Friday 25 February 2011

Are Naturopaths Nature Junkies?

Sitting back in my chair and enjoying a short relaxing after-lunch break, I scan my eyes around the desks at my weekend natural medicine class. I see the usual suspects: bottles of mineral water, fruit, a few tubs of raw almonds and it looks like someone’s brought in pond algae but…what’s this - bottles of pills on everyone’s desks?! Poly-pharmacy is not something you’d expect from a natural medicine class. So why are these health enthusiasts supplementing themselves to the brim and why aren’t I?
It’s a steep learning curve starting out on a natural medicine course; and it’s even tougher when your background is in hardcore science – like mine is. You have to give up all your preconceptions with regards to current medical thought and launch yourself in to the sometimes weird but always wonderful world of ‘naturopathy’ – the concept that the body can heal itself through natural means. As you learn more and more about these amazing natural cures, you can sometimes find yourself convinced that you are in need of an ever-increasing number of remedies to combat the modern toxic lifestyle: digestive enzymes to make up for those lost in over-processed foods, detox supplements to rid the body of the nasty chemicals that make their way into our everyday diet and various pills and potions to encourage fleeting energy levels. Considering this, it is no surprise that some people feel genuinely better after taking these remedies, but surely not every person is in need of them – we’re all different after all. So to what extent are they feeding their bodies and to what extent are they simply feeding their minds? After all, belief is a powerful medicine indeed.
There is a growing body of evidence to show that feelings, such as stress, can manifest as physical problems. In fact, researchers have found a significant link between emotional disturbances and gut problems, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), and they term this connection the ‘brain-gut axis’. This means that someone can experience digestive problems without actually having an identifiable illness. Instead, their anxieties lodge themselves in the gut and give rise to conditions such as bloating, constipation and diarrhoea – common symptoms of IBS. Specialists in the treatment of IBS, for example those at St. Mark’s Hospital in London, have found that dealing with the root cause of the problem, i.e. the mind, has a remarkable effect on the patient’s road to recovery. Thus, hypnotherapy has been used by Withington Hospital in Manchester as a viable treatment for IBS sufferers and boasted a 71% success rate.*
And it doesn’t just end there. The mind has been linked to cases of infertility and skin disorders as well as muscle cramps and menstrual problems. The effect of the mind on the body has also been highlighted in the placebo effect, where a patient believes they are receiving treatment but are in fact being given an ineffectual ‘remedy’, such as a sugar pill. In some cases, the patient will experience a clinically observable effect (such as a symptom or recovery) and, under these circumstances, it is the patient believing that something will happen that causes their body to exhibit a physical reaction.
It is often the placebo effect that is cited be sceptics when a person gains recovery thanks to a natural remedy and is used as a derogatory term to suggest that there is no scientific basis to the treatment. However, given the evident power of the mind to not only cure problems but also to cause them perhaps it is about time we focus more on helping the mind to help the body!
* Reported in the Daily Mail, 25th January 2011

Monday 21 February 2011

The Therapy Room is on Facebook!

The Therapy Room has recently re-launched its Facebook page and it's jam-packed with lots of useful health-related news and comments. It's also got information on the therapies offered at The Therapy Room and photos of all our therapists.
It's a great chance for you to let us know what you think of The Therapy Room - so get Facebooking and let us hear your suggestions and ideas!

Integrated Health Assessment

An integrated Health assessment  is ideal if you really don't know where to start, have tried everything, or don't know what kind of therapy will be most beneficial for you. I am trained in several different aspects of complementary health care and have 12 years clinical experience. I be able to assess your current health and wellbeing and be able to advise you on the various options available to you, and what you can do to help yourself. Your assessment will be thorough and in depth and look at your health, diet, lifestyle, posture, fitness, happiness and coping abilities.

I will then be able to work with you to find the best possible course of action for you, working within your current abilities, often the treatment that is right for us is the one we are most reluctant to do! I can help you to overcome resistance to change and introduce you to the right therapies, therapists or further assessment  to help you on your journey to a better way of life. This can really help reduce the frustration (and expense) of trying random therapies with variable results. Iwill be able to follow your progress, advise you on time scales and the results you can realistically expect. 
Bookings must be made at least 4 days in advance, so intake forms can be sent to you prior to the assessment.

Revitalize yourself with Tai Chi and Qigong!

Wudang Style Health Sports and Massages at the Cambridge Therapy Room
Revitalize yourself with Tai Chi and Qigong!

