What do three blind men and research have in common?

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I am not talking about double blind studies, or saying researchers are blind, but what they have in common is that they are looking at single data points of a whole picture. You probably know the parable of the three blind men and an elephant. Each one is touching the elephant and explaining what an elephant is like. The problem comes when they describe different things, but are all correct. They seem to be contradicting each other, but in fact, an elephant is more than three data points.

 This is what science is like; it seems to contradict itself sometimes, but in order to research something, it needs to be dissected into small parts and viewed as parts. The problem is, most things aren’t very easy to break into isolated pieces and studied comprehensively. So we have our dilemma, do we view the science as correct, because we believe scientific research is valid, or do we understand that it just isn’t that simple?

I’m not saying scientific research has no value, but that we have to understand, when two seemingly opposite things appear to be valid, they may in fact both be true. In statistics, we look for correlations, or maybe a third variable that may affect both data sets. But we also know that there may be several pieces of data that put the puzzle together, we just don’t know what it is.

When “experts” talk about what “diet” is best for our health, there are some interesting studies that these “experts” cite, and there seem to be studies that “prove” completely contradictory findings. There are studies that say eating meat causes cancer, there are studies that say eating meat prevents cancer. There are studies that show fat is important for our health, and studies that show it will give us heart failure. Now there are studies showing we should not eat gluten or grains, and ones that say we should. Is there any reason you are confused as to what to eat, and who to believe?

I think it is clear that the human digestive system is far more complex than can be studied in segmented fashion. What happens in the mouth affects what happens in the stomach, which affects the small intestine, and so on. Let alone the variables of where the person lives, how they live, and what their history is. I’m not saying they should give up, I am just saying, we need to use some logic and common sense, and most of all, each of us needs to listen to what our bodies are saying to us on a daily basis.

Another thing, I think it is dangerous to be overly dogmatic about one way of eating. We can feel we know what is best for us, but we do not know what is best for others. However, we can use logic and some research to provide information.

I remember several years ago, I was standing in line for coffee. Two young women were in front of me, and one ordered a soy latte. The other asked why she asked for soy, and the first one said she was a vegan and didn’t drink animal products. (She said it with a real attitude, too, which of course made me want to say something.)

However, I happen to have a piece of information that I wanted to share, so I said fairly quietly “unfortunately, soy milk is highly estrogenic and can affect your hormones, so you may want to limit your intake”. They both looked at me like I just said I came back from Mars, and said “I have never heard that!”. So I said they should research it themselves, and coconut milk or almond milk may be a better choice. I wasn’t really trying to upset their apple cart, as much as I wanted to. I don’t like the “I’m so much smarter attitude”, because I am in danger of acting that way sometimes, and I hate it when I catch myself doing that. So please forgive me if I ever act that way!

The reason for writing this article is to explain why I don’t cite scientific data, not because I don’t believe it is valuable, but because I believe our culture has handed over some of our ability to make critical judgment and decision making to scientific studies, that may not be as “factual” as we think. I think the art of critical decision making needs to come back to our culture. With that, we may want to pay a bit of attention to those who have lived in this world longer than others.

I believe we can tell what is really the truth. In the Declaration of Independence, the authors wrote: “We hold these truths to be self evident…”. In other words, the truth is the truth and everyone knows it, whether they want to admit it or not. That is why it is “normal” for a culture to have laws against killing, lying and stealing. The truth is, those are things we don’t want people to do to us, so we know they are not good. I believe if something is honestly the truth, it shouldn’t have to take ten years to scientifically prove it.

This is my long way of saying, some things just don’t need to be proven. Eating food that comes from a naturally growing tree, plant, or animal makes a lot more sense than eating something that was manufactured in a facility that won’t disclose the ingredients they use. It makes more sense to eat most of our foods that were grown or raised close by, as opposed to being shipped in from China or Cambodia. Some exotics are nice on occasion, but are we really meant to eat pineapple every day of the year, if we live in the midwest? I also believe our bodies were meant to eat with the seasons, and someday research may show that is true, but if you don’t feel like eating salad in January, maybe you should have soup instead.

So, what do we do with all the information we get thrown at us almost daily? We can keep it in the back of our minds, and sift it with what we know to be true about ourselves. We can also think about how people have lived for centuries, without electricity, without refrigeration, and know that they appear to have been much healthier than most of us are in our culture. We can continue to question what we are doing that seems to be disintegrating the health of our people and look for logical answers that we feel with our gut (not our tastebuds) are true. It is our own responsibility to care for the wondrous bodies we have received, and I believe we need to be careful who is telling us what is “right” for our bodies.

To your health,

Patti Bealer

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