviewed journals – and this includes 65 randomised controlled trials. Two trials show that EFT lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol in the blood, and other positive physiological effects of tapping have also been documented.
Energy Psychology methods, including the use of muscle testing, have been integrated into the practices of many conventionally qualified psychotherapists and counsellors. This movement is supported by the Energy Psychotherapy Network, which encourages mental health professionals to integrate these powerful interventions into their existing psychotherapy practice. Bringing together the insights of Western psychology with the deep healing power of the body’s energy system allows for the healing of deep wounds, including those from experiences that are preverbal, even in the womb and in the ancestral line.
About the contributor
Sandra Figgess read Chemistry at St Hilda’s Oxford and later studied Theology before completing an MSc in Gestalt Psychotherapy at Metanoia in 2004. She has set up a small charity at the Quaker Meeting House in Oxford, which offers the trauma-focused therapies EMDR and Energy Psychotherapy to clients on low incomes who live in Oxfordshire.
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The term energy medicine is growing in popularity and credibility, with celebrities and scientists alike beginning to take the phenomenon more seriously.
Today’s blog tackles the vast subject of energy medicine: its potential for promoting wellbeing, how it works, and some of the techniques that are in use around the world today.
Keep reading to find out more about this incredible branch of complementary healthcare and whether it could increase your wellbeing.
Energy and the human body
Before we talk about energy medicine, let’s talk about the energy in our body. The body needs energy in order to operate – called bioelectricity. Often, when we spare a thought for how our body works, we think about the heart pumping blood and oxygen around, keeping us alive, but we fail to remember the role that energy plays in the amazing symphony of life that is the human body.
What is the heart rhythm? It’s an electrical current. Chemical interplay within the cells of the heart creates a positive charge; a current which discharges down the nerves and causes the muscles to contract, creating our heartbeat.
Likewise, the digestive system is powered by energy. The food we eat creates a chemical reaction which produces an electrical charge. What are calories? Calories are a unit of energy!
Energy means everything to brain function, too, since the brain’s primary job is to process and transmit information through electrical signals. In fact, the brain uses huge amount of energy, consuming about 20% – a fifth – of the entire body’s energy resources.
Hearing, for example, consumes a great deal of energy. As part of our survival mechanism, any delay in auditory processing could mean life or death – so the brain works hard to process electrical signals speedily and with the utmost precision, allowing you to take the appropriate action should there be a threat nearby.
Even at rest, the brain continues to process information, the neurons in constant communication. It’s our internal, ever-watchful sentry system.
In his book The Genie In Your Genes: Epigenetic Medicine And The New Biology Of Intention, Dawson Church PhD, leading-edge scientist and award-winning author, says:
“A normal cell has an electrical potential of about 90 millivolts. An inflamed cell has a potential of about 120 millivolts, and a cell in a state of degeneration may drop to 30 millivolts. By entraining the electrical fields of the cells within its range to the magnetic pulses emitted by the PMS machine, cells can be brought back into a healthy range.”
What is energy medicine?
Since energy plays such a huge role in the healthy functioning of the human body, it makes sense that energy medicine is becoming a popular adjunct to traditional Western medicine.
Practitioners of energy medicine believe that our health and wellbeing is linked to the flow of energy within our bodies. The ‘New-Age’ tool works with the body’s natural energies and is thought to hold the potential not only to treat ill health but also to prevent it – although science is yet to prove this indisputably.
The term ‘energy medicine’ is a broad description for alternative therapies such as energy psychology, Reiki, reflexology, EFT (also known as tapping), acupuncture and acupressure, and vibrational healing methods such as sound healing, crystal healing.
The ancient arts of yoga and qi gong also fall under this term, as they are rooted in the belief that energy alignment can heal the body, and their movements are designed to promote this.
How does it work?
There is growing evidence that a system of channels and vortices exist within the body which serve to transport and regulate the energy flow around our system. These have been documented for thousands of years within traditional Chinese medicine; the idea is that these channels can be accessed and the energies manipulated for the benefit of our health and wellbeing.
Many people have heard of the chakras: these are vortices of energy which form part of this network of energy. There are also meridians, which are channels through which energy flows.
