Respectful Insolence

Medical advice from Chuck Norris

Not too long ago, I posted a rather amusing little video called Immunize! One line in the song that amused me went something like this:

Don’t give Chuck Norris shots!
That’d be dim.
Chuck need vaccines? Naw
Vaccines need him?

Actually, not too surprisingly, it turns out that the word “dim” should be applied to Chuck Norris, particularly when it comes to “complementary and alternative medicine” (CAM), also known as “integrative medicine” (IM), or, as I call it, “integrating” quackery with real medicine. Of course, as fellow Sb bloggers have demonstrated, Chuck’s well-toned biceps aren’t the only repository of muscle in his body. There appears to be plenty right between his ears, and his attitude towards IM demonstrates that that muscle is busy pumping the stupid not just by spewing out far right wing talking points but apparently by engaging in more than a bit of credulity towards IM as well. That credulity is on full display in Norris’ C-Force column from last week entitled Conventional Medicine and Alternative Medicine. It is what I like to call a “target-rich” environment. True, not as target-rich as a Mike Adams screed, but target-rich nonetheless.

The article starts out with a reader named Roy J. asking for Chuck’s “take” on alternative medicine. Chuck, unfortunately, is all too happy to oblige. First, he starts out with an analogy that never fails to irritate the crap out of me, namely likening the choice of “alternative” medicine versus science-based medicine as a choice akin to mundane, every day choices we make every day:

With anything in this life, from fast foods to politics to toothpastes, humans have polarizing opinions. It seems innate in us. And all we need to set us off is a simple question: Paper or plastic? Organic or inorganic? Cloth or disposable? Diet or regular? Tap or bottled?

No doubt, the best answer is sometimes “this one” or “that one.” But often the best answer is “both this one and that one.” Not jumping down on either side of the fence of opinion sometimes allows us to fish the ponds on both sides. That is where I land in the debate about conventional and alternative medicines.

Yes, you heard it right. The choice of whether to use quackery like reiki, homeopathy, or the like rather than science-based medicine that works is no different than choosing paper or plastic at the supermarket checkout counter. I suppose on one level, one can argue that that’s true. After all, purveyors of quackery have skillfully used vacuous marketing buzzwords and slogans the same way that marketers have turned “organic” into a whole brand. Then Norris does another thing that irritates the crap out of me; he engages in the fallacy of the golden mean. As you may recall, that’s the fallacious argument that, if there are two sides to an issue, the best solution or the answer that’s closest to the truth must be somewhere in between the two. Unfortunately, in science and medicine, there are questions with seemingly two positions (or even a lot more) for which there is a right answer and a wrong answer. Take homeopathy (please!) again. Homeopathy is nothing more than water; it’s one of the purest forms of quackery I’ve ever seen. In choosing between homeopathy and medicine, the correct answer is not to “integrate” the two. It is not to choose both. It is not to do something somewhere between the two forms of medicine. Yet, that is exactly what Norris is arguing.

Asserting that he believes that “alternative approaches have made great advances, too, for they often seek natural or holistic approaches with the same fervency that traditional experts seek results in their own specialty fields,” Norris then goes on to parrot many common alt-med tropes, including its co-opting “prevention” and nutrition, both perfectly good science-based medicine modalities, citing studies that exaggerate how many Americans use alternative medicine by including prayer and various other spirituality as “alternative.” Of course, the difference between science-based medicine and “alternative” medicine when it comes to prevention and nutrition is that at least SBM tries to make its recommendations in these areas based on actual science, epidemiology, and clinical trials. In contrast, much of the advice that falls under the rubric of CAM tends to be a mix of the science-based and pure woo, all mixed up as though they had been thrown into a blender and the blender turned on high, to the point where it’s difficult even for someone like me, as dedicated as I am to promoting SBM, to tell where the science ends and the woo begins.

