Two Kinds Of Health Knowledge

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

– Buddha

Modern life brings us lots of advantages, but one very large disadvantage.

The disadvantage I’m referring to is that we are awash in secondary knowledge that keeps us from being able to be certain about many things.

Let me explain.

The original kind of knowledge, what Nietzsche called “primary knowledge,” is the knowledge we gain from our own direct experience. When we’re young we touch a stove and it’s hot so we pull our hand away. That way we learn first-hand to be more careful around stoves.

Secondary knowledge is theoretical knowledge. It comes from books, media, friends and family. In other words, anywhere but from direct experience.

Both kinds of knowledge have their place in life.

However in modern times, there is a massively higher ratio of secondary knowledge compared to primary knowledge than ever before. It’s so common that we’ve come up with a new term for it, “information overload.”

Information overload applies in practically every area of life, including our health. It’s quite easy to find more health information than you could ever use on just about any topic with a short search on the internet. And some of it may even be true…

But even well-intentioned and honestly presented information might not apply to everyone. That’s why a remedy that works wonders for one person might do nothing for another, or even make them feel worse.

How do we deal with this issue when it comes to our health?

The simplest way is to increase our skills at listening to the signals our body gives us. These signals are present 24 hours a day.

Some are obvious, of course. We usually know when we’re hungry or tired.

Other signals are less obvious unless we have learned to notice them. These forms of body signals, what I call real-time biofeedback, show up in the small changes we experience throughout the day.

For example, your general energy level is an outstanding indicator. When you’re tired for no reason, or hyper and jittery, it’s your body’s way of letting you know something is off.

The same rule applies to your appetite (hunger too soon after eating, cravings for junk food, etc.) as well as to your mental and emotional well-being.

In other words, if you feel satisfied after eating, if your energy is plentiful without being excessive and if you are mentally clear and emotionally resilient, your body is saying, “good job!”

But if you have any other type of experience in any of these realms, your body is giving you feedback that you can use. The trick is to isolate the influence that is most likely causing the symptom.

Here’s a short list of some possible contributing factors that might trigger such symptoms:

  • Food, particularly processed, denatured food, and also food that is wrong for your Metabolic Type®.

  • Lifestyle factors such as too little, or even too much exercise.

  • Relationship issues (work, social, family) that trigger strong negative emotions.

  • Time factors such as stress caused by deadlines.

  • Environmental exposure, including exposure to toxic metals (lead, mercury, etc.), pesticides, electromagnetic fields.

For more on how to recognize which factors are triggering responses, see this article: Black Box Medicine.

The bottom line here is that by honoring the signals your body gives you (primary knowledge), you have a much greater chance at sorting out what secondary knowledge (books, doctors, internet) that best applies you your situation. The result is that you continue moving towards better and better health while cutting away some of the information overload.

I recommend this approach to all of my patients and I recommend it to you. If you decide to approach your health this way, let me know how you do!


Black Box Medicine, Reno Alternative Medicine website.

Tough Decisions… Made Easy, Michael Masterson, Early to Rise, December 7, 2009.

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