Complementary therapies such as acupuncture and acupressure work on the theory that these energy flows in the body, when unimpeded, promote good health. Reiki, a Japanese healing technique, EFT etc. also work on this principle.
Western science is finally beginning to indicate that these subtle energy channels do, indeed, exist. They have now been identified and termed the ‘primo vascular system’, and research into the meridians, their functions and the validity of energy medicine continues.
Is there any proof?
Research into the efficacy of energy medicine is in its nascent stages, relatively speaking; however, there is increasing evidence around its benefits.
Only recently, a U.S. study by the Indiana University School of Medicine, in collaboration with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, showed that addressing the energy levels within the nerve fibres of people suffering from spinal cord injury could boost regeneration and functional recovery – this could have a profound impact on patients who suffer spinal cord injury in the future.
A scientific paper published in 2010 found that biofield therapies, as energy medicine is also known as, showed strong evidence for reducing pain intensity in pain populations and moderate evidence for decreasing negative behavioural symptoms in dementia, as well as decreasing anxiety in hospitalised populations and also, potentially, in cardiovascular patients.
You can find lots of anecdotal evidence, as well as scientific papers on the subject of energy medicine on the internet.
We often talk of having low or no energy, feeling good or bad vibes, and of feeling “drained” (of energy).
The English language often references energy, perhaps as a reflection of our innate but long-forgotten knowledge of the significance of energy in supporting good health.
Western and Eastern views of the human body and models of healing have historically been poles apart. Now, it seems, that the chasm is beginning to close.
While we’re used to taking care of aspects of our health such as our heart and cardiovascular system; perhaps it’s time to spare a thought for the health of our energy system?
Energy medicine is a huge subject and this article only skims the surface. Donna Eden is a leading authority on energy medicine; along with her spouse, David Feinstein, PhD – a clinical psychologist – she has designed world-leading courses and a wealth of resources on the subject of energy medicine. You can find out more about the subject at her website.
Look out for more blogs in the coming weeks on energy medicine and the different modalities you could use alongside your regular healthcare practices and support your health.
Note: this is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Do refer to your GP if you have any health concerns, and seek the advice of a qualified health professional before trying any new treatments and/or if you have any doubts.
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Today we talk burnout and how to beat it with mental health specialist Hilda Kalap. Carry on reading for tips on how to manage stress, handle workplace pressures, and the value of self-care.
Hilda Kalap is a certified mental health awareness trainer – amongst other things, including being an energy healing therapist and stress reduction practitioner.
She has been self-employed for five years and works as a mental health specialist within workforce development. She also runs a health and wellbeing practice, which offers tailored coaching and wellbeing services in person and online.
Tell us about yourself?
I have been self-employed for five years and run a health and wellbeing practice. During this time my expertise has transformed the lives of hundreds of clients.
My qualifications are broad as I am curious, and love learning and integrating the different modalities that I have studied. These include being a certified mental health awareness trainer and first aider working with schools, corporates and other organisations.
I am also a mindfulness-based stress reduction practitioner, having trained in the renowned eight-week course developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn. This has been used worldwide in a variety of venues, including in hospitals, the workplace and with veterans.
I trained for more than three years in energy healing and completed 100 case sessions in my final year. I also practise aromatherapy, sound healing and personal development coaching, as well as being a spiritual teacher.
What is burnout?
Burnout is when stress (which is something we are only supposed to have in our bodies for a short period of time to deal with an emergency) becomes chronic.
The symptoms include:
Feeling tired, drained and exhausted
Having problems sleeping
Losing your appetite
Resorting to caffeine to keep going
Generally feeling negative and like the joy has been taken out of life.
What are the overall effects of stress and what can we do about it?
Stress can be a killer and lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer and inflammation in the body. The main point is to prioritise your self-care, and that means valuing yourself as a human being and not thinking of yourself as a machine.
Talk about Covid-19 and burnout…
We are living in a time when humanity is undergoing its biggest transformation ever, collectively. We can see how interconnected we all are as we face the challenges of this pandemic together. Humans need to support and collaborate with each other in order to get through this period.
The pandemic only started a few months ago, so I am not sure on the burnout statistics as yet. Time will tell. However, a Gallup study from 2018 of around 7,500 full time workers found that 23% were often in “burnout mode”. About 44% “sometimes” entered a burnout mode.
