Meet Mark

Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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January 18 2011

Doctors as Middlemen?: Direct-to-Consumer Online Testing Services and Other Consumer Health Trends

By Mark Sisson
156 Comments

An alarming new health trend has medical professionals scurrying around issuing dire warnings of impending doom and death. As a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal relays, consumers are taking their health into their own hands by foregoing expensive, redundant doctor’s visits in favor of mail order lab tests. Blood lipids, A1C, vitamin D, C-reactive protein – you can get just about any lab value tested online, no insurance required. Lipids run between $30 and $50, A1c between $25 and $40. Even people with (overpriced) insurance and high deductibles are skipping the doctor. This is part of an overall larger worldwide trend toward going it alone. The home blood glucose monitoring industry, for example, grew from $3.8 billion worldwide in 2000 to $8.8 billion in 2008.

What should we make of it?

Now, I like the sentiment – after all, this blog’s readership is comprised of hundreds of thousands of readers who set out to take control of their own health, and I’m quite fond of you guys – but I’m wary of the execution. People taking their health into their hands, realizing that the system isn’t set up with their best interest in mind? Good. I like it. We need it. People are realizing that you can’t look to physicians as deities with all the answers or to insurance companies as pure-hearted benefactors. If you do, you’ll end up disappointed and penniless.

But what happens from there, once the test results come in?

The average person that gets online lab results showing “elevated” cholesterol might do a couple things. They’ll try to modify their lifestyle and get more “heart healthy,” which usually entails eating whole grains, switching to low-fat dairy, jogging every day, and eating rabbit food. This isn’t very sustainable, it’s boring, and unless they follow the entire Ornish-esque plan (which includes exercise, stress relief therapy, meditation, cessation of smoking, and other proven interventions that I wholeheartedly support), it probably won’t do much to improve the health of their hearts. Or they might take the easy way out and wrangle for a Lipitor prescription, either by paying the co-pay to visit the doctor, who will, of course, have to order another lipid test before prescribing anything, or by ordering some statins from a sketchy online site and hoping that they actually receive what they ordered.

They might also venture into the world of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM, in lieu of, or in addition to, conventional medicine. In fact, that’s another growing health trend that fills me with mixed feelings. On one hand, people’s hearts are in the right place: wresting control of their own health. But CAM is a tricky subject. Much of it is hogwash and pure malarky, like homeopathy and colon cleansing, which are rightfully dismissed by anyone with a sound head on his or her shoulders. If people try to take control of their health by submitting to ridiculous, unproven, illogical practices like those, is that a good thing? No; they mean well, and their intent reflects a positive mindset and a growing trend, but the resultant treatment might be useless at best and dangerous at worst.

Then there’s stuff like vitamin supplementation, massage, bodywork, joint mobility work, nutrition, and meditation – all proven to be beneficial to both mind and body (as if the two were different) and all firmly in the “alternative” camp. If folks opt for that type of “CAM,” they’re doing it right. And the latest trends seem to indicate that they are doing it right. The increase in people using complementary and alternative medicine (38.3% of adults in 2007, up from 36% in 2002) may not seem like much, but the types of CAM treatments they’re favoring have changed. In 2007, the most popular CAM treatment was use of “natural products,” which includes vitamins, herbs, and other supplements, followed by deep breathing, meditation, chiropractic, massage, yoga, diet, progressive relaxation, guided imagery, and, finally, at a measly 1.8% of CAM users, homeopathy. I can get behind most of those. In 2002, the most popular natural product among adults was echinacea, followed by ginseng and gingko biloba; in 2007, fish oil had jumped to the top of list with over 38% of adults, followed by glucosamine, echinacea, and flaxseed. CoQ10 also made its way into the top 10 in 2007, nudging out “soy supplements.” Nice. So it’s not just enchanted snake oil being used by greasy, non-vaccinating hippies. Much of this stuff is proven. I also like the diseases/afflictions that people target with CAM. Back in 2002, a lot of people used it for “head and chest colds.” Pretty dubious, right? As of 2007, the top five diseases/conditions for which CAM was used were, in order, back pain, neck pain, joint pain, arthritis, and anxiety – all conditions for which things like diet, supplements, massage, yoga, and meditation are viable therapies. It seems that even as CAM use increases, the use of frivolous, misguided CAM therapies like homeopathy are decreasing in favor of beneficial therapies that jibe with conventional medicine (that is, they work!). This is, then, a bittersweet trend, with the idiocy tainting the legit therapies.

What About the Tests?

I’m kind of biased against numbers on a piece of paper that supposedly represent your current state of health. I don’t doubt that they reflect something going on internally, but I wonder how important it is to keep careful, steady track of the numbers and react wildly to their fluctuation. An obsession with lab values is kinda like when people weigh themselves once, twice, even thrice a day. They start focusing on numbers and numbers alone only to ignore subjective, real values, like “How am I feeling?” or “How do I look in the mirror?” And don’t even get me started on those increasingly popular but expensive DNA tests. As of now there’s almost nothing valuable to be gleaned from them. Numbers are ultimately an abstraction, and if you pay too much attention to the numbers game, you’ll start forgetting why you’re here. What’s important? Weight lost or inches lost? Numbers on the scale, or strength gained, joint health improved, and energy levels regained?

These are just numbers, albeit numbers that represent something tangible. And some of them are definitely useful. Testing your vitamin D levels is a good move, especially if you’re starting out and plan to supplement. You get tested, figure out where you’re at, start a supplement regimen, and retest in a few months to get your bearings. Diabetics should probably monitor their A1Cs, and a pre-Primal blood lipid test followed up three months later is a good way to keep skeptical loved ones off your back, but monthly tests? What’s the point? Are you gonna start eating whole grains if your LDL goes up a bit? What if it’s just your body curing itself of fatty liver? What if the number was just an aberration, a fluke?

In the end, you have to ask yourself if the numbers are going to change your behavior. I’m entirely unconvinced that I need to test my cholesterol, because whatever values come back are not going to change the way I eat, work out, sleep, or live. I’m still going to eat lots of animal fat, lift heavy things, sprint once in awhile, get plenty of sleep, and try not to take life too seriously. As long as those things are going well, as long as I feel good, wake up without an alarm clock full of energy, hold my own on the Ultimate field and in the bedroom, I’m good. Those are my health markers. If they’re in order, I’m doing things right.

So – take advantage of these tests, if you truly think they’re relevant to your situation. And if you want to engage in the Primal pastime of self-experimentation with a bit of statistical, objective rigor, go right ahead and monitor your numbers. Just don’t become wedded to the numbers and forget the bigger picture. I mean, let’s face it: when it comes to lifestyle interventions, dietary changes, activity habits, and all the rest, you know exactly what to do. It’s always pretty much the same. You know you should get more sleep, play more often, spend quality time with friends and loved ones, stimulate your mind on a regular basis, avoid industrial foods and grains, and the results of some test are not going to change those basic truths.

Overall, though? Things are getting better. The movement is growing. The trend toward taking charge of one’s own health is ultimately a good thing. All those people who are sick of wasting  money on tests and visits are that much more likely to happen upon the importance of laying a strong foundation for health through nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle. They may wind their way through veganism, raw foodism, Mediterranean diets, and whatever else, but even a single step away from the Standard American Industrial Diet – in any direction – is a positive move.

What do you think, readers? Stats are cool and worldwide trends are nice, but I also find value in anecdote; are the people around you beginning to take responsibility for their own health? If so, how are they going about it? Are they doing it wrong? Making things worse? Let me know in the comments!

TAGS:  Big Pharma

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156 thoughts on “Doctors as Middlemen?: Direct-to-Consumer Online Testing Services and Other Consumer Health Trends”

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      1. Please do! Recently there were a couple local cases of whooping cough. A bit scary when you’re about to bring an unvaccinated baby into the world. There are some great posts about the whole anti-vax hysteria and how it was fueled by false research and the media on the BadAstronomy blog.

        1. pertussis vaccine is ineffective at preventing transmission. indeed, a recent paper in an evolution journal shows that the species targeted by the vaccine has undergone vaccine-induced selection. moreover, there is another species of Bordetella in circulation (B. parapertussis) that is not targeted by the pertussis vaccine but that does also cause whooping cough, though the symptoms are milder. it is also possible for one to be subclinically infected with whooping cough (ergo, be a carrier yet not know it). even the CDC website admits that vaccines are not 100% effective. lots of good info on vaccines at http://insidevaccines.com – where the writers want to put information out there so that individuals can make informed choices about medical procedures.

      2. Vaccinations…oh yes, we do need to talk about those.

        The most maddening aspect of non-vaccinators in my book is that they don’t realize they benefit by the fact that most of the people around them ARE vaccinated. It’s a phenomenon known as “herd immunity”. Essentially, if a non-vaccinated person is surrounded by vaccinated people, they will avoid infection because all those around them are immune. This is the defense that would save all the “unvaccinatable” (i.e. folks with compromised immune systems, transplant recipients, etc.) people in the event of an outbreak of some awful disease for which we actually have a vaccine….say smallpox?

        A very real threat and one for which we currently are sitting ducks, all because of the “unfairness” of some people not being able to receive said vaccine. Vaccinating all the people who CAN receive it would benefit everyone and quite possibly keep us from having a bona fide epidemic of a truly horrifying disease.

        (as the worms go crawling all over…)

        Just sayin’.

        1. OK, FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELTS EVERYONE, IT’S GOING TO BE A BUMPY RIDE…

          This is a subject that makes my blood boil. And i just “love” when people mindlessly dump “us vaccine deniers” in this category and then slap [us] with that one-color unscientific hysterical brush – I am college educated with 3 years of pre-med biology, chemistry and physiology. i am not a viral-pathologist – i leave that to numerous anti-vaccine experts to provide me the more scientific information.

          but, truth be told, i AM hysterical – livid that the people on this blog of all the blogs, would be so void of the same “question the CW regarding vaccines” as they are daily doing gobbling up Mark’s wisdom (don’t forget CW’s recent rewards to Mark – one of 5 unhealthy-ist cookbooks of the year).

          EVEN IF VACCINES WERE PROVEN TO WORK – WHICH THEY HAVE NEVER BEEN (and “herd immunity is a THEORY, people)- the safety/incompatibility with certain genotypes, the absolute plethora of manufacturing mistakes that surface regularly in the press (and how many more stay hidden), the adjuncts that are 1/2 the vaccine material, poisons like thermosol, preservatives, aluminum, mercury (NO IT IS NOT OUT OF ALL VACCINES), the questionable undetected biological vectors that ride along with various injections that are organically produced (monkey/cow/pig/egg production methods) make vaccines a toss of weighted dice at best. Add to that the ever-increasing evidence of limited or partial immunity and the need for boosters, the outbreaks of childhood diseases more dangerously in older populations (measles outbreaks in college!?!) and the pictures grows and grows as to the absolutely questionable science behind even the concept. (notice i did not even go near autism…)

          and pleeeeeease, tell me the logic that if YOU are vaccinated AGAINST a disease and I come along un-vaccinated WITH the disease – why would YOU be in danger?? only if the vaccine does not work. (actually don’t bother – there IS no logical explanation)

          I’ve just done 2 blogs on this and i’ll head over there right now to beef up the excellent anti-vaccine references –

          open your minds folks – CW/big pharma wants you to be sheeple, ESPECIALLY on this issue.

