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Dear Friend,

Like so many, I have been caught in a whirlwind of shocking news and difficult decisions. I am only just beginning to get the measure of what is happening to me personally and to the rest of the world collectively.

Relentless fires, massive storms, droughts and dying polar bears had failed to call us into action; millions of displaced people massing at borders, running away from oppression, wars and cruelty had failed to shame us into sharing. Instead, what is shaking the world and forcing unprecedented changes is FEAR! No matter the privileges or ideologies, clear, present and invisible danger is dwelling amongst us all. Nothing else could have forced the ultimate sacrifice of renouncing individualistic choices and accepting lock-down, despite the cost and consequences.

I am writing this newsletter from Paris. I arrived over a week ago as France was slowly coming to terms with its nationwide “confinement”. I responded to my mother’s plight and volunteered to become her full time carer while she is nursing a broken arm. She lives alone with irreparable grief and Parkinson’s disease. It’s tough to accompany her on her solitary journey.

I observed how the now locked-down French people were strangely mirroring my own struggles to accept the repudiation of my personal liberties together with the loss of reliable gratification for the sake of safety (and the illusion of stability).
Routine sends us to sleep.

“Beware of the settee!” exhorts Pope Francis.

If both predictability and comfort are the enemies of self-actualisation, enforced self-sacrifice is a quick way out of complacency. Resistance is futile!

Giving up My Life to care for my mother is challenging. Doing it without a timeline makes me question if I will ever be able to gather my old life back to safety. Day by day, I grieve a little less and forgive a little more. Along with the other 67 million people forcibly locked-down in France, I am pushed into the moment.

Competition is only really possible when the environment is not uniformly and immediately threatening. In the current ubiquitous health threat, it is a luxury we can’t afford to indulge in. The menace spares no-one. The virus might spare us but the possibility of imminent demise is made universal by the exponential death-toll our governments intone at the end of each day.

Whatever our views on the handling of the health crisis, it has precipitated a paradigm shift from individualistic behaviour to mutualistic strategies. For better or worse, we are forced to stay at home and give up our pleasures for the sake of others.

It took me days to understand that lock-down was an act of civic engagement; that I was not taking care of my-self by (loosely) following the rules but taking care of my community (including my mother) by sticking to the rules. Initially, frequent trips outside for fresh air seemed a good idea but by the time we entered the second week, measures became more drastic: cycling was proscribed, exercise reduced to 1 hour (or 1 kilometre) of jogging around the block. Supermarkets had to enforce queues outside to limit the number of customers at any one time, while shopping with someone else (even if you were locked down together) was forbidden. I was incensed at the infringement of my liberties. Hard-earned freedom was being quashed! The police were given permission to assign increasingly punishing measures for infringements. The pain drove deep; nonetheless, I had to relent: rebelling wasn’t revolutionary, it was plain selfish.

All this altruistic surrendering doesn’t come cheap; in just two weeks the social dance of civilised interactions has been shattered into a confused and silent hustle of masked beings battling it out at the supermarket while laboriously respecting the prescribed two metres distance!

France is now entering its third week of social suspicion and fear-driven exclusions. I feel sure the consequences on human relationships will take longer to heal than perfecting a vaccine against Covid-19.

Social distancing could well leave deep scars in our collective consciousness. Fear may be what has brought the world to its senses but it is our individual responsibility not to let fear be our guiding force as we rebuild our communities. I hope that lessons will have been learnt and that we can create a future based more on respect, friendship, kindness and the willingness to share than competition. I believe our survival actually depends on it.

I will update you when I have a better idea of my whereabouts.
Rest assured I am more than ever committed to serving and supporting my community: initially, by sharing useful and relevant information; later by offering remote consultations.

I hope to be able to re-open the Whole Health Centre and my colonic practice as soon as the government allows it. Until then I am preparing myself by keeping abreast of research and working on a strict sanitation protocol to enforce between treatments to ensure that we are all kept safe and well.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with your comments or questions.

With my best wishes,
Anne-Lise.

