A warm hello to all readers, it is really good to connect with you again and share some updates since my previous articles in the summer.  

Reflexology for Wellbeing

Firstly it is wonderful to be practicing Reflexology again since the lifting of restrictions in mid July, connecting with and supporting existing as well as new clients, both mobile and at my treatment room in Bollington.

Whilst everyone’s response to Reflexology is totally individual, a common response found with many clients, after such a long period of lockdown, has been release of tension that has built up in the chest/upper back, identified by the release of a good click along the thoracic vertebrae reflex points.  Since nerves emanate from the length of the spine to serve the rest of the body, any release here will help to promote relaxation. By reducing stress, this reduces inflammation in the body, improving mood and sleep and reducing anxiety, very important for helping you to maintain optimal health, wellbeing and resilience.

Covid Secure

Please be assured that my practice is Covid secure. Wearing masks and distancing is possible since the treatment is on the feet.  There is plenty of time between clients to ensure good room ventilation, hand washing and wiping of surfaces.  I have a QR code that can be scanned for those with the app and I have been tested weekly over the last month, moving to monthly for a year, as part of the Office of National Statistics survey. 

WiseHealthOnline (WHO)

For those needing to isolate or still wishing to take a more cautious approach, online and phone consultations are available for diet and lifestyle advice, to optimise immune resilience and wellbeing and help navigate these uncertain times.

Please hop over to my WiseHealthOnline (the alternative WHO) facebook group, for information and tips, as well as emerging research, aimed towards improving our understanding and health, including various genetic and lifestyle studies you can participate in.

Vitamin D

One very important topic relevant to Macclesfield and the North of England, that WiseHealthOnline covers is emerging news and research on vitamin D for immune resilience and improved covid outcomes.  I wrote about this just before lockdown in March and again in the July LPM and followed this up with a letter to David Rutley in September requesting that he raise this in Parliament urgently, since the Government, NICE and PHE did not recognise its benefits beyond bone health and their studies in the summer were inconclusive.  I am delighted that the following week, Vitamin D was raised in parliament by Dr Rupa Huq MP for Ealing who was joined by David Davis MP the following week, presenting the overwhelming evidence and many letters from medical professionals for Vitamin D and improved covid outcomes to Matt Hancock. This resulted in Mr Hancock making a U turn this week in his views of Vitamin D and agreeing to run a campaign of its benefits against covid. This is a very promising result for public health and confidence, as well as reducing the burden on the NHS, since it has been shown to reduce covid ICU admissions significantly from 50% to 2% of patients in one of the recent studies conducted in Spain.  

Vitamin D is a very inexpensive, simple, safe and effective supplement, within the max dose of 100ug a day.  We make vitamin D from sunshine on our skin and as sunlight levels reduce as the days get shorter, this supplement is more important than ever.  Levels of Vitamin D may account for the recent increased case numbers in the north, since the sunlight levels and hence vitamin D levels are lower the further north we live, particularly north of the Midlands.   This may also explain why we are more prone in winter months to flu since vitamin D prevents respiratory infections.  It may also help explain seasonal affective disorder, since vitamin D can help alleviate depression in the winter months and explains why BAME groups are more prone to covid since their requirement for vitamin D is greater.

Let there be light!

Vitamin D and the coronavirus are literally shining a light on a truly preventative holistic approach to our health, since they highlight the important connection we have with nature and our environment, in this case sunlight and how our indoor lifestyles and genetics affect us.  Thankfully, even if we cannot jet off to the sun, we are able to take supplements to correct this requirement we have for adequate vitamin D levels.

Coronavit Clinical Trial Opportunity

For anyone not already taking a high dose vitamin D, there is now a U.K based,  charity funded, vitamin D clinical trial currently looking for 5,500 volunteers, to take part over 6 months. Participants will be able to have their baseline vitamin D levels tested and if low, be given a 6 month supply of vitamin D to assess how this affects covid outcomes.  The study is a collaboration between academic groups across the U.K and run by Queen Mary University.  For those not eligible for the study, they are also running a 5 year “Covidence” study assessing lifestyle factors in relation to outcomes. To register interest, the study team can be contacted by email : coronavit@qmul.ac.uk

I wish you and your families well and if you would like a good quality vitamin D supplement with 10% discount or for an initial no obligation holistic consultation, please get in touch with me quoting LPM, via the contact details provided.  

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People

Magazine issue Nov 2020. Tracy is a full time

Reflexologist & holistic therapist registered with

Association of Reflexologists (AOR) and trained

with the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM)

offering  natural preventative lifestyle approaches

for optimal wellbeing. She can also be found on the

Professional Standards Agency register for referrals

from other healthcare professionals including G.Ps

Vitamin D letter to M.P.

