The Stress Solution

I am often asked how and why I chose to become a Reflexologist and Holistic Therapist after working in Biomedical Genetics for 21 years until 2013, following my Biological Sciences (Genetics) degree at Birmingham University. Whilst the two vocations seem unrelated to most, to me there is a logical link, which I will try to explain;

I worked during interesting times in genetic research, keeping up to date with the latest research and making new discoveries, which included searching for genes involved in osteoarthritis, comparing DNA of hundreds of affected individuals with unaffected individuals and finding a gene involved in pain sensation, validating that gene as a target for anaesthetic drugs. 

During this time the human genome sequence was completed in 2003 and we were involved in mapping genes to chromosomes. It was a surprise when far fewer genes than expected were present. This meant that, not unsurprisingly, it wasn’t just genes, but the way they interact with environment, that can affect our health. I later worked on the genetics of drug response and safety including the genetics of vitamin B12 deficiency with the diabetes drug Metformin.

More and more research became available to explain how lifestyle such as diet, exercise, thoughts and emotions, affect our genetics and the way our genes are switched on and off (so called epigenetics), which in turn affects our wellbeing and how we can reverse modern day conditions. This probably sounds logical, but we have been led to believe that many modern day conditions such as diabetes, treated by prescription drugs are irreversible and we can’t change them with lifestyle. Drugs are often designed to treat the symptoms caused by our lifestyle, often creating side effects and not addressing root causes.

For me, several important pieces of published research highlighted this, as well as my personal experience of healing acid reflux way back in 1998 (!) which I did by listening to my body and looking for the root cause. At the time, the pharmaceutical industry’s biggest selling drug class was antacids, a class that is now forecast to reach a whopping $18bn in sales globally by 2024! Intuitively I didn’t feel this was the answer for me.  This led me to find relaxation, meditation, mindfulness and simple lifestyle adjustments.  This not only healed the acid reflux, it enhanced my insight and ability to innovate.

With this experience I am now able to offer clients effective techniques to manage their own stress and related symptoms such as acid reflux, simply and naturally, improving quality of life.  I may also sign post them to other professionals, for example, the hospital pain management team. Consultant pain specialists now advise not to treat chronic (long term) pain with painkillers, saying they are ineffective, cause side effects, the body becomes resistant and pain comes back stronger. Options they offer instead include exercises and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to help manage and relate to the pain differently.

One of the pivotal research studies that I came across showed that when we are stressed more pro-inflammatory genes are switched on and more anti-inflammatory genes are switched off. When we are relaxed it is the other way around.  Research is also showing us that most modern day conditions start with inflammation, including depression, pain, arthritis and even cancer – in fact any condition that ends with –itis which means inflammation!

Research also shows how lifestyle affects the integrity and length of our chromosomes, as measured by the length of the ends of chromosomes, so called Telomeres. Telomeres help to prevent chromosomes from getting shorter so that cells can continue to divide rather than degenerate, as we get older. Stress has a detrimental effect on Telomere length, leading to earlier aging.

For more information on Telomeres and how they respond to our lifestyle, I recommend the book “The Telomere Effect” written by the scientist who discovered Telomeres, Nobel Prize winner Elizabeth Blackburn, and her co-researcher Elissa Epel. It offers simple lifestyle tips for maintaining telomere length and slowing down aging. I often share these tips with clients who come to me for Reflexology. It even describes the benefits of omega-3 fish oils on telomere length – my aged grandmother’s secret to longevity.

For those who read my previous article, I described the book “The 4 Pillar Plan” published last year and written by Dr Rangan Chatterjee, G.P, author and T.V presenter of BBC TV show ‘Doctor in the House’.  He prescribes lifestyle medicine, finding root causes and reversing conditions such as Diabetes, Migraines and chronic pain and he shares his wisdom in this book.  His latest book “The Stress Solution” has just been released and in it he explains how we are now living in the middle of a stress epidemic with up to 80% of GP appointments, thought to be related to stress.  He describes the effects of stress in more detail with lots of simple ways in which we can alleviate it. One of his recommendations includes trying Reflexology.

Because we know that Reflexology helps to reduce stress and anxiety, promote sleep and improve mood, bringing all the systems of the body into balance to work better together, I hope this helps to explain the logical link between working as a Reflexologist and the benefits this has for our genetics, health and wellbeing! I hope you will come and give it a try!

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People Magazine issue Jan 2019.  Tracy is a full time Reflexologist & holistic therapist registered with Association of Reflexologists (AOR) assuring customers that she holds a nationally recognised diploma and is committed to continually developing skills and knowledge. She can also be found on the Professional Standards Agency register for referrals from other health care professionals including G.Ps.