Alternative medicine: myths and misunderstandings

Alternative medicine is becoming less and less a maligned field. Massage, Tai Chi, hypnosis, yoga and meditation all have certain benefits. Health insurers often reimburse visits to a recognized alternative healer in their supplementary packages. Yet there are still many rumors floating around and all kinds of alternative medicine are dangerous or a pure money grab.

Contents

  • Echinacea helps against colds
  • Antioxidants help against colds
  • Products that improve the immune system protect against diseases
  • A supplement works better than the natural product
  • Pinched nerves cause asthma, appendicitis, back pain, chronic inflammation, etc.
  • You can read someone’s health in their eyes
  • An enema cleanses the intestines of any remaining debris
  • Magnets bring us into balance
  • Acupuncture can relieve muscle pain

 

Echinacea helps against colds

A German study from 1998 proves the opposite. Three hundred people took part in the experiment; half received a placebo pill, the other half received echinacea. There was no difference between the groups in the number of times they had a cold or the time they went without a cold. A similar but smaller American study found the same thing in 2002: there is no difference in colds between people who take echinacea and those who don’t. Echinacea is not a harmless substance; Daily intake can lead to liver damage in just two months. That’s not worth unproven protection against colds.

Antioxidants help against colds

Nothing helps against a cold except avoiding contact with the germs and washing your hands a lot. Colds spread through hands, doorknobs, elevator buttons, sneezing, etc. Washing your hands often and thoroughly (read how here) is the only cure unless you want to constantly wear gloves a la Michael Jackson. Just like Echinacea or vitamin C, antioxidants do nothing against colds. Does it mean that all the hype surrounding antioxidants is air-based? For a change, the answer is no.
Although much is still unknown about antioxidants, they appear to be important for good health. They help protect the body against so-called free radicals. These are errant molecules that cause oxidative stress and are linked to a laundry list of diseases such as cancer and hardening of the arteries. Of course, the alternative industry immediately jumps in with supplements, but there are hundreds of different types and no single pill provides them all. Almost every food, but especially food rich in vitamins C and E, contains antioxidants. To name a few examples: fresh berries, citrus fruits, grapes, sunflower seeds, walnuts, peanut butter, grain products, all types of cabbage, peppers and spinach.

Products that improve the immune system protect against diseases

We all know that our immune system fights diseases. The idea of a personal army in your body sounds very good. So the idea that you can give this army more men sounds even better. These thoughts ignore the fact that our immune system strengthens itself in one way: by getting sick. This is the principle on which vaccines are based. Give a child a vaccination with a weakened, diluted form of the disease and the immune system builds up new, unique antibodies to counter this mini-attack. If the child comes into contact with the real germs later in life, the body will know what to do. The antibodies are produced in no time and this person does not become ill or only slightly ill. Without vaccination, the body does not recognize the disease and a first exposure can have dramatic consequences. Alternative products are not vaccines, they are not diseases in a weakened form. So they cannot build up protection against new diseases.
What about better protection against diseases against which you already have antibodies? Well, that’s very difficult to find out. First of all, you have to find people with the same level of antibodies for a certain disease and then you have to give one group the product and the other group a placebo. You can’t expose people to the disease, so you would have to send them out into the world and hope that some get the disease you want. You need large groups, because the chance of getting sick is small and you need to have enough sick people before you can say anything about the effectiveness of the product.
Alternative products are not medicines. Before a drug hits the market, it must pass such rigorous testing. An alternative product is not bound by these rules, so manufacturers can make claims about its effectiveness with impunity. A scientific test is expensive and the results may not be what the manufacturer wants, so alternative products are rarely put to real test.
Although there is a lot of uncertainty in the alternative angle, one thing is very clear. Unless you have a very weak immune system, it is better to avoid immune boosters. If they really do their job and accelerate or increase your immune system, this can lead to the autoimmune disease rheumatoid arthritis.

