Naturopathic cancer treatments versus reality

Well, I’m back.

It’s always a bit weird to try to get back into the swing of things after even just a week off and even when during that week I didn’t actually stop blogging but merely slowed down a lot and succeeded (mostly) in restricting what little blogging I did to brief posts. (Yes, I know there was one exception.) Even so, I did ignore a fair number of things that normally would have been either the subject of one of my scintillating detailed scientific analyses or the target of a heapin’ helpin’ of not-so-Respectful Insolence. Usually when I get back from a vacation I like to ease back into my routine. What that usually means is slumming for a day or two before taking on any sort of heavy-duty study or a heavy topic that takes a lot of work and thought. However, my “slumming” often produces some of my most entertaining posts. After all, no one can say it was hard to take on Rob Schneider or Jim Carrey’s antivaccine nonsense, given how ridiculous and numerous the canards they laid down were. It sure was fun, though. Whether this subject will fall into that category, I don’t yet know. There’s only one way to find out, though.

When I go looking to deconstruct quackery, increasingly as I’ve been in the blogging biz longer and longer it becomes harder and harder to find a quack I haven’t heard of before or to take on pseudoscience I haven’t dealt with before. On the other hand, I see value in repetition sometimes, because the same sorts of “themes” keep popping up again in quackery and pseudoscience. In particular, when naturopaths want to try to convince the unwary that they are real doctors, that they can function as primary care providers, that their “discipline” is not a “one from column A, two from columm B”-style gmish of quackeries taken from virtually all woo known to human beings, all leavened with the occasional sensible advice (such as “exercise more”), I feel it’s instructive to introduce a naturopath, particularly one I’ve never heard before. That almost never fails to disabuse people of the notion that naturopathy is anything other than a cornucopia of pseudoscience and quackery.

Enter Judy Seeger, ND (which, of course, stands for “not a doctor”) and her website Colon Cleanse Camp. In particular, Seeger’s been writing a lot about cancer, which is an extra special bonus, given how much naturopaths appear to want to create their own specialty of “naturopathic oncology.” She’s even been including a lot of videos, because, you know, everything’s more convincing if it has a video to go along with it. YouTube is truth, after all. Everyone knows that, particularly quacks.

So who is Judy Seeger? Well, her bio describes her thusly:

Dr. Judy has been involved in the alternative medicine field for over 33 years. Starting out as a nutritionist, herbalist, consultant, workshop leader.

And:

In 1996 she went back to school to become a traditional naturopathic physician and Natural Health Counselor, then continued learning from world renowned healers like Dr. Bernard Jensen, Dr. John Christopher, Dr. Joel Robbins, and many others.

She even has the chutzpah to call herself a “Natural Cancer Cure Researcher.” It’s a meaningless claim, of course. Real “natural cancer treatment” researchers are natural products pharmacologists, and there’s no evidence that Seeger has any such scientific background. She does, however, have a veritable network of websites and webinars, such as the “ultimate cancer detox secrets,” in which she promises to “eliminate deadly poisons…in less than 30 days.” Then there’s her Complete Health System, and many others. I could spend several posts going over these websites and videos, but I think I’ll concentrate on the cancer-related ones for now. My attention was first drawn to a video and blog post entitled 5 Cancer Cures That Alternative Medicine Can Guarantee. Yes, any time an “alternative” medicine practitioner claims to be able to “guarantee” a cure for cancer, that will catch my attention. Here’s the video:

The first thing I want draw your attention to is something that Seeger writes that I actually almost agree with. Or I could agree with it if she hadn’t screwed it up so much. In fact, it’s the closest thing to a scientifically accurate statement I’ve seen from a naturopath ever. It’s buried in the text but so important that I don’t want to just get to it in due course but rather emblazon a slightly altered version of it on every quack website. No, it’s not a Quack Miranda Warning. Rather, it’s this:

Complementary medicine is based on scientific knowledge whereas alternative medicine is based on clinical or anecdotal evidence.

So close, Ms. Seeger, but yet so far. Actually, “complementary” medicine is alternative medicine and is not really based on scientific knowledge; it’s just alternative medicine “integrated” with real medicine, and you all know what happens when you “integrate” cow pie with apple pie. Here’s a hint: It doesn’t make the apple pie better. In actuality, Seeger’s statement would be better if she had just rephrased it to say:

“Conventional” medicine is based on scientific knowledge whereas alternative medicine is based on clinical or anecdotal evidence.

There. That’s better. It’s true, too. That’s the key difference between quackery and science-based medicine. Quacks rely on anecdotes to “prove” that their quackery “works.” Real medicine relies on science in order to actually demonstrate that its treatments work. In fact, Seeger in essence admits that and then asks a pertinent question. At least, it would be a pertinent question if she actually tried to answer it. She didn’t:

Why use alternative medicine for cancer cures? After all, its not be ‘proven’ by scientists so how do you know it works?

