Tag Archives: Thought Field Therapy

100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy lifestyle

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your healthy lifestyle

Oh good, lifestyle advice. We all love to be told what to do, if only so that we can feel appropriately virtuous when it’s what we would do anyway.

91 Don’t shield yourself from the sun’s rays

The sun is our best source of vital vitamin D, which to protect against numerous diseases and conditions. Most of us in the northern climes are vitamin D-deficient. Opt instead for sensible sun exposure by supplementing with antioxidants like selenium, lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E, which offer natural sun protection without the need for potentially harmful chemical sunscreens.

One of the most baffling things about WDDTY is that they tell you things like WiFi cause cancer (which they don’t) then promote not only exposure to the sun (which irrefutably does cause cancer), but unprotected exposure, asserting (falsely) that sunscreens cause cancer.

In fact, that the Skin Cancer Foundation’s Francisca Fusco MD tells you exactly why doctors don’t tell you that sun exposure is the best way to get vitamin D or that sunscreen causes cancer: it’s utter bollocks. Dangerous bollocks at that.

92 Get at least seven hours of sleep

This amount of sleep may “significantly” reduce your risk of cancer, says recent research.60 Lack of sleep alters insulin levels, contributing to overweight and even diabetes. Seven hours seems about right while nine is too much; women sleeping more than this have the highest risk of stroke.

Reference 60: Cancer. 2011 Feb 15;117(4):841-7. Short duration of sleep increases risk of colorectal adenoma. Thompson CL, Larkin EK, Patel S, Berger NA, Redline S, Li L.

All together now: Correlation is not causation. How do you know that those who sleep less are not rampant caffeine addicts? How do you know they’re not heavy drinkers? Alcohol intoxication seriously impacts quality of sleep, after all.

The answer is, you don’t, and you certainly don’t from a study whose 95% CI is 1.05-2.06, meaning that either it makes no difference or it doubles your risk. The study is underpowered to draw any firm conclusion about a causal link.

WDDTY did suggest that a lie in could cure diabetes. If that’s the level of rigour at play here, then perhaps it explains the sloppiness of the argument.

93 Ensure you are breathing through your nose

Breathing incorrectly can contribute to asthma,61 and even attention-deficit/hyperactivity (ADHD)-spectrum problems. If you aren’t breathing correctly, try the Buteyko Breathing Technique or the breathing exercises (pranayama) practised in yoga.62

Reference 61: BMJ, 2001; 322: 1098–100 Prevalence of dysfunctional breathing in patients treated for asthma in primary care: cross sectional survey Mike Thomas, general practitioner, R K McKinley, senior lecturer, Elaine Freeman, primary care research coordinator, and Chris Foy, medical statistician.

Reference 62a:  J Asthma, 2000; 37: 557–64; A clinical trial of the Buteyko Breathing Technique in asthma as taught by a video. Opat AJ, Cohen MM, Bailey MJ, Abramson MJ.

Reference 62b:  J Asthma, 1991; 28: 437–42 Effect of yoga training on exercise tolerance in adolescents with childhood asthma. Jain SC, Rai L, Valecha A, Jha UK, Bhatnagar SO, Ram K.

The first reference concludes:

About a third of women and a fifth of men had scores suggestive of dysfunctional breathing. Although further studies are needed to confirm the validity of this screening tool and these findings, these prevalences suggest scope for therapeutic intervention and may explain the anecdotal success of the Buteyko method of treating asthma.

This qualifies as blindingly obvious, as does the second paper, because bronchospasm is self-reinforcing: teaching breathing techniques that help recover normal breathing rhythm, will minimise the symptoms of bronchospasm. But Buteyko does not claim to be merely palliative, it claims to cure asthma. The second reference shows this not to be the case – there are improvements in quality of life and reduced bronchodilator use, but no evidence of cure.

Wait, isn’t it medicine that’s only supposed to treat the symptoms?

Here’s what Asthma UK say:


  • There has been little research published in medical journals about the Buteyko technique. This makes detailed comment difficult.
  • A Cochrane Review of breathing exercises found no improvement in lung function. However, four clincial trials have suggested that breathing exercises can lead to a reduction in asthma symptoms and reduced use of a reliever inhaler.
  • In 2003 (Cooper et al) Asthma UK funded research into the clinical effectiveness of the BBT as a complementary addition to conventional asthma treatment. This study showed that for some people with asthma, the use of the BBT helped to reduce their asthma symptoms and to reduce their use of reliever inhaler; although no effect on the underlying condition itself was found.
  • The BBT may help people with asthma to feel more in control of their breathing and may be worth trying for those who are willing to give it a try and commit the time required to learn the technique.
  • More research is needed to identify if certain people with asthma benefit more than others.
  • BBT can be expensive and this should be taken into account when considering it as an option.


  • Yoga is an ancient Hindu discipline that uses a variety of postures and breathing techniques to help to increase fitness and aid relaxation.
  • One aspect of yoga, Pranayama uses breathing exercises, and has been studied with regard to asthma. These breathing exercises were found to be beneficial, with participants showing fewer asthma attacks and a higher tolerance to certain triggers.
  • Simple relaxation techniques, which do not incorporate the philosophical aspects of yoga, have also been shown to have some benefit.
  • It’s uncertain whether yoga and breathing exercises help asthma by reducing stress (which can be a trigger) or by other physical effects. More research is needed to establish this.

So, breathing techniques help the symptoms of bronchospasm, it probably doesn’t matter much which one you use, in both cases you’re dealing with “brands” that have a side-order of claptrap so go in with your eyes open and don’t succumb to the usual woo.

Remember that the appeal to tradition is fallacious, that starting with a treatment and then generating evidence to support your business is always a red flag, and never give your money to anyone unless they can prove they are fully qualified with proper degrees from accredited colleges.

94 Walk

Especially if you’re a woman, walking at even a moderate pace (3 miles per hour) provides every benefit that running does for staving off degenerative diseases and cardiovascular events. Power walking will even burn more calories than running at a similar speed with no harmful effects on your joint cartilage. Use a Swiss ball to work your ‘core’—the muscles of the trunk, front and back—as this will strengthen the abdominal muscles that support the spine, hip and buttocks. Opt for free weights over machines, which are less effective for strengthening the body holistically.

Free weights also carry a higher probability of injury, because they are less controlled in the axis of movement and have no mechanism to control release on muscle failure.

Here’s a simple and easy fact about exercise: the type you enjoy most is the type you will keep up. Running, walking, rowing, cycling, on crosstrainer, climber, stationary bike or treadmill, on the road or on singletrack. Whatever you enjoy, you will be motivated to do.

The single best piece of advice is probably to exercise as part of a group who have healthy attitudes to their bodies and what they want to achieve. A cycling club, or a group of ladies who meet for half an hour on the treadmill followed by a skinny latte. Whatever gives you pleasure. 

Regardless, this advice is precisely what your doctor will tell you.

95 Sleep in the very dark dark

Too much light at night interrupts our body’s production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates our internal sleep–wake cycle; working at night and sleeping in a too-bright bedroom have also been linked to an increased risk of cancer.63 Get yourself a sleep mask or blackout curtains, particularly for the bright summer months.

Reference 63: J Natl Cancer Inst, 2001; 93: 1557–62 Night shift work, light at night, and risk of breast cancer. Davis S, Mirick DK, Stevens RG.

Yes, night shift work adversely affects your health. Remember to thank the nurses and juniors and buy them biscuits and chocolate next time you’re in a hospital, they do it for you. Now what does the study actually say?

RESULTS: Breast cancer risk was increased among subjects who frequently did not sleep during the period of the night when melatonin levels are typically at their highest (OR = 1.14 for each night per week; 95% CI = 1.01 to 1.28). Risk did not increase with interrupted sleep accompanied by turning on a light. There was an indication of increased risk among subjects with the brightest bedrooms. Graveyard shiftwork was associated with increased breast cancer risk (OR = 1.6; 95% CI = 1.0 to 2.5), with a trend of increased risk with increasing years and with more hours per week of graveyard shiftwork (P =.02, Wald chi-squared test).

CONCLUSION: The results of this study provide evidence that indicators of exposure to light at night may be associated with the risk of developing breast cancer.

That was in 2001, over time the evidence that prolonged night shift work is associated with higher cancer risk has firmed up. Sleep masks and blackout curtains? Not so much. These studies refer to long-term shift workers (nurses, in fact) and don’t establish any causal link between levels of darkness in normal sleep and cancer.

96 Seek out the new

Keep your brain active, stay curious and maintain goals—even physical ones. Routine is not only deadening to the senses, but can actually make us ill. According to Bowling Green State University psychologist Jaak Panksepp, one of the most important basic human instincts is the ‘seeking’ mode, a nature that remains intensely engaged in the search or the puzzle, or is simply curious about what’s new. Every study of longevity shows that those who live to a ripe old age set themselves goals and stay curious. An interest in new things and change and, most of all, a “pioneering spirit” seemed to be the longevity elixir of a group of long-lived Civil War nurses.64 Vary your activities and ensure that you engage in ones that involve problem-solving.

