Dr. Ben Reebs is an award-winning naturopathic physician, author of the book, The Serpent and the Butterfly, and the founder of Portland Clinic of Natural Health, an integrative medicine clinic that specializes in helping to resolve chronic disease with natural medicine. He is recognized as a leading expert in mind-body healing and alternative medicine and has appeared on Pain Free & Strong, The Spa Doctor, Mindful Medicine and more. He is a member of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians and an active volunteer for the Naturopathic Medicine Institute.
Q: What was your motivation behind writing The Serpent and the Butterfly: The Seven Laws of Healing?
A: In writing The Serpent & The Butterfly, I wanted to distill the seven laws of healing, as laid out by the pioneers of natural medicine, into a bite-sized, digestible compendium so that people could not only easily find them in one place, but see their origins and learn about the evidential basis for the innate laws of healing. I also wanted to honor the pioneers, women and BIPOC communities who played a central role in creating and articulating this medicine over the centuries—to honor their voices and give them credit. Frankly, I realized that this book didn’t exist, and had come across something like this a few decades ago, it would’ve changed my life.
Q: What is the Law of Vitality and how can it benefit our health?
A: Essentially, the Law of Vitality is our body’s innate ability to heal itself. We can augment this healing ability to make it more likely that we will get well and optimize wellness. I like to think of it this way: We can either work with this law, or we can work against it. If we work with it, we can enhance the efficacy of a health plan. Whereas if we work against it, it’s more likely that we will move in the direction of disease and illness.
Q: Please explain the triangle of optimal health and the triangle of chronic disease. How are they related?
A: The triangle of health is the triangle of chronic disease turned in on itself. One of the pioneers of natural medicine said that disease is caused by three things: deficiency, toxicity or a weak vital force or vitality, otherwise called mitochondrial insufficiency. If we turn these things inside out, we can say that optimal health and wellness is having adequate and replete nutrient status, fully functioning organs of elimination and detoxification, having a low toxic load in our bodies, as well as having strong vitality or vital force. Regarding the triangle of chronic disease, if naturopathic doctors can identify and address these deficiencies and toxins in their patients, they can help to eliminate and relieve chronic disease.
Q: What is the RICE protocol?
A: Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation or the RICE protocol, is an old protocol from sports medicine to aid soft tissue injuries created in 1978 by Dr. Gabe Mirkin, a well-known sports physician. In the last 10 years, it’s actually been overturned, as research has indicated that it actually delays healing, particularly due to the use of ice and lack of movement. It’s actually better to start moving as quickly as possible to help stimulate mechanisms and get blood flowing. In the NBA, for instance, if a player sprains their ankle, they work to get the player moving again as quickly as possible so they can recover faster. The use of an ice pack can slow inflammation, but the inflammation is an essential part of healing. In my book, I mention the RICE protocol regarding the Law of Compensation, which states that everything we do to the body, every action or agent we introduce, first produces a primary transient effect, say the reduction of inflammation in this case, and then thereafter produces a secondary effect that’s not only longer lasting, but more potent. We see this happen when someone puts ice on their ankle for too long. The first effect is the constriction of blood as it is drawn away, reducing pain and inflammation. But once the cold effect is reduced, the body responds with more inflammation as vasodilation sets in. This is an evolutionary mechanism, and an aspect of homeostasis, in which the body is protecting itself from the primary effect if the primary effect is too strong.
Q: In your book, you recommend writing down seven intentions about health and well-being and reciting them daily. What is the purpose of this exercise and how is it beneficial?
A: Basically, the Law of Intention, which is the seventh law and perhaps the most important, states that our minds have an inherent innate ability to manifest that to which it persistently attends. By writing down intentions both short and long term, and visualizing them regularly, much like a professional athlete might visualize their next move, we can help facilitate this ability to elevate health and well-being. Whether this is a placebo effect or not, scientific research shows that when we visualize our intentions, neurolinguistic programming sets our brain in motion and we begin to move toward these intentions. By doing this, we are utilizing the Law of Intention so as to make health optimization, or healing, much more likely to occur.
Q: Do you recommend dietary supplements? If so, which ones and why?
A: I do, but it depends on the person. I don’t generally recommend supplements to everyone unless indicated in their case. But I would have to say that the supplements I recommend most often are trace minerals, because almost everyone is deficient due to lack of trace minerals in our food and water supplies, as well as vitamin D and digestive bitters.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: As I mention in The Serpent & The Butterfly, synergy exists between the different laws of healing. And if we apply three or more of these laws to our lives, we are much more likely to gain their synergetic benefits.