August 8, 2013

NEW ORLEANS, LA (August 8, 2013) The publisher of Natural Awakenings Magazine – Southeast Louisiana edition, the area’s primary free publication, dedicated to healthy and sustainable living in the Greater New Orleans area, will host the first NOLA Healthy Living & Sustainability Expo on October 12, 2013 at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner, LA from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 for 12 years and older. Children under 12 are free.

The NOLA Healthy Living & Sustainability Expo will feature resources for natural and integrative health, wellness, environment and sustainable living in an experiential format that will include exhibits, presentations, panels, demonstrations and local artists. Speakers will include local nutritionists, integrative doctors, chiropractors, pharmacists, local environmental experts and more.

“We want this event to give the public the opportunity to experience many of the natural and complementary therapies, products and services highlighted in our editorial each month in Natural Awakenings Magazine. Attendees may try yoga, Tai Chi, massage, aikido, drumming, art therapy, essential oils and herbal products as well as learn about traditional practices such as acupuncture and more. And because our environment significantly impacts our well-being, this event explores the environmental and sustainability issues facing Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, along with solutions to these issues offered by local environmental experts,” notes Lolita Werhan, publisher of Natural Awakenings Magazine and co-producer of the expo with Marketing Consultant Jeanne Miller.

“We think the expo is timely as the debate over healthcare continues and many healthcare providers, as well as consumers, look for more options than are offered by conventional medical care alone. Besides our health, our longevity as a species may be determined by how well we address environmental issues today, so it is important for us to explore these issues as a community. This is an opportunity to do just that,” explains Werhan.

Keynoting at the expo is Dr. James Gordon, founder of the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C., who will speak on “Trauma and Transformation.”  A trailblazer in the integration of traditional practices into conventional heathcare, Dr. Gordon was also instrumental in the creation of the National Institutes of Health Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CCAM). His mind-body program is now being taught in medical schools around the country.

James Gordon, M.D.

James Gordon, M.D.

Dr. Gordon and his team reach out to communities that have experienced the trauma of such events as natural disasters, war and terrorism, teaching local professionals to help their communities to deal with the stress and begin to heal using mind-body therapies. The team has been to Louisiana twice – in the aftermath of hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and after the BP oil spill in 2010. Read about the work of Dr. Gordon and the Louisiana affiliate, the Mind-Body Center of Louisiana, in the August issue of Natural Awakenings – Southeast Louisiana edition.

In addition to Natural Awakenings Magazine, sponsoring the expo are the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce, Wells Fargo Advisors, Core USA, The Green Project, Professional Medical Associates & Wellness Center of Louisiana, Global Green and LifeCity LLC.

Natural Awakenings Magazine – Southeast Louisiana edition is a free monthly magazine distributed widely throughout Orleans, Jefferson and St. Tammany Parishes bringing to over 65,000 readers cutting edge editorial on topics of health, wellness, fitness, environment and personal growth. The magazine is part of a family of over 80 publications in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, each with a local focus. Collectively they reach over 2 million readers a month. More at

In 2012 NOLA Healthy Living and Sustainability Expos was created by Lolita Werhan and Jeanne Miller with the intent of bringing events highlighting healthy and sustainable living to the Greater New Orleans area and Gulf Coast region.

NOLA  Healthy Living & Sustainability Expo
P.O. Box 750758, New Orleans, LA 70175-0758
Phone:  504-330-2157     Fax: 504-324-0131

Greening the Gras to Boost Local Economy

By Colleen Morgan

Verdi Gras is a nonprofit established last year to advocate for more environmentally sustainable Carnival practices. The group’s motto is “Throw me something recycled!”

On December 4, the Verdi Gras krewe held the first Economic and Environmental Impact of Mardi Gras Conference at Café Istanbul in the New Orleans Healing Center to explore ways in which a greener Mardi Gras could be a benefit to the local economy. About 50 people attended, including members of Mardi Gras krewes.

A panel discussion was preceded by an exhibit of local companies marketing more sustainable throws. Members of Kolossos ( were on hand to talk about and model recycled throws, costumes and other Mardi Gras paraphernalia.

Panel members included Kirk Groh, a co-founder of Verdi Gras, Vance Levesque from the Arc of Greater New Orleans, Kristen Evans from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade and Karina Nathan from Kolossos. The discussion centered around challenges that krewes face to go greener and the possibilities for locally produced alternatives to the plastic beads and other throws that krewes currently purchase.

Groh presented figures on the amount of money spent on the plastic variety of throws on an annual basis. According to a study by Tulane Professor Toni Weiss, Mardi Gras krewes spend a total of $7.4 million on beads, while individual krewe members spend an additional $4.37 million, for a grand total of $11.78 million.

“Unfortunately, the most convenient throw items remain plastic beads from oversees,” Groh said. “If the members of one Super Krewe spend an average of $1500 each on throws, it equates to $56,000 per block. Assume 75% of that is spent on retail/bulk priced beads, then one krewe will throw 15 tons of plastic beads per block over a 70 block route – totaling 1,050 tons.”

Levesque, from Arc of Greater New Orleans, outlined his organization’s program to recycle beads, which includes bins at grocery stores as well as trailers that follow parades. Arc employs intellectually disabled individuals to sort the beads at a living wage for resale to krewes.

Evans, from the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, spoke about the root of the problem being the consumption of oil and plastic by our society. Through a program called Zombeads, the organization is promoting throws that are made in New Orleans with recycled materials.
Karina Nathan from Kolossos received applause when she stated she would like to see “more show and less throw.”

