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Archive for April, 2009

Yesterday, Sunday 26th April, 36,000 people pounded the streets of London to take part in one of the world’s best marathons, what many people call the ‘People’s Marathon’. I’ve completed three marathons, two of which were the London Marathon and there is something very special about this one. Whilst the training is tough going, particularly through the winter months, the build up in the week before the London Marathon is something special. The Runnersworld UK forum is alive with people comparing their training, asking last minute advice, how should they get there, how much should they drink on the way round, how many loos are available? On the day itself, the atmosphere at the start in Blackheath is electric and the support along every inch of the way is phenomenal.

I wasn’t running this year but was supposed to be supporting my lovely boyfriend who has trained so hard and so well, but cruelly was not allowed the final glory of running a personal best due to a terrible back injury on Friday morning. Life is very unfair sometimes.

We both ran it last year though and one of my lasting memories is catching up the Masai Warriors at mile 13. They were dressed in their finest warrior outfits, complete with shoes made out of old tyres and 6ft spears. They were taking part to raise awarness for the lack of water in their country. I wondered what on earth they made of the many water stations along the route, where thousands of runners grab a bottle, take a few swigs and then discard half a bottle of water to the side of the road. They must surely have felt some disgust or at least disbelief at what they were seeing. We really do take fresh water for completed granted.

One of the hazards of running is dodging all these discarded plastic Vittel water bottles and Lucozade sport bottles. There must be well over 250,000 bottles along the route. But fear not, those lovely people at London Marathon ensure that recycling is a priority. Recycling is implemented all along the route and London Marathon works with all six London boroughs that the route winds through to ensure waste is collected and recyled. All the Lucozade now comes in new packacing, fully recyclable 300ml PET bottles and all the waste in the finish area is taken to the Materials Recovery Facility where recyclable materials are sorted and sent for recycling. I also saw on the TV yesterday a report about using some of the plastic bottles to make beautiful 3d artwork flowers.

The London Marathon Expo, held in the 4 days before the race itself, is held at London Excel, a fully sustainable building with its own Materials Recovery Facility and, believe it or not, its own wormery holding 250,000 to 300,000 worms. This wormery is the largest UK onsite wormery where worms feast on the food waste and compostable packaging waste from Excel.

If you were watching the race, you will have noticed metres and metres of sponsors advertising, in fact 23 kilometres in total. After the race, this signage is sent for recycling and used in all manner of arts and craft activities throughout the London boroughs.

The large lorries from TNT that take the runners’ bags from start to finish are part of the largest fleet of zero emission trucks in the world.

London Marathon have also cut down almost completley on runners communication by paper. Entry is now online and correspondence and news sent to runners up to the race itself is all via email.

There are many other ways that London Marathon has turned green and it’s great to see that much thought has been put into making such a huge event as green as possible.

Oh, and anyone reading this who thinks “I could never do a marathon”, you can! If I can do it, then you certainly can. I couldn’t run 100m without gasping for breath when I started running and then a year later I finished the London Marathon in just over 5 hours! Come on, get your kit on and start running, it’s good for you.

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Some women are truly inspirational and I only hope I have the same energy and enthusiasm when I am several decades older!

This week, Evelyn Blackburn celebrate 60 years as a massage therapist. She’s 98! She’s massaged thousands over the year and still has a studio at her home. Look at her, she looks miles younger than 98. I wonder if I’ll still be giving reflexology and Bowen treatments when I’m that age.

Evelyn Blackburn, massage therapist, aged 98

Evelyn Blackburn, massage therapist, aged 98

Then there’s Bette Calman from Australia, who is still bending and stretching at the grand age of 83. She’s a yoga teacher and teaches 11 classes a week in Melbourne. “Yoga keeps you young,” says Bette. Sure does, she looks amazing and that pose she’s doing is way beyond me. I can’t even touch my toes.

Yoga Gran  (c) BP/Barcott Media

Yoga Gran (c) BP/Barcott Media

And last but absolutely no means least is my Mum, Jean. She’s amazing of course and at the age of 75 she ran her first ever 5k. She had never run before but trained well and completed the 5k (3.1m) course in a rather fantastic time of 43 minutes! I was so impressed and it was a scorching hot day. Two years later and we’ve entered another 5k in July in Windsor. My Mum has incredible energy – I bet she’s in the garden right now digging and weeding as I type and she still works 4 days a week as a PA.

My brilliant Mum

My brilliant Mum

These three women show that life really is for living, every single minute of the day. Who says that at a certain age you are old and have to stop everything and retire? If you love and enjoy something so much, why not carry on doing it.

I hope I’m still going strong when I’m their age.

