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,

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. 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.

Spring Fever, Social Jet Lag and Serotonin

Holistic healthcare works on the principle that everything is connected and nothing is separate and works with the whole person and their interaction with the environment as unique, taking into account the mind-body

It is preventative and encourages balance and living in harmony with the environment, to promote and maintain health. Symptoms are seen as helpful, enabling us to tune into and respond to their signals. There is no better way to illustrate how connected we are to our environment, than how our hormones respond to the changes of the seasons as we transition from Winter to Spring.

As we enter Spring and the days are getting longer, the body responds by producing less Melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that we produce more of during the Winter months when the days are shorter, to tell the cells in our body when it is night-time and to help us sleep better and longer. It may take several weeks for the Melatonin levels to drop during the transition to spring. At the same time Serotonin (also known as the happiness hormone) starts to rise, with the opposite effect of Melatonin and brings about increased energy and vitality.

For those who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) with lows or depression during winter, Spring can be a turning point and bring about a lift in mood. The fastest rate of change in daylight hours occurs around the equinox, which this year is on March 20th.

For some the body can become confused for a few weeks, as the two hormones balance. Symptoms that may be experienced as the body catches up, may include headaches, sleepiness, tiredness, joint pain, irritability and distraction. This phenomenon has been called “Spring Fever”.

Chronobiology is the biology of time and our biological (circadian) rhythms in relation to the cycles in nature.
There are 4 rhythms on Earth:
The Tides 12.5 hour cycle
Daylight 24 hour cycle
Lunar 28 day cycle
Annual 365.25 day cycle

Our modern lifestyles lead us to become quite disconnected and insulated from these natural cycles, causing us to override our body’s own natural rhythms, which can lead to biological imbalances and “social jetlag”. This can cause our bodies to feel confused and stressed. Social Jetlag is the difference between what our internal body wants us to do and what the
social culture wants us to do.

For example, in the Winter, 85% of the western adult population set their alarm clock to get up when it is dark, which can be quite unnatural for the rhythm of our body and can interfere with our metabolism and hormones. Also, using computer screens late at night, can lead the body to believe it is still daytime, which affects sleep patterns and consequently our overall health.

We are uniquely individual in our response to daylight and night-time cycles, our so called chronotype. This is known to be due to our genetics. Just as there are extremely tall and short people there are also extremes of chronotypes with the majority in the middle.

Some of us are naturally night owls and others early birds and it is best to honour our inherent natural rhythm. Living in dissonance with this leads to greater risk of health problems. This also changes with age, with 1 year olds and 80 year olds being quite similar in sleep requirements.

Teenagers to 25 year olds are much later in their sleeping and waking hours rather than this being due to laziness. We require clear contrast between daylight and darkness to help regulate our circadian rhythm, to allow for better sleep and enable us to wake more naturally and refreshed for a productive day. It is not possible to receive enough lux (light intensity) from indoor lighting during the day, to provide this contrast. We can instead ensure that we see as much natural daylight during the day and as early in the morning as possible and remove the blue spectrum light after sun-set.

It is a good idea, to adjust the screen brightness settings in your computer system preferences to warmer colours in the evening and there is free software called f.lux, which enables dynamic lighting on your computer, and removes the white-blue parts of spectrum out of the screen at night

Holistic therapies support, empower and enable the individual to tune into the sometimes subtle signals of their body’s natural wisdom, in relation to their environment and understand how they may better support themselves. Reflexology works in this way and is proven to improve sleep patterns and mood. It is thought to do this by bringing the hormones and nerves (neuro-endocrine system) into natural balance, thus improving overall health.

There is also a specific ReproflexologyTM protocol used by specially
trained therapists, to improve hormone balancing for fertility, for couples trying to conceive naturally. Success rates are reported to be 68%. The treatment includes temperature charting to tune into and follow the natural rhythm of the menstrual cycle, enabling assessment of the hormone balance during the cycle to adjust treatment to support pregnancy.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Liver and Gall Bladder are the organs associated with Spring, so it is important to support these too. A simple way to do this can be with Apple Cider Vineger preferably organic from the mother tincture, taking 1-2tsp in a glass of water an hour before food. Cheers !

Written for Macclesfield Local People Magazine April 2018 by

Tracy Mills BSc (Hons, Genetics) MFHT, MAR, PRM, BFRP
Reflexology, Reproflexology, RLD, Bach Flower Remedies, Indian Head Massage.
Treatment rooms in Bollington, Prestbury and mobile to your home.