Groh also explained that the goal of Verdi Gras is not to put a damper on anyone’s Mardi Gras, but to find ways to decrease the carbon footprint while bringing more of the money spent on throws back into our local economy.

VerdiGras is holding its second annual All Green Ball on January 12 from 8 p.m. to 12 a.m. at Southport Hall, with a patron party starting at 6:30pm. This event is the organization’s primary fundraiser. For information on attending this event or for tickets, call 504-710-4780.

Colleen Morgan, Environmental Editor, may be reached at

A GMO-Free Grocery List

What Foods You Should Avoid

According to a recent article published inGreen American magazine, 93 percent of Americans believe that genetically modified foods should be labeled. However, only USDA-certified organic products cannot intentionally contain genetically modified organisms (GMO), so identifying GMO foods and products in a typical U.S. grocery store is difficult. The following information can help.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirms that large percentages of the nation’s crops were genetically modified in 2011: 94 percent of conventional soy and soy products; 90 percent of cottonseed, a common ingredient in margarine, salad dressings and oils; and 88 percent of corn, contained in breakfast cereals, corn flour products such as chips and tortillas, high-fructose corn syrup, soups and condiments. More than 90 percent of the U.S. canola crop also is now genetically modified.

The Independent, one of England’s leading newspapers, reported in 1999 that the artificial sweetener aspartame has been made with genetically modified bacteria since 1965. Aspartame, inconclusively linked with numerous health risks, is present in more than 6,000 products, including diet sodas. Two other ubiquitous artificial sweeteners, Nutrasweet and Equal, also contain aspartame.

The USDA further lists 95 percent of the 2009 U.S. sugar beet crop, used to produce conventional sugar, as genetically modified. NonGMO alternative sweeteners include pure cane sugar and honey from organic farms.

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

Be Supplement Savvy

How to Choose Wisely for Optimal Health


According to the U.S. Office of Dietary Supplements, nearly half of us regularly use some kind of dietary supplement, including vitamins, minerals and botanical herbs.

While mainstream media have recently targeted supplements with alarming coverage about their value and safety, James J. Gormley, former editor of Better Nutrition and author of User’s Guide to Brain-Boosting Supplements, helps set the record straight. In an open letter on the Citizens for Health website, at, he contends the worst part about misleading articles is that they can scare readers away from benefits that safe supplements might offer. He notes that although nothing in life is 100 percent risk-free, supplements are inherently benign, while pharmaceutical drugs frequently have unhealthy side effects.

Controversy over supplements seems to arise primarily from misinformation. Following are some guidelines and resources to help ensure their wise use and maximum benefit.

Supplements Versus Pharmaceutical Drugs

Natural health practitioners report that their clients tend to mentally group pharmaceuticals and supplements together. However, pharmaceutical drugs are typically synthetic, single-action chemicals that target one body system or organ, causing it to alter its function; they mask symptoms, but do not cure disease. On the other hand, the goal of vitamins, minerals and plant-derived supplements is to provide nutrients to help a troubled body system by supporting health and healing.

Some confusion occurs because many pharmaceutical and supplement manufacturers take advantage of people’s desire for a one-bullet solution, which rarely exists in either source. Stephen Lawson, administrative officer of the Linus Pauling Institute, at Oregon State University, maintains that, “Lumping together items like vitamins, minerals and botanicals, each of which can have profoundly different physical profiles and effects on the body, is dangerous and misleading.”

Who Needs Supplements?

Everyone can benefit from taking the right supplements to address specific health needs. Numerous studies attest that many diseases, especially in older adults, are caused by a deficiency of certain vitamins or minerals. For example, pernicious anemia, common in adults over the age of 60, is due to a long-term deficiency of vitamin B12. The condition often proved fatal until researchers discovered that taking such supplements could effectively treat it.

Another common nutritional deficiency disease among aging adults is osteoporosis, a loss of bone minerals that often leads to fractures. Its primary cause is chronic deficiencies in calcium and vitamin D levels. The latter is crucial for absorbing calcium—a primary mineral for building bone. According to the National Institutes of Health, older adults are likely to spend more time indoors, plus, even when they are exposed to the sun, their skin does not synthesize vitamin D as efficiently as when they were younger.

Serious nutrient deficiencies rarely cause fatal outcomes, but deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals can deter organs from optimal functioning. General medical tests do not always show minor shortfalls, and practice shows that supplementing with the appropriate vitamin or mineral can often both eliminate symptoms and resolve an underlying problem.

Choosing Helpful Supplements

Determining which supplements can best meet individual needs requires sound information. First, determine if a perceived condition could be caused by a vitamin or mineral deficiency, and then identify the best dosage. It is also vital to know how a supplement might interact with any current medications.

Most vitamin and mineral supplements are safe when used properly, but always consider asking an experienced professional for guidance; this is especially true for botanicals, because some manufacturers make unsupported claims based only on their own research. Generally, nonprofit organizations such as the Linus Pauling Institute ( that do not sell supplement products, present unbiased information.

Final Word

Although conflicting information continues to circulate, abundant scientific evidence verifies that commonsense use of vitamin and mineral supplements is safe and usually helpful. The recommendation is to take enough, but not too much, of a deficiency-specific supplement, along with nutritious foods, in order to achieve a normal balance.

A 2009 report by the U.S. National Poison Data System indicated that the number of serious adverse events that year from the use of vitamins, minerals, amino acids or herbal supplements was extremely low, with no related U.S. deaths.

Many natural healthcare experts, including naturopaths, nutritionists and dieticians, conclude that supplements are useful and in some cases, necessary, especially when treating a significant nutrient or hormonal deficiency. It’s wise to consult a knowledgeable professional before buying the antioxidant du jour mentioned by a friend from the gym.

