Personal Health

5 Dangerous and Fraudulent Health Fads You Should Avoid

From colon flushing to using magnets to heal joint pains, there are a lot of counterproductive and potentially damaging health therapies out there.

 

This article was reprinted from The Faster Times. Faster. Smarter. Funnier: Go toTheFasterTimes.comfor the latest in News, Politics, Science, Arts, Health, Nonsense, and everything else.

In Gregg A. Miller'srecent article, he discussed how a recent study of skinny monkeys doesn’t provide convincing evidence to switch to a restricted-calorie diet.  Here are five more health fads he suggests you should avoid.

Colonics or Enemas: Your car’s various systems need a flush.  Your colon does not.  Don’t get me wrong, enemas do have a role in improving people’s health, particularly in people with acute constipation.  However, the concept that toxic sludge builds up along the lining of your colon, until a coffee, saltwater, or milk and molassas enema finally flushes it out, is completely wrong.  There is no scientific evidence of any benefit from routine enemas, and there are many cases of ruptured colons and rectums as a result of enemas gone wrong.  There are much better ways to get a caffeine high than injecting coffee the wrong way up your intestines.

Master Cleanse Detoxification Diet:After centuries of experience with it, you’d think that humans would support the concept of eating.  Both common sense and scientific research agree: food, in general, is a good thing.  So it’s baffling why someone might think that imbibing nothing but water mixed with lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper for weeks on end is a good idea.  But Stanley Burroughs, a man who was convicted of practicing medicine without a license and charged with murder, advocated just that with the Master Cleanse Diet.  This regimen completely ignores basic science: if your kidneys and liver can’t detoxify you, some cayenne peppers and lemons aren’t going to help.  In fact, this diet might lead to dangerous electrolyte imbalances and a build up of acid inside the bloodstream.  Your kidney and liver will detoxify your body just fine, as long as you give them the nutrition they need.

Skipping vaccines: When it comes to your child’s well-being, who should you take advice from: the American Academy of Pediatrics, an association dedicated to researching and protecting children’s health, or a celebrityfamous for posing nude in adult magazines?  For some Americans, apparently this is a difficult question to answer correctly.  Vaccines do not cause autism.  On the other hand, measles, rubella, and H. influenza, to name just a few vaccine-preventable illnesses, can indeed cause serious brain damage and even death.  What’s more, skipping vaccines doesn’t just affect individual health, it impacts the entire community.  Once enough unvaccinated hosts are present in a population, the disease can spread to people who did receive the vaccine.  Skip the advice from the centerfolds, focus on what a boring, unsexy group of doctors and scientists recommend.

Magnets for Muscle and Joint Pain: Unlike the others on this list, this health fad probably won’t hurt you.  On the other hand, it probably won’t help either.  High-quality scientific studies do not show any benefit beyond a placebo effect from putting magnets over painful joints or muscles.   The only difference you’ll notice between a magnet and a regular hunk of metal is how much lighter your wallet is.  The magnetic therapy industry is booming, with annual worldwide sales at $5 billion.  Take that money you were going to spend on magnets and buy a more comfortable pair of shoes, some over the counter pain killers, or a joint brace.  

Executive Physicals and Screening CTs:Many health care organizations market the “Executive Physical,” a thorough medical consultation with extensive testing including bloodwork, screening CT scans, and even some fancy slippers and a bathrobe to wear during the exam.  Much of this is useful, including the slippers.  However, you should be aware of the radiation risk with CT scans.  Though CTs are useful for sick patients, the benefit of bombarding a healthy patient with radiation during a routine physical exam is questionable.  Some experts estimate that about one or two of every hundred cancers in the US are due to radiation exposure from medical studies.  Until more evidence is in, think carefully before getting a screening CT, and avoid routine annual CT scans.

This article first appeared in The Faster Times.

Gregg Miller, MD is a board-certified emergency room physician. Not nearly as good-looking as the doctors on the TV show ER, lacking the charisma of Dr. House, and much less scandalous than anyone on Grey’s Anatomy, he still managed to carve out a niche practicing medicine in California’s emergency departments. After several years in the US he moved to China, where he currently works.
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