Holistic Health Expo in St. Petersburg showcases alternative medicine
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03/15/10 Joshua Lee Holton
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As Americans struggle to get essential health services many people are now looking to alternative approaches to pair with preventative care. Last Saturday, there was a Holistic Health Expo at First Unity Church in St. Petersburg where nearly a hundred people sought to look at their health on a deeper level.

Hand drummers, massage therapists, fruit smoothie makers and alternative-health businesses brought together the holistic health community last weekend. Vendors set up massage tables and played music out in the sunshine. Kate Stewart is with DrumQuest, a group that uses drumming as a way to promote wellness.

What drumming does is, it helps you get out of your head, and helps you come straight from your heart. And so you just start to open up your heart, and you find that inner joy that you sometimes forget when you’re plodding along on your day-to-day life, and you’ve got bills to pay, and you’ve got to go to work, and all these other things that you’ve got going on. It allows you to access that part of you that knows it really is all OK. And it really just—all the cares and the stress drops off. And it’s interacting with each other; it’s using your body in the physical exercise; it’s the spiritual component of empowerment that comes through when you’re drumming. Because you can do it, and you’re excited, and you can have synergy and synchronicity with all the people around you.

Chinese culture calls the energy that flows through the air qi, which literally translates as air, not dissimilar from the Latin root for spirit, spiritus, which also means air, or breathing. Mati Vizcaino practices qi gong, an ancient Chinese practice that seeks to enhance health and well-being through controlled breathing and bodily movements.

Well, qi gong is a very ancient practice. Most people know what tai chi is, which is about 800 years old, but qi gong is about 3,000-year-old practice. And the “qi” is energy, and “gong” is movement. So it’s a movement of energy through beautiful, graceful movement, breath, intention and mind focus.

Juli Steinocher promotes a practice called Emotional Freedom Technique, which she says can remove subconscious blocks in the mind that adversely affect physical health.

The subconscious mind is always looking to try to keep us safe—and the amygdala, in particular part of the brain, is looking to keep us safe. And before we’re even consciously aware of it, we’re already responding to some situation that is reminding us of what’s happened to us in the past. And we’re not conscious of it. So we tend to be—we spend 90 percent of our day in program—in a subconscious mode. We’re not even aware of what we’re being driven by.

While many people cope with auto-immune disorders and serious conditions, the vendors also promote a balanced combination of healthy eating and vitamin supplements. Eli Camp is the treasurer for the Florida Naturopathic Physicians Association, an organization of alternative-health physicians that treat disease and illness using natural remedies, foods and lifestyle changes.

Well, we really look at what causes illness: poor lifestyle, poor food choices, are you getting the right types of supplements, right? There’s all kinds of things: How do you deal with stress in your life? What’s the genetics of the situation? We’re trying to find the cause of illness. And then, fixing the cause of illness restores health.

And while most doctors would recommend prescription drugs for certain diseases or deficiencies, Camp says naturopathic doctors look to natural remedies.

If you have someone, let’s say, for instance, who is vitamin D deficient, and they’re being given a pharmaceutical for symptoms that are really because of a vitamin D deficiency—well then, in that case, by taking the vitamin D, the symptoms can go away. They would not necessarily need the pharmaceutical for those symptoms. But that has to be evaluated on an individual basis.

Many of the nutrients that the body needs come from herbs that can be grown at home, or bought from a local garden shop. Deserie Valloreo sells herbal remedies that she also teaches people how to make on their own.

Well, they’re nontoxic—for the most part, though there are poisonous herbs, of course. They’re all natural, very gentle; they can be used in many different forms. You can make herbal remedies yourself. I actually teach workshops on making your own herbal remedies, so you can save money. You also—it’s better for the environment if you’re avoiding all that excess packaging by going and buying it at the store. So there are many, many reasons.

The first step for getting the right vitamins and minerals in the body is to eat a balanced diet. Katrina Morales works with local grocery store Rollin’ Oats, and says that eating healthy is important not just to the body but also to the mind and spirit.

It’s best really to shop seasonally and to shop for as much organic, local produce as possible; keep your ingredients as clean as possible. The shorter the ingredient list, the better. Stay away from hydrogenated oils, trans fat, high-fructose corn syrup, the usual things. Really, just look for wholesome, natural foods. That’s going to be your best bet.

Much of the local produce people buy comes from supermarket chains. Marco Padilla-Rodriguez held a workshop that encouraged people to make sure their fruits and vegetables are organic, bought locally, or even grown in their own home.

And there’s many people worried about the residues from the chemicals used, you know, getting into the food and all of that. So it has a lot of impact. And it’s amazing, because organic gardening is the norm in nature. And so we have grown so used to conventional methods that it almost seems foreign to us to grow organically. And there’s been a lot of resistance to grow organically, because we don’t feel it to be natural. You know, we like to see fields of, monoculture fields of corn, and that’s all we grow. And we, you know, can create these incredible yields, but we don’t see the costs. And I think that’s what’s the real downfall to conventional growing.

Jai Hambly is with Organic Living, a local gardening company, and gives workshops on how to improve farming in Florida’s soil.

Well, it’s sand. And you need the organic matter. So you need compost, or composted manure, or some type of soil amendment. And you need the minerals. The whole United States, the whole world, is depleted in minerals. So you have to add the minerals back, and standard fertilizers only add three to 10 minerals. And if you look at the periodic table, there’s 88. and you need all of those in the soil to have healthy plants. And if you don’t have healthy plants, then you get bugs and diseases. So you create this soil, you add the minerals, and then you add the microscopic critters that live in the soil, or should live in the soil. And then you create a living community of soil, and the plants will just grow, and flourish, and do well.

According to many alternative physicians like Robert Bock, it’s important to maintain proper nutrition, take B vitamins for better adrenal gland function, and balance that by taking care of the thyroid gland and reducing stress levels.

One of the biggest problems that I see is hormone imbalance. And that hormone imbalance relates to adrenal thyroid balance, and specifically overactive adrenal cortisol production, and underactive thyroid functioning. A lot of the overall stress that we have—especially in a time like this, with people not having work—it creates a high stress level, and that further exacerbates the thyroid problem. And it literally weakens bodies, so that ligaments weaken, people are able to hurt themselves without doing very much, or re-injure themselves. It interferes with stress; it interferes with sleep; it interferes with a variety of different functioning.

Some of the vendors promoted meditation, yoga, massage and other methods for reducing stress, engaging the body, and using wellness as a means for disease prevention and to treat illness. This was the first annual Holistic Health Expo at Unity Church, and organizers say they plan to have another one next year.

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