How to do Health Research Online
Let’s face it – as a health & wellness professional, you have a lot riding on your shoulders! The weight that your nutrition, supplement, and lifestyle recommendations hold to your audience and your clients is big! Many people will change what they eat and do based on what you, as their trusted expert, say.
So, how do you always know what to recommend? How do you keep a pulse on your specific area of expertise? How do you stay up-to-date with new health research? How do you answer the million-dollar question:
- I heard this health news, is it true?
Well, let me help you find credible sources of health information quickly. Here’s how to do health research online.
First, you need a topic
This may sound obvious, but it’s not. Here’s what I mean:
But, what if I already knew:
- How leaky gut worked,
- How it affects the body and other systems,
- How to address it?
What if I already knew that it has to do with too much Bacteroides and not enough butyrate-producing gut-friendly microbes?
What do I do when I see studies that challenged my knowledge?
First of all, if I was stuck in only the knowledge I learned at university back in the 1990s, then I would never have pursued a certification in natural nutrition. If I never considered different or newer viewpoints, I never would have become a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. And I certainly wouldn’t always be researching health topics to learn more about them!
If I was most certainly convinced that I knew my topic inside and out, and did research only to create an article, program, etc. to support what I already knew, then I wouldn’t be doing research. I’d actually be looking to support my position on my topic.
Do you see the difference?
Having a “topic” is not the same as having a “topic + a position.”
“Researching a topic” is not the same as “finding support for my position on a topic.”
We all know that new research is being done every day – our clients, blog readers, family, and friends are always asking us about the latest health headline. And that’s the million-dollar question. Amirite?
So when we research a topic with a touch of open-mindedness, we might actually learn something! We may learn more details about what we already know. We may learn that our position is still spot-on. Or we may learn that there are new and improved hypotheses trying to make sense of what we previously knew.
In fact, research shows that people who are not overly-confident in their position on a topic are actually MORE COMPETENT!
The trick is to see what research is out there, decide whether it’s good enough or not (and why), and see what you can learn from it.
In fact, I wrote all about where new research turned my “knowledge” about the gut microbiome on its head! (Figuratively, of course… microbes don’t have heads). 🙂 I read a newly-published study a couple of years ago and it made me re-evaluate my position on the topic. Blew my mind at the time, but honestly, I’m better for it! I wrote all about that time here.No shame in changing your position with new and improved information. #position #research #health Click To Tweet
Here’s an example of the research I’m doing now. I’m learning about leaky gut (a topic), without having a position on it. In fact, I’ve seen a lot of health professionals say this is a BS condition. Are they right? I’m not 100% sure yet, because I haven’t read enough research, but here’s what I shared on Instagram about what I’m learning:
As I dive into the research on “leaky gut” I noticed a few things: . . First, it’s associated with gut dysbiosis and ultra-processed foods. So, people who tend to eat “junk” and “fast” foods, tend to have problems with their gut microbiota (dysbiosis) and tend to also have “leaks” in their gut (intestinal permeability). . . Second, it’s also associated with a number of autoimmune and other conditions. People who tend to have type I diabetes, celiac disease, allergies, etc. tend to also have gut dysbiosis & “leaky” gut. . . How does this all happened? How are these inter-related? Well, one hypothesis (i.e. best guess based on the current research) is that diets high in fat & gluten, & low in resistant starch (i.e. fibre) induces the growth of the not-so-friendly Bacteriodes gut microbe. This then reduces some “friendly” gut microbes that make the anti-inflammatory substance called “butyrate.” . . The combination of more “unfriendly” gut microbes & fewer friendly ones that make anti-inflammatory compounds then drives gut permeability. Once we have these microscopic holes in our gut lining, this allows antigens (like bits of not-broken-down-enough protein) to pass through them and elicit an immune response. . . This is one hypothesis based on the current research. It’s a simple way to describe what we now see, but more research will undoubtedly shed more light on this. Maybe this mechanism will be proven to be spot on…maybe not. . . It’s easy to explain the mechanism behind things and think “Yep, we’ve got the answer – totally makes sense.” But keep in mind this is an in-process idea that we’re still learning about. It’s literally a “hypothesis.” . . Bottom line is certain though – ultra-processed “junk” and “fast” foods are best kept to a minimum, and whole, unprocessed foods (mainly produce) intake needs to increase! . . Want to read this recent study? Link to the free full text is in my profile. #linkinprofile
You may not be ready to consider another position to be valid. Maybe you feel super-strongly about your position. Maybe you have a tonne of experience on it, and keep seeing news and information shared that only re-iterates that position.
