End to End:May 2017.

“Cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats or End to End as it is popularly known, is a truly British Adventure. It is a challenging long-distance bicycle tour of almost a thousand miles, from the very tip of south-west England to the far north of Scotland, usually undertaken with a two-week time frame, providing a cycling escapade par excellence. Many thousands of men and women, old and young, embark on this journey every year. The attractions of the End to End are numerous; friendship, fresh air, glorious scenery tremendous cycling, interesting history and upon completion, a life-enhancing sense of achievement.”

From ‘The End to End Cycle Route’. by Nick Mitchell

End To End

Thanks to Nick Mitchell and his superb book ‘The End to End Cycle Route’ for this illustration

As you may have seen from our March blog we have a close interest in this End to End thing!

I was sitting in a hotel in Riga, Latvia last summer, where I was examining and lecturing at a medical conference, when my old friend and colleague Mark Mathews mentioned he was thinking of cycling the End to End Cycle Route in 2017 to raise funds for The Sunflower Trust. This is a Charity he set up over twenty years ago to help support the work he has evolved using many of the clinical tools we had both studied over the years.

I was immediately interested in joining him, both because it was an adventure I had always fancied tackling myself and because of my own close involvement in the Sunflower Trust. Many of my patients will know how I bang on about the role of exercise in mental and physical health, so here was another chance to walk my talk.

Getting Started

This is how I found myself trying out various lovely road bikes from all the Oxford Bike shops in the autumn sunshine, later working out in the winter on the dreaded Watt-bike in the gym, and, since the new year, slowly venturing further and further afield into the highways and byways of rural Oxfordshire, often at first light, gradually trying to build up my ageing body to be tolerant of 65-85 mile a day trips. So far I am still at the lower end of that range, but as the weather improves I am really enjoying my forays into the Cotswold’s, the Vale of the White Horse and the flat lands of Otmoor and beyond.


Once out of bed and onto the bike there is an absurd joy in leaving the sleeping city behind and peddling through the buttery fields of rapeseed with the promise of a hearty breakfast in some small market town as I cruise through villages, some of whom I have never been to in 35 years of life in Oxford. In fact, as I felt the other day after a long lonely ride back from the southwestern end of Oxfordshire, my bicycle has  revealed the city of Oxford to be an island in a sea of rural life, the two only tangentially related. The quiet, often empty, lanes are dutifully following the call of the season, whatever the sun or rain, while when I wearily arrive home after six hours in the saddle, and ride through the bustling town, suddenly the city, full of curious visitors from afar, seems closer in spirit to  Rome or Shanghai than Charney Bassett.

Mark’s discoveries

Soon after Mark started writing interesting papers on some of the encouraging results that were showing up with Educational Psychologists after his interventions, I stepped on board and got him to teach me his protocol and eventually helped him teach it to dozens of suitably qualified, interested clinicians, both in the UK and in Germany.

Mark suffers from dyslexia himself, as, to a milder degree, I suspect do I, and so we both had a particular sympathy for children who were failing to achieve their potential as school. The Programme he devised is an innovative, comprehensive approach to improving the health, behaviour, learning and overall wellbeing of children. By better integrating their brain with their body, it helps children to be the best that they can be.

The Sunflower programme

has helped hundreds of children – many with diagnosed health, behavioural or learning difficulties, others who are underachieving at school and some, who for no obvious reason, need a little extra help to achieve their potential.

Whilst we treat the child not the diagnosis, we have had many children go through the Sunflower Programme who are diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dyspraxia, ADHD, Autism, Asperger’s and the like. Other children come to see us because of low self-esteem, bad behaviour, poor concentration, anxiety or when a parent feels their child needs help but they can’t quite put their finger on it. If you would like to learn more, go to http://www.sunflowertrust.com

Soon there were four.

One of my old friends from America, Lee, also signed up to join us, and later still, another friend, Dave signed up. Now there were four older guys, all within a couple of years either side of three score years and ten, facing the prospect of organising both the logistics of our trip, and perhaps more challenging, getting ourselves into ‘saddle-ready’ shape to take on 65-85 miles a day over two weeks of quite demanding terrain.

So here we are a little off the start date on June 19th, with the logistics sorted and, in our different ways, all of us trying to get to be able to do the adventure justice without having to give up with terminal ‘sore-bum-syndrome.’

It is many years since some of you helped the Trust when you sponsored me to walk across the country, see https://helixhwalking-wainwrights-coast-to-coast/

And here I am asking for your help again!

If you wish to sponsor Mark and me cycle this thousand miles, travelling through 23 counties, traversing cliff tops, moorlands, hidden roads and soaring mountains all  in aid of the best possible cause – helping children to be the best that they can be, we would love anything you can afford which can be easily donated at:


We will try to keep you up to date, throughout the trip on the trials, tribulations and triumphs of the whole End to End!

Many thanks.










March 2017: Call for mad cyclists. Plus a new Acupuncturist at Helix House.

End To End with Mark, Lee and Clive Plus New Faces at Helix House

This month I want to highlight two exciting events. One a call to arms… or rather legs, for anyone mad enough to join us on a cycle trip the length of the land.

And the second is to welcome Traditional Chinese Medicine, TCM, trained Acupuncturist Joe Jennings to to Helix House.

Can you help sponsor us, or even better are you up for joining us? Read on!img_1510

The ‘Three Score Year and Ten’ cycle ride: Raising funds for the Sunflower Trust.

Once upon a time young travel writer Alastair Humphreys wanted an adventure but had no idea how to go about it. So he set off with his bike and tent. And, as he said, if you can cycle for a day in the direction you want to go, put up your tent and get up the next day and do it all again, then what is to stop you cycling around the world?

And so he did, all 46,000 miles through 60 countries over 4 years, all at a total cost of just £7,000. Setting off with so many worries he learnt that he was capable of a lot more than he thought. (To hear more about Alastair you can hear his TED talk here):

But we are not planning such a long adventure trip. Merely to cycle from the southwestern tip of GB to the northeastern tip, Lands End to John O’Groats, and doing so in a couple of weeks, what could be easier? A little adventure you could have and still be back home before you had been missed…well not much, anyway.


End to End of the country? Well I better get fitter for this!


The fearsome ‘Watt Bike’. An hour on there and you might tell all our state secrets!

We are looking for up to three sturdy folk to join us on this challenge and, hopefully, help us raise some much needed for the Sunflower Trust.

You must be able to cycle several hours day, and still be good company at supper with a beer, and want to help raise some money for charity as you do something a bit remarkable and challenge yourself this summer. We hope to be doing it from around June 20th to July 5th 2017.

Starting at Lands End we plan to follow the back roads where possible, stay in Youth Hostels and B&B’s and have a great time, while challenging our ageing bodies to do something a bit difficult and once again learning, like young Alastair, that we are capable of a lot more than we thought! We need to hear from you  very soon if we are to get it planned and book some good places to stay ahead of the crowd. Are you up for it? Do get in touch. You don’t have to be verging 70 to come!

Let us or the Sunflower Trust know if you think you are up for it!
The Sunflower Trust
0845 054 7509
Registered Charity No: 1055712

Back to Acupuncturist Joe Jennings.joe-pic-smaller

If you are not sure what TCM is all about and curious to know if it could help you and your family in any way, now is your chance to find at at Joe’s  Forthcoming Taster Day

Suffer with aches and pain, tension and stress, headaches or sleep trouble, anxiety or depression?
Book your taster session today

Joe Jennings, an experienced and registered acupuncturist, will be giving taster seesions throughout the day on the 1st of March. Get in touch to book yours. (ring us on 01865 243351).
For the special Taster Day, each session will last 30 minutes and cost £20.

Joe is a dedicated practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with a decade of experience. He works to empower people to understand their bodies and discover the joys of living a more healthy and sustainable lifestyle.

He began studying TCM after travelling to South East Asia. After experiencing the culture and learning about their holistic approach to health care, where prevention is key and emotional and psychological health is an integrated part of a healthy lifestyle, he was intrigued.

