How to find reliable and holistic health information
Finding reliable yet holistic health information is hard. If you’re in any online ‘mum forums’ you will often see comments along the lines of ‘do your own research’ in relation to health decisions for your family.
But it’s not that simple.
How do you find good quality research articles? How can you spot quackery? How can you find information that is holistic and not funded by an industry that seeks to benefit financially?
The answers to these questions are not always simple but I have some tips to help guide your quest to be an informed mama!
The challenges with deciphering health research
As we know the internet is a quick and easy source of information but it is also rife with misinformation.
It is relatively commonplace on social media to see people posting links to opinion pieces that may be presented as research. They may be written by a health expert but without links to credible research and a balanced presentation of the research, these are still opinion pieces.
Mainstream or ‘western’ medicine works from an evidence-based approach. This means that clinical expertise is integrated with the best available information from research that has been reviewed for quality by other professionals (peer-reviewed).
Unfortunately, a lot of the best research is not freely available to the public online, it requires paid access to health journals. However, there are still research articles that are easily accessible and it is important to look for bias when reading these papers.
Research known as a randomised controlled trial (RCT) is considered the ‘best’ or ‘gold standard.’ RCTs evaluate treatments where a patient is randomly assigned to receive either a placebo or the treatment, and neither the patient or practitioner know what the patient received. This is considered to be ideal as it eliminates bias.
Aside from looking at the design of the study to see if bias exists, it is also important to look at how many people were in the study. For example, a study of 10 people is not going to give results that can be applied to populations of millions, larger studies are more likely to be reliable.
In the discussion of results, the researchers should state whether their results were statistically significant to draw any conclusions and whether there was any potential bias including their own potential bias. This is really important. Often we also need to dig deeper into who funded the study. For example, if a large company who produces baby formula funded a study into the benefits of formula, you would be sceptical of the results.
When it comes to complementary therapies it is challenging to find the research that mainstream medicine deems as ‘gold standard’ for a few reasons.
Firstly, often multiple therapies are used in combination to achieve a result which means that if individual treatments are tested they may not show any benefit as they are usually used in combination with others. Secondly, natural therapies such as herbal remedies are unable to be patented and therefore corporate research funding is scarce as there is little money to be made from their sale.
The solution to finding reliable and holistic health information
As I mentioned earlier it isn’t easy and in my opinion, it is important not to DIY too much. A visit to a health practitioner who has access to health journals or who has been formally trained in the area you are exploring (or even better – a visit to a few practitioners) to get personalised advice, is going to be your best bet.
How do you know a practitioner in complementary therapies isn’t a quack?
The main thing to look for is registration with one of the natural therapies associations. The associations require evidence of recognised tertiary training (not a one-hour online course!) and evidence of ongoing training to maintain membership. You can always ask about qualifications too! Some examples of associations include the Australian Natural Therapies Association, the Australian Traditional Medicine Society and the Australian Committee of Natural Therapies.
You also want someone who is willing to work with and refer to, other health practitioners to get YOU the best outcome.
Looking to connect with a local practitioner who can provide reliable holistic health information? Try searching our directory.