The Supplement Industry’s Top 10 Hidden Secrets

The US supplement industry contributes more than $60 billion to our economy, yet it remains an almost unregulated frontier – creating what Time Magazine reports to be dicey or shady.

This dichotomy makes the US supplement industry an intriguing juxtaposition of trust and deceit.

It also creates a veritable minefield for consumers trying to determine which supplement brands to trust and what health products to purchase.

Contrary to popular belief, the FDA DOES regulate the supplement industry.

We’ve shared some of their regulatory findings and punishments in recent posts: protein powder contains 1814% more sugar than label claims, and CBD Oil Industry under FDA scrutiny, but this guide is designed to help you see past all the deceitful strategies used by those other guys.

We’re Just As Frustrated As You

We’ve been supplement consumers since before starting Natural Stacks. It was our frustration with these loopholes and the lack of trustworthy, premium products that propelled us to launch our own supplement company – one that does things the right way and creates the type of supplements we want to put in our own bodies.

Here’s another look at why we felt it was so important to start a supplement company with 100% transparency. (This may be WHY we started Natural Stacks – but’s certainly not HOW we do things! You can see a video of our manufacturing facility HERE.)

**This clip is from the award winning documentary “Bigger. Stronger. Faster”**

**$24 Billion stat was from 2008** (The number has more than doubled to $60 Billion since then)

While the FDA does regulate the industry, this Fox News report summarizes it well:

“in a general sense, dietary supplements fall under the purview of the FDA – where there are regulations that pertain to labeling and “claims.”  However, when it comes to the measurement of safety and effectiveness – as prescription drugs must do – it is not the same.  The FDA does not ensure potency, purity or biologic activity of the ingredients in dietary supplements. There is no registration or clearance by the FDA before a dietary supplement goes on the market.”

The FDA and the FTC (Federal Trade Commission) are starting to pay closer attention in an effort to protect consumers and shut down unethical, opportunistic companies.

The Supplement Industry’s 10 Hidden Secrets:

Products Do Not Meet Label Claims

Many companies take advantage of the fact that the FDA does not oversee purity or potency and will “claim” their product contains a certain amount of, say protein, for example – when in reality, it may only contain 1/2 that amount.

The FDA will test these products, but usually only AFTER given a reason to do so (someone does independent testing and files a claim). This gives unethical companies a window of time to cash in on sales to unknowing consumers.

Some recent examples:

Here’s how to protect yourself: Look for companies (like Natural Stacks) with a third-party seal of approval from independent testers like Informed Choice or Open-Source Certified that assure you the contents match the label claims.

They Photoshop Their Spokesmodel Pictures

Those “Before & Afters” have always been lies. Today’s social media boom and fitness craze on Instagram is making it worse!

In the days of print ads, the models were usually contest-ready bodybuilders who took their “after” photos first. Then they hit the buffet, sodium-loaded and bloated themselves to temporarily look worse – THIS became the “before” picture.

In other cases, the “Before & After” simply followed an out-of-season bodybuilder through their normal 12 or 16 week contest prep.

Now, with Instagram, it’s not just the filters or photo swaps. Many “Insta-celebs” are simply photoshopping their pictures before posting them to Instagram. Most recently Shredz was busted for doing this with the famous model “Devin Physique”. Now that the FTC is investigating them, Shredz employees are spilling their secrets, including “Devin Physique’s” assistant.

How to Protect Yourself: A lot marketing preys on the consumer’s emotional desire to look or feel a certain way. Make decisions regarding health supplements based on science – not what a half-naked person in spandex says on Instagram.

They Hide Behind Proprietary Blends

As mentioned in the video at the top of this post, proprietary blends are ways for supplement companies to hide the exact amounts of the ingredients in their products.

The video provides an extreme – yet sadly accurate – example of how this can been done. The example shown was a little bit of creatine plus a lot of rice flour, then sold as a “trademarked” or “proprietary blend” of creatine.

This was one of our biggest frustrations and it’s precisely why Natural Stacks is 100% open-source. With open-source companies, you’ll always know the exact amount of every ingredient in your products.

What to look for so you can protect yourself: Look for the Open-Source Certified seal or simply avoid any product that hides the amounts of their ingredients with “proprietary blends”.