The best test of the quality of Chuck’s advice comes in looking at the two “integrative” medicine clinics that he recommends:

Another positive trend is that more and more clinics are popping up across the country that offer a blend of conventional care with CAM, for example, the Integrative Medicine Center (http://www.imc-griffin.org) in Derby, Conn.

One integrative clinic that my wife, Gena, and I personally recommend because of the way we have been helped there is the Sierra Integrative Medical Center (http://www.SierraIntegrative.com) in Reno, Nev.

As its website conveys, the people there are pioneers in integrative medicine. They blend the best of conventional medicine with the best alternative therapies. The facility has become a haven of hope and healing for those seeking care for a variety of debilitating conditions. It specializes in chronic degenerative, autoimmune and infectious diseases.

Hoo boy. The Integrative Medical Center at Griffin is actually known to me (and, possibly, to you). The reason is that it’s home to Dr. David Katz, who was infamous for advocating a “more fluid” concept of evidence, not to mention thinking that homeopathy is a perfectly fine therapeutic modality. Also on staff at Griffin are naturopaths named Lisa Rosenberger and Ather Ali, and the therapies offered include some serious woo, including naturopathic medicine, nutritional supplements, nutriceuticals, herbal medicine, acupuncture, craniosacral therapy, therapeutic touch, homeopathy, intravenous micronutrient therapy (Myers’ Cocktail), relaxation therapies, as well as referrals to counselors, trauma therapists (EMDR), and chiropractic. Myers’ cocktail is particularly useless, consisting of a solution of magnesium, calcium, and various B vitamins plus vitamin C. It’s good for making expensive urine but not much else, as there are relatively few science-based indications for intravenous vitamins. Total parenteral nutrition comes to mind, but not a lot else.

However, if you want to go one woo further, then Chuck’s favored clinic, the Sierra Integrative Medical Center, is the place to go. Here’s a look at the conditions treated at SIMC:

Patients at SIMC, even those with the same “diagnoses” are treated differently. For example, a patient may have a “diagnosis” of Multiple Sclerosis. The cause(s) of this disease can vary from viral infections, bacterial infections, from hyper sensitivities to vaccinations, Toxoplasmosis or ParvoVirus from ones pets or even Lyme Disease from a tick bite.

Hypersensitivities to vaccinations? I guess that means that vaccines don’t need Chuck Norris after all. Whenever a woo-meister “diagnoses” a “hypersensitivity” to vaccines, it’s a good bet that he’s bought into the anti-vaccine nonsense that permeates so much of alt-med and that is so prevalent in alt-med circles.

And here’s a look at the therapies offered by Sierra:

The treatment program is assembled from various disciplines of the healing arts including but not limited to homeopathy, natural and biological medicines, behavioral medicine, nutritional therapies, orthomolecular integration and neurotherapy. The time and effort invested in individualizing the treatment programs proposes eradication of illness and restoration of health to the body.

Not surprisingly, they offer “detox,” too.

But, above all, SIMC offers what I consider to be The One Quackery To Rule Them All, homeopathy! As I’ve said before many times, homeopathy my litmus test for woo. If a clinic offers the magic water that is homeopathy, I know that it’s nearly beyond hope when it comes to anything resembling science or science-based medicine. Similarly, if a practitioner considers homeopathy to be anything more than sympathetic magic diluted in water, I know that practitioner is pretty far gone. SIMC qualifies. Don’t believe me? Just take a look at the medical director of SIMC, Bruce Fong. Yep, besides being a DO, he’s a homeopath, too! And how does SIMC evaluate its efficacy? Why, testimonials, of course!

A fondness for woo in the form of alternative medicine quackery is often represented as a “left wing” tendency, but I’ve known for a long time that alt med is the woo that transcends politics. Chuck Norris is just one more example, and, like most right wing promoters of dubious medicine, Norris cloaks his rationale in the language of “health freedom” (which, let’s face it, is nothing more than the freedom of quacks from pesky government interference in their activities):

For too long, medical insurance and pharmaceutical marketing have been the king and queen of your medical treatment. It’s time you took back the reins in controlling your and your loved ones’ health. It is your body, your health and your life on the line. You are the boss; you are the captain of your body. So take the helm and chart your course!