James Occhiogrosso, a natural health practitioner and master herbalist, specializes in salivary hormone testing and natural hormone balancing for men and women. Find helpful articles Connect at 239-498-1547 or

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

Fracking Wrecks America’s Bedrock

Clear and Present Dangers


Current environmental policies must be realigned to safeguard our health, sustain planetary life-support systems and free us from dependence upon fossil fuels.

Under the misleading banner of clean and green, the global natural gas rush is on, and nowhere more so than in the United States. We are literally shattering America’s bedrock to bring methane out of the Earth and consuming enormous quantities of precious fresh water to do so, without any clear knowledge of the health or environmental consequences. Due to economies of scale and required infrastructure, fracking is an all-or-nothing proposition, and each state decides its own fate.

The Marcellus Shale forms a 600-mile-long basement foundation for communities spanning New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Ohio. As the largest natural gas deposit in the country, it has become ground-zero for high-volume, slickwater hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Many more states are equally vulnerable (see

In a two-to-200-foot-thick bedrock layer up to a mile below Earth’s surface, the shale and its captured methane, uranium, mercury, arsenic and lead have remained locked in place for millions of years. Above it lie drinking water aquifers.

Prior to the 21st century, capturing methane gas bubbles dispersed within such a horizontal formation, instead of a vertical well, was deemed uneconomical and labeled unrecoverable. Now, modern drills can bore down steel piping, some portions encased in cement, and direct pressure-packed explosions of up to 10,000 pounds per square inch of water, sand and chemicals into the rock, fracturing it. Next, hundreds of chemicals are injected to reduce friction (thus the term slickwater) so that the fracking fluid can flow easily. The mixture includes acids, rust and scale inhibitors and pesticides to kill microbes, plus sometimes gelling agents, petroleum distillates, glycol ethers, formaldehyde and toluene.

The result is that gas flows back up the borehole along with 30 to 60 percent of the injected cocktail of water and chemicals. The rest is left behind. Fracking a gas well once requires 2 to 8 million gallons of fresh water, 10,000 to 40,000 gallons of chemicals and at least 1,000 diesel truck trips. Wells can be fracked multiple times before they run dry.

Between 34,000 and 95,000 wells are envisioned for New York State alone, according to Cornell University Engineering Professor, Anthony Ingraffea, with 77,000 likely over the next 50 years. While New York residents are watching the result of fracking in other states and have elected a temporary moratorium on fracking, Pennsylvania has issued thousands of permits since 2004.

Continued unknowns stir debate. Meanwhile, scientists across leading institutions are certain of five universal impacts.

First, fracking industrializes rural landscapes, clearing and fragmenting vital woodlands and wetlands. It diminishes capacities to host migratory birds and other wildlife, filter rainwater and prevent flooding while causing more erosion and runoff, sending sediments into waterways.

“The United States and the world could rely 100 percent on green energy sources within 20 years if we dedicated ourselves to that course”.
~ M.Z. Jacobson and M.A. Delucci, “A Path to Sustainable Energy by 2030,” Scientific American, 2009

Second, fracking brings urban-style air pollution to the rural countryside. Studies like those from the Colorado School of Public Health, along with monitoring data from Utah’s extensively fracked Uinta Basin, show that drilling and fracking operations release ozone-making, smog-producing volatile compounds. These gases, along with combustion byproducts, are linked to cancer and heart disease in adults and, in children, to lowered IQ, preterm birth, asthma and stunted lung development. The airborne contaminants from gas drilling such as in the Haynesville Shale, in Louisiana and Texas, can travel up to 200 miles from wellheads, according to a 2010 study published in Environmental Science and Technology.

Third, accidents happen, necessitating the evacuation of surrounding communities. In Pennsylvania, in less than three years of fracking, 1,500 environmental violations have been recorded, including an exploded well that streamed poisonous fluid for 16 hours. In many cases, petroleum products, fracking chemicals or flowback fluids have entered creeks, streams or groundwater, according to reports published in Science magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fourth, fracking makes huge volumes of Earth’s limited fresh water disappear forever. Instead of drawing down a community’s reservoir or depleting a regional aquifer as part of nature’s normally restorative fresh water cycle, a single fracking well permanently removes several million gallons of fresh water from aquifers and poisons it all with chemicals. Much of it will be entombed in geological strata up to a mile or more below the water table.Fracking Water

Fifth, sooner or later, the gas will run out, while the environmental damage remains.

Known and Unknown Dangers

Beyond these certainties lie questions. Drilling proponents may claim that there have been no confirmed cases of drinking water contaminated by fracking. Yet in Pavillion, Wyoming, residents noticed a few years ago that their water was yellow, cloudy and oily, bubbled and smelled like chemicals. Some people felt sick.

A joint investigation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry found petrochemicals— including diesel fuel, benzene, cyclohexane, methane, propane and ethane, plus traces of arsenic and a microbe-inhibiting pesticide—in 20 water wells. The EPA recommended that residents not drink their water. Turning on a fan while showering to avoid possible methane explosions was also suggested.

Fracking enjoys special exemptions from many regulations—the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund Act and National Environmental Policy Act—that govern other types of industrial activities. Fracking also gets a pass on federal right-to-know laws, because natural gas operations do not report their air and water emissions under the EPA Toxics Release Inventory. A special amendment to the 2005 Energy Policy Act grants fracking exclusion from the Safe Drinking Water Act, which authorizes the EPA to regulate all injection of toxic chemicals into the ground. Thus, a drilling company doesn’t have to disclose the formulation of its fracking fluids.

