I recently had an exchange on a Redhead World forum where someone assumed that I believed redheads are made of fairy dust, that if anything goes wrong with our health that I believe it always has to do with us being redheads, and that I am an extremist and do not support western medicine practices. I want to take a moment to regroup and clarify my background and what I'm trying to accomplish in writing this blog.
My background is in nutrition, specifically holistic nutrition. I attended Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts in Berkeley, CA. The scope of what I’m able to do on this blog is to provide nutritional information or give information concerning proper nutrition -- the role of food and food ingredients, including dietary supplements. In other words, I give advice as to how diet and lifestyle can support overall wellness. I do not have medical training, and therefore cannot give medical advice in relation to the diagnosis, prevention, treatment, or cure of any disease, pain, deformity, injury or mental or physical condition. I strongly encourage everyone to consult their doctors about any health conditions they have and before they start any new dietary, nutritional supplement, or exercise regimen.
Personally, I consult my physician and use western medical treatment to complement my holistic diet and lifestyle regimen. I especially consult a physician and get conventional medical treatment anytime I have an acute issue so as to get it under control, but I use my holistic dietary and health regimen to maintain my long term wellness. I see no reason why we can’t benefit from both worlds! I mean why suffer?
But I also want to mention that we often are too quick to dismiss the importance of diet and lifestyle in relation to our overall health and wellness. I often see Dr. Oz and the Doctors on TV tell people that the first step for intervention for any pre-diabetic or high cholesterol condition is to change to a healthier diet and embark on an exercise routine. Yet people often rather take a pill because it is easier, yet pills often have undesired side effects that diet and lifestyle does not have.
It has been my personal experience that I’m more sensitive than other people, and I believe that some of this sensitivity is related to the red hair gene. Studies show that the gene responsible for hair color/skin pigment also manages inflammation. For redheads, this gene doesn’t work, which not only gives us red hair, but may make us prone to more inflammatory conditions. This definitely includes sunburn and skin cancer, but it also may include other inflammatory conditions. I discuss the relation of the red hair gene and inflammation a little further in my post Redheads, Inflammation, and Celiac Disease. I have formed this inflammation theory based on studies I have read, but again, it is a theory. I am not a medical scientist or medical doctor, and I have not proved it.
Now there are many many, many, many other genes in the body that also regulate inflammation so inflammatory conditions may not be an issue for all redheads because these other genes may make up the difference adequately for many. I also think that it is a bit of a slippery slope and it’s too easy to blame red hair for health issues when there is no genetic proof or history of it in a person's family. Correlation is not necessarily causation. Our genes plus the environment in which they operate are much more complex than that. Nothing is ever that simple.
There are so many health-related “myths” out there about redheads, and I come across them all of the time. They intrigue me and sometimes they annoy me. For instance, when I go to my gynecologist and she tells me that I bleed more easily because I’m a redhead, I have to seek out the source of this myth and whether there is any real scientific merit in it. See Redheads, Postpartum Hemorrhage, and Bruising.
The goal of my blog is to explore these redhead myths and tease out whether there is any scientific merit in any of them. Also, if there is anyone who is happening to read the blog with the condition we are discussing, I will also suggest how to nutritionally support wellness related to the issue and welcome them to share their comments and experiences, but nothing that I post is intended to replace or substitute for a physician's care. I may impart my personal belief, experience, or pose questions here and there with an editorial comment, but I will always present the facts and defer to the science over my personal belief or desire.