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Medical What are some reliable open resources to learn about health?

  1. Jun 12, 2017 #1
    Finding authentic resources online is pretty difficult for a starter. There are some websites that come up frequently on search engines;

    1. healthline.com
    2. livestrong.com
    3. medicinenet.com
    4. emedicinehealth.com
    5. webmd.com
    6. nhs.uk

    My questions are mostly cause-and-effect ones.
    I am wondering which ones are most reliable and updated.
    I'd be glad if you could leave a note with your recommendations as why you recommend them.

    In response to @UsableThought's pointer I jot down the health issues that I've been recently browsing on net;
    1. obesity - For this I'm mostly interested in the cons (I have been taking meds and have gained quite a weight)
    2. flatulence - Both its causes and effects (a chronic issue)
    3. constipation - Causes and effects (a chronic issue, runs in my family)

    The reason why I'm after this is to better understand my body and make educated decisions. (I want to dig up the biology behind those once I know for sure I have stumbled upon the most accepted list of pros and cons)
    Note: I'm under the guidance of doctor and asking them a long list of questions is not a option. :)

    Thank you.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 12, 2017 #2
    I think you should give more information as to what you're after and why; "cause and effect" is so broad a phrase as to mean very little by itself. So if you could be quite a bit more specific as to what you're looking for, that might help anyone trying to comment usefully.

    E.g. are you looking for preventive measures, that is, health & lifestyle; or acute care; or chronic care? Or for that matter, are there specific conditions you're interested in? In the U.S. at least, and most likely in other countries including the U.K., there are patient-oriented nonprofits and advocacy organizations, as well as professional specialist associations, all concentrating on specific conditions, e.g. heart health, cancer, particular diseases, etc.; and typically they all have web sites with information or links to information. Whereas if you go only to general, patient-oriented websites such as those you've listed, you will get only general advice; and this advice will be phrased for a rather broad swath of the public, so there will likely be quite a bit of intentional simplification.

    Also, general sites are less likely to keep up with new developments for a given health issue, as compared to specialized sites dealing only with that issue. On the other hand, some of the specialized sites may have biases that you'd want to watch out for - e.g. there have been quite valid studies showing that spine surgeons (https://www.spine.org) as a lobby tend to be biased towards promoting surgery even for conditions where independent studies have not shown benefit, or have even shown harm.

    Back to "cause and effect" - that is very very difficult to determine for many conditions; this is one reason why studies are done over and over and over as treatment evolves. You'd be more likely to get information on cause and effect from review studies than from web sites of the sort you've listed; but review studies require that you take great caution in reading; you more or less have to learn to be an expert reader. The general sites won't require such care in reading - but they won't tell you nearly as much, either.

    BTW of those you have listed, I would say that http://www.livestrong.com is least likely to be trusted. Look at some of the articles and you'll likely guess that they are hacked out by low-paid persons who aren't anywhere near expert, but are merely cribbing together web searches. Sites operated by government health departments are far, far preferable.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  4. Jun 12, 2017 #3


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    Staff: Mentor

    I would recommend sticking with government and university sources, rather than WebMD. Like this one:


    Also, remember that we cannot offer medical advice or diagnoses here. It's okay for us to give recommendations for resources, but we cannot discuss cause-and-effect.
  5. Jun 12, 2017 #4
    Thanks, I didn't know that. Could you tell me a name or two of such organisations relevant to the health issues I'm trying to learn. I think, a look into one or two and I'll be able to dig up the ones most relevant to my purpose.


    That's sad. Can government sites be reliable ones, if any such specialised sites exist?


    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  6. Jun 12, 2017 #5
    Definitely. I second this policy many internet forums follow.
  7. Jun 12, 2017 #6

    jim mcnamara

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    Staff: Mentor

    The suggestions you got are best applied to a few websites. In the US the National Institutes of Health sites (NIH) (pubmed as an example) are the best possible choices for actual medical research results, and if you search on a question they have websites for the general public.

    There is an alternative medicine site, which posts scientific results only, if you end up going that route. Some of the sites you mention can and do go overboard on a lot of claims. Many claims are only slightly researched, if at all, so avoid those sites, please. Some claims are demonstrably worthless or even dangerous. I mention this because if you have read those sites already you may have been convinced that an alternative approach is better.

    The NIH site has an large alphabetic index page which is helpful.

    Alternative meds NIH: https://nccih.nih.gov/
  8. Jun 12, 2017 #7
    I wonder how I could add a bounty to your response. :)
  9. Jun 12, 2017 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'm guessing that by "bounty" you mean you would like to reward him for his post. He gets that a lot around here... :smile:
  10. Jun 12, 2017 #9
    Sorry, I didn't follow.

    On another forum of which I'm an active user, bounty is a bunch of points one offers to another user as a sign of appreciation. By doing that the first user losses that many points from their Total points.
  11. Jun 12, 2017 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I just meant Jim is known for his helpful answers.
    Yikes, sounds complicated. I'm glad we don't have that system here!
  12. Jun 12, 2017 #11
    You mentioned obesity, flatulence, and constipation. These aren't health issues that I myself have ever looked up, so I don't know of any specialized web sites. However I think the advice you got from @berkeman and @jim mcnamara should be enough to get you started. In particular, I agree with Jim that the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) is an excellent source of information, both in terms of study abstracts & links available via PubMed, at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/, and the main NIH web site's section on "Health information," at https://www.nih.gov/health-information - from searches I've done at NIH on other issues, the overall quality of information is good, even if terse at times. But still a good starting point.

    In fact as I am looking at that NIH "Health Information" starting page, under the search box in the center of the page, among the example keywords shown for a search is "obesity." The page that pops up if you click that keyword seems to have a lot of useful starting points for separate topics under the heading of obesity: https://search.usa.gov/search?affiliate=hip&query=obesity

    P.S. And just to reiterate another point Jim made, the "alternative" or "complementary medicine" NIH site seems like it might be useful also: https://nccih.nih.gov
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2017
  13. Jun 15, 2017 #12
    I would advise first of all being able to use one's own rational judgement to decide if some article is of good quality and/or presents credible information.
    And for that, a steady bank of fundamental knowledge is necessary.
    Thus, I would strongly advise spending time on sites like Khan Academy, so start with, and go deeper by following with Wikipedia articles.
    One can then easily go even deeper by reading reference textbooks and articles proposed in Wikipedia bibliography and references section.
    Khan Academy propose all that is necessary for an excellent initiation to biology, chemistry, medicine... among other sciences.
    And it is valuable even for people who already have some superficial background.
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