"When you choose to do something naturally, you're making an entire lifestyle change," says Rich. "It's not just popping a pill and calling it a day. You are changing everything–from the time you go to sleep, to every morsel of food you put in your mouth."
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While most people in their 20s and 30s do not share Rich's mistrust of medical science, many are embracing CAM, an expansive label that includes everything from massage, meditation, acupuncture and yoga to herbal, nutritional and plant-based supplements and homeopathic remedies. Unlike Rich, most millennials more often use alternative medicine to prevent illnesses and maintain well being–rather than to actually cure existing sicknesses. Rich was only recently diagnosed with MS; there is no way of knowing what path her illness will take or whether alternative medicine will be able to sustain her in the decades ahead.
Roughly 11 percent of millennials used homeopathic medicine in 2013, up from 4 percent in 2009, according to a 2013 report by the Natural Marketing Institute, a consulting firm in Harleysville, Pennsylvania. By comparison, only 6 percent of baby boomers and 7 percent of Gen Xers reported using homeopathic medicine in 2013.
Millennials were also the largest growing segment of people to use supplements: In 2013, 68 percent reported that they took some type of supplement in the last 30 days, compared with 50 percent in 2009. The supplement industry is an approximately $32.5 billion business, according to the Nutrition Business Journal.
"Because they've been constantly exposed to new, new, new and different, different, different, this generation are early adopters and they are more likely to be accepting of newer ideas and certainly alternative medicines and alternative products," says Maryellen Molyneaux, president of the Natural Marketing Institute.
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