        2. Okay DaiaRava,
          One, Vaccines are proven to work. Just look at how we have eradicated smallpox. And Polio is almost completely gone. Oh and herd theory, yea thats like a theory like germ theory is a theory, so I guess I can just sneeze in everything now, its a theory, right?

          Two, even when those chemicals were present in vaccines, the dosage was too low to cause any side effects.

          Three, Getting vaccinated ISNT ABOUT YOU. You get vaccinated to provide a buffer between that guy with the virus and any infant or other at risk group of people.

        3. So I guess the smallpox vaccine had nothing to do with its almost complete disappearance in the world after it being the biggest killer disease of all time.

        4. Herd immunity may work in a herd of cattle; individuals of the same genotype eating the same food (hopefully grazing) and doing the same activity (hopefully grazing), but humans are not like this. We eat different foods, come from different ethnic and social backgrounds, and perform different activities. We don’t exist in herds (for the most part).

        5. DaiaRavi said “open your minds folks – CW/big pharma wants you to be sheeple, ESPECIALLY on this issue.”

          Yes, I can agree that big pharma wants people to be sheep, but not on this issue. The pharmaceutical industry makes very little, if any profit from the production of vaccines.

          Well conducted research and years of benefit (near erradication of several deadly diseases) has leant more than enough evidence in order to safely make the claim that, OVER ALL, vaccination is beneficial in preventing the spread of disease.

          The burden of proof to the claim by the anti-vaxers that vaccination is more harmful than good is now on the anti-vaxer’s shoulders. Thus far they have provided scant evidence for their claims. Mostly just a lot of noise.

          While the PB is a fantasitc plan for overall health, and likely does provide more immunity to many diseases than the SAD and the rest of CW, it is not a cure-all.

          And while I respect your credentials, those alone are an appeal to authority. There are anti-vaxers out there with advanced medical degrees. That doesn’t make thier claims any more substantial if they are flat-out wrong.

      3. really do love your blog Mark! must admit that i look forward to the song and dance yer gonna have do on this viper’s nest of a subject if you choose a vaccine blog post-

        hint: focus on good primal nutrition… 😉

        1. Hey Fritzy – wake up- it’s 2011 – no profits in vaccines?? from MSNBC article here http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/33979090/ns/health-infectious_diseases/

          “Vaccines are no longer a sleepy, low-profit niche in a booming drug industry. Today, they’re starting to give ailing pharmaceutical makers a shot in the arm. While prescription drug sales are forecast to rise by a third in five years, vaccine sales should double, from $19 billion last year to $39 billion in 2013, according to market research firm Kalorama Information. That’s five times the $8 billion in vaccine sales in 2004.”

          chump change huh?

          update your info on “burden of proof” noise too, kiddo – you can start here: http://www.vaclib.org/links/vaxlinks.htm

          sorry to break my promise to disappear off this post- this is too damn important.

      1. As a mother with a child severely and permanently harmed by a vaccine, I thank you for your response, DaiaRavi!

        1. Really, Heidi…? Do you have irrefutable proof that it was the VACCINE that did the damage – or a contaminant that might have accidentally found its way into the vaccine…?

          Provide me with undeniable evidence that it was the vaccine (i.e. the culture of deactivated virus which – hopefully* – provides the immunity) or something else. Yes, your child was injected with something in a vial, but the vial could have been contaminated; in fact, I’d bet my life savings on it being the case!

          *I say ‘hopefully’ because in the case of something like the ‘flu vaccine, scientists can only guess that they’re creating a vaccine against the correct strain (i.e. the one most prevalent – or predicted to be prevalent – that year). A vaccine against one type of ‘flu virus will, of course, do nothing whatsoever to protect you against another strain of ‘flu.

          Those who are anti-vaccination, fail to grasp that the ‘active ingredient’ IS DEAD!! That’s why it’s also known as ‘inoculation’. Now this bit’s gonna get rather dry, because I was a Classics scholar and etymology and lexicography are hobbies of mine.

          Inoculation is actually a double meaning, and I believe it was Jenner (the guy who ‘invented’ vaccination (the term, of course, arising from the fact that he used a denatured cowpox virus to inoculate a small boy against smallpox.

          ‘inoculate’ comes from the Latin ‘inoculare’ meaning ‘to graft’ (originally referring to plants, in the sense of grafting a branch of one species on to the stem of another to create a hybrid) but Jenner used it to mean taking a virus from one species and using it to produce immunity in another.

          He also used it in the same sense as ‘innocuous’ (which comes from the Latin ‘nocere’, actually meaning ‘to hurt’ but the ‘inn’ being added to the Anglicised form to produce the antonym.

          So an ‘inoculation’ (and I prefer that term to ‘vaccination’) is a denatured virus introduced into an organism in order to protect it from the effects of a live version. It’s basically a kind of ‘Wanted’ poster if you like, alerting the immune system that, if it sees anything like this it’s to destroy it.

          Does any of the above make sense, guys…? I’m still not well and it’s affecting my ability to think straight!

          So, to all you anti-inoculators out there I want to ask you a question: –

          How can something which IS NOT (A)LIVE cause harm? This is what I don’t understand; anyone who says they’ve been damaged by a vaccine (and that’s the correct terminology; the ‘medicine’ is a vaccine, but you’re inoculated, not vaccinated) doesn’t understand the first thing about how vaccines are manufactured.

          There was a big bruhaha here in the UK several years ago connecting the MMR vaccine to autism (the claim being that it was the 3 vaccines in combination which caused the disorder). Parents who were concerned, who could afford it, paid to have their child inoculated with the 3 vaccines separately.

          Personally, I can’t see there being a link – it just doesn’t make sense. Once you realise that the viruses are denatured (in other words – dead) then how can there be…?

          Saying you’ve been harmed by a dead virus (which is, as I’ve just explained, what a vaccine is) is like saying you’ve been savaged by a dead lion; both dangerous when alive – but obviously harmless when dead.

          Right, I’ll STFU now, shall I…?

        2. yer welcome Heidi – and very sorry for your child. also – please ignore the horribly insensitive and just plain stupid, uninformed response below from S-

          you have experienced sadly what many many parents have with regards to once-trusting vaccines – and even more sadly, many of those parent only have the memory of a child…

      2. How are you (Kansas) a “sitting duck” if you have been vaccinated against “a truly horrifying disease”?

        Did you know that *most* vaccine “preventable” outbreaks START in the *vaccinated* population?

        The root word of “immunize” is immune. If a vaccination truly makes you IMMUNE to whatever it is that you have been vaccinated against…why are they now saying that people need all these various “boosters”? Hmmm?

        Best vaccine book ever: The Sanctity of Human Blood: Vaccination is not immunization

        DaiaRavi forgot to mention that some vaccines are grown off of aborted human fetal tissue.

        1. A friend of mine almost died of a vaccine because apparently the nurses administrating it didn’t know what was in it. When asked if he had any allergies, he told them he has an allergy to eggs. Despite this, they administered the vaccine which contained egg protein. Nice work, nurse.

        2. The “sitting ducks” are the people of the United States as a whole, not me personally. I received the smallpox vaccine as a child approximately 45 years ago. I might – MIGHT – still have some immunity to smallpox, but the vast majority of the current US population has not received a smallpox vaccine or anything like it.

          And in case you think smallpox is a “dead” disease, you’re wrong. There are literally tons of the stuff in freezers around the world, and all it would take to release it is a little cash in the right (or would that be wrong?) hands.

          Please refer to “The Demon in the Freezer” by Richard Preston for more wonderful details about various governments’ intelligent handling of the worst scourge the human race has ever encountered.

      3. We have hysteria in UK at the mo for having ‘insufficient’ flu vaccine and endless pictures of young children/pregnant/newly delivered mothers who’ve died from swine flu, unvaccinated.

        I’ve been wondering to myself all these months thinking if all these people had eaten Primal they would have had immune systems able to cope. They seem to have completely missed the point.

      4. This nesting is not deep enough –

        Please stop parroting the CW pap you have all been fed in schools and investigate for yourselves – if you do not know that EVERY major epidemic that the vaccines have claimed to have eradicated was virtually GONE (less than 20% on the mortality curves) before the “savior” vaccine was introduced – then open up your d*mn minds to something other than the standard dogma. NUTRITION AND SANITATION have eradicated or lessened ALL of our so called epidemic diseases that vaccines take credit for. Period. (BYW polio is still with us – re-named “viral or aseptic meningitis” in order to make the vaccine look like a winner)

        The virulent attacks that i will now receive are the proof of the intensity of the brainwashing the CW medical establishment and big pharma have successfully achieved.

        I’m not going to let Mark’s blog be turned into a vaccine warzone on my account- if you want to attack me – go for it – but if you want to open up and learn do a little investigating with those sources who are not invested in the reputation of modern medicine or big pharma.

        oh one more thing – all you “primal freethinkers” out there – don’t you “know” that grains, carbs are healthy and meat will give you heart attacks!!
        😉

        over and out-

        1. Really, DaiaRavi…?

          That would mean that all diseases are caused by poor hygiene practices – this is, of course, BS.

          It also shows you fail to grasp one of the fundamentals of the PB. Grok would have eaten dirt on a regular basis and, in doing so, exposing himself to many different viruses and bacteria – some helpful, some not.

          Oh wait – I’ve just read the end of your post. You’re here to troll – right, no need for me to waste any more of my time on you…

        2. breaking my promise – Dear Sarah – i’m here in full support of Mark’s Daily Apple – have become a regular – you are clearly not quick enough to pick up on irony.

          bye bye fer t’day

        3. In regards to Grok and vaccinating, it seems that some of you need to read Guns, Germs, and Steel. The entire reason for the increase rise in viral agents that can harm/kill us is due to our now living in large, concentrated groups. Of course Grok wouldn’t have had this problem. Prehistoric peoples were nomadic (for the most part), and isolated from other large groups.

        4. Thank you DaiaRavi. I have learned not to argue over it and not to let remarks like that hurt my feelings. I also used to believe that the few people harmed by mass vaccinations was acceptable because the majority of people were helped. Once your loved one becomes a part of the collateral damage, though, it tends to change your thinking.