Tel: 07811 153380

References :

Internal Time: Chronotypes, Social Jet Lag, and Why You’re So Tired.
Prof. Till Roenneberg ISBN-0: 0674975391 free software
Reflexology for Fertility. Barbara Scott.

What is Lymph Drainage and how may it help you

In this article I give an introduction to the Lymphatic system, what it is, why it is so important and how you may support this to promote better health and wellbeing.

The lymphatic system is part of the circulatory system in the body and serves the very important function of detoxification and fighting infection. It also helps remove excess fluid from tissues and helps absorb fat from around the intestine.

The lymphatic system transports lymph, a clear fluid, containing infection-fighting white blood cells, via a network of lymphatic vessels and organs.

Lymph is derived from fluid surrounding the cells of the body, containing waste products from cellular processes. It also comes from excess fluid (plasma) from the arterial blood circulatory system, after it has deposited nutrients and oxygen to the cells. Most of the plasma (approx. 85%), returns to the venous blood circulation for transport back to the lungs for oxygenation. The remaining 15% (which may be up to 3L per day) becomes lymph.

Unlike blood, which flows throughout the body in a continue loop, lymph flows in only one direction — upward toward the neck, along the lymphatic vessels which have one way valves. It relies on muscular contraction, to move the lymph effectively, since it doesn’t have an active pump.

Lymphatic vessels are connected to lymph nodes, where the lymph is filtered and cleansed to remove toxins, infection, cancer cells, waste and other unwanted debris and materials from cellular processes.

Lymphatic vessels then connect to two subclavian veins, which are located on either sides of the neck near the collarbones, and the cleansed fluid re-enters the circulatory system.

There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the human body, either located deep inside the body, such as around the lungs and heart, or closer to the surface, such as under the arm or groin. These swell when we are fighting infection while they are producing white blood cells called lymphocytes, which produce antibodies that specifically kill foreign bacteria, viruses or other infections. The tonsils, adenoids, spleen, bone marrow and thymus are also part of the lymphatic system involved in detecting and fighting infections.

So the lymphatic system is very important for maintaining our health and wellbeing. Without a correctly functioning lymphatic system excess fluids and toxins would build up around cells creating dis-ease, fatigue and illness.

Whilst the lymphatic system runs throughout the human body, it was thought that the brain lacks a lymphatic system, as it has never been observed, until research was published in the journal of Nature just two years ago in 2015. We still have much to learn about the human body and this discovery has implications for our understanding of neurological conditions, which have an immune component.

Maps of the lymphatic system: old (left) and updated to reflect the new discovery published in 2015.University of Virginia Health System.

Factors such as stress, tension, dehydration or lack of physical activity can cause lymph vessels to become clogged with protein and lymph flow to stagnate or stop. This can result in tissue swelling (oedema) or excess fluid build up around the cells (lymphoedema) usually of an arm or leg. As toxins accumulate, cells are not able to function optimally, manifesting in colds, joint pain, infection and dis-ease.

Primary Lymphoedema can occur in some individuals born with a poorly functioning lymphatic system and is less common than Secondary Lymphoedema, which can occur as a result of surgical removal of lymph nodes for cancer treatment in approximately 20% of patients, or as a result of injury or infection. The swelling can be quite debilitating and uncomfortable and affect quality of life.

Efficient activation of the lymphatic system will increase the volume of flow and hence improve the body’s ability to cleanse and detoxify.

So how can we support the lymphatic system to improve lymphatic flow, to improve detoxification, reduce swelling and improve the immune system?

  • Physical exercise is key to aiding good lymphatic flow, such as walking or swimming. Rebounding on a small trampoline is also a fun, popular and effective way to do this. The up and down rhythmic bouncing causes the one-way valves to open and close simultaneously increasing lymph flow many times over. Deep diaphragm breathing is also important.
  • Drinking plenty of water prevents slowing and stagnation of lymph flow.
  • Dry skin body brushing always towards your chest in the direction of lymph flow, avoiding sensitive areas or broken skin, will help rid your body of toxins and improve your immune system. This also has the advantage of exfoliating the skin for a healthy glow.
  • A specialised Reflexology  technique for lymph drainage (RLD) promotes lymph flow.

RLD is a particularly non-invasive and relaxing treatment usually on the feet. This is used effectively to reduce lymphoedema in patients who have had lymph nodes removed after breast cancer surgery and to reduce pain associated with lymphedema. RLD has the advantage that it is away from any area of surgery and is also known to improve mood and a sense of wellbeing.