Many more people are suffering from a combination of pressures at the moment – financially, because of redundancy or because furlough schemes are set to end, health-wise, or due to the additional care responsibilities for children at home and for elderly relatives.
But remember that change is part of life. And change can be a positive thing – so focus on the positive aspects of the changes you are going through.
How to beat burnout
Retain a sense of humour, always.
Remember that when there is a seeming problem, there is always an answer. Look within you and ask for the answer, and you will be shown it.
Ask for support to complete your work and don’t feel guilty or embarrassed to seek it.
Keep healthy boundaries: leave work when you say you will and don’t stay a minute longer!
Reduce the time spent looking at social media and mainstream media to once a day.
Start a daily gratitude diary listing 10 things you are grateful for.
Learn to live in the present moment – practise mindfulness.
Prioritise your self-care. Get to bed early, rest, and eat healthily with plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables in your diet, supported by brown rice or whole-wheat couscous. Keep off junk food!
Have frequent rest breaks – walk around or do something away from your computer for about 10 minutes every hour.
Get plenty of sleep and stay off the computer/phone at least an hour before bedtime.
Wind down with a nice bath and meditation.
Spend time outdoors in the fresh air to build your immunity.
Connect with the uplifting energy of nature.
Self-care requires self-esteem. So, how can people build their self-confidence?
Remember that every human being is born perfect as they are. This is an inalienable fact.
We are all unique, with gifts we have been given to use for the highest good on this planet.
We are all walking miracles – how were humans created? No one knows. It is one of life’s greatest mysteries, and the human body, mind and spirit are the greatest creations you can imagine. Keep this in your thoughts when you look in the mirror, and say to yourself daily, ‘I am amazing, I am a miracle’. Because you are!
Where does authentic self-expression come into it?
When you express yourself you feel heard, which is important. Women, especially in the past, were often not allowed to express their opinions and were silenced.
When we don’t express what’s in our hearts it can lead to all sorts of health issues physically, mentally and emotionally. We may find our throats feel blocked, for instance, and we are prone to more colds, coughs and lung problems.
The power of expressing yourself authentically is the reverse: you are at ease and in alignment with your values. You move from fear and protection mode to love and growth mode. You become more relaxed and rise in confidence.
You can express yourself authentically while maintaining gentleness and compassion for someone else’s viewpoint; there is no need for undermining or aggressive language. Being calm and assertive is the key. You feel much better that you’ve expressed what you feel, even if it’s not the popular, majority view.
The main thing to remember is that you don’t need anyone else’s approval – ever. If you practise love for yourself that is the key.
How do we maintain wellbeing in the workplace?
Managers need to talk openly about their own mental health struggles to create an environment of openness and trust with their employees. That way people feel listened to and can share what they are going through earlier, so preventative actions to support their wellbeing can be given sooner.
Can you offer advice for anyone suffering depression?
Stay in the present moment.
Go out and get fresh air in nature if you feel able to.
If that’s not possible then simply gazing at a plant, spending time with an animal, listening to music or being with people that uplift you will help.
Take one day at a time and visualise yourself getting better.
3 Final teachings
Go with what your heart and not your mind tells you when it comes to making decisions – trust your instinct.
Know that you always have a choice and that sometimes a redundancy can be a blessing in disguise, because something far better will come along.
Trust that the Higher Power of the Universe always supporting you. You are never alone. Learn to trust the signals and messages you are being given to guide you onto the right path to take. The path that will lead you to your great joy and fulfilment.
Nutritionist Helen Darracott talks digestive health, ‘rabbit food’, and how we can improve the way we treat – and think about – our gut.
Keep reading to find out how our diet helps our body to repair and maintain itself, plus simple things we can do to help our digestive system do its job.
Best thing about being a nutritionist?
What I really love is applying scientific knowledge and information to help support various health problems in order to help people feel better and to provide solutions in an easy to understand (and implement) way. I’ve had health issues myself and have focussed on making the best food and lifestyle choices I can to help with this. Diet is not the answer to everything but considering what we put into our body can really make a difference to how you feel.
One thing everyone should know about nutrition?
Nutrition is not about only eating ‘rabbit food’! Good nutrition is not only about restriction, it is about variety, taste and enjoyment. Whichever dietary pattern you choose – vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or omnivorous – food should be a source of pleasure, an enriching experience, literally and figuratively.
