Friday, 23 November 2012

A little knowledge.....!

I was inspired to write this post as a result of advice given to my friend Lesley.

Lesley has been in a lot of pain over the last six months, which may be caused by rheumatoid arthritis or polymyalgia rheumatica.  She had an appointment with a rheumatologist today, who has authorised several tests including x-rays and blood tests and who will see Lesley again in four weeks´time.  I am confident that he will find out what her specific problem is (he suspects polymyalgia) and help her deal with it in the most appropriate way.

Lesley has been going to a massage therapist for a while and the massage has certainly helped relieve her symptoms short-term, which is good news.  However she has also been trying to lose weight and her massage therapist advised her to go on the Blood Group Diet.  This is what has caused me concern.

The advice for people with Lesley's blood group O is to eat a high-protein meat-based diet.  However I have read elsewhere on the internet (including an article written by a rheumatologist) that patients with polymyalgia rheumatica should be on a low fat/low red meat diet.    This contradicts the advice given to Lesley that she should be following the diet for blood group O.  I'm not saying that you should believe everything that you read on the internet, but who is more likely to know about the correct diet for someone with Lesley's symptoms? A massage therapist - who may or may not have nutritional  knowledge - or a medical specialist?

As a qualified complementary therapist, I was taught never to give advice outside my areas of expertise.  I wouldn't have advised someone like Lesley to follow a particular diet, apart from saying in general terms to avoid processed foods and to eat a healthy, natural, varied diet.  Obviously people with specific medical problems like diabetics and coeliacs need to avoid particular foods, but they should seek advice from suitably qualified people and not, say, a reflexologist whose only qualification is in reflexology.

I am not on a mission to knock fellow complementary therapists or this particular diet, even though my research has revealed that most medical and nutrition experts state that the theory behind it is nonsense.  It's not the only fashionable diet out there that isn't based on sound nutritional guidelines.

My point here is that a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.  Most diets will help someone lose weight, if only because the individual is more aware of how much food they are eating.  Most diets won't harm a healthy person who follows the diet for a short period of time.    My concern is that so-called professionals may persuade someone to follow an eating regime that is unsuitable, in the misguided belief that they are helping them.  Of even more concern is the fact that sensible, intelligent people like my friend Lesley may be persuaded by an "expert" that their advice is good for them when it may in fact have the opposite effect.

My final point, aimed particularly at women of a "certain age" who have been brought up not to complain but just get on with it, is please go to see your doctor if you have symptoms that don't clear up quickly.  Pain isn't normal, so don't grin and bear it.  Pester your doctor until he or she sends you for whatever tests are necessary to get a diagnosis.  The rheumatologist was impressed by how brave Lesley had been, but amazed that her doctor had let her go for six months in pain without resolving her problems.  We all have the right to good health, or the best health possible for us as individuals, so let's fight for it!

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