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5 Ways to ensure your holistic medicine isn’t actually hurting you

Gabrielle Pelicci, Ph.D. is a leading expert on Holistic Medicine. She was recently featured on MSNBC as a Know Your Value finalist.

Not all health advice is safe – here's what to look out for with holistic medicine

We've seen a remarkable rise in Wellness promotion and healthy living in the past 20 years. It's as if the whole country woke up one day and realized that the food we were eating and the way we were living needed a major makeover. A decade ago, you would have struggled to find a wellness center, yoga studio or vegan café. Now, there seems to be one on every corner.

The rise in awareness and participation is great, but we also have to be cautious about who we trust to give us health-and-wellness advice. The Guardian recently published a piece about wellness bloggers with no formal training who are dominating the industry. Instead of promoting their qualifications, they publicize their Instagram photos of healthy snacks and yoga poses. Not all health advice is safe and big lifestyle changes can be risky — especially if we have an underlying medical condition.

I've been practicing holistic medicine for 15 years and I am convinced that it's the best form of healthcare. When it comes to wellness advice, here are five things to consider:

1. Find a guru who is also a doctor

Naturopathic physicians graduate from full-time, four-year naturopathic medical schools. The Doctor of Osteopathy (DO) degree requires more than 5,000 hours of training over four academic years. Even chiropractors, massage therapists and nutritionists have formal education that takes years to complete. Whether you are seeking help for medical problems or just want to improve your well-being, choose a practitioner who has formal training and expertise so that you can receive the best possible care.

2. Yoga can hurt you

I am a huge fan of yoga. I am dual-certified in Kundalini and Jivamukti Yoga. But yoga can lead to injuries and long-term disabilities if it is not practiced correctly. In this controversial New York Times article, "How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body," students share some scary stories about the permanent damage they did in yoga class. If you are going to practice yoga, check the qualifications of your instructor and always listen to your body. Pain means stop! It's better to be safe than sorry.

3. Meditation can be risky

I've been practicing meditation for 20 years and it has been one of the most healing experiences of my life — but I've had many teachers and mentors to guide me along the way. For the first few months of my practice, I was overwhelmed with grief — the tears would not stop flowing. My teacher explained that it is natural for meditation to release suppressed emotions and I should talk to someone about the feelings that were coming up. If you are embarking on a journey of contemplative practice, you may experience fear, confusion, disassociation and other unusual symptoms. You are not going crazy! Find a trained practitioner or therapist to help you process your experience.

4. Not all diets are created equal

Atkins, macrobiotics, Paleo, vegan: there is a trendy new diet surfacing every few months. We cut out carbs and eat lots of meat. Then we cut out meat and eat lots of veggies. These changes have a big impact on the physiology and psychology of the body and we can experience dramatic changes in energy, mood, digestion and more when we mess with our diet. The best source of nutrition advice comes from professionals who do bloodwork and other testing to determine the best food and supplements for our unique needs. Each body is made differently and there is no one-size-fits-all diet that is good for everyone.

5. Just because it says "natural" doesn't mean that it's good for you

Natural and organic products have become a billion-dollar industry. You've probably heard of Burt's Bees's balms and lotions, Tom's of Maine's toothpaste and even seen the new green Coke bottle in the supermarket. But despite their organic image, Burt's Bees is owned by Clorox, Tom's toothpaste was bought by Colgate and Coca-Cola Life is still jam packed with sugar and chemicals. If you want to know whether or not something is truly organic, look for the green-and-white "USDA Organic" seal or check the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

You can minimize your risk of illness or injury and enjoy better health with this safe, smart approach to wellness. If you have any other tips about wellness products or services, tweet them to me at @GabrielleTV.

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