Just scan the questions for a while... you'll find dozens of "I have such-and-such symptom, am I dying?!" questions. Or the "Hack my bloodwork" questions.
I've never met anyone in meatspace who is actually a hypochondriac. In my experience, when people have bizarre or myriad health complaints, it's because there is something wrong with them and it just hasn't been figured out yet. I don't personally feel I could judge whether or not someone I interact with online is a hypochondriac because there's just not enough info to go off of. Granted, my circle of people in meatspace is narrower than online, so maybe the demographic here is different from the people I know in my life. I just think it's more likely that people here are suffering than that they are making mountains out of molehills. I admit I'm biased, though: I grew up watching my mom suffer in pain from fibromyalgia and get told by doctor after doctor that it was all in her head. And on a personal note, if I had paid more attention to those niggling health complaints when I was younger, I would have caught my celiac disease earlier. But I'm also still of the opinion that people who have to think about what they're eating (people who follow diet after diet) are likely doing so for a good reason. People with healthy digestive tracts (like my husband) just don't think about these things. And who would want to, unless something were wrong?
Think of the sampling bias here. Only the people who need help are asking questions. So it looks like everyone is a hypochondriac.
For me, the pursuit of better health through tweaking my nutrition (including supplementation) is the process of finding OUT whether a given change is a good thing. As an example, I recently gave up nightshades for a while, to see whether my overall health would improve and things like my dermatitis would flare less. For me, the change from the removal of nightshades was too insignificant to justify continuing to deprive myself of peppers and tomatoes (both of which I enjoy). So by doing the 'hack', I discovered that, for me, in this instance, my quality of life was improved by not taking the minuscule improvements and high deprivation factor of removing nightshades. On the other hand, keeping grains, including rice, out of my diet and keeping my carb levels controlled (75g or less per day) provides a SIGNIFICANT improvement in my health and mobility... so for me, THOSE tweaks are going to stay in, because they add to my quality of life. For most folks, we tweak to obtain OUR optimum... but that doesn't necessarily mean that it is someone ELSE's optimum.
I don't think it either attracts or turns us into hypochondriacs. Some portion of the population are hypochondriacs -- this is true of the paleo community as well as any other community. In addition, because we're bombarded with health-related information a LOT through the media, I think our generation has become substantially more inclined to hypochondria. I also think that, if someone is already inclined that way, ANY nutritional or health program -- especially one relating to food and nourishment and body awareness -- might tend to foster obsessive behavior in someone who is inclined that way. However, for some folk, having the structure and knowledge in place, and having the ability to manipulate the foundations of the nutritional concept to meet their own body's needs furthers responsibility, not obsession.
Speaking as someone with a diagnosed disease that gave me:
* Wet green diarrhea of the kind that even if I ran, I might get to the toilet too late.
* Extreme light sensitivity, when I went to shopping and grocery stores, I'd have to close my eyes and hold on to a friend and have him guide me.
* Severe brain fog (I could not think logically, I put a hot-off-the-stove pot on the vinyl floor and burned a hole, I would nearly put my hand in the working blender luckily realizing just in time that wouldn't be a good idea)
* Severe depression and suicidal thoughts (you would too, if you went from a math/science genius to a complete idiot who puts her hand in the blender)
* So many things that I don't remember now that they're in my past.
Did that make me an hypochondriac? Maybe you think so.
Do some folks focus too much on being sick as opposed to simply just living healthy?
I think you've got it backwards. If you've been really sick, to the point you want to kill yourself and get it over with... then you came to Paleo, got cured... then you truly want the best possible for yourself. "Just living healthy" is sometimes not enough to make you healthy. I "lived healthy" before I got sick.
People can simply live healthy, but that doesn't mean there are some things that they'd like to improve.
Are paleo folks more susceptible to placebo and nocebo effects?
Just kidding. I can tell you that I no longer have any of the problems listed above, it's hardly placebo. If you'd like, I can write a detailed log of my bowel movements? Just kidding.
Is the constant pursuit of health via minute tweaks and hacks to diet/supplementation a good thing?
It's up to the person doing it, and it's no one else's business. If you got some trouble, and you want to figure out what's causing it, it's good to change 1 thing and see if that's it.
I personally don't do the tweaks/hacks, but I know I need to cut dairy, it's one of the things that makes my guts go batshit crazy. But for another person, dairy could be completely fine. Hence the desire to find out through hacks/tweaks.
Does it attract hypochondriacs or does it turn us into hypochondriacs? So you are REALLY saying that I'm a hypochondriac, that my (for example) diarrhea existed for many years, and suddenly it's gone... you're telling me that's all in my head? You're telling me that I missed those family dinners in vain? (I was too embarrassed of having diarrhea around them, but you're saying the diarrhea didn't exist, I was just pretending?)
No wonder people think you're trolling them! :-P
Ah, the old Medical Student's Disease. It's possible that when people that are new to paleo read about all of the Neolithic diseases, they think to themselves, "I show symptoms of these!" or "I want to avoid this."
But that's a completely different thing than hypochondria. Certainly removing just wheat, as Dr. Davis shows in Wheat Belly makes a huge difference, and improves health to the point of being noticeable.
In my own case, I'm a geek. I prefer to learn about something deeply and so I dig up as much information about everything I can, whether or not it personally affects me, because it's interesting, not because I suffer from this or that. I could see how someone who knows me well might claim something like orthorexia, but even that's false, as I do eat some CAFO meats, for example, based on the risk level. (i.e. I'll happily consume lean CAFO beef, but I'll avoid CAFO eggs, chicken, farmed fish.)
