Chronic pain, inflammation and health problems: The new approach

Consider this scenario: A bout with “food poisoning” that lead to swollen lymph nodes and then a diagnosis of strep throat. The antibiotics made the symptoms worse. She was next referred to an internist, who declared the problem mental, not physical. The internist referred her to a psychiatrist who said she was mentally healthy who referred her back to an MD who—despite her nearly passing out in the waiting room with blood pressure of 70/50—said “everything’s normal, why do you keep coming back here?” Meanwhile, others became frustrated and labelled her “lazy and selfish” or “needing coddling.”

This is the famous author Laura Hillenbrand who documented and published the best-selling novel Seabiscuit: An American Legend—now a major motion picture. Hardly lazy; definitely in need of holistic health care.

Where did western medicine go wrong?

She didn’t fit the model:

  1. Modern medicine concerns itself with diagnosing a disease;
  2. Once properly named, then the “evidence-based” drug or surgery can be prescribed.

Medical doctors are extremely good at naming and prescribing—but this only works if there is a single entity underneath that disease—an entity that can be controlled with a medication. Something you “catch” and that can then be killed with a drug. Or something your body can’t make anymore because the organ that makes it has been removed or destroyed.

Naming and prescribing doesn’t work if the person’s story or the body’s situation is more complicated.

In Hillenbrand’s case, since 1987 she’s had chronic fatigue syndrome—a complex pattern of symptoms that can have a number of different causes. Initially, a string of doctors tried to convince her that the illness wasn’t real—specialist after specialist considered everything from delayed puberty, or perhaps heartburn, or an eating disorder… or her imagination.

Today, nearly 1 million people with this mysterious set of symptoms are diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome.

The old paradigm

Consider my client, Matt. He could be the guy next door at 57 years old and getting ready for an adventure trip to Africa. Describes himself as “pretty healthy.” He sees an internist, a gastroenterologist, a pulmonologist, and a dermatologist who each have made separate diagnoses and prescribed 12 different medications that he takes for colitis, asthma, alopecia areata (a type of baldness), and high blood pressure. He’s also 30 pounds overweight. A common scenario.

Both of these individuals do what most people do: they went to specialists—the expert on that specific problem.

Their treatments are considered standard for the named disease. In 2014, we spent over $9500 per person on healthcare expenses yet the number of unresolved health problems is rising exponentially.

Everything is connected to everything

When we look differently—through the holistic, whole body, lens—we see that Laura and Matt have something in common: each of these “diseases” have inflammatory components that affect multiple organ systems (and specialties).

By connecting the symptom patterns against his dietary habits, we found that Matt had a grain sensitivity. In fact, most of Matt’s symptom patterns could be explained by something he was eating. Steps to address his grain-caused symptoms included the obvious grain-free diet, targeted digestive enzymes, and also manual therapies to speed along the healing process. Within six months, his hair grew back, he lost 25 pounds, and stabilized his blood pressure with no more need for medications. His asthma symptoms disappeared and his bowel movements normalized.

Laura Hillenbrand speaks about her experience through her writing. She uses her story to encourage others with chronic fatigue that staying ahead is about balancing with diet, and in her case combined with rigorous pacing and yoga for fitness and emotional benefits. The holistic view has given her a better life.

The body is smart

Inside each of us is the complete blueprint for every function, to run every system, for every single chemical reaction, every tissue formation, to fight off every bacterial invasion or viral infection, in short to do everything the body needs to do without us ever thinking about it.

The exact blueprints found in each of us vary from person to person. Our 30,000 genes have some 3 million variations which create unique needs in all of us. There are some basics that hold true for most—but after that, we are all different.

One thing holds true: Given enough of the genuine building blocks it needs to heal and repair at the end of each day, the body will stay healthy.

Everyone is unique—there is no one-size-fits-all

Beyond our DNA code, the interaction of our unique genetic blueprint with the environment around us and even in the womb can make us taller or shorter, change our jaw structure and bone length, turn our hair gray or cause it to fall out sooner and even compared with our identical twin if we have one.

inflammation, anti-inflammatory, chronic inflammation, anchorage chiropractor, pain relief, whole foods, natural healthFrequent illnesses or even colds, environmental toxins, allergies, emotional stress, accumulating metals… especially early in life, all tell the body that the environment is dangerous, hostile. To protect itself, the nervous system coordinates a series of shifts… all summed up as “react to everything.”

This is chronic inflammation; healing and repairing doesn’t really occur.

