Saturday, October 22, 2011

Holistic Health: The Body-Mind-Spirit Connection

While modern medicine continues to make great strides with scientific and technological breakthroughs, many of us are left wondering how a holistic perspective is still not used in a typical health evaluation. Despite the amazing scientific advancements in Western medicine there appears to be an overall disconnect concerning the multifaceted parts of the whole; neglecting to consider the mental, emotional and spiritual components that contribute to vitality and health in balance.

Conversely, Eastern beliefs and philosophies are hinged on the importance of the whole person, as well as their connection to the universe. The ancient wisdom of India and China reflect the importance of achieving harmony with nature through the philosophies and practices of Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Both Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine have emerged from books of ancient wisdom that date back at least five thousand years and both belief systems have similarities in the shared view of the holistic nature of good health, well being and longevity.

Many people have found themselves dealing with chronic illness and struggling with subtle imbalances in their health that affect their overall quality of life. More and more health conscious individuals have turned to alternative healing modalities as a vehicle for self-healing while striving to find vitality and wellness. Innovate approaches to health and healing and the blending of alternative therapies combined with conventional Western medicine is an emerging trend known as Integrative Medicine. Integrative Medicine enlists the use of alternative or complementary approaches to healthcare under the supervision of a physician and is considered to be a partnership in healing between the patient and the physician. Integrative medicine supports the holistic health paradigm, recognizing the interactive influence of the body-mind and spirit connection, making relevant assessments and mapping out a plan to help achieve optimal health.

A holistic view of health and healing can be traced back through the ages. Hippocrates, a Greek physician that was born in 460BC, was known as the father of modern medicine and was regarded as the greatest physician of his time. Hippocrates, an herbalist, held the belief that the body must be treated as a whole. He is credited with having written” Let foods be your medicines, and your medicines your food.” Herbalism and medicine were essentially the same practice. The ancient Chinese, Indians, Egyptians, Babylonians and Native Americans were all herbalists. The use of herbs is still a dominant part of the healing strategy used in Ayurveda and Chinese medicine today. All over the world, as far back as the history of mankind, plants have been a primary source for healing and nourishment. Herbal remedies can play an important part in supporting good health. Herbal remedies have been used throughout time and is slowly but surely gaining credibility for their curative properties. Herbal constituents are used as a base for many pharmaceutical drugs and scientific evidence has increased to back the validity of the use of herbs in healing. The use of herbs in cooking, beauty care and healthcare can be an asset to a holistic health regimen. The use of herbs can be dangerous if not used appropriately and should be taken under expert supervision.

Abundant research supports the view that the human body works as an integrated system rather than individual systems. Therefore, it makes good sense to view our health from a holistic perspective and take into consideration how our lifestyle choices can influence our overall state of health.

Holistic Health Links

American Holistic Health Assoication

Natural Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine

American Association of Integrative Medicine

Office of Dietary Supplements-National Institutes of Health

Ayurvedic Medical Association

American Herbalists Guild

Alternative Medicine Foundation

Monday, October 10, 2011

Transitioning into the Fall Season

The autumn equinox marks the transition into the fall season. An equinox occurs twice a year, the vernal equinox in spring, and the autumnal equinox in fall. The characteristics of an equinox include equal periods of light and dark at all latitudes with 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. This is an optimal time for reflection and creating balance in our lives.

Fall is a time of year that is undoubtedly about change. As the days grow shorter, the nights grow longer, and the winds blow colder, our perspective seems to change as well.  Fall is a good time to re-assess our situation, let go of what no longer works in our lives and move past limitations toward year-end success. Going with the flow and deviating from an original plan shouldn’t be interpreted as failure. It’s more about coming to terms with the reality of a situation an intuitively getting back on the right track. The outcome of assessment may mean reaffirming your commitments or changing gears and direction. In the midst of change we’re able to fine-tune our lifestyle and make necessary adjustments on the path to being the best we  can be on our quest for self-fulfillment and contentment.

