A B.C. naturopath who came under fire earlier this year after she boasted of using homeopathic saliva from a rabid dog to cure aggression in a preschooler has published new claims.
She says she cured a two-year-old of “tics” using a homeopathic remedy for “frights” that his mother likely passed along during pregnancy; and fixed dyslexia in a boy who “seems a bit spacey” and saw words floating on the page with a single dose of a homeopathic mixture made from marijuana.
Recent tweets posted by naturopath Anke Zimmermann have left critics apoplectic about the “utterly bonkers nature of homeopathic ‘thinking’ ” and others pleading for regulators to do something about the seriously misleading claims on some naturopathic websites.
In one recent tweet, Zimmermann linked to an older blog post in which she detailed giving “Liam,” a two-year-old with tics that had been “pronounced incurable” by a neurologist, a homeopathic preparation of fly agaric, a mushroom. At one point the child broke out in full body hives, became “flaccid and limp” and had to be taken to emergency. “The doctor there said that he (had) never seen a rash like that,” Zimmermann wrote.
The tweet provoked outrage from doctors.
“If a mother brought her kid to me with tics and my diagnosis was ‘secondary to frights the mum had while pregnant.’ Treatment: sugar water. I would, justifiably lose my licence. Why the double standard,” asked B.C. Children’s Hospital pediatric infectious disease fellow Dr. Alastair McAlpine.
The Sooke-based naturopath, did not respond to messages left by the Post.
But Zimmermann isn’t an outlier. Here’s a sampling of other bizarre and unsubstantiated claims some naturopaths are making online.
Many naturopaths promote “treatments” for cancer. One Edmonton clinic advertises that it focuses on finding the underlying causes of cancer, including emotional causes (“can’t forgive someone?” “Abuse?” “Frustrated?”), viruses, toxic metals, chemicals, moulds, fungus, parasites, weak organs, tooth cavities and food allergies. Naturopaths offer treatments from infrared sauna therapy, ozone injections, ionic foot baths and coffee enemas to high-dose intravenous infusions of vitamin C and sodium bicarbonate. Yale University researchers reported in July in JAMA Oncology that people who received alternative treatments for curable cancers were more likely to refuse at least one component of conventional cancer treatment — and die as a result. The majority of cancers aren’t caused by fungus, there’s no evidence coffee enemas have any affect on any disease, let alone cancer (and there is a not-insignificant risk of colon rupture) and no evidence in humans that vitamin C increases the cancer cure rate, said Dr. Stephen Sagar, a radiation oncologist at McMaster University and past president of the Society for Integrative Oncology. Bicarbonate injections are used to alkalize the blood to get lower acid in the blood, which is thought to promote tumour growth. However, the evidence, Sagar said, is “pretty weak.”
Numerous naturopathic websites promote “natural” flu prevention and alternatives to the flu shot, including the “Myers cocktail,” an intravenous vitamin and mineral infusion that typically includes magnesium, calcium and B-complex. Other alternatives promoted by naturopathic websites include homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and water therapy. “Conventional treatments — including the flu shot — may have short- or long-term side effects,” warns one Toronto naturopathic clinic. Homeopathy, by contrast, “has no side effects and comes with no concerns of toxic contaminants.” The idea flu, which kills roughly 3,500 people a year in Canada and hospitalizes 12,000 more, can be prevented by homeopathy is absurd, says Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office of Science in Society. Science rejects homeopathy “because there is no evidence it works,” Schwarcz has blogged. “Don’t take my word for it, do a literature search and see if you can come up with any reputable, reproducible studies showing the efficacy of any homeopathic remedy in the treatment or prevention of the flu. There are none.”
Many websites promote a variety of tonics for autism, including urine and hair tests for toxic metals, vitamin B12 shots, Epsom salt “detox” baths and “detoxification” foot pads, gluten/diary/sugar-free diets and, notably, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, or HBOT. HBOT is the inhalation of oxygen. It’s said to increase blood flow to areas of the brain involved in language comprehension, auditory processing and social interaction. A recent Cochrane review wasn’t so convinced. Researchers searched for the highest quality evidence, finding only one study with a total of 60 children who randomly received hyperbaric oxygen therapy or a sham treatment. Overall, researchers found no improvement in the core symptoms of autism. Autism is largely genetic, involving issues of organization of the brain that occur in the womb, said Dr. Clay Travis Jones, a paediatrician at Newton-Wellesley Hospital outside Boston. “It’s not something where increased oxygen delivery to tissue would be likely to make a difference,” he said. “I feel bad for parents because they are often very desperate for anything that will just cure their child.”
IV therapy that “support your brain” and “clears the fog”
Naturopaths market IV injections for low energy, colds, flus, anti-aging, PMS, high blood pressure, chronic pain, insomnia, “adrenal fatigue,” headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and Crohn’s and colitis. Naturopaths say IV vitamin therapy, which can cost $ 100 or more per infusion, delivers a high concentration of vitamins, minerals and amino acids directly to the body’s cells, bypassing the digestive system to allow more rapid and ready absorption than swallowing them. Critics say there is no evidence that IV therapy provides any of the health benefits promised by its purveyors and that if someone legitimately needs vitamins injected directly into their bloodstream — they are severely sick and can’t absorb vitamins properly, or they are seriously dehydrated — they should be seen by a medical doctor (naturopaths aren’t medical doctors). Because it involves an intravenous needle, there is also a risk of infection. One Vancouver naturopathic clinic is promoting 50 per cent off “all energy injections” for the fall. “Presumably, because they don’t know how to have fun, doctors never seem to offer ‘Happy Hour 2 for 1 central line placements,’ ” one doctor quipped on Twitter.
The O-shot is sold as a non-surgical procedure that claims to treat sexual dysfunction and improve orgasm in women. Blood is taken from the arm, centrifuged in a special machine that separates plasma (the liquid part of blood) from the red blood cells. Platelet rich plasma (PRP) is then injected into vaginal tissue. According to one B.C. naturopath’s website, the PRP “releases several growth factors that stimulate growth and repair, activating localized stem cells. Overall this therapy increases cellular growth in the vaginal area.” According to obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr. Jen Gunter it’s a “shaky hypothesis, not science” with no valid studies supporting the injection improves sexual function. “If a doctor recommended the ‘O Shot’ to anyone I know,” Gunter has blogged, “my advice would be to get up and walk out the door.”