Do you take advice from random unqualified people’s comments or posts on social media? Have you ever thought about whether that’s a good idea?
You’re suffering with the worst pain, bloating, diarrhoea, or constipation ever.
So, you hunt around online and decide to post on social media and in an online forum to ask for help.
You get tons of people commenting and sympathising with you, which is nice of them. And some will also try to offer you their advice, which is also nice of them…Or is it?!!
Should you listen to them??
Ultimately, it’s up to you 🙂!
But this doesn’t have to be for IBS though. It could be for any medical condition. And so many people Google their symptoms or their medical condition to find out more about it and try to find a solution or cure for their problem. But it could also be people taking advice for sports nutrition or exercise.
It breaks my heart seeing some of the advice being offered by people because I can see the bigger picture and the potential harm they could cause. I just want to try to protect you from harm and get you the best possible result and in the quickest and most realistic time possible.
So here’s some things to bear in mind before putting their help into action…
- IS THE ADVICE THEY’RE OFFERING SAFE?
- Medicines, supplements, and remedies:
If someone is recommending you take a medicine, supplement, or remedy, is it safe for YOU? Are you taking any other over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs which may interact with this recommended medicine/supplement/remedy?
Is the medicine/supplement/remedy produced by a reputable manufacturer?
Is the product certified as safe and free from contamination?
Does the product actually contain all the ingredients it claims to contain? Does it have any hidden ingredients? Are any of the ingredients on a banned list or harmful to health list?
Is the person recommending you avoid whole food groups (e.g., fruits and vegetables, protein-rich foods, carbohydrates)? And are they suggesting any suitable alternatives?
Is the diet extreme and requires eating very small amounts and/or avoiding several different food groups?
Is it a life-long diet or short-term?
Will the diet provide your body with everything it needs to be healthy and active?
Will the diet help improve your IBS symptoms? And will it support your exercise and recovery and reduce your risk of injury and illness?
- Qualification to give advice:
Is the person qualified to give advice? Are they a qualified and registered Dietitian? Or are they a registered nutritionist, which is different from other people calling themselves nutritionists, because ANYONE can call themselves a nutritionist regardless of if they’ve done no nutrition training, formal or informal training, or studied nutrition at a reputable university or a 2 week blag course. Being a registered nutritionist is voluntary and requires the person to achieve and evidence certain basic standards. And only people qualified in dietetics and are registered can call themselves a ‘Dietitian’.
- Medical diagnosis:
Have you actually got IBS – were your symptoms investigated and your physician/medical doctor diagnosed you with IBS, or have you self-diagnosed IBS?
There are loads of different gut conditions which have overlapping symptoms such as bloating, wind and diarrhoea, but just because you’re experiencing these symptoms doesn’t mean to say it’s IBS. It could be something else, such as bowel cancer, pancreatitis, Coeliac disease or IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease – Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis).
Speaking of IBD, so many non-professionals and so-called experts confuse IBS with IBD (which seems shocking to me) – it’s as if these are the same condition but have interchangeable abbreviations! They’re not interchangeable terms. IBD is totally different from IBS. IBD causes inflammation and physical damage to the gut such as ulcers and abnormal connections between body parts e.g., two parts of the bowel becoming connected or the bowel connecting to another organ. IBS is a functional condition without any physical damage.
So, does the person giving the advice know the difference between these conditions (or other gut conditions) and know how best to manage them?
2. IS THE INFORMATION AND ADVICE BASED ON QUALITY SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE?
Dietitians use scientific evidence to base their recommendations, and then tailor it to you as an individual, having completed a nutritional assessment. This means it’s already been field tested, so you don’t have to it. And their recommendations are based on what’s been found to be the most effective and safe (amongst other things).
If you’re taking advice from someone without any reputable qualifications and experience, then you’re taking a massive risk on whether or not it’s sound advice – if it’s safe, correct and effective. And you’ll stay stuck. And… just because Joe down the street tried X and it worked for his symptoms and without experiencing any harm, doesn’t mean to say you should follow Joe’s advice unless he’s a Dietitian.