Reference 64: Nurs Forum, 1991; 26: 9–16 New Surprises in Very Old Places: Civil War Nurse Leaders and Longevity, Wendy Woodward

Just when you think the Weird has peaked…

While the average woman in the U.S. Civil War times lived to the age of about 40, a group of 17 extraordinary nurses–including Louisa Mae Alcott, Dorothea Dix, and Clara Barton–survived to much older ages. A variety of possible reasons, from social and marital status to altruism and religion, is explored. More than any tangible factor, however, the presence of a “pioneering spirit” seems to be at the root of their longevity.

 Is this genuinely the best source supporting this claim?

97 Love your work; work to serve

Don’t settle for anything less than work that makes your heart sing, and do it with gusto. People at peace with their lives and life’s work live longer than those at war with the world. One of the most fulfilling types of work is living a life of service to others.

Doctors, for instance? Oh, wait…

We hope our public service in debunking WDDTY’s egregious nonsense will indeed confer long life, but we don’t put money on it because the actual evidence for positive attitude making the blindest bit of difference is pretty thin.

If you live to be 100, you’re likely to be pretty chipper about it, but you can be the Duracell Bunny and still die aged 30 from a heart attack.

98 Find your tribe

Various studies have revealed that the root emotions of stress are a sense of helplessness and loneliness, and anything that can help re-establish connections—with family, with the community, with God—is a potent healer. Joining just one group this year will halve your chances of dying; connecting also protects against heart disease and stroke. If you don’t have a close community, then assemble one either through your church, or through work or leisure organizations. Meet and share regularly.

A classic confusion of correlation with causation. Does going to church make you live longer? It would be nice to think so, but nobody has successfully unpicked this from a general attitude of acceptance of the world, rather than perpetual angst. 

Oh, we believe chocolate works as well. Also probably gardening, certainly cycling, and who knows what else. It’s likely that anything that gets you out of the house and makes you happy, works. Which doesn’t explain the longevity of Victor MeldrewW, and although it’s definitely true that Tom Good has outlived Jerry Leadbetter, we reckon Margot Leadbetter is wearing the years more gracefully than Barbara Good.

99 Erase your old inner emotional tapes

Try one of the new energy psychology methods like  Thought Field Therapy (TFT) or the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), both of which are ‘needlefree’ forms of acupuncture in which the therapist or patient ‘taps’ on various meridians of the body while making a series of statements. In one study of patients suffering from post-traumatic stress—considered extremely difficult to treat—TFT reduced such stress by more than half.65

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Reference 65: Traumatology, 1999; 5: 1, article 4 – reference unclear (see contents)

This kind of bullshit makes professionals who deal with PTSD very angry. There is an immense body of research into PTSD, much of it centred on combat veterans. CBT and other techniques have an effect, as does EMDR, but it is a complex and long-lived disorder that is likely to require a lot of intensive effort from well-trained professionals.

Thought Field TherapyW is ideologically acceptable to Lynne McTaggart, author of many pseudoscientific discussions of similar concepts, but there’s no credible evidence it works.

Emotional Freedom TechniqueW is also purest hogwash.

Both are practised mainly by hippy-dippy New-Age quacks who believe that the body is regulated by the flow of an empirically unverifiable life force whose balance is vitally affected by meridians and acupoints that have no known associated biological structures.

The evidence that these points exist is, to put it mildly, not compelling. Nobody has yet succeeded in proving that tapping them (or sticking needles in them or anything else) has any differential effect over doing the same thing in the “wrong” place. Oh, and Chinese and Japanese versions are different, so if you’re a Chinese and get sick in Japan, be sure to let them know.

100 Cultivate a readiness to empathize and forgive

One of the greatest antidotes to stress is heartfelt forgiveness and empathy. Learning to forgive can help overcome depression and stress.66 Gratitude and generosity are powerful, health-promoting game changers.

Reference 66: Explore [NY], 2006; 2: 498–508 Positive emotional change: mediating effects of forgiveness and spirituality. Levenson MR, Aldwin CM, Yancura L.

Opinion masquerading as fact, basically pure new-age hogwash. But what the hell, to err is human, to forgive divine. However, it does require that the sinner first repents. When WDDTY apologises for some of its egregious errors, we’ll start to forgive them for their decades long anti-health crusade.

100 ways to live to 100: 10 situations that don’t usually require a doctor

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

10 situations that don’t usually require a doctor

If there’s one thing you can rely on doctors telling you, it’s when you don’t need a doctor. They are about as keen to see people with the common cold as WDDTY is to see evidence that vaccines are safe and effective. And in both cases, that doesn’t stop it happening, all the time.

61 Backache

Some 80 per cent of us suffer from back pain, but medicine doesn’t offer much besides potentially dangerous surgery (which leaves only a quarter of patients free of pain) and drugs. In most cases, an osteopath, chiropractor or Alexander Technique practitioner can sort you, as can exercise.

Let’s unpick that. If medicine cures back pain by surgery, that’s evil. If medicine gives drugs to manage the pain, that’s evil. If medicine recommends exercise and physiotherapy, that’s ignored because it would undermine WDDTY’s pretence that these are “alternative” and thus the sole preserve of quacks like their advertisers.

Why don’t doctors tell you that Alexander Technique works for low back pain? They do. They also recommend osteopathy and chiropractic, but there are severe problems with both these fields, due to the prevalence of crank ideas. Osteopaths need to discipline and exclude charlatans who practice “cranial osteopathy”, and chiropractors need to recognise that there is no evidence that chiropractic works better than evidence-based manipulation therapy, and substantial evidence of actively dangerous practices such as cervical spinal manipulation, potentially leading to stroke, bullshit claims to treat ear infections, asthma and other things unrelated to the musculoskeletal system, anti-vaccination propaganda, and of course the big scam: never discharging a cured patient, but instead trying to sell them an indefinite course of worthless “maintenance”.

If you have back pain, see your doctor, they will recommend the most appropriate treatment. Which might be surgery, drugs, exercise or some form of physiotherapy. Unlike WDDTY’s advice, this won’t be based on dogma or pleasing the advertisers, it’ll be based on the best currently available evidence.

62 Earache

Shout it loud: antibiotics just don’t work for earache. Nor does removing adenoids fix glue ear.39 Instead, try time, mullein oil, a woolly hat, a hot-water bottle, homeopathic Pulsatilla,40 osteopathy or auricular therapy (acupuncture of the ear). Before having grommets inserted in your child’s ear, cut down his fat and sugar, and investigate food or airborne allergies as the potential cause.

Reference 39a: JAMA, 2006; 296: 1235–41 Wait-and-see prescription for the treatment of acute otitis media: a randomized controlled trial. Spiro DM, Tay KY, Arnold DH, Dziura JD, Baker MD, Shapiro ED.

Reference 39b: BMJ, 2004; 328: 487 Adenoidectomy versus chemoprophylaxis and placebo for recurrent acute otitis media in children aged under 2 years: randomised controlled trial. Koivunen P, Uhari M, Luotonen J, Kristo A, Raski R, Pokka T, Alho OP.

Reference 40: Ullman D. Discovering Homeopathy: Medicine for the 21st Century. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1991; AHZ, 1985; 230: 89–94

If you follow this advice, a repeat of a recent and particularly dreadful article,  you’ll have to “shout it loud” because your child may be deaf.

The standard of care is watchful waiting, but adenoidectomy may be indicated in the presence of both glue ear and persistent nasal symptoms. Antibiotics work as a primary treatment for bacterial ear infections. Most children will grow out of them in time, but leaving the infection untreated when treatment is indicated, on ideological grounds as WDDTY propose, is perverse.

HomeopathyW has three problems: first, there’s no reason to think it should work; second, there’s no way it can work; and third, there’s no proof it does work. Of all alternatives to medicine, it is the most thoroughly debunked. Its doctrines were refuted over a century ago and its only real value now is as a litmus test for lack of critical thinking. A test WDDTY fails on a truly epic scale.

Dana Ullman, the cited source, is a high priest of the cult of homeopathy, he is a proven liar who claims Darwin and Nightingale for homeopathy despite their well documented contempt for it, and is responsible for propagating the lies that Montagnier’s work proves homeopathy and that the Swiss Government found it safe and effective. His propagandising for homeopathy knows no bounds. Each new publication by a True Believer is presented as the final clinching proof of homeopathy, and when it’s shown to be flawed or fraudulent he merely moves on to the next, occasionally repeating the old ones if he thinks nobody will notice. His self-promotion and steadfast denial of reality got him banned from Wikipedia.  There’s even an eponymous law: the Dull-Man Law. In any discussion of homoeopathy, being Dana Ullman loses you the argument – and gets you laughed out of the room.