Eco-Horrors and Economics

Biologist Theo Colborn and her research team at The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange report that of the 353 chemicals tested as presumed ingredients of fracking fluid, 60 percent can harm the brain and nervous system, 40 percent are endocrine disrupters and one-third are both suspected carcinogens and developmental toxicants.

What should we do with this lethal fluid—a million or more gallons with every wellhead? The trend, say gas industry service providers like Halliburton, is to recycle it, but flowback water gets more poisonous with every reuse. At some point, this highly concentrated toxic liquid still has to be disposed of via designated underground wells or municipal sewage-treatment plants or else it’s clandestinely dumped.

“Wherever Marcellus Shale natural gas development has occurred in Pennsylvania, reports of poisoned water, sick kids and dead animals have followed.”
~ Marcellus Protest, a Pennsylvania alliance to halt fracking operations

Then there’s the lure of fracking’s economics. In many cases, a homeowner can receive $5,000 per acre, plus 12 to 20 percent royalties, from leasing land to a gas company. The Marcellus Shale may be worth a trillion dollars and possibly provide enough natural gas to supply the nation’s consumption for six years, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s most recent estimates. (It’s unknown how much gas is recoverable or how often wells may need to be refracked to stimulate production.)

No study of the cumulative impact of fracking on public health or agriculture, including its full lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions, has been conducted; it’s an economic gamble and a bona fide environmental crime.

A Community Speaks Out

In New York’s Tompkins County, 40 percent of the land acreage covering the Marcellus Shale is leased to gas drillers. Local feelings are mixed. Some people just wish the whole practice would go away. Some find fracking such a vile and preposterous idea that they don’t believe it will really happen. Others, seeking personal gain or believing that it’s inevitable, plan to “ride the tiger,” hoping for greater future oversight.

At a recent community meeting, candidates for mayor and the village board declared their unified opposition to fracking. Soon afterward, at a packed town meeting on fracking at the village library, someone noted that a nearby community had successfully turned away frack waste trucked in from Pennsylvania that was headed to an old well for disposal. An elderly man declared passionately, “We have to be ready to lie down in front of the trucks.”
Take a stand at and to petitions).

Note: Find films at; and

Biologist Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., is the acclaimed author of Living Downstream, now also a documentary film, and Having Faith, on the threat of environmental toxins to infant development. A visiting scholar at New York’s Ithaca College, she often testifies at hearings. She adapted this article from Raising Elijah: Protecting Our Children in an Age of Environmental Crisis, reprinted courtesy of Da Capo Press.

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

GMO Truths and Consequences

Health and Safety are Question Marks

The food industry tells consumers that genetically engineered foods are safe. On university campuses, agriculture students learn that such genetically modified organisms (GMO) are both safe and necessary to feed the world. The Council for Biotechnology Information, a biotech industry-supported nonprofit, even created a coloring book to teach children about the many benefits of GMO crops, including improved nutrition.

Most GMO crops have been genetically engineered to withstand spraying with herbicides, such as Monsanto’s Roundup-Ready soybeans, or to produce their own pesticides, such as “Bt” corn and cotton. Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the nonprofit Center for Food Safety, warns us to be leery of simplistic claims that don’t take into account unintended consequences. For example, he points out that, “GMO crops have nothing to do with feeding the world, because almost all genetically engineered crops are corn and soybeans… used to feed livestock in rich countries, or to feed automobiles.” Approximately 40 percent of corn currently is used to make ethanol.

Freese adds, “They don’t increase yields and they don’t increase nutrition.” But GMO crops have led to a staggering increase in herbicide use, putting both farmers and consumers at greater risk for exposure to these toxins and related diseases, according to the Center for Food Safety.

So the question is: Are GMOs the panacea industry wants us to believe, or are they contributing to chronic disease? Here are three claims commonly heard about GMOs, generally made by the biotechnology industry and their funded researchers.

Claim: GMOs are safe.

Fact Check: Little research exists on the long-term effects of consuming GMO foods. According to Douglas Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, safety assessments have left us with significant uncertainties about whether GMO food is safe or not. However, concerns voiced by the Center for Food Safety revolve around potential allergens and toxins from both herbicide and pesticide residues and new genetic material.

New research from the European Union published in Food and Chemical Toxicology adds to growing concerns about the risks. Researchers discovered that rats fed GMO corn and drinking water containing Roundup herbicide experienced negative health effects during their two-year lifespan, including mammary tumors and disabled pituitary function in females, and liver and kidney damage in males. These outcomes were attributed to the endocrine-disrupting effects of Roundup, as well as the genetic makeup of the engineered corn.

What makes this study unique and troubling is that it’s the longest such study period to date. Most studies funded and conducted by industry last just 90 days—not long enough to fully document potential harm.

Michael Hansen, Ph.D., a senior scientist at Consumer Reports, states in a memo to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Council on Science and Public Health, “Unlike all other developed countries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require safety testing for GE [genetically engineered] plants.”

Hansen explains, “In addition to the FDA not requiring any premarket safety testing, there is virtually no independent safety testing of these crops in the United States, due to intellectual property rights. When farmers buy GE seed in the U.S., they invariably must sign a product stewardship agreement that forbids them from giving such seeds to researchers.” Plus, “Researchers must get permission from the biotech companies before they can do research, which means there is a paucity of independent research.”

The good news is that last June, the AMA recommended mandatory pre-market safety testing to better characterize the potential harms of bioengineered foods.

Claim: GMO crops use fewer pesticides, and those used are safer than most others and break down quickly.

