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More Boosting

Topics, as I noted a fortnight ago in my uniquely misspelled and ungrammatical way, never die**. Or even fade away. There are popular ideas that persist in the world that have little to do with reality. In the reality based world of medicine there are concepts that refuse to die. Atelectasis causing fever or the need to ‘double cover’ Pseudomonas. Neither are true, yet every year medical students tell me that is what they have been taught. It is said the only way new ideas take hold is for those that hold the old ideas to die off. So maybe 50 years from now those medical myths will be gone.

Popular culture also its myths. Take the immune system. Please. It is not a bicep that can be made stronger with a little exercise. It is a complex network of cells and proteins. There are antibodies (IgG (with five subtypes, IgM, IgA, IgE),the complement pathway, polymorphonuclear cells, monocytes, lymphocytes in a profusion that rivals beetles. God, I think, has an inordinate fondness for lymphocytes. There is the Toll system, the cytokines and lymphokines, the non-specific defenses like cilia and mannose binding lectin and on and on and on.

I have a journeyman’s understanding of the immune system, what is needed to understand why a given patient has an infection, although there is little I can do to reverse the immunologic defects: abnormal antibodies from Waldenström’s or low mannose binding lectin levels from liver disease are not amenable to clinical intervention.The most interesting discoveries concerning the immune system over the last few year has been the elucidation of the many polymorphisms in the immune system that can increase or decrease the risk of a variety of infections.

The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars,
But in ourselves, that we are underlings.

Often what determines health or infection, life or death, is a single amino acid substitution, say, in a Toll like receptor or the structure of our snot.

Of course these variations in the immune system are not absolute risks, they are relative risks. Health and illness are complex and a career medicine and infection control has continually emphasized that it is rarely one thing that leads to health or illness. It is the confluence of multiple factors, death by a thousand cuts.

There is no validity to the concept, the myth, of boosting your immune system. Metaphor time. Think of the body as a meat machine, like a car made out of steak. Mmmm. Steak. You can be properly tuned and maintained, the fluids and gas topped off, the air in the tires at the proper pressure. It will run optimally. You can’t over tune the car or fill tank past capacity. There is an optimum you can’t go beyond.

It is similar with the immune system. There are certainly habits that will have everything running suboptimally, and by altering those habits get the function close to its theoretical optimum. That is the things you learned in second grade: good diet, exercise, avoid tobacco, a good nights sleep. All the things we know we should do but, the flesh being weak, we often avoid.

Also, in my world, we call the boosted immune system an inflammatory response: when, in response to assault from the microbial world, the body gets a bit of a turbocharge, kicking the Batmobile into high speed. For the short term, it is of benefit. The infection is removed or suppressed. But because the immune system is not a clean, beautiful system but the result of that ever sloppy process called evolution, kicking it into overdrive is not without its downsides. As I have mentioned ad nauseum in my infectious disease podcasts, inflammation is prothrombotic and the downside of many infections is an increased risk for stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolism. If you really, truly, could boost your immune system, you would almost certainly increase your risk for thrombotic events.

So when someone says they can boost your immune system ask yourself, are they offering advice that takes what is probably a sub-optimally functioning human characteristic and nudging it towards some closer approximation of improved function or are they offering to make you better than an optimal baseline.

As I have spent the last 5 years in the world of Supplements, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (SCAM) I have also tried to come up some classification system, with little success.

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and those who don’t. – Robert Benchley.

There are, broadly, two kinds of SCAMs. There are those that are based on total hooey: acupuncture, reiki, homeopathy, and Mitt’s health care plan*.  And there are the SCAMs that take a wee bit of in vitro laboratory work or small clinical trials and conflate the results out of all proportion, usually translating into products sold by the proponent of the intervention. I am always amused by the accusation of being in the pocket of big pharma, when I do not get dime one for any antibiotic or vaccine I prescribe, but so often those that suggest various supplements for your illness somehow also sell them. Go figure.