AcupunctureW is also nonsense, though it is only recently proven to be completely useless. Auricular acupuncture has absolutely no basis in fact and lacks even the marginal credibility of acupuncture. The ear looks a bit like a baby, therefore the bits of the ear correspond to the organs that would be there if it was a baby. No, not even vaguely sensible.

63 Infection

For common and non-serious infections, try Echinacea, essential oils like clove, lavender, lemon, marjoram, mint, niaouli (Melaleuca), pine, rosemary and thyme oils, and goldenseal, manuka honey, tea tree oil, good old garlic and cranberry, all of which are powerful alternatives to antibiotics.

Alternatives they may be. Effective? Not so much. There’s some evidence of manuka honey as a topical antibiotic but why on earth would you not use antibiotics? They work very well, are generally well tolerated, and they have saved countless millions of lives.

This references a May 2013 article, we’ve added it to the work list.

64 Just-in-case checkups, particularly if you’re aged over 50

If you have nothing particularly wrong with you, going to the doctor won’t necessarily protect but is likely to unleash the entire arsenal testing apparatus have you leaving prescription (or three) in your hands.

So let’s get this straight: it’s wrong to see your doctor in case he finds something wrong with you.

Er, right.

65 Menopause In most cases, holistic measures

In most cases holistic measures (diet, homeopathy, herbs) will help you through the change in a safer way than using hormone replacement therapy (HRT), which continues to be discredited, despite protestations by doctors, because of a link with breast cancer.41 Our medical detective Dr Harald Gaier has had greater success with Phytoestrol N (which contains rhubarb root) than most of the popular herbals for menopause.

Reference 41:  Am J Public Health, 2010; 100 [Suppl 1]: S132–9 Decline in US Breast Cancer Rates After the Women’s Health Initiative: Socioeconomic and Racial/Ethnic Differentials Nancy Krieger, PhD,corresponding author Jarvis T. Chen, ScD, and Pamela D. Waterman, MPH.

HRT was discredited years ago, when it was shown not to protect against coronary heart disease but instead to promote it. Well-informed doctors don’t push it unless the symptoms of menopause are extremely bad, or for very early menopause or occasionally hysterectomy.

Homeopathy doesn’t work. Herbs may or may not (remember that a herbal remedy is basically an unknown dose of a potentially pharmacologically active compound with unknown impurities). The source for Harald Gaier’s success stories is Harald Gaier – WDDTY seem to think that blatant conflict of interest is fine as long as the message is ideologically acceptable.

66 Chronic but non-life-threatening conditions

Eczema, psoriasis, non-life-threatening asthma, arthritis and the like generally respond better to alternative measures than drugs, which only suppress symptoms. Check out the alternatives before resorting to lifelong drug use.

Few things are more infuriating than the claim that medicine “only suppresses symptoms” so alternatives are better.

Alternatives do one of two things: suppress the symptoms less effectively and less predictably, or nothing.

There are no alternatives which cure chronic conditions. If there were, they would no longer be alternative (Minchin’s Law).

The easiest way to demonstrate how wrong this advice is, is with a simple case study of one of the “non-life-threatening conditions” listed: eczema.

A couple whose baby daughter died after they treated her with homeopathic remedies instead of conventional medicine have been found guilty of manslaughter.

Gloria Thomas died aged nine months after spending more than half her life with eczema.

The skin condition wore down her natural defences and left her completely vulnerable when she developed an eye infection that killed her within days of developing.

And it’s not the only case. It’s extremely clear that the very last thing you should do when faced with a chronic condition is to consult an “alternative” practitioner, who will follow an ideologically-determined path with no provable value to you, for profit.

67 Slimming

All doctors usually have to offer are drugs and calorie counting, which aren’t long term solutions, and numerous slimming drugs have potentially fatal side-effects. Look first for potential food intolerances, get your thyroid checked out, clean up your diet, and opt for low-GI foods and lots of fruit and veg.

The GI diet was developed by doctors. It’s recommended by doctors, who also recommend exercise and weight management clinics. Oh, and they can also refer you for lap band or other surgical interventions which have a reasonable success rate in the chronically obese who are not compliant with diet regimes. Doctors are also pretty good at spotting thyroid problems.

In the end, though, there is only one diet that is proven to work 100% of the time: the ELEM diet. Eat less, exercise more. Every reputable doctor in the UK, and probably the world, will tell you the same. WDDTY seem to prefer nutritionists who generally have no recognised qualifications whatsoever but nevertheless often sell miracle or fad diets.

68 Colds and flu

Unless you’re elderly and your immune system is compromised in some way, there’s nothing your doctor can give you (or your children) to end a cold or flu, which is usually caused by a viral infection (against which antibiotics mostly don’t work). Bed rest and plenty of fluids, plus zinc, Echinacea, Pelargonium sidoides, Andrographis paniculata, vitamin C and probiotics can all shorten the life of a cold (see WDDTY December 2013).

We’ve critiqued these claims recently. No reputable doctor prescribes antibiotics for uncomplicated viral illness. WDDTY’s view of current medical advice seems to be 20 years out of date and from another continent.

69 Fever

Heat is the body’s extremely clever method of killing foreign invaders of all varieties, and taking anti-inflammatories and other drugs to lower your temperature just hampers that process. Allow your body to self-help by not interfering with a fever unless it’s so high that it may cause permanent damage. Fevers for ordinary viral and bacterial infections won’t exceed 105 degrees F (40.5 degrees C), which generally isn’t dangerous. But see a doctor immediately if you suspect a serious problem like meningitis.

WDDTY don’t seem to know the difference between anti-inflammatories and antipyretic|antipyreticsW. As it happens, Clay Jones at Science Based Medicine recently wrote a much more nuanced piece on fever, in the context of acute cases in hospital, which seems to be the situation WDDTY are considering.

As it happens, Clare Gerada, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners, recently tweeted a much more pragmatic piece by an actual doctor. Why would you allow your child to suffer the symptoms of fever, if a cheap and safe drug can bring them relief and let them at least get to sleep?

70 Acne

All your doctor can offer are drugs with horrendous side-effects; isotretinoin, marketed as Accutane and Roaccutane, can cause permanent damage to the cornea, impaired hearing, fatal pancreatitis, depression and even suicide.42 Try changing your diet, balancing your blood sugar and identifying any food intolerances first, then look to acupuncture, shown to help in 80 per cent of cases, or herbs like the Ayurvedic herb guggul (Commiphora wightii).43

Reference 42a: Arch Dermatol, 2012; 148: 803–8 Ocular Adverse Effects of Systemic Treatment With Isotretinoin Meira Neudorfer, MD; Inbal Goldshtein, MSc; Orna Shamai-Lubovitz, MD; Gabriel Chodick, PhD; Yuval Dadon; Varda Shalev, MD

Reference 42b: Am J Ther, 2004; 11: 507–16 Polar hysteria: an expression of hypervitaminosis A. O’Donnell J.

Reference 43a: J Tradit Chin Med, 1993; 13: 187–8 Treatment of 86 cases of local neurodermatitis by electro-acupuncture (with needles inserted around diseased areas). Liu JX.

Reference 43b: J Dermatol, 1994; 21: 729–31 Nodulocystic acne: oral gugulipid versus tetracycline. Thappa DM, Dogra J.

The first source says that “Isotretinoin use may be associated with short-term ocular events, especially conjunctivitis, underscoring the importance of educating patients and caregivers about these potentially important AEs of the therapy.” In other words: always read the label and be mindful of the balance of risks and benefits. To spin “may be associated with short-term ocular events” as “can cause permanent damage to the cornea” is typical of WDDTY.

The second source discusses accutane’s similarity to vitamin A, and thus the possibility that it may lead to hypervitaminosis A (but of course no actual vitamin is bad, as because natural). It’s an interesting paper that specifically note that accutane is indicated only for severe recalcitrant nodular acne but is being prescribed for less serious cases. However, this applies almost exclusively in the US, where drug manufacturers can advertise direct to consumers. In the UK, doctors are much closer to following the actual indications, because parents and patients are much less likely to pester the doctor for the drug they just saw advertised on TV. The increase in suicide with accutane should also be weighed against the fact that acne itself may induce suicidal thoughts. Bottom line: ask your doctor. This is the kind of thing GPs are trained for.

The third source is in a journal dedicated to promoting “traditional” Chinese medicine – in fact largely an invention of Mao. Such journals have serious issues with publication bias. The combined weight of evidence is pretty clear: needling results in only placebo effects. Electroacupuncture may have similar effects to TENS, but traditional it is not. Chinese acupuncture uses bamboo needles – bamboo is a notoriously poor conductor of electricity,

The fourth source, from 1994, promotes gugulipid (guggul). There’s decent evidence this works, but (as with every effective treatment) it has side-effects, which WDDTY either haven’t seen or don’t care about because natural.

