Top Ten Holistic Health Insights for 2012

Another year reveals some intriguing strategies for healthy living.

ARLINGTON, Virginia, December 31, 2011 – Health is always a journey, never a destination. At least holistic health advocates think of it in those terms, anyway. As much as we might be committed to one approach at any given time, things shift that later cause another to be more appropriate. So we keep learning and experimenting.

No one recipe or diet fits all, but taking the time to consider options is always a good thing. The following ten strategies draw on the author’s insights gained over the course of this particular year, from lectures and workshops, research and conversations. They reflect the experience of going from being the mother of a breastfed-dependent infant (and her preschooler brother) to being the mother of an opinionated toddler (and a kindergartener). These tips are shared here as much as a reminder to herself as advice for others.

1. Eat mindfully (and not so often)

Digestion is a process that likes your focus. Sit down while you eat and after you eat. Chew all your food at least 40 times. This is easier said than done with small children, but having everything at the ready before you start a family meal helps. Ayurvedic doctor and chiropractor John Douillard and Anusara yoga teacher Charlotte Clews shared in lectures and workshops that snacking throughout the day inhibits proper digestion, and eating too late at night prevents the body from cleansing and detoxifying. Eat until you are full at dinner, and then call it a night for your tummy.

2. Sleep early and adequately

Another thing about cleansing and detoxifying at night is that your body wants to be asleep during these processes. If you’re digesting or engaged in active physical or mental work, your liver is not flushing out your system, so you get all clogged up. Burning the midnight oil may seem like the only way a busy mom can get things done or enjoy some quiet work time, but it will eventually run her down. The more sleep you can get before midnight, the better. Ideally, we’d all go to bed or at least start to shut things down when the sun goes down. If that feels nearly impossible, at least shoot for consistency in bedtime and waking times. Insist on it for kids so they develop a strong internal rhythm.

3. Avoid sugar and starch

Seriously. If you have any issues with mood swings or digestive problems, cutting out the carbs is an important strategy to try before hitting the pharmacy. It might not be enough to get rid of refined sugar, or gluten. More and more people are finding that going on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) – or the GAPS diet that draws on SCD – is a necessary step toward health. If your gut has been damaged by antibiotic use or undiagnosed food sensitivities, the best thing you can do for your overall health is build back the strength of your digestive system. If over 80% of our immune system is found in the gut, you owe it to your overall health to pay attention to the environment there.

4. Supplement wisely

No two people need the same nutritional supplements, and no one person needs the same products from one month to the next. If you’ve popped the same pills for a whole season, it’s probably time to reevaluate. Maybe you’ve overdone it on the Omega-3s, or an inactive filler ingredient in a supplement is no good for you.

Some conditions might call for blood analysis to see where things stand, while other insights can be found from saliva tests. Some practitioners “ask” the body what it needs through muscle-testing (applied kinesiology) or through other intuitive work. You can even muscle-test yourself by holding your thumb and middle finger together tightly and trying to part them.  Then try again while holding the bottle or having the supplement rest against your body. If you weaken with the product in your energy field – if you can suddenly pull apart your finger from your thumb – then it’s not strengthening you and is better left on the shelf. Some practitioners have machines like the Asyra that do this kind of testing for you.

5. Practice yoga joyfully and exercise restoratively

There is nothing like the warm wash of happiness after a backbend to convince you that yoga has real medicinal properties. But viewed as a competition or as a form of exercise to conquer or tackle, and it loses its magic. Kundalini yoga instructor Tommy Rosen instructs students in using the breath to lift spirits.

On that same note, think seriously about why you are doing whatever you are doing at the gym. Exercise should be life-affirming, giving you energy. If you feel depleted from a workout, you are. That means you’re taking away from your body’s reserves. For what purpose? Naturopathic doctor Joseph Mercola and Ayurvedic doctor and chiropractor John Douillard both share stories with conference audiences about how many years they spent running long distances, only to come more recently to the conclusion that a few sets of sprints are probably more ancestrally appropriate and more effective.