Joe completed his bachelor’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine at Middlesex University, receiving a 1st class honours as well as an award for excellence from the Association of Traditional Chinese Medicine. He is a member of the British Acupuncture Council.

Joe has a broad range of clinical experience, having treated a large variety of conditions. His main areas of specialisation are; allergies, insomnia, mental ill health, digestive issues, painful conditions and skin conditions.

Acupuncture: Normal fees are:

1st session 90mins – £65
Follow-ups 60mins – £45

Chinese Herbal Medicine

1st session 60mins – £40
Follow-ups 30mins £25
Herbs (100g/1 month) -£50


One life, One You: What you can do today to really help the NHS! January 2017

“I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work; I want to achieve immortality through not dying”.

Woody Allen

 In 1919, right after the horrors of World War 1, William Butler Yeats wrote, in his powerful poem, The Second Coming:

“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold…
…The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity”

And so it seems to be with us a century later.

While uncharted political change is in the forefront, demographic and behavioural changes may be where we also need to focus, if our behaviour, much of which is potentially changeable, is not to bankrupt our economies in the decades ahead.

In the years after the second world war Britain was struggling with the challenges of a rising birth rate and how to provide for all those new children, the baby boomers, needing schools. 2017 is the year of the 70th birthday as more of that cohort than ever before hit three score years and ten. Me included.

A recent excellent radio programme, It’s the Demography Stupid with David Willets  explored the way such changes in demographic img_1699profoundly impact our politics.  Best current data suggests that life expectancy has, for most of the last couple of hundred years, been increasing at a rate of three months for every year. That is two to three years of life added for every decade. A ten-year old child in Britain today has a 50% probability of living to 104. Think about that for a moment. If this life extension continues as it has done, half the population will live to be 100. Half.  This increase in life expectancy  has  been achieved as Gratton and Scott point out in their important new book The 100 year Life through three phases.

The first substantial increase in life expectancy came with the successful decrease in infant mortality from the 1920’s onward.

The second phase came in the latter part of the twentieth century as the fatal diseases that were commonly killing most of us moved ‘out of the bowels and chests of infants into the arteries of the middle aged and elderly’, particularly cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Now in the 21st century it is clear that the next substantial increase in life expectancy will come from tackling the diseases of old age. However this, like the other increasing inequalities of advanced modern capitalism, is in danger of dividing nations between those who can establish a healthy and sustainable life-style in middle age, and those, mostly the poorer, less advantaged and educated in society, who cannot. For unlike earlier times, where infectious deseases pounced and killed from one day to the next, many of the primary ills of later life are silently incubated over decades through the choices we make.

While it is certainly true that our National Health Service always needs more money, beds and  an effective, integrated social care service, one thing nearly all of us could do to help it function better would be to take charge of our own health.

Eight our of ten middle-aged people in the UK are either overweight, drink too much or do not get enough exercise according to analysis from Public Health England (PHE)

PHE’s One You campaign is reaching out to the 83% of 40 to 60 year olds (87% of men and 79% of women) who are either overweight or obese, exceed the Chief Medical Officer’s alcohol guidelines or are physically inactive, to provide free support and tools to help them live more healthily in 2017 and beyond. Why not be part of the 1.1 million who have already taken the One You quiz so far?

It is estimated that habits such as poor diet, excessive alcohol, smoking and lack of activity are responsible for around 40% of all deaths in England and cost the NHS more than £11 billion a year.  A worrying 25% of women and 20% of men in Britain fail to get even half an hour of exercise a week! This plague of stasis is driving the three D’s of Disease, Disability and Dementia, which in turn is driving the Health Service into an endless spiral of rising costs and declining services.

Oxford’s Professor Sir Muir Gray, famous both for his long work in Public Health as well as his book, Sod 70 is a great advocate for getting people walking. As he says,

“Over 15 million Britons are living with a long-term health condition, and busy lives and desk jobs make it difficult to live healthily. But just making a few small changes will have significant benefits to people’s health now and in later life”.

screenshot-2017-01-18-17-20-35Two thirds of deaths of the under 75’s are avoidable, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, obesity, dementia and depression. Modern life-styles and working practices leads us to an over-eating-under-moving life with well-known dire consequences for our health. Perhaps we need to reclassify obesity, as Professor Gray suggests,  as  a walking-deficiency-condition or hyper-sitting syndrome.

For those of us who have to sit so much getting to, and doing, our work, Gray suggests we should try to measure our  enforced  sitting in half hour blocks dividing each one up with 20 minutes sitting, 8 minutes of  standing and 2 minutes of  walking to the printer etc.  Better still try having all your meetings standing up or walking, often we can talk better together while walking side by side.

Perhaps a good start would be free pedometers for all. While 10,000 steps a day may be desirable even 3000 would be a great achievement for many to aim for.img_1510

Whatever we do we need to change the trajectory that is leading so many of us to be in danger of failing to enjoy long and useful lives that most of us can now, thankfully,  otherwise expect.

To live a long life that is enjoyable we need to do the things throughout our lives we know will push back the onset of chronic diseases that lead to both morbidity, frailty and permature mortality. In this way far more of our lives can be productive, fun and joyful, rather than clouded by incapacity. We can have a chance to do the work of our later years, free from too much pain and disability, truly see into our own nature and better realise our true selves.

There are still too many health unknowns that can strike us down, but by far the majority of those ills that can impact on our activities of daily living (ADL) such as walking, bathing, continence, dressing and eating, are heavily influenced by choices we make decades before about what we  eat how much we drink, the drugs and tobacco we consume and when and how we move. Too often it is less, in Yeats’s words, that the centre cannot hold, but rather how much  the centre of our body does hold. For most of us the answer is, too much dangerous visceral fat!

Change these and we can all have a profound impact on our National Health Service. The same NHS that spends 10% of its overall budget already on one preventable disease, type 2 diabetes, could in decades to come, be free to deal with those challenging diseases that seem still to strike out of the blue, as well as look after the very old in the short time of their  compressed decline towards death, while we can deal as much as we can with all those drivers of premature frailty and death that we know we can change with quite small adaptations to how we work and lead our lives.

The fourth industrial revolution is already upon us. As Klaus Schwab Founder and Executive Chairman, World Economic Forum says,

“We stand on the brink of a technological revolution that will fundamentally alter the way we live, work, and relate to one another. In its scale, scope, and complexity, the transformation will be unlike anything humankind has experienced before. We do not yet know just how it will unfold, but one thing is clear: the response to it must be integrated and comprehensive, involving all stakeholders of the global polity, from the public and private sectors to academia and civil society”.

screenshot-2017-01-18-17-05-55We will surely have enough to cope with without dealing with the problems we already know how to change and solve if only we can get ourselves to change our behaviour.

So take the One You quiz, and act now to reduce that 40% of deaths we know we could reduce substantially and see how you can help change all our futures.  http://www.nhs.uk/oneyou


BBC Radio 4 – The New World, It’s the Demography, Stupid!

How is population change transforming our world? David Willetts investigates.

Source: BBC Radio 4 – The New World, It’s the Demography, Stupid!

The Importance of Touch: November 2016

” The skin, like a cloak, covers us all over, the oldest and most sensitive of our organs, our first medium of communication, and our most efficient of protectors.

Perhaps next to the brain, the skin is the most important of all our organ systems.”

Touching: The Human significance of the skin.

by Ashley Montagu,   1971

The Role of Touch in Health

It was the 1970’s and somehow I found myself lecturing at the Royal Free Hospital in London on The Role of Touch in Health. Truly the ‘mother of the senses’,  touch and its importance for the early life and development of all of us mammals, at times gets lost as we go through our life, especially if we lose our intimate partners or never develop really close relationships.Senior Man with Cane

If we are wise, we try to keep in touch with touch.

Touch seems to tap into a profound place in us all and shift our hormonal and autonomic nervous systems to useful and healing places. It activates the brains orbito-frontal cortex which is linked to feelings of reward and compassion. We know that both in breast-feeding and in lovemaking the stimulation of the nipple helps release oxytocin the ‘bonding’ hormone which we can see is one important way nature both helps mother and baby bond and encourages pair bonding through sexual relations.

