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False “balance” on influenza with an appeal to nature

One of the encouraging shifts I’ve seen in health journalism over the past few years is the growing recognition that antivaccine sentiment is antiscientific at its core, and doesn’t justify false “balance” in the media. There’s no reason to give credibility to the antivaccine argument when their positions are built on a selection of discredited and debunked tropes. This move away from false balance and towards a more accurate reflection of the evidence seems to have started with the decline and disgrace of Andrew Wakefield and his MMR fraud. And there is now no question that antivaccine sentiment has a body count: Simply look at the resurgence of preventable communicable disease. Today, antivaccinationists are increasingly recognized for what they are – threats to public health. It seems less common today (versus just 5 years ago) that strident antivaccine voices are given either air time or credibility in the media.

But false balance on topics like influenza can occur without giving a voice to groups like antivaccinationists. A more subtle technique to shift perceptions is both widespread and hard to detect, unless you’re aware of it: the naturalistic fallacy, known more accurately as the appeal to nature. In short, it means “It’s natural so it’s good” with the converse being “unnatural is bad.” In general, the term “natural” has a positive perception, so calling a product (or a health intervention) “natural” is implying goodness. The appeal to nature is so common that you may not even recognize it as a logical fallacy. Unnatural can be good, and natural can be bad: Eyeglasses are unnatural. And cyanide is natural. Natural doesn’t mean safe or effective. But the appeal to nature is powerful, and it’s even persuasive to governments. If we believe that health interventions and treatments should be evaluated on their merits, rather than whether or not they’re “natural”, then decisions to regulate “natural” products differently than the “unnatural” ones (like drugs) makes little sense. Yet the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was a legislative appeal to nature, introducing a different regulatory and safety standard for a group of products while drawing a fallacious distinction with “unnatural” products like drugs. Canada fell for the appeal to nature too: It has the Natural Health Products Regulations which entrenched a lowered bar for efficacy and safety for anything a manufacturer can demonstrate is somehow “natural”.

The combination of false balance and the appeal to nature has a subtle but insidious effect on how we view health care. Promoters of CAM (complementary and alternative medicine) know and use this strategy very effectively. If we’re willing to mentally distinguish between “conventional” and “natural” health approaches, then we may be more willing to overlook issues with respect to evidence – the Achilles’ heel of CAM. It’s a simple strategy for advocates to wrap their products with the “natural” banner, and our own perceptions give it a mental pass. As consumers, we’re the ones with the fallacious reasoning. The promoter is just priming us to accept the fallacy.

While I take some comfort in the fact that I’m told this blog is both widely read and well-respected, its reach is still miniscule compared to those that promote CAM. (The SBM logo should be Sisyphus, because that’s how it can feel when you’re providing science-based information against a torrent of pseudoscience.) I don’t envy Dr. Oz, but I do envy his reach and his platform, and only wish he used his prominence to promote credible health strategies, instead of what is often rank quackery. As a pharmacist I can literally see the effectiveness of the mainstream media on shaping perceptions of heath, and driving consumers to act on those demands. When I used to work in a retail pharmacy, it was immediately obvious which new miracle supplement had been hyped on Oprah, as demand would explode following an episode.

No matter how effective we are as promoters of science-based medicine, we’ll be fighting a losing battle against pseudoscience and CAM unless we have health journalists as partners. The very best health journalists are not just superb communicators; they share SBM’s goals of advocating for the best health care. My hypothesis is that the decline of major media organizations (particularly print) over the past decade may be making the task of public health and science communication more difficult. Not only do the number of dedicated health and science journalists seem to be declining, but those journalists that are tasked with covering health issues may lack the experience, background and context to communicate in the most responsible and effective way. Today it’s a hunt for eyeballs and clicks.

A series of columns in The Globe and Mail summarizes the continued challenge to communicating science-based medicine. If you’re not familiar with The Globe, it’s Canada’s largest national newspaper, and while it’s no New York Times, it’s generally considered Canada’s paper of record. The Globe has some excellent health journalists like André Picard and Carly Weeks who consistently provide some of the best health content in the country. But recently The Globe launched a new online feature, the Health Advisor, which appears to be a series of contributed posts from writers that are external to the paper:

Welcome to Health Advisor, where contributors share their knowledge in fields ranging from fitness to psychology, pediatrics to aging. Follow us @Globe_Health.

