Quack attack: A source of pride

Earlier this month I wrote a letter to the editor of my local paper disparaging the practices of naturopathic ‘doctors’. They aren’t especially qualified. I would sooner go to a grad student than one of these guys. Of course, not everyone feels the same way. As such, a couple of people felt compelled to write their own letters. This first one is from Richard Maurer.

A fellow physician relayed a letter by Michael Hawkins, who used inflammatory language against an entire profession. Because his letter was printed, I am compelled to respond to his inaccuracies.

It’s a good thing Maurer didn’t read the original letter I wrote. I directly called a naturopathic ‘doctor’ a charlatan and quack, said he directly lied, and also effectively called him a mountebank. Fortunately for him, my local paper is concerned about libel (though it would never be honest enough to admit that), so I only managed to say that ‘doctor’ “misrepresented facts” in the letter that did get published.

Hawkins claims that Maine is only one of several states to license naturopathic doctors. He claims that naturopathic doctors “have no relevant medical training” and even questions the title “doctor.”

Maine is one of 17 states that licenses naturopathic doctors. Licensure here depended upon passage by the Business and Economic Development Committee, the Legislature and approval by the governor.

Yes, one of 17 is also “one of several” in my book. But I wasn’t making the point that Maine is “only” one of several states; the point was never to say that naturopathy is bad because so few states give it credence. I made that point in my previous letter, and did so in a far more direct, succinct way: I said two states actively prohibit the practice of naturopathy.

No, the point was instead that the fact that several states allow prescription rights to these ‘doctors’ is a dangerous thing. I pretty much directly said that. I was bemoaning the fact that so many lives are at risk, not pointing out the lack of validity in naturopathy amongst state governments.

Naturopathic doctors in Maine have a four-year undergraduate premedical degree, followed by a four-year residency-based naturopathic medical doctorate, more than 1,500 hours of clinical training, passage of both basic science and clinical board exams. Continuing medical education is necessary annually.

His last sentence is the closest thing that matters here. He just needs to change “annually” to “daily”.

Much of the training for naturopaths come from schools which also offer several false degrees: ones for chiropractics, acupuncturists, even one which features training in the practice of “cupping” – the ‘art’ of lighting a match inside a cup to create suction, removing the match, and then placing the cup on a person’s body. It’s obvious with what sort of practices naturopathic supporters are willing to associate.

Naturopathic doctors in Maine offer a wide range of proven natural therapies and can prescribe classes of medications such as hormones, antibiotics and immunizations when necessary.

Show me the evidence. The best anyone can expect from naturopaths is non-original research which becomes predictably distorted. And those prescription rights are dangerous given the lack of training from proper programs.

But wait! There’s more! Emily Albee of Readfield has written in.

Michael Hawkins Dec. 12 letter, “Naturopathic medicine is not science, untrustworthy,” infers that those who participate in naturopathic medicine are “quacks.”

To be fair, I did want to outright say it.

Specifically, Hawkins was referring to Dr. Christopher Maloney’s opinion on alternatives for combating and treating the H1N1 virus.

More specifically, I was referring to his non-medical opinion.

My experience working in public schools and having the privilege to work with tremendous young people has taught me illness is a risk.

As opposed to my statements that illness is all fun and water slides?

Dr. Maloney’s recommendation of a daily regimen of elderberry and garlic supplements has helped me maintain an excellent level of health during a very difficult flu season. I trust his opinion because his recommendations work.

I liked Maurer’s letter for not using anecdotes. I like this one for filling my expectations.

There is evidence for jack squat. Research does not indicate black elderberry acts as a vaccine. The nutritional benefits of garlic are well-known; it contains plenty of vitamins and minerals. It also can help with infections. Beyond that, the research gets fuzzy. Naturopaths are willing to prescribe it for several different ailments without any proper evidence (and certainly no original research). They routinely go beyond what they know and delve into what they wish were true.

Recently, I suffered from extreme vertigo. Constant debilitating dizziness made for the worst six months of my life. Numerous non-naturopathic doctors and multiple antibiotic prescriptions ($45 per prescription) later, I was left with no relief or hope that this nightmare would ever be over.

There’s this constant, underlying notion that because real doctors cannot cure everything, pretend doctors must have the answers. It isn’t true.

Dr. Maloney took the time to listen and, after a thorough exam of my ears, he diagnosed chronic ear infections as the source of my vertigo. He recommended a treatment of daily garlic supplements and garlic eardrops. This naturopathic remedy is the only thing that was able to stop the perpetual dizziness.

This isn’t evidence that naturopathy is at all valid. First of all, why were the real doctors prescribing antibiotics? They must have recognized some sort of infection. Second, the fact that they were prescribing something indicates that they did not miss a diagnosis only a naturopath could have made. Third, there’s no way to know if it was actually the garlic which cleared up the infection. Fourth, there’s no way to tell from this if Albee was taking some other medication prior to the garlic ear drops which had the side effect of vertigo.

Naturopathic medicine under the care of Dr. Maloney has brought innumerable benefits to my family and me. I would argue Dr. Maloney is a rare gem in this world of corporate and policy-driven medicine.

Ah, there it is. The real doctors are just evil and American health care sucks. Thus naturopaths.

I am safer for it despite Hawkin’s opinion that naturopathy is “malarkey.”

*Hawkins’.

More directly, my opinion is actually that unevidenced medical claims are malarkey. Incidentally, that includes naturopathy.

