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Posted by on Aug 13, 2014 in featured, Life, Medicine, Skepticism | 20 comments

Holistic Medicine

Someone who is moderately famous (and I had much of a crush on in the mid to late 80s) is promoting a doctor of holistic medicine. In reality, he’s a chiropractor.

I suspect that I have a very different definition of what holistic medicine is from these kinds of people. My definition of holistic medicine is treating all aspects of a disease or injury. That would include genetic components. It involves finding the root cause of an issue and fixing it. While dealing with symptoms is important, it is (even in modern medicine) not possible to find the real problem, so all we can do is treat the symptoms.

A friend has a thyroid problem. No one knows what the problem is, just that the thyroid isn’t working correctly. It could be a genetic problem. It could be an injury (somehow). It could be a viral or bacterial infection.  The solution is pills to provide the things that the thyroid should be producing. A true holistic medical system would be able to find the problem and fix it. A therapy to replace hormones or whatever would only be needed for a short time while the thyroid is rebuilt, replaced, or altered in order to function correctly. Not, a series of pills every day for the rest of the person’s life.

That is what I mean by holistic medicine. Fixing the actual problem and treating everything that is connected to that system.

According to the American Holistic Medicine Association,

Holistic medicine is the art and science of healing that addresses care of the whole person – body, mind, and spirit. The practice of holistic medicine integrates conventional and complementary therapies to promote optimal health, and prevent and treat disease by addressing contributing factors. Holistic healthcare practitioners strive to meet the patient with grace, kindness, acceptance, and spirit without condition, as love is life’s most powerful healer.

In practice, this means that each person is seen as a unique individual, rather than an example of a particular disease. Disease is understood to be the result of physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental imbalance. Healing, therefore, takes place naturally when these aspects of life are brought into proper balance. The role of the practitioner is as guide, mentor and role model; the patient must do the work – changing lifestyle, beliefs and old habits in order to facilitate healing. All appropriate methods may be used, from medication to meditation.

I have a significant number of problems with the claims and statements made in this statement. I will deal with them, somewhat out of order.

First, I totally agree that patients should be treated with grace, kindness, and acceptance. That, in my opinion, is a fundamental role of a doctor. They are there to make you healthier, cure disease, and repair injuries. Not to judge, condone or condemn. One shouldn’t get poor doctors because one is poor, or homosexual, or trans, or needing an abortion, or atheist or any other color, creed, status, etc. etc. etc.

This is the standard for all doctors. Anyone who doesn’t think that can be a fine researcher, CDC first responder, or whatever, but they probably shouldn’t be a doctor that deals directly with patients.

I also agree that diseases should be treated with the whole person in mind (see my thoughts above) AND an eye toward the emotional well-being of the patient and their family. I believe that it is true that emotional health can have a significant impact on physical health. I do disagree about the “spirit”, that’s just emotional health as well.

I also agree with treating people as an entire system. By promoting good health (scientific, evidence-based good health) doctors can influence the effects of diseases on people. A bought of the flu that’s a 2 day annoyance for a healthy person in their 20s to 40s can be deadly to a octogenarian. Of course that can go the other way too. A 30 something in very poor health can be killed by a flu while a 90 something in excellent health will be fine.

Then, this statements jumps on the train for woo- town. And far too many people are along for the ride.

Disease is NOT “understood to be the result of physical, emotional, spiritual, social and environmental imbalance.” Disease is caused by known factors. Predominately viruses and bacterial infections. Some of what we call diseases are genetic in nature. Tay-Sachs disease is a recessive genetic disorder. The disease results in a progressive deterioration of nerve cell. Mental and physical facilities deteriorate as well and the person dies… usually about the age of 4. The oldest known person with Tay-Sachs was eight years old when she died. (That’s a pretty heart wrenching link there.)

 There is presently no way to restore the proper balance of alleles to a person with Tay-Sachs. There is no medication or meditation that will repair damaged genes. There are breathtakingly few medicines that will work on viral infections. You either get better or you die. Medicine can provide supportive care, preventing or reducing symptoms so the body isn’t overwhelmed with multiple issues, but even the best modern medicine can’t cure a viral infection. Your body has to.