 

Reframing the stress response by activating the Vagus Nerve

The only thing we have to be afraid of is fear itself” Franklin D. Roosevelt

As days of lockdown run into weeks of duress, the mood of the nation is evolving in great surges of emotional tirades: all relayed on my mother’s radio from which I cannot escape because it is all that is connecting her still with the outside world. In contrast, the official messages that regularly intersperse such passionate outbursts are very carefully worded and seem delivered more to control and anticipate our misbehaving than to inform us.

I am struck by government’s officials and their spokespeople’s ever-evolving syntax. The commanding tone, clearly borrowed from NLP, has become more admonishing as lack of preparation is surfacing. Creating a nation of meek and obedient citizens while figuring out how to lead us out of the blind alley of confinement is easier than to take a systemic and more long-term view of the crisis. As John Major allegedly once said “when your back is against the wall you have no choice but to turn around and walk”.

There is solid evidence from research conducted over the past 15 years that our brains are losing their ability to plan ahead and invest in the future. This has come as a result of bite-size information delivered through social media, the culture of meaningless relationships designed to boost dependence and the overabundance of instantaneous gratifications. The resulting disconnection from the fundamentals of (our) nature has contributed to the dizzying rise of prescriptions for antidepressants. In the UK alone those have almost doubled between 2008 and 2019.

As we are confined to an open-ended and uncertain future we have no choice but to limit our planning to the day-to-day. This lack of perspective in an already fragile and socially isolated population can feed into a pattern of stress that will increase the longer the lockdown, and with the inevitable spread of economic consequences on financial security.

Yet systemic analyses, creative problem-solving and forward thinking all depend on our nervous system’s equilibrium which is why it is so important to actively maintain it while we are sitting out the current social experiment.

Neurologically the stress response can take three different pathways depending on our nature and the intensity of the stress. We can fight, we can run or, if we are unable to respond because the situation limits possibilities, we can freeze. Physiologically, the fight/flight response is the result of stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system (a collection of highly responsive nerves ). 

The freeze response however is similar to shock and is a primitive response that immobilises and shuts down bodily functions by inhibiting the activity of the para-sympathetic nervous system.

The main portion of the para-sympathetic nervous system is the Vagus Nerve: a long and wonderous nerve with a complicated relaying system.

The Vagus Nerve is a major regulator of nervous system homeostasis (a balance which influences how the body heals and maintains health). It is positively activated by non-threatening social engagement, touch and other healing modalities. It is connected to feeling safe.

Learning to connect with the Vagus Nerve is how babies develop the ability to self-soothe having learnt safety and vagal activation from the variety of soothing activities on offer from their parents such as cuddling, rocking, lullabies, facial games and so on.

As we grow up and our interactions with the world expand, our perception of safety becomes the product of our experiences, each being meshed into the resulting tapestry of our body, mind and spirit: the looser the weave the more flexible and adaptable we are; the tighter the weave the deeper the stress and traumas will be trapped.

An effective root of disentanglement is to enhance and nourish our sense of safety and security by engaging in creative hobbies (painting, knitting, writing, etc.), by improving our immediate environment with meaningful touches and by nurturing authentic relationship(s).

More specifically we can (re)activate safety signalling from the Vagus Nerve by stimulating the relevant pathways. The Vagus Nerve has two main branches: the Ventral Vagal and the Dorsal Vagal. The former enervates structures in the face, neck, and upper chest that relate to social engagement, the latter enervates the gut, lungs and heart and is also involved in the freeze response.

Partaking in activities that engage the Vagus Nerve in a soothing way will have an immediate stress-busting action. Doing it regularly will strengthen the response and increase our resilience to stress.

Activating the muscles connected to social engagement (muscles of the face, eyes, throat, jaw, tongue and inner-ear) and those of the gut, diaphragm, lungs and heart can be done in a variety of healing ways even if alone.

The feeling of safety, induced by activation of ventral and dorsal vagal, is reinforced by hormones and neurotransmitters that are triggered as a result. One of those hormones is oxytocin which is stimulated through intimate touch, loving and sharing.

Gratitude (especially when we focus on the feelings of our heart) is a way to increase oxytocin when we are not able to physically connect with our loved ones.

