Fresh from HuffPo: Antibiotics cause cancer?

I’m really starting to hate the Huffington Post.

It used to be that I just disliked it intensely. The reasons are, of course, obvious. Ever since its very beginning nearly four years ago, HuffPo has been a hotbed of antivaccine lunacy. Over the years, it’s served up pseudoscience and antivaccine nuttery from such “luminaries” of the antivaccine movement as David Kirby, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Dr. Jay Gordon, Deirde Imus, among others, in an unholy tradition that continues to this very day. HuffPo didn’t limit itself to just antivaccine lunacy, either. It wasn’t long before the Dark Lord of All Things Woo, the Sauron of Woo himself, Deepak Chopra joined the woo crew at HuffPo.

But still that was not enough.

Just this year, HuffPo added still more pseudoscience. While continuing to host the stupid stylings of the likes of old guard HuffPo antivaccine activists David Kirby and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. spewing nonsense far and wide, it has recently added to its stable some up and coming woo-meisters. For example, there’s Srinivasan Pillay, “certified master coach, psychiatrist, brain imaging researcher and speaker, who’s served up the woo hot and steamy and stinky (just like a turd) in the form of promoting “distant healing,” The Secret, and hilarious attempts at discrediting science because scientists don’t always behave rationally. Let’s not forget, also, the addition of “Dr.” Patricia Fitzgerald, author of The Detox Solution: The Missing Link to Radiant Health, Abundant Energy, Ideal Weight, and Peace of Mind, whose promotion of detox quackery doesn’t quite reach the wackiness of Pillay, but it does, unfortunately, uphold (or should I say “downhold”) the low standards for which HuffPo is legendary when it comes to medicine.

Move over, Srinivasan and Pat, there’s a new woo-meister on HuffPo, and she’s outdoing you all! She may even be approaching Chopra territory, and that’s not an epithet I use lightly. Meet Kim Evans, author of Cleaning Up! and the creator of The Cleaning Up! Cleanse. In an article in the HuffPo entitled Antibiotics Cause Cancer? that PalMD has correctly characterized as nothing more than a blogger infomercial for her book. Such pure, unabashed quackery promoted credulously and confidently, is rare to see, although the ignorance behind it is, alas, not.

As with many purveyors of–shall we say?–questionable therapies, Evans starts out sounding semireasonable:

Antibiotics are widely used by the medical establishment and even by animal farmers. In fact, these days more antibiotics are given to animals that are consumed than are distributed to people, which means that a lot of people are getting these drugs second-hand. And many people still believe that antibiotics are helpful; we’ve all heard stories of mothers and patients coming close to demanding them. But did you know that antibiotics can cause a great deal of long-term harm in the body? Let me explain…

It was at this point that I wanted to say, “Please don’t,” as I knew pain was coming, pain to every neuron. Yes, that neuron-apoptosing pain that I complain about so much from antivaccinationists, as the waves of pure, unadulterated, burning stupid wash over me. Yes, antibiotics are overused, but if you have a serious infection that requires antibiotics, they will save your life. As for “long-term harm” due to antibiotics, that only occurs with prolonged use of antibiotics. although short term use can certainly cause significant problems, too. As with any medical intervention, it’s a risk-benefit ratio, and for most antibiotics the risk is relatively low. In any event, I braced myself for the pain of burning stupid that was coming, and Evans did not disappoint:

Antibiotics kill bacteria in the body; it’s commonly known and it’s actually the reason they’re taken. But what isn’t widely known is that the body has healthy bacteria, called probiotics, lining our intestinal tract. These healthy bacteria, which should be in abundance in our guts, dine on unhealthy bacteria and yeasts in our bodies, serving to keep these problems in check for us.

Actually, these healthy bacteria form the basis of our immune system — or they did until we took antibiotics because antibiotics regularly kill our healthy bacteria. And that can set you up for numerous problems down the road — including some very serious problems.

Um, no. These healthy bacteria do not “form the basis of our immune system.” They do not “dine on unhealthy bacteria and yeasts in our bodies; rather, they fill ecological niches in every part of your body open to the environment that doesn’t destroy them (such as the stomach), such as your skin, mouth, nasal passages, colon, ear–basically everywhere they can get to from the outside. In the colon, they even help with the absorption of certain nutrients. There they form ecosystems that vary with the location. In essence, they crowd out pathogenic bacteria, which have a harder time gaining a foothold. Also, many of the bacteria that live in our body can indeed be pathogenic. Antibiotic-associated colitis, which can sometimes be life-threatening, is due to Clostridium difficile, anaerobic bacteria that start growing and secreting toxins that result in colitis and diarrhea, which can be mild or severe. C. difficile is an organism that normally lives in the colon. Other bacteria don’t “eat it”; in a normal colon, it lives in–I hate to say it–harmony with the rest of the hundreds of other species of bacteria that live there. Indeed, Evans misinterprets the contents of a link that she later presented in the comments to defend herself.

The stupid doesn’t end, unfortunately:

A problem called candida, or candida overgrowth, is a common fungal problem that develops after using antibiotics without replenishing your healthy bacteria with probiotics. Now, that may sound like a small problem because you may not have heard of it, and therefore you may think it doesn’t apply to you. But not when you understand two things.

First, an estimated 90 percent of the population has a problem with candida overgrowth, although most don’t know it. And second, candida overgrowth can be the root cause of literally hundreds of different problems in the body.

