Monday, July 30, 2012

Mishpacha strongly advocates alternative medicine

There is a bizarre debate going on in Mishpacha magazine regarding one of their columnists who is a strong advocate of alternative medicines and a strong critic of conventional medicine. This is even more bizarre considering an excellent article published in Mishpacha by Debbie Shapiro in 2010 regarding a person who nearly died from an alternative "cure" that disregarded conventional medicine. The columnist defends himself by stating that he is just presenting information and it is up to the reader to decide how to use it. I find that rather a poor excuse especially when the columnist is presented as a rabbi in a magazine which emphasizes rabbinical authority in all areas of life. Here are the recent exchanges of letters which were published in the Hebrew Mishpacha.

18 comments :

  1. shmuel silbermanJuly 30, 2012 at 5:30 AM

    "Almost died" (and actual death) is a scenario which exists in conventional medicine as well. In alternative medicine it matters which system, which practitioner for which disease we are discussing. It makes little sense to be a generic proponent or opponent of alternative medicine, as this label covers over a hundred different systems of treatment.

    parshainsights.blogspot.com

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    1. "In alternative medicine it matters which system, which practitioner for which disease we are discussing."

      You think that we shouldn't generalize? Okay then- show us a single exception. Name one alternative treatment which has been proven to be more effective than a placebo. It's no coincidence that alternative treatments are most popular for pain (in which success is measured by relief, a necessarily subjective criteria) and complaints that tend to go away themselves (flu, colds and headaches.)
      And don't give me any anecdotal evidence. It's absolutely worthless!

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    2. The doctors have been working on getting my triglycertides down for a long time.A cardiologist, no less, suggested that I take Niacin. That did the trick. It works fabulously and without any apparent side effects.

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  2. Recipients and PublicityJuly 30, 2012 at 7:02 AM

    "Mishpacha Magazine For Hire" is just a glorified business that offers up column space to the highest bidders. In all probability, the so-called "columnist" who is promoting "alternative medicine" is being paid a very handsome price to do so by promoters of alternative medicine (it's a huge market) and for sure "Mishpacha Magazine For Hire" demands a good price to get his drivel published.

    People should stop buying this trashy magazine. It is drain on Torah-Jews' pockets and meager resources. It is perhaps those who have more discretionary income to waste that have allowed this kind of trash journalism in the guise of glossy colored pages and many others like it to flourish.

    Let's not forget that "Mishpacha Magazine For Hire" is one of the biggest supporters of Michael Freund and his Shavei Israel outfit, and many other similar escapades that run around the world looking for people who are Halachically gentiles and trying to justify proselytization efforts. Again, it's about the money that people pay to get their stories published in Mishpacha Magazine For Hire, and folks like Michael Freund, and alternative medicine types, all things that are not normal, will always find a home in this bizarre publication.

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  3. Every time I open the Mishpacha magazine I rub my eyes in amazement. Is there no end to the alternative medicine nonsense a guy can spurt out week after week! His excuse at the end of his letter that he is only stating the facts and adults should check for themselves is a travesty. For months or years he has set himself up as a know it all and yet he expects people to go checking up after him? Isn't there enough real medical advice around that Mishpacha needs to print his drivel? A number of people neglect conventional medicine in favor of alternative medicine and pay with their pockets and lives. Just before Tisha Be'Av I saw a kal tzom on sale created by some homeopathic quack. Religious Jews should have more sense than to fall for this nonsense.

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  4. " Just before Tisha Be'Av I saw a kal tzom on sale created by some homeopathic quack. Religious Jews should have more sense than to fall for this nonsense."

    Some years ago I saw a similar ad. The instructions called for the person to take the "medicine" with a glass of water several times the day before the fast. Obviously, it's the extra hydration that is the cause of an easy fast!

    אין בו משום רפואה- יש בו משום דרכי האמורי

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  5. shmuel silbermanJuly 30, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    Ephraim, professional studies results (factoring the placebo effect) are found in The Best Alternative Medicine by Kenneth Pelletier. These studies may be right or wrong but they do exist. I do not think it makes sense to be dogmatic in either direction.

    parshainsights.blogspot.com

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    1. Pelletier is a huckster. He cites the now infamous paper by Klaus Linde which based on a meta-analysis on previous studies showed that homeopathy seemed to work better than a placebo. But the book was published in 2002, long after Linde's followup study concluded:

      "The evidence of bias [in the primary studies] weakens the findings of our original meta-analysis. Since we completed our literature search in 1995, a considerable number of new homeopathy trials have been published. The fact that a number of the new high-quality trials ... have negative results, and a recent update of our review for the most "original" subtype of homeopathy (classical or individualized homeopathy), seem to confirm the finding that more rigorous trials have less-promising results. It seems, therefore, likely that our meta-analysis at least overestimated the effects of homeopathic treatments."

