It’s hardly news that the Huffington Post publishes a lot of garbage, but the site’s affectionate regard for alternative medicine is really hard to take. Yesterday, someone named Andrea Sullivan gobbled bandwidth by arguing that naturopathy — your one-stop superstore for medical quackery — should receive serious attention from policymakers who are interested in improving health care in the US. Evidently, Sullivan recently wasted everyone’s time on a conference call with the White House Office of Public Engagement, who were asked if
people who don’t believe in the germ theory naturopaths weren’t ideally suited to deliver all of the President’s health care goals. From the sounds of it, OPE reps gently dismissed her question by suggesting the obvious — which is that naturopathy has exactly zero basis in science — but Sullivan isn’t giving up.
Here’s what policymakers need to know. All naturopathic physicians have earned four-year postgraduate degrees from accredited institutions. We are trained as primary care physicians to treat patients with safe and gentle disciplines such as homeopathic and botanical medicine, nutrition, massage, hydrotherapy, and acupuncture. We treat whole people–body, mind, and spirit–and not just diseases. Our fundamental beliefs are that disease happens to an entire body, not just one area of it, and that the body has an innate ability to heal itself and prevent disease if given proper support.
All of which is, of course, absolute nonsense. Naturopathic colleges, for instance, are “accredited” in much the same way that the market for credit default swaps was “regulated.” The Council on Naturopathic Medical Education exists not to verify that naturopaths are trained in methods that actually work, but that schools are actually delivering the classes they claim to deliver and that they faithfully promote the field’s unsupportable philosophy that diseases are caused by a disturbance in the body’s “vital force.” The CNME lost its accrediting recognition from the Department of Education in 2001 after fourteen years of demonstrated malfeasance; Bush’s education secretary Rod Paige renewed the body’s accrediting authority in 2003.
Even so, the fact that naturopathic colleges are “accedited” means nothing, given that naturopathy itself is nothing more than a pig’s breakfast of scam remedies that derive from debunked, pre-modern fairy tales about the origins and cure of disease. In one hilarious article from the alt-med field, for instance, it was suggested that naturopaths “may have significant problems in relating to the idea of [evidence-based medicine].” Yeah. I’d imagine so.
As the great quack-hunter Morris Fishbein pointed out nearly 70 years ago, “Whereas most cults embrace a single conception as to the cause and healing of disease, naturopathy embraces everything in nature.” Sullivan mentions a few of the more harmless-sounding naturopathic practices — including herbal medicine, acupuncture, and massage — but naturopaths embrace without prejudice a full complement of goofiness, including ozone therapy, chelation therapy, hair analysis, coffee enemas, iridology, color therapy, and so on and so forth. (If “therapeutic touch” hadn’t been debunked by a fourth-grader, they’d still be advocating for that as well.) It doesn’t matter that each of these “therapies” rely on completely different and usually incompatible explanations for why people get sick in the first place, nor does it matter that supporting clinical evidence is nowhere to be found for anything that naturopaths recommend (aside from eating a nutritious diet, drinking lots of water and getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.) As a big, moronic tent, naturopathy embraces it all — not because it’s effective, but because it’s profitable. Indeed, Sullivan’s only real “defense” of field rests on the fact that Americans are apparently gullible enough to spend “$27 billion of their own money on naturopathic healing.” It’s no surprise, then, that naturopaths like Sullivan have joined other crazy people in trying to hijack the cause of health care reform — by legitimizing practices that have no proven benefit (and may in fact cause harm and drive up health care costs overall), such “reform” would serve as an ongoing jobs program for medical grifters.