If you are offering some SCAM advice it is important to mix and match with legitimate, effective therapies.  It makes the SCAM look more reasonable, but if you mix cow pie with apple pie, it does not make the cow pie taste better; it makes the apple pie worse.

The Natural News is good  source for all the above: useless therapies, overblown therapies and even, shock and horror, reasonable advice, all wrapped in a cocoon of really weird paranoia about government and big pharma. I am not conspiracy prone, preferring Hanlon’s razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.”

The Natural News wants to boost your immune system.  Of course part of the purpose of boosting your immune system, but to avoid vaccines:

…illogically claiming that your lack of a vaccine somehow causes other people who are already vaccinated to catch the flu. Yeah, I know, it makes no sense, but then again the entire vaccine industry is based on the same fantasy logic as unicorns, fairies, leprechauns and garden gnomes.

And, for the record, all the healthiest people walking around who don’t catch the flu are the ones who refuse flu shots while taking care of their immune system. It’s the vaccinated people who always seem to be sick for one reason or another, have you noticed?

In any case, it’s important to find ways to boost your immune system and shield yourself from colds and the flu without resorting to jabbing yourself in the arm with a cocktail of mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum and MSG.

OK. Hanlon’s razor? Or perhaps we should call it Pauli’s Razor: Not only is it not right, it’s not even wrong.  But I and others have written extensively on this blog about the flu vaccine and my purpose is not to discuss the flu vaccine. Instead I want to take a look at

The top 20 ways to boost your immunity to colds and flu without using a vaccine

There is no cold vaccine. I know. Picky. But I get the feeling the author doesn’t understand basic microbiology. At one point they suggest an air filter to remove bacteria and molds, neither of which cause flu or colds nor suppress the immune system.  You can see the entire hodgepodge of the good, the bad and the ugly over at NN. I’ll hit some highlights.

1) Take a vitamin D supplement every day.

This is interesting and not yet completely worked out. Some groups who are vitamin D deficient have an increased risk of viral infection. However, those with normal levels get infections as well, but at lower rates. And it may not be the vitamin D level that is modifies your risk, but whether there are polymorphism in the vitamin D receptor.

It is safe to say that being replete in vitamin D will lower your risk of some infections. Unless, of course, you are a proponent of the Marshal Protocol. Newtons law of Alternative Medicine: For every SCAM there is an equal and opposite SCAM. In the Marshall protocol you avoid vitamin D as part of a complicated intervention where it is thought that bacteria and vitamin D act together to shut down the immune system and the bacteria take off to cause disease. Go figure.

But as a recent JAMA article demonstrated, taking vitamin D as a preventative for upper respiratory tract infection does nothing, although it may be of benefit in high doses to tuberculosis.

It is not as simple an idea as take vitamin D and not get infected. It is, as with all vitamins, important to be replete. Outside of TB it is unlikely to be of help as a pharmaceutical.

2) Get as much sunlight as you can for as late into the year as you can manage. Even getting sunlight on just your face helps produce more vitamin D in your body.

Always follow an overstatement with homey common sense advice. And he gives other good advice: wash your hands, get enough sleep, and avoid stress, as if anyone can do that after reading the rest of the advice. Trying to live up to all the other pieces of advice from the Natural News would be time consuming, expensive, ineffective and as a result be very stressful:

Drink immune-boost beverages like organic Cocoa Mojo, which contains a blend of 4 medicinal mushrooms. Take Lomatium, Osha, Elderberry and more, avoid cleaners and cosmetics, eat more pungent spices, avoid cheese as it makes your nose stuffy (which is due to a lack of sinus circulation), Take Zinc and selenium. Take immune-protective herbal tinctures such as goldenseal, garlic, echinacea, osha root and elderberry. Eat more live vegetables.

All of which, he says, is better than the flu vaccine, which works in 1 in 100 people. I read it on the Natural News: the flu shot works. He has the numbers wrong for efficacy, but he agrees it is effective. That is the take home message from the Natural News, the one that should be spread, “Flu shots work…” since even at the mistaken number of 1 in 100, the vaccine is better than the nostrums and concoctions suggested, which have no proven utility.