Finally, cold water immersion is very beneficial as it causes lymph vessels to contract, forcing your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body, flushing the waste. Research studies have also shown this to help treat depression symptoms and boost metabolism for weight loss too !! ….. ice bucket challenge anyone !

Before RLD on the feet

After RLD on the feet






Images before and after Lymph Drainage Reflexology (RLD) treatment on the foot in a secondary lymphoedema patient.

Article written by Tracy Mills for Local People Magazine issue Sept 2017. Tracy is a full time holistic therapist, passionate about helping you improve your health, wellbeing and quality of life. Her main treatment is Reflexology for promoting relaxation, improving mood and sleep and is an experienced practitioner of RLD.



Structural and functional features of central nervous system lymphatic vessels. Louveau A, et al  Nature. 2015 Jun 1.

Use of reflexology in managing secondary lymphoedema for patients affected by treatments for breast cancer: A feasibility study .Whately, J et al. Complementary Therapies in Clinical Practice Volume 23, May 2016, Pages 1-8

Hygge The Feel Good Factor

In this article I look at ways in which we might improve our quality of life and wellbeing, particularly during the cold dark winter months. I turn to Denmark, the country that has attracted much media interest since taking the top spot as happiest country in the 2016 UN happiness rankings out of 156 countries in the world. This is despite Danes paying higher income tax than any other country, at a whopping 56%! Their weather isn’t even that great with their long dreary cold winters with up to 17 hours of darkness in a day.

Perhaps it is no coincidence that the Happiness Research Institute is based in Copenhagen and has undertaken several decades of research focusing on improving wellbeing, happiness and quality of life across the world.

9/10 Danes according to the institute don’t mind paying higher income tax and investing in society as it brings free healthcare, university education and unemployment benefits, elevating those at the bottom, so reducing extreme unhappiness and anxiety. There is seemingly less of a class divide in Denmark. They have the best work life balance in the developed world with a 35 hour working week, 5 weeks annual leave plus state holidays and generous maternity and paternity leave. The Danish culture is not particularly ostentatious or materialistic, in fact quite understated, instead preferring the simple pleasures in life. Progress is not just measured by money but also by improved quality of life. Perhaps we could all take a leaf from the Danes book.

So how can we bring a little bit of the Danish feel good factor into our every day lives ? Some say Scandinavians have a genetic predisposition to happiness. That said, much of their lifestyle mindset can be exported to other countries to promote a feeling of wellbeing that does not necessarily need to cost much. So what is this?

The Danes have a word for it, called “Hygge” pronounced Hoo-Ga. It is derived from a Norwegian word meaning well-being. It is more of a feeling and can mean focussing on the simple pleasures, hugs, comfort and cosiness, spending time with friends or family, or simply on your own reading a good book with candles and blankets by the fire. It is making ordinary, every day moments more meaningful, beautiful or special.

It is about being kind to your self – indulging and having a nice time – it is not restricting diet or strict New Years resolutions. There is a strong element of social interaction and belonging in an inclusive setting, which may be a simple gathering of friends to play board games, enjoying a meal together, taking a walk or cycling in the countryside, appreciating nature or singing in a choir. It is about being in the present moment and not spending time on social media or work emails at the weekend.

These all have recognised health benefits, for example singing increases oxytocin the happy hormone, which can help reduce pain. Those with strong social ties have a longer life expectancy than those with poor social connections. This difference in longevity is about as large as the mortality difference between smokers vs non smokers and larger than any other health risks associated with many well known lifestyle factors such as lack of exercise and obesity. A strong social life reduces stress and helps the immune system to stay strong.

Of course if the dreaded cold does get the better of you, give yourself permission to rest and recuperate, stay nourished and hydrated. You probably won’t feel much like socialising or going out anyway and staying at home prevents passing it on to others, being particularly mindful of those more vulnerable in the community such as the elderly whose immune systems are more compromised.

If in need here is a list of some of my personal rescue kit of natural remedies for nurturing the immune system, keeping colds at bay and improving wellbeing :

  • A few slices of fresh lemon, ginger and honey infused in boiling water, or
  • A few sprigs of thyme with honey infused in boiling water – a great soothing respiratory antiseptic that can be grown on the windowsill.
  • A few drops of Propolis mixed in cold water. This is what bees use to keep their hives free from infection
  • For an occasional boost a weeks supply of Royal Jelly – again bees use this to feed the Queen bee, helping her to live up to 40 x longer.
  • Dr Bach rescue remedy for helping to promote relaxation
  • Comvita Immune support
  • A good multi-vitamin

On the subject of cosy blankets, sleeping under a weighted blanket to feel swaddled is now understood to help improve sleep and reduce anxiety . Seek the guidance of a doctor as this may not be suitable for everyone, for example those suffering from respiratory, circulatory and other conditions.

