– A construction engineer will not be a guru in the field of medicine, and a medic who built a house will not become a construction specialist – says prof. dr hab. n. med. Ewa Stachowska. On Instagram and TikTok, a scientist from the Pomeranian Medical University fights myths about nutrition.
Katarzyna Świerczyńska, “Wprost”: Nutrition is a very grateful topic…
Prof. Ewa Stachowska*: And everyone thinks they know about this nutrition. This is probably our national trait. This is where all the medical nonsense comes from.
I don’t know if issues related to nutrition wouldn’t win the ranking, if there was one, for the most such nonsense. The lady in social media devotes a lot of space to debunking nutrition myths.
When I hear some terrible crap, I just try to talk about it and show what evidence-based medicine says about it.
My goal is also to disenchant the science of nutrition and dietetics a bit, because dietetics, also in the eyes of doctors, was a very minor area of patient care until very recently. This is changing a lot now because we now know that the patient needs to be looked after holistically.
A doctor is needed, but a dietician is also needed, sometimes a physiotherapist, sometimes a psychotherapist. A person does not live without a digestive tract, but a dietitian is also unable to cure someone on his own, unless it is a disease that really requires nutritional intervention. But anyway, everything is done under the supervision of a doctor. A dietitian is an extremely important part of the therapeutic team, because knowledge in the area of nutrition – such modern clinical nutrition – is developing very dynamically and everyone has to give way a little bit here. I’m glad more and more people understand this.
Back to medical nonsense. Which ones stuck you in your chair the most, surprised you, maybe made you laugh?
Cancer can be starved. This is nutrition bullshit number one to me.
I’m a fan of meta-analyses that show that not eating enough in the evening and fasting in the evening can be linked to health, but I’m literally outraged to extrapolate just a snippet and say such harmful nonsense. According to evidence-based medicine, we know that a cancer patient needs to be fed very intensively so as not to lead to malnutrition.
So I will ask specifically so that no one has any doubts: Cancer cannot be starved?
Yes, but with the patient. Therefore, such claims are outrageous to me, they are unacceptable things. Just as we are constantly fighting the myth that the patient must be fasted before surgery. Today the standards are different. The intestines are not completely cleansed, and the patient must be properly prepared for surgery, and this preparation is also proper nutrition. If the patient is malnourished, surgery is even postponed and the patient is fed.
Why is it important?
This has a huge impact on how the patient will recover after surgery. This myth of fasting before surgery is still very common, unfortunately also among medical staff. In my opinion, we tend to push ourselves in this world, not respecting that other organisms can function with us and work for our benefit. That’s the way it is with our microbiota… The nonsense about mushrooms immediately comes to mind here…
And fungi of the body that you must fight with?
Yes. This is of course not true. Our microbiota also contains a lot of fungi, including non-pathogenic yeasts. Scaring that we are threatened by yeast infection is something that companies that sell us their specifics for imaginary problems prey on. In the case of, for example, yeast infection, which can be a serious problem, e.g. for chronically ill people, people after chemotherapy or radiotherapy, appropriate treatment is used. We have diagnostics that will allow us to determine whether intervention is really necessary. But it must be remembered that a person who has a properly functioning immune system copes fantastically with this balance between the various species of fungi, bacteria and viruses that are in us. The situation changes when, for example, we get sick and take antibiotics. Then, indeed, this balance can be disturbed.
You can find a lot of information on the web about fungus in the body or intestinal fungus, yeast infection. How is the average patient supposed to verify what is true?
Non-medical theories are flourishing, TikTok is leading the way. But we also have closed social groups, e.g. on Facebook, where experts are not allowed, and their members do not even want to hear other theories than those in which they blindly believe. If someone is looking for information on the web, it is worth relying on places where experts speak, but they have some scientific status. And, of course, they talk about their specialization.
A construction engineer will not be a guru in the field of medicine, and a medic who built a house will not become a construction specialist.
Why did you decide to share your medical knowledge online?
I live what I do, my work is my passion and I really like sharing knowledge, I like teaching, after all, I also work with students. I love talking to people who need nutritional support. So it was a completely natural thing for me. I do not lack inspiration, after all, I work in science myself, I am up to date with scientific literature and I share it. I also try to answer the doubts and questions that my followers give me.
And you often invite other scientists to the discussion as well.
I work at a university, and in this scientific world there are a lot of great people here, excellent professionals who do a fantastic job. However, it is usually difficult for such people to break through from the academic world to the world of popular science. Social media gives you that opportunity and it’s a fantastic tool. Hence my live conversations with other scientists. Recently, it was a conversation with the excellent prof. Bożena Muszyńska, mushroom specialist. Most of us like to eat mushrooms, but hardly anyone realizes that they have a strong antidepressant and immunostimulating effect…
It is still common to hear that mushrooms are for taste rather than health.
On the contrary. Mushrooms, even those bought in a store or those that we can easily grow, e.g. on the balcony, can be something extremely valuable for our health.
Do you have any favorite scientific social media profiles?
Of course, there are quite a lot of them. These are places where you can really look for professional and reliable knowledge. These are, for example, the blog “Fitoscience” run by docent Karolina Jakubczyk from PUM, the blog “Metabolika” by docent Dominika Maciejewska. I really like Tomasz Rożek’s channels, but also, for example, I like to look at Dr. Luiza Napiórkowska, i.e. “The Eye of Doctor Luiza”. I could list a lot more, but as I said before. If someone is looking for reliable and proven knowledge, you just have to look for it from experts. For me, the opportunity to share knowledge via social media is not only great fun, but also a way to deal with myths.
*Prof. dr hab. n. med. Ewa Stachowska from the Chair and Department of Human Nutrition and Metabolomics of the Pomeranian Medical University, runs profiles on nutrition in social media.