Archive for Natural Health

Expo West – Exploring the World of “Natural” Products by Julie Gengo

Expo West is the premiere showcase for the natural food products industry. Included in that mix are nutraceuticals (natural supplements whose ingredients are derived from food), bottled healthy beverages such as coconut waters, bio-degradable dental products, clean candy, supplements disguised as candy, safe cleaning products, non-toxic cosmetics, spa products, organic beer and wine (my favorite), natural candles and more food that you can sample in one day. It is truly overwhelming and endless. In the three days of the event it is probably impossible to visit every booth. I’ve never done it. Approximately 56,000 people attended this year and I’m sure all walked away with a few handfuls of samples.

I strolled down the isles with my daughter Blu on the first day and on day two, Mike D’Ascanio – founder and CEO of – whom I assist in outreach and business development. Bringing kids to this event is not uncommon and some of the youth-oriented vendors actually appreciate their feedback. My daughter freely gave her opinion and also managed to get samples that were only supposed to be for retailers. One of her best captures was a very “stylie” SIGG bottle. Yes they are now BPA free and the company is back on track to getting citizens off of the notion the water in plastic bottles is a safe and a healthy way of drinking water. If you want more information on water in plastic bottles I recommend seeing the documentary film, Tapped.

One of the coolest things about Expo West is seeing how many reusable bags you can collect. My daughter managed to get the coolest one from a company called Blue Q who makes reusable bags completely from recycled content. So that’s nothing new but these bags really stand out due to their artistic designs and integrity. They actually pay artists to do their thing. Imagine that? They also gave us a “Free Hugs” coin purse and we love that too!

While some of the companies are massive and you can tell by the size of their displays, location and how much food they serve, others are relatively new to the business and their stories are impressive. Better Life, a green cleaning products company, who began on the notion that cleaning products need to be safe for the environment, safe for the consumer and performance oriented. The co-founders and their families were tired of cleaning up after the mess left behind after cleaning up using conventional cleaners. They hired a chemist and stuck to the motto “Clean Happens” and made it happen.

Right across the isle was seasoned eco-hipster-way-of-life cleaning product line, Method. Their message: “Method Creates Products For People Against Dirty is not only catchy but proves that sustainability can also be “cool” (my favorite word in this blog post). Their new laundry detergent line is so cool from a design perspective that it fits right in with their primary retail outlet – Target’s – new fashion and decor addition, Liberty of London. Visit their website and be entertained with retro-pop jazz music against a colorful animation of their Cradle to Cradle approach to bottle, product and formula design. The liquid laundry detergent is not only non-toxic but also uses 36% less plastic than a conventional product offering the same amount of washes – 50 loads in the size of a soda bottle. This highly concentrated stuff really works. Thanks to a sample packet I just did a load and I’m loving the results.

One the food front, a few companies were in the running for the best hot food samples of the show. My all time favorite has to be Tasty Bites, who hires a chef to cook up some of the best Indian dishes that are premade. I’m hoping that the owner Ashok Vasudevan reads this and sends me a case of everything.

Coming up in a close second is WorldCatch — sustainable, wild-caught seafood dishes that are also ready made. Just heat and serve. Simply Yum!

For cold food, I couldn’t get enough of the hummus and chips made by Falafel Chips an organic chip company that make the best Falafel chips ever – bar none. Their hummus in a bottle, that can be used as a dressing or dip, is to die for. I hope these products find more outlets soon and I hope that the owner reads this and also sends me a case of everything. I want my hummus in a bottle….

We were also fond of a company called Nest Collective which is actually comprised of two companies that are here for the organic greater good of babies and students everywhere. Plum Organics is the leading brand of packaged organic baby food which comes in containers that are BPA free and contains no icky stuff. Revolution Foods is dedicated to changing the way our kids are eating at school. By supplying schools with natural and organic food choices, children will have better chances of avoiding obesity and staying healthy and smart. This is definitely a much needed revolution.