If you enjoy reading, then one of my personal favourite feel good books is “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tolle. ‘The Little Book of Hygge” is also good.

When feeling stronger some good walks in the fresh air for building strength are wonderful and even better with a bunch of others for company. The Ramblers Association offer a wide variety of walks and also work to help keep footpaths accessible. From spring onwards they will offer shorter walks for health. Local groups like the Bollington Bridgend Community Centre also offer regular weekly walks.

Touch therapies such as massage and reflexology also promote relaxation and wellbeing and increase levels of the feel good hormone oxytocin. Give yourself permission to take time out, put your feet up and indulge in some relaxation ! You would be in good company, as the well-known TV presenter Julia Bradbury has just listed reflexology as one of the five things together with country walking and her children, that she would not live without.

Article written by Tracy Mills (B.Sc Hons, Genetics), MAR, PRM, ARR, BFRP, for The Macclesfield Local People Magazine issue Feb 2017. Tracy is a full time holistic therapist with a Biomedical research background, passionate about helping you improve your health, wellbeing and quality of life. Her main treatment is Reflexology for promoting relaxation, improving mood and sleep.


Yellow Card

In my last article, Hello World! the merits of integrating Eastern and Western medicine were discussed, particularly, to help reduce the burden on the NHS of chronic conditions and minimising adverse drug reactions. This article continues by looking more closely at chronic conditions and adverse drug
reactions (ADRs) and how these may be managed. The hope is that this will be informative and helpful to readers.

A chronic condition is a persistent health condition or disease lasting longer than 3 months, such as heart disease, cancer, pain conditions, diabetes, stroke, dementia and arthritis. Although these are common, unpleasant and costly, many are preventable and linked to lifestyle. They take up 70% of the NHS budget. Often patients are also taking
medications long term, which can cause side effects.

One cause of chronic health conditions is stress. Stress changes the way our genes are switched on or off (expressed). Studies have shown, that when comparing the gene expression of people who are stressed with those who are relaxed, stressed people have more pro–inflammatory genes switched on and more anti- inflammatory genes switched
off. Those who are relaxed have more anti-inflammatory genes switched on and more pro-inflammatory genes switched off. We know that many chronic health conditions start with inflammation and that pain signals are increased when we have inflammation.

It stands to reason that by reducing our stress, we can reduce inflammation and in doing so, reduce our risks of chronic health conditions as well as pain. In turn we can reduce our need for medications, thus protecting us from their side effects; for example, long
term use of non–steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) more than doubles the risk of renal cell (kidney) carcinoma.

The good news is that there are natural, healthy and enjoyable ways of reducing stress levels, and it is important to take time out for activities like yoga, regular walking, exercising at a local fitness club, an art class, mindfulness, massage or regular reflexology treatments well known to promote relaxation, reduce stress, improve sleep and mood or indeed a combination of these. It is also helpful to reduce caffeine, alcohol
and nicotine, as well as pro-inflammatory foods such as sugar which lessens a person’s ability to cope with stress:

“it is perhaps no coincidence that stressed spelled backwards is desserts.”

It is always important to discuss your medications with your GP and if you are taking any medications long term, have regular liver and kidney function tests and have your medicines reviewed at least annually to check whether you still need to be taking them.

If you are referred to a hospital or consultant for specialist care, it is your legal right as a patient to choose which hospital in England to go to as well as choose which consultant led team will be in charge of your treatment, to ensure you receive the best possible care. For example, for Endometriosis care, a BSGE (British Society of Gynaecological Endoscopy) accredited centre will be the best option, such as St Marys in Manchester.

mhra-yellow-cardIf you believe you are suffering any side effects from a medication, you can now fill in a yellow card on the government website. This is vital in enabling the drug regulatory agency to monitor safety of healthcare products and minimise risks for patients. If in doubt whether to report a suspected adverse drug reaction (ADR) the agency prefers that you complete a Yellow Card.