The new medicine

“Degenerative disease of unknown origin” doesn’t really exist. Each of us has a need for a certain level of genuine building blocks. If that need is not met, the resulting “deficiencies” will become chronic symptoms and disease.

We each need a unique set of genuine building blocks to facilitate optimal function and prevent disease. And if we do not get the amount we need, we will get a pattern of symptoms that can vary from person to person.

The one-size-fits-all camp says we need a recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of some 30 nutrients to avoid disease. They say it doesn’t matter if these are made in a test tube from coal tar or concentrated down from whole foods and herbs; we just need a tiny amount to prevent deficiency.

This camp argues that, if we get a disease, we need the “proven by clinical trial” drug to attack and kill the cause or replace the missing ingredient.

While it is simple for science to do studies using a very defined and narrow group of individuals, humans rarely fit that mold. And while it is simple for science to add one specific chemical component and see what happens (compared to those who don’t get it), nutrients need each other to work. This is why clinical trials are so mixed and work a little better than other approaches in barely more than 50% of the participants. Medications are less effective still.

For example, RDA of vitamin C is based on the amount or ascorbic acid needed to prevent scurvy. Ascorbic acid is a chemical, it isn’t the true vitamin C complex. The complex works in tiny amounts; ascorbic acid works similarly to a drug: by forcing the body to do a certain chemical reaction. When we take too much of the imposter it can crystalize in the blood and/or form stones in our kidneys and gall bladder. Whole food does not do that. Taking a synthetic supplement is not what the body needs for optimal health.

When we don’t get enough of the whole food nutrient complex, we are at greater risk of cancer, stroke, heart disease, we tend to become mineral deficient, get sick easily, and our skin and joints age prematurely. We aren’t healing and repairing because we lack genuine building blocks.

Traditional doctors and specialists prescribe drugs to lower high blood pressure, antibiotics for the named infections the body can’t ward off, pain medications and/or inti-inflammatory medicines for arthritis, expensive lotions to help unwrinkle skin… But the body could have done all this better had it been given genuine replacement parts.

Restoring balance by understanding the symptom pattern

There’s another way:

  • Modern medicine must assess each patient as a unique individual.
  • We must look at the symptoms for their patterns; not in isolation but as patterns that suggest an underlying cause.

But stop there and we’re just guessing

  • Our bodies will tell us what they need—exactly—if only we have a technology that reveals those answers. Gone are the days of medical guessing about this herb/drug/supplement might work for you because trials (or experts) have seen it work in others.
  • We use Nutrition Response Testing to find what systems or organs need the most help and then to answer exactly what remedies will address that situation.

Take it to the next level

  • And if we stopped there, we’d still not be quite done. We must listen and understand each individual’s beliefs and lives to develop a collaborative plan of care.
  • Taking into account all of the above, we must integrate our available healing tools including education, rebalancing nutrition, manual and restorative therapies

Welcome to Alaska Health Improvement Center: Find and Fix What's Really WrongSure, sometimes the treatment collaboration includes careful use of medications. But why would anyone want to take several (or more) for the rest of their lives when they haven’t used genuine building blocks or given the body its true tools?

Come see us for a Nutrition Response Testing evaluation. In 90 minutes we’ll be able to answer your questions and propose a solution that honors how your body really works.

We’ve helped thousands of individuals for over a decade. Give us a try.

–Dr. Greg and Marie Sternquist


Gluckman PD and Hanson MA. Living with the past: evolution, development, and patterns of disease. Science. 2004;305:1733-36.

Kaplan SH, Greenfield S and Ware JE Jr. Assessing the effects of physician-patient interactions on the outcomes of chronic disease. Med Care. 1989;27 Suppl 3:S110-127.

Marie Sternquist

Marie Sternquist, MS CHHC is a graduate of the University of Colorado, with 30 years of health-related clinical research published peer-reviewed medical journals, Marie's interests lie in how chemical and metal toxicities affect our health, hormones and immune function—and how to heal these problems with whole foods. In 2014, Marie completed the Health Coach program at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition where she studied 100’s of dietary theories with an emphasis on developing step-by-step nutritional programs and is currently working on her Nutritionist certification through the Masters in Functional Nutrition program and the University of Western States. Marie’s signature nutrition programs have helped thousands of people just like you regain health and quality of life. In 2016, Marie Sternquist completed her Advanced Level in Nutrition Response Testing®, joining her husband Dr. Greg Sternquist as an advanced clinician. Marie is also a wilderness explorer, skier, photographer and mom. Visit her at and

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