I had come across them so often that I had almost stopped noticing them: the ‘little extras‘ that make ineffective so-called alternative medicines (SCAMs) seem effective. Then, recently, during an interview about detox diets, the interviewer responded to my explanation of the ineffectiveness of these treatments by saying: “but these diets include stopping the consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, and other harmful stuff; therefore they must be good.” This seemingly convincing argument reminded me of a phenomenon – I call it here the ‘little extra‘ – that applies to so many (if not most) SCAMs.
Let me schematically summarise it as follows:
- A practitioner applies an ineffective SCAM to a patient.
- Because it is ineffective, it has little effect other than a small placebo response.
- The ineffective SCAM comes with a ‘little extra‘ which is unrelated to the SCAM.
- The ‘little extra‘ is effective.
- The end result is that the ineffective SCAM appears to be effective.
The above example makes it quite clear: the detox diet is utter nonsense but, as it goes hand in hand with effective lifestyle changes, it appears to be effective. A classic case. But SCAM offers no end of similar examples:
- Acupuncture is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
- Chiropractic is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
- Homeopathy is useless but it involves a long, empathic consultation and attention which are effective in making a patient feel better.
- Osteopathy is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
- Reflexology is useless but it involves touch, time, attention, and empathy all of which are effective in making a patient feel better.
Do I need to continue?
The ‘little extras‘ are often forgotten or subsumed under the heading ‘placebo’. Yet, they are not part of the placebo effect. Strictly speaking, they are concomitant treatments comparable to a pain patient using SCAM and also taking a few paracetamols. In the end, she forgets about the painkillers and thinks that her SCAM worked wonders.
Even ardent SCAM proponents have long realized this phenomenon. Here, for example, is a paper entitled ‘Acupuncture as a complex intervention: a holistic model’ by ex-colleagues of mine at Exeter looking at it but coming up with a very different perspective:
Objectives: Our understanding of acupuncture and Chinese medicine is limited by a lack of inquiry into the dynamics of the process. We used a longitudinal research design to investigate how the experience, and the effects, of a course of acupuncture evolved over time.
Design and outcome measures: This was a longitudinal qualitative study, using a constant comparative method, informed by grounded theory. Each person was interviewed three times over 6 months. Semistructured interviews explored people’s experiences of illness and treatment. Across-case and within-case analysis resulted in themes and individual vignettes.
Subjects and settings: Eight (8) professional acupuncturists in seven different settings informed their patients about the study. We interviewed a consecutive sample of 23 people with chronic illness, who were having acupuncture for the first time.
Results: People described their experience of acupuncture in terms of the acupuncturist’s diagnostic and needling skills; the therapeutic relationship; and a new understanding of the body and self as a whole being. All three of these components were imbued with holistic ideology. Treatment effects were perceived as changes in symptoms, changes in energy, and changes in personal and social identity. The vignettes showed the complexity and the individuality of the experience of acupuncture treatment. The process and outcome components were distinct but not divisible, because they were linked by complex connections. The paper depicts these results as a diagrammatic model that illustrates the components and their interconnections and the cyclical reinforcement, both positive and negative, that can occur over time.
Conclusions: The holistic model of acupuncture treatment, in which “the whole being greater than the sum of the parts,” has implications for service provision and for research trial design. Research trials that evaluate the needling technique, isolated from other aspects of process, will interfere with treatment outcomes. The model requires testing in different service and research settings.
I think the perspective of viewing SCAMs as complex interventions is needlessly confusing and deeply unhelpful. The truth is that there is no treatment that is not complex. Take a surgical treatment, for instance, it involves dozens of ‘little extras‘ that are known to be effective. Should we, therefore, try to use this fact for justifying useless surgical interventions? Or take a simple prescription of medication from a doctor. It involves time, empathy, attention, explanations, etc. all of which will affect the patient’s symptoms. Should we thus use this to justify a useless drug? Certainly not!
And for the same reason, it is nonsense to use the ‘little extras‘ that come with all the numerous ineffective SCAMs as a smokescreen that makes them look effective.
Homeopathy is touted as a panacea, we all know that. It is thus hardly surprising that it is also claimed to be an effective detox option. Here is a German article on the subject that I translated for you:
It was published on the independent health portal Lifeline. It claims that it “offers comprehensive, high-quality and understandably written information on health topics, diseases, nutrition, and fitness. Our editorial team is supported by doctors and freelance medical authors in the continuous creation and quality assurance of our content. Much of our information is multimedia-based with videos and informative image galleries. Numerous self-tests encourage interaction. In our expert advice and forums on various topics, Lifeline users can discuss topics with experts or exchange information with other users. Our information is in no way intended to be a substitute for a visit to the doctor. Rather, our aim is to qualitatively improve and support the relationship between doctor and patient through the information provided. Therefore, our contents do not serve the purpose of arbitrary diagnosis or treatment.”
