With Christmas and New Year celebrations over for another year, now is the time to give your liver a boost, in order to start off 2016 with a bang!
Many people would like to have more energy, and more often than not, a sluggish liver (overloaded with work removing the toxins from our modern environments and lifestyles) is the root cause of our low energy.
Emotions such as anger, irritability and states of worry, stress and anxiety can be a symptom of an inflamed and overworked liver.
In turn, these states and emotions can add to the stress chemical levels in our bodies, so it makes sense to look after our livers!
Why is our liver so important?
Anatomically, the human liver is so fundamental for health because it performs so many important jobs in our bodies – around 500 different jobs! The liver filters our blood, removing toxins from what we ingest, including drugs and alcohol. It maintains the glucose levels in our blood, and turns that glucose in to glycogen (stored energy). In addition to storing energy the liver also stores vitamins A, D, K and B12. Our livers also produce cholesterol, urea (a compound in urine), and the substances that break down fats in to energy. Phew – your liver is working hard for you all the time!
The liver is our largest internal organ with a huge amount of blood flow. It is important that blood flows freely around the liver for the digestive system to work properly.
Holistically, a healthy liver is vital for our feelings of health and well-being. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the liver ensures that energy and blood flow smoothly throughout the body. It is called the ‘General’ for its leading role in the functions of the internal organs.
How can you help your liver to function better?
Supporting the health of the liver starts with becoming aware of and trying to reduce the toxins we ingest. Remembering that our largest organ, our skin, also absorbs a fair amount of toxins, along with our lungs. Limiting alcohol and drugs, including caffeine and sugar, and ensuring adequate water consumption are all great ways of helping the liver.
In TCM, it is believed drinking mint tea is highly beneficial to the liver. And of course breathing deeply helps the diaphragm to massage the liver and help it perform its many jobs. Any of the many therapies available can help support the health of the liver in their different ways; BCST, Acupuncture, massage or reflexology for example. Anything that helps us to relax supports the liver, as it reduces the stress in our bodies and therefore reduces the toxins that the liver has to process!
Exercise, exercise, exercise...
Exercise helps the liver to detox more efficiently by bringing optimum blood flow and oxygen to our vital organs, essentially flushing toxins out of our systems. We can also take certain herbs and tonics to support the liver, such as nettle or milk thistle.
The human liver is the only organ that can grow back when part of it is removed. An adult liver can regenerate from as little as 25% of its original size. This unique capability is an indicator of just how important, and awe inspiring the liver is. All the more reason to love your liver...
The festive season is upon us! There are many challenges to our health and wellbeing at this time of year. Our bodies' needs tend to get put aside as we push through until Christmas, sometimes leaving us very drained by the time the holidays come around.
But don't worry, there are a few simple steps to making sure pre-christmas stress doesn't overwhelm us!
My recommendations are;
1. Keep healthy snacks at hand throughout the day. Ideally snacks should have a combination of protein, carbs and healthy fats.
Try and eat a good snack around 10 am and again between 2-3pm. This helps to keep cortisol (stress hormone) levels balanced throughout the day, reducing the cravings for sugar and caffeine and helping us to sleep better at night.
Ideas are; Mixed nuts with a little piece of dark chocolate; natural yoghurt with manuka honey, cacao powder & blueberries mixed in; fresh dates with feta (but avoid dates if your adrenal glands are out of balance, i.e. you have been stressed long term); cottage cheese or tahini with avocado on rice or corn thins; protein smoothies with milk or nut milks & greens. Grab a lunch bag with a freezer pack to keep cool if you're out and about.
2. Drink lots of water to keep those stress hormones flushed out of your system.
3. Avoid too much caffeine. Your body will tell you how much is too much for you.
4. Keep active, even if your eating habits suffer due to the lack of time you have to spend in the kitchen. In my opinion, it's better not to worry about a couple weeks eating processed or bought meals (and all that party food!), and to keep moving and exercising whenever possible. Exercise will help neutralise stress levels in the body and therefore help you to sleep better. Having a good deep sleep helps us think better and make better food decisions during the day, and we are less hungry the less tired we are (due to those good old cortisol levels again!).
