Seven Steps through the Storm: Keila Gilbert of Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation Finds Compassion within Divorce

by Sarah Grey

WW_AlphaCenter-KeilaGilbertOf all of life’s great transitions —parenthood, marriage, retirement—one of the most difficult is divorce. Divorce requires a great deal of compassion that too often is missing. That’s why Natural Awakenings sat down with Keila Gilbert of Alpha Center, an attorney mediator who specializes in guiding couples through the divorce process with compassion.

How did you become a divorce mediator? I went through my own divorce about 20 years ago, and it was extremely painful. Instead of focusing on that pain and anger, though, I found a different way to channel my energy. I became a divorce attorney mediator in the hope of giving other couples a better experience than I had.

Twenty years later, you’re a pioneer in the field of divorce mediation. Can you tell us about how Alpha Center works? The biggest decision couples face is whether to divorce, but the second- biggest decision is how to divorce. When we hear the word “divorce” we think of two attorneys battling to the death in court. So many people don’t even realize that there are other options. We offer couples a seven-step program to guide them through the divorce transition in constructive ways that help them move forward emotionally, financially and legally.

Is mediation for everyone? Some divorces do need to go through the court system, such as when physical abuse is involved. In general, though, mediation is a more cooperative and compassionate choice for many couples. The Alpha Center also works to make it more affordable by charging a flat fee, so that couples are not racking up huge attorneys’ fees. We want this better alternative to be accessible to everyone.

What does it mean to offer a compassionate divorce process? Most divorcing couples go into the process with lots of emotions and very little knowledge. So our program is highly structured in a way that focuses on the future, not the past. We’re happy to refer them to therapists, but we try to step away from the emotions here so that both parties can put their energy into moving forward into O
the next stage of their lives.

Divorce can be financially devastating, so we have financial and tax experts who work with our mediators to help couples increase their cash flow and avoid financial conflict. Also, when children are involved, a parenting mediator, who is a qualified therapist, works with the couple to negotiate a co-parenting agreement that minimizes the impact on children.

We also do a lot of referrals to related services. On our website, we have a large directory of therapists, financial advisors, support groups and more, which we’ve vetted for quality.

What do you think is behind the epidemic of divorce? How did the divorce rate get to be so high? There are social, cultural and personal reasons for this trend. Women now have a greater level of freedom, education and opportunity than they had in the past. Prior to gaining these strengths, they were much more inclined to remain in an economically and socially dependent marriage due to lack of other options. Social mores have also changed, from stigmatizing divorced individuals to accepting them.

When looking at the individual causes, you see people entering marriage too blindly and then failing to understand that good marriages take hard work. I’d love it if my services were needed less often. That’s why we also offer resources on our site about how to strengthen or save a marriage. We want to interrupt what I call the “marriage-go-round cycle”, which is when people divorce one partner only to date, marry, separate and divorce again. While 85 percent of our clients do complete the divorce mediation program, of the 15 percent who don’t, quite a few reconcile. Sometimes you see the light bulb go on when people realize they really can work together to save the marriage.

Fifty percent of first marriages, 60 percent of second marriages and 70 percent of third marriages end in divorce. The lesson there is that people often do not learn from their mistakes, but rather blame their partner for the problems, and therefore continue to repeat their past behaviors. Also, subsequent marriages carry the added challenges of blended families.

Do you offer resources for recently divorced people? Yes. On our website we offer resources and ideas for people moving on after divorce. We help them understand what they need to make good decisions about life’s most important relationship. We’re also committed to helping newly single people find quality financial advice.

To that end, can you tell me more about the educational programs you offer? Education is such a powerful factor in making important life decisions. It’s an important part of what we do. We offer workshops for couples as well as for professionals. Recently we did a community workshop focused on “Mended, Blended and Extended Families”. We also offered one for professional couples counselors called “Marital Stress Management”.

It must be very energetically draining to be with people who are in conflict around the ending of a marriage. What do you do to fortify yourself spiritually and emotionally? There is no doubt that you can get “compassion fatigue” when you place yourself in the center of the strife of over 5,000 divorcing individuals over the course of 20 years, as I have. However, it is extremely rewarding to know how much you have changed the trajectory of their lives and their children’s lives, as compared to those who follow the unhealthy path of years of emotionally and financially draining litigation.

I fortify myself by focusing on a healthy lifestyle and a strong meditation practice, and I rely on the support of my coworkers. I am especially blessed with my loving husband, children, extended family and friends. Also, I often retreat through my love of travel, reading, music and the many gifts of nature.