Most of the products are offered by the Natural News and most of which will do nothing. I didn’t see the essay as an infomertial, but isn’t that whole site?

15) At the same time, demand high levels of hygiene by those around you. Ask them to wash their hands, for example. Ask them to boost their immunity with herbs, nutrients and supplements that really work. In fact, when others fail to boost their immune systems, it’s actually highly irresponsible on their part.

To paraphrase the author from the beginning: “They’re even starting to lay a guilt trip on those who refuse to boost their immunity, illogically claiming that your lack of immunity boosting somehow causes other people who are already boosted to catch the flu.”

Then there is the dangerous advice such as

8) Get off all medications that you can safely eliminate! Work with a naturopath to accomplish this, of course, as quitting medications cold turkey can also be dangerous. Most medications suppress your immune system, liver function, kidney function and even your reproductive function.

and

16) Have an emergency supply of colloidal silver available. Not only do you want the liquid colloidal silver, you may also want to consider an inhalable form of silver like what you’ll find in the Silver Lungs product. At the Natural News Store, we currently carry GHC’s colloidal silver product called Silver Fuzion, and we’ll soon be carrying Sovereign Silver products.

and the just plain goofy:

12) Move your lymph! Rebounders (mini trampolines) are great for this purpose. Jumping rope also works, as does just hopping in place for a few minutes each day. You can also do arm rotations and other simple movements to keep your lymph circulating. Lymph movement is crucial for immunity.

It is not, although there is this belief that lymph can stagnate, build up toxins and degrade immunity. This concept has as much basis in reality as qi and meridians. Finally there is

20) Laugh a little! Watch some comedy movies, or spend some fun time with family and friends. Laughter boosts immune function at many levels. It’s good for your body and your mental health. Find creative ways to expose yourself to comical situations and you’ll benefit as a result. :-)

Well, after reading the Natural News I should be immune to everything forever. Nothing incites laugher more than this odd collection of the good, the bad and the ugly.

** The Duck-Arizona football game is more interesting, so blame any errors today on my alma mater. Go Ducks.

* Ha. Just put that in there just to get your goat. An observation. I have given lectures for over 30 years. During the Clinton and Obama years I would make snide jokes about the powers that be and never had a complaint in the evaluations. Crack wise about a Republican and you will ALWAYS get a complaint. From that I conclude that Republicans are thin skinned whiney babies, although there may be other interpretations. Lets see if the comments confirm my bias.

Posted in: Herbs & Supplements, Humor, Science and Medicine, Vaccines

Leave a Comment (38) ↓

38 thoughts on “More Boosting

  1. DugganSC says:

    ^_^ As regards the Republicans, I think it’s got to do with a different mentality/structure. If you look at numbers, there tend to be more people registered as Democrats than Republicans. The Democrats also tend to be more fractured in splinter groups. Thus, the Republicans tend to instantly jump to the defense of their own, since they share more core values while the Democrats are more likely to let a member of the herd get picked off. After all, they have more where those came from.

    Or at least that’s my viewpoint on it. Take it as you will.

  2. DugganSC says:

    Regarding immune systems and colds, I was responding to a friend who’d posted a study regarding exercising while ill that involved injecting athletes with a cold virus and having them perform at various levels of exercise, then monitoring their symptoms (the takeaway was that mild to moderate exercise improved recovery. No exercise made the cold last longer and exercise to exhaustion made things much worse). I responded back that supposedly excessive exercise weakened the immune system, letting the cold take over. But then that conflicted with another study I’d run into where they claimed that the cold virus, such as it is, is pretty harmless, and it’s our immune system that actually makes us sick, much like how allergies can make harmless things like pollen and pet dander make us miserable, so weakening one’s immune system could actually be argued as helpful for shaking a cold.

    I guess my first question is, is the cold virus as harmless as they claim? On one hand, it sounds like something you’d get off of a SCAM site (“It’s not influenza making you sick. It’s medicine making you sick!”) but the sources actually look fairly reputable on it.

