A few words of wisdom from our new massage therapist Mark Adamson.
There has been a lot of really good research on the positive effects of deep, slow breathing. It is the opposite of what we tend to do in our everyday lives, as we run around trying to do too many things in very little time.
When we breathe fast, which tends towards shallow breathing (ie into just the top of your lungs), the sympathetic nervous system is activated. This is the nervous system in charge of our 'fight or flight' reflexes, associated with stress. In the short term this is fine - if we start to cross a road and don't see a car coming then we need a quick 'flight' response to get ourselves out of the way. What is happening in modern life however, is that the stress response is activated for a lot of the time. This leads to long term, chronic stress which effects health in terms of narrowed arteries, higher blood pressure, insomnia, IBS, migraines and a whole host of negative health conditions.
The opposite of this high anxiety state is when the parasympathetic nervous system is in control. This is our 'chilled out' state which allows blood vessels to dilate, blood pressure to come down, good circulation, blood flow to the brain and improved digestion. This is the state we, ideally, would be in most of the time.
In order to achieve this state we need to allow ourselves to breathe slowly and deeply - into the bottom of the lungs. Setting aside a minute or two a few times a day for deeper breathing will help your body recognise this state as a good alternative to the high-stress one. It will give your circulation and hormones a chance to return to balance for optimal health. When your body is functioning at this de-stressed level it allows for healthy cell growth and organ repair meaning less illness and a better immune system. And that's on top of just feeling great!
Five breaths per minute is the amount the research indicates is a good, slow breathing pattern. In order to get it right, you could lie down and put one hand on your chest and one just above your navel. Try to breath in and out from the lower abdomen. This means only the lower hand should move with your body - the hand on your chest should remain still because the upper chest isn't moving at. If it's too slow for you to start with, just try to use some slower breaths and practice making them long and slow as possible and try syncing with the video above.
With practice, you should be able to slow your breathing wherever you are - you don't have to lie down. While you're waiting for the lift, at the photocopier, in a meeting or sitting on the bus. Doing this as many times as you can during your day will have incredible long term health benefits.
I'm always hopelessly optimistic when it comes to this time of year. I know it's dark and cold but I can't help remembering that it's only about three weeks until the shortest day and from then on it gets lighter all the way until mid-June! Of course, conversely, when it gets to June and despite the warmth and light, I find myself thinking how it's all downhill from that point on. The Chinese idea of Yin and Yang fits very well with that - in the middle of the lightest point you have the beginning of the dark and in the depths of darkness you have a spark of light.
Christmas began life as a pagan mid-winter festival where people would go out into the woods and bring back evergreen plants, like holly and ivy, in order to 'welcome the green' into their houses and also light candles to bring in the light during these darkest of days and longest of nights. It helped people to remember that Spring was on it's way and that a new year would soon be beginning.
We bring light into our lives at this time of year in so many ways - on our Christmas trees, in fairy lights and shiny baubles as well as sparkly jumpers. Nothing makes me happier than to be hurrying home on a dark, cold night than to see all the lights in people's windows making me think of warmth, friends and mulled wine!
Unfortunately, Christmas also seems to be a time for stress and over-consumption, in terms of buying gifts as well as food & drink. We have a set number of days to relax and those days are often filled with panicked shopping followed by enforced socialising (am thinking of office parties and difficult relatives). Our patients tell us of the long journeys and endless meals they have to undertake at this time of year in order to keep everyone happy and it can mean that they end up exhausted and burnt out. It seems like Christmas is both a holiday and not a holiday at the same time.
So, lessons I have learned from decades of Christmases are: keep warm; try and stay relaxed amongst the madness; don't think you need to buy more than one present per person; don't commit to anything you really don't want to do; take vitamin C & D during the dark months and enjoy the sparkle of the festive madness. Remember everything changes and, before we know it, we'll be back to our beautiful long, light evenings.
The old Chinese Medical texts are always going on about the weather and how it can affect a person's health. Modern medicine does not set much store by this but we can't dispute the effects of, say, the sun in cases of sun burn or sun stroke (we don't see much of those in Scotland) which would be called "invasion of Dry Heat" in Chinese Medicine.
Other 'invasions' come in the form of Damp and Cold which we do know a lot about in this country. Too much Damp causes runny noses and phlegm on the lungs, ie a cough and invasion of Cold brings chills as well as things like Reynauds Syndrome and Chillblains on fingers and toes.
It hasn't got that cold here yet, thank goodness. We're still experiencing the warm but damp climate which seems to have been hanging over us all summer. However, the evenings are definitely more chilly, along with getting darker very suddenly and my plan to keep the heating off until October may have been premature. Chinese Medicine would advise us to keep wrapped up in the mornings and evenings, even though the middle of the day may still be warm. Changes in temperature can confuse our bodies and it's difficult for our blood and skin to regulate our body temperature when the weather is so changeable. We can either have too many layers on or too few, it's so hard to keep up with the variations during the day and the torrential rain showers followed by hot sun.
Try and be aware of how your body is feeling and keep and extra cardie or even a scarf/wrap handy to keep off the chilly winds when they come. Exercise always helps to boost circulation as well so instead of waiting for New Year to get going with an exercise regime, maybe now is a better time to start. You might not want to go out running in the cold and rain but local gyms usually have good exercise classes to suit all levels of fitness and if you're really feeling the cold then they usually have a sauna or steam room as well!
