In the Pink

In the Pink

Color therapy may help you step out of the shadows and into a healthier light.

by Susan Weiner, Energy Times, October 2010

It’s no coincidence that most fast-food restaurants are decorated with vivid reds and oranges. Market researchers know that these bright colors encourage diners to eat quickly and leave.

Using color to influence people is not new. Thousands of years before the rise of modern marketing, Egyptians, Greeks and Chinese routinely used colors to treat various emotional and physical maladies. In India, color therapy remains an integral part of Ayurvedic medicine, which describes the body as having seven main chakras or spiritual centers. Each chakra is associated with a color; imbalances result in ailments that can be corrected using different hues.

In the US, interest in therapeutic color developed during the 19th and 20th centuries, when professionals began publishing papers on the subject. Today, color therapy—also referred
to as chromotherapy, cromatherapy or colorology—is used by trained practitioners to promote health.

Living Colors

A testament to the influence of color may be that the mere mention of army green, robin egg blue, baby pink, tomato red and school bus yellow can elicit distinct imagery, memories and sensations. Colors have been found to enhance cognitive function and spark creativity. When 600 volunteers at the University of British Columbia performed tasks with words or images displayed against red, blue or neutral backgrounds, red was found to help people recall words and details, while blue sparked imagination and creativity (Science 2/27/09).

In public settings, color lighting can be used to manipulate behavior. In one study, researchers created lounges decorated in blue, red or yellow. While more people were drawn to the yellow and red rooms, guests lingered longer in the blue room. Red and yellow guests were more social, and although yellow guests consumed twice as much food, red guests reported feeling hungrier and thirstier than the others (Contract 12/1/07).

Color’s powerful effects come from the vibrations associated with different segments of the color spectrum. Seen naturally in rainbows or in light refracted through a prism, colors represent different wavelengths of light from red on one end through orange, yellow, green and blue to violet on the other end. Each color vibrates at a specific frequency; chromotherapists believe that the body’s tissues also vibrate at specific frequencies. They contend that color is like a vitamin: Just as a vitamin deficiency requires a nutritional boost, an increase in color can be used to treat symptoms of conditions such as depression, anxiety, panic attacks, sleep deprivation, stomach problems, addictions and allergies.

Rainbow Remedies

Color therapy is not currently regulated by one central credentialing agency. However, the International Association of Colour (IAC) in Cambridge, England (www.iac-colour.co.uk), a professional association for chromotherapy healers, is affiliated with various complementary health associations. “As far as I can tell, each school has its own requirements,” says Arlene Arnold, a certified color therapist in Vancouver, Washington. Her color therapy course incorporates in-person or online training, a two-day practicum, 15 documented free sessions, a final exam and three monitored sessions (www.ThePowerofColor.com). “Once I believe they really understand the program, then I’ll certify them,” she says.

Therapeutic color encompasses a number of techniques. “Some of the modalities include shining colored lights on a person, being in a room painted a particular color, wearing certain colored clothing, imaging colors shining upon you while sitting still, eating fruits and vegetables of certain colors and wearing color therapy glasses,” says Donna Reis, CNHP, Certified Chromatologist and founder of Color Vibration in Fort Worth, Texas (www.colorvibration.com).

An advisor to a school for autistic children, Reis counsels family members on the use of color. “With autism, it is very important to avoid the color orange, as it is very upsetting emotionally,” notes Reis. “Autistic individuals respond very well to the color blue, however. You can dress them in blue and paint their bedrooms blue, and blue sheets are helpful for good rest. Be sure to use a pale blue, not a deep, dark blue.” Reis suggests that caretakers of those with Alzheimer’s disease draw on the color yellow, saying, “If you paint the doors yellow, they won’t try to leave.”

There is more to the phrase “feeling blue” than meets the eye, since the color blue may exacerbate depression’s sadness. “Orange is a wonderful color to introduce; however, depression can stem from a traumatic issue, so those folks can’t handle the energy of orange,” Reis says. Instead, practitioners would diffuse medical-grade orange aromatherapy oil into the environment or apply yellow color therapy light to the lung area. “Our lungs are our grief center and yellow is the color of elimination,” Reis explains.

