Easy Ways to Boost your Immune System

We are going though uncharted waters at the present time. I think that the best we can do is to follow the guidelines of public health messages and on our own we need to strengthen our immune systems. Shiatsu is a great way to support your immunity coupled with the following recommendations.

The importance of washing our hands has been reported from all corners of the world. Use plenty of warm water over your hands whilst rubbing them together. More water than usual is more important than the amount of soap used. If you use gels, look for 60% alcohol, as this will have antibacterial and antivirucidal activity. By the way they don’t work if your hands are greasy or heavily dirty.

Diet

Eat a colourful low-carbohydrate Mediterranean diet, rich in various coloured vegetables and fruits. This will give you the best option for receiving antioxidant and anti-inflammatory phytonutrients needed to fight infections. The more and the deeper colours you include, the more nutrients you receive. Eat the vegetables and fruits whole and with the skins as they contain fibre that feeds healthy bugs in your gut, essential to combat infection.

If you get ill, increase intake on vitamin C

It does not prevent infection but once a cold has hit, vitamin C can shorten the duration of symptoms. The immune cells need lots of vitamin C when they are working to fight infection. Take in more vitamin C at that time. A good source of vitamin C is in kiwi, orange, red peppers, spinach, grapefruit, cauliflower and Brussels’ sprouts, or take a good quality supplement.

Sleep

Good quality sleep is the foundation of your whole immune system. During sleep the hormone melatonin stimulates new immune cells. Not sleeping well compromises our immune system.

Exercise

Regular exercise is the key for a healthy immune system. Movement is essential for the lymphatic system which counts on movement for stimulation.

Drink plenty of Water

Hydration is really important. Many metabolic functions rely on it. If you get dehydrated, it can change the mucus layer in your respiratory tract and digestive tract that has antibodies traps and stop germs getting into your cells. By the way, coffee and tea are diuretic, they don’t count.

Echinacea, Grapefruit seed extract, Goldenseal, etc…

Natural remedies and herbs have been used throughout history by native people to overcome infections. Recently we see more scientific research and evidence that they work in particular studies.

Vitamin D and Zinc

Not enough vitamin D weakens our immune system and makes us more susceptible to disease. Called the sunshine vitamin because your body makes all it needs with enough sunlight. Most of us need to supplement particular during the winter months. Fatty fish, such as herring, sardines, salmon, tuna, egg yolks and mushrooms are rich in this vitamin.

Zinc is another important mineral we have to get in from our diet. One of its many roles is to fight infection. Food sources include red meat, shellfish, seeds, legumes and dark chocolate.

Microbiome

Your gut bacteria are essential to immunity. They break down your food in the digestive tract and produce post biotics that are beneficial for our immune system. It means eating more fermented foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir, sources of good bacteria. Equally important is eating fibre foods that feed those healthy bugs and help them grow. Eating sourdough is one of the healthiest foods you can take for your microbiome and an excellent source of fermented fibre. Try to find slow-fermented breads from artisan bakers preferably made with more ancient grains such as spelt, or einkorn. Also fruit and vegetables, whole grain and legumes have gut-friendly fibres.

Garlic

For thousands of years garlic has been valued for its therapeutic power. Those delicious, white bulbs contain allicin a compound well studied for its antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial result. It is only released when the garlic has been broken and left to sit for a while and eaten uncooked. 

Diet & Nutrition

We are moving towards the end of February and can see some light inside lockdown channel, hurrah! The weather is improving, spring is in the air and Zephyrus is playing a tune!

I am continuing to give Shiatsu treatment at Violet Hill Studios for the community in the safest way possible.

Those of you how follow me on FB might have noticed that I am a foodie. I love cooking, food shopping, trying out new recipes and of course eating with a trained eye on the properties and healing power of food. I subscribe to Hippocrates (400 BC), “Let thy food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. It emphasizes the importance of nutrition to prevent or cure disease. I believe our diet plays a huge part in the root of disease.

