Massachusetts Should Reject Naturopaths: Letter to Gov. Charlie Baker

charlie baker massachusetts naturopathic bill s.2335

I learned late last week that the Massachusetts legislature passed the latest installment of the naturopathic licensing bill S.2335 in the final minutes of the 2016 legislative session. The bill is currently sitting on Governor Charlie Baker’s desk. He has a few days to sign the bill, which would make Massachusetts the 19th state to license naturopaths. If he does nothing, S.2335 will die from a pocket veto.

Senate bill 2335 is asking a lot. It allows naturopaths in Massachusetts to call themselves “doctor,” diagnose disease, order lab work, treat patients of any age, and essentially work as a physician. I encourage readers, and lawmakers, to check out Jann Bellamy’s post detailing S.2335 at the Science-Based Medicine website.

Naturopaths are not qualified to manage any kind of medical care. As a former licensed naturopathic doctor myself, I have seen first-hand how licensing naturopaths to act as doctors results in harm and needless expenses.

I practiced naturopathy for three years. I witnessed harm inflicted on patients in every naturopathic clinic where I worked. In all cases, the naturopaths at fault were practicing just as they had been trained to do. But the treatments were ineffective and costly at best; at worst, they were deadly. Continue reading

Posted in Licensure, What's the harm? | Leave a comment

I was a pot doctor: naturopaths blowing smoke with medical marijuana

Naturopaths are pushing medical marijuana and finding troubleI used to be a pot doctor. That is, I certified patients to use medical marijuana (MMJ) when I practiced as a licensed naturopath in Washington and Arizona.

This is not unusual for naturopaths. My former colleagues who had family-oriented practices certified patients to use MMJ in every naturopathic clinic where I worked. There are also MMJ mills that cater to large volumes of patients who actively seek out MMJ certifications. In Seattle and Tucson, I held part-time jobs at such MMJ mills.

Like most other naturopaths, I entered the MMJ business for the money. The average naturopathic graduate has as much debt as a medical school graduate but has poor job prospects. Mainstream medical positions are rarely available to naturopaths and for good reason—we are not trained in medicine, but in a pseudoscientific belief system that resembles medical school only on the surface. The earnings from MMJ jobs provide a much-needed boost to naturopaths struggling to make ends meet.

Many naturopaths in Washington and Arizona rely on income from MMJ authorizations. For them, pushing pot is a lucrative calling but not one without legal and ethical problems. Continue reading

Posted in About me, Bastyr University, Ethics, Marijuana | Leave a comment

Is dubious cancer “doctor” Colleen Huber cybersquatting my name?

Colleen Huber ND (NMD) appears to be indistinguishable from a cancer quack. Patients Beware!Britt’s note: Dear readers, I am in the midst of completing my thesis, and it is mid-holiday season. Times are a little hectic. I am working hard to keep up my writing efforts. Thank you for your patience!


I recently put up a new, minimalist website at BrittMarieHermes.org. This personal page is not meant to promote my writing, my scientific projects, or even my work as a science communicator and debunker of pseudoscience. It serves to supplant a website that was established in bad faith at a domain using my name.

In February 2016, I discovered that BrittMarieHermes.com was registered and a “tribute” website was put up, allegedly, in my honor. Google ads are publicizing this site. I then found out that the domains BMHermes.com and BrittHermes.com were also purchased, which were setup to redirect to the homepage of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.

It is no secret that I am an outspoken critic of the naturopathic profession and its so-called “medical” programs in Canada and the U.S. I was upset upon realizing that someone had misappropriated my name in order to promote the naturopathic profession. Since discovering this cyber-squatting, I have been working to acquire ownership of the domains in my name. Here’s a brief update of what I know and what has been happening behind the scenes. Continue reading

Posted in AANP, About me, Cancer, Ethics | Leave a comment

Even when children die, naturopaths refuse to blame each other

naturopathic pediatrics

Screenshot from the website of a naturopath that sells tinctures of echinacea.

Naturopaths hate it when I draw attention to examples of patient harm resulting from naturopaths failing to uphold medical standards of care. The Ezekiel Stephan case was a prime example of the harm that can come from naturopaths trying to play doctor.

Nineteen-month-old Ezekiel Stephan died in 2012 from bacterial meningitis after his parents sought medical advice from naturopath Tracey Tannis. Per Tannis’s recommendation, Ezekiel’s parents treated him with echinacea. Tannis’s prescription fit right alongside the assortment of natural therapies Ezekiel’s parents had already been giving him. Further details about the case can be read here.

In April 2016 during a highly publicized trial, David and Collet Stephan were found guilty for failing to provide their son with the necessaries of life. They decided to appeal which will be heard next spring.