We might not be ready for Winter yet, I'm certainly not, but we can be prepared for Autumn.
All of us Edinburgh residents will know the feeling - the build up of the 'buzz', more people clogging up the pavements, strangers in hats asking for directions, whole hoards of students following a man with a flag held high ... yes, it's the imminent return of the Festival(s). Fringe, International, Art and Book all converge on this city in August and give us a roller-coaster ride of entertainment and frustration.
I have to admit right now that I love it! I love the build up almost more than the Festivals themselves. I know that by the 3rd week in August I've had enough of trying to battle the crowds and buses going three times slower than usual but I also know it's one of the things that makes Edinburgh so special and so exciting.
From a work point of view we get an influx of new patients over the Festival. Dancers with ankle pain, performers with stage fright, actors with exhaustion from late nights, trapeze artists with nerves, visitors with leg pains from all the walking up and down unaccustomed hills. We also get injuries from drunkenness and digestion issues from irregular eating and too much alcohol. I once had a fire eater in with heartburn but we soon realised that his problem came from swallowing too much of the lighter fluid rather than anything systemic!! He went away and changed his technique but acupuncture helped to calm him down and talking helped us work out what was going wrong.
It's definitely an interesting time of year. Some of our massage therapists see the same performers each August because they're a familiar face and are trusted by the artists and actors to do what needs doing, often urgently because a performance looms that very evening.
I personally have seen actors who are working through their own emotional issues on stage - one actor had been raped and had written a play based on her experience. Once she started performing she found it too much to re-live in public and acupuncture helped her cope with what she was attempting to do on a daily basis. It was a learning experience for me too - to support someone in acute circumstances and help her negotiate if what she was trying to do was 'right' for her or 'wrong' and the ethics of having to cancel a show at the last minute.
At our clinic we see so many patients with all sorts of issues, injuries and illnesses as well as people coming in just to relax and feel better generally. It is an amazing experience for us as practitioners to take everyone as they come, without judgement, and to use our our knowledge and skills to help you get better, or to direct you to other practitioners who can help you. We welcome the circus!!
There have been a few books out recently about ageing and how humans are living so much longer than we used to. The 100 Year Life and Atul Gawande's Being Mortal are two of them which are well worth the read.
Having got through just over half of my predicted life span has made me think about how precious our health is. After all, who wants to live to 100 if you can't enjoy it? I'm assuming I won't still be running a business or exercising like I do now but I do want quality of life in my later years.
This article on LinkdIn discusses the role of Telomeres (no, me neither) in ageing. I still don't exactly understand what they are but their length and stability seem to be the key things in keeping us young. Telomeres' role is to stop cells from deteriorating - they protect the chromosomes in some way. So if we can keep them long and stable we protect our health even with age.
Telomere therapy might provide a way to keep us youthful for longer but, while it's still in development it is useful to look at other ways to stay healthy. The impact of stress on ageing is well documented. Stress is linked with indicators of cellular ageing and shortening telomere length. Other factors are all the usual suspects - obesity, insulin resistance, smoking, exposure to pollution and lack of exercise.
So by living a healthy lifestyle we really can change our future quality of life. After all, age is just a number, it's how our bodies and minds behave which make us feel either old or young.
Yoga, acupuncture, regular massage, exercise, a session with the nutritionist to overhaul your eating habits - these will all help to give your body cells the ability to function at optimum levels. Just start slowly and steadily to make changes and if you lack motivation at any point, get in touch - I'm sure there will be ways we can help and support you. After all, we're all in this together.
Guest Blog by our practitioner Tricia Murray
How are you planning for your birth?
Even though it's the most natural process in the world, planning for birth needs preparation – mental, physical and emotional as well as building knowledge about the physical act of birth. Consider marathon runners – what would they do to prepare for a marathon? Especially if they were keen to do it in a specific time! If you’re a marathon runner – what do you do?
You might build up your strength and stamina, work on your mindset, get a support team in place, spend time preparing for all the eventualities, surround yourself in positivity, eat and drink well, look after yourself emotionally, and there would be a fair few trips to see a physio or get a massage etc.
People who run marathons work hard to complete them and prepare in every single way through researching of information, physical, mental and emotional preparation. EVEN if they don’t complete it in the way they’d expected – they might reflect – I know I did all I could.
It’s the same with birth – except many people don’t prepare for it in that way. Many just hope that it works out ok. Others might choose some elements of preparation : read some books, sign up to an antenatal, yoga or hypnobirthing class; ask their friend/mum/sister to support them; sign up to Babycentre alerts or enlist the help of a friend or doula. .
All these things are GREAT – but they don’t complete the preparation that many women need. Learning about birth physiology in a class will NOT on its own help you to have a better birth. How can telling you that your baby is now the size of a cabbage helping you to prepare for your birth and your baby arriving? What about if your mum's experience of birth was awful? How will that help you?
We live in a time where we are so far removed from the primal/mammalian birth process and so geared towards medically managed birth that many women are set up to fail at physiologically normal birth. There is a need for holistic birth preparation to get your really informed about how to have a much better birth experience – a birth that you can actually enjoy (yes we did say ENJOY).
