Tag Archives: quackery

3 types of people who are ruining social media – and what you can do about them

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Social media plays an increasingly important role in many people’s lives around the world. It’s not just a great way to stay connected with people you already know, it’s also a terrific way to make new connections with people who share your interests. For some people in isolated areas or with rare hobbies, it is the only way to connect with others.

Unfortunately, there are many people who use social media as an opportunity to abuse or scam others.

I admit it was a little difficult deciding how many troublesome types I wanted to list; I settled on 3 since these 3 broad categories include a lot of sub-types. These 3 groups are by no means mutually exclusive, so you may have the misfortune of running into that rare specimen who is all 3. In no particular order, here they are:

The Multi-level marketer

Practically everyone is familiar with the multi-level marketer(MLM) AKA network marketer, and their spiel about financial independence, being on a permanent vacation, and making money from home, among other things. What makes them so annoying is that this is all they ever talk about and they are always looking to recruit you, so you can recruit everyone you know, so they can recruit everyone they know, and so on. And of course you make money from everyone you recruit as well as everyone they recruit. Sounds like a pyramid scheme, right? That’s because it is!

Almost everything the network marketer tells you is a lie. Don’t believe anything they say in their promotional videos or postings about how they have money coming out of their ears, their eyes and their, never mind. Studies show that over 90% of the people who get recruited by these pyramid schemes lose money.

What really makes network marketers a pain on social media is their nasty habit of infiltrating a wide variety of groups, clubs and chats for the sole purpose of trying to recruit others. All too often, and depending on how successful their infiltration is, they can have a poisonous effect on the group, resulting in division and conflict.

Besides this, MLMbots that deal in supplements frequently make dubious and at times dangerous health claims for their products. Here’s an example of an MLMbot pushing some juice product that according to them has miraculous healing powers:

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What to do about them: I always block any multi-level marketer who follows me. If someone I follow becomes a multi-level marketer, I quickly unfollow and block.

People who are fed up with MLM spreading like wildfire and burning their friends and family on social media are increasingly taking a stand against it. The extreme sleaziness, dishonesty and cult-like nature of MLM pushers has inspired a growing and vibrant anti-MLM movement on the Internet.

As part of its tireless anti-MLM campaign, Timeless Vie has recently launched an MLM-free logo for businesses and groups to use to declare themselves MLM-free. This means a zero tolerance policy when it comes to MLM in their group or business. Try pushing MLM as a member of their group and you get the boot.

Besides Timeless Vie, there’s Ethan Vanderbuilt, another crusader against scams in general and MLM in particular. Be sure to follow him on social media and subscribe to his newsletter. Other anti-MLM sites to check out include MLM Syndrome, which is devoted to exploring MLM psychological conditioning, and also Lazy Man and Money, a consumer advocacy site which also frequently exposes MLM. Also check out The Not Quite Fairy-Tales of Elle Beau blog, for insights from an ex-MLM-bot turned MLM critic.

Understand that trying to convince an MLMbot that they are involved in a scam is pointless. Believe me, I’ve tried.

Educate yourself and spread the word!

The Bully

It’s difficult to overstate how big of a problem cyber-bullying is. It is a plague on social media to the extent that some people who have been victims of bullying have canceled their social media accounts. We’ve all either been on the receiving end of it or know someone who has. Cyber-bullying can take many forms: insults, threatening messages, defamatory smears or even attempts at ruining a person’s reputation. The 2 biggest motivations for bullying are the bully simply gets their kicks from putting people down, and the other is to get someone they disagree with to shut up.

Many bullies think their insulting remarks are the height of comedy. Some may even claim to be “comedians”. Sadly, there are online forums where this vile behavior is encouraged. All-too-common misogynistic bullies revel in making insulting remarks about a woman’s intelligence or looks. Some women-haters even go as far as to make constant rape or death threats against their intended targets. It’s a similar situation with racist bullies and bullies that target religious minorities and people with special needs.

In the political and media arena, it’s not uncommon for bullying tactics to be used against political opponents. If an activist, politician, or political operative has a large enough social media following, it’s relatively easy to inspire their followers to harass an opponent to silence them. If the harassment is persistent enough, this tactic can unfortunately be very effective. Even well-respected scientists have been cowed into silence by this ploy.

