One of the most important public health problems in America is the dramatic increase in the incidence of Type II diabetes mellitus. This disease can cause short-term severe health problems, but more often results in severe long-term health risks. When diabetes affects the kidneys, the eyes, the heart, the blood vessels and the brain, often these events will cause permanent organ damage.
An article published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry suggests that specific compounds in cocoa may help with Type 2 diabetes. Researchers from Brigham Young University and Virginia Tech fed animals a high-fat diet, combined with cocoa and found the animals had decreased obesity and a greater ability to handle high blood sugar levels.
Autumn is the season of falling apart and letting go. The outer-directed energy and enthusiasm of summer’s fire power sharply falls away. Temperatures drop, winds accelerate, leaves turn color and bid farewell as everything in Mother Nature’s kingdom returns to the soil, enriching it to prepare the grounds for a new harvest. Continue reading
Mercury will turn retrograde the morning of December 2 and will remain retrograde until December 22, through the thick of the Christmas shopping days and for all seven days of Hanukkah. The planet will be in the shadow of retrograde several days before that.
Let’s make a note of how this affects the public, as this backwards motion brings some or all of the following: difficulties in transportation, slowing down of the mail system, difficulty finding what you want, incorrectly shipped items, canceled plans, changed minds, mechanical difficulties—especially telephones and computers, incorrect or lost messages, as well as difficulties in all kinds of practical matters. Continue reading
Thanksgiving. It’s the ultimate food-centric holiday. For some, the thought of a Thanksgiving feast can spark anxiety. Will the year’s dedication to eat healthfully fall by the wayside after one celebratory meal? The stretch from November through New Year’s can appear like an obstacle course of one holiday, event and workplace cookie tray after another. However, there are enough stressors surrounding the holidays—eating doesn’t need to be one of them. The following suggestions may help turn the table on anxiety and receive holiday meals with peace and joy. Continue reading
by Elizabeth Joyce
Ascension is the path of those who are choosing to consciously evolve. It’s a personal choice to boldly step into the unknown in order to expand into an experience that is entirely new. Ascension is actively choosing to expand into higher consciousness.
Ascension is merging with one’s higher self, opening one’s heart and expanding to reunite with “source”, the divine light, and all levels and layers of one’s authentic self. It is returning to the experience of divine light and experiencing the highest levels of unconditional love and divine alignment with pure source light in every area of life. Ascension is not something that happens to us on a certain date, or that we unknowingly or unwillingly stumble into.
Awareness will help us to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances of life around us. In addition to meditation, we should learn and seek out new perspectives, validate what we learn to gain wisdom and knowledge, implement what will serve us, love in every moment, move forward and grow. This is the ascension path—the path of increased awareness, higher consciousness and illumination; the master path of love.
by Delia Nessim
It’s fascinating to observe how family life has evolved over time. Families in the 1950s and ‘60s were quite conservative with rules and limits. A teenage boy with long hair was considered radical. The ‘70s was the era of rebellion—teens wore long hair, attended protests and used mind-altering drugs. Each of these eras posed unique challenges to the parent-child dynamic.
The excessive use of electronic devices is the parental complaint of our times. It affects kids of all ages; even toddlers seem to intrinsically know how to use many devices. Video screens do a great job of keeping kids quiet and happy for many hours. What parent doesn’t want to make their kids happy?
by Delia Nessim
The holidays can be a lot of fun, but this time of year can also be a stressful time for many people. There are a lot of decisions to make about purchases, time allocation and finances. In addition, the holidays typically involve spending time with extended family, which in itself can be very emotional for people, especially when it involves returning to the family home. The sights, sounds and smells can easily invoke memories that may or may not feel good.
How does one deal with the obligations of the holidays while staying calm and centered? One way is to use a mind-body technique called EFT, or Emotional Freedom Techniques. This modality has existed for about 30 years but has really gained momentum in American mental health circles over the last five years. EFT is a form of acupressure, and it uses the traditional acupuncture energy meridians, but without the invasiveness of needles. Instead, tapping uses just a hand or a fingertip to touch on these energy points while thinking about a specific problem and validating all the feelings that arise. An example might be, “I’m so mad, I could scream.” This allows the emotions to flow and dissipate faster.
Paolo Propato and Grace Rollins, licensed acupuncturists at Bridge Acupuncture, discuss the energetics of acupuncture and what it’s like to work and train in their field of Chinese medicine.
Paolo: What is qi?
Grace: Many people think of qi as “energy”, but I think that’s too materialistic of a translation. Qi is basically a very useful term that sums up complex processes that together create recognizable phenomena in the body. If you try to think of qi as some kind of literal substance or force you’re just going to frustrate people interested in scientific backing; you won’t find a measurable “energy” that corresponds to what people who practice Asian medicine are talking about.