The patient must do the work? Arguably, the statement I just made about the body’s ability to fight viral infections is similar. But look at what they think you should do? Change your beliefs? That doesn’t affect medicine… unless you change from a faith that doesn’t allow medical intervention to one that does.

Notice what the role of the practitioner is not. It is not to determine what medical tests are appropriate. It is not to evaluate the results of those scientifically proven tests. It is not to determine what treatments will be effective or dangerous for you.

Their role is to tell you what is wrong with you as a person and then tell you to change into what they think is a better person.

Do you know what they call alternative medicine that works?

Medicine.

We know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that prayer doesn’t help in medical matters. My chapter in 13 Reasons To Doubt covers this extensively. Including almost 200 children that would be alive if they had seen a doctor. Instead, they are dead due to prayer.

We know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that homeopathy doesn’t work. Indeed, some of its primary claims are the exact opposite of what evidence-based medicine is. It doesn’t work. It cannot work.

I want to see the holistic people try and deal with a hospital trauma ward or ebola.

What do the AHMA people do?

 Today, our members are holistic practitioners, organizational leaders, supporters, authors, and speakers. 

You know, the things that raise tons of money, but they don’t actually have to do anything. I rarely see people who work at the CDC as authors, except in research journals. I do hear of them speaking, but at medical conferences… not hotel ballrooms with hundreds of wealthy people who want to feel better about themselves.

Yes, there are people on the board that are licensed medical doctors. There are also people with Ph.D.s in biology who reject evolution. There are people who are climate scientists who reject anthropogenic global warming.

I have long given up on saying that one group is correct based on degrees-conferred, licenses held, and books published. None of that has anything to do with evidence.

The people on the board of that organization have not published papers in peer-reviewed literature that directly support their claims.

It’s not hard to understand that eating healthy will help you be healthy. It’s not hard to understand that being stressed out will make you feel bad and leave you vulnerable to diseases.

But meditation and living off the dew of a single ginkgo leaf and the energy of the universe will not cure HIV, ebola, Tay-Sachs, amputations, trauma, allergies, or anything else.

Please, for your own safety, if you are sick, see a doctor. If the doctor starts talking about eating healthy and meditation, walk away. Go find one that will actually figure out what is medically wrong and develop a plan to fix or mitigate the real issue as much as medically possible.

 

  • RexTugwell

    Please, for your own safety, if you are sick, see a doctor. If the
    doctor starts talking about eating healthy and meditation, walk away. Go
    find one that will actually figure out what is medically wrong and
    develop a plan to fix or mitigate the real issue as much as medically
    possible.

    This was a pretty good article, Smilodon. However, I’m afraid if I followed your advise I’d be in much, much worse shape than I am today. About 10 years ago I was diagnosed at a young age with supposedly incurable rheumatoid arthritis. It got so bad I couldn’t even hold my coffee cup with one hand and I would hobble into work because my joints were so painful. As you can guess, I had everyone praying for me.

    My rheumatologist wanted to start me on methotrexate which posed a risk of liver and lung failure. Plaquenil caused retinal damage. These meds would only mitigate the damage done by the disease, not cure it. I told him I’d think about it (with no intention of ever taking these drugs). I knew there had to be a better treatment. I don’t think we give enough credit to the God-given abilities of our body to heal itself. Shortly after my visit with the good doctor, an acquaintance told me about a juice fast he was on. So for two full weeks I consumed nothing but vegetable and fruit juices. And what do you think happened? No more pain, no more swelling. My doctor confirmed that my RA was gone. In the 10 years since, I haven’t needed so much as an aspirin. In addition, the allergies I’ve suffered from every spring since 5th grade are also gone. Oh and my eyesight improved to 20/20.

    Was the cure of my arthritis and allergies 100% natural? Of course. But my running into the person who told me about the juice fast was, I believe, providential. God is good…all the time.

    One last thing. I was contacted on a couple occasions by a major research hospital wanting to do a study on the effect of RA medication. I said I don’t take the medication because I don’t have RA anymore. I told them I did a juice fast for 2 weeks and it was gone. They said “That’s interesting” and I never heard from them again.

    • SmilodonsRetreat

      Anecdotes are not data.

