Day to day, I get to talk to lots of interesting people one on one in my treatment rooms. I learn
about great books, movies, documentaries, TV shows, events around our town and state, and all
kinds of news from around the world. I’ve been struck lately with how truly vast our options for
learning about what is going on in the world are. We are getting what we know from so many
sources that the whole idea of consensual reality and access to information has taken on a new
meaning. The information explosion and the willingness we have to spin that information in just
about any way we want to have left us confused and unable to know what to believe.
We can no longer assume that we share a common set of information about anything. For those
of you who are 30 or less, I realize you know this and have already been working on ways to deal
with it. But for those of us who grew up with a comforting sense of having some commonality of shared experience within our neighborhoods and thought we could trust Walter Cronkite to tell us what was happening in the world, this feels like the ground beneath us has been taken away.
And so it is with information in health care and medicine. I am spending a lot more time these
days making sure I can trust what I read and hear. Where is the information coming from? Who
paid for it? Who stands a chance to benefit from it or be harmed by it?
Why are there such polarities and outrageous biases about such things as vitamin supplements,
immunizations, or medications for lowering cholesterol or treating depression, anxiety, or pain?
I suggest you be wary of anyone who is giving you a definitive simple sound bite on either end of an opinion about these matters. Such statements as “the case is closed” and “enough is enough”
which were used in an editorial about vitamin use in the Annals of Internal Medicine a couple of
years ago are as arrogant as they are absurd1. We are dealing with a complex system when it
comes to our bodies, and we need to acknowledge that complexity in reporting information
about health issues.
I also hear physicians these days defining their turf, drawing a line between treating disease and
promoting health, as if that is an either/or proposition. As physicians, aren’t we supposed to be
doing both of those things? Don’t we want to know what promotes health and prevents disease?
I surely do!
There are some truths we can count on if we turn our focus within and recognize we do have
some choices about how we live that most certainly affect our health for better or worse. There
are some things we know that we can rely upon to guide us. Our bodies have the capacity to
heal and more robustly recover from the injuries and illnesses we will inevitably experience--if
we give them an environment in which to thrive.
Think of the basics.
Do you eat healthy food?
Do you know what you are eating, where it came from, and how it was prepared?
Do you know what chemicals are in your soaps and beauty products and detergents and
How much exposure do you have to things you know are harmful to you like smoke and
alcohol and recreational drugs?
Do you get enough sleep?
See the article “The Case is closed: Editorial bias prevents reasonable evaluation of dietary supplements!” From Thomas Guilliams’ blog from December 2013
Do you have time to cultivate the relationships you have with the people who are
important to you?
Do you feel part of a community?
Do you walk at least 10,000 steps a day?
Do you exercise enough to feel it helps you release the tension in your body you know
relates to the stresses in your life?
Here’s the thing: we live in a world where most of us look at those basic questions and realize
we are a long way from feeling good about our answers. Yet instead of paying attention to them and working toward a lifestyle that gets closer to better ways of living, we turn our attention outward for a fix of some kind. I encourage you to take some time to look within and work on those things you can. Stand up for yourself and your family and take time for each other, for meals together and healthy recreation, for resolving your conflicts, for enough sleep to actually feel rested.
A basic principle in health is to know yourself. Your body, your emotions, your mind, your
conscience, and your sense of what are the true and real responsibilities we all share as citizens of this world. Work on that. Then you can certainly address the far more complex work of
understanding and relating to others. If we all work on that, we could be better at addressing the questions of our time with a little more clarity and a lot less bias.
-David N. Grimshaw, DO 01-11-2015