The world of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) can be vast and dizzying. As we open our minds to new methods of well-being, we encounter a seemingly endless list of options, modalities and unfamiliar words. To get acquainted with
just a few . . .
American practices incorporate medical traditions from China, Japan, Korea and other countries. The most studied technique involves penetrating the skin with thin, solid, metallic needles that are manipulated by the hands or by electrical stimulation.
A system of medicine that originated in India thousands of years ago. As a holistic practice, ayurveda integrates treatment to body, mind and spirit to achieve balance and contentment. It places high value on ridding the body of impurities.
The channeling of life-force energy (known as ki in the Japanese tradition) through the hands of a practitioner into the patient’s body.
A movement-based therapy devised by physicist and engineer Moshe Feldenkrais. It seeks to improve physical functioning through education of body motion and physical coordination.
A medical system based on the “like cures like” theory: any substance that can produce symptoms of illness in a healthy person can cure those symptoms in a sick person. For example, someone suffering from insomnia may be given a homeopathic dose of diluted coffee.
A medicine proposing that there is a healing power in the body that establishes, maintains and restores health. Practitioners work to support this power through a range of traditional and alternative treatments.
A movement therapy developed through the rehabilitation techniques of Joseph Pilates that uses a method of physical exercise to strengthen and build control of muscles, especially those used for posture.
An ancient Chinese discipline combining the use of gentle physical movements, mental focus and deep breathing. Performed in repetitions directed toward specific body parts, the exercises are performed for 30 minutes at a time.
A mind-body practice that originated in China as a martial art. Slow, graceful movements are joined with deep breathing and meditation (tai chi is sometimes called “moving meditation”). Movements quicken at higher levels. The practice facilitates the flow of chi, or vital energy, throughout the body.
An ancient Indian practice that uses breathing exercises, physical postures and meditation to calm the nervous system and balance body, mind and spirit. >>>
Sources: National Health Statistics Reports, December 10, 2008: “Complementary and Alternative Medicine Use Among Adults and Children: United States, 2007,” by Patricia M. Barnes, M.A., and Barbara Bloom, M.P.A., Division of Health Interview Statistics, National Center for Health Statistics and Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H., National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health.
SICK OF GETTING SICK?
Let Supplements Be Thy Guide
By Ellen Bodal
St. John’s Wort
Convetional Wisdom: This herbal supplement was first used by Native Americans to treat everything from sore throats to snake bites, but today is most commonly used to prevent and alleviate symptoms of the common cold.
The Facts: Taken in tablet, liquid, or topical form, echinacea can serve as a pain reliever or a weapon against a bevy of viral and bacterial infections.
The Mystery: Despite some proven effects, the debate is still heated over whether echinacea has any effect whatsoever on the common cold. A well-publicized 2005 University of Virginia study showed no benefit from taking any form of the plant.
The Bottom Line: Echinacea is reported as the most popular herbal defense against the common cold. Further research is being conducted (some critics claimed the dosages in the University of Virginia study were too low), so for now, this herb’s efficacy lies in the wisdom of the masses.
Convetional Wisdom: Since the days when oranges were kept in bulk under ship decks to stave off sailors’ scurvy, ascorbic acid (vitamin C) has been known as a vital nutrient and a weapon against the common cold.
The Facts: The pirates were right: Vitamin C does prevent scurvy, and countless doctors and patients swear by the nutrient—in both pill and whole food form—to boost immunity, improve eyesight, heart health and just about any other malady you can name.
The Mystery: Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling’s controversial theory that megadoses of vitamin C can prevent colds has never been clinically proven.
The Bottom Line: Vitamin C plays a role in a strong, healthy immune system, so make sure to get fresh natural foods rich in vitamin C, like oranges, red bell peppers and rosehip tea.
Convetional Wisdom: Popping zinc at the first sign of a cold can reduce the duration of your coughs and sniffles.
The Facts: Zinc lozenges and tablets are effective at sidelining the common cold. And while nasal sprays have become popular, they are not as effective and, in some cases, have caused a loss of the sense of smell, or anosmia.
The Mystery: The ’80s enshrined zinc in sunblock form. These days, colored zinc oxide—or Zinka®—is cool again on the slopes. A bright yellow schnoz is a conversation starter on the lift, and Zinka® also does a killer job blocking the sun and the wind.
The Bottom Line: Zinc is a naturally occurring mineral that plays a key role in supporting a healthy immune system. A 2000 German study showed that, since the body has no specialized zinc storage system, a daily moderate intake is important. (Too much zinc can be toxic.) Oysters are very high in zinc while various meats, nuts and pumpkin seeds also deliver healthy doses.
Convetional Wisdom: Shorter winter days plus more time spent indoors means less exposure to sunlight, our main source of vitamin D.
The Facts: It’s vital stuff for healthy bones and a deficiency can lead to rickets, osteoporosis or bone loss.