Fact Check: Roundup herbicide is increasingly sprayed on a growing number of herbicide-resistant GMO crops, including corn, soy, canola, sugar beets and most recently, alfalfa. By tracking the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s pesticide use data, Charles Benbrook, research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, at Washington State University, discovered that herbicide-resistant crop technology led to a 527-million-pound increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011.

With the growing presence of herbicide-resistant weeds, new GE forms of corn and soybeans have been developed to resist stronger and more dangerous herbicides, such as 2,4-D, one of the two ingredients in Agent Orange, a defoliant used in the Vietnam War. Benbrook projects that these new GMO crops could drive herbicide usage up by about another 50 percent.

According to Warren Porter, Ph.D., a biologist and environmental toxicology professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Theo Colborn, Ph.D., president of The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, glyphosate, the active chemical ingredient in Roundup, is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it interferes with hormone systems.

Porter says we can expect higher levels of herbicide residues in GMO food crops. A report from the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) found that glyphosate is now commonly found in rain, streams and air during the growing season. “Though glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world, we know very little about its long-term effects to the environment,” cautions Paul Capel, a USGS chemist.

A Canadian study showing that the Bt toxins from GMO corn are showing up in umbilical cord blood and the blood of pregnant women is another concern. Monsanto claims Bt is harmless and will break down in our digestive tracts. But we have no way of knowing the effect of these toxins on developing fetuses, says Marcia IshiiEiteman, Ph.D., a senior scientist with the Pesticide Action Network.

Claim: GMO labeling isn’t necessary.

Fact Check: Hansen believes that if there are unexpected adverse health effects resulting from consuming GMO foods, a product label would allow people to begin connecting symptoms with foods consumed. Until there is consistent, national GMO food labeling, everyone is just dining in the dark.
Learn more and take action at

Melinda Hemmelgarn, aka the “Food Sleuth,” is a registered dietitian and award-winning writer and radio host at, in Columbia, MO ( She advocates for organic farmers at

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

Healthy Lifestyle Tweaks

Surprisingly Simple Changes for Feeling Good

Kathleen Barnes

All of us have heard the admonition: “Eat lots of veggies and exercise daily and you’ll live a long, healthy life.”

There’s no question this advice is sound, but what about other helpfully healthy lifestyle adjustments we can make? Experts attest that doing easy things, such as going braless, walking barefoot or using a plug-in model instead of a cordless phone can all support wellness. Results range from stress relief to prevention of cancer, heart disease and other ailments often associated with aging.

“Making some of the simplest changes can have far-reaching positive effects on your health,” contends Frank King, a doctor of chiropractic and naturopathic medicine, president of King Bio Natural Medicine, in Asheville, North Carolina, and author of The Healing Revolution. “When we consider the huge negative effects shadowing the field of prescription drugs, it is just good sense to try things foundational to our health that are natural, inexpensive, effective and free of problematic side effects.”

Muscle Testing

“The human body is an excellent lie detector. It is the world’s most sophisticated laboratory, with more wisdom than all medical professionals put together,” says King. His favorite technique is to tap into the body’s vast wisdom using applied kinesiology, or muscle testing. “The principal is simple. When you are telling a truth or when something is good for the body, whether you are conscious of it or not, your body loosens up. When you are telling a lie or the body is rejecting something, your body tightens.”

Many holistic practitioners use applied kinesiology as a diagnostic tool. An easy way to use muscle testing at home is to bend forward, fingers stretching toward the toes. Set a baseline truth by saying out loud, “My name is _______,” and notice the length of the stretch.

Then utter an untruth, like calling yourself by a different name. Most people will find their range of motion is noticeably limited in the event of an untruth or something else that is not helpful.

A practical solution: Apply this technique in making any choice related to personal health.

Control Electronic Pollution

Turn away from using cordless phones and turn off the Wi-Fi. Keep cell phones out of pockets and purses. Move the TV out of the bedroom. These devices emit enormous amounts of radiation, disturbing our sleep patterns, thickening our blood and causing inflammation and a number of associated diseases, according to Dr. Stephen Sinatra, an integrative cardiologist and co-author of The Great Cholesterol Myth.

Recent findings of Sinatra’s research team at the University of California-Irvine, published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, confirm that physical contact with the Earth naturally thins blood. “Grounding appears to be one of the simplest and yet most profound interventions for helping reduce cardiovascular risk and cardiovascular events,” the researchers concluded.

A recent study of animals by the Bioelectromagnetics Laboratory at Zhejiang University School of Medicine-Hangzhou, in China, shows that exposure to radio and electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) like those found in cell phones can alter some genes. An Indian study by the Bioelectromagnetic Laboratory at Jawaharlal Nehru University-New Delhi suggests that EMF exposure increases the production of free radicals in animal brains, which can lead to inflammation, cancer, heart disease and other serious diseases. Swiss research published in the journal Somnologie by University of Bern scientists shows a clear connection between radio frequencies (RF) and sleep disturbances. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) admits a possible link between extensive cell phone use and exposure to RF waves and brain cancer.

Sinatra calls Wi-Fi signals “the new coronary risk factor” and warns, “Be aware that if you are on a computer at home on Wi-Fi, that is toxic to your body.”

A practical solution: Use an ethernet cable to connect computers rather than wireless; switch to an old-fashioned plug-in phone with a handset attached; and stay three feet away from cell phones—never wear them. Sinatra says his research shows that men that put a cell phone in a pocket experience a reduction in testosterone within four hours.

Change Footwear

In addition to unplugging from potentially harmful devices, Sinatra recommends plugging into Earth’s healing energies. “Our ancestors walked barefoot and slept on the ground. They were connected to Earth’s electrical energies that kept them balanced and healthy,” explains the co-author of Earthing.