Tricia Murray can provide you with a Joyful Birth coaching programme which may help to guide and coordinate your preparation. The programme aims to get you in the right positive mindset to address any fears, worries and anxieties you may have and look holistically at alternative ways for you to prepare as an individual for birth.
EFT Practitioner | REWIND Trauma Therapy | Birth Doula | Birth and Parenting Coaching
- Doula UK Rep for Scotland East and West (www.doula.org.uk)
- Vice-Chair for Juno Perinatal Mental Health Support (www.juno.uk.com)
- Founding member of Edinburgh Birth and Baby (www.edinburghbirthandbaby.com)
- Co-facilitator for Positive Birth Movement Edinburgh (www.positivebirthedinburgh.com)
- Come and meet me at Mums Meet Up at Babies and Bumps Cafe on Mondays at 10am in Edinburgh
On the eve of the US elections I find the number of patients coming in to the clinic who are talking about a feeling of panic and unease, has increased exponentially. This may be reflecting my own mental and emotional state but I'm pretty sure it's not just me. Elections, referendums and the Trump/Clinton stand off is causing wide-spread anxiety and dis-ease at our current world wide political situation.
This unsettled feeling expresses itself in many way - insomnia or just disturbed sleep, a closeness to panic, palpitations, muscle tension which can lead to headaches and stress disorders including digestive problems.
There are quite a lot of things we can do to help ourselves out of this. Not continuously listening to the news or plugging in to social media for example. Limiting the time spent engaged in news reports means that we can think about the small and cosy things of day to day life and keep ourselves from catastrophising. Giving ourselves rewards and treats - cups of tea, 5 minutes rest, 2 minutes being mindful - all help bring us down to earth. If you need professional help then hypnotherapy or some CBT(Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) or NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) can offer support.
A deep tissue, hot stones or even a gentle massage brings us into our bodies and out of our heads and acupuncture can work wonders with calming anxiety and lowering the levels of adrenaline and cortisol (stress hormones) circulating in our systems. Our TRE (Tension Release Therapy) "shake it off" workshops help to process stress and trauma very effectively and some wonderful cranio sacral therapy can relieve tension headaches.
Last but certainly not least, nutritional therapy can help our bodies deal with the increase in stress hormones and also boost minerals and vitamins, which get used up more quickly by the body during stressful times.
Look after yourselves out there - or let us look after you. Sometimes we can feel very alone in this big (and sometimes bad) world and a reminder that there are many good and kind people out there can warm the cockles of our hearts during this unsettled time.
Suddenly it's July and we're over half way through the year! We've had the usual influx of people with hayfever this year but those in the know have been coming since March or April to keep symptoms at bay and this has proved very effective - even for those frequent travellers to London who find their symptoms worsen when they're down south.
Our clinic is busy with many practitioners taking on more time to accommodate their lovely patients. Sometimes reception can be a little bit squished so we're asking people politely to try and come just before your appointment time so we can avoid disturbing treatments by answering the door. We know this might make things slightly more difficult, especially if it's pouring down, but there's a great Deli (Broughton Delicatessen) just around the corner where you could wait out the rain with a lovely warm cup of something. Plus they do great salads.
We hope you've all enjoyed watching the football (how boring was that final game??) and Andy Murray winning Wimbledon. We see many patients with sports tears, strains, sprains and injuries and these people really benefit from and excellent sports massage, deep tissue work or acupuncture. We've also had a new Fitness Studio open up just opposite us Phoenix Fitness and we're hoping to work with the guys from there on keeping people fit, healthy and injury free.
On the fertility front, our DNA Fragmentation Testing is proving useful for couples where there is a diagnosis of 'unexplained infertility' or Male Factor Infertility. We have been working with our nutritionist to increase sperm quality and have had some great results. Do get in touch with us if you're interested in finding out more.
Many patients tell us they have had acupuncture from their GP, physiotherapist or osteopath and each time we try to explain the difference between what they offer and what we offer. Then, in an internet trawl I found this useful description from a journal called News Transcript in the US, of both practices which I thought I should pass on.
"In 2015, the Federation of State Boards of Physical Therapy developed this definition of dry needling performed by physical therapists:“Dry needling is a skilled technique performed by a physical therapist using filiform needles to penetrate the skin and/or underlying tissues to affect change in a body structures and function for the evaluation and management of neuromuscular conditions, pain, movement impairments and disability.” It is important to clarify that dry needling is not acupuncture. Acupuncture is a treatment based on eastern medical diagnosis that requires training in traditional Chinese medicine and licensure to practice acupuncture. “While dry needling performed by physical therapists and acupuncture use a similar tool, the filiform needle, the differences are evident in the evaluative tools used by the practitioner, the assessment, the application and the overall intended goal.” (Kinetacore, 2015)"
This sums up neatly the most important difference between the two. We acupuncturists are trained to use the complex and intricate Chinese Medical theory to diagnose and then treat whatever a patient presents to us. Even though the terminology of Chinese Medicine might sound archaic, it describes exactly what is presented just using different words. Where a doctor might say "migraine" we say "liver yang rising" and where an osteopath might say "arthritis" someone trained in Chinese Medicine would say "Bi syndrome" but we are all describing the same thing.