Most of the columns I’ve seen seemed to have reasonable content, and some have medically qualified authors. The series seems to be an effort to gain web traffic, as there’s no coherent theme other than the intent for posts to be clickbait, with titles such as “Former Olympian Jennifer Heil’s five tips for eating healthy on the road” or “How to tell when your memory loss is normal – and when it’s dementia.” But a recent column made me look more closely at the series: “Eight easy, natural ways to keep the flu at bay (without leaving home).” It’s written by Bryce Wylde, a homeopath who is a regular on shows like Dr. Oz. It would be a straightforward matter to look at Wylde’s recommendations and the science evidence supporting them. But the story is far more interesting than that. It starts with what Wylde suggests. He leads off with:

There are some highly effective natural solutions you can try to help prevent contracting the flu, or mitigate the symptoms once you have it. Still, recent news about the effectiveness of some supplements and home remedies has left many confused with what remedies are best to take both proactively and reactively.

Cue the appeal to nature and the false balance. His most conventional recommendation is getting more sleep. No argument there. But he goes on to suggest the following:

  • Apply petroleum jelly to the insides of your nostrils: How this would block influenza isn’t clear. Given there’s a published case report of lipid pneumonia from nasal application of petroleum jelly, and no evidence of efficacy, this seems like an irresponsible recommendation.
  • Thinly cut and plate two onions. Sprinkle sugar over the sliced onions. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for two hours. With the liquid that results, dose out one tablespoon every three to four hours. Again, zero information to suggest that sliced onions have any effectiveness against influenza.
  • Like onions, honey-based homeopathics may provide a safe and effective solution. Honey may have some effectiveness to treat cough, but it does nothing to affect the risk of infection or the severity of an infection. Honey-based homeopathics are simply honey, as the homeopathic nostrums in these products are ineffective and then diluted to the point that any of the original substance is gone.
  • Garlic: What’s good for the heart blows infections apart. Yet another folk remedy with no evidence to suggest it has any effect on influenza or its complications. A systematic review of garlic for colds (not the flu) noted that claims of effectiveness are based on poor-quality data.
  • Get proactive with probiotics. Wylde gives the standard alt-med trope that “80% of your immunity is in your gut” which always makes me wonder how immunity is being quantified. He touts Bio-K brand of probiotics. Indeed, the Bio-K website claims it is helpful for influenza and points to this study as evidence. However that study used a different formulation of probiotics and looked at symptoms only, finding a modest improvement. There’s no information to demonstrate it has any effect in influenza, as the study didn’t determine the cause of each illness.
  • Shower your nose. Wylde recommends a neti-pot, which may help with the symptoms of a cold but is would have no effect on preventing or treating an influenza infection.
  • Whip up an immune-boosting soup. Yet another trope, the scientifically ignorant idea that immunity is a singular thing that can be “boosted”. Wylde recommends astragalus root with ginger and garlic. A good soup makes anyone feel better, but there’s nothing to astragalus or the other ingredients for the prevention of influenza.

By any responsible health journalism standard, this has serious problems. I was not alone in noticing Wylde didn’t actually recommend strategies that do have some evidence to support them, such as vaccination, handwashing and social isolation. When I put the question to The Globe on Twitter, Wylde responded and claimed that the mention of vaccines had been removed at The Globe’s request, which I found pretty concerning. And then The Globe responded:

FireShot Screen Capture #176 - 'Globe Health (Globe_Health) on Twitter' - twitter_com_Globe_Health

And then it doubled down on the column, promoting it all day:

FireShot Screen Capture #174 - 'Globe Health (Globe_Health) on Twitter' - twitter_com_Globe_Health

Spot the fallacies? A lot of people did, and commented online and via Twitter. The Globe’s response was more problematic than Wylde’s – it ought to know better. To The Globe’s credit, they subsequently took the feedback seriously enough for the paper’s “public editor” to address it a few days later, in a column entitled Homeopath’s advice needs to be balanced:

Last Friday, a blog on natural ways to keep the flu at bay written by an alternative-medicine specialist garnered criticism on social media and in the story comments. The blog suggested a variety of solutions that the writer, who has a diploma in homeopathic medicine, felt could either help to prevent contracting the flu or mitigate the symptoms. The blog was criticized by medical professionals on a number of points and most said it missed the key advice that what really works is the flu vaccine.

One public health physician-in-training wrote to me to say the article “makes a number of health claims regarding ways to prevent or treat the flu, but which lack any evidence to support them. Indeed, [the] … recommendations (such as the use of probiotics) …demonstrate a basic misunderstanding of what the flu is (a virus, not a bacteria). “As a member of the medical community, it concerns me when unfounded claims from Complementary & Alternative Medicine (CAM) providers are presented as fact and given legitimacy via publication. Incomplete or incorrect health information can produce very real harm, as it often prevents people from seeking out appropriate, evidence-based care (e.g. flu vaccine, antiviral medications).”

