We have a few goals when we’re writing, webinar-ing, and podcasting for you. First, we want you to learn something and enjoy the ride. Second, we’re trying to NOT say the same old, repeated filler nonsense you see almost literally everywhere else. Finally, I always try to speak to some larger issue beyond the topic, supplement, or health concern we’re discussing.
In my research around adrenal fatigue, I kicked over a rock and discovered a truth that anyone who engages with the wellness industry should come face to face with and understand.
It has to do with the framework the natural product industry propaganda instills in our mind. I believe they set a trap for us all, and they do so by exploiting a basic psychological “flaw”. Let’s discuss the framework and really dig in here, as I believe it will help you better navigate your wellness by empowering you more than ever.
The Natural vs Pharma Battle
When I say “framework,” I’m talking about the structured format the media, gurus, blogs, and practically everyone puts a conversation into. The one I speak to most often is the “Natural vs Traditional.”
The idea is that many of us think natural is better simply because it’s natural. Seems silly to say that. Anyway, natural things are safer with fewer drug interactions and no list of side effects a mile long, we believe. Pharmaceutical or traditional medicine is the opposite end of the spectrum, with powerful, synthetic chemicals riddled with “toxicities” and all that other stuff.
I’ve pointed out numerous times how this is incorrect. First, in the Middle Path of Wellness, I highlight the need to identify both for their benefits and flaws. Our Wellness Pyramid says we live our best lives when we included supplements and medical care only when appropriate. We can’t be all one way or the other, but both, only when really justified.
There is no Natural vs Traditional. That doesn’t exist. I’ve drawn a pretty picture that shows that 14 mega-corporations own most supplement brands, and most of those guys are pharmaceutical companies (or big-money investors from other countries). “Big Pharma” is a major supplier of most raw materials used in vitamins and supplements.
I’ve gently touched on the idea that we believe Pharma is corrupt due to the drug reps pushing hard for high-cost drugs via speaking fees, pens, and clocks, even though this RARELY happens any more after some legislative change. Most people don’t know that supplement manufacturers do the same thing by wining and dining practitioners, both real and fake, to get them to “prescribe” more of their supplements. I’ve watched my own (past) employees fall for this trap, and change their recommendations because of it.
There’s a list that goes on and on. Essentially, we’re told it’s Natural vs Traditional, but they’re really the same animal.
More importantly, Natural vs Traditional is a silly framework. It’s not one or the other, it’s both – when appropriate. There’s no such thing as medicine vs alternative medicine. There’s good medicine and there is bad medicine. This is the REAL framework we should be discussing and have ingrained in our minds.
This is a double standard that was created FOR us to consume more supplements, and we’ve picked it up and applied it to our belief systems as if it were truth. I hope I can help people be more aware of it, and blow up this framework with the intention of providing wellness without any BS.
It extends further, though, and that’s the REAL point of this article.
The Learned Behaviors
I’ve been observing people for over 10 years in the wellness industry. I, of course, know the people seeking advice from me, but I also observe many others going to naturopaths and the like.
I get quite ranty about this, as I believe a lot of the time people are getting sold a bill of goods. These “practitioners” use unproven and fake tests to tell people they have non-medically recognized diseases that their special protocol, method, or supplement regimen will fix.
While I recognize that buried in all that pomp, circumstance, and BS is some solid advice, I don’t believe it’s ethical.
Like I said when we talked about Constipation, you can throw a million supplements at people for their gut health and then tell them to stay hydrated, eat fiber, and take probiotics – advice we ALL agree on since it’s clinically proven – and of course they’re going to get better. Was it your expertise and protocol, or was it the “boring” and “unsexy” advice to eat a small forest every day?
Then it hit me. We reject traditional medicine, but we want all the trappings of traditional medicine.
- We want an expert, usually with credentials. Traditional credentials like MD are frowned upon, and everyone’s trying to come up with a new set of initials that give them credence. Dr. Axe isn’t a real doctor, but look at all the initials! Heck, even I have to call myself a “Holistic Pharmacist” to soften the blow and stigma of “Big Pharma.”
