Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Healthy and Green Disconnect

Green, eco-conscious expos and conferences seem to be popping up everywhere in recent months. Many of these events feature innovative, interesting products and services with an eye toward sustainability and conservation. Green proponents tout "completing the cycle", encouraging us not only to reuse and recycle but to purchase recycled and reclaimed products. Yet somehow in this greening process there is a gaping disconnect between what is green and its relationship to health and wellness.

At a recent green event on the east coast, we discovered that the only food offerings for vendors and attendees were pre-packaged snack food, pizza, ice cream, and candy. A national doughnut chain sold their products including doughnuts spelling out "G-O G-R-E-E-N", complete with fluorescent green icing. Seriously. A vendor across from us marketed their organic food home delivery company and yet the two company founders were clearly obese. Smokers stood outside during the show while others wandered through with cans of soda in hand.

People simply are not getting it. Yes, it is wonderful to bring your own bags to the supermarket and reduce the amount of plastic in landfills, but if you're stocking your reusable bags with processed, artificial foods not only are you NOT living sustainably (consider for a moment the amount of energy and resources that go into the packaging of processed foods alone), but you are missing half the cycle. Healing the planet is also about healing ourselves. We don't buy organic because it's trendy or just because it's "green", but because it is healthier for us and for the planet while also supporting a community of farmers who treat the earth with respect. We need to avoid toxins in our environment and on our foodstuffs, as well as in our bodies, to build a sustainable future.

It's about developing a holistic consciousness. Knowing that even the simplest choices matter - for our health, our family's health, and for the health of the planet. Green doesn't always mean healthy. A green building isn't truly going to support sustainability or health if you then fill it with furniture off gassing VOCs (volatile organic compounds) or electronic devices emitting high levels of radiation or EMFs. By the same token, stocking your pantry with "natural" and "organic" products wrapped in plastics or disposable packing fails to recognize how environmental waste and pollution undermines human health.

As Holistic Moms, we do "get it". We are not perfect. Our journey to living more healthfully and sustainably may be a long one. But we are on the path and understand the connection. As parents we have to get it for the sake of our children and their future. We need to put the healthy back into green!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Creating a Holistic Wellness Revolution

Revolution: [n] a sudden, complete, or marked change in something; a procedure or course, as if in a circuit, back to a starting point; a turning round or rotating.

When the Holistic Moms Network and Wellness Possibilities sat down to consider how we could collaborate, it became very clear to us that our synergy, our connectedness, our simple interaction represented nothing less than a Holistic Wellness Revolution. The founders of Wellness Possibilities shared with us a passion for helping others on their healing journey, for connecting people to resources for wellness, and a gratitude for doing something they believe in and support as a life purpose. Like the Holistic Moms Network, Wellness Possibilities was founded by moms. Moms who are personally, passionately involved in natural living. Moms who know the value of support and community.

Bringing together our organizations creates a revolution on many levels. It is a revolution as if the turning of a wheel, as we connect Holistic Moms members seeking natural resources with quality wellness providers who can help them on their journey to healing. And as the circle rotates, those same providers can assist their clients in finding support and community through Holistic Moms, giving them the self-confidence and empowerment to follow their healing instincts and to trust in their wellness journey.

But our collaboration is also a wellness revolution, creating a marked change in the way we see, experience, and understand health. It is a turning back to simpler, more natural ways of living and creating wellness that recognizes the body's ability to heal. A trust in the natural solutions that are available to us. And it is reclaiming our own wisdom and knowledge about healing - taking back our health in a radical transformation from a modern medical system that isolates and treats symptoms and idealizes specialists who disconnect body parts from the whole experience of living and being. It is revolutionary by starting in a place of connection and acknowledging the power of intangible things like energy, intention, and awareness. And it is revolutionary by building communities and connections, making individuals and their healers part of team that works together rather than creating an authority-subject relationship.

A Holistic Wellness Revolution is a fundamental shift in our philosophy - a radical departure from conventional thinking. We know that we cannot separate out physical health from emotional, psychological, or spiritual health. We understand that health and wellness are about connecting mind, body, and spirit and we see that parents are embracing this movement. By empowering parents through community support and wellness resources, we are helping them on their journey - building the momentum for a true paradigm shift. And we recognize that seemingly small baby steps combine to make for huge strides. Wellness is a journey that takes many paths but that starts with just one powerful step. As we step together, we begin the revolution. As Daisaku Ikeda, peace activist and Buddhist Leader once said, "A great revolution in just one single individual will help achieve a change in the destiny of a society and, further, will enable a change in the destiny of humankind." Join us!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Real Organic Milk

While every day is a great day to go organic, there are times when committing to a diet free of pesticides and other toxins is especially important - motherhood. From conception and well beyond, eating an organic diet may have a powerful impact on the health and well-being of mom and baby. Six months prior to conception through pregnancy, birth, and within the first two years of life marks the period of "heightened vulnerability to developmental abnormalities" according to an Organic Center report. During this time, what we eat and what products we are exposed to can have life-long impacts for our children and for ourselves.

