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Down the Virtual Rabbit Hole

The interwebs are more than a series of tubes, it has the power of endless distraction and tangents, a series of clickable rabbit holes that can drag you deeper and deeper into the alternative universes that are parallel with our own. One moment you can be on Science Based Medicine, grounded on the terra firma of reality, and then with a click of the mouse you can lose your way in the electronic warren.

It started as an advertisement on a skeptical website, perhaps SBM, perhaps not. The entrances to rabbit holes are Hogwartian in nature, never being in the same place twice. It is how I remember it.

Google serves up ads based on what their algorithm perceives as the content of the website. The algorithm lacks a certain, shall we say, nuance, and fails to understand that advertisements suggesting training in homeopathy or the promoting the practice of chiropractic may not have a close relationship to the content of Science Based Medicine. Still the ad did intrigue me, as it mentioned that the practitioner was Oregon’s only MD Acupuncturist. So I clicked.

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Not a particularly interesting site. Nothing special, the usual hodgepodge, and quite a complete hodgepodge, of alternative practices that have no basis in reality as I understand it. If you are a devotee of infection control and sterile technique you will just love the acupuncture photographs.

What I did find on the site were therapies and diseases about which I had never heard: Kangen Water® and Protozoan FL1953. I hate not knowing stuff. It makes my brain itch. So down the rabbit hole I go, a mouse click easier to follow that a tardy lagomorph, and less likely to be a source of tularemia.

Drink Me

Kangan® water is a registered trademark of Enagic and according to the website  they make the real stuff, not like the water from the posers in Taiwan and Korea. What is Kangan® water? As best I can tell it is plain old water.

The water has been filtered, but so is the Culligan water at work, not that anyone needs bottled water when your source is the BullRun watershed.

The water has been subjected to electrolysis with the purpose of making the water more alkaline. I am many decades out of chemistry class but I vividly remember the demonstration of electrolysis from high school. The teacher put the electrodes in water and turned on the current and generated H2 on one probe and O2 on the other. He collected the gases in an Erlenmeyer flask and then, for reason that elude me, stuck a flame in one of the flasks. The flask exploded, send glass shooting across the room missing everyone, including my very surprised teacher. Sort of a Pulp Fiction divine intervention moment.

As best I can remember, and confirmed by the interwebs, electrolysis of water should yield a bit of acid at best and very little since at low voltage electrolysis in pure water is very inefficient.  If all the electrolysis is done on an aliquot of water the net result should be nothing as any acid generated will be neutralized if shaken or stirred by the equivalent amount of base at the other electrode. I cannot find schematics of the Kangan® machine to see exactly how it would work. At over $3900 for a home machine I am unlikely to buy one so I can take it apart, although I do wonder: will it blend?

“Read the directions and directly you will be directed in the right direction.”

The cartoon schematic is confusing, at least as I remember my chemstiry: The H+, which is the acid, is an antioxidant that goes out the alkaline port while the OH-, which is the base, goes down the drain as an acid. Huh? I do not get it. The purpose of this treatment is to make alkaline water, with optimal pH between 8.5 −9.5 Given that the average pH of tap water in the US is 8.1, they do not have far to go.

“Curiouser and Curiouser”

The basic mechanisms by which alkaline water is beneficial is as follows:

`Twas brillig, and the slithy toves. Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;  All mimsy were the borogoves. And the mome raths outgrabe.

Maybe that’s not it. There are evidently nouns and verbs that are placed in an order to suggest a description of reality. Or a reality. Not mine. Although I recently saw a vorpal sword used to kill some wooden soldiers.

Lets try another series of nouns and verbs and see of they make more sense.

Being in a acid state causes diseases, perhaps all diseases. We run towards the acid by eating acids and by the production of acids by pathogens. Drinking alkaline water will correct the acid state and restore health. Kangen water® has small clusters of 5 to 6 water molecules to make it is extra hydrating and it is an anti-oxidant. Alkaline water will raise the blood pH and make the water molecules smaller and get rid of free radicals. Really. A man in a white coat told me so.

“If any one of them can explain it …I’ll give him sixpence. I don’t believe there’s an atom of meaning in it.”