This is your life’s work. What has kept you in it, and what do you see for divorce in the future? It is my life’s work—but also my life’s passion. My original mission was to create an effective divorce mediation program and bring it to as many people as possible. That’s still true, but my work is now focused on training other attorneys to provide our program to divorcing couples throughout the nation. There are now 15 Alpha locations nationwide.

As for the future of divorce, I do believe it will stabilize as a result of three factors. First, people are now delaying marriage to later years, so they are a bit wiser; second, they are entering marriage with more mutual respect and equal footing; third, there are many more resources available to support and encourage healthy marriages. There is one other factor that may continue to decrease divorce, and that is a trend to live together rather than marry, which is a much more prevalent norm in Europe.

How does your commitment to compassion play out in your everyday work at Alpha? I have deliberately surrounded myself with good people who share my passion and commitment to serving our clients during this very vulnerable time of their lives. Though I remain a perfectly imperfect person, I feel that our work has left positive imprints on the lives of the many adults and children that we have been blessed to serve.

Alpha Center for Divorce Mediation is headquartered in Doylestown and offers its divorce mediation program in multiple locations and online. For more information, call 800-310-9085, email AlphaCares@Alpha-Divorce.com or visit Alpha-Divorce.com and AlphaResourceCenter.com.

Sarah Grey is a writer and editor whose work has been published in Saveur, Best Food Writing 2015and many more. To read her writing, visit SarahGreyWrites.com; to learn about her editorial services, visit GreyEditing.com.

June 2016

Epigenetics: Experience Creating Inheritance

by Art Gutkin

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What is epigenetics?

Epigenetics centers on the inheritable changes in gene expression, not encompassing changes to the underlying DNA sequence (phenotype), arising from environmental influences—i.e., a change in observable characteristics of an organism through environmental influences, without changing the geneticmakeup of the cell (genotype). Environment affects how cells react to the genes. Phenotype defines the specific characteristic of a cell, such as blood type, based both on genetic and its environmental influences. Genotype is that specific structure of the cell, as contained in the DNA, that determines specific characteristics of that cell/organism/individual, excluding all environmental influences.

Environmental influences that create change define the differences between the phenotype and the genotype. This is best exemplified by observable differences in sets of identical twins, triplets and the like.

Dismissing environmental issues, it is reasonable to assume that all identical twins would evolve throughout their lives in the exact same manner and exhibit the same behavioral characteristics and illnesses throughout their lives. Carrying this thought forward, all twins or triplets should die on the same day.

What causes differences between twins and triplets?

Environment does. But… what environmental factors create changes to the cells responsible for the differences in twins as they grow? And, in turn, what materializes during a lifetime causing each individual to change into a unique individual?

Cells contain “on” and “off” switches/triggers.

Studies demonstrate that early childhood trauma or PTSD may alter genes, which may be transmitted from one generation to the next.

These findings reveal that each and every experience in life may change that individual and succeeding generations. Imagine watching a movie creating fear. The effect of that fear over a prolonged period can become an inheritable trait. One event may not create a specific change affecting the child, but the continued revisiting of that experience just may do so. If cells are a product of the fixed DNA, prolonged exposure to a particular event would be incapable of creating change.

Like sediment repeatedly deposited on a finely tuned machine, our experiences, and those of our forebears, are never erased, even if they have been forgotten on the surface or in the deep recesses of the mind. They are always a part of us. The DNA may remain the same, but the psychological and behavioral tendencies can be inherited. You might have inherited not just your grandfather’s weak back, but also his predisposition toward depression created by a lack of childhood love. Analogous is Carl Jung’s belief in the collective unconscious.

Consider a child feeling unloved and isolated, whether actually unloved or just perceiving it as such. As a result, the child begins to move inward and withdraws, but after years of therapy or moving past those childhood experiences, the individual comes out of the shell. The “on” switch has been effectively switched “off”. Now consider that individual, at a later time in life, observes or experiences an event revisiting childhood memories. The switch then turns “on”, causing the individual to re-experience the childhood withdrawal pattern.

The subsequent event, though many years later and long “forgotten”, switched “on” that trigger.

As switches come into play, our emotions become involved. Our emotions touch each of the five senses. Creating change in one or more of the senses alters the emotion/mood.

Consider when anger overpowers us. The anger creates changes in the senses of hearing, touch, smell, taste and/or sight. Each and every emotion, each and every conversation, each and every television show creates a unique combination of these senses within an individual. Alter one of these senses and the mood modifies. After doing this often enough, the response to the event creating the anger may extinguish.

A clear understanding of the client’s issue, its cause and remedy need be considered in the total context before a remedy can be obtained.

ED_Medintuitive-ArthurGutkin_0616Art Gutkin is a certified NGH hypnotherapist, medical intuitive and professional member of the National Institute of Counselors and Therapists. For more information, call 215-740-0766, email ArtGutkin@gmail.com or visit MedIntuitive.com.

