Listen to the wisdom of your body

“…Thought is given a unique ability to negate and transcend immediate experience…” – Graham Harmon

Recently I met with one of my mentors and friends, a retired physician who lives in Florida. Since then I find that I can’t shake the conversation we had. He was lamenting the fact that many of the articles now in his favorite medical journals are “meta-analysis” articles. These are articles in which the authors gather and review the entire published body of work on a given subject, then combine the data from all of these independent studies to see if there is some type of collective truth revealed.

Noble work, and difficult to bring the various points of data together. My friends’ lament was that these meta-analyses seemed to muddy the waters of medical practice rather than clarifying something. Doctors recommend things and do things with such an air of certainty that you would think there must be a strong body of conclusive research to back them up.

But often, there is not.

As he pointed out, “All these studies suggest that things I rely on are now in question. Putting stents in coronary arteries doesn’t prolong life. Lowering cholesterol with drugs isn’t preventing strokes and heart attacks. All the drugs I’ve been giving to asthmatics for years may not be doing much good and all the hard work to control blood sugar in a diabetic patients isn’t preventing the complications of diabetes. Even the flu vaccine may not be doing much of anything to prevent the darn flu!”

Our conversation drifted to a discussion of his own health problems later in life. I suggested he read some of the literature suggesting that dietary changes might help some of the very problems he was struggling with. It turns out he had already read it.

“So,” I asked, “Why aren’t you doing these things?”

“Hell,” he said, (His language is often colorful.) “I’ve thought of it, but I’ll probably just be reading in a year that someone has done a damn meta-analysis that finds that the real results are unclear.”

“I’ve just realized one of your addictions,” I said excitedly. “You’re addicted to research! There is nothing safer or easier to do than to change your diet for a few weeks. Just try it and see how you do. If you notice an improvement you can continue on that eating plan. Or, you can choose to ignore your immediate experience. The choice is always yours.”

He agreed to try. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

In the end it would surprise me if a meta-analysis found that dietary change results were unclear. I say this because over and over diet plays a key role and when people make simple changes to a more supportive diet they generally see results. Obviously you collect enough articles on any subject you might get a vague answer in the end. But frankly it did not surprise me that the list of treatments he was reading as potentially not being helpful are potentially just that – not helpful.

Certainly these treatments have a place and function in medicine. However many times they are used to mask an underlying issue that does not get addressed. So for example, instead of looking at why your cholesterol is high and making changes to your diet, you just take a pill. Yes the pill helps reduce your levels, but it does not address the real issue. It creates a reactive, rather than a proactive scenario. This is why we see people on a host of medications that they’ve taken for years – even to the point where they can’t quite remember why they took them in the first place! I also see those people feel better when they stop taking so many drugs and focus on basic life changes instead.

The key point in this is paying attention to how you feel after making these basic changes. As I recommended to my mentor, just try it. Making the diet change is very low risk for the most part. Try it for a month and see what happens. Let your body give you some feedback. The meta-analysis has its place and can be helpful. So can our experience. Part of the challenge is we learn to distrust that experience. Yet that experience contains important information at times. Paying attention to it is an aspect of your own meta-analysis.

I will check back with my friend in a month and see what he discovered. I’m curious to hear the results.

In the meantime – do you have any experiences of making a change and having your body give you great feedback? Did you cut out a food you thought might be problematic and feel a shift in your mood or physical health? Please share with us your discoveries. We learn from each other. Just leave a comment below.

As always – To Your Health.

Image courtesy of © Can Stock Photo Inc. / nito

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