They Use Cheap and Inferior Ingredients To Save Money

Just like the food industry, supplement companies that care more about their profit margins than the quality of their product will use mass-produced, low-quality ingredients to cut costs at every possible opportunity.

Let’s be honest, undenatured grass-fed colostrum from New Zealand is more expensive for us to acquire than food-grade whey protein from the American industrial machine. But we want the best quality in our body and in our supplements.

This one is a personal choice. You need to think for yourself about what matters most to YOU. For US, quality is most important and that’s why we choose to use the most premium version of every ingredient we source. We only want the absolute best going into our bodies.

What to look for so you can protect yourself: Read the ingredient list first. Forget the front of the package and go straight to ingredients – this will tell you exactly what’s in the product and lets you see what the company truly values. Look for the highest quality version of every ingredient: grass-fed dairy products, wild-caught fish, non-GMO produce, etc.

They Stuff Their Packages

“Stuffing” in the supplement industry refers to using cheap fillers to add bulk to products so they take up more space in a pill or package.

A prime example of this is in “Mass Gainer” products. Many companies will use corn powder (maltodextrin) or other cheap flours and bulking agents (no pun intended) to help their formulas occupy more space. The less “good stuff” they have to use, the higher their profit margins.

What to look for to protect yourself: Most instances of “stuffing” are hidden by proprietary blends. Avoiding these proprietary blends and sticking with companies that list exact ingredients and their specific amounts allow you to see exactly what you’re getting – with no surprises. Some companies will still try to use fillers, but since you’re reading the ingredients, you catch them before they get your money.

They Spike Their Products So You “Feel” Them

Another supplement industry secret, “spiking” or “pixie dusting” are terms given to the practice of adding ingredients that are not listed on the label to a product in order to “boost” it’s effectiveness.

In a high profile example of this, Boston Red Sox pitcher Michael Kopech was suspended for 50 games last year after testing positive for methylsynephrine, although he insists he didn’t knowingly take it.

It turns out, the compound – also known as oxilofrine – is a stimulant that was included in his dietary supplement, but not declared on the label by the supplement manufacturer.

It’s not just ONE company sneaking this compound into it’s weight loss pills…

Last week, the FDA announced that it sent warning letters to seven manufacturers of dietary supplements that contain that stimulant: Nutraclipse, Inc., Swagger Supps, Total Body Nutrition LLC, Xcel Sports Nutrition LLC, M4 Nutrition Companies LLC, Line One Nutrition Inc., and Chaotic Labz.

According to their press release, “The letters stopped short of calling methylsynephrine a drug, although it is generally defined as a stimulant that mimics the effects on the heart of an amphetamine. The companies have 15 days to tell the FDA how they will bring their products into compliance with the law.”

Here’s how to protect yourself: Look for companies (like Natural Stacks) with a third-party seal of approval from independent testers like Informed Choice or Open-Source Certified that assure you the contents match the label claims.

They Use Artificial and Hidden Sweeteners

Evaporated cane syrup? Really?

If I told you I had some evaporated ocean syrup, what does that leave us…SALT!

Sugar is sugar and no amount of fancy wording can change the way it impacts our bodies. Beware of cane syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice and any other fructose, dextrose, ribose or hidden sugars.

As for artificial sweeteners, this is another area where you need to do some introspective soul-searching and determine where you want to draw the line. This is a spectrum, and YOU get to choose where on that spectrum you want to reside. There is no judgement, we’re simply trying to inform.

Personally, I don’t want to consume ANY added sugar or artificial sweetener.

At Natural Stacks, we don’t add sweeteners. We believe you should be able to get a protein powder without sweetener if you want it. True to our “stacking” concept where you can combine products for synergistic effects, you can simply add your sweetener of choice should you desire.

By the way, high doses of sweeteners are usually needed to mask nasty flavors of inferior ingredients (see Hidden Secret #5)…just saying.

They Use Toxic Ingredients

In this CBS News report, a Congressional Investigation discovered that numerous dietary supplements contained arsenic (rat poison), lead, and mercury.

Glyphosate – or RoundUp – is found in GMO corn and other industrial crops and has been found in supplements that contain these crops. Glyphosate has been linked to autism, cancer, and more. It’s banned in many countries, but not here in the US.