The good news is: ‘you can change your diet’ and the way we eat, but this is easier said than done. Our food habits are rooted in our childhood. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, food represents the Earth Element. In order to change the earth we often need an earthquake, pretty heavy stuff. And Shiatsu treatments are fantastic in supporting the digestive system and combined with dietary advice, they are dynamite.

 

Some Advice for Healthy Eating

 

I believe in the 80/20 rule. A little bit of bad can be good for you. There is nothing wrong with an occasional fry up or pizza, etc., as long as they are supported by a healthy diet most of the time. Here are some tips that if followed will serve you well and are not too difficult to follow…in no particular order.

If it is man made avoid it. Butter is always better than margarine, sugar is better than Aspartame.

Avoid wheat where possible. It is everywhere, even if you try to avoid it, you’ll still end up eating it.

Most bread is rubbish. If you are going to eat bread, treat it the same way you would wine or chocolate and buy the best stuff you can. If the ingredient list contains any E numbers or a Flour Treatment agent, don’t touch it. It may look like bread but it isn’t. Purchase the small bakery ones, about 3 or 4 quid a loaf and freeze it in order to make it last.

Drink water, choice number one at all times, ideally still. If sparkling, make sure it’s the naturally sparking kind. Aim for one litre per day, two if you are feeling up for it.

Coffee is allowed, once a day, prior to noon. Give yourself a break from it occasionally.

Avoid Soya, fermented soya is fine (miso, tempeh) but most are poor quality and an estrogens mimicker with is fine if you want to have awful PMS.

Eat vegetables, try and make it 60% of your diet. Raw or lightly steamed is best.

Chew your food. Teeth and saliva are the start of the digestion process. Give your food a head start – literally.

Avoid sugar it is evil, the true cause of all chronic illness.

Unsaturated fats are good for you. Sugar kills, fats do not.

Do not drink with your meals. A small amount of water or a glass of wine with dinner is fine.

Take supplements, unfortunately our food, lifestyle and diets are not enough. Always buy good quality supplements, except the fact that you’ll be taking something once a day for life.

Don’t eat “low fat foods”, they usually contain more sugar instead of fats.

Nuts are your friends. Five to ten enough for a serving unsalted/ unroasted of course.

Learn how to make Lentil Dahl. It is easy, fast nutritious and inexpensive.

Never learn to bake. My grandfather was a baker. It is in my blood!

Flax seeds or oil, take one teaspoon per day. It’s good for you.

Don’t eat at your desk. Walk away, breathe then eat and chew.

Try the following: Chia Seeds, Hemp seeds and Flax seeds.

Never ever drink Diet drinks, ever.

Your Immune System

Autumn is almost over. We seen beautiful coloured leaves, lots of rain and temperatures have dropped. Now we have to look after and focus on our immune system more then ever. Shiatsu therapy helps strengthen the immune system and its ability to fight back pathogen. It enables a weak immune system to be strengthened and an overactive one to be calmed.

The immune system works extraordinarily to protect us against illness caused by bacteria, viruses and any other organism known to spread infection. When we are confronted with a new pathogen our body relies on its protective mechanism as the skin, mucus and microbiome to defend these unruly intruders.

The first defence of the body is the skin. Recent research found that skin is not only a barrier against pathogens but a living system, containing many different cells that work together synergistically. Unfortunately, the rate at which these cells renew themselves and thus their potential to fight pathogens reduces with age. Therefore it is important to give our bodies the nutrients needed to keep our barrier complete and well functional.

Over 70% of our immune cells live in the gut, deciding the fate of germs they encounter. The lymphoid tissue in the gut forms most of our gut immune system. Also we have billions of good bacteria that live and work in our gut. They assist to break down our food and keep us regular but they also have a crucial function in protecting us from hostile pathogens we ingest.

The immune system isn’t a single structure, it’s a system. It depends on interconnectivity; it needs balance and harmony. It isn’t perfect; its strength declines with age. Sometimes it can stall; a pathogen will invade and make you unwell.

