Toxic thinking

I’ve been seeing more and more articles and blog postings like this one recently, all about “detoxifying” your home or your life or your body. They all talk about these vague “toxins” generally but never say what toxins. Then they talk about some of the dangers to society and how to either avoid or fix them but most of the time, the “dangers” aren’t actually dangerous and the “solutions” are either non-existent, ineffective because they don’t work, or ineffective because there’s no problem to solve in the first place.

The author of this story has a son who was diagnosed with autism and says that our “toxic” environment is the cause for her son’s illness. (Somewhat surprisingly, she makes no mention of vaccines.) She then describes ways to “de-toxify” your life. She certainly makes some good points in the article – drink water instead of other stuff, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoid processed snacks, eat rice crackers or veggie chips, go to farmers markets, these are all great suggestions. But here are some of the points she makes that directly contradict modern science and medicine:

The world in which our children are currently growing up, is significantly more toxic than the one in which we did as children, exponentially more so than our parents.

Really? How do you figure? We and our parents lived through lead (in the pipes, paint, toys, etc.), asbestos, DDT, Thalidomide, and other actual toxins, all of which are now known to cause no end of health problems. Specifically what toxins are you talking about that are significantly or exponentially worse than those?


We know organic is best. Food dyes and colors make our kids wild. GMOs are terrifying. Gluten, soy, corn, and dairy are the high allergens and can cause all sorts of issues. Juice is unnecessary sugar and calories.

Nope, probably not, nope, nope (provisionally), OK. Organic food is no healthier or safer than non-organic (See references 1, 2). I did read about a study that food dyes may cause hyperactivity in children, but the FDA in the US has thus far declared that “a causal relationship between exposure to color additives and hyperactivity in children in the general population has not been established” (3). GMO food is no less healthy or safe than non-GMO (4). If you have Celiac disease, gluten is certainly something you want to avoid. But if you don’t, it’s harmless (5). Soy, corn, and dairy are indeed allergens and can cause all kinds of problems if you are allergic. But I could find no articles indicating that they’re a problem if you are not allergic. (6). The juice one I’d agree with.

Allopathic medicine is a term coined by Samuel Hahnemann, the father of Homeopathy, in reference to ‘mainstream Western medicine’. In simple terms, it refers to our constant need to address and suppress every symptom our body sends us of illness.

“Western medicine just treats the symptoms” is a common misconception in the alternative medicine community. If that were true, doctors wouldn’t prescribe antibiotics for pneumonia, they’d just give you a cough suppressant. If you have pain because of appendicitis, do they treat the pain? No, they remove the appendix – that’s treating the cause, not the symptom. I recently heard Dr. Steven Novella (a neurologist and prof at the Yale School of Medicine) talking about this, and he said that other than managing the pain of terminal patients to make them comfortable, so-called “Western” medicine is entirely about treating the cause of health problems and not just the symptoms. So is alternative medicine, but the two just disagree on how to determine the causes. Western medicine uses science, alternative medicine uses magic.

I had severe acute pancreatitis a few years ago and spent two months in the hospital. One of my biggest symptoms was intense pain, caused by my pancreas effectively choking on a gallstone. Did the doctors treat my pain? Of course they did. They also performed major abdominal surgery, an MRI, several X-rays and ultrasounds, countless CT scans and a number of other procedures to deal with the cause of this condition, not just the pain. Three years later, except for being a type 2 diabetic I am fully back to normal, and I owe my life to those doctors and nurses. How would an acupuncturist deal with pancreatitis? They wouldn’t – they’d either (a) send you to a hospital because they know they can do nothing, or (b) ironically attempt to treat the pain and not the cause, thereby killing you.

The author says that fever is our body’s natural reaction to an infection (true) and that we shouldn’t attempt to reduce the fever because of that. But then a couple of paragraphs later, she says we should use “good old fashioned ‘grandmas recipes’… like placing the soles of the feet in water for a fever”. Didn’t she just say we should not try to reduce fever?

Look to Homeopathy. … Or find a local homeopath to work with, Queen Elizabeth does!