  1. “But CAM is a tricky subject. Much of it is hogwash and pure malarky,”

    Thank you for that!

    I’m encouraged to see at home Vitamin D tests for a reasonable ($60) price tag. Pretty sure my dad just paid around $300 after I suggested he get it tested at his last check up! The scientist in me wants to run blood through a bunch of the mail-in services and local lab facilities and see how the values compare. This would, of course, defeat any economic advantage of skipping the doc!

  2. There is a new business going in near me promising to provide Any Lab Test. I had no idea there was such demand, but as you say it makes sense; skepticism & mistrust of doctors and insurers are on the rise. People don’t want to make appointments, sit in waiting rooms, pay premiums and co-pays, just to get the brush-off and advice they could find online.
    There are also a number of small walk-in clinics popping up, offering just about everything you might need from a doctor on way less notice. My BIL went to one to see about a particularly nasty cough; he was promptly diagnosed with pneumonia and sent home with appropriate antibiotics and instructions. Another friend waited to see his regular doctor for similar symptoms and was hospitalized for the better part of a week. Hm, which would YOU rather? and guess which recovered faster? The walk-in places accept insurance if you have it, and match you with a level of service appropriate to your needs. The basics are handled by nurses and PAs and a doctor is on hand for the really serious stuff; but you don’t have to pay a doctor’s fee if you don’t really need one.
    Sounds good to me.

    1. Many doctors are affiliated with hospitals, so their secondary function is to send business to the hospital whenever possible. Find out if your doctor is hospital-affiliated.

    2. I like the convenience and effectiveness of the Doc-in-a-Box shops (we visit one regularly,) but I have questions. Did your BIL and your friend have the same kind of infection, and did they seek help at the same time during the incubation period of the infection? The difference in outcome is undeniable, but reality may be a bit more complicated than appearances.

  3. Exactly — as Dr. Kurt Harris says, if you’re already doing everything right, what are you going to do when the numbers come back bad? Start doing things wrong just to do something different?

  4. I found MDA after a long journey of misc. ‘diets’ -Body For Life, South Beach, The Schwarzbein Principle, even a brief foray into vegetarianism – all of which I knew any typical Dr. would not recommend. Funny thing is, even as an 80/20 primal right now, just about a month into it (cut out grains completely, still too high on carbs from fruit but if I go too low my body doesn’t like it, probably because I’m breastfeeding still) and this is the best I’ve felt in a long time. (even with my interrupted sleep, I don’t know what I’ll do when I finally sleep he’s straight lol)

    I have never been one to put too much faith into the medical field, and I tend to research excessively about anything I find interesting – health/fitness, cars, art, design, etc. It’s depressing to see people get sucked into things like the acai diet, P90x, the cookie diet, etc., all of which I feel are just glorified MLM schemes. Don’t even get me started on the AMA and the pharmaceutical companies.

    I hope more people discover their roots with primal living, the more of us that ‘wake up’ and buck the system, the better, in my opinion.

    1. Totally agree with you.
      Years after following the CW diet plan, starving myself to stay thin, getting screwed over left and right by other business (car dealers for example), even being scammed by my dentist for 6 years, I finally,too, took matters into my own hands and research EVERYTHING now.

      Finding out about primal eating/living was THE best thing that has ever happened to me. I did ‘wake up’ as you stated, problem now is I think I’m surrounded by zombies….

  5. I have concerns about the accuracy of mail order tests. If you are at your doctor and they run tests they can at least consider the fact that given your overall health, complaints and other blood values that something might be skewed and weather it is something to worry about.

    I’m an acupuncturist and I was also trained in Chinese herbal medicine. I am horrified by people who think they know as much as their trained professional. Yes, sometimes an herb is good for a condition, but often the dosage on the bottle isn’t enough for the person’s body weight or their age. Or it can be more than is needed and potentially cause other problems. Another factor is in how these companies test their products to see if people are really getting what they think they are.

    I’m all about people understanding their own health, getting in touch with their bodies and being proactive and educated about their disease. However physicians and naturopathic doctors are trained to understand the disease process and trained to understand when something is a normal part of a minor disease or when something really is wrong. Unfortunately insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies have really increased the mistrust of doctors. However, most really do know stuff about the body that the average lay person doesn’t…

  6. Mark,
    Excellent post. It is tough, weighing all this information in light of living in a way that ultimately is anti-intervention. I think you bring up a great point about keeping the bigger picture in mind. I am 13 months primal and feel AMAZING. my lipid numbers reflect the changes with trigs at 73, HDL at 63, and total cholesterol at 240. LDL doesn’t even matter as the ratios look terrific. I had to do a lot of research before I was comfortable telling my doctor where he could put the statins he was trying to push as docs hold tremendous power in our culture. As an educational psychologist, my views on this whole thing is that at root, we MUST change our deeply held beliefs about grains and sugar, processed foods and oils. We must shift our deepest beliefs around what is no longer our friend, and the rest becomes relatively easy. I am happily married and have two children. My wife thinks I am crazy to be eating like this, but at the end of the day given that I have effortlessly lost 45 pounds for the first time in my adult life, she doesn’t give me too much grief– but living within a family where the SAD is still common practice, it is tough. So fellow grok’s, if you have a shred of doubt about the dangers of grains, sugars, processed oils, it will likely make a difference when it comes to that decision point when you walk by the break room and see that box of fresh krispy kreme’s. If you believe that what is in that box is not your friend, then you are more likely to keep walking to refill your water bottle… To Health, and the freedom of taking responsibility for it, my friends!

  7. Mark,

    You said “diabetics should probably monitor their A1Cs”. I would suggest that A1Cs are a great way to find out that you are on your way to diabetes and still have plenty of headroom to do something about it (much better than fasting glucose).

    …Tim

  8. Great post! As a nutritional counselor, I am seeing the shift toward natural therapies a lot. As you said, it is great that people are starting to take a more active role in their health, but there are dangers as well. The availability of tests like Vitamin D has been a tremendous help to me, as it is one supplement I don’t like to recommend without knowing their current levels since both overdose and deficiency can be dangerous. In most other cases, I work with the patient to correct underlying issues with nutrition and supplements (very similar to the primal blueprint plan) first before getting any tests to determine other problems. In almost all cases, nutrition makes a huge difference and tests are unnecessary.
    You made a wonderful point that if you are not going to change your habits anyway (for better or worse) , why get the tests in the first place. Most people come to me with a more medical mindset and want tests to have actual numbers to start from. I work with them to get the foundations of good health with nutrition before considering tests, and at that point, most realize that they are not changing their diet anyway because they feel so good and don’t even want the tests anymore.
    My dad (a scientist) did opt to get a lot of tests done after 2 years of eating a primal type diet just to show the improvement and have it documented.
    Overall, I agree that this is indicative of a good trend. Thanks for a great post!

  9. Personally the test I like the most is the-how-do-I-feel test.

    Generally, I feel positive about people taking their health into their own hands. However, only very smart, motivated people can do that (like people who are reading this blog) and that worries me.

    My family, who still see doctors as Gods, don’t/won’t/can’t do that and it is sad to see how vulnerable they are.

  10. I can definitely see for those that are uninsured or under insured would find benefit in mail order labs. The non discounted prices for some big labs today are just INSANE. The one most docs in my area use (shall we say rhymes with west), has non discounted (so before insurance) prices on labs that are blown completely out of proportion. My annual bloodwork this year (which is pretty comprehensive including vit D and thyroid), had a billed charge of over $700!!! Discounted through my insurance of course it only cost me $90 something from my HRA savings. Annual bloodwork including thyroid and Vit D should not cost that much without insurance, seriously. No wonder mail order labs are starting to find serious business.

  11. I agree that it can be extremely dodgy trying to interpret your own results and decide where to go from there, especially when you don’t know just how qualified the company doing the testing really is. But given my many doctor visits to various doctors and how absolutely useless – not to mention demeaning – most of them have been (and I’ve heard many similar horror stories from my friends), I don’t think all that training is doing them (or us) a whole lot of good, either.

    I’ve had GPs miss mental health diagnoses and just tell me to take walks or attend church, be unable to diagnose a simple but miserable infection for over a year with extensive specialist testing, miss probable yeast allergies when tests for infection came back negative but all the symptoms are still going strong, etc etc. Unless you have an excellent doctor, you may very well be out of luck if you’re dealing with a systemic problem with various symptoms in various parts of the body and not a simple earache or other straightforward infection or condition; many doctors who stick to the conventional straight and narrow (which is far too many of them) are really ill-equipped to deal with interconnected health conditions, which is what so many of us are actually dealing with. Just for starters, too few look to diet as a potential cause and cure for many conditions, and yet as we know, besides diabetes/insulin resistance (which they often give bad dietary advice for anyway), it can be related to everything from heart palpitations, allergies, skin conditions, fatigue, GERD, and on and on. And too many are too quick to prescribe (often potentially dangerous) drugs before recommending lifestyle changes, often for conditions that may not actually be as dangerous as previously believed anyway (statins, anyone?).

    So while I absolutely agree with your feeling with regards to self-testing, I also understand why people are getting frustrated and going DIY when it comes to all aspects of their own health. Because sadly, despite all their education, many professionals have really let us down, so often all the while condescending to or outright insulting us. And many times when you go to your doctor and ask to be tested or assessed for specific issues or conditions, they treat you like a hypochondriac, and/or act insulted or sceptical about the fact that you, a mere layman, think you could possibly know anything about medicine or even your own body.

    Yes, I do have issues with the medical profession, LOL, but sadly, this isn’t a case of being over-sensitive about one unfortunate incident, but a cumulation of one bad experience after another, with one doctor after another, for years on end, and chronic health problems which still haven’t been completely addressed and resolved. That said, I am working on doing as much to that end as I reasonably can on my own, and making some progress, so there is indeed something to be said for taking charge of one’s own health. It would just be nice to have a bit of a helping hand and some knowledgeable advice every once in awhile.

    1. I totally agree with you, Ann. I’ve had the same exact experience myself with numerous M.D.s who arrogantly told me there was nothing wrong with me, tried to put me on statins and made me feel like a hypochondriac. I’ve finally been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, gluten and other food intolerances, and anemia, but it took going to a nutritional chiropractor and paying out of pocket to get some real help. Fortunately, he’s in a co-op with one of the major labs so the lab test prices are very reasonable. I finally understand what’s going on with my body, have changed my diet drastically and am starting to improve.

      1. I have had a similar experience. After copious testing I was told there was nothing wrong with me and offered anti-depressants, for symptoms including doubling my bodyweight in 3 years, needing ventolin 4 times a day for asthma, joint pains and so on.

