Well-being and medicine are not the same thing. Medicine is a science that deals with the treatment of the diseases, while wellness is a discipline that deals, more or less holistically and almost never scientifically verified, with how to make people feel better. Both from a physical and a psychological point of view. Well-being means, in short, a mixture of health and happiness. Something that does well and at the same time is not medically harmful. However, when the industry and the language of well-being encroach on medical terminology, they are not always accurate and reliable. With Professor Daniela Lucini, Head of Medicine at Humanitas, we have seen the false myths of well-being.
Removal of toxins with charcoal, slimming with pineapple, purification with herbal teas, care with water and lemon. Medicine and religion (especially the part concerning herbal medicine) have long been deeply intertwined and only recently have they really separated. The wellness industry is appropriating the medical vocabulary and trying to resurrect this connection with results that are not always positive and often misleading.
These food supplements are the backbone of the wellness industry and make up a $30 billion a year business, even though studies show that they have no scientific value or effect on longevity. Only a few vitamins and supplements have shown medical benefits, like folic acid before and during pregnancy as well as vitamin D for elderly people at risk of falling.
The placebo effect and the false myth of the “natural”
The only really natural thing is a balanced diet, rich in vegetables and fruit, low in animal fats and with a reduced consumption of red meat , processed meat in favor of a significant intake of fish and ingredients rich in omega 3 and omega 6 (the good fats). The placebo effect and the desire to “try something natural” can lead people with serious illnesses to postpone effective medical care. The data that is emerging on cancer patients who use alternative medical practices, many of which are promoted by companies that sell products of dubious utility, are a worrying phenomenon that does not seem to diminish despite the fact that access to proper medical information is also possible online with some simplicity.
Useless treatment, which are the signs to discover them?
How can we understand if we are faced with the sponsorship of natural products that have no efficacy but have been sold as a source of well-being?
The first thing to do, to remove any doubt, is to ask your family doctor, who will be able to give us the correct information on all products on the market, reporting any “buffalo” and warning us about falsely miraculous products.
However, there is one clue that should always be taken into account: most wellness sites often talk about theories regarding a “medical conspiracy”. Associations such as vaccines and autism, the dangers of water fluoridation, bras and breast cancer, mobile phones and brain cancer or heavy metal poisoning should be viewed with suspicion not only for the lack of rationality of content, but also for the underlying accusation of a conspiracy by the scientific community which is the only real source to be relied upon in the field of health.
The specialist’s opinion
“It must be said, for the sake of precision, that in the real medical field the concept of well-being exists – said Lucini -, and it has to do with all those parameters that define our state of health. Even doctors therefore deal with well-being but with traditional medical-scientific parameters. Then the problem is, in my opinion, more in the misuse of the term. In the whole series of experts who propose a series of therapies that are not scientifically validated, pretending them to be beneficial. Some relaxation techniques also have to do with well-being and can have a scientific part in their application, but it is necessary to distinguish them well from those that do not have any use, until you arrive at practices that have no scientific basis, but are also potentially harmful.