For more tips on coping with stress and exhaustion check out
Some more information for food choices during the silly season can be found here; http://www.nutritionfoundation.org.nz/…/Surviving-the-Festi…
Please feel free to contact me for more information if you are feeling stressed out and exhausted; firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.waiukucranio.co.nz
It's a bit of a mouthful to pronounce, and it sounds complicated, but Craniosacral therapy is in reality beautifully simple. With hands on the body we can feel whether or not the movements in the tissues and fluids of the body are healthful, and with hands on, any less healthful areas begin to unblock, allowing health to flow in!
One of the things I like best about this therapy is the way we let the body make its own changes. Of course, the body is making changes all the time, along with hundreds of other functions that are happening every second. During a Craniosacral session we press a fast-forward button in a sense, giving the body a little kick start in the direction of optimal health, in whichever areas it needs.
Below is a little more of in the way of explanation of how Craniosacral Therapy works:
Craniosacral Therapy has been developed over the past century, since research first carried out by Osteopath Dr. William Garner Sutherland revealed that the body has a ‘primary respiratory mechanism’, an inherent movement throughout the body over which we have no control, a movement which continues for a short time after secondary (lung) respiration has stopped.
Craniosacral Therapy is a form of hands–on therapy that encourages the body to release restrictions and contractions, which compromise the overall health of an individual. Contractions and restrictions, or traumas, can be generated from accidents and injuries, habitual body patterns, illness, emotions held in the body, shock, and birth. Any restrictions, or patterns of ‘held health’ in the body can be manifested physically, mentally, energetically and emotionally.
Using a light therapeutic touch to key areas of the body, Craniosacral Therapy encourages the body to initiate resolution of these blocked areas, which can improve blood-flow and circulation, breathing, digestion, organ function and muscular-skeletal biodynamics all over the body. Changes can be subtle or profound, shallow or deep in the system and can occur quickly or gradually. Typical changes include a settling and rebalancing of the nervous system, adjustments and releases in the joints, a contraction followed by a release in the muscles, realignment to the midline (spine). Sometimes there are emotional releases where the body is able to let go of long held feelings that are no longer needed. However a BCST therapy session is not just a physical experience; the deep relaxation and sometimes meditative state can bring people to an awareness of their own phenomenal capacity for self–healing. In this way, Craniosacral Therapy can give people tools to continue to heal long after they have had a few sessions of the therapy. There is no intention or force used by the therapist – instead, the body is entrusted to heal itself. This act of trust can activate the body’s capacity for self-healing, engaging it’s own innate intelligence.
I have often heard people talk of a ‘slipped’ disc and the associated pain that it incurs. I became interested in this clinical issue when a client came for a Craniosacral Therapy session (and continued to come weekly for many months as it helped so much), and wanted to know more about the symptoms, causes and treatment options.
Prolapsed or herniated discs usually occur or develop between the ages of 30 and 50. Men are nearly twice as likely to be affected. About 5 percent of cases of severe lower back pain are due to a prolapsed or herniated disc.
Vertebral discs are unique structures in the body, which act as shock absorbers between the 33 vertebrae of the spine. They evenly distribute force and pressure applied to the spine, and act as joints to facilitate back movement. They also perform as ligaments, holding the vertebrae above and below together. So although we often think of the vertebrae as the main component of the spine, really the discs are just as significant.
On the inside, a disc is gel-like, made from a water-based substance called nucleus pulposus. The outer layer of the disc is constructed from a series of concentric rings made of collagen fibers (lamellae), collectively called the annulus fibrosis. Disc tissue is cartilaginous and gets less blood and nerve supply than other types of tissue. This means it takes longer to heal than other types of tissue such as muscle or bone.
The nucleus pulposis inside a disc is the main carrier of the body’s axial load, and needs to stay hydrated to do its job properly. It needs the fluid to retain its buoyancy to perform its shock absorbing function. At birth a disc is 80 percent water, and this steadily decreases with age. Dehydration can impair the integrity and flexibility of the whole disc, and cause splits in the annulus fibrosis, or outer casing of the disc.
