Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Full Spectrum Saunas from Sunlighten - A Great Detox Experience for Anyone!

I am the president of the NY Metro Chapter of the National Autism Association.  Our National parent – The National Autism Association – recently welcomed Sunlighten as a sponsor and some lucky NYC-area NAA members – myself included – had the opportunity to try their fabulous, full spectrum saunas at the Beach Bum Tanning locations in Chelsea, Forest Hills (Queens), and Saddle Brook (NJ).  As many of you know, infrared saunas can be beneficial in helping individuals on the autism spectrum to detoxify, improve immune function and reduce inflammation.  But they are good for everyone and as a busy mom of a child on the spectrum, I appreciated the chance to relax and do something that was good for me too!

I had my Sunlighten experience at Beach Bum’s Chelsea location, 239 Seventh Ave. at 23rd St. Beach Bum has an 18+ policy, so my son couldn’t try the Sunlighten sauna with me this time.  However, it’s still great for us, as parents, to have a relaxing, detoxifying experience.   Plus, like many autism parents, I often “road test” new treatments on myself before sharing them with my son.

Many doctors and other practitioners working with children on the autism spectrum recommend infrared sauna use. In Dr. Kenneth Bock’s book, “Healing theNew Childhood Epidemics” he says, “Recent evidence indicates that infrared rays may be of some benefit in stimulating immunity and providing a mild anti-inflammatory effect. In addition to helping remove toxins through perspiration, there is a growing belief that saunas also help detoxify the body by increasing the breakdown of fat cells, where toxins tend to be stored. This enhances the removal of these toxins by the liver. Fat cells can also be broken down during exercise, or by any other factor that causes loss of adipose tissue.”  Again, these effects are important for our kids – but also for us as parents.  We need to stay well to help get our kids get well.

Of course, I have been in saunas before, and had even tried a far infrared sauna a few times.  However, this was my first time in a full-spectrum sauna, one that provides near, mid and far infrared rays.  Sunlighten is the only brand that makes full-spectrum infrared saunas.  I was excited to experience the difference – and it was different – and better – than any other sauna that I have tried.  This is the sauna I tried:

The first thing I noticed was the heat; even though the temperature is quite elevated (over 130°F!), it doesn’t feel stifling hot. Anyone who knows me knows that I usually complain when the outside temperature is over 75°F, so being overheated is something to which I am acutely sensitive.  Instead, the heat in the Sunlighten sauna was gentle, and I felt as though I were lounging outside a warm, sunny day. Surprisingly, it felt very comfortable and stayed that way throughout the session. Infrared heat works on a cellular level, heating our bodies directly vs. the surrounding air. This means we can sit comfortably while our body’s core temperature increases resulting in a deeper sweat.  And boy, do you sweat – but in a way that makes you feel like your body is getting rid of stuff it needs to, not in a cloying, overheated way.  The whole experience was quite relaxing.  Afterwards, I felt as if I had completed a workout or a massage; light, refreshed and just really good.  I even slept better that night – it was easier to fall asleep and stay asleep, something I really struggle with.  And my skin felt unusually soft too.  

As a mom of a child who is sensitive to environmental toxins (and sensitive myself), I was, of course, curious about the materials used and the safety of the saunas – especially since heat is involved.    The  Sunlighten rep. explained to me, Sunlighten saunas are the most effective and the safest saunas available. Their Solocarbon technology is 95-99% effective and virtually eliminates all EMF for ultimate safety. They are made with hypoallergenic basswood and assembled with a patented magnetic system; no glues or VOCs are used.     And since their heaters operate at a low surface temperature, they are completely safe to the touch.
One other feature I was not able to try at Beach Bum but am very curious about is Acoustic Resonance Therapy (A.R.T.).  A.R.T. is an additional therapy that Sunlighten offers in their saunas.  Acoustic Resonance Therapy (A.R.T.) creates an environment for the body to experience the benefits of sound and vibration healing in an integrative way. Feeling the music we hear brings our bodies into harmony physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually and environmentally.  Autism requires a holistic lifestyle approach and combining infrared therapy and A.R.T. provides a natural, healing environment that can benefit the whole family.