  3. rork says:

    “illogically claiming that your lack of immunity boosting somehow causes other people who are already boosted to catch the flu”
    I think that is one of my claims when I’m asking you to boost your immunity via flu vaccine, though I’d usually just have reduced to “causes other people to catch the flu”. And I do lay a guilt trip on them. So perhaps the illogic is about how effective the boost being considered is.

    I very much liked the article. Thankyou. [Flaps arms madly, for lymphs sake.]

  4. windriven says:

    Hmmm … I thought Mitt’s health plan was to repeal Obama’s health plan which was based on Mitt’s health plan.

    The traditional symbol of medical practice is the caduceus. I guess the symbol for Mitt’s health plan should be the Ouroboros.

  5. windriven says:

    @DugganSC

    “If you look at numbers, there tend to be more people registered as Democrats than Republicans.”

    True though there is only a 2% difference as of 2010.* The best news is those who identify as ‘Independent’ exceeds both.

    The problem IMHO with people who identify as Ds or Rs is that so often they let their labels do their thinking for them. Clan identity trumps the free exercise of intelligence.

    *http://www.gallup.com/poll/145463/democratic-party-drops-2010-tying-year-low.aspx

  6. Danio says:

    Good read!

    This line:

    Well, after reading the Natural News I should be immune to everything forever.

    boosted my immunity considerably.

    ** The Duck-Arizona football game is more interesting, so blame any errors today on my alma mater. Go Ducks.

    Sorry, this excuse was only good until midway through the 2nd quarter. Go Ducks!

  7. DugganSC says:

    @windriven:
    Huh. I hadn’t checked the figures lately. I’m mildly surprised at the number of Independents. Most people I know who vote independent of party still register with one or the other so they can have some influence on the primaries even if they don’t vote along party lines (back in 2007ish, I knew several people at Carnegie-Mellon who professed themselves Democrats but registered Republican because they wanted to mess with the primaries, but I’ll admit I largely categorized that as idle talk).

    I do agree that it would be nice if people didn’t vote entirely along party lines. In my opinion, straight-ticket voters are a cancer on the system secondly only to the masses of uninterested voters who get ferried to poll locations and plied with coffee and donuts to get them to vote for this party or that. Well, that or the ones who profess no knowledge of the issues and vote based on who they think looks better, but I hope that was an isolated case from back when Clinton was running.

  8. Jan Willem Nienhuys says:

    I am currently involved in a discussion with a youngster who argues as follows. There are methods of immunotherapy for cancer (monoclonal antibodies, dendritic cell therapy, treatment by citokines ect.). Major hsopitals all talk about it. So apparently a strengthened immune system can deal with cancer. Hence one is extra vulnerable when one’s immunesystem is weakened. Hence supplements are the way to go in preventing cancer.

    In other words, it’s regular medicine itself that inspires people to various kinds of nonsense.

  9. windriven says:

    @DugganSC

    “Most people I know who vote independent of party still register with one or the other so they can have some influence on the primaries…”

    It may have something to do with the increasing number of states with open primaries (17; still sadly a minority of states). The party primary system doesn’t seem to serve us well as the candidates selected are typically those who appeal to the purple vein and spittle wings of the respective parties. Then when nominated they have to find a way to trend toward sanity which leaves the voter to wonder whether Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde is the real candidate.

    In a sense that leaves most every politician a manchurian candidate. In the 2010 cycle Republican candidates who didn’t jump at the tinkle of the Tea Party bell had a very tough time indeed. And a similar case can be made for Democrats and, for example, the entitlement bell; they all know that the current system is unsustainable but reflexively oppose any meaningful proposal for reform. Sigh….

  10. Quill says:

    I’ve always had a soft spot for SCAM adverts that promise to “boost” my immune system. In my childlike way, I imagine myself drinking their potion and then suddenly getting all Incredible Hulk-like, ready to tear up any bacteria or virus that comes my way.

    My personal favorite is any product that claims it will “enhance your vision!” Ever since I read the early sci-fi authors I’ve always wanted to be able to see the infrared spectrum or even just have really spectacular nighttime vision. X-ray vision would be nice, too, as I could make a nice living inspecting building structures or guiding surgeons to tumors.