Causes and Implications
Not all of my research sources classified hernias and prolapses as different conditions, however it seems to me that technically they are different.
Disc hernia is when the nucleus pulposus protrudes through the inner rings of the annulus causing a bulge on the outside of the disc. This bulge in the can press on a nerve root or nerves in the surrounding area and cause pain.
Prolapsed disc is when the annulus becomes damaged from straining of the back due to heavy lifting, impact, or bending awkwardly. It can also split or tear due to dehydration. The nucleus pulposus can then seep out in to the spinal canal, pressing on the nerve root, or even causing a chemical reaction that causes inflammation and pain.
A prolapsed or herniated disc in the lumbar region most commonly occurs in the disc between L4 and L5, or between L5 and S1.
In many cases of these kinds, pain and/or numbness or tingling travels down from the affected nerve root along the nerve pathways, usually down one side of the body. However not all herniated or prolapsed discs cause problems, as some herniations do not put any pressure on the nerve root.
Both situations can be caused simply by age, or from degenerative disc disease. Being overweight also puts additional pressure on the discs as they have more weight to bear. Smoking is another health issue, which can cause degeneration of the disc.
In most cases the symptoms of a herniated or prolapsed disc settle down within a few weeks.
In some cases symptoms persist and cause a great deal of pain and disruption to the lives of those affected.
The pain caused by a prolapsed disc in the lumbar spine can be more prominent in the buttocks and legs (usually one leg) than in the lower back, due to the pathways that the nerves follow down the body. It usually starts slowly and gets gradually worse, and most people experience it on one side of the body. The pain (or numbness, burning or tingling) can reach all the way down to the foot or even toe. The anal and genital region can be affected via the Perineal nerve. It is also not surprising that the most common cause of sciatic nerve pain is a prolapsed disc. The sciatic nerve is a bundle of nerves which emerge from the spine at L4, L5 and S1 and travel all the way down the legs to the heels. It is commonly considered to be the longest nerve in the body.
Allopathic (Western medical) treatment options
The main treatment recommended for this condition, even in conventional medicine is keeping active. It is also suggested that avoiding heavy lifting, turning or bending awkwardly, or sitting for long periods is beneficial.
Physiotherapy, osteopathy and chiropractor are also suggested, as is pilates.
Pain relief is recommended in more acute cases. These can be Analgesics (Panadol), Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (Ibuprofen), Codeine, Corticosteroids (can be injected in to the spine to reduce inflammation) or muscle relaxants.
The last option for ongoing pain and disruption to life and well-being is surgery. About 1 in 10 cases of a slipped disc require surgery. Most operations are successful (over 80%) but there is a risk, as with any surgery, and the risk can be anything form making the pain worse, or creating a different pain, to paralysis. This is a difficult decision for many people faced with constant chronic pain, or the risk of feeling nothing.
Working specifically with lumbar disc herniation or prolapse within Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy
Craniosacral therapy can help this condition, as I have experienced personally with clients. By encouraging the body to release some of the tension that it holds to protect itself around the damaged disc, some of the pain can be reduced in the surrounding muscles and all over the body. Making direct contact, or using dermatomes (nerve connections from the vertebrae) is a good way of getting more blood flow to the area to reduce inflammation. With blood comes nutrients and hydration, which is highly beneficial. It can also initiate nerve connections, which may have been damaged, therefore allowing more feeling, or helping to reduce numbness in the back, buttocks or legs.
On another level, BCST can help someone to see their body in a more positive way, as having constant pain can give us very negative feelings towards our bodies. It can help to support a renewed respect and gratitude for the health that our body does have, and it’s ability to heal itself to the best of its ability at the time.
Other therapies/approaches to consider are Osteopathy, Acupuncture, Physiotherapy, Bowen therapy and Chiropractic.
If you are experiencing any of the symptoms listed above and have not been checked out please consult your Doctor.
For any further information on how BCST can help with this and many other spinal conditions please contact me or find a local therapist at http://www.craniosacral.co.nz.