What to believe?

Where do you get your information from? The internet? Others? Celebrities? News? Books? Doctors, nurses, and other healthcare providers? What kind of information do you seek from these sources? It is not uncommon for us to seek information on medications, lifestyle advice, nutrition, exercise, signs and symptoms, etc online. We might not have time to ask our healthcare providers, or we may not remember to ask. We also may feel intimidated to ask certain questions, so we feel that the internet will provide us with a 'safe' and comfortable way of getting information.

And that is not always bad. There are some great websites that provide great health information. But how do you know when what you are reading is true and reliable? For example, let's assume that you are looking online for information on whether or not drinking milk causes cancer. If you type this into google, you will more than likely find many different websites with information about this topic. Which information should you believe? How do you know what is true and reliable?

There are many ways to evaluate ways to determine if information is reliable and if you should believe it or not. First, you should try to stick with sites that are operated by medical organizations that are certified; for example, Canadian Diabetes Association or the Canadian Cancer Society. Great websites like PubMed are also useful, although these are usually tailored to healthcare professionals or individuals who understand research and medical terminology.

Next, look for sources of information. Where did the author get their information from? Did the person cite references, such as the studies that he or she used to write their article? This should be included whenever possible, so that readers can see the information themselves and evaluate what the research found without any bias. But remember, citing sources and studies is not always a reliable indicator. Some studies may not be conducted well, and they may report false conclusions. Go to this site: http://www.celestialhealing.net/milkpage.htm. Sure, the author is apparently a 'Dr'. But there are so many grammatical errors on the page, and there aren't any sources for where the author got the information from. Also, there is no evidence of an in-depth discussion of the issue. All we can see is why we should not drink milk - but there isn't evidence of WHY or HOW milk causes cancer, what benefits milk has for us, etc. In summary, this website is NOT trustworthy - at least, the information and the way it is stated here isn't something you would use as your only source of knowledge. There isn't enough proof on the site to make you believe that what they are saying is true.

What about this article? http://www.pcrm.org/health/health-topics/milk-consumption-and-prostate-cancer. First, this article contains many references, and if you were to go to each reference, you could see that they were many individual studies - some of them reliable, others not. However, the article DOES tell us WHY milk may be associated with prostate cancer, but it also tells us that this is not a direct cause. So, some people who drank milk also had prostate cancer, but this does not mean that milk CAUSES cancer. The article also states that more evidence is required to determine if milk causes cancer, or if there is something else we are missing here. Also, the article does not tell us, in the end, to avoid all milk consumption. It simply states that more research is needed, and that milk may be related to cancer. This does not mean that we all need to stop  drinking milk..it is simply an observation. For example, drinking too much water can cause death. Should we all stop drinking water? No. Again, moderation is often the best way to go.

So, when you are searching for advice, remember what I just talked about. Also, don't make any decisions without consulting your healthcare team and confirming that what you heard or read is true. Do not be a follower od advice without knowing whether or not it is true, reliable, and trustworthy!

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