When companies and news organizations peddle fear, should you buy it? As we’re bombarded by information that may be less than reliable, it can be hard to discern which messages to trust. Unfortunately, the medical community also peddles fear. So how do you determine whether you should buy the product or message?
- If a spouse/partner wants you to buy a pair of shoes that hurt, should you buy them?
- If a doctor consistently advises the most extreme treatment, should you get a second opinion?
- If a news organization edits video that changes perception of a situation, should you base your opinion on partial information?
Determining whether or not to buy or buy into something has some commonalities:
- It ain’t easy!
- It’s time consuming!
- It probably won’t be fun.
I say this, not to discourage you, but to prepare you for a task that is less than desirable but still important to your health, well-being, and quality of life.
Those of us who are avoiding gluten may be tuned into health messaging and labels more than most making us especially vulnerable to the constant bombardment of fear-based messaging.
Let’s make things easier by starting with a few things you can stop worrying about:
Gluten in shampoo or cosmetics – The gluten molecule is too large to be absorbed through your skin. (If you have an allergy to wheat, rye, barley, or malt as opposed to an intolerance, this may still be of concern.) Also, don’t eat the cosmetics. Ingested gluten is still a problem.
Longstanding childhood vaccines – These are safe, effective, and have all but eliminated suffering from smallpox, polio, and tetanus. With any medicine, there is the potential for an adverse reaction in a small number of people. That’s true of antibiotics, birth control pills, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Check ingredient list for allergens & look for recalls. Barring those, get vaccinated.
MRNA vaccines – They do not change your genetic makeup. They do not contain microchips. They do not produce severe adverse reactions in most people. This type of vaccine is easy to adapt to a variety of viruses. That means we will most likely see more and more of these. Adopt with the level of caution you approach any medication, but there’s no reason to dismiss these out of hand.
Taking nutritional supplements – If you are healthy and eat a well-balanced diet, there’s no real benefit to taking supplements.
Eating eggs – While eggs contain cholesterol, they don’t seem to raise blood cholesterol and are a near-perfect food. They may also help with nutrient absorption when eaten in raw salads.
With those out of the way, how can we determine what to embrace or leave behind?
Develop a list of reliable sources – Twitter has been a great tool for this. You could follow experts in any field to get their take on infinite topics. Now it’s a bit more dicey but look for doctors and researchers who are well respected by other scientists. Look for news sources that feel balanced. Watch for bias. Don’t give too much credence to the most visible faces on TV or those who speak for politicians. Look at track records. Get several opinions about any product or issue. Do some background research to see which of those opinions align with rigid, well-controlled studies; reflect verifiable facts; and are not reactionary.
Learn the difference between fact and opinion – It’s common to see someone online ask a “what if” question that leads to a whole narrative based on nothing but flight of fancy that’s treated as fact. And news networks often have “experts” offer lots of opinions based on zero facts. You can tell the difference, but you must listen carefully.
Beware of magical thinking – As humans, we’re always tempted to take the easy way out. We want immediate results and miracle cures. But just because we want something to be a quick fix doesn’t mean it is. Or it could mean we’ll only see short-term positive results. If you find yourself leaning into something because it sounds easier or faster than something you know will work long-term, question yourself.
Today’s example would be using a diabetes prevention drug strictly for weight loss. It’s all the rage! But we also know that once you stop using one of these drugs, the weight comes back. That means a temporary “cure” at best. And we don’t know the long-term health effects of using these drugs. That’s a risk you’re blindly assuming.
Never assume you need anything just because an ad says so – Advertising isn’t about education. It’s not about public service. It’s about getting you to buy a product or service. It may do a public service or educate at the same time, but that’s not its primary purpose.
If fear or shame is involved, beware – It’s unfortunate that companies or professions use emotional manipulation to accomplish their goals. If you feel yourself compelled to buy or buy into something because you’re afraid or feel ashamed, take a minute. Your emotions may be undermining your best judgement. Wait for the feelings to pass, then reevaluate.
Ask questions – Someone in a particular field will have a depth of knowledge you do not. Feel free to ask questions. Most are happy to share their expertise. If you hear them say, “that’s not how this works,” believe them.
The most important thing is to allow yourself to learn and shift. Sometimes new information will challenge a long-held belief. If this NEVER happens, there’s a problem. It’s statistically unlikely that you will be absolutely 100% correct all the time.
Even if you’ve carefully researched your opinion, science will advance; policies will result in unintended consequences that are not acceptable; drugs will be recalled; new facts will be revealed. All of these require adjustment.
Sometimes this means you should no longer buy something that was reasonable yesterday. This can be true in the universal sense. It can also be true on a personal level because we change, our situations change, and our health changes.
There can’t be an absolute answer to the question, should you buy it. And sometimes, we’ll make decisions we regret later. But if we’ve gathered the most reliable information we can find, reflected on potential consequences based on that information, and made a decision that we are willing to reevaluate if necessary, we’ve done all we can do. It’s okay to lean into a plan and feel good about it.