Reflexology: Are you walking on the solution to your health problems?

As a physiotherapist massage makes up a pretty significant portion of my days work, and a lot of people may find it odd but I find giving massages strangely therapeutic… most of the time; the 100kg footballer wanting a deep tissue massage maybe not so much. The worst part about it is that I get insanely jealous of the person on the table thoroughly enjoying an hour of zen time while I am lost in thought about what I would do to trade places with them.

In light of this I have been promising myself that I will treat myself to a massage for several months now. You wouldn’t think it would be hard to put aside an hour on a weekend to achieve this but somehow Saturday and Sunday roll by and on Monday I find myself in the familiar daydream about when and how I can get myself a massage over the coming week.

I finally did it. Thursday night late night shopping of all places, in search of an outfit for the races, next minute I was dozing off in a reclining chair enjoying a 40 minute reflexology foot massage. Best $45 I ever spent. (and no I didn’t find a dress for the races that day). While in my sleep like state I did manage to notice that there were certain points on my feet that were incredibly painful compared to the rest and I couldn’t help but be curious about what these particular points meant in the world of Chinese medicine. Unfortunately I didn’t get any groundbreaking information from it:

  • Base of both my heels: This zone represents the lower back and legs. Makes total sense I am always stiff and sore in these areas because I am on my feet all day and do a fair bit in the way of running / weights training
  • My left arch: This area represents the stomach and adrenal glands.
  • The top and side of both my big toes: This represents the head and neck region. I am often stiff and sore through my neck and shoulders given that I do a lot of massage and work with my arms.

My very western orientated medical brain doesn’t really believe that releasing pressure points in the hands and feet can treat the range of medical conditions it says it can BUT I am trying the whole be ‘open minded’ and the more I read about it the more it interests me.

What is reflexology?

Reflexology is a form of massage that involves releases pressure points in the hands and feet which coincide with certain areas of the body. Basically our feet and hands are maps which correspond to parts of the body including our organs and vital systems such as the nervous and circulatory system.


By releasing these ‘reflex points’ you can help to stimulate circulation and muscular function to the corresponding area which can assist with relaxation and reducing stress on that particular organ or gland. The deeply relaxing nature of this form of massage can alleviate stress that builds up through everyday life and we all know how much stress can negatively affect our body’s ability to function at its optimal level!

Reflexology is not a stand-alone therapy but when used in conjunction with proper medical treatment it can help to alleviate stress which in turn improves our ability to heal both mentally and physically.

Sessions should last between 30 minutes and an hour and should not cause pain. For the best response consistency with treatment is important. A treatment cycle is once a day for 6 days in two week intervals and you are expected to note changes in your condition throughout this period. Immediately following a treatment you can experience nausea, tiredness or a worsening of your condition; this is normal and only temporary.

Reflexology can also be used purely as a one off at the end of the day it’s just a deep trigger point massage for your hands and feet and what a bonus if you de-stress your organs and vital bodily systems in the process.

The Verdict:

Personally: I’m on the fence: I’m certainly not advocating you book a reflexology session to treat your chronic medical condition BUT I’m most definitely getting another foot treatment in the next week!

Scientifically: Medical evidence is limited, clinical trials have produced mixed results.

Are we walking on the solution to many of our health problems? It’s an interesting thought to ponder on a Monday.


Are you getting enough sleep?

The short answer here is probably no… I would estimate 80% of people reading this right now are under slept! As a working adult the recommended sleep requirement is around 8 hours. Can you actually remember the last time you got a solid 8 hours sleep? Because I certainly can’t! I average 6.5 – 7 hours of sleep a night and trust me I am feeling it by Friday afternoon!

The benefits of getting enough sleep stretch far beyond banishing the dark circles under your eyes… it is ESSENTIAL to your health; both mentally and physically. Pretty much 99.9% of us are grumpy individuals when we don’t have enough sleep, not to mention our attention span diminishes to that of a two year old; you become irritable, irrational and unproductive.

Why is sleep so important?