We have to balance out what we eat.
There are certainly foods that we should eat more of and those that we should eat much less of, but there should be place for everything, in the right proportion, in a balanced and healthy eating pattern.
I also think it’s important for people who work in the nutritional field to remember that “people eat food not nutrients” and we need to demystify what nutrition means and talk about it in a practical and accessible way.
I can remember talking to one of my clients about increasing the amount of protein she was including in her meals, which she agreed to do – only she hadn’t fully understood what I meant by protein and her diet didn’t change in that respect at all – a key lesson learned!
Why does diet matter so much?
So much about diet is focussed on its effect on weight, particularly with regard to becoming overweight or obese. Of course this is important, but we need to think more holistically about what our diet is for.
Diet is not only about energy, but putting the right food in to support growth and development, and to enable repair and maintenance.
The body is constantly adapting to what we subject it to – movement, exercise, the environment we live in and just the daily processes of life. We need to ensure that we provide the right raw materials to keep us in the best health.
A whole range of different nutrients are required to support the different body systems. For example, if we consider our immune system, (and we’ve certainly been hearing more about that in the last few months with the COVID 19 pandemic), this is our personal defence mechanism against pathogens – and it needs to be kept in the best condition, requiring, amongst others Vitamins A, C D, and E, along with minerals such as zinc and selenium and a correct balance of essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and 6) to enable it to function correctly. Other body systems will require a range of different nutrients for optimal functioning.
It’s not just the health of our bodies either, good nutrition is essential for mental health too, we used to consider the body and mind separately but they are two parts of the whole – so we need to consider how we nurture our brain and neurological functions too. Good quality protein sources are key to supply the essential amino acids, tyrosine, tryptophan and choline that are required for production of the neuro transmitters dopamine, adrenaline, noradrenaline, serotonin and acetylcholine, these chemical messengers are used for communication throughout the body but we also require the B group of vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, iron and magnesium, and the essential fatty acids to enable neurotransmission to occur in the correct way.
Unfortunately, a lot of these essential nutrients can be in short supply or absent from many diets that are heavily reliant upon highly processed foods and fast foods. There can be a place for these foods occasionally as long as the overall dietary pattern supplies the nutrients needed in sufficient quantities.
What are the effects of having a bad diet?
A bad diet can influence our health negatively in many ways. We already understand the link between high levels of saturated and trans fats (those produced via various manufacturing processes and through cooking processes such as frying), and heart disease and stroke; we also know that an excess of calories leads to weight gain, being overweight and obesity, and that these conditions are implicated in a range of chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Research continues to provide information as to the effect of over- or under-consumption of various nutrients on different disease states and health in general.
Why do you think food allergies are on the rise?
This is a complicated one! No one knows for sure, and there is a lot of research on this topic and great debate, too. There may be a genetic pre-disposition to allergy, and certain types do appear to be common within families, but this does not account for all cases of allergy, or explain the increase in cases over the last few years.
One well-known theory is that we are now too ‘clean’ – the so-called ‘hygiene hypothesis’.
The suggestion is that by reducing exposure to bacteria, especially in early life, by use of anti-bacterial cleaning agents etc., affects the development of the immune system as it is not ‘challenged’ to allow it to build a natural response. This can then lead to an over-reaction to otherwise harmless agents, including the proteins found in certain foods.
It’s interesting to note that levels of allergy in the developing world are currently low, with proponents of the hygiene hypothesis suggesting that this is due to ongoing exposure to bacteria and parasites, especially as the immune system is developing in the early years.
More recent discussion surrounds the role of the gut microbiota, not just with regard to allergy, but also general health.
The majority of the human immune system can be found in the gut, and the resident gut microbiota population communicates and helps shape immune integrity and action, so having a balanced gut population can really help with our overall health and fitness.
It may follow then, that having an unbalanced gut population, often referred to as dysbiosis, can affect the way certain individuals react to food allergens, and set up the allergic response that causes so much distress and, in some cases, severe consequences.
How do we ensure that our gut microbiota is balanced?