Another wonderful story comes from the owners of H2OM Water – pegged as “Water With Intention.” This wife and husband team had a revelation on their honeymoon to provide pure water with an exceptional message of peace, love, perfect health, prosperity, gratitude, will power and joy. Okay sounds like your typical hippie-yoga water. However, you may be surprised that this water has an eco-conscious footprint as well. It comes in plastic bottles but these bottles are made from 100% post consumer recycled plastic (R-PET) and the plastic is considered safe. That means no leaching. The water is award-winning and comes from one of the purest sources – the San Diego Mountains – a protected part of the 420,000 acre Cleveland National Forest.

Explorer’s Bounty is also a relatively new company on a mission to bring the finest organic food products to market and support organic farming practices around the globe. Some of their products include organic chocolate covered macadamia and other nuts and a variety of organic and shade grown coffees and teas, dried fruit and delicious and nutritious crackers. They even had a project to the visitors to their booth. We were given a bamboo dog stuffing kit complete with organic cotton and organic tote backpack to keep the pup happy. Great marketing for a wonderful company.

Well registration is already up for the 2011 Expo West and if you are a retailer, wellness practitioner or journalist the admission is free if you register in advance. I’m still recovering but it’s definitely worth the trek and nice to be in the company of so many like-minded individuals in one place at one time. Did I mention the food?

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Ayurvedic Tips in Time for Seasonal Changes

My wonderful friend Jutta Hecht has offered these wonderful Ayurvedic inspired tips just in time for the Netti potchange of season. Ayurveda, which translates into “life science” is an ancient form of traditional Indian medicine which focuses on prevention as medicine. However foreign this may sound, some of these practices are being adopted into our western world more frequently. For instance, the number 2 suggestion is something that I do daily. I use a netti pot or nasal pot which looks like a genie lantern. Simply fill it with warm water and a pinch of sea salt and let it run through each nostril. It’s simple and effective in preventing viruses from proliferating.

“At any change of season, when the weather quality and temperatures are fluctuating, the body is more prone to imbalanced fire. It is very important to strengthen the digestive fire (Agni) and doing some detoxification to remove accumulated toxins (Ama) to stay healthy.

From September – October we experience an Accumulation and Aggravation of Vata. We are at the end of a dry summer (Vata aggravating) and beginning of Fall, when the Air element is predominant. (Vata aggravating).

You might experience more dryness in your skin, sleep problems, nervousness, changing appetite, being more emotional, cracking bones, arthritis and catching colds more easily.
Tips for the Change of Season

After awakening drink a cup of warm water.
After brushing your teeth, apply Nasya (Oiliation of your nose). This helps to prevent colds, allergies and sinus infections.
Prepare Coriander/Fennel/Cumin tea and drink it warm throughout the day. These herbs cleanse the channels, kidney and liver and increase alertness and wakefulness.
Don’t skip meals, and focus on warm and nourishing foods.
Strenghten your digestive fire by taking Hingvastak (An Ayurvedic Preparation) before meals.
Boost your immune system with Amalaki (An Ayurvedic Herb, very high in natural Vitamin C) and Ashwagandha (Strengthens the nervous system and stamina).ayurveda_1
Apply Vata Oil or Sesame Oil, especially on your neck, shoulders, arms and chest before going to bed.
Take Triphala before you go to bed. This famous Ayurvedic remedy very gently detoxifies the body and rejuvenates the digestive system.
When you feel a cold coming on, immediately take Colloidal Silver or Sitopaladi.
Have regular Oil Abhyangas (Individualized Hot Oil Treatments) to keep Vata pacified.
Be happy and grateful for all your blessings!”