In addition to color healing therapies, different hues can be used architecturally in terms of “color ergonomics—the psycho-therapeutic effects of color in the environment,” says Frank Mahnke, president of the International Association of Color Consultants/Designers (www.iaccna.org). “The basic design consideration is to promote human welfare in the workplace, offices, industrial environments, educational facilities, healthcare environments, psychiatric facilities and residential design.”

When working with color, environmental designers consider four areas: psychological effects (mood reactions to different colors), neuropsychological aspects (how the brain processes and reacts to color), visual ergonomics (visual efficiency and comfort), and emotional effects (emotional reactions to color). “Therapy through color affects people every day, whether at work, regarding their health, learning or at home,” says Mahnke. “Although they are not designers, individuals can interpret for themselves the psychological affects or visual language of color and pay attention to the visual ergonomics.” On a practical level, this means taking such steps as painting your kitchen blue (or putting a blue light in your refrigerator) to curb your appetite or using orange in your home décor to lift your spirits.

Using the right colors just might make your life, well, more colorful—and contribute to your emotional and physical well-being.

October 15, 2010 Posted Under: Color Therapy, Energy Times   Read More

Organic Wine Comes of Age

Organic Wine Comes of Age

Organic Wine Comes of Age

by Susan Weiner, Energy Times, September 2010

Everyone seems to like the “organic” label when it comes to raisins and lettuce, but the mere mention of a well-balanced organic wine can silence even the most vociferous vinophile. Suspicious of the sweet taste and short shelf life of wines from the 1980s and 90s, the stigma associated with early organic wine still lingers, despite award-winning vintages routinely produced by environmentally friendly vintners.

“Things change slowly. Early perceptions don’t die quickly, especially the old hippie syndrome,” recalls Scott Smith, founder and winemaker at Four Chimneys Organic Winery in Himrod, New York.

“As the author of some of the early organic wines, I would say they were often ready to drink at bottling and be consumed within the first year. We didn’t have an aging program and an extensive barrel program that are typical today.” Wines mellow and become softer as they age, so barrels—which impart flavors such as vanilla and butter—have a profound effect on the resulting wine, affecting color, flavor, texture and tannin profile.

With two different certifications in the United States, wine labeled “Made From Organic Grapes” still contains small amounts of sulfur to help stabilize the wine and prevent it from oxidizing. An Organic label, according to the USDA’s National Organic Program rules, contains no added sulfites, which can trigger headaches and other allergic reactions. “The original problem came in when wineries wanted to be sure their wines didn’t lose character sitting on a retail shelf somewhere,” explains Smith. “To call a wine ‘organic wine’ it must not contain any detectable sulfites. Some reds I have tried have been quite good without sulfur dioxide added.”

Healthful and Red

Red wines come from an assortment of 50 grape varietals ranging from reddish to deep purple, and even blue on the color scale. During the fermentation process, the grape skins determine the hue of the wine. The skins also help create the “body-type,” which refers to the mouth-feel and tannin structure of the wine; the higher the tannin level, the more “pucker power,” as in a medium-bodied Merlot or a full-bodied Cabernet Franc. Higher-tannin wines also contain higher levels of resveratrol and polyphenols, antioxidants with myriad health benefits.

In addition to raising good (HDL) cholesterol levels, studies indicate that moderate amounts of wine prevent rogue molecules known as free radicals from causing damage on a cellular level. This helps improve cardiovascular health, reduce tumor incidence and aid in the formation of nerve cells, which may be helpful in the treatment of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

A growing body of worldwide research on the benefits of wine have prompted the World Health Organization, the US government and the American Heart Association to issue statements highlighting scientific findings that associate health benefits with moderate alcohol consumption, particularly red wine.

Compared with their conventionally grown counterparts, organic red wines have been found to have up to 30% higher levels of polyphenols, resveratrol and antioxidant activity. Contamination with mycotoxin, a toxin produced by a fungus, was up to three times higher in conventional varieties compared with organic wine, since the lower levels of nitrogen and higher levels of antioxidants in organic grapes tend to reduce fungal growth and protect fruit from mycotoxin-forming fungi (Journal of Wine Research 12/03).