A diet with lots of fruit, vegetables and fibre from unrefined cereals! As well as these foods, there is some evidence that certain additives e.g. emulsifiers, in processed foods can affect the microbiota, so a diet with fewer processed foods may be of benefit.
Why is junk food so tempting?
I met someone last year who referred to junk food as ‘drug food’ as it appears to have the same effect on our brains that some controlled drugs have – the most well-known being sugar, which appears to fire the same reward centres in our brain as cocaine.
Sugar appears to fire the same reward centres in our brain as cocaine.
On a more basic note, the combination of flavours is designed to be recognised by the different taste receptors in our mouth (sweet, salty, bitter, sour and umami) so no one taste bud is overwhelmed and we don’t experience flavour fatigue, and we excite the different flavour receptors in each mouthful.
The fat content adds a particular ‘mouth feel’ to the food, which we respond to, both in the mouth and via neurosensory pathways – and it can be responsible for making other flavours in foods more intense or to delay the release of the flavours, which all adds to the enjoyment of the food.
In addition to this, we may, as a result of evolutionary forces, have an innate preference for foods high in fat (preservation against famine) and for sweet foods (energy), making the combinations we find in fast foods so irresistible.
Have we fallen out of love with good food?
I think that we have probably lost perspective of what a healthy and balanced eating pattern should be, one in which fast food is an occasional treat and not first choice at meal times.
This is a complex area, and it can’t just be considered as a matter of taste preference (despite everything mentioned in the question above).
In the UK, we have now had two generations denied the chance to develop basic cooking skills following removal of Home Economics from the school curriculum in 1988, and if these skills weren’t learnt in the home, a life skills gap emerges.
Removal of Home Economics from the school curriculum occurred against a backdrop of increased numbers of women working, expansion of domestic ownership and use of freezers and microwaves, and hence the use of ready meals and other convenience options such as fast food and takeaways.
Also we have to consider other demographic and socio-economic information; for example, the increase in single households, whether that be the never-marrieds, as a result of divorce or the increasing ageing population, may have influenced the increased use of fast food as it is convenient, cheap and comes in single-serve portions. Fast food can be seen as a cheap way to feed the family if on a limited budget – fruit and vegetables, and good quality protein can appear quite expensive in comparison – and then there is the time to procure, prepare and cook foods, alongside the requirement for appropriate cooking and eating facilities. Even when people have the facilities, resources and knowledge to choose the best nutritious food, it can be a matter of perceived time scarcity, that can make people turn to fast food.
It has been interesting to see a return to more meals prepared from scratch during the recent lockdown.
Whether this continues once the majority of the nation returns to pre-COVID working patterns, is yet to be determined.
What changes can we make to improve our diet?
Make sure you are getting at least the recommended ‘five a day’ of fruit and vegetables – more if possible! This isn’t as hard as it seems when you look at what the portion size is – a single apple, pear or orange, a couple of plums or apricots, or three tablespoons of vegetables; plus, you can include dried fruit, a small glass (150ml) of fruit juice and also one portion of pulses or lentils.
The phrase ‘eat the rainbow’ is good guidance.
Different coloured fruits and vegetables contain different nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and also different phytonutrients – such as flavonoids, carotenoids and phyto-oestrogens – which we believe have different properties beneficial to our health, such as acting as dietary anti-oxidants, acting in tandem with hormones or having anti-bacterial/viral effects.
Along with the nutrients and phyto nutrients, fruit and vegetables include fibre and water, so make a good choice for snacks as well as an essential part of main meals.
Say something about veggie/vegan diets…
Personally, I don’t follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, but I don’t have a problem with people who choose to. Even though I include animal products within my diet, I balance this out with plenty of plant-based food. I love most vegetables and fruit, and aim to eat in excess of the recommended five a day; and I regularly swap animal protein for plant-based alternatives, including beans and lentils.
It’s important to remember that any dietary pattern can be unhealthy if there is an over-reliance on heavily processed foods, and foods high in fats and sugars.
I would suggest that anyone who is wanting to follow a vegan or vegetarian dietary pattern should take advice from a registered nutritionist to ensure that they will be able to get all essential vitamins and minerals, and sufficient protein. Some people may have trouble obtaining Vitamin B12, iron and Omega 3 fatty acids, particularly on a vegan diet, but with some planning and appropriate supplementation, this shouldn’t be an issue.
