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Hoof in Mouth disease

Thanks to Orac at Respectful Insolence, I've been able to keep up on what HuffPo is writing about health issues, without, you know, actually having to read the damn thing.

(I prefer to keep my IQ as intact as possible, thank you.)

One of their "health contributors" wrote an article about how colonics can protect you against Swine Flu (the link goes to the post about it at RI, not HuffPo itself, though there are links, if you must).

Now, I'm very fond of this humour piece on colon health I wrote years ago (which is why it's on my site, natch), but for Deity's sake, have we not given up on the idea that flushing warm water up your backdoor does nothing but clean out feces that was on its way out anyway, just a bit faster? And that for some people, it's actually bad to persist in high pressure "colonic irrigation" (diverticulitis, IBS, Crohn's, Coeliac) because it can cause damage to the delicate lining of your inner sanctum?

No, clearly not.

As blogs like RI point out, the field of quack medicinery (not a word, but then, this isn't a science, is it?) is rife with idiotic ideas, most of them expensive but relatively harmless (if you want to spend a bunch of money trying to coax "toxins" out of your feet with sticky pads that turn brown, be my guest).

However, some of them are idiotic and deeply harmful, like the Anti-Vaccination (I will not link to their awful site, but one of their spokespeople, Jenny McCarthy, has called autistic kids kidnapped and soul-less, and another has posited that autism should be called "Mad Child Disease") movement, who claim that vaccines cause Autism, even though the researcher who claimed to have proved this falsified his findings, and no prior or subsequent study has been able to find a link, and has been responsible for the rising incidence of childhood diseases, some of which have been fatal (warning: really, really sad story. Link thanks to Hoyden About Town)... *

(sorry, that shit winds me up, and I start ranting)

...Or touting colonics as a way to protect yourself from Swine Flu.

(The only giggle-worthy part of that piece is when she appears to be saying that they had vaccines back in 1918. And I'm being generous when I say "appears"; the wording of the sentence is such that she really sounds like she's saying that the people who got colonics did better than the people who got vaccinated - in 1918. Whether it's bad writing or bad research - and why can't it be both? - it's funny in a horrible kind of way.)

One of the more annoying things for me is that pseudoscience is considered somehow more noble than regular medicine - it's sticking it to "The Man", and his insatiable greed for money, money, money. It has real results - just look at all the testimonials! It's advertised on TV! Catalogues come in the mail! And it's so easy! No waiting! No side effects! Boundless energy - you're free of all those "toxins"!

(No-one has ever been able to pin down for me what all those "toxins" actually are, and why, in healthy people, are their liver, kidneys, and intestines are not perfectly capable of filtering them out? All the real toxins I can think of - such as heavy metal poisoning - cannot be removed by anything short of major medical care, and often not even then.)

-And that opens the door for soul-less, empty, sorry excuses for human beings to promote themselves on the back of people who really suffer, and are willing to follow anyone who claims to provide an answer to the unanswerable, and a cure for the incurable.

Far from being "The Man", the real person getting the stick is the desperate person who buys into this crap. It's not just the sap who pays $500 for a series of cupping therapies; these people are often strapped for cash, unable to get health insurance, and otherwise vulnerable to the cash-on-the-table, cure-all approach of bastard scam artists. I don't really give a damn if rich people want to spend thousands on ridiculous "spa" treatments, but I care very much if someone is spending their food or rent money on therapies that claim to cure cancer. That shit right there? Is evil**.

Besides, if Alternative Medicine is so different from regular medicine, which as everyone (*pause for eye roll*) knows, is all about money, not health, then why does the alternative stuff cost such a huge amount? I'm not saying the health care profession is perfect - having come into intimate contact with it for years now, I am deeply aware of its failings - but surely, if Alternative Medicine only cares about you and your health, not like those money-grubbing doctors (*pause for expressive spitting noise*), shouldn't it be low cost or free? After all, it's about treating people.

(*pause for expression of trancendental piety*)

Ugh. In most of these "therapies", the only thing I see being removed from my body is money.

I have used herbal remedies for things - I like my aromatherapy, and my Magic Stick balm, but those are both proven workers for me. On the other hand, I sincerely doubt that wearing a pretty glass pendant is going to do anything for my well-being.

(In fact, at that price, I think it's a bit detrimental to my overall health. Severe financial anemia is a dangerous condition.)

There's alternative, and there's "Alternative!!!", you know? Supplemental medicine is a valuable part of anyone's medical toolbox, and new benefits of various natural substances are being found all the time (though I would appreciate it if we could lay off the pomegranate-with-everything kick. While I like the fruits - mostly for the play value - the juice tastes like ass). But most of the therapies that are featured on Respectful Insolence's Friday Woo and the James Randi blog are simply various forms of vacuum devices for sucking the money out of your wallet. Most of them have been easily disproved, and they simply play on the idea that all "modern" medicine is evil, therefore all alternatives must be great.

