Naturopathic Medicine Week 2015


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Today marks the beginning of Naturopathic Medicine Week 2015.

Leaders of the naturopathic profession use this time as a means to promote naturopathic medicine as “safe, effective, and affordable.” As a former naturopathic doctor, I completely disagree.

Is naturopathic medicine safe?

Naturopathic medicine is not safe. Naturopathic “doctors” (ones who went to accredited schools, like my alma matter, Bastyr University) are not trained in biomedical science. Instead, they study concepts that have been disproven for hundreds of years.

Naturopaths believe that a magic force, called the vis, is responsible for determining the health of the body, mind, and spirit. This notion is similar to the ancient Greek concept of the “four humors” or the ancient Chinese belief in qi and meridians.

Much of what naturopaths do in practice relates to somehow manipulating this magical force. They choose from a variety of treatments in order to restore the vis, which can then heal the body. Unfortunately, they are not trained well enough to identify actual diseases or to apply correct treatments.

Naturopaths overwhelmingly oppose vaccination in one form or another. Anti-vaccine notions are taught in the accredited schools, and naturopaths regularly discourage their pediatric patients from receiving vaccinations on time or at all. This anti-vaccine practice has been associated with outbreaks of childhood diseases, and related injuries and deaths.

Is naturopathic medicine effective?

Naturopathic medicine is not effective. The American Cancer Society has concluded that “scientific evidence does not support claims that naturopathic medicine can cure cancer or any other disease, since virtually no studies on naturopathy as a whole have been published.”1

Naturopaths claim their medicine is effective, but they offer no evidence to support this claim. Instead, naturopaths rely heavily on anecdotes and testimonials, which are not valid pieces of evidence.

A vast majority of naturopaths practice homeopathy, which is considered the ultimate medical deception of all. Naturopaths also attempt to treat all kinds of disease with massage, chiropractic adjustments, and applications of water to the body. They also say and do all sorts of other wild and crazy things from IV ozone and hydrogen peroxide to spectacularly misunderstanding medical research.

Is naturopathic medicine affordable?

Let me answer this question with another question. How can a practice be affordable if it is not safe or effective?

What to do…

Naturopathic medicine should be avoided. I speak from experience.

As a patient, is it dangerous to put your health in the hands of a naturopathic “doctor.” I have witnessed countless examples of naturopaths egregiously missing diagnoses, devastatingly overtreating otherwise healthy patients, and committing a host of other egregious acts of malpractice, without even knowing they were making mistakes. These acts cost lives. Please reconsider visiting a naturopath.

As a medical professional, it is an ethical minefield to have professional relationships with naturopaths. Many patients often seek out naturopaths to conceal information they hide from their medical doctors. Naturopaths often play into this dynamic and can unwittingly take advantage of patients who are already curious about alternative medicine. Naturopaths recommend a huge array of supplements which they conveniently sell right out of their office. Please be critical of naturopaths.

Law and policy makers should know that naturopaths are bad for public health. Naturopaths say they will make medicine better, but honestly, naturopathy makes medicine worse. They transport it back to the way it was hundreds of years ago. Please do not support bills advancing naturopathic medicine.

It is true that the medical system has serious problems, but promoting a system of fake medicine distracts from having a real discussion about how to fix problems.

I can assure you that naturopathic medicine cannot provide solutions. It is a red herring.


 

1) Russell, Jill; Rovere, Amy, eds. (2009). American Cancer Society Complete Guide to Complementary and Alternative Cancer Therapies (Second ed.). Atlanta: American Cancer Society. pp. 116–119.
Image credit: ‘No Matter’ Project, some rights reserved.
  • David

    Mds have been naive and lazy when it comes to voicing their opinions on naturopaths expanding their scope of practice. When it came up in my area, only a handful of MDs actually knew about it, and none of them actually believed the government would allow naturopaths prescribing rights. Even now, i would hazard to guess that only a very small percentage of the MDs in my area know that naturopaths can prescribe. The ironic thing is that most of the naturopaths are not prescribing, but instead are using their new found scope to do cosmetic fillers, botox and vampire facials!! They also use their new scope to convince patients that they are actually above primary care physicians, since not only did they go to “medical school”, have full prescribing rights, but also know “natural” cures.