There is some evidence that following a balanced plant-based diet has certain health effects, with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, lower blood pressure and reduced risk of certain cancers, but as with any research, it can be quite conflicting, so it’s important to find quality research studies.
How can you teach people to love their gut more?
I think it’s a challenge – the gut and its functions can all too often fall into the ‘unmentionable’ category in polite conversation – unless it’s between a group of nutritionists, who tend to be obsessed with anything gut related!
Hippocrates was said to have stated that “all disease starts in the gut”, and I think it’s a pretty good place to look to when we aren’t feeling quite right.
We know that the majority of our immune system resides in the gut – this is the interface between the external environment and our bodies, and what travels through needs to be thoroughly checked out by our internal defences.
Think of it as one continuous tube: open at the one end via the mouth, and the opposite, literally at the bottom, via the anus.
So, things can start to go wrong if we allow some of the bad stuff to get into our systems via some breach of integrity here, and that’s where a robust gut microbiota population can help.
Again, it comes down to the quality of what we put in. Many plant-based foods contain fibre, which can’t be broken down by our digestive system but provide food for our gut bacteria, keeping it in balance and healthy. It’s not even necessary to know about our microbiota population, but we can certainly start to notice the improvements in both body and mind if we start to eat a little better.
I would encourage people to understand their gut more, and to get it checked out if they get the feeling that things aren’t right.
A lot of people put up with uncomfortable symptoms – bloating, excessive and/or foul-smelling gas, indigestion and heartburn, regular diarrhoea or constipation, either because they think it’s normal or they feel embarrassed about speaking about it. However, such problems are more common than people think and may be rectified by making some simple changes to diet and lifestyle.
Helen Darracott is an independent Nutritionist and Trainer, and also works with Reed Wellbeing delivering their NHS Diabetes Prevention Programme. She is in the process of setting up her own Nutritional Therapy clinic, and hopes to be up and running in a few weeks – helping women over 40 who want to recover their lost energy, maybe lose some of the weight that has crept on, and deal with the changes in hormones that occur at that life stage.
She has spent the last five years working as a lecturer at University College Birmingham, developing and delivering the BSc (Hons) Food and Nutrition Programme. Previously, she worked in licensed retail and hospitality, in both operations and training and development. Helen gained her BSc (Hons) in Human Nutrition at The University of Worcester, where she won a few academic prizes and also completed a Post Graduate Diploma in Diet, Nutrition and Health (including Nutritional Therapy) there. She is a Registered Nutritionist (Nutrition Science) with the Association for Nutrition.
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One thing that distinguishes the Brits apart is often the fact that we talk about the weather. A lot. This year has been no exception, with parts of the UK experiencing a record-breaking heatwave, complete with tropical nights and the mercury hitting the mid-thirties for prolonged periods.
Eat smaller portions of food to help you keep cool. The body produces heat when it breaks down your meals, which also uses more water; help your body by making it easier to digest your food. Do, however, keep eating, even if the heat has zapped your appetite – you need to replace the salt lost through sweating. A good idea is to up your fruit intake, and other foods that contain lots of water.
Try a cooling foot bath with cool water (you can even add some soothing essential/fragrance oils; if you’re using essential oils, please remember to stay safe and follow the instructions, as they can be quite potent!). Rinsing your hands and feet in cool water can also help you feel cool and refreshed, especially just before bed.
If you don’t have the luxury of air conditioning but you do own a fan, try putting a bowl of ice in front of the fan for a refreshing breeze. You can also try this with a cold bottle of water instead of ice.
Turn your hot-water bottle into a cold-water bottle! Cool it in the fridge at bedtime, then slip it under the covers just before bed for a welcome relief prior to sleeping.
We all know that dogs pant when they’re hot, but did you know that humans can use breathwork to keep cool, too? When you inhale through the mouth, the air remains cooler as it’s entering the body than if you breathe through your nose. Try inhaling through your mouth and exhaling through your nose. Do this a few times. Never force the breath, do stop if you feel any discomfort, and do consult a doctor first if you have any medical issues such as a heart or lung condition.
Remember to do whatever feels comfortable for you! Take care of yourselves in the hot weather, look after elderly relatives and neighbours, and keep an eye on pets!