What to look for to protect yourself: Avoid corn or soy unless they are labeled as Non-GMO.

Inconsistent Potencies Among Bottles and Batches

As Forbes reported HERE, several companies have been busted by the FDA recently for bottles or batches of formulas that did not meet standard dosages.

In other words, the formulas were not evenly distributed at the time of manufacturing and some pills and bottles contained stronger or weaker potencies than listed.

This is a manufacturing issue and a testing issue. Again, companies that fail in this area are cutting corners in order to lower costs.

GMP facilities – plants that have achieved “Good Manufacturing Practices” approval cost more to fill products that non-GMP facilities.

Testing products after they’ve been produced is also costly step. Obviously, some companies are skipping that quality control step altogether.

At Natural Stacks, we strive to deliver consistent results with every dosage and every bottle. In fact, we’ve submitted products from 3 separate manufacturing runs to third party testers in order to verify this exact scenario.

How you can protect yourself: Companies who attain these third party certifications proudly display them on their packaging or website, so look for “manufactured in a GMP facility” along with Informed Choice, Open-Source Certified, or NSF logos to verify this.

They Claim Ingredients Are Natural, When They Are Actually Synthetic

While similar to using inferior ingredients, this industry secret is slightly more deceitful, since it involves an outright lie. Unfortunately many companies “claim” to use natural ingredients but they actually use synthetic reproductions in an effort to save money.

For example, one brand name company claims “100% NATURAL” on the label of its moisturizers but uses synthetic surfactants, preservatives and fragrance.

How can you protect yourself? As Always, read the ingredients. in the case of this synthetic surfactant, it was listed on the ingredients. You can also consult the Natural Products Association for a list of companies that have claimed to be natural and verified by this third party watchdog.

Why We’re different

Natural Stacks is a small team of passionate health and fitness enthusiasts. We started this company with the intent to disrupt the supplement industry, raise the standard, and help change the status quo. Exposing these deceitful tactics used by unethical companies is one way we can drive that change.

Making high quality products with open-source formulas rooted in scientific research and being 100% natural and transparent is another way we’re pushing the standard higher and providing you safer, healthier, more natural options.

Just like the organic and grass-fed movements, the consumer demand can – and will – drive this change to critical mass. We’re confident the educated and informed consumer will demand better and push the supplement industry to become more transparent and quality-oriented.


Did we forget anything? Let us know in the comments below.

Burn More Fat: Become A Fat-Burning Beast with Mark Sisson

Mark Sisson is a leader in the health and fitness community.

Mark is the bestselling author of The Primal Blueprint and one of the leading voices of the Evolutionary Health Movement – also referred to as the Primal and Paleo movements.

His blog,, has paved the way for Primal enthusiasts to challenge conventional wisdom’s diet and exercise principles and take personal responsibility for their health and well-being.

Mark’s efforts to promote primal living extend to a line of nutritional supplements, a book publishing company, a Primal Kitchen line with healthy mayonnaise, salad dressing, meal replacement and energy bar, and a burgeoning Primal Kitchen fast casual restaurant chain. (Use code: NATURALSTACKS to save 10% on all things Primal)

A former elite endurance athlete, with a 2:18 marathon and a 4th place Hawaii Ironman finish, Mark’s new book Primal Endurance applies the primal eating and lifestyle principles to the challenge of endurance training—helping athletes overcome the common conditions of burnout and carbohydrate dependency.

All of which, we discuss in depth with Mark on this edition of the Optimal Performance Podcast.

What You’ll Learn From Mark Sisson on this episode of the OPP:

Links & Resources

Mark’s Website

Mark’s Books: SAVE 10% on Mark’s books (& Primal Mayo) with coupon code NATURALSTACKS

Primal Kitchen

Axon Lab Mitochondrial Support: Mitogen

Natural Stacks Primal & Fitness Performance Boosters

Prebiotic+: Resistant starch complex supports optimal gut health and neurotransmitter production [1]

MagTech: Contains the only magnesium shown to cross the blood-brain barrier, boosting brain magnesium levels and increasing synapse density [2]

Vitamin D3: Crucial hormonal and health support for those of us who don’t paddle board in Malibu, California several times a week like Mark Sisson [3]