And here is the article in question:
Environmental toxins, medications, nicotine, alcohol, unhealthy food – the human body is burdened daily by many substances, waste products and toxins. It is therefore sensible and beneficial to detoxify the liver regularly – preferably naturally. With these homeopathic remedies, this can be done gently.
To stay healthy or to prevent acute diseases from becoming chronic: The reasons to regularly rid the body of accumulated toxins are many. Toxins and waste products weaken the organism or can even cause illness themselves. Especially after drug treatments with antibiotics or cortisone, with frequently recurring colds and flu-like infections, it can be useful to detoxify the body naturally – with homeopathy.
In the body, the liver is the central organ where toxins are broken down. The kidneys, as organs of elimination, also play an important role in detoxification. To support the liver and kidneys in natural detoxification, various medicines are available. In homeopathy, detoxification is also called elimination.
Homeopathic medicines particularly suitable for the detoxification cure:
Sulfur: This classic homeopathic medicine has a strong detoxifying effect on connective tissue and mucous membranes, as well as a cleansing effect on the entire organism. In homeopathy, sulfur is mainly used for natural detoxification after drug treatments with antibiotics and cortisone. If the body is so heavily burdened with waste products that other homeopathic medicines have no effect, Sulfur can be used for natural detoxification.
Nux vomica: A very versatile homeopathic medicine is Nux vomica. It is particularly suitable for detoxifying the body naturally when one has consumed too many stimulants such as coffee or alcohol. It can also be used to eliminate harmful substances caused by medication. Nux vomica has proven particularly useful for the accompanying treatment of side effects after chemotherapy.
Pulsatilla: In homeopathy, Pulsatilla is considered an important natural remedy for detoxification, acting primarily on the mucous membranes and the stomach and intestines. Pulsatilla helps alleviate physical discomfort caused by eating too fatty, unhealthy foods, drinks that irritate the stomach such as coffee and alcohol, and taking medications. Pulsatilla works similarly to the detoxification classic sulfur, only the natural detoxification of liver and kidneys as well as connective tissue proceeds even more gently.
Arsenicum album: Within homeopathy, the remedy Arsenicum album is considered a universal remedy for poisoning, for example by heavy metals. It is mainly used for physical signs of exhaustion and weakness and can compensate for negative consequences of unhealthy nutrition. In addition, Arsenicum album is also said to have an anxiety-relieving effect.
Okoubaka: Okoubaba is also considered a medicine with a strong detoxifying effect, acting mainly on the gastrointestinal tract and used for abdominal cramps, flatulence, constipation, as well as acute diarrhea. Especially after a treatment with antibiotics or after having gone through an illness with norovirus, rotavirus or salmonella, Okoubaba can help to detoxify naturally and restore the intestinal flora.
Magnesium fluoratum: When cold symptoms such as cough and cold flare up again and again after administration of fever-reducing medications and other cold preparations, recovery is protracted and the body is weakened, natural detoxification with magnesium fluoratum can help.
Echinacea: Echinacea is known to increase the body’s defenses. As a homeopathic medicine, it can also help to naturally detoxify underlying conditions that have not been cured.
Detoxify naturally: Typical potencies and their dosage
Low potencies from D3 to D12 are commonly used for self-treatment in natural detoxification. However, choosing the right homeopathic remedy is not always easy. If there are uncertainties, an experienced homeopath should be asked for advice, if possible, in order to determine the drug, potency and dosage on the basis of a detailed anamnesis.
But I am – though not in a positive sense.
The article contains far too many unsubstantiated statements to mention. In fact, they are not just unsubstantiated, they are false! As the author does not even attempt to provide evidence for them, one cannot even dispute it. Suffice to say that ‘detox’ is BS and homeopathy too. And in healthcare ‘minus X minus’ does sadly not give ‘plus’.
What renders this otherwise trivial article rather important, in my view, is this: such web-based information is not the exception; quite the opposite: German consumers are bombarded with BS of this type.
Ever wondered why Germany is such a huge market for health fraud?
Now you know the answer!
