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8 Health Trends Growing in Colorado in 2018

Colorado has long been a national leader in all things health and wellness. Here's what to expect in the New Year.

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Colorado: land of the lean, home of the health-conscious. Driven by our reputation for wellness, the Centennial State has consistently been at the forefront of dreaming up and trying out the latest trends that allegedly boost our well-being.

So what’s coming our way in the new year? Read on to discover the eight trends you’ll be tempted by in the months ahead.

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1. Crickets as Protein

Why It’s Hot: Not only do crickets pack almost as much protein per 100 grams as beef, they also offer about 10 times more iron and more than five times the calcium.

The Gist: About 2 billion people in the world eat bugs for protein, and there’s a growing movement to change Americans’ perceptions about tucking into a plate of insects. Driving the effort locally are Denver-based cricket farmer Wendy Lu McGill, founder of Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch; Lars and Dave Baugh of Lithic, a local company that makes cricket-based foods; and a handful of chefs serving arthropods in popular entrées. (Look for crickets on the menu at Denver’s Comida, Leña, El Jefe, and Linger restaurants, which source many of their insects from Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch.) Whether you eat the bugs whole or ground into a fine powder, the taste is decidedly earthy and wholesome—and the squeamish just need a bit of encouragement, says Dave Baugh. He likens the process of educating consumers to the long-forgotten movement to normalize sushi: Once upon a time, eating raw fish was exotic. Now you buy your prepackaged spicy tuna rolls at King Soopers. But if you’re ready to give bug protein a try, you’ll find crickets in Lithic’s bars, flour, and ready-to-mix protein powder, all sold on the website. Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch partners with Pappardelle’s Pasta to make a cricket-based noodle—available on Amazon—and is teaming up with the Butterfly Pavilion to develop a co-branded line of snacks. (Let us know how it goes when you offer your kids Insectables instead of fruit chews.) And if you can, er, stomach the idea, you get green points, too: “With crickets, you can raise the same amount of food using vastly less land and water, when compared to livestock,” McGill says. “To raise one pound of beef, it takes 10,000 times more water than it does to raise one pound of crickets.” Bon appétit.

Crickets and popcorn, a snack prepared at the Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch for visitors. Photo by Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite.com

Info: lithicfoods.com; rmmr.co

2. Education About Marijuana

Why It’s Hot: In the age of legalized marijuana, teachers, parents, and kids are hankering for fact-based information.

The Gist: It’s not just state legislators and voters who struggle with questions about Colorado’s legalized marijuana (like where and how to spend tax revenues). Kids and teens have questions, too, though their inquiries focus on navigating angsty middle- and high-school years with an added layer of temptation. How does pot affect the human brain? What’s the difference between medicinal and recreational marijuana? Why are some strains more potent than others? And why, if it’s legal, isn’t pot safe for teenagers? These are big questions for students, and until recently, teachers were left to their own devices to answer them. “In elementary school, kids were told weed was dangerous, and now they hear it is legal and medicinal,” says Sarah Grippa, co-founder of the Marijuana Education Initiative (MEI), an online curriculum available to teachers from elementary to high schools. Grippa and her co-founder, Molly Lotz, were both teachers at an alternative high school in Steamboat Springs when they searched for a curriculum to answer their students’ questions with facts, but found none. So the duo spent a year developing their own online tool kit to teach the science of marijuana’s impact on human development and behavior. They worked with physicians, specialists in neurology, certified addiction counselors, and endocannabinists (medical experts who look at how the body breaks down THC, the chemical responsible for a high, and CBD, a non-psychoactive component of marijuana) to build online lessons that can be updated in real time. The result is a series of programs with modules appropriate for elementary, middle, and high schoolers. And as word about MEI spreads, educators across North America are asking for access. Today, MEI is taught as part of health and science classes in many Denver public schools and in schools in California, Oregon, North Dakota, Nevada, and Canada—and interest continues to grow.
Info: marijuana-education.com

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3. Novelty Yoga

Why It’s Hot: Adding booze or beasts to your om can deepen your practice, introduce you to new friends, and upend your sense of the status quo, advocates say.