If Chuck hates health insurance and pharmaceutical marketing so much, one wonders why he’s so firmly against anything resembling health insurance reform. Of course, far be it from me to tell anyone that they shouldn’t be in charge of their own health care or that they shouldn’t be the “captain of his body.” However, to do that requires knowledge, not misinformation. Unfortunately, although Chuck Norris might be amusing enough as an action hero, as an advice columnist discussing health, he only reinforces his reputation as a wingnut.

There’s no doubt about it. Vaccines don’t need Chuck Norris.

Comments

  1. #1 David
    March 10, 2011

    You missed one. But you’re forgiven, because you’re a surgeon not a neurologist.

    “The cause(s) of (Multiple Sclerosis)… can vary from viral infections, bacterial infections, from hyper sensitivities to vaccinations, Toxoplasmosis or ParvoVirus from ones pets or even Lyme Disease from a tick bite.”

    There is scant, and at best weak evidence, that pet ownership might be associated with MS (J Neurol Sci. 1980 47:429), but it applies to distemper not Toxo or Parvo – there’s no evidence there at all. While Lyme disease can mimic MS, there’s no evidence that Lyme causes MS. The vaccine issue has been studied extensively – you might like to know that there is no detectable link between MMR vaccination and MS (J Neurol Sci. 1980 47:429).

    All of those miss the whole point of modern MS understanding: the underlying immune defect can be triggered by a great many different kinds of immune challenges. None of the various antigen-antibody associations that are found in MS are the “cause” of the disease.

    Otherwise great take-down of an easy target.

  2. #2 Cath the Canberra Cook
    March 10, 2011

    Meh, who cares about Chuck Norris anymore. My latest toughguy hero is Bruce Schneier. http://www.schneierfacts.com/

  3. #3 Greg Fish
    March 10, 2011

    Well, we are talking about the man who roundhouse kicked himself in the brain, then he started contributing to WND and became a born-again Huckabee groupie. We can’t expect very much from him nowadays…

  4. #4 Calli Arcale
    March 10, 2011

    Given how much income Chuck Norris gets from infomercial spots these days, there is probably a very simple explanation for his interest in alt med — it pays his bills. This is not that unusual for washed up actors.

    I’m not saying he’s shilling here; I doubt he is. It’s just that promoting something often leads to believing in it, and once you get hooked into one alt med, crank magnetism opens the whole ball of wax up to you. It also has the same appeal for washed up actors that it does for average joes — we all like to think we know something special, that we’re in on a secret. (Advertisers have known and exploited this for years; it’s the whole point behind a lot of sales and coupons.)

  5. #5 Vicki
    March 10, 2011

    Bruce is cool, and definitely believes in looking for facts and applying logic. I have trouble thinking of him as a tough guy, though, because I actually know him. (I wonder whether Chuck Norris’s friends and family think of him as a tough guy.)

  6. #6 Denice Walter
    March 10, 2011

    Health freedom advocates who I follow are generally libertarians ( pssst…it’s really about lowering taxes for high earners) so they trend right however, they utilize similar tactics concerning audience control: fear mongering.

    “OMFG, we’re running out of water!!!”, screes Adams today. If there’s one common theme I can discern from reading him and the anti-vaxxers or listening to radio woo, it is the constant stirring up of deep-seated fears :” We’re running out of water or food; there will be civil unrest *like in Egypt!* ( or Libya); The government will force vaccination! Toxins are everywhere! They’ll take your mega-vites! Pharma is poisin! Fear the MD! ” ad nauseum. How different is this really from Mr. Huckabee’s recent portrayal of Obama as a descendent of the Mau Mau ?