It can cause side effects such as stomach upset, headaches, nausea, vomiting, loose stools, diarrhea, belching, and hiccups. Guggul can also cause allergic reactions such as rash and itching. Guggul can also cause skin rash and itching that is not related to allergy […].

Hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Guggul might act like estrogen in the body. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use guggul.

Underactive or overactive thyroid (hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism): Guggul might interfere with treatment for these conditions. If you have a thyroid condition, don’t use guggul without your healthcare provider’s supervision.

So, quite a lot of problems there. And guess what? Thanks to assiduous lobbying by the supplement industry, you might well never find out about these.

Acne is a bugger. See your doctor for good evidence-based advice, and see a counsellor if you find the bullying of your peers to be distressing.

100 ways to live to 100: Your healthy children

Part of a series on WDDTY’s “free” advertorial report “100 ways to live to 100

Your healthy children

It’s not clear how your children’s health could help you live to 100, though if you follow WDDTY’s anti-vaccine advice you certainly need them to be as healthy as possible to minimise the chance of death or permanent harm from vaccine preventable disease.

41 Get fit before you conceive

Work with a doctor experienced in preconception nutrition who will check your nutritional status and help you correct any deficiencies, hidden infections, heavy-metal toxic overload and the like, all of which can contribute to infertility and pregnancy loss. Contact Foresight for their complete programme of preconceptual care (www.foresight-preconception.org.uk). The organization reports a 90 per cent success rate of healthy babies born to the nearly 1,600 couples who completed the full Foresight programme, many with a previous history of lost pregnancy or infertility.

This is  a blatant sales pitch. Foresight’s website scores easily 8 ducks on the Quackometer – anything inspired by a “psychiatrist-with-vision” can’t score less!

The chances of anyone living a normal middle-class British lifestyle having “heavy metal toxic overload” are vanishingly small. Unless you ask a chelation quack like Dr. John Mansfield, a member of the WDDTY editorial panel. And most British women conceive without any special measures, so don’t throw your money down the drain until you’ve at least satisfied yourself you have a problem – and if that is the case, be sure to consult only a doctor who is registered and licensed to practice in the UK. The GMC has an online register which is a tad cumbersome but allows you to check for a name and verify that if, say, they qualified before 1976 at Guy’s, they are not licensed to practice in the UK.

In short: the heading is misleading. WDDTY are promoting quackery before conception. Avoid like the plague.

42 If you are pregnant, minimize your exposure to prenatal tests like ultrasound scans

Scans have been linked to low birth weights, delayed speech and dyslexia. Unless a problem is suspected, wait till after your baby is born to take its picture

“Scans have been linked” is classic WDDTY weasel words. Of course women with red flags for suspected problems will be referred for scans to see if the baby is developing normally. That doesn’t mean the scan has any effect on development.

Ultrasound is safe, cheap, and reassuring especially to the anxious primagravida. It can also pick up serious defects such as cleft lip and palate and prepare parents for informed choices at an early stage.

Some forms of diagnostics lead to many false positives and undesirable outcomes. Antenatal ultrasound is not one of these. It is an entirely reasonable check for developmental abnormalities, which is why virtually every doctor and midwife recommends it.

43 Breastfeed

Give your child this lifelong gift and breastfeed for as long as possible—at least one year, according to the WHO. In addition to providing the perfect food and the full complement of essential fatty acids, for your child, it also protects against allergies and helps improve vision and IQ. Resist the suggestions of experts to add supplemental feeds unless something is clearly wrong. The baby is usually getting enough if allowed to feed on demand.

Can anybody name the doctors who “don’t tell you” this? It’s entirely mainstream. Unfortunately, it is also so deeply embedded in the middle-class psyche that women who find they can’t breastfeed, for whatever reason, may feel bullied and inadequate (warning: Daily Mail). This is not just tabloid hysteria.

44 Get informed about vaccination

There’s no such thing as a totally safe vaccine; official organizations like the US National Academy of Sciences and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tacitly acknowledge that all vaccines have the potential to kill or cause serious harm. Assess every last jab with the following questions: How necessary is this vaccine? How effective? How safe? Especially question vaccinations against illnesses that are rare or generally not life-threatening in healthy, well-nourished children. This includes the MMR (measles–mumps–rubella), cervical cancer, Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b) and meningitis C vaccines.

Informed consent is good, as long as the information is reliable. WDDTY’s information on vaccines is grossly unreliable. Its claims for harm are massively inflated, its anti-vaccination agenda was established from the very outset and no story about vaccines has ever been published in any edition of WDDTY, as far as we can tell, which is accurate, positive, or correctly reflects the balance of risk and harm. A recent story claimed that “Andrew Wakefield was right”. He wasn’t. A story in this very issue repeated the vicious anti-vaccine lie that HPV vaccine has seriously harmed 1,700 girls. It hasn’t.

The best source for accurate information about vaccines is, and always has been, your family doctor. The implication that doctors claim vaccines are 100% safe or 100% effective is false, official documents have never supported this. they are, however, extremely safe and at least very effective.

Measles, pertussis (whooping-cough), Hib and other vaccine-preventable disease are killers. The anti-vaccine agenda is denialism at its most selfish, relying on others taking the tiny risk to provide the herd immunity that allows anti-vaccinationists to claim that vaccine preventable diseases are rare anyway.

45 Suspect allergies first

If your child has any chronic problems like earache, eczema, bowel problems or hyperactivity, suspect food/chemical allergies, and get them identified and treated.

Allergies are more common and more diverse than many parents think, and less common and less diverse than WDDTY would have you believe. If your child has a chronic health problem there are three very important things to remember:

  1. Intolerance is not allergy.
  2. Many children grow out of both intolerance and allergy.
  3. Avoid any allergy diagnostic services that claim to find yeast overgrowth, leaky gut and the like, and instead ask your GP for a referral to the local NHS allergy clinic.

Allergies, and chronic disease generally, are fertile hunting ground for quacks. Just look at the back pages of WDDTY.

46 Avoid plastic toys containing phthalates

These chemicals have clear evidence of causing ‘feminization’ and abnormal gonadal development in boys.

So all the boys who have ever played with Action Man are eunuchs? Get real. But don’t worry, the problematic pthalates have been banned from toys since the end of last century.

47 Be wary of giving your child unnecessary chemicals and drugs like antibiotics for benign conditions

Antibiotics have been linked to childhood diabetes; cold and flu medications can be deadly in small children; and steroids are responsible for many paediatric deaths. Avoid medications like salbuterol for asthma—it doesn’t work and can make the condition worse.

Dangerous nonsense. The basis on which WDDTY claims that cold medications are deadly is primarily evidence that you should only use the dose and type of medicine indicated for a child of the correct age; the adverse effects tend to be overdoses from giving infants doses designed for older children or even adults. Accidental and deliberate overdoses are both included.

WDDTY’s long-standing agenda against antibiotics is more puzzling: as a class of drugs, antibiotics have saved more lives than any other except perhaps vaccines. Oh, wait…

Past stories indicate that WDDTY believe you should allow your children to suffer ruptured eardrums rather than give them antibiotics for ear infections. Because natural. This may qualify as child abuse.

48 Avoid Ritalin and other drugs for hyperactivity

They can increase cardiovascular risk and trigger new psychiatric symptoms plus sudden death. If your kids are hyperactive, suspect sugar or processed foods. Artificial colours like tartrazine used in juice drinks or ‘squashes’ and salicylate foods can all cause hyperactivity and attention deficit.

Ritalin was never as widely used in the UK as in the US (where drugs are marketed direct to patients). NICE maintains a useful database of evidence. And this is what an evidence-based discussion might look like. Do you see how it includes both risks and benefits, unlike WDDTY?

In the UK, Ritalin is used only for serious cases, not for self-diagnosed or questionable diagnoses. As usual, it’s safe to say that your doctor is probably better informed on the risk / benefit balance for your child than some shrill anti-medicine harridan.

49 Avoid toothpastes with fluoride, and filter your water if it’s fluoridated

High levels of fluoride in drinking water can dramatically lower IQ in children, say Harvard scientists—enough to cause learning difficulties in children who already have lowish IQ.26

Reference 26: Environ Health Perspect, 2012; 120: 1362–8  Developmental fluoride neurotoxicity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Choi AL, Sun G, Zhang Y, Grandjean P.

And by high levels, they mean levels dramatically above the safe limits in drinking water. No water company adds these levels of fluoride.

It’s astonishing that as we approach the half-centenary of Dr. Strangelove, cranks are still repeating Major T. J. “King” Kong’s fulmination against fluoridation of water. The provable effect is a reduction in dental caries. And that’s it.