When called out for their behavior, it can be nauseating watching a serial harasser and their defenders claim their execrable actions are protected by the First Amendment. However, the First Amendment doesn’t give anyone carte blanche to hurt others or destroy reputations. Whether or not the bullying you’re experiencing is a prosecutable offense can vary by country and jurisdiction. If you are being victimized, know your rights.

The best way to deal with bullies and harassers is to block and report. Do not interact with bullies, or attempt to get an apology, since this will only encourage them. Use anti-virus/malware software in case the bully turns to hacking, and be extra careful with passwords. Call the police about stalking, death threats or rape threats, consult lawyers about defamation.

For more information about how to deal with this, visit the National Bullying Prevention Center, and Stand for the Silent. For more information on sexual harassment: Sexual Harassment on the Internet.

Get involved and know your rights!

The Faker

It’s hardly a startling revelation that a very large number of people, probably a majority, tell white lies about themselves online and off. Most of the time this is probably harmless, but at least a few people take lying about themselves to such an incredible level of deceit that their entire online persona and reputation is built on nothing but lies. This, my friends, is the creature known as the Faker.

There is a significant amount of overlap between the multi-level marketer and the Faker. Just about all the multi-level marketers you encounter online are essentially Fakers, pretending they’re making a ton of money, pretending the products they are pushing are unique, top-of-the-line products, and perhaps most importantly, pretending to be your friend.

But not all fakers online are promoting pyramid schemes; indeed, some aren’t even interested in money, so this deserved it’s own category.

There’s a bewildering number of sub-categories of Fakers crawling around social media these days, it would be difficult to do justice to this subject. So I decided to narrow it down to two sub-types, due to the number encounters I’ve had with them over the years. These two sub-types are fake athletes and disease fakers.

For obvious reasons, the fake athletes I am most familiar with are fake runners. Every now and then while reading a running site or on social media, a story pops up about a runner who has been exposed as a fake, or someone a lot of people are suspicious about.

What these fake runners who fake their way to marathon or ultra-running glory all seem to have in common is this extreme desire to become famous. They are so desperate to turn their name into a valuable brand they will invent stories out of whole cloth about incredible distances they’ve run day after day, while providing scant evidence for their athletic feats. It’s no surprise that they will often buy followers on social media to make themselves look a lot more famous than they really are.

Astonishingly, some of these con-artists often manage to not just attract a cult following, they also become sponsored, and will sometimes run for a charity. Skeptics who ask questions are routinely demonized by the Faker and his rabid followers.

A little detective work and the fake runner is exposed; like a pin pricking a big balloon, he is quickly deflated. All but a tiny number of his followers abandon him and the sponsors run as far away from him as possible. Instead of fame, all the fake runner has achieved is a permanently damaged reputation before fading away into oblivion.

If you suspect a headline generating runner of being faker, a great place to report this is Let’s Run. The Let’s Run community has exposed a bunch of fake runners over the years. Marathon Investigation is another good site for reporting cheats.

Of all the things a person can do to get attention, faking disease is arguably the lowest. Keep in mind that not all disease fakers are in it for the money, some just want the attention.

Disease fakers have a method of infiltrating groups either related to the disease they are pretending to have or something entirely different. They will tell one lie after another in their game of emotional manipulation to make you pity them. Unless these people made big news and attracted a lot of donations, it can be difficult to expose their con. If the more skeptically-minded start asking questions, they may start to claim they are very close to death.

If you suspect anyone of faking a disease, be on the look out for any inconsistencies. If one catastrophic event happens one right after the other, be very suspicious. If they have trouble answering simple questions, they are very likely a faker. Just ignore and block them. It’s not a good idea to try to publicly expose them unless they are asking for money.

These fakers poison social media by making everyone who has dealt with them a lot more cynical and apprehensive. Add bullies and the multi-level marketing zombies to the mix, and social media looks like a very depressing place where you can’t trust anyone. However, by being very selective of who you follow, and knowing how to effectively deal with negative or dishonest people on social media, it can still be a valuable resource.

Have you dealt with these types of people before? What type of people do you consider to be the most troublesome on social media, and how do you deal with them?

Related article:

MLM and Social Media

 

10 Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

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If you are totally new to veganism, please read “The Plant Plate” first. This vegan eating guide by RD Ginny Messina will tell you all that is necessary for being a healthy vegan. That guide basically shows how I eat.

