The Elusive Answers to Good Health and Success

November 20th, 2009

Deep ThoughtWith the advancement of science and the ease of sharing information through the internet, it’s become easier than ever to find answers to our questions and problems. However, because of this ease of access, it’s easy to assume that there’s always only one correct answer and that it’s easy to find. Whether it be in regard to health or life in general, people who fall victim to this common trap are failing to recognize one of the most important aspects of achieving success.

Some people simply expect others to provide them with the answers to all of their concerns, and when this doesn’t happen, they fail to consider themselves as part of the problem. Although this type of mentality may not do much harm when applied to small tasks, it can have disastrous effects on your health, your happiness, and even your family life. As such, whenever faced with a problem or challenge, it’s essential that you recognize yourself as a significant part of the solution and take full responsibility for the outcome. An important but sometimes uncomfortable part of this is enabling yourself to draw your own conclusions and make informed decisions based on them.

The Confusion and Frustration of Conflicting Information

Many of life’s challenges are surrounded by numerous solutions that are often ineffective and contradictory. A common reason for this is the complexity of the many challenges that we face and that possibility that a proven solution may simply not exist. In other cases, the most sensible and reliable information is buried by the marketing and popularity of inferior ideas. In addition, the resolution of one problem often leads to new questions and concerns that will need to be addressed. This is simply a fact of life and it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever have all of the answers. As such, you can’t always expect that the answers you’re searching for will be readily available and clearly defined.

Despite their urgency, health problems are often surrounded by more uncertainty and conflicting opinion than most other aspects of life, and this can obviously be quite unsettling. Human function is extremely complex and science is likely a far way off from having discovered everything that there is to understand. As a result, a lot of health advice is based on educated opinions, and because everyone thinks a little differently, it’s common for such opinions to conflict. The people who are most successful at resolving the problems they encounter are those who are willing to work with this uncertainty, develop their own opinions, and hold themselves accountable for their decisions. In contrast, those who don’t succeed are often the people who blame others for giving them the wrong answers.

Government Isn’t Always Trustworthy

Although general skepticism of government is becoming more common, many people still believe that any information published by a government agency is undisputed truth. However, government officials aren’t any more or less human than the rest of us and are just as likely to make mistakes or be dishonest. Anyone who follows politics closely knows that such problems are a common reality within most governments.

When it comes to health, it can be very upsetting to realize that government often creates more cause for concern than safety. In America, the poor integrity of the FDA is perhaps the most prominent example of this. With the considerable amount of funding that they receive from drug companies, they’re more interested in quickly approving new drugs then their primary responsibility of protecting public health. This was clearly the case with the questionable approval of the painkiller Vioxx that killed more Americans than the Vietnam War.

Heart disease is another alarming example. The government has been telling us for decades that saturated fat and cholesterol are bad for us and cause heart disease. However, a closer look at the research has led many experts to regard this as a myth. In fact, many well respected nutrition experts have been saying for a while that saturated fat is essential to our health as is cholesterol. Despite this, the USDA still promotes a diet that is low in fat and cholesterol and high in unnatural foods.

This creates quite a problem. Do you believe your well established government, or the conflicting opinion of someone you’ve never heard of? Unfortunately, there’s no correct answer, and both opinions may be equally wrong. This is precisely why you have to be willing to dig for the truth and develop your own opinions.

Doctors and Other Experts Aren’t Always Right

It wasn’t until my twenties that I had the shocking realization that doctors don’t know everything there is to know about maintaining good health. Through my experience with chronic fatigue syndrome, it was even more shocking to realize how much they sometimes don’t know. Many people still have the misconception that doctors always know best and are unaware of how heavily doctors are influenced by the drug industry and how likely they are to prescribe treatments that do nothing more than mask symptoms. Even doctors who practice holistic and natural medicine are sometimes guilty of chasing symptoms. Although they use natural substances instead of drugs, they’re not getting any closer to resolving the underlying causes of compromised health.

Registered dietitians are another group of health care professionals that many people trust blindly. Unfortunately, many of them are trained according to the flawed dietary principles that are promoted by the USDA and the American Dietetic Association, both of which are influenced by the very same companies that produce the unhealthy processed foods that we should be avoiding. In addition, some dietitians are still embracing the flawed idea that good health and weight loss are as simple as balancing calorie intake with calorie expenditure. I’ve even been told by a registered dietitian that health problems and weight gain can’t be attributed to a single ingredient, not even sugar.

Fitness professionals aren’t any better. Many of them are pushing their clients beyond their capacity and are recommending exercise programs that sacrifice health for appearance. This is evident with extreme programs like the P90X which push many people well beyond their limits and and are unlikely to be effective long term.

Once again, this creates an uncomfortable scenario. Do you trust the recommendations of a doctor, dietitian, or any other health professional simply because of their credentials? This is a choice that only you can make, but at the least, you should take a closer look at what the credentials really represent.

Scientific Research Isn’t Always Reliable

Even if they’re aware of the concerns related to the integrity of government and health care professionals, many people think that scientific research is the equivalent of indisputable truth. However, research faces the same challenges as government and the health care profession.

In his book The Cholesterol Myths, Dr. Uffe Ravnskov points out how a number of heart disease studies provide conclusions that completely contradict the research data in order to support popular thinking. The research done by drug companies to prove the safety and effectiveness of their drugs is even worse because the “supporting” data is rarely even published.

These issues are compounded by the pressure that’s put on scientists to find funding. In order to make a living and avoid being defamed and ruining their careers, they often have to restrict themselves to research that supports modern dogma. In his book The Body Electric, Dr. Robert Becker has clearly articulated this unfortunate challenge with his research on the health effects of electromagnetic radiation. Dr. Candace Pert also discusses her encounters with the politics and corruption of modern research in her book Molecules of Emotion.

There is certainly tremendous value in scientific research, but the simple fact that a study is published in a prestigious journal by a host of people with impressive credentials doesn’t automatically mean that the information presented is accurate and reliable. In fact, the names listed on the study may not have had any part in the research, and even if they did, they may have financial ties to the subject of the study which makes the research biased. Once again, this leaves you with the uncomfortable but necessary responsibility of critically evaluating your sources of information.

The One Person You Can Always Trust

Although I may seem to have a negative bias against the people and agencies mentioned above, I don’t automatically discount all information from these sources, and I don’t blame them for any of my problems. I could have easily blamed the medical professionals that I worked with throughout my experience with chronic fatigue syndrome, but if I did that, I’d probably still be struggling to get through each day. Besides, most of these people had good intentions and were genuinely interested in helping me. It was ultimately my perseverance to find answers and my willingness to make my own decisions that allowed me to get better.

The resource I’ve trusted most is my own ability to evaluate different resources and draw my own conclusions which is what enabled me to decide that taking 60 pills per day wasn’t the best way for me to recover from chronic fatigue syndrome. If you want to maximize your chances of achieving excellent health and living a successful and rewarding life, you too have to trust your ability to develop your own opinions and make informed decisions. It may require some work to obtain the necessary information, but you don’t have to become an expert, and neglecting to make this effort can result in a lot of regret and a severely compromised quality of life.

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