Spring clean

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As we emerge from our winter hibernation the energy of spring encourages us to make a fresh, clean start; dusting, airing, hoovering and putting things away. A natural part of this process is reducing the amount of stuff we have by decluttering our environment, keeping that which brings joy and passing on those items that no longer serve us.

Clutter obstructs the smooth flow of energy in our environment, it distracts and disrupts focus by limiting the brains ability to process information. By clearing clutter we literally lighten the load which helps to bring calm and clarity to our space by making room for energy to flow freely.

In this way our outer organisation contributes to reducing our inner chaos meaning that spring cleaning is of benefit to both you and your home. We don’t need to read books on the subject to know that a clean organised space just feels better.

Spring is a transformative time so harness this seasonal energy to clean and clear out on every level, letting go of not just possessions but also thoughts, feelings and patterns of behaviour that no longer serve you. Make room for the new.

Enjoy the process!

 

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Horrible Hay fever.

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One in four people in the UK suffer from hay fever and experience debilitating symptoms such as sneezing, red, itchy, watery eyes and a stuffy nose, all of which can really take the fun out of the spring and summer months when ideally we’d really like to be outside enjoying nature and making the most of the warmer weather.

Anti histamines are frequently used to counteract these symptoms but they are not always effective for long term use and have all sorts of unpleasant side effects including drowsiness.

Instead, lasting relief can be gained through the use of both homeopathic and traditional Chinese medicine. Not only can acupuncture and homeopathy effectively reduce these debilitating symptoms they do so by treating the underlying patterns of disharmony bringing the energy of the whole body into balance.

Creating better health – naturally!

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Spring in your step….

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Today is the spring equinox which marks the end of winter and the astronomical start of the new season. The spring and autumn equinox’s mark the points of equal day and night in the year whereas the winter and summer solstices mark the longest night the longest day respectively.

The date of Easter moves each year because it too is based on the astronomical calendar and must always fall on the first Sunday after the first full moon following the spring equinox.

Echoing the story of Christ’s death and resurrection, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) also views the spring as a time of new life and renewal of spirit. As we emerge from our winter hibernation with our kidney energy recharged we can begin again with vigour, reflecting the energy of nature all around us as the blossom and leaves on the trees burst into life we can put of all our plans into action.

Spring corresponds to the wood element in TCM, which is linked to the liver and gallbladder organs. According to the philosophy of Chinese medicine, the liver is responsible for the smooth flow of qi (energy) throughout the whole body. If the liver functions smoothly our physical and emotional activity runs smoothly too. The emotion linked to the liver is anger and if its smooth flow around the body is obstructed in any way, it stagnates and causes feelings of frustration, irritability and in extreme cases anger.

Fresh air and physical movement help to mobilise our liver qi and as the weather improves and daylight hours increase in the spring it is the perfect time to get out for a walk in nature. Yoga and stretching exercises are also beneficial as the liver maintains tendon health and flexibility by storing the blood at rest and releasing it to nourish the tendons during activity.

As liver energy is at its height in spring this is the natural time to detox and use acupuncture treatments to help support the work of this organ. Alongside physical movement a simple practice is to begin the day with hot water and lemon which helps to assist the liver as it flushes out toxins accumulated overnight.

The taste associated with the liver is bitter/sour which is reflected in many of the herbs that are used to support it such as dandelion, burdock and milk thistle which help to protect and encourage the liver to clean itself of damaging substances such as alcohol, medications, pesticides, environmental toxins and heavy metals.

The colour associated with the liver is green so eat plenty of spring greens.

The smooth flow of your liver is the smooth of your life so everyday begin again and spring into spring!

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Why meditate?

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Meditation has been used for thousands of years as a way of moving beyond stress inducing thoughts and the minds constant chatter to a place of calm, clarity and present moment awareness. Though there are many different traditions and meditation techniques, the cultivation of mindful awareness and expanded consciousness are the essence of all. These are the ultimate gifts of meditation, and there are many more besides as regular practice produces profound benefits that influence not only the physical, but also the mental, emotional and spiritual areas of our lives.

Many studies are conducted into the effects of meditation and have concluded that these are just a few of the health benefits:

Relief from stress and anxiety – meditation mitigates the ‘fight or flight’ response, decreasing the production of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline.

Decreased blood pressure and hypertension.

Lower cholesterol levels.

More efficient oxygen use by the body.

Increased production of the anti-aging hormone DHEA.

Restful sleep.

A landmark study undertaken by Massachusetts General Hospital concluded that after only eight weeks of meditation not only did participants feel calmer, but changes were detectable in various areas of their brain including growth in the locations associated with memory, empathy, sense of self and stress regulation. Recent research has studied the effects of meditation upon telomere length. Telomeres are the caps at the end of our DNA chromosomes, that shorten with age and age related diseases, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As telomeres shorten, cells age and die more quickly, conversely telomere lengthening can increase cells longevity creating the ‘fountain of youth’ effect. Meditation practice has been proved to alter and increase telomere length which in turns extends the length of a healthy life.