      I’m very glad for you. But there is no possible way that you can say your juice diet cured your problem.

      In all likelihood, you never actually had rheumatoid arthritis. That’s what I would put my money on. You may have had arthritis or something similar.

      On the other hand, you also very well have made another change to your life that you are totally unaware of.

      Of course, you very well could be that one person in a billion whose body was capable of dealing with the disease.

      But you cannnot* justify an entire field of medicine because of one incident by one individual that has never been confirmed by anything other than one doctor.

      * Well you can, since you seem to know very little about how science actually works.

      • Void Walker

        That you’re still trying to reason with this moron….you have the patience of a nun Smilodon….a wicked nice one, at that.

        • RexTugwell

          Hey Void! How’s my favorite bisexual apostate doing?

          • Void Walker

            I’m dandy. Just sucked a big, black cock.

            So let me get this straight, Jerkgood: homophobic bs is supposed to irritate me? Dude….you have the memory of an infant. I’m bisexual, and proud of it. Need I lecture you on how clearly natural homo-bisexuality is before you attempt to use it as an insult? Lord man…

            At any rate, I’ve been thinking about you, my little friend. I still maintain that debating your faith would be a ton of fun. Maybe not, but what’s the harm in giving it a go?

            Tell you what. I promise to be fair, and not spout derisive shit your way. I’m gonna give you an honest opportunity to *choose* which path we stroll down in debate land.

            A: Natural/logical problem of evil

            B: Biblical literalism (a personal fave!)

            C: Divine hiddenness

            Take your pick, Jerkgood. I know, as well as you, that you’re a fundie YEC playing dress up in ID clothing. Can we cut the little games out? Or are you not a man (pretty sure that’s the case)?

            ;-)

            SEXUALLY yours,

            VOID.

          • RexTugwell

            VOID, I’m pretty sure you’re in no position to question my manhood. And it’s not because you’re bisexual. I wasn’t trying to insult you. Believe me, from my point of view apostate is the
            more offensive of the two terms if I were attempting an insult. You call me a moron and I send you greetings based on what you’ve shared here on Smilodon in Retreat about yourself. So what does VOID do? He throws a hissy fit accusing me of insulting him after calling me a moron!. Honestly, I don’t know who’s the more thin-skinned cry baby, you or Smiley.

            As I said before, a debate with you is quite out of the question. First of all, this is Smiley’s forum not yours. Secondly, debating someone who denies free will and believes the universe just poofed itself into existence is not capable of rational thought. Lastly, you’ve disqualified yourself from any possibility of decent discourse. You promise to be fair, and not spout derisive shit my way and then you end with this:

            Take your pick, Jerkgood. I know, as well as you, that you’re a fundie
            YEC playing dress up in ID clothing. Can we cut the little games out? Or
            are you not a man (pretty sure that’s the case)?

            What a tool.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Once again, Rex denies all the evidence and makes up his own ideas about what is rational or not.

            I would suggest you read The Tippling Philosopher’s excellent series of posts (and book) on Free Will… or the lack thereof. The evidence is against it.

            The universe, of course, did not “poof” itself into existence. Only creationists believe that. Science provides a very detailed explanation (and some recent research continues to provide more) of how the universe formed, what drives it, and why. Of course, Rex still doesn’t understand how to calculate the total energy of the universe and why it is zero and thinks that is a problem for something coming from nothing.

            Of course, Rex absolutely refuses to answer direct questions and will never say anything that would commit him to one specific area. Honestly, I don’t recall ever talking with a creationist who does do that.

            There is a tool here… but it’s not who Rex thinks it is.

            Remind me again why Meyer lying about science, scientists, and what scientists claim is OK?

          • Void Walker

            I think Rex wants to have your baby, dude. He just won’t leave you alone!

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Nope. He knows he can get me riled up. He’s just a troll.

          • Void Walker

            And a poorly informed, scientifically illiterate one at that.

          • RexTugwell

            Let it go, Smiley. Darwin’s Doubt is done. Remember?

          • Void Walker

            LMAO! :-D

            “So what does VOID do? He throws a hissy fit accusing me of insulting him after calling me amoron!. Honestly, I don’t know who’s the more thin-skinned cry baby, you or Smiley.”