The physician’s question was about The Globe and Mail’s obligation in presenting health information. It is an excellent question. Medicine is a science based on studies and factual observations, unlike, for example, politics, where it is important for media coverage to balance the different sides of a debate.

The Globe has published many articles on the importance of getting a flu vaccination. But if the paper chooses to run an article by a homeopath in addition to the articles by medical professionals, such as a doctor, nurse or pharmacist, the article needs to be seen in the context of who the writer is and what his credentials are.

The article properly sets Health Advisor in context, saying this is a blog where contributors share their knowledge. At the bottom in italics is an explanation of the credentials of the writer so that readers will see this person is not a medical doctor but rather an alternative-medicine expert.

However, in my view, the label Special to The Globe and Mail is not clear, as it is commonly used to indicate articles by freelance journalists. It also would have been preferable to have the related links to the story balance the homeopath’s advice with a medical professional’s advice. The top three links were about learning to dream, outdoor fun and good germs. In my view, the top link should have been this article: “As a doctor, I’ve seen why vaccination is a ‘no brainer.’ ”

I think there should be a bias toward medical professionals writing about medicine and, while there is room for some coverage on alternative or homeopathic treatments, care should be taken to always balance such coverage with a doctor’s or other medical professional’s experience and expertise.

Regrettably, this response seemed to miss the point of the criticism, suggesting that all the Globe needs to do is to “balance” columns like this with a bit more science. I see the issue of “freelance journalist” as a bit of a red herring – this is the Globe and Mail, and the paper shouldn’t be lending its credibility to contributors touting unscientific health information. The proper way to deal with pseudoscience isn’t to “balance” it with links to credible health information, it’s to present the facts accurately the first time, and not give a platform to quackery. And when it comes to CAM, the science is very clear: if a “natural” approach or remedy has medicinal effects, it’s simply medicine. (All the rest is a nice bowl of soup and some potpourri, argues Dara O’Briain). There is no need to present two different perspectives. Just describe what’s effective.

Conclusion

The appeal to nature is one of the most insidious logical fallacies, and it can contribute to misguided attempts to “balance” science-based information against treatments and strategies that lack good evidence of effect. While The Globe and Mail is to be commended for publicly acknowledging and responding to online criticism, a stronger response would have acknowledged the paper’s responsibility to ensure that contributed health content is reviewed and vetted by the appropriate subject-matter experts. Logical fallacies are critical thinking “blind spots”, and it’s only when we know they exist that we can spot them.

Posted in: Science and Medicine, Science and the Media

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43 thoughts on “False “balance” on influenza with an appeal to nature

  1. goodnightirene says:

    I wouldn’t hold the NY Times up as any better than The Globe on science reporting.

    Even more concerning than the reporting (and that is bad enough) is the response of the public in the comments. Not only do people lack basic science knowledge, but their reading comprehension is nearly non-existent. They rarely grasp the intent of the article and go off onto personal anecdotal tangents that usually reflect little more than widely disseminated urban legends/memes (Big Pharma is evil incarnate, doctors know nothing of nutrition, science changes its mind every week–and is therefore useless, etc.)

    Even when the science reporting is good, or the editorials spot on, the commenters mostly fail at comprehension, so what does it matter? My fervent hope is that the articles I refer to have simply encouraged the dim to respond and do not reflect the entire audience.

    1. rork says:

      Saw a horrible example earlier this morning:
      http://www.nbcnews.com/health/cold-flu/flu-shot-fail-why-doesnt-vaccine-always-work-n21446
      I found another article from NBC rather interesting. Search “Opinion: Mandating Flu Shots Is the Moral Choice”. Again, comments show that the people still don’t understand the most basic facts about vaccines or epidemiology.

  2. Angora Rabbit says:

    And Wylde missed the easiest and most “naturalistic” preventative of all: wash your hands frequently.

    1. Sawyer says:

      You’re clearly in the pocket of Big Soap. Just look at the rise in autism compared with Dove profits!

      :)

  3. Renate says:

    Well, if you eat enough garlic, it might help to get some social isolation.

  4. nutrition prof says:

    I enjoyed the first commenter on the Globe & Mail column: I disagree with the editor, a homeopath’s advice does not need to be balanced, it needs to be ignored.
    Kudos to the (McKenzie Brothers’) Great White North.