When transitioning into the fall season with a holistic point of view, it’s important to take into consideration our emotional, mental, spiritual and physical well-being. Clarifying our emotions and letting go of fear and anger will help to create balance and replenish physical and creative energy. Identify the personal lifestyle habits that may undermine your health. Replace bad habits with healthy alternatives and be conscious of portion control and modifying consumption of unhealthy foods such as processed foods, chemical additives, stimulants and sugar. As the season transitions it’s a good time to establish a new cooking routine based on the available seasonal produce.

Spending time in nature enhances our connection not only to the rhythms and cycles of nature but also to our spirit or intuitive self. Walking or taking time for self-reflection can be conducive to letting go of everyday stress and moving forward with clarity. Along with a healthy, nutritious diet, stretching, deep breathing and exercise will help detoxify the body, clear the mind, improve circulation, metabolism and immune function.

As the cooling weather starts to settle in, we need to shift to foods that create warmth and and establish a warming physical environment to counteract the effects of the elements as the cold, dry, windy fall season begins to take hold. Living in harmony with the season will help maintain a strong and balanced state of health. It’s so easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of everyday life and forget to take time for reflection. Connect with your inner wisdom and move toward positive change. Take the time to fill your home with the aroma of the comfort foods of the season, as it’s sure to inspire and warm the heart of all those that enter.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Summer’s End

Ah September! It’s a beautiful time of year. The cool crisp air on a September day can rejuvenate, revive and replenish the spirit. While the lazy days of summer are quickly giving way to the fast pace of autumn, there is still some time left to linger in the final moments of the season.  In anticipation of summer’s departure, the urge to submerge ourselves in the fast pace of an autumn routine prevails. The fall season, naturally leads us down a path of productivity and has long been established as time designated to getting down to business. As the light and breezy days of summer are dwindling, we strive to become more productive as we set forth on a journey toward achieving new goals.

 The change of seasons seems to bring with it the opportunity for changing directions and establishing new ones. Starting new projects and developing new routines are synonymous with fall. It’s the perfect time to set in motion the steps necessary to implement a new plan and move closer toward achieving your dreams.

Getting organized and rekindling passion and determination is fueled by the energy of the summer sun. It may seem hard to regain momentum after a long summer but taking the time to clear your mind and recharge your battery will only lead to more focus and productivity for future endeavors.  So if you haven’t already taken the time to recharge your battery this summer, there is still time left to spare. Find the time to enjoy, reflect and embrace the simple pleasure and gentle beauty of summers end as the season quietly comes to close.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Food Movement

It’s fair to say, that in recent years, there has been a decline of the quality of the food system in America. There are major concerns centered around poor agricultural and farming practices and what can be interpreted as a highly flawed food system. It’s seems that we’ve all gotten caught up, to some extent, in processed and convenience foods.  With the rising cost of food, however, it has become more and more difficult for the average family to afford to withhold the highest standards in food quality. 

There are many food movements that have recently taken hold that can help us to raise our voice and increase awareness to help protect the quality of food in our country as well as maintain sustainability and environmental protection.  Beyond the impact of factory farming and industrial agriculture, processed and convenience foods have sadly become a staple in the vast majority of American diets.  The Standard American Diet has been directly linked with chronic diseases.  Food issues have finally hit home with the high prevalence of diet related health issues in this country.  Thanks to First Lady, Michelle Obama, the concerns of Childhood Obesity and our cultural eating habits are now in the spotlight of the mainstream and it is beginning to garner the attention that it deserves.  You can even follow the Obama food initiatives on the Obama Foodorama Blog at :  In addition to Michelle Obama, there are other pioneers that have dedicated themselves to leading the way our children eat at school.

Alice Waters, Founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation established the
where educators integrate food system concepts into the core curriculum and students participate in all aspects of growing, harvesting preparing nutritious, seasonal produce.