To keep your immunity in good condition, you need a 360-degree, holistic attitude, focusing on exercise, diet, sleep, emotional wellbeing, rest and restore and much more. Leading a healthy life will protect your biological defences as strong and robust as they can be.

But further in washing your hands and eating right are yet another mandarin. What else can you do to help your immune system? It turns out that there are plenty of munitions in your armoury.

Touch

What does it mean to be touch deprived?

Humans are wired to be touched from the day we are born until the time we die. We all have a need for physical contact. Touch deprivation or skin hunger occurs when a person undergoes little to no touch from another living things.

Is this a real thing?

The condition is more common in countries that are less touchy. Throw a global pandemic into the picture and we are more or less all affected. France is one of the most touchy-feely places in the world, while the United States is one of the least touchy nations. Maybe this is due to a rise in technology use, a worry of touching seen as inappropriate, or plain cultural factors, no one is certain. Studies found that cutting out regular human touch can have some significant and long-lasting effects.

Does it only relate to sensual touch?

Certainly not! Any and all positive touch is regarded to be valuable. Missing out on workplace handshakes, friendly hugs or pats on the back can produce feelings of touch starvation. Naturally it does link to sensual touching too such as holding hands, stroking backs and rubbing foot. Scientists found that nerve endings called C-tactile afferents, live to recognize any formation of gentle touch.

As a matter of fact, according to a 2017 study, the ideal touching speed is between 3 and 5 centimetres per second then the body releases oxytocin the “love hormone”.

Why is touch crucial? 

Skin contact is necessary for our mental, emotional and physical health. When you feel under pressure, the body sets free the stress hormone cortisol. One major effect touch can do is reduce such stress, allowing the immune system to function the way it should. Touch can also reduce the heart rate and blood pressure. It stimulates pressure receptors that carry signals to the vagus nerve. This nerve ties the brain to the rest of the body. It utilizes the signals to slow the speed of the nervous system.                                                                   

In childhood and infancy, touch is crucial for bonding and building good relationships by stimulating passageways for oxytocin, the natural antidepressant serotonin and the joy chemical dopamine. Last but not least it tackles loneliness. Even the tender touch from a complete stranger has shown to lower feelings of social isolation.

How do you know if you are touch deprived?

There is no absolute way to know, but you may feel profoundly lonely or needy of affection.

These signs may be blend with:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low relationship satisfaction
  • Insomnia
  • Avoiding secure attachments

Subconsciously you may do activities to simulate touch, e.g. taking long, hot showers or baths, cuddling up in blankets or stroking a pet.

What if you don’t like being touched? Can you still be touch starved? Some people connect touch with trust. If they don’t trust an individual, they dislike that person to touch them despite the fact that they long for the benefits of a hug or handshake. People disliking touch are often traumatised, have neurodiversity and those who identify as asexual.

Childhood experiences can also play a big factor. In 2012, a study found that people whose parents were regular huggers were more probable to hug people in adulthood. The luck of frequent positive touch as a youngster may affect the development of the vagus nerve and oxytocin system, harming intimacy and social abilities. Although this may not be correct for everyone.

What can you do?

Some ideas to welcome more affection into your life:

  • Try out a shiatsu or massage. Whether you ask a loved one or visit a professional, body therapies are a way to relax and enjoy the comfort of another person’s touch.
  • Spend quality time with animals. Pets are the ideal soothing mechanism and often all too happy to cuddle.
  • Learn to dance. Dances like tango have skin-to-skin contact. It will give you touch and you’ll pick up a new skill.

For the people who are close to you

  • Allow them plenty of positive touch. A range from gentle strokes to full-on cuddling a few times a day.
  • Stay away from associating touch with negativity. Don’t push or pinch or do anything that takes away the positive vibes of physical contact.
  • As often as possible allow your children to be close to you. Let your child sit on your lap or gently massaging your baby may prompt them to give similar later in life.