New research from the University of California-Irvine published in the Journal of Environment and Public Health explains how modern lifestyles tend to separate us from the healing electrical energies of the Earth. Because we rarely walk barefoot or sleep on the ground and most people wear rubbersoled shoes that break the currents, few are benefitting from this wealth of easily accessed healing energies that benefit the heart, brain, muscles and nervous and immune systems.

“Practically no one has the slightest notion of an electrical or energetic connection between his or her body and the Earth,” explains Sinatra. “The ground provides a subtle electric signal that governs the intricate mechanisms that help maintain health and make our bodies work, just like plugging a light into a power socket.”

Ditch Antiperspirant Along with the Bra

Most commercial antiperspirant deodorants contain aluminum compounds, which have estrogen-like properties. Because estrogen imbalances can promote the growth of breast cancer tissue, aluminum may have the same effect when absorbed through the skin.

Source: National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health

Taken together, the research points to many health benefits gained by staying connected with our home planet, which Sinatra reports in Earthing, including reduced inflammation, relief from chronic pain muscle tension and headaches, lower blood pressure and tempered hormonal swings.

As a practical solution, Sinatra prescribes taking a little “vitamin G” (for grounding) every day: Walk barefoot as much as possible. Sit or lie on the ground with as much skin as possible in contact with living things such as grass, trees, pine needles or earth. During the winter, touch grounded electrical outlets or metal plumbing pipes. Also, wear comfortable, leathersoled shoes without socks indoors and out, because leather is an excellent conductor of Earth’s energies.

Ditch the Bra

“Breast cancer is caused by bras,” medical anthropologist Sydney Ross Singer states unequivocally. He is co-author of Dressed to Kill, with Soma Grismaijer, and director of the Institute for the Study of Culturogenic Disease, in Pahoa, Hawaii.

“Bras are designed to change the shape of a woman’s breasts to a culturally approved image,” remarks Singer. “But bras also create a pressure band between the breast and the lymph nodes, causing inflammation and swelling, and causing lymph to back up, restricting the body’s natural detoxification system.”

“Cancer-causing toxins are delivered to the breast tissue by the bloodstream and are kept there by the bra,” he explains, likening the toxins to bullets. “The bra holds them in place, pointed directly at the breasts.”

Simple Stress Relief Resets Brain Function

Using the index fingers, find two small knobs, usually about an inch above the midpoint of the eyebrows, known as the neurovascular reflex points.

Rest fingers very lightly on these points until a pulse is felt. It may take several minutes. Be patient.

Mentally review a current stressor using all the senses; see, feel, smell, hear and taste it.

Source: Dr. Frank King, president, King Bio Natural Medicine, Asheville, NC

Singer’s research, conducted in the early 1990s, showed that women that wore bras 24/7 had a breast cancer risk 125 times that of women that never wore bras. Yet Singer’s findings have been largely dismissed by the medical community, and bra manufacturers still offer few wire-free styles.

A Harvard School of Public Health study, published in the European Journal of Cancer Care in 1991, also discovered that bra-free women had a lower rate of breast cancer. Because the results were not central to the focus of the university’s research at the time, there’s been no follow-up.

A practical solution: Wear a bra as little as possible. If it is sometimes necessary, wear one without wires, and engage in regular breast massage. This can be enjoyable and is an ideal partner activity.

Hum Often

Another Singer assertion is that simply humming “mmmmmmmmm” a couple of minutes a day can stimulate the thyroid and increase the production of thyroid hormones of those with an underactive thyroid. The butterflyshaped gland wraps around the larynx, or voice box, which Singer contends is part of nature’s elegant design, meant to be stimulated by sound.

The Cleveland Clinic reports that 10 percent of the U.S. population age 65 and over suffers from hypothyroidism, with the rate in the general population between 1 and 2 percent. The condition is a special problem for women encountering perimenopause or menopause, when hormone levels can fluctuate wildly.

“The medical community has considered the effect of the thyroid on the voice but not the vibratory effect of vocalization on thyroid function,” says Singer. “It stands to reason that humming, singing or quietly talking is preferred to the overstimulation of shouting or yelling.”

Adopt a Pet

adopt a pet“Animals are among our best teachers,” says Dr. Carol Roberts, the author of Good Medicine: A Return to Common Sense, who teaches holistic care at the University of South Florida’s Morsani College of Medicine. “Animal companions give us so much more than they ask for and live in a state of unconditional, open-hearted love.”

Roberts notes numerous studies that show the simple presence of a loving animal can lower our blood pressure and slow the heart rate. A CDC heart study, for example, showed subjects that had owned a cat at any time were 40 percent less likely to die of a heart attack.

Japanese researchers from Azabu University, in Kanagawa-ken, found that dog owners experienced a spike in oxytocin—a neurotransmitter that helps us cope with stress—by simply meeting their pet’s gaze. While people widely recognize that walking the dog is great exercise, other loving interactions with our pets support happiness and health, as well.

Supplement Cocktail Counters Radiation
Coenzyme Q10 – 100-200 mg a day
Melatonin – 1-5 mg a day
Nattokinase enzyme – 50 mg a day
Vitamin C – 100 mg a day

Exercise Artistic Skills

Giving oneself artistic license is also healthy, advises Roberts. “Just bring a little beauty into your life, whether it’s choosing which clothing and accessories to wear, arranging a vase of table flowers or dancing to favorite music. Just do something creative every day.”

Energy therapists maintain that exposure to creative activities improves circulation to the brain and thyroid; on a psychological level, it also works to improve self-confidence and self-expression.