Do you have expertise in breathwork? Know some more tips to help you keep cool? Let us know in the comments section.
Have you ever suffered from stress? Most people go through periods of stress sometimes, when life becomes a little overwhelming; it’s just part living in such a fast-paced, noisy world.
Although some stress is good for you, too much of it can have a devastating impact on your physical and mental wellbeing. In fact, chronic stress is thought to be the underlying factor behind many health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. In addition, mental health disorders that can arise as a result of chronic stress include depression and anxiety, amongst others.
It would be impossible to eliminate all stress from our lives, but there are tools you can use to help alleviate your body’s fight-or-flight stress response, which is triggered automatically when you feel under threat (real or imagined).
Keep reading to find out about some the alternative “tools” you can use to keep your stress levels in check.
It is no secret that music can change your mood. Surprisingly, most of us tend to overlook the powerful effects of sound to help us relax, cheer us up or increase our focus.
Any music will do, but there is a phenomenon called binaural beats, which takes sound therapy to a whole new level. It uses music interspersed with frequency tones to alter the brain’s state and produce different effects, such as reducing anxiety or bringing about a more positive mindset. The results can be immediate and some studies have shown that long-term use can create lasting, positive effects. This can be a very handy tool to have in your armoury against stress. You can find out more about binaural beats here.
Reiki is a Japanese holistic treatment that entails sitting down or standing up while a Reiki practitioner works around you, using the body’s energy systems (namely chakras and meridians – energy pathways in the body which were mapped thousands of years ago by ancient practitioners of Chinese medicine, yoga and Ayurveda) to promote the body’s innate healing ability.
The treatment widely practised today is Usui Reiki, which is rooted in Buddhism and was developed by a Japanese monk called Mikao Usui. It is said to use “universal life force energy”, which is delivered through the practitioner’s palms.
Incidentally, many other complementary therapies and practices exploit this same energy. In Chinese medicine, it is called “chi” or “qi” (note its similarity to the Japanese word “ki” in Reiki). In Indian philosophies, the Sanskrit word “prana” is used.
In the Western world, we often talk about being full of energy, having no energy or picking up on bad “vibes”, without fully understanding that we are referring to the energy field and tapping into a profound part of our human intuitive and healing capabilities.
During a Reiki treatment, the therapist works with their hands slightly above the body or sometimes lightly touching the shoulders, feet or other non-intimate areas – with the client’s permission – to balance out this “life-force energy”.
The premise of Reiki might sound fantastical to a Western-thinking mind; however, people who experience a treatment usually report feeling relaxed and content afterwards, with much-reduced stress levels.
All it takes to enjoy a relaxing Reiki treatment is an open mind. Do your research and find a Reiki practitioner who is trained to Level 2 at the very least.
Lots of people think of yoga as simply stretching exercises and strange poses, and that is true; however, there is much more to yoga than that. The true wonder of yoga has been all but forgotten by the average Westerner, who prefers to focus on the more obvious benefits, such as increased strength and flexibility. But did you know that yoga can also have much wider health benefits?
The foundations of yoga lie in its use of the breath to balance the energy – “prana”. Breath work lies at the heart of yoga, as the breath is the means through which prana circulates around the body.
As you gently stretch your body you are, perhaps unknowingly, increasing the flow of prana; reuniting all the aspects of yourself, mind, body and spirit, by balancing out your energies through the breath. The result of even 20 minutes’ practice regularly can have far-reaching benefits for your overall health, as well as the more immediate effect of making you feel more relaxed and happier.
Remember that if you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress, never wait until it shows up as a chronic health complaint, contact your local GP if you feel unwell. However, Reiki, yoga and sound therapy are just a few of the amazing tools you can use to help increase your sense of wellbeing and reduce stress. Many more are available – for instance, simple breathwork, meditation/mindfulness, colour or crystal therapies, the list goes on.
There is no right or wrong, or one-size-fits-all solution to reducing stress in your life but a wealth of tools are at your disposal which are woefully under-used, given their immense benefits. Simply incorporating one or two holistic, stress-busting tools into your life could be the best gift you ever gave to yourself.
Have you experienced increased wellbeing by using any of these tools? Please let us know using the comments section below.
Can you think of any other wellbeing tools? Could you help someone beat stress?
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