    Natural News. Ah such a place as that! When I first encountered it I thought it was a Weird Health News spin-off from The Onion. I really like their masthead boast, too: “Real News Powered by the People, Naturally.” My truly juvenile side has visions of Mr. Adams harvesting his own sulfurous methane and running his web servers on it. He’s reporting just today that some seafood may have been raised on animal feces. Shock! Manure used in farming? I’d no idea such barbaric practices were still pushed on us by the Big Scaries. Isn’t it all done naturally these days?

  11. Chris says:

    If I boosted my immune system it would succeed in its many attempts to kill me. My hands break out in a rash whenever I touch nickel, and every spring my face swells up and my throat closes due to alder pollen. My immune system is stupid, I prefer getting vaccines to make it smarter.

  12. “16) Have an emergency supply of colloidal silver available.” I think Natural News wants to turn people into Smurfs.

  13. Robb says:

    I used to read the occasional article on Natural News but soon realized it takes the Fox News super sensationalist approach to everything. Plus it’s lately gone off the deep end with the stock-your-bunker-the-end-is-nigh mentality.

    I agree that “boosting” a healthy immune system is non-sensical as a sales pitch and in reality would mean more pro-inflammatory. A more accurate, less sexy claim for vitamin D or zinc would be “factors in the maintenance of good health” or “supports a healthy immune system”.

    For those times when, whether through poor diet, lack of sleep, too much stress, etc. our immune systems drop below optimal and we are more susceptible to catching a cold/flu, I do find herbs like echinacea and elderberry effective though. Research wise, there is some supporting evidence and some elucidation of specific mechanisms of action. Research on echinacea has been mixed though and a wide variety of preparations and dosages makes it more confusing. Specific elderberry preparations have been found effective but the amount of research so far is much less than for echinacea.

  14. Scott says:

    @ Robb:

    So you admit the evidence is “mixed” at best, but believe they are effective anyway? On what grounds?

  15. @Chris: Whenever I hear someone talk about boosting their or their children’s immune system, I’m always tempted to ask why they would want to deal with an autoimmune disease.

  16. windriven says:

    @Robb

    “Research wise, there is some supporting evidence and some elucidation of specific mechanisms of action. Research on echinacea has been mixed though and a wide variety of preparations and dosages makes it more confusing. Specific elderberry preparations have been found effective but the amount of research so far is much less than for echinacea.”

    I do not claim encyclopedic familiarity with research on either echinacea or elderberry but what I have seen does not quite meet the standard of wishful thinking. Could you link to a couple of studies that you find to be of high quality that support the efficacy of either?

  17. Harriet Hall says:

    @Robb,

    “I do find herbs like echinacea and elderberry effective though.”

    So does a friend of mine. She says for the last 7 years, every time she has felt a cold coming on, she has taken Echinacea and she hasn’t had a cold in 7 years. Every time I have felt a cold coming on, I have NOT taken Echinacea, and I haven’t had a cold in 7 years either. My experience shows that NOT taking Echinacea is as effective for me as taking it is for her.

  18. Quill says:

    ^Dr. Hall: you’re probably getting a contact boost from your friend’s Echinacea-boosted immune system. She’s so boosted that it’s boosting out all over you! Boost-at-a-distance seems right in line with the other NattyNews claims. If you didn’t have such a boosted friend I bet somewhere there is a distance healing group that will take the Echinacea for you and keep you from getting colds.

  19. Harriet Hall says:

    @Quill,

    Contact boost? No way. My only contact with her in recent years has been through e-mails.
    Boost-at-a-distance? I can’t disprove that. Testing it would be a great Tooth Fairy Science experiment.

  20. weing says:

    ‘My only contact with her in recent years has been through e-mails” I hear that viruses can be transmitted through e-mails. Why can’t a contact boost be transmitted likewise?