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To Bee or Not to Bee

I’m big on honey at the moment. Active Manuka honey from New Zealand is incredibly high in anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties and is a wonderful treatment for internal and external ailments. It has been shown to be very effective at clearing up fungal conditions on the skin and, internally, can be taken to help get rid of a nasty cough. Manuka honey has even been used in hospitals to held pressure sores, ulcers and MRSA.

honey300w
If you’re buying Manuka honey, it’s imporant to buy one that has a UMF – Unique Manuka Factor – as not all honey has the amazing antibacterial properties. UMF is measured in 5+ to 25+ – I’m using 15+ at the moment and took a huge dessertspoon before I went to bed last night. Usually, I’m laid up for several days with this particular strain of horrendous cold/chest infection but it’s like I’ve skipped a day and feel a lot better already.

When it comes to coughs, in my opinion you don’t have to stretch to Manuka as a good dollop of local honey can help much better than a sugary cough mixture from the shops. Local honey is also great for hayfever sufferers, if taken before the hayfever kicks in, as it gives allows the sufferer’s immune system to get used to the local pollen.

Unfortunately, in the UK and across other countries including the US, we could be facing a shortage of local honey. There is a parasite affecting bees and killing them off and almost one in six hives nationally has been lost. Bees not only produce honey for us but they also play a big part in pollinating many of our food crops. In fact bees are responsible for pollinating almost 90% of our apple crops. It’s not known exactly how this parasite infects the bees but thankfully the Government has pledged £10 million towards research to find out what exactly is going on. This is very welcome news as the vast majority of bee keepers are amateur beekeepers who operate for pleasure rather than profit and cannot afford the loss of their colonies. The £10m is funding research into agricultural factors, social factors and enviromental factors. Aside from the parasites, there are some scientists who believe that mobile phone waves be also play a signficant part by interfering with the bees’ own navigation systems.

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Yesterday I visited UK Aware at Olympia in London, a show full of ideas for greener living. I’m very new to this whole greener lifestyle and, to me, it’s really quite daunting. There are so many ways, it seems, to reduce your carbon footprint and I feel I’ve merely dipped my small toe in a huge ocean so far.

I decided that my aim of attending was to get ideas of what areas of my life I should be looking to improve and then go away and work on them. I also wanted to get a lot more information on what the green issue is really all about.

No sooner had a I stepped through the idea than I was accosted by a very amiable chap promoting National Trust Green Energy in association with Npower. Actually only two days ago I had mentioned to my boyfriend that it would be good to join the National Trust as there are some wonderful estates to visit around the south east. Normally I decline very politely but something made me listen to this guy. Naturally, as a salesman he was very persuasive, but I liked what I heard and the facts and figures stood up for themselves. National Trust Green Energy is generated from a number of renewable sources, primarly at an offshore wind farm and thus not producing any greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming. Plus Npower donates money to the National Trust Green Fund every year for each customer of NT Green Energy. Sounded great to me and, uncharacteristically, I signed up there and then.

I learnt some more about electric cars (would love one but my therapy couch doesn’t fit in) and electric bikes, understood more about Fairtrade, tried some great tasting natural foods courtesy of Conscious Food, chatted about World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF) and watched dozens get enthusiastic over Morsbags. The idea with Morsbags is to reduce the number of plastic bags being used (1 million are consumed per minute globally) by making your own reusable cloth bags out of old materials, be they duvets, curtains or old clothes. There are even Morsbag groups around the country getting together regularly to make more bags over a glass of wine or cup of tea. I’m no sewer but I got quite enthused by this and might even shock my Mum by asking to borrow her sewing machine.

Morsbags

Morsbags

One device that caught my attention was the ecocamel showerhead which claims to save up to £250 per year. The spray actually contains lighter, softer water droplets that ‘pop’ on impact giving an enhanced shower experience. The amount of water used is reduced, saving up to 6 litres per minute. In turn, the cost of energy to heat the water is reduced. I spoke to one of the designers and grilled him on figures. He impressed me. I bought the product.

I came away, as I always tend to do from exhibitions, with a bag full of flyers, posters, leaflets and information plus a few freebies. My reading pile has increased again but I shall slowly work my way through all the information.

I really enjoyed the day and, assuming it’s on next year, will definitely return.

In the meantime, if someone could please invent a cure for the common cold …….

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Recent studies have shown that some homeopathic remedies may ease the side-effects of cancer treatments yet without interferring with the effectiveness of the cancer treatment. In particular, the homeopathic remedies for dermatitis and cold sores appeared to work well according to some of the reports.

The peculiar thing is the way this report has been received. Depending on which search engine, publication or news group you read, you may find the report highlighted how “Homeopathy remains unproven as a remedy”, “Homeopathy relieves side effects of cancer therapies, “Homeopathy appears compatible with cancer therapy” or “No convincing evidence for homeopathic remedies”.

