My regular readers know that I hold the Huffington Post in the lowest possible regard when it comes to its medical writing. HuffPo offers a daily platform for the worst pseudo-science and infectious disease promotion. Apparently that was getting to hard, because now I think their down to phoning it in. Last week’s post by a “body cleanse expert” reads like a late-night infomercial, and is about as accurate.
The article, with the fanciful title of, “Antibiotics Cause Cancer?” is written by Kim Evans whose medical qualifications are apparently limited to selling books on how to cleanse your liver and colon. This “cleansing” is all part of the so-called “detoxification” cult, a fringe health movement that claims that many of our medical problems are due to the build up of fanciful “toxins” that our body somehow fails to eliminate. The entire article is basically an advertisement for her books on how to cure this non-existent problem, and I’m guessing sales are low since she used the “C-word”. Nothing scares like cancer.
I kind of get the whole infomercial thing. Sure, late-night health infomercials are deceptive, dangerous, and fraudulent, but at least they’re labeled as ads. Evans’ piece is presented as fact, making it particularly immoral.
This immorality takes some very basic biology and creates a myth which encourages people to make purchases that benefit the author and at best rob the mark. To accomplish this sales pitch the subjects science and logic to the written equivalent of involuntary sodomy. Her crime is particularly egregious because of her use of the word “cancer” to scare people, perhaps turning away from or delaying real care.
Nothing about Evans’ piece is correct (well, maybe her name, but who knows). For example, she makes the shocking pronouncement that, “many people still believe that antibiotics are helpful….” Wow. Shocking. I can’t imagine why someone would want to survive pneumonia, or cure a kidney infection. Just…wow.
Most of us (hopefully) know that antibiotics are powerful medications that need to be respected. When they are used, improperly or otherwise, they can cause antibiotic resistance, which makes further infections tough to treat, but can also interfere with normal intestinal bacteria leading to another infection called pseudomembranous colitis. This is caused by the bacterium Clostridium dificile, and the treatment for this infection is, of course, antibiotics, albeit not the same ones that led to the infection.
Now, do do a thorough fisking of this piece is would cause my head to explode from the pressure of all that stupidity, but I’d like to point out a few more low-lights:
Antibiotics kill bacteria in the body; it’s commonly known and it’s actually the reason they’re taken. But what isn’t widely known is that the body has healthy bacteria, called probiotics, lining our intestinal tract. These healthy bacteria, which should be in abundance in our guts, dine on unhealthy bacteria and yeasts in our bodies, serving to keep these problems in check for us.
Um, no. It’s not even close to that simple. The colonic flora create an environment which helps to inhibit overgrowth of harmful bacteria such as C. diff; they don’t sit there eating up bad bacteria. Bacteria have no way of knowing which of their neighbors are good or bad—the environment has evolved in a way that we are not constantly ill, but of course things can go wrong.
…these healthy bacteria form the basis of our immune system
Really? Wow. The level of ignorance is staggering. Immunology is hard, but that doesn’t mean you should just make it up.
On this fanciful foundation of excrement, she builds an argument that your good bacteria kill yeast, and that yeast is the primary cause of cancer. Really. For this gem she relies on a well-known quack who has this theory that candida causes cancer, indicating that he either has no basic knowledge of biology or he is a crook. Of course the cure for such a horrid problem is to buy her books and cleanse your innards.
The Huffington Post is very widely read, and is presented as news and opinion, not as advertisement. News outlets are certainly welcome to offer opinion with the news, but it should be clearly labeled as such. To print fake medical advice designed to sell something and make it look like news is terribly immoral. It’s time for HuffPo to clean house. I’m going to send this on to the editors and encourage them to exercise some editorial responsibility. In case you’re curious, the general email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d suggest you drop them a line, and feel free to reference this post and others.