Good touch seems to signal safety and trust, it soothes us and calms the cardiovascular system and even stimulates the vagus nerve, that runs from our brain to most of our organs, and is thought to be associated with our compassionate responses. In  fMRI experiments it has been shown to turn off anxiety and threat sensations. But then, what parent needed such research to discover that?

Mostly, if it is respectful and true, we like to be touched. Exactly how and why I got to do that gig at the Royal Free Hospital is lost in the mists of time. But, no doubt, it was in part because, at the time I was paying my way through my tough years of osteopathic studies by teaching massage courses in London and around Europe.

In the 1970’s there was a renewed interest within what was then called the Human Potential Movement of new and sometimes radical, approaches to human psychology. The psychoanalytic movement of the early twentieth century and the rather arid science of behaviorism  of the post war years, had left a space through which the humanistic, and later transpersonal Psychology movements, based on the works of Jung, Reich, Maslow, Rogers, Assagioli and Groff had grown. This had led to centres like Esselen in Big Sur, California and others, where we were working in London, sponsoring all sorts of new models of how we could apply psychological approaches, not only to our neurosis, but also as tools to expand and enrich our growth and maturity. And this is where the massage and body awareness courses came in at that time.

Like all such movements rich with experimentation and larger than life idealists; on reflection, some of it was over the top and fell away eventually, but a huge amount of it was healthy and useful and many of those ideas, have, with modification, been incorporated into accepted, cutting-edge, psychological models and norms, today. Not least the important role of the body and body language in our understanding of how, and why, we are, as we are.

Nonhuman primates spend about 10 to 20 percent of their waking day grooming each other. If you go to various other countries, people spend a lot of time in direct physical contact with one another—much more than we English or Americans do. Every culture has its norms about touch and learning these is one of the key understandings we need to master to successfully mix and feel at home, in different cultures. But even in our relatively non-touch, northern, Anglo-Saxon, culture, those who learn to touch in safe, respectful and discreet ways, have access to a deep and ancient channel of communication.

However, it does take skill and sensitivity to use well and in the right place. While most of us respond well to the right and appropriate touch, we really do not like the other kind, that seems to be uncalled for and invasive. That said, down deep in our unconscious, is a touch sensitive ‘button,’ that when pressed, will often influence us in ways we are sometimes quite unaware of.

According to Professor Keltner Touch can even have economic effects, promoting trust and generosity.

When psychologist Robert Kurzban had participants play the “prisoner’s dilemma” game, in which they could choose either to cooperate or compete with a partner for a limited amount of money, an experimenter gently touched some of the participants as they were starting to play the game—just a quick pat on the back. But it made a big difference: Those who were touched were much more likely to cooperate and share with their partner.

So next time you meet an old acquaintance, don’t forget the power of touch. While our brains are busy with all that visual and auditory processing up front of our minds, something more profound and primary, is still operating, that links us to our deep mammalian past and is registering with us, somewhere.

The other day I had the pleasure in experiencing Alex Smolonska’s great hands as she gave me a taster of her wide-ranging skills in massage. Many of you know that Alex has moved some of her excellent massage practice to Helix House this year.

We osteopaths are lucky to work with touch as part of our everyday work in  diagnosing and un-scrambling the pain and dysfunction of our patients. However, unlike the more clinical and diagnostic work of osteopathy which may, or may not, be pleasurable, but has the task of specific medical diagnosis and treatment, massage invariably is just that; a delight.

Massage, done, well provides us with a wonderful time out of  time. We step away, through the power of touch, from our thought-filled, busy lives, where no sooner are we finished with one task on our endless To-Do list, than the next seems to cry out to be attended to.

Through the power of the  mother of the senses we can often find ourselves letting go and stepping out of the psychic armour we have constructed for ourselves, and under the caring, knowing hands of an expert, we can almost slough off that hard shell we have, unknowingly, constructed for ourselves and then imprisoned ourselves in, and like a chrysalis we are, at least for that time, reborn, as that butterfly we truly are.

This month I wanted to highlight the expert Touch based therapies that we are luck enough to have available at Helix House with both Alex Smolonska and the  popular return to Helix House, of long time body worker, Zoe Bicât.

If you have not already had the great pleasure of having Alex or Zoë work on/with you, now is your chance to get unwound and ready for Christmas.

As a special offer they may well be willing to give you a 10% discount for your first visit if you hurry and get in before Christmas.

Check them out, below, and get your slot in the book by calling Helix House on 01865 243351 now while there are still some slots left. Or perhaps this could be the Christmas gift for someone you know who would really appreciate such a healing experience?

They are busy, popular and skilled women, don’t miss out on what could be come a great life giving habit.

Please note:  due to important major repairs Helix House will be closed from December 24th until January 5th.

Alex Smolonska graduated from Oxford School of Sports Massage with Level 5 BTEC Professional Diploma in Clinical, Sport & Remedial Massage. For the past two years, she has been studying Visceral Manipulation (VM) at the Barral Institute, learning how to aid the body’s ability to release restrictions and unhealthy compensations that cause pain and dysfunction. VM does not focus solely on the site of pain or dysfunction, but evaluates the entire body to find the source of the problem. It was developed by Jean-Pierre Barral – a French Osteopath, named as one of the TIME Magazine’s Top Six Innovators for Alternative Medicine to watch in the new millennium. Alex’s experience includes working for the Oxford University Woman’s Lightweight Rowing Club, and the Eau-de-Vie-The Centre for Natural Health Treatments in Oxford. She treats a diverse group of clients ranging from busy mums, office and manual workers, musicians, football players, cyclists, runners, power lifters and racing car drivers.


Zoë Bicât – Whole-Body Balancing Acupressure Massage


About Zoe:
facebook-pp-crop-smallZoe has a BA (Hons) degree and qualified in 2012 with a Diploma in Traditional Chinese Injury Rehabilitation Therapy. She studied with the internationally commissioned injury rehabilitation specialist Michael Newman (D.Ac LCSP (Phy)), with whom she also learnt Qigong. Zoe holds a BSY Professional Diploma in Anatomy & Physiology, with Distinction. She is a graduate of the Qigong Teacher Training at the Shiatsu College, for which she also studied Anatomy, and does ongoing CPD in Qigong with Master Wing Cheung as well as with her former tutors.
Having lived with chronic back pain after a severe prolapsed lumbar disc, and recovered well, Zoe has tried many therapies and forms of exercise, and brings her understanding and sensitivity to her work with clients. She has found Qigong to be especially beneficial. In her work she uses it with clients as rehabilitative exercise, where it can target areas of the body to help with healing, joint mobility, and overall health.
Zoe offers Whole-body Balancing Acupressure Massage, a gentle, powerful therapy which combines massage with a specific combination of acupressure points. The treatment involves cupping, and where appropriate the use of moxa, a form of heat therapy. Zoe’s background in Traditional Chinese Injury Rehabilitation Therapy gives her an understanding of the deeper causes of pain in posture, alignment and impacts from chronic or acute injury.
Zoe teaches one-to-one Qigong sessions, group classes and workshops in East and West Oxford.

About the therapy:  Whole-body balancing acupressure massage is a deeply restorative, holistic treatment designed to create the optimum conditions for your body to heal and rebalance. It can help with muscle tension, aches and pains, stress, emotional upheaval, insomnia or anxiety, by restoring the body’s natural flow of energy and self-healing ability. The massage uses a selected range of points indicated for their action of opening and freeing the flow of blood and energy (qi) through specific meridians in the body. This helps to replenish the body’s reserves of vital energy as well as relaxing the muscles. The treatment is soothing and includes work on head, hands and feet. Cupping and moxa are used to further release deep muscle tension and bring blood flow into areas of stagnation, pain or immobility, according to an individual’s needs.