It must be nice to live in such a black and white world.

Personally, I have a hard time with the idea - I think herbal medicine is underused, but I also think homeopathy is magical thinking (and have never had it work for me). I have, in my desperation to be free of pain, tried all sorts of odd things, and I have the copper "magnetic" bracelets to prove it. I draw the line at soaking my feet in brown water, though.

I think people buy into the idea of alternative therapies (the one with absolutely no proof of efficacy, which is, sadly, most of them) because they want a "magic" cure for what ails them. Especially when what ails them is getting older and, eventually, dying (one out of every one person dies, it are a fact). From the ancient philosophers to the Real Housewives of Orange County, people dream of living forever, or at least of staying young, fresh and vital until they keel over, preferably after about 150 years. People are terrified of growing old and infirm, and they'll pay any amount of money to prevent that from happening.

As the great Marie Wilcox-Little so beautifully demonstrates, growing old is not for sissies, but it isn't the end of the world, either. However -  accepting alternative therapies without demanding proof that they are safe and efficacious, while at the same time declaring that things like vaccines are dangerous without considering the consequences to everyone who listens to you?

Or saying that Swine Flu is caused by illegal immigrants, not tourists who have the money to fly all over the world, and like a cheap holiday?

Y'all please excuse me; I need to take more headache pills, since the alternatives I've tried aren't doing a damn thing.

*(Please Note: I sympathize deeply with anyone who has an autistic familiy member, but the science over the involvement of vaccinations in autism is not there. If you feel a mad need to argue with me, stay polite, and be prepared for me to ignore you completely, because my mind is pretty made up on this one - as I'm sure, is yours. Therefore, us debating this matter is about as useful as putting tap shoes and a hair bow on a healthy pig and calling it "Swine Foo". Thank you.)
**ETA: For another look at the kind of harm "alternative" medicine can cause, go here (WARNING: Graphic images).


( 66 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )
Apr. 30th, 2009 12:39 pm (UTC)
Bravo on the ICON. It's perfect.
Apr. 30th, 2009 12:57 pm (UTC)
I lifted it from Respectful Insolence. :)
(no subject) - elasait - Apr. 30th, 2009 11:18 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2009 12:44 pm (UTC)
Colonics. Riiiiiiight...

How about not using disinfectant on everything until the only bugs that survive are the ones that can't be stopped by normal antibiotics? How about that for preventive maintenance?

Apr. 30th, 2009 12:56 pm (UTC)
But Kass, if we don't wrap the kids in antibiotic clothing, and bleach everything they touch, wouldn't we all be bad parents? Gaaach!!
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Home made yogurt - virginiadear - May. 1st, 2009 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
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Apr. 30th, 2009 01:13 pm (UTC)
I enjoyed your piece on colon health.

We have a running joke in our house that I have the luck to always (and I really do mean always) find the channel which is running the informercial for Colon Cleanse. If I fall asleep with the TV on, I'll wake up with Colon Cleanse. I turn on the TV, it's colon cleanse. I change the channel....
My fiance says the TV is trying to tell me something.
But, the infomercial is pretty much the same as the mailer (except with a squirrly-looking fellow who looks like he used to sell bad used cars) telling you what size, shape and texture your movements should be. Ick.

Not the most pleasant way to wake up at 2am. But he must be making a mint with as often as they have him on TV. *sigh*
Apr. 30th, 2009 01:17 pm (UTC)
It's either in a medical textbook or in something like Merck's Manual, that the 'cure' for unsatisfactorily sized, shaped, textured, colored or smelling movements is to *stop inspecting them.*
Just quit paying attention to them: *snap of fingers* problem solved.
Apr. 30th, 2009 01:14 pm (UTC)
"Or saying that Swine Flu is caused by illegal immigrants, not tourists who have the money to fly all over the world, and like a cheap holiday?"
With utmost respect but to be scientifically correct: It isn't tourists, nor immigrants whether illegal or otherwise, which are causing Swine Flu. Influenza is *caused* by a virus; the immigrants, illegal or landed or what-have-you, and the tourists, are presumed to be spreading the infectious agent (makes sense to me.)
Apr. 30th, 2009 01:24 pm (UTC)
Good point. :) Tourists can only cause the little-known disease "Obnoxiosis Totalis", which is characterized by loud speech patterns and an uncontrollable urge to taunt Buckingham Palace guards.
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Apr. 30th, 2009 01:56 pm (UTC)
Hear! Hear!