A copy of my letter written to M.P David Rutley on 20th September…

Dear David,

I bring this to your attention with a request to PLEASE raise this urgently at Parliament for the sake of the NHS and the nation’s health as we head into the Autumn and Winter months and face diminishing levels of Vitamin D.

I am a research scientist of more than 20 years, having worked in biomedical genetics at AstraZeneca and The University Of Birmingham and now an independent, self employed, science led, functional medicine practitioner and reflexologist, keeping up to date with research as it emerges.

There is good quality compelling research from around the globe of the importance of Vitamin D in relation to covid19 outcomes.Indeed a recent Spanish pilot clinical study of 76 covid patients, showed that of the 2/3 of patients given high dose vitamin D as well as standard of care on admission to hospital, only 2% required intensive care (ICU) admission and there were no deaths. Of the 1/3 of patients given standard of care but no vitamin D, 50% required ICU and there were 7.5% deaths in this group. This result is statistically significant and warrants further good quality, well designed clinical studies URGENTLY. Please see a summary of this research here by Dr John Campbell

In the meantime, why await a trial when VITAMIN D CAN BE SAFELY ADMINISTERED TO PATIENTS ON ADMISSION TO MITIGATE THE RISK AND COSTS OF ICU ADMISSIONS AND DEATH. This is a safe, simple, inexpensive intervention that can be adopted immediately and policy makers have a duty of care to act upon this to make this standard practice.

Additionally daily Vitamin D intake recommendations from Public Health England fall short of sufficient for overcoming Vitamin D deficiency and do not recognise the immune protection effects of Vitamin D, simply only citing bone health effects; Vitamin D status in the UK is poor when compared to our European counterparts for example Sweden.

Further studies from around the globe are described here and some earlier studies here . I am concerned about the quality of science that NICE performed in their urgent review of vitamin D and covid outcomes a few months ago, without taking into account the many global studies. For 3 out of 5 of their studies they evaluated vitamin D status from many years ago with covid outcomes in patients this year. It is unsurprising that they found no correlation of vitamin D with covid outcomes, since Vitamin D status decades ago will bear no resemblance to their vitamin D status this year. PHE also conducted an urgent review of vitamin D status with respiratory infections, following a meta analysis of clinical studies published in 2017 showing Vitamin D to have a protective effect against respiratory infections .

A meta analysis is the gold standard study carrying the highest level of evidence available and yet PHE took it upon itself to do its own rapid research of studies post 2017. It selected a hotch potch of different sized studies of varying levels of Vitamin D status and doses and failed to weight the studies on their level of evidence citing they did not have enough time and not taking into account the previous highest level of evidence meta analysis available. PHE conclusions were hence somewhat misleading and their study seemed incomplete.

I write regularly for the Macclesfield Local People Magazine raising awareness on matters related to health and in March this year (when I had contracted coronavirus myself) I wrote of factors which can support us through this pandemic, including vitamin D and indeed am sure it is one of the factors that has helped me to recover.

Of course death is not the only outcome of this pandemic. Long covid is an emerging and very real phenomenon with tens of thousands of people who are suffering 6 months post infection with debilitating effects of chronic fatigue, shortness of breath, intermittent memory loss, risk of blood clotting to name a few. This will have enormous economic impact if it is not addressed and it is possible that vitamin D may play a role in this also.

Prof Steve Jones, the evolutionary geneticist, talked only last year at the Bollington Festival, of the health impacts of the pandemic of Vitamin D deficiency that we have in much of the UK, particularly areas north of the Midlands which of course includes Cheshire East. It is interesting that many of the areas showing covid-19 spikes leading to local lockdowns appear to indeed be in the north.

I am keen to make a difference and feel that reaching out to you to raise these points in parliament and for policy makers is extremely necessary. I am keen to hear of the outcomes of discussions and happy to discuss further.

Kind Regards,Tracy Mills

Resuming Reflexology

I am delighted to say that Reflexology has been given the go ahead to resume from 13th July 2020. Preparations have been underway at Top To Toe Treatments to start seeing clients again from 20th July, with covid secure measures in place. Lifestyle and nutrition support as well as flower remedies, will continue to be available too, online or by phone.

How Can Reflexology Help?

Reflexology is renowned for alleviating stress and anxiety and improving mood and sleep, all of which have knock on benefits for over all health, wellbeing and immune resilience.

This is particularly relevant as we emerge cautiously out of lockdown to integrate and re-socialise again, whilst protecting ourselves from a second wave of covid19.

Alleviating Isolation  

Reflexology enables human contact and connection, in a safe environment, which is very reassuring and comforting.  It is a perfect antidote to feelings of isolation.  

Releasing Emotions

Often clients experience a release of emotions, which can reduce stress and tension, which may have been building up under lockdown.