  5. Greg says:

    Unfortunately most people aren’t taught to think critically when it comes to health care. The logistic fallacy regarding “natural” remedies is only the tip of the iceberg. Most people don’t comprehend much of what they read and can’t be bothered educating themselves. For them Ignorance is bliss. This is a failing of public education systems, especially in recent years, where the introduction of standardized testing has shown how poorly some systems perform. In particular I heard a news story about the Philadelphia board of education was grappling with low test scores. Their solution? Make the tests easier!

    1. Greg says:

      that should have read “logical fallacy” – duh!

    2. Egstra says:

      My favorite argument in favor of natural remedies is the, “it worked for me” or “it worked for my friend.”

      Occasionally, I try the smoking is good for you and I can prove it approach — I tell them that my mother smoked for 60+ years, and lived to be 95. Plus, her bother was a heavy smoker and drinker, and lived to be 93.

      I’ve had one or two people respond by pointing out that I shouldn’t generalize from such a small sample. Sometimes, they then stop and think. Usually, however, they just seem to think that that’s different and dismiss it.

  6. Diana Macpherson says:

    Just last week the Globe published a decent article on the lack of evidence for homeopathy with a ridiculous headline, but they printed my letter calling them on it the next day, plus another anti-homeopathy letter, so there may be hope yet.

    “Drink more water

    Your headline The Value Of Homeopathic Remedies Is Far From Conclusive (Life – Feb. 5) misrepresents an otherwise decent article, and the truth. The value of homeopathic remedies is indeed conclusive: It is zero.

    Diana Macpherson, Toronto

    …….

    Homeopathic remedies do nothing because they are based on principles that are false. Take a substance, dilute it heavily, agitate the solution, repeat, and you’ve imparted the substance’s curative powers to every molecule in the solution, according to practitioners. From the solution, you can then make a pill for what ails you.

    But over billions of years, every element, molecule and compound on the planet has been in contact with water at some point, and been subsequently diluted and agitated naturally. So, if homeopathic “science” were real, every mouthful of water we drank would provide us with the curative benefit of every substance on the planet. If you think there’s anything to homeopathy, you should skip the expensive pills and drink more water.

    Chris Sasaki, Toronto”

  7. Gail Ashford says:

    I recommend you read the Cochrane reviews of the flu vaccine . In an average setting 100 people would need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of flu ( and indeed probably only influenza A Or B) . That is not a good NNT. And one case of GBS is likely to occur within that hundred. I think many of you, my colleagues and fellow readers are falling for what the Cochrane blog terms ‘Eminence Based Medicine ‘. The evidence for the flu vaccine is not robust and in average settings it is not terribly effective. Who knows how effective it is in high risk settings like my HIV positive patients? Indeed hand washing is more effective.

    1. Harriet Hall says:

      Mark Crislip has explained the benefits of the flu vaccine over and over. It is not just given to prevent flu in the recipient; it is also given to reduce the severity of illness if the recipient still gets the flu, and to improve herd immunity to protect others who can’t be vaccinated or who do not have a good antibody response to the vaccine. The flu shot is recommended for HIV positive patients and chronically ill patients. And the idea that 1 in 100 recipients will get GBS is laughable. The incidence of GBS is carefully monitored, and it is no higher in vaccine recipients than in the general population. 3-6000 people develop GBS every year in the US, regardless of whether they have been vaccinated. You are more likely to get GBS from the flu than from the vaccine. And there is no study that shows hand-washing is more effective than vaccine.

    2. Sawyer says:

      And I recommend you use the search function here to see if anyone has already written about these reviews. Most of us are already very familiar with Tom Jefferson’s work.

      On the bright side, you’ve confirmed one of my psychic predictions I left on the last SBM flu article (albeit a few weeks late):

      http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/even-in-2014-influenza-kills/#comment-179168

      1. Sawyer says:

        Oops, my apologies for lumping you in with “quacks” Dr. Ashford, that was an unfair jab. Your website looks like an excellent source of information about AIDS.

        I do hope you’ll check out Dr. Gorski and Dr. Crislip’s recent posts on this topic:

        http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/even-in-2014-influenza-kills/
        http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/one-flu-into-the-cuckoos-nest/

    3. MadisonMD says:

      If you prevent 1 flu for every 100 vaccinations, this is good, no? You vaccinate 100,000, prevent 1000 cases, and many deaths. The risks of flu vaccination is essentially nil.

      We should point out that NNT is tricky with infectious disease, because it assumes linear scaling of intervention and disease, whereas, during an epidemic, the number of cases would increase exponentially with the number of susceptible individuals. So NNT depends strongly in the immunity of your contacts.

      But Gail, ignoring the non-linearity, wouldn’t you be willing to recommend HIV vaccine for NNT = 100?