As always in medicine, anything given to healthy patients is subject to much more scrutiny than a drug given to the sick. Vaccines are another example. The evidence of safety has to be much more robust than for , say, a new antibiotic, because the risks of side-effects are offset only by potential benefits. Fluoridation of water (and toothpaste) has been studied intensely for a long time. There is no credible evidence of harm. Fluoridation is safe.

There is no credible reason at all to avoid fluoridated toothpaste. It might be wise not to snack on it, though.

50 Throw kids outdoors

Most infants and toddlers have low levels of vitamin D, some with levels below those needed to maintain and grow healthy bones.27 One school of thought maintains that by ‘protecting’ children against exposure to dirt and germs, we are inadvertently destroying their immune system’s ability to respond appropriately to infection and other stimuli. Diseases like eczema are far less prevalent in children who live in less sanitized conditions like farms and rural communities.28

Reference 27: Pediatrics, 2010; 125: 627–32 Adherence to vitamin D recommendations among US infants. Perrine CG, Sharma AJ, Jefferds ME, Serdula MK, Scanlon KS.

Reference 28: Clin Exp Allergy, 1999; 29: 28–34 Prevalence of hay fever and allergic sensitization in farmer’s children and their peers living in the same rural community. SCARPOL team. Swiss Study on Childhood Allergy and Respiratory Symptoms with Respect to Air Pollution. Braun-Fahrländer C, Gassner M, Grize L, Neu U, Sennhauser FH, Varonier HS, Vuille JC, Wüthrich B.

The idea that being in the outdoors is good for you is plausible and uncontroversial. WDDTY’s obsession with vitamin D, the idea that sunlight is “natural” and so “safe”, and their bizarre agenda against sunscreen, combine to make nonsense out of sense.

Australia has one of the best developed networks for surveillance of skin cancer. Guess what? Rural Victorians (those who get “thrown outdoors”) are 24% more likely to be diagnosed with melanoma.

So even when WDDTY advice has “truthinessW”, it turns out to be questionable and potentially dangerous, because WDDTY cares only about what WDDTY cares about, whereas medical advice usually cares about everything.

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Colds and cough

Colds and cough
The name “what doctors don’t tell you” implies that everything in WDDTY is a deep, dark secret known to doctors but not passed on to patients. In practice, many stories combine two strands: things doctors definitely do tell you (usually taken form the medical journals) combined with disinformation and propaganda for the SCAM industry. It is the latter that doctors don’t tell you, usually because it’s agenda-driven nonsense.

Doctors have been telling you for a long time that over the counter cough remedies are pretty much useless. Patients routinely demand antibiotics for colds and other viral illnesses, doctors have been recommending against this for a long time (it’s more of a problem in the US where some antibiotics are available OTC and where “big pharma” advertises direct to patients).

The study of cold remedies is worthwhile. It is one of the few areas where pharmaceutical companies and SCAM play the same game, because for the most part it involves over the counter remedies sold direct to patients, not prescription medicines.

It’s Christmas, the season for classic movies. Perhaps McTaggart has decided to simply round up the usual suspects. Medicines are evil, supplements are good, if all research is filtered with that assumption then the result confirms the assumption. Selection bias at its finest.

WDDTY promotes the interests of the SCAM industry, whether intentionally or not. Wikipedia has no such agenda: its article on alternative treatments used for the common coldW is largely written by proponents, but even so it is still significantly less effusive than WDDTY. People are paying WDDTY for impartial advice, and what they get is less impartial than the free advice on numerous websites including Wikipedia.

We have no problem in discouraging excessive medication or discussing issues with medical treatments. We do have a problem with using this as an alternative to engage in precisely the same chicanery and evidential sleight-of-hand in order to promote an industry that is at least as bad as “big pharma”, which uses propagandists like WDDTY in lieu of proper research, and which in some cases turns out actually to be “big pharma”.

If this is all a bit TL;DR, do page to the end for that classic caught-with-the-trousers-down moment.

Colds and cough

Most cold and cough medicines are useless and may do more harm than good, particularly in kids. Joanna Evans reveals the safer alternatives that can combat colds naturally.

The bait and switch is stated right up front. It’s well known that a cold will last about a week, but with Miracle Remedy X it will be gone in only seven days. This applies to all cold remedies, almost without exception. The most widely studied “natural” cold remedy, vitamin C, has been reported time and time again not to make any difference at all.

In fact doctors give accurate, evidence-based and nuanced information about supplements and medicines for colds and other minor ailments, just as they do for serious illnesses. The SCAM industry is somewhat less scrupulous.

You might want to think twice before you reach for that cold or cough medicine this winter. Few of them actually work, and according to official drugs regulators on both sides of the Atlantic, many pose serious dangers to children—possibly even putting their lives at risk.

Depending on how you read the results, of course. But once again: this is not a secret. Doctors are completely open about the fact that patent remedies mainly don’t work, and WDDTY’s anti-medicine agenda is once again undermining public trust in the people who are the best informed and most reliable sources of health information.

A recent review by American researchers at the St Joseph Family Medicine Residency in Mishawaka, Indiana, revealed that nearly all the conventional cold treatments they looked at—including antibiotics, inhaled corticosteroids and over-the-counter (OTC) antihistamines, decongestants and antitussives (cough medicines)—simply don’t work, either for adults or children (see charts, page 51).

Antibiotics? for colds? Only an idiot would take an antibiotic as primary therapy for a viral illness. The regulators say it, the medical schools say it, the NHS says itpharmacists say it, the press say it. And actually the same applies for cough medicines and most other OTC cold “remedies”. So this already looks like a classic straw man.

More worrying, the researchers flagged up evidence showing just how dangerous these medicines can be for children—especially the very young. According to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, cold and cough medicines are among the top 20 substances leading to death in children under five, the researchers said.1

Reference 1a: Am Fam Physician. 2012 Jul 15;86(2):153-9. Treatment of the common cold in children and adults. Fashner J, Ericson K, Werner S.

Reference 1b: Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2010 Dec;48(10):979-1178. 2009 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers’ National Poison Data System (NPDS): 27th Annual Report. Bronstein AC, Spyker DA, Cantilena LR Jr, Green JL, Rumack BH, Giffin SL.

The WDDTY claim is mendacious. To quote reference 2: “The top 5 most common exposures in children age 5 or less were cosmetics/personal care products (13.0%), analgesics (9.7%), household cleaning substances (9.3%), foreign bodies/toys/miscellaneous (7.0%), and topical preparations (6.8%).”

This makes the context entirely clear. NPDS data is used to track poisoning events, and to search for indications for poisoning. It includes accidental and intentional cases, there is no indication that the outcomes result from use of medicines within the instructions. Accidental and intentional overdoses and children swallowing unattended adult medications will account for the majority of these cases.

Even drugs regulators in both the US and UK are urging parents to steer clear of these drugs for their young children. In 2008, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public-health advisory recommending that OTC cold and cough medicines should not be used to treat children less than two years of age “because serious and potentially life-threatening side-effects can occur from such use”.

Mendacious again. The advice is to minimise all medication, whether branded “natural” or not. Colds go away on their own. The advice, for at least two decades, has been fluids, rest and possibly low-dose paediatric analgesics for symptomatic relief of headache where this is causing distress. WDDTY seem to want you to believe that Calpol is as much of a problem as an accidental overdose of adult painkillers left unattended. Why would they fail to point out the obvious difference? Why would they fail to contextualise the data correctly?

Unless of course they are trying to undermine faith in medicine in order to promote their own agenda and the financial interests of their advertisers.

Reports suggest that the drugs can cause a wide variety of adverse effects, the FDA said, including convulsions, rapid heart rates, reduced consciousness and even death.2

Reference 2a: FDA Releases Recommendations Regarding Use of Over-the-Counter Cough and Cold Products

Reference 2b:  An Important FDA Reminder for Parents: Do Not Give Infants Cough and Cold Products Designed for Older Children

Taken together, you see the obvious. These events are due to parents giving children remedies designed for older children. That’s a vital piece of information. Many OTC cold remedies contain paracetamol, an effective and well tolerated analgesic when used correctly, but with significant toxicity in overdose. And the dose is linked to body mass and age.

The message in the FDA statements is abundantly clear: read the label, follow it, do not give infants products for adults or older children; this is fully consistent with the NPDS source.

But WDDTY is ignoring this obvious fact and pretending that the products themselves are inherently dangerous.

These reports of harm arose when children received too much medication, according to the FDA, as in cases of accidental ingestion, unintentional overdose, or medication-dosing error. 

Indeed. Or giving infants medicines designed for adults or older children.