Simply sticking a needle into a place where there's pain might well do the trick but Acupuncture is carried out after a much more detailed diagnosis. We look at the whole person - the body, the emotions and the mind - as well as the environment that the person is in - their work, home life, eating and exercise habits - to find out why the symptoms have appeared and what the cause is. This is what makes Acupuncture so much more effective than dry needling and why we can look at treating more complex situations like depression, insomnia, digestive issues and fertility.
Another important difference is that a dry needling course is usually carried out over a weekend whereas a full trained (British Acupuncture Council member) acupuncturist will have completed a 3-4 year, Masters level, course which covers anatomy, physiology, pathology, medical ethics and patient management as well as Chinese Medicine. The depth of knowledge the Acupuncture course is phenomenal and there is no way that a weekend course could compare.
In summary, we would recommend trying dry needling from your GP or physio if they offer it for pain relief, but don't be put off if it doesn't work and do seek out a properly qualified acupuncturist if you have anything more complex going on.
Christmas is a time of good cheer, feeling good and happy times. It can also be a time of gluttony, destroying the hard work we have done on our diets and self-care and can also sabotage our New Year resolutions.
How about trying some tasty recipes which won’t sabotage your progress too much. These recipes contain apple which is fabulous for feeding your good bacteria and cranberries which are excellent for guarding against bacterial infections especially in the mucus membranes. They are famed for stopping UTI’s and are a good source of vitamin C. Neither of these recipes require much cooking , so if your fruit is fresh, they should contain good quantities of vitamin C.
Merry Mince Pies
Ingredients for the filling:
500 g raw apples chopped finely
450 g fresh cranberries
8 oz (225 g) coconut oil
12 oz (350 g) raisins
8 oz (225 g) sultanas
8 oz (225 g) currants
8 oz (225 g) whole mixed candied peel, finely chopped
275 g gur, jaggery or xylitol
100 g molasses
grated zest 4 lemons
2 oz (50 g) whole almonds, cut into slivers
4 level teaspoons mixed ground mixed spice
½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
6 tablespoons of brandy or rum
Combine all the ingredients, except for the brandy or rum, in a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly. Cover the bowl with a clean cloth and leave the mixture in a cool place overnight or for 12 hours, so the flavours have a chance to mingle and develop.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark ¼, 225°F (110°C). Cover the bowl loosely with foil and place it in the oven for 3 hours, then remove the bowl from the oven. Don't worry about the appearance of the mincemeat, which will look positively swimming in fat. This is how it should look.
As it cools, stir it from time to time; the fat will coagulate and, instead of it being in tiny shreds, it will encase all the other ingredients. When the mincemeat is quite cold, stir well again, adding the brandy or rum. Pack in jars that have been sterilised (see below).
When filled, cover with waxed discs and seal. The mincemeat will keep for ages in a cool, dark cupboard - I have kept it for up to 3 years.
Christmas Cranberry Sauce
500g cranberries, fresh is best but thawed frozen ones will do too (they don’t need as much cooking)
3 bramley apples and 50g of sugar or 800g of eating apples
100ml fresh orange juice or orange juice from a carton
1 stick of cinnamon or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
10 tablespoons of port, whiskey, rum or cranberry juice
Orange zest, raisins, nutmeg and allspice can be added to give more sweetness and spice if desired.
Pick out any rotten cranberries, and add all the ingredients to a pan, but only half the alcohol, bring to the boil and simmer until the cranberries have burst and the apples have softened. It will take 5-10 minutes. If it the right consistency don’t any more alcohol, if you would like it sloppier add more alcohol.
Put into to sterilized jars and let it cool. Makes a good Christmas present. If you want to keep for a long time, put into baby food pots and store in the freezer and just bring it out when you want it. It will keep in the fridge once opened.
Note: To sterilise jars, wash the jars and lids in warm soapy water, rinse well, then dry thoroughly with a clean tea cloth, place them on a baking tray and pop into a medium oven, gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C, for 5 minutes.
We commonly hear patients complaining of 'Raynaud's' when they are in for a treatment, especially at this time of year. Raynaud's disease/sydrome or phenomenon is a common occurrence in (mainly) young women and men where the ends of fingers and/or toes lose blood flow and turn white. Sometimes it is accompanied by numbness and tingling. Generally, but not exclusively, the symptoms appear with colder weather.
I remember going to my GP many years ago with exactly these symptoms and was told "it's ok, my wife has it too" which was the extent of the information or treatment at that time. I lived with it by always making sure I had gloves with me and bathing my hands in warm water when the symptoms occurred but it was still worrying as well as annoying.
The symptoms of Raynauds happen when the blood flow is excessively reduced (due to the constriction of or spasm in the blood vessels) as a result of cold or emotional stress. The condition can also cause nails to become brittle with longitudinal ridges as a result of decreased blood supply.
Raynauds has two subdivisions - you have Primary Raynauds (Raynauds Disease) if the symptoms occur on and off due to the cold weather or stress. Secondary Raynauds (Raynauds Syndrome) can be a side effect of, for example, carpal tunnel syndrome or wrist injury as well as more serious illness such as anorexia and lupus. It can be a predictor of disease in that it can occur up to 20 year before a more serious associated illness is diagnosed.
