In the previous 3 parts of this series (see here, here and here), we have discussed 9 fake diagnoses of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM):

  • adrenal fatigue,
  • candidiasis hypersensitivity,
  • chronic intoxications,
  • chronic Lyme disease,
  • electromagnetic hypersensitivity,
  • homosexuality,
  • leaky gut syndrome,
  • multiple chemical sensitivity,
  • neurasthenia.

Today I will briefly discuss three further fake diagnoses and list the treatments that SCAM practitioners might recommend for them.

Vaccine overload

Vaccine overload is a term for the notion that giving many vaccines at once may overwhelm or weaken a patient’s immune system which, in turn, is alleged to lead to adverse effects. Because children have an immature immune system, they are claimed to be afflicted most frequently.

There is no evidence that vaccine overload exists nor that it can lead to illness. This does not stop SCAM practitioners to apply or recommend all sorts of SCAMs for the imagined condition. Particular favourites are all sorts of detox diets, homeopathy and a wide range of dietary supplements. Such diets and supplements can be tricky for younger children. In this case, SCAM practitioners recommend, amongst many other things, smoothies or adding turmeric, ginger, and small amounts of Shillington’s adult supplements to the child’s food.

None of these recommendations are supported by anything resembling sound evidence, of course.

Vertebral subluxation

On this blog, we have discussed vertebral subluxations more often than I care to remember. Chiropractors claim that these figments of their imagination impair the flow of innate which, in turn, makes us ill. Straight chiros, those who adhere to the gospel of their guru DD Palmer, diagnose subluxations in 100% of their patients. They are undeterred by the fact that vertebral subluxations do not exist.

I can understand why! If they did aknowledge that the diagnosis is fake, they would have no reason to treat patients with spinal manipulations, and they would quickly go out of business.

Yin/Yang imbalance

According to the assumptions of practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), all health problems arise from an imbalaance of the two life forces , yin and yang. To restore the balance, they employ a range of therapies such as acupuncture, herbal mixtures, massages, etc.

But these life forces do not exist. Thus they cannot be out of balance, and consequently the imbalance cannot cause illness. TCM practitioners don’t want to hear any of this. Why not? You guessed it: if they aknowledged these facts, they would need to stop practising.


Fake diagnoses are the life-line of many SCAM practitioners:

  • they tell you that something is wrong with you (despite the fact that you are entirely healthy);
  • they make sure that this is a reason for serious concern;
  • they claim they can put the alleged abnormality right again;
  • they administer a lengthy series of treatments and/or sell you plenty of remedies;
  • when they have earned enough money treating you, they give you the good news: you are back to narmal;
  • gullible consumers are impressed by the unfailing competence of the SCAM practitioners.

My conclusion:

there is nothing easier and more profitably to heal that a condition that did not exist  in the first place.


18 Responses to The fake diagnoses of so-called alternative medicine – PART 4

  • Edzard Ernst wrote:

    “My conclusion:
    there is nothing easier and more profitably to heal that a condition that did not exist in the first place.”

    This sounds correct. But it isn’t

    If the patients really are okay, and they do feel well, and there is no disease, then Edzard Ernst is right.

    But when there IS something wrong, when the patients do feel ill, when there IS a disease or something plaguing the patients, then we have the devilish situation, that the patient does suffer, but the SCAM healer performs a theater, which does not help, but rips off the patient. A situation absolutely common for, e.g., homeopaths.

    In the case of the homeopaths the situation is simple and the diagnosis is perfect: “Detuning the life force” (“Verstimmung der Lebenskraft”).

    Homeopathy is about the most known fake treatment for a fake diagnosis.

    Since such fake diagnoses plus fake treatments do not better the situation of the patient, the fraud can continue for the rest of the lifetime of the patient until his end – or of the money, whatever comes first.

  • I’m surprised that after so many years of debunking Chinese medicine, you haven’t grasped any of the basic concepts. Yin and Yang are phenomenological concepts, and cannot be measured with scientific instruments. These concepts are based on the observation of nature and the way it works, and they have developed into a set of principles that guide treatment strategy. They are no more or less ‘real’ than love or consciousness. I understand that they don’t sit happily in a scientific framework, but they are extremely valuable nonetheless.

    • “Yin and Yang are phenomenological concepts, and cannot be measured with scientific instruments.”
      I think you are surprising.

    • In physics, phenomenology is the application of theoretical physics to experimental data by making quantitative predictions based upon known theories. It is related to the philosophical notion of the same name in that these predictions describe anticipated behaviors for the phenomena in reality. Phenomenology stands in contrast with experimentation in the scientific method, in which the goal of the experiment is to test a scientific hypothesis instead of making predictions.

      That is consistent with Tom’s statement: Yin and Yang are phenomenological concepts, and cannot be measured with scientific instruments.

      The predictions made by phenomenological concepts can, of course, be tested scientifically.

      Furthermore, the explanatory power and the explanatory depth of phenomenological concepts can be examined.

      Explanatory power is the ability of a hypothesis or theory to explain the subject matter effectively to which it pertains. Its opposite is explanatory impotence.

      The illusion of explanatory depth (IOED) is cognitive bias or an illusion where people tend to believe they understand a topic better than they actually do. The term was coined by Yale researchers Leonid Rozenblit and Frank Keil in 2002.[see below] The effect was observed in only one type of knowledge called explanatory knowledge, in this case defined as “knowledge that involves complex causal patterns” (see causal reasoning). The effect has not been observed in procedural, narrative, or factual (descriptive) knowledge. Evidence of the IOED occurring has been found in everyday mechanical and electrical devices such as bicycles, in addition to mental disorders, natural phenomena, folk theories, and politics, with the most studied effect of IOED being in politics in the form of political polarization.