The treatment is carried out on the feet, this enables a good distance of at least one metre from the head and face. Additionally we will be wearing masks, with minimum interruption to the treatment and the room will be sanitised and well ventilated before and between clients. The option for outdoor treatments is also available, weather permitting!


Clients choose whether to totally relax (even fall asleep in some cases) or have a conversation during treatment. Both options are beneficial, depending on client needs.  The reclining chair is extremely conducive to relaxation, before treatment has even started!

Balancing all systems of the body

Because all systems of the body map onto areas on the feet, the treatment brings these into balance to work better together, based on the premise that everything is connected. 

This may be helpful given that after effects of covid19 can have systemic effects, throughout the body. So for example, congestion in the digestive or respiratory system and/or diaphragm, may be having effects on our mental alertness and functioning.  By improving digestive and respiratory functioning and elimination of toxins, this can help to lift “brain fog”   

Reducing Inflammation

We know that Reflexology reduces stress, this in turn helps reduce inflammation in the body.  Inflammation is involved in most modern day chronic conditions, most of which are common risk factors for more severe covid19 cases. 

Improving immune function

The lymphatic system is very important for our immune function.  A more advanced technique of reflexology for lymph drainage (RLD), improves lymphatic and immune function,  by helping to clear toxins and waste products from cellular metabolism and fight infections.     


Some non-classical signs of covid19 may actually show up on the feet in some people, who may otherwise be asymptomatic, for example so called “covid toe”.  They may even test negative for antigen or antibody and yet have the virus present in their blood vessel endothelial cells.  As we are learning more about this novel virus on a daily basis, observations through working on areas of the feet that relate to different parts of the body may identify areas that are out of balance to bring them back into balance.

The aim of the treatment is to provide a safe haven for your relaxation and wellbeing and hopefully once you are reclined on the chair, all your worries will drift away ! 

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People Magazine issue August 2020.  Tracy is a full time Reflexologist & holistic therapist registered with Association of Reflexologists (AoR) and also trained with the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM) offering nutrition and lifestyle advice for optimal wellbeing. She can also be found on the Professional Standards Agency register for referrals from other health care professionals including G.Ps

Vitamin D

Hello to all readers, it is really good to connect with you again. I hope that you are keeping well. If you saw my last article 3 months ago, just before lockdown, you will have seen the wellbeing tips and advice that I shared, to help you navigate through these strange and difficult times.  These can be also found on my TopToToeTreatments website entitled pandemic support.  The advice I gave then has been further strengthened and validated as our collective understanding of the pandemic emerges and grows.

Wise Health Online

I have set up Wisehealthonline (the alternative WHO!!)  as a facebook group, for a sense of connection and community for sharing tips and asking questions, with website to follow. For those not on computers, the phone is also always available.  It is vital that we can reach out to each other, feel connected and find ways to minimise feeling isolated. It is wonderful to see so many community initiatives that bring hope and smiles to faces at times of adversity. One of the main purposes of wise health online is to offer support towards optimising immune resilience, navigating through this situation and addressing root causes to chronic conditions to improve health outcomes, via natural, lifestyle solutions.

Fresh Outdoor Air

One of the first pieces of advice I gave last time for supporting ourselves was the importance of being outside in the fresh outdoor air and how during the Spanish flu pandemic, patients were even treated outdoors and had a better chance of survival. If you are unable to go outdoors, then keeping rooms ventilated is very helpful. Clean outdoor air whilst still observing social distancing, is seen as a disinfectant. In due course when I am able to once again see clients for reflexology, I am looking forward to offering outdoor treatments as an option, weather permitting. Those who know me well, know my love of walking in the great outdoors and it is great to see so many more people walking locally for exercise and enjoying our beautiful countryside.  We are lucky to have relatively clean air here, since it is believed that a virus such a covid19 has a better chance of surviving and being infective in polluted air where it can attach to and be carried by pollution particles.  All the more reason to keep our air clean!

Vitamin D for the Immune System

One other piece of advice I gave 3 months ago, was to ensure adequate levels of Vitamin D, traditionally known for being good for strong healthy bones, because research a few years ago from a meta-analysis of many studies, shows that it prevents acute viral respiratory infections and brings the immune system into balance; not only does it boost the ability of cells to kill and resist viruses, at the same time, it dampens down harmful inflammation, which is one of the big problems with Covid. It is also involved in modulating the biochemical pathway that covid19 attaches to in the body. 