The Gist: It’s easy to focus on your breathing and third eye when you downward dog in a serene, temperature-controlled studio with a bamboo floor. But try it in a noisy bar or busy park—or in a field with goats nuzzling your ankles—and you’ll figure out just how centered you really are. Luckily for anyone eager to give it a try, novelty yoga is on the rise in the Mile High City. Why? Proponents say it brings the meditative practice into a real-world setting and asks its practitioners to go deeper in their focus and acceptance of their environment. “Novelty yoga is where mindfulness and the physicality of yoga come together,” says Melissa Loeffelholz, studio manager of CorePower Yoga’s RiNo outpost. “And it also makes yoga less intimidating.” The options for this low-pressure entrée to yoga are plenty: You can sip between chaturangas at many local breweries (a quick Google search turns up times and locales), or you can enjoy Happy Baby Pose amid a field of cats, dogs, or goats. Keep an eye out for the latest version of the craze: equestrian yoga, offered in the fall at the Home Ranch in Clark near Steamboat Springs. It’s a likely hit among fad followers. Namast-hay, anyone?
Info: corepoweryoga.com; homeranch.com

The monthly Hoppy Yoga session at Great Divide Brewing Co. in RiNo. Photo by Paul Miller.

4. Meditation Studios

Why It’s Hot: As the pace of life speeds up, a growing number of us are seeking help to boost our mindfulness (apart from those pesky apps).

The Gist: Sure, some people are disciplined enough to sit quietly in any old corner and empty their minds for an hour (or so we’ve heard). For the rest of us, there’s now the meditation studio, where instructors lead students through a series of mindfulness techniques. It’s like group fitness with softer music, lower lights, and more hipsters. And for anyone scared off by the undercurrent of religious practice, there’s good news: The newest crop of meditation studios have no ideological affiliations. “They are more about building community and instruction without the dogma,” says Kerry Egelston, co-founder of the Lotus Meditation studio in Denver’s Baker neighborhood. Religious or not, meditation in a studio is helpful for newbies and experts alike, says Kadam Lucy James, a teacher with the Kadampa Meditation Center. Kadampa has locations across the metro area and in Colorado Springs, and the demand for classes has reached an all-time high, James says. “Our society is very much geared to distraction and noise,” she says. “When you decide to quiet your mind, it’s very helpful to have people around who know what they’re doing for support and encouragement.”
Info: thelotusmeditation.com; meditationincolorado.org

Lotus Meditation in Denver’s Baker Neighborhood. Photo courtesy of Lotus Meditation.

5. Blood Tests For Athletes

Why It’s Hot: Direct-to-consumer lab testing claims to help athletes mine the data in their blood tests for secrets to boost performance.

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The Gist: The latest fad in the booming personalized medicine space comes from outlets such as Boulder-based Fuelary, a company that promises to analyze individuals’ blood samples and deliver customized tips to those who “want to be ahead of the health curve, don’t want to wait for something to be wrong before analyzing their biomarkers,” says founder Josh Shadle, an entrepreneur who moved to Boulder in 2005 to train for triathlons. The company’s baseline test ($159) measures more than 30 biomarkers that give their owner a look into cholesterol, iron, vitamin D, and total testosterone levels; thyroid function; cardiovascular risk; complete blood count; and a metabolic panel (glucose and electrolyte levels, kidney function, and more). Despite the significant overlap with traditional physician-ordered blood tests, Fuelary’s test goes deeper in its analysis, Shadle says, and comes with the option to consult a nutritionist. But critics question the utility of the test—and point to the possibility of alarming a healthy person. “Since the ranges of what is normal and what isn’t are arbitrarily created by many of these companies, they create confusion for patients,” says Iñigo San Millán, director of the Sports Performance Program at the CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center in Boulder. “Patients may be thinking they have multiple conditions, when the reality is that, in many cases, they are perfectly fine.” Still, don’t expect this fad to fade. The industry of direct-to-consumer lab testing was worth about $131 million in 2015, up from $15.3 million in 2010. Fuelary plans to ride that wave. If you join it, consider checking in with your primary doc, too.
Info: fuelary.com

6. Hiit Meets “Pilates On Steroids”

Why It’s Hot: The workout du jour takes it easy on joints, but delivers full-body conditioning, its champions say.

