What’s the #1 thing for holistic professionals to increase (scientific) credibility?
Are you a holistic professional who wants more referrals from doctors and other licensed healthcare professionals? Maybe you want to become a “go-to” resource in your niche? Or maybe you want to be seen as someone who can back up your recommendations with solid science?
If you, want to be credible amongst your peers and followers, well, you likely already are. That’s probably why they follow you on social media and ask you for advice.
What I’m going to discuss here is being credible amongst licensed healthcare professionals, medical researchers, and other science-based people.
If this isn’t what you’re going for, then this article is not for you. If you think that science is too flawed to refer to, this isn’t for you. And if you think that too many people just follow “the establishment”, then don’t waste your time reading the rest.
I’m not here to convince you of anything.
But, if you want to step up your scientific credibility game, become a “go-to” resource for your niche, and even possibly get client referrals from licensed healthcare professionals, keep on reading.
What’s it going to take to “up” my credibility?
Credibility is not something you can earn overnight. It needs to become a long-term strategy where you consistently provide credible information and recommendations. Objectively credible, I mean.
Science-based, to be exact.
And I’m not going to tell you to go get your MD or PhD degrees, you don’t need that to be credible (but it can help). Plus, there are a number of MDs and PhDs who say lots of un-credible things! Not to mention that there are some solid holistic health practitioners out there.
HINT: Scientific credibility is going to take a lot more than referring to your text books, regardless of where you went to school.
Why science? Yes, I know it’s not perfect!
Well, I could talk about this for days, because it’s SO very true.
Science is not a belief system. It’s not something that is infallable, nor is it possible to be completely objective.
It can be, and in some cases has been biased, conducted irresponsibly, resulted in regrettable consequences, and paid off.
In fact some of my favourite articles and websites of all time are those that critically explain the issues around science, and pushes it to improve!
Feel free to check out some of the things I share on one of my Facebook pages, including how important it is to re-build trust, take a few doses of humility, and be even more transparent about the issues in scientific research and modern medicine. Not to mention sharing some of the impact of unsafe medications, new research on placebo effect, as well as science that confirms the positive health impacts of nutrition and safe supplementation.
Science is a process of understanding the world and ourselves.
Science is a process of understanding the world and ourselves. #science #health #holistic Click To Tweet
And guess what? I truly, hand-on-heart believe that it’s the best we have right now!
The scientific process is a way to do research and study things as objectively as possible. Not based on personal opinions, individual experiences, or philosophical positions. But on observations; or better yet, experiments.
By conducting experiments. And making them as un-biased as possible (e.g. using control groups, double-blinding, statistically accounting for confounding variables, etc.) is how it strives for objectivity.
And yes, some of those experiments go wrong. Some of them have been incompetent. Some have never been published. Some of them have been retracted after been found to be fraudulent.
But the beauty I see in the scientific process is that it is open for criticism. And the scientific process is improving.
I could seriously go on for days, so I’ll end this part here to jump into that #1 credibility booster I promised in the headline.
So, what’s this #1 thing I need to do?
It’s certainly not the only thing necessary, but I personally think it’s the very first step.
It’s called “look at the balance of the evidence“.
In one word: CONTEXT
Holistic #health professionals: Want more credibility? Here's the #1 thing you need. #context Click To Tweet
Basically, it means to thoroughly understand an area of expertise. To open-mindedly look at as much of the scientific (peer-reviewed, published) research that you can. Not just the latest study, hottest trend, most popular blogger, or newest bestseller. Look at all of the evidence and see what the “balance” is saying. What does the overall foundation of knowledge in this area say?
Example: Cochrane Collaboration
If you’re not familiar with the Cochrane Collaboration, I highly recommend you bookmark their page now.
They are independent international researchers who review studies and critically evaluate them, and try to make sense of any conflicting data.
Their logo represents a great example of the power of looking at the balance of the evidence. You can read the whole story here, but I’ll give you a summary.
Basically there were several placebo-controlled randomized clinical trials that looked at the impact of giving mothers corticosteroids when having premature labour. Some of the studies showed that it helped, others showed that it did not. There were 8 studies in total, and no one had looked at all of them to make a decision and formal recommendation. What the Cochrane group did, was do a “systematic review” of the studies to critically evaluate, and figure out once and for all, whether corticosteroids were beneficial or not.