      Why has Pelletier not cited Linde's follow up? Because he's a liar, or because he's lazy/incompetent.

      So I repeat my challenge: Name one alternative treatment which has been proven to be more effective than a placebo.

      And one paper doesn't prove it. It could be a fluke.

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  6. Following traditionJuly 30, 2012 at 7:27 PM

    I am writing this comment off the cuff, as some research might increase the credibility level. Perhaps I'll do that later and embellish my position.

    Firstly, conventional medicine bases its medications and procedures on extensive scientific research. Empirical support is a requirement. It is the rare exception when someone is subjected to an "experimental" treatment, and this is always done with voluminous provisions of informed consent. Alternative medicine has no such requirement. Anything anecdotal is acceptable. The greatest treasure of alternative medicine data is on Wikipedia, where any shmoiger can enter whatever information they wish. There are many tshuvos from poskim that address whether one is permitted altogether to patronize the field of alternative medicine. (When I do that research, I will be prepared with exact references.)

    Little to nothing is known of the side effects of alternative medicines. Scientific research is expensive, and there is no investment in a product that cannot be patented like pharmaceuticals. There are no studies about interactions between these pills and potions or with medications.

    The alternative medicine field is ripe with an anti-traditional medicine approach, that preaches against utilizing traditional medicine, its practioners, or even its hospitals, leaving too much room for extreme danger. That irresponsibility rests on the shoulders of those who push the "natural" agenda as if it has merit, those who practice in the alternative medicine field, whatever they call themselves, and those who run such businesses whose staff are trained to sell, not to evaluate or advise.

    Just as any alternative medicine product must carry a warning mandated by the FDA that the product is not intended to diagnose or treat any ailment, publications on the subject must blare this message. The premise that is used to challenge traditional medicine must be applied to alternative medicine, and the result is not too rosy. Buyer - Beware.

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    1. "There are many tshuvos from poskim that address whether one is permitted altogether to patronize the field of alternative medicine."

      Partial List:
      שבט הלוי (R' Wosner): Vol. 3 YD 107- Psychic Surgery
      שבט הלוי : Vol 9 YD 174- On using a pendulum for diagnosis
      שבט הלוי : Vol 5 OC 55: On Homeopathy
      Binyan Tzion 67: On Magnetizing (not to be confused with contemporary hypnotism)
      Pa'amei Yaako, Av 5768: Article on Applied Kinesiology
      Techumim, Vol 3: Article on Homeopathy
      HaMaor, Shevat 5743: Article on Homeopathy- Response from Rav Tendler in the name of Rav Moshe Feinstein, and a couple of responses
      Or Yisrael, Tevet 5765: Articles on dowsing, energy healing, etc.
      Mishneh Halachos, Vol. 10 110 & 112: On Homeopathy
      Minchat Yitzchak Vol. 6, 80: Psychic Surgery
      Yam Hachachma, 13-17: Alternative Treatments and related topics
      Kovetz Beit Aharon V'Yisrael, Vol. 22, No. 5: Applied Kinesiology
      Piskei Din B'Dinei Mamanot, Vol 10 (Badatz Yerushalayim): On Applied Kinesiology and other alternative treatments

      Also see shiurim by Rav Tendler from YUTorah.

      I have only included the more modern sources. There is also very important material in Rishonim and earlier Achronim. Note that the above sources must be read very carefully. I have found scientific and halachic errors in some of the above sources. Proceed with caution.

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  7. The Talmud and the Rambam were proponents of "alternative" medicine (the sefer of refua that was hidden). "Alternative" medicine is Hashem's medicine and it works .
    The Rambam promises that anyone who keeps his diet will live a long and healthy life.
    Rav Avigdor Miller ZS"L kept the Rambams diet and at 90 was in better shape then most 55 year olds. Rabbi Jonathan Rietti has a tape on alternative medicine and mentions that in Yemen were everyone kept his diet the average life expectancy was over a hundred and in great health.
    This alternative medicine means eating and treating your body right so that it heals and maintains itself right . If a person gets sick you then treat the organs and causes of the illness with the right herbs and vitamins ect..
    Energy healing is not included in this as it draws upon Avoida Zarah and Rav Elyashiv ZS"L paskened that you can only use a healing that works along a scientific/ seichal sense.
    Now of course their are people who don't know what their saying and con artists in this field , but that dosnt mean that true alternative medicine is not the best way to prevent and -if the disease is not to far ahead - treat disease .
    A real naturopathe will recognize how to balance natural medicine with conventional medicine - which only treats the symptoms of illness .