      Who knows how effective it is in high risk settings like my HIV positive patients?

      I just looked it up so now I know it. Looks like 80-92% effective seroconversion for HIV-positive patients with CD4 ct>200, when using standard dose vaccine.

      1. Greg says:

        When you consider the economics of the flu vaccination program, is a 1% efficacy rate good? Soap is a lot cheaper.

        BTW what is NNT?

        1. Andrey Pavlov says:

          NNT is “number needed to treat” – meaning how many people would you need to do an intervention on to prevent 1 case of the thing you are trying to intervene on.

          It does not mean a 1% efficacy. What it means is that for every 100 people you vaccinate there will be 1 full blown case of the flu averted. As MadisonMD pointed out, NNT doesn’t scale linearly with infectious diseases, so that needs to be taken into account. It also doesn’t capture people who still get the flu but a much less severe version of it (another benefit of the vaccine) and it doesn’t capture people who aren’t vaccinated but who don’t get the flu because the vaccine decreases the transmissibility of the virus (herd immunity; part of why the NNT doesn’t scale linearly).

          All that said, no soap is not even remotely as effective on a population level. If you forget to wash your hands just once at the wrong time, you get sick and increase the transmissibility of the virus through the population. It is also not 100% effective and dependent on how well you wash your hands, how often, and you need hand washing facilities available. The vaccine covers you no matter what; the only thing you have to not forget is getting vaccinated.

          Plus, hand washing programs are incredibly hard to implement to a level that is sufficient to really make a difference. I mean heck even in hospitals where there are germs all the time and people who should know better, hand washing is abysmally low. It is actually really hard to get people to wash their hands enough.

          So on a population level, handwashing just doesn’t even come close to having the benefits of vaccination, even if the NNT really is 100 and it scales linearly. The benefit of dampening transmissibility and herd immunity is huge. Plus, NNT of 100 really isn’t bad at all for such an otherwise benign, simple, quick, and actually relatively cheap intervention.

          1. TsuDhoNimh says:

            “NNT of 100 really isn’t bad at all for such an otherwise benign, simple, quick, and actually relatively cheap intervention.”

            That’s 15,000 (clinic cost) to 40,000 (full retail) per case prevented.

            Considering that someone with influenza can end up in ICU at thousands of dollars a day, or lose 3 weeks of work …. that’s cost effective.

            1. TsuDhoNimh says:

              OOPS! Make that $1,500 to $4,500 per prevented case.

              Less than the cost of one full day gasping for breath in ICU

              1. Andrey Pavlov says:

                I read your first post and thought “Whaa? That expensive? Doesn’t seem right to me…”

              2. Sawyer says:

                I doubt it would even put a dent in their armor, but it would be fun to start accusing flu anti-vaxxers of being shills for hospitals and Big Pharma.

              3. windriven says:

                “it would be fun to start accusing flu anti-vaxxers of being shills for hospitals and Big Pharma”

                I think I’ll start accusing them of being shills for Boiron and Heel.

          2. MadisonMD says:

            It does not mean a 1% efficacy. What it means is that for every 100 people you vaccinate there will be 1 full blown case of the flu averted.

            For an analogy that makes this still more clear, take the seat belt*:
            90% effective means it will prevent severe injuries/deaths in 9 of every 10 severe accidents.
            However, you might only get in a serious accident 1/10,000 car rides.
            So the equivalent of NNT** to prevent one severe injury is ~11,000.
            In other words, 11,000 people have to wear seatbelts in order to prevent one death or serious injury. Because wearing your seatbelt is safe, it is worthwhile even if unlikely to save your life in any given car ride because NNT=11,000.

            *hypothetical figures
            **Number needed to treat. Perhaps we should say number needed to wear seatbelts, but I stick with NNT to be consistent

            1. Greg says:

              Thanks I realized afterwards the difference between NNT and efficacy rates. You doctors, ladies and gentlemen who post here are much more learned than I, so I don’t always comprehend everything correctly on first reading (or second reading at times). Apologies for my ignorance. On a positive note this blog is very educational and enlightening.

              1. MadisonMD says:

                No apology needed, Greg. I personally appreciate your honest questions– it is refreshing after so much JAQ. If it it is written clearly here, it may be of use to other readers as well.

              2. Andrey Pavlov says:

                Apologies for my ignorance. On a positive note this blog is very educational and enlightening.

                Never apologize for being ignorant. We are all ignorant of many, many more things than we are knowledgeable about. You should only apologize for willful ignorance (like SSR), which you have obviously not displayed.