Vitamin D Deficiencies

It is understood that in the UK approximately 20% of the population are deficient in Vitamin D, far more than the rest of Europe; we have a Vitamin D deficiency pandemic. This is strongest to the north of the Midlands due to lower sunlight levels. It is also more pronounced in those who do not go outdoors much, such as indoor/office workers, the obese, elderly and those in care homes, as they don’t get enough sunlight to produce vitamin D. Also those with darker skin are not able to make vitamin D from sunlight as efficiently and can become easily deficient.  Vitamin D levels can be checked by a simple blood test, where adequate levels are around 30ng/ml, or above, optimally 40ng/ml and deficient levels are around 12ng/ml and less.  Average levels for U.K are 19ng/ml, far below adequate and the lowest across Europe.

In late April, Public Health England recognised that during the pandemic many are not getting enough sunlight to make vitamin D and recommended supplementing with 10 micrograms per day to protect our bones during lockdown, but this is too low to protect the 20% with lower levels of vitamin D and is 10 times less than the maximum tolerated dose.

Vitamin D levels and Covid-19

Studies are now suggesting that Covid-19 patients are also far more likely to die if they have a vitamin D deficiency. This has started to become more widely recognised globally and reported in the national press in the last few days.  For example an Indonesian study shows the death rate to be 98.9% for those with vitamin D deficiency, compared to 4.1% for those with normal levels of vitamin D.  Also, 94% of all NHS doctors killed by the virus, were BAME and likely to be  deficient in Vitamin D, reported here by the British Medical Association, even though they account for around 44% of all doctors, bringing the urgency of assessing vitamin D deficiency to the fore. Furthermore, the Somali population of Sweden has also suffered a disproportionate number of deaths: despite comprising less than 1% of the population, press reports on 11 May state that they accounted for 18% of COVID-19 related deaths countrywide and 40% of Stockholm’s COVID-19 related deaths.

I am delighted that PHE and NICE are now conducting rapid reviews of vitamin D in relation to the pandemic, with publications expected imminently. This truly offers a ray of hope amidst the struggles faced by so many and gives a vote of confidence to simple, holistic, inexpensive, natural, lifestyle and preventative approaches to health and wellbeing, enabling us to take our life back into our own hands and relieve the burden on the N.H.S.

If you would like a good quality vitamin D supplement with 10% discount or for an initial no obligation holistic consultation, please get in touch with me quoting LPM, via the contact details provided.  

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People

Magazine issue July 2020. Tracy is a full time

Reflexologist & holistic therapist registered with

Association of Reflexologists (AOR) and trained

with the Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM)

offering  natural preventative lifestyle approaches

for optimal wellbeing. She can also be found on the

Professional Standards Agency register for referrals

from other healthcare professionals including G.Ps

Pandemic Support

As a holistic therapist working with natural approaches to wellbeing, I took the sad but necessary decision to suspend all Reflexology and face-to-face treatments, seeing my last clients on 13th March, ahead of lockdown, until the threat posed by the new Coronavirus, Covid19 has passed.

I will still be available for online and phone Functional Medicine consultations as I want to support you as much as I can.

As you know, in the interests of public health, we all have to socially distance due to the global virus pandemic, to minimise spread of the virus and help protect the most vulnerable in our society.  It is for this reason I am suspending hands on reflexology treatments.

I think this virus shows how vital our health is and at this time, more than any other, it is so important for us to take care of ourselves, and those around us. 

What can we do?

The best defence against all infections is a healthy immune system, so supporting your immunity will be vital to help you fight Covid19 and stay well. I would like to share some self helps tips to help with that, some of which are taken from the principles of The Institute of Functional Medicine (IFM), with whom I have trained and am a registered practitioner and which takes a natural lifestyle approach to wellbeing.


Rest is extremely powerful in promoting wellness and strong immunity. Some of us may only have mild symptoms of the virus, but rest is still important, whilst for others they will have no choice but to rest due to more severe symptoms.  Try to get as much sleep as you possibly can too and minimise stress.


Activities like meditation, guided imagery, breathing techniques, gratitude, and mindfulness, are time-honoured, science-backed ways that make a difference. They have calming effects not only on the state of mind, but also very importantly helping balance immune function. This is particularly crucial since the most severe cases have an over reactive immune response leading to greater complications. There are plenty of resources available online to help you and I am available to coach in these too.

Sunlight and Fresh Air

Sunlight and Fresh Air are also likely to be helpful in keeping you well. Always follow government guidelines and keep a social distance of 2 metres away from others and self isolate if you have symptoms or have come into contact with others who have symptoms.

Experience from the greatest pandemic in recorded history – the 1918 Spanish flu, has shown us that patients treated outdoors recovered better than those treated indoors. Fresh air is understood to be a disinfectant, as reported by the M.O.D in the 1960s, effective both night and day.

Sunlight is understood to inactivate the flu virus and indeed covid-19 is believed to be sensitive to U.V light. Whilst it is not safe to use U.V lamps to sterilise your skin, natural sunlight may well be part of the reason why fresh air is anti-infective because of the U.V.  Indeed U.V laser beams are being used in some countries to disinfect hospital rooms.