The UK medical doctor, Sarah Myhill, has a website where she tells us:
Everyone should follow the general approach to maintaining and restoring good health, which involves eating a paleo ketogenic diet, taking a basic package of nutritional supplements, ensuring a good night’s sleep on a regular basis and getting the right balance between work, exercise and rest. Because we live in an increasingly polluted world, we should probably all be doing some sort of detox regime.
She also happens to sell dietary supplements of all kinds which must surely be handy for all who want to follow her advice. Dr. Myhill boosted her income even further by putting false claims about Covid-19 treatments online. And that got her banned from practicing for nine months after a medical tribunal.
She posted videos and articles advocating taking vitamins and other substances in high doses, without evidence they worked. The General Medical Council (GMC) found her recommendations “undermined public health” and found some of her recommendations had the potential to cause “serious harm” and “potentially fatal toxicity”. The tribunal was told she uploaded a series of videos and articles between March and May 2020, describing substances as “safe nutritional interventions” which she said meant vaccinations were “rendered irrelevant”. But the substances she promoted were not universally safe and have potentially serious health risks associated with them, the panel was told. The tribunal found Dr. Myhill “does not practice evidence-based medicine and may encourage false reassurance in her patients who may believe that they will not catch Covid-19 or other infections if they follow her advice”.
Dr. Myhill previously had a year-long ban lifted after a General Medical Council investigation into her claims of being a “pioneer” in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. In fact, the hearing was told there had been 30 previous GMC investigations into Dr. Myhill, but none had resulted in findings of misconduct.
Dr. Myhill is also a vocal critic of the PACE trial and biopsychosocial model of ME/CFS. Dr. Myhill’s GMC complaint regarding a number of PACE trial authors was first rejected without investigation by the GMC, after Dr. Myhill appealed the GMC stated they would reconsider. Dr. Myhill’s action against the GMC for failing to provide reasoning for not investigating the PACE trial authors is still continuing and began a number of months before the most recent GMC instigation of her practice started.
The recent tribunal concluded: “Given the circumstances of this case, it is necessary to protect members of the public and in the public interest to make an order suspending Dr. Myhill’s registration with immediate effect, to uphold and maintain professional standards and maintain public confidence in the profession.”
Every now and then, I like to look at what our good friend and SCAM entrepreneur Gwyneth Paltrow is offering via her extraordinary ripoff called GOOP. When I recently browsed through her goodies, I find lots of items that made me blush (common decency does not permit me to go into details here). But I also found something that I am sure many of us might need after the over-indulgence of recent weeks:Preview Changes (opens in a new tab)
“The Martini” Emotional Detox Bath Soak
The product is described as follows:
This body-and-spirit-centering bath soak, infused with Himalayan pink salt, helps take the edge off during turbulent times (or after a crazy day). Called “The Martini” after the traditional name for the last take of the day in filmmaking, the soak is made with pharmaceutical-grade Epsom salts, chia-seed oil, passionflower, valerian root, myrrh, Australian sandalwood, and wild-crafted frankincense.
Here at goop we believe in making every choice count, which is why we’ve always been outspoken about the toxic ingredients used in personal-care and beauty products (all are effectively unregulated in this country). We’re also passionate about the idea that beauty comes from the inside out. So we use clinically proven and best-in-class ingredients at active levels to create skin care, skin-boosting ingestibles, and body essentials that are luxurious, deliver high-performance results, and enliven the senses with exquisite textures and beautiful scents. We don’t rest until we think our products are perfect—safe enough and powerful enough for noticeable results. (All our products are formulated without parabens, petroleum, phthalates, SLS, SLES, PEGs, TEA, DEA, silicones, or artificial dyes or fragrances. And our formulas are not tested on animals.) We hope you love them as much as we do.
Yes, there is a whole world out there of which a retired chap like myself knows as good as nothing. And it has its very own terminology:
- emotional detox
- pharmaceutical-grade Epsom salts
- clinically proven and best-in-class ingredients
- skin-boosting ingestibles
- body essentials
- high-performance results
By now, I am sure, you are dying to learn what the Emotional Detox Bath Soak contains:
Sodium Chloride, Magnesium Sulfate, Passiflora Incarnata Extract, Valeriana Officinalis Root Extract, Salvia Hispanica Seed Oil, Helianthus Annuus (Sunflower) Seed Oil, Rosmarinus Officinalis (Rosemary), Leaf Extract, Maltodextrin, Boswellia Carterii Oil, Commiphora Myrrha Oil, Fusanus Spicatus Wood Oil, Cyperus Scariosus (Nagarmotha) Oil, Vetiveria Zizanoides Root Oil, Simmondsia Chinensis (Jojoba) Seed Oil, Tocopherol.