Also Chef Ann Cooper, who is the self described as the’ Renegade Lunch Lady” is helping provide schools across the country with tools to transform school cafeterias into of source of healthy and delicious food for our children. with her program

There is a rise in organizations that support the Food Movement. There are organizations that prioritize the environmental and conservation concerns and others that recognize the importance of the health, nutrition and cultural aspect of food as well. It’s so refreshing to see this shift in thinking, and that there are so many passionate groups of people that are leading the way back a more natural lifestyle that is centered around good quality food and sustainable lifestyle choices.

Organizations like Slow Food USA, is leading the way in inspiring change and transformation in our food system while reinforcing the simple pleasures of good food.

Food Movement Links

Environmental Working Group                         
Center for Food Safety
Organic Consumers Assn.
Eat Well Guide
Eat Wild
Sustainable Table
Farm to Table

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sustainable Living

When we think of the word,sustainability, a global picture comes to mind. Global warming and serious environmental concerns seem to overwhelm our thinking as we look at the well being of the planet from a broad perspective. The idea of taking on massive global issues seems to reach way beyond our personal scope of influence.  Sustainability creates a global challenge that ultimately requires addressing economic, social and environmental concerns.

When we think of sustainability in terms of sustainable living, the problem seems less and the solution seems more individualized. The term sustainable living seems to create a clear path to a healthy lifestyle and a healthier planet.  It seems to break the problem down into smaller pieces.  It also brings to mind the collective impact that we can make as individuals as we make wiser lifestyle choices that gives birth to solutions that create positive change.

Getting back to nature and living simply, brings us closer to the Earth. Through our actions, we define respect and support the symbiotic relationship we have with the Earth through making a positive impact.  It’s not only the health of the planet that has precipitated concern.  It’s our personal health that has declined as a result of misguided attempts to improve our food system.  The health affects that may have resulted from industrial farming and mass production have yet to be fully realized.  The inclusion of chemical additives, pesticides, antibiotics, artificial hormones and genetic engineering may very well be undermining our health, having both short and long term ramifications.

So, when we think in terms of sustainability, the relationship between our own health and the health of the planet seems to be very closely related. Lifestyle and behavior can have a huge impact on our capacity as a society to preserve or exploit the precious natural resources that are available to us and future generations.  Our impact on the ecological systems is critical not only to the general health of the planet but also to our own well being.  If our land, air and water becomes polluted our ability to obtain optimal health becomes diminished.  In addition to the chemicals that we’re affected by through our food system ,we are also at risk of toxins that we’re continually being bombarded by in our environment. Chemicals in household cleaners and body care products can  have serious health implications. Our home environments also contain chemical contaminants that are often introduced through building materials as well as home furnishings.  It’s up to us, to self correct along the way and choose replacement materials wisely. 

Through lifestyle choices, conservation efforts and encouraging corporate social responsibility, sustainable living is within our reach. We can no longer be content with the status quo and allow big business to perpetuate the environmental problems that have come to the surface.  It’s up to us as individuals to make small steps toward big change.

Resources for Sustainable Living:

Center for a New American Dream

Co-op America

Sustainable Communities

World Wildlife Federation

Rainforest Action Network

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Farmers Market
Summer is finally here! The sun is shining, the bees buzzing and gardens are growing.  In a perfect world we could step into our back yards and be able to pick the best produce the season has to offer,but most of us are not so fortunate.  The next best thing to being there is only steps away at your local farmers market. The sights, sounds, taste and smell of the farmers market evokes a feeling of excitement that is synonymous celebrating the bounty of summer season.
Fresh local food brimming with vitality and nutrients can be found at farmers markets across the country.  Not only does the farmers market provide access to fresh, quality food, it also provides an opportunity to connect the farmer with the consumer and helps to establish a link from the farm to the plate.  It provides an opportunity to take pleasure in the process of shopping for food while simultaneously supporting the local farmer and economy while reducing your carbon footprint.  According to the United States Department of Agriculture, the numbers of farmers markets have more than tripled in the past fifteen years.  There are now more than 6,100 farmers markets around the country.