Not only has homeopathy never been proven effective, it’s actually harmful to those who would use it instead of seeing a real doctor and getting real medication (7). In fact, there is no known mechanism by which it could be effective.  It’s nothing but water or a sugar pill – the very definition of placebo. The fact that Queen Elizabeth has been duped into using homeopathy means nothing.

And finally EMF. Electromagnetic Fields. We live in a world of wireless. There are frequencies from our cell phones, internet connections, microwaves, smart TVs, etc, all around us and our cells are not accustomed to that. The damage is not yet fully known.

Tin foil hatElectromagnetic sensitivity has repeatedly been shown to be nonexistent. People who claim that they are negatively affected by electromagnetic fields consistently show symptoms until proper blinding is added. When they don’t already know whether they are being exposed or not, they can’t tell. (8, 9)

The article then links to a couple of web sites that sell products that are supposed to help people with EMF sensitivity. Since EMF sensitivity doesn’t exist, these products can’t work, and some of the claims they make are ridiculous. But that doesn’t stop these people from charging $89 for something that “protects you from cell phone radiation”,  between $310 and $380 for a plate that “clears EMF pollution and geopathic stress”, and even $160 for the ultimate in irony: a USB thingy that uses your wifi router to somehow broadcast EMF protection.

These kind of articles frustrate me to no end, because the more articles like this there are, the more likely people are to read them and believe them. Science and modern “Western” medicine has given us the world we live in today – people are healthier now than ever before, life spans are longer, fewer people are dying of hunger, and so on. We haven’t solved all the problems – people do still die of hunger and there are still many diseases that science has not yet found answers for – but the human average lifespan has more than doubled since 1900 and that’s due to science, not to people harmonizing their life energy field with that of the earth.

The entire goal of science is and has always been to advance human knowledge. So why is it that so many people are now rejecting science and getting their health information from whoever on the internet? They ignore just about every doctor in the world and listen to Jenny McCarthy when it comes to vaccines. They believe that anything “all-natural” must be healthier than anything that’s not (as I’ve said before, e. coli and salmonella are all-natural, while Tylenol is not). They read Natural News and believe the guy who tries to convince the world (without evidence) that the entire healthcare and pharmaceutical industries worldwide are global conspiracies and that millions of people wouldn’t die of cancer every year if they just listened to him.

The worst part is that it’s not just the cranks and tinfoil-hat people who believe this stuff – the general public seems to think that GMO food will kill us all and that obviously organic food is healthier than non-organic. What happens if some company uses genetic modification to create a type of wheat or rice or corn or whatever that is resistant to diseases and has extra nutrients and can be stored for longer without going bad and allows farms to increase their yield tenfold? Note that this is not outside the realm of possibility – these kinds of things are why we do genetic manipulation in the first place. Crops like this could solve much of the world’s hunger problems (and yes I know that’s a little simplistic) but if enough people are scared of GMO food, it may not matter because the research will get shut down before we get there. That’s really sad.

I can only hope that sometime in the not-too-distant future, people start embracing science once again and abandoning things like medicine based on magic or remedies that are popular only because they were used in China a few thousand years ago or fear of things just because they are not well understood. Let’s start moving human knowledge forwards again, not pushing it backwards.


Unlike the original article, I am including references for all the claims I’ve made here.

  1. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
  2. The Annals of Internal Medicine, produced by the American College of Physicians
  3. An FDA quote from CBS Chicago
  4. The World Health Organization. You may disagree with the business practices and policies of GMO companies like Monsanto, but that’s a problem with the companies, not the GMO food itself.
  5. The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
  6. No references here, because I couldn’t find any from reliable science-based medicine sites talking about corn or soy problems or dairy problems that weren’t related to lactose-intolerance. But bullshit sites like Natural News were filled with articles saying dairy is universally harmful, which implies to me that it’s not.
  7. The Journal of Medical Ethics
  8. Psychosomatic Medicine, from the Journal of Biobehavioral Medicine
  9. The World Health Organization

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