Activate soothing from the Vagus Nerve by:

  • Singing
  • Gargling (use bicarbonate of soda)
  • Swishing (use coconut oil)
  • Laughing
  • Yawning
  • Massaging your face and skull
  • Reading aloud
  • Meditating (listening to certain vibrations such as bong can enhance)
  • Petting (cat, dog, and rabbit, anything alive and cuddly!)
  • Developing peripheral vision by letting sight ahead go soft and focusing on what we can see from the corner of our eyes
  • Listening to classical music (Bach and other baroque music is the best for this)
  • Smelling essential oil (lavender, frankincense, marjoram, pine and many more - use your preference)
  • Belly breathing and slow breathing and other breathing techniques such as “Cardiac Coherence”
  • Shaking and gentle bouncing (could be extended to dancing to your favourite track)
  • Gentle, slow stretching exercises
  • Barefoot conscious walking (preferably on damp grass or wet sand)
  • Cold showers and cold water plunge (can be combined with sauna/hot bath or shower)

If you are holed up with someone willing to share your well-being enhancing effort, you can experiment with:

  • Playing games (any as long as not dangerous or overly competitive)
  • Exchanging a massage (foot, face, whole body) and/or intimate touch
  • laughing and sharing jokes
  • Preparing and sharing food
  • Reading to each other
  • Singing or playing music together
  • Ballroom dancing
  • Praying

Immune resilience 

Without question some pathogens are more dangerous and virulent than others, but regardless of the pathogen, number is highly relevant. Also called pathogen load, there needs to be enough individuals to damage vital function and/or for our immune system to have failed at keeping things in check. Additionally pathogens can join forces making their effect more lethal, while our resident microbiota can produce anti-viral and anti-biotic substances that will largely contribute to reducing the pathogenic effect of an intruder. It is all about balance and interactions which is why we must look at immune resilience from a system perspective rather than focus on the pathogen only.

In the case of SARS-CoV2, a number of theories are being postulated to explain how a fairly banal viral infection can suddenly and catastrophically trigger collapse of vital functions. Whatever the mechanism, the immune system is involved in the collapse not just the virus. 

A healthy immune system is not an aggressive one, it is a vigilant and coordinated one that can modulate localised response to the required level for the degree of threat.

It is worth noting that Covid-19 not only has the potential to trigger mass immune over-reaction and collapse, it can, and in fact already has, triggered mass political response with equally catastrophic consequences on our economic and social systems. The anthropological symmetry is striking; we can take heed in the fact that not all who have gone close to immune collapse have died... even if recovery takes longer before resilience can once again prevail.

"What doesn't kill us can make us stronger" but in my experience, only if we are prepared to re-assess our ways and acknowledge personal responsibility in our recovery. 

Immune health

Diet and maintaining weight largely control immune health. Do not be tempted to over-eat or to binge on alcohol or high sugar comfort foods. All are pro-inflammatory and suppress your immune system.  Instead go for all those colourful and seasonable foods: herbs, spices and healthy fats, nourishing protein, green tea and home-made fermented foods such as kimchi, kefir or kombuccha. All have direct and indirect benefits on immunity and some even have been shown to exert antiviral activity such as garlic, thyme and oregano.

Vitamin D deficiency is a major contributing factor to poor immune resilience. Make sure that you are keeping your vitamin D topped up by taking at least 3000IU a day and getting in the sun as frequently as you can without burning. Vitamin K is best taken at the same time as Vitamin D to avoid imbalance. They are often combined in one supplement.
Zinc deficiency is another common cause of reduced resistance to colds and flu; early signs of deficiency are loss of taste and smell. Interestingly those are also common symptoms of Covid19 infection. A preventative dose for zinc is 25mg/day but, at the first signs of infection, you can safely increase to 75mg/day for a month or so; best split through the day. Zinc picolinate is a good form but also available are zinc lozenges to use in case of sore throat.
Selenium is required for healthy zinc balance and often depleted from our foods. It can be found in generous amounts in Brazil nuts. A strong mineral/vitamin supplement will also cover requirements.
Magnesium is an important mineral required for many functions including immunity. It is frequently deficient from our foods. Dairy produce and stress will deplete reserves. I recommend 800mg/day of magnesium glycinate. It is best taken with a B complex or a strong multi. Magnesium baths and magnesium oil are additional ways to improve magnesium status. 