Creatine: Get those extra reps and give your body the stimulus it needs for change [4]

Serotonin Brain Food: As much as 90% of this “feel good” neurotransmitter is made in the gut [5]

Keep the Conversation Going In The Comments Below


  1. H. A. Majid, P. W. Emery, K. Whelan. Faecal microbiota and short-chain fatty acids in patients receiving enteral nutrition with standard or fructo-oligosaccharides and fibre-enriched formulas. Journal Human Nutrition & Diet. 2011 June; 24(3): 260–268.
  2. Abumaria, N. Effects of elevation of brain magnesium on fear conditioning, fear extinction, and synaptic plasticity in the infralimbic prefrontal cortex and lateral amygdala. The Journal of Neuroscience. 2011 Oct 19;31(42):14871-81.
  3. Hollick, MF. Vitamin D: evolutionary, physiological and health perspectives. Curr Drug Targets. 2011 Jan;12(1):4-18.
  4. Volek, Jeff. Creatine Supplementation Enhances Muscular Performance During High-Intensity Resistance Exercise. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. Volume 97, Issue 7, July 1997, Pages 765–770
  5. Yano, Jessica M. et al. Indigenous Bacteria from the Gut Microbiota Regulate Host Serotonin Biosynthesis. Cell, Volume 161, Issue 2, 264 – 276

Ann Louise Gittleman on Bile For Fat Digestion and Mind Altering Parasites

Ann Louise Gittleman is the “First Lady of Nutrition”.

A New York Times best-selling author with more than 30 published books, Ann Louise is internationally recognized as a pioneer in holistic health, top nutritionist, and one of the world’s foremost experts in functional and integrative medicine.

This week, we’re honored to have ALG on the Optimal Performance Podcast!

Expanding Our Nutrition Frontiers

A lifelong pioneer in holistic health and nutrition, Ann Louise Gittleman was one of the first to champion the detox movement with her lemon and cranberry juice prescriptions in her best-selling Fat Flush book.

She continues to work on the frontier of our nutritional knowledge base, pushing our collective understanding of health and optimal performance to new levels.

This time, that new frontier centers around bile production, parasitic infestation, and their effects on fat digestion and absorption, cognitive function, and quality of life.

Bile is The New Black – High Fat Dieters Beware!

As you’ll hear in this episode of the OPP, bile production has been negatively impacted by the Standard American Diet (SAD). Adequate and quality bile production is a prerequisite for fat digestion and absorption, making this a very important area for optimizers like us to focus on – especially for our high fat diets like the Paleo, Primal, Bulletproof diets.

As Many As 8 in 10 People Could Harbor Unwanted Internal Parasites

Yes, you read that correctly.

Ann Louise says that as many as 8 in 10 people could harbor unwanted parasites that disrupt our metabolic processes, steal nutrients from us, negatively impact our energy and compromise brain function.

Fortunately for us, she explains some dietary protocols that help reduce our odds of parasitic infestation and she maps out a plan for an annual parasite cleanse.

We cover all this and more, including some classic Ann Louise Gittleman diet tips and we’ll discuss her top supplements, favorite nutrition experts, and her Top 10 Foods to optimize your health.

Enjoy this podcast and let us know your thoughts or questions in the comments below.

Here’s what you’ll learn from Ann Louie Gittleman on this episode of the Optimal Performance Podcast:

  • Why you should start every morning with the juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • The importance of daily detoxification strategies to ensure optimal functioning and health – and the #1 tip you need to know
  • Cranberries – The Native American secret to detox, removal of parasites, lymphatic cleansing and reduction of cellulite
  • Why bile is the new black – biohacking digestion and fat absorption for cognitive performance


  • Omega-7’s: the newest fatty acids (Hint: eat 2-3 macadamia nuts/day)
  • Why Bob Atkins refused to board a plane without macadamia nuts
  • How to tell if your bile production is not adequate for your high fat diet
  • Some of ALG’s favorite foods for Optimizers
  • Glutathione, Asea, and Ultra H-3 for increasing quality of life and longevity
  • The link between diet, parasites, and ADHD
  • Speaking of parasites…as many as 8 in 10 people have parasites – hear how they impact us and get ALG’s plan to eliminate unwanted guests (The Annual Parasite Cleanse)
  • Where can you find more of Ann Louise Gittleman
  • The First Lady of Nutrition’s Top 3 Tips To #LiveOptimal