The Mystery: The amount of vitamin D we synthesize from the sun depends on everything from geographic location to smog levels and even sunscreen use.
The Bottom Line: Mimic the sun’s effect by taking vitamin D tablets, vitamin D-rich cod liver oil capsules or eating vitamin D-fortified foods, like cereal and yogurt, or drinking milk.
Convetional Wisdom: The winter blues are a common affliction, and St. John’s Wort is the most widely suggested herbal treatment for seasonal depression.
The Facts: As with most herbal remedies, it is strongly recommended that you check with your doctor before using St. John’s Wort to lift your mood.
The Mystery: The name may come from Saint John the Baptist, as the plant tends to bloom near the feast of St. John in June. St. John’s Wort has been linked to magic since the Middle Ages, and some still believe it can ward off evil spirits.
The Bottom Line: Magical or not, a mug of St. John’s Wort tea or the herb in capsule form might help lift some winter moods. >>>
The True Juice
Ketchum’s Other Bar Scene
By Ellen Bodal
photograph Woods Wheatcroft/Auroa Photos
Why go for the sugar-packed jugs of juice in the grocery store aisles when you can grab a nutrient-dense, fresh and organic juice or smoothie from one of Ketchum’s local juice bars? Fresh fruit and vegetable juices are a foolproof and tasty way to drink your daily nutrients and get a mega dose of the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that your body needs to stay healthy. Our local juicers have endless combinations of vitamin-packed options made to order.
160 North Main Street
Akasha’s juice guru Ananda has been juicing in Sun Valley for 21 years, and while there is no standard menu at Akasha, ask and you shall receive. Everything is local, organic, fresh and raw to preserve the “life force” of the plants. A firm believer in the benefits of juice, Ananda looks at the sacred geometry of fruits and vegetables to determine the energy of the fruit that your body will absorb.
An Akasha favorite is the Liquid Salad, and the name says it all. The “salad” is a blend of carrot, beet, garlic, red bell pepper and Akasha’s Green Juice: lemon, cucumber, ginger, chard, kale, collards, spinach and parsley. Aside from the obvious nutrition, Ananda emphasizes the benefits that jam-packed juice has on your mind, body and spirit.
Glow Live Food Café
380 Washington Avenue
Glow holds to the mantra of “live food,” serving all-organic, plant-based foods that have never been cooked or heated above 118 degrees. This keeps all of the foods’ nutrients, minerals and enzymes intact so your body gets more bang for its buck, said owner Molly Peppo Brown. One of their signature squeezes is Green Juice, which consists of cucumber, celery, kale, collard, lemon and ginger. To battle a cold, Glow offers a mix of orange, lemon and ginger. Can’t decide? Any dark-green leafy vegetable is super-rich in nutrients, and ginger is great for digestion. Add a supplement, like flax oil, goji or Sun Warrior Protein Powder to your juice or smoothie for an added nutritional boost.
Zenergy Health Bar
245 Raven Road
Fresh juice is a great way to replenish your body after a workout or deep massage. Located in the lobby of the Zenergy Spa and Health Club, the Zenergy Health Bar offers an assortment of healthy juices and smoothies. The Trainer’s Choice smoothie is packed with energy in its mix of strawberries, banana, yogurt, apple and orange juices and soy milk; blend in a whey protein or weight-loss protein powder to maximize your workout. Another healthy non-juice beverage offered at Zenergy is ZenMatcha tea, a potent, powdered green tea that is full of antioxidants and is great for your immune system.
By Ellen Bodal
Doctor knows best, but there are plenty of ways to treat common maladies at home. Much like the duct tape we use to make our favorite ski jackets good as new, we can come up with creative ways to cure ourselves of mild seasonal afflictions. As always, if symptoms worsen or persist, consult your physician.
To stop that pounding in your head, take an NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like Advil or Aleve and drink plenty of water.
A shoulder and neck massage works wonders. Add an aromatherapy essential oil like eucalyptus or lavender to help ease the pain.
Nausea? Heartburn? Indigestion? Diarrhea? Just like the Pepto-Bismol jingle says, the pink stuff quashes it all.
Ginger in almost any form eases stomach problems. Drink natural ginger ale or tea, or snack on the root in crystallized form to get your digestive system back in synch.
Suck on nonprescription throat lozenges (Sucrets is a good one) that contain an anesthetic to relieve throat pain.
Though it may taste like sea water, gargling with salt and warm water can reduce the swelling that is causing the pain in your throat.
An over-the-counter cough syrup like Robitussin will suppress your cough. For the cough that won’t quit, a prescription with codeine can put you to sleep.
Drinking any hot herbal tea or breathing in steam with eucalyptus oil can help soothe your airway and break up the mucous that is causing your cough.
Ear pain can be pretty unbearable, so for fast relief, over-the-counter antiseptic eardrops work fast. Pop an Advil to help ease the pain.