Meditation is a free, powerful tool that is accessible to all and as numerous studies have shown has far reaching benefits for all areas of our lives. Through daily practice we can transform ourselves and therefore the world around us, staying centred and calm through challenging times. It seems that now more than ever a more apt question might be why wouldn’t you want to meditate?

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Happy new year of the rooster!

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Today is Chinese lunar new year, which in 2017 is the year of the rooster. Each year, the Chinese calendar assigns an animal from a rotating zodiac of 12 animals. The 12 animal cycle rotates through the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. Apart from 2017, the year of the rooster includes the years 1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005 and 2029.

Those born in rooster years are characterised as being observant and hardworking. They are active and talkative and according to Chinese astrology roosters tend to enjoy social events and are very comfortable being the center of attention.

2017 is a fire rooster year. As in Chinese medicine, Chinese astrology is inextricably linked to the elements so that each year is associated with one of five elements as well as an animal, including gold (metal), wood, water, fire or earth. The element, combined with the zodiac animal, set the astrology for the year. This year is a fire year, and so those born in 2017 are fire roosters. The last fire rooster year was 1957.

In contrast to the 365 day solar year of Gregorian calendar the date of Chinese new year is determined by the traditional Chinese calendar which is lunisolar. This means that it’s based on the cycle of the moon as well as on earth’s course around the sun. A month on this Chinese calendar is 28 days long, and a normal year lasts from 353 to 355 days. To keep the calendar in sync with the sun and the seasons, the Chinese add an extra leap month about once every three years.

Determining the date of Chinese new year requires some complicated calculations. In most cases, it falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. In the Gregorian calendar, the solstice is around Dec. 21 which is why Chinese new year typically occurs in late January or during one of the first three weeks of February.

Chinese new year is celebrated around the world with a blaze of firecrackers, for 16 days beginning with new years eve reunion dinners and culminating in the lantern festivals. Like Christmas in the West, people exchange gifts during the new year festivities. The most common gifts are red envelopes which symbolise good luck and contain money to be given to children and (retired) seniors. It is a time for families to come together, enjoy the holidays and wish for a lucky and prosperous year ahead.

Enjoy! x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lemon-aid

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Drinking hot water and the juice of half a lemon is a fantastic way to activate your mind and body first thing in the morning. Over night we often go 8 hours without fluid while our liver is actively refreshing and regenerating our bodies so this warm water and lemon is a wonderful way to rehydrate and help flush accumulated toxins from our digestive system when we first wake.

In Ayurvedic medicine the sour taste of the lemon is seen to kindle our digestive fire or Agni which then creates the warmth needed to stimulate proper stomach acid and bile production needed for good digestion and a strong metabolism.

As if this weren’t enough there’s also a little immune boost thrown in, as lemons are ultra hydrating, alkalising and electrolyte-producing as well as containing highly absorbable vitamin c, potassium and calcium.

By helping the liver and lymph to flush the body of toxins, improving digestion and containing vitamin c, drinking hot water and lemon can also lead to clearer and healthier skin.

Incorporating this simple and easy drink into your morning routine will gently aid your bodies natural detox process leaving you feeling better and brighter, plus it tastes good too!

Enjoy x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New year – new you.

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Traditionally January prompts all sorts of resolutions – so how about resolving to improve your genetic health?

Historically medical scientists believed that our biological destiny was determined by our genes. In this way, it was seen that if heart disease, cancer or diabetes were part of our family history then we would inevitably develop these. However, thanks to a growing body of genetic research we now know that our genes do not determine our destiny. While we cannot alter the structure of genes or the sequence of our DNA, we can influence the activity of our genes to create good health and well-being.

This understanding is new and belongs to a growing field known as epigenetics. This is the study of the epigene, the complex sheath of proteins that surrounds DNA and it is here that the various genes are switched on and off.

Though our genes remain the same throughout our lifetimes their activity is constantly changing from year to year and minute to minute. So much so that the genetic read out of identical twins is the same at birth but considerably different by the age of 70 by which time they are no closer than two siblings who are not identical twins!

We inherit approximately 23,000 genes from our parents and some of these genes will include genetic mutations, these variations can affect how the gene expresses itself in your body. While 95% of disease related gene mutations increase your risk factor for a disease, crucially, they do not predict the disease. In other words, just because you carry a genetic mutations that predisposes you to heart disease, you are not destined to develop it.  Only 5% of disease related gene mutations are fully penetrant, which means that they will directly cause a disorder.

This is exciting and empowering information as it means that we have the ability to influence the expression of 95% of disease related gene mutations, including genes for Alzheimer’s, heart disease and diabetes. Amongst others the work of Bruce Lipton in ‘Biology of Belief’ allows us to see that our internal environment instantly impacts our cellular make up and not the other way around. Through our daily lifestyle choices we can optimise how our genes behave, helping to turn off the genes that promote good health and turn off the genes that promote illness.

The new view provided by epigentics allows us to see that positive lifestyle changes such as meditation, stress reduction, good sleep, a balanced diet, moderate exercise and even feeling happy and loving have a beneficial effect reaching right down to our genetic level. Within a very short period of time these changes can alter the activity of 500 genes according to the findings of Dr Dean Ornish in his Ted talk ‘Your genes are not your fate’.