The bottom line

If you’re feeling you don’t receive enough touch, you haven’t sealed your fate. There are many ways to overcome the condition and encourage positive, affectionate touch in those around you.

Particularly now in our current situation it seems to be a challenge. Use touch whenever appropriate and safe. Make sure other people are pleased before going ahead. Don’t forget the essence of Shiatsu is touch and Shiatsu is the art of touch.

Shiatsu helps your Mental Health






We are slowly coming out of knockdown and experiencing several changes. You may be still working from home, back at work or on vacation. In these current times, it’s especially important to attend to our physical and mental health. Shiatsu can play a vital roll in this.
 
Research shows that stress and anger can cause heart disease. It reminds us of why mental health should be taken seriously. Stress is a risk and is equated to high blood pressure or smoking. Emotional agitation causes inflammation of the arteries that can set off a stroke or heart attack.  A study by Harvard Medical School released in The Lancet highlights this sense of the phase, ‘anger makes my blood boil’. https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(16)31714-7/fulltext
 
The study lines up Western Science based Medicine with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the latter of which is the underlying theory of Shiatsu. In Eastern therapies unexpressed emotions like anger or worry are major causes of physical dis-ease. They look at body and mind as one and see a direct link between the condition of blood and arteries with the quietness and clarity of the mind. The mind in Chinese medicine is identified as “Shen” and resides in the blood.
 
Shiatsu is gradually more valued in mainstream mental health services because of its benefit on reducing stress and difficult emotions. London and South Maudsley NHS Trust have said of a Shiatsu project set up in 2010, it is one of its most “valued” in the campaign. The head of occupational therapy at the Trust, said: “Service users, carers and staff alike have spoken highly of the impact this has made on their sense of well being. Particular reference has been made to renewed energy, improved motivation, reduction of side effects, as well as reduced tension, improved healing and increased hope.”
 
 
Tools Shiatsu uses to enhance mental health:
 
Acupuncture Points located in the head, neck, chest, arm and leg alleviate pressure away from the chest, cool the blood and calm the mind. These points lift physical and mental signs simultaneously.
 
Touch is the essence of Shiatsu. Human touch is the tool of Shiatsu working with thumbs, fingers, palms, elbows and knees to exploit, stretch the body from head to toe. The connection through touch with another person is a powerful tool for treating mental health problems. It assists in reconnecting body and mind to the outside environment.
 
Muscle release is used in Shiatsu to deepen and lengthen the breath which stimulates the function of the parasympathetic nervous system. One example is the psoas muscle, linking the back to the legs, which can get chronically tightened by stress as it prepares the body to run from danger. Stretching the psoas muscle allows a deep release which can be extremely satisfying for body and mind.
 
Shiatsu gives a therapeutic, nurturing space where a person can take time out and take comfort with oneself.
 
Receiving Shiatsu is an immensely enjoyable opportunity to be pampered while on a journey to self awareness. Sessions are a chance for self-discovery because they are a mirror to ourselves. They give receivers insight into habitual and often unintentional habits that add to an unpleasant mental outlook. Hunched shoulders, clenched teeth, arms and fists braced for action and a shallow breath will extend feelings of stress, even after the stressful situation has passed.

2020

Happy 2020, New Decade, New Year…..

In eastern philosophy winter is the Yin time of the year. Certain animals hibernate and plants withdraw to replenish and regenerate their potential during winter, preparing for growth in spring. It is a time for deep rest and healing.

In the past when humans lived closely to nature they followed this natural rhythm. In modern society most of us miss this chance to replenish our inner reserves. The festive season can be demanding and then in January we’re bombarded with messages to make goals, be more and do more ect. It is no surprise that we can feel we’re running on empty, overwhelmed and depressed.

In traditional Chinese medicine winter is associated with Kidney and Bladder organ and the Water element. The Kidneys hold our reserves of energy and potential, a bit like our internal batteries and need careful nurturing.

Often Kidney imbalance symptoms show up this time of the year – lower back pain, anxiety and fear, fatigue, joint problems, chest congestion, kidney problems, hormonal and reproductive issues and hearing difficulties.