Vitamin D

Another advantage of sunlight is that it allows us to make vitamin D when the skin is exposed to the sun. Vitamin D helps boost the immune system and has been shown to be effective in preventing respiratory infections. Even ten minutes a day can be effective. If you don’t get enough sunshine or are concerned about skin cancer from sun exposure, it is possible to take a supplement as a tablet or mouth spray.


Keeping hydrated is also very helpful, if possible try to drink warm drinks a little every 20 minutes , helping prevent dryness of throat and lungs.


A couple of other natural anti-infectives that may also help are Propolis – the substance that Bees use to keep their hives free of infection or if you are vegan, then the herb thyme infused in boiling water is a natural respiratory antiseptic.   Either of these can be gargled and or taken as a drink. Zinc and vitamin C are also beneficial.

Supplements should not be taken as a substitute for a healthy, balanced diet, rich in colourful plants and vegetables and including oily fish.


Of course don’t forget to frequently wash your hands with soap and water, avoid touching your face, mouth, eyes or nose and catch coughs and sneezes in a tissue and safely dispose of it and if you go out, take a shower and wash clothes when you get home and wipe down surfaces.  The best defence is avoiding infection in the first place.

Positive Minset

Maintaining a positive mindset is vital in these times. Exercise can help and taking self-help actions such as these suggested can help to boost your morale as well as your immune system and help reduce the burden on the N.H.S during this crisis. Try where possible to find the silver linings to this crisis.

Finally, I wish for you to remain healthy and find the best way through these troubling times and will continue to be available for online or phone consultations.

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People Magazine issue Mar 2020.

Anon. Weapons against influenza. Am J Public Health 1918 Oct;8(10):787–8. doi: 10.2105/ajph.8.10.787.

Hobday RA. The open-air factor and infection control. J Hosp Infect 2019;103:e23-e24 doi.org/10.1016/j.jhin.2019.04.003.

Reflexology & Hydration

My last article described current understanding and clinical practice in pain management. Therapies, such as reflexology that treat the whole person rather than just the symptom, can be beneficial.

Reflexology starts with a thorough consultation, providing a timeline of life events and factors, triggers or predispositions and includes a lifestyle, diet and exercise evaluation.

The treatment itself is understood to settle the autonomic nervous system, bringing it out of the sympathetic “fight or flight” stress state and into the parasympathetic “rest and digest” state of relaxation. 

This allows all the systems of the body to work better together. For example, we can digest better, our hormones come back into better balance, we can sleep better and when we are more relaxed, we have less inflammation in the body, which in turn is known to improve mood, reduce pain and have many other positive health benefits.

More advanced adapted techniques include ReflexTherapy, developed by a physiotherapist specialised in spinal injury and whiplash or Reproflexology for fertility to support natural or IVF cycles, as well as Reflexology for Lymph Drainage (RLD) to reduce oedema.

The treatment is usually carried out on the feet, working on the principle that all the systems of the body map onto reflex points on the feet, for example, the big toe relates to the head!  Reflexology can also be carried out on the hands, ears or face.  Gentle pressure is applied to the reflex points working on each system of the body.  By doing this it is possible to sense through the feet (hands, face or ears) where there may be a block and work to release this, for example the adrenal glands if someone has been stressed, the lungs if they have had a bad cough, the shoulders if they are sore.

Whereas reflexology works with the physical body, foot reading provides another dimension to a treatment. Foot reading helps give an insight into our thoughts and feelings in relation to our work, relationships and sense of security, which can help us understand ourselves and others better and areas of imbalance, which can be worked on to release.  It can also provide insight into our personalities and our heritage, interesting from a genealogy point of view.

Additionally, the Chinese 5 element theory gives further insight into the different emotions that relate to each of the organs of the body and ways to bring these into balance. 

I like to offer clients relevant tips that they can take away to do on an everyday basis between treatments, tailored to them, based on findings on the feet and their consultation, to help promote their health and wellbeing. This may be sharing insights from latest research, such as those I have shared in previous articles.  

One important generic piece of advice I always give to all clients, is to keep hydrated with drinking plenty of water, especially after Reflexology, as this helps clear away toxins and waste products from cellular processes, stress and tension, which may have accumulated over time and been released during the treatment.  

I am often asked how much is the right amount to drink.  As a general rule 1.2 litres (about 8 glasses) on average should be adequate throughout the day, though I know some who may drink 4 litres a day. It can depend on other factors such as physical size, exercise levels and climate.  Water is so important because 60% of the body is made up of water and we wouldn’t survive for many days without it.  Water can help overcome tiredness and headaches, improve digestion and help kidney function. The aim is to have light yellow to clear coloured urine. If it is dark this is a sign you are not drinking enough water. Try replacing snacks for water.