My boyfriend has a colonic cleansing every morning like clockwork, and more so if the food doesn't agree with him, or if life is stressing him out, or if the weather is crazy pressure-changing like today. Yay! IBS!

Is what is going on in your mouth a cold sore or an apthous(sp?) ulcer? Jeff gets them as well, thanks to the auto-immune issues. He hasn't found much that gets rid of them, or heals them faster than usual. Cloves stop the pain, there's a mouthwash that cauterizes them but it's prescription-only, but they still take about 12 days to heal.

I wonder if my grandmother's pork business has dropped any this week from the stupidity.
Apr. 30th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
The sores are just little ulcers - I get them when I'm stressed. I use Gyl-Oxide, which seems to work as well as anything.
(no subject) - textileowl - Apr. 30th, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
Apr. 30th, 2009 02:52 pm (UTC)
last big cancer meeting I went to, there was a whole track of seminars and discussions on alternative medicine and its application in the treatment of malignancy and the associated pathologies.

I was expecting some hippy dippy to be up there waving his hands and crystals to a room of grumpy old white guys and what I saw was a measured discussion of the real body of scientific studies regarding the use of acupuncture, meditation and herbs. There is actually an entire foundation dedicated to scientific testing of various alternative therapies and the publication of the results.

the audience was still mostly old white guys (it was the AACR meeting after all ;)) but they were interested and asked intelligent questions.

warmed the cockles of my heart, it did :)

the consensus was that there was indeed a place for alternative therapies in the treatment of cancer. herbs are chemicals, same as any other. unfortunately because they're not regulated, we dont know how much active compound is in them, but a number of "western" cancer treatments are actually formulated from those herbs (taxol comes to mind right off) . Even meditation and acupuncture showed real clinical benefit in the treatment of chemo induced nausea and pain management.

the biggest take home was that we dont understand the role of the brain and nervous system in the immune system ,but we do know they are linked (we have an entire research department at work looking at this :)). Energy lines? closely align with the lymphatic system, whcih is the highway for the immune system.

as a cancer scientist, I dont discount anything out of hand...
Apr. 30th, 2009 03:07 pm (UTC)
What I find hysterical is that we "need" colonics to get rid of harmful bacteria and then "need" yogurt to get back the good bacteria (that we flushed out with a colonic??). To me Jamie Lee Curtis is more believable than the colonic people, but I really only eat yogurt for the calcium. And, I'll take my pomegranate with Vodka, please.
Apr. 30th, 2009 04:24 pm (UTC)
Someone at work did a naturopathic allergy testing. Now, I'm all for exploring 'natural remedies' (heck, taking extra vitamen D lately has kept me from murdering people), but holding a copper rod while someone prodded you with another one attached to a machine seems a bit too wierd for me. She came back with a list of 'bad foods' as long as her arm, some of it was super-specific, and other parts were really vague (i.e., chocolate- do you mean the cacao bean itself, or stuff that's in manufactured chocolate).

I'm also on the 'calm down, it's a flu, not the end of the world' boat for swine flu. I live in Toronto, and was there during SARS. I have yet to even meet someone who was quarantined (and I worked at a school during that time), and while I certainly feel for anyone who was sick or had a family member die (since it was a very serious illness), I'm tired of people hyperventilating over something that should be dealt with much more sensibly- i.e., washing your hands, staying home if you do have flu symptoms, both of which should be followed ANYWAY. It only makes things worse to over-react over such things, sigh.
Apr. 30th, 2009 05:20 pm (UTC)
Healthiest person I ever knew was my street-dwellin’, couch-surfin’, straight-edge punk friend “Trash” in San Diego. The man regularly ate the left-over’s off of strangers plates at the dive dinner we frequented at 2:00 AM after club shut down.

He. Never. Got. Sick. When everyone around him was ‘ded wit de illnez’ of the week, Trash would be up and bouncing all over the place.

I wouldn’t recommend a left-over’s diet…but it seemed to work for him…*chuckle*
Apr. 30th, 2009 11:50 pm (UTC)
Colonics and swine flu, quackery
Quote "but surely, if Alternative Medicine only cares about you and your health, not like those money-grubbing doctors (*pause for expressive spitting noise*), shouldn’t it be low cost or free? After all, it’s about treating people."

In Oregon I'm a licensed primary care physician called a Naturopathic physician. The reason I must charge money is I have student loans and overhead, just like every other physician. Although I don't believe colonics and crystals can cure or keep away the swine flu, science based alternative and natural medicines do help people. Naturopathic physicians in licensed states have the training and the knowledge to know when we can help and when the patient needs conventional care. So please don't bash all alternative providers. Thanks.
May. 1st, 2009 12:17 am (UTC)
Re: Colonics and swine flu, quackery
I thought it was pretty clear I was bashing people who make money off selling nonsense and lies to people. I don't have any problem with any kind of therapy that is proven through scientific testing to work.

