And, unbeknownst to me until now, there are four chiropractors in my hometown. (It seems odd to me that a town would have 4 chiropractors and zero OB/GYNs but there is neither here nor there.) One of these is an osteopath carrying on his father's business so I'll let him slide, for now. However, the one that I am friends with on Facebook appears to have gone over to the woo-side. (I'll refrain from mentioning names because I have no personal beef with her and don't want to appear to libel her.)
I knew something was up when I saw her promoting immune boosters and anti-vax BS on Facebook several months ago. No, I take that back. I'm naturally suspicious of chiropractors due to it's rather dubious beginnings when a magnetic healer named D. D. Palmer claimed to have cured a deaf man by cracking his bones. As we saw during the Simon Singh incident there are still chiropractors willing to "happily promote bogus treatments" while refusing to back up their claims with scientific evidence.
Where was I? Oh yes, my Facebook friend. This afternoon she suggested that all of her friends (and presumably all of her patients since she uses a picture of her office as her Facebook profile pic) to watch the movie "The Beautiful Truth." Just like you, I had never heard of this movie since it had an extremely short run in very few theaters. Long story short, it is about an Alaskan home-schooled teenager who is a True Believer in Gerson therapy. Despite trying to be a well-rounded skeptic I had never heard of Gerson therapy so I did the requisite research. SkepDic has this to say about it:
Gerson therapy is the name given to a regimen that claims to be able to cure even severe cases of cancer. The regimen consists of a special diet, coffee enemas, and various supplements...
Gerson says he started on the road to his regimen when his migraines went away after going on a vegetarian and salt-free diet. The diet in the regimen eventually came to include lots of juice from organic fruits and vegetables, and to exclude coffee, berries, nuts, dairy products, tap water; bottled, canned or processed foods; and cooking in aluminum pots and pans. The supplements came to include linseed oil, acidophilus-pepsin capsules, potassium solution, laetrile, Lugol's solution (iodine/potassium iodine), thyroid tablets, niacin, pancreatic enzymes, royal-jelly capsules, castor oil, ozone enemas, vaccines, and vitamin B12 mixed with liver...
Gerson believed that the need to detoxify resulted not only from the internal generation of poisonous substances but also from the external supply of toxins created by the use of insecticides and herbicides in commercial agriculture. Accordingly, his dietary regimen emphasized the use of food grown organically. He reasoned that treatment for cancer must replenish and detoxify the entire body to allow its innate healing mechanisms to be restored.
He maintained that the coffee enemas helped to stimulate the flow of bile, thereby increasing the rate of excretion of toxic products from the body.
That's right. Using vegetables, a handful of supplements, and coffee enemas to cure cancer. It's a bit of the naturalistic fallacy, a touch of the toxin gambit mixed with a whole lot of conspiracy theories about Big Pharma not wanting to cure cancer. The therapy has been tried by several famous people including Sacramento newscaster Pat Davis and comedian Pat Paulsen. Unfortunately both of them died while seeking treatment at the Gersons' institute in Tijuana. I should mention that their clinic is located in Mexico because it is currently illegal to offer the Gerson treatment as a cancer cure in the United States. I'm sure that is all Big Pharma's fault.
At any rate, Orac has a great takedown of the movie over at Respectful Insolence with clips from the trailers if you'd like to know more about it. He compares it unfavorably to the Ben Stein hit piece "Expelled".
Back to chiropractic friend. I felt like I needed to interject a little skepticism into the conversation so this happened:
Now, was this the right tact for me to take? Maybe, maybe not. There is a high likelihood that the comment will get deleted and I will be de-friended PDQ. It made me laugh so that's what I did. (And I have poor impulse control.) I'm hoping that opening with some levity will take the conversation somewhere. I don't have my hopes up that it will change her mind about pseudoscience completely. She is obviously already committed to that position and has financial incentive to not change her mind. At the very least it will get some passersby to think and I will try to warn her that recommending Gerson therapy is very dangerous and currently illegal. I will keep you updated if this goes anywhere.