By Rob Verkerk PhD, founder, executive and scientific director

At ANH, for around 15 years now, we’ve been pushing out, in your direction, two pieces of content every week, along with an international news roundup. Then there’s all the information we also release via social media and our practitioner channels. Over the last year, we’ve added more video content with the help of our inhouse multimedia expert, Ellen, in keeping with the growing popularity of video as a communication medium.

But while we do all that, there’s a huge amount that goes on behind the scenes that we don’t publicise. That includes the work we do to keep the natural health sector (in the UK, Europe and beyond) from the ravages of over-zealous regulators, misinformed and mischief-making press reporters and protective business forces, notably those closely associated with Big Pharma. 

We don’t often publicise this information because it’s simply too sensitive to be put into the public domain. It would give those forces intent on curtailing the development of natural health more grist for the mill, more rope with which to hang the very natural health sector that we so passionately support and promote. So we keep it under wraps.

Connecting dots, framing pictures

This brings me to the main purpose for this blog which is motivated by a degree of frustration. Our thoughts, feelings, ideas and belief systems are inevitably framed by the experiences we’ve accrued, the information we’ve received and our ability to use our frontal lobes to rationalise this net experience and information.

If we can’t tell you – our long-suffering supporters – about the inside track of everything we do, the challenges we face, and our victories and losses along the way, how are you to really appreciate just how uncertain the future of natural healthcare is? 

The grim reality of the effects of incomplete information has hit me hard these last few days and weeks. I’m reminded of the plethora of different views about whether Boris Johnson’s Brexit deal is better or worse for the future of the UK and Ireland. The British people and even families and spouses are split on the issue. Or we can ponder on whether Donald Trump’s decision to withhold US aid to the Ukraine after he alleged wrongdoing by Hunter Biden is an impeachable offence.

Nearly all of us have an incomplete picture of these kinds of events. Yet our desire to apply logic and rationality to the world we perceive means we are compelled to join whatever dots we do have to make some kind of a picture that at least makes sense to us. The result of our unique experiences and different information and backgrounds means that we all create different pictures. Sometimes, the picture created by a friend, a political commentator or someone we respect like our family doctor seems more complete than ours and we decide it’s better to adjust our views to this new, apparently more enlightened, perspective. Other times we reject it because there seems to be an inconsistent logic to the view – it simply doesn’t make sense to us. However we see these issues, many of us, as social beings, like to be part of a group. So we seek out others who share the same world view, that being the basis of groups as diverse as political parties, special interest groups or hobbyists.

Fear ain’t no fad

Another part of our inheritance that has helped us get at least this far is our response to fear. Many people are driven by it, or should I say, away from it. A sense of fear is hard-wired into us and our amygdala is on constant lookout to keep us safe. The trouble is our response to fear, being located in a more primitive part of our brain, is not necessarily rational. Fear concerns our uncertainty about the future – be it near or far.

If we are fearful about a world in which everyone is subjugated to a healthcare system that dispenses little more than new-to-nature drugs to treat the symptoms of disease and recombinant DNA vaccines loaded with chemical adjuvants that risk exposing our children to unpredictable harms, we might feel we need to do everything we can to keep open health choices that involve other, more natural ways of staying healthy. Conversely, if we interpret these very same interventions as life-saving, we’ll do everything to protect them. Few of us have exhaustive information one way or another so it’s hard to make any one view stick with everyone.

If we are fearful about being ruled by an unelected executive that loads us down with red tape and limits our freedoms, we may see fit to walk away from the EU. If we are concerned that a ‘no deal’ Brexit is akin to pushing ourselves off a cliff and it will cause insurmountable hardship, job losses, price rises and environmental destruction, we may think it better to stick with the devil we know. Or perhaps lobby for a more democratic or proportionate way of governing half a billion people across the EU.   

When we reject something that has had a major influence on our lives we need to fill the vacuum. This is how Obama was replaced by Trump, or May by Johnson. Because we don’t have very much information about the uncharted waters into which we are now driven by our fear, we can create an idealised picture that seems better than the one that’s been up on our mind’s wall for some time and has begun to fade or deteriorate.

Nature rules

It’s here that I come full circle back to the subject of my real passion: living naturally and sustainably with and alongside Nature. The majority of people on our delicate planet, so it seems, have not really come to terms with the extent to which our genes, physiology, metabolism and behaviours are adapted to the world that existed prior to the Industrial Revolution some 200 years ago. 

Popping a pill for an ill seems quite a natural thing to do, yet it’s so unnatural. Despite copious information suggesting that this method of healthcare contributes to the third leading cause of death, so many still see this as our best available option – the mainstay of healthcare. Despite its clear risks, it feels like the way forward, because it’s endorsed by everyone from our local family doctor through to our governments. That means we can blur out any of the rough edges in our own pictures and coalesce our own vision with those with which we entrust our health or our sense of security in what might otherwise be an anarchical world.

Hope in the empowerment of youth

Yesterday I spoke to a group of students about how they can take control of their lives. How they can work with the 12 domains of health we describe in our blueprint and optimise function across multiple systems and so elevate their level of health without needing to rely on pills from their doctors. Whenever I do something like this and I witness the reaction and sense of empowerment that it instils, I see hope.

When the stories of the incredibly positive experiences of natural approaches to health among a critical number of us reaches a tipping point, the change that so many of us have been looking to see in our lifetimes will come to pass.

These areas of natural health and medicine will continue to be regarded as areas of emerging science for some time because research investment is hard to come by given the prevailing business models. That means we will find it difficult to draw pictures that are agreeable to our opponents. We simply don’t have enough dots to change their minds.

But the power of experience and story is here today. Taking a leaf out of a widely held view about Brexit, originated of course by Nike, let’s "just do it”.