Even if these are true, don’t you think it’s good to understand different (but reasonable) positions on the same topic?
Second, you need trusted sources
The most trustworthy sources of health information may not be intuitive. In fact, they can be downright boring.The most trustworthy sources of health information may not be intuitive. In fact, they can be downright boring. #trust #credibility #health Click To Tweet
Don’t you find that listening to someone’s compelling and captivating personal story is far more interesting than reading a systematic review of multiple randomized clinical trials?
Ya, me too!
What about listening to a passionate presenter who is so sure that their explanation of how something works is the only reasonable explanation, and anyone who doesn’t see it their way is crazy?
It’s easy to jump on the bandwagon of a fearless and passionate leader.
What about an expert who can clearly and articulately simplify something to the point that it seems so obvious, there cannot be another explanation.
This is truly empowering to hear.
Sincerity, passion, and confidence sure are convincing!
BUT, they’re not necessarily the best evidence we have on whether something works or not (or how it works).
You might think science is science, but some evidence is ranked higher in the scientific community than others, and having an awareness of this can help you sort the science from the pseudoscience when it comes to various internet claims. (Ref)
Plus, as professionals, we KNOW that what works for one person may not apply to everyone. Even if it seems to work for many (or most) of our clients. I mean, we’re all slightly different from each other, right?
Sure there are some fundamentals that apply across the board: Just about everyone can use a few more veggies and a bit less stress each day. Of course! But when it comes to details of food or supplement choices, what works (or doesn’t work) for one person is not going to be the “one size fits all” prescription for everyone’s health.
Here’s a perfect (and personal) example:
A Brazil nut, which is a super-healthy nut that I recommend, has literally almost killed me – more than once! My anaphylaxis can be life-threatening. BUT, my reaction to it, even though it’s shared by thousands of people, is not likely going to affect everyone else.
So, I’m not on the “ban Brazil nuts for everyone” bandwagon. I know that I need to avoid even minute traces of it in a serious way. But, it’s fine, if not healthy, for most people.
Here are some of my favourite websites for reliable resources for health information.
How to do Health Research Online – The Course
Because I don’t personally do all the health research and writing for every health and wellness professional out there, I created a course showing you how to search a bunch of quality health websites for yourself.
And, don’t worry, it doesn’t include PubMed which I know is for super-nerds. If you have ever read, understood, and fully critiqued a health study, you are bilingual because those bad boys are NOT written in English! Here are a few tips how to skeptically read a health study, if you want to get nerdy like me. 🙂
This course on how to do health research online is not about having the time, patience, and interest to dig through tons of research. It’s all about quickly searching a few key websites to get the latest credible health info. Info specifically on:
- Health goals,
- Nutrition/foods, and
Before you go ahead and buy it, check out the unlocked video called “Why trust Leesa?” It’s a very valid question if you’re going to trust any of my recommended resources.
You can check out my online course: How to do Health Research Online.
If you do health research, you need a topic (a bit of an open mind – or lack of attachment to a position) and trusted sources! That’s how you can answer the million-dollar health question, “I heard this health news, is it true?”
Keep learning. Keep being open-minded. Know where to go to do health research online!
Signing off and toasting: To learning about health topics online!
Over to you
Did you have a time where new information blew you away, and you realized you had to change your position on a topic? Do you remember a time where a compelling story, a passionate leader, or empowering expert was so convincing? Do you want to learn more about PubMed and finding, understanding, and critiquing studies (which is another course altogether)?
I’d love to know (in the comments below)!
I'm Leesa Klich, MSc., R.H.N.
Health writer – Blogging expert – Research nerd.
I help health and wellness professionals build their authority with scientific health content. They want to stand out in the crowded, often unqualified, market of entrepreneurs. I help them establish trust with their audiences, add credibility to their services, and save them a ton of time so they don’t have to do the research or writing themselves. To work with me, click here.