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4 Responses

  1. Antibiotics and ear infections are not intertwined as you think and many pediatricians know that there is no benefit to giving antibiotics. see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16140545/

    Here’s a double blind by M.D.s on ear infections and garlic/herbal ear drops v antibiotics. It was published in Pediatrics and some Family Med Journals

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12728112 If you just look at the last 2 sentences you will see the conclusion – and it isn’t on the side of antibiotics.

    I had my son ready for surgery at Stanford when he was 6 to fix his ear drum. He would wake up screaming at night. I put garlic oil in his ear for a week before surgery. Five minutes after they began the operation they stopped. The surgeon came to me in the waiting area and said, “I’m stunned. There is nothing wrong. His ear is completely healed. I have never seen this before.”

    Yea, well….some of us know how to research and we aren’t blinded by the white coat syndrome. I am very steeped in science and at the time I was a PhD student at Stanford in 3 stats classes and my dad was an M.D. and taught at an Ivy med school. . The President of Stanford at the time was Donald Kennedy who had just come back from being the head of the FDA and taught some of us about the fraud in getting drugs approved and how corrupt the pharmaceutical companies are and also the FDA. They approve drugs for getting jobs in the private sector while basic researchers are screaming “the science is bad.” No one listens to them.

    If you want to know if something works – say, Vit A and infection – go look it up in google scholar and you will get journal articles and basic research.

    “Science” isn’t what MD’s practice. Science is what researchers do.

    There is really interesting science out there about a lot of things you may make fun of. You have to care enough to challenge your beliefs that all is BS unless it comes from a Harvard trained, Merck written curriculum educated mouth.

    I am an atheist who takes her vitamins because I know they work. I have been taking Vit C every day for many, many years. Linus Pauling proved to me the value. Today I share this with you: Vitamin C boosts the reprogramming of adult cells into stem cells

    http://www.physorg.com/news180845703.html

    “Real” doctors read basic science, understand systems theory and their patients get better. I don’t care what letters they have besides their name, if any. The insults to those who heal without an M.D. beside their name is unwarranted.

  2. Antibiotics and ear infections are not intertwined as you think and many pediatricians know that there is no benefit to giving antibiotics. see http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16140545/

    Was your intention to support my contention that naturopaths and their supporters distort information? Because that article does not say there is no benefit to giving antibiotics in response to ear infections. (And to be clear, since you ended your sentence at “antibiotics” without clarifying the specific topic of ear infections, antibiotics still do serve a purpose for other infections.)

    Here’s a double blind by M.D.s on ear infections and garlic/herbal ear drops v antibiotics. It was published in Pediatrics and some Family Med Journals

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12728112 If you just look at the last 2 sentences you will see the conclusion – and it isn’t on the side of antibiotics.

    It’s hardly on any side other than the one of simply waiting.

    But here’s that old strawman canard again: just because 99% of naturopathy is bull, that does not mean that I automatically think all real medicine is effective in all situations all the time always.

  3. Go read the article in NY TImes online about cancer and what the new information is. Bottom line: if you take care of the body, the cancer may not be so important. That’s layman’s terms. The responses are also interesting with oncologists and researchers chiming in. The lessons in this article are aligned with what naturopaths do, though I don’t think they are as sophisticated as I would like to see them be in terms of science but they are a far cry above the average doctor who is trained with a curriculum designed by the drug companies. Doctors simply do not understand systems theory and why keeping a body healthy can make a tumor either not spread or disintegrate.

    This article in the Times is all about systems theory though it doesn’t come right out and say that. But it does explain the importance of strong cell walls (healthy ones) in keeping a tumor from spreading among other examples. You can see from this why a bruise causes cancer and why a doctor who helps heal the bruise may be better than the one giving chemo for the cancer.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/29/health/research/29cancer.html?_r=1

    I never thought I would live long enough to see this information in the Times and so many mainstream people understanding it. My response is there if you want to read it. Number 18.

  4. Bottom line: if you take care of the body, the cancer may not be so important. That’s layman’s terms.

    That’s jumping the gun on the evidence. But even if this does provide for a new research avenue, this doesn’t help naturopathic quacks. There’s no evidence that inserting garlic in various orifices or getting a good massage will do anything for cancer.

    The lessons in this article are aligned with what naturopaths do, though I don’t think they are as sophisticated as I would like to see them be in terms of science but they are a far cry above the average doctor who is trained with a curriculum designed by the drug companies.

    The research is being done at major universities and a major corporation, Genentech. You better abandon this route and try snorting some herbs instead.

    This article in the Times is all about systems theory though it doesn’t come right out and say that.

    No, the article is about the integrity of cellular structure as it surrounds existing, tiny tumors.

    You can see from this why a bruise causes cancer and why a doctor who helps heal the bruise may be better than the one giving chemo for the cancer.

    I loath how you people distort every little thing you come across.

    Yes, the article talks about bruises. It does not, however, give any indication about healing bruises or proven (or even tested) methods for nursing any wounds which would prevent cancer from spreading. First a series of tiny tumors must be found. It must then be bruised/wounded. Then different methods of healing need to be attempted. That’s the simplest version of testing your thus far baseless claim. And I guarantee it won’t be naturopaths doing the original research.

    Now, were you not blinded by your unadulterated hatred for all things true, you would be asking yourself certain questions. For instance, where Dr. Kornelia Polyak saw the same genes in benign and malignant D.C.I.S., one answer could be cellular structure. But did she look at regulatory DNA? It’s known that Darwin’s finches will have the exact same genes, but it comes down to how they are regulated which determines vastly different beak structures. If the same idea plays a role in cancer, it would be helpful to know.

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