Pay attention to your body, it knows what it needs and will communicate to you through sensations. Tune in to how you feel! Move your body gently in ways that feel supportive. Stretch, move and twist into the back and spine to nourish and activate stagnant energy in the Kidney and Bladder meridian. Meridian stretches; moving meditation, yoga and Chi Kung are beneficial for this.

Dress up warm and go for walks in nature and take in the rays of natural daylight. Select what feels good for your body and soul.

Avoid rushing, get rest, go to bed earlier and get more sleep whenever possible.

The anatomical location of the kidneys is in your lower back, just below the back ribs on the right and left side. Rubbing this area to generate warmth moves stagnant blood and energy. Traditionally kidney warmer was worn to protect the organs. Wearing a vest is great and does the job. Hot water bottle can help to keep the kidneys warm. Ginger Compress is a traditional remedy to harness the warming, energising nature of ginger and nourish the Kidneys.

Eat more warming stews and soups. Use Kidney nourishing root vegetables like carrots, butternut squash, parsnips and sweet potato. Add in some ginger and seaweed for an extra boost. Use dark vegetables and pulses like kidney beans. Nuts, seeds and sea food is also beneficial. Drink warm fluids such as herbal teas and ginger tea.

Sugar in foods and drinks, caffeine and alcohol deplete our vital energy and give rise to fatigue, unstable emotions and weakens our immune system.

It is a good time of the year to receive shiatsu to strengthen and balance your energy. If you experiencing symptoms or need support to see you through the winter as a preventative measure.

Taking care of yourself?

Most of you already know that if you take care of your body – like you would with your car – the healthier you will feel physically and emotionally. So here are some easy key points to help your motor run more smoothly.

Of course, no bias, regular Shiatsu treatment for balance, reduction of stress and relaxation to ensure you continue in good health. After a period of time, as your car requires a regular MOT, you should do the same for your body. See your GP and dentist for a regular health check. Even if you do not have any issues or pain it is best to be preventive and not wait until problems arrive. Take care of your health.

Eat a well balanced nourishing diet. Just as fuel matters for your car, so does the food you put into your body. It is important to eat a good, quality variety of fruit and vegetables and healthy fats, which you can find in nuts, seeds and oils such as flaxseed and virgin coconut oil.

Get moving: Cars that aren’t driven regularly have an increased chance of breaking down. Also, if your body stays sedentary for long periods, it can lose its function and can become creaky, tied up and slow like an unused engine. Make sure you spin the wheels for at least 30-60 minutes a day. Be motivated by the big city – there’s no lack of choices with people walking, running or cycling, use an exercise app and lots of exercise studios on every high street!

Change your car: I am not suggesting changing your body, although it would be a great thought! What I am saying is change your mindset. Change can be simple and occur in many forms: those I’ve suggested already, introduce a supplement to your diet, start a new exercise or sport, listening to inspiring music, or even just take ten minutes out of your day to be still and meditate. 

Don’t start to do everything at once, start small, step by step and over time those small ‘tune-ups’ became your normal, everyday life. Make a small change today that’ll kick-start your machine for the journey to come!

Digestive Balance

Shiatsu is great in helping digestive issues. You can also help and support your digestive system, by eating slowly. A diet rich in fibre, grains, fresh fruit and vegetables can be helpful. It is important to chew your food well so it is in a liquid form before it enters your stomach. Digestion begins in the mouth. As a suggestion, try to drink between meals rather than with your food. Our digestive system works best in the first half of the day and gets more sluggish in the second part.
The Stomach and Spleen energy channels are associated with the function of ingestion and digestion of food and information for mental, emotional and physical nourishment. In traditional Shiatsu as in traditional Chinese medicine, the Stomach corresponds to the entire digestive tract and is a vital organ for the production of Ki energy in the body.
Shiatsu treatment is ideal for treating symptoms such as indigestion, a bloated stomach and abdominal cramps or pain due to stress.