Reaching out for targeted anti-virals at the first signs of infection

lapin roseVitamin C is a proven anti-viral.

Protocols include 500mg/day as preventative dose. I prefer getting my daily vitamin C from foods such as berries, acerola cherries, kiwis and lemons.

However, vitamin C truly shines at the first signs of infection when it will assist the work of the immune system. Take it frequently and keep topping up. Bowel tolerance is usually the upper limit but this varies with the type of vitamin C. 

I recommend liposomal vitamin C; take 250mg of vitamin C every 30 minutes (some say 100mg every 10 minutes especially if symptoms are severe). Keep going until symptoms noticeably reduce/disappear.

I have personally done this successfully on numerous occasions. It usually takes a few hours but less than a day. Once the symptoms are substantially reduced you can move to a less restrictive schedule of 1000mg x4/day.

Propolis is my favourite anti-microbial.

I use it in liquid form (alcohol-free) otherwise a tincture might be easier to get. As much as possible I aim to use it topically. If my nose is the problem I squirt a few drops diluted in salty water up my nose or if it is my throat I gargle. Also great for mouth ulcers and skin infections.

Oxygen Therapy: Hydrogen Peroxide and Ozone (H2O2) have been shown to kill corona-viruses (a group of viruses known to cause cold and flue symptoms)

Both could be regarded as cheap semi-medical treatments and have shown efficacy within the health service in some countries like China, Cuba, Italy and Spain. However, and to my incomprehension, they remain largely rejected by conventional medical thinking and the WHO. 

Ozone would require a professional setting and might be useful once pathogens are circulating/translocating.

In the initial (entry points) phase it is in the nose, sinuses, throat and possibly digestive tract/colon that (current) corona-virus is gaining acces. This is when mild symptoms might be felt and when home treatments are at their most valuable.

Home and safe use for hydrogen peroxide is at a dilution of 0.5% volume (this can be achieved by buying it at that concentration or by diluting a 3% dilution 1 part H2O2 to 3 parts pure water).

It should be used four times per day to kill pathogens where symptoms are felt and where corona-viruses might gaining access to your body:

  • In the throat: gargle
  • In the bowel: use as enema
  • In the nose: rinse using a "neti" pot  (available on internet) or a nebuliser (see below)
  • In the lungs use a nebuliser  (cheap and suitable devices are available on internet)

 References:

Cambridge.org on the use of H2O2

eat like kings

Too late, no use pretending...
Temptation is all around; whether in the name of celebration or simply to keep boredom at bay, traditional Christmas foods are calling us with the promise of guaranteed pleasure.
High fat, high sugar and a texture to die for... literally!
From Belgian chocolates and Christmas puddings to roast potatoes, variations on the theme abound this time of year.
And just to make sure that all restraints are eradicated, alcohol is kept flowing!

So what can we do to reduce the impact on our health...


1) It is not just about over-eating but the quality of the food we eat

This is no surprise; over-eating makes you fat and if you do it long enough it will make you sick… but not all over-eating has the same effect.

Research shows that after six days of high-sugar, high-fat, low-protein foods, fat deposits in the liver and muscles are more likely to appear regardless of the number of calories. But of course, it is rather difficult not to over-eat those kinds of foods as well and just seven days of overfeeding reduces whole body insulin sensitivity and primes you for the slippery slope of a pre-diabetic state.
However, protein has less impact on fat or weight gain compared to carbohydrate or fat overfeeding.
Protein has more neutral metabolic and body composition effects. Protein digestion takes up more energy and even boosts calorie expenditure by day, and sleep. Protein also reduces cravings, and loading up on turkey this Christmas will mean less room for stuffing, potatoes and Christmas pudding!

2) Drink apple cider vinegar before your carbohydrates

Apple cider vinegar has been shown to improve glucose tolerance and consequently reduce postprandial hyperglycaemia. The best timing for this is 30 minutes before eating the carb-rich foods. Traditionally the French start their meals with a salad and vinaigrette dressing.