  • William

    I don’t know what distinction you’re trying to make here. You’re arguments are flawed in the sense that there are going to be good and bad doctors in both the ND field and MD field. You seem to have some sort of extreme personal bias towards the field. The naturopathic community in my area has helped a lot of people.

    • JGC

      How does one distinguish between a good naturopathic doctor and a bad one?
      To my mind, the ‘good ones’ would be those who don’t employ any treatment modalities for which there does not exist a substantial body of evidence demonstrating the treatmetns are both safe and effective for specific indications
      — i.e., those that rely the least on the ‘alternative’ treatments (acupuncture, homeopathy, etc.) unique to naturopathy and instead rely exclusively on those treatments also embraced by licensed physicians.

      • William

        Once again if you think acupuncture and homeopathy are cures you are wrong. Alternative medicine is NOT based on any pseudoscience. Its simply based on leading a healthy lifestyle so you don’t get sick in the first place. Preventative measures. Let me give you an example of what happens when there is a problem. Lets say someone comes to an MD with a carpal tunnel problem, chances are they are going to prescribe them some sort of NSAID and tell them to do some sort of movement(maybe). This will help the pain but will not address any underlying cause of the carpal tunnel. An ND in an ‘alternative’ way will tell you to take some vitamin B6 because it gets to the root of the issue. That is within about three to four . Pseudoscience?
        Its not that ND’s dont prescribe drugs, or arent educated about them, its just that often times there is a much less harmful alternative to the expensive drug.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2749352

        This was only a 10 week trial as well.

        • JGC

          Uh…William? Did you bother to actually read the paper you provided a link to (or even the abstract)? If you had, you might have noticed the following (from the abstract):

          “Vitamin B6 seems to have no advantage over conservative therapy for carpal tunnel syndrome.”

          • William

            I was regarding the statement where 10 of 15 participants got better with a shortened study. There are plenty of articles published on the topic. But i am no longer going to argue over a site that’s obsessed with hating on ND’s. I wish you good health, and good luck in pursuit of your truth on health sir.

            • PrimaryCareDoc

              Translation: I can’t find anything else to support my position, so I’ll take my ball and go home.

              PS- I ran the literature search. There are not plenty of articles supporting the use of pyridoxine for treatment of carpal tunnel. In fact, the randomized trials lean against it.

              • William

                My position is one that involves both the support and dissupport of practices that are WIDESPREAD from both ND’s and MD’s. To simply call out the entire Naturopathic profession is ignorant and biased!! And you’re a doctor, supposedly. you should know that.
                Try searching some of the PubMed articles outside of the US!

            • JGC

              I see no evidence that the study was shortened from its planned duration, and note the participants that got better included those that didn’t receive vitamin B6. (Again, from the abstract: “After ten weeks in the study, ten of 15 patients improved (this included patients given placebo and those given no treatment).”)

              Admit it: you didn’t read the paper before throwing up the citation, did you?

        • PrimaryCareDoc

          Actually, this MD would recommend splinting as a conservative first line management. THAT is actually addressing the root of the problem, which is compression of the median nerve. NSAIDs have not been shown to improve symptoms of carpal tunnel.

          • knotfreak

            I know it’s late to comment, but I have to say that I got the surgery (outpatient–took about ten minutes) and am 100% now.

  • William
    • Steve McWilliams

      You’re right. It is completely biased against quackery.

      • William

        Nah Steve. But hey people are going to believe what they want to believe. Natural medicine as does any practice goes a lot deeper and broader than one person’s experience. Accurate or not . I know ND’s who are much more knowledge able than some MD’s i also know, even when it comes to certain drugs .There is a reason one third of the population is turning to different ‘alternative’ practices .The common health system is bunk. You are going to get varying practices, in terms of efficient doctors in both fields .

        • Steve McWilliams

          It’s not about “what I want to believe” it’s about what is evidence based. Naturopaths are known for using homeopathic “cures”. You want to talk about people believing what they want to believe?

          Sure, lots of people are turning to “alternative” medicine but that’s due to ignorance, not because it’s better. If was “real” medicine, it would just be called medicine. No need for an “alternative” label.

          • William

            Haha let me ask what homeopathic cures you are pertaining to? Well Steve in this country the label ‘medicine’ has gotten a horrible reputation. So something that differs from giving out antibiotics like its halloween is called an ‘alternative’.