Cupping is where a vacuum is created inside a glass or plastic cup placed on the skin, which draws the skin and muscle slightly inside the cup. The cup can then be moved over the skin in a gliding motion while the suction is active. Cupping can release deep muscle tension and improve muscular function, as its effects penetrate deeply into the tissues.
Moxibustion (the burning of moxa) is a form of heat therapy where finely crushed and compacted herb (Artemisia vulgaris) slowly smoulders to produce a comfortable yet penetrating heat, which can be directed to joints, local tissue, and acupoints. It is held at a distance from the skin to produce varying degrees of therapeutic heat.

Qigong (pronounced chee-gung) is a system of meditative exercise dating back at least 2,000 years. It uses breath, mind intention and movement to balance the body, mind, emotions and spirit. It is designed to gently work muscles, tendons and ligaments, for maintenance of joint mobility and healthy flow of qi throughout the body.

What clients say about their sessions with Zoe:

“At a time of extreme stress, I experienced my treatment with Zoe as deeply nourishing and restorative. My nervous system was able to relax and let go in a way I would never have believed possible in the circumstances. Zoe’s presence and skill were very apparent. I would recommend her as a bodywork practitioner to anyone”. Vanessa

An old shoulder injury was interfering with my playing the violin; Zoe was quick to ask pertinent questions and to check specific aspects of my shoulder mobility to gain a thorough understanding of my condition. The treatment seemed carefully and precisely targeted on the troubled areas, and I felt a great deal of deep muscular relief. Zoe also tailored a set of movement exercises for me to perform regularly at home, empowering me to continue the therapeutic process myself. The combined effect has been to free up shoulder movement considerably and, furthermore, to increase my overall sense of what is a healthy and relaxed posture.” Keith





Pain: September 2016

img_0727Riga, Prince, Pain and where we are going wrong.


img_0802In August I had an interesting and stimulating week  examining and lecturing at an international medical conference with  clinicians from 18 other  countries  in Riga, Latvia. I came back with several new clinical pearls to learn and apply over time.  I finally retired from an international examining board that I had been on for many years, and while I will be sad not to be working with my multi disciplined colleagues from around the world, I will not miss the pressure of work that comes with such pro bono roles.

It was salutary on visiting a Baltic State, to remember that Latvia, which had been an independent state by 1918, then underwent the unimaginable hardships of first the brutal invasion by the Soviet Union in 1940, only to then suffer under the Nazis from ’41-44, to be liberated by the same Stalinist Soviet regime that they had endured three years earlier and then have to suffer loss of statehood until their final freedom in 1992.  This much longed-for freedom in turn, required a difficult and stressful roller coaster ride into the joys and sorrows of the faster moving and sometimes also ruthless world of winner-takes-all modern capitalism. That they have come out of it all so well is a credit to their endurance and fortitude. From that brief history of a nation’s pain let us turn to the subject of chronic pain.


A few months ago the  musician Prince died by an accidental overdose of the powerful opioid drug fentanyl. This is 100 times as strong as morphine. As  Gary Franklin, a researcher at the University of Washington  said in Scientific American recently,

“In a way, Prince is a poster child for what can happen with chronic use—and increasing doses—of these very powerful drugs.”

No one likes pain. I know, both as a human, subject to pain myself and as a health professional working in pain relief for decades. Throughout history each culture has struggled to battle the horrors of unstoppable pain employing all sorts of methods. We in our advanced, science soaked society have often thought we had moved on from those old painful days of yore. And so we had. No one who has used modern dentistry or  undergone safe modern childbirth would say we should go back to the good old days. And yet, in recent years, we seem to have taken a few missed steps in our over focus on chemical solutions and overlooked other powerful avenues to pain relief, particularly chronic pain relief and resolution.

This month I want to look at the kind of chronic pain we endure from musculoskeletal pain, arthritis, fibromyalgia, headaches rather than the kind of chronic pain associated with cancer and end of life care.

Chronic pain is continuous, long-term pain of more than 12 weeks or after the time that healing would have been thought to have occurred in pain after trauma or surgery. According to the British Pain Society up to 28 million Britons are living with chronic pain, new estimates suggest.  Problems such as low back pain or osteoarthritis effect between 35% and 51% of British adults, according to a new study.

Chronic pain is complex, multi factorial and needs to be approached in several ways at once. If we have taken some miss-steps in recent decades we can now see more clearly some better ways forward to approach chronic pain with greater understanding and more awareness of some of the pitfalls that have become more apparent, particularly where opioids are concerned.  Too often where the USA goes, the rest of the world follows.  Sadly this seems to be, in part, true of the opioid epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that as many as 259 million painkiller prescriptions were written in 2012 alone, with the U.S. responsible for 99% of global sales for hydrocodone, a semi-synthetic opioid synthesized from codeine and 81% of the world’s consumer market for oxycodone, a synthetic analgesic drug which is similar to morphine in its effects.

According to Modern Health Care;

“In 1996, pharmaceutical firm Purdue Pharma launched a campaign informing patients and doctors that a new, safe drug was available to combat pain that was not the result of cancer, surgery or trauma. This pill could relieve chronic back pain caused by daily physical demands. And it was safe because it would slowly release its narcotic ingredients, making it unlikely to become addictive, it said. The drug caused a cultural shift in the way physicians treated pain and how Americans viewed it”.

It was this change in prescribing practices that would lead to our public health crisis, said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, executive director of Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing.

As so often in these drug industry stories you can almost write the rest yourself. Two decades later, many advanced countries face record mortality rates associated with drug overdoses, including those related to heroin, an option many addicts turn to as a cheaper and more accessible alternative to painkillers. You will not be surprised to learn that the drug company had been economical with the truth and a huge row-back is underway as millions, particularly Americans, find themselves addicted to opioids or worse, like Prince, dead from over use. While things are not quite as bad here in the UK a similar  pattern is emerging. As the British Faculty of Pain Medicine say in their recent Opioids Aware advice for clinicians and patients, “Opioids are very good analgesics for acute pain a the end of life but there is little evidence that they are useful for long-term pain”.

In America where the opioid crisis has reached alarming proportions The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, in its 2016 guidelines for prescribing opioids, notes that non-pharmacologic therapies are preferred for treating chronic pain. Again from the other side of the pond, Modern Health Care ,  in their recent piece entitled

  “Opioid crisis renews interest in osteopathic manipulation therapy”

report on the rediscovery of old tried and tested methods of pain relief that have been used in both Europe and America for over 100 hundred years.

Rather than going through a standard physical examination, we will actually put our hands on the patient to feel if there are any asymmetries or restrictions in the tissues,” said Dr. Jim Bailey, an assistant professor of rehabilitative medicine at the Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in New Jersey. “If we find them we can use various techniques to correct that.”

Most of the scientific research into Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT), as it is known in America, over the years involved small patient samples, so positive results were easily dismissed  and providers like the NHS or insurers often refused to recommend or reimburse for the procedure. But that is changing; in the UK  The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) has been recommending forms of manual therapy such as Osteopathy for back pain for some years now.  A  report  on July 16, 2016 , stated;

“A fairly large randomized, controlled trial of over 400 patients that appeared earlier this year in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found six OMT sessions were associated with “significant and clinically relevant measures for recovery from chronic lower back pain.” This came on the heels of a 2014 meta-analysis—led by a German researcher who has worked with the respected Cochrane Collaboration—that found OMT helped reduce pain and improved function in both acute and chronic pain patients.

 So despite our long running love affair with out-of-the-bottle ‘magic bullet’ chemical solutions, non-invasive, safe, and effective alternatives that address and resolves the source of pain are increasingly being taken seriously by governments slowly following many chronic pain sufferers who have known this for a long time. While opioids and NSAID’s  have their place,  they are not the full answer and have too big a risk and are actually not that effective. Conservative, non-drug  methods should be used much more extensively first.

What we consider as conservative methods needs to and is, slowly changing. As the recent ‘Doctor in the House’ programme on the BBC 1 showed, careful functional and structural examination and treatment can often, as on the TV programme, turn a chronic 20-pill-a-day pain habit around in as little as 30 days.

