With health being a huge issue – even among people who are already healthy to begin with – it’s not strange that it’s also a huge source of stress. What’s safe to eat? What foods might make my symptoms worse – or make them better? Is organic better? How can I afford organic if it is? Should I go gluten-free? What about eating foods I actually like? Between “miracle” diets being announced every week and a general distrust of where health information comes from, it’s enough to make any lupie lose even more of their hair.
And we’re not alone in being confused and frustrated. Yesterday, Lifehacker published an article addressing the issue, giving a few good guidelines on using basic critical thinking to sort through all the health hysteria. Read it over here.
Over the course of my lupus journey, I’ve encountered my fair share of “miracle” diets, superfoods, supplements and just about every dietary suggestion (reasonable and wacky) under the sun. Lifehacker’s article brings up excellent points about investigating the companies behind many “scientific” food studies and questioning their motivations (and funding). And while doing research might seem like yet another headache-causing item for your to-do list, it’s one that is well worth the investment.
I think a good place to start is by simply freshening up your overall critical thinking skills. Let’s face it, we usually get some lip-service about it in school and after graduation, we’re on our own. A little refresher can be a good way to get into the habit of questioning claims that might help or harm us in the long run. I’m currently taking a free class online via EdX.org called Think101 – The Science of Everyday Thinking. It’s a series of video lectures in the same vein as Mythbusters (who actually make a guest appearance) discussing week by week how our brains work, how our memories can be faulty and how our opinions can (and are) manipulated in ways that we aren’t usually aware of. Week 9 specifically addresses health and food claims and it’s very interesting to take a peek at the Discussion boards to see how these issues touch the nerves of normally level-headed people. Registration is free to jump into the class or you can simply subscribe to the Think101 YouTube channel to just check out the videos. Most videos are less than 10 minutes long, so it’s not too big a drain on anyone’s schedule.
Other good classes to consider from the Edx page are: Fundamentals of Immunology parts 1 and 2, or The Impact of Drug Development. Of course, these are just on one site – others like Udemy and Coursea also offer other kinds of classes, most for free. The whole “Knowledge is Power” bit may seems dated and cliche, but it’s still a valid concept – the better you inform yourself, the better decisions you can make.
Another great resource I’ve recently found out about is the Cochrane Library. It’s a database of scientific research studies collected by the Cochrane Collaboration, covering just about every health issue you can think of. Got a question about the efficiency of an herb or alternative medicine practice? If they have it listed, you’ll be able to access the research studies on it – and get a plain-english summary of the findings.
While vehement opinions will persist like roaches, in the end, it boils down to the individual. Your healthy lifestyle is exactly that – yours. Finding foods you enjoy and do your body good is an individual journey and what works for someone else might not be what fits your needs. Work with your doctors and other trusted experts, do your homework and use your best judgement when it comes to planning any health changes.