Peter wants to help revitalize yourself by creating awareness of one's Being and Self. He applies Wudang Style Movement exercises to create and support this process. Wudang fitness I for flexibility and agility: a fitness class which starts relaxing and slowly picks up speed. You play with your own fitness and aim to build agility and flexibility. The Wudang Fitness rejuvenates and creates supple joints and muscles. The deep and relaxed breath will improve attention and concentration in your body. Wudang Taiji 13 for relaxed control in movement: Wudang Taiji 13 teaches you the three basic principles of Taijiquan as developed by Zang Sanfeng. You will create attention, balance and strength. Bamboo formula qigong for posture, relaxation and radiance: a series of 15 movements which are repeated 9 times. You strive to stand and move like Bamboo in the wind, strong, vital and flexible. It is a calming but graceful exercise to enhance stillness, awareness and balance in your body. All exercises are safe when performed correctly and can be practised by everyone of every age.
Furthermore he does a Traditional Chinese Chair Massage a comforting and relaxing massage which reduces stress and tension related discomfort, like headaches. A traditional method of chair massage which differs from Shiatsu-based chair massage in that the client is asked to take an active part in posture correction. With this the client also learns how to prevent discomfort and complaints due to a wrong posture. It is a comforting relaxing massage, reducing stress and tension related discomfort, like headaches. This massage is an ideal form to be used for onsite corporate sessions.
Peter Voshol holds a PhD in Medical Sciences and he is involved in research and education related to nutrient metabolism and integrative physiology in relation to Obesity and Diabetes at the University of Cambridge. Furthermore, he is a student of the International Oriental College in Amsterdam, NL ( This is a strong Self-cultivation-based University for Daoist-based Chinese Medicine and Movement. He is qualified as an instructor in Wudang Health Sports (Wudang Fitness, Taiji and Qigong) and is a Traditional Chinese Chair Masseur working at the Cambridge Therapy Room,
Movement classes are £8.- per hour class while the massages are £15.- for 20 minutes. Massages are Wednesdays 3-5 pm while the movement classes are 5-7pm. For information please contact Peter at [email protected] or call the Cambridge Therapy Room, 01223 315400 to make an appointment.

Homeopathy to Help Eczema

Germany is the historic home of homeopathy, and this form of medicine is very well recognised there. In 2006, the Charité University Medical Centre published a 12-months study showing that homoeopathic treatment was as effective to influence eczema symptoms and improve quality of life (QoL) as conventional treatment. It also had less side-effect and was cheaper*.
In the UK, a lot of people have their first contact with homeopathy when seeking treatment for their babies and kids, because it is non-toxic. Eczema is a common issue and responses are very often positive.
There is very often a hereditary component. However, more and more children get diagnosed with this condition, and this shows that changing lifestyle has an important play as well.
The first approach in homeopathy is to support the eliminatory organs: improvements in diet, support to the liver and the large intestine may help with toxin elimination.
If there is an obvious trigger, such as trauma, stress or infection, the focus should be on them as they can put the immune system out of balance, triggering skin problems.
If you want to know more about how homeopathy can help with eczema, feel free to contact the Clinic for an appointment.

(*): This was reported in the Daily Mail of the 8th of June 2006.

GMO - How safe is the food we eat?

