For nutrition and health enthusiasts, this past weekend’s Take Back Your Health Conference in Arlington, Virginia was a two-day slice of heaven. With nationally-recognized health and wellness giants giving fascinating presentations, dozens of fabulous giveaways, and local vendors sharing their products and services in the exhibit hall, there was no shortage of education or inspiration.

Although not specifically targeted to parents, the conference brought in many holistic-minded moms, like health counselor and mom of two Christi Flynn. “Spending time with positive, high vibrating people is inspiring and contagious,” she said. “It reminds me that there is a vision of the future that is bigger” than just one individual.

As a mom whose health has been radically improved by diet and lifestyle changes, I appreciated that the speakers all addressed ways to take charge of health from the inside out, through nutrition and lifestyle rather than by taking pills.

Jason Wrobel and others, including conference organizer Robin Shirley and fellow holistic health counselor Stephanie Hall, talked up the benefits of raw foods diets. With Vitamix blenders and young coconuts at the ready, these presenters’ demonstrations inspired the audience to get the power of phytonutrients into their bodies.

Holistic dentist Felix Liao of Whole Health Dental Center in Northern Virginia and Weston A. Price Foundation president and Nourishing Traditions author Sally Fallon Morell discussed traditional diets and the importance of healthy fats throughout pregnancy and childhood, and even prenatally. The quality of nutrition enjoyed by a child’s parents and grandparents, they said, affects the jaw structure and overall health of the child.

Sally Fallon Morell, author of Nourishing Tradtions and Real Food blogger Kimberly Hartke discuss traditional diets in the Take Back Your Health Conference exhibit hall.

Dr. Liao drew the work of Fallon and of pioneering dentist and Nutrition and Physical Degeneration author Weston A. Price to demonstrate how traditional diets support strong, healthy facial structures. In his travels around the world in the 1920s, Dr. Price found that communities of indigenous people who held onto their traditional diets had strong healthy mouths, healthy bodies and happy lives while nearby communities who integrated processed foods into their diets had dental problems and myriad other physical and mental disorders.

Today, Dr. Liao sees many patients whose bite problems have led to other health issues and even academic problems, some of which have been made even worse through the use of orthodontics that looks only at the mouth and not the whole body. In his practice, Dr. Liao uses expanders and other appliances to give the mouth the shape it needs for optimal breathing and alignment. A recent presentation to the Northern Virginia Whole Food Meetup group specifically addressed supporting children’s  health through holistic dentistry.

Dr. Joel Furhman focused his presentation on nutritional science behind a healthy diet.  Recommending plenty of vegetables, fruits, beans and grains and defining “nutritarian” as one who eats based on the nutrients in each food, Furhman gave specific suggestions for daily eating that he finds essential for optimal health.  His book, Disease-Proof Your Child: Feeding Kids Right, elaborates on these ideas. His presentation included some of the latest scientific findings surrounding heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis, and described how these diseases can be prevented or even reversed through diet alone. One note for the prenatal crowd was that it’s folate that moms need (from foods like beans and greens) and that folic acid in supplements/multi-vitamins might actually increase the mother’s risk for cancer.

Ayurvedic medicine was the topic of Dr. John Douillard’s presentation. He explained the importance of eating locally and eating seasonally, as well as paying attention to the unique needs of each individual.  The author of Perfect Health For Kids: 10 Ayurvedic Health Secrets Every Parent Must Know  explained that the human body and its digestive needs are connected to the growing seasons of the Earth.  In the Fall, for instance, we crave warmer heavy foods because our body is communicating to us its need to stock up on healthy fats to warm the body and provide insulation for the cold months ahead.  And in the long, hot days of summer, we benefit from the cooling and hydrating berries and other high-carbohydrate fruits.  Ayurveda, which means “science of life,” emphasizes prevention by proactively treating people when they are healthy and focuses on the individual with the disease rather than on the disease itself.

If you missed these and the other great speakers, have no fear: most presentations are available on DVD, and the organizers are planning for a spring conference and possibly future conferences every six months. What a motivator to get — and keep — your family healthy!

Jessica Claire Haney has made holistic health practically a full-time job, but it sure beats the alternative of feeling bad! She blogs at Crunchy-Chewy Mama.