But other evidence suggests that serious side-effects can occur even with appropriate dosages.3

Reference 3: Clin Pediatr Emerg Med, 2012; 13: 292–9 Cold and Cough Medications for Children: Dangerous and Over the Counter! Elizabeth Yust, Ann Slattery

WDDTY staple: can occur does not mean will occur or even is likely to occur.

Let’s compare WDDTY’s alarmist message with the abstract of the paper itself:

Young children have cold symptoms multiple times per year, which are usually part of a viral upper respiratory illness. Fever is commonly associated with these viral upper respiratory infections and is one of the most frequent chief complaints for children presenting to an emergency department. Cold and cough medications (CCMs) are widely marketed and used for the relief of cold symptoms. Studies have not found the ingredients in CCM to be beneficial for symptom relief. Both the Food and Drug Administration and American Academy of Pediatrics have recommended against the use of CCM in young children younger than 2 years, citing a lack of efficacy and potential for harmful side effects. Clinical toxicity and death have been reported both with therapeutic use, misuse, and overdose. In addition to unintentional harm, CCM can be misused and/or abused. The purpose of this article is to review the classes of medications found in over-the-counter CCM, the epidemiology of their use, the pharmacology and clinical toxicity of specific medications, dextromethorphan abuse, and the management of children presenting with overdose or adverse effects.

So, far from being something “doctors don’t tell you” ,this is doctors actually telling you something, and WDDTY exploiting it not only in order to pretend that doctors are somehow covering up a problme, but also in order to imply that the problem is much greater than it actually is.

And of course in order to promote natural woo as an alternative. We mustn’t forget the marketing payload in every WDDTY story.

Similar concerns over the use of OTC cold and cough medicines have been raised in the UK. Shortly after the FDA’s advisory, the UK government’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) warned that OTC cold and cough medicines shouldn’t be used in children under six. “There is no evidence that they work and can cause side effects, such as allergic reactions, effects on sleep or hallucinations,” the MHRA said.4

Reference 4: Children’s over-the-counter cough and cold medicines: New advice

So what is it that doctors aren’t telling you, then? Oh wait, I remember: doctors aren’t promoting your advertisers’ products instead. And that “new advice” was last updated in November 2010. This is not news to anyone who has the remotest interest in evidence-based practice.

Considering that many of the standard cold medicines don’t work for adults either,1—and could have sedative effects that make it dangerous to drive or work—you may be better off avoiding cold and cough medicines altogether and looking to one of the many safer, effective alternatives.

If you want to ease symptoms, get well quicker and even slash your chances of getting a cold in the first place, check out our handy guide to the natural remedies that work for both adults and children.

Just one problem: the evidence supporting your “alternatives” is no better than the evidence supporting OTC remedies.

Polio in WDDTY

WDDTY on polio and polio vaccination
According to WDDTY, polio isn’t that dangerous, it’s mainly caused by the oral polio vaccine, the vaccine doesn’t work and it causes other things besides just polio including AIDS, M.E. and autism. Doctors have a safe vaccine but don’t want you to have it because of lobbying from Big Pharma, the prevalence is much lower than governments would have you believe, a baby that’s just been vaccinated should be treated like a biohazard, and polio was dying out anyway before the vaccine was invented.

As an encapsulation of all the things that are wrong with WDDTY, its relentless barrage of polio and polio vaccine disinformation spanning over two decades is a superb study in how to be wrong, and remain wrong in the face of new data.

Cranks and charlatans are accorded equal time with “experts” who aren’t, but whose past employment allows them to be presented as brave whistleblowers. The authority of an anti-vaxer is never questioned. The authority of a scientist defending vaccines is never admitted. Studies showing that vaccination works are presented as evidence that it doesn’t, and that it causes damage. Honesty about the risks of vaccines, openly published, is presented as if it has had to be wrung from the hands of a reluctant establishment.

WDDTY are “viciously, viciously anti-vaccine”. And here we see that this agenda takes precedence over concern for one of the most dreaded of all vaccine-preventable diseases.

Continue reading Polio in WDDTY

Emotional Freedom Techniques: More advertorial

2013-05 vol 24 no 2 May 2013_31Emotional Freedom techniquesW (EFT) are a form of counselling intervention that draws on various forms of nonsense including acupuncture meridianWs, neuro-linguistic programmingW and energy medicineW.

Unsurprisingly, evidence for any effect beyond what would be expected from talk therapy, is elusive. And equally unsurprisingly, given that it’s pseudoscience, WDDTY seems happy to give practitioners a platform for advertisements masquerading as content.

The first mention I can trace is in vol. 19 no. 4 (July 2008) where this letter is printed:

Hypnotherapy for de-stressing
Re May’s cover story, ‘Stress: the pain of going it alone’ (WDDTY vol 19 no 2), what I found disappointing was the omission of hypnotherapy in a list that covered many approaches and modalities, some of which are far less well-established and tested.

As a hypnopsychotherapist (who uses biofeedback, cognitive behavioural therapy, neurolinguistic programming, Emotional Freedom Technique, integrative breathing therapy and music, along with Gestalt, various accelerated learning techniques and other approaches, tailored to the needs of each client), and as a researcher and author, this strikes me as a major omission and detracts from an otherwise very useful article by not acknowledging the value of hypnosis as one of the fastest and most effective ways to trigger the relaxation response and reduce or eliminate altogether all the symptoms of the stress response.

I was also surprised that there was no mention of Emotional Freedom Technique and Thought Field Therapy, some of the fastest-growing self-help tools using energy-medicine approaches.

I realize that no single article can be completely comprehensive, but the fact that hypnotherapy, in particular, was omitted is baffling—especially as it is so widely available and easily learned for self-help.

Hypnotherapy incorporates many of the techniques mentioned in the article, including breathing and visualization, and has been used as a stress-reduction tool for as long as we’ve been referring to ‘stress’—and long before that.—Dr Leila Edwards, via e-mail

First, Edwards does make a fair point in that hypnotherapyW is a valid therapy for stress. Perhaps WDDTY excluded it because it is widely used and taught to patients by doctors, but they also included cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which is also entirely mainstream, as are exercise and yoga, which are freely mixed with such nonsense as “HeartTouch”.

However, the inclusion of “energy medicineW” and its derivatives marks this out as being quackery, and EFT is indeed just that.

Next up was a testimonial from an advert from the pretentiously titled trade association the General Naturopathic Council Ltd. in vol 23 no. 8 (November 2012):

  • Patient – 35-year-old single mother with a 3-year-old autistic son; previously in a violent relationship.
  • Symptoms – mental and physical exhaustion, anxiety, depression and panic attacks. Prescribed antidepressants (an SSRI); although they have helped a little with her state of mind, the exhaustion is unrelenting, she feels her life is out of control and is finding it difficult to cope with her son’s needs.
  • The case history taking, along with an iris analysis, suggested adrenal exhaustion. It was noted at the consultation that the patient was hyper-ventilating.
  • Protocol – the patient’s diet had been carbohydrate-heavy. The long-term lack of protein could have been influencing the brain’s neurotransmitter production, resulting in a lack of serotonin to produce a feeling of calm and well-being. Dietary recommendations were to incorporate more protein and essential fats.
  • A constitutional homeopathic remedy was prescribed. Ashwagandha, an Ayurvedic herbal remedy, was prescribed for adrenal support. The patient was taught Emotional Freedom Technique to help with her previous traumatic experiences. Light exercise was encouraged, along with breathing exercises.
  • Outcome – the patient’s energy levels and well-being steadily improved and within 2 months she informed her GP that she didn’t need to take the anti-depressants.
  • A naturopathic assessment takes into account the web-like interconnection of the body’s organs and systems. A Naturopath will aim to identify the root causes, rather than treating individual symptoms.

Oh dear. I wonder what the quacks offered for the autistic child? I hope it wasn’t chelation therapy or CEASE or any of the other legion of child abuses to which these loons subject autistic children in the mistaken belief that they have the faintest clue what they are doing.

A naturopath should not really be treating this patient. She should have been referred to a competent psychologist to help with the stress and diagnose whether the history of abuse had caused post-traumatic stress disorderW. Fortunately homeopathy and EFT “worked”, so this was unlikely to be the case, but that is blind luck. SSRIs are problematic and the doctor probably would have had her off them pretty soon anyway.

The last bullet is just hilarious. A naturopath cannot do these things because a naturopath is not, in the main, medically trained or qualified. Attempts to understand what naturopaths and other quacks mean by these vaguely referenced interconnections between systems is likely to leave you needing a drink, and with a strong desire to punch walls.

So we move to the advertorial itself, spread over pages 74-82. It is a promotion of EFT under its other name, Tapping (or Tapping Therapy).

Tap yourself to good health: Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) has been called the all-purpose solution to emotional problems, but it can also be used to heal your body and overcome stress. Here’s how.