The Stephan case was devastating for the naturopathic community. In the trial, Collet recalled that Ezekiel was so sick by the time she sought help from Tannis that he was non-responsive and unable to bend his back to sit-up. These are ominous signs of meningitis. Continue reading

Posted in Critical Thinking, Ethics, Patient Harm, Pediatrics, Standards of Care | 91 Comments

Naturopathic pediatrics and genetic testing

genetic testing personalized medicineNaturopaths think they can treat genetic diseases. This is incredible, considering naturopaths are not taught genetic testing, let alone understand the basics of genetics and pathophysiology—they are self-taught.

Self-study cannot replace real medical training. Such deficiencies are on full display any time naturopaths speak publicly about the details of their medicine.

I just listened to a webinar in which Jared Skowron, N.D. shared elaborate stories about diagnosing and treating children with Fabry disease and schizophrenia. His talk was hosted by the Association of American Naturopathic Medical Colleges to hook prospective students into attending naturopathic school. (Naturopathic school is a bad value.)

Skowron began by bragging about his short work week and how much he loves his job. He went on to describe how he diagnosed patients with genetic mutations and treated them naturally. The details of one case in particular showed how ignorant naturopaths can be about the scientific plausibility of their methods.

Continue reading

Posted in Bastyr University, Ethics, Patient Harm, Pediatrics, Standards of Care | 29 Comments

Stop naturopathic pediatrics: autism and MTHFR?

autistic-boy

I used to be a naturopathic pediatrician. I graduated from Bastyr University and did a one-year residency in naturopathic pediatrics and family medicine. Like many naturopaths, I branded myself as an expert in treating children with behavioral and developmental problems, including autism, ADHD, anxiety, and learning disabilities. If you were the parent of a kid with one of these conditions and had an appointment with me, you would have left my office with a bottle of pills containing L-methylfolate.

Naturopaths are taught that children exhibiting behavioral and developmental problems should be checked for MTHFR gene mutations, which could affect an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase—that attaches a methyl (CH3) group to folic acid allowing it to be used in DNA biosynthesis and in the processing of the amino acids methionine and homocysteine.

There are real health consequences of having certain polymorphisms in the MTHFR gene, but genetic testing is not necessary to detect them. The most severe problems with this gene are neural tube defects, such as spina bifida and anencephaly, which are detectable during pregnancy with ultrasound. Other MTHFR polymorphisms result in high blood levels of homocysteine which can cause problems with the eyes, blood clotting, skeletal formation, and cognition. Okay, but there is a simple blood test for homocysteine levels.

In fact, the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics states that “MTHFR polymorphism testing has minimal clinical utility.”
Continue reading

Posted in Autism, Mental Illness, Pediatrics, What is naturopathic medicine? | 25 Comments

My first QED, and Naturopathic Diaries wins an Ockham Award

ockham-award-best-blog-2016

I attended my first QED this past weekend in Manchester, England. Question, Explore, Discover is an annual science and skepticism conference, and this year’s QED was the largest in its six-year history. I had a great time and highly recommend that readers attend next year.

I gave a talk on the main stage titled The Right Detox: how to detox an entire belief system in five easy steps. I described how I fell into and then out of being a naturopathic “doctor.” (I hope to be able to link to a video of it in the future.)

Here are some reactions and live tweets from the audience: Continue reading

Posted in About me, Events | 17 Comments

Naturopaths need to back off autism

Another child has been severely harmed by a naturopath. This time in the UK.

A four-year-old boy with autism received naturopathic treatments that landed him in the emergency room. The boy had severe dehydration and dangerously elevated calcium levels. A naturopath had prescribed a regimen of vitamin D, calcium, cod liver oil, zinc and a long list of other substances that included silver, enzymes, salts and trace minerals. Continue reading

Posted in Autism, Ethics, Patient Harm, Pediatrics, Standards of Care, What's the harm? | 242 Comments

QED 2016 and Ockham Award Shortlister

skeptic magazine ockham award shortlister qedcon

I am honored that Naturopathic Diaries has made the shortlist for the 2016 blog category of the Ockham Awards by The Skeptic magazine. I really appreciate the support I’ve received from the community. Thank you!

The winners will be announced at the QED convention in Manchester on October 15th. I’ll be giving a talk at QED and will be around for the whole weekend. It will be great fun!

(Also, we are looking for someone who is also attending QED to join our team. The QED quiz will be at 18:00 on Friday October 14th. Contact me on Twitter @NaturoDiaries, or try @drpaulmorgan and @ArchaeoHermes.)

Posted in About me, Events | 2 Comments

What’s the best approach for treating prostate cancer? Don’t ask a naturopath.