Pain, we have to remember, while seemingly so tied up with the area of the body that it is coming from, needs to be seen as a brain-based problem. To tackle it we need an integrated strategy that recognises this and addresses the issue structurally, psychologically, nutritionally, linguistically, energetically and, only as a last resort, chemically, and then with greater caution. In a recent article in Practical Pain Management it  was cogently argued that;

“Osteopathic tenets and principles for the management of pain actually preceded the now widely accepted and heuristic bio-psycho-social approach. This bio-psycho-social model views physical disorders—such as pain—as the result of a dynamic interaction among physiological, psychological and social factors that perpetuates and may worsen the clinical presentation. A wide range of psychological and socioeconomic factors can interact with physical pathology to modulate a patient’s report of symptoms and subsequent disability. Thus, “knowing the whole person” is important in this model as well as in the osteopathic approach. It has been recently noted that, in general, this bio-psycho-social model is quite congruent with osteopathic principles and that it provides a great deal of empirical evidence that supports the osteopathic approach.”

This osteopathic approach is based on four principles, namely;

  • The body is a unit; the person is a unit of body, mind, and spirit.
  • The body is capable of self-regulation, self-healing, and health maintenance.
  • Structure and function are reciprocally interrelated.
  • Rational treatment is based upon an understanding of the basic principles of body unity, self-regulation, and the interrelationship of structure and function.

Gradually we are seeing that while the stimulation of a nerve may, but does not always lead to pain, this in turn does not always lead to suffering and the behaviour that pain and or suffering engenders can be very different depending on multiple bio-psycho-social factors, which can include a wide range of aspects just because pain is both an unpleasant sensory and emotional experience which is always filtered through our psycho-social expectations and experiences.

This can explain the  well proven efficacy of  such, once derided, approaches as the clinical use of mindfulness meditation for the self-regulation of chronic pain. So while this bio-psycho-social approach was widely embraced by osteopathic medicine, well before conventional allopathic medicine, perhaps sometimes  in the past we had a tendency to forget these facts as we got caught up with our own physical techniques and interventions. However most clinicians these days are well aware of the wider model discussed here.

An interesting newish example is  the OsteoMAP programme. This  is an NHS funded initiative, developed by the British School of Osteopathy combining Mindfulness and  Osteopathy and  is designed to support people with long-term musculoskeletal pain, which may be alleviated but is unlikely to be completely resolved by manual therapy alone. It aims to help people with pain find their own pathways to living a more fulfilling life, despite on-going symptoms. OsteoMAP is based on the ‘third wave’ Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approaches currently used in group-based pain management programmes within the NHS.

Post Script

The day after I finished writing this blog I was interested to see the BBC ran a programme entitled The Doctor Who Gave Up Drugs, with Infectious disease and TV  Dr. Chris van Tulleken. With half the NHS’s drug use in General Practice and a 50% increase in drug consumption in the last 15 years and an estimated 100,000-lifetime-pill average consumption for healthy people, we have become a nation of druggies…and I am not consuming many at all, so someone must be consuming mine and possibly your share too!

With this massive over prescription of drugs that often do not work very well and sometimes kill us, we have created a dysfunctional system that is both unsustainable, unhealthy and dangerous. Long term use of common drugs like ibuprofen and paracetamol can lead to potentially life threatening kidney and liver damage, while many of the drugs that are often brought over the counter only work on a minority of people. Truly, as Van Tulleken says, a mad way to do medicine. But what to do?

To his credit he did have a go at being a GP for a day or so to see the huge pressure GP’s are under to do medicine in ten minute bouts, always aware that if they miss something and don’t prescribe the right medicine and a patient dies they are very vulnerable to being sued.

Tulleken showed in no uncertain terms how so many patients who are taking handfuls of pain medication every day, sometimes for decades, if they were to come off them and just move, let alone see an expert like an osteopath for their back or shoulder pain, could both reduce or eradicate their pain and greatly reduce their risks of toxic drug reactions. In a young woman on antidepressants for eight years, since she was 16, he introduced her to wild swimming. Both the exercise and the cold shock stimulus to the hormonal system as good evidence shows, have the power to change our depressed state.

However, even for those of us who know and accept these things and are not sleep walking to a drug filled future, the challenge for us, as a nation, is how do we organise health care so that those old-fashioned home visits and intensive enquiry as to a better way of helping our patients can be introduced along side any drugs that may well be vital to a few?

Seeing Tulleken made me hope that one day we might have a functional medicine speciality that is charged, much as he did for TV, with attaching to GP surgeries and coaching the many people who can get a much better, safer and more effective kind of medicine by applying all the new (and old) knowledge  we have that can lead us away from this unsustainable and unhealthy way of doing medicine. Expensive perhaps in the short term but life saving and economical in the longer term.

Well enough of pain for now, before I go have you checked your vitamin D levels recently? While I have written about the ever-growing understanding into the many roles of vitamin D in our health elsewhere I was interested to see this recent research in relation to Asthma.

Vitamin D & Asthma

334 million people around the world are effected by asthma and there are 185 hospital admissions and three deaths each day in the UK from asthma.  A new study that showed that vitamin D supplements can half the risk of  acute asthma attacks.   An official estimate suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels. Now, an extensive review of the evidence, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests everyone over the age of one needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day in order to protect bone and muscle health.

Coming soon, reflections on encouraging life-style and nutrition research from America on reversing early Alzheimer’s disease,  and the exciting and advancing world of the humanbiome.

If you’d like to comment on any of this, or read what others have commented, you can do so below.

Why Women should do weights: August 2016

A summer of change

A lot of changes are afoot  both at Helix House and in public health advice recently. Most notably this July with new governmental advice for us to take extra vitamin D as a supplement.

Vitamin D supplementation

For most people, the bulk of their vitamin D is made from the action of sunlight on their skin. Official estimates, which may well be very conservative, suggest one in five adults and one in six children in England may have low levels.

“What vitamin deficiency affects over half of the population, is almost never diagnosed, and has been linked to depression,  dementia, many cancers, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, chronic muscle pain, and bone loss?

What vitamin is almost totally absent from our food supply? What vitamin do we need up to twenty-five times more of than the government recommends for us to be healthy? What vitamin is the hidden cause of so much suffering that is so easy to treat? If you guessed vitamin D, you are correct”.   Dr. Mark Hyman.

Thus I started my previous blog on Vitamin D back in February 2012. We like to be ahead of the curve! Now, the BBC report that an extensive review of the evidence, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests everyone over the age of one needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day in order to protect bone and muscle health. And public health officials say, in winter months, people should consider getting this from 10 microgram supplements, if their diet is unlikely to provide it.

Closer to home we are welcoming:

  A new Osteopath to Helix House.

image003Yan-Chee Yu

After a Cambridge degree in mathematics Yan took a masters in osteopathy  and is a graduate of the British School of Osteopathy, is registered with the General Osteopathic Council and is a member of the Institute of Osteopathy. He runs a successful London practice and  says;

As an Osteopath I work primarily using Cranial Osteopathic techniques, integrating Visceral and Structural methods as necessary. I have particular interests in long-standing conditions, such as severe physical trauma, and the effects of psycho-emotional factors, including chronic stress and distress of any kind, on the body’s natural healing capacity.
In addition to my formal Osteopathic education, I have spent over a decade training in Qigong and Meditation where I have learned to directly experience how the physical body is affected by its qi (energy) and by the qi of thoughts and emotions. Through this experience of working directly with the body, emotions and thoughts, I have developed an integrated, holistic approach which enables me to best appreciate each person as a whole and support everybody I treat according to their individual needs”.

If you would like to sample his unique talents you can book a treatment with him at Helix House right now. We wish him well in his planned move back westwards  from London towards his childhood home of Cheltenham and hope he will soon build up a strong following here in Oxford in the coming years.

Why Women should do weights

Just yesterday I was congratulating a teenage patient for all the strong exercise she was taking in her  demanding sport. While it can be tough and time-consuming I highlighted for her and her mother the benefits of such physical training in helping to build up her ‘bone bank’ of strong bones for later in her life.

Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones more brittle and prone to fracture. Although osteoporosis can effect men and younger people, post-menopausal women are most at risk. One of the best ways to help maintain healthy bones is to exercise regularly – which encourages the bones to absorb calcium and other mineral salts that keep bones strong.

Weight bearing exercises and weight resisted exercises are best for strengthening bones and muscles and as well as helping to keep bones in good health may also reduce the likelihood of falls as you age. Weight bearing exercises are those where your body is supporting its own weight, such as walking or housework or carrying groceries. Weight resisted exercise involves pushing or pulling against an additional weight, like a dumbbell or barbell or resistance equipment in a gym.

The younger you start, the better

Anyone can benefit from weight training but it has been demonstrated that younger women like my young patient who trained using weights have stronger bones later in life, this essentially means that you can bank bone when you’re younger to help prevent fractures later in life – a kind of insurance scheme for your body. A life time of active living not only protects your bones but also keeps your heart healthy and may protect you from other diseases such as cancer and type two diabetes.

But starting at any age will help

Everyone can benefit from increasing their activity levels. Studies have shown that people who have already been diagnosed with osteoporosis can improve their bone health significantly through weight-bearing exercising, the key is getting good advice on how to move well and how to self-manage.

Some more benefits

Strong muscles burn more calories, so if you need to control your bodyweight, lifting weights can help. It also helps with balance and can help you to regulate your sleep patterns.

‘I don’t want to look muscled’

It takes women a lot of heavy weight lifting, and sometimes the use of controlled substances like steroids and hormones, to achieve the physique of the heavily muscled power lifter. Women don’t normally have enough testosterone in their bodies to develop bulging muscles, but can, with regular, moderate training achieve lean, toned and strong muscles.

‘I hate gyms’

No problem. There are plenty of other exercises you can do that don’t involve a visit to the gym. Dancing, yoga, tennis, Pilates, walking, running, gardening and even housework count – all you are aiming to do is increase your heart rate and make yourself feel a little warmer. You can do it in several short blocks of 15 minutes or more but aim for at least a total of 150 minutes per week over at least 5 days per week for the best results. If you’re unused to exercise, start slowly and build up to this target.

I don’t know where to start

This is where your friendly local osteopath can help. We can screen you for any health concerns that might affect your ability to exercise, help to resolve any injuries or pain that might be holding you back and advise you on what exercises might suit your goals best. Many can teach you how to exercise correctly, avoiding injuries and how to gradually build up as your ability and fitness levels improve.

June 2016: Prostate Cancer + New Faces coming to Helix House

Do you have a Prostate, No? But perhaps you know (and even love) someone who does?

I loved my father. Well most of us do, what was sad for me to see was his growing girth and eventual demise from prostate and bladder cancer some fourteen years ago. I remember him when I was young as a slim, energetic man, who would run down the street and make me laugh, it was inevitably painful to see him suffering in his last years.

Sad but nothing new about that, you might say.  True, but it may be that history, as well as my clinical knowledge, was one reason why my eye was caught recently by a small piece in The Week under the headline waist size and prostate cancer. Perhaps, for many, the link between the most common  form of male cancer in the UK,  we have around 130 new cases a day, and the size of your waist, might seem surprising.

Waist Size

Few people think of reducing their waist size specifically to avoid cancer. But for clinicians over many years now, one of the least expensive, but very cost effective tools in our offices, has been  a simple measure tape with green, yellow and red sections indicating the good, not so good and bad sizes for our waists with one side for women and  the other for men. In one small maneuver you can see where you lie in the healthy to unhealthy or even dangerous waist-size stakes. This has been a useful tool to bring to light, in a very simple and direct way to patients, the risks that visceral fat can have on our health.

This study, which was recently presented at the European Obesity Summit in Gothenburg, Sweden, carried out at Oxford University followed 141,896 men, typically aged 52, over 14 years: during this time 7,022 developed prostate cancer and of those, 934 died. What the research showed was that for every extra four inches a man had on his waist, he raised his risk of developing the most aggressive form of prostate cancer by 13% while his risks of dying went up by 18%.

It has been known for some time that a waist size can have a significant effect on health:  You have a higher risk of health problems if your waist size is:

  • more than 94cm (37 inches) if you’re a man
  • more than 80cm (31.5 inches) if you’re a woman

Your risk of health problems is even higher if your waist size is:

  • more than 102cm (40 inches) if you’re a man
  • more than 88cm (34.5 inches) if you’re a woman

Around 1,000 people a week die in the UK from obesity-related conditions. While estimates vary, the cost of obesity accounts for possibly more than 20% of all health costs today and looks to rise exponentially in years to come. Knowing where you are on that colour code tape is a good start to add some  warning for this common cancer as well as, it could be argued now we are on the skids financially, a patriotic step. As I am at that peak age for diagnosis of prostate cancer, I have another reason to think carefully about the disease, even though my waist size is under control.

The incidents of prostate cancer is highest in Australia and New Zealand and lowest in South Central Asia. So what is it in this  increased waist size, (or apple shape as opposed to pear shape) that is driving these higher risks?  According to the  Harvard School of Public Health  The fat surrounding the liver and other abdominal organs, so-called visceral fat, is very metabolically active. It releases fatty acids, inflammatory agents, and hormones that ultimately lead to higher LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, blood glucose, and blood pressure. Male hormones, or androgens, drive the development of prostate cancer. Two common androgens are testosterone and the more powerful, less friendly, dihydrotestosterone (DHT). It is possible that this increased viseral fat drives the production of DHT.

The Nurses’ Health Study,(yes I know nurses are more often women) one of the largest and longest studies to date that has measured abdominal obesity, looked at the relationship between waist size and death from heart disease, cancer, or any cause in middle-aged women. After following this enormous cohort of women for 16 years they found that women who had a waist size of 35 inches almost doubled their risk of  dying from heart disease and cancer, and the higher the size the bigger the risk.

Food for Thought

OK, so we should lose that beer belly, anything else we can do? Well yes, if epidemiology studies on diet and disease are telling us anything. Why has there been a twenty-five fold increase in prostate cancer in Japan since world war two? Could it have anything to do with the sevenfold increase in egg consumption, a ninefold increase in meat consumption, and a twentyfold increase in dairy consumption?

Many things happened in Japan to change the rates of death, but it does appear that  the rise of milk consumption is a significant factor. We have grown up with a cultural belief that milk is altogether a ‘good thing’, all sorts of phases link it to the positive in our upbringing, “The milk of human kindness”, “mother’s milk” tells us subliminally that this is a good thing. Fear of osteoporosis encourages us to increase our calcium intake and this is often linked to milk in many people’s minds.

The truth turns out to be somewhat different. Not only do numerous rigorous scientific studies point to high intake of dairy appearing to increase total prostate cancer risk, but milk may, ironically, even increase bone and hip fracture rates, something that would seem to be counter-intuitive to our prevailing cultural conditioning.

Milk is not the only ‘good’ food associated with higher risks of prostate cancer, eggs, chicken and most animal proteins are associated with up to four times the risk of prostate cancer progression. Now I have been a life long vegetarian so avoiding meat, for me, is no sacrifice, however moving to a fully vegan diet and abandoning eggs and cheese is more of a challenge. But this is where the science seems to be taking us. Not that you will hear this from any government any time soon. That would lose too many farming  votes and food industry cash. Sadly we cannot rely on the government as a reliable source of anything but the blandest of health advice. And anyway, such governmental health advice is not effective. What might be more effective is, following the likes of the Finnish example and concentrating on encouraging and introducing young children in school to a wide range of exciting and tasty vegetables so that they at least grow up with a healthier and more protective diet. Banging on about ‘5 a day’ seems singularly ineffective. Perhaps the way forward is via taste and joy rather than advice and guilt.

A:V ratio

This takes us to the A:V ratio. or the rate of Animal to Vegetable proteins in our diets. Many research studies have tried to test for this and, sure enough, the more we shift towards a plant-based diet, the lower the signs linked to prostate cancer, like PSA levels, are. It is looking very likely that the ideal A:V ratio is closer to zero than one. And this is not just for prostate cancer, it seems to apply too for cancer prevention in general.

