This article was originally posted on The Huffington Post.
My name is Pixie, and I am a biochemistry graduate and a food blogger. As both a scientist and an active member of the wellness community, I find myself in an extremely controversial position.
I confess I too once used the word “detox” as liberally as others in the wellness scene, and if you search hard enough you’ll most likely find it hidden away in an old blog post of mine. I too fell victim to all these marketing scams and ideas that “natural” is the only way to go, but no longer. I have educated myself, and this seems to make me controversial.
I believe that vaccinations are effective, GMOs are not harmful, you do not need to eat alkaline foods because your body is “acidic” (and they certainly can’t cure cancer), and raw foods aren’t good for you because they contain active enzymes. I believe these, because they are proven facts. Vaccines have been proven to work in endless studies, GMOs have been around and been consumed for decades without negative effects, if your body really was acidic you’d be dead or in hospital, no amount of alkaline foods is going to change the pH of your blood due to the extremely effective buffer system that’s keeping you alive, and the enzymes in plants are completely useless to you (they’re designed for plants – duh) and are instantly digested by your stomach acids anyway.
I am sick of reading blog posts and comments by influential so-called “wellness warriors” about how their way is the only way to be healthy, and I am sick of this mistrust of doctors. The amount of sensationalised articles about doctors making mistakes and prescription drugs causing detrimental rather than beneficial effects has given people a distorted view of the medical community. As my friend Natasha so beautifully put it: “yes, doctors make mistakes (they are human after all) and can’t always help, but that doesn’t make them evil”. Too many influential bloggers and members of the wellness scene are sharing their opinions on products and diets with the world, unaware that their followers often take their word as solid fact. I witnessed this first hand when I gave a talk entitled “The Science of Food” last year in London, and the health food shop downstairs sold out of the product I recommended for days. Unlike my colleagues, however, my recommendations were based on the scientific studies and reviews from credible peer-reviewed sources.
Recently I read the most wonderful article entitled “why you trust the internet more than your doctor”. It gave voice to so many of the frustrations I’ve been experiencing myself. And I totally get it: being normal is no longer cool, being alternative is the way to go, and sadly that extends to medicine as well. Forget the fact that your unvaccinated children are a danger to others, forget that by telling someone to go off their meds and go the “natural” way you might be endangering their life. It doesn’t matter, cause you’re cool, you’re alternative.
You can see why this might upset a lot of the wellness scene. Which is why, despite having done a lot of research and having strong feelings on the subject, I’ve never written about it until now. But I think it’s important that these thoughts come from someone from inside the community; I can’t be dismissed as a “shill” for Big Pharma because I have a vested interest in both science and food. I want the wellness industry to thrive, just not at the expense of science.
So let’s get personal, I’m sure by now you’re probably wondering what I eat and drink on a daily basis. I’m a firm believer that when it comes to diet and exercise, a combination of science-based medicine and self-experimentation is the best way forward, and naturally like all Instagrammers and food bloggers I have a story to tell: When I was 19 I was diagnosed with familial hypercholesterolemia, thanks to a series of blood tests in response to those of my father. For the non-scientists out there, this basically means I have genetically high cholesterol (thanks dad). I was studying for my degree in biochemistry at the time, which featured a module on food metabolism, and that kick-started a long thought process. Having access to all the latest scientific journal articles was certainly helpful, and led me to make some changes to my diet. Follow up blood tests showed my cholesterol levels to be healthy, only just mind you, but still healthy. So no statins for me – yay! Not that I have any issues with statins, and no doubt later on in life I will end up needing them, but if I can be healthy without them for now, I will.
I now eat a whole foods plantbased vegan diet, with no refined fructose. Yes I realise that sentence make me sound pretentious and self-righteous, but I’m not suggesting that my diet is the answer, nor do I follow this religiously 100% of the time. It works for me, and I am happy and healthy. Naturally, in interviews I’ve done the key message that’s come across has always been “doctors were wrong! I cured myself using food!”, and while that may be true to an extent, I believe my doctor actually did just the right thing. He didn’t put me on statins straight away; he gave me the time I needed to make beneficial changes to my lifestyle, and then congratulated me on my success. Diet and exercise as a cure isn’t “alternative”, it’s been standard mainstream medical practice for a long time.
My goal is to combine science-based medicine with the concept of “food as medicine”, and avoid this “us vs. them” mentality. I believe there are things doctors can learn from the wellness scene, and many more that the wellness scene can learn from doctors. Perhaps this view is the most controversial of all.