Naturopathic medicine has too much quackery

Troll Ave in Seattle, located a few blocks from Bastyr Center for Natural Health
Troll Ave in Seattle, located a few blocks from Bastyr University’s naturopathic medicine clinic.

I’ve acquired a troll-like follower on Twitter who runs an anonymous website at His or her aim is to verify that the information I publish about naturopathic medicine is true. Spoiler alert: The arguments are less than compelling.

My bottom line is that naturopaths do not receive enough medical training to justify their legislative agenda. Naturopaths insist that they have received an education that is on par with that of a medical doctor. Rather than show why this claim is true, they frequently call me a liar. It does not seem to matter that I’ve shown my course syllabi and other documents from Bastyr University, my alma mater and the self-proclaimed Harvard of naturopathic medicine.

A full-fledged effort to debunk me seems to be underway. Counter petitions have been started. Fake websites have been made. Domain names have been registered using my name in bad faith. I am perplexed, but not entirely, that they choose to target me as a menace to their profession instead of addressing potentially devastating threats they harbor on the inside. I am talking about the blatant quackery of naturopathic medicine.

Here is one example.

Reality-based medicine or naturopathic medicine

Peter Glidden is a licensed naturopath who graduated from Bastyr University in 1991. He lets loose deeply held notions that run rampant in the naturopathic profession. He is also not one to follow the rules. In 2012, he was fined $5,000 and served a cease and desist order for practicing medicine in Illinois without a license. He also runs a show called “Fire your MD now.”

Peter Glidden, ND thinks he knows the answer to the war on cancer.
Peter Glidden, ND thinks he has the answers to the war on cancer.

Glidden believes he is the real deal. In this YouTube video, he states he is a member of a group of:

real doctors, who deserve to be called physicians because there are only a handful of us in the world who are actually taking upon themselves the task of helping to eliminate human suffering.

Glidden goes on to says that medical doctors use therapies that are “based upon a methodology and an understanding of the human body, which is inconsistent with reality.”


I am glad Glidden mentioned it. In this online bio, he claims to have reversed Down syndrome of a fetus by using naturopathic medicine and nutritional therapies.

I do not like to use the word “quack,” but I think Glidden is exactly that. Claiming to cure a chromosomal disorder to provoke patients to seek care from him is downright nasty. He is completely out of touch with reality. His advice is dangerous.

Glidden popped up on my radar because a 2012 video of him discussing chemotherapy recently went viral on the Facebook page of the hacker group Anonymous. I get the sense that Anonymous posted the video as a social hacking experiment, and it worked. The video has over 17 million views, 671,000 shares, and prompted Snopes to cover it.

The video is a five minute rant by Glidden asserting that all medical doctors receive kickbacks for prescribing cancer drugs. He goes on to make a variety of absurd, conspiracy-based assertions, including:

We are losing the war on cancer

The reason that people get cancer in the United States and the reason that we have completely lousy outcomes is because medical doctors are driving the research bus.

Research funds should be spent on homeopathy and naturopathy.

I think the quack-o-meter is hitting 11. I mean, 1100.

The sad reality is that Glidden’s ideas are characteristic of the naturopathic belief system. This is especially true for NDs who treat cancer. To a certain extent, all NDs believe that biomedicine lacks a special essence that naturopaths possess. This idea is thoroughly described on the website for the American Board of Naturopathic Oncology, the group responsible for “board certifying” naturopaths in oncology.

Naturopathic cancer treatments have not been proven to replace conventional cancer treatments or to work safely or effectively in tandem with them. Since insurance companies do not cover alternative cancer practices, patients can easily rack up tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of dollars paying for therapies that do not help and that can cause harm. Naturopaths present these services as if they are beneficent, but make no mistake, the supplements, vitamins, and other therapies delivered to patients in a naturopathic clinic are all marked-up and sold to make a profit. This scheme is exactly what Glidden criticizes in the video: selling something that is not effective.

Is all naturopathic medicine quackery?

Through legislative alchemy, naturopaths are being granted medical licenses with scopes of practice that, in my opinion, vastly exceed their capabilities. They want to be able to prescribe pharmaceutical drugs, perform minor surgery, and diagnose and treat serious diseases, including cancer. This is a big deal. It is in the best interest of everyone to have a public discussion about whether or not naturopaths can assume such a role. Naturopaths need to prove that they are competent medical practitioners.

In my opinion, naturopaths have taken significant shortcuts in their medical training, which renders their clinical skill-sets dangerously deficient.

While all professions have a small percentage of charlatans, naturopathic medicine is replete with medical imposters. Quacks, like Glidden, are steeped in fringe theories and scientific gobbledygook, which, of course, stems from what is taught in naturopathic programs and is then encouraged by a community of, for lack of a better term, quacks.

I acknowledge that there are naturopaths who really are trying to be science-based and really want to be good doctors. Great! But they’ll just need to get actual training in medicine first. [inlinetweet prefix=”” tweeter=”” suffix=””]Naturopathic medicine won’t be respected if its practitioners are trained in a system that stinks of quackery.[/inlinetweet]

Image credit: 1) GeoTrinity, under a CC license. 2) Screengrab.