            • JGC

              William, I suspect Steve is addressing all putative homeopathic cures. Certainly I’m not aware any actual evidence demonstrating homeopathy is effective than placebos as treatments for any non-self limiting illnesses or injuries.

              Can you provide any such evidence?

              • William

                You’re confusing the terms naturopathic and homeopathic. Most natural medicine encyclopedias don’t even mention homeopathy.

                • JGC

                  No, I’m not William confusing the terms. I understand the difference between naturopathy and homeopathy and that naturopathy embraces multiple unproven therapeutic modalities. only one of which is homeopathy.

                  The fact is however that all colleges in theUS (including Bastyr) which offer degree programs in naturopathy include homeopathy as a core component of their curriculum,; that the naturopathix NPLEX exam includes sections requiring those seeking licensing demonstrate their mastery of homeopathy; that every state naturopathic organization I’m aware of explicitly embraces homeopathy as a valid health care intervention; and finally every naturopathic practice group whose web-site I’ve visited has included homepathy as one of the services they offer clients.

                  In any event, if you will recall your question to Steve was specific to homeopathy and did notaddress natural medicine in general (“Haha let me ask what homeopathic cures you are pertaining to?”).

                  So again: can you provide any actual evidence demonstrating homeopathy is more effective than placebos as a treatment for any non-self limiting illness or injury?

                • PrimaryCareDoc

                  Then why did you link us to an ND’s website that is pushing homeopathy?

    • JGC

      It’s not the site that’s biased–it’s reality. The available evidence indicates homeopathy, acupuncture, hydrotherapy, etc.–all the treatment modalities that naturopathy embraces but evidence-based medicine rejects–do not work as claimed.

    • tgobbi

      William: “This entire site is completely biased.”

      In this statement and others that follow, William demonstrates a lack of skepticism and, more importantly, critical thinking. Logical fallacies abound in his statements. He is correct in stating that natural medicine goes deeper than one person’s experience; that’s obvious since so many people believe it. But that doesn’t mean they’re right.

      It’s entirely possible that some NDs are more knowledgeable than real doctors. Medicine, like any other discipline, is made up of some individuals who are smarter than others.

      As for his highly improbable guestimate that 1/3 of us are turning to naturopathy, this is an example of the logical fallacy known as the appeal to the masses. Popularity doesn’t imply efficacy.

      Calling the “common” health system “bunk” (whatever that means) is a straw man logical argument. Even if the “common” system is “bunk” William assumes that it follows that naturopathy is not “bunk.”

      He is 1000% percent wrong if he attributes any benefits to homeopathy or believes that there is any scientifically acceptable evidence of its efficacy.

      He accuses one of us of “extreme personal bias.” Isn’t this an example of the pot calling the kettle black? We who rely on scientific consensus aren’t the ones who are biased. Those who insist that a system that is steeped in mysticism and the occult are the ones who are biased.

      • William

        Please don’t get into logical fallacies if the first statement you make is also a logical fallacy. If you’re going to talk about homeopathy, that’s fine. This site isn’t called diaries of a homeopathic. This site is called naturopathic diaries. I KNOW handfuls of ND’s that don’t even practice homeopathy. Big Pharma = Big Money. Most MD’s will prescribe you anything you want. I can walk into almost any office and get an adderall prescription for my ‘restlessness’ anyday. Even though the adderall will not help the underlying causes of the ‘restlessness’. This is an example of a flaw in our healthcare system. I mean if i need an example you must be pretty oblivious, just take a look outside, over half the population is overweight. This year Americans are going to spend more going out than they will on groceries. There’s good doctors on both sides, but if you fail to see the health epidemic that is so closely tied to healthcare in this country, you must be blind. THIS is why people are turning to alternative medicine. There is an atrocious amount of money involved in big pharma, which is how doctors make their money. When someone uses preventative measures and lifestyle before insisting on antibiotics and drugs you are going to get a lot of hate. Thats where the logic of this site comes in.
        Tell me why it would take a woman 3 years of practicing in the field, AND 4 years of schooling in it to realize she didn’t agree with it? HMM. Use some reasoning now.

        • JGC

          William, your evidence demonstrating that lifestyle changes and good nutrition are in themselves sufficient to address all the health problems physicians now address by means of pharmaceuticals, surgery, medical devices, etc. would be what, exactlly?

