Posted by: notdeaddinosaur | March 26, 2013

Half Way There

A crunchy friend of mine on Facebook re-posted something from an even crunchier friend of hers who was shocked — SHOCKED — to find that many naturopaths sell supplements. Actually, she feels that selling them is okay; so is prescribing them. But selling what they prescribe apparently tips her Ethics meter over into “unacceptable”.

As I read her screed against  the ND who conducted a cursory history and exam before checking off $750 worth of supplements on a pre-printed sheet (Visa, Mastercard, and Discover accepted, I’m sure) I felt my heart lift. Yes, I thought. Now you’re getting it. When she advocated hiring a naturopath who doesn’t do this, I found myself telling the screen, “Good luck with that.”

The poster was also, rightfully, concerned about “the heart of the practitioner.” She places great emphasis on intent. Question for her: what about the practitioner who really, truly feels that the only supplements good enough for her patients are the ones she is selling? You’d probably think she’d been hoodwinked by marketing, and you’d be right.

Here’s the thing, though: you yourself have been hoodwinked by the marketing of the entire “Natural Health” industry. Naturopathic medicine, energy healing, homeopathy, chiropractic, acupuncture, and all the rest are nothing but non-scientific hokum.

Some of it emerged before science had developed sufficient understanding of the human body. Others, like chiropractic, were actually invented in order to make money selling them to practitioners (who were understood to then turn around and use them to take money from patients.) There is no way to learn — and really understand — chemistry and then turn around and believe in homeopathy. Emerging consensus reveals that acupuncture is nothing more than an elaborate placebo.

Recognizing the ethical shortcomings inherent in the sales and marketing of supplements is the first step. The next is the painful understanding that those who sell “education” and “training” to become a “Natural Health care provider” are just as unethical, selling nonsense in lieu of science to people whose disappointments with “regular” (ie, real) medical care leave them vulnerable to the wish fulfillment that is “holistic” care. I’ve written about this before.

It’s important not to confuse the message and the messenger, or rather the material and the teacher. It’s possible, even likely, that the vast majority of natural health practitioners really believe that what they’re doing is legitimate; just like that Naturopath who really feels that her supplements are so much better than cheaper alternatives.

This friend of a friend goes on to give this advice:

Bottom line is this – if you are in the natural health field, or are planing a career in it – choose which side of the coin you want to be on – 1) patient care, consulting, advocating and teaching, or 2) retail, sales, product marketing. Both of these are perfectly fine when apart – it is the mixing of the two that causes my heart to sink.

The existence of the whole “natural health field” is what causes MY heart to sink. I ache for those whose bad experiences with “conventional medicine” — that is to say, medicine — have caused them to look for alternatives. But for anyone looking for a career in the health field, make it a real health field, like nursing or medical school, EMR/paramedic/first responder training, or become a doula or lactation consultant. As for those already there, please take a long, hard look in the mirror, and think about what you are really selling.



  1. Thank you for writing about me 🙂

  2. I’m going to agree with you on everything but chiropractic. When I first read the “principles” behind homeopathy, I burst out laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. I’ve read journal articles about energy healing and acupuncture as compared to placebo, and wouldn’t spend money on either.

    I’ve been seeing a chiropractor for a while, in combination with a massage therapist and a physical therapist, for chronic back and hip pain, and each one helps in a slightly different way. The physical therapy is helping me improve strength and flexibility in ways that help decrease the pain, massage therapy is helping with chronically tight muscles, and chiropractic provides short-term improvement in range of motion that makes it easier to do the physical therapy.

    I don’t know how other chiropractors work; mine may be unusual. A visit always starts with several tests of range of motion, followed by adjustments using a tapper (none of the “crack your bones” stuff). Then we check to see whether they helped. If they didn’t, he tries something else. Sometimes it doesn’t help, but usually it does. It’s not meant to be a cure-all, or a cure-anything, for that matter. Is this atypical for chiropractors?

  3. @Becky:

    The chiropractor you describe is not doing “chiropractic.” He’s functioning as a self-taught physical therapist. The basic principle of “Chiropractic” is that all human ailments are caused by partially dislocated (“subluxed”) vertebrae impeding the flow of “vital energy” moving from the brain, down the spine, and out into the rest of the body. Compared to “chiropractic”, homeopathy is downright logical.

  4. Seriously? Yikes. I had no idea. That’s… very peculiar. And sounds like it has the potential to do some significant damage, whereas homeopathy is usually just very expensive water.

  5. OtherBecky: Homeopathy also can cause “significant change” if the patient chooses homeopath over allopathy, no?

  6. Even scarier are the naturopaths who prescribe substances they manufacture themselves, giving the patient no option about where to buy the “medicine.”

  7. It will be interesting seeing the feedback roll in now that this has been posted at KevinMD. Already it seems to have drawn the ire of some “natural health” proponents… Apparently you’re not allowed to be critical of natural supplements, naturopathy, energy healing, homeopathy, etc. until you’ve “spent many years studying them”.

    Also, “you’re a dinosaur”. Oy.

  8. So then what do you say to my rheumatologist who prescribes and sells supplements out of his office? You need to trash your own colleagues, too, not just the crunchy granola NDs out there. Fair is fair, after all.

  9. Oh hell yes, I’ll trash “colleagues” who are intellectually lazy enough (most charitable interpretation) to profit by promulgating ignorance to their patients. If anything, I hold them in even greater contempt, as they ought to know better.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: