19 Ways to Invest in Your Health and Well-Being

Simple strategies to help keep the doctor away.

Woman stretching in field after working out

Around Christmas 2017, I developed an ulcer in my esophagus that seemed to come out of nowhere. Following an endoscopy, I asked the gastroenterologist what had caused it — and what I might do to prevent another one. “Just take these,” he said brusquely, handing me a prescription for a proton pump inhibitor. Then he was off to the next patient.

I wanted to understand and address the underlying problem, not just paper over the symptoms. Turns out that part would be up to me.

I finally got the insight and tools I needed to heal once I started working with a nutritional therapist. She suggested some simple nutrition and lifestyle adjustments to support my digestive health and helped me tap into a deeper understanding of my body. I felt empowered to take my health into my own hands, without relying on a prescription.

I know I’m not alone in my frustration with the limitations of conventional American medicine. “We have a fabulous healthcare system for saving your life, but it performs poorly in facilitating healing,” explains integrative physician Wayne Jonas, MD, author of How Healing Works.

Fortunately, we’re far from helpless. Many of the most prevalent chronic conditions afflicting Americans — including hypertension, type 2 diabetes, obesity, chronic pain, anxiety, and depression — can be treated with nutrition, movement, sleep, social support, and complementary practices, such as yoga, acupuncture, and massage.

Not only are these approaches safer and less expensive than drugs and surgery, but most of them don’t even require a visit to the doctor’s office. That’s a mercy, because the costs associated with those visits are high — and getting higher.

“We have a very expensive system of medicine,” says Kara Parker, MD, a functional-medicine physician in Minneapolis. “But it’s often chasing problems that are preventable and treatable upstream with lifestyle measures.

“Health is created in the home and at the grocery store in the course of day-to-day living. We’re blessed to have a medical system that backs us up, but our health is primarily in our own hands.”

With that in mind, these are some of the best strategies — free, low-cost, or investment-worthy — for taking charge of your health.

is a writer and actor in Minneapolis.

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