Allen et al. reported in the International Journal of Cancer in 2013 on the largest study ever performed on bladder cancer that involved nearly 500,000 people in Europe, found that an increase in animal protein consumption of just 3% was associated with a 15% increase in risk of bladder cancer, the other cancer my father suffered from.  On the other hand, an increase in plant protein intake of only 2% was associated with a 23% decreased cancer risk.

So while politicians will wail, with some justification, at the struggles of our National Health Service, behind the headlines, science is inexorably pointing to a dramatic change needed in our farming and food culture, if we are really to successfully deal with the growth of chronic disease and the ever rising cancer levels. This will take an ongoing revolution.

It seems almost impossible to imagine the kind of shift in habitual eating habits needed to make a dent in the drivers for our high cancer rates. We know that a very significant proportion of cancers are lifestyle and particularly food, related.  But I am confident things will eventually change and fewer of us, like my father, will have to suffer unnecessarily due to our ignorance of what our eating habits are subtly doing to us, when all the time we thought we were doing the right thing. However it is going to take far, far too long, both for the chances of a whole generation, not to mention climate change, to get these kind of profound changes.

Never-the-less we can already see the small seeds of change in many of the millennial generation where things like veganism is rapidly becoming mainstream in certain circles. As only men have a prostate and men are very much the weaker sex when it comes to being able to change their diet for health reasons, see, Dr. Michael Greger’s evidence based review of the literature on this things look grim, for the time being, for the mass of British men. As Greger says, a cancer diagnosis is often considered a ‘teachable moment‘ in medicine. The only way  the renowned Dr. Dean Ornish managed to make  significant changes in men’s diet was by delivering  healthy cooked meals to their door. So if men won’t change behaviour because of a risk of cancer, perhaps the very high risks of erectile dysfunction might be the way to go in encouraging change. I fear the type of major change we have discussed here, will only come with generation change. Smoking is slowly becoming an  unacceptable activity, but that has taken nearly a lifetime and, for the more disadvantaged, it is still not eradicated.

With weight gain we seem to disrupt all sorts of hormonal messengers that are trying to keep the balance in our bodies. Chronic inflammation sets off  confusion within.

Unwanted Growth & IGF-1

When we are small we need to grow, and so signals, such as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1)  are sent through our hormones to encourage cells to grow more numerous.  Every day we are turning over billions of cells and renewing ourselves all the time. However once we are adult we do not need to grow more numerous cells, just renew the ageing ones we have got. Extra cells can lead to tumors and the kind of growth we do not want. As I said in my November blog on fasting;

“Genetically engineered mice  live 40% longer by reducing levels of growth hormone I.G.F.1. This is the ‘go-go’ hormone. With less of this the body has the time to slow down the production of new cells in order to fix the cells it already has so repairing damage. Protein when eaten builds cells but also locks us into the go-go mode and can encourage too fast a growth, leaving no time for repair. Eating less protein, less often, seems to help reduce IGF1 as well as the crucial glucose levels”.

There is a rare form of dwarfism called Laron syndrome that has been studied a lot recently both in relation to cancer suppression and fasting. The body of those with Laron syndrome cannot produce enough IGF-1 to grow, however the good side is that small as they are, they seem almost immune to cancer. And it is our dietary choices that can allow us to turn down the helpful growth power of IGF-1 when we are fully grown.  Evidence is mounting to show that both reducing our calorific, and specifically, protein consumption, perhaps through regular mild fasting, see my recent blog fasting-is-it-the-way-forward-november-2015/ can reduce our levels of IGF-1. After just eleven days of cutting back on animal protein, your IGF-1 levels drop by 20% and your levels of IGF-1 binding protein can jump to 50%. This binding protein helps to tie up excess IGF-1  and so protect your body from excess growth, from cancer.

What to do?

So what can we guys do to reduce our risks of prostate cancer? And what can you do to help the men in your life reduce their risks, and also help reduce your risks of other cancers like breast or bladder cancer? Remember that some like Dr. William Fair and his colleagues, from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the USA, suggest that prostate cancer may be considered a ‘nutritional disease.’

  1. Work towards reducing your A:V ratio. More plants fewer animals.
  2. Eat more cruciferous vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, or kale are helpful for glucosinolates and Indole-3-carbinol (I3C)
  3. Eat more grounded flax seeds for their cancer protective lignans.
  4. Eat more tomatoes, especially cooked, for their anti cancer effects of lycopene.
  5. Consider eating traditional East Asian soya products like tofu for their protective phytoestrogens called isoflavones.
  6. Oh yes, and work towards reducing that inflammatory waist size! (Back to my November blog on the 5:2 fasting diet)!

There are lots of things you can do to reduce the risk. The sooner started the better the effect. Good luck.

New Faces, new talents

Helix house will be getting some new faces working with us starting this summer. Watch out for some interesting, skilled people who will be joining us, offering their well honed talents in body work different from our own. You may well want to book a trial treatment from one or all of these well honed and experienced practitioners.

Alex SmolonskaAlex-3
Alex graduated from Oxford School of Sports Massage with Level 5 BTEC Professional Diploma in Clinical, Sport & Remedial Massage. She worked at the Oxford University Woman’s Lightweight Rowing Club, and more recently at Eau-de-Vie – The Centre for Natural Health Treatments. She treats a diverse group of clients ranging from busy mums, office and manual workers, musicians, football players, cyclists, runners, power lifters to racing car drivers. She has just completed the core programme of the Visceral Manipulation (VM) at The Barral Institute in New York. VM is a gentle manual therapy which helps to release restrictions and unhealthy compensations that cause pain and dysfunction.

Bells Aris         Bella has been working as a massage therapist in Oxford for the last 18 years and over time has enjoBella Arisyed how her practice has grown and evolved. After first training at the Oxford School of Massage in holistic massage she became more drawn to helping clients in pain and discomfort, after all that is primarily why someone will seek treatment. This led her to train at JING Advanced Massage where she gained the tools and knowledge to really understand and help people in pain whether it be from a sporting injury or spending 8+ hours a day at a desk.

Through becoming a mother of 3 her interests extended to women’s health, firstly with pregnancy massage. As a doula as well as a massage therapist she has developed a deeper understanding of the pregnant body both in terms of the common aches and pains of pregnancy but also the ups and downs that a woman might go though at this time.

A natural step from pregnancy became helping women with menstrual and fertility issues. she came across Maya abdominal massage, a gentle non invasive technique aimed at the health of the uterus and pelvic region. She has become increasingly convinced at how this work supports women on many levels.

She continues to love the work that she does and feels that her experience gathered over the years along with an interest to learn more has helped her to give clients a comprehensive treatment.


Peak Stuff: March 2016

“If we look on a global basis, in the west we have probably hit peak stuff. We talk about peak oil. I’d say we’ve hit peak red meat, peak sugar, peak stuff … peak home furnishings,” Steve Howard

Steve Howard from IKEA said this  at a Guardian Sustainable Business debate.  He amusingly commented that the new state of affairs could be called “peak curtains”. Howard’s comment had been compared to a “Ratner moment”, named after Gerald Ratner’s description of goods at his jewellery stores as “crap” in 1991.  As  I read this piece  about Steve Howard’s rather daring, candid statement the other month it got me thinking.  I was busy clearing our old cupboards and was immediately both amused by the term, ‘peak stuff’ and recognised that I was at that stage in life of being in danger of letting stuff, overcrowd my life, instead of improving it.

I am old enough to remember the more spartan times of the 1950’s when the shadow of the second world war still hung over a rather grey, smog covered,  bombed-out, London  and one could but marvel at the seeming cornucopia of goodies that appeared to be available in far-off  America. There was no way the child-me, with my face up against the toy shop window, would, at that different time, have understood the concept of ‘peak stuff’.