Yes, it’s another One True Cure. The article begins by describing the “journey of discovery” of Callahan, the inventor of EFT. Stripped of the overtones of credulous awe, the anecdote is pretty straightforward: Callahan had a patient, engaged in a theatre of mystery and the patient improved. The null hypothesis was never considered, because who would not want to be the “discoverer” of a new and powerful cure for illness? The gravy train was filled with coal and steamed out of the station, leaving reality standing on the platform.

Three sources are cited:

Human Brain Mapping Volume 30, Issue 4, pages 1196–1206, April 2009 The salient characteristics of the central effects of acupuncture needling: Limbic-paralimbic-neocortical network modulation, Fang et. al. is used as a source for the claim that “Research at Harvard Medical School over the past decade has shown that stimulation of selected meridian acupoints decreases activity in the amygdala, hippocampus (another part of the limbic system) and other parts of the brain associated with fear, findings that have been captured on functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and positron emission tomography (PET) brain scans”. This is disingenuous: the study is in respect of acupuncture, not pressure or tapping, and as the authors state: “Although certain differences could be observed between real and sham points, the hemodynamic response (BOLD signal changes) and psychophysical response (sensory experience) to acupuncture were generally similar for all four points.” In other words, the study provides only weak and indirect support for the idea that the acupoints have any actual relevance and some evidence that in fact they don’t (which is the scientific consensus view based not least on the fact that they have no associated physiology).

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2012 Oct;200(10):891-6. The effect of emotional freedom techniques on stress biochemistry: a randomized controlled trial. Church D, Yount G, Brooks AJ. This is a study in a low impact factor journal written by authors from the research arm of “Soul medicine Institute”, which now calls itself the National Institute for Integrative Healthcare (NIIH), absolutely not in any way trying to sound like the National Institutes for Health (NIH). This body is dedicated to promoting energy medicine and energy psychology – in other words EFT. The study uses a control which is less theatrical, so is not a valid comparator. We don’t have the full study, the abstract does not make it clear whether the comparisons are with no treatment (NT) or standard psychotherapy groups.

Rev Gen Psychol, 2012; 16: 364–80 Feinstein, D. (2012). Acupoint stimulation in treating psychological disorders: evidence of efficacy. Feinstein is on the faculty of the “Energy Medicine University“, an unaccredited for-profit “university” that teaches all manner of bullshit. The paper does not establish the validity of acupuncture points, unsurprisingly (that would have scored the author a Nobel prize), and fails to discount the null hypothesis.

The article is of course entirely uncritical. Its author is Nick Ortner, an “international expert” on EFT – in other words, a vendor. WDDTY’s usual approach is in evidence: alternative claims are never challenged, the obvious conflicts of interest are never a problem. Only “big pharma” and the rest of the evidence-based world is subject to conflicts of interest, it seems.

And what does the real world have to say?

An article in the Skeptical Inquirer argued that there is no plausible mechanism to explain how the specifics of EFT could add to its effectiveness, and they have been described as unfalsifiable and therefore pseudoscientific.[4] Evidence has not been found for the existence of meridians or other concepts involved in traditional Chinese medicine.[5]

A Delphi poll of an expert panel of psychologists rated EFT on a scale describing how discredited EFT has been in the field of psychology. On average, this panel found EFT had a score of 3.8 on a scale from 1.0 to 5.0, with 3.0 meaning “possibly discredited” and a 4.0 meaning “probably discredited.”[6] A book examining pseudoscientific practices in psychology characterized EFT as one of a number of “fringe psychotherapeutic practices,”[7] and a psychiatry handbook states EFT has “all the hallmarks of pseudoscience.”[8]

EFT, along with its predecessor, Thought Field Therapy, has been dismissed with warnings to avoid their use by publications such as the The Skeptic’s Dictionary[9] and Quackwatch.[10]

How disappointing: once again the lone genius turns out simply to have been wrong.

What Doctors Don't Tell You
Why don’t doctors tell you that tapping your acupressure points can cure your ills?

Because there’s no good evidence these points exist, let alone that the therapy works.

Natural pain relief

From WDDTY e-news 3 April 2007 No.347

Natural pain relief

A reader is eager for advice on how he can replace prescription pain medication with a natural alternative.  He suffers from multiple herniated discs and degenerative disc disease and without medication the pain is unbearable.  He has chronic pain in his lower back, buttocks and sciatic nerve.  He currently takes oxycodone, fetanyl (skin patch) and methadone in high doses, but doctors say his medication can be reduced if he opts for surgery.  He has had surgery for his condition in the past and is not keen to have any more operations.  Is there a natural remedy out there that may be able to help?

If you seriously believe that a magnetic bracelet can replace high dose methadone, then you have absolutely no business offering health advice.

Let’s be really clear here: as @LennyLaw pointed out on Twitter, this man is in agony due to serious structural problems. He is unlikely to get relief without some form of surgical intervention. The pain killers he is using are among the strongest available, and go way beyond the “ooh my dodgy knee felt a bit better” kinds of effects that the quack treatments proposed could provide, even if they worked as advertised.

But what counts as “natural”? What “works”? Let’s review the responses one by one:

Bioflow wristbands

According to Nick, you should try a Bioflow wristband, which uses a patented magnetic module to treat the blood and assist the body to heal itself, providing natural pain relief.  “My arthritic thumbs and knees no longer give me any pain and I am sleeping better and have more energy,” he reports.  Another reader points out that the wristbands have been proven to reduce pain in a clinical trial of nearly 200 men and women with osteoarthritis of the hip or knee (BMJ, 2004; 329: 1450-4).

Apparently, Bioflow comes with a 90-day money back guarantee, so there is nothing to lose – but the pain!  See www.usefulmagnets.co.uk for more information.

Does it work?

Bioflow have a sciencey-looking study and are apparently classified as a class 1 medical device. So how do they work?

ernst-bioflowEr, apparently they don’t. The website makes no claims for therapeutic effect other than to cite the study. To see the problem with this approach, check this crank website making all kinds of inflated claims for the product – note the weasel words. Intriguingly the study is from Peninsula, and was overseen by Edzard ErnstW. I asked @EdzardErnst whether the result was reliable. His reply was unequivocal (right).

The consensus of systematic reviews is that magnets do not objectively improve symptoms of arthritis or any other condition (Complement Ther Med. 2009 Oct-Dec;17(5-6):249-56, FACT Volume 13, Issue 1, pages 5–6, March 2008).

Is it plausible?

No. There is no reason to suppose that these permanent magnets should have any effect whatsoever. They are, after all, quite small magnets, much stronger fields are used in medical imaging with no evidence of clinical effect (CSI, BBC). Some of the authors of the study Bioflow cite, have since published a rather different view.


Is it natural?

No. There is nothing remotely natural about wearing chunks of rare-earth magnets. These are an industrially manufactured product. And a profitable one: the magnet therapy industry was estimated at $1bn by CSI five years ago.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Probably. They promoted Bioflow in vol 16 no. 9 (Dec 2005), vol 17 no. 4 (Jul 2006) and vol 18 no. 3 (Jun 2007), as well as in this article from their e-news. Claims for magnets date back a long way, with sciencey-looking studies in the late 90s being prominently promoted (CSI). They have been busted for at least as long (e.g. Ann Intern Med. 1993;118(5):376-383).


Another recommended product for natural pain relief is IceWave.  According to the manufacturer’s website, IceWave is “a non-invasive nanotechnology product that works within minutes to provide a cooling effect and soothing relief to inflamed and injured areas.”  See www.lifewave.com for more information.

Does it work?

You have to be kidding. LifeWave is a vendor of devices to “protect” you from non-ionising (i.e. essentially harmless) radiation, it is a predator on the vulnerable (people with chronic pain).

Our exclusive non-transdermal patch system utilizes new technology to gently stimulate acupuncture points – literally improving the flow of energy in the body for improvement of pain and discomfort – within minutes of use!

Needless to say, there is no good evidence that acupuncture points are of any physiological significance (J Intern Med. 2006 Feb;259(2):125-37). There’s no uniform definition of where they are or what they do; the apparent uniformity within parts of TCM is largely an artifact of the Maoist refactoring f TCM in the 1950s – Japanese analogues exist but are different, and needling does not seem to have any different effect whether the “correct” points are used or not.

The sales pitch relies on the usual anecdotes. Oh, and the packaging says they are homeopathic, hence the nanobollocks, presumably. And note the quack Miranda warningW.

Is it plausible?

Not remotely. And to be fair they don’t even try to make it look plausible, other than using sciencey-sounding language.

Is it natural?

No. It’s an entirely synthetic product with completely made up claims.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Almost certainly. The community that promotes LifeWave’s numerous bogus products is well aware of the fact that skeptics know it to be bogus. Oh, and it seems to be sold via multi-level marketingW, which is another red flag.


