What do we really know?

by Michelle Lasley

Michelle Lasley is a mother, wife in Pacific Northwest learning to balance green dreams with budget realities.

May 31, 2011

Levi's 4th Birthday Cake

Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

“Can my husband call you and ask you his questions himself? I really won’t do your answers justice.”

“He can, but he’d be better off calling the allergist directly. The allergist is a chatty guy and will likely give him the answers your husband is looking for,” responded Levi‘s pediatrician.

This was in answer to my query about any possibility of Levi suffering of hives in the middle of the night, and if left untreated if it’d lead to anaphylaxis. My husband keeps mentioning this fear, following up with this desire to get Levi tested more thoroughly for allergies. The few things I’ve read, the few anecdotes I’ve heard, and all my conversations with the many doctors indicate this isn’t a needed step at this age. I’m not a fan of over-medicating or over-diagnosing, so I’m not always sure how to respond to my husband’s query. Having him call the doctors seems like the next best step since he’s working when I tend to bring Levi to the doctor, lately.

The pediatrician continued, “Think about all the million things we touch every day. Okay? We can test about a dozen of them.”

Ding, goes my brain. This is why it’s practicing medicine. Even though we know so much, there is still a heck of a lot more to know. So, it’s best to play it cool, go by what you feel, and not worry so much. We’re prepared. We have the epi-pen, the Zyrtec, we have the doctors on speed dial. There really isn’t much more we can do. Life will get you when it does.

That thought though, that we can only test for about a dozen or so of the things we come into contact with every day. Is this why I can’t find good searches on why I suffer from Grave’s Disease? Is this why I can’t find the scholarly info on food that I crave? Is this why I am skeptical of nutritionists and the latest greatest diet? Because we simply don’t know and we’re victims of our own ignorance and over-education?

Image by alexis22578 via Flickr

“Could I just ask you a question?” I say to the pediatrician.


“Do you have any books on food and diets? We’re in such a foodie city and there’s all these diets out there…” the coherent thoughts in my head trail off, but he picks up on my cues.

“I trained in the mid-west and Texas, and even worked on the East Coast. I have never run into so many food issues as here. Yes, most of it is hype. If there’s any one diet that has any muster to it, it would be the one based on geography and ethnicity, but I unfortunately can’t remember the name. It came out in about 2003.”

“Thank you, I will look it up.”

I haven’t been able to find it, yet. But I do recall some things stated around that time. Especially the diets based on blood type. What do we really know? A heck of a lot of nothing, basically. That’s not a bad thing. And, please don’t misunderstand. I love learning, I love education. I love discussions, thoughts, books, all these things to help keep the mind active, stimulate society our brains, everything. But, we have to admit our own failings too.

Of all the things we touch on any given day, we can test about a dozen.

So, how do these diets compare to the test of time? They don’t. They can’t. They haven’t been around long enough. It’s another fad that while it will have some short term affects, who is to really say what the long term affects are. Yes, I believe there is something to be said for how we’ve changed our food system over the last 70-100 years, and how we’ve put common ingredients in well everything, thereby potentially quickening evolution and our food sensitivities.

But, that’s really all they are: food sensitivities. Why? Because food allergies, actual, legitimate allergies, are very rare.

Diversify our diets? Absolutely! Go completely “free” of anything? No. This is why veganism isn’t cool anymore. A whole food diet, that which we would have consumed 100+ years ago, is the real cool diet.

The bottom line is that we aren’t perfect. We can’t know everything because we simply don’t have the capacity. We know some basic things, like it’s important to wash your hands, and you need to eat good to feel good. Let’s hope for more societal self-awareness to decide in smart ways what feels good. Let’s put these fad diets to rest, so we can concentrate on what matters. I think, overall, one reason I mollify these topics so much is that I’m saddened by these food obsessions. Food connects us, bridges us, and defines us. When we choose to so drastically remove ourselves from our culture, we cut out portions of ourself. And that can’t feel good.

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