        If it hadn’t been for “crossing over” into the CAM world I might never have been advised to try cutting out wheat, and I might still be back there, starving hungry, gaining weight, not sleeping, heart constantly racing and so on. And that’s before considering the longer term consequences of continuing to eat gluten when I was reacting to it so badly.

      2. Ann and Laurie, well stated, and complete agreement from where i stand! when i was doing the convention-wisdom thing, which included relying on the medical profession, i was unhealthy and felt like hell. now that i thumb my nose at them, despite my age, i feel and look very well indeed. sad but true, women ARE given short shrift when it comes to effective treatment!

        another point that i haven’t seen anyone make yet is, it’s always a good idea to run a second test if there’s any suspicion of the first test’s reliability — being a lab tech, i know this well! these do-it-yourself discount services are perfect for that. you all have no idea how easy it is to contaminate a sample….

        1. Thank you all for the supportive words – I was a bit worried about making such a long and rambling post, but it’s heartening to know there are others who understand exactly where I’m coming from, though I certainly do regret that anyone else has had to go through similarly disheartening struggles on their way to wellness.

    2. I see the problem as two-fold. One: Influenced in large part by Big Pharma, medical schools place a heavy emphasis on prescription drugs as the first line of treatment. I had a cardiologist try to prescribe statins to me without even checking my cholesterol numbers. When I asked for her advice on making healthy lifestyle changes instead, she as much as told me she didn’t want me for a patient. (She got her wish.). Two: In the age of specialization, no one treats the whole patient anymore, and there is little regard for how any individual treatment recommendation impacts any other health issues. That same cardiologist tried to put me on blood thinners (why, I don’t know), completely disregarding the fact that I do have a small brain aneurism, diagnosed when I suffered a very minor stroke. Seriously, I could not get out of her office quickly enough! If she had been deliberately trying to harm me, her recommendations could not have placed me in more jeopardy if I had followed them.

    3. Well, as you can see, lots of the same ‘ol story. I, too, went undiagnosed for 5 years with hypothyroidism… even though I told them I my mother had it, and I had all the symptoms, because my doctor didn’t know the first thing about reading thyroid results or even what tests to run. I blame myself for listening to “your tests came back normal” for way too long as well, which is why now I do not take anybody’s opinion as fact. I do my research and due diligence. My current doc is awesome but I consider him a partner– as in, I deeply respect his opinion, but don’t have a problem questioning it, brining in other research and suggesting alternate strategies. And since he’s not an egotistical hack, he doesn’t mind.

      The doctors who don’t listen, expect you to say “yes sir” to anything they offer and don’t keep up with current research SHOULD be scared. Sitting at conferences complaining about how their patients are “using the internet” as if it’s a bad thing isn’t going to fix the problem.

      LOL, yes I have issues with the medical profession as well.. but it came from 35 years (me AND my mom) of improper, horrendous and at best neglectful treatment. It’s well deserved.

      1. I distrust them more than ever.

        I hit my elbow and got very swollen and red a few hours later. I knew it was infected (happens rarely) and went to get the antibiotics. I recognized it a a pretty serious infection. I got IM antibiotics for 5 days in a row, and the doc was about to admit me to the hospital for IV antibiotics since I wan’t responding. I told him since I’m an RN I know how to mix the drugs and could give the shot to myself at home (this was the day before Christmas and I was trying to avoid being in the hospital over Christmas). Anyway he agreed and I got the drugs to mix. The next morning when I mixed it, to my horror it took 5 minutes to mix them properly. I watched the tech at the docs office do it and they literally took 5 SECONDS to mix it before drawing it up in the syringe. Suffice it to say I got 5 days of antibiotic shots and received no benefit at all and the infection continued to travel down my arm, almost all the way to my hand! After I gave it to myself after I mixed it, I was almost totally cured 12 hours later!
        I told the doctor on my next appointment 3 days later. He just said, “well, maybe that’s why you got better the day you did it”.

        I sure hope they retrained their staff. If I didn’t know what I was doing, I’d have ended up in the hospital!

      2. What a blessing to finally have a doctor who works *with* you on your care, rather than expecting you to defer to him on everything even when he’s done absolutely nothing to help. I hope someday to find such a doctor, if I can ever bring myself to see another (and assuming there are ever any new ones I haven’t gotten crappy care from already at my local medical centre, since I’m in the UK and can’t exactly afford to go private at the moment).

  12. I think it’s great to take a personal interest in one’s own health. I think the key is self-educating as much as possible and realizing that, in some cases, a professional is needed.

    They must’ve learned *something* in all those years at school. 8)

    1. In these troubled times, Ann, might I suggest that this is “magical thinking” in many cases – Big Pharma being a major fund source for med schools and the AMA, what if most of what “they” learned in med school …was to trust Big Pharma, take the kickbacks,& prescribe the latest miracle pill as-seen-on-TV…

      Some doctors are healers, but all of them are businessmen/women.

  13. I’m with you, Mark! When I was following the CW plan, I would on my doctor appointments feeling like crap but I was always declared ‘healthy’. How was that?? I never had any energy and I felt half-starved all the time eating my stupid oatmeal and nonfat lattes. Now, I feel good and I’m just enjoying life following the Primal Blueprint. I’ll never let some numbers on a doctors clipboard take that away!

  14. I went for a first time visit to a cardiologist. He first asked me if i was on any medication. When i said “no”, he was shocked! (i’m 65). He immediately wanted to get me on some meds! My cholesterol is high (but has dropped 30 points since doing 80% primal this year) so he left the room and came back with 4 boxes of Lipitor! (free samples for a month). I told him i was scared of statins, and he had no idea why. He said just take them for a month and then get a blood check. Well, i took the boxes home and they will not be opened. I would just take them back, but I would feel guilty about them becoming available to some other person. The whole experience was upsetting..but now my husband and I are reading books on the Cholesterol Myth, etc, so i’ve calmed down.

  15. in more specific regards to Mark’s post, i am very encouraged that people are taking their own health care into their hands – of course the reasons are probably more economic than about self-responsibility, but it is taking back some of your power nonetheless.

    As far as the dicey-ness of interpreting your own results, well, driving a car on a public road is pretty damn dicey according to stats – one learns by trail and error all things in life – and staying on the right side of the road is no less important in developing one’s own judgment than learning about test numbers, diet changes, and medications.

    I think Mark perhaps would agree that exercising muscles assures their good condition and that they will not atrophy – your better judgment, and the ability to evaluate your own physical/medical condition in no less a muscle that will get better, stronger and not atrophy if you get out and use it.

    1. Hey, that’s pretty harsh Davi, saying that most people take control over their own health for economic rather than for personal responsibility! What on earth makes you say something like that? Those of us in Canada have to pay to have our lab work done privately…done through our doctor our social medicare covers it! Regardless of medical system, I think most people are taking matters into their own hands because our primal lifestyle finds a very negative audience with most doctors, nutritionists, etc.

      1. Oh whoops, my gosh I’m sorry, I wrote your name incorrectly. I apologize for that DaiaRavi!

      2. I didn’t take that as harsh. Maybe he is referring to the economy? I take care of my own health for both reasons. Even if I could afford professional service, like lab work from a doctor I wouldn’t. I suppose if I need an arm reattached or something I would go. 🙂

    2. what i meant was – like myself – i have no health insurance – and statistically i’m far from alone – also – as JoAnn notes in a post below – the same tests via doctor office were $300 that were $59 independently – and she would have to pay for it either way –

      THAT’S what i meant by the financial reasons – why would you pay the doc office a 500% dividend to have the tests done there?

      I’m pretty healthy but with the switch towards a paleo diet, i want to see what my blood iron is – i ain’t going to no doctor for that and paying inflated test prices, so – testing lab here i come–

  16. I too have years of misdiagnosis and harmful treatment for undiagnosed Celiac Spruce. I know longer have a thyroid due to cancer directly related to this. Taking charge of my own health has really made the difference and finding this site and info have definitely added to my knowledge base.
    Mark, have to disagree with you on homeopathy as I have used it on my animals, family and friends and watched it work. Have also used several types of “energy” medicine to help my daughter recover from Steven Johnson syndrome(which is often deadly, dodged a bullet there). Though we didn’t know what it was till recently and the docs sure didn’t know what to do when we went to them. They just gave her steroids which I knew was going to happen before we went in.

    1. Thank goodness someone responded to that! I find most of your posts very enlightened Mark, but the fact that you kept trashing homeopathy with no reasons given annoyed me. My family has used homeopathic remedies for years for all sorts of ailments with great results.

      1. Ditto on the homeopathy. France and the UK use it extensively. Over there, homeopathy is part of regular medicine and they have tested many major remedies clinically. I could dig up all kinds of studies, like these ones:
        http://www.nutrition-matters.co.uk/misc/homeopathy.htm

        I haven’t had a flu in 9 years and it’s not due to lack of exposure (7 of those years I worked supplement retail- you might as well be working in a doctor’s office when colds and flues are going around!) and it’s also not because my immune system is so super.
        I still get colds (I had to fight quite hard NOT to get them when I was exposed to all the sick people) but nary a flu, even when my whole dept. was sick with the flu.
        It’s because I took a prophylactic dose of Influenzinum, weekly. My hubby also hasn’t had a flu since doing this. A customer told me about it and I’ve told others about it and it’s worked. I really don’t think the placebo effect stands up to the flu!
        Fun flu/homeopathy fact: during the Spanish Influenza, the general death rate among those infected was 30-50%. The death rate among those treated by homeopathic physicians was 1-3%. Placebo?

        Speaking of the placebo effect, surely it’s not the placebo effect at work when animals and young children are given homeopathy with good results. I used homeopathics to ease the symptoms of my cat’s end-stage kidney disease with great success. Placebo? I don’t think so.

        Not all homeopathic remedies work for everyone, and I do believe there are people whom none work for (non-responders, as they’re called. These people often don’t respond to meds, either).
        I’ve had some remedies work awesomely like Drosera for a severe, gut wrenching dry cough and a remedy containing pollens for my allergies (NOTHING else works as well for my allergies!) and some not at all. Before I discovered Influenzinum, I’d tried Oscillococcinum numerous times without success. I’m in the minority there, as most people I know do great with it for fighting off the flu.
        At best, homeopathics are a cheap, effective remedy with no side effects or drug interactions and at worse, they don’t work. You can’t say that about any other medicines, including herbs.

        Just because the exact mechanism isn’t fully understood, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. We don’t fully understand the mechanisms of acupuncture either, yet it’s now used in every major medical center, and for more than just pain control and such- they now employ it to aid fertility treatments, cancer treatments, immune dysfunctions, allergies, etc.