A supplement works better than the natural product

This persistent misunderstanding proves that we allow ourselves to be fooled into anything. The idea is that a supplement contains a higher concentration and therefore works faster and better. There are several examples of supplements that have unpleasant side effects that the natural product does not have. For example, many women know that cranberry juice helps against bladder infections. An ingredient in the juice prevents bacteria from attaching to the bladder wall. At the same time, cranberries also have a lot of oxalate, which contributes to the formation of kidney stones. After a patient with large kidney stones admitted to taking cranberry pills, doctors examined the effect of these pills among five healthy women. After seven days of taking the pills, oxalate levels in the urine had increased by an average of 43%. This is of course an unprecedented increase for just one week. Another study showed that cranberry pills do not prevent bladder infections. So besides the fact that the pills damage your health, they also do not have the desired effect!
The same applies to supplements with beta-carotene. Studies found that beta-carotene supplements increased the risk of lung cancer among smokers and drinkers. At the same time, a study of 22,000 doctors who took a beta-carotene supplement daily for 12 years found no effect on their risks of cancer or heart disease. Once again a supplement that is dangerous on the one hand and does not provide the effect you get from eating food with this ingredient such as carrots, spinach and broccoli on the other.
Consider this: If nature designed us for concentrates in pill form, cranberry pills would grow on bushes, fish oil pills would swim in the sea, and garlic pills would grow in the ground.

Pinched nerves cause asthma, appendicitis, back pain, chronic inflammation, etc.

Pinched nerves are not connected to the organs and therefore have nothing to do with diseases. Anyone who claims the opposite believes in theories from the thirteenth century. Some chiropractors or bone crackers have a plate with a spine whose pinched nerves are forbidden to the organs. If that doctor really believes in that, run away really fast. Isn’t it intuitively illogical that your manipulation of the spine can have an effect on something other than the spine?
Our spine is extremely strong and cannot be moved out of its natural alignment. Spines of deceased people have been put under extreme pressure and no one has been able to shift the vertebrae. Back pain cannot therefore be caused by an incorrectly aligned spine. Sometimes back pain goes away when the fiber capsules surrounding the vertebrae are stretched by a chiropractor. You will then hear a cracking sound, which indicates that gas is escaping. But back pain can have many causes, including kidney problems, bone problems, arthritis, inflammation, muscle cramps and breast cancer. You cannot solve all of this with the same treatment. Manipulation of the spine can also have serious consequences; the risk of a brain haemorrhage increases because blood vessels break during treatment.

You can read someone’s health in their eyes

This idea is called iris diagnostics or iridology. The idea is that the iris represents certain organs and systems, such as the stomach, the feet, the uterus, etc. Spots, discolorations or shapes in the iris should be able to tell you where the problem is. A Hungarian doctor is said to have invented iris diagnostics in the nineteenth century. What is true about this now? Nothing. The idea that spots in your eyes reflect other parts of your body is complete nonsense. Various tests have shown this. Iridologists saw patients with kidney problems. The chance that the iridologist discovered the problem was no greater than the chance of guessing. In short: a money grab.

An enema cleanses the intestines of any remaining debris

Although Patty Brard firmly believed in this, that does not make it true. An enema is intended for people with bowel problems who have not gone to the toilet for days. Normal, healthy people do not need to inject herbal mixture to cleanse themselves. Our body does this very well on its own. This myth has been around since Hippocratus, but colonoscopy immediately showed that it was nonsense. A tube with a lamp and nowadays a camera show that the rectum is fresh and pink like our mouth.

Magnets bring us into balance

Although magnetism keeps the earth in balance, a bracelet, necklace or mattress with magnets has no effect on our body. No scientific tests with these types of magnets have ever found an effect. The only place magnets help us is if it is an electromagnetic field. This can help with broken bones that won’t heal or with schizophrenia to reduce hallucinations. It’s best to hang any other magnet on your refrigerator.

Acupuncture can relieve muscle pain

Acupuncture is the traditional Chinese medicine in which needles are inserted into the body at specific energy points. The idea is that the body must be in balance yin and yang and that acupuncture can restore this balance by letting the energy flow again. Another form is without needles, but only applies pressure to the acupuncture points.
Research in 48 people with muscle pain found no effect for acupuncture. The subjects were divided into four groups . Group 1 rested for 20 minutes, group 2 received acupuncture on the wrong points, group 3 received acupuncture on the classic points and group 4 received acupuncture on the painful points. Movement and pain were assessed both before and after treatment and there was no effect. Acupuncture also has zero effect on controlling smoking, weight, depression or drug use.
A comparative study between acupuncture, massage and education as a solution for back pain found that massage was more effective than acupuncture . There were 262 participants and they were divided into three groups. The acupuncture and massage group received ten treatments in ten weeks and massage was the clear winner.

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