Infrared Sauna Benefits:
- Reduces inflammation caused by viral exposure
- Increase blood flow to reduce the body’s hold on toxic metals
- Provides a non-invasive way to detoxify at the cellular level

A.R.T. Benefits:
- Balancing heart rate, blood pressure and increasing circulation
- Energizing and uplifting one’s mood and emotional well being
- Enhanced creativity, communication and problem solving capabilities
- Significant stress reduction, including relief from symptoms of Autism

Beach Bum Tanning is currently offering a special rate of 2 sessions for $50. I hope you’ll give it a try. NAA members get a special discount from Sunlighten for sauna purchases – there are many different models and price points from which to choose.  For us city dwellers, check out their apartment-friendly Solo: http://www.sunlighten.com/solo-system.html

Look for information about Sunlighten at the NAA national conference next week in St. Pete’s Beach to tell you more about their mission, their products and the benefits of full spectrum saunas for our kids and ourselves.  Their saunas provide a gentle and relaxing way to help us relax, detox, lower our blood pressure, reduce pain and even reduce waist circumference.  What’s not to like about that?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Book Review: Death at SeaWorld By David Kirby

David Kirby has done it again.  He never disappoints!  Death at SeaWorld is eye-opening and is sure to be a bestseller.  I was fortunate enough to already have an opportunity to read this book, published by St. Martin's Press, scheduled to be released this coming week.  I cannot urge you strongly enough to get a copy - it is a game changer.

I grew up outside of Cleveland, Ohio and about a half hour from where I lived was a park called SeaWorld.  The 'burbs of Cleveland seem an unlikely spot for a such a park, but there it was, in Aurora, Ohio.  Usually several times a summer, from the time I was very young, we'd venture, first as a family and then when I was a teen, sometimes with my friends, to SeaWorld.  One of the highlights, of course, was the Shamu, the Killer Whale, show.  The stands were always packed.  People vied to be chosen as the guest who would get a kiss from Shamu.  We'd pet dolphins and other animals, even penguins (hint, if you have long hair, tie it back before penguin encounters - it is intriguing to them and once they clamp on they don't want to let go - personal experience!) when they had "Winterfest" - trying to capitalize on the long Ohio winters (making this SeaWorld unusual given their other, much warmer locations).  Frankly, as a child, I never gave much thought to whether this was good for the animals or not.  Heck, the dolphins always looked happy, right (they have no choice, this is a facial feature of certain dolphins)?

As an adult, I came to understand, on some vague level, that marine animal parks like SeaWorld, were not the appropriate environments for many of their inhabitants.  I have not taken my own child to a SeaWorld.  His experience with these animals has been limited to several visits to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium - an animal rescue and rehab facility - and home to Winter, made famous in the movie Dolphin Tale.

However, it was not until reading Death at SeaWorld that I gained a fuller understanding of WHY.  In a masterful style, the author introduces us to a key characters, including some of the whales, trainers/former trainers, scientists and others, and illuminates the issues in the debate over killer whale captivity through these personal stories.  Mr. Kirby's use of the personal narrative, effective in both Evidence of Harm and Animal Factory, may be at its most engaging here.  The book reads like a thriller, a personal journal, a scientific primer, solid investigative journalism and more - all rolled into one.

David Kirby's treatment is both multi-faceted and in-depth.   He clearly does his homework before writing on a topic, and this research shows in a well-honed, thoughtful and thought-provoking finished work.  It is not easy to broadly cover a subject with so many nuances and not gloss over important issues, but Kirby succeeds, raising his work to a higher level.  As a result, readers are given a truly comprehensive understanding of the issues in the debate.  Without understanding, for example, the different types of killer whales that inhabit the planet and the unique sociological behaviors and familial ties of these animals, it is impossible to fully appreciate why captivity is not only dangerous for the whales and the humans who work with them, but heartbreaking as well.  Despite the many threads to this story, it does not unravel.  The reader does not lose track of the key events, and segues into areas such as marine biology, animal behavior and others, serve to illuminate, not distract, from the overall theme.

David Kirby does not shy away from controversial topics, such as vaccines and factory farming, and here takes on animal theme parks - an established feature in the landscape of late 20th/early 21st century America - and shows us their darker and more dangerous side.  I appreciate that, unlike many journalists today, Mr. Kirby truly investigates controversial issues, does not accept superficial explanations, and delves to understand and to share with his readers, difficult but important topics.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Autism is an Iceberg

My good friend Ginger Taylor posted today on her blog, Adventures In Autism, about an article written by Rick Jones and  published in CFO magazine entitled, "The Value of Life: Why an ethically complicated calculation can help determine the value of your company’s risk reduction programs."  WHAT????  Read Ginger's post for a beautifully rendered analysis of the article, pointing out the problems with some its assumptions but, bottom line, what Mr. Jones writes is:

"The lives saved and dollar benefits from vaccines are hard to calculate, but it’s safe to say that these and other immunizations have greatly improved the quantity and quality of life for millions of people -- at the tragic, yet accepted cost of a few. "

 Yes, he acknowledges that children will be harmed by the vaccine program and he is willing to stand up and say outright that that is acceptable.   While it is disturbing to read in print that someone believes it is knowingly acceptable to harm children, at least he is being honest in his acknowledgement

One of the issues that Ginger points out and that Jones does not address and which should have been considered in his analysis is the chronic health crisis among America's children.  In a recent article, based on a 2007 survey, the authors found that, 43% of children had at least one of 20 assessed chronic health problems, and when obesity and risk of developmental delay were included, that percentage exceeded 54%! Moreover, 45% of children with one condition had at least a second - meaning that almost 20% of children had at least two chronic health conditions assessed in the study.

