I've been doing a clear out recently, a big clear out. I've been going through my Reflexology paperwork and one of the documents I came across was an article written by Tracey Smith FMAR, from the Association of Reflexologists. It was an article from March 2012 - which I read at the time, but was so interesting that I kept it. In fact it was so interesting that I'd like to share it now.
Tracy quotes research by Michael Gershon of Columbia University and suggests that it has begun a deeper understanding of the role of the 100 million neurones in the wall of the bowel. There are so many neurons in the gut - roughly the same size as a cat brain when put together - that it has become known as the 'second brain'.
We've probably all experienced that "butterflies in the stomach" feeling: the uncomfortable, twitchy, nervous feeling we get when we're excited or scared. Well, that feeling is produced by those 100 million neurons in the gut, the second brain, sending out a surge of stress hormones that affect not only the stomach, but other organs of the body too.
The 'gut brain' communicates with the brain in a two-way process - receiving information from the brain and sending information to the brain. Tracy says "The brain's job description is that it controls behaviour, takes input and generates responses. The enteric [gut] brain primarily deals with digestion so that it is 'on site' rather than having to pass through the central nervous system to the main brain. However, it has other actions too, as 90% of the vagal nerve fibres pass information from the gut to the brain rather than the other way around. Electrical stimulation of this nerve has been used as a treatment for depression, so our guts really do inform the brain in relation to our emotions. It has been found that approximately 95% of the body's total concentration of serotonin is found in the gut - serotonin is the feel good hormone ..."
If you or anyone you know has ever suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and tests have come up normal it's tempting for the medical profession to assume that the root cause must be psychosomatic. However, Tracy suggests that research indicates that lack of the transporter molecule for serotonin means that serotonin remains present to continue producing the muscular reflexes.
So IBS may be a 'gut brain' issue rather than a 'brain brain' issue. But what does that have to do with Reflexology, Indian Head Massage, or any other complementary therapy? Well, one thing I know for sure is that Reflexology and Indian Head Massage are relaxing - for almost everyone - and that there are something like 7,000 nerve endings on each foot sending sensory input to the brain(s). And if that sensory input is relaxing then the 'gut brain' will get the message just as quickly as the 'brain brain' - so mind and body can come into balance. And that can't be a bad thing, can it?
Special Offer available until 31 May 2014 at the end of this blog...
Over the past few months I've had a number of clients who have come to Reflexology for the first time and I've been absolutely delighted by their response to the treatment.
I've been a reflexologist for the past 16 years and although I try not to take it for granted, I do sometimes forget just how amazing Reflexology is. So, it's wonderful to have clients who remind me just how blessed I am to be able to practice such a gentle, yet powerful treatment.
One of the biggest surprises, for clients new to Reflexology, is just how relaxing it is: someone recently said they'd never been so relaxed in their life. Well if that's not a recommendation, I don't know what is! For me, I love the fact that clients can get really, really relaxed without having to do a thing.
And that sense of relaxation can create a powerful healing space. We spend so much of our time and energy - physical and psychic - out in the world trying to get results, or cope with the results of the efforts of others, that we often forget to come back to ourselves. It's a bit like going out in the morning, but forgetting to come home at night.
I often wonder if that's why Yoga and Meditation seem to be increasing in popularity at the moment. Einstein's 3rd Law of Motion says that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction (I'm sure I've not got that exactly right, but the meaning's there). The more stressful life becomes, the bigger the demand for a space of stresslessness (OK, so it's not a word, but it does look relaxing, don't you think)?
Therapies like Reflexology have never been more popular and I think it's because they give clients an opportunity to relax, to be still and to take stock. Our bodies are amazing healing machines which, with the right fuel, maintenance and recovery strategies, will keep going strong. The relaxed feeling that Reflexology can create offers a healing space in which the body can re-calibrate, re-balance and repair. So, Reflexology is fabulous for keeping you healthy!
But Reflexology can also help you recover better health. Relaxation may help reduce inflammation in the body and that can have a beneficial effect on many conditions, such as IBS or arthritis. It also has a positive impact on the hormone system by reducing the production of stress chemicals and hormones in the body.
And, for me, one of the most significant effects of the relaxing effect of Reflexology is that it helps to develop awareness in the client of the distinction between tense and relaxed - for without awareness, nothing can change. Some of the biggest "Ah Ha" moments in my Reflexology practice have been with clients who seemed to me to be stressed, but didn't feel themselves to be stressed. By the end of the treatment they felt relaxed and were then able to recognise how high their stress levels had actually been.
Relaxation also helps with pain management, so painful conditions can often be helped through Reflexology - and there is research to support this.
So, if you've never tried Reflexology before, why not give it a go, because you'll never really know what you're missing until you try it out for yourself.
And to put my money where my mouth is, I'm going to give a £5 discount to all new clients who book before 31 May 2014 - just call me (Doris), on 07724 197627 and quote Blog when you book your appointment. Looking forward to meeting you.