Fascia and Shiatsu

Shiatsu News
Shiatsulondon.com

In November, I took part in a fascia release seminar with Gabriella Poli, an experienced Shiatsu Practitioner, teacher and one of the founders of the European Shiatsu Society. It was impressive and I learnt new techniques which compliments very well with Shiatsu, in realizing releases of old and recent injuries and traumas. It was a comprehensive group of 28 experienced Shiatsu Practitioners from the UK, Sweden, Portugal, France, Greece and Italy.

What is Fascia?
Fascia is a general term for connective tissue. It is also called “extracellular matrix”. Fascia is a band or sheet that spreads throughout the body in a three-dimensional web from head to toe. It covers all structures of our body: it separates, supports, connects and protects. Energetically, fascia is crucial as it is deeply connected and interwoven within our denser structures: bones, muscles, ligaments and organs. Fascia records all physical, emotional and mental activity. Energy that connects with trauma that has not been resolved gets trapped in the fascia tissue. Fascia influences the energy flow in the meridians.
Have a look at this youtube clip ‘Fascia magnified 25 x’.

Fascia restriction
Fascia restriction causes pain, contractions, limitations in the range of motion, dysfunction of organs and body systems and misalignment of body structures.
Fascia reacts to stress and trauma by contracting to protect the body. Collagen fibers thicken in order to provide additional support to the tissue that is undergoing stress. Because fascia is a unique sheath and an interconnected web, restriction of fascia in one part of the body will transfer, through time, into other parts of the body itself.

Fascia Release
In order to release fascia I use no pressure techniques, but instead a light touch. As we do not use pressure, we can therefore treat clients with:
Acute pain
Inflammation
Bones fragility
Varicose veins
Injuries
Fibromyalgia
Rheumatoid arthritis
Etc…..

Fascia releases are performed all over the body, depending on where the restriction is located. Fascia release allows the return of denser structures to their normal physiological adaptive range, relieving pain and improving the quantity and quality of motion and function.

Metal Element

We had the hottest summer since records began and the new academic year has started. September 23rd is the official start of autumn. When summer moves into autumn it is important to take time to relax and rest. Shiatsu is the perfect way to help the transition.
The Five Elements are a fantastic model for discovering the cycles of life and nature and their part in our life.
The five elements are Metal, Water, Wood, Fire and Earth.
Each element has its strengths, qualities and propensity in nature, so they can be cultivated in us as human beings – to run like water, bend like wood, ascend like fire, ground like earth and demarcate like metal. These elements and their qualities can be stimulated by the right quality of touch on the body.
Autumn is the season of the metal element which is related to our lungs and large intestine, the element of clarity, value identity and character. This gives the gift of boundaries, focus, leadership and clear authority. The metal element also brings healthy self-confidence, knowing who you are and your worth in the world. Each breath is appreciated and brings us in to the living moment, the certainty of our mortality while we are actively alive! When metal is dreary, life can turn lonely. We sense the isolation of our unique selves, existential and solo, the borders are too clear, rigid and frail. This is a situation of profound grief but a grief not mourned, withered and broken inside, all alone. It represents our basic sense of solitude and loneliness, encircled by autumn leaves and stripped trees. The breath of life is diminished and with it can arrive respiratory difficulties and bowel problems as letting go is tough and hurting. Skin problems show up since it reflects our boundaries and with it a loss of self image. The sharp edge of life is in need of re-modelling and defining to notice our uniqueness and the paradox of being alone and belonging.
Shiatsu aims to recharge the elements, different parts of the body hold these potent energies and shiatsu can wake them up with the right touch and intention. Often the body is waiting to be held in a certain way in a particular place. When we are met in an appropriate way a deep change can take place.
Shiatsu is not something that is DONE to you, but with you, paying attention to both you and your body’s deep needs and wishes and replying to and meeting them in the moment, with your full participation. Shiatsu is a dance, following a pulse of an unfolding process of awareness and a celebration.