 

If there’s one thing the media can be counted on to do with regularity, it is bashing veganism by conflating it with eating disorders. Every time an ex-vegan blogger or celebrity shares their story about why they stopped being vegan, usually with horror stories about how sick they became, the media and many people jump at the chance to portray veganism as an extreme, unhealthy diet that will ruin your health.

It almost always seems the “vegan” in question was mainly motivated by health fanaticism, and had an eating disorder. Besides this, they were usually a devoted follower of one or more quack gurus who advocate a variety of unnecessary restrictions and practices that have nothing to do with veganism. The only things these restrictions do is make it harder to follow a vegan diet than it should be. They do not make it healthier.

Unfortunately, overly restrictive eating has become a little too common these days in the vegan/plant-based community due to the many gurus who advocate some or all of what is on the list below. It’s time to set the record straight about what really constitutes a healthy vegan diet/lifestyle. However, instead of “here’s what you need to do to be a healthy vegan” kind of post with health tips virtually everyone already knows, I thought I would do it from the other direction. So in the interest of making a vegan diet as easy, practical, healthful, and science-based as possible, here are 10 things that aren’t necessary for being a healthy vegan:

1) Eat only organic

Contrary to what you may have heard, organic isn’t necessarily healthier. Yet many vegans are very committed to eating mostly or nothing but organic due to the belief that conventional foods are laden with disease-causing pesticides and toxins.

The scientific evidence however doesn’t consistently show that organic is healthier. Organic foods also have pesticide residue on them, both natural and synthetic. The amount of pesticide residue is generally minuscule, and much of that can be washed off before consumption. The only thing going organic is almost certain to do is make your vegan diet/lifestyle more expensive.

As far as organic being better for the environment, that is controversial and beyond the scope of this post.

2) Go gluten-free

If you don’t have celiac disease or wheat allergy you don’t need to give up wheat or gluten-containing foods. Strangely, some vegans who don’t have celiac disease adhere to this as if gluten was a form of meat. They could be missing out on a lot of nutritious foods by going gluten-free. To make matters worse, gluten-free products are often more expensive than their gluten-containing counterparts. Save your money and ignore this fad.

3) Detox

On second thought, you actually do need to detox. Fortunately, if your liver and kidneys are functioning properly, this is being done for you automatically. As far as “detoxing” through diet goes, this ritual often seems to be the common denominator of those who become “vegan” as a result of being health-obsessed. All-too-often, I stumble upon a vegan health blog that recommends a juice fasting regimen and/or worthless supplements to help the body “detoxify”. This is pseudo-scientific garbage. It’s a great idea for most people to eat or even drink more fruits and vegetables, but they won’t help you remove “toxins”. If you believe you’ve been poisoned, skip the juice bar and seek medical help.

4) Give up soy

This is very similar to going gluten-free in which a perfectly healthy food is demonized for no good reason. Unless you have a soy allergy, there’s no good reason to avoid soy foods. The idea that eating soy foods will give men feminine traits is hooey. If you don’t have thyroid issues, it’s very unlikely that soy in moderation will interfere with your thyroid.

5) Eliminate processed food 100%

I don’t believe that eating healthy should mean completely abstaining from processed foods. Of course, “processed food” isn’t easy to define, but foods that contain a lot of sodium, added sugars, or other additives is a good approximation. Eating a mostly whole food diet is a good idea, but I don’t think that should mean you can’t occasionally eat processed food like meat analogues for convenience. Studies don’t show that eating some processed foods will ruin your health if your diet is healthy otherwise.

6) Spirulina supplements

This type of supplement, which is derived from cyanobacteria(blue-green algae), is largely marketed toward athletes, vegan and non-vegan alike as an “energy booster” or “recovery” aid. It also supposedly has a plethora of other amazing health benefits that the “ambassadors” who push these magic pills on social media will be quick to inform you of. And it’s all nothing but hot air. I often call it “The Pond Scum Scam”.

While it is true that spirulina is nutritionally dense, and that NASA has done some research on it, there’s nothing unique to it that you can’t get from other plant foods for a lot less money. There’s also the potential for contamination and vitamin B12 analogue issues with this type of supplement, not to mention the unpleasant “fishy” taste some users complain about. Even though I’ve never tried them, the pseudo-science used in the promotion of these expensive supplements always left a bad taste in my mouth. Ignore the hype and just eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and eat trail mix or an energy bar after a vigorous workout.