Cold water can be nice with a few sprigs of mint and slices of cucumber added to give a refreshing flavour or a slice of lemon. I often boil my tap water before drinking it and often drink it tepid /body temperature (!), which is a Chinese tradition, this is closer to body temperature and I find is less of a shock to the system.

The local Buxton spring is a wonderful source of water when passing the area . Collecting direct from the spring minimises single use plastic bottles. It is little wonder that many of the world’s most renowned health spas have historically been associated with mineral spring water, Buxton included.

Last month I was lucky enough to stay in one of Spains spa towns called Lanjaron in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. It had many decorative water wells, where we could top up water carriers for a day of walking in the country’s highest mountains.

In fact the whole area was gushing with fresh water irrigation systems called Acequia, built by the Arabs, to capture ice melt or rainfall. Many of these ran alongside footpaths. To celebrate the abundance of water, Lanjaron holds an annual festival of water – which is essentially a fun water fight – refreshing on a hot day. It was lovely to return to the beautiful well-dressings of Bollington – another tradition celebrating and giving thanks for the gift of water !

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People Magazine issue Aug 2019. 

Pain & Addiction

My last article explained why I chose to be a Reflexologist after 21 years in Biomedical Genetic Research, describing the logical link between the two.

This article looks at a specific area of my research and how it relates to therapies I now offer.

15 years ago, I researched the genetics of pain, to help develop painkilling drugs. Pain relief was, and still is, deemed a huge area of unmet therapeutic need. We analysed genes in a family with Congenital Insensitivity to Pain, where several children did not feel pain. They could break bones or cut themselves and, because they did not feel it, cause a lot of damage.

I found the affected children had inherited two copies of a defective variant, one from each parent, in a gene called Nav1.7, making the gene no longer functional. The parents were normal (asymptomatic, heterozygote carriers) because they each had a normal (wild type) as well as a defective copy.

Researchers also found a mutation in the same gene in another family and we each published in Nature and Human Molecular Genetics. Other mutations in the gene were also discovered, that cause hypersensitivity to pain.

These mutations validated Nav 1.7 encoding a sodium channel, SCN9A, as a target for painkilling drugs to block the gene, just as the mutation stopped the gene working.

However, biology is not that simple ….

For 15 years since, researchers have been looking for painkillers against this gene target. This month the scientific journal Nature reported that this has not been successful, with failed attempts in all 9 drug candidate clinical trials, stating, “just because a target is genetically validated, doesn’t mean it’s druggable”. Efforts are still underway to find ways of blocking this channel, the latest being tarantula venom peptides.

To my mind, genetics enables us to unravel mechanisms of pain, but it doesn’t mean that a drug to interfere with that process is the answer to dealing with pain.

Whilst painkillers may be useful for short term pain, the more I am aware of chronic (long term) pain management, the more I question the rationale for blocking pain which is seemingly ineffective; pain is there for a reason and the body develops resistance to pain killers, until the mind/ body heeds its signals. It calls us to tend to an injury and prevent further damage. It is the body asking to be noticed, not masked by drugs or ignored by the mind. It is why consultant pain specialists offer CBT and take patients off painkillers, recognising there is an emotional element to pain and that pain comes back stronger once the effects wear off.

We know that pain signals/gene expression of Nav1.7 goes up when there is inflammation, which is present immediately after an injury or when we are stressed.

There are also many undesirable side effects with long term use of painkillers which do not treat the root cause of inflammation and pain; non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) are linked to kidney cancer. Co-codamol causes constipation and is addictive as are other opioid based drugs. Paracetamol would fail a clinical trial today due to liver injury and its side effects can lead to costly hospital admissions.

Prescription opioids such as OxyContin in the US have tragically led to a mass epidemic of addiction, with tens of thousands of opioid related deaths per year. A federal court case is imminent with some 2,000 lawsuits against the pharmaceutical company Purdue, founded by the G.P Sackler brothers, with settlements estimated to run to half a trillion dollars.

Addictions in general, often occur as a way of masking painful thoughts or emotions and if these are ignored, can manifest as physical pain and disease.

Addictive comfort foods such as chocolate, alcohol, carbohydrate rich foods such as pastries, cakes, bread, pasta and certain fats in our diet, are also pro-inflammatory, which will make pain worse. We are also often deficient in anti–inflammatory foods, such as omega-3 oils, which we cannot manufacture ourselves, however, they are essential building blocks for our health.

There is a therapeutic place for holistic methods of pain management, taking into account diet, lifestyle, thoughts and emotions. The specific place in the body where pain and disease is felt can indicate the nature of thoughts and feelings.