Science and the advancement of it is responsible for a lot of things in this World to be thankful for: space exploration leading to a deeper and more profound understanding of the Universe in which we live; imaging systems that allow doctors to make non-invasive diagnoses; even mugs that change colour depending on whether the liquid in them is hot or cold can be seen as a plus. But, can we honestly say that genetically engineered so-called ‘Frankin-Food’ is one of them?
What is GMO?
GMO stands for Genetically Modified Organism and is most commonly used to refer to edible plants, which have been modified to have certain traits. For example, a plant that is more resistant to cold or dry conditions or fruit and veg that packs a greater nutritional punch. These traits used to be acquired through breeding programmes but these methods can be time-consuming and complicated. In contrast, genetic engineering leads to a crop with the exact desired characteristic quickly and with little error. Largely, genetically modified crops have been hailed as the ‘answer’ to World food shortages as plants can be engineered to give better yields and be more resistant to disease or extreme conditions.
So what’s the problem?
Objection to GM food and products comes from a variety of sources; for example, environmental campaigners, religious groups, professional bodies and various scientists. Most notably, HRH The Prince of Wales has spoken out publicly against GM produce and established his own company to promote organic food and sustained farming that protects the UK countryside and wildlife. The main concerns relating to GMO are as follows:
-       Harm to wildlife
In 1999, a study was published in the highly respected academic journal, Nature, which found that pollen from GM corn was deadly to a specific type of caterpillar (monarch butterfly caterpillars). In this case, the corn had been genetically modified to have a greater resistance to crop-damaging pests by producing its own pesticide; however, the toxin responsible for the pest resistance killed insects indiscriminately, including those that are harmless to crops. Greater numbers of these pesticide-producing crops could lead to a situation where some species or insect are at risk of extinction.
-       Production of super-insects
GM opposition groups fear that insects will, in time, develop resistance to the pesticides produced by GM crops leading to the evolution of immortal super-insects. Far from being futuristic fantasy, this effect has already been observed in mosquitoes that have developed resistance again the now restricted insecticide, DDT.
-       Non-GM crops could be contaminated
Cross-breeding between GM crops and non-GM plants or weeds is a real concern and has proved itself to be very difficult to control. In fact, the possibility of cross-breeding has been used as a defence by the numerous farmers sued by food giant Monsanto for patent infringements. Monsanto claims that farmers are in the habit of obtaining Monsanto GM seeds from unknown sources and have harvested crops from them without paying royalties to the company; however, farmers argue that their non-GM crops are being inadvertently cross-contaminated with GM crops planted nearby – an argument that has science and logic on its side!
-       The risks to human health
The risks to human health are worryingly unknown or hotly debated. There is growing concern that introducing foreign genes into plants could have a negative impact on health once consumed. Several animal studies have been conducted to support this claim and have, controversially, found links between GMO consumption, cancer, infertility and digestive abnormalities. Furthermore, there is significant risk that, for example, introducing genetic material from nuts into crops could then induce allergic reactions in susceptible individuals if they were to eat that GM product. Couple that with the concern that cross-breeding between GM and non-GM crops cannot be effectively controlled and we have a very worrying an almost unavoidable situation!
How do I know if my food is GM or not?
The long and short of it is, unfortunately, that you don’t! In 2004, the EU brought in new regulations with regards to labelling of GM products. These new rules stated that all products originating from a GM source must be labelled as GM; however, foods produced using GM technology, crucially, do not have to be labelled. So, cheese produced using GM enzymes or milk, meat or eggs from animals fed on a GM diet do not need to be labelled. In addition, with the risk of cross-breeding between GM and nearby non-GM crops, it is even difficult to know whether those labelled as ‘non-GM’ are truly GMO-free!
Regrettably, it may be down to the test of time to tell us if GM produce is in fact really safe. In consideration that it would be extremely difficult to reverse the decision to allow GM produce into the food chain, I, for one, am very much hoping that it is!

Tuesday 1 February 2011

EU Legislation Leaves a Bitter Taste for UK Herbalists

As of May 2011 hundreds of herbal remedies used routinely in the UK will no longer be available under a directive aimed at harmonising UK law with that of the EU in response to concerns over adverse effects caused by herbal products.
The what?
The directive, passed in 2004 and known as the European Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive, plans to put an end to herbal practitioners prescribing unlicensed herbal remedies to their patients that have been made by a third party (i.e. by a herbal manufacturer or supplier). In addition, the directive also applies to prescription services, which prepare a specific herbal remedy for a specific patient at the request of a practitioner.
Many practitioners have come to be reliant on such services as preparing remedies in, for example, tablet or capsule format often involves either laborious methods or specialist equipment. However, as a result of this directive, practitioners would only be allowed to prescribe herbs to patients that had been wholly prepared on their premises. Obviously, such an aggressive legislation would not only have a disastrous impact on practitioners and the people they treat, it would also put many manufacturers and suppliers at risk of going out of business – something that is highly undesirable in these tough economic times!
Will all herbs be ‘illegal’?
The only third-party remedies that practitioners could continue to prescribe to their patients would be those that are licensed under the EU. Presently, only a small number of herbal remedies have obtained a licence. Why is this? Well, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) has estimated the cost of licensing to be between £80,000 and £120,000 per herb – something which may be affordable for single herbs with large markets (Echinacea being an obvious example) but, unfortunately, has meant many herbs (especially those used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda) have not been able to afford licenses.
Of course, no one would argue that the safe manufacture, prescription and use of herbal products is of paramount importance; however, this current directive risks the illegal supply of unregulated herbs and an increase in people buying herbs on the internet from sources that lack quality control and may even be mixed with conventional medicines. Such a scenario would put the public at significant risk rather than help to make herbal therapy safe!
So, what can be done?
Since 2000, the UK Government has held three consultations on the subject of giving herbal practitioners statutory regulation – all of which have been overwhelmingly in favour. By having statutory regulation (i.e. regulation of the profession that would ensure herbalists were properly educated and qualified), herbalists would acquire ‘authorised health care professional’ status. This would mean that they could continue to commission the manufacture of herbal remedies, made to an assured medicinal quality standard, for prescription to their patients. This would ensure that only those who have received adequate training would be able to call themselves ‘herbalists’ and would allow the safe, regulated continuation of herbal medicine within the UK and EU – a hugely popular form of alternative healthcare upon which many people are reliant in their daily lives.

To read more about statutory regulation of herbalists and the new European Traditional Herbal Medicines Directive, please refer to the ehtpa website: