Watch out for charlatans for alternative medicine!

Forget those crystals

As an integrative physician, I keep an open mind for new methods of disease evaluation and treatment of disease. My interest and pursuit of complementary or alternative medical treatment has led me to selectively incorporate some of what I have come across. In my practice, for example, I embrace acupuncture for the diagnosis and treatment of certain disease states. Traditional Chinese herbal medicine and western herbs have also been very helpful and marked with successful results for many of our patients. However, there are many who claim to be practicing “alternative medicine” asking for the faithful and ignorant. This fact hit home like never before when I attended and attended a “holistic expo” in Atlanta in mid-September this year. I was a guest speaker on the topic of super nutrients in health and longevity and had a presence on the Expo floor to promote my dietary supplement line and integrative practice in Savannah. After seeing over 160 vendor booths and browsing through the list of topics being lectured, I was horrified and horrified by what I saw.

To my amazement, the majority of the “practitioners” present at this supposed Health (Mind-Body-Spirit) Expo appeared to be charlatans, forgers and cattle. They offered no credentials and had no certification. There was no governing body that monitored what they offered or preached. What amazed me more was the number of visitors to the expo who were dipped into believing that there was actually “healing” going on. I consider these people as entertainers, but certainly not as healers. Many of the vendors offered their services or goods for sale on site. A typical “divine psychic reading” could cost up to $ 35. Minute. And people stood up for this. I was very uncomfortable and very out of place among this group. The salesman to my far left was composed of three “healers”, a man who would draw your spiritual drawing, and two females, one a psychic, the other a tarot card reader. To me was a provider of an “institution” that offered “degrees” in nutrition, herbology, spiritual healing and Reiki. To my right was a “massage therapist / channeler / healer” who on several occasions had his victim on a table where he rubbed them rather aggressively, waving rocks and crystals over his head and chest. Another booth offered spontaneous healing, with practitioners prancing around their victims singing and waving their hands in an attempt to expel the evil forces that cause illness. They also showed a videotape repeatedly of a non-surgical way of extracting tumors from bodies apparently through their skin with immediate healing.

Those on the booths (and in the lecture hall) claimed to be able to provide incredible health advice from celebrities on the other side (Celebrity Channelers). Many were divine psychics, and a booth offers “aromatherapy” to humans and pets. One Native American guy in Indian garb talked about “Meeting Your Totem Beast.” In addition, others talked about “Sonic Angel music” and “Turbo Tantra.” A few had people buy crystal balls put in a wooden box that could diagnose illness under the name “Chakra Life.” While others offered funds for “Access to the Akashic Records.”

Amazed to see such a large number of people interested in such “alternative” health requirements makes me ask the questions. Where did modern medicine go wrong to force people to accept or believe in the irrational? What have we done as doctors to push people to embrace such silly notions and odd alternative therapies? Why is the traditional doctor despised by these people? Yes, there is real dislike for allopathic medicine and its practitioners. The rhetoric you hear in these booths is ridiculous. Many doctors’ complaints are based on misguided or casual observations, anecdotal horror stories with a lot of “spin” and those with an ax reflex. Some complaints have legitimate reasons, I must admit, but never bad enough to consider the alternative.

Have we sold or soul to the pharmaceutical companies that we have been charged? Have we been trapped by the pressure imposed by the current atmosphere of managed care? Have we been amazed by our feelings about reimbursement of state and private insurance and lawsuits over medical malpractice? I still hope for our ability to turn this trend around and save our reputation with these people and discourage those seeking health from wasting their time, money and energy on such cattle and charlatans. If we chose to ignore our patients, we would only exacerbate this movement away from what we as physicians know to be effective medical treatment and push them towards the circus for sometimes harmful “caregivers”.

As someone who subscribes to substantiated complementary medical therapeutics while not turning to traditional allopathic medicine, I believe I have a license to be a critic and write this article. I only embrace what has been shown, after careful scrutiny, to be effective and helpful as a treatment. Charles T. Sprading once said, “Knowledge consists in understanding the evidence that establishes the fact, not in the belief that it is a fact.”

Therefore, this is a call for those out there seeking healing and well-being. Don’t give up the medical business yet, despite much negative press, we still offer the best healthcare / patient care around with a proven track record. And despite the scattered misinformation, many of us subscribe to and maintain our hippocratic oath. Even a few of us are open-minded enough to realize that our allopathic education does not give us all the answers, and we are constantly seeking new and better ways to care for our patients.