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"Living with a born again wannabe naturopath" Topic

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Great War Ace Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 11:46 a.m. PST

"It's practices are riddled with quackery."

Boy howdy!

My wife, in pursuit of preserving and even regaining her health, has, for lo these c. eleven years, been in pursuit also of "alternatives." Her late father, ironically, spent his life as a gynecologist obstetrician, and a very good one. He tried lovingly to talk sense to my questing wife, mostly without effect. The most exercised area of my body is my right eyebrow. Likewise without effect, e.g. just now. I am tapping this out as a form of cathartic exercise.

We have a mutual friend, or rather a couple as mutual friends, who are utterly given over to naturopathy. "Sources" of "treatment" are shared with my wife, who literally gobbles them up.

Just now, she got off the phone with our son who has phlegm in his throat (originally I posted this under the false assumption that his one year-old son was the victim of phlegm; my wife got that wrong). Our son called his mother to ask what she would give him to fight off the phlegm. And she called her guru friend, who told her, and she told our son and he said "bring it to me." Ye gods.

I launched into the briefest of objections: "So you guys take all of the medical advances made in the last two hundred years, look at them like this" (miming a handful of odious crapola held at arm's length), "and then toss it all over your shoulder" (suiting action to words, more miming of the over the shoulder toss), "and then go looking for new stuff to 'cure' whatever it is. That, dear wife, is utter crap."

"No it's not, it giving an alternative without the potential side effects."

"Uh huh. If there are no potential side effects, there is no possible cure. Surely you can see the irrefutable logic in that?"

"No I can't. Some things are better than medicines and their side effects."

"All something that weak is, is a placebo. And how well do placebos work on a one year-old?" (Directionless argument, now, since it is our son and not grandson with the phlegm.)

Words wasted in the wind.

I could send a link to the Wikipedia page on "Naturopathy", but even as a non starter that would achieve nadda.

I am surrounded by well-meaning, deluded fools. They achieve some benefit, even a reversal of their poor health by practicing sound nutritional and exercise regimens. And they take that obviously effective change (away from the "traditional American diet") and run after "every wind of doctrine" that comes their way. And some even have the balls to call themselves "doctors", despite this being inarguably illegal.

Whenever my wife wants to know something, she calls "Dave" (who in the past, and possibly still) believes in the "energy fields" crap. And her "neurologist", who is a quack of the first order, imnsho, and of course her friend the guru down the street. I try to be polite about this fetish, because understanding is required of anyone in the grip of losing their health in midlife (or earlier, such as the "guru" girl experienced). But I can see my equanimity slipping away as time does also………..

Great War Ace Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 12:04 p.m. PST

Oh, the treatment is "mint".

Personal logo Saber6 Supporting Member of TMP Fezian20 Jun 2017 12:42 p.m. PST

Time to change the bank accounts?

boy wundyr x Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 1:08 p.m. PST

I have a close friend who's a gluten-free wingnut (she isn't one of the 1% that actually need to be gluten-free), who also undergoes a half dozen other mysteriously wondrous (and non-effective) treatments from her naturopath who apparently diagnoses everything by looking at your eyeballs.

I'd rather trust those Mongolian doctors who drink your urine to tell you what's wrong with you – they at least have skin in the game!

Ed Mohrmann Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 1:54 p.m. PST

It's really amazing. My wife, an RN with many years
practice as an oncology treatment nurse, gets 'phone
calls from her sister, who asks about random aches,
pains, etc.

Wife ALWAYS tells her 'Go see your doctor – I can't
diagnose from 600 miles away' only to be told 'Well,
Sarah (sis-in-law's neighbor) says I should be taking
vinegar and raisins for it – what do you think ?'

Same person 'takes the sun' in Winter as an aid to
digestion on the advice of another friend. I don't
know what 'takes the sun' means, but it is supposed to
be a 'natural treatment' of some sort.

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 2:19 p.m. PST

To quote the great philosopher Tim Minchin

"By definition", I begin
"Alternative Medicine", I continue
"Has either not been proved to work,
Or been proved not to work.
You know what they call alternative medicine
That's been proved to work?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 2:56 p.m. PST


Well, in many where the sick aren't taken to a real doctor in time and complications arise, the gurus and his/her followers will invariably turn the matter around and use it to demonstrate the failures of real medical care.

PS. In every aspect of my life "alternative" has always meant whatever you end up settling on when, for whatever reason, you can't get the real thing.

doug redshirt Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 3:27 p.m. PST

I work in a hospital and fortunately I work in a dark room with my face turned toward a monitor, so when patients tell me their wacko cures and ideas, they can't see me roll my eyes or silently groan in despair.

I have come to the conclusion that they no longer teach simple biology in school anymore, because the average American has no idea how their body works. What is even worse is that they can't even tell when they are being scammed anymore.