Clinically proven, you ask?
Well, perhaps not in the sense that sad, retired academics tend to understand the term, but you have to realize, this is a different world where words have different meanings, the meaning entretreneurs want them to have. What is proven though is this: at $40 a tiny jar, the detox bath will eliminate some cash from your pocket – after all, that’s what detox is all about, isn’t it?
Max Gerson is well-known to experts in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM). After all, he invented the famous alternative cancer regimen, the Gerson therapy (previously discussed here, here, and here). Not that this treatment works – in fact, it is not just ineffective but also dangerous – but it has prominent promoters, not least King Charles III. As I say, Gerson is well known for his cancer quackery. What hardly anyone knows is that, before he dabbled in cancer, he invented an entirely different medicine.
Max was born as the 3rd of 9 siblings into a Jewish family on October 18, 1881. They lived in Wongrowitz, a part of Poland that at the time belonged to Germany. Max went to school in his hometown and studied medicine in Breslau (Wrocław, now Poland), Wuerzburg, Berlin, and Freiburg. In 1909, he graduated from the University of Freiburg and began practicing medicine at age 28 in Breslau. During WWI, Gerson worked as a surgeon in a military hospital in Breslau and was awarded the ’Iron Cross’ for his service. In 1916, he married Gretchen Hope; the two had three daughters and stayed together until his death.
In 1918, the Gerson family moved to Bielefeld (Germany), and Max specialized in internal medicine as well as neurology. During this period, Gerson developed an anti-inflammatory drug combination and made contact with a local pharmaceutical firm, ‘ASTA Medica’. On the occasion of the firm’s recent 100th jubilee, a German newspaper reported: “The company did business with the well-known Bielefeld physician and inventor Dr. Max Gerson. At the time, he owned the prescription and trademark for a painkiller called Quadronal. Dr. Gerson became a silent partner.” Remarkably, Gerson who published >50 papers (most in German) seems to have no publication on Quadronal.
In his biography of Gerson, Howard Straus (Max’s grandson), explained that Max Gerson did, in fact, develop not just Quadronal for ASTA but also another drug, Quadronox, which however was not as successful as Quadronal. Crucially, Straus makes it very clear that the drug company defrauded Gerson and “never paid a penny to him or his family, nor honored his early ownership of the shares in the company”.
When I was a young clinician in Germany, Quadronal was still quite popular, and I prescribed it regularly. It had been unquestionably the main success for the multi-million firm, ASTA. Today, it is less in use or even no longer available (I am not sure, perhaps someone can fill me in). Gerson’s second drug, Quadronox, seems to have disappeared a long time ago.
I find this story interesting and potentially relevant to the history of Max Gerson. His time in Bielefeld ended when he fled the Nazis (many of his family were killed during the Holocaust). Eventually, Max, his wife, and their three daughters ended up in New York where Gerson tried to establish his anti-cancer regimen. He became fiercely anti-pharma, and many of his followers even claim that he died by being poisoned by the medico-pharmaceutical establishment which allegedly was afraid that his ‘highly successful’ cancer therapy would put them out of business. It is hard to resist the temptation of suspecting a connection between Gerson’s pharma-phobia and the unfair treatment Max received from ASTA in Bielefeld.
Obviously, my knowledge about all this is incomplete, and I would love to hear from people who know more about it.
 ASTA-Erfolgsgeschichte startet vor 100 Jahren (westfalen-blatt.de)
 Dr. Max Gerson Healing the Hopeless: Amazon.co.uk: Straus, Howard: 9780976018612: Books
It has been reported that a naturopath from the US who sold fake COVID-19 immunization treatments and fraudulent vaccination cards during the height of the coronavirus pandemic has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison. Juli A. Mazi pleaded guilty last April in federal court in San Francisco to one count of wire fraud and one count of false statements related to health care matters. Now District Judge Charles R. Breyer handed down a sentence of 33 months, according to Joshua Stueve, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of Justice. Mazi, of Napa, was ordered to surrender to the Bureau of Prisons on or before January 6, 2023.
The case is the first federal criminal fraud prosecution related to fraudulent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vaccination cards for COVID-19, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. In August, Breyer denied Mazi’s motion to withdraw her plea agreement after she challenged the very laws that led to her prosecution. Mazi, who fired her attorneys and ended up representing herself, last week filed a letter with the court claiming sovereign immunity. Mazi said that as a Native American she is “immune to legal action.”