The problems can be many for a couple of reasons. One, candida overgrowth is a fungus that can grow and nest in any number of areas in the body and it will generally cause problems wherever it is. And two, candida is a living breathing organism that, similar to how humans release carbon dioxide as a by-product of respiration, releases about 80 different chemicals as a by-product of its existence. All of those chemicals are toxic and one of them is chemically similar to formaldehyde. And every time you eat sugar or refined carbohydrates, you’re feeding the overgrowth its favorite foods and giving it the fuel it needs to keep growing.

While it’s true that perhaps as many as 90% of people have Candida albicans living somewhere in their bodies, it is untrue that 90% of people have “candida” overgrowth. Candida is another one of those normal, commensal microorganisms that we live with. It’s in our colons, mouth, and nasal passages. It’s true that it can “overgrow” when for some reason the immune system is compromised or when the normal other commensal organisms are killed off by antibiotics. It’s called candidiasis, and when it occurs in the mouth, it’s called oral thrush. It’s frequently well-handled by a “swish and swallow” with topical antifungals. Also, candidiasis can occur in perfectly healthy individuals. Young women, for example, are prone to vaginal candidiasis. No antibiotics needed. No immunosuppression needed. It’s true that antibiotics can make candidiasis worse, but without true immunosuppression it’s uncommon for candidiasis to be anything close to life-threatening.

Then, of course, just like so many “alternative” medicine mavens, Evans invokes the dreaded “toxins” gambit. Oh, no. Those horrible candida are making horrible, horrible toxins. They’re even making formaldehyde, you know, the same horrible toxin that’s in vaccines. So you know it must be bad! Well, actually not. Our bodies make a fair amount of formaldehyde as a consequence of normal metabolism. Also note the hilarious double standard. The normal bacteria living on and in our bodies far, far outnumber candida. Does Evans think they don’t make all sorts of waste as a “by-product of their existence”? Of course they do! Yet, to Evans, toxins from candida are bad, while from bacteria they’re good. It’s all a load of B.S., and, by the way, something like one third of the weight of a turd is made up of bacteria and dead colon cells, if I recall my basic physiology correctly. In any case, the whole “we’re all being poisoned by fungus!” bit is a subset of quackery that views candida and other fungi as the cause of virtually all disease–which Evans then goes on to enumerate:

The symptoms of candida overgrowth can vary widely from person to person, but I’ll give you a short list. Dandruff, eczema, headaches, allergies, rashes, acne, aches, pain, PMS, brain fog, sore muscles, fibromyalgia, anger, depression, and many, many, more can all be symptoms of this overgrowth. Remember, that’s the short list. And depending on your diet, you may not see any symptoms until years after you’ve killed off your healthy bacteria.

Geez, is there any condition candida overgrowth can’t cause? I particularly like the “brain fog” bit. If this article or her website is any indication, clearly Evans needs a candida detox, STAT, to get rid of her brain fog. Of course, it’s amazing how virtually anything can be attributed to candida overgrowth. Anger? That’s not a disease; it’s an emotion! How does candida overgrowth cause that? Consistent with most quackery, the problems attributed to candida overgrowth are vague and in general nonspecific. Either that, or they’re conditions whose etiology is unclear, which leads quacks to ask: Well, how do you know they’re not caused by candida overgrowth? Well?

Now, you may already be clutching your head, as your brain tries to ooze out of your ears in protest over the assault on its neurons from Evans’ nonsense. I understand. But the worst has not yet come. This is the worst:

It’s also fascinating that an oncologist in Rome, Dr. Tullio Simoncini, says that cancer is a fungus and actually an advanced form of candida overgrowth. You can read more in his book, Cancer is a Fungus, in which he scientifically explains that the cause of cancer “is always and only candida.” Because Dr. Simoncini is having a great deal of success eliminating cancer in the body very quickly, I believe he’s one to listen to.

Nooooo! Not the cancer über-quack Simoncini! Is Evans so clueless that she doesn’t recognize that Simoncini is about as big a quack as there is. He’s right up there with Hulda Clark and her blaming a liver fluke as the One True Cause of all cancer and AIDS. I’ve even covered him before! I can’t stand to write much more about him and his fungus among us woo, in which he claims that all cancer is a result of the body’s reaction to candida infection, basing his claim on, among other observations, that “all cancers are white” (which, by the way, any first year surgery or oncology resident could tell you is false). From Simoncini’s quackery and her own–shall we say?–flawed understanding of microbiology and physiology, Evans concludes that “antibiotics cause cancer.” Truly, her post is a black hole of stupid, from the event horizon of which no rationality, science, or reason can escape, as she combines candida woo with the standard “detox” woo in which we’re all poisoned by all these unnamed “toxins” that she can’t identify (from her website):

The truth is that most people carry an extraordinary burden of toxicity in their bodies and are completely unaware of it. I promise, just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there!

It’s the case because normal living provides many means to become extraordinarily toxic – even if you’re cautious… Our bodies simply aren’t designed to be bombarded by toxins, yet they are, day in and day out. We may not feel it the day we take them in – but as years pass we start to feel the cumulative affects – we call them health and often emotional problems.

Truly, HuffPo has hit a new low. I thought it couldn’t go any lower than all its antivaccine idiocy that it’s been promoting for the last four years. I really didn’t. I didn’t think it could go any lower than all the Deepak Chopra quantum woo it’s published for the last few years. It did. It brought in The Secret and distant healing. I didn’t think it could go any lower than that. It did. It brought in Kim Evans, cluelessly credulous promoter of Tullio Simoncini’s cancer quackery.

I fear very much what sorts of “health bloggers” HuffPo may bring in next.