Nick Bowler20 Jun 2017 4:48 p.m. PST

+1 Saber6

Personal logo Wyatt the Odd Supporting Member of TMP Fezian20 Jun 2017 6:05 p.m. PST

If I may recommend:


The Credible Hulk:

Insufferably Intolerant Science Nerd:

They may not help you change their minds, but they will amuse you.


Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 6:39 p.m. PST

I'll add

By, among others, Drs. Steven Novella and Harriet Hall

GWA, unfortunately you can show your wife all the skeptical research and writings and it will do no good at changing her mind. When she is ready to apply some reason and logic to her medical issues then these writings will be there for her. Right now she is getting emotional support from her group of quacks, something that she isn't getting from proper medical practioners. It is a cliche, but "when the student is ready, the teacher will appear". She is not ready and you can't make her so.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP20 Jun 2017 7:19 p.m. PST

Maybe read this:


Great War Ace Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 10:13 p.m. PST

That is alarming. But then, Oregon is alarming.

Great War Ace Inactive Member20 Jun 2017 10:15 p.m. PST

I do the banking for this family. Any money that my wife uses comes through me first. We have agreed on a budget, and she must pay her "gurus" out of that. So far, mostly, it has been manageable. But this thing seems to be morphing. I don't know where it will wind up…………

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 4:53 a.m. PST

Hope things work out for you, GWA.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 7:18 a.m. PST

You can't use logic to convince people out of what they want to believe.
You may as well have a grim middle aged man in a suit holler at them (old commercial ("Bunk! Don't you believe it!") as try to reason with them.
Recommending websites? Seriously?

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP21 Jun 2017 10:54 a.m. PST

Winston: "You can't use logic to convince people out of what they want to believe."

That is definitely right. It wasn't logic that made her change her views, because that's not what cult gurus have. They play different mind games and know how to exploit emotions.


Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 3:34 a.m. PST

Recommending websites? Seriously?

I suppose sneering at those trying to help is a better tactic?

The references are for GWA's benefit now and maybe for his wife when she is ready for hearing another side of this issue. Until then, I'm sure GWA is going to find your "help" so useful.

Personal logo Patrick R Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 3:47 a.m. PST

What's the difference between a Bavarian "doctor" who created thousands of remedies based on the alleged effects of certain plants (found to be completely contradictory in many cases) around the 1850's and the guy who came up with the radium pill ?

Real answer it's all quackery. Double blind tests showed that there was no difference between a herbal pill said to do wonders for your bunions, a herbal pill laxative or a herbal pill to relieve headaches. They turned out to be universally exchangeable, ie not doing better than a placebo.

Things like snake-oil, radium pills or herbal remedies all date from an age where proper research were yet unknown.

The good news is that many radium pills didn't actually contain radium as it was very expensive and hard to get so they filled them with metal filings or even coloured sand. Sadly a few companies did sell radium, it worked fine until people's jaws came off …

Over the years we developed systems to make sure no idiot could actually sell radioactive radium pills and kill people, at the same time the harmless stuff, like herbal pills which contain very little active ingredient were seen as harmless. 90% of herbal pills is simply plant matter, if there is an active molecule it's present in tiny doses, not enough to have a measurable effect on people in most cases.

So herbal pills went under the radar because of the belief that if doesn't hurt you, why prohibit it.

And this is where the modern natural maffia comes in. While our esteemed Bavarian doctor back in 1850 may very well have genuinely believed he was making good and healthy medicine for people, the current industry is full of deluded people and a few very nasty people who have zero qualms about selling people deadly lies.

The neat trick is that the natural maffia has an arsenal of debunked snake oil that they have conflated with modern science because you can trust a Bavarian doctor's plant wisdom and can only boo and hiss at Marie Curie for having unleashed the evils of radiation upon an unsuspecting public. It doesn't matter that somewhere in the middle there are still naturopaths who will prescribe you radon gas therapy as being 100% natural, while Mercola loves to use it as fear tactic to promote his brand. "You won't find any evil science in my products !!!" It's all natural and we all know that mother nature is good, wholesome and healthy right ?

Remember kids, cobra bites are 100% natural too and so is the Gympie Gympie leaf, casually brushing against it can cause such pain that some people shot themselves because they couldn't stand it.

Personal logo Cacique Caribe Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 6:36 a.m. PST

Maybe by "herbal" the guru means a different "herb". :)


Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 7:44 a.m. PST

And there are instances where debunked snake oil therapies are actually useful. Radium is a good way to control prostate cancer metastases.

The problems with the "natural", "herbal", "holistic" etc medicines and therapies is that they do not have to answer to the same strict controls that a pharmaceutical drug does. Therefore there is no science and no proper methodology involved. So we are right back to the Bavarian herbalist of the 1850's.

Didn't know anything about the Gympie Gympie tree leaves. One more reason to stay away from OZ.