Consumers today, have a growing interest in supporting the local farmer.  There is increasing interest not only in obtaining quality produce that is preferably local and sustainable but also that meat and fish are also sourced locally with socially responsible practices.  According to the National Restaurant Associations Top Trends survey, locally sourced produce, meats and fish topped the list of hot trends for 2011.                                                                        
Visiting your local farmers market is a great way to meet local farmers and discover local food.  For most of us, living off the land, is only just a dream.  Thanks to the hard work and dedication of local farmers, that dream can be woven into reality. Celebrate the abundance of the season and support your local farmers market.

To find locations of farmers markets across the country or find out which local foods are in season  visit the Nation Resource Defense Council’s website at:


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Getting Diagnosed with Celiac Disease

It’s estimated that approximately 1% of the population in the United States are affected with Celiac Disease.  That equates to about 1 in every 133 people.   Many go on suffering for years without being diagnosed.  Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition and multi-system disorder which affects genetically predisposed individuals. Celiac disease predominantly affects the small intestine, although it can present with a wide variety of symptoms.  The small intestine is lined with millions of villi whose main function is to absorb nutrients from food. When a gluten intolerant individual with Celiac disease ingests gluten there is an inflammatory response which causes changes in the cells and damages the lining of the small intestines which can result in malabsorption and the inability to digest and transfer nutrients efficiently.

Many people that do not have Celiac disease can also suffer from gluten intolerance.  It is estimated that up to 15% of the population may have an intolerance to gluten.  While these people do not show evidence of intestinal damage they share many of the same symptoms as those affected with Celiac disease.  Hyper permeability of the intestinal lumen or leaky gut syndrome is a shared immune response.  This condition of hyper permeability will allow gluten to cross the blood brain- barrier and can provoke an immune response in any system of the body including cognitive and behavioral disturbances.

Recognizing Celiac Disease : by Cleo Libonati, RN, BSN., is an excellent book that illustrates the complex nature of Celiac disease. This book is a comprehensive manual based on the National Institutes of Health Consensus Development Conference.  It goes into great detail about the complexity of the disease and numerous health manifestations associated with it.  The vast and varied symptoms associated with Celiac disease and gluten intolerance make diagnosis difficult and very often overlooked.   To learn more visit the author’s website at

Early diagnosis of Celiac disease is important.  The longer an individual goes undiagnosed and untreated the greater the risk for developing substantial damage to the lining of the small intestine as well as other health complications.  The only known treatment for Celiac disease at this time is a gluten free diet.   Although many people respond very well to removing gluten from the diet, others do not make a fast and full recovery and can spend years managing their condition and healing their body from the ravaging effects of the disease.  Early diagnosis has the best prognosis for a full recovery.  In addition, maintaining strict gluten free diet can be challenging especially if the affected individuals unknowingly ingests gluten.  While it seems rather simple to avoid, wheat, barley and rye, there are many other products that contain gluten that may be more difficult to identify. Commercially prepared foods often contain gluten.  Other products that may contain gluten can come in the form of modified food starch, food additives and binding agents. Medications and vitamins may also use gluten as a binding agent.

 Staying informed and up to date on new research, labeling laws and product information is an important aspect of keeping the disease well managed.  The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America’s website has a large learning section with PDF downloads that will help to get you started on learning  further about Celiac disease and gluten intolerance and provides a complete list of foods which are safe as well as those foods and products which should be avoided.  You can find the list of downloadable documents at:

Being tested and diagnosed with Celiac disease can be complex.  In addition to blood tests, having an endoscopy and small bowel biopsy will usually confirm signs of abnormalities in the small intestine as a result of the disease.  Obtaining a definitive diagnosis as soon as possible is highly recommended.  All of these tests require that there is gluten exposure in order to render positive results.  A definitive diagnosis is confirmed when symptoms resolve on a gluten free diet.  Removing gluten from the diet and reintroducing it can be very difficult and may cause adverse side affects for those suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance. 

 In most cases adhering to a strict gluten free diet has shown to reverse symptoms of the disease fully restoring the health of the individual, but the time it takes to heal may vary greatly from person to person.  In addition to removing gluten from the diet, establishing a healthy and nutritious can play a critical role in healing bringing about positive and lasting results.  Additional nutritional supplementation can be helpful in supporting the healing process as well.