When it comes to red wine, researchers at the University of California at Davis have concluded that the flavonoid favorite—a type of polyphenol—is Cabernet Sauvignon, followed closely by Petit Syrah and Pinot Noir. Sipped from an oval-shaped glass with adequate surface area for allowing the wine to breathe, one four-ounce glass of red wine a day for women and two glasses for men, served at room temperature, is a good bet for an overall health boost. (Research has shown that excessive alcohol consumption, including that of wine, may contribute to cancer; the American Cancer Society does not endorse alcohol intake and notes that anyone who has or had cancer should not drink.)

Pesticide-Free Whites

It’s one of the most vexing problems facing connoisseurs of food and drink: Which white wine to serve with what meat? Since food and wine pairing is a highly subjective process, forget the old rules—red wine with red meat and white wine with fish and poultry. Instead, consider the complexities of today’s multi-ethnic foods and opt for a white wine that enhances the flavor of the meal without overpowering it. And, since grapes are among the most pesticide-laden produce, an organic white wine is simply a healthier choice.

White wine lovers have an array of full-flavored varietals to choose from, including Gewurztraminer, Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Chablis and Sauvignon Blanc, although Chardonnay remains far and away the leading varietal wine in the US for the last decade, reports the Wine Institute (www.wineinstitute.org). Though it lacks resveratrol, white wine may be just as health-promoting as its red counterpart, offering similar cardio-protective benefits via its own strong antioxidants, tyrosol and hydroxytyrosol (also found in olive oil, a strong component of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet). Moreover, a study from the University at Buffalo showed that regular consumption of white wine resulted in better lung health (American Thoracic Society, 2002).

As more people choose to protect themselves and the environment from pesticide exposure through increased organic purchases, organic wine sales exceeded $161 million in 2009, a 7.5% jump from 2008 sales. “During these economic times, people may not eat out as much, but more people are preparing meals at home featuring organic wine and other organic ingredients,” says Barbara Haumann, spokesperson for the Organic Trade Association (OTA), a business association for the North American organic industry (www.ota.com).

Beyond Organic

Some wine producers take their farming process a step beyond organics, opting for a practice known as biodynamic farming, a set of techniques popular in Europe, notably France, for decades.

Working with lunar and other natural cycles, biodynamic farmers use natural predators instead of pesticides, use compost for fertilizer, save seeds and study the soil to determine which varietals will best express the vineyards. In contrast to organic wines, which can contain only 10 parts per million of naturally occurring sulfites, biodynamic wines may include added sulfites of up to 100 ppm.

“Biodynamics is not that far removed from organics. What matters more than anything is the ethical commitment to farming ecologically,” says Mike Biltonen, vice president of farm operations at Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, New York. Trained in transitioning farming towards greater sustainability, Biltonen holds a masters degree in pomology, the study of fruit trees, from Cornell University. “Organics is better for the planet, it’s better for the people who grow it. There’s an amazing amount of evidence that it’s more nutritious. That is based on the fact that when you apply chemicals, the plant doesn’t have to rely on its natural defenses.”

In tastings, organic wines consistently fare better than non-organic, yet organic wines are often overlooked on store shelves, reports a wine study from UCLA (Business & Society March 2010). “A lot of vineyards are organic, but they choose not to call themselves organic because some wine consumers consider it not as good,” says Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumer’s Association, a public interest organization (www.organicconsumers.org). Organic wine production, predicts Cummins, will continue to rise. “Made from organic grapes or straight organic wine is going to become the wave of the future.”

August 24, 2010 Posted Under: Energy Times, Environment, Wine   Read More

Protect Your Breasts

Protect Your Breasts

Protect Your Breasts
Dietary changes and regular exercise can help prevent breast cancer.

by Susan Weiner, Energy Times,  May 2010

Roughly 40,170 times a year, or nearly once every 13 minutes, an American woman dies of breast cancer. It is the most common malignancy among women except those affecting the skin. But while most skin cancers are non-lethal, breast cancer is the second leading cause of female cancer deaths.