A recent study at the University of Colorado published in the journal Palliative & Supportive Care confirmed that individual art therapy is useful in supporting cancer patients during chemotherapy. Fifty-one of the 54 participants said it helped them to relax, talk about their situation or explore and express emotions to their benefit.

Roberts adds, “It’s even better if you join a group engaged in a creative activity. I think people in general do better when we come together to create something beautiful.”

These experts’ prescriptions for such simple lifestyle changes have shown how commonsense adjustments in everyday living can have profound, health-altering results, with only good after effects.
Kathleen Barnes is a natural health advocate, author and publisher. Among her many books is The Super Simple HCG Diet (Square One). Connect at

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

Raw Food Diets for Pets

Weighing the Pros and Cons

Sandra Murphy

As with their own food, dog and cat owners are reading pet food labels more closely these days to evaluate ingredients and their sources. American pet food companies may outsource to foreign manufacturers, sometimes with disastrous results. Various brands of dry dog food (kibble) and treats have been recalled for melamine contamination or other problems—even brands manufactured here have been recalled for salmonella contamination.

To ensure that what we’re serving our dogs contains a proper balance of protein, vitamins and minerals for overall health, the Dog Food Advisor rates dog foods and treats by brand name, explains the ingredients, including byproducts not fit for human consumption, and recommends the best options. Owners can sign up for emails about recalls and other alerts at

Other reasons to read labels include potential allergic reactions to foods, especially chicken and corn, common ingredients in kibble. The educational website notes, “Corn is an inexpensive and controversial cereal grain of only modest nutritional value to a dog.”

Homemade Meals

To have more control over what the family dog or cat eats, many owners turn to home-cooked meals, but know-how is key. “A big risk with home-prepared diets is that they are almost always nutritionally inadequate for long-term feeding, even when using published recipes,” advises Dr. Brennen McKenzie, president of the Evidence-Based Veterinary Medicine Association. “Consult a board-certified nutritionist for the unique nutritional needs of the pet, based on age, breed, health condition and other factors. Don’t substitute ingredients.”

Cooking for pets can be timeconsuming. Some owners have found dehydrated foods like those from The Honest Kitchen, made in the United States using human food-grade ingredients, both cost-effective and easy to prepare. While the purchase price can be higher than other options, the food rapidly rehydrates to four times its original weight by adding warm water. A meatless variety allows owners to add their choice of raw meat, meaty bones or cooked meat and can be suitable for sensitive dogs, raw feeders and dogs that need a unique protein source.

“Dehydrated foods are also a good way for a squeamish owner to start a raw diet for their dog,” remarks Dr. Laurie Coger, an associate veterinarian at the Bloomingrove Veterinary Hospital, in Rensselaer, New York, who also offers consultations through Coger suggests, “First, determine what a dog or cat needs in his diet, then transition gradually from kibble to a cooked or raw diet. Cats may resist change, while dogs can be more flexible.”

“You can spend money on vet visits or on better food.”
~ Veterinarian Laurie Coger

Pet food maker Steve’s Real Food is another option as it does not use lamb, pork or venison. Each poses a greater risk of carrying toxoplasmosis, a parasitic disease that can be passed on to pets, especially cats.

“If you decide to incorporate raw foods, find a wholesale meat supplier so you can buy in bulk. You’ll need a freezer to take full advantage,” suggests Coger. “Feeding raw is not an all-or-nothing proposition, so mix and match. Cook when you have time, feed raw several days a week and use high-quality dehydrated or dry food when traveling.”

Dr. Cathy Alinovi, owner of Hoof Stock Veterinary Service, in Pine Village, Indiana, found that switching to a raw diet solved an itching problem with her mixed-breed dog. She reports that, “Eighty percent of the reasons my clients bring their pets to me are cured by changing to better food.”

Alinovi points out two drawbacks of serving raw food: “You can’t leave it out all day and it can be a challenge to transport home on a hot day.” But she’s found that the benefits are many, “Dog and cat furs shine and shed less; even their behavior improves.” Dog owners also note cleaner teeth, with no tartar buildup, cutting down on trips to the vet.

Not Everyone Agrees

Feeding a raw food diet is not without controversy. The American Veterinary Medical Association voted last summer to advise veterinarians to recommend clients against feeding raw meats and bones to pets. Pet Partners, formerly known as the Delta Society, which registers pets as therapy animals, has instituted a policy that states, “Animals may not be fed a raw protein diet. Animals previously fed [such] a diet must be off it for at least four weeks before registering them.” (See

Deciding which foods to feed our pets requires extra research and meal preparation time, as well as money, but motivated owners like the results they see in their pet’s health.
Missourian Sandra Murphy may be reached at

Safe Pet Food Prep

To handle raw meat and bones safely, follow the same guidelines as when cooking for family members.

When shopping, keep meat, seafood and poultry separate from other foods—double-bag them to keep juices contained.

In the fridge, store meat products in sealable containers on the lowest shelf, so that potential drips won’t touch other foods. Fridge temp should be 40° Fahrenheit or lower.

Use one cutting board for meats and another for produce.

Wash hands before and after handling meat. Sanitize countertops, wooden cutting boards and knives with white distilled vinegar (5 percent), undiluted, heated to 130° F and left on the surface for one minute; then dry with a recycled-paper towel or air dry. It will kill 99 percent of germs. Plastic cutting boards go in the dishwasher.

Deep clean wooden boards by scrubbing with natural coarse salt and lemon juice (the second half of the lemon face works as a scrubber); rinse with hot water and dry upright. Keep wood from drying out by periodically applying beeswax or walnut or almond oil.