Links & Resources

Ann’s Website

ALG on Facebook

Fat Flush – The book

The Legacy of Hazel Parcels (Weston A. Price Foundation)

150 Healthiest Foods on Earth by Jonny Bowden

Ann Louise Gittleman’s Top 10 Foods (from the book 150 Healthiest Foods on Earth)

  1. Ground flaxseeds
  2. Lemons
  3. Cranberry Juice
  4. Whey
  5. Grass-fed Meat
  6. Spaghetti Squash
  7. Jicama
  8. Peanut Butter
  9. Blueberries
  10. Organic Cream


Ultra H-3

Feingold Dietary Protocol

Mind Altering Parasites

Natural Stacks Tools for Performance and Health Optimization

Natural Stacks Krill Oil (Contains Anchovy & Omega-7’s!)

Natural Stacks Grass-Fed Whey & Collagen Natural Protein (ALG’s #4 healthiest food!)

CILTEP to help you think faster, focus better, and memorize more!

Parasites 101 from ALG:


We want to hear your thoughts. Leave a comment below and continue the conversation.


What’s the Best Cardio For Fat Loss: Steady-State or HIIT?

So you want to do some cardio and lose unwanted body fat – but you’re not sure how to do it. There’s a lot of opinion and debate over what method is best for fat loss: steady-state cardio (low intensity and longer duration) or high intensity interval training – shorter sessions and higher exertion levels. Let’s see what the science says.

Everything In Life Is “Goal-Dependent”

Before we can answer HOW to do something, we must first answer WHY we’re doing it. There are always multiple ways to accomplish any task – whether we’re talking business, diet, fat loss, strength training, memorization techniques or checkers.

To avoid a massive tangent and to stay on topic, I’ll be brief and blunt. “Cardio” is not the best way to lose fat/build muscle/build the body most people want.

If you enjoy running, run. If you enjoy biking, bike. If you prefer swimming, do what you enjoy. This article is examining the effectiveness of the tools in our fitness tool box at accomplishing one goal – reducing unwanted body fat. (Let’s face it, body fat is the only reason the word ‘calorie’ means anything to anyone.)

Always remember this: Form follows function. The health status, performance abilities, and appearance of our bodies reflect the tasks we repeatedly ask our bodies to perform. More on this coming up – with scientific studies as always!

What are you asking of your body?
What are you asking of your body?

DISCLAIMER: Calories Burned, n=1, and Effort

Individual results, calories burned, and perceived effort all vary from one individual to the next. We will all  experience our own truths when we apply these strategies – such is the nature of the n=1 experimentation. This is meant to serve as guideline for you – a jumping off point, so to speak – to provide you a shortcut and eliminate some of the headaches of trial and error when looking for the best fat loss protocols for your fitness routine.

Let’s look at an example… a 400 pound man will burn more calories walking up 20 flights of stairs than a 100 pound female walking right beside him. So the individual performing the exercise introduces variability into the calories burned as does the pace of the individual.

Just look at the large range of calories burned per hour at various speeds on a treadmill: (Same person, same treadmill, different speeds & inclines.)

  • 3mph WALK = 219 calories/hour
  • 3mph WALK = 518 calories/hour  **3.5 Incline**
  • 6mph JOG = 687 calories/hour
  • 8mph RUN = 897 calories/hour

As further evidence that gender, weight and pace introduce variables in calories burned, the Wisconsin Department of Health published a guide that shows running can burn anywhere from 472-1553 calories per hour – obviously depending on gender, bodyweight and speed. [W]

Bottom line: higher exertion levels result in greater energy expenditure, and ultimately more fat loss for the duration of effort.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 10.47.33 AM

Energy systems – steady state vs. HIIT – performance training or fat loss

Again, I feel compelled to to repeat this – If you LIKE running or if running IS YOUR SPORT, then by all means, keep it up.

However, if running is a means to an end (less body fat, better health, etc) then you need to listen up!

Running or steady-state cardio is NOT the best way to lose body fat. In fact, it has been shown to INCREASE body fat!