She provided fake CDC vaccination cards for COVID-19 to at least 200 people with instructions on how to complete the cards to make them look like they had received a Moderna vaccine, federal prosecutors said. She also sold homeopathic pellets she fraudulently claimed would provide “lifelong immunity to COVID-19.” She told customers that the pellets contained small amounts of the virus and would create an antibody response. Mazi also offered the pellets in place of childhood vaccinations required for attendance at school and sold at least 100 fake immunization cards that said the children had been vaccinated, knowing the documents would be submitted to schools, officials said. Federal officials opened an investigation against Mazi after receiving a complaint in April 2021 to the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General hotline.
On her website, Mazi states this about herself:
Juli Mazi received her doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine from the National University of Natural Medicine in Portland, Oregon where she trained in the traditional medical sciences as well as ancient and modern modalities that rely on the restorative power of Nature to heal. Juli Mazi radiates the vibrant health she is committed to helping her patients achieve. Juli’s positive outlook inspires confidence; her deep well of calm puts people at immediate ease. The second thing they notice is that truly she listens. Dr. Mazi’s very presence is healing.
On this site, she also advocates all sorts of treatments and ideas which I would call more than a little strange, for instance, coffee enemas:
Using a coffee enema is a time-tested remedy for detoxification, but it is not without risks. If you are not careful, the process can cause internal burns. In addition, improperly brewed coffee can lead to electrolyte imbalances and dehydration, and coffee enemas are not recommended for pregnant women or young children.
To make coffee enemas safe and effective, always choose quality organic coffee. A coffee enema should be free of toxins and pesticides. Use a reusable enema kit with stainless steel or silicone hosing for safety. Moreover, do not use a soft plastic or latex enema bags. It is also essential to limit the length of time that the coffee spends in the container.
A coffee enema should be held for 12 to 15 minutes and then released in the toilet. You may repeat the process as necessary. Usually, the procedure should be done once or twice a day. However, if you are experiencing acute toxicity, you can use a coffee enema as often as needed. Make sure you have had a bowel movement before making the coffee enema. Otherwise, the process may be hindered.
Perhaps the most interesting thing on her website is her advertisement of the fact that her peers not just tolerate such eccentricities but gave Mazi an award for ‘BEST ALTERNATIVE HEALTH & BEST GENERAL PRACTITIONER’.
To me, this suggests that US ‘doctors of naturopathy’ and their professional organizations live on a different planet, a planet where evidence counts for nothing and dangerously misleading patients seems to be the norm.
Camilla spent ten days at the end of October in a sophisticated meditation and fitness center in southern India. Life has recently been hectic for the Queen Consort: at 75, she has been in a non-stop succession of various ceremonies for the funeral of Elizabeth II, always one step behind her husband, not to mention her new status as sovereign… Enough to block her chakras in no time.
She came to the resort with her bodyguards and a handful of friends and was able to take advantage of the tailor-made treatments concocted for her by the master of the house, Dr Issac Mathai, who created this high-end holistic centre on a dozen hectares of scented gardens near Bangalore. The program includes massages, herbal steam baths, yoga, naturopathy, homeopathy, meditation, and Ayurvedic treatments to “cleanse, de-stress, soothe and revitalize the mind, body and soul”, as the establishment’s website states.
Guests are required to follow an individualized, meat-free diet, with organic food from the resort’s vegetable gardens, based on lots of salads or soups – Camilla is said to be a fan of sweet corn soup with spinach. Cigarettes and mobile phones are not allowed, although it is assumed that Camilla must have some privileges due to her status… and the basic rate for the suites, which starts at $950 a night – the price of the rooms varies between $260 and $760, the rate including a consultation with the doctors.
Charles and Camilla have been fans of the Soukya Centre in India for a decade. The place corresponds in every way to their deep-rooted convictions about health. Like her husband, Camilla is a follower of organic food, she also practices yoga and treats her face with creams made from nettle and bee venom. For his part, Charles has long been an advocate of alternative medicine, homeopathy, acupuncture, aromatherapy, and also hypnosis… He even set up a foundation to support complementary medicine by lobbying the British health service to include it in complementary therapies for certain patients, which caused an uproar among the pundits of traditional medicine.