June 2016

No Restrictions: Massage to Restore, Enhance and Prevent

by Mandy Francis

FB_BackInBalance-NitaKeesler-2_0616The popularity of massage continues to rise as studies confirm the value of massage for reducing stress, pain and muscle tension. The Mayo Clinic even recently opened a spa to offer massage and acupuncture. Nita Keesler, massage therapist, talks about the importance of massage for men.

In your practice, what kinds of issues do you see that are specific to men? Typically, male clients have tight shoulders, low back/hips and hamstrings. Sciatic pain, rotator cuff issues and carpal tunnel syndrome also tend to be common. Restricted movement can affect posture, and sitting can exacerbate pain, which is especially problematic if someone works at a computer or drives for a living.

Weight training and running are popular forms of exercise for many guys. How does that impact their flexibility, and how can massage help support them in those practices? Massage therapy is very beneficial to men that lift weights, run or participate in other cardiovascular exercise because it prevents and alleviates restrictions in the muscles. “Restrictions” can originate from various injuries, improper posture or repetitive motions, as in the case of weightlifting. Massage also helps to prevent what’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, so the body can heal faster with massage than with rest alone.

What benefits can men expect from greater flexibility? Men can gain improved range of motion and better posture, which affect health on many levels, including digestion, mood and, of course, appearance. Massage helps make the muscles more supple by helping to oxygenate with fresh blood. Think of tight muscles as a kink in a hose—when tight, the muscles can entrap blood vessels and nerves, creating pain. Massage helps to alleviate that. Massage combined with assisted stretching, whether it is sports stretching or Thai massage—which is what I incorporate into my practice—is even more beneficial. When someone else is stretching our bodies, we are able to stretch a bit further because our muscles are relaxed. With Thai massage we are also being massaged while being stretched, so the results are even more profound.

FB_BackInBalance-NitaKeesler_0616How many sessions do men need to attend before experiencing a noticeable difference? Everyone is unique. Results will depend on how long they have had their physical issues, whether they have any scar tissue, the amount of stress they typically have and their compliance to self-care, particularly stretching and body awareness. But many have felt relief in one to two sessions. With weekly or biweekly sessions, many have had significant results within six to 10 sessions and continue with monthly or bimonthly maintenance.

What else do you want people to know? Our bodies are meant to move in several planes of movement. Many exercises, including walking, running, cycling and the elliptical, have us in only one repetitive plane of movement. These are all great ways to work out, but it is imperative to supplement with other modalities such as weight training, which by design, if done correctly, requires us to use our muscles in a balanced way. Stretching is the most important thing we can do to help prevent injuries. Massage and assisted stretching are exceptional in that they help us get to that place of flexibility so that we are able to more easily do it on our own.

Also important is an understanding of “how and why” our bodies have reached their current states. I offer posture and flexibility workshops for individuals and for workplaces to help bring this understanding in a simple way, along with techniques that participants can use throughout their busy day.

Nita Keesler is a licensed and board-certified massage and bodywork therapist with over 20 years of experience. For more information, call 267-980-1727, email iNitaUnwind@gmail.com or visit Back-In-Balance.MassageTherapy.com. Check for discount package pricing, current specials and new client specials.

June 2016

38 Million Reasons to Give Up Bottled Water

by Lisa White

BottlePlasticTrashRecycle_12226117_lThe statistics are disappointing: 38 billion plastic water bottles aren’t recycled each year. But there’s no need to lose out on the health benefits of on-the-go agua. Switch to reusable bottles—and for all of the right reasons.

Create a fashion statement.
There are so many to chose from. At a local store or online from sites such as LifeFactory.com, WaterBobble.com, Camelbak.com, Sigg.com and Nalgene.com, reusable bottles can be stainless steel, aluminum, glass, polycarbonate or other plastics. Be certain the plastics or liners do not contain BPA, an endocrine-disrupting chemical linked to numerous health concerns.

Save money for important stuff.
Depending on materials and insulating properties, a high-quality reusable bottle generally retails from $5 to $30. Greeniacs.com reports that bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water. The average American currently spends more than $5 per week ($260/year) supporting this $100 billion a year industry. Thirty dollars versus $260 is an impressive return on investment.

Stay healthy.
Bottled water is not necessarily healthier or cleaner than tap water. Bottled water, often stored for long periods of time, may eventually contain more microorganisms than tap water. A lot of bottled water is “purified”, actually originating as drinking water from a municipal water system. Skip the pricey word games and drink the tap water that is rigorously tested by local, state and federal environmental agencies. If taste and purity are issues, invest in a water filter. Both PUR and Brita offer filtering products that effectively eliminate lead, chlorine, mercury and copper from tap water.