    A few months ago, a TV channel had a series exploring the fear of the darkness: a significant factor in the development of humanity. They take you out to the savannah or a village that resembles earlier times because of its extremely low light levels at night. It’s really dark. ( I did my own version of this in the Mojave Desert in 2002 and can attest: it’s really dark.) I think it was Jung** who wrote that we all become “primitive” when we’re in placed in a wilderness area without modern lighting or access to fire or shelter.

    The only way that pseudo-science can persist and earn its proselytizers a healthy income is by keeping its audience in the dark: frightened and thoughtless, running on hyped emotion and listening to the soothing voice of unreason.

    ** relax, I’m not a Jungian.

  7. #7 Beamup
    March 10, 2011

    I seriously don’t get why anyone would even bother to ask him. I cannot comprehend why being an actor (or Playmate) would make people think they know anything about medicine.

    Obviously people DO think that, and I’m not denying that. I simply don’t understand WHY.

  8. #8 Blitherypoop
    March 10, 2011

    Thing that jumps out at me is completely beside the point, but… the opposite of “organic” (in the food sense) isn’t “inorganic”. If that was the case it’d be a choice of an organic carrot or a pointy, orange rock. It’s like when people say they downloaded or bought something “off-line” or they “downloaded their photos up onto Facebook”. ERG!

  9. #9 Blitherypoop
    March 10, 2011

    Thing that jumps out at me is completely beside the point, but… the opposite of “organic” (in the food sense) isn’t “inorganic”. If that was the case it’d be a choice of an organic carrot or a pointy, orange rock. It’s like when people say they downloaded or bought something “off-line” or they “downloaded their photos up onto Facebook”. ERG!

  10. #10 Anglachel the Common Sense Pagan
    March 10, 2011

    Just WOW!! Who in their right mind would EVER ask that man for medical advice?! I do believe that the most devestating epidemic that faces our world is STUPIDITY!!! Why does ANYONE listen to these actors, who have no medical training of any kind whatsoever, over their doctor, WHO DOES?! The illogic is enough to send this Aspie into pure meltdown, if I didn’t have that nice stress ball to squeeze!

    WOW PEOPLE ARE DUMB!!!! And they think the Aspies are the ones with the problems!!

  11. #11 lilady
    March 10, 2011

    Yeah, he’s a far-to-the-right kinda guy, with Libertarian leanings as well.

    Chuckie has affiliations with Mike Huckabee and his MikePAC devoted to right-to-life, biblical interpretation of the “sanctity of marriage” (one man/one woman only) and creationalism. MikePAC does fund raising for candidates who are in lockstep with Chuckie and Mike.

    He appears on ultra conservative websites, radio programs and Fox television with Sean Hannity. After Obama was inaugurated, he sent a letter to the President, reminding him of his oath to adhere to the Constitution and also knocked recent Democratic Presidents who, in his opinion, trashed the Constitution.

    I love the website for the Reno alt medicine facility and the treatments provided for such conditions as MS and other neurological disorders, (chronic??) Lyme disease and infectious diseases of unknown origin. The facility also treats heavy metal toxicity!

    Did anyone notice the 30 % off coupon on the website? I “might” consider a trip to Reno if I don’t get a discount at my university-affiliated hospital.

  12. #12 scott
    March 10, 2011

    My brother and I have had some seriously heated discussions about alt/med and integrative medicine. He owns a wellness center, here is a list of the classes they have.

    http://www.humboldtwellnesscenter.com/classes.html

    I feel like I back him into a corner and then his arguments reduce themselves to absurdity. At the beginning of a debate he claims to be scientific, at the end he claims that all science is manipulated by the FDA and Big pharma. He believes in the conspiracy that every single person involved with modern medicine, from the big pharma CEO’s down to the doctors and their families are part of the cover up. And that the doctors and their families use CAM behind closed doors because they know the medicine and surgeries really don’t work. And that all members of society a being poisoned in order to keep us sick and unhealthy.

  13. #13 scott
    March 10, 2011

    I may have finally gotten through to my brother, I noticed that the wellness center closed its doors on Feburary 1st.