Being diagnosed with Celiac disease can be overwhelming and difficult for most to quickly adapt to immediate and permanent change. Becoming involved with a support group can help to alleviate the anxiety of facing the challenges of maintaining a gluten free lifestyle.  For additional information and to find a local branch and partner office of the Gluten Intolerance Group visit:

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Celiac Awareness Month

The month of May has been designated as National Celiac Awareness month.  According to Beth Hillson, President of the American Celiac Disease Alliance, the majority of Celiac research centers and organizations in the United States support and recognize this observance.  The month of May was chosen in the United States to coincide with The Association of Coeliac Societies which represents 26 European countries which has also designated May as a month to raise awareness about Celiac disease.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that is triggered in response to ingesting gluten.  It is the protein found in gluten that triggers an immune response and a multitude of health problems can ensue. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye, and sometimes oats.  Wheat flour, starch and other forms of derived gluten are commonly used in commercially prepared products. Even ingesting very small amounts of gluten can have very serious implications for someone suffering from Celiac disease or gluten intolerance.

Celiac disease is usually characterized by damage to the small intestine that progresses over time.  The resulting damage can cause malabsorption issues and gut permeability which can lead to further health implications that can cause a wide range of manifestations and complications that can vary greatly from one person to the next. Celiac Disease can be triggered at any point in a person’s life but there is a genetic predisposition to the disease that is evident and relevant to a person developing the disease. 

Gluten Intolerance is intrinsically associated with Celiac disease, however, there are many people that suffer from gluten intolerance and related diseases and may not be suffering from Celiac disease.  The symptoms of gluten intolerance and Celiac disease can be very similar and both conditions can be treated by adhering to a gluten free diet.

Diagnosing Celiac disease and gluten intolerance can sometimes be difficult.  The tests that are currently used for diagnosis have proven not to be 100% conclusive and there is a high rate of false negatives reported in test result findings.  The good news is removing gluten from the diet can have a positive result in restoring digestive function and reversing related health problems.

Recognizing Celiac disease and gluten intolerance is becoming more prevalent thanks to numerous research groups and Celiac disease and gluten intolerance support groups.  The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America is a non profit organization whose mission is to support not only those suffering with Celiac disease but also provide support to those who suffer from other gluten intolerance and related diseases as well.

Through educational programs, events and alliances with research institutions, support organizations and industry representatives, GIG has become a leader in the Gluten Intolerance Community.    By providing support nationally and locally through its growing number of branches across the United States, GIG offers a wealth of tools and information for living a healthy, gluten-free lifestyle.  For more information visit the Gluten Intolerance Group website:

Friday, May 13, 2011

Living in Harmony with the Spring Season

Living in harmony with the seasons and cycles of nature brings us closer to living a healthy, balanced life.  As the season’s change we instinctively begin to change our behavior and modify our lifestyle to harmonize with the season.  When we don’t make those subtle shifts in behavior modification we often find ourselves suffering from a state of imbalance which may come in the form of illness or mental unrest.

Spring is a time to cleanse, revive and rejuvenate and play!  Moving away from heavy comfort foods and moving toward lighter more cleansing foods is appropriate in spring.   As the days grow longer and the temperatures grow warmer, our routines naturally begin to change.  We jump on the opportunity to get outside, soak up the sun and move our bodies.  From a mental perspective, our creative energies seem to take flight as we begin to envision ideas and initiate actions on a path towards an end.   When we make an effort to live in sync with the seasons life seems smoother and flows easier.

Becoming conscious of making seasonal food choices will help your body to more easily adapt to the changing season by providing proper nourishment for strength and support.  By choosing fresh produce in season we receive the benefits of peak freshness, taste and nutrition. The nutritional components of seasonal eating are also beneficial to our seasonal nutritional requirements. Celebrate with the fresh flavors of spring.  Experiment with new ways to incorporate the fresh bounty of spring into your cooking repertoire. 