The surprisingly engrossing  recent BBC series Back in Time for the Weekend , through the device of putting a family through a speeded up series of decades looking at the entertainment ‘stuff’ that they had available, brought home our changing relation to ‘stuff’.

Stuart Jeffries (The Guardian, Enough is Enough 02.03.16) also wrote an interesting piece noting that  British consumers are actually spending 5% less on their total household budget buying physical goods over the last decade. Altogether, Jeffries reports, we are getting through 10.3 tonnes per person, down from a high of 15.1 tonnes twelve years earlier. All those discarded VHS tapes that cannot be recycled and the 4m tonnes of food we waste each year may be one of the reasons we rack up these enormous totals.  Will our greater awareness, tightened circumstances and increased digitization see a significant reduction in these, rather horrifying, figures?

As nearly all societies become increasingly unequal again, under the new order,  even a simple and civilised  William Morris-like appreciation of a few well-chosen, beautiful objects, for our homes is slipping out of the reach of many, to be replaced by gluts of stuff for some and no chance of a decent home to contemplate any wished for beautiful objects, for many.

But perhaps the real challenge for us all, is one that cuts across the growing  material divide. If we shift focus for a moment from our physical ‘stuff’ to all those tired, broken and tarnished beliefs, certainties and ideologies that we might still have tucked away in the loft of our minds, there might be some decluttering to be done that could be even more useful to us all than the physical decluttering now espoused by best sellers like Marie Kondo’s  The Life Changing Magic of Tidying.

I would like to leave you with the challenge this month. Go up into your ‘mental loft space’ and rummage around there sometime and see what old, out of date, mental baggage you still have stored away, that no longer serves you. Ask yourself if that old 1950’s belief, potentially poisonous  ’60’s ideology or quaint ’70’s style social construct, inherited from your parents, are really fit for purpose in our present time?

It is not difficult to see the damage that such old certainties that are being clung to around the world are doing, both to our fragile physical world and to the political discourse of our time.

May be it is time to bring some of these  dysfunctional, outmoded thought forms, down. Give them a wash and take them to  the dump where there can be safely recycled into something more imaginative and fitting for the  undoubted existential challenges to come. Something to think about.

New Year, New Life. January 2016

Happy (and ‘lucky’)  New Year. January 2016.


“The harder you practice, the luckier you get.”

I just purchased a Lottery ticket for the first time today. I know, my chances of winning, and having the pleasure of becoming a serious Philanthropist, are about 65 million to one! But I have been thinking about lady luck this week and decided to indulge in the most extreme form of luck consciousness, in honour of this blog, just for once. But really that is not the kind of luck I want to think about here.

That famous quote,  above, linked in 1962 to the great american golfer Gary Player, has its roots much further back in time, but  still has a resonance with us, for, on a good day, when we are in harmony with things, we know that we can, sometimes, make our own luck. Yet, at other times, we seem doomed to thrash around, just making everything worse with each crashing stumble. Especially when we are young and struggling to get established, finding the art of easing the passage of life and flowing with things, can often seem utterly beyond us. So much so that the very suggestion that we could, feels a preposterous slander.

At the start of another new year I would like to think about how we approach our ‘luck’ in  all aspects of our life. So much of what we get caught up in day-to-day, may not really lead to us living in harmony with the more profound aspects of our lives.

If we can allow ourselves to truly see that, even with all the cruel and often overwhelming inequalities and injustices of our world, we are also, in some profound way, the drivers of our destiny.  As we align ourselves more with the  mystery of our unfolding life, we may more easily be able to see the extraordinary synchronicity that pops up in life, the more one steps into harmony.

Studying Luck: Lucky for some

In Oxford we have two great universities studying all sorts of erudite subjects, all of which are important, but still we struggle with key aspects of how to be happy, healthy and at peace, both as we go through our lives and as we come to their inevitable ends. Our city houses large number of clever people employed to crunch the evidence, to understand, to guide the policy,  of how we live and why we die before, what might be seen as, ‘our time’.

Over the last year researchers around the world have tried to work out how much cancer, for example, is caused by bad luck and how much as a result of choices we make. Every few months various, impressive, statistical studies come out, with  different views on this, which must be confusing for those who take these efforts as a final truth, instead of well-informed, statistical guesses and useful ways of  keeping epidemiologists gainfully employed.

In  January last year one study suggested that two-thirds of cancer types were down to luck rather than factors such as smoking. While later in December another study suggested that cancers were overwhelmingly a result of environmental factors and not largely down to bad luck. This can be both encouraging, in that we may have greater agency over our life, but can also turn into an unpleasant and erroneous ‘blame the patient’ game, if not fully understood.

Seeing Life through another window

What if we were all inextricably one and everything that happened to us was for the sole purpose for us to learn? That our whole life was one big learning experience?

It is easy to say, but much harder to accept when the most precious things in our lives are snatched away from us, as they were for Jeff Olsen. Whatever you might think of his touching and profound life changing, Near Death Experiences around a terrible car accident he was in, that killed both his wife and youngest son, it provides another narrative to the dominant materialistic model that holds sway in our culture today.

When you have a chance you might want to give some time to listen to Olsen’s story and witness how it has shaped him to become the impressive man he comes across as today. There is a considerable amount of  scientific evidence around the whole subject of Near Death Experiences. (For more on this subject, see my book review in  my blog; August 2012: Dying to Be Me: My Journey from Cancer, to Near Death, to True Healing by Anita Moorjani) Whatever you make of them, there are useful pointers to be gained from those who have had these experiences, relevant to our own life and how to live it. How we ‘make our own luck’.

The School of Life

Talking of how to live our life,  are you familiar with The School of Life?   This is an organisation, with centres around the world, founded in 2008  by philosopher Alain de Botton and  Sophie Howarth a former curator from Tate Modern, in collaboration with a number of writers, artists and educators. The School offers a variety of programmes and services concerned with how to live wisely and well: finding fulfilling work, mastering relationships, achieving calm, and understanding and changing the world.[1] The School also offers psychotherapy and bibliotherapy services and runs small shops[2] which have been described as ‘apothecaries for the mind'”.[3]

What I wanted to draw your attention to specifically, were their impressive, and ever-expanding, list of very short five-minute films  that they have on YouTube. Here they dispense sassy, calm, well-informed,  non-judgemental insights on a wide variety of subjects, from mini introductions to the great philosophers to a recent addition, ‘Why God says you should have sex every Friday night’! (The wisdom of the Torah. it’s a couple’s duty under God to have sex every Friday night, perhaps an insightful piece of ancient, couples therapy). You’ll have to check out that one!

Making our own Luck in 2016

So how are you going to make your own luck in 2016? There are so many better ways of doing so, that are more sane and effective than my one-off,  mildly ridiculous, Lottery approach.

You could do worse than check out some of the School of Life’s brilliant little films, bringing some clear thinking into how we see, and maybe change, our lives so ‘making our own luck’.

It only remains for me to wish you, Good Luck, in 2016.

Women, can you help with some research?

Here is a request, from psychotherapist Fia Kinley-Jones.

Have you ever brought the topic of your period to your therapy?

If so, I’d love to hear from you with a view to inviting you to participate in my MA research:

‘An exploration of women’s experiences of bringing menstruation as a topic to psychotherapy’

You will need:

– To be a practising trainee or qualified counsellor/ psychotherapist

  • To be a woman of menstruating age (post pubescent and pre menopausal)
  • To have been in, or to currently be in psychotherapy/counselling

– To have raised the issue of your periods or menstrual cycle in your own therapy at least once and to be happy to discuss this experience

I am conducting this research as part of an MA in Integrative Counselling and Psychotherapy at the Minster Centre, London. This project has been approved by the Minster Centre’s Ethics Committee and will be conducted in accordance with the Ethical Guidelines of the B.A.C.P.

If you are interested in participating in this project or know anyone who might be, or if you would like to find out more please contact me on:


tel: 07875 007 595

Interviews will last about 60 – 90 minutes, will be audio-recorded and will be conducted at a time and place that is convenient for both of us.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Fia Kinley-Jones