Today, sometimes it seems everyone is “doing their own research.”
We have more access to more information than ever before, and at the same time, many of us have become distrustful of “official” authorities and institutions. So, how do we know who to trust when it comes to our health and wellness? Can we just read the new studies that are posted online and draw our own conclusions? How do we interpret all the new information that is released every day, or who do we trust to interpret it for us?
As I have watched the growth in integrative medicine and its emergence into the mainstream, I’ve thought about those questions more and more. Below I will offer some of my recommendations for good sources of information on integrative medicine.
But first, what is a simple test for whether you can really trust a source, especially when it comes to emerging science on nutrition, sleep, mental resiliency, and exercise? I think it’s this: if someone is speaking to you in absolutes, be skeptical.
A tendency to speak in really absolutist terms about nutrition is one reason I’ve been leaning away from the Dr. Mark Hyman blog. Hyman has been a pioneer in advancing the importance of functional medicine, and the blog (which features many other authors) is still a good resource. But, take it with that caveat to be suspicious of anything that reads like a cure-all.
The fact is, even many doctors and scientists have trouble interpreting complex studies. There are a lot of reasons why studies might not reach a firm conclusion, or why their conclusions might be mixed, or why you might be able to easily find some studies online but not others. It’s incredibly difficult to separate out biases from research, and even when everything goes perfectly the conclusions are often less satisfying than we’d like, with lots of caveats and uncertainties. Science builds upon itself, often over years to decades, to reach firm conclusions.
And if doctors and scientists have trouble analyzing research, the media is even worse. Their incentives are usually to grab your attention and keep it, often by scaring you—not to deliver dispassionate new science in a balanced way.
Meanwhile, we as individuals are not very good at synthesizing the flood of new information coming our way every day, week, and year. People who “do their own research” and come to very definite conclusions that contradict a generally established way of thinking in the scientific community should be humble about what they think they’ve found. What these people are essentially saying is: I’ve found something in the research that people who have devoted their lives to researching that field have not found. It’s not impossible, but it is very unlikely.
What we should be looking for when searching for trusted sources on topics related to integrative medicine and functional medicine are scientists and researchers who are good at interpreting information in all its uncertainty, and good at communicating those results to the audience. Those are pretty unique skills to have in one person. Below are some who I think fit the bill, and to whom I also turn to for new information on integrative medicine:
My first recommendation is a podcast called The Proof, hosted by nutritionist and physiotherapist Simon Hill. Hill is a very good interviewer and communicator. He’s focused on nutrition, but has also expanded into discussions of holistic health, mindfulness, and movement. And, he’s very science-based in an understandable and nuanced way. As he says on his “About” page:
Nutrition is often spoken about in absolutes, ignoring the nuance that undeniably exists. Exploring nuance is the key to dispelling myths, clearing confusion, and ultimately feeling more confident in the choices we make every day. This is not only the case for the science of nutrition, but science in general. Science is our best method for reducing uncertainty and optimizing our health, but it must be evaluated and interpreted with care.
Andrew Huberman is a neuroscientist and a Professor at the Stanford University School of Medicine. I started listening to his podcast, Huberman Labs, about a year ago, and can definitely recommend him. Huberman goes into a lot of detail (the episodes are long!), and covers a lot of good, science-backed ground, from meditation and fitness, to sleep, brain chemistry, behavioral disorders, nutrition, gut health, and everything in between.
Peter Attia is a physician, author, and podcaster. He’s not usually described as a holistic medicine practitioner, but his website, podcast, and newsletter cover all the usual integrative medicine topics, including exercise, movement, sleep, nutrition, and more. He tends to dismiss studies on nutrition so take that with a grain of salt. He goes into very deep dives in biochemistry and is a great resource for learning more, especially about everything related to longevity and healthspan. His podcast is called The Drive.
National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health
Finally, my last recommendation isn’t a person, but an actual government organization (yes, you can still trust some of them!).
The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) literally has the study of integrative medicine and complementary medicine as its calling. The NCCIH is a division of the National Institute of Health, and they are doing great work. Their website is very useful for learning broadly about health and wellness topics from an integrative health perspective.
Want to keep up?
So there you have four very good and varied resources for integrative health topics.
As part of my ongoing efforts to educate, I'll summarize a handful of studies every month dealing with issues of healthspan and longevity. You can sign up below. As well, check out my previous blog posts regarding many of the above topics.