Be a hero to our land and seas.
Discarded bottles litter highways, clog waterways or end up in incinerators and landfills. Plastic in landfills can take up to 700 years to decompose. Microplastics fill patches of our ocean, as evidenced by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch we see in the news.

Save the dinosaurs.
OK, not the actual dinosaurs. Fossil fuels were created from organisms that lived long before the dinosaurs. But none of them are coming back any time soon. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that energy used to pump,process, transport and refrigerate bottled water consumes over 50 million barrels of oil annually, more fuel than is required for 100,000 cars in a year. Recycling those bottles uses additional energy and other resources.

Stand up for communities.
Bottled water is often diverted from communities that rely on that water for their livelihood or future. The bottling companies make profits, and the citizens of these areas are negatively impacted, sometimes even having to buy bottled water themselves when the non-diverted water from their taps is not safe.

Feel good.
Making the switch makes us part of the solution.

Lisa White is a board member and one of more than 550 households owning the Doylestown Food Market, in Doylestown. Check out their Lifefactory silicone-wrapped glass bottles, and don’t miss TAPPED on June 9, part of the Market’s Farm Fresh Film Series. For more information, call 215-348-4548 or visit Doylestown.coop.

June 2016

Finding Our Way Home: Mark Harris and Green Meadow Lead the Way for Green Burial

by Karen G. Meshkov

FlowersOrangeIsolated_9068900_lThe green burial movement, which encompasses a host of ways people are finding to honor the dead and care for their remains in environmentally, socially and economically sustainable ways, is on the rise. According to the Green Burial Council website, the number of approved providers in North America has grown from one in 2006 to more than 300 today, operating in 41 U.S. states and six Canadian provinces. This phenomenon represents another major area of American culture that has shifted toward the “green”.

Two of the movement’s driving forces are located here in Eastern Pennsylvania.

ED_GreenMeadow-GraveMatters_0616Mark Harris’Grave Matters….In his book Grave Matters, A Journey through the Modern Funeral Industry to a Natural Place of Burial, Moravian College instructor and former environmental columnist Mark Harris follows the stories of several families that sought and found alternative “green burials” for a loved one. Through their experiences, Harris opens up to exploration the various alternatives—cremation, burial by sea and natural cemeteries—to what is offered by traditional funeral parlors in the U.S. He explains the environmentally problematic implications of the standard burial and embalming process, and traces the history of burial in America from the rural cemetery movement of the 1800s to the modern, billion-dollar business it is now.

Harris, who lives and works in Bethlehem, PA, has a family history in the business of death and dying: His grandfather owned a memorial park, and he is continuing the legacy in his own way, touring, speaking and teaching on the natural burial movement across the country and locally at universities, churches and community groups.

Harris is a proponent of natural cemeteries as a strategy to protect and preserve land, but he also lauds how using a naturally decomposing casket in burial contributes to a spiritual and literal experience of moving from “dust to dust.” He shares, “When I visited my first natural cemetery, I could see that this was a place of life, not of death. In this place, I thought, the body can join the natural cycle of life at death, and that struck me as a really logical thing to do.”

ED_GreenMeadow-MarkHarris_0616A Green Meadow in Fountain Hill Cemetery….Harris brought his passion for the natural burial model home to Lehigh Valley and, working with the founders of Fountain Hill cemetery, created the first natural cemetery in the area, calling it Green Meadow. GreenMeadow’s mission is to return people’s remains to the earth as simply and directly as possible. The goal is to create a beautiful and respectful place to allow the body to degrade naturally and rejoin Earth’s elements, perpetuating the natural cycle of life and death, of dissolution and rebirth. The burial process uses what remains of life to regenerate new life.

Unlike traditional cemeteries, Green Meadow prohibits practices that prevent natural reunion with the Earth, including burial vaults, metal caskets and chemical embalming. In their place they allow biodegradable caskets and cloth shrouds. Upright headstones are not permitted; however, ground-level fieldstone and other natural native rock markers are allowed.

Maintenance of the grounds at Green Meadow also differs from traditional cemeteries. The meadow is planted with native wildflowers, eliminating the need for lawn care. Unlike conventional cemeteries, plots are not pre-assigned—new plots are selected in succession to recent burials. (Exceptions are made for families with existing sites.) This allows for less environmental disturbance of the meadow and maintains a peaceful, contiguous native wildflower landscape.

Each season, Green Meadow invites volunteers from the community to help with turning the soil, cleaning and upkeep of the grounds. “It’s a wonderful way for people whose loved ones are here to connect with their memory and the spirit of this place,” says Ed Vogrins, Green Meadows Executive Director.