6. Be good to your mouth

In a structural sense, the mouth is the body’s steering wheel, explains Dr. Felix Liao of Whole Health Dental Center. If there are problems with bite or alignment, there are a whole host of health issues that can result, including pain, growth problems, learning problems, motor skills issues, and even endocrine system concerns. Rather than turning to braces for aesthetic purposes only, the answer is a holistic approach that looks at the entire body.

The mouth is also the place digestion begins, so infections can impact the gastro-intestinal tract. Brushing and flossing are important, but so is seeing a biological or holistic dentist.

7. Get childcare regularly

Okay, so maybe you don’t have kids. But the message is the same: find a way to clear your environment regularly from whatever drains your energy. You might love your work, but if it keeps you from having a meaningful relationship with your partner or from maintaining healthy eating habits, you need to take either a vacation or put in place regular breaks to get your needs met. The same goes for parents who can’t think straight amid child chatter or dirty diapers. It takes time to find great sitters or to work out swaps with friends, but the break is worth it.

8. Establish simpler grooming habits (even if they seem more complicated)

If you’ve been using Finesse shampoo or Nivea lotion since 1984, put on your reading glasses and look at the labels. They are scary. And if you don’t know what all those long words mean, hop over to the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database to find out. Remember that the skin is your body’s largest organ, so whatever you put on it should be something you’d feel comfortable eating. There are a lot of more natural alternatives on supermarket shelves these days and artisan-crafted products at farmers markets. There is a “no ‘poo” movement afoot to ditch shampoo altogether. And one Ayurvedic ritual recommends a daily self-massage with warm oil before bathing, especially in winter. Do that and your skin may not need any lotion, and you just might feel more cozy in your body for the rest of the day.
At any rate, do what you do for a reason, and your body will thank you.

9. Juice (the verb)

If you ever find yourself unable to digest raw fruits and vegetables like yours truly, you’ll come to appreciate the awesome power of juice. Sure, it takes a while to wash and then stuff all that green, phytonutrient goodness into a machine, but it’s such an amazing energy-booster way to start the day. From cleansing concoctions with lemon and garlic to sweet sensations with carrot and fennel, spending a little extra time to make a fresh juice at the beginning of the day or during an afternoon lull will yield much better dividends than reaching for a chocolate bar.

10. Have sex

Even if you’re in a committed relationship with ready access to a willing partner, it’s easy to dismiss sex as expendable, especially when there’s a baby in your bed and another child who might get up asking for a glass of water at any moment. But the physical act of pleasure is not something to do without. There is no better natural source of endorphins. And honestly, you really don’t even need another person. That’s enough specificity. You figure out the rest.


Jessica Claire Haney is a freelance writer, editor and tutor. Her writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. A former high school English teacher, Jessica is mother to a five-year-old son and a baby girl. She is passionate about holistic health and well-being and is a leader of a chapter of Holistic Moms Network.

Jessica’s blog is Crunchy-Chewy Mama,, and her writer’s site is

“Like” Crunchy-Chewy Mama on Facebook, and follow Jessica on Twitter @crunchychewy

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Jessica Claire Haney


This holistic mom dreams of a day when all kids -- and adults -- eat foods with only recognizable ingredients. Paying attention is not an option for me; it's a necessity.

A few years ago, my body started breaking down and let me know I wasn’t like all those other Jessicas who were still in their twenties. I began making the rounds of alternative health practitioners and nutritionists to deal with stomach problems, thyroid problems, chronic grumpiness, and infertility, issues that my doctors weren't addressing with any success. With a lot of help and a bunch of lifestyle changes, I managed to work my way back to healthy and happy. And pregnant!

Now a full-on convert to natural family living and a mom to a three-year-old, I’m on a mission to share my insights -- and my persistent questions -- about nutrition and holistic health with other moms and with anyone else looking for something that will work and feel good when other stuff doesn’t. As a leader of a local chapter of Holistic Moms Network, I've tried to build a community that supports other parents in making healthy decisions for their families.

My writing has appeared in parenting publications and poetry journals. I blog about life on the alternative/mainstream divide at Crunchy-Chewy Mama, and I'm a contributor for DC Metro Moms.

Contact Jessica Claire Haney


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