      Rozenblit L, Keil F.
      The misunderstood limits of folk science: an illusion of explanatory depth.
      Cognitive Science. 2002 Sep 1;26(5):521-562.
      PMCID: PMC3062901.

      See also:

      • I honestly think that if the concepts of Yin and Yang were embraced by Western medicine, they could be used to great effect, for example in predicting which medicines individuals are likely to respond well/badly to. This is central to Chinese herbal medicine – each formula is designed to match the individual in their current state. The language (yin/yang, damp, cold, heat etc.) need not be the same, but a similar system which acknowledges the signs and symptoms of a patient’s internal environment, as well as just the disease label, could be revolutionary.

        • your idea is testable!
          has it been tested?
          if not, why not?

        • Tom wrote: “but a similar system which acknowledges the signs and symptoms of a patient’s internal environment, as well as just the disease label, could be revolutionary”.

          Such as a system that includes:
          • cardiology
          • clinical neurophysiology
          • endocrinology
          • gastroenterology
          • gynaecology
          • haematology
          • immunology
          • medical genetics
          • nephrology
          • neurology
          • neuropathology
          • oncology
          • ophthalmology
          • otorhinolaryngology (aka ENT)
          • psychiatry
          • pulmonology
          • radiology
          • rheumatology
          • toxicology
          • transfusiology

          • Western medicine is incredible, I’m a big fan in many ways! But none of these specialist areas takes account of the big picture of the patient in the way Chinese medicine can. Drugs are very often prescribed based on the major presenting symptom or condition alone, without taking into account the individual. Many patients feel this way too, at least in my experience.

          • your description of ‘Western medicine’ – an entity that actually does not even exist but is called evidence-based medicine – suggests that you do not understand it.

          • Tom wrote: “But none of these specialist areas takes account of the big picture of the patient…”.

            I find it difficult to believe that someone who lives and works in England can be so astonishingly ignorant of current evidence-based medicine.

            “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”
            — Upton Beall Sinclair Jr.

  • ‘Applications for research funding are open even to acupuncturists!’

    Maybe one day 🙂

  • ‘your description of ‘Western medicine’ – an entity that actually does not even exist but is called evidence-based medicine – suggests that you do not understand it.’

    I think everyone knows what is meant by Western Medicine.

    ‘no, today – for instance, the MRC has no restrictions as to the profession of the applicant.’

    I meant that maybe one day I will find the time to get the right people together and apply for funding. But it would of course also need the cooperation of people who could prescribe the medications.

    • Tom wrote: “I think everyone knows what is meant by Western Medicine”.

      “Western medicine” is a term used to describe, often in a snarly way, evidence-based medicine, which, for various historical reasons, emerged from “Western” civilization (i.e. countries originally populated by or settled by Europeans), though it is now practiced throughout the world.

      The term is most commonly used by promoters of “Eastern” medicine or therapies, such as acupuncture or Reiki, or of other forms of alternative medicine. It may be substituted for other phrases such as “conventional medicine” or “mainstream medicine” by promoters of Western forms of alternative medicine, such as homeopathy. You’re most likely to encounter these terms in the context of explaining how Western medicine only focuses on symptoms and not the causes of illness, or some other such hogwash.

      Not inaccurate, but wrong
      Although the phrase “Western medicine” is not actually inaccurate as such, since the theory and practice of empirical medicine developed most prominently in Western countries, it can be misleading since it tends to imply that evidence-based medicine belongs to Western culture, in the same way that traditional Chinese medicine belongs to Chinese culture, for example, and that it’s therefore no more valid than any other system of diagnosis and treatment.

      Both suggestions are false. The defining feature of what is termed “Western medicine” is its efforts to base itself on the scientific method and on knowledge and techniques supported by rigorous scientific research. Hence it is rooted in empiricism rather than culture, although of course there is variation throughout the world’s cultures regarding attitudes to empiricism and alternative worldviews such as religious or spiritual ones.

      One of the oddities of calling it “Western” medicine is that not all of it originates in “the West”. Vaccines, in full irony, originated from Chinese variolation. Making the claim ‘all of “Western Medicine” is wrong’ means by definition, many non-Western sources of medicine must also be at least partially wrong.

      As a dismissal tactic
      One holistic website bashes humorism and bloodletting as being barbaric, unscientific, “Western”, and akin to allopathy, and simultaneously praises traditional Chinese medicine and its (also unscientific) system of qi, meridians, and yin and yang. This is, of course, nonsensical, since bloodletting is still used in traditional Chinese medicine. Bloodletting went out of fashion as a panacea only thanks to the invention of the science-based “Western” medicine the site so vehemently attacks. Bloodletting via leeching is actually still used in a few specific conditions in Western medicine where it has been found to be effective based on evidence (e.g., removal of blood from reconstructed body parts).

      • I don’t use the term Western medicine in a ‘snarly’ way. I’m not sure I agree with that post that’s it’s mainly used in that way. I would agree more with this definition:

        ‘A system in which medical doctors and other health care professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Also called allopathic medicine, biomedicine, conventional medicine, mainstream medicine, and orthodox medicine.’

        • Tom wrote: “I don’t use the term Western medicine in a ‘snarly’ way”.

          Nobody said that YOU use the term in a snarly way.

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