The Gist: If you thought CrossFit was buzzy, you should meet the newest fitness fad, which marries HIIT (high-intensity interval training) with Lagree, a Pilates-like workout beloved by Hollywood starlets and earnest athletes alike. Lagree uses Mega-formers, equipment that riffs on Pilates by adding strength and resistance training, and the combination of HIIT and Lagree has won over hardcore athletes who want to build strength and tone without risking blown shoulders or strained backs. Several local fitness studios have jumped on the bandwagon, including Boulder’s sleek, one-year-old Mecha. With two rooms—a cardio studio with Airdyne spin bikes and VersaClimbers, and a serene studio for Lagree Megaformers—Mecha offers classes in Lagree, HIIT, or a popular combination of both. “We strive to provide the most intense and effective workouts while minimizing risk of injury,” says Josh Swartz, who owns the gym with his wife, Kate. “You might throw up in the corner, but you won’t blow out your knee.” The appeal is also driven by the workout’s focus on using all of the body’s muscles. “Many people are skeptical at first, especially men, but after a few minutes, they realize it’s no joke,” Swartz says. If this kind of no-mercy workout appeals to you, keep your eyes out for Mecha’s first Denver location, set to open this summer in Uptown.
Info: mecha.com; lagreefitness.com

The latest workout you’ll love to hate? A combination of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) and Lagree. Photo courtesy of Mecha.

7. The House Call

Why It’s Hot: On-demand urgent care brings medical services to your living room.

The Gist: In an era of industry disruption (hello, Netflix and AirBnB), it’s not surprising that on-demand health services are popping up to satisfy patients’ needs for prompt medical attention. Among those services is Denver-based DispatchHealth, which aims to spare you the hassle of a long wait in the emergency room and save you from pricey ambulance rides by sending trained medical pros to your home. Here’s how it works: The company’s online and mobile platforms connect you with DispatchHealth—via the website or app—and an operator, who is a member of the medical team, determines if the situation requires hospitalization. (If so, you’re not a candidate for the company’s help. Read: Get thee to the ER.) If not, within about 90 minutes of initial contact, a medical team arrives at your house with all the tools necessary to transform your living room into a sterile examining room. Say your son cuts open his knee skateboarding and needs stitches to shut the wound. DispatchHealth will come to you and “essentially admit you into your home instead of the hospital,” says co-founder and chief strategy officer Kevin Riddleberger. The company will also collect your copay and bill your insurance, send a medical report to your primary care physician, and even follow up three days later to answer questions. The entire process is low-stress and convenient, Riddleberger says. “It’s very clear that seniors and children feel comfortable in their kitchen or living room,” he says. “There are healing mechanisms associated with being inside your home as opposed to inside a hospital.” Venture capitalists agree: The company just closed on $30.6 million in venture capital funding, expanded to Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Richmond, Virginia, and is actively courting new markets. So let your five-year-old tear through the house on her hoverboard scooter. If she wipes out, at least she can get patched up in the comfort of her own home.
Info: dispatchhealth.com

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8. M.D.-Run Wellness Centers

Why It’s Hot: Traditional medicine gets sexy with complementary services, including naturopathic, chiropractic, and holistic treatments.

The Gist: Say “integrative medicine” in some parts of the country, and you’ll be met with a blank stare. Say it to the growing population of Colorado M.D.s who’ve left traditional practices to open their own spalike centers, and they’ll quickly give you the full menu of services they offer. These docs know their audience: healthful, active people who are willing to pay big bucks to stave off illness or injury, especially when care comes from a board-certified specialist. Take the International Health & Wellness Center (IHWC) in Colorado Springs, which celebrated its grand opening in June. Co-founded by Dr. Michael Barber, former managing partner of Colorado Springs Cardiologists, the IHWC claims to deliver personalized and preventive treatment. “Our only objective is to comprehensively and accurately evaluate and diagnose the whole person for current or potential medical issues,” Barber says. For patients, that holistic approach might mean taking a turn in the German-made Bod Pod, which calculates body fat and lean muscle, hopping on the treadmill for a stress test, and then getting a high dose of vitamins and minerals—“nutritional therapy”—delivered via IV. Among the booming health and wellness centers in the state are Louisville’s Salt Spa, run by family physician Dr. Nita Desai, and Colorado Springs’ Genesis MedSpa, headed up by former ER physician Dr. Lisa Jenks. These doctors say they’re challenging the status quo—counteracting problems such as limited time with patients and a focus on treating symptoms instead of cultivating overall health. And who knows? Maybe they’ll inspire a shift in preventive care outside spa walls, too.
Info: gardenofthegodsclub.com/wellness

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