More than half of this country's children are ill and those charged with protecting our public health do not seem particularly curious - let alone panicked -  as to why?  Alarm bells should be ringing!  This is like the Titanic.... and autism is the iceberg.  They see autism and think they can avoid or ignore it but they don't have a clue as to what is hiding beneath - or here, hiding in plain sight.  Here's a handy graphic (pardon my admittedly lame art  skills, but thank goodness for SketchBook Pro on my iPad) showing all those conditions...

Sadly, I am guessing that many children have more than one or two of these conditions.  When I look at it, I count several for my own son - at least 5 diagnoses he carries in addition to ASD and I am not including speech and developmental delay (I will throw a bone and subsume, for my child, those issues under ASD), and two others that may be applicable.  This is not my idea of a fun game.  Ooooh who gets the most chronic illnesses - ME ME ME!  There is no winner here and our children are the big losers.  No potential cause - including vaccines - should be ruled out as a contributing factor to this epidemic of chronic illness without serious investigation.  And for those who baldly claim that vaccines have been vindicated - I urge you to take a hard look at the science - it does not support that position.  This is still an open question.  Read Vaccine Epidemic (full disclosure - I am a contributing editor and author) and watch "The Greater Good."  Ask yourself - what is the greater good if more than half our children are being harmed by something(s)?  Why are we not racing to identify the cause or causes of rampant chronic illness?  What does that say about our society and our willingness (or lack thereof) to protect the most vulnerable?  And what does our future bode as a generation of chronically ill children struggle to compete in an ever more challenging world economic climate?

Those of us in the autism community have been struggling with many of these questions for years, and now we watch families of young people in LeRoy, NY struggling with a mystery illness.  So many are willing to dismiss their illness and give an easy diagnosis that does not take a serious look at causation.  Yet, because these families are standing up and others are taking notice, we are learning  about potential environmental causes for the these symptoms that so many in power - including their own school officials - are willing to ignore or are affirmatively refusing to consider.  The autism families, the Le Roy families, and every family with a chronically ill child should continue to demand answers.

I was reading Oprah's magazine today and she had a feature about defining yourself  in 6 words (inspired by Larry Smith).  I have been pondering my 6 today.  Right now, I am feeling: "Stand Tall.  Be Heard.  Demand Accountability."  I hope that you are feeling it too!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Sugar, Sugar... or, Shall I Say, Coconut Sugar

Wow, I cannot believe how long it has been since I have posted.  If you could see me now, I am kneeling, begging an apology.  I am resolving (well at least January is not over yet) to write a post at least once a week.  Short or long, profound or frivolous... gotta get back in the habit.  There is much to write about and I hope to devote space to some serious issues - especially issues regarding autism, in upcoming posts.  But today, I am thinking about coconut sugar. 

Lots of sugar everywhere we look!
We all KNOW that we should avoid most sugars, not just high fructose corn syrup.  Sugar is loaded into way too many foods and beverages. 

However, for some things sugar is, if not necessary, at least preferred.  A cookie is one of those things.  We don't eat many cookies here - not because I don't love them, I do, but H does not.  And I am hard-pressed to justify making cookies just for me when my 11-year old doesn't want them.  But over the holidays I made ginger cookies from a recipe at Elana's Pantry - a wonderful source of gluten-free, paleo-friendly cooking.  As a bonus, Elana's Pantry is a treasure trove of gluten- and dairy-free recipes appropriate for many Jewish holidays (but great for anyone, not just those who celebrate Jewish holidays) - today there were even recipes posted for Tu B'shevat

Back to those cookies...

I was going to a holiday party for the Elizabeth Birt Center for Autism Law and Advocacy - a great non-profit on whose board I sit -and, among the foods we were all contributing, I wanted to make sure there were some (hopefully) yummy gluten-free holiday cookies.  I turned to Elana's Pantry and was rewarded with an easy and yummy almond flour based gingersnap recipe

Here is some of my coconut collection!
The one ingredient that was unfamiliar was coconut sugar.  Coconut sugar?  Huh?  Luckily, in short order iHerb.com was able to provide me with Sweet Tree organic coconut palm sugar!  This sugar is not made from the coconuts themselves but from the sap of coconut nut palm tree buds so if you are worried about imparting coconut flavor to everything, no worries.  I thought I was pretty well-versed in coconut products - coconut oil (of course), coconut water and milk (even coconut-based kefir), coconut flour, coconut syrup, and coconut vinegar (both from coconut water and from the sap).  Coconut sugar had, however, flown under my radar.