7) Go 100% raw

I’ve already covered rawfoodism in “My Position on Rawfoodism“, but it deserves to be mentioned here because many of the “vegans” with eating disorders who fail at “veganism” were actually rawfoodists. It just really bothers me how much rawfoodism is intertwined with veganism these days.

As a former rawfoodist, I believe rawfoodism has little to do with health and is more about attaining some bizarre, quasi-spiritual level of “purity”. It’s difficult to find a justification for this kind of diet that isn’t based on some form of pseudo-science or the naturalistic fallacy. It’s even more difficult, in my experience, to stick to this diet. People who are drawn to this diet are often extreme perfectionists.

I keep hoping this dangerous fad will go away, but for some reason it continues to linger on as a thorn in the side of the vegan movement.

8) Give up all oil including olive oil

Already covered this here, but this also shows no sign of going away in spite of the potential for this to alienate the many millions of Mediterraneans, Hispanics and millions of others who love their olive oil. Besides this, fat helps you feel full and also helps you absorb fat-soluble nutrients. The tiny number of doctors and researchers who advocate this approach all seem to live in this bubble that is impervious to the latest scientific research which contradicts them. In moderation, fats like olive oil are healthful, and won’t ruin the health of vegans who eat a healthy diet.

9) Buying a Vitamix

The purchase of a Vitamix is often thought of as an important milestone in many a vegan’s journey. I don’t have one, or any blender for that matter, and neither do many other vegans I know, but some vegans can’t live without it.

Unlike other things on this list, there’s nothing wrong with purchasing a Vitamix or blender to make smoothies or prepare meals, it’s just that I don’t see it as being absolutely necessary. It’s great if you have one, but it’s also great if you don’t have one. I can just as easily eat my vegetables in salads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes without one.

10) Eat “clean”

“Clean eating” can loosely be thought of as combining most of what is on the list above. It can sort of be thought of as an umbrella term for eating organic, all-natural, whole food, and additive-free, often with a good helping of raw foods. Note that I didn’t say “animal food free” – “clean-eating” in essence has nothing to do with veganism or eating 100% plant-based for that matter. Granted, some health vegans may think of their diet as the ultimate “clean” diet because to them animal foods are totally “unclean”, but this ignores the fact that most “clean eaters” are not vegan.

“Clean eating” overlaps to a large degree with rawfoodism, and has similar motivations in that it’s based on an obsession with purity.”Clean eating” is also interrelated with detox pseudo-science, since if you should fail to adhere to your strict “clean eating” regimen for even one meal, all you gotta do is “detox” to reverse all the supposed negative health effects the toxic food caused. Since so many different, and mutually contradictory dietary approaches are embracing the “clean eating” trend, it can’t be rigorously or universally defined. Indeed, except to the extent that it implies a health or purity obsession, or an embrace of pseudo-science, “clean eating” is almost meaningless.

Besides all this, “clean eating” smacks of dietary elitism, and the sooner we get rid of this annoying term, the better.

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These are just a few of the things vegans don’t have to do to be healthy. I could have listed many more, but I didn’t want to go on forever. I chose to list these not just because of how common they are but also because of how they increase the chances of failing at veganism. To the people who continue to advocate things on this list: Please stop making veganism more complicated than it has to be!

If you think I missed any big ones, feel free to mention them in the comments.

Followup to this post: 5 More Things That Aren’t Necessary For Being a Healthy Vegan

Related posts:

Vegan Diets and Orthorexia: How Should Activists Respond?

The Clean Eating Delusion

Why Your Detox Is Bullsh*t 

It’s seitan, not satan: Why ‘clean eating’ and other unnecessary restrictions harm veganism and individuals

Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued him and the Age of Flimflam

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John Brinkley

I just finished reading Charlatan: America’s Most Dangerous Huckster, the Man Who Pursued Him, and the Age of Flimflam by Pope Brock, which is a real page-turner. It is one of the better books I’ve read over the past few years. Much of the book reads like a suspense thriller, though it is in essence a biography of the biggest quack in the U.S in the first half of the 20th century, John Brinkley, and his arch-nemesis, Dr Morris Fishbein, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association and the biggest quack-buster of his time.