1. HELPS TO REDUCE STRESS: When you’re functioning on a lack of sleep your body can enter a chronic state of stress. Several of my previous blogs highlight how detrimental too much stress can be to our health and wellbeing. Too much stress releases cortisol (stress hormone) constantly which can contribute to chronic disease such as high blood pressure and coronary artery disease; curb weight loss results and leave you feeling generally run down and emotional. A good nights sleep allows your brain to switch off and lets your body recover and rejuvenate.
2.MAKES US MORE ACTIVE. There is nothing quite like waking from a good night’s sleep ready to seize the day ahead. A deep slumber will improve your energy levels and increase your mental awareness; you will be more productive at work and be better prepared to tackle tricky mental challenges that a tired un-rested mind would otherwise struggle with!
3. IMPROVES OUR MOOD: Two things tend to make me grumpy… being hungry and being tired! Lack of sleep can leave even the happiest of people feeling over emotional, irritable and unusually cranky. More and more research sleepis coming out about how lack of sleep can be linked to mood disorders including depression and anxiety.
4. IMPROVES MEMORY: Scientists are still not really sure why exactly we dream. Some people get their dreams analyzed but we all know deep down there is often no explanation for why we dream about certain things. What we do know is that sleep boosts what is referred to as memory consolidation. As we go about our days doing 100 and 1 things at once our brains are absorbing EVERYTHING that we do, see, think etc. When we sleep the brain continues to work away processing these emotions, thoughts and experiences. Ever heard the expression ‘sleep on it’ when you are facing a big decision in your life… this is where this comes from. Sleeping shapes our memories and thoughts allowing us to make better sense of it all in the morning.
5. AFFECTS OUR HEALTH: Lack of sleep has been linked to cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure and also associated with build up of chronic inflammation in the body which can play a role in chronic disease. Keep your ticker in check by getting AT LEAST 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
6. AFFECTS OUR WEIGHT: Have you ever had a restless or sleepless night and the following day nothing you ate satisfied you.. (some late Saturday nights spring to mind here!) Getting adequate shut eye helps to regulate several hormones within the body including Ghrelin and Leptin which are our hungry hormones..  Lack of sleep drives our leptin levels down meaning you won’t feel as satisfied after you eat. It also causes ghrelin levels to rise stimulating your appetite and making you more hungry. Sleep more, weigh less… I could deal with that!
These are just a few of the reasons why we spend almost a quarter of our lives asleep! Hit the hay a little earlier for a healthier, happier life!

Foods your body will LOVE you for avoiding

If you saw last week’s post you will no doubt be right on top of all the best foods to help fight off and prevent build up of unwanted inflammation in the body.  It’s all very well eating an abundance of these healthy nutritious foods BUT are you sabotaging all your hard work by consuming other foods that actually contribute to inflammation and make our bodies more ‘toxic’.

There is no doubt that diet can serve as a protective function for our body. More than 70% of our immune system cells are found in the digestive tract so it a no brainer than when you fuel your body with nourishing foods we are able to heal faster and we are less likely to develop chronic inflammation build up.

Surprise surprise number 1 on this list is refined sugar!!! It’s quite literally killing your insides and adding to your love handles. Directly linked to metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and a variety of other chronic diseases. Think soft drinks, fruit juices, pastries, desserts, packaged snacks, candy etc etc… If you have a real sweet tooth try natural sweeteners like stevia, natural honey or agave. Natural sugars found in fruit are an excellent way to get your glucose fix while also being full of antioxidants and fiber that our bodies need. Just don’t go overboard. Moderation is key and some fruits are lower in sugar (particularly fructose) than others!

sugarCooking Oils: Certain oils used commonly in cooking are exceptionally high in omega 6 fatty acids and low in omega 3 fatty acids. An imbalance of omega 6 to omega 3 creates a breeding ground for inflammation. Use oils such as extra virgin olive oil, macadamia oil or coconut oil.

Dairy: Some current research is actually beginning to indicate that our bodies were not designed to ingest and digest milk beyond infancy in fact statistics show that 60% of the worlds population cannot digest milk. Dairy products are a common allergen that can effect many of the systems in the body including the respiratory system – contributing to asthma; the skin – linked to an array of skin irritations, hives and acne; and the digestive system. Dairy laden products include most yoghurts, milk, butter, cheese, pastries, cakes etc. In my opinion the best substitute is almond milk!

Refined grains: white flour, white bread, white pasta…Pretty much empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever! They are high GI and contribute to chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes and coronary disease. Eat unrefined or whole grain options. If you are intolerant to gluten all together there are many gluten free options available these days are they are actually pretty delicious! Pasta lovers give zoodles (zucchini noodles) a try, they have an unexpected crunch factor that leave you surprisingly satisfied!