Dish up the curry! Any spicy food that is hot enough to make your nose run can actually clear up the congestion that causes earaches.
Pain relievers with acetaminophen, like Tylenol, also serve as fever reducers.
If your fever hasn’t totally sapped your energy, take a lukewarm, but not cold, shower or bath to lower your body temperature.
NSAIDs like Advil or Aleve, taken as prescribed, decrease inflammation and can ease joint pain. For moderate to severe arthritis you should see your orthopedic physician to discuss more serious treatment.
Use it or lose it. According to local physical therapist Karoline Droege, stiff joints are like a car engine without oil. Low impact activities such as cycling and swimming will keep your joints well-lubed and in optimum condition.
The magic of Icy Hot . . . this topical pain reliever is cold on your skin at first, and then mysteriously becomes hot to relieve the ache of sore muscles. For the Eastern version, try Tiger Balm.
Two words: Hot. Tub.
photograph courtesy Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival/Matthieu Ricard
Festivals for the Soul
Not your typical county fairs
Ample sunshine, a mellow mood and like-minded wanderers make the Valley an ideal venue for festivals that question our condition. Fall and spring slack, or the seasons between the seasons, are a prime time to gather and ponder. When winter’s snows give way to spring’s green shoots, or as fall’s aspen leaves begin to quake, these festivals ask the big questions and hope to find a few answers along the way.
Another Kind of Lift Ticket
Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival
At the end of each Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival in September, the board of directors has a wrap-up meeting. They talk about films, naturally, but also the vision for their festival, plans for the future and even the festival’s name.
“Every year, we’ve discussed whether we need to change the name,” said Executive Director Mary Gervase. Specifically, they assess the word “spiritual.”
Spirituality—an inherently and historically private concept—is an open and frank topic these days. In yoga classes, on tea bag inscriptions and in advertising for everything from sedans to soaps, it’s inescapable. Right under Catholic and Jewish, popular Internet dating sites like Match.com offer a new option—“spiritual, but not religious.”
Vague enough to kick start an Internet-date conversation, no doubt, but what does it mean?
“We know that people have different definitions of spiritual, and our goal as a board is to continue to use the word and to educate people on the broadest definition,” Gervase said. “We define it as a search for meaning—a personal search that takes many different shapes, sizes and flavors. It may just be asking ourselves, ‘Why are we here? How can we make a difference?’”
Gervase’s is the only film festival in the nation—of over 3,000 held annually—dedicated to spirituality. Last year, she personally watched 350 films submitted for consideration.
“I am just astounded by how much film is being made out there. It’s a shame we can only choose 20 to 25…but that’s about as many as we can cram into three days,” Gervase said.
The 2009 festival lineup included serious documentaries like “Dhamma Brothers,” which chronicles the attempt to bring meditation practices into a maximum security prison in Alabama, and also funny shorts like “Cowboy Yoga,” an unlikely instructional video.
The Audience Choice Award winner for 2009 was “The Horse Boy: A father’s quest to heal his son.” The film follows a Texas family’s journey through Outer Mongolia to treat their two-year-old autistic son with shamanic healing.
“Some have coined this new genre of film ‘transformational entertainment,’” Gervase said. “We call it compelling, entertaining, thought-provoking storytelling through film.” -SVM
A Mindful Slack
Sun Valley Wellness Festival
In the late 1990s, the Sun Valley/Ketchum Chamber and Visitors’ Bureau was looking for a new festival to bring people to town during spring’s slack season. The Chamber sent out a survey, and out of the hodgepodge of replies, a consensus emerged: Ketchum was into wellness.
“People were seeking alternatives from the strictly medical path,” said Carol Waller, the chamber’s executive director. The festival would capitalize on the Valley’s growing community of wellness practitioners, from yoga teachers to nutritionists and traditional healers. The Chamber looked at similar festivals in Los Angeles and Seattle to model their high-altitude answer.
Today, the Sun Valley Wellness Festival is a spring mainstay, drawing upwards of 2,000 people and a few dozen speakers and presenters over three days in late May at the Sun Valley resort. Keynote speakers have discussed some of the most vital and elusive elements of the human condition. They have included Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Robert Thurman, Ram Daas and Mariel Hemingway. This coming spring, Valley resident Jamie Lee Curtis will give the annual address.
“The turning point was when we got Deepak Chopra,” said Cheryl Welch Thomas, a founding festival sponsor, board vice-president and owner of Chapter One Bookstore. “It just brightens the springtime now. When we come off of winter and everything seems kind of dull, the Wellness Festival just lights up the Valley,” she said.
Besides the lectures, attendees can see demonstrations of healing techniques like massage, acupressure, reflexology and a movement studio run by Cathy Cassia of the Hailey Yoga Center.
“People can go and try out different kinds of yoga,” Waller said. “Or if they say, ‘I don’t know what this qi gong thing is and I want to find out,’ they can do that.”-SVM