The agency are especially interested in monitoring any effects in
• children because their metabolism isn’t fully developed and many drugs routinely used in children are not tested for their use in children.
• people over 65, because they may be more susceptible to developing
reactions as they may metabolise medicines less effectively and be more
sensitive to their effects.
• Drug-drug interactions because side effects can increase with the number of medications being taken
• Delayed drug side effects because these can occur months or even years
after drug exposure, eg cancers. Reye’s syndrome was associated with
aspirin eight decades after it was first marketed.
• Vaccines & Biological Medicines (such as antibodies, blood products or gene therapy). These vary from batch to batch and brand and must be monitored.
• Herbal Remedies require monitoring too as only some are actually licensed and it is important to ensure their safety. Also, herbal medicines may interact with conventional medicines; St Johns Wort affects many other medicines, such as the birth control pill which is less effective with St Johns Wort.
• E-cigarette products are now also being monitored for any side effects by the agency.

The yellow card can be completed online on the government website or by telephone or via the downloadable app on a mobile device.

The MHRA may be contacted by phone on 0808 100 3352 (10am to 2pm Monday-Friday only)

By taking the time and trouble to fill in a yellow card you will be
providing valuable data which can help improve the drug labelling and
how a drug is prescribed.

Tracy is a full time holistic therapist passionate about helping you improve your health. She brings the knowledge from her research career in Biomedical Genetics into her practice. She discovered a gene
responsible for pain sensation and specialised in the genetics of drug safety and metabolism, for personalised medicine. Her main treatment is Reflexology which is complementary to conventional medicine.

Tracy Mills BSc (Hons, Genetics) MFHT, MAR, BFRP
Reflexology, Bach Flower Remedies, Indian Head Massage
Treatment rooms in Bollington, Prestbury and mobile to your home.
Tel: 07811 153380

Hello World!

worldIn this health article, I will take a look at Eastern and Western approaches to Medicine and how Medicine might look in the future.

Medicine in the East has tended to work with the whole person and their environment, looking at the big picture, working on the principle that everything is connected and nothing is separate.

This is what is meant by holistic. It is approached with intuition, from a creative, right brain perspective. It treats each person as an individual, owing to the wide range of variables that may be contributing to a person’s health, which will be unique to each person. Therapies are tailored to the individual.

Examples of holistic treatments include Acupuncture, Reflexology, also herbal medicine, which uses the whole plant, with many ingredients working, to balance different parts of the body, to work better together. They are often subtle and gentle in their effects and recognise the mind:body connection and that our emotions and beliefs can affect our physical health. Physical symptoms are seen as helpful signals, informing us to get back into balance, tune into and respond to their signals.

Traditional Eastern holistic medicine is derived from ancient cultures and is preventative, encouraging balance in the body, promoting and maintaining health. The Eastern way is to adapt to and live in harmony with the environment.

yinyangMedicine in the West as we know it, by contrast, started very recently, at around the turn of the twentieth century with the advent of the modern pharmaceutical industry. It has tended to look in detail at parts of the body in isolation, approached from a logical, linear, left brain perspective.

Western medicine is based on a single purified chemical drug targeted to the specific part of the body showing a symptom. These have tended to be made as a “one size fits all” drug, designed to use in all patients with a particular symptom, without needing to know too much about the individual or the route cause of their symptom. These medicines are prescribed, to remove the symptoms, but not the underlying cause. As such symptoms will persist unless the patient identifies the cause or continues to take the medicine, which may cause side effects due to the targeted nature of a drug.

The western drug model, is now starting to become more personalised, by understanding variables, such as genetics to stratify patients with a symptom into subsets and identify those likely to benefit from a drug and those that wouldn’t benefit or may have side effects. This would require a genetic or blood marker test at the doctors to prescribe a drug. This is still a long way off actually happening routinely in clinical practice and requires much research and resource. It is still not truly individualised but based on population subsets.

Interestingly there seems to be a global shift in approaches to medicine with an upsurge of interest in holistic person centred approaches in the West and a rapid expansion of the pharmaceutical industry in the East. Just as we need the left and right hemispheres of the brain to work together to give full meaning of a situation, we need both the Eastern and Western medicine approaches to come together and improve healthcare provision.

With the burden on our NHS of long-term chronic health conditions, as well as side effects of long-term use of drugs such as pain killers, not to mention the cost to the NHS of hospital admissions due to adverse drug reactions, there is great merit in integrating well regulated traditional medicine (TM) approaches with Western medicine. Indeed the World Health Organisation has put in place a TM strategy 2014-2023 which aims to integrate TM to “capitalise on the potential contribution of TM to improve health services and health outcomes.”

Written by Tracy Mills MAR, B.Sc (Hons, Genetics) for Macclesfield Local People Magazine.
September 2016