Wabe and outgrabe at least rhyme. One would think that collections of sciencey words would make for science, but it is not the case. As best I can tell from the alkaline water sites their understanding of chemistry and physiology is one frabjous tulgey.

Acid does not cause disease (lysergic excepted). Drinking alkaline water will correct no acidic state beyond neutralizing a bit of the hydrocholic acid in the stomach, water does not cluster. One of the remarkable results of physiology is how tightly some processes are regulated. Core temperature varies very little and  blood pH even less. Drinking a couple of glasses of slightly alkaline water a day will do nothing and can do nothing except quench your thirst.  And, once absorbed the ionized alkaline will not retain its pH or ionic state. The water becomes, or remains, water.

What can the water be used for? Everything. Flying Crane Acupuncture recommends Kangan water® for

cancer, auto-immune disorders, chemical sensitivities, GERD, allergies, candida, Lyme Disease, Biofilms, protozoan FL1953, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, insomnia, leaky gut syndrome, migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis, psoriasis, sinusitis, and all people on the standard American diet.

There are innumerable testimonials as to the superiority of alkaline water. And we know how reliable water testimonials are.

Is there any clinical data to suggest the validity of any of the claims of alkaline water? Nope. Clinical trials? Nope. Biologic plausibility? Nope. Anything besides the glowing recommendations of the marketers of the machines and their users touting the benefits? Nope.

Color me unimpressed.

“Well, I never heard it before, but it sounds uncommon nonsense.”

Have you ever read a list and did a double take. I did when I saw the uses of Kangan water®.  Good thing I wasn’t drinking the water when I did or my local environment would have become more alkaline.  Protozoan FL1953. It is part of my job to know bugs, and while I cannot have seen or heard of every organism out there, I know the most of the ones that cause disease. I never heard of Protozoan FL1953. Off to Pubmed. I find… nothing. Oh. It has another name, Protomyxzoa rheumatica. Pubmed that and…nothing. Same on Google Scholar.

It turns out that only one person has information about this protozoan, Dr. Stephen Fry MD, who has discovered the organism and has the only diagnostic testing. He has yet to publish his findings, but he finds it as a potential cause for CFS, Fibromyalgia, Multiple Sclerosis, ALS, and Rheumatoid Arthritis, Morgellon’s and more (Start at 8:16).

According to Dr Fry he has discovered, using molecular analysis and stains, a protozoan in the blood of people with a large number of chronic inflammatory diseases. As I understand him the protozoan infection leads to immunosuppression and then a fungal super-infection.  He has developed a diagnostic PCR, special stains and is working on antibiotic susceptibility testing.

“What is the use of repeating all that stuff, if you don’t explain it as you go on? It’s by far the most confusing thing I ever heard!”

There are few pictures of the protozoan that I can find. I have looked at a lot of microbes in my day. It looks like a red cell to me and nothing more.  Other photographs are equally hard to identify as an organism:  here and here.  It all looks like artifact to me, but with no published information on the special stains, who can say? The beast can be grown in the lab and they have even sequenced the genome, both of which are very impressive accomplishments.  I can’t grow Protozoan in our clinical labs.   I have to send my Leshmania cultures to the CDC and genomic sequencing is not a trivial.  The results of this work suggest it is a:

a slime forming complex protozoan, trying to become a helminth [parasitic worm], trying to become a worm… it’s progenitor with some ameba, or some protozoan in the past. But it is a little more complex than say, malaria or babesiosis genetically. Actually it is sort of in-between, again, a helminth and a malarial type organism.

An amazing discovery, especially given the marked differences between protozoans and helminths.  Discovery of a new organism could change the approach to many patients.   Just imagine those thousands techs and docs looking at millions of blood smears over the centuries and not seeing this organism, the ultimate gorilla in a basketball game.  Unfortunately he can’t get this work published as “Look, this is too political, too new, really a radical concept.”

There are two issues about publishing. There is the description of a new pathogen: photos, cultures, genome.  Then there is whether it causes disease: is it the next  H. pylori or the next XMRV? The beauty of the Internet is you could benefit thousands of people by publishing on-line. I wait with great anticipation the announcement by Dr. Fry demonstrating the existence and pathogenicity of his new discovered protozoa.

“That’s nothing to what I could say if I chose.”