        Time to wake up and smell the Coffea Cruda;-)

  17. Thanks for an informative post, Mark.

    I was wondering what readers think of chiropractic for health maintenance. I’ve been getting chiropractic once a month for over a year now at the advice of my chiropractor. I’m already in pretty good shape, so I’m not sure if it is doing anything but I feel pretty good after the treatments, like I’ve been realigned.

    Regarding people ordering their own lab tests online, it is a good thing as some people are too lazy or even scared to go to a doctor’s office to have this done. Privacy is the key here. If a lab test comes back with red flags, they are more likely to call the doctor to get help.

    1. Personally, I think it is a fantastic way to help your health (I’ll admit, I am a bit biased). Think of it this way, your brain communicates to every single part of your body (from your stomach to your baby toe)via your nervous system. If you body isn’t moving properly, those communications start sending inappropriate messages to your muscles, organs and tissues. Those incorrect messages can create excessive inflammation, inefficient gait, weak muscles, etc.; all things that we spend a lot of time hoping to improve with our Primal lifestyles.

      Pain is usually the last signal that your body sends that something is wrong, so you are very smart and proactive to keep up with it. It’s a bit like taking fish oil regularly so that you prevent inflammation, rather than waiting until you have it to try and correct. Hope that helps!

      1. I had excellent results seeing a chiropractor. I had a hard time committing to 3 days a week for 6 months straight though. I find more flexibility in my neck than ever before, the pain in my sciatica on the right side is completely gone. I will likely pick it up again on a once a month basis to keep in check as I thoroughly agree with the practice of it in humans and animals. The office I went to also had thier patients exercise on physical therapy machines after the adjustment to help strengthen the muscles.

        1. Yah, I’m sure all of our ancestors had grokopractors. 🙂 I kid. I’m 37 and have thrashed on my body and have never been to one personally. I also have been into fitness and/or active my entire life. I don’t know if the high activity levels kept my bones in good alignment or what. The biggest problem I have with it is…..what caused the misalignment in the first place? This is what needs to be fixed. It’s like all western medicine…they put bandaids on everything. We eat primal to prevent illness right? What can we do to prevent going to a chiropractor? Oh, the chiropractor won’t tell us? He needs us to come in 3 times a week for 6 months. Oh. Maybe if the chiropractor just told us HOW our bones became misaligned in the first place we wouldn’t need to go 3 times a week. Oh, the chiropractor would lose money.

        2. But a chiropractor helping you correct the cause is just a matter of having a good chiropractor.

          The chiropractor I’ve been seeing for almost a year (for a variety of things) always asks how you got into the situation you’re seeing him for and he always gives suggestions on how to correct the problem so you don’t re-injure yourself. There’s even a running joke around the office that as much as he loves all his patients, he’d like to see less of us so he could spend more time golfing.

          We’ve spent the last 3 months trying to figure out exactly what was causing my hip pain and then finding stretches and exercises that would fix the dysfunction causing it. Same thing with an old shoulder injury that an othopedist failed almost completely to fix long term. A good chiropractor should be getting you moving and mostly pain free again so you can rehab the problem.

        3. That’s nice! Exactly… a good doctor, or chiropractor or therapist should have an end result of getting rid of you! And like any profession there are good and bad ones.

          Maybe the biggest thing I’ve learned from my Dr. experience and the thing I’m taking away from this blog post is that you ALWAYS need to be aware of what qualities you are looking for in a health care (well, or any type of) provider. We should spend more time researching, and interviewing and talking to them.

          Frankly that’s the best way to find out if you should even try them out, because the bad ones get irritated at the thought that you might be trying to find out if they’re good enough for you!

        4. The chiropractor I went to goes through in depth information about what can cause mis-alignments. They say being born can wrench the spine out of alignment. As we go through our lives anything we do can have an effect on our spine; sitting in front of the computer, major or even minor accidents, stress, muscle injury, etc. Every nerve leading to each of our organs exits through the spine. When the vertebra are out of alignment they can put pressure on those nerves which inhibits normal functionality and can negatively effect whatever organ(s) it leads to. If it’s not corrected, over time this can lead to organ failure. The chiropractor works to adjust the spine into re-alignment and because it took time for the problem to occur, it takes time to correct it. With my chiropractor they had me do exercises on their machines to help strengthen the muscles around the spine and aid in the correction. Not all chiropractors do this though and some are truly quacks!

          Chiro care has worked for me in the past, and I will likely have it done again as necessary. I haven’t been in well over a year, but have not experienced the issues I was having before the chiropractic care. I was even given exercises and things to do at home to help me, which I’ve only done rarely because I haven’t felt the need to. Sure Grok didn’t have this kind of care, but they might have had healers. I imagine if they did know how to manipulate the spine, it might have contributed to a longer lifespan. (if they managed to avoid other injury, infection, starvation, etc). If I ever do go back into chiro care, I’d probably go straight to an osteopathic doctor that takes all the bones into account, not just the spine.

  18. “So it’s not just enchanted snake oil being used by greasy, non-vaccinating hippies. ”

    Some of this post is downright offensive. Though I am not a non-vaxer, I am a selective vaxer and user on complementary therapies. I am a Pagan and dress in Doc Martens and tie dye and listen to folk music. Formed a stereotyped view of me yet?

    I also have a biochemistry degree from a top UK university (where in fact I was taught on the shortcomings and concerns about vaccination), and have put a great deal of thought and research into the health choices I have made for myself and my family.

    I question CW in every area of life, not just nutrition, and I form my own opinions as best I can, and I am sure I am not the only person living primally so doesn’t agree with CW on vaccinating or alternative medicine. I know I am not in fact because I have several friends who are also primal eaters.

    Your blog is read by many different people, who share an interest in or commitment to, primal living. This kind of patronising, dismissive, negative labelling is not helpful to anyone.

      1. Katherine,
        Congratulations on that super expensive college degree. Why did anyone need to know this? Always remember, never let education interfere with knowledge, there is a difference between the two. I have no degrees but have an enlightened perception of reality. Which is better? Don’t take this offensive because it’s not mean to be. However, your mental mindset is what determines what is offensive in YOUR own mind, not mine. Smile 🙂

        1. It wasn’t expensive, I’m British LOL. I thought it was reasonable evidence that I’m not some kind of stereotyped “idiot hippy” if there is such a thing. It was not in any way implying those without degrees are proven less intelligent though I suppose it could be read that way if someone chose to see it like that. I certainly have no interest in debating which of us has the better mind!

          Personally I am not averse to being offended. Nothing wrong with being passionate about things that matter to me. Healthier for me than going through life pretending I am floating on a cloud of calm and bliss. I state my opinion, I get on with my life. No big deal.

    1. I agree with Katherine. The primal movement is getting a little too ‘meathead’ for my liking!

  19. “It seems that even as CAM use increases, the use of frivolous, misguided CAM therapies like homeopathy are decreasing in favor of beneficial therapies that jibe with conventional medicine (that is, they work!). This is, then, a bittersweet trend, with the idiocy tainting the legit therapies.”

    Frivolous? Idiocy? Seriously? It is very hard for me to understand why someone so committed to speaking out against CW in some areas should speak in this way about those who challenge it in other.

    Yuck. Just yuck.

    1. Homeopathy is WATER. It does NOT work any better than a placebo. This has been scientifically proven on many, many occasions.

      1. Plastic surgeons now often prescribe or suggest the use of Arnica specifically. My daughters maxillofacial surgeon asked her to start taking it 2 weeks before surgery. There is always a study that will show the answer you want and then there are the studies that show the answer you don’t. It all depends on who does it and how they do it.

  20. Where I live good primary care physicians will not take new Medicare patients. So my wife and I are forced to self test.

    I use Direct Labs where you can order any test a doctor can. Since I was scared of what might happen when I switched from high carb, low fat to Paleo, I took a number of tests before I changed my diet. Two years have gone by and I recently took a large number of tests (some more sophisticated than most doctors would order). My results were amazing, all of my blood values are off the chart great.

    Many blogs speculate on food choices, supplements, fish oil etc. I don’t speculate-I test. I know exactly what improves my health and what doesn’t.

    Self testing is not that big a step. All the lab reports show you the normal ranges along with your results. If I find a blood value out of range, I will find a doctor who takes cash. But so far, none of my blood values are out of range.

  21. Another possible reason that people are ordering their own labwork is so they do not get labeled with having a “pre-existing” condition by their doctor. Having a pre-existing condition could result in denial of benefits (soon to change with upcoming healthcare reform?), increased life insurance rates, etc, etc.

    Also wanted to mention that I’ve had excellent results with using homeopathy for treating certain specific conditions. I was skeptical of homeopathy for many years, but once I finally tried it I was amazed at the results. I know there’s no scientific explanation of it’s method of action (other than as a placebo) but my own personal experience has shown it to be extremely effective. The best part is that it’s cheap and it’s safe. YMMV

  22. This portion is brilliant, Mark!

    “I’m entirely unconvinced that I need to test my cholesterol, because whatever values come back are not going to change the way I eat, work out, sleep, or live. I’m still going to eat lots of animal fat, lift heavy things, sprint once in awhile, get plenty of sleep, and try not to take life too seriously. As long as those things are going well, as long as I feel good, wake up without an alarm clock full of energy, hold my own on the Ultimate field and in the bedroom, I’m good. Those are my health markers. If they’re in order, I’m doing things right.”

  23. The vaccination comment certainly hit a chord with me. I couldn’t get into College without my second booster which apparently my parents never did. I will definitely set out on my own one of these days and truly study the science behind the major vaccines. I can’t say one way or the other if they are good or bad, or both. I am however, against the flu shot. I haven’t had one in over 10 years. Yes, I have contracted the flu virus before, who hasn’t? but I don’t believe it was because I didn’t get a flu shot. The flu virus is constantly mutating and this year’s flu shot is last year’s strain! I believe in my body’s ability to fight off most of the thousands if not millions of viruses and harmful bacteria we’re exposed to. I believe it strengthens the immune system even further being exposed to it, not to mention a diet that is optimally healthy like PB.

    1. I can understand being confident in your ability to fight off the flu. But how about the ability of all the more vulnerable people to fight off the flu — you’re OK with an increased risk of you transmitting it to others who aren’t so healthy (and can’t all take the shot?)

      Personally I see vaccines as a healthy training workout for my immune system. I’d rather it get practice using relatively innocuous strains.

    2. I’ve been fortunate to not get the flu, or even a cold for the last 15 years. I own most of that to eating primal and supplementing with D3 so my level is 50-60. And I wash my hands a lot and keep them off my face. Yeah, I know, the flu is mostly droplet spread, but still…
      At any rate, yes they do miss the strain a lot. A couple of years ago we got our flu vaccine where I work at fire sale prices because they totally missed. And yet still the masses got their vaccinations. And I’ve been told to not express my opinion about the flu shot here at work.
      In my opinion, getting your D level up to 50-60 is the best protection from the flu (besides eating primal). So you need to measure to know where you are.