Conventional fruits and vegetables found in your local supermarket is sprayed with pesticides and herbicides that cannot be removed by simple washing. Pesticides found on conventional produce make their way into the womb and into the blood of newborns, according to the Environmental Working Group's study Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns. The chemicals found in the blood of infants, as well as in their mothers, are linked to cancer, birth defects, developmental delays, and immune system issues. Additionally, a 1993 study in the Journal of Applied Nutrition demonstrated that organically grown fruits and vegetables have a higher nutritive content than those that are grown with traditional farming methods. Organically grown apples, wheat, sweet corn, potatoes and pears were examined over a two-year period and were shown to be 63% higher in calcium, 73% higher in iron, 118% higher in potassium, and 60% higher in zinc than their non-organic counterparts. The organic produce was also 29% lower in mercury.

Eating a nutrient-rich and non-toxic diet during pregnancy simply makes sense. And continuing a healthy lifestyle while nursing enriches the benefits for mom and baby. A 2007 British Journal of Nutrition study revealed that mothers who consumed organic milk and meat products positively affected the quality of their breastmilk by "markedly increasing beneficial fatty acids." Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is important for immune system development in infants, as well as having anti-carcinogenic and anti-diabetic properties.

Early exposure to toxins, such as endocrine distruptors, may also have long-term health impacts. Scientists are now studying the "developmental origins of adult disease", taking into consideration prenatal and neonatal exposure to environmental toxins. Several researchers have pointed to early exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides as a trigger for misprogramming metabolism and appetite, potentially contributing to escalating rates of obesity and diabetes among children.

Limiting our exposure to pesticides and harmful toxins is a healthy choice at any age, but one of monumental importance for the next generation. Whether planning a family, expecting, breastfeeding, or trying to raise healthier kids, resolving to lead a more organic lifestyle is a wise choice.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sleep Like a Man

I ventured into this motherhood journey nearly nine years ago and am certain that it has been that long since I have had a solid night of sleep. My first child was not a sleeper. Night wakings every hour and a half to two hours were the norm for more than a year, as was a 4:30 am wake up time. Any semblance of a nap ended by 18 months of age and I was one frazzled and weary mama. I knew then why sleep deprivation was used as a form of torture and began to understand the toll that little or inconsistent sleep can take on the body, particularly for mothers.

My second child is a great sleeper and even approaching the age of four, still relishes his two hour daily naps. He is happy to sleep in on the weekends with his dad who, remarkably, rarely understood my level of fatigue. As a co-sleeping family, I thought it impossible for him not to realize how many times our children woke during the night or how restless they were. We were, after all, in the same bed. Until recently, I thought something must be wrong with his hearing. But, as a recent study reveals, the only "issue" is that he is a man. According to the research, a crying baby is not even among the top ten sounds that disturb a man's sleep. Instead, male slumber is roused by car alarms, howling wind, and buzzing flies. Women, however, place the sound of a crying baby at the top of the list, with rowdiness and snoring ranking among the top ten.

Not surprisingly, at least to a parent, is the study's finding that 29 percent of adults report disturbed sleep five to seven nights a week, and 33 percent move to another room to get some shut eye. I would not be surprised if the researchers had set up hidden cameras in my home, as these behaviors are commonplace for us - still. For many of us, sleep deprivation takes a huge toll. Lack of sleep impacts not only our mood and patience, but can also make us more prone to illness, heart disease, depression, and hypertension, among others. "Lack of sleep disrupts every physiologic function in the body," said Eve Van Cauter of the University of Chicago, in the Washington Post. "We have nothing in our biology that allows us to adapt to this behavior."

Sleep is necessary to regenerate parts of the body, and particularly the brain. Lack of sleep can impact our language ability as well as our memory. Sleep deprivation can also impact our ability to think creatively, to problem solve, and to multitask. In other words, it actually affect our ability to parent.

"Sleep when your baby sleeps" is the usual recommendation, but this may be hard (if not impossible) for mothers who are juggling careers, other children, or a never-ending to-do list. There are some great resources out there to help you along the way, including several books by HMN Advisory Board member Elizabeth Pantley that address infant and toddler sleep issues. But what about racking up years of sleep deprivation? The good news is that you can recover. According to Rick Nauert, PhD, it may take weeks to recoup decades of lost rest but each eight hour restful night brings benefits and gains for mind and body.

Although I fantasize about sleeping like a man, I'm not holding my breath. Instead, I am counting patiently down to those teenage years when my kids want to sleep in and I can get some rest. I figure I'm going to need it - they'll be teenagers, after all!