I suppose it may be best to avoid the path of that attention seeker Barry James Marshall with his publications in peer reviewed journals and grandstanding Nobel prize awarded for the discovery that gastritis and peptic ulcers are due to H. pylori. Who wants that kind of notoriety  Which is a shame, since I can obviously neither confirm nor deny the Protozoan as a cause of disease or even as a new organism based on the published literature, or even information on the interwebs.

I have always been torn between the idea that those who discover something new be rewarded for their work and the concept that medical knowledge should be freely available for the benefit of everyone. I mostly favor the free spread of knowledge for the benefit of all, although interviews suggest the information is being kept proprietary pending patents.

But you can only click links for so long, the brain fogs over trying to incorporate all these alternative and new realities. New water, new protozoans.

“I think I should understand that better, if I had it written down: but I can’t quite follow it as you say it.”

So true Alice.

Posted in: Energy Medicine, Herbs & Supplements, Humor

Leave a Comment (24) ↓

24 thoughts on “Down the Virtual Rabbit Hole

  1. Jann Bellamy says:

    I never took chemistry so I could be way off on this, but it looks like plain old baking soda will do the trick “to correct the acid state,” at least for cancer and if you’re a mouse. More cutting-edge research from this year’s International Research Congress on Integrative Medicine and Health, the partially taxpayer-funded event I mentioned yesterday: “The Role of pH in Cancer.” http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6882/12/S1/P30.

  2. windriven says:

    “According to Dr Fry he has discovered, using molecular analysis and stains, a protozoan in the blood of people with a large number of chronic inflammatory diseases. As I understand him the protozoan infection leads to immunosuppression and then a fungal super-infection.”

    And they’re coming to take me away Ha Ha
    They’re coming to take me away ho ho he he ha ha
    To the happy home with trees and flowers and chirping birds and basket weavers who sit and smile and twiddle their thumbs and toes
    They’re coming to take me away ha ha…
    -Jerry Samuels (Napoleon XIV)

  3. Ken Hamer says:

    From the “cartoon schematic”:

    “Acid water can be used to water plants.”

    Is that like using Brawndo to water plants, “because it’s got electrolytes”?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Vw2CrY9Igs

  4. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    My inner geek refuses to let the most minor, tangential and irrelevant point go unchallenged. “Vorpal” is spelled with an “e”. It will sever the heads of opponents on a roll of a natural 20, though certain opponents lack heads (such as oozes and slimes) while others are unaffected by the head being severed (for instance, golems and non-vampire undead). Rare opponents will have their effectiveness enhanced by vorpal weapons, for instance the hydra who grows a new head whenever an old one is severed (however, reliable sources indicate that this itself has limitations).

    A smart hydra would leave vorpal blades convenient for adventurers to access, but with an intelligence of 2 this is unlikely.

    I feel obligated to also point out that while a pyrohydra has some element of plausibility (there are some compounds that could be produced by a biological system that ignite when exposed to oxygen), a cryohydra is just absurd. Honestly, how does anything with a metabolism produce cold? Ridiculous.

    My inner geek, sated, retreats.

    On topic, it’s nice that we have another cause of all diseases. It’s pretty amazing that we can cure every single illness with the application of perhaps a few dozen compounds and some pixie dust. Man, this medicine thing is easy!

  5. Mark Crislip says:

    Egophony has now been observed on the blade. Thanks.

  6. DugganSC says:

    Is it sad that I had a hard time distinguishing the Alice in Wonderland quotes from quotes from the website?

  7. Amalthea says:

    Alice in Wonderland was a great way to discuss yet another magic water and infectious agent.
    As far as not being able to get published because it’s too new/political…. Sorry, I don’t believe it: Homo Floresiensis.
    Discoveries which could be very controversial do get published.

  8. Chris Repetsky says:

    William, that post just made my day!

  9. MTDoc says:

    My neighbor, a reflexologist, recently offered to get me a Kangen unit for my general health and well being, and to cure my diabetes too. Seems she is a dealer and can get it (for me) wholesale. I politely accepted her sales literature and read the claims. A bit of everything from the usual anecdotes and testimonials to invoking a Nobel laureate. Poor Warburg must be turning over in his grave. Sad part she really believes this stuff and her sincerity is what sells it. For an excellent discussion of the biochemistry (and aqua-quackery) involved, check Stephen Lower’s blog at http://www.chem1.com/CQ. He’s to chemistry as Mark is to ID.