                If you – and others – notice, there is a distinct difference between asking a question because you don’t understand something and asking as part of the “just asking questions” gambit. And we here are pretty attuned to that, which is why your comment was answered properly, respectfully, and thoroughly whereas some other commenters here get a bit more scathing sarcasm from us.

                I can assure you and everyone else that if you come here to learn (as I did about 4 years ago) you will be welcomed and have the opportunity to learn from a lot of really smart people with genuine knowledge on a variety of fields. I was making many of my own bumbling mistakes when I first started coming here as someone who had just started medical school. Now, as a full fledged doctor (wha? when did that happen??) and commenter/contributor here for 4 years, I make less bumbling mistakes.

                Anyways, I took a bit of a long winded answer so that hopefully others can take a second to actually pay attention to the difference in interaction one can expect if they are here genuinely seeking some knowledge and understanding. We are always more than happy to help.

                I am glad you find it educational and enlightening here – stick around and join in on the conversations!

        2. MadisonMD says:

          Soap is a lot cheaper.

          True. But soap can’t prevent airborne transmission of influenza particles–one mouth to another– which can occur when someone is speaking with you, or coughs near you. Soap could only prevent transmission via surface to your hand, to your mouth which occurs less often per CDC. Even then, soap will only prevent the less common transmission via hands if you happen to wash your hands after touching the contaminated object.

          Recall a critical precedent. Smallpox was transmitted similarly through airborne particles. It is was eradicated by vaccination, not by hand washing.

          My conclusion is that if you want to avoid influenza, yes use soap. But also get vaccinated. The latter is more likely to prevent spread.

          Citation: CDC

  8. LegMed says:

    You gotta love the Homeopaths, especially the 4th Law: “The water remembers…”

    The other logical fallacy at work here is also plaguing our politics — the Middle Ground, the notion that a compromise between 2 extreme positions must be closer to the truth than either one.

    But I get the appeal of “natural.” Confronted with a forced choice of a “natural” ingestion and an “unnatural” one, with no other information and no suspicion that I’m being played, I would tend towards the one that, out of the box, seems less likely to poison me.

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      I’m not sure you could use the “natural” argument about homeopathy. What is “natural” about taking a substance, mashing it up in high-potency alcohol or distilled water (neither of which are “natural”) then diluting and shaking it serially several dozen to several hundred times.

      Just like acupuncture. What is “natural” about stabbing yourself with extremely thin steel needles?

      Even herbal “medicine”, most of those herbs have been selectively bred to produce higher potencies of desired compounds (i.e. menthol and mint). Seems pretty unnatural.

      Chiropractic – the powerful twisting of the upper neck and spine. Is that natural?

      Is any of CAM “natural”?

      1. Dr Robert Peers MBBS [UniMelb] says:

        William, can I recommend to you my Natural Immune-boosting Soup? I refer not to the Jewish mother’s renowned chicken soup for sick kids–”Jewish penicillin”, but to a sort of minestrone, with borlotti beans, cannellini beans etc..

        Or even traditional Scotch broth, with green peas and plump barley grains floating on top?

        Grains, legumes, nuts and citrus all contain a good supply of the Natural glucose isomer myo-Inositol, which may afford diverse improvements in the immune system.

        1. Due to the unnatural consumption of fatty foods in pregnancy, 32% of Murrigans suffer lifelong anxiety disorder. Less common, by the way, in Canada–maybe 20%. Anxiety [aka "stress"] does seem to impair antiviral immunity [Dr Ronald Glaser; Dr Sheldon Cohen], as I have observed in my patients for decades. Inositol largely reverses anxiety-related disorders [J Levine, 1997] by means of a natural inhibition of brain serotonin 2A receptors [C Brink, 2004]: Brink found it to be better than Prozac on these receptors.

        2. My inositol-treated anxious patients consistently report superior resistance to viral illnesses, which lapses if they stop the supplement. My anxious child patients get enough inositol from diet alone–the above foods. Teens and adults get the same diet, which provides maybe 2 gm/day, plus they usually need an extra 5 gm of the sweet powder supplement. I do not like supplements, but full anxiety reversal usually requires this. Lately, I am trying my milder cases on dietary sources alone, and seeing promising results–but moderate and severe cases, unfortunately, do seem to need more.

        3. Effective natural anxiety reversal also means better immunity against serious chronic and latent viral infections in anxious folks–Epstein Barr virus in multiple sclerosis and lymphoma; hepatitis B and C; Human Papilloma Virus in cancers of cervix, throat, oesophagus etc.; and HIV.