Mark Harris is a former environmental columnist with the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. His articles and essays have appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Reader’s Digest, E: The Environmental Magazine and Vegetarian Times. He has been interviewed by Fresh Air host Terry Gross and appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC News and the CBC. He can be reached at 610-954-8375 or Mark@GraveMatters.us. For more information or to buy the book Grave Matters, visit GraveMatters.us.

Fountain Hill Cemetery is located at 1121 Graham Street, Fountain Hill. For more information, contact Ed Vogrins at 610-868-4840 or visit GreenMeadowPA.org.

June 2016

Stress Signals: Listen to Lessen

by Christine Tentilucci

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The term “mind-body connection” can evoke a multitude of subjective definitions. One interpretation is the relationship between mental stress and physical health. Research illustrates that stress that affects the mind directly relates to the health of the body. Therefore, mind-body awareness — remaining aware of how our mental and emotional state correlates to experiences within the body — can be a valuable tool in managing the stress response.

When reacting to stressors, the body releases cortisol, known as the “stress hormone”. If the mind is in a continual state of stress, the cortisol level remains constantly elevated, wreaking havoc on a number of the body’s functions. Chronic stress has been linked to digestive disorders, suppressed immune function, internal inflammation and even cancer.

Women’s health is significantly tied to the body’s delicate balance of hormones, which includes cortisol. This is why decreasing the stress response, and conversely increasing the relaxation response, is a key component of women’s health. These are just a few ways increased stress can affect women’s health:

Periodic Periods. Considering cortisol is part of the hormonal system, it’s no wonder that stress may cause irregular periods.

Bouts of Blemishes. Ever wonder why pimples often pop up during times of stress? Raised cortisol levels can cause excess oil production, contributing to acne breakouts.

Tummy Trouble. Prolonged stress can increase stomach acid, causing indigestion, discomfort and the potential development of IBS or ulcers.

Distressed Sleep. Mental stress and the accompanying mind chatter can be a sleep-interrupter. Plus, a common side effect of increased cortisol is a pattern of waking up during the night. Lack of sleep can lead to fogginess, irritability and low energy, causing more stress and continuing the cycle. The body’s functions rest and reset during the sleep cycle, making healthy sleep a n important part of lowering the stress response.

Weight Woes. Research has linked heightened levels of cortisol to weight gain and belly fat. In addition, stress may trigger emotional eating and increased cravings. To add insult to injury, cortisol-related weight gain can be difficult to reverse, making weight loss a more challenging task.

Seeking advice from a trusted healthcare provider is important for any woman that thinks stress and cortisol may be affecting her health, but mind-body awareness should also remain integral to her day. Take time to stop, breathe deeply and be aware, and then explore ways to turn down the volume on stress.

Christine Tentilucci is the marketing manager for Inner Spa, a fully organic, holistic, eco-friendly wellness spa in Newtown. For more information, call 215-968-9000, email Christine@InnerSpa.org, or visit InnerSpa.org and InnerVitalitySpa.com.

May 2016 Issue

Matters of the (Female) Heart: 10 Things Women May Not Know About Heart Disease

CRG_AbingtonCardio_DrMeshkov_0216_1by Arnold B. Meshkov

  1. Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women in the United States.
  2. The incidence of heart disease has been increasing in women for the last 30 years.
  3. Women may not have the typical symptoms of cardiac chest pain, or angina pectoris, as a symptom of a blocked artery or atherosclerosis.
  4. Often, the only symptoms women may experience are shortness of breath and fatigue.
  5. When women do experience cardiac chest pain, it is often due to problems with the very small blood vessels of the heart, and not due to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
  6. Heart disease in women presents on average about 10 years later than in men; with the population living much longer now, women without any history of heart problems are presenting with heart disease for the first time much later in life.
  7. Women are treated with invasive procedures such as angioplasty and cardiac surgery less often than men.
  8. Women have the same risk factors for heart disease as men, such as family history, cigarette smoking, “metabolic syndrome”, elevated cholesterol and lipids, high mental stress levels, high blood pressure (hypertension), being overweight and diabetes.
  9. Women have a significant risk of heart disease after menopause, but treatment with estrogens has been shown to increase that risk even further.
  10. Women are much more likely to suffer from “broken heart syndrome”, which presents with the typical symptoms of a heart attack but is not due to hardening of the arteries, and is often associated with major life stress events.

Arnold B. Meshkov, MD, is board certified in internal medicine, cardiology and echocardi-ography. For more information, call 215-920-0815, email Info@AbingtonCardiology.com or visit AbingtonCardiology.com.