“Qi” for acupuncturists is “weather” as it relates to the body. Weather is electromagnetic and gravitational relationships between elements and molecules; it’s pressure dynamics, thermodynamics, radiation; it’s many processes, all overlapping and influencing each other. We can study it, characterize it and make predictions about it. The same way that we recognize many patterns in weather, we learn how to recognize patterns in qi, so we can influence bodily functions and promote health.
P: What do acupuncture methods actually do?
G: The traditional answer is that they stimulate special points that harmonize qi in the body, thereby promoting proper function and health. Scientifically, stimulating acupuncture points with needles and moxa has been shown to generate complex responses.
Needling causes distortions in chains of connective tissue throughout the body, which link different muscle groups, joints and organs. It also fires nerve endings that light up vastly different areas of the brain and spinal cord. Acupuncture causes an electrical distortion in the body’s electromagnetic field—you’re putting a metal needle into an ionic solution (the body), which immediately creates an electrical polarity. The micro-injury caused by needling and moxa heat is also a very powerful method of stimulating the immune system and cytokines (chemical messengers). Plus, with acupuncture needles you can physically loosen tight muscle and connective tissue to release restrictions and improve blood flow.
I think one of the challenges in studying acupuncture scientifically is that its methods do so much, all at once. One exact mechanism eludes us. That’s why, even though I have a very scientifically oriented mind, I still prefer the traditional Chinese and Japanese pre-scientific theoretical concepts. We still haven’t discovered a better way to describe the complex processes happening here.
P: What makes acupuncture unique compared to other modalities that work with the subtle energy of the body?
G: Acupuncture is old, people! Over 2,500 years old! Moxibustion, the practice of heating acupoints with the ember of dried mugwort, is even older. So even though acupuncture is dealing with complexities that resist the scientific method, it has withstood a very important test with its continued use over such a long period of time.
A good scientist remains open-minded to the things that science doesn’t yet have the tools to measure and explain. That applies to a lot of what happens in healing. But that doesn’t mean you have to be open-minded to everything. Innovation is good. It helps our medicine get better and better, but with a methodology that is mainly observational, you have to be careful not to be led astray.
For this reason, I approach change cautiously, and I gravitate toward Japanese acupuncture, which monitors feedback during the session. We’re always checking diagnostic qualities in the pulse, the abdomen or a symptomatic area for signs that our treatments are having the desired effect. Vetting my methods this way gives me confidence.
P: What are you feeling for before, during and after needling?
G: Patients like to ask me if I can “feel the energy,” and if you think of it like qi, the summation of complex processes, then the answer is absolutely yes. We rely on touch, smell, sight and sound to collect information about the patient—especially touch in Japanese acupuncture. If I have to wear a Band-Aid on just one finger, I feel like I have a hand tied behind my back—it affects what I can feel.
Before needling, I’m feeling diagnostically for areas of restriction, imbalance and dysfunction in the patient. This might be structural, as in certain muscle groups or vertebral bodies that are too tight, twisted or compressed. Often internal imbalances will also be represented by certain qualities in the pulse, on the tongue or in reflective zones of the abdomen and back. For example, cardiac problems often show up with specific tender points on the upper torso and back.
Next I’m feeling for an appropriate point location; there are traditional anatomical locations as well as certain qualities that identify a “live” point. Depending on the point, it might be a recessed area, a tight spot, a tender spot, thicker skin or connective tissue—qualities that indicate a more effective point. When I insert the needle, there is a feeling I seek that acupuncturists call the “arrival of qi”. To me it’s like a density on the end of the needle, like it’s connected well. Learning to recognize it is part of our craft.
After needling I will re-check the diagnostic signs to see if the acupuncture was successful at balancing the qi. If I did a good job there should be signs of improvement; if not, I might need another point, or a different one, or to add moxa, for example.
I’m also feeling the qi of the person as a whole. This is the intuitive part, synthesizing the input from all of my senses.
P: How do you cultivate the necessary skills?
G: I started studying acupuncture at the same time I started studying Aikido and Zen meditation. Like acupuncture, Aikido trains the various senses of the body to harmonize with another person’s qi. These practices help me to be more centered and attuned to my patients, and to myself.
An invaluable part of my training is a regular apprenticeship with the acupuncture master Kiiko Matsumoto. I spend at least two or three weeks a year shadowing her here and in Japan, taking in practical knowledge as well as the qi of her practice—the complex combination of qualities that allow her to be a dynamic, effective practitioner.
Taking my own health seriously is also a critical way that I stay attuned to the balance of qi in others. I believe in it, I live it! I work on my posture throughout the day and study how to move in a way that’s healthy and efficient. I try to eat in a way that’s balanced ecologically, that doesn’t do me harm and that fills me with vitality. I get outdoors and experience the natural world to help keep those areas of my consciousness and humanity alive. I meditate, do yoga and exercise a lot, and I try to play and have fun. Last but not least, I get regular acupuncture!