I have a severe problem with people who prey on the vulnerable, the poor, and the desperate, pushing "miracle cures" that are anything but. Those same people push the idea that conventional doctors are only out to get your money, then charge outrageous fees for ineffective (and sometimes harmful - see last link) care.

May. 1st, 2009 12:45 am (UTC)
of course you could ascribe to the new age thought of "If you had a positive attitude, you wouldn't be sick!" or "You need to stop 'owning' your illness to let it go and be well" or other folderol.

sigh. morons.
May. 1st, 2009 01:41 am (UTC)
First, I want your icon.

Second, Brava!!!

I have an "autistic" daughter, which I think you know about already.

I would like to drown Jenny McCarthy and her ilk. Including the next yutz who suggests to me that I can "cure" her with a Heavy Metal Detox. And the first person who tells me that they don't vaccinate their child will bring the Wrath of the Fries Woman down upon their heads. If their kids is in my district - I will follow it by bringing the Wrath of the Department of Health down on them as well.

I am a hard scientist. Because I'm a Hard Scientist with strong Libertarian/Capitalist leanings, I essentially got run out of Academia on a Rail. Very few things irritate me more than Bad Science. It puts my blood pressure into the stratosphere. Followed immediately by media misinterpretation of science in any form.

The whole "swine" flu thing is a case in point. Um, blame the pigs cause why? It isn't a "pig" flu. It's a form of influenza designated H1N1 that happens to have the ability to jump the species barrier - a relative rarity in viruses. (No, your dog didn't catch your cold. Really). In this particular case, I did my Senior These on Antigenic Shift and Drift in Influenza Virus. The overheads are probably around here somewhere. I'll spare everybody the Long Mode.

"Alternative" medicine frankly makes me bang my head on the wall. My mother gets me a subscription every year to Prevention - aka "The National Journal of the Endowment for Perpetual Anxiety." Even Dad suggested that my husband try banana peels for his psoriasis. John commented that monkeys might chase him, but he'd try it. *eye roll* And that one is in the "Harmless but silly" category.

The latest bit was the woman who told me that she is using "natural heartworm preventative." Yeah.... can't wait to see those tests turn positive next year.

*pound, pound, pound*
May. 1st, 2009 12:05 pm (UTC)
Doubtless I wasn't paying sufficient attention when Ms. McCarthy was on whatever program it was (at whatever hour it happened to be) but I *thought* she was going on about candida in the alimentary tract being responsible for her son's autism and that of a given percentage of the rest of the population. Is it now heavy metals instead of, or in addition to, the candidiasis?
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - May. 1st, 2009 02:11 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - femkederoas - May. 1st, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
May. 1st, 2009 03:45 am (UTC)
Supplemental medicine is a valuable part of anyone's medical toolbox

That's another point Orac makes often (I'm a fan of his too).

He points out that "alternative" medicine is big on things like eating a healthy diet, getting adequate sleep and exercise, learning stress-management techniques, et cetera. But to listen to some alternative folks, they seem to think that these ideas are their exclusive property.

Yet I hear plenty of the same advice from my conventional doctors. Not everything requires a pill or surgery.
May. 1st, 2009 03:51 am (UTC)
Personally I just get tired of people telling me how my Crohn's would be absolutely cured if I would just "go gluten-free, sugar free, lose weight, gain weight, stop taking prescriptions, meditate, etc." I am doing the best I can with the knowledge I (and my doctor) have and if I honestly thought skipping sugar would fix me forever I would (SIGH).

I am all for reasonable and well-thought experimentation. I also believe that modern and alternative medicines can and should be combined. In the last year I have doubled one med and added two others but I have also added probiotics (to fix gut bug balance) and coconut oil (to aid in Vitamin D absorption).

It really scares me when people advocate ditching all prescription meds in the hope that alterna-med du jour will keep me from more surgery.
May. 1st, 2009 04:27 am (UTC)
A friend of my sister's was in the newspaper last week because the expensive medicine that might help his Crohn's disease is not government subsidised and would cost thousands a year which he can't afford. Anyway, afterwards he got a lot of visitors and phone calls with all sorts of suggestions like you mention, and special diets, and all sorts of weird stuff. I don't know if Crohn's is special this way - in attracting random cures and people who want to recommend them - or if it's like this for all illnesses. I can't remember the best ones now - one guy who actually had Crohn's recommended something really odd that tasted disgusting that he said helped, which I wish I could remember because it was so bizarre.
(no subject) - (Anonymous) - May. 1st, 2009 02:34 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - femkederoas - May. 1st, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 66 brains — Leave a chunk of brain! )

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