These little lifestyle changes can have a transformational impact on our health and well-being and may just be the resolutions worth keeping….

 

 

 

 

 

 

Winter solstice – Burning of the clocks.

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Today is the winter solstice, this is the time when the sun shines at it’s most southern point directly over the Tropic of Capricorn, giving us our shortest day of the year and marking the official start of winter. Sunrise at 8.04 GMT and sunset at 15.54 allows us a mere 7 hrs and 49 mins of daylight.The good news is that after the winter solstice the days will start to get longer again until the summer solstice on 21st June 2017.

The solstice has been celebrated by pagans for thousands of years and many of the traditions that we now associate with christmas have their roots in these winter solstice rituals, as the druids used evergreen trees, holly and mistletoe as symbols everlasting life.

While thousands still travel to Stonehenge to celebrate the winter solstice, Brighton has created the Burning of the clocks festival. Beginning in 1993, this is a new, rather than an ancient tradition in which thousands participate by making beautful willow and tissue paper lanterns that light up the shortest day of the year.

The parade moves from the Royal Pavillion down to Madeira Drive on the seafront where the climax of the festival takes place with fireworks, as collections of lanterns are burnt in a blaze on the beach and Brighton celebrates the last of the longer winter nights.

We can all look forward to spring! x

 

 

 

 

 

Cold busting tonics.

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Winter brings with it cold and flu at a time when our immune system is usually being challenged by the festive season during which we tend to feel more stress, eat more sugary foods, drink more alcohol and get less sleep. Whilst there is no cure for the common cold or flu these tonics help strengthen the immune system, shortening the duration and severity of illness as well as alleviating symptoms. As if that weren’t good enough – they’re also all natural remedies.

The basics: Rest is crucial to recovery, this is when our body can really concentrate on the fight at hand, motivating and manoeuvring the immune system to overcome illness. This is thirsty work so make sure you stay hydrated, take warm soothing drinks to boost immunity and help alleviate symptoms, such as the classic  hot water, fresh ginger, lemon and raw honey and/or golden milk (see previous posts for recipe).

Other than honey it is helpful to avoid sugar and foods that are considered to be ‘damp’ in nature within traditional chinese medicine (TCM). Damp foods are seen to clog up and hinder the body’s ability to function well, therefore limiting the immune system and creating mucus and phlegm. Some examples of foods in this category are: sugar, wheat, dairy, pasta, nuts, beer, concentrated fruit juices as well as cold and raw foods. Green, Jasmine and fresh mint tea are all warming drinks that help to clear damp from the system.

The herbal remedies: Herbs such as ginseng, echinacea, elderberries and cleavers all strengthen and tone the immune system whilst garlic, thyme, nettles and rosemary have antibacterial, antiseptic and anti viral properties. Taken as tinctures, teas or herbs included in your daily diet you will feel their benefits particularly throughout the winter months.

The homeopathic remedies: Aconite is the homeopathic remedy to give at the first onset of cold like symptoms, in this way it is used to stimulate the bodies wei qi and expel colds and flu before they are able to invade deeper into the body. If, however, the illness did manage to invade further then both Bryonia and Eupatorium Perf are two other commonly used remedies for problems affecting the respiratory tract, whilst Gelsemium is the go to remedy for flu-like symptoms including physical weakness, Rhus Too can also be used to alleviate sore and aching joints.

Keep cosy  x stay well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay well this winter.

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The immune system is our body’s defence mechanism and when it is in peak condition, at best we avoid symptoms of illness completely, at worst we put together an effective fighting force quickly so that illness is less severe and shorter lived. Winter is the season of colds and flu, frequently posing challenges to and testing the strength of our immune systems.

Micro organisms such as bacteria, fungi and viruses enter our body continuously, often causing no harm, but when conditions are right the invading organism can multiply and reproduce in turn stimulating our immune response. These specialised cells are transported throughout the body by the blood stream and are found in large numbers in the gut, lymph nodes, thymus gland, spleen and tissue fluids.

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) our immunity is provided by wei qi, circulating in the outer layers of our body, when strong and vital it protects us from invading pathogens. These include all of those listed above such as bacteria and viruses plus the elements – ie, cold, damp, heat, wind. Wei qi is inextricably linked to our lung energy and this in turn is paired with the large intestine so there are many similarities between the western and eastern views of how our immune system functions.

As our immune system effectively empties our body’s dustbin, in general it is impeded by any factors that inhibit this natural process of elimination. As such the main enemies of the immune system are: smoke, stress, pollution, pesticides, radiation, foods containing additives, hormones, refined sugar and carbs, poor mineral/vitamin balance, being under/overweight and unhappiness. As it determines how fast we age, keeps us healthy and has the power to destroy cancer cells before they’re formed it is well worth taking great care of our immune system by providing the ideal environment for it to function well.

This can be particularly challenging at this time of year, as we head into party season it is easy to overload and tax our immune system, leaving us feeling run down and unwell. To be kind to yourself and avoid this scenario try cutting down on stimulants such tea, coffee and alcohol, stay away from refined sugar and carbs, get 6 – 8 hours sleep a night and take regular exercise. Give your body the best chance to stay well this winter!