The chance of developing invasive breast cancer at some time in a woman’s life is a little less than one in eight, according to the American Cancer Society (ACS). Last year, 62,280 new cases of carcinoma in situ (CIS, the non-invasive, earliest form) and 192,370 new cases of invasive breast cancer were diagnosed in American women. What many people don’t realize is that men aren’t spared. The ACS says that 1,910 new cases of invasive male breast cancer were diagnosed in 2009, with 440 deaths.

Ductal cancer, which affects cells lining the ducts that carry milk to the nipple, is the mostwidespread form. The other primary type, lobular cancer, develops in the milk-producing areas of the breast. These mutated cells can break away and move around the body to form secondary breast cancer.

The likelihood of disease development increases with age, since exposure to risk factors accumulates over time.

The good news is that breast cancer rates decreased by 2% a year between 1999 and 2006 (the last year for which comparative data is available). The ACS attributes this decrease to a drop in the use of synthetic hormone replacement during menopause.

Cancer Triggers

Genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors are all believed to play a role in cancer development. “Alcohol is definitely a key risk for breast cancer, particularly because it increases the levels of estrogen,” says Natalie Ledesma, MS, RD, CSO, oncology dietician with the Cancer Resource Center at the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Francisco (www.cancer.ucsf.edu). “What you eat and drink modulates the way your genes are expressed and that can influence the tendency to develop cancer.” The link between alcohol and breast cancer has been extensively documented. The Million Women Study, a seven-year British investigation, concluded that as many as 11% of breast cancers can be attributed to alcohol consumption (Journal of the National Cancer Institute 3/4/09).

Common chemicals in the home, garden and workplace act like estrogen in the body, a hormone linked directly to breast cancer. Your body probably contains a chemical called bisphenol A, or BPA, a synthetic estrogen used in everything from plastics to epoxies to the interior coating in many cans. More than 200 studies show links between low doses of BPA and cancer, according to the Breast Cancer Fund (www.breastcancerfund.org), a nonprofit environmental watchdog group.

Overweight women are more susceptible to breast cancer. Risk increases depending on how late in life weight gain occurs, with triple the probability of breast cancer if body mass index is at its maximum after age 50, according to a study in the Journal of Cancer Epidemiology (9/09). The research also found that smoking a pack of cigarettes a day for nine years increased breast cancer odds by 59%.

While having a mother or sister with breast cancer raises risk, only an estimated 5% to 10% of all breast cancers are hereditary. Particular genetic mutations are more common among certain geographic or ethnic groups, including people of Ashkenazi Jewish heritage and individuals of Dutch, Norwegian or Icelandic ancestry. “Most breast cancers are not due to strong hereditary factors,” explains medical geneticist Patricia Kelly, PhD, who has a cancer risk assessment practice in Berkeley, California. Breast cancer development is complex even if genetics isn’t involved; Kelly says that it takes about 15 different changes inside one cell to bring about a non-hereditary malignancy.

“If a woman has a relative diagnosed with breast cancer before age 50, or several relatives on one side of the family with breast, ovarian or other cancers, she may benefit from a visit to a genetic counselor who specializes in cancer risk assessment,” says Kelly, author of Assess Your True Risk of Breast Cancer (Holt). “Testing is available to detect some of the strongly inherited breast cancers.” The genes most commonly linked with cancer are BRCA-1 and BRCA-2; other genes that may play a role in disease development include ATM, P53 and P65.

Some researchers believe that up to one-third of all breast cancer case could be avoided through dietary and other lifestyle changes (Seventh European Breast Cancer Conference, Barcelona, 3/10). But it’s important to remember that while a healthy lifestyle can help reduce one’s risk of cancer, this disorder can affect anyone. Bob Riter first noticed the lump under his left nipple while reading in bed, absent-mindedly scratching his chest. The growth, about the size of a pencil eraser, didn’t alarm him; he simply filed a mental note to discuss the matter with his healthcare provider and fell asleep. Three weeks later, while driving home from work, Riter felt wetness on his chest, looked down and saw blood on his white shirt. His nipple was bleeding.

A biopsy confirmed that Riter had breast cancer. He was 40 years old, in good health, an avid exerciser and had no history of breast cancer in his family. “I knew in theory that men got breast cancer,” says Riter, associate director of the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes in Ithaca, New York (www.crcfl.net), a nonprofit that helps people deal with the ramifications of cancer diagnosis and treatment. “It was like knowing in theory that you could get hit by an asteroid.”