If you suspected I was (yet again) sarcastic about the royal couple, you are mistaken. The text above is only my (slightly shortened) translation of an article published in the French magazine LE POINT (even the title is theirs). I found the article amusing and interesting; so, I looked up the Indian health center. Here are some of the things I found:
The 1st impression is that they are not shy about promotion calling themselves THE WORLD’S BEST AYURVEDA TREATMENT CENTER. The doctor in charge was once a ‘Consultant Physician’ at the Hale Clinic in London, where he treated a number of high-profile people. As his professional background, he offers this:
M.D. (Homeopathy); Hahnemann Post-Graduate Institute of Homeopathy, London M.R.C.H, London; Chinese Pulse Diagnosis and Acupuncture, WHO Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Nanjing, China; Trained (Mind-Body Medicine Programme) at Harvard Medical School, USA
The approach of the center is described as follows:
The fundamental principle underlying Holistic Treatment is that the natural defense and immune system of an individual when strengthened, has the potential to heal and prevent diseases. In the age of super-specialisation where human beings are often viewed as a conglomeration of organs, it is crucial to understand ourselves as multi-dimensional beings with a body, mind and spirit. These interconnected dimensions need to be in perfect harmony to ensure real well-being.
And about homeopathy, they claim this:
Homeopathy originated in 1796 in Germany, and was discovered by Dr. Samuel Hahnemann, a German scientist. Homeopathy is popular today as a non-intrusive, holistic system of medicine. Instead of different medicines for different parts of the body, one single constitutional remedy is prescribed. As a system of medicine, Homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical and an extremely effective method of healing. For over 200 years people have used Homeopathy to maintain their good health, and also to treat and cure a wide range of illnesses like allergies, metabolic disorders, atopic dermatitis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Auto-immune disorders.
At this stage, I felt I had seen enough. Yes, you are right, we did not learn a lot from this little exploration. No, hold on! We did learn that homeopathy is highly scientific, safe, logical, and extremely effective!
The question, however, is should we believe it?
The global interest in dieting has increased, and many people have become obsessed with certain fad diets, assuming they are magic bullets for their problems. A fad diet is a popular dietary pattern known to be a quick fix. This review article explores the current evidence related to the health impacts of (amongst others) detox diets (DDs). DDs are interventional diets specifically designed for toxins elimination, health promotion, and weight management. They involve multiple approaches, including total calorie restriction, dietary modification, or juice fasts, and often the use of additional minerals, vitamins, diuretics, laxatives, or ‘cleansing foods’. Some of the many DDs used today are listed below:
|Diet type||Duration||Foods allowed||Proposed claims|
|Liver cleansing diet||8 weeks||Plant-based, dairy-free, low-fat, high-fiber, unprocessed foods are allowed. Epsom salt and liver tonics are also consumed.||Improved energy levels and liver function Toxins removal Improved immune response Efficient metabolism of fats and better weight control|
|Lemon detox diet/Master cleanser||10 days||A liquid-only diet based on purified water, lemon juice, tree syrup, and cayenne pepper. A mild laxative herbal tea and sea salt water is also incorporated.||Toxins removal Shiny hair, glowing skin, and strong nails Weight loss|
|The clean cleanse||21 days||Breakfast and dinner comprise probiotic capsules, cleanse supplements and cleanse shakes. A solid meal in lunch while avoiding gluten, dairy, corn, soy, pork, beef, refined sugars, some fruits, and vegetables.||Toxins removal Improved energy, digestion, sleep, and mental health Reduction in joint pains, headaches, constipation, and bloating|
|Martha’s vineyard detox diet||21 days||Herbal teas, vegetable soups and juices, specially formulated tablets, powders and digestive enzymes are on the menu.||Weight loss Toxins removal Improved energy levels|
|Weekend wonder detox||48 h||Protein-rich meals salads, detox-promoting superfoods, and beverages. Healthy lifestyle, spa treatments, and herbal remedies.||Toxins removal Improved organ function Strengthen body Enhance beauty|
|Fat flush||2 weeks||Large meals are replaced with dilute cranberries, hot water with lemon, pre-prepared cocktails, supplements, and small meals||Toxins removal Reduced stress Weight loss Improved liver function|
|Blueprint cleanse||3 days||Consumption of six pre-prepared vegetable and fruit juices is allowed per day.||Toxins removal|
|The Hubbard purification rundown||Several weeks||Niacin doses along with sustained consumption of vitamin-A, B, C, D, and E. Daily exercise with balanced meals. Restriction of alcohol and drugs. Sitting in a sauna for ≤ 5 h each day.||Toxins removal from fat stores Improved memory and intelligence quotient Better blood pressure and cholesterol levels|
Currently, there is no good clinical evidence for the effectiveness of DDs and some evidence to suggest they might do harm. Many of the DD are liquid-based, low-calorie, and nutrient-poor. For example, a part of BluePrint Cleanse, Excavation Cleanse, provides only 19 g protein and 860 kcal/day which is far below the actual requirement. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommends a minimum of 0.83 g/kg body weight of high-quality protein and 1,680 kcal/day for an adult. DDs may also induce stress, raise cortisol levels, and increase appetite, resulting in binge eating and weight gain.