Born in North Carolina to a poor family in 1885, John Brinkley would eventually become a merchant of patent medicines, learning all the tricks of the trade of this very popular form of quackery. He obtained a phony degree from a diploma mill to pose as a doctor, and eventually made his way to Milford, Kansas in 1917, a small town in need of a doctor. It was in Milford where he got the idea of surgically transplanting goat testicles into men to restore their virility.

Brinkley had many satisfied patients and his Kansas clinic flourished. He eventually started a radio station(KFKB) to help promote his dubious treatments, almost single-handedly inventing the infomercial in the process. His charisma and marketing genius brought him even more customers and success.

He even started an innovative radio program called “Medical Question Box”, in which he would answer letters on the air from listeners with health problems, and then recommend a specific pharmaceutical treatment(often nothing but colored water). Upon hearing this, many of his listeners who had similar health problems would then purchase the same drug from Brinkley associated pharmacies throughout the Midwest at inflated prices. Brinkley got a cut of each sale, making him a very rich man.

Meanwhile, Morris Fishbein in Chicago would write article after article exposing Brinkley as a quack and calling him a “menace”; this had little affect, and Brinkley would continue to prosper and kill some of his patients.

Brinkley came close to settling in California, sensing that there was a lot more money to be made there than in Kansas. At the time, California’s salubrious, warmer climate attracted a lot of people from around the country seeking rejuvenation and a better life. It also attracted a lot of hucksters seeking to exploit them. Fortunately, Brinkley’s attempt at obtaining a medical license in California was blocked by Fishbein and others who protested to the authorities. Stuck in small-town Kansas, Brinkley continued raking in the dough, and living a luxurious lifestyle which included a growing number of expensive cars.

Fishbein’s indefatigable efforts to get the RTC(forerunner of the FCC) to revoke Brinkley’s radio license finally paid off, and Brinkley was taken off the air. Not long after, Brinkley also lost his medical license in the state of Kansas. What did Brinkley do next? He announced he was running for governor, with only 5 weeks to election day. Though he lost, he came very close to winning; he would occasionally entertain the idea of running for president.

Brinkley was very far from defeated though. He relocated his clinic to Del Rio, Texas and operated a radio station just across the border in Cuidad Acuña, Mexico, out of reach from the U.S government. Free of any regulation, he used this radio station(XER-AM), to promote his quack remedies and political beliefs, first broadcasting in October, 1931. XER would eventually produce the most powerful radio signal in the world, initiating the era of “border blaster” radio. On a clear day, the signal could be picked up as far away as Finland.

Besides promoting his dangerous treatments, increasingly bizarre conspiratorial political beliefs, and complaining about getting persecuted by the establishment, Brinkley also promoted many early country and blues music performers on his radio broadcasts, like the Carter family. Brinkley was by now a very wealthy man with a large mansion full of treasures, a fleet of expensive cars, and spacious yachts he would spend his summers on. Besides this, he was one of the most famous(or infamous) men in the country, and was popular with the locals since his lucrative practice, trailblazing radio station, and his contributions to civic improvements helped Del Rio prosper during the worst years of the Great Depression.

Eventually a competitor came to town, charging a lot less than Brinkley for the same sham procedures. In spite of Brinkley’s popularity and connections, his efforts at driving out this upstart failed, and Brinkley would eventually relocate his clinic yet again, this time to Little Rock, Arkansas.

Brinkley’s hubris in his never-ending war with quack-buster Morris Fishbein would eventually lead to his undoing, but I don’t want to spoil the rest for those who don’t know how it ends.

Brinkley wasn’t just one of the most successful quacks in American history, he was also one of the most prolific serial killers America ever produced. It is difficult to know how many people he killed with his dangerous and dubious treatments. Many more, possibly at least in the hundreds, were maimed.

John Brinkley is a stark reminder of the extreme gullibility of humans when it comes to health matters. Reading between the lines of this book, it’s not just about Brinkley, but is also a powerful indictment of quackery as it exists today. There may be many more laws today to protect consumers, but quackery is very much alive. I see a little bit of Brinkley in some of the better known quacks out there today, who often practice “alternative medicine”, which is what quackery calls itself these days. While they may not be prolific killers like Brinkley, they still prey on the vulnerable, and use the same marketing strategies.