As a holistic therapist I use a variety of tools and techniques and work at the body, mind and emotional level to support clients, bringing them into better balance for health and wellbeing, helping establish root causes of disease, facilitating and empowering them to manage and release pain, to learn and grow from the experience and realise their full potential. Clients have reported being pain free for the first time, following treatments with me, after decades of long term pain.

Nature Reviews| Drug Discovery May 2019 PP 321 – 323 Human Molecular Genetics June 2007 pp 2114 – 2121 Nature volume 444, 2006 pp 894–898

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People Magazine, June 2019 issue.

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.

The 4 Pillar Plan

Readers will by now know that I sometimes share book recommendations in my health articles and this time it has to be for the best selling book “The Four Pillar Plan” released this year, by local G.P Dr Rangan Chatterjee who you may have seen on the BBC One series “Dr in The House”.  He regularly lectures at events and conferences around the world.

Dr Chatterjee’s approach is refreshingly holistic and straightforward.  He prescribes lifestyle medicine to successfully treat a plethora of modern day chronic conditions without the need for medications. He is now teaching GPs to do the same. He believes we have overcomplicated health and I would agree and he wants to simplify it.

In his book Dr Chatterjee elegantly shares simple lifestyle tips fitting into 4 categories, each with 5 interventions, which are easy to implement towards better health and vitality. The key being to achieve balance across the 4 pillars, which are based on

  • good relaxation
  • eating habits
  • exercise 
  • sleep

The book is beautifully illustrated, enjoyable, interesting and easy to read.  As he says, relaxation and sleep are given little attention in our modern lifestyles and yet lack of these, contribute to so many health issues, which he explains in his book.

As a holistic therapist, primarily practising Reflexology, I am delighted that Dr Chatterjee endorses the approach of addressing route causes of symptoms, as we know that Reflexology supports 2 of the 4 pillars and is understood to:

  • promote relaxation,
  • reduce stress
  • improve mood and
  • improve sleep 

As I wrote in 2016 for Local People Magazine, by reducing stress, we are reducing inflammation in the body, which is the precursor to most chronic (lasting more than 3 months) modern day illnesses and pain symptoms. Science has shown that when we are relaxed, more of the anti- inflammatory genes are switched on and more pro-inflammatory genes switched off and when we are stressed it is the other way around.  It stands to reason that by reducing stress, we reduce our risk of chronic health conditions.  It is because of this that I practice Reflexology, following a 22 year career in Biomedical Genetic Research.

I explained that with the burden on our NHS of chronic health conditions, many of which are preventable and linked to lifestyle, and which take up 70% of the NHS budget, there is great merit in integrating holistic approaches such as these lifestyle interventions that Dr Chatterjee advocates, into western medicine. It is this approach that I am sure will not only help to keep people well, but also save the NHS from demise.

This will also reduce the cost and health burden of side effects of long-term use of drugs, such as Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammtory Drugs (NSAIDS) – which more than double the risk of renal cell cancer, anti-depressants that can cause weight gain, or simple Paracetamol which would not be approved today in a clinical trial, due to its damaging effects on the liver, not to mention the cost to the NHS of hospital admissions due to adverse drug reactions (Pirmohamed et al , 2004)  

Much of what is described is very much common sense, but the modern day society and culture in which we live and work, has caused us to lose sight of these and become disconnected.  As my late Grandfather used to say …

“ joy, temperance and repose, slam the door on the doctors nose. “ 


“ an apple a day keeps the doctor away”

I like that Dr Chatterjee described foot shape in his exercise pillar, how it relates to back pain and how he has found simple, short exercises that can be done barefoot, to not just build up the arch of the foot, but also exercise the gluteus muscle to support the spine, counterbalancing posture issues to treat lower back pain – this is Reflexology in action and supports the work of a Reflexologist – since the spine and associated nerve reflex points map onto the inside edge of the foot along the arch … this also steps away ( literally !) from the use of orthotics  and encourages the body to strengthen and support itself.  I have just tried the exercise out this morning while waiting for the kettle to boil and intend to do so on a daily basis!

A Reflexology treatment starts with an in depth consultation which includes a review of lifestyle, diet, family history, accidents, illnesses and much more, to gain an overview of what may be contributing to a clients symptoms, since everything is connected.

The treatment itself offers an assessment of areas in the body that may be out of balance, it helps to bring these back into balance, since reflex points related to every system of the body are mapped to the feet. New insights can come to light during this process about possible causes for health issues, which empower a client to better health.  The effect of Reflexology treatments can be cumulative over time. Clients often report that they feel more connected as the mind-body connection is re-established.

Dr Chatterjee’s next book, is due out early next year and will be entirely devoted to the topic of Stress, given the impact that stress has on health.