            Awe, how mature….dude, how old are you anyway? You’re acting like a little child, and it’s very clear that I’ve struck a nerve. Kinda cute, actually. ;-)

            “As I said before, a debate with you is quite out of the question. First of all, this is Smiley’s forum not yours. Secondly, debating someone who denies free will and believes the universe just poofed itself into existence is not capable of rational thought. Lastly, you’ve disqualified yourself from any possibility of decent discourse. You promise to be fair, and not spout derisive shit my way and then you end with this:”

            So…we cannot debate because we don’t own the thread/blog…? That’s basically you admitting that your theology is so ill defined and equally ill evidenced that you’re frightened to engage me. I understand…I’ve made Christians cry before (not something I’m particularly proud of, mind you).

            Also, I agreed to be fair and polite *in the potential debate*. We aren’t debating, so I’m gonna be a massive dick and love the fuck outta it.

            Finally, I deny free will because it’s logically incoherent and there’s not one shred of evidence in support of it. Head over to Tippling Philosopher for more on that….educate yourself, Jerkgood. I also don’t believe the universe just “pooped” into existence. The evidence for both inflation and the big bang are overwhelming, and we’ve plenty of instances where nature generates order out of rather messy, chaotic processes (see: snowflake or island formation, as a start).

            You’re so darn adorable. Can I keep you?

      • RexTugwell

        Wow, Smiley, you really are a skeptic! Skeptical to the point of absurdity. Do you get some kind of perverse pleasure out of continually making a fool of yourself? I can assure you it was rheumatoid arthritis. I had the full battery of blood tests done and I changed nothing but my diet in those two weeks. Your claim that my case was one in a billion is just a desperate attempt to explain away the obvious since it was full blown RA until my 2 week fast was over. Sounds like nothing more than sour grapes to me. I’m cured and your advice sucks.

        If I were to do what you suggested, I should have accepted the doctor’s (mis)diagnosis (a second opinion would have found the same thing based on the blood tests), begun taking the medication and deal with the side effects for the rest of my life. Instead, being a true freethinker and lacking a faith in scientism, I took the unconventional path and it worked.

        Well you can, since you seem to know very little about how science actually works.

        Weren’t you the one sniveling recently about how if I had only asked nicely, you would have corrected your math long ago?

        • SmilodonsRetreat

          Anecdotes are not data.

          Someday, maybe you’ll learn how science works. You won’t from me though. You have decided that you know more than me and that I’m always wrong. In spite of all the evidence to the contrary.

          • Void Walker

            Dude, I admire the fuck outta you but lets face it: Rex is a lost cause. He’s already arrived at his conclusion (Goddidit) and any evidence to the contrary of that will promptly be rejected from his narrow, religiously motivated little mind.

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            Yeah, I know. It’s not for him. Not anymore.

            A few years back, there was a guy who was so sure that he had defeated all us evil Darwinists (whatever those are) that he had invited his entire church to view the thread. What he didn’t get (because he was and remains a text-book case of Dunning-Krueger) was that he had been destroyed in that thread. To the point he was screaming and cussing us all out.

            We got a few polite comments from his fellow church-goers… one of them said that he hadn’t been seen in the church since.

          • Void Walker

            Oh wow…any chance you could link me to that thread? Sounds awesome!

          • SmilodonsRetreat

            That was at the now defunct Richard Dawkins forums. I managed to save some stuff before it was deleted, but not that one.

            A mod called Callista (or something like that) had some of the most epic take downs of creationism I’ve ever seen. Including lists and lists of peer-reviewed support. I got most of those.

          • Void Walker

            Damn….oh well. I imagine it was simply epic.

            I enjoy an index to creationist claims on Talk Origins. Very broad and in depth refutations of just about every creationist claim. Do you, by chance, know of any other websites akin to Talk Origins?

          • Rikki_Tikki_Taalik

            I believe you are thinking of Calilasseia. Currently an active mod over at RatSkep. IIRC came over in the migration from Dawkins place and I agree, Cali can shred like nobody’s business. His two essays, for lack of a better term, written for creationists are stickied over there in the creationism subforum.

            Creationists Read This

            Radionuclide Dating Is Rigorous

            It’s like reading science porn.