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By Gary F. Zeolla
Over the last fifteen years or so, I have had much experience with alternative practitioners, and I used to listen to several such doctors on the radio on a regular basis. And if you had asked me about alternative medicine a few years ago, I would have been all "gung ho" about it. And I have many articles on my Web site describing my experiences with alternative in a positive manner. But that was before the faulty nature of their ideas and practices destroyed my health and my life.
Basically, I had been "brainwashed" by such doctors by listening to them so much on the radio. And that led me to ignore the warning signs that their treatments and ideas weren't working, and that rather than getting better, I was in the process of actually getting much worse. It is simply easy to ignore the truth when you "just know" what you are doing is correct.
But now, with my health ruined, I have taken the time to honestly investigate their claims, and have found them to be faulty on many grounds. In the article Dangers of Applied Kinesiology and NAET, I discuss the problems with those two practices of alternative practitioners. In this article, I will evaluate some of their other common ideas and practices.
Back Pain Experiences
My experience with alternative medicine began when I was looking
for a solution to my crippling lower back pain, that I suffered with from June
4, 1994 to the spring of 2000. After trying traditional treatments like physical
therapy, I went to a chiropractor and then an acupuncturist. Both proved to be
totally worthless. And worse, the acupuncturist left me with tingling in my left
foot that bothered me for years.
Then in 1999 I began listening to the radio doctors. And one of them promoted trigger point therapy. So I went to him for that. I helped some, but not much. But what it did do was introduce me to this doctor and as a result, I ended up going back to him for treatments for other ailments, none of which he helped me with and probably caused to get much worse.
In any case, I discuss my all of my treatment experiences with my back pain and the solution that I finally found in my booklet Overcoming Back Pain: A Mind-Body Solution. So I'll refer the reader for that for more in this regard.
Vaccinations are most thought of in regards to children. But since I don't have
children, I won't spend a lot of time on it. But it is a point that is very
important for those who do have children, and many alternative doctors really
harp upon it. So it is worth looking at. Alternative practitioners often claim
that vaccinations are dangerous. Such doctors will especially strongly warn
parents against letting their infant children receive the normal round of
Most states require children to receive vaccinations to attend public school. But some states have an exception in the law for people who have religious objections to vaccinations (such as Jehovah's Witnesses). So alternative doctors will tell parents to lie and say they have a religious objection to vaccinations in order to get around the law, even when they have no affiliation with a religious group that actually prohibits vaccinations.
The reason they say vaccinations are dangerous is they claim that vaccinations can cause autism, ADHD, type 1 diabetes, allergies, and other chronic health problems. This claim originated with a faulty study in 1998 linking autism to the standard MMR vaccination. There are also many celebrated cases of people who claim they "just know" that vaccinations caused their child's autism.
Problem is, that first study was not properly reported and subsequent studies have shown there is no link between autism and vaccinations. And "testimonials" simply do not prove anything. It is easy for a person to think there is a link between things when there is not. Only a properly conducted scientific study can actually show a connection between a particular practice and a health problem or cure. But it is on testimonials that alternatives practitioners try to support their ideas and practices.
As for other diseases that vaccinations supposedly cause, there simply is no scientific evidence that any such links exists.
That said, as a result of this scare by alternative practitioners, many parents have not vaccinated their children. This has led to a rise cases of diseases like whooping cough and measles that were once basically eradicated.
There are many good articles on the Web about this issue documenting the above points if the reader wishes to pursue it further. Three such articles are: Vaccines & Autism A Deadly Manufactroversy, MMR vaccine controversy, and Immunizations and Type 1 Diabetes. But the main point is, alternative practitioners continue to harp on this issue, despite all the evidence that their claims are not only faulty but dangerous.
One way this mindset of alternative doctors might have seriously
affected me was in regards to vaccinations for the flu. I did not get one in the
fall of 2000 as a result of listening to them. But in February of 2001 I caught
the flu. It was after that illness that my
fibromyalgia started. If I had
gotten the flu shot, maybe I would not have caught the flu and thus might not
have developed fibromyalgia. But since I have lost faith in the ideas of
alternative doctors, I have been getting a flu shot regularly, and I haven't had
the flu in the several years since.
Nutrition and Diet
The radio doctors I was listening to would often talk about the
importance of following a healthy diet. And I wholeheartedly agree. A person
should follow a healthy eating plan. I feel so strongly about this that I
majored in Nutrition Science in college and wrote my book
God-Given Foods Eating Plan.
However, a person should practice what they preach. That is why I was shocked when I went to see one of the radio doctors for the first time and saw that he was significantly overweight. I know it is common for doctors, nurses, and other health practitioners to be overweight. Why, I don't know. You would think that such people would know better. But in this case, this radio doctor is constantly talking about eating healthy. So for him to be so overweight was simply hypocritical.