Tracy is a full time Reflexologist and full and current member of the Association of Reflexologists (AOR). By choosing a Reflexologist on the AOR register, with the letters MAR, FMAR or HMAR  after their name,  you are guaranteed to have a therapist that holds a nationally recognised diploma in Reflexology and is committed to continually developing skills and knowledge.


The 4 Pillar Plan: How to Relax, Eat, Move and Sleep Your Way to a Longer, Healthier Life. Dr Rangan Chatterjee 28 Dec 2017.

Adverse drug reactions as cause of admission to hospital: prospective analysis of 18 820 patients. Pirmohamed M et al . BMJ. 2004 Jul 3;329(7456):15-9.

The Association of Reflexologists, www.aor.org.uk

The 4 Pillar Plan

The new book due out Dec 2018


Trends in birth rates are showing that women are starting families later in life, with official figures showing an increasing average age of mothers, currently at 30.4 years in the UK. Over the last few years the birth rates for women in their 30s has surpassed that of women in their 20s, a trend that appears set to continue.

According to The Office of National Statistics, “since 2004 women aged 30 to 34 have had the highest fertility of any age group; prior to this, women aged 25 to 29 had the highest fertility.” Fertility is defined here, as birth rate.   

The fertility rate for women aged 35 to 39 has trebled since 1980 and is now at it’s highest ever level since the beginning of the time series in 1938. 

Not only this, but the fertility rate for women aged 40 and over has trebled since 1990 and is at its highest level since 1949 and in the last few years has exceeded the rate for women aged under 20; this pattern was last recorded in 1947. 

Fertility rates in both the under 20 and 20 to 24 age groups are now at their lowest ever level since the beginning of the time series in 1938 (see figure). The largest percentage decrease in fertility rates in 2016 was for women aged under 20 (5.5%); the largest percentage increase was for women aged 40 and over (4.6%).

  • Based on live births in each calendar year.
  • The rates for women under 20 and 40 and over are based on the female population aged 15 to 19 and 40 to 44 respectively.

No doubt modern lifestyles are causing women to give birth later. With 1 in 6 couples reported as having difficulty conceiving, more and more couples are turning to Assisted Reproductive Techniques (ART).

July this year marks 40 years since the very first IVF baby was born. Since then between 1991 and 2016 there have been 1.1 million IVF treatment cycles in the UK, with over 68,000 IVF treatment cycles in 2016, resulting in over 20,000 births (approximately 30% success rate overall for women under 40).

42% of IVF patients were under the age of 35 in 2016.  As egg quality declines rapidly from the age of 35, some women choose to have their eggs frozen before this age, for IVF treatment later. Alternatively women over this age may choose to use an egg from a younger donor, for which the upper age limit is 35.

Whilst fertility problems are thought to be due to female issues, HFEA figures show that 37 percent of cases are due to male fertility problems, 31 percent due to female problems and in 32 percent of cases the cause is unknown.

It is well understood that anxiety and stress adversely affects fertility in both men and women. For women, we know for example that ovulation is suppressed when the stress hormone cortisol is high.  A recent study of 23,000 Swedish women, links Anxiety & Depression with reduced IVF Success. Reflexology is proven to reduce stress and anxiety and it is believed that this is one way in which Reflexology can help to improve fertility and is thought to help balance the hormones to work optimally. Above all it is an extremely relaxing and nurturing treatment.

Very specific reproductive reflexology – Reproflexology techniques have been developed to support couples with a range of conditions to achieve successful pregnancies and is reported to have a success rate of 68% for natural and assisted fertility combined. Practitioners trained in this technique will ideally treat both partners weekly to optimise success. The treatment is tailored to the individual and for the female, includes charting their cycle to fully understand their body and when they are fertile.  Dietary and lifestyle advice is also provided. Ideally a Reproflexology programme runs for 12 weeks, to optimise reproductive health and can subsequently support IVF protocols and pregnancy.   

With growing use of technology women are turning to apps to chart their cycles to understand when they are fertile, to plan or limit pregnancy. Naturalcyles.com is the only app to be certified for use as a contraceptive in Europe and now has more than 700,000 users worldwide.  For those who are not so tech savvy, the Natural Family Planning Teachers Association (NFPTA) is a charity that provides support to women wishing to chart their cycles manually. Charting enables women to tune into their bodies and not rely on the contraceptive pill, which can carry health risks.



  • Stress reduces conception probabilities across the fertile window: Evidence in support of relaxation. Buck Louts GM, et al  Fertil Steril July 2010
  • Evaluation of anxiety, salivary cortisol and melatonin secretion following reflexology. McVicar AJ,. Complementary Therapy Clinical Practice Aug 2007
  • Anxiety, Depression May Reduce Women’s IVF Success J. Fertil Steril Mar 2016.