Trans Fats: found in cookies, cakes, pies, buns, fried foods. Bakeries are like trans fat factories! Trans fats increase cholesterol, are linked to obesity and insulin resistance. Steer clear of these, your digestive system will be very thankful!

Alcohol: I put this last on the list for a reason. I love an alcoholic beverage or 2 and it’s certainly not a habit I am about to give up! But excessive consumption (as we all know) is linked to a lot of chronic disease. Choose clear spirits and low sugar mixers (vodka + soda as opposed to vodka + cranberry juice) Hit the sauna the day after you hit the wines too hard and sweat out those toxins!

junk food

In a nut shell if you eat LOTS of veggies, lean protein and avoid full dairy, processed carbohydrates and sugar your body should on a whole be functioning pretty well and you should feel pretty damn good!


The best foods to fight inflammation

Inflammation is medically defined as localised physical condition whereby a part of the body becomes painful, red, swollen and hot usually in relation to a physical injury or underlying infection of the tissues. This is acute inflammation and usually a short term completely NORMAL response by the body as it attempts to heal injured or affected tissues.

Chronic inflammation on the other hand is a different kettle of fish; this is an ongoing inflammatory response by the immune system. Your body produces a constant supply of immune cells which can be detrimental to your health in many ways. Studies have shown links to cancer, alzeimhers, arthritic conditions. Chronic inflammation in the body can be caused by an array of different things: stress, weight, smoking, lack of exercise, sleep patterns and DIET.

I don’t think many of us are aware of just how good our bodies are designed to feel. Finding a balance of such lifestyle factors can do wonders for your health.

Over the last 6 months I have become a little bit of a foodie.. I LOVE good food, there is nothing quite like experiencing a perfect balance of flavour, spice and texture in a meal. It makes eating SOOOO much more enjoyable. As a result of this new found ‘interest’ my diet has changed significantly, It’s a hell of alot healthier; it actually scares me to think what I was putting into my body a year ago.

Diet can play a huge role in how our body harvests inflammation. Certain foods are termed inflammatory foods, they signal our immune system to create immune cells while other foods are anti-inflammatory foods. I’m not advocating you design your diet around what I am about to write….This is merely food for thought.

  • Salmon: This has got to be up there with one of my favourite foods… And I love it in all forms. Smoked, sashimi, steamed, grilled you put salmon in front of me and I will devour it! Salmon contains anti inflammatory omega 3’s which is essential in producing normal inflammatory responses in the body. You should have oily fish of some kind at least twice a week!
  • Blueberries: packed full of anti-oxidants blueberries are a fabulous fruit to have in your diet! Not only do they assist with inflammation but have also been proven to be wonderful for the brain.
  • Tumeric: fast becoming a ‘super spice’ its an essential addition to your spice rack. It contains a powerful anti inflammatory agent curcumin which protects and fights against oxidative stress than certain dietary fats put on our body when eaten. Some research has begun to show that its anti inflammatory effects are on par with pharmaceutical drugs such as hydrocortisone. If you haven’t developed a taste for this one I suggest you do!
  • Ginger:  I have only recently begun to use in my cooking, purely because I often have found the flavour to be very overpowering. I add a little to most of my salads, and it provides a great little punch in soups and fresh juices!
  • Cruciferous Vegetables… think broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbage. I am a huge vegetable eater and I tend to eat most of mine raw or lightly steamed/blanched in boiling water ( I like the crunch factor). Eating an abundance and array of these veggies can help to rid your body of potentially carcinogenic compounds. Darker coloured greens are better as they tend to contain more vitamins such as calcium, zinc and iron.
  • Green Tea: contains flavonoids that have been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer.

And that is just to name a few… There are numerous foods that are fabulous to keep your body fighting fit and free of unwanted inflammation!

Look our for our next blog about what foods you should try and eliminate from your diet

The Dynamic Duo – Why a calcium / magnesium balance is essential to our health.

My mother is one of the smartest people I know. She is more often than not right about most things and while it frustrates me ALOT I can’t help but secretly smile at how awesome most of her advice is.