All in all, a very educational, enjoyable, and well-written book for those interested in the history of modern medicine, as well as quackery, or who just like to read a true story that vividly portrays what America was like in the first half of the 20th century.

Shaming the shamans

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Red-crested Pochard – public domain

When you’re injured, every person and even every dog and cat you know offers you advice to help you heal faster. Some of this advice is good. Unfortunately, a lot of the advice I receive is just plain bad, even though the people recommending it may mean well. The advice I receive from dogs and cats is generally better – this is because dogs and cats can detect pseudo-science and charlatanism much better than humans.

No, I don’t want to see your homeopath, reiki-master, shaman, faith-healer, naturopath, chiropractor, acupuncturist or any other quacks. For reasons explained in my post, “There is no magic in joggling“, I am no friend of quackery, which in recent decades has successfully rebranded itself as “alternative medicine” to make it seem legitimate.

I know, I know, so many people claim “but it works for me!”. However, testimonials are worthless, testimonials are not evidence of efficacy. Testimonials were regularly used to promote fraudulent patent medicines a century ago, and these “medicines” were very often nothing but alcohol or colored water.

Kickapoo_Sagwa

To a large extent, it is because of the placebo effect that so many sick people feel better after taking fake medicine. Besides this, so many illnesses naturally run their course, like the common cold or allergy symptoms.

Now really, what is the difference between the patent medicine pictured on the right, and nearly everything coming out of the alternative medicine world these days?

Another question: Who here wants to be taken to a homeopath, or a naturopath, or a Reiki-master after getting severely injured in a car accident?

When it comes to evaluating health products, never trust testimonials or advertising. Use PubMed to research health claims. It’s not perfect, but it gives you access to peer-reviewed scientific literature.

If my knee doesn’t get better or the pain gets worse, I will go seek the help of a medical doctor. Shocking, I know.

There is no magic in joggling

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There are so many misconceptions surrounding joggling and the “Wild Juggling” blog, that it would be difficult to cover them all in one post. Now I would love to discuss the misconceptions about what joggling can do for your sex life. However, a more common yet disturbing misconception is how some people peddling quackery see me as some kind of natural ally, and have suggested through email that we guest blog on each other’s blogs. The truth of the matter is that I am no friend of quackery or as it is often called today, “alternative medicine”. There is nothing “alternative” I do that allows me to joggle for many miles every day. What falls under the label of “alternative medicine” is almost always unproven and therefore simply quackery. Sometimes the label “complementary” is used, or the hybridized “integrative”.

These labels are simply marketing terms for therapies based on prescientific ideas that have been justifiably disgarded by modern science. What do I mean exactly? I mean things like homeopathy, reiki, chiropractic, “energy” healing, acupuncture, and most supplements. To make the long story short, for homeopathy to work beyond its placebo effects, it would require overturning most of what we currently know about about physics and chemistry. That’s because one of the central tenets of homeopathy is that the more you dilute a medicine, the more powerful its effects. Another central tenet is “like cures like”, which means a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in a healthy person will cure the same disease in a sick person. And don’t forget that substance has to be diluted many times over until none of the substance is left to increase its potency.

Example: If X causes allergies in healthy people, giving X to a person with severe allergies should cure their allergies. Sounds ridiculous, right? If you don’t believe me, visit the Wikipedia article on homeopathy or read about it on some homeopathy site. Nothing I said about how it is supposed to work is an exaggeration.

Reiki, a form of “energy” healing, is similarly nonsensical. Dr Steven Novella does a good job of exposing Reiki for the quackery that it is:

Reiki is therefore a form of vitalism – the pre-scientific belief that some spiritual energy animates the living, and is what separates living things from non-living things. The notion of vitalism was always an intellectual place-holder, responsible for whatever aspects of biology were not currently understood. But as science progressed, eventually we figured out all of the basic functions of life and there was simply nothing left for the vital force to do. It therefore faded from scientific thinking. We can add to that the fact that no one has been able to provide positive evidence for the existence of a vital force – it remains entirely unknown to science.

Acupuncture, and the theories that underpin Ayurvedic and traditional Chinese medicine are similarly based on discredited prescientific ideas(like vitalism described above), and have virtually no scientific evidence proving their efficacy. This is why mainstream medical doctors generally do not approve of their use, not because of some “big pharma” conspiracy or “closed mindedness”.