Bridge Acupuncture, located at 30 Garden Alley, in Doylestown, is a Legacy Advertising partner of Natural Awakenings of Bucks and Montgomery Counties. To schedule an appointment with Paolo Propato or Grace Rollins, call 215-348-8058 or visit BridgeAcupuncture.com. October 2016.
Three of Natural Awakenings’ resident nutritionists, Gina Forgione, Audrey Fleck and Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson, offer up these healthy, homey recipes to bring to your fall table.
Fall Bison Vegetable Stew
1 lb bison cubes
5-6 small Yukon Gold potatoes
6 carrots, chopped in coins
1 medium onion, diced
1, 28 oz can stewed tomatoes
¾ cup dried sprouted lentils
1 cup broth
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
Combine ingredients in pressure cooker. Cook for 20 minutes.
If using slow cooker, brown meat first in 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil with onions. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook on medium heat for 5-6 hours.
Tips: To cut back on carbs, use less potatoes and skip the lentils. Bison is available at Backyard Bison, in Coopersburg.
Courtesy of Audrey Fleck, Functional Origins. FunctionalOrigins.com.
Curry-Flavored Halloween Soup
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1 parsnip (substitute another carrot if not available)
1 sweet potato
1-2 tsp curry powder, to taste
Scrub and peel (if organic, you may skip this step for the carrots) carrots, sweet potato and parsnip.
Cut veggies into small chunks, especially the sweet potato, to cut down on cooking time. (Hint: Scrub and peel the sweet potato first and put it into the pot of water on a medium flame while assembling other items.)
Cook veggies until soft (20 minutes).
Cool slightly and add curry powder. Then use an immersion blender to puree the soup to a desired consistency.
Reheat to desired temperature and serve sprinkled with black sesame seeds or cooked wild rice for a Halloween black/orange effect.
Courtesy of Ellen Sue Spicer-Jacobson. Menupause.info.
Easy Paleo Pumpkin Butter
1 ½ cups canned organic pumpkin puree
¼ cup virgin coconut oil, melted
½ cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
3 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground ginger
¼ tsp ground cloves
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
1 ½ tsp sea salt
Place all of the ingredients in a food processor. Pulse a few times to combine. Spread over toasted sprouted whole grain bread, spread over our healthy pancakes or enjoy as a veggie dip.
Courtesy of Gina Forgione, In Balance Health Coaches. InBalanceHealthCoaches.com.
by Andrew Persky
Get your head on straight!” To most of us, this sounds like something parents tell their children in moments of desperation, but new research and modern imaging technologies are shedding light on the importance of proper alignment of the head and neck. Here are just a few reasons why it’s more than just a manner of speaking.
It’s about balance.
Although it might not feel like it, the average human head weighs nine to 17 pounds—roughly the weight of a bowling ball. Balancing our heads on top of our spines is comparable to balancing a bowling ball on top of a stick, yet our brains gracefully perform this task without any conscious effort. Two primary mechanisms are involved in this balance. First, the brain has a desire to maintain the eyes level with the horizon, a phenomenon known as the “righting reflex”. Second, physics requires that the body stay underneath the center of gravity of the head so that we don’t fall over. If the head is slightly off balance, the brain can distort the spine in order to bring the rest of the body underneath it. Maintaining this distorted posture can be an underlying cause of chronic pain in the neck, shoulders, lower back or hips.
It’s about flow.
A recent study published in the journal Neurology Research International highlights the importance of proper flow of blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) within the head and spinal cord, and how a misalignment between the base of the skull and the first bone in the neck (the upper cervical region) can impact that flow. Using fMRI imaging, doctors observed abnormal flow of CSF when upper cervical misalignments were present, and improvements in CSF flow following upper cervical treatment. The study also makes a connection between abnormal CSF flow and numerous neurological conditions.
It’s about optimal health.
Hippocrates was right when he said, “Look well to the spine for the cause of disease.” The spinal cord enables the brain to monitor and control virtually every bodily function. Burdened by the weight of the head, the spine is especially vulnerable at the top of the neck, close to the brain stem.
We are all well aware of how a major spinal cord injury can dramatically impact a person’s life, but only recently are we learning that more subtle misalignments of the head are also impacting health in myriad ways. Patient results and the experiences of public figures like former quarterback Jim McMahon and talk show host Montel Williams are showing that patients with chronic musculoskeletal pain or neurological conditions often experience profound improvements from upper cervical treatment.
Dr. Andrew Persky, DC, is founder of LifeAligned Upper Cervical Treatment Center, in Warrington. For more information, call 215-491-4200 or visit LifeAlignedHealth.com.
by Sarah Grey
Of 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.