  24. I beleive the following is probably the best piece of advice that Mark has given the Primal community:

    “I’m entirely unconvinced that I need to test my cholesterol, because whatever values come back are not going to change the way I eat, work out, sleep, or live. I’m still going to eat lots of animal fat, lift heavy things, sprint once in awhile, get plenty of sleep, and try not to take life too seriously. As long as those things are going well, as long as I feel good, wake up without an alarm clock full of energy, hold my own on the Ultimate field and in the bedroom, I’m good. Those are my health markers. If they’re in order, I’m doing things right.”

  25. At my last doctor’s visit I inquired about checking my vitamin D level. My doctor informed me that my insurance wouldn’t cover it since my bone scan was normal. She said that the cost ran around $300 without insurance coverage. I checked online at DirectLabs and they only charge $59. No brainer.

  26. Vaccines are a hot topic, I’d love to see a full blog post on it.

    I had all the usual vaccines when I was a kid 30+ years ago without any ill effects (that I know of), but I’ve never had a flu shot. 3 out of 4 people that I work with who got flu shots this year ended up getting the flu anyway. Two of them got it really bad too and missed several days work. I got sick too, but my only symptom was a minor sore throat that lasted a couple days. I’m not convinced that flu shots are effective.

    1. Check out the National Vaccine Information Center. The “swine flu” vaccine is now thought to have caused many women to miscarry.

      Also, many of the flu vaccines are LIVE VIRUS vaccines. You can literally catch the flu from someone who was vaccinated. Nice eh?

  27. Having my cholesterol and testosterone levels drawn next week. First time since going primal in August. I hope the numbers are good but I’m like you, I ain’t gonna change.

  28. While I appreciate your message- that we must continue to consult doctors- I’m certainly not on board with homeopathy being ‘hogwash’! If fruits and vegetables are healing and what we were ‘designed’ to eat, how can the essences or tinctures of medicinal plants, be witchcraft? I recently recovered from an awful chest cold/infection that was going on 3+ weeks. The only thing THAT worked was homeopathy. I didn’t reach for it initially but was so desperate (I coughed so much at night my ribs were sore the next day), I consulted a naturopath and was given two very specific remedies which worked.I was skeptical and usually avoid it, but now I’m a firm believer. I’ve been fully Paleo for 14 months, have proper supplementation, and rarely get sick. But I did, and the ‘legit therapies’ and regimen you promote didn’t prevent such a bad cold.
    Fundamentally, I agree with what you are saying, but many people follow the Paleo/Primal diet against their doctors’ wishes. I’d argue most doctors consider our lifestyles hogwash! I don’t know a single person (in the U.S. or the U.K., where I live) who has been instructed to follow this diet. In fact, my aunt who’s been Paleo for a year, exercises often, is lean and healthy, has been told by her integrative med. doctor that her kidneys aren’t processing protein correctly and she has to eliminate all meat.
    Certain things will work for certain people. Maybe paleo/primal isn’t the solution for everyone on this planet, as we all kinda advocate. Maybe homeopathy does work. Come on, if you entertain the Paleo/Primal lifestyle, how can you write off homeopathy?

    Cara

    1. But did what you get include something with an actual dosage level? Or was it one of the “homeopathic remedies” that are so diluted they have literally just a couple of molecules of the original compound included — or none — yet people claim there’s some kind of echoed resonance in the water that will cure you?

      That kind of thing is what gives certain segments a bad rep.

      1. Yes, I had dosage level, and instructions for how to take them. I followed it strictly, too.

        1. You do realize the there is a very large difference between naturopathy, the use of natural herbs and compounds and homeopathy – which is based on the belief that the potency of certain remedies is increased by increased dilution? I think a lot of people conflate the two. One is completely reasonable, the other is quite frankly bullshit. When people say that homeopathic medicines are no better than placebos it’s because most of them are effectively water. The effects people get from them are basically placebo effects. That said, if homeopathy is a way to leverage the mind into healing the body for some people, I’m all for it.

    2. True Homeopathic remedies are water and nothing else. There has never been one double-blind study of any kind that has shown them to be effective beyond a placebo effect. None.

    3. Homeopathy is hogwash at best. The only reason it would ever work for anyone is as a placebo. (and placebos work 30-40% of the time). Do NOT confuse homeopathy with herbal medicine. They are entirely different. The only reason the FDA allows homeopathy to exist is because there is zero danger of harm to anyone using it. If you have any belief that homeopathy is real, take 15 minutes to view this video of James Randi. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWE1tH93G9U

      1. Thank you, Mark! I love James Randi!

        The idea behind homeopathy is that “like cures like.” A claim that has no backing in and of itself. But wait; there’s more–now we’re going to water this “cure” down to the point that it contain not even ONE molecule of the original material–just it’s “essence.” Ahh, the elusive “essence;” known in some circles as “nothing.”

        So really, you’re taking a cure that contains no cure.

        By this logic, you’ll heal even quicker if you just visit the homeopathy section of your local vitamin shop, find the “medicine” you’re supposed to take for your illness, and then never take it at all.

        There is a big difference between being skeptical of everything conventional and being contrary to everything conventional. Skepticism leads to groundbreaking ideas such as PBL. It’s still based on science–in this case, the kind of science I learned in my intro physiology and anthropology classes. The later leads to pseudoscience, like homeopathy. I have yet to see anything logical that backs this up.

        For those of you who have received benefits from homeopathy, I am happy for you; please just don’t use it as a replacement for real medicine when you have a strep infection, unremitting bleeding or a broken hip. Medicine has it’s place.

      2. Don’t knock it til you try it. You have dropped several levels in my book. Sad.

  29. Obviously you have no personal experience with homeopathy. You can’t believe everything that you read Mark. You of all people should know that.

    1. I second that. Homeopathy is not malarky and I have seen the evidence with my own eyes. Explain how it is only a placebo when it works on animals. It has a huge following the world over (its a highly regarded area of medicine in India and the English Royal Family use it, to name a couple).

  30. Dear Mark,

    As almost no doctor would advise you to go PB it takes a lot of trust to step into your 30 day PB challenge. I am asking you to forget all the medicinal CW you think you know, take a 30 day homeopathy challenge. Find a real homeopath, take your remedies, and stick with it for 30 days. Then we can talk.

    Warmly,

    Kristen

    1. Kristen,
      There are hundreds of thousands of years and numerous scientific studies to backup PB….there is not a single scientific study that I know of that speaks to the efficacy of homeopathy. If you can find one, let me know.

      1. Jason,
        If you look, you will find them. You will also find that homeopathy has been actively suppressed by the medical community for hundreds of years. Now who (big pharma)would want to do that? I will sign you up for the challenge as well.

    2. Kristen: You are awesome!

      I’m with Kristen on this one.

      And for the record: Did you know that the homeopathic association existed before the AMA? They were essentially chased out of business. Did you also know that those little white pills for heart patients (nitroglycerin) is an age old homeopathic remedy?

      Homeopathy and “western medicine” have a very interesting history.

        1. Mark,
          You say in your “about” section that you like to read research papers. Well start with this http://www.medscimonit.com/fulltxt.php?ICID=470153
          click “for personal use”
          then “I agree”
          and then “free download” No registration needed. This is just a start. and it took me 5 seconds on google to find it. To go deeper try researching some of the terms used in the article like “hormesis” or “Epitaxy”
          Also this article gives some reasons why placebo tests would turn out badly for homeopathic medicines. Namely the very holistic approach which is used in homeopathic medicine.
          http://abchomeopathy.com/scientific.htm

          Then try some your self and then tell me you are not just blindly listening to CW on this topic as you say we shouldn’t.
          No offense meant but you seem to have a “blind spot” when it comes to this topic.

  31. I enjoy reading Mark’s blogs on eating primal and his take on issues on health and vitality, however stating that homeopathy is ‘hogwash, certainly does not ring true for me.
    I agree with you Cara and have used energy medicine under the guidance of a trained homeopath and naturopath (homeopathy, bach flowers, aromatherapy, medicinal herbs) as my form of medicine for over 15 years and it works! Allopathic medicine has its place, (in emergency particularly) however these intergrative modalities such as homeopathy have worked wonders for me, my family and friends.

  32. Wow on one thread we get the anti-vaccine people, the homeopathy people and aromatherapy too.

    I have a magic newt that I rub against your forehead to keep you free from fevers …

  33. NOW everyone cares about the scientific studies? Don’t we Paleo/Primal peeps spend most of our time disputing such studies? Just saying!

    1. Ummm…no. I think most Paleo people are very scientifically motivated. We’ve studied the science of our ancestors to determine the diet they’ve eaten and we’ve looked at the science in the low carb diets. Current nutritional guidelines are NOT based on science.

      Vaccines are based on science.

      Homeopathy is NOT based on science. Again, there is not a single scientific study that has shown any efficacy of homeopathy. Any benefit you or anyone else has received is purely as a placebo..it works because you WANT it to work! There is nothing wrong with this, other than you’re paying hundreds of dollars for something that’s been diluted to the point where there is nothing left.

      Check out this youtube video to show (in a funny way), the ludicrous premise of homeopathy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M1B2aFElfjE

      1. Look, I know what works for me and I know it was not a placebo effect. I think its dogmatic, judgmental, and incredibly ignorant for someone to tell me its hogwash (especially in an online forum)! Scientific studies do not hold all the answers. Scientists are the first to tell you there’s alot they/we do not know.

        Paleo/primal folks are used to preaching (I’m guilty as well) but let’s not be so quick to judge all alternative therapies. The tone of Mark’s post above is full of Grok rhetoric. I really mean no offense here, just my opinion, but with quick one-liners writing off valuable therapies, it just sounds like he’s trying to sell his own products (see the last few paragraphs). Now who does that remind you of? Sarah Palin! Let’s not reduce ourselves to that. For primal nutrition, Mark’s your guy. Mark, you’ve provided an excellent forum and I thank you. Stick to primal nutrition. Thanks for an interesting conversation.

      2. I meant to say that we PB followers spend alot of time discrediting the most widely read studies. I just read one… went something like ‘why meat is bad for’. Based on a scientific study. We primal ppl have our own food pyramid, for crying out loud! Let’s not pretend we have all of science behind us…It’s our interpretation of these studies, which is certainly not widely accepted in the medical or scientific community.

  34. Sorry but I won’t ignore the entire medical profession just based on how I “feel” and through the advice of popular diet books – people have been known to die of heart attacks without any warning signs. Also I’ll continue to get my cancer screenings on a regular basis. I think doctors still have an important role to play in my life.

