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This place matters

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Flim flam and woo woo

Lately you hear a lot about doctors being closed-minded about natural remedies and alternative treatments. Doctors learn a very narrow view of healing, heavily influenced by Big Pharma and Western values. They want to treat us with chemicals, which we all know are bad and unnatural, and they hate natural remedies because they're a threat to their bottom lines.
Except doctors prescribe natural remedies all the time. When those natural remedies are supported by science.
If you go to a doctor with pain from arthritis, fibromyalgia, or an injury, the first prescription they're likely to write is for physical therapy. Physical therapy may not seem like a natural remedy because it doesn't come drenched in patchouli oil, but physical therapy uses a person's own body to heal itself. Nothing is more natural than that. If you've ever been to physical therapy, you've probably met about a few people who complain bitterly about their doctor refusing to "do anything" about their pain - they don't want PT, they want the drugs. Why would a doctor who is in the pocket of big pharma put up with all the whining and crying of people who just want a pill? Why not just write them an expensive scrip and shut them up? And if people get hooked on the drugs, so much the better - repeat business for everybody! If doctors are just out for the money, why would they go to such lengths not to keep the customer satisfied?
Proponents of the allegedly ancient practice of ear candling say that shoving a burning thing in your ear is a natural way to remove ear wax and draw out toxins. ENTs give advice that's even more natural - leaving your ear wax where it is. See, science tells us that ear wax is a powerful anti-microbial that protects our hearing and prevents disease. Science tells us that ear candling, on the other hand, not only doesn't remove earwax or toxins, it is dangerous and has resulted in at least one death. If ENTs were all about the money, they'd be all for ear candling. Doctors report having treated burns, ear infections, occlusions, hearing loss, and ash remnants on the ear drum. And if ENTs were in the pocket of big pharma, they certainly wouldn't tell you to leave your ear wax alone - without ear wax, we're more prone to all kinds of infections - infections that could be treated with expensive pharmaceuticals.
If you have a break or a sprain, the doctor's first orders will be rest, ice, elevation, and compression. A good doctor knows to weigh the patient's pain against the risks of the various drugs. Why does a doctor prescribe ice and not, say crystals or essential oils? For the same reason they don't tell you to take a bath in jello or fill your pants with Cheez Whiz. There are a billion very reliable clinical trials showing that ice treats inflammation; there are no scientifically valid studies showing that crystals or jello treat inflammation. One's own feelings on the topic of crystals and jello aside, it's not ethical for a doctor to recommend a treatment that she doesn't know to be safe and effective. 
Endocrinologists urge, beg, and cajole diabetic patients to change their lifestyle choices and stay alive. Why, when there are so many pills and needles and vials and surgeries to sell? Have you any idea how profitable diabetic complications can be? Why do doctors keep warning people about diabetes and pre-diabetes when there are so many billions to be made? 
If doctors are willing to teach people some natural ways to avoid diabetes, why not others? If cardiologists preach oatmeal and olive oil, why wouldn't they also share the truth about wheat grass and heavy metal detox? Because some natural remedies are supported by science and some aren't. 
As for the unscientific stuff - oils and crystals and such - I'm not entirely knocking them. I'm for anything that helps people feel better, so long as nobody's being lied to or endangered. But doctors are in the business of science and evidence, and society needs them to be. 

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