May, 2016 Issue

Back to Basics: Rethinking Our Approach to Menopause

by Wendy Warner

Around 6,000 women reach menopause every day — that’s more than two million per year. For many of them, it’s a rocky time filled with mood swings, poor sleep, hot flashes, night sweats and foggy thinking. The really bad news is that at least a third of women in one survey stated they don’t think they’re aware of all the options out there for treatment, or that they are not happy with the options presented to them. Add to this that in conventional gynecologic training, physicians are taught that treatment for symptoms is hormone replacement therapy (HRT)…and then they’re told that HRT isn’t really all that good for women. What’s a doc to do?

The reality is that there are a lot of options out there. HRT is certainly one of them, but jumping into bioidentical hormones right off the bat could mean that the underlying reason for the symptoms and imbalance is never addressed. At some point in the future, when these women decide to stop their hormone therapy, they might start flashing all over again because no one ever helped them fix the cause. Also, hormones can be expensive, so looking for the cheaper alternatives first makes sense.

Get some lab work done. Check a full thyroid panel (TSH, free T4, free T3 plus thyroid antibodies and reverse T3) along with cortisol and DHEA. Check fasting glucose and a hemoglobin A1C, even if the fasting glucose is normal. This information will help establish where to focus attention in treatment.

The first place to look, as usual, is food. How we eat as perimenopausal women really does make a huge impact on how we feel. All the steps in hormone production require nutrient cofactors that are found in vegetables (magnesium and B vitamins, in particular). Eating more veggies and fewer grains and sweets (even excess fruit) can make a huge difference for someone having hot flashes. Also, not everyone needs to be gluten-free, but gluten-containing grains do have a negative impact on the liver’s breakdown of hormones; focusing on gluten-free grains will decrease this. Eating more legumes also helps, as they contain flavonoids, fiber and other chemicals that impact hormone metabolism.

So, although each woman needs to work out details for herself, a good rule to use is the  following: half of what you have eaten by the end of the day should be a vegetable.  This is tough, as most of us don’t eat any at breakfast. Of the remaining half of your food each day, make one-third of it animal protein if you eat animals (this includes eggs and dairy, obviously), one-third should be healthy fats (nuts, seeds, avocados, the oils in salad dressings and what you cook with) and one-third would include grains, fruit and anything else (like chocolate).  Following this rule will result in really small portions of these foods.

Exercise also has a huge impact on menopausal symptoms — the more the better, though it is possible to actually do it “wrong”. Move but don’t get extreme about it.  Focus on strength building and not so much cardio, since most perimenopausal women  lose muscle quickly. That might mean just a more vigorous yoga class or pilates and doesn’t need to include lifting weights in the gym.

Learning more emotional resilience and better stress management has a huge impact as well. Most of us spend a great deal (all?) of our time in the fight-or-flight mode. Too much on our plate, too much bad news, no downtime…this keeps our adrenal hormones  stuck in the “on” position, and when this happens, estrogen and progesterone balance goes out the window. Progesterone gets converted to cortisol to conserve energy for the adrenals, which leads to unbalanced estrogen. Also, the high cortisol is what triggers the temperature-regulating portion of the brain to set off hot flashes. This can be overturned by higher estrogen levels (which is why HRT works), but if it’s still going on when a woman stops her HRT, she’ll simply flash all over again.

When all of these lifestyle issues are being worked on, but sleep and thinking straight are still difficult, interventions like herbs and hormones should be considered. Many plants combat menopausal symptoms, from black cohosh to Siberian rhubarb to night blooming cereus, but all work best when used with herbal adaptogens and nervines. Adaptogens help support adrenal function and include plants like ashwagandha, holy basil and rhodiola. Nervines calm us down; fresh milky oats is a favorite. Different plants  work better for different people, so seeking out a knowledgeable provider is a must.

For some women, hormone replacement therapy may ultimately provide the best results. There are conventional hormones, which one gets at a regular pharmacy. Some  are bioidentical (chemically just like what our bodies make) and some are chemicals that are “new to nature” that have activity similar to estrogen and progesterone, but our bodies have never seen them before. Several major studies agree that among replacement hormones available, bioidentical hormones are safest. The downside to “regular” prescriptions is that they are mostly oral (probably not the best choice) and have limited doses available. Compounded bioidentical hormones, however, are designed to let each woman have the dose that is right for her, and several different forms of delivery are available, including capsules, creams, pellets and bucchal troches.  Compounded forms also allow for inclusion of testosterone and adrenal support, which are not available in “commercial” HRT.

Menopause is not a disease, but it is a transition that will likely require each of us to reevaluate how we’ve been living. We need to look at the big picture and not jump to an easy fix. Our bodies will thank us.

Wendy Warner, MD, ABIHM, is board certified in gynecology and holistic medicine. Her practice, Medicine in Balance, is located in Langhorne. For more information, call 215-741-1600.

