This week, we had the privilege of interviewing Eric Cooper, the founder and CEO of Pressed Vibrance in Chicago. Eric's story began like others you may have heard before - he lived a sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, often seeking out that afternoon sugary snack and sustaining off overly processed foods and drinks. In a nutshell, he was living an unbalanced and unhealthy lifestyle, which left little time for exercise, family, and sleep. Sound familiar? Unless you live in The Blue Zones or a Swedish Glass House, most people you encounter share (a least some of) Eric's previous habits.
Unlike most people you encounter, Eric DID something about it.
Q: Many of our readers may not know - can you explain how your health journey began?
A: Certainly. In 2000, I was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis (a gastrointestinal disease) and had learned to live with my symptoms - it just became part of my life. It wasn't until 2007/2008, when things took a turn, and I couldn't shake my symptoms for a solid year. I ended up spending a rough 2+ weeks at Northwestern Hospital, meeting with a multitude of doctors and dealing with my deteriorating health. The situation became serious when I was forced to seek out the expert surgeons at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, who quickly assessed my situation and gave me two weeks to live.
Within 72 hours of that news, I had my colon removed and had reconstructive surgery of my small intestine. Between those two major surgeries, my wife set me on the path I'm on today. Her message to me was to own my health.
I have an autoimmune disease (my body attacks itself), which is simply part of my DNA. As much as I'm "cured" of Ulcerative Colitis (since I no longer have a large intestine) my autoimmune disease is something I'll always live with. You can't have your DNA removed...yet. As my wife suggested, I've accepted my body for what it is and now have full ownership of my health. I've set a path for myself that has become my deep passion and something I love to share.
Q: Was there a specific moment in time when you discovered that food = medicine? In other words, how did you make that connection?
A: Through my research in functional lifestyle and integrative wellness, I came across the science and study of Nutrigenomics. Nutrigenomics is the science that food communicates with our bodies on a molecular and genetic level. In other words, we are what we eat. Food, as well as other environmental factors, can influence our genes from simply turning them on and off. The more processed "fake" foods or inflammatory based foods we consume, the more our bodies break down, and/or turn on specific genetic dispositions. For most of us, food is a major influencer in our genes. Food is information, food is medicine, food is fuel.
Q: What have you learned about the correlation between poor nutrition and disease since that time?
A: I'm a strong believer that if you're not looking at nutrition as a first place to start to either prevent, reverse, or provide a foundational platform to be your best, you're going to have some challenges down the road. Inflammation is the root cause of every major disease (and non-major) under the sun! Simply put, the 5 leading causes of death (including cancers, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, heart disease) as well as ALS, MS, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, other autoimmune diseases, and even the common cold all have a common bio-marker -- and that's inflammation! Find the root cause of inflammation, and your body will respond in kind.
An oxygen rich or alkaline environment in one's body provides balance and an anti-inflammatory environment - which therefore allows your body to function properly. Nutrition is different for everyone, knowing what you can and can't have is deeper then just saying "I eat healthy."
Q: Why is it that so many people do not make the connection between what we put into our bodies and how we feel, live, and ultimately function as humans?
A: I believe for the most part, we've been told by doctors, health professionals, and industry folks that there's little to no connection. I like to use the example of milk. If you're a calf, then cow's milk is right up your alley. There's really no other species that consumes another specie's milk. Humans should only drink milk from humans. Further, animals in the wild only consume milk for a short period of time in their early life. We as humans are told that consuming cow's milk is ideal into adulthood. The science says anything but...
In fact, dairy from cows will leach (meaning, steal) calcium from bones to make them MORE brittle. There are a lot of confused, misinformed people out there. I'm here to tell you that the best sources of calcium are found in plants.
Q: Tell us a bit about Pressed Vibrance. We know you're not just a "juice company."
A: We are far from another juice company. We're more of an ultra-wellness and longevity company that functions like a lifestyle company. Everything we touch is made to be anti-inflammatory and high alkaline! Knowing the root cause of disease are these two issues, we're pretty mindful of what we make and why. We look to be a major part of one's day, by customizing all of our products for the unique individual's needs.
Outside of juices, we produce and sell bone broths, vegan soups, snacks such as granola, kale chips, energy bites, and whole food supplements in the form of chia seeds, maca, moringa, probiotics, CBD and others, as well as chaga, reishi, cordycepes, and lions mane (to name a few medicinal mushrooms).
Further, our beauty and personal care line of functioning goods are deeply amazing - from bath salts, melts, lotions, salves, and oils. Our performance side of our brand is quite unique - we've been part of two Stanley Cup Championships and a World Series to boot. Everything we touch is made with purpose, function, and to get you feeling great - all of the time.
Q: As wellness enthusiasts that also work in the corporate world, Corporate Wellness is something we care very much about. Can you explain your service offerings in this space?
A: Our corporate offerings are mainly directed by LulaFit, which brings corporate wellness to an integrative approach. Our partnership is really great in the sense that our alignment with their philosophy, people and outcomes drives our own mission as well. Rather us re-invent the wheel, we've partnered with a great group of people doing great work in the corporate space. From employee outcomes to upper management - we have a great program that can be put together.
Q: Finally, do you see a shift in how Americans are thinking about health and wellness? What do you wish for in the future, and do you think we'll get there?
A: There is for sure a shift going on. Here in Chicago, just over the last few years, there's been a proliferation of great groups doing great work, as well as individuals doing great work. We're all about making an impact whether it be a single individual, a family, or an entire community.
One reason we're really excited about our Preferred Network is because of this shift happening in our community and all over the country. Bringing these people and groups together to build a deep community of good is only going to get us all on the right path. When we first started, it was a bit frustrating that there wasn't much movement in this shift. Today, it's growing and we couldn't be more excited about the changes ahead.
What a powerful note to end on. I couldn't agree more with Eric's vision of the future and his belief in a New Age of wellness. We are so honored to share Eric's story and be a part of this change for the better.
Stay tuned for exciting news about our upcoming partnership with Pressed Vibrance!
Editor's Note 1.16.18: We are so proud to partner with Eric and the team at Pressed Vibrance. Together, we hope to change the way people view food. Interested in doing the same? Start NOW and try some of our favorite products from Pressed:
Fire Killer: the ultimate anti-inflammatory elixir. Packed with antioxidants, it aids in digestion, soothes aches and pains, improves brain function, and helps fight chronic diseases.
Tigernut Milk: a delicious alternative to nut milk. Tigernuts are actually root vegetables, not nuts! They are deeply rich in fiber and a powerful source of antioxidants.
Chaga Medicinal Mushrooms: Used for thousands of years, medicinal mushrooms are a total powerhouse when it comes to healing properties
Kale Chips: my favorite new way to snack. A little spicy, a little crunchy, and a lot nutritious.
Bath Salts: looking for a spa experience in your own home? These bath salts are the perfect way to pamper AND are full of magnesium to reduce inflammation and ease sore muscles and joints.