I am very interested in understanding the intricacies of how our minds and bodies work, which is probably why I chose to study biology and psychology. Here you can find the resources I’ve collected and the pieces I’ve written on how to review the evidence on health, medicine, and vaccines in particular.
I am Iida Ruishalme, Finnish/Swedish expat in Switzerland, and I have Masters degree in Biology with a minor in Psychology. I am a co-author of four scientific papers in the fields of insulin cell signalling and immunology, but at the moment I’m also a busy mum of two toddlers, and pursuing my passion for writing in my free time, weekends, and evenings, both in the fields of science and fiction.
How to approach health topics and research
- Why Science? – How can we know something? What constitutes a good source?
- Injecting Kindness into the Debate – We’re all just people. What is it that actually shapes our views? What is a good way to communicate to each other?
- Following the Money – Can the research and pharmaceutical companies be trusted? What about alternative health companies? How do vaccines fare in the light of conflicts of interest?
- Can Glyphosate Research Be Trusted? – How do we stop biased studies from influencing the state of scientific understanding?
- IARC Under Fire from Scientists: Mission Outdated, Methods Lacking – Its approach fails to appropriately inform consumers, causes health scares
- Risk In Perspective – A series written with neuroscientist Alison Bernstein:
- Measures of Toxicity – What do terms like ‘LD50’ and ‘chronic toxicity’ mean? There are safe and unsafe levels for any substance, whether natural or manmade.
- Do We Fear the Right Things? – Exemplified with a quiz about mythical and real cancer risks.
Medicine, alternative medicine, nutrition
- Has Alternative Medicine Been Studied Enough? – Some say certain areas have been studied too much, while others may never be satisfied.
- Research on Infant Feeding Favours Options: Breast and Bottle – Little grounds for dogmatism, as both options come with their own sets of risks and benefits.
- Does Glyphosate Cause Cancer? – Hazard vs Risk? IARC vs the WHO, EFSA, and EPA?
- Glyphosate and Health Effects A-Z – Is Roundup harmful for humans *in any way*?
- Does Glyphosate Harm Gut Bacteria? – Where I look at why microbiome researchers dismiss the likelihood of there being any effect on our bacteria
Vaccine facts and vaccine myths
- The Great Myth of Vaccines and Autism – Studies of > 14 million children show no connection, which isn’t surprising, because autism begins before birth
- The Simple Math of Herd Immunity – vaccine efficacy + vaccination rate
- Myth: No Studies Compare Health of Vaccinated vs Unvaccinated People – A look at population comparison studies and unexpected secondary health benefits of vaccines
- Seven Reasons Why You Really Don’t Want to Have Measles – Epidemics on the march in Europe once more, bringing many severe complications with them, all of which can be prevented by a safe and effective vaccine.
- The Intriguing Case of Narcolepsy and Swine Flu – What do we know?
- Reasons to Love the Rotavirus Vaccine – Reducing baby and toddler deaths in the developing world.
- Main Sources of Vaccine Information – The WHO recommended info sites
- Other Sites Addressing Vaccine Myths – Many experts, journalists, laymen and parents have weighed in on the debate
A look at vaccine ingredients
- Mercury in Retrogade – No more thimerosal in vaccines, but it never caused ill effects
- Aluminum in Perspective – Should you worry about aluminum in vaccines?
- Should You Worry About Formaldehyde in Vaccines? – Formaldehyde in us and vaccines
Many people want to emphasise the importance of personal choice in the matter of health issues such as vaccines. They don’t feel comfortable simply accepting the conclusion handed down by an authority they don’t trust. What makes this difficult is that medicine is a matter of science. So, why should they trust science? What makes science different from an authority? And how can laypeople differentiate a good source from a bad one?
“Science is a way of trying not to fool yourself. The principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.”
My vaccine and health infographics
Please read more about each in the corresponding pieces listed above. The less obvious ones to find: more about “Severe reactions to vaccines are rare” in Seven Reasons Why You Really Don’t Want to Have Measles and “When you talk about science, sometimes if feels like no one listens” -science communication meme is found in Injecting kindness into the debate as well as Why it’s so hard to talk about GMOs.
A word on alternative medicine
Alternative medicine is often viewed as benign or at the very least harmless. Some consideration should be given however when evaluating the claims of alternative medicine proponents.
Where science finds complexity, alternative medicine imagines simplicity. This can be risky even it may feel reassuring, the concept is discussed in more depth here. It is good to remember that many herbs also include active ingredients, or drugs, and should be treated with the same caution. A look at herbal medicine here:
“In reality, herbs often contain multiple active ingredients that potentially have drug-like activity in the body. These drugs are often poorly understood, may not even be identified, and exist in highly variable doses within herbal products (Wurglics et al. 2001). Herbs have drug-drug interactions and the same potential for side effects and toxicity as any drug, mitigated only by the fact that herbal products generally contain low doses of active ingredients.”
“Despite this string of negative studies, the herbal remedy industry continues to rake in billions of dollars every year. Large, rigorous, and negative studies seem to have little impact on the sales of herbal products overall (although they may affect the relative popularity of specific herbs to some extent).”
“How are the “traditional” uses of herbal products derived in the first place? The impression that is often given is that centuries of successful traditional use is behind many herbal product claims, but this is often a modern marketing fiction.
As with many things, the marketing of herbal products is largely based on ideology and a compelling narrative rather than evidence.”