On my last visit home to Bowral mum and I launched into one of our usual health related debates, this time centred on what supplements one should take. I am personally not a huge tablet taker, I take fish oil daily, an occasional zinc tablet and magnesium nightly before bed because I suffer the world’s worst night cramps. Since starting to take magnesium about 18 months ago my nocturnal cramps are fewer and less regular but I still get them several times a week.

Mum launched into a full blown discussion about how people take this and that and how do we actually know that our body is absorbing what we put into it…. Ok so I zoned out a little… until on the topic of my cramps the relationship between calcium and magnesium came up.

A while back I wrote a blog about magnesium and the important role it plays in many of our bodily functions. (Read that blog HERE) And all of this still holds true, magnesium is arguably the MASTER nutrient. BUT now thanks to my mother (and a little extra research on the side) I have realised that getting sufficient magnesium intake is a little more complicated than taking a tablet before bed. In the process she has quite possibly found the missing puzzle piece to my night cramping conundrum.

The body is impeccably designed, so much so that everything requires a balance. Too much of one thing inhibits absorption of another etc etc. When it comes to magnesium, one must consider its relationship to calcium. Most of us know that calcium is VITAL to the health of our teeth and bones. But calcium cannot act alone, it needs magnesium. These two minerals need to co-exist together to allow many critical bodily functions to take place. Too little of one or too much of another can lead to many health consequences!


What do we need calcium and magnesium for exactly?

In order for us to go about our daily activity, small electrical impulses take place in our neuromuscular system, this transmits a signal via the nerves to the brain to bring about movement. In order for these impulses to be transmitted calcium needs to enter our cells, through channels operated by magnesium. Calcium does its job then magnesium is again required to get rid of the used calcium before it crystallizes.

Not having enough magnesium leaves calcium deposits in the cells and can lead to headaches, migraines, heart disease etc etc

Like magnesium, calcium is also required at a muscular level. Magnesium is a muscle relaxant while calcium helps with contraction of muscle tissue. Having too much may lead to muscle twitching while chronic calcium deficiency can result in muscle cramping and spasm.

  • Calcium: backbone mineral (literally) for development and maintenance of bones and teeth, while also important for muscle contraction/relaxation, nerve impulse transmission, metabolism
  • Magnesium: The master nutrient for enzyme reactions in over 300 of the bodies cellular reactions, important for muscle relxation, REQUIRED for absorbtion of CALCIUM and other essential nutrients, regulation of body temperature and pH levels

Calcium + magnesium = THE DYNAMIC DUO

Both minerals require each other for utilisation and absorption in the body.

As a side note, we must also consider Vitamin D. Our bodies synthesize vitamin D when exposed to the sun. Unsurprisingly, with all the media focus on preventing skin cancer and the importance of sunscreen (which of course is no doubt very very important) many of us are actually Vitamin D deficient. Our skin needs to be exposed to some natural sunlight in order to get adequate vitamin D. Vitamin D is required to help the body absorb and regulate calcium levels in the blood, BUT in order for vitamin D to work it needs magnesium to convert it into its active form in our bloodstream.

In summary: Calcium and magnesium cannot exist alone. In order for our bodies to work as efficiently as they were designed to we need adequate amounts of both. Magnesium is needed to convert vitamin D into its active form and we need magnesium and vitamin D to absorb calcium. And so we come full circle.

Let’s look at a real life case study….. ME

Fit healthy 24 year old female. Exercises daily. Takes daily magnesium which have reduced incidence but not cured night cramps. In the last 18 months I have completely cut dairy from my diet due to skin allergies. So where do I get my calcium from? I did a little experiment and for 4 days I entered everything I ate into a program which tracked my calcium intake… average daily intake was 24% of my required level. PROBLEM.

My calcium:magnesium ration is way way way way out of whack.

Solution: Again thanks to my wise wise mother. Take a calcium supplement. I kid you not my night cramps have all but disappeared. I think I have suffered one or two nights since beginning to take calcium 3 weeks ago.

If there is anyting to take from this blog, other than mothers are ALWAYS right,  its simply that to address deficiencies in our diet (of which most of us probably have a few) we need to look at the whole picture. If you have concerns about levels of certain nutrients or you think you may be deficient in something, chat to your GP,  a qualified nutritionist or naturopath. These things can be tested and looked into but best done by a professional.

Happy Tuesday!