Refrigerate or discard any uneaten food, wash dog bowls after every feeding with soap and hot water, and then let air dry or wipe with a recyclable paper towel.

Sponges hoard germs. If used, sanitize them in the microwave at least every other day. Make sure the sponge is wet, not dry. Two minutes will kill 99 percent of most diseasecausing germs. Let it cool before handling.
Primary sources: U.S. Food and Drug Administration;

This article appears in the January 2013 issue of Natural Awakenings

How Unconditional Love Harmonizes Our World

Marci Shimoff Explores its Transformative Power

Judith Fertig

A self-described “seeker from the get-go,” Marci Shimoff, is an expert at helping others effect greater personal fulfillment and professional success. The noted transformational leader, speaker and author has written two bestselling books on happiness and unconditional love—Happy for No Reason: 7 Steps to Being Happy from the Inside Out and Love for No Reason: 7 Steps for Creating a Life of Unconditional Love, and co-authored six bestselling titles in the Chicken Soup for the Woman’s Soul series.

What is the old way of looking at love, versus the new paradigm shift you propose?
We’ve been trained to think of love solely as energy between two people, usually experienced as conditional love—we feel love if the other person agrees with us, treats us a particular way or loves us back. But love is actually the essence of who we are, and when we live in a state of unconditional love, what I call “love for no reason,” we experience our essence that is love, which doesn’t depend on another person, situation or romantic partner. It is the core of every spiritual tradition.

Why do our ways of loving often seem inadequate?
We each have a “love set-point,” the upper limit of our ability to give and receive love. We can’t feel more love by trying to change the outside—by relying on others to fill us up—because it will never work in the long run. We need to raise our love set-point higher; then we experience everything more through the eyes of love.

Do challenging economic times help us grow spiritually?
We can use any life challenges to help us grow and find fresh avenues of lasting fulfillment. Success and money don’t guarantee happiness, and I know that from my own wake-up call.

In 1998, I had three of my Chicken Soup for the Soul books on The New York Times bestseller list at the same time. One day, I spoke to 8,000 people and autographed 5,432 books and felt like an author rock star. Yet when I returned to my hotel room that night, I burst into tears. All of the success was great, but it still hadn’t made me happy. That’s when I began my intensive study of happiness and love.

Does science support our capacity to daily experience and deepen a love for all things?
Science is finding that there is a neurophysiology of love. Studies by researchers in major institutions worldwide show that we can do simple things like breathe more deeply, walk barefoot on earth, listen to uplifting music or practice meditation that will support us in experiencing more unconditional love. These activities create greater heart rhythm coherence and new neural pathways in the brain.

How does having a heart that’s open to unconditional love benefit us?
The Institute of HeartMath has discovered that the magnetic field generated by the heart—what’s measured on a magnetometer—is 5,000 times stronger than that of the brain. HeartMath research has also demonstrated that when we’re in a positive emotional state, our hearts beat in a coherent rhythm that causes all the other systems in the body—including the brain, immune system and hormones—to work more efficiently and harmoniously. Their research shows that experiencing this regularly leads to better health, slows the aging process and brings us greater creativity, resilience and happiness.

What are the seven doorways to practicing unconditional love revealed by your own research?
I’ve interviewed hundreds of people that are living examples of unconditional love. I’ve found seven access points to experiencing more love: safety, being grounded and present; vitality, energy and well-being; unconditional self-love, feeling empowered; openness, being comfortable giving and receiving love; communication, listening and speaking with love; vision, seeing through the eyes of love; and oneness, feeling connected with the greater wholeness of life.

How does one person’s loving larger bless our families, communities and world?
The more we experience love, the more we spread love to others. Our feelings are contagious. This idea is beautifully expressed in an ancient Chinese proverb: “When there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. When there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. When there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation.

“When there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world.”

Connect with Marci Shimoff at

Judith Fertig, of Overland Park, KS, is a regular contributor to Natural Awakenings.

Live Your Dash

by Linda Ellis

Have you ever walked through a cemetery or read an obituary and pondered that small, seemingly insignificant dash between the day someone was born and the date he or she departed? This oftenoverlooked little line ultimately represents every breath and step we take in life.

Until an epiphany awakens us to the brevity of this dash with which we have been blessed, true appreciation of our life cannot begin.

So think about this long and hard;
are there things you’d like to change?
For you never know how much time is left
that can still be rearranged.

When, as newborns, we take that first independent, deliberate breath, we sign an invisible contract with life that we will do everything we can to preserve, cherish and live it. By seizing and inhabiting our moments and living our dash, instead of simply existing, we are abiding by that first unspoken oath.

Because success should not be measured
in what you will buy, or own,
but in the pride you feel
in the person you’re with
… when you are all alone.

When we spend our time focused on problems, we subconsciously disregard all that is not a problem. In mulling over yesterday and worrying about tomorrow, we fail to recognize the presence of today. When we postpone living until everything is running smoothly, we forfeit the minutes of our now.

Instead of focusing on the next achievement or acquisition, we need to practice focusing on all the blessings around us—our loved ones and the sheer pleasure found in simply being. The poet in me writes: So live in your now; be conscious, sincere. Let your mind allow you to be in your here!

For it matters not, how much we own,
the cars… the house… the cash.
What matters is how we live and love
and how we spend our dash.

Linda Ellis’ global touchstone poem, The Dash, was followed by the Live Your Dash poem, and her new book, Live Your Dash. Join the conversation at

LindaEllisAuthor and
This article appears in the March 2012 issue of Natural Awakenings