But even Orthorexia* is a made up disease, and it's not even recognized by the medical establishment. If I were paranoid, I'd say it was an astroturf campaign by the crap-in-a-box peddlers to lessen the impact of the loss of sales of their products, by negatively labeling anyone who wishes to be healthy.
But hypochondria is an actual mental disease, in the same way as full blown depression is not "My dog kicked the bucket and my wife ran off with my best friend, and my pick up truck has four flat tires."
So I'm more inclined to say that people who come here looking for answers are doing just that. Some of them may have been diagnosed with an issue, others could not find an answer, for example, they might have a sensitivity to gluten, but the commercial tests, that only look for one out of the 16 (or whatever the number is) of gluten antibodies, and show all the symptoms and improvement when eliminating wheat, but show negative on the test, are no longer trusting of the mystique of the white coats and authority of the medical system that has failed them.
I myself was never diagnosed with a wheat sensitivity, but, I can tell from the changes I experienced, some of which may well be placebo effects, that I no longer feel pain in my joints, despite having had severe damage to both my knees, I no longer have brain fog, no longer have weekly headaches, lost a lot of fat, lost the nightly GERD, and when confronted by a tall staircase, I now experience the urge to run up it, 2 steps at a time, when I previously would cowardly choose the escalator instead, and I've also developed an immunity to cold. So n=1 and all that. :)
Certainly, you could say that the one time this year I accidentally exposed myself to wheat, and experienced headaches, diarrhea, shivering, and a sensitivity to cold, that the particular episode might have been an nocebo effect. Sure, I suppose some of those symptoms could have been in my head, but I personally doubt it. :)
I find myself saying, "we are all n=1 experiments," and this is true in the sense that we're experimenting on ourselves and it's not a double blind experiment, so we can easily skew the results to placebo/nocebo by knowing what we are testing for, and expecting what the results should be. But in the end, we are discovering what works for us.
We are here because we were damaged by our old Standard American (replace with wherever you live on this planet) Diet, but because of our environment and our genes, we were damaged in slightly different ways, so what works for everyone might not work for us specifically. That doesn't mean it's all in our heads, just because there are differences.
Some of us do better on higher carb, some on starches, some on fruit, some at VLC or ZC. Some do better with certain exercises, some do better avoiding dairy, others embracing it, some have problems with nightshades or eggs. Some of us can even tolerate some grains. For example, Robb Wolf can eat corn tortillas occasionally, where others would have severe reactions.
But all of us here follow something we call paleo, or primal, or whatever other word the authors of the book we've read decided to call it so as to carve out a separate niche for themselves.
And yet, we can share our experiences and possibly help others with the same kinds of n=1 issues. My n=1 issues may not match yours, but if they do, I'm happy to share what I know that worked for me. Maybe it'll work for you as well. Then again, it might not. So you'd have to experiment and become an n=1 yourself.
And hopefully, you'll return the favor to the new folks that show up here looking for help, and are suffering from the things you've got knowledge about.
*Edit: Here's what Wikipedia has to say on Orthorexia, for those who haven't looked it up:
Orthorexia nervosa (also known as orthorexia) is a term used by Steven Bratman to describe people who have developed a fixation with healthy or righteous eating and has been referred to as a mental disorder. It is not a medically recognized term. Bratman claims that in rare cases, this focus may turn into a fixation so extreme that it can lead to severe malnutrition or even death.
Here are the so called symptoms of Orthorexia.. If you're eating paleo you'd trigger 2-3 of these right off the bat, possibly more, marking you with a mild case of orthorexia.
I'd lean more in the direction of calling Paleo-ites PERFECTIONISTS. I'm more of an 80/20 guys, BUT when I have gone 100% my OCD kicks in and I have to be perfect, at the entire thing. And fully understand, every little thing.
the ones that work in hospitals are, the ones that get all the free lab tests done while the rest of the insurance paying crowd rarely get labs ordered. you know them, they are the ones that post personal data that would make a hospital director cringe and the fear of a HIPPA fine. those are the hypochondriacs. most paleo eaters are not. they just know somthing special about humans and diet that most people dont. its simple really. food can make you sick and food can make you well again. if these folks are so well, then why are they having labs done?
On one hand, I think many people here started Paleo because they had/have some sort of symptom or problem. On another hand, I think there are also people who are changing their lifestyles who are trying to be extremely mindful of how they feel, which can lead to wondering over every different feeling or potential "symptom". I wouldn't call it hypochondria unless they're actively self-diagnosing diseases though.
Most probably fit into both categories a bit. I'm pretty sure I do. I've caught myself having placebo effects before. As I'm new here, I can't quite say yet whether what I am currently going through is a placebo or not.
Those of us who are genuinely sick and struggling to tame symptoms that interfere with "healthy living" might be kind of put off by the question "Do some folks focus too much on being sick..?" We ARE sick. Sometimes it takes minute tweaks to correct a problem; it can take endless tweaking to solve some persistent symptoms. I think the constant tweaking and observing responses to it can make a person hyper-aware of how their body responds, and thus perhaps notice symptoms more easily than someone used to relatively good health who has never really had to pay a great deal of attention. It can make you insane but it's also the only feedback system we have. Usually minor symptoms are followed by major ones if action is not taken to resolve them. I'm relatively new to PH, but perhaps you've never had a major/chronic illness and that's why you don't quite understand how obsessive one can become when trying to tackle chronic issues. Or maybe I just need to do more reading around here to see the hypochondriacs.