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Organic Pesticides for Home and School that Double as Aromatherapy

Organic Pesticides for Home and School that Double as Aromatherapy

If you haven’t heard by now or are not aware of the fact that pesticides are toxic, you are either living under a rock or in outer space. Although hibernating at times is essential wherever that place may be, when you do surface you probably aren’t spending too much time thinking about pesticides as you travel throughout your day. After all, we do live in a country (United States) that is suppose to protect us from any harmful effects that we might experience due to pesticide exposure. 2009-07-12-kids-playing-in-overgrown-grass-17Well, unfortunately the EPA is doing a lousy job at setting and enforcing regulation that serves our society’s best interest. What is most disturbing is that there are no mandates only recommendations, that protect school children, a segment of our population that is most vulnerable to environmental toxins.

Based on research information provided by the non-profits: Beyond Pesticides and Healthy Child Healthy World, EcoSMART – a leader in organic pest control products concluded that “Pesticide exposure can adversely affect a child’s neurological, respiratory, immune, and endocrine systems, and have been shown to cause or exacerbate asthma symptoms. Studies show that children living in households where pesticides are used suffer elevated rates of asthma, leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma. Because most of the symptoms of pesticide exposure, from respiratory distress to difficulty in concentration, are common in school children and may also have other causes, pesticide-related illnesses often go unrecognized and unreported.”images

This link will direct you to a chart breaking down each chemical found in pesticides and what part of the body it affects the most: health-enviro-print

Beyond Pesicides also reported that: “A 2005 study published in the Journal of American Medical Association finds that students and school employees are being poisoned by pesticide use at schools and from drift off of neighboring farmlands; the study authors noted the lack of protection for school children and employees under federal law, pointing out that state laws provide some protection but are varied, thus leaving large gaps.” Another disturbing point is that The Poison Control Center has documented 2,300 school pesticide exposures from 1993-96. That was over ten years ago.

The good thing is is that you do have choices and you can make a difference. safe_home_bundleEcoSmart maker of a line of organic pest control products both for home and commercial use is an excellent option when choosing an alternative. These products are not only safe to use but also smell incredibly delightful so much so that they block out any foul odor lingering about. They wreak of winter-mint and other natural scents that have pleasing effects. Can you recall any bug spray that you could actually hang out in a room with immediately after using?

The most important thing is that they work incredibly well. My ants are gone and have stayed away for weeks. My flies have flown away and haven’t come back and my family including my pets aren’t pissed off at me. My potted outdoor plants are also thanking me as the fungus has gone and they are thriving.

The other thing that I am doing is addressing this issue with my school board in hopes that they will make the switch to only using organic pesticides. My advice is to take action. Go to your school district and express your voice or if you don’t have kids, buy products for your home and garden that are natural and organic. Chances are there are children living near by.

Stay Healthy, Live Green
Julie Gengo

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Natural Solutions to Toxic Build Up – Cleaning Supplies You Can Live With

Natural Solutions to Toxic Build Up – Cleaning Supplies You Can Live With
By Julie Gengo

Natural Cleaning Supplies That You Can Make

Natural Cleaning Supplies That You Can Make

Toxins, toxins, toxins. We often hear about the abundance of toxins in our environment, chemical cleaners and solutions, food supply and beauty products. These superfluous and perhaps unwarranted chemicals may be the reason why so many of us are experiencing wellness issues. Avoiding these toxins can be complicated and confusing since many are hidden, not well tested or not tested at all. As a result they are allowed into our lives with inaccurate or no information on their safety.

When toxins enter your body they find their way into your blood stream and end up in your liver. Your liver is designed to cleanse the body of unnecessary elements including toxins. However, with an overload of toxins, the liver can get clogged affecting bodily functions, including cholesterol levels, in a negative way. Other symptoms can be in the form of physical and mental fatigue, rashes and other allergy symptoms, loss of concentration, premature aging, insomnia and lowered immune system to name a few.

Unfortunately the cells absorb some toxins bypassing the liver all together. This process can damage and change your DNA leading to serious diseases including cancer.

One thing you can do to eliminate toxins in your body is to detoxify. However you are still going to want to incorporate preventative measures into your life to eliminate the toxins that you at least have control over. A simple way to avoid toxins in the home and office is to use environmentally friendly (free of harsh chemicals) cleaning products. One way to reduce costs and use these products is to make your own.