May 2016 Issue

Using Past Lives to Gain Freedom in This One

by Elisa Smith

FiguresKeyholePastLife_51000056_xlAs a traditional psychotherapist, Elaine Berk was often frustrated by the painfully slow nature of change for many clients, despite their willingness, hard work and dedication to the process.  “My clients weren’t alone in this — it was true for me as well, ” explains Berk.  “Some issues would reach 90 percent resolution, then stall.”

Through a series of synchronicities, she discovered the field of Past Life Regression Therapy (PLRT), and with it the answers she’d been seeking. After training extensively with some of those most renowned in the field — including Brian Weiss, M.D., Morris Netherton, Ph.D., Carol Bowman, MS, and Patricia Walsh — she founded Past Life Regression Therapy PA and has been helping clients to finally resolve issues that have been plaguing them not only for years, but potentially for lifetimes.

“In my experience, one reason conventional therapy isn’t always effective is because it assumes the issues originated in this lifetime,” says Berk.  “PLRT reveals the root causes from events in other life times and thereby heals more deeply and quickly than traditional therapies.”

Even those skeptical of reincarnation can benefit, she explains.  “When considering their past life regression experience as a metaphor for current life issues, a client still has a therapeutic response. The process causes a shift that enables them to expand their awareness about their life issues and life purpose, using this new understanding to make changes going forward.

”During PLRT, for example, an asthmatic client might experience reduced or eliminated symptoms after uncovering a lifetime in which their home burned. A person with belonging and self-esteem issues might learn about a life where they were ostracized and bullied for being different. Someone with an eating disorder might find themselves in other lifetimes where they were starving or malnourished.

“In this therapeutic process, the healing — for this and future lives — comes when one retrieves and works through past lifetime experiences and feelings, and then releases old energetic blocks. This leads to the gradual re-integration of missing parts of themselves and the rediscovery of one’s personal power, ” says Berk.  “Not only can clients resolve the enduring effects of past life trauma, but they often experience a feeling of freedom, deep peace, serenity, love and light in the PLRT session.”<

Berk continues, “I have found the knowledge, understanding, experience and universal wisdom afforded by the past life therapy process to be truly profound, incredibly healing and rapidly transformative — both for me and for my clients.”

Evolving Soul, LLC, is located at 110 North State Street in Newtown, with a satellite office in Doylestown.  For more information, call 215-970-1534 or visit PastLifeRegressionPA.com

May 2016 Issue

OneTaste Meetups Aim to Access the Power of Female Sexuality

WomanSilhouetteMeditatingMountain_45080254_lIt might sound wild or shocking, but Orgasmic Meditation (OM) isn’t about titillation. Its practitioners believe that the power of female sexuality, harnessed through meditation, can actually change the world. According to OneTaste, an international group devoted to OM, OM is “a consciousness practice (like yoga or Pilates) designed for singles and couples to experience more connection, vitality, pleasure and meaning in every aspect of their lives.”

OneTaste holds regular events through the popular website Meetup.com. While there is sexual content to the meetings (which are definitely for adults only), everyone’s clothes stay firmly on. OM is about relaxation, connection, and getting past the stigmas and barriers that stand between women and the true power of their sexuality. Women are welcome to attend alone or with a respectful partner of any gender. Participants can expect to get an entirely fresh sex-ed curriculum as they learn about the benefits of OM, the Five Laws of Orgasm and why orgasm is different from climax. OMers learn how to access a grounded, conscious, orgasmic experience that can help them “develop a larger state of consciousness, have better intimacy and stronger connections.”

Thousands of people in New York, London, and around the world have discovered the joy that comes when they let go of shame and embrace their sexual selves.  To participate, women can sign up at OneTaste.Us or Meetup.com, and an Orgasm Expert will call them and orient them before the event, answering any questions, so they’ll know what to expect.

To find out more, or to find a One Taste Meetup Group near you, visit OneTaste.Us.

Thyroid Health and Menopause: A Naturopathic Approach

by Lynn W. Feinman

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A woman’s natural life cycle presents an ever-changing landscape of potential health issues. Hormones, in particular, can be affected by the milestones of puberty, childbirth and menopause. Menopause-related hormone imbalance can be increasingly problematic due to lowered functioning of an aging thyroid, a gland that plays a large role in regulating hormones.

Thyroid imbalances can cause weight issues, anxiety and depression, fatigue, skin and hair changes, indigestion, sleep issues and more. Since thyroid imbalances can also be caused by autoimmune diseases and can have a genetic component, or can even be triggered by viruses, the first step in treating imbalances should always involve a proper medical diagnosis. Once the diagnosis is made, a naturopathic treatment plan can be created.  Because no part of the human body operates independently of the rest of the body, a holistic perspective is essential when addressing thyroid issues.