- We want to do tests. So many people look for lab results to get the truth of what’s going on with their body, even if those tests are not clinically accurate or relevant.
- We want a diagnosis. If we know what the problem is, we can throw our full efforts behind addressing it, fixing what ails us, and having a higher quality of life.
- We want a protocol. We want to take something. We have a predisposition to want a magic bullet. We’ll do the work (mostly), but we itch for that pill or pills that will help us feel better quicker.
- We want results. ASAP. Though it has taken us a while to get where we are, then some time to actually take action around an issue, we all (and I mean all) want quick resolution to health problems, because sometimes we DO get that.
These are learned behaviors. We’ve been taught by the medical industry (very effectively, it seems), to look for that magic pill. But that magic pill comes with all these other steps.
I bring this up for two reasons. First, to point out our own conditioning. If we’re aware, remember, we can break the cycle. Second, to illustrate how these patterns we’re familiar with, seek out, and are most comfortable with are exploited by the natural product industry.
It’s A Trap
There’s something else that propels us towards a clear cut diagnosis, whether it is medically recognized or not. It’s human emotion, and I learned about it by facing my own issues.
When we have these trappings, it gives us the feeling we are taking steps and actions while not facing the truth. It’s easier to say “It’s not me or my choices; I have adrenal fatigue.” Than it is to say “I have to do hard work and heavy lifting to change MY behaviors and MY choices.”
This isn’t meant to be an attack, even though it’s easy to get defensive here. Again, all I’m asking for is awareness. This is an extremely normal and distinctly human emotional process that serves us well in other areas.
The natural products industry is preying on this emotional, and sometimes illogical, mental processing.
They are creating a pain that only they can fix.
We can’t stop this. We’re programmed this way. I do it, you do it, we all do it!
We just have to be aware that our brains will behave this way. We’re conditioned to want all the steps – testing, diagnosis, protocol, magic pill. If we get that diagnosis, we feel better, partly because it shifts to a mental externality. We can stop this cycle.
That itch that we’re scratching by finding a diagnosis and going through the motions doesn’t need to be scratched.
Own the Means, Own The End
All the above being said, I get it. Much smarter people than I have commented on my thought process. One smarty, Zoe Fraad-Blanar (who was a guest on our podcast – check it out!) reminded me of the following:
“Sometimes it’s not the medicine, it’s the spoon.”
I get it. For some, these processes arrive people at a better place. Going through these motions help to propel people forward, no matter if the steps are scientifically proven or not. This is a big piece the more traditional professionals need to embrace more.
Here’s the take-home: I don’t believe we should blindly give our agency over to charlatans.
In everything we do or say, we point out very clearly and loudly that the REAL answers to living your best life are all within your reach. There aren’t magic steps, protocols, or processes that will get you to live your best life. There are no magic bullets.
Does it seem too good to be true? It is. A new disease that embodies all your ailments that experts think isn’t real? It probably isn’t.
Just this past year we’ve seen a glut of new solutions trying to solve your problems. The newest diet like keto or IF, the newest disease like MTHFR, or the newest miracle product (I’m looking at you CBD! You’re great, but you’re causing people’s expectations to be out of whack). It goes on and on, year after year.
There will always be a new gimmick or trick. It will be presented in a way that is appealing. The process may even help people (because the products or diagnoses rarely do). You may have a compulsion to seek the latest and greatest out. Take pause.
You don’t need it. You have everything you need: a checklist of all the steps you can take (and can control) to live your best life, and, of course…
All You Need Is You
We have almost all we need to live our best lives. Most of our pain is caused by the decisions we make. There’s so much we can do to change that. We don’t need a $1000 consult, $400 in supplements, and a bunch of tests to tell us that.
I don’t have an attachment to any path anyone chooses. If going through the motions gets you to a healthy place, I’m good with it. My goal is to give you back your agency. I want to empower you to lead yourself down that path.
Just trying to keep it real…
Neal Smoller, PharmD
Owner, Pharmacist, Big Mouth