+ Well Nourished | Dangers of Online Health Information

Everyone is an expert!

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Noosa Food and Wine Festival – heaven for a food lover like me!  They have so many food and wine events on offer, but one in particular caught my eye.  It was entitled ‘Bloggers – everyone’s an expert.’  As a novice to the world of blogging and social media alike, I thought I’d participate.  It was really fascinating and the expert panel developed a passionate and heated debate.  It got me thinking about this ‘cyber’ world we live in and how my industry of Naturopathy and Nutrition has evolved so dramatically as a result.

But to just go back a step to how I came to be here, online.  With my youngest baby beginning school this year and my last post graduate complete, I began to explore re-entering the workforce.  I had given up my career in Perth to move to Queensland with my husband and become a full-time mum.  We have no family here, so re-establishing a clinical practice with a husband that works away a lot and no support, was a difficult proposition.  Anyone who knows me well, knows I have never lost my passion and enthusiasm for the holistic health industry and for helping people to live a healthy, happy life.  So here we have it, Well Nourished was born!

The one thing that astounded me when I first began to look at other health and nutrition related websites, is how many unqualified ‘experts’ are operating websites and dispensing health advice.   What’s most concerning are that many of the sites I have come across have huge followings.  I don’t claim to know it all, far from it (that’s why almost 20 years ago I decided to study Naturopathy because I love the endless opportunity to learn).  But I do know that I have studied and practiced in my profession and that I have done, to the very best of my ability, the hard yards of learning and developing a practical knowledge of human health.

I know, in most professions, you have the qualified, the sort of qualified and the fake it ’til they make it’s.  I just think the health industry has more than their fair share, and the internet is a powerful vehicle to anyone who’s read a few books, suffered their own health challenge or taken a short (often expensive) course that supposedly ‘qualifies’ them to dispense health or nutrition advice.  In fact, the cyber world allows someone to appear ‘qualified’ with your health and wellbeing based on a big Facebook following or a few bogus ‘testimonials’ – so cynical, but frighteningly true!

Many of you have already expressed concern about these sites and have sent me links to other sites and Facebook pages dispensing sketchy health advice.  So how does the average trusting person, decide to take on board the information overload when it comes to health and access accurate, safe information?  Well, there are a few things you can do.

  • One, seek out qualifications and especially experience (there are lots of students dispensing inexperienced health advice).  Ask questions (you are entitled to ask), especially if you are parting with your hard earned dollars for that advice.
  • However, even within those qualified to dispense advice, I sometimes shudder.  Like this week reading respected nutritionists glowing health evaluation of a coco-pop drink.  Frustrating, but true (though I wonder if she was being sponsored by Kellogg’s to do so)?  I’ve also recently been sent a recipe from a hugely popular Australian Children’s health and wellbeing website for a two ingredient chocolate cupcake – it just so happen the two ingredients were coke and packet cake mix!  I was compelled to write a scathing comment, which was defended by saying it was only intended as ‘sometimes food.’  Neither of these ingredients is food at all, or safe for kids to consume any time.
  • So I would lastly add, use some common sense and only take on board advice that resonates.  If someone is making outlandish claims that sound  too good to be true, (like a single product that cures a multitude of health problems), chance is they are.  Follow your instincts and follow information that’s easy to understand and just makes sense to you.

Any questions for me?  I hope so!!  Fire away in the comments below.

 

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  • Yes there are some shonky operators around. When it comes to blogs, I will read what a blogger has to say but if they’re not qualified, I take it with a grain of salt. Whether I take it on board or not depends on how it gels with my own knowledge and philosophy. It’s all you can do, but it’s easy to get it wrong. The nutritional wisdom of the day tends to change, and what you thought you were doing right, you find out you’re actually doing it wrong.

    Loving your blog, Georgia. You have a knack of sounding professional and knowledgeable without being preachy or know-it-all or overbearing. It’s good!

    (P.S. I moved to FNQ from Perth 16 months ago because of my partner’s work. Same situation as you — know no one, no family, no support. Not easy, is it?)

    • Yes, I have been caught up in various nutritional wisdoms over the years, have got it wrong SO many times, which has bought me to the point I am at now…a good place I think? Thanks for your continual feedback Vicki, I don’t know it all and never will, but will never give up trying! (a personality fault I’m sure?). I don’t want to preach or appear perfect (I’m not by any stretch). I just aim to get people thinking and share the things I have learned from my 42 years.

      Yes moving from my home town Perth has had its challenges that’s for sure- it’s been 7 years (was supposed to be 2!) for us and SE QLD has now become home for us – happy and settled. What I’d give to go to the movies with my hubby though and not have to fork out the $$ for babysitting! G x

      • HealthyHealing

        Georgia, isn’t the aim to “get people thinking and share the things I have learned” the same goal as many of your fellow bloggers referred to in the post?

        If anyone is positing that they have “the” answer or have it all figured out, we should all run the opposite direction — anyone who has studied nutrition knows that our understanding of it is constantly shifting, that each day’s research contradicts the last, and, most importantly, that every human body is different. No one has it figured out.

        Your suggestion to follow our instincts is sound advice — only we can know who resonates with our specific health concerns and body makeup. Other portions of the post seem to suggest that there are certain types of credentials, certifications, or schools that are more worthy than others, though that thinking would lead us to dismiss lesser known schools in India, tribal knowledges of homeopathy from the Amazon, or wisdom of Nepalese ashrams.

        So thank you for acknowledging that even those with traditional certifications can be wildly off-base (for most of us) — it would be a shame to think we should disregard someone without abbreviations after their name when they could quite possibly have the most valuable insight to share.

        • Thanks for your insight. The qualifications i’m referring to are not of the ‘traditional or cultural’ kind. Having spent almost a year in India/Nepal and also short stint with a shaman in the Amazon of Ecuador, I have the utmost respect for their medicinal wisdom which is accrued over many, many years (they are often even born into the practice).
          Rather, I mean the many online nutrition or health short courses – I don’t believe these qualify a person to dispense safe, accurate health advice. G x

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