        4. Inositol’s anti-anxiety effects include reduced food craving: my “anxious fatties” lose 4-10 kg in 6-8 weeks. Melinda Beck has documented poor anti-bacterial immunity in overweight and obese Murrigans. Maybe we have an answer now.

        5. And for normal calm folks without the above problems, inositol may actually “boost” immunity, in at least two ways. First, it enhances Natural Killer cell function [A Shamsuddin]. Secondly, its cellular metabolite IP5 suppresses Insulin-like signalling, an action that is well known to suppress cancer signalling, and which also activate the expression of anti-ageing genes.

        These genes include important genes for enhancing innate immunity, including specific antiviral genes for rapid cellular response, without the need for specialized help from immune cells. These genes, which exploit ancient RNA interference defences, are normally active only in the immortal germ-line cells [where viral damage cannot be allowed], but are now known to lie latent in mortal somatic cells, and can be activated by a previously unsuspected innate cellular immune response. Anti-ageing interventions are known to do this, and inositol foods sure beat dietary restriction!

        6. If we look just at flu, inositol foods [plus supplement for the nervous] may improve poor anti-flu immunity in anxiety, plus maintain a lifelong state of superior anti-flu immunity in both calm and anxious folks–in addition to which, the anti-ageing effects on the immune system are likely to include far better and longer-lasting response to annual flu vaccination. This response is worryingly absent in about half of older Murrigans, and hopefully can be restored with dietary inositol.

        The mechanism involves a stem cell trick, leading to an enlarged reserve pool of long-lived self-renewing “T-memory stem cells”, that can remember antigens like flu indefinitely, and can easily generate, when required, the full range of virus-killing cytotoxic T-effector cells.

        Speaking of Natural, inositol first arrived on Earth in chondraceous meteorites some time ago [it can form in outer space!], and may have facilitated the origin of the first cells, by helping to create a confined place [a cell membrane] to concentrate early life molecules; by also creating internal cell membranes [mobile transport vesicles]; and by providing much-needed energy for biosynthesis, in the form of inositol pyrophosphate [IP7].

        We make inositol in our own tissues, and there’s a lot in brain. If we use our brain, we will see that by eating more inositol, from Nature’s generous supply, we are going to improve public health far more than we can expect from the Medical Industry.

        Including what Medicine can never do–restore and boost anti-flu responses.

        The real contest here is three-way. It’s CAM versus DAM [Diet-Avoidance Medicine] versus HAM–my Healthy Alternative to Medicine [including Alt Med].

        The strategy we need , to suppress CAM, is to reform DAM with scientific diet, and to show CAM followers that HAM and HAM-DAM converts that WE CAN DO IT BETTER–NATURALLY!

        We need EVERY DOCTOR A DIETITIAN, allied with a whole new profession of Health and Longevity Practitioners ["Health Doctors"], who we will be training at Australia’s new College of Health Practitioners, in Daylesford, Victoria.

        We have to understand the powerful appeal of CAM, especially when these dudes use the magic word Natural. CAM clients are understandably pissed off with DAM type doctors, they enjoy long stupid consultations with naturopaths, they really do believe that Nature Knows Best, they quite rightly hope that Nature is hiding magic remedies in her trillions of plants out there, and we will not get them back until we show that we, too, understand Nature.

        Like my late mother, most of the CAM faithful seem to be a little bit educated, read Prevention Magazine with rapt attention, and are suspicious of DAM. I do not think too many poor people bother with CAM–it costs too much, anyway. Maybe it’s a middle-class phenomenon. Like in Sonoma County, Calif–check out Naturopathic Medical Doctors Justin Hoffman and wife.

        Totally brazen and bizarre. How I would hate to practise nearby. Out of curiosity, I once went to a CAM seminar at Melbourne’s now-defunct Postgraduate School of Integrative Medicine, at Swinburne University [now morphed into the independent National Institute of Integrative Medicine--see their web site, if you fancy chelation therapy or live blood analysis].

        Presided over by Prof Avni Sali, whose son runs Swisse Vitamins, I soon noticed that all present had a reverent respect for the utterances of a leading local naturopath. I collared her after the meeting, in the car park. She thought I wanted to join her “Energy” clinic, which she runs with her husband. Neither actually practises anymore, because they are busy making a living from a team of naturopaths employed there, at what seems a successful enterprise, in a leafy middle-class suburb.