Below are recipes that you can make using simple ingredients.

2 cups hot water
1 tsp. biodegradable liquid soap or borax
1 tsp. white vinegar or lemon juice (to cut grease)

Fill spray bottle with hot water. Add soap and vinegar or lemon juice. Shake bottle gently to dissolve ingredients.

2 cups hot water
1 tsp. borax
3 tbsp. White vinegar

Fill spray bottle with all three ingredients and shake for 30 seconds. Keep bottle in shower and mist shower wall and door/curtain after each use. Helps prevent mold and mildew from developing.

1 cup water
1/8 cup white vinegar

Fill bottle with both ingredients and shake for 30 seconds. Use on all types of glass surfaces including mirrors.

½ cup baking soda
Enough biodegradable liquid soap to make a frosting-like consistency
5-10 drops fragrant essential oil

Place baking soda in a bowl and slowly pour in liquid soap, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches the consistency of frosting. Add drops of essential oil (optional). Scoop the mixture onto a sponge, wash surface and rinse.

¼ cup baking soda
1 cup vinegar

Sprinkle baking soda into toilet basin followed by the vinegar. Allow mixture to sit for several minutes. Scrub with brush and rinse with water. A mixture of borax (2 parts) and lemon juice (1 part) will also work.

One tip: Try to use empty and clean spray bottles (previously filled with other ingredients) that you may have around the house to encourage the reuse of these items.

These recipes are courtesy of the Solana Center for Environmental Innovation. You may want to make a small donation and request that the Center send you the set of the colorful sticky labels, complete with recipes, so that you can easily identify your spray bottles and have the recipes at hand for refilling.

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A Thought on Food and Pollution

By Julie Gengo

While planting out own veggies or buying from farmers markets are excellent ways to help reduce our carbon footprint, going green with food should also refer to the food itself. Polluting our own bodies with unhealthy choices and food that contains more non-food items than food items is one way that we can take care of our inner selves so that we can have the brain capacity to deal with the outside world…..just a thought.

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Your Year of Vibrant Health

This is a story I wrote in January encouraging readers to become proactive and green with their health.

By Julie Gengo, HealthWalk™ Marketing Coordinator

little girl holding small plant

As we move into the New Year, many of us have set certain goals or requirements upon ourselves in the form of resolutions. However, our commitment to our resolutions often fades quickly and we are once again living or finding ourselves in situations that do not suit us. My yoga practice tells me how to plant the seed, root it down and nourish it when I want to accomplish a goal. It is important to uncover the root cause of our choices. Understanding why we make our choices helps us to determine why we haven’t been able to break old patterns.

Why are we really eating that piece of cake before bedtime? What are the feelings associated with this not so healthy choice? If we first tap into the sensation that triggers our initial choice, then we can make conscious decisions that allow us to live up to our highest self.

If you choose yoga as a means to take care of your physical self, it is important to connect to the root feeling which will dictate how you approach your yoga practice on any particular day. When we pinpoint this Bhava or intrinsic nature of the self, we can then allow our practice to unfold in a beneficial way. According to yoga master, Shiva Rea: “Bhava is a deep yogic concept that extends to all of life as the feeling state of being, sometimes translated as mood, that forms the inner soil from which all yoga experience arises”. The first step to creating lasting change is to apply this concept to anything we undertake.

Yoga has taught me some essential lessons about how to live a more integrated wholesome life. The true state of yoga is the balance of self. Balancing ourselves takes into account all aspects of how we flow as humans. One of the most important aspects of self is the health of our outer and inner body.

The Buddha said: “Every human being is the author of his health or disease”. We are given a package to house our souls, investing in our bodies is the best commitment we can make today.

Aliyah Marr, author of Parallel Mind, The Art of Creativity makes a very poignant statement in her book: “If you have a choice of living for twenty to thirty more years in disease, disability or pain, or living those years in health and pleasure, which option would you choose? Would you make the necessary change in your habits to achieve your goal? Change your habits and alter the course of your life.”

