Local Wellness Center Takes Community Approach To Healthier Food Choices

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Julie Cerrone never planned on being a health coach, but her battle with a long list of medical ailments, including an auto-immune disorder called psoriatic arthritis, led her down a new path that started in her kitchen.

“I kind of got to the point where I was spending about five days a week in bed and not being able to do anything,” Julie told KDKA’s Kym Gable. “I just needed to make a change.”

So, Julie sought out her own health coach.

“He really inspired me and made me realize I was going through all this to help others and to really use my experience for good,” Cerrone said.

Julie is now one of the certified health coaches that lead a series of workshops at the Avani Institute, an innovative wellness center in McMurray that opened in 2013.

Founder and director Karen Shanahan says the facility offers a variety of programs and treatments aimed at creating balance. The workshop that Julie is teaching is called “The Secret Side of Food: How to Heal Yourself in the Kitchen.”

“We wanted to teach people what food actually does in their body – why for some people it’s creating a problem and others it’s not and how to read labels because most of us think we’re feeding our families healthy and then we find out… what we’re feeding our children has ingredients that are actually not healthy for them,” Shanahan said.

The workshop puts a major emphasis on genetically modified organisms or GMOs, a food whose DNA has been altered from its natural state.

“There’s so much research these days that shows that a leaky gut, which GMOs are a big factor, are a pre-cursor to auto-immune disease, chronic illness, and it’s not knowledge that’s widespread and it should be,” said Julie.

She explained that one of the advantages of the community-based approach towards wellness is the sharing and discussion of information, something solitary computer research at home just can’t provide.

One of her goals is to educate participants on how to read labels at the grocery store.

“I was mind-blown when I first started looking at ingredient lists and paying attention to what I was eating,” she said.

Julie’s health has improved dramatically since she cut out GMOs and foods that caused inflammation.

She was so encouraged that she decided to make a career out of sharing those results with others.

“It can make a huge impact and I want others to know that as well,” she said.

While the FDA does not evaluate food as a way to prevent or cure disease, several studies have shown these foods can help with certain conditions:

  • Cherries, guava, onions, cabbage, and kale to fight inflammation and certain cancers.
  • Kiwi and beans to prevent heart disease.
  • Spinach for eye disease and vision loss.
  • Lemon and dandelion for liver and kidney disorders.
  • Ginger, curry, and eggplant to lower cholesterol.
  • Foods rich in Omega 3’s – like walnuts and salmon – to lessen inflammation.


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