That said, an important question is what alternative doctors consider to be a healthy diet. Many of them, such as this overweight doctor, advocate a vegetarian or even vegan diet. The former eliminates all meats like beef, chicken, and fish, while the latter eliminates these, along with dairy, and eggs. I discuss the potential problems with a vegetarian and especially vegan diet in my book. So I won't go into details here.
But what I find disturbing is this particular radio doctor would recommend a vegan diet to just about everyone who called into his radio show. "Get off the dead animals" is how he would put it. And he seemed to think that following a vegan diet was the end-all of a healthy eating plan. It is not. As I detail in my book, animal foods can and should have a place in a healthy eating plan.
In fact, I would say that most people who follow a vegan diet run into problems with it as a result. That is what happened with me. I tried a vegan diet back in 2000 as a result of listening to this radio doctor. I did feel good initially, but after a few weeks, I began to get worse. I first noticed it when working out. I started losing strength and endurance. And then I began to develop various health problems. Again, I discuss this in my book.
But an important point is that later when I tried explaining this to radio doctor, he didn't believe me! He wrote off my experience as being silly rather than accepting that a vegan diet simply is not for everyone. And it is that pigheadedness that causes his constant recommendation for a vegan die to be dangerous. He simply was so sure that a vegan diet was ideal for everyone, he couldn't accept that someone might have problems with it.
Food Allergies and
Another issue when it comes to diet mentioned often by
alternative doctors is food allergies and intolerances. And it is true, there
are people who are allergic or intolerant to particular foods, and this can lead
to health problems.
But where the problem comes in is how such doctors will diagnose such problems. They will often use Applied Kinesiology. But I address the unreliable nature of this procedure in the above mentioned article. The way to diagnose such problems is with skin scratch or RAST allergy tests or blood tests.
But even worse is when such doctors will "diagnose" such problems without any diagnostic tests. They'll just suggest that someone has an intolerance based on their symptoms rather than an actual test. I experienced this when I went to another alternative doctor. He told me I had gluten intolerance (a.k.a. celiac disease).
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, and oats. The only way to treat this disorder is to totally avoid these three grains. So based on the doctor's "diagnosis" that is what I did. But doing so is not easy. There is not only the obvious to avoid, like bread, pizza, and pasta, but these grains are used in all types of products. One has to read labels carefully to be sure none of these grains are in a food.
In any case, after several weeks of following a gluten free diet, it made no difference in my health. That's not surprising since gluten intolerance is not really as common as alternative doctors try to make it out to be. Celiac.com says it affects "at least 1 in 133 Americans." That might sound like a lot, but it's less than 1% of the population. So the odds of having gluten intolerance are not that great.
But if one thinks they do have it, there is a simple blood test that can be done to detect it. I later had that done a couple of times, and the tests were negative. So I went through the hassle of avoiding gluten for no reason.
One point of note, I would later find out that oats contain a different kind of gluten than the other three grains and generally are not a problem for those with gluten intolerance.
A constant refrain among alternative doctors is to not take
drugs, especially prescription medications. They will talk about this constantly
on their radio shows. The reason they say so is two-fold. First off, drugs have
side effects. And second, they claim that drugs only cover up health problems
while their alternative treatments actually cure health problems.
In part, they are correct. Drugs do have side effects. As a doctor on Fox News puts it, "With every medication there is a little bit of poison." And I have experienced the side effects of drugs myself. So I can understand this concern. I also agree that it is best to cure the underlying medical condition rather than just cover it up.
However, they are wrong in saying that drugs do not cure problems. In some cases they do. If you have a bacterial infection, then an antibiotic is the only reliable way to get rid of it. I remember back in 2008 when I contracted an infected finger two weeks before a planned powerlifting contest. A trip to my traditional doctor and a prescription for antibiotics cleared it up in time for me to be able to enter the contest. For details, see I feel like James, from Survivor.
As another example, my dad was experiencing problems from an enlarged prostate. He went to an urologist and got a prescription. He did experience some side effects from the drug, but it cleared up the problems he was having in less than a year, so he was able to stop taking the drug. And he has not had prostate-related problems in the couple of years since then. So the drug did cure the underlying problem.
Furthermore, it is not always possible to cure the underlying problem, but a drug might enable a person to better deal with it. In my case, I know that underlying most of my health problems are my many allergies. But as I discuss in the article about NAET linked to above, I tried alternative treatments to treat them, but that only made things worse, and there is now nothing that traditional medicine can do for them either.
Two of the main problems I have from the allergies is not being able to sleep at night for a variety of reasons and getting muscular stiffness, sometimes to the point of being completely paralyzed. But taking a prescription medication helps with these problems. It enables me to sleep despite being in an allergenic state, and it prevents the stiffness. I do get some side effects from it, mainly constipation, but I'd rather deal with that than never be able to sleep and to be paralyzed.