As no convincing positive evidence exists for DDs and detox products, their use needs to be discouraged by health professionals. Moreover, regulatory review and adequate safety monitoring should be considered.
Yesterday, L’EXPRESS published an interview with me. It was introduced with these words (my translation):
Professor emeritus at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom, Edzard Ernst is certainly the best connoisseur of unconventional healing practices. For 25 years, he has been sifting through the scientific evaluation of these so-called “alternative” medicines. With a single goal: to provide an objective view, based on solid evidence, of the reality of the benefits and risks of these therapies. While this former homeopathic doctor initially thought he was bringing them a certain legitimacy, he has become one of their most enlightened critics. It is notable as a result of his work that the British health system, the NHS, gave up covering homeopathy. Since then, he has never ceased to alert us to the abuses and lies associated with these practices. For L’Express, he looks back at the challenges of regulating this vast sector and deciphers the main concepts put forward by “wellness” professionals – holism, detox, prevention, strengthening the immune system, etc.
The interview itself is quite extraordinary, in my view. While UK, US, and German journalists usually are at pains to tone down my often outspoken answers, the French journalists (there were two doing the interview with me) did nothing of the sort. This starts with the title of the piece: “Homeopathy is implausible but energy healing takes the biscuit”.
The overall result is one of the most outspoken interviews of my entire career. Let me offer you a few examples (again my translation):
Why are you so critical of celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow who promote these wellness methods?
Sadly, we have gone from evidence-based medicine to celebrity-based medicine. A celebrity without any medical background becomes infatuated with a certain method. They popularize this form of treatment, very often making money from it. The best example of this is Prince Charles, sorry Charles III, who spent forty years of his life promoting very strange things under the guise of defending alternative medicine. He even tried to market a “detox” tincture, based on artichoke and dandelion, which was quickly withdrawn from the market.
How to regulate this sector of wellness and alternative medicines? Today, anyone can present himself as a naturopath or yoga teacher…
Each country has its own regulation, or rather its own lack of regulation. In Germany, for instance, we have the “Heilpraktikter”. Anyone can get this paramedical status, you just have to pass an exam showing that you are not a danger to the public. You can retake this exam as often as you want. Even the dumbest will eventually pass. But these practitioners have an incredible amount of freedom, they even may give infusions and injections. So there is a two-tier health care system, with university-trained doctors and these practitioners.
In France, you have non-medical practitioners who are fighting for recognition. Osteopaths are a good example. They are not officially recognized as a health profession. Many schools have popped up to train them, promising a good income to their students, but today there are too many osteopaths compared to the demand of the patients (knowing that nobody really needs an osteopath to begin with…). Naturopaths are in the same situation.
In Great Britain, osteopaths and chiropractors are regulated by statute. There is even a Royal College dedicated to chiropractic. It’s a bit like having a Royal College for hairdressers! It’s stupid, but we have that. We also have professionals like naturopaths, acupuncturists, or herbalists who have an intermediate status. So it’s a very complex area, depending on the state. It is high time to have more uniform regulations in Europe.
But what would adequate regulation look like?
From my point of view, if you really regulate a profession like homeopaths, it means that these professionals may only practice according to the best scientific evidence available. Which, in practice, means that a homeopath cannot practice homeopathy. This is why these practitioners have a schizophrenic attitude toward regulation. On the one hand, they would like to be recognized to gain credibility. But on the other hand, they know very well that a real regulation would mean that they would have to close shop…
What about the side effects of these practices?
If you ask an alternative practitioner about the risks involved, he or she will take exception. The problem is that there is no system in alternative medicine to monitor side effects and risks. However, there have been cases where chiropractors or acupuncturists have killed people. These cases end up in court, but not in the medical literature. The acupuncturists have no problem saying that a hundred deaths due to acupuncture – a figure that can be found in the scientific literature – is negligible compared to the millions of treatments performed every day in this discipline. But this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are many cases that are not published and therefore not included in the data, because there is no real surveillance system for these disciplines.