  10. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    Hey Chris – VIRTUAL HIGH-FIVE! The only kind nerds get because we never leave our basements!!!

    Amalthea – controversial discoveries (that are backed by solid data) tend to make careers, vis. H. pylori and the general esteem in which Pasteur, Koch and Semmelweis are now held. However, when someone comes up with something as useful as the cause of all disease, the accolades they will accumulate will surely be vast.

  11. Amalthea says:

    @WLU: Precisely. If this were a real discovery it would already be published.

  12. gears says:

    Why don’t they just buy alka-seltzer, or tums? Surely that would be cheaper, and more alkaline than electrolyzed water to boot.

  13. nybgrus says:

    @WLU:

    “Vorpal” is spelled with an “e”

    Rare opponents will have their effectiveness enhanced by vorpal weapons…A smart hydra would leave vorpal blades

    /pedant over

    lol. cryohydras are ridiculous though. I mean really….

    @gears:

    Clearly you need to study more chemistry my friend. I’m surprised you haven’t been fired from your synthetic chemistry job with such a poor understanding of acid/base reactions. :-p

  14. gears says:

    Organic chemists are notoriously dismissive of physical chemistry, it’s true (pffft–equations). AND we’re the ones who design Big Pharma’s newest poisons to sic on an unsuspecting public.

    I guess it’s not my place to be critical.

  15. Janet says:

    I got acupunctured in Portland thirty years ago by an MD. It was right after the idiots in Salem said insurance would have to pay for it if the practitioner was as MD. This guy was Chinese and had learned it in China before he emigrated to the US (not sure where he went to medical school now I think about it!). He had this gigantic chart of the body with all the acu points. He barely spoke English and gestured a lot while supposedly “explaining” how acupuncture “works”. It didn’t matter to me–I had seen that documentary (on PBS!) about how acupuncture in China was used for all sorts of things including as anesthesia for surgery! (This all turned out to be mostly fake, of course).

    I had a painful and pesky tennis elbow at the time, and at one of my sons’ soccer games, the neighborhood lay midwife, who was married to the Naturopath (isn’t this fun?), recommended the needler. I checked with another of the son’s soccer buddy’s Dad who was an orthopedic surgeon and he said, welllllll, try it if you want, but don’t say I recommended it. It sounded like a real recommendation to my already convinced brain.

    Guess what? My tennis elbow went away after only four needlings! What I have learned at this site, however, is that since I was also taking ibuprofin as directed by the orthopedist (which I left out of my anecdote for many years) it just may have been the real cure–do you think?

    The Chinese guy was so popular that I think he gave up his regular practice. He must be dead by now, though, as Marilyn seems to be the “only MD/acupuncturist in Portland”. That is surprising as there are several here in boring old flyover country Milwaukee.

    I often ask here and elsewhere: Why do people get sucked into woo? I hadn’t thought about this incident for a long time, but I guess it goes a ways to answer my question. Without good skeptical intervention, it almost seems to be the default position to at least flirt with woo.

  16. windriven says:

    @Janet

    “Why do people get sucked into woo?”

    1. Because it is legal and often has the imprimatur of the State;

    2. Because not everyone is a scientist and they spend their time keeping up with the realities of their own field;

    3. Because real cures aren’t always easy to come by and we live in a 30 minute sitcom world where all problems are solvable before the next commercial break. Your doctor says maybe, the quack says (Curly of the Three Stooges voice:) certainly!

    I’m sure there are lots more but those top the list of my personal observations. The legislators who countenance state licensure of bat-crap crazy quacks should get daily pies in their faces.

  17. Amalthea says:

    windriven beat me to it. I was about to make a comment about people wanting a magic bullet.

  18. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

    @nybgrus

    When I wrote my comment I was drawing attention to the fact that in Dr. Crislip’s aritcle, “vorpal” was improperly spelled (and has since been corrected).

    Don’t try and out-pedant someone who just corrected the spelling of a fictional weapon and used a webcomic as a reliable source. Sorry to get all alpha-nerd on you, but THIS SHIT JUST GOT REAL!!!!