“The Quack” by Albert Anker

Journalists seem to have a difficult time reporting the latest medical findings. Headlines often serve as click-bait rather than conveying accuracy. Last week, news coverage describing a study that investigated different treatment options for early-stage prostate cancer is one such case that generated some alarming and contradictory headlines.

In the reported study, researchers randomized 1643 men aged 50 to 69 years with stage T1c disease about evenly into three treatment groups: 1) active cancer surveillance; 2) prostatectomy; and 3) radical radiotherapy. The study indicated that patient survival rates were equally high at 99% across the treatment groups after a median follow-up time of ten years. There was a significant difference, however, in metastasis frequency and disease progression between the active surveillance group and the two treatment groups.

Men who choose active surveillance of their localized prostate cancer may regret their decision. If prostate cancer metastasizes, curable treatments are no longer available, and these men may suffer painful symptoms of their cancer spreading into adjacent tissues or throughout their bodies. They may further suffer complicated side effects of life-long androgen-deprivation therapy.

The New York Times did a nice job reporting the study with the headline “Prostate Cancer Study Details Value of Treatments.” You should take from this headline that treating early-stage prostate cancer is beneficial. Treatment seems to improve quality of life and living beyond ten years without metastatic disease.

But maybe a different headline you read conveyed the idea that treating early-stage prostate cancer is irrelevant. CBS News reported, “Study, no evidence that treating early prostate cancer makes a difference.” The study’s details that treatment may be helpful beyond the ten-year mark were buried deep in the text.

The study’s nuanced results are understandably difficult to convey in a ten- to twelve-word headline. I can easily see how one consequence of such oversimplified science journalism is that patients may be more easily driven into the care of alternative medical practitioners, who offer superfluous, implausible, and disproven treatments. In my time practicing with a naturopathic cancer practitioner, I’ve seen this sort of information hi-jacking used to convince patients that alternative medicine offers real hope in treating cancer.

One egregious case in point: the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology (ABNO) relies on undermining the importance of conventional cancer treatment by perpetuating the falsehood that “modern medicine has made little advance in its War on Cancer.” According to this group, its self-anointed alternative “oncologists” can effectively and safely treat cancer using “various supplements or dietary concepts” that make “medical treatments more effective” and cause “cancer cells to self-destruct.”

Look no further than the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) for examples of dubious cancer treatments being peddled by such “oncologists.” In a recent blog post titled “Six Naturopathic Methods to Combat Prostate Cancer”, naturopath Geo Espinosa outlines “six quick things a CaP [prostate cancer] patient should consider” for “beating CaP [prostate cancer].”

The therapies outlined in the post are staples of naturopathic care: 1) supplementation with anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E and Coenzyme Q10; 2) reducing “systemic inflammation” through changing the diet; 3) non-medical detoxification with herbs and hydrotherapy; 4) limiting exposure to environmental toxins such as cigarette smoke and non-organic meat; 5) “immune boosting” supplements like mushroom extract; and 6) “cancer-killing” substances like turmeric and modified citrus pectin.

Let’s get one thing straight. No naturopathic therapy has ever been proven to cure cancer or improve outcomes with standard-of-care treatments. But in no uncertain terms, naturopath Espinosa writes that incorporating naturopathy into a cancer treatment regimen can “increase the chances of better recovery among CaP [prostate cancer] sufferers and slow it [sic] progression.” It seems that such propaganda is nothing more than a means to establish the basis for health fraud.

The fact is that we only learned in the last week that if patients aged between 50 and 69 years with early-stage prostate cancer elect to undergo active monitoring, they have a 99% chance that their prostate cancer will not kill them over ten-years. Although, curative treatment seems to be better in the long-run. For naturopaths it seems that long ago one of them just made up those six alternative treatments, and it became their dogma. In the naturopathic community, such a belief is as good as any high-quality systematic review.

What deviance for Espinosa and the AANP to suggest that naturopaths can manage the ins and outs of treating prostate cancer! On his own website, Espinosa refers to himself as a “prostate cancer strategist,” as if there is a strategy beyond treatments based in scientific evidence. He writes that he will make “the process [of treatment] simpler and clearer for you.”

That’s a bold statement considering that Espinosa has received no medical oncology training and does not hold a license to practice medicine in New York state where he runs a clinic. What sort of “prostate cancer specialist” is he? I would say that he’s not to be trusted.

Naturopathic cancer therapies are not part of standardized medical protocols derived from evidence-based guidelines or scientific consensus. But, they are being integrated into prostate cancer treatments by naturopathic doctors. Poor reporting of the latest findings of clinical trials emboldens such quacks.

If you are considering alternative medicine to treat cancer or know someone who is, please read this article I wrote for Quality Cancer Treatment – A Website for Patients.

Image by Albert Anker – Postcard, Public Domain

Posted in AANP, Cancer, Science, Standards of Care | 11 Comments