Unfortunately, many alternative(quack) practitioners love to muddy the waters, to confuse people about what “alternative” really means, and also engage in bait-and-switch tactics to get people to accept their bizarre, discredited ideas. They often do this by mislabeling practices that are fully endorsed by scientific medicine as “alternative”, like exercise or dietary changes. Funny thing is, just about all doctors recommend exercise to their patients if they are not already doing so due to its numerous proven health benefits. Alternative practitioners did not invent exercise, so this is not an example of alternative medicine getting vindicated. Mainstream doctors also recommend their patients eat more fruits and vegetables, and have been doing so for a very long time, so there is nothing “alternative” about dietary change either, except for diets mostly based on pseudo-science.

Physicians regularly prescribe supplements or nutritional therapies to their patients, so this isn’t necessarily “alternative”. Admittedly, many nutritional therapies/supplements are something of a gray area between scientific and alternative medicine; it is unwise in most cases to ingest megadoses of nutrients on a daily basis, since getting a lot more than what you need isn’t necessarily better. A lot of megadose vitamin therapies are based on pseudo-science, and are potentially dangerous unless prescribed by a doctor.

Herbs, which can be thought of as “natural drugs” are an interesting case in that they also sort of inhabit a grey zone. Some doctors may occasionally prescribe or recommend them for non-serious conditions like coughs, or upset stomachs in the form of teas, but beyond this most are unproven or at best the results from studies are inconsistent. That said, many medical scientists study plants to help them discover new drugs, because of the many powerful pharmacological substances in plants(a fairly high percentage of pharmaceutical drugs are based on plant chemicals).

In pharmaceutical drugs, these chemicals tend to be more powerful and more reliable due to their isolation and the controlled conditions in which they are manufactured; in herbs, they are often a lot less potent due to the presence of other natural chemicals that negate their effects and plants will vary greatly over how much of the active chemical they produce. So many people will swear that an unproven herbal supplement they take works, but this is almost certainly due to the placebo effect. When it comes to alternative medicine in general, the only benefit anyone experiences is the placebo effect.

Some alternative practitioners may point to Yoga as a form of “alternative” medicine that works. The reality is that Yoga, divorced from its spiritual underpinnings is really just a form of exercise, and as already noted exercise has been proven to be an effective health booster. Meditation is a form of relaxation and may help train the mind to focus better, so it is similarly not “alternative”. Chiropractic has as its backbone many pseudo-scientific ideas about the spine, but some of the better chiropracters may mix in some of the latest physical therapy techniques, rendering this form of alternative therapy something of a mixed bag.

So no, there is nothing “alternative” that I am doing that allows me to joggle, though I often experiment with things that are at least scientifically plausible or from the grey area between scientific and alternative medicine. I frequently post about how certain foods, nutrients, or dietary approaches may boost athletic performance, aid recovery, or prevent disease, but this is just nutrition or falls into the category of “home remedy”. Optimal sports nutrition is not “alternative”, and I cite published scientific studies whenever possible to show if something works or not.

I am not in tune with any “supernatural” forces. There is no reiki, energy healing, homeopathy, chakras, traditional Chinese medicine, vitalism, or even caffeine in my approach to joggling and fitness. It is just one of the many glorious end products of eating a healthy plant-based diet, getting enough sleep, and a ton of practice. The mind-set I have is one of scientific skepticism, not of being in tune with some kind of “spirit-force” or whatever they are calling it these days.

I will simply not use or recommend something if there is no evidence to support it and/or if it is scientifically implausible. In fact, I probably wouldn’t be able to joggle at all if I wasted my time doing things that are based on nonsense or pseudo-science. So skepticism prevents me from wasting my time doing useless things, besides things that are potentially harmful. Ultimately, as someone once said, skeptics are the garbagemen of bad ideas, and no where is skepticism needed more than in health and fitness.

For more info on quackery and alternative medicine visit:

Science-Based Medicine

Quackwatch

Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit

I believe this is a very useful tool for evaluating all the various health claims you encounter:

Carl Sagan’s Baloney Detection Kit

The health world is currently plagued by misinformation and pseudoscience. But with the Baloney Detection Kit, it should be easier to separate fact from fiction.