I apparently am behind the eight-ball on this one!  The good folks at EasyEats wrote about the benefits of coconut sugar just a few weeks ago.  According to them, it is only 9% fructose and it has a lower glycemic index than even agave.  Plus it has B vitamins and minerals, and it is even pretty environmentally friendly to grow.  Natural News reported on the benefits of coconut sugar and how it is displacing agave several months ago.

Taste-wise, coconut sugar is pleasant and easily can substitute for refined sugar.  While I like honey, I try not to overuse it and concerns about agave sourcing and processing have me mostly avoiding that as well.  I just cannot take the aftertaste of stevia (and I have tried many and, at least for me, they just don't work).  Lo Han is ok but not my favorite.  (Not even mentioning the artificial things here - we give those a wide berth).  So, in moderation, coconut sugar may be a good choice when you need a little sweetness in your life!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Spring is Sprung

Somehow months have gone by without a post.  My apologies.  Life has been busy.... I am vowing to post more and update on all the things that have kept me away.  The photo above was taken today at the Bronx Zoo after viewing their butterfly garden exhibit.  My little Zebra Swallowtail (that's the butterfly above) is doing really well and had a great time today as we strolled the nearly unoccupied zoo this afternoon (threatening weather kept most folks at home!). 

Sunday, February 6, 2011


What do you feed the GFCF, soy-free, potato-free, corn-free, lots of other stuff free kid who would really like goldfish crackers?  I think I FINALLY have a solution, thanks to the good folks at ReadyMade Magazine (to which I am a subscriber).  In their latest issue, ReadyMade compared several different cheese crackers, including a homemade variety.  On their website, they posted the recipe for the homemade cheese crackers.  The ingredients are simple:  flour, butter, cheddar cheese and ice water.  Of course, three out of the four don't work for someone on a GFCF diet (at least the ice water is ok!).  In this case, the substitutions were simple and worked quite well.  I substituted the same amount of GFCF-safe ingredients for the originals with the exception of the ice water.  I found I needed a touch more water than the two tablespoons called for, but I added it slowly in tiny amounts to get the correct consistency.

Crispy, finished crackers cooling on a rack
Crackers before baking


Here are my substitutions:
Daiya cheddar style shreds for the cheese
Purity Farms ghee (or other well made ghee) for the butter
Chebe All-Purpose Bread Mix (a manioc [tapioca] based mix) for flour.

The crackers baked up crispy, crunchy and cheesy tasting.  My GFCF boy loved them, and even my husband and a few friends proclaimed them a success. 

These were easy to mix up in a stand mixer and quick to make (there is some downtime while the dough chills in the fridge).  The trick is to roll out the dough quite thin and bake just long enough to get crisp without burning.  They only take about 15 minutes in the oven but should be watched carefully.  They also should be watched carefully once placed on the cooling rack -- they were mysteriously disappearing from my kitchen!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Vaccine Epidemic - The Book

Officially launching on February 9, 2011 but already shipping from amazon.com, Vaccine Epidemic is a whole new way of looking at the vaccine debate.  

I am proud to be a part of this effort.  Over twenty authors have contributed chapters on a wide array of topics, including law, ethics, media, human rights, medicine, epidemiology, history, philosophy, and personal stories of vaccine injury.  In addition to my role as contributing editor, I also authored a chapter on vaccine exemptions and forced child removal.

We  offer parents, medical professionals and others ways to critically examine the issues surrounding vaccination.  But let's be clear, "Vaccine Epidemic" is NOT anti-vaccine.  It is pro-vaccination choice.  It is in favor of informed consent concerning vaccination.   Parents (and others), regardless of what they ultimately decide is the right choice for themselves and their family, should have the opportunity to make their decision from a position of knowledge.  Their decision should not be based on fear, coercion, and lack of knowledge concerning their rights and the potential risks and benefits of vaccination. 

Vaccine Epidemic" rises above the name-calling and rhetoric and offers a studied and serious look at the issues concerning vaccination and why the book is not closed on the link between vaccines and a wide variety of diseases and disorders.  It is an eye-opening read, no matter where you stand on issues surrounding vaccination.

If you are in or will be traveling to NYC on February 18, join us that evening for our launch event at NYU School of Law.  The event will include panel discussions, Q&A and a book signing.  A number of authors will be in attendance,  The event is free and open to the public but requires pre-registration.  Click here for more information and to register.

Stayed tuned for more events, chances to win a copy of the book, and other news!