  21. Robb says:

    I knew I was going to get jumped on :)
    Scott – I have found them effective personally – research wise, mixed (echinacea) or small numbers/preliminary studies (elderberry) is not enough for full acceptance but it is enough for people to be interested in trying them.
    Windriven – this is the most recent one and largest clinical trial to date:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3457740/pdf/ECAM2012-841315.pdf
    This is the Lancet 2007 meta-analysis:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17597571
    This is another meta-analysis from 2006:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16678640
    Harriet – if every time you have felt a cold coming on in the past 7 years, it got stopped in its tracks by your immune system/a good night’s sleep, then yours is tougher than mine! I don’t get colds often but one does occasionally get through. I also don’t always turn to echinacea – sometimes I just suffer through a few days of congestion.

  22. Harriet Hall says:

    @weing,

    I think you’ve got that wrong. It is the digitized electronic signature (frequency) of a viral antigen that can be transmitted through e-mails, not the virus itself.
    http://www.csicop.org/si/show/e-mailed_antigens_and_iridiumrsquos_iridescence/

  23. weing says:

    I stand corrected. I learn something new everyday.

  24. Quill says:

    Me, too, weing. I learn a lot everyday here. :-)

    And Dr. Hall? I like the idea of such a Tooth Fairy Science experiment. However, since it’s widely known that Echinacea doses can vary widely by brand, lot and bottle, I propose something more strictly regulated and reliable: brandy.

    This evening I shall have a brandy and soda at 5 and think very kind thoughts about you while doing so. Let me know if you feel tipsy, boosted or feel like you’ve just avoided a cold. I can do this for several other people and blog about it at NattyNews if the results are favorable. (If they’re not then of course it was everyone else’s imbalanced wang-chi-doodle that was blocking the flow of non-local, grape-based, pure distilled healing energies.)

  25. mousethatroared says:

    That is quite an analogy. Although first I read, ‘think of your body as a car that runs on meat” and I thought, “these silly doctors – cars don’t runs on meat!” Upon re-reading “Oh a Car MADE of meat” that makes perfect sense. :) Actually it does. It was a perfect illustration of how you can’t make something more optimal.

    I also thought, Ohhh sleep, (I usually get 3-7 hours) maybe that’s why I catch every cold around. (and misread simply analogies) But here’s the question, if I go to bed earlier, I won’t be able to watch my DVR’d Daily Show, which means I won’t get my chuckles in….laughter/sleep which is better for that optimized immune function? :)

    Currently I’m trying to confuse my immune system…not something you see advertised in the aisles of Whole Foods, So I’m left with the pharmaceutical approach (seeing as they haven’t invented injectable nano funhouse mirrors, yet).

  26. “Take the immune system. Please. It is not a bicep that can be made stronger with a little exercise.” Man, I really thought you were going to say that it was a, “system of tubes”. Hahaha! Ahhh…ok…good times.

  27. BillyJoe says:

    Robb, the point is, we don’t care about your personal anecdotes.

  28. Chris says:

    Yeah, because mine are more important! My immune system keeps trying to kill me! I bet I am allergic to more than one of those herbal things! Elderberry does have poisonous bits.

    Actually, no. That was a very bad joke. What is really true is that your immune system is very complicated. It is more affected by the codons in your own genetic code than by what you eat. I am presently trying to read Viruses, Plagues and Histories by Michael Oldstone. There is a whole chapter on immunity, but my eyes glazed over after dealing with the alphabet soup of immune agents. There is CD4 and CD8, then CTLA4, some MHC, plus lots of T and B things*.

    In other words: it is complicated. No special fruit compound is going to overcome your own special immune system. Especially if you are allergic to it.

    * I do listen to the three podcasts put out by Prof. Racaniello (This Week in Virology, This Week in Parasitism, and This Week in Microbiology), but I don’t understand it all. I really like the puns, and the histories… though even if you don’t understand the jargon you learn lots. Because it is very complicated.

  29. CC says:

    Hm, to pull a quote from one of the NN quotes: “Yeah, I know, it makes no sense, but then again the entire vaccine industry is based on the same fantasy logic as unicorns, fairies, leprechauns and garden gnomes.”