Detection Toolbox

For a woman, a breast cancer diagnosis can be emotionally devastating. “There are a lot of psychosocial issues around breasts. The disease, in so many ways, is so related to being a woman,” says Eliot Edwards, ND, at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) Midwestern Regional Medical Center in Zion, Illinois (www.cancercenter.com/midwestern-hospital.cfm). “It’s potentially a deadly disease and the treatments are invasive.” Finding cancer early can help improve a woman’s chance of saving the affected breast.

Small breast cancers, the most treatable kind, typically produce no symptoms. That makes detection difficult without the proper diagnostic tools. ACS guidelines for early detection include mammography and the clinical breast exam (CBE), in which the practitioner carefully palpitates (feels) the breast. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), in which a magnetic field is used to create images of body structures, is also suggested for women at increased breast cancer risk.

During a mammogram, X-rays are used to provide a picture of the breast’s internal structure; its proponents say that mammography can show abnormal tissue changes before they can be found by any other method. In November 2009, the US Preventive Services Task Force released new recommendations suggesting that women begin routine mammogram screenings at age 50, as opposed to age 40, a long-recommended guideline. Additionally, the group advised mammograms every two years, as opposed to annually, and discouraged women from conducting self-breast exams.

While the new recommendations were intended to limit radiation exposure, they instead created debate and uproar in the medical community. To date the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, along with the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, still recommend yearly mammograms beginning at age 40, in addition to self-breast exams.

“Any exposure to radiation has a potential risk, but mammograms have been an effective tool in identifying cancers,” says Edwards. “Patient risk factors, such as family history, smoking or if they’ve been diagnosed with other cancers, increases the necessity of mammograms. I’m still in the camp that, until we have better methods of detection, that is the method that we have right now.” Research continues into mammography’s usefulness. For example, one Danish study suggests that it may not improve overall cancer survival rates (British Medical Journal 3/24/10 online).

Some practitioners recommend thermography (also known as digital infrared imaging, or DII) as an alternative. This method measures differences in temperature within the breast; it is based on the idea that cancer cells are more metabolically active and require increased blood flow, which makes malignant areas warmer than the surrounding tissue.

Lifestyle Support

To ward off the chances of developing breast cancer, Edwards stresses lifestyle changes that incorporate nutritional support and exercise. “Clearly, anything we do that causes oxidative damage to the body—drinking, smoking, eating trans fats, not exercising—are factors,” he says. “Exercise is the best way to detoxify your body. It will lower body fat and lower estrogen production.”

Women who consume more fiber and less fat have lower levels of estrogen in their bodies. Ledesma advocates a vegetarian-based diet of beans, legumes, whole grains and plant-based foods. “Use animal protein as a condiment as opposed to up to 50% or more of a meal,” she says. “Load up with cancer-fighting phytonutrients to help inactivate carcinogens and nourish and detoxify the body. There’s no real room for processed and fast foods in a healthy, cancer-fighting diet.”

“From a naturopathic perspective, it’s about how well our bodies are metabolizing those estrogens,” explains Edwards. “One of the main things to prevent cancers in general is to support the body in its ability to detoxify.” Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and cabbage contain diindolmethane, or DIM, a plant compound (available in supplement form) that helps the body effectively eliminate hormones. Freshly ground flax seed, high in cancer-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, can also aid in estrogen metabolism.

“The two big anti-cancer herbs that we use are green tea extract and curcumin, the principal curcuminoid of the Indian spice turmeric,” says Edwards. Studies show that curcumin can block estrogen-mimicking chemicals from getting into cells, while regular consumption of green tea may reduce a woman’s risk of breast cancer by about 12% (Journal of Nutrition 2/09).

With death rates from breast cancer on the decline, it seems that increased awareness, earlier detection, effective screenings and lifestyle changes are paying off. So eat a healthy, balanced diet rich in vegetables, take long walks, use natural cleaners and get screened. Your breasts will thank you.

May 31, 2010 Posted Under: Cancer, Energy Times   Read More