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    1. Health and effectiveness of medicines are determined by expert doctors and scientists. This is plain halacha. I doubt the Rambam would accept his medical writings if he were alive today. Your comment about Rav Miller is anecdotal and does not present any proof whatsoever for the Rambam's diet. The comments concerning Yemen are not compelling because there was no control group of Yemenites who did not use the diet.

      You are correct that energy healing is suspect as far as impure ideologies are concerned...

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    2. Medicines are actually determined by pharmaceutical companies who are trying to make money . Almost every medicine today has horrible side effects , and only treat the symptoms not the cause of the illness . In addition their are constantly cases of medicines that are being shown not to be as effective as was once thought.

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    3. 1) Medicines are actually determined by pharmaceutical companies who are trying to make money .

      The companies research and manufacture them- they do not determine which medications work. Scientists do, and all medications must meet FDA standards before they can be sold. The FDA, as a government agency is not out to make money. Alternative medicine is also produced by companies who are trying to make money. The difference is that they make claims (any money) without a shred of evidence.

      2) and only treat the symptoms not the cause of the illness

      This is simply rubbish. Conventional medicine treats the symptoms, the illness and the cause. Homeopathy by definition conflates symptoms with the illness. Chiropratic defines the cause of illness as a vertebral subluxation which has never been seen or proven to exist. Other treatments speak of chakras (a term from Hindu idolatry) and bad "energy" (which is neither energy, nor proven to exist). In other words, alternative medicine tends to come up with fantasy causes of illness which simply do not exist.

      And since when is curing the illness and not its cause a bad thing? Consider the poor fellow who has passed out from a heart attack due to years of unhealthy eating and little exercise. Conventional medicine would have us treat the symptom (no heart beat) with a defibrillator, and then rush him to the hospital for surgery. Or we can follow your advice, treat the cause, and stuff him with oat bran and strap him to a treadmill.


      3) In addition their are constantly cases of medicines that are being shown not to be as effective as was once thought.

      Which is why conventional medicine works- they are constantly refining. Homeopathy has only gotten loonier since it's inception. Name one alternative medicine that has modified its methods when present with evidence that it doesn't work.

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  8. "Rav Avigdor Miller ZS"L kept the Rambams diet and at 90 was in better shape then most 55 year olds."

    The Rambam himself died when he was 69.

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    1. The Rambam PROMISED that if you keep it to live a long and healthy life. He himself lived through a couple of expulsion's that could have have impacted his own health

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    2. Why don't you actually learn the Rambam? The Rambam wrote that remedies must be proven to work- otherwise they are forbidden. He felt, based on the best scientific evidence of his time, that his diet was effective. If he were alive today, he would defer to modern medicine and reject those aspects of his medical advise that fail to meet today's scientific standards.

      By the Rambam's own standard, following his diet would be prohibited under דרכי האמורי.

      For an analysis of the Rambam's position on medicine, see שו"ת הרשב"א סימן תיג. (Note that the Rashba's conclusion is somewhat problematic since he had a flawed copy of the מורה נבוכים. Also note that many authorities believe that the Rashba changed his mind to become more machmir. But the main point is that the Rambam held that scientific evidence , or at least a plausible scientific hypothesis, is the gold standard.)

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    3. Modern western diet is really bad, processed foods, sugar, junk foods, and this is all available in Kosher and Glatt kosher formats.
      Fruti and vegetables are less and less "kosher" in the glatt world, so healthy things like brocolli, strawberries, lettuce are forbidden.
      rambam advised against oranges and citrus. But he was an expert on asthma.
      Some alternative meds are good, eg I used Ginseng for asthma , and it worked sometimes. But certain things cannot be adequately treated by alternative meds.

      Then again, many drugs that Pharma industry are pushing could actually be damaging eg Statins (cause disability, diabetes, HRT, etc).

      A Harvard Prof of Medicine, Dr Abramson has written a scathing critique of the Pharma industry and their tricks.

      http://www.overdosedamerica.com/


      But for serious illness, please consult a doctor, and do not rely on opinion of the AmArtza (vis a vis medicine).

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