Did anyone happen to catch the article trending on Facebook several weeks ago entitled “Half of Dr. Oz’s medical advice is baseless or wrong, study says?”
I didn’t read it at the time, but just the title intrigued me. I feel many people were likely not surprised by this, but many more may have been thinking to themselves, “if Dr. Oz isn’t right, who is?” The article, published in the Chicago Tribune (read it here), does not solely focus on Dr. Oz, but rather encourages readers to be skeptical of any information or advice given on doctor talk shows in general. Not only is this disconcerting, but it begs the question, how do I know what information is accurate and credible?
We all want to be able to trust our doctors and other health care professionals as credible resources with our best interests in mind. But sometimes, there are other factors that get in the way of sharing accurate information.
One of the biggest problems when it comes to medical or health information is that there is just so much of it! Even scientific and evidence-based, peer-reviewed articles and studies published in well known medical and science journals can sometimes yield conflicting information. There are many different schools of thought when it comes to the best approach for keeping people healthy. However, it is imperative that each individual recognize that his or her needs are not the same as the next person’s. Each individual is unique and will respond differently to various approaches to health.
One of the things I love most about the field of health and wellness is the amount of variety and room for creativity in addressing health concerns, symptoms and diseases. The field of health is rapidly changing with new research and advances everyday, but one thing is for sure: the practice of medicine and wellness is not black and white. As the saying goes, one man’s cure is another man’s poison.
Of course, some information really is just plain wrong. Another issue that may disrupt trust and credibility, and prevent the sharing of accurate information, is corruption and greed. When business (and especially opportunity for large profit) enters the picture, the goal of creating optimum health by those with questionable ethics is sometimes lost to more marketable, yet less reliable (not to mention less safe) tactics.
Therefore, it is important for us as individuals to put on our investigator hats and think critically about issues that will impact our health. It is easy at times to get lost in the details, so I will encourage you to look at the big picture. When in doubt, I find it is helpful to evaluate claims based on the following considerations:
- Is this claim too good to be true? Often if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! I feel this is the case with many “quick fix” health solutions.
- Is the claim backed by multiple, credible sources? Are the studies backing the claim published in credible journals, peer-reviewed, and completed by unbiased researchers?
- Does the claim make sense? Though this relates very closely with being too good to be true, some of the best health advice is the most simple. Generally speaking, health strategies that worked for humans thousands of years ago may still be some of the best practices for the simple reason that humans haven’t evolved all that quickly. Our bodies were designed to consume whole foods, move, sleep, and survive by reacting to acute (vs. chronic) stressors.
- If you put the claim or advice into practice, does it make your body (and mind and spirit) feel better? The assessment of how new techniques affect you is the most important element in determining whether a practice is healthy for you or not, because, as mentioned earlier, each individual responds differently! Try to tune into your body and emotions. When implementing new health practices, pay attention to energy levels, improvement of old symptoms or occurrence of new ones, mood, etc. If you don’t feel healthy and vital, it’s likely something needs to be changed.
Bottom line? It is good to take health advice with a grain of salt. Experiment with practices, claims, and advice that appear sound when further researched and make sense to you, and listen to your body, but know that health and wellness is not absolute!