I found that acupuncture had a marked effect on my Raynauds. I was being treated for something else (this was before I became an acupuncturist myself) and the practitioner used some needles in my hand, after which the symptoms of Raynauds have never returned. I have since used it on patients with great effect.
Given that Primary Raynauds can be a symptom of decreased blood flow as well as stress it is wise to address these issues and this can be done in many different ways here at Albany Street. Regular de-stressing and circulatory-boosting massage to the upper back, shoulders, neck and arms will be of great benefit as will Chinese Herbal Medicine. Cranio Sacral Therapy can also help to unblock and release muscle pathways and knotted tissue whereas nutritional therapy works internally (as do the herbs) to boost circulation.
Take care of your hands (and feet) as we use them constantly and it's only when something goes wrong that we pay any attention to them. Maybe it's time to give them some love, before they disappear behind gloves and thick socks from now until next May!
There are so many different types of massage about that we thought it would be useful to clarify some of the terminology around it - starting with Deep Tissue Massage.
I once went for a voucher spa session which included a 'massage of your choice'. Because my back was tight, I asked for Deep Tissue which resulted in 30 minutes of excruciating pain and increased tension in my back. Having had this type of massage before, I knew it was no walk in the park but the mistake the therapist made was to go directly to a deep level of massage, using her elbows, without warming and relaxing the surface layers of muscle first. All in all, I needed quite a few glasses of wine afterwards to come down from the stress of the treatment!
A properly qualified and experienced massage therapist knows exactly how to work gradually through the muscle layers to target the deeper areas of muscle and fascia concerned. By using deep finger pressure and slow, firm strokes, deep tissue massage is used to treat a variety of physical ailments. Many will argue that true Deep Tissue techniques aren't really "massage" in the sense that most people think of it - soothing music, aromatherapy oils and gentle swirling massage strokes. In many cases, the treatment more resembles Physical Therapy than Massage Therapy, however, the benefits definitely outweigh any negatives and if you're looking for results and relief from chronic pain and other conditions, then deep tissue massage is for you. Below are some of the ways it can help.
Reduces Chronic Pain
The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that deep-tissue massage is more effective and affordable for relieving chronic pain than conventional medical remedies. Because deep-tissue massage increases the flow of blood through through the body, it helps reduce the inflammation that causes pain. Deep-tissue massage can also help alleviate muscle tension that is often a side effect of chronic pain by loosening the tight tissue clusters.
Improves Blood Pressure
Deep-tissue massage helps ease stress and tension, which can have a beneficial effect on blood pressure. People who had a deep-tissue massage saw their systolic pressure drop by an average of 10.4 mm Hg and their diastolic pressure drop an average 5.3 mm Hg, according to a study cited by the University of Maryland Medical Center. Deep-tissue massage can help increase the body's production of serotonin, the hormone that promotes happiness and good feelings.
Rehabilitates Injured Muscles
Deep-tissue massage can be an effective treatment for injured muscles. Because it facilitates the movement of toxins from the muscles and helps stretch tight or twisted muscle mass, deep-tissue massage can help promote healing. Because massage also helps relax muscles, it can reduce the pain caused by injuries, too. Deep-tissue massage is frequently used to rehabilitate sports injuries.
Breaks Up Scar Tissue
Over time, deep-tissue massage therapy can help break up and eventually erase scar tissue in the body. It does this by improving lymphatic circulation and drainage to improve flexibility and range of motion in the affected area. Scar tissue is often associated with ongoing pain and stiffness, so deep-tissue massage can improve these symptoms. Massage therapy is often recommended for people who are recovering from surgery
For those people who suffer from chronic stress, and all of its various, possible side-effects like tension headaches, rigid shoulders and tight muscles; deep tissue massage can be a relief. During a session you can let it all go and give in to the healing. Once renewed and revitalized you'll be able to face your challenges more equitably.
We have a very busy practice here at Albany Street and a growing number of our patients are asking about facial acupuncture (or 'facial rejuvenation acupuncture').
What we've noticed though is that clients, mainly women, tend to feel they have to keep treatments secret from others or that it's their 'guilty secret'.
As a woman nearing her 50's I definitely feel the pull of age and the corresponding dip in mood when I notice lines that no longer disappear a few hours after waking, laughter creases that don't uncrease and a horrible vertical line on my forehead in exactly the same place that my 80 year old dad has one. It's enough to make you cry. And ok, it might be a first world issue but it is still an issue no matter how 'superficial' we may think it is.
We never down-play a patient's concerns about their health and their looks. If you think you have sagging jowls (even though we don't see it that way) then it's a real concern for you and we'll treat it as such. No one should feel bad about finding ways to boost their confidence. As women, we're so used to being down on ourselves that we are our own worst enemies.
None of us should feel bad about wanting to look our best. No patient yet has said they want to look 10 years younger, they just want to look good for their age. If looking good boosts confidence then I think it's worth the time and effort to spend time achieving that - as long as our goals stay realistic.