Seasonal Produce /Spring Early Summer

Baby Lettuce                                      
Fava Beans
Fiddlehead Ferns                                           
Fingerling Potatoes                                        
Morel Mushrooms
Salad Greens
String Beans
Swiss Chard


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Love of the Garden

The irresistible urge to get out in the garden comes naturally in the Spring.  Once you’ve been bitten by the gardening bug it seems to stay with you forever.  It becomes an integral part of life.  Gardening is good for the body, mind and soul.  It creates the opportunity to get grounded and connect to nature.  It can be a meditative practice, a creative art and a practical discipline.  A garden can become a sanctuary and a personal bit of paradise.

Exploring nature and falling in love with it at a young age creates a childlike sense of awe and amazement that’s timeless.  Nature does a magnificent job creating an abundance of plants and wild flowers that can thoroughly keep the interest of any nature enthusiast.  But having backdoor access to nature’s gifts can be found when we create our own gardens.

 Planting flowers, shrubs and trees can add so much to a landscape. For many of us, our backyards and gardens have become an extension of our living space.  Beyond the aesthetics of a beautiful garden, the importance of an edible garden has found its way back into our hearts and on to our tables. We’ve discovered the pitfalls of convenience food and the impracticality of not obtaining food locally and seasonally. 

Whether it is big or small, a garden can be nourishing, healing or simply uplifting and beautiful.  Finding the time and space to start a garden is probably the greatest challenge but where there’s a will there’s a way.  Container gardening and rooftop gardening has become a popular alternative to traditional gardening.  Even just bringing some herbs onto the kitchen windowsill can stimulate the senses and inspire the many uses, both culinary and medicinal that herbs provide for us.  Take a moment to slow down and cultivate healthy, positive changes in your life today.  Happy Gardening!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Honoring the Earth

The first Earth day was observed in 1970 in response to escalating concerns of an environmental crisis.  Forty one years later we are still faced with similar concerns.  We have made great strides, however, and it is becoming increasingly easier to go green.  Environmental concerns and supporting efforts to go green has become a part of the mindset of mainstream thinking.

There are so many organizations that are supporting environmental efforts and providing information, awareness and an opportunity to be involved in a community effort toward positive change. Aligning ourselves with some of these organizations is a great way to, become a part of making a difference in the world today. 

Getting back to basics, living consciously and making an effort to tread lightly and move forward in the right direction can make a big difference in the grand scheme of things.  Becoming aware of our sources of food, water, and the products that we use can make a big difference in the choices we make.  

 Celebrating Earth day is a good opportunity to collectively reconnect with Mother Earth and renew our personal commitment for positive change. Finding gratitude in nature will nurture reverence and respect for her gifts.  Taking a moment of reflection is a simple way to celebrate the Earth. Together, our small efforts can make a big difference as we learn to live in balance with nature.

The Envirolink Network is a non profit grassroots online community that unites hundreds of  organizations and volunteers around the world.  Envirolink maintains a database of thousands of online environmental resources as well as providing up to date news and information without taking a position on any specific environmental issues.


The following link is a video entitled Planet Earth which is an inspirational reminder of the awe inspiring beauty that we all share.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Clearing the Clutter

The spring season is a time for new beginnings.  It’s a time not only for cleaning and starting fresh but also for re-organizing, de-cluttering and letting go of things that no longer serve a worthy purpose in our lives.  It’s a great time to make room in our lives for new possibilities. Our home is very much a reflection of our life.  If your home lacks a sense of balance and organization it is very likely that other aspects of your life will reflect a lack of balance and organization as well.

Clearing our homes of clutter is one of the best things we can do to create a harmonious environment. The state of our surroundings will have an impact on the energy we feel in our home. Clutter can cause stagnation and can have a negative impact on our lives. Home is where the heart is. It should be our personal sanctuary; a place of rest, rejuvenation, recreation, peace and joy.  Clearing your home of clutter and adding natural elements into your home design will help establish and reinforce a strong connection with nature and will be conducive to finding clarity, peace, harmony and abundance in your life.