    LEEEEEROY!!!!!! JENKINS!!!!!

    Funny thing is I’m not really that big of a nerd. He says after correcting the spelling of “vorpal”. Narf, narf.

    I will concede that my comment could have been worded better, Explorer (curse you) ate my initial one.

  19. Amalthea says:

    That is disturbing.
    I can see situations like one I came across a couple of years ago occurring more often.
    Daughter-in-law: I’ll soon need to see about getting something to prevent hot-flashes because of my job combined with my problems with heat.
    Mother-in-law: Herbals! Herbals! Herbals!
    D-I-L: Soy intolerance.
    M-I-L: Non-soy herbals!

  20. TsuDhoNimh says:

    Mark –
    I’ve looked at hundreds of blood smears.

    Looking at the first link, the picture of the so-called Bartonella and Protozoan FL1953 in blood, I see neither bartonella nor anything protozoal. What I see is some overly dark staining on normal-looking blood. Elderly RBCs tend to get that large clear area in the middle, and it’s normal to get a small number of erratic pointy cells just from the mechanics of making the smear.

    The second link, first picture shows a bright spot (usually these are undissolved granules of the stain) and some vacuoles in something. The second picture on that page is a badly degraded WBC of some sort, with the arrows pointing to a vacuole and some intracellular gloop that has stained. WBCs that are about to die tend to break up when you make the smear. Or else it’s a tiny bit of fibrin. It’s clinically insignificant to see a few globby things like that, and if we techs saw more than a few we’d call the pathologist. Deciding what they signified was above our pay grade.

    Third link’s picture actually has abnormal cells! Those pointy spiky things are called “echinocytes”. They are most probably artifacts due to poor smear preparation – slow drying. They can be seen as a real phenomenon in kidney failure because of the hyperosmolarity of the blood.

    I notice that what he is calling “bartonella” is rare in the smears, one per field, and I wonder how many fields he had to look at to find that blue dot. Real bartonella infections have greater numbers of bacteria per field and per cell. Calling an infection based on a single organism (unless you see a classical trepanosome or malaria parasite) is not a good idea. There is a lot of crud on slides and in collected blood that doesn’t mean a thing.

  21. Banish-the-evil-humors says:

    1) This website ( science based medicine) is great.
    2) Kangan water does not sound remotely legit.
    3) However, acidosis does cause problems. I would not throw out the baby with the bath water.
    4) (Not getting into the controversial acidosis from ketosis or lactate) Patients more advanced CKD do get acidotic. People generate about 50-100mEq acid per day. We normally excrete this in the urine. When the kidneys are impaired, excretion is impaired.
    5) We (Nephrologists) do treat this with alkalai therapy to slow down progression of kidney disease, to prevent bone buffering (maybe delay hyperparathyroid bone disease), and maybe improve nutritional status in our kidney patients. Theoretically decreased ammoniagenesis decreases tubulointerstitial inflammation.
    6) Sodium Bicarb=baking soda. It is oral, cheap and over the counter unless patients want pills. It does work to stave off, for a while, the ultimate correction of acidosis and evil humors: dialysis.

    With this case especially, you have to see how patients or healthy lay people get sucked in and that we need to be careful what we we discount as there may be a few grams of truth buried in there.

    http://jasn.asnjournals.org/content/20/9/2075.full?sid=313c8d20-42e5-430e-bbb9-a5a0b10da1d6

    http://jasn.asnjournals.org/content/20/9/1869.full?sid=313c8d20-42e5-430e-bbb9-a5a0b10da1d6

    ————————————————————————————————————————————–

    “Lets try another series of nouns and verbs and see of they make more sense.

    Being in a acid state causes diseases, perhaps all diseases. We run towards the acid by eating acids and by the production of acids by pathogens. Drinking alkaline water will correct the acid state and restore health. Kangen water® has small clusters of 5 to 6 water molecules to make it is extra hydrating and it is an anti-oxidant. Alkaline water will raise the blood pH and make the water molecules smaller and get rid of free radicals. Really. A man in a white coat told me so.”

  22. The Dave says:

    Brian Dunning did a really good Skeptoid podcast debunking Kangan water. You can read the transcript here:
    http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4139

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