As he was starting his own family, journalist Nathanael Johnson went back over his own childhood to review the child-rearing choices of his parents, a pair of hippies in northern California. He dug into the evidence to find out when going natural is best.
His discoveries are part of his book, "All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier."
"I came away from writing this book feeling very slightly more hopeful than when I went into it," Johnson told Mother Jones. "My parents felt like they had to completely abandon the civilization that we were living in and call for revolution or just start over. To me, that feels hopeless because obviously they didn't win. You feel like this outsider while there is this huge behemoth just moving forward. I feel like I can organize in my own little community. I can do the hard, boring, frustrating work of politics locally and make these tiny incremental changes. That is not a lot of hope. It's a really tough thing to do. But it feels slightly more hopeful than just, 'Screw it all. We're moving to Alaska.'"
In a review for Huffington Post, Tanya Tolchin says Johnson offers a welcome and fair take on the issues people weigh daily to stay healthy:
"What makes the writer's perspective so unique is that he was raised by extremely natural oriented hippies and he is able to look back honestly at what worked and did not work for him without mocking or attacking his parents' approach," she wrote. "He is not the conservative child of hippies rejecting how he was raised, but he looks critically at each piece before he decides how he wants to raise his own family. He is honestly trying to decide which pieces he wants to carry forward based on the best available science, not values and emotions. As a bonus, his personal story is compelling and very funny and he keeps the reader laughing while approaching topics that usually make people tense and angry instead."
LEARN MORE ABOUT JOHNSON'S RESEARCH:
• Healthier Births and Babies — With Midwives
The standard response to health problems in the U.S. is more: more hospitals, more highly skilled surgeons, more access to the top technology. But we know for sure that at least some of the increasing danger of birth has been driven by the medicalization of the process. For example, a rare but often deadly condition where the placenta grows into a scar left by an earlier C-section has increased fivefold since the 1980s. (Wall Street Journal)
• Forget the Placebo Effect: It's the 'Care Effect' That Matters
What Ted Kaptchuk demonstrated is what some medical thinkers have begun to call the "care effect" — the idea that the opportunity for patients to feel heard and cared for can improve their health. Scientific or no, alternative practitioners tend to express empathy, to allow for unhurried silences, and to ask what meaning patients make of their pain. Kaptchuk's study was a breakthrough: It showed that randomized, controlled trials could measure the effect of caring. But there was already abundant evidence from nursing science to suggest a healing power in the interaction between practitioner and patient. A study in Turkey found that empathetic nurses improved the symptoms of patients with hypertension. Midwestern cancer patients who received massages slept better and had less pain. (Wired)
• His Magical Elixir
Dr. Alex Hughes thinks he can make you smarter, thinner, and less hung over by injecting water with ingredients he found in the hospital. But his company, Function Drinks, first has to fight for shelf space amid all the other health drinks promising miracle cures. (New York magazine)