    I haven’t talked to him since before x-mas, and that was when I hammered him hard about all this stuff because he was indoctrinating my nephew. I gave them the links to Quackwatch and this blog in hopes that they would eventually see the light. Maybe it worked, I’ll have to call him now and get the scoop.

  14. #14 prn
    March 10, 2011

    Orac: the golden mean…if there are two sides to an issue…the answer that’s closest to the truth must be somewhere in between the two
    Yes, that is often true. Although it has been said that all nutrition is a compromise, making consistent, technical choices is littered with obstacles. Ditto medicine.

    Most people will too early fall into unresearched compromises and allow someone else to do the (un)thinking for them. Implementing informed, technically consistent choices can be quite a job, anytime, anywhere.

    The best that I’ve found is to pick out the underlying facts from two error prone sides, identify opinions and gaps, diligently research the gap areas, and find a more informed, consistent third way that demonstrably works better. Else, pox from (or on) both houses…

  15. #15 jcs
    March 10, 2011

    Another case study of a victim of naturopathic “medicine”:

    “A 65-year-old woman was admitted to the hospital complaining of diarrhea and multiple syncopal episodes. She had a history of rectal cancer but had not experienced syncope in the past… Even after infusion of supplemental potassium, several runs of symptomatic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia (torsades de pointes) occurred. These were treated with intravenous magnesium. On further questioning, the patient stated that she had been self-treating her cancer with a naturopathic medicine, which was later confirmed to contain cesium chloride. Testing revealed that her serum cesium level was 288 micromol/L, approximately 27,000 times normal…”

    When will the madness stop?

    http://journals.lww.com/em-news/Fulltext/2008/12000/Meticulous_Investigation__Wins_the_Day_when.11.aspx

  16. #16 prn
    March 10, 2011

    Denice:
    Health freedom advocates…( pssst…it’s really about lowering taxes for high earners)
    There are people who have to do something else, simply to survive physically and/or financially. Worst, is that most with catastrophic illness find out after exhausting the regular options, and frequently their funds.

    “Live free or die” can take on a very personal meaning. We’ve (been) dealt with several catastrophic or end-of-life situations. No side or system, in pure form, is up to the job. We’ve chosen to look technically, globally, for integrative biochemical answers. We are getting results, sometimes far beyond medically predicted, and staying solvent.

    It’s about maximum length and quality of life, brooking no interference, suffering fewer fools, and not going broke.

  17. #17 steverino63
    March 12, 2011

    A bit off topic, but … John Edward is appearing on Dr. Oz’s show. Will he read stool samples of the dead? http://www.hollywoodoutbreak.com/2011/03/11/psychic-medium-therapy-on-dr-oz/

  18. #18 David N. Andrews M. Ed., C. P. S. E.
    March 14, 2011

    @DW: “relax, I’m not a Jungian.”

    TFFT!

    I’m not a Jungian either. And – apart from the basic observable defence mechanisms – I’m kinda allergic to Freud (incidentally, his great-grandson graduated with a degree in psychology from Westminster University in London some time ago … the lecturers all felt they needed to lose the Freud jokes!).

    Lewin, Kelly, J√§rvilehto, Vygotsky … maybe Ellis too… that’s my gang!

  19. #19 DW
    March 14, 2011

    @ David N. Andrews M.Rd., C.P.S.E.

    Oh my friggen non-existent gawd! Vygotsky! I venn cognitive-developmental-social, like physio; I’ve had very interesting jobs ( some bordered on activism) but somebody had to do it

    I now counsel some internationals and make scads of money by investing in complex nonsense.( That’s when I’m not shilling).

  20. #20 Jen
    March 14, 2011

    Go Chuck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  21. #21 Krebiozen
    March 20, 2011

    Late thanks to the DDOS attack preventing me from posting comments, but…
    #17 “Will he read stool samples of the dead?”
    Occult blood?

The site is currently under maintenance and will be back shortly. New comments have been disabled during this time, please check back soon.