For many, creating a path to change habits that may increase the risk of disease is a daunting process. Taking measures to reverse already acquired chronic illness can also lead you in circles, especially if you chose an allopathic path that only addresses the symptoms. At HealthWalk, our holistic approach to achieving wellness goals allows our practitioners to find out what is causing the symptoms by analyzing the root cause. We can also set you on a path of prevention that empowers you to lead a healthy, vibrant life and will save you money in the long run.

It is predicted that healthcare spending in the United States will top $2.8 trillion by 2011 with the cost of prescription drugs reaching all time highs. Statistics are showing that the average American, aged 19 to 64, is now on taking close to 11 prescription drugs, and to get to the average life expectancy age of 72 that number increases to 18 prescription drugs. What is even more shocking is that in 2008, in the first three months of the year, the FDA received nearly 21,000 reports of serious drug reactions, including over 4,800 deaths. Does this sound like a safe and cost effective option to you? Is this really the way you want to live?

In this New Year, instead of making another resolution that will not last, why not make a commitment to a life-altering decision that will create a perfect place of being – a wholesome and healthful lifestyle for the rest of your life? Choose to live mindfully and be proactive about your wellbeing so you can live your life in health and pleasure.

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Genetically Modified (GM) Foods – Another Reason to Buy Organic

Genetically modified corn food concept with hypodermic needle

By Julie Gengo, HealthWalk™ Marketing Coordinator

I remember watching a PBS documentary in 2001 called Harvest of Fear. This 2-hour special on genetically-modified (GM) foods thoroughly presented potential dangers to this planet and its inhabitants alike when and if these crops were allowed to grow in abundance. After seeing this, I was certain that our government and its agencies (FDA, USDA, EPA, Dept. of Agriculture) would prohibit rapid expansion and provide adequate testing of each new item. I also thought that if Americans knew of these dangers that we would follow our European counter parts in banning GM crops and banning together to not allow ‘Frankenfoods’ into our food chain.

As it turns out, most people didn’t see this documentary, in fact eight years later, many people are not aware of what a genetically modified organism (GMO) is; what foods are involved in this technology; and how harmful it is to the planet and our bodies. Since this documentary aired, within the U.S., 81-86%of all corn, 88-90% of all soybean and 81-93% of all upland cotton are GM crops. That is an astounding amount considering what we now know about the ramifications to the environment and the negative health effects these crops have posed. In addition to soybeans, cotton and corn, rice, sugar beets, canola, and potatoes are also among the predominant GM crop planted in the U.S. and Canada.

What are GMOs and GM Foods?

From Wikipedia: “a genetically modified organism (GMO) or genetically engineered organism (GEO) is an organism whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.” The environmental organization, Environmental Commons explains, “genetic engineering is a process whereby genes from one organism are moved into the genome of another organism. In the case of genetically engineered foods, genes from bacteria or other plants or other organisms are moved into crop varieties with the assistance of a viral vector. This provides herbicide-tolerance and/or insect resistance to existing domesticated plant varieties. In many cases, biotechnology breaks down natural species boundaries. The genes inserted cannot be removed and thus become released into the environment during the pollination process.”

In other words, the DNA within seeds is spliced and inserted with other genes that serve a specific purpose. For instance, a common gene used is the family of toxin proteins derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is resistant to glyphosphate (a pesticide more commonly known as Roundup made by Monsanto). This gene creates a plant that is ‘Roundup Ready’ or Roundup resistant. When the pesticide is sprayed on the plant, the plant is unscathed however the surrounding weeds die thus reducing production costs and creating higher yields. In theory, the use of this pesticide would diminish, as the plant would also have a natural ability to fight off the insects.