If these suggestions don’t appeal to you, why not try readers’ favourite, homeopathy. According to Sue, the homeopathic remedy Mag Phos in a 200C potency (available from homepathic pharmacies such as Helios and Ainsworth’s) is known to be very effective for pain relief, especially if dissolved in a little warm water and sipped at regular intervals.  Norene also swears by homeopathy for the treatment of pain – although she uses arnica:  “Start with a very high dose of arnica (for myself I used 10M).  After a couple of days, reduce the dose and continue taking the remedy for a while, according to personal needs.  To maximise effectiveness, take homeopathic Symphytum (comfrey) in addition to arnica.”

Does it work?

No. There is not one case where homeopathy has been unambiguously and objectively proven to have cured anything, ever. All observations are consistent with the null hypothesis (see homeopathyW at Wikipedia, which goes into great detail).

Is it plausible?

No remotely plausible mechanism has ever been advanced, and the doctrines of homeopathy conflict at a fundamental level with basic principles of physics such as the Heisenberg uncertainty principle and the laws of thermodynamics and conservation of energy. Unless you believe in “future-information medicine“, in which case you may be interested in buying this rather fine bridge I have for sale.

Is it natural?

No. Not only is the entire system of preparation by dilution and twerking entirely man-made, most over the counter remedies are manufactured by industrial scale pharmaceutical companies.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Yes. Homeopathy has been known to be wrong since at least 1840, and the doctrines were refuted by the early years of the 20th Century.

Bowen therapy

Other suggestions for this problem are Bowen therapy and osteopathy.  Says Lorraine of osteopathy, “I cannot sing its praises enough…I suffered terrible back problems but have not felt a twinge in the past six years since my treatment.”  As for Bowen, Angela reckons it can bring amazing relief to many pain sufferers.

Does it work?

It depends who you believe. SCAM believers claim it is “useful” (source),  but when challenged, practitioners were unable to provide any credible evidence.

So that’s a no.

Is it plausible?

Bowen was an unregistered osteopath. There’s no reason to suppose that Bowen technique  has any effect beyond that of massage, which is basically what it is, when the bullshit is stripped away. Claims to allow the body to “reset” itself are fanciful. You’re probably better off with a warm bath.

Is it natural?

Massage is sort of natural, Bowen technique is completely made up.

Should WDDTY have known this?

If you look for any credible evidence, you find none. If on the other hand you routinely believe the claims of commercial providers of services at face value without looking for evidence or applying any critical judgment then you’ll probably not spot that it’s quackery.

So, if WDDTY pretends to be in any way scientific or evidence based, it absolutely should have spotted this.


Finally, we have an encouraging story from Diane:

“I have suffered from bulging discs, sciatica, oedema and a host of related problems for the past three years.  But recently I have started several therapies which have helped me immensely.  First of all I started going to acupuncture once a week, then I began drinking Green’s Plus – adding powdered calcium, magnesium, and powdered MSM (Methyl-sulfonyl-methane) to the drink – everyday for nutrition.  MSM is a great natural pain reliever, along with magnesium.  I also use magnesium oil – either in the bath or applied directly to the site of pain.  It works wonders!

Does it work?

Osteopathy is a grey area. There is evidence of effects for musculoskeletal pain, as for any manipulative therapy, but the claims of the fringes of osteopathy (and especially cranial osteopathy aka cranio-sacral therapy) are unambiguously bogus. The writer also adds acupuncture (bogus), magnesium (plausible to a degree) and MSM (bogus) to the mix.

Is it plausible?

As invented by Andrew Taylor Still the practice is completely speculative – he surmised that the bone (osteon) was the root of all disease, and this is unambiguously nonsense, but subsequent changes have resulted in a variety of manipulative therapy which is plausible for some conditions, but wildly implausible for others. Note that this varies around the world, the Wikipedia article on osteopathyW is essential reading.

Is it natural?

The practice was invented from whole cloth in 1874. It’s a manual therapy so you could defend it as natural, but the practice is largely a set of man-made rituals.

Should WDDTY have known this?

Yes. The consensus around osteopathy has been settled for a long time.


In addition to this, last year I started seeing a chiropractor, who uses a ‘Pro Adjuster’ on me.  I have now been free of pain for the last month.  I was told that I was going to have to have back surgery, but now I am feeling so wonderful that I am considering not having the surgery at all.  I can go all day without my pain medication and can sit and stand longer than I ever thought I would again!”

Does it work?

No. OK, technically, it is as effective as other forms of manipulation therapy for musculo-skeletal pain, but so many chiropractors exceed the bounds of evidential supportability that it is safer t avoid them altogether, especially given their history of antivaccinationism and the fact that one of their signature moves is potentially deadly.

The chiropractic profession includes some of the most cynical charlatans on the planet. Their training is big on “practice building” (i.e. maximising revenue) and chiropractors’ aim is to get you in, and keep you coming back, not to discharge a healthy patient. They use all manner of superstitious nonsense about “maintenance adjustments” and maintaining optimum wellness, but basically they are the canonical manipulative quacks.

Is it plausible?

As Wikipedia says:

A critical evaluation found that collectively, spinal manipulation failed to show it is effective for any condition. The scientific consensus is that chiropractic may be on a par with other manual therapies for some musculoskeletal conditions such as lower back pain, but that there is no credible evidence or mechanism for effects on other conditions, and some evidence of severe adverse effects from cervical vertebral manipulation. The ideas of innate intelligence and the chiropractic subluxation are regarded as pseudoscience.

So as with osteopathy, it’s plausible up to a point, but the profession as a whole is deeply untrustworthy due to widespread belief in completely bogus ideas, and a tendency to duplicate the action of hanging.

Is it natural?

No. It was invented from whole cloth by D. D. Palmer in 1895

Should WDDTY have known this?

The facts about chiropractic have been known for a long time. Yes, WDDTY should know that this is a dangerous woo-riddled field that no responsible person could possibly recommend without serious caveats around the likely harms and the costs of endless unnecessary treatments.


WDDTY’s ideas of what constitutes a “natural” remedy are absurd and seem to be founded more on the absence of credible evidence (i.e. being “alternative”) than on any actual natural origin. They try to have their cake and eat it, simultaneously claiming that something is “natural” and that it’s “nanotechnology”.

Their approach to the therapies is entirely credulous. Homeopathy was refuted over a century ago, they still promote it. There is no evidence that their enthusiasm for a product or treatment is conditional on plausibility or evidence of effect.

The article acts primarily as a propaganda piece for disproven or unproven therapies, often at significant potential cost.

Misinformation, Stigma and WDDTY – How not to write about TB

How not to write about TB
For WDDTY, the issue is simple: their freedom to state their beliefs is being suppressed by a small group of skeptics just because we hate natural cures and love big pharma.

In this article @NurtureMyBaby explains, more eloquently than I could, why for her it is not about freedom to state an opinion, but about the pernicious effects of agenda-driven falsehoods and misrepresentations, the false hope of unwarranted extrapolation, and the ridiculous notion that adjunct to antibiotics means better than antibiotics, which don’t work anyway.

This is the third article to expose WDDTY’s worrying denialist approach to antibiotics, one of the most successful health interventions we have. Further research is underway to determine if the editors, by all accounts fervent homeopathy believers, are straying into the territory of germ theory denialism so common among that particular band of charlatans.

Now read on…

Continue reading Misinformation, Stigma and WDDTY – How not to write about TB

HIV and AIDS: A bizarre letter

According to WDDTY:

  • The HIV-AIDS link is controversial
  • AIDS denialists are worth listening to even if they have no subject matter expertise at all
  • AZT does not cure AIDS, because chemo
  • Mushrooms, oxygen, resonance, vitamin C and homeopathy do cure AIDS
  • AIDS tests don’t work

McTaggart thinks it’s about time she reviewed the subject again. We can hardly wait, and no doubt her advertisers are equally keen.

Continue reading HIV and AIDS: A bizarre letter

Arthritis: it’s not old age, it’s inflammation

Arthritis patients: Fertile prey for quacks.
Like any sufferer from a painful chronic condition, arthritis patients are fertile prey for quacks. Here WDDTY engages in its signature combination of legitimate new research, prehistoric papers beloved of cranks, and uncritical acceptance of practitioners with an agenda and a business to promote, to synthesise a claim that is not actually supported by the sources they cite.

“Doctors have long assumed that osteoarthritis is largely caused by traumatic injury or ‘wear and tear’, but new research suggests that the disease may actually be driven by low-grade inflammation”

Except that doctors are quite clear on the plausibility of autoimmune disorders as a contributor to osteoarthritis, the contribution of one factor does not contradict the contribution of other factors, and the cited studies acknowledge limitations that WDDTY airily waves aside.

The pièce de résistance is representing mainstream research on the side-effects of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs as “proof” of the quack diagnosis of “leaky gut syndrome“.

Continue reading Arthritis: it’s not old age, it’s inflammation