By the way, confused between Dietitians, Nutritionists, Nutritional Therapists and Diet Experts? Check this out.
3. IS IT JUST GENERAL INFO AND ADVICE OR IS IT BESPOKE TO YOU?
If you’re going to follow general advice, then you may not get the results (or even any results!) compared to advice that’s specifically tailored to you.
Everyone is (rightfully) different, so the way you respond to Z could be completely different to how Joe Bloggs responds. Factors such as your gender at birth; your age; what, if any, medical conditions you have; if you have any allergies or intolerances; your height and weight; your work life; your home life; your taste preferences; etc., need to be considered when devising your tailored nutrition plan.
People commenting and giving out advice to your question on social media know nothing about you (like those factors I’ve just mentioned above) and they haven’t completed a full nutritional assessment on you, so the advice is NOT tailored to you. And it’s unlikely to work, especially if there is no quality science to back it up.
4. ARE THEY THINKING ABOUT YOUR BEST INTEREST …OR THEIRS?
If the person is thinking about what’s best for you, they would be asking you questions and finding out about you, your wants and needs and then creating a plan just for you.
If they’re thinking about themselves, then they’ll not take the time to uncover what’s going on with you and they’ll give you some generic plan.
Like for example, I’ve had someone come to me for help with their IBS and their running. And they were following a vegetarian diet. Previously he’d tried a nutritional therapist who didn’t ask them any specific questions and just gave him a meal plan to follow…which was for a meat-eater!! It didn’t suit his needs at all, and the therapist wanted him to buy their supplements every month (and through my assessment I discovered that he didn’t even need them, so he had been buying something that was totally pointless).
If I recommend someone supplements, I’ve done a ‘needs assessment’ first and will look and assess all options based on them as an individual. Some therapists, personal trainers and other people get a commission for selling certain supplements and will consequently try to push these on you, so they get the money. But for me, it’s about you and what you need.
5. DO YOU EVEN KNOW WHO YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO AND WHO’S ADVICE YOU SHOULD IGNORE?
It’s hard to know who to listen to, especially with loads of people calling themselves various titles and social media influencers with millions of followers.
It can be easy to think that because someone has millions of followers that they know what they’re on about and what they’re saying is correct, safe, and effective. But that’s not the case. And just because someone has millions of followers it doesn’t automatically give them the right to dish out advice and recommendations.
You can check out that link that I shared above so you know the difference between Dietitians, Nutritionists, Nutritional Therapists and Diet Experts, and know the best person to go to for dietary advice whether it’s for healthy eating, nutrition-related problems and treat diseases – Dietitians are the only professional who can assess, diagnose and treat dietary and nutritional problems (BDA). But ultimately, it’s your choice who you see and what risk you want to take.
Physicians/medical doctors don’t have to extensively study nutrition as part of their training and some dabble in nutrition because they find it interesting, but that doesn’t mean they are best placed to help you. And on several occasions, I’ve had patients telling me their physician told them to do X and Y, but unfortunately that was wrong advice and I’ve had to correct them. And that’s why we have different specialties, like an orthopaedic surgeon, a physician specialising in older people, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, Dietitians and speech and language therapists.
6. IT CAN BE TOXIC!
Some people can say some nasty stuff and not be very kind when you’re opening up and sharing your experiences in the hope of getting some help.
Sometimes the people in the group you’re in can drag you down by being overly negative.
A lot of comments and posts on social media aren’t regulated so they can be telling you loads of wrong and harmful info and advice.
Spending ages looking at the screen, browsing social media before bedtime can compromise your sleep, which can have a knock-on effect on your health and wellbeing.
STOP doing what’s not working. And stop taking a chance and potentially risking your health and wellbeing by taking health advice from random and unqualified people on social media. Watch my FREE training here.
I’m here for you.
To your health and fitness, CJ
N.B. It is crucial to get your food and fluid intake right if you want to control your IBS symptoms and if you want train harder, go faster and recover quicker from training sessions and competitions. Dietary requirements are highly individualised and there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Working with a Registered Clinical & Sports Dietitian to develop a bespoke plan based on your unique requirements will help to ensure the most appropriate strategy and best results are achieved.
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