          What lifestyle change is as effective at treating type 1 diabetes as is insulin? What preventive measure have been demonstrated to eliminate all risk of developing Hodgkins lymphoma or testicular cancer? How would a naturopath treat acute appendicitis, other than by removing the inflamed appendix?

          As for “This is an example of a flaw in our healthcare system. I mean if i need an example you must be pretty oblivious, just take a look outside, over half the population is overweight”, are you suffering from the mistaken impression that licensed physicians do not routinely instruct their overweight patients they should eat healthier and exercise more to reduce their excess weight?

    • PrimaryCareDoc

      Whereas the website that you linked is as unbiased as they come. Except that they are ACTUALLY FUCKING SELLING HOMEOPATHY KITS.

  • David Grant

    I would agree with David about the lack of knowledge in the public-including the medical profession. So many people think that naturopathy is a benign alternative that to western or science based medicine. I think that many people are still willing to think that all medical problems can be solved without drugs or surgery. I find that the embrace of the anti-vaccine movement is the craziest and most dangerous trends within the complementary and alternative medicine. I think it is a triumph of marketing over reason.

  • https://www.naturopathicdiaries.com Britt Hermes

    Hi everyone. Unfortunately, the comments by William have been deleted by him. I thought I would point out these gaps in conversations for future readers.

  • Ashley Seriff

    “While Dr. Britt Marie Deegan loves working with people from all walks of life, she particularly enjoys working with children and their families, which is exactly why she chose to be a resident physician at Naturopathic Family Medicine.

    Dr. Deegan finds working with children incredibly rewarding since preventative medicine, health education, and good health habits (the essence of naturopathic medicine) can benefit any person the most an early age. She believes that setting up naturopathic health strategies for the child leads to high-quality health habits for life, which help to prevent chronic disease in the future while simultaneously teaching children about their growing bodies. Dr. Deegan also loves working with couples that are planning a pregnancy in order to develop appropriate prenatal and preconception care strategies, and to assist with any challenges that may unexpectedly arise while trying to become pregnant.

    In order to help her patients with whatever health challenges that may arise, she has pursued additional advanced clinical training in the areas of child development disorders, weight loss techniques, anti-aging, dermatology, fertility, and reproductive health.

    It is her belief that naturopathic medicine offers you and your family a special opportunity to take charge of your health.”

    Wait, so you aren’t practicing in Tucson anymore? :/

    • https://www.naturopathicdiaries.com Britt Hermes

      Ah yes. An old bio from when I was delusional and thought naturopathic medicine was empowering for patients and the obvious answer for all health problems. Scary, huh? I am sure many will notice how similar this old bio is to many bios of current NDs. We all use the same rhetoric and compilation of nonsense to market ourselves. Also notice how we have to market ourselves in order to get patients! It’s so bizarre to see this from the other side now.

  • Bridgetvandongen

    I had a discussion with a friend of mine the other day whose father had passed away last year. He told me how his father had had cancer and while being treated by real doctors, he was also seeing a naturopath (who is apparently also an MD). He swore that this doctor had helped his father overcome cancer by encouraging him to receive conventional treatment and then treating the side effects of the chemo with diet and herbal remedies.

    • https://www.naturopathicdiaries.com Britt Hermes

      Sounds like a good medical doctor.

      • Bridgetvandongen

        That was my comment 🙂

      • Bridgetvandongen

        I think that sometimes oncologists especially (and many specialist doctors) can be quite intimidating which is why someone you can trust that can give you complementary medical advice/treatment can be a good thing. We were having the discussion because I always post anti-woo posts on my FB pages.

  • Fran

    Hi Britt,

    I apologize if this has been discussed already – when you said Bastyr wasn’t teaching biomedical science I was confused as their website states a different curriculum.

    http://bastyr.smartcatalogiq.com/en/2015-2016/2015-2016-Academic-Catalog/School-of-Naturopathic-Medicine/Doctor-of-Naturopathic-Medicine/Doctor-of-Naturopathic-Medicine-Program

    It looks to me like there is a well rounded biomedical foundation with emphasis on physiology, systems, immunology and disease processes as well as modalities scattered amongst those biomedical core classes.

    Would you offer your opinion on this? Has this changed significantly since you were a student?