I'm currently embracing my grey/silver hairs as part of an effort to come to terms with having lived (almost) half a century. I know that, if I can stay healthy, happy with good skin then that makes accepting age gracefully so much easier. It's never going to be easy, but if we can help to smooth out the wrinkles along the way then all the better.
If you are looking at ways to help yourself, we heartily endorse this site by Eva Fraser, which outlines simple but effective facial exercises. If you go to the gym you are working the muscles in your body and it helps to exercise the facial muscles too. It's all summarised in her excellent book.
We've had a busy 6 months at Albany Street. All our practitioners are happily seeing their regular patients but we still have plenty of room for new people who need help whether that's in terms in shoulder pain, chronic pain of any kind, injuries, relaxation, skin care, nutritional advice or emotional support.
Just to give you an idea of the kind of cases we see I thought it would be useful to summarise a few - you may identify with one or two of them, or know friends who are suffering from similar issues. All of these are fairly common and are a good illustration of a regular day at the clinic.
Nutrition: Matthew is slim, has diabetes and has severe acne which hasn't got better with medication. His wife is seeing us for IVF support and it was recommended that Matthew come to get nutritional advice. He loved his session with Jane and gained a lot from it. He has been given very particular advice on cutting out sugars for a set period of time and then will be adding in nutritional supplements. Not everyone needs such severe measures but his is a slightly more acute case due to his diabetes. He will see Jane again in a month to catch up and see how he's getting on.
Massage: Maria came in with a trapped nerve in her neck which causes pins and needles in her arm and hand. She has had acupuncture and physio but has also booked in to see Jill Wright, our neck and shoulder expert. Jill is working on loosening the tight, deep, muscles in Maria's neck with very specific techniques. The acupuncture helps to loosen off the muscles first so that Jill can get as deep as she needs to without causing too much pain. Maria will be having regular treatments (weekly) while her symptoms are bothering her so much and will then come less often until the case is resolved.
Acupuncture: Lorie come to acupuncture for anxiety. She has trouble staying asleep and often wakes with her heart racing. She gets very shaky when she drinks coffee or has dark chocolate (which also contains caffeine). From a Chinese Medicine point of view, this is a case of an imbalance in the Heart so, amongst the acupuncturists, we have worked on strengthening her 'Heart energy' - in western terms this reduces adrenaline levels and has helped her feel much calmer. She is greatly improved for a few days following the acupuncture session then her sleep starts to be effected again but we will review in two months and hopefully the symptoms should be completely gone. If not, we will recommend she sees our hypnotherapist Gabriella and also see Jane for nutrition which can help balance out the body's complex chemistry.
There are many more examples of what we do here - I haven't covered cranio-sacral therapy, facial acpuncture, beauty therapy or other massage techniques - but I hope it gives you an idea of what we have to offer and how we work together as a team.
I know, I know, it's time to drink Guinness but you can balance out the black stuff with a good load of green so here are some ideas...
Make a naturally green beer by adding a teaspoon of wheatgrass or spirulina into a light ale and stir carefully. Am not sure what that'll taste like but it's worth a try!
Wholemeal pasta with some home made pesto, or a good brand of ready-made, makes a brilliant and filling meal. Add peas to make it even more green or scatter a few sprigs of basil on top just to finish it off.
Try some avocado fries - dip strips of avocado in egg and breadcrumbs and fry gently in olive oil. Sprinkle on some capers for added 'zing'. If you want something less fatty, just make a guacomole by mushing up the avocado and adding lime, coriander leaves, tomato, chilli and onion (all finely chopped).
Green pancakes - Whisk together an egg, some melted butter, 1/3 cup milk, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla. Then add 1/2 cup of flour, 1 tablespoon of matcha powder and 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder plus a pinch of salt. Cook in a flat pan brushed with some melted butter over medium-low heat and serve with maple syrup.
Local Edinburgh Taxis are currently carrying advertisements for beauty discount schemes such as Groupon, Wahanda and Woucher and it caused me to stop and think.
There are two things that arise from this. First, the times when people believed we could get something for nothing are supposed to be over and second, there is always a cost, even if it's not us who are paying it. I think it's time we really start to value what we have and learn to pay what things are worth.
I know the recession has been going on for a long time now and even though we're being told it's over , it's taking a long time to actually feel like it is. Money is still tight and food & travel prices continue to rise. We're all looking for more cost-efficient ways of getting what we want and need.
Our beauty therapist here at Albany Street works long and hard. She is fully qualified and very experienced. The years of training courses have cost her money as well as time and building up years of experience and expertise has taken a lot hard work. Discount schemes, however, make it very hard for her to earn a living. By the time she has paid the voucher scheme their cut (often more than 70%) and paid the rent on her room she is sometimes left with no more than a few pounds for an hour of her work. This is far less than the minimum wage and she's not the only one in this situation. I have chatted to quite a few beauty therapists recently. None of their 'normal' prices are over-priced and are all good value for money but they are finding themselves unable to make ends meet because of the competition caused by the voucher schemes.
Because of this, our therapist Lana is going to carry on providing an excellent service and excellent prices but not at a discount. We know that all of you who have had a great treatment from her are willing to come back and pay what the treatments are worth because you have been doing just that. We'd appreciate it if you could spread the word to your friends and family and ask them to vote with their feet.