  35. so, i take it you really don’t like homeopathy? lol

    for me, scientific studies are interesting, but often incomplete. because they are usually dealing with such a narrow band of material, and focusing on such a minute detail of it, well, it often reminds me of “the blind man and the elephant” allegory.

    much of CAM or holistic medicine or whatever you want to call it has a different way. TCM is not “proven” by western studies (some aspects of them are, btw, but not all). yet, TCM has been practiced (and thereby studied) for thousands of years. Ayurveda has the same history.

    It really is a different way of experimenting, and in fact, is the same way that much of cosmetic surgery was born (born on battlefields, actually, if you read the history of science on it). It was born, literally, at the ground zero of disease. And some stuff worked and some stuff didn’t, and what did was codified and what didn’t was contraindicated (also codified, as a warning NOT to do something).

    similarly, many traditional cultures have some version of an “energy body.” this really can’t be scientifically studied in the way that science works right now, but it can be observed by individuals and those individuals form certain conclusions. what is interesting is how those conclusions mirror each other. Studying marma points (ayurveda) and acupuncture points (TCM) and many of the same points do the same thing, and while some argue that marmas were the precursors to acupuncture (due to age), i find that there appears to be, rather, an independent co-arising of this knowledge of the thing they call “energy.”

    homeopathy seems to fall into this sort of camp, although it is quite new, and while i’m not well versed in it, i have used it.

    why? because my PSU educated MD who did post graduate work in Germany recommended it.

    my first introduction was when my son and i had swine flu (or it could have been the rhinovirus that mirrored swine flu). As we may recall, either version had the capacity to kill infants (due to the inflammation and congestion), and if nothing else, have someone sick for weeks, if not months.

    Our doctor gave us homeopathic remedies, and instead of being sick for weeks or months — like so many friends, coworkers, etc, as this happened before the vaccine was ready, etc — we were sick, between the two of us, for 3 days. my husband did not get sick at all.

    later, when my son had a small trauma related to water, and wouldn’t go near water in any way, shape, or form, and would panic at the sight of water (even in a glass), the doctor here (another MD, this one educated at harvard and did post grad in germany in homeopathy), provided a homeopathic remedy.

    we were to take DS home, feed him dinner, give him the remedy after dinner and before bed.

    the next morning, my son woke up. when i was in the shower (usually a panic-inducing situation for DS), my DS *asked* to come in. he joined me in the shower, then played in the bathtub for another hour. when we went to the beach, he went swimming. when we went to the pool, he went swimming. he would ask for tubby time. he would drink water. he would go to the toilet (his trauma was that the toilet tank fell off the wall while he was on the toilet, sending water everywhere. terrified him!). he was completely back to normal, and in fact, better than normal. *literally overnight*

    and i don’t think this was luck. we figured he would eventually be ok, but it was actually getting worse. we’d been bathing him with a wash cloth for months, and otherwise trying to live on an ISLAND without him panicking. so, it had gotten pretty extreme for him. *overnight*

    i don’t know what remedy the doctor gave him, all i know is that it worked. Did my faith in the homeopathic medicine make that happen? to be honest, i had no faith in the medicine. it was one of those “can’t hurt” scenarios, because i’d planned on trying a few other “more proven” remedies when it didn’t work.

    but i worked, and so, no worries. the kid is asking for swimming lessons.

    for me, western medicine has it’s place — after all, we have a family doctor and we go to him regularly. this guy, and my previous guy in the US, they are *great* doctors. they really listen, they have hospital privileges, and they use allopathic, herbalism, and homeopathic remedies. you can choose to forgo any of them if you wish — or use any that you wish. it’s fantastic to have that freedom and *conversation* with a doctor.

    Seriously, i just made an appointment to talk to him about the benefits and potential problems of having copper in my uterus — that’s how much i *LIKE* the guy. i normally would only talk to a female gynocologist or nurse practitioner about it, who would usually just brush it off. instead, when i made the appt and told the nurse what i wanted to discuss, he *called us* and asked me what sorts of things i was concerned about so he could look up some resources on the topic. HOW AWESOME IS THAT?

    that is medicine, man, *that* is medicine. we’re also going to talk about vitamin D.

    so, yeah. i think the world in my head is big enough to hold out harsh judgments on the mysteries of things i have no clue about but seem to work anyway. 😀

  36. I don’t dismiss homeopathy and it has nothing to do with not having a sound head on my shoulders.

    The whole premise of the lipid hypothesis of heart disease was based on some so-called scientists deciding it “made sense.” That’s not a sound scientific argument. At most it’s a hypothesis. Likewise, saying something “doesn’t make sense” is yet another hypothesis.

    Insults aren’t science either. Don’t just call someone a quack. Have some double-blind, placebo-controlled studies to back yourself up and just point to those. I don’t care how many times you gotta do it, just do it–that is how you stand up for science. Name-calling has no place here.

    It’s notable that the guy who runs Quackwatch is a lapsed psychiatrist with no practice, and one of his targets has been the Atkins diet. That’s what passes for “mythbusting” in the scientific world. Pitiful.

    If nothing else, those little lactose tablets work because the placebo effect works. Although I wonder how that plays out with little kids and Hyland’s teething remedy. Children hate medicine, so how is it comforting? Yet that teething remedy seemed to work on my daughter when she was small. So I’m not quite ready to dismiss the whole thing as a fraud.

    Besides, the like-curing-like concept already appears to work with vaccination, and developing immunity to snake venom, and the like.

    Oh, speaking of vaccination. Since other people have mentioned it. More name-calling. People have the right to refuse health care. Period. And it’s not like this stuff got tested properly on large populations of human beings or anything. It was not tested independently of differences in public sanitation, it was not tested independently of differences in nutritional status, and it was not tested against a large population of unvaccinated people in any of those circumstances. If these people want to be the control group then let them. Even if you can’t stomach the notion of someone freely choosing health care for themselves or their children, surely you see the value in there being a control group. Or are vaccine apologists afraid we’ll learn something we shouldn’t?

    There’s already some pretty compelling, if anecdotal, evidence that the prevalence of TB depends not only on the existence of the bacterium in a population but also upon the general health of the population exposed to it as well as the amount of iron in the local soil.

    I wouldn’t be surprised to learn similar of other infectious diseases.

    And do not get me started on herbal medicine or we will be here all day. Big Pharma got its start with herbal extracts, for crying out loud. Now they want to discredit and outlaw their very source. Thanks but no thanks, I once made a roommate sleepy on chamomile tea who had no clue whatsoever that chamomile has that reputation. I hadn’t suggested it either. I think I’ll trust the evidence of my own eyes before I believe someone who gets his paycheck from eliminating the competition. Meaning Big Pharma, of course, and hopefully not anyone here.

    I have pretty much been stuck taking charge of my own health, because until the first of 2010 I had no health insurance. Even with it, it seems like my doctor spends more time staring at a computer screen and typing than she does looking at and listening to me. I get a sickening feeling she’s become the rule and not the exception in medicine. I think doctors are useful for ordering tests covered by insurance, giving diagnosis as long as they don’t screw it up (which happens way more often than I wish it would), and utilizing heroic medicine when it’s called for. Other than that, I think I can find my own way, thanks.

    1. great comments Dana.

      in 1994 (with more research data subsequently) it was discovered that being deficient in selenium has a significant impact on the ability to both resist and eliminate the polio virus (as well as other viruses). Selenium has a special place in regards to our DNA – as there is a receptor for selenium within the DNA structure (indicative of its relative importance). Good, balanced omnivorous diets in most cases, provide adequate levels of selenium – if not, it can be supplemented easily and cheaply.

      if anyone is interested, the link to the article is in my blog post–

    2. Dana – have always liked your sensibilities and posts – will you contact us at our website, we’d like to proposition you (ooohhhh! 😉 )

  37. Hey Mark…this topic seems almost as touchy as that post about circumcision…woohoo!

  38. Personally, I’ve never had any blood work, lipids, A1c’s, etc. done. I switched over to a Primal/paleo lifestyle over 1 year ago, and have never felt better. Anytime I feel compelled to get blood-work done, it’s usually to PROVE to others that this lifestyle really works. I know going purely off of anecdotal evidence is a potentially slippery slope, but it really would be nice to be able to get some of my friends/family to try it without putting me through an inquisition. Guess you just gotta keep pluggin’ away.

  39. Great post, as usual. But I’m not ready to I assume that all homeopathy is bunk on its face. Its remedies should stand up to the same kind of testing that other interventions do, however. As a retired environmental wonk, I can testify that some toxic substances have serious effects at concentrations of a few parts per billion. It is not beyond reason then that some substances have therapeutic doses in similar concentrations.

    1. That’s the thing, though. No homeopathic remedy has EVER passed properly controlled scientific trials as being any more effective than a placebo, and in any case, you aren’t getting “a few parts per billion” with homeopathic remedies. Most of them are marked “30C” which means you get one part active ingredient to 100^30 parts water (or, one drop of active substance in 100 drops of water, thirty times). So, in other words, to get one molecule of the active ingredient, you’d need to consume all the molecules in the solar system. Even homeopaths agree that there’s nothing but water in the bottle they’re selling you. They claim (without science to back it up, of course) that water has “memory”, and that this is how the remedies “work”. This would be REALLY cool if they could provide evidence for it, but they can’t.

      If you want to drink expensive water and claim it works better than scientifically tested medicine, fine. If you want to stay away from doctors and pray that you’ll get better, fine. You’re an adult, you can make your own decisions, but please keep your woo away from kids who can’t. That’s all I ask.

  40. Wow! Imagine assuming that we have a reasoned, intelligent populace that knows how to read, research and put two and two together. I have done the above, and my doc, who is a doc of functional medicine, looked the test results over, WE came up with a plan of action, and the world is now all peachy! My ORIGINAL doc, who thought his name was God, and who is now history, was indignant that I would dare think for myself. Go for it!

  41. I am firmly in the pro-homeopathy camp.

    A lot of people think my belief in the claims of Christianity is “malarky” as well.

    I can’t prove either of them scientifically, but then again, I don’t see the need to.

  42. Regardless of the subject – food, health, raising children, vaccines . . . I firmly believe more information and options are better than less. It is each person’s responsibility to do their own research, seek out the right professionals and ultimately make their own decisions about their health (and take responsibility for the consequences). I have conquered several health conditions (cancer, dermographism, hypotyroid, pulmonary fibrosis, fatigue, IBS and more things that some told me were incurable) and have used several resources who have guided my journey like my doctor, herbalist, chiropractor, and Mark (of course!) along with tons and tons of reading and discussions. You have to make smart prudent decisions and don’t follow anyone source or person blindly. Sadly some people just don’t want to put in the effort. Well . . . that’s their choice.

