By Scott J. Banks, Joe Kraynak, J. J. Virgin

Natural medicine isn’t as easy as popping a pill. It’s a juggling act that involves diet, lifestyle, nutritional supplements, herbs, body work, and other factors. It requires a great deal of attention to detail. To help keep track of all the details, sometimes it helps to look at the big picture. Here are ten principles that drive natural medicine and ease the burden of having to remember all the details.

Community is the cure

According to an old African proverb, “If you want to travel swiftly, go alone. If you want to travel far, travel together.” As you embark on your journey toward wellness, team up with other like‐minded individuals to support one another and hold each other accountable for meeting your goals. Start by getting everyone in your household onboard; living healthy is easier when everyone around you is working to achieve the same goal.

Create your own support group on Facebook, where you can post your progress and celebrate your success with others, but also meet face‐to‐face every so often. Human contact is healthier than digital communication.

Treat the patient, not the symptoms

For a medical treatment to be effective, it must accommodate the intricate interactions between nature and nurture — an individual patient’s unique biological makeup and how it’s influenced by diet, lifestyle, and environmental factors. Natural medicine practitioners account for these differences in individual patients and tailor their treatments to meet the unique needs of each patient.

Consult a natural medicine practitioner for a complete health evaluation to identify deficiencies and dysfunctions that you need to address. Nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle interventions work best when tailored specifically to meet your individual needs.

You are what you eat has eaten

Conventional wisdom tells you that you are what you eat, but “You are what you eat has eaten.” Genetically modified vegetables grown in nutrient‐depleted soil that’s laced with herbicides and insecticides are obviously not as good for you as those grown organically in rich soil without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Grass‐fed beef from pastured cows is much better for you than beef from corn‐fed cows raised on feed lots and pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones.

Pay the farmer instead of the doctor

Organically grown and raised foods are more expensive than their commercially grown and raised counterparts, but what you’ll ultimately save in doctor bills and medications will more than cover the added costs of the healthier food, and you’ll feel a whole lot better along the way.

The same is true of nutritional supplements. Although they may be expensive and insurance may not cover their cost, they treat the underlying causes of illness and not just the symptoms. In addition, they’re less likely than pharmaceutical medications to cause other serious, chronic, and sometimes irreversible illnesses.

Food is your best medicine

Food provides your body with much more than just the fuel and building blocks it needs to function; it also conveys information to your genes, flipping microscopic switches on or off that can trigger or protect against serious chronic illnesses, including arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. Send your genes good information loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients from plant‐based foods. Avoid bathing your genes in highly refined processed fats and sugars that send destructive messages.

Don’t let the food industry fool you. Adding fiber to a sugary cereal doesn’t make it healthy. Nonfat or low‐fat products created by replacing the fats with sugar are often worse for you than the fatty foods. Products advertised as gluten‐free are often packed with other starches that are likely to spike your blood glucose and insulin levels.

Dread white bread

White flour products have been severely processed, bleached, and stripped of their nutritional value. They’re essentially another form of sugar. Like sugar, they spike your blood glucose and insulin levels and increase your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular illness.

Eliminate all cereal grains, including wheat and corn, from your diet. Until about 10,000 years ago, humans lived perfectly healthy lives without grains as a part of their diet, and you can live perfectly well without them, too. In fact, you’ll probably feel better not eating grains.

Instead of bread, add another vegetable to your plate, preferably one that’s not starchy. If you can’t do without grains, consume them in moderation — a small serving a couple times a week — and choose from the least processed of the whole grains: millet, quinoa, rice, amaranth, and tapioca.

Don’t drink your calories

Soda, fruit juices, sports drinks, vitamin water, and other high sugar drinks are liquid death. Yet the average person in the United States drinks 53 gallons of soda per year. That’s almost a gallon per week. High calorie liquid beverages of all kinds increase your risk for obesity, diabetes, cognitive decline, and heart disease. In the meantime, they make you fat, tired, and irritable.

Stop drinking sweetened drinks of all kinds. Artificial sweeteners are no better for you than sugar or high-fructose corn syrup and may actually be worse for you. Drink water or unsweetened green or herbal tea. Plenty of teas are on the market these days. Chances are you can find one you like.

Let your genes be your guide

Although your genes alone don’t determine your destiny in terms of health, they do influence the structure and function of every cell and every system in your body. Fortunately, through the miracles of modern science, healthcare professionals can now examine an individual’s genotype (genetic constitution) to gauge the person’s risk for contracting certain illnesses and to identify biological deficiencies and dysfunctions that call for adjustments in the person’s treatment plan.

For example, some people have a genetic mutation that prevents them from converting folic acid to folate. Giving such a person folic acid to treat a folate deficiency does little good; a methylated form of folate solves that problem.

Genetic testing, now available in most states, gives your healthcare provider the information she needs to make informed treatment decisions and tailor your treatment plan to your specific needs. This type of testing is especially useful in determining which supplements or medications are likely to work best for you. If you have a specific illness that’s not responding to treatment, ask your natural healthcare provider whether genetic testing may help to shed light on the problem.

Stress kills

Short‐term stress is natural and beneficial. Thanks to the fight‐or‐flight response, you get a surge of adrenaline and energy that increases your awareness, boosts your strength, and supercharges your reflexes. Long‐term stress, on the other hand, kills. It raises your blood pressure, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, and elevates cortisol, which blocks insulin, contributing to insulin resistance, which leads to metabolic syndrome and ultimately diabetes.

You basically have three options for dealing with a stressful situation or person: resolve it, avoid it, or let it go. “Let it go,” means let the stress go — sometimes, the only thing within your control is whether you choose to feel stressed about it. Why worry if you can’t do anything about it?

Sleep on it

Sleep provides the body with downtime to rest, process information, restore proper function, and repair itself. If you’re not getting enough sleep (typically about eight hours a day), you’re going to get sick. Your brain will be the first to feel it.

If you need a sleep aid, start with calcium, magnesium, 5‐HTP (5‐hydroxytryptophan), and melatonin. If these don’t do the trick, ask your doctor about adding one of the following prescription medications for shortterm use only: Ambien, Desyrel, or Klonopin.