Voucher schemes seemed like a great thing at the time but the real cost is a very high price to pay.
As a nutritionist, I am often asked about how to maintain the benefits of nutritional therapy whilst still being able to relax and enjoy Christmas festivities.
There are many obstacles to keeping up the good work. Over-consuming food and alcohol as well eating unhelpful foods all contribute to feelings of toxicity and sometimes demoralization over personal goals and progress. Here are some simple tips to help keep you on the right track.
1. Eating a healthy breakfast such as porridge with cinnamon and apple would be excellent. It is calming to the digestive system and gives you a feeling of fullness which helps you to avoid snacking on unhealthy foods during the morning.
2. Have a good lunch with plenty of vegetables. The more you eat at lunch the less you will want to snack in the afternoon and eat at night. If this is a cooked lunch like Christmas dinner, load up your plate with vegetables, gravy, and turkey and limit the bread pudding, cranberry sauce and stuffing. Enjoy your meal, chew it thoroughly, savour the flavours and stop when you have had enough.
3.If you are having Christmas pudding, limit your portion and the sauces on the side. Eating with a teaspoon will make a smaller portion go along way.
4. If having cold meats, eat with plenty of salads and pickles and limit the bread, potatoes and pasta.
5.When eating in the evening try to eat before 7pm and limit or eliminate carbohydrates including pudding. If you desperately want a pudding, find somebody to share it with you and eat it slowly in small mouthfuls.
6. Limit or eliminate cheese and dairy products but, if you've just got to have it, eat cheese with celery, cucumber, grapes and apples rather than biscuits.
7.Have fresh fruit, or fruit salad for a dessert. Add a small amount of port, glace ginger or cinnamon if you want to jazz it up a bit.
If you are concerned about the amount of alcohol you might be drinking, you can check your consumption here:
From a health point of view it is recommended that you don’t binge on alcohol as this is when the most amount of damage is done to your liver. Drinking the same amount of alcohol spread out over the week would be easier for your body to manage than having it all on one day. The UK guidelines for drinking are 14 units per week for women and 21 units for men, this is assuming that there are no health considerations, such as poor liver function, or that no medication is being taken.
Calorific content of alcohol is high – 1 gram of pure alcohol has 7 calories, 1 gram of fat has 9 and 1 gram of carbohydrate has 4.
The higher the alcohol content the higher the amount of calories from the drink. So, for example:
A measure of spirit will typically be 59 kcal,
half a pint of beer 128 kcal,
a flute glass of champagne 95 or 175ml glass of champagne 130 kcal
175ml glass of red wine 119 kcal
The addition of fat (eg cream) to your drink, greatly increases the calorific content:
143 kcal for a small 50 ml measure of advocaat
198 kcal for a 50ml measure of Baileys!
There is a company which offers a lower calorie alternative to some of the wines and beer we would normally drink which could be an option if you are watching your calories: www.skinnybooze.co.uk
Traditional beers, such as real ale do have some benefits as they contain B vitamins from the action of yeast. Brewers yeast is considered a health supplement because it contains these vitamins as well certain minerals such as chromium. Some beers such as Guinness contain extra minerals like iron. Overall beer can be calming if it contains hops which explains why so many people like a half pint or a pint to de-stress after work. Do be aware that hops also have some oestrogenic properties which is not helpful for the prostate gland in men. They are not recommended with fertility issues and seems to contribute to increase in fat around the abdomen – the typical “beer belly”.
Spirits can generally be quite helpful if you mix and blend them with fresh fruit, especially berries. You can gain a lot of benefits from the antioxidants, minerals and vitamins - see recipes for the mocktails below. Mixing them with concentrated fruit juice from carton has the opposite effect because it is adding a lot of extra sugar without any of the benefits.
Mixing with water, for example with whisky, can be helpful as it dilutes the alcohol. If you're drinking a quality whisky it still tastes good but you won't be getting so dehydrated. Mixing with coke increases the sugar content and mixing with diet coke increases the brain toxins and can make hangovers worse.
Bloody Mary: especially if it contains a stick of celery can be very helpful, particularly if you eat the celery – not so helpful if you just twizzle it around in your drink!
Tequila: some people consider tequila better as the type of sugar used to make the alcohol, doesn’t raise the blood sugar as much – it is considered by some to be better for diabetics.
Mulled wine: with plenty of spices, especially cinnamon is excellent, as long as you don’t add sugar. The addition of a small amount of xylitol would work to sweeten the mixture.
Mocktails – recipes from Enabling Health
Non-Alcoholic Sangria – serves 8
270ml boiling water
2 black tea bags (or 2 teaspoons loose-leaf tea in an infuser)
2 cinnamon sticks
400ml pomegranate juice
140ml freshly squeezed orange juice
1 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1 lemon, sliced into thin rounds
1 lime, sliced into thin rounds
1 apple, cored and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
400ml carbonated water
Pour boiling water over tea bags and cinnamon sticks and steep for 5 minutes. Discard tea bags and stir in sugar to dissolve. In a large jar or pitcher, combine tea, cinnamon sticks, pomegranate juice, orange juice, orange, lemon, lime, and apple. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and preferably overnight. Just before serving, stir in carbonated water. Serve in glasses over ice.