    I’ve noticed that the rhetoric of CAM has adopted a lot of the claims made against CAM, “they’re living in a fantasy world” or magic replacing science being the most recent one I’ve seen. (Maybe you folks more active in this field have seen it before, but this website is really my only systematic exposure to it. Aside from a few, er, conversations with friends and family about what a placebo effect is.)

    It really muddles the arguments when they look about the same on both sides to those who don’t already know; if somebody doesn’t know how to interpret scientific papers, how can they know that this published study in this publication is good quality while that published study in that publication is poor quality?

    Both science and CAM have studies. Both science and CAM say what the other offers doesn’t work and may/does harm. Both science and CAM state that the other has a profit motive for pushing what they prescribe. I’m sure there’s more.

    Never mind that reality, which is to say that which is left when you stop believing in it, does not support CAM as far as I’ve been able to parse with my chemical-but-not-medical background. The arguments superficially look the same.

  30. mousethatroared says:

    @Chris – hehe – actually, my sister is allergic to echinecea…makes her lips swell up.

  31. mousethatroared says:

    CC – You make an excellent point. As a laymen, I choose to go with the system that has a better documented track record. For treating injuries and diseases with clear cut symptoms and consequences like cancer, diabeties, congenital malformations of the heart, asthma, bacterial infections, which system gets better results?

    In fact I can’t think of one health problem that alternative medicine has documented better succes in treating than conventional medicine.

  32. Alia says:

    Over here we have a very wise folk saying, which goes like this: “A treated cold lasts seven days and an untreated cold lasts a week”. And folk wisdom also advises people suffering from cold just to take things easy for a while, eat well and drink hot liquids. Which may not always be helpful (although eating well even though you don’t fell like eating because you can smell nothing is rather reasonable) but it’s probably harmless. And cheaper than immune boosters.

  33. CC says:

    Mouse – there may not be any documented success with CAM, but there are plenty of poorly controlled studies and vast quantities of anecdotes. To somebody who thinks that all chemicals are bad (my pet peeve, being a chemical engineer) and is using Google to learn about something medical-related, those studies and anecdotes *are* documentation.

    In a way, relying on anecdotes makes a certain amount of sense. If you’re looking to buy a new product, wouldn’t you read the reviews on it to see if people who’ve bought it are happy with it? But those CAM “reviews” are muddled by the placebo effect, and by silencing of the negative reviews: I’ve seen it mentioned here that the cancer quacks don’t ever talk about the people who took their medicine and died anyway. And hey, lots of people got a cold, took vitamin C or echinacea or whatever, and then got better, so lots of good reviews saying it works. Clearly it was whatever they took, not their body doing what it would do anyway, right?

  34. mousethatroared says:

    CC – yes, I agree. I did not mean to say it wasn’t confusing for a layman to make these decision, only to say this is the approach that I’ve found helpful.

  35. mousethatroared says:

    nybgrus and anyone else – As DG points out, there were problem’s with the democratic structure in Germany that lead to Hitler being able to take control. I don’t have as good a grasp of those issues as I would like, since my main German history was learned in a college German films class*. But I know enough to observe that the saying “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.” Is more than a warning about individual ethics and predijuce. One needs to look at how government structures and decisions failed, to prevent similar catastrophes. This is the reason that the groundless accusations of communism and fascism (Where labels are empty synonyms for “bad”) from either the left or right, drive me batty. They only get in the way of a nuanced understanding of what mechanisms failed that will help us identify actual problems in governments today.

    DG posts are great for that, and amazingly brief (considering the source ;)) but I am also left wanting more.

    *Our Professor lived in Germany as a child, immigrated to the U.S. after Hitler established control and then served as a translator for the U.S. military in Postwar Germany and liked to lecture on films within the context of history and culture, so it was an extremely good class for learning history, but still…

  36. mousethatroared says:

    Shoot, wrong thread, sorry!

  37. Narad says:

    The traditional symbol of medical practice is the caduceus.

    Also analyzed by NN, as it happens. (The Ranger fails to bring it all the way home, though.)

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