From Abracadabra to Zombies
reader comments: naturopathy
18 May 2012
Greetings Mr. Carroll:
As a guy with a science background myself who prides himself on being an "evidence-based-critical-thinker", I can appreciate skepticism and skeptic dictionaries more than most people.
In reading your "naturopathic medicine" section, I actually laughed out loud. As someone who is married to and works with a naturopath and has several naturopathic doctor friends here in Ontario Canada (where it is regulated), your description of naturopathy is way off. It's so inaccurate that it might actually serve to be mildly entertaining if it wasn't actually damaging to those of us like my wife and myself are well educated and have piles of scientific data to support the use of legitimate therapies (and no they are not published in alternative medicine weekly).
As somebody in the field of nutrition who spends at least an hour per day pouring over pages of evidence published in peer reviewed journals such as JAMA, the Lancet, Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Journal of Pediatrics etc that justify the use of what some people consider to be "alternative medicine", I can't help but notice that you've cherry-picked your "further reading" articles in a rather one-dimensional way. The words "alternative medicine" include everything from crystal healing therapies all the way up to the use of Omega 3 fats for high blood pressure with the former being completely unsubstantiated to the latter being completely mainstream with a long list of "holistic" therapies waiting in line to be accepted by anyone with the ability to spend an afternoon with some scientific journals, attend a University lecture on applied nutrition, or become familiar with "alternative medicine products" approved (with health claims) by Health Canada, or even better, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration in light of evidence.
I love to lay smack-down on pseudoscience as much as anyone when it's appropriate, but I think your perspective on naturopathy needs to be reconsidered. Naturopaths don't use sunlight, air or water therapies, and if they are, they didn't graduate from an accredited school (there's lots of fakers out there), or should have their license revoked. I can appreciate your desire to enlighten the public about quackery and I'm completely in support, but laying down an agenda or using biased sources to fuel your posts makes me a bit skeptical of the accuracy of your information.
reply: I'll let my Canadian colleagues respond. See Skeptic North for more about naturopathy in Canada.
02 Nov 2003
I noticed your reading list isn't quite up to speed at the end of your naturopathy definition! If you want to understand how naturopaths understand disease you should pick up books like Robbins Pathological Basis of Disease, Medical Physiology [by Guyton and Hall], or Medical Microbiology [by Mims et al.]. These are the books that I studied out of the last two years at naturopath college. As a matter of fact, our Dean of Education decided to take the majority of our science books straight off the UBC [University of British Columbia] medical school book list. I even bought my textbooks at the UBC medical bookstore, if you can believe that! Whenever I want to study I use the references at the UBC medical libraries and websites like Medline Plus. If you want to understand naturopathic philosophy, books like The Web That Has No Weaver, or The Organon might give you a start.
reply: I'm glad to hear that you are not opposed to conventional medicine and find it essential to your studies.
Holistic to us is understanding how all the organs in the human physiology work together as a system, something that is blatantly obvious and as simple as kindergarten but still most MDs can't understand.
reply: Well, maybe I spoke too soon. I think MDs are as capable as you are of understanding how human physiology works. I'm glad to hear, however, that holistic doesn't mean you must understand how the organs relate to the spirit or soul.
As far as diagnosis is concerned, I just recently diagnosed my mother with a textbook case of gallstones [see Robins for referral], pain referral to just under the right scapula and the whole shebang, it couldn't have been any easier! The symptoms were point for point right from the textbook, but somehow the team of specialists working on her case missed it! I'm only in third year at the college too! Some of her doctors are pushing 50.
I'll fill you in on another secret, understanding the basics in diagnosing immune disorders isn't rocket science, to be a top notch specialist is, and that requires extra years at school that most regular GPs don't get [unless they specialize]. At our student clinic they do numerous blood draws everyday so they can get a WBC [white blood cell] differential and see if any immune cell levels are off. It is true that a lot of the time our patients are prediagnosed, but we are asked to REdiagnose because a lot of the time they are MISdiagnosed. Life isn't easy as a naturopath, especially with so many ignorant people out there misunderstanding and miseducating about what we do. I invite you to our school to have a tour, sit in on some of our classes, and talk to some students before you make any more incorrect judgments about us. Naturopaths learn in psychology class that judgment fosters anger. This is bad for the spirit.
Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine
reply: Thanks for the invite, but it is a bit of a trip to British Columbia from California.
I think your psychology texts are correct. Your anger toward conventional medicine is transparent, yet you claim to study the same materials.
You advise that I read The Web That Has No Weaver and the Oraganon. The first is a book about traditional Chinese medicine. Can you really say with a straight face that you would rather be treated as a peasant in China might be treated instead of as a conventional doctor in the U.S. would treat you? The second is Hahnemann's book on homeopathy. Enough said.