3 ounces tomato juice
1/2 ounce lemon juice
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Hot pepper or Tabasco sauce
Celery stalk for garnish
Pickle garnish for garnish (optional)
Combine and enjoy!
Berry indulgence - Serves: 1
2 cups of frozen berries of your choice
Fresh apple juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice -
180ml fizzy water
Cubes of ice
Blend and serve over more ice. Very refreshing and all the lovely antioxidants refresh the liver to cope with excesses of the Christmas eating.
For some reason, the run up to Christmas seems to be the most stressful time of the year. I've spent a lot of time working out why this is and have decided it's because, in the times when we'd normally be sitting down for a rest, in December we have to rush out to buy presents or food or organise social events.
There are some things you can do to help yourselves through this and make December more of a pleasure than a pain.
No.1 is to not believe the hype! You don't have to give in to buying expensive or multiple presents. I know it's hard to resist and sometimes it's actually easier to just click on the first suitable thing you see but writing a short list and sticking to it can help you avoid those impulse buys.
No.2 is to look after yourself first! If you don't do this then everything else falls apart. If you are stressed, anxious and feeling you can't cope then those emotions will not only make it hard for you but also difficult for everyone else. You won't feel able to prepare properly for the visits of family and friends, won't feel good about how you look or about what you've achieved. Make sure you delegate and don't try to do it all yourself.
No 3 is to take your time. Yes, I know there's a looming deadline but if there's no stuffing, cranberry sauce or bread & butter pudding then it's not the end of the world and most people won't mind. Make a priorities list and don't put everything at the top! Work out, in a moment of calm, what really needs to be done first then work your way through steadily and slowly to the least important.
There are ways we here at Albany Street can help you too. Come in for a lovely hot stones massage, get your nails done before a Christmas party, have some acupuncture to help you relax or some hypnotherapy to help you deal with stress. You can also buy vouchers from us for any of our treatments - if that doesn't make Christmas present buying easy then I don't know what will!
The great news for women born between 1946 and 1964 is that they are now the most affluent and influential group in the world. A woman born in 1900 could only expect to live until she was 40 but today, a woman’s life expectancy is 84. That means that women will live another 30 to 40 years beyond menopause so, instead of being seen as the end of life, it can be seen more positively as a transition towards a time of greater freedom.
Research into changes taking place in the during the menopause show that in addition to hormonal shifts, there are also intricate changes to our nervous systems. Just as in puberty, our brains are being rewired, changing how we think and respond. Being mainly free from childcare responsibilities and caring for aging parents, this time of life can be filled with possibilities. It is a developmental stage that holds promise for new directions, careers, and purpose.
During this transitional process women will notice menstrual cycle changes and erratic ovulation patterns over a 4-8 year period of time. The menstrual period may become heavier or lighter and cycles may be delayed or more frequent. Whatever it is, a woman will know it is not her usual pattern and change is underway. Menopause is said to have occurred when a period has been absent for 12 consecutive cycles. Menopause can also occur in a woman at any age if the ovaries have been surgically removed or damaged through disease or toxic agents and we treat quite a few younger women in this situation.
Menopause, in this country, is associated with various symptoms and hot flushes are, by far, the most common uncomfortable symptom for almost 85% of western women. About 20% of women experience no symptoms at all. In some cultures such as Japan and China it is reported that women do not experience any or very few of these symptoms. British women are reported to suffer the most. We 're still not sure why there is such a discrepancy in symptoms between East and West but most would put it down to diet, lifestyle choices and the increased intake of (non- GMO) soya in Eastern diets.
A hot flush is caused by an increase in the core temperature. In an attempt to cool the body, surface blood vessels dilate, especially in the area of the chest, neck and head, perspiration ensues, followed by chills. Sometimes the woman gets noticeably red in the face, other women sweat and some feel the heat without any outward symptoms. Most women feel very self-conscious when they experience a hot flush, which can make matters worse.
Some sources say 45% of women experience hot flushes for longer than 5 years. Night sweats are nocturnal hot flashes which contribute to insomnia, accompanied by fatigue the next day, feeling foggy headed, forgetful, irritable, anxious, headachy and depressed. Not to mention vaginal dryness and low libido. All of these symptoms can be effectively addressed through acupuncture, Chinese herbal medicine and nutritional changes.
Medical management of menopause for many years relied on hormone replacement therapy (HRT). It was thought that a dose of oestrogen, or a combination of oestrogen and progesterone, would not only improve the symptoms women were experiencing, but also provide protection against coronary heart disease, breast cancer and osteoporosis in post-menopausal women. A large study of 160,000 women, concluded that the risks of HRT actually outweighed the benefits. More recent studies indicate that a brief course of HRT early in menopause is safe and may provide some lasting relief of symptoms.
Many of the women are looking for a safer, more holistic approach to managing their menopause symptoms. Acupuncture, herbal remedies and nutritional changes are the tools we employ when addressing menopausal symptoms. We take into consideration the whole person, knowing that every aspect of a woman’s life can be impacted by this challenging and exciting time. Healthy diet and lifestyle therapies have no risks attached and can also be used in conjunction with HRT.