        I said no, I just want to ask if you folks take a dietary history [like I do], before making dietary recommendations etc.. No, she said, we believe that even a healthy diet may not be properly absorbed in the intestine, and everyone’s metabolism is different, so we rely more on blood and stool analysis, to diagnose malabsorption problems. So, I said, do you mean that, in the absence of a specific absorption problem, like coeliac disease, some folks do not get all the goodness out of their food? Yes, says she, they may not absorb it properly, due to conditions like dysbiosis. OK, I said, that must mean that the stuff you don’t absorb keeps moving down, and so should slowly build up in the lower bowel, perhaps in quite large quantities? YES, she said. I had the last word: WHAT A LOTTA SHIT!!!!!!!

        I didn’t get the job.

        1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

          William, can I recommend to you my Natural Immune-boosting Soup?

          You can’t recommend anything to me, you utterly destroyed any credibility when you were outraged that a kid was being subjected to Burzynski’s unproven piss extract therapy…then went on to proclaim they should be using your unproven therapy instead. Do you remember that? I do. It happened here, and you suck because of it.

          Your “when the only thing you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” approach to inositol isn’t helping either. In fact, it makes you look like a giant hypocrite, a charicature of the kinds of quacks and charlatans that we mock around here. If you’ve discovered the cure for all disease, go prove it first. Then you get to brag about it here. Until then, you merely succeed in looking like a douche with zero self-insight. That you use “anti-aging” and “boosts the immune system” unironically splashes you with even more intellectual feces.

  9. Jon Brewer says:

    I would add, wrt: the antivaccine movement, we should all remember that, even if autism were linked to vaccines (and there’s no conceivable way it could be, at least given the mechanisms proposed by vaxers, and there’s the little detail of Mr Wakefield committing fraud and setting off the current wave of the antivaccine movement), autistic is kinda a lot better than that other thing, dead.

  10. Kay Gallego says:

    Morgellons is as real as it gets. It is painful,brings tears to my eyes to see the damage
    Oh my, so it continues,until one day very soon all of you doctors have sores all over
    Your body.
    Best regards,
    Kay Gallego

    1. WilliamLawrenceUtridge says:

      My what an irrelevant tangent.

      Also, Morgellon’s is delusions of parasitosis, nothing more.

      1. windriven says:

        Spot on, William. The sores are the result of the sufferer picking – or sometimes digging with knife, scissors, etc, – at the imaginary threads. Antipsychotics generally clear it right up. Invariably the response is something along the lines of “I am NOT crazy.” Too bad we can’t get away from the stigmatization of mental illness. I’d be willing to bet Morgellon’s would soon disappear.

        BTW, there is actually a Morgellon’s conference in Texas somewhere later this year. Roll eyes.

        1. mousethatroared says:

          I doubt it windriven. If the issue was only stigmatization, then I think more people would just willingly get treatment in secret. But, I’ve lived with someone suffering from psychosis and the difficulties with avoiding the diagnoses and treatment go much deeper than stigma and as far as I can see they are part of the illness, not purely social pressure (or stubbornness, etc as some people seem to think). Added to this, many of the medications that are used to treat delusions/psychosis can have some pretty severe side effects.

        2. mousethatroared says:

          Ah, I had to look for terminology, It’s called Anosognosia (Lack of Insight) From NAMI

          “Why can’t a person see what is so apparent to those around them? The best thinking indicates this is a core feature of the neurobiology of the conditions. Frontal lobes organize information and help to interpret experiences. In conditions like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease, frontal lobe difficulty is central to the neurological processes that underlie the disorders. Psychological denial is not the reason for the lack of insight in these illnesses.”

          Sorry, the horse is dead, but I kinda feel like it’s my responsibility to share this kinda stuff when it comes up.

      2. mousethatroared says:

        Someone who suffers from skin lesions who has been diagnosed with Morgellon’s is not nessasarily suffering from delusional parasitosis. They could be suffering from any number of conditions and had a run in with poor quality health care.

        Even if someone IS suffering from delusional parasitosis, there’s no reason to be convinced there is not MORE to it. Delusional parasitosis can be secondary to a list of organic and/or psychiatric diseases and it can result in serious nfections.

        Kay Gallegos, I hope you find relief soon.

    2. Sawyer says:

      Kay if you have sores all over your body please see a doctor ASAP, and not some scam artists telling you that it’s Morgellons. You may have a serious infection and going down the Morgellons road will only delay progress.

    3. Harriet Hall says:

      The symptoms and suffering of people who think they have Morgellon’s are certainly real. The diagnosis of “Morgellon’s” is not real. I am very sorry for your suffering, but it is likely to continue until you are properly treated for whatever is really wrong with you. Unlike you, I don’t wish sores all over the body on anyone, not even on the doctors and others who have misled you.

  11. Kay Gallego says:

    Goodnight,mother fu…k.er

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