3) Keep moving and exercise
Even a simple 30 minutes’ walk straight after your meal will reduce insulin resistance and speed up gastric emptying. It is also the time your stomach needs to send all the required messages to your brain about enough foods. It will be easier to resist cravings on your return.
Exercise has been shown to counteract the short term negative (epigenetic) effects of overfeeding seen in the adipose tissue. The best time to exercise is immediately after eating. Although this may sound counter-intuitive with a belly full of food, the study used several sets of push-ups, squats, lunges, and sit-ups to do the trick. Perhaps a good ball game with the kids would suffice and prevent the rest of the family from thinking that you have finally lost the plot!

4) Get out into the cold, have cold showers and keep your heating down

If you can keep room temperature at no more than 18°C for 2.5 hours—it will be enough to increase energy expenditure without increasing hunger or subsequent food intake. Cold exposure (shower or dip) exercises brown fat and uses a lot of (surplus) energy. It contributes to dopamine release and alertness while improving circulation. Start with your legs and hips only if you are not used to cold showers.

5) Drink (green) tea after your meal

Tea has been shown to speed up digestion and improve liver function. Always a plus when dealing with excessive food and alcohol intakes.

6) Accept your heavy excessive meal as a positive experience

Overeating induces oxidative stress enough to trigger the release of antioxidant compounds. As with all challenges that are occasional and positively assimilated (hormetic), they make you stronger. 

Overeating happens. Humans like to feast, make merry and eat big to ring in the good times. However, a feast is no longer a feast if you just keep eating …

7) Have a colonic and move on

Although I would never associate colonics with purging, I have found that the feeling of cleansing achieved can help reconnect with self-care.
Colonics' impact on the enteric nervous system also means reduced cravings, a greater sense of well-being and a lighter mind… all the ingredients needed to move on and re-commit.

THERE IS MORE TO COLONIC HYDROTHERAPY THAN MEETS THE EYES

 start your colonic nowYou may think that Colonic Irrigation is just a way to purge. It has its place and it may be useful for constipation, managing the side effects of medications or simply giving relief to a lazy bowel, but there is so much more to it than that!

A Colonic Hydrotherapy Treatment works on the physical level and does provide relief from accumulated waste, poisons and hormones, but it also works on the nervous system and provides a unique balancing effect on that which controls healing and homeostasis (the parasympathetic portion of the autonomic nervous system). Research on the vagus nerve (the main portion of the parasympathetic nervous system) is only just starting to demonstrate how powerfully potent its stimulation is to healing. It provides direct access to our subconscious and is often deregulated when we are faced with deep trauma. A lot of studies on trauma work have shown the necessity to reconnect with the parasympathetic in order to unlock the trauma we hold in our muscles and tissues. This may explain how colonic hydrotherapy can sometimes stimulate powerful emotional reactions and often brings a sense of profound wellness.

Aside from the physical effect from the water on the nervous system and the purging outcome, a colonic therapist also actively participates in the manipulation of viscera and abdominal tissues to help realign,relax and soften the tendons and ligaments that maintain organs in place. Abdominal tension, poor posture and poor breathing technique all conspire to reduce function of the organ and of the gut in particular. To work on the tissues, re-educate breathing and facilitate core stability is also part of an experienced colonic therapist's skills.

A Colonic Irrigation is also a unique and gentle tool to assess a number of useful markers of bowel health such as:

  • Bowel Function (hyper-mobile; hypo-mobile; spastic). The way the bowel responds to the introduction of warm water at very low pressure can give accurate clues on bowel movements
  • Stool consistency (dry, pellet, soft, mush, etc.). Stool consistency is a direct product of hydration levels and diet quality
  • Gut flora (from visible gas, undigested foods and fat content). Gut microbes are responsible for more than 50% of our digestion 
  • Chewing habits. It is not rare to observe whole mushrooms or whole vitamin tablets passing through during a colonic irrigation

All those observations give useful clues to a professional and experienced therapist for a more individualised approach to diet and lifestyle.

The Colonic Therapists at the Whole Health Centre are all trained to the highest standards.

Anne-Lise Miller at The Institute of Professional Colon Hydrotherapy (IPCH) also offers professional training for therapists 

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