  • Study 1 – Laval University (Canada)…1 group performed steady state cardio for 20 weeks while another group performed HIIT for 15 weeks. The steady state group burned an astonishing 15,000 MORE calories than their HIIT counterparts…yet the HIIT group lost significantly more bodyfat!
  • Study 2 – 2001, East Tennessee State University…an 8-week study following HIIT vs. steady state cardio found that the HIIT group lost 2% body fat in 8 weeks while the steady state group lost ZERO body fat.


  • Study 3 -This Australian study published in the International Journey Of Obesity split 2 groups of women into steady state (40 minutes at 60% Max heart rate) and HIIT groups (20 minutes of 8 second sprints with 12 second rest periods). Yet again, the fat loss winner was HIIT…1/2 the time and 6X the body fat lost in this study!
    • The women in the steady-state exercise group actually saw an increase in trunk body fat %.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 5.06.46 PM

  • Study 4 –46 overweight, college-age males completed the same 8 sec sprints with 12 seconds recovery for 20 minute sessions that the Australian women completed in the previous study. After 12 weeks, the HIIT group lost 1.5kg on the scale and 2.0kg of fat – that means they gained muscle and lost body fat at the same time! The control group saw zero change weight or body fat.
    • Interestingly the waist circumference of the HIIT group DECREASED an average of 4cm, while the waist measurement of the control group INCREASED by an average of 2cm.
  • Study 5 – A 9-year study of 12,568 runners concluded in 2006 and showed that over half of the runners GAINED body fat and increased waist circumference size over the 9 years – even if they never quit running. In fact runners who maintained or slightly increased their mileage still gained body fat. The only runners who did not gain fat were the ones who tripled their weekly mileage over the 9 years.

Summary: What YOU need to know


  1. If you’re simply doing “cardio” for fat loss, keeping it short and going as hard as you can results in more fat lost compared to lower or moderate intensity efforts. If you can last longer than 20 minutes, you’re not going hard enough – and you’re not doing HIIT.
  2. Don’t worry about “IDEAL” or being “fast enough” when performing intervals. Start with the highest sustainable output level for YOUR CURRENT fitness level and do what you can. Over time, focus on going faster/harder and then seek to increase duration to 10, 15, even 20 minutes. Focus on progress, not perfection.
  3. Longer duration, lower intensity cardio DOES have it’s place in a balanced health and fitness plan.
  4. If you’re training for an event, running, rowing or biking for performance or pleasure, do what you enjoy.
  5. Obviously the diet consumed by everyone in these studies is a crucial factor in the fat lost or gained over time. The researchers in these studies may not have controlled that – but we’re not examining diets here, we’re examining methods of cardio for fat loss. As was shown here, regardless of dietary changes, these HIIT methods can reduce body fat.
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In PART II, we’ll examine the best cardio machines!


  1. Tremblay, A. Impact of exercise intensity on body fatness and skeletal muscle metabolism. Metabolism. 1994 Jul;43(7):814-8.
  2. King, Jeffrey Warren, “A Comparison of the Effects of Interval Training vs. Continuous Training on Weight Loss and Body Composition in Obese Pre-Menopausal Women.” (2001). Electronic Theses and Dissertations. Paper 123.
  3. Trapp EG, et al. The effects of high-intensity intermittent exercise training on fat loss and fasting insulin levels of young women. International Journal of Obesity, 2008; 32: 684–691.
  4. Heydari M, et al. The Effect of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise on Body Composition of Overweight Young Males. Journal of Obesity, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/480467
  5. Williams, P. Wood, P. The effects of changing exercise levels on weight and age-related weight gain. International Journal of Obesity (2006) 30, 543–551. doi:10.1038/sj.ijo.0803172

Why BDNF Is Miracle-Gro For Your Brain And 7 Ways To Increase BDNF Naturally

Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor – or BDNF for short – is a naturally occuring growth hormone that is responsible for neurogenesis: the creation of new neurons. Higher levels of BDNF are associated with increased intelligence, mood, productivity, and memory along with decreased risks of neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s & Parkinson’s. Keep reading to see why expert scientists call BDNF “Miracle-Gro for the brain” and to learn 7 easy ways you can increase BDNF naturally.

Read moreWhy BDNF Is Miracle-Gro For Your Brain And 7 Ways To Increase BDNF Naturally