Instead of drugs, alternative doctors will prescribe
supplements. They make it sound like supplements are a much safer way to treat
medical conditions than drugs. However, I have experienced as many side effects
from supplements as from drugs. Moreover, while drugs actually work, supplements
For instance, if my dad had gone to an alternative doctor for his prostate problem, he would probably have been prescribed saw palmetto for it. The problem is, "In clinical studies on the effectiveness of the supplement for enlarged prostate treatment, conflicting results were found" (Does Saw Palmetto Work?). So saw palmetto is not a reliable treatment. Moreover, saw palmetto has potential side effects, "Nausea, dizziness, decreased sex drive, and loss of appetite are some of the more bothersome side effects of saw palmetto" (Saw Palmetto Side Effects).
As for myself, I talk about my experiences with various supplements on the Supplements section of my Web site. So I won't repeat all of that here. But what I will say here is that over the years, I have spent probably hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a wide variety of supplements. And most all of them proved to be worthless or even caused negative side effects.
But despite this, most alternative doctors not only recommend supplements, but they sell them. So it's no wonder that if you go to an alternative doctor, you will end up walking out of the office with a bunch of supplements. But frankly, every single supplement I ever bought from an alternative doctor proved to be worthless or caused negative side effects, a complete waste of money, but a great money-maker for the doctor. This is especially the case given that their prices are generally much higher than you would pay for the same supplement elsewhere. And this leads to the next point.
Most alternative medicine treatments are not covered by
insurance. This can make going to alternative doctors very expensive. For
instance, the first doctor I went to for NAET treatments charged $60 per
treatment. The second also charged $60. But knowing that I was going to need a
lot of treatments and that my financial situation was not very good, she nicely
only charged me $45. But with the number of treatments I got from her, her
treatments alone ended up costing me over $2,000.
Another alternative doctor I had heard of offered an initial free visit. So I went for that. And I might have gone to her again, until she told me she charged $115 per 15 minutes. Knowing that I would probably need several treatments and that they would probably take longer than 15 minutes, it simply was not financially possible to go to her.
Another doctor I went to spent an entire hour with me on the first visit. But that alone cost me $150. And he wanted to do a variety of tests, like a dietary analysis and a stool test. I thought they would be covered by insurance, so I had the tests done, but as it turned out, they weren't. So it ended up costing me $500.
At one point, I went to a homeopath for my allergies. Well actually, I didn't go to her; our appointments were over the phone, but I still had to pay for them. There was also the cost of the homeopathic remedies she would mail to me. Plus, she talked me into buying a case of "Super Aloe Vera Juice." That drink turned out to taste awful and to be totally useless, as were the homeopathic remedies. The total costs of the phone appointments, the remedies, and the drink was another $500. For more on this subject, see Homeopathy Experiences.
And most recently, I saw a report on my local news show about a chiropractor that had a "new" treatment for allergies. The report made it sound like it was very effective. So I made an appointment to check it out. It turned out to be a computerized version of NAET. That bothered me given my already bad experience with NAET. The chiropractor was charging $100 a session. But she had a "special" that if you paid $1,500 up front, you would get 20 treatments. I wasn't about to pay that much up front without knowing if it would work or not. So I didn't pursue treatments with that doctor.
But given the many alternative doctors I have gone to and the number of treatments I've had over the years, I have probably spent several thousand dollars on alternative medicine. And what I have gotten for all of that money is no positive results at all. That makes the final point to be discussed particularly telling.
Some alternatives doctors are very prideful to the point of
being arrogant over how "superior" their treatments supposedly are to
traditional medicine. One radio doctor in particular that I used to listen to
would constantly degrade traditional doctors as being "unknowledgeable" while
claiming he had a "greater knowledge base" than they. Such arrogance and
degradation of others is completely uncalled for. But what makes it particularly
disturbing is how this same doctor apparently cannot handle supposed criticism
The last time I went to him (which was a few years ago now), he began chiding me very strongly because "someone" told him that I said negative things about him on my Web site. I tried to calmly tell him that simply was not true. But he wouldn't believe me. He simply got angrier and said that "someone" told him that and that I shouldn't be writing such stuff. I challenged him to show me on my Web site what he was talking about, but he was unable to do so since he had never actually seen the supposed negative comments himself.
Needless to say, that appointment didn't go well. And I have never gone back to him since. But what I did when I got home was to check every mention of him on my Web site. And sure enough, I could not find anything even remotely critical of him. But to be sure, I removed every mention of his name from my Web site. And I'm not naming names in this article, as the point of it is not to be critical of any particular alternative doctor but to point out potential problems with alternative medicine in general.
Alternative Medicine Experiences. Copyright © 2013 by Gary F. Zeolla.
The above article was posted on this Web site April 6, 2013.
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