A founding naturopathic principle holds that if the body is in proper balance, it can tolerate the fluctuation of hormones. Traditional naturopathy considers the health of all major organ systems in the body, acid/alkaline balance and naturopathic detoxification. Specifically, naturopathy seeks to remove offenders (allergens), replace what nutrients might be missing and repair damage (inflammation). While a naturopathic approach to hormonal imbalance considers many factors, including exercise , stress and emotions, nutrition and sleep play a central role in restoring health.

Research shows that certain nutrients can nourish the thyroid gland, such as antioxidants and the herbs ashwagandha, schisandra and ginseng. Additionally, women  experiencing menopause benefit from specific nutrients, such as B vitamins and minerals.

Adding to the nutritional challenge, certain foods, especially when refined, often become  difficult to digest as we age. Eating more plant-based foods can be beneficial, with the caveat that soy and wheat are not nourishing foods for the thyroid and are common allergens. Engaging in nutritional cleansing can help reduce overload in the liver, the essential organ that manages hormonal fluctuations.

The lack of restorative sleep often underlies all other health challenges, especially during menopause. Naturo-pathic approaches integrate sleep hygiene, restoring sleep cycles and nourishing the nervous system. Commonly used herbs include chamomile, passion flower, valerian and skullcap.  Supplements may include melatonin and minerals, which help to calm the body. Since sleep is a naturally occurring human phenomenon, natural sleep cycles can usually be restored, depending on how long the imbalance has occurred.

Aging is a natural part of life, but with the proper whole-system approach to changing needs, delicate balances can be not only maintained, but enriched.

Lynn W. Feinman, owner of Natural Health Options, in Paoli, is a naturopathic doctor and yoga instructor specializing in health recovery and detoxification programs. For more information, call 610-608-1430 or visit NaturalHealthOptions.us.

May 2016 Issue

Bioidentical Hormones: Getting Past Misconceptions

by Monica Gavin

CoupleMatureExercise_7702511_xlWhile most people are aware of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), key misconceptions still exist. HRT is most typically associated with women and menopause. And while it’s true that many women seek out help for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms, bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) can offer benefits far beyond this one issue, improving patients’ lives in a variety of ways.

It’s important to note the difference between bioidentical and synthetic hormone replacement therapy.  Because synthetic hormones do not match the molecular structure of human hormones, they often result in unpleasant side effects, some as severe as cancers and cardiovascular issues. Conversely, bioidentical hormones, derived from natural plant sources, provide an exact match to those produced by the human body, offering relief from symptoms while minimizing the potentially dangerous side effects. As Marla Viturello, of Philadelphia Professional Compounding Pharmacy, states, “The value of customized BHRT is critical in restoring balance.  Because these prescriptions are naturally derived and can be compounded in different strengths and dosage forms, patients can benefit from a regimen designed for their distinctive needs.”

So, what are the top misconceptions regarding BHRT?

BHRT is for women only.  The truth is that men can suffer the effects of declining hormones just as much as women do. Symptoms of andropause (often referred to as male menopause) include decreased libido and muscle mass, impotence, and mood and sleep disorders.

Sleeplessness is just a fact of modern life.  Insufficient sleep can have a detrimental effect on health and negatively affect all other areas of life. Sound sleep is possible at any age and is often a reflection of proper hormonal balance.

Declining enthusiasm for life is a natural result of growing older.  While life events can certainly present challenges at times, middle age is not a disease of waning vitality. Restoring hormonal balance can elevate and even out mood, resulting in a better overall outlook and renewed flair for life.

Memory and concentration naturally decrease with age.  Properly balanced hormones can and often do greatly help to restore cognitive function, resolving what many term “foggy thinking”. After BHRT, patients often report that they are better able to concentrate at work, with sharper thinking skills.

Decreased libido is a normal part of aging.  The truth is that libido is a direct reflection of  hormonal balance, in both men and women. Restoring the proper balance of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone to optimal levels will restore the libido, enabling patients to have a healthy, fulfilling sex life at any age.

Considering each of these benefits, it’s easy to see that the number one benefit of BHRT is a greatly improved quality of life. Vibrant health and vitality are possible at any age.

MonicaGavin_0516Monica Gavin, MD, is a Diplomate of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine. She provides BHRT services in Bethlehem and Hatboro. For more information, call 610-625-3000 or visit AzaniMedicalSpa.com.

 

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Philadelphia Professional Compounding Pharmacy is located at 23 South York Road, in Hatboro. For more information, visit PPCPharmacy.com or call 877-637-7727.

May 2016 Issue