A footnote for better health

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Shannon Andrus reflexology
Shannon Andrus, a national board-certified reflexologist performs reflexology on a patient. Photo by Michael Buck

Your feet might just hold the secret to better health. With more than 7,000 nerve endings at the bottom of your feet, these pathways allow for every part of the body to benefit from a practice called reflexology.

Shannon Andrus, a national board-certified reflexologist practicing at Meraki Integrative Healing, said one woman she treated was experiencing terrible side effects from colon cancer surgery. After one reflexology session with Andrus, her nausea was gone and the intense pain that medication had not helped finally felt tolerable.

Using specific pressure points located on the feet, reflexology helps to increase the flow of oxygen to organs, glands and body systems. With improved circulation, your body also can uptake nutrients more effectively.

Therapies like reflexology are helpful in stimulating the body’s vital force to self-heal by allowing it to move more efficiently into the parasympathetic nervous system state — in other words, relaxation. When we experience chronic stress, which is all too common these days, we become stuck in the sympathetic nervous system, which limits digestion, hormone function and the body’s ability to rest and repair itself.

Andrus noted the effectiveness in particular for gastrointestinal issues and immune system function. One client suffering from malaise, fever and diarrhea saw an immediate improvement in symptoms following the session, including a break in fever.

Shannon Andrus. Photo by Michael Buck

While reflexology is great for acute symptoms, it’s also beneficial for chronic problems, too, such as back pain, migraines, sinusitis, Lyme disease or chronic fatigue.

“A woman diagnosed with high-grade human papillomavirus (CIN 3, HPV) came to me with hopes that I could help her avoid the recommended procedure,” Andrus said. “After working together for a few months, two pap smears and a colposcopy (biopsy) confirmed the HPV was gone. Her gynecologist was shocked.”

Through your feet, reflexologists can assess areas of the body that may be out of balance. For instance, areas that are tight, tender or “crunchy” indicate an imbalance in the corresponding reflex point. Upon inquiring, many clients affirm that this is an area of concern, as well. You might show up hoping to find relief from one symptom and find that reflexology offers the potential to improve health throughout your whole body.

It was Andrus’ work as a doula that inspired her to find a modality to help laboring mothers ease pain and discomfort. “A researcher by nature, I hopped on a few databases and found a study reporting 94% of participants agreed reflexology was a positive and empowering experience during birth,” she said. While completing her practicum hours, she realized this modality wasn’t just for labor and delivery.

– Kara McNabb is a traditional naturopath specializing in somatic therapy and plant medicine. Follow her on Instagram at @grandrapidsnaturopath.

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