Encouraged by the success of the Quantified Self Meetup group, I have started a Meetup group called Make Yourself Healthy. It is about how non-experts — the rest of us — can improve on expert advice about health. The first meeting will be April 24 (Wed.) in the meeting room of the North Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, 6:00 pm to 7:30 pm.
The group is about solving your health problems yourself, before or after mainstream medicine fails to help or provides inferior solutions. Access to health information via the Internet makes this more and more possible; so does new technology, which make it easier to measure health problems.
The first important practitioner of Make Yourself Healthy was Richard Bernstein, a New York engineer with diabetes, who in the 1960s bought a new machine that could measure blood sugar with only a single drop of blood. Bernstein used it to measure his own blood sugar many times per day — in contrast to getting it measured once a month at a lab. What he learned from frequent measurements allowed him to stabilize his blood sugar level, which doctors’ advice had never managed to. His health greatly improved. His promotion of what he had done led to the glucometers you can find in any drugstore. Nowadays diabetics take self-measurement for granted.
I have managed to improve my health in many non-standard ways. Acne, sleep, mood, weight, and brain function, especially. On the face of it, you might think: He did a lot of self-experimentation and discovered cool stuff. At first, that’s how it looked to me. I wrote a paper called “Self-experimentation as a source of new ideas“. But that’s misleading. Self-experimentation wasn’t new, it was ancient. Yet my discoveries were quite new — quite different from what people already believed. What really led to my successes was: 1. Better information. Before the Internet, I spent thousands of dollars on a UC Berkeley library service called BAKER, which photocopied journal articles that I requested by phone and delivered the copies to my campus mailbox. Xerox machines made this possible. 2. The prison of professional science. There are so many things that professional scientists (such as medical school professors) cannot do. There are so many ideas they cannot test. They have left a lot to be discovered and it turns out that non-scientists (such as me — I was not a sleep researcher, a mood researcher, etc.) can discover at least some of it. In other words, I wasn’t successful just because I did self-experimentation, I was successful because I did wise self-experimentation. I chose wisely what to do.
Behind this Meetup group is my belief that anyone who does this — tries to do better than expert advice — probably can teach and learn from other people trying to do the same thing, even if their health issue is different from yours.
If you are coming to this Meetup and have experience (successful or unsuccessful) trying to improve on expert health advice, and are willing to share your experience, please contact me.