For a long time, consumer educators believed that people make the best choices when they have plenty of information. Consumer education programs taught us how to locate information so we had enough to make good decisions.
That was before the Internet.
These days, the challenge is not in finding information. It’s in learning how to manage an over-abundance of it. There are two issues here:
- Discerning what has integrity in a medium without gatekeepers, one in which anyone can say and publish whatever they want to.
- Coping with the volume so that we don’t shut down from information overload.
A previous post featured Dr. Barry Schwartz speaking about the paradox of choice. His research discovered that people actually make worse decisions when overloaded with information and choices.
Yet none of us would deny that there is useful information online. So let’s look at some strategies for navigating online information without being consumed by it.
How can we discern what has integrity?
Start with credible sources. Who is bringing you this information? What are this person’s credentials? motivations? mindset?
When researching a health issue online, I like to start where I have the best chance of success. Here are some of my guidelines.
- Lean toward doctors with conventional medical training complemented by additional study in functional and integrative medicine. To me, it’s the best of both worlds when they bring all these perspectives to bear on a problem.
- Pay attention to whether they base their statements on research and experience, or theories and opinion. I watch for sweeping generalizations and unsupported statements.
- Look for someone who is open to learning about new developments, and is not afraid to consider options outside the box of their conventional training.
- Research the person, at the very least by reading the “about” page on their website. Usually the content of the about page gives a good sense of the person’s philosophy and mission, which is something I find particularly helpful. Of course they’re going to present themselves in a good light, but it’s unlikely they will lie about books they have written or certifications they have because these are too easily traceable in the Internet era.
- Subscribe to their newsletter. This gives you a chance to become familiar with their areas of interest, approach to health, and recommendations. If they are not for you, It’s easy to unsubscribe and move on.
- Filter all of this through your intuition. What does your gut say about the trustworthiness of this person and their information?
Below are a few examples of online doctors I respect and trust. This is not an exhaustive list but gives you an idea about what’s important to me. Your list might be quite different. The important thing is that you find the people who ring bells for you, in order to get the help you need.
A few of my go-to online doctors
Dr. Kelly Brogan is a Manhattan-based holistic women’s health psychiatrist. She is the author of a New York Times best-selling book, A Mind of Your Own, and co-editor of the landmark textbook, Integrative Therapies for Depression. Dr. Brogan is dedicated to helping people learn the truth about mental health and how to reclaim their vitality. One section of her website, titled “Rethink Health” is introduced this way: “You may have noticed that my approach to women’s mental health deviates from the norm—from what is being taught in medical school and what is being offered by doctors around the country. I believe that our current model is outdated and disempowering.”
Dr. Christiane Northrup is a board-certified OB/GYN physician, and a leading authority in the field of women’s health and wellness, which includes the unity of mind, body, emotions, and spirit. She says, “When we find the connection between our thoughts, beliefs, physical health, and life circumstances, we find that we are in the driver’s seat of our lives and can make profound changes. Nothing is more exhilarating or empowering.” Dr. Northrup is an internationally respected writer and speaker whose books have been translated into 24 languages. In 2016, she was named one of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul 100, a group of leaders who are using their voices and talent to awaken humanity.
Dr. Sarah Myhill is a general practitioner who has spent many years working with those experiencing chronic fatigue. Frustrated with the limitations and restrictions of practising under the National Health Service, she is now in private practice in Wales. Her focus is to discover root causes of health issues instead of treating symptoms, and her highly successful approach is based on diet, micronutrient status, allergies, and lifestyle. Dr. Myhill is a member of the British Society for Ecological Medicine, the British equivalent of functional medicine. She has a website full of detailed health information, is the author of several books, and recently founded National Health Worldwide to offer people access to a range of health practitioners no matter where they live.
That is plenty about thinking and researching for now. And if this is all feeling a bit onerous, here’s a fresh perspective…