They were. They reduced the risk of the babies dying from “complications of immaturity” by 30-50%!
As you can see, by looking at the balance of the evidence, a clear recommendation could be made. And these results became widely known and accepted after the Cochrane review was published and endorsed by the National Institute of Health.
This is the crux of looking at the balance of the evidence. All of it. Not just a few studies, but all of them.
HOW do I find the “balance of the evidence”?
The best way to do this is to become an expert in your field, and read, understand and evaluate every new study that comes out on a weekly (or monthly?) basis.
I’m not kidding – that’s the BEST way to do this.
However, I know that because you’re running a holistic practice, you probably don’t have time for this.
So you need some credible resources to go to to who are already doing this.
Here are my top three recommended sources of health information where you can find the balance of the evidence (if you don’t have 8 hours a day for PubMed):
#1: Independent, unbiased sources
#2: University, government and association websites
Sorry guys, you didn’t expect me NOT to say this right?
Of course you should consider the possibility of them being biased, or taking years to change recommendations, but they actually do a great job at looking at the balance of the evidence and having context. While they may not have jumped on the bandwagon of the most recent study – to me, that makes them all the more credible.
Examples of websites I’m talking about:
And yes, Health Canada, the FDA, and association websites are in this group too! Feel free to be skeptical (as you should), but if all of the health authorities are saying something, what are the odds they’re all way off base?
#3: Review the meta analyses and systematic reviews yourself
Meta analyses and systematic reviews are the strongest type of studies for the exact reason that they are not one study, but a review of several studies (just as the Cochrane Collaboration does). Of course, these are done by researchers themselves, and may not be entirely independent; however, it is much better to consider several studies (as these do), than individual ones. You can find these at PubMed.
You can click here to download a free mini-guide to PubMed that I created ,where I tell you how to filter your PubMed results for those meta analyses and sytematic reviews.
I’ve attached a link to one of my most favourite infographics in the history of the internet: A Rough Guide to Types of Scientific Evidence that briefly discusses the strengths of different types of studies. You’ll see that the review studies are definitely the strongest type of study in terms of credibility of results.
Of course, when you look at non-independent studies, you need to critically evaluate them (even though they’re peer-reviewed and published). It’s easy to see corporate sponsorship when it’s a declared conflict of interest, but it is absolutely NOT reason for automatic dismissal of the results. While that certainly has been shown to have an effect on study design, results reporting, publication bias, etc. who paid for a study is just ONE of a bunch of things to consider when evaluating science.
Here is a link to my second favourite infographic of all time, also from Compound Chem. This one is spotting bad science, and as I said earlier, I give props to those who point out the weak points and push the researchers to do even better. You’ll note in this infographic that conflicts of interest is just one of many, many things to consider.
I sincerely encourage you as a holistic practitioner to review all of the information about your area of expertise on these sites. It will give you the background and context you need as the first step to ramp up your scientific knowledge and credibility.
What’s the second step? Critical evaluation of those articles! 🙂
Resources for you:
If you want my free resource guide to credible websites, as well as tips for using PubMed (including how to filter results for those meta-analyses and systematic reviews), click here.
If you’re looking for someone to do some of this health research for you, or write articles for your website, or gather facts for your videos, podcasts or recipes, click here.
If you’re not in the market to outsource this service just yet, but would love some links to articles on how to better understand and evaluate health science, please complete my survey here.
Leesa Klich is a science-based holistic nutritionist living at the intersection of science and holistic health (it’s really, really interesting here!) 🙂
At Nutrition Interactions she empowers women to optimize their bone health using foods, supplements and lifestyle upgrades. She also helps holistic-minded people taking medications maximize the benefits of good nutrition; as well as writes reliable health articles for holistic health professionals who don’t have the time, and want the credibility.
She has a MSc in Biomedical Toxicology and Nutritional Science, over a decade experience in drug/supplement safety, and is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist. She is also a lifelong learner, and has recently completed Dr. Lani Simpson’s Osteoporosis & Bone Health Training Program. For a list of free health resources, click here.
If you want to know more about my health philosophy, click here.