So, various immediate thoughts on homeopathy by the articles’ authors: some positive, some negative, some sitting on the fence. The headlines are designed to lead your thinking and it very much depends on the publication as to what their bias is. Frustrating really. That’s why it’s so important to understand fully the research done relating to a complementary therapy and to come to your own decisions.

Naturally, I’m hugely in favour of many complementary therapies (I can’t comment on all as I’ve not had experience of all) and it frustrates me so much that some groups regard the whole CAM area as complete quackness. I urge you all to come to your own conclusion re CAM and not just based on one or two biased articles in the press. Now if after experience and research you still don’t rate CAM, then fair enough. And please also look equally at the efficacy of many conventional medicines too.

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Chinese scientists claim to have created eggs in sterile ovaries. This is very promising news that could help infertile couples to conceive.

The research is still in very early days as it’s only been tested on mice so far, and not humans. However, it’s interesting to note that the newly created eggs in the mice produced very healthy youngsters.

The research focuses on stem cells (these are found in almost all cells and have the ability to renew themselves, used in adult cells for repair) which were removed by the scientists from the ovaries of the mice, grown in a lab and injected back into the mice, resulting in healthy eggs. Sounds relatively simple but many experts around the world remain sceptical, calling for much more research.

Nevertheless, it’s the beginning of some very encouraging developments in the issue of infertility. Women left infertile after cancer treatments or those who have reached menopause early could potentially benefit from this breakthrough. It could also mean women don’t have to worry so much about their ‘body clock’ ticking away.

There’s still so much controversy however regarding stem cell research and how ethical it is as stem cell research requires the destruction of a human embryo.

Complementary therapies for infertility

I’m not aware of complementary therapies being successful specifically for woman whose fertility has been compromised by early menopause or chemotherapy, but there has been much talk about how complementary therapies have helped couples conceive, who were not otherwise able to conceive.

Reflexology, for example, works to balance the body, bringing about homeostasis. Reflexologists trained in special pregnancy techniques for conception and pre/post natal care will apply extra work to the reflex points relating to the reproductive system. This focus will bring about a reflex action in the corresponding body parts (including pituitary gland, ovaries and uterus) to help balance the hormones and to normalise functionality. It may take at least 6-10 treatments to effect a change and other lifestyle factors will also be looked at by the therapist.

Bowen Technique is another therapy that could possibly assist with fertility problems. This gentle light touch bodywork helps re-align and balance the body. Whilst the whole body is treated, there is a particular set of powerful moves available to the therapist that work around the pelvic region along the autonomic nervous system.

Of course, there are various conventional drugs that can be prescribed by the GP/fertility clinic such as Clomid. These are actually very efficient at improving fertility and, in my opinion, this is one area where conventional and complementary therapies work well together. Fertility, or lack of it, can be very stressful and it’s a paradox that this very stress can reduce fertility. Quite apart from the deeper work the complementary therapies do, the client will always come away from treatments in a much more relaxed state and relaxation of the body is key to stimulating its own healing properties and allowing remedies to work, be they conventional or complementary.

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I really enjoyed the Chocolate Festival on Sunday. I filled myself full of yummy treats, all in the name of researching organic choccy of course! One thing I heard officially was that chocolate is indeed a superfood (I could have told people that years ago). Honestly. It’s actually the chocolate nib that is the latest superfood, which is the outer shell of the bean that used to be discarded. However, scientists have found that it’s high in zinc, magnesium and vitamin A and can be used in all manners of ways in food preparation. It’s got a nutty texture yet because it isn’t actually a nut, it is suitable for those with nut allergies so great for giving that crunchy texture in recipes, sprinkled on muesli, topping for desserts or just eaten raw. You can buy in health food shops.

I saw a client this morning who had a stroke at the beginning of the year. This particular client is receiving Bowen Technique from me and I am constantly amazed at the efficacy of the therapy. The client was able to walk twice as far as last week with no dragging of feet and was able to lift their hoover up and down the stairs. Last week, the client could only just lift a small bag and mug. Brilliant!

I read a great article today about complementary therapy be used alongside allopathic medicine, something known as ‘intergrated’ health. This term ‘integrated’ health is causing quite a lot of fuss at the moment as there are some who do not think the two should mix (and even that complementary therapies shouldn’t be used at at all!). Yet there is plenty of evidence, much coming from patients themselves, that the two can mix very well and that it should be the patients choice as to what remedy they use. The article goes on to say that some patients feel embarassed about mentioning complementary therapies to their GP (in fact a high percentage of GPs are receptive to complementary therapies – I’ll blog more on that later). I mentioned it to a consultant and GP the other day in relation to a personal condition and felt like I just asked for a piece of the moon with flowers on! I haven’t told them I’m actually a therapist but I know that once I get a diagnosis (seeing the doc later) that I will consider both complementary therapies and any drugs they may prescribe.

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