Great War Ace Inactive Member22 Jun 2017 8:12 a.m. PST

I read this thread to my wife, and she was quiet. We both agree that appeal to emotions is a lot of the power or attraction of these "natural remedies". And what is more emotion inciting than health or the looming threat to it?

In a way, this whole issue is immoral in its power over vulnerable people. To take a frightened person and "give" them some remedy, without evidence that it works or not, is a form of gambling and dishonesty. But when was quackery ever honesty?

My goal is to promote rationality in all of this. If one tries a thing while being rational about it, then money well spent will be money spent once and only once on a thing. Over time a lot of money gets spent looking. And experience with failure is bought and paid for in the looking: "Once burned twice shy", sort of thing. But only if my wife is rational about it. She is by nature a rational person, I've always thought. Proceeding through middle age does impose changes on our thinking. So, as I said, I don't know where all of this is leading………..

Nick Bowler22 Jun 2017 2:02 p.m. PST

More on Gympie Gympie!!! Truly amazing!! link

Fortunately I am at the other end of Australia. I only have to deal with the snakes :(

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 3:50 p.m. PST

I don't want to seem like I'm disparaging an entire country. OZ may have poisonous snakes, spiders, fresh water Crocs and trees that want to kill you but the biggest reason I won't visit is because I hate to fly.

I see you are in Tasmania……..good move. wink

Canada also has it's lethal wildlife but, quite honestly, the ones I could do most without are the mosquitoes and black flies. Bleeped texts are ruining a nice country.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP22 Jun 2017 3:54 p.m. PST

Sorry for the derail.

So, as I said, I don't know where all of this is leading………..

Hopefully no where bad. You both will get through. Here is a nice bit of advice for a similar situation from someone on the International Skeptics Forum:

"If there is any emotional investment in the belief at all, the reaction to it being questioned will almost always be to lash out at the questioner. I think the most that can usually be done is to plant a seed of doubt that may prompt the believer to reexamine their beliefs later, and find out for themselves if there was anything to the points that were made. This is best done, in my experience, by expressing genuine interest in the belief and asking polite, but penetrating, questions about it."

Charlie 12 Inactive Member22 Jun 2017 7:38 p.m. PST

Too true, Bowman. The truly awful cases of 'alternative medicine' are those where someone is reaching for a cure that just does not exist. I recall a local case of a young woman diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer (that's pretty much a death sentence with the cancer spreading to other organs. And the 5 year survival rate is all of 1%). Her family decided to take up with a homeopathic quack whose outrageous claims included curing such cancers. Well, after spending themselves into bankruptcy (and fattening the quack's bank account), the inevitable happened and woman died.

To my mind, a quack that feeds off the desperation of the sick is one of the worse parasites alive…

Great War Ace Inactive Member23 Jun 2017 8:00 a.m. PST

Fortunately, my wife's health as a vegan is pretty good. She doesn't feel sick, so she's not desperate. We have not attracted anyone fitting Charlie's description. May it ever be so, Amen!

Gunfreak Supporting Member of TMP23 Jun 2017 11:58 a.m. PST

My wife is working on her bachelor to become a pharmacist.
Much of her studies deal with medications. How/why they work. Side effects.
In Norway there are several classes.
Real medicine, that has many various sub classification.

Then you have nature medication(that has two classification. ) First have to have some proven documented effect. And safety controls (but much less than real medications) There is only three approved substance in this category. One is St John's wort. But it has a nasty effect of interacting with almost all other medications. So pharmacists are required by law to ask if you are on medications when you buy it.
The second category has even less requirements to proven documented effects. These are the traditional medication) only 5 are approved on the list.
The last is dietary supliments. No requirements at all to safety or proven effects. Only requirement is production standards. (So you don't get some e.coli with your ginseng. )
The description of dietary supplements for pharmacists basically says they should not recommended unless recommend by a doctor. Because normal healthy people don't need iron or vitamin c.

You also have homeopathic medicine.
The description guide for pharmacist basically says this has no proven effects what so ever. But we are required to stock it because of EU regulations. There is a ban on advertising homeopathy. It's also iligal for homeopathic medication to claim it has any curative effects.

There is no requirement for pharmacis to keep homeopathy out in the store.

Charlie 12 Inactive Member23 Jun 2017 7:05 p.m. PST

GWA- And may it continue so for many, many, many years!!

napthyme Sponsoring Member of TMP24 Jun 2017 11:35 a.m. PST

Looks like I am on the other end of this argument. I have not seen a "Dr" in over 25 years. Without alternatives I would not be here today.

Most Dr's own a "practice". I don't want someone who is practicing to be a Dr I want someone who knows what the L there there doing.

In the rare chances when I do get sick these days I know what to do for it and take care of myself.

Personal logo Bowman Supporting Member of TMP24 Jun 2017 6:27 p.m. PST

Most Dr's own a "practice". I don't want someone who is practicing to be a Dr I want someone who knows what the L there there doing.

You are conflating the noun and the verb. And the wrong they're, there.

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