Do you see a connection between the wellness sector and conspiracy theories? In the US, we saw that Qanon was thriving in the yoga sector, for example…
Several studies have confirmed these links: people who adhere to conspiracy theories also tend to turn to alternative medicine. If you think about it, alternative medicine is itself a conspiracy theory. It is the idea that conventional medicine, in the name of pharmaceutical interests, in particular, wants to suppress certain treatments, which can therefore only exist in an alternative world. But in reality, the pharmaceutical industry is only too eager to take advantage of this craze for alternative products and well-being. Similarly, universities, hospitals, and other health organizations are all too willing to open their doors to these disciplines, despite the lack of evidence of their effectiveness.
We have repeatedly discussed the issue of detox as used in so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) and seen that, for a whole range of reasons, it is utter nonsense, e.g.:
- Remember Prince Charles’ ‘Duchy Originals Detox Tincture’?
- Now that you have paid through your nose for the ‘tox’, how about a ‘detox’ through your nose?
- Homotoxicology: ‘the best kept detox secret’? No, it’s even worse than homeopathy!
- Detox is bunk; save your money for something useful, fun or pleasant!
- Scientology detox? No thanks!!!
- ‘DETOX’ = a dangerous and counter-productive illusion
- Have yourself a merry little detox
- It’s beginning to look a lot like DETOX…everywhere I go
But would it not be better to keep toxins from entering the body in the first place?
Yes, you suspected correctly: there are products that claim to do exactly this. Here is a particularly ‘impressive’ one:
ION* Gut Support seals cells in the gut lining, helping to keep toxins out of your body and strengthening the terrain upon which your microbiome can diversify. it uses Humic Extract (from Ancient Soil) and Purified Water.
Humic extract is sourced from ancient soil (roughly 60 million years old), and contains a blend of bacterial metabolites (aka, fulvate) as well as less than 1% of a variety of trace minerals and amino acids including chloride, sodium, lithium, calcium, phosphorus, sulfur, bromide, potassium, iron, antimony, zinc, copper, gold, magnesium, alanine, glycine, histidine, isoleucine, methionine, threonine, and valine.
… the trace minerals in our humic extract are naturally occurring, well below the RDI, and not meant to be used as supplementary to any deficiencies. The truly active compound in humic extract is the fulvate, a unique family of carbon molecules with oxygen-binding sites that are produced by bacteria when they digest nutrients. These molecules are the backbone of the ION* blend, helping with critical functions like cellular and microbial communication and chelation of nutrients.
The science behind ION* lies in strengthening the cellular integrity of your body’s barriers, including not just your gut, but your sinuses and skin as well. Keeping your cells connected keeps these barriers intact, which sets the stage (or “terrain” as we like to call it) for seamless interaction between you and your microbiome.
At ION*, we’re all about connection – starting with the very foundation of our science: tight junction integrity. Tight junctions are the seals between your cells which help to create defensive barriers at the gut, skin, and sinuses. They act intelligently to keep toxins and foreign particles out of the blood stream while also allowing nutrients to enter. These seals are protected by the carbon and mineral metabolites of bacterial digestion.
Unfortunately, tight junction barriers can be degraded with exposure to gluten, glyphosate (the main chemical in commercial herbicides like Roundup), and other environmental insults. ION* has been scientifically shown to promote the strengthening of this barrier through redox signaling, even in the face of those environmental insults.
Your body’s barriers know what to let in (nutrients) and what to ward off (toxins). But the barriers must be strong. ION* works to strengthen your gut, sinus, and skin barriers at a cellular level by fostering tight junction integrity, helping to promote this intelligent defense system at a foundational level.
So much scientific-sounding language can make your head spin.
Which toxins are we talking about?
Are there any clinical studies of the product?
Why is the product so expensive?
What exactly are Humic substances?
I found an answer to only the last question. Humic substances are organic compounds that are important components of humus, the major organic fraction of soil, peat, and coal, and also a constituent of many upland streams, dystrophic lakes, and ocean water.
I imagine that tightening the named junctions – if this is truly a realistic mechanism of action – might interfere with the absorption of all sorts of substances that the body needs for survival. I am, of course, speculating, but one should ask about the risks of using this product (other than the one to the consumer’s bank account).
What we need are clinical studies. And there seem to be none (if anyone knows one, please let me know).
So, what do we call again a health product that makes unsubstantiated claims?
Was it perhaps ‘snake oil’?