  43. I have had one instance when a naturopath gave me a homeopathic remedy that I think really helped. However, mostly I find that my body doesn’t seem to respond. Maybe I don’t have really good homeopathic doctors?

    My cats, though. Well they respond. I had a cat diagnosed by a traditional veterinarian and all the testing money could buy with mid-range cardiomyapathy. In cats this means living about five years. I took him to an alternative vet thinking about Chinese herbal medicine which I would then use. However, she used a homeopathic remedy. He seemed fine. The next year I took him in for his annual exam and the regular vet couldn’t find the heart murmur that she had been hearing for a couple of years. In fact, he lived for another 10 and only in the last year did the murmur start showing up again.

    Since that time I have taken other cats in for homeopathic remedies and I find the results amazing. Perhaps my cats just believe that getting something nasty tasting in their mouth will help them. My current vet uses homeopathy for the first treatment choice and moves on to more conventional medicine if necessary.

    Does homeopathy work? Well whatever my vet does, seems to. I’ve working in a veterinary clinic and have volunteered at shelters since leaving so I know cats. I know when they are well and when they aren’t.

    Homeopathy is not my first choice for most of my health conditions but I wouldn’t say it’s hogwash. But then I’m an acupuncturist–we work with energy not matter to begin with. Who would think that pressing certain points on a shoulder could help heartburn? But it works.

    1. Bonnie,

      I think it is always a mistake to take homeopathic medications that are prescribed from someone who is not a rigorously trained homeopath — and one who *only* practices homeopathy.

      This is where a lot of people have disappointing results from homeopathy. They take remedies prescribed by other alternative medicine practitioners who do not have a clear idea of the theory and art and science of homeopathy — they think it’s just another tool and they don’t understand it well.

      Find yourself a true homeopath and see if you don’t have better results.

      1. My naturopaths who work with homeopathy are trained in homeopathy. They are not classical homeopaths but the remedy that worked so well was not a classical remedy either.

        My vet is classically trained they use only one remedy. As my issues are merely colds, some allergies and perhaps the flu, I generally work with the medicine I practice, which is acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine along with some supplements for which I work with a naturopath.

        However I think that the fact that homeopathy does work with pets shows that there is something more than a placebo effect going on. The fact that I do not get results for my body does not trouble me at all. I think that different bodies respond to different medicines and some people need a gentle suggestion and others need a sledgehammer. I do not think that those who need a sledgehammer to heal should say that the gentle suggestion has nothing to offer.

  44. In my family we have both a vac reaction and polio. So this is a sensitive subject.

    What we’ve chosen, for the most part, is to vaccinate but separately rather than the stacked variety.

    My dad had polio when he was 8. He died of post polio syndrome. So, yes, we all vaccinate for it. No discussion. We all saw how his entire life was effected.

    We have chosen not to vaccinate for chicken pox, etc and never seasonal stuff, (although I vaccinate peop).

  45. When I got married almost 30 years ago I had a very tough time convincing my wife she doesn’t have to go to the Witch Doctor for every little ailment. (She still looks to the doctors for problems I think are insignificant but there you go.) I did not, and still do not, go to the doctor unless I am truly I am truly in trouble.

    Now, having said that, I will tell you my medical bills in the past averaged about $2000 per year due to high blood pressure, a “pre-” diabetic diagnosis, a twenty year battle with gout, and all the various medicines, blood tests, etc.

    Two years ago my blood pressure got completely out of hand resulting in another blood pressure medicine at a high cost, both economic and physical — I felt like shit — and I finally decided to do something about it.

    I got into “barefoot” running and while researching the subject I bumped into Sisson’s blog and wound up buying his book. Holy shit, what an epiphany. Archeology was part of my education and the whole “Paleo” concept — barefoot running and Sisson’s ideas — hit me like a ton of bricks. Cool.

    Beginning in about April 2009 I went into the concept whole hog, no pun intended, and have since completely turned my health around. My blood pressure is now low normal, my blood glucose stays below 95 mg/dL, and I haven’t had a gout attack in over a year even though I no longer take ANY meds. (As a side note, I’ve lost 30 pounds.)

    The really nice part of all this? In the year 2010 I did not spend one dime on the medical profession. From $2000 to $0 in the space of about nine months. My last visit to the Witch Doctor was a blood test to determine my uric acid level (a predictor of gout). It was low. My blood pressure went from a high of something like 140/100 down to today’s 80/65. It really felt good waving bye-bye to the doctor.

    I don’t care about measuring anything except my weight. I haven’t been sick in the past year, not even a cold, and I am now convinced, after reading and researching for the past year, that if I eat the proper foods and exercise properly, my body will take care of itself. Except for a dire emergency, I do not intend to ever step foot in doctor’s office again.

  46. Mark, just keep in mind that most people find greasy, unvaccinated homeopathic hippies MUCH, MUCH more normal than us primal lard-loving, wheat-averse, whole-grain hating health nuts! Some of us might even be all of the above….

  47. Looks like I’m late to this party. Too bad, as it certainly seems to have been a humdinger.

    My two cents? There are some “homeopathic” practices and remedies that have been shown, anecdotally, to be beneficial to people who have tried them. The reason they are being referred to as “homeopathic” is that nobody has subjected them to the classic double-blind, empirical testing that is the mainstay of Western medicine (a mainstay which, I would say, is a VERY good thing). Once that happens – and REGARDLESS of whether the majority of the Western medical community “accepts” the results – if the practice is shown to be effective and safe, then we can rightly regard it as a proper medical remedy. If not, then it’s exactly as Mark says: hogwash.

    Don’t get confused by the fact that there are many Western medical practices and remedies that are considered to be effective and safe which are NOT, and which have, unfortunately, been subjected only to the most circumspect of empirical scientific testing (Ancel Keys, anyone?). This inconvenient fact blurs the lines between “Conventional” and homeopathic medicines, because clearly, both categories accommodate age-old practices that a few unbiased tests would show to be complete and absolute bunk.

    Nobody’s word is gospel. Seek out the facts, and let the facts speak for themselves.

    1. As an addendum: much of homeopathic medicine is, by my estimation, based upon a very powerful application of the placebo effect combined with an extremely low, unrefined dosage of the more powerful variety that might be prescribed by a conventional physician. We already know that the placebo effect works – that’s the reason for the double blind – so it’s conceivable that the whole category of homeopathy might be more rightly regarded as “Paraplacebic Medicine.”

      …which sounds a lot less desirable than actual medicine, scientifically AND anecdotally verified, such as the kind Mark advocates (and has been consistently advocating) here.

  48. To whom it may concern:
    If I am of sound body and mind then why do you care if I take homeopathic remedies? If they are, as you say, innefective plecebos then let me spend my own hard earned money on them. My body, my choice. Don’t try to regulate or dictate other’s choices.

  49. If homeopathy works for you, it works for you.

    Using “homeopathic principles”, if your boss suddenly started paying you 1/1000th of your previous salary, and said that they are only doing so because you are an excellent employee and deserve recognition, would you accept the “homeopathic promotion”?

    I guess homeopathy never made sense to me because the underlying rationale (that administering something in vanishingly tiny {read ZERO} amounts will bring about a cure) is about as logical as saying to a child “the less time you practice playing the piano the greater the chance you will be a world-class piano player.

    Maybe they should change the name to “Placebeopathy.”

    Bottom line: What works, works.”

    Mark hit it on the head when he said the only reason homeopathy has not been outlawed is because it causes no harm (unless you consider that by using homeopathic methods you are possibly foregoing valid treatment that might actually help.)

    Great discourse, as always!

    Rob

  50. I’ve beaten this topic to the ground but I’m assuming many discredit music therapy, art therapy, sound therapy, light therapy? Though studied and implemented by hospitals worldwide, it’s utilising an ‘energetic’ principle to heal the ill in a similar way to homeopathy. Overmedication in the States is way out of control. If more people were open minded to alternative therapies and tried some of this malarky, say after Prozac doesn’t cure depression, the world might be a better place. Many big pharma drugs don’t work though the science is behind it! Okay, I think I’ve said enough 🙂

  51. For anyone interested in monitoring their glucose levels Walmart now sells an A1c test for $9 (postage included). They also sell glucose monitors and test strips under their house brand (Reli-on) for way cheaper than I’ve seen elsewhere. Not sure if they have rolled this out in every US store yet, much less outside of the US.

  52. Here’s the funny thing about homeopathy: 1. very few studies have been done (that i can find) that are empirical; and 2. animals aren’t subject to placebo effect (and from what we can tell, neither are infants and small children — the under 3/4 set).

    now, a couple of us here have asserted that our little children (under two at the time) or our pets have had positive changes due to homeopathic remedies.

    this isn’t placebo effect in my brain. my kid went from panicking when i would drink a class of water (literally, freaking out, crying, screaming, the panic-attack style breathing that sounds like “huffing”) to jumping into the shower with me and playing happily in the tub the next day with NO fear of water. It wasn’t my placebo effect? Can a less than 2 yr old have a placebo effect? Science says no. So, did it work, or did my son just magically get over a months-old, trauma-based anxiety about water for which a child psychiatrist wanted to medicate him? Because that psychiatrist has “science” behind him, but that is a dark road.

    I found the amazing randi very entertaining. i didn’t find him absolutely convincing. i have already heard his argument against homeopathy, and i have read the underlying ideology behind homeopathy (which is energetic, NOT about chemical substance which herbalism is, and drug therapy, etc — but it’s a whole different conversation).

    I thought that, from an energy standpoint, it’s plausible. But, from a physical/science stand point, there’s no way to prove it, because you cannot prove — through science — that the “energy body” exists or functions in any specific way. You can look at the nervous system, but that is *not* the “energy body” as described in yoga, TCM, etc.

    Science cannot study the energy body any more than science can study god. it doesn’t invalidate the use of energy healing modalities (from yoga to acupuncture to the various other forms, including homeopathy). it simply cannot study it.

    So why would i say “there are no scientific studies!” to invalidate it, when science — by the way it is designed — can’t study it? it can study the effects (and usually sees it as “mysterious” “inconclusive” and “placebo.” but it cannot actually study the mechanism. Why? because the energy body cannot be isolated.

    1. If science can’t study the “energy body,” what’s the difference between the “energy body” and an invisible pink unicorn? Or a green vampire flamingo that phases in between dimensions and is therefore undetectable by any modern technology. These exist. I know, because they both protect me when I cross the street. I have yet to be hit by a car–even when I cross against the trafic signal. See, evidence.

      I can go on making stuff up, and science can’t test it.

      I’m not saying an “energy body” doesn’t exist. I’m just saying extraordinary claims require extraoridinary evidence. Without that, they are just claims that sound a lot like made-up B.S.