When we hear a sentence like that above, especially when someone is trying to sell us something we should stop and try to figure out exactly what the supplement/treatment is claiming. What energy field? What evidence is there for such a field? What toxins? Where did they come from and exactly how does the treatment cleanse me of them? What evidence is there that this cleansing is both necessary and risk free?
We should be especially wary of claims that this supplement/treatment will heal us of all of our ailments. Such as those made for colon cleansing.
“Cleansing the body to remove toxins has been known to help with ADD/ADHD, allergies, arthritis, chronic pain, fatigue, inflammation, boosting the immune system, strength training, weight loss, and even cancer and other terminal illness. “(1)
These are remarkable claims and remarkable claims require remarkable evidence, but through further investigation we find that the author lists no resources, no studies reporting the evidence for said claims. She in fact has no evidence.
In fact there is evidence for the reverse. Colon cleansing for example can have many negative side effects such as anemia, malnutrition and heart failure. Our bodies, especially our colons are quite effective at cleansing themselves and so these artificial cleansings are unnecessary. With no benefit and high risk the risk/benefit shows zero reason to proceed with such cleansings. (2)
Another form of woo (term used to refer to new age pseudo scientific practices, see an example below) is therapeutic touch. Therapeutic touch is the idea that each living thing has a “life energy field” which extends beyond the surface of the body and generates an aura. This energy field can become unbalanced, misaligned, obstructed, or out of tune. Energy healers [claim] they can feel and manipulate this energy field by making movements that resemble massaging the air a few inches above the surface of the patient’s body. Energy healers also [claim] that they can transfer some of their own life energy to the patient. (3)
Here we must ask right off the bat, What life energy field? What evidence do you have for such a field? What evidence is there that it can become unbalanced? What does it mean for the field to be obstructed or out of tune? How exactly do your hands manipulate the field? We should be wary when claimants introduce quantum theory in places where it doesn’t belong (more on this in the near future). It all comes down to evidence and like cleansing, therapeutic touch has none. And again like cleansing, therapeutic touch has evidence against its claims. (4)
Be wary of treatments that are labeled with anecdotal evidence on the box. Claims that Science based medicine, or that is medicine with evidence, make are not followed by anecdotal evidence because it is splotchy at best and provably inaccurate.(5) Science based medicine is backed by hard reproducible facts and the studies to show those facts are always available.
My main point in this article is that pseudoscience practitioners use a lot of words that are specifically meant to be vague and confusing. They will talk about energy and fields and toxins. They’ll talk about quantum mechanics because it is new and confusing. The goal is to confuse you. They’re trying to sell you something that they have no evidence for. We should all demand more when it comes to the evidence for putting something in our bodies or when deciding which treatment has the best chance to cure our ailment with the lowest risk.
When in doubt about any given treatment it is a great idea to ask your doctor.
We should be careful because it may come down to life or death. The pseudo scientific community has created believers, and these people are passing up honest, evidenced based, helpful treatments and its destroying them.(5)(6) Whats the harm? Human lives. Whats the risk? Everything.
“Mainly I use woo to refer to things that use ‘energy’ to improve ‘wellness’ and remove ‘toxins’. Especially if the ‘energy’ can be ‘proven’ with the use of quantum mechanics. Or say when you’ve got a bad ‘vibration’ in your ‘life force’ and you ‘focus’ your ‘chi’ to ‘cleanse’ yourself of ‘blockages’ of your innate ‘intelligence’.” ~Me.
(1) Who needs to cleanse?. (2007, May 1). http://naturalmedicine.suite101.com/article.cfm/who_needs_to_cleanse
(2) Colon cleansing: Is it helpful or harmful? (March 21, 2007) http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/colon-cleansing/AN00065
(3) Therapeutic Touch. 2007. http://www.skepdic.com/tt.html
(4) Why Therapeutic Touch Should Be Considered Quackery (2008, Feb. 3) http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/tt.html
(5) Death by “alternative” medicine: Who’s to blame? (2008, July 7) David Gorski. http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/?p=15
(6) Sandra Nette et al. v. Gregory John Stiles et al. (June 2008) http://albertachiroclassaction.ca/docs/Chiro_Class_Action_Backgrounder.pdf