Invasion of Superweeds, Superbugs and Superbacteria:

Unfortunately what was predicted back in the early days of GM experimentation failed to materialize. Weeds have become superweeds. Due to unavoidable cross-pollination, these weeds have absorbed the same GM genes also becoming resistant to Roundup.

Because of these superweeds, the use of pesticides has actually gone up so much so that in the United States critics suggest that the regulatory agency that monitors for effects on the quality of life due to pesticide use has lost its power to test for levels of pesticides in foods, damage to the environment and to the public. This regulation was quietly removed from the Department of Agriculture’s jurisdiction in 2008 for so-called budgetary reasons. According to an article posted in the Chicago Times: “The Bush administration has abruptly halted a government program that tests the levels of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and field crops, arguing that the $8 million-a-year program is too expensive — a decision critics say could make it harder to protect consumers from chemicals in their food. Data from the 18-year-old Agricultural Chemical Usage Program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture were collected until this year, and the Environmental Protection Agency used the data to set safe levels of pesticides in food.”

Insects and bacteria have also become super-resistant requiring a significant increase in the amounts of insecticides into the environment and into our bodies.

What Foods Contain GM Ingredients?

Major brands such as Nabisco®, Frito-Lay®, Proctor & Gamble, and Kraft® are using genetically engineered byproducts. In fact, most major brands including private label brands of bread, crackers, cereals, canned soups or frozen dinners contain GM ingredients. And to protect the chemical companies that create these foods, the U.S. government has allowed genetically modified organisms to be released into our food supply without adequate labeling or testing.

GM and GMO Testing and Regulation:

A report prepared by Brian Tokar for the Institute for Social Ecology Biotechnology Project in June 2006 finds that “no federal laws have been passed to specifically regulate genetically-engineered crops. Since 1986, responsibility for GE foods and crops has been divided among three federal agencies (USDA-APHIS, EPA, FDA), based upon preexisting statutes.” These statues are antiquated and offer no regulation for protection or scrutiny to the public and environment.

GM Food Safety

What is most astonishing from Toker’s report is that “GE crops are only subject to “voluntary consultations” with companies who choose to consult with the agency about their products. Because the consultations are voluntary, FDA does not specify a required list of studies or test methods, but instead accepts superficial in-house summaries of whatever testing the company has chosen to do. FDA requests for additional data sometimes go unfulfilled.”

In essence, we humans have been the testing sites or guinea pigs for Frankenfoods. Since introduction of GMOs into the marketplace in 1996, numerous studies have since shown significant negative and toxic effects of ingesting GM ingredients as well as being exposed to increased amounts of pesticides, herbicides and insecticides.

In a 2001 article entitled: “Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients – Health Concerns & GMO Food; genetically modified” by Jule Klotter, one of the most common problems is newly developed allergins to foods once deemed low on the allergy list. The FDA has concluded: “Genetic engineering may transfer new and unidentified proteins from one food into another, triggering allergic reactions. Millions of Americans who are sensitive to allergens will have no way of identifying or protecting themselves from offending foods. Allergic reactions can cause more than simple discomfort — they can result in life-threatening anaphylactic shock.” As an example, Trypsin-inhibitor, a major allergen with anti-nutritional effects, was 26.7% higher in Monsanto’s RR soybeans. The York Nutritional Laboratory, which specializes in food sensitivity, reported a 50% increase in soy allergies in 1999-2000.

Klotter also discloses that soybeans aren’t the only problem as scientists have also found that genetically-engineered potatoes have caused “significant damage” to rats among other genetically-engineered food crops.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has published a comprehensive pamphlet, Unintended GMO Health Risks, which sums up the reasons why we should avoid GM foods: They have been linked to thousands of toxic and allergenic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile, and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system studied in lab animals.” The guide briefly outlines information on allergic reactions to GM foods as well as liver and reproductive problems, sterility, disease, death and even infant mortality linked to GMO consumption.

The evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of reducing and eliminating GM foods from your diet. The good news is that organic foods do not contain GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides and other toxic elements that are proven to harm the body.

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