When you’re frustrated with throwing up from the chemo treatments, losing your hair, and feeling incredibly tired all the time…maybe its time to look at a different option.

The advantages of using Alternative Medicine:

  1. guaranteed safe NO side effects – no harm done
  2. guaranteed immune boosters
  3. guaranteed easy to use – comfort of your own home, no doc waits
  4. guaranteed more control of your health – can talk to practioners longer than 10 min
  5. guaranteed less invasive

Here are the alternative therapies I’ve used in my
clinics:

  • Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy
  • Colon Hydrotherapy
  • Ozone Therapy
  • Massage therapy
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Enzyme Therapy
  • Nutrition/juice therapy

Notice how “Dr.” Seeger asks a totally appropriate question about alternative medicine (“After all, its not be ‘proven’ by scientists so how do you know it works?”) but then doesn’t actually provide an answer to the question. In a classic bit of misdirection, she gives reasons why one might want to try her woo, but none of these reasons actually involve explaining the evidence that her methods work. Not one. Rather, she lists off a bunch of non sequiturs. Sure, there’s little doubt that her woo has fewer side effects (although, given that she advocates colon hydrotherapy and “enzyme” and “nutrition/juice” therapy, which when you come right down to it, are basically variants of the Gerson/Gonzalez therapy), even that is arguable. It’s also almost certain that naturopaths can probably see people faster, with fewer waits than real physicians, and most of what they do is probably less invasive.

Who cares, though, if little or none of it actually works? After all, naturopaths love homeopathy, and that’s just water.

Not that that stops Seeger from waxing woo-ish about the various “specialties” of alternative medicine, ranging from the manipulative therapies to “energy healing” to herbs and the like and then bragging about how her “complete healing system” can include all of these. Apparently, she discusses her methods in a radio show with Ty Bollinger, Rashid Buttar, and a number of other “luminaries” of alternative medicine.

Then there’s this video, How to shrink your malignant tumor:

It’s all nonsense, of course. Seeger claims that vitamin B12 will shrink your tumor (but only “natural B12,” not synthetic B12). So, apparently, will vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, and several others. There is, of course, just one problem (well many problems, actually). Vitamin C doesn’t work. It’s no cancer cure. There’s also no convincing evidence that any of these vitamins will actually shrink an existing malignant tumor in humans or impact the natural history fo cancer in any measurable way. True, there is evidence that low vitamin D levels might predispose to cancer, but there’s no convincing evidence yet that adding vitamin D to cancer treatment increases survival. Even if it were to be shown that it can, the effect would likely be small. The same can be said about curcumin.

To Seeger, all of these are “natural immune boosters” (my favorite meaningless alt-med catch phrase). But most of all, according to “Dr.” Seeger, you need an “expert”…like Dr. Seeger! After all, she’s been doing this for over 34 years and can create “step by step” plan for you. Of that, I have no doubt. The problem, of course, is creating a plan that actually positively impacts the natural history of cancer in any meaningful way. Here’s a hint: Food ain’t gonna do it, no matter how much our friend waves her hands and claims that getting the “right nutrients” into cancer cells will stop them “dead in their tracks.” Would it were so easy! If it were that easy, scientists would have cured cancer decades ago, and, no, it’s not because scientists are too dogmatically wedded to chemotherapy and surgery as the “only” ways to treat cancer. Let’s just put it this way. What’s more likely? That a naturopath can teach you how to cure cancer in just 21 days using methods that scientists have not been able to discover—and that she can do it way cheaper, to boot, by designing a “personalized nutrition program,” giving “natural therapy recommendations,” and giving “specific supplement recommendations”? Or that what she’s feeding you is pure black hole density crap?

I can’t help but note that “Dr.” Seeger claims to have “worked with thousands of people just like you” but doesn’t provide survival statistics in her practice for specific cancers, which is the minimum data that one should ask of such a practice. Most amusing is that Seeger claims that she only works with those who are “serious” and “ready for their healing.”

Perhaps the most disturbing video by Seeger that I saw (and, let’s face it, most of them are disturbing on some level) is this one, Family Cancer: Is It Really Possible to Convince Them About Alternative Therapies?

Basically, it’s a suggested strategy to convince a family member with cancer to try alternative therapy. She describes a family member calling alternative clinics in Mexico, “gathering information” the way antivaccinationists troll Google looking for “vaccine information,” and giving all the information to the family member, only to be disappointed when the family member decides to stick with “conventional” therapy. Seeger then describes sitting down with “thousands” of cancer patients, looking at “all the options, both conventional and non-conventional,” after which she asks the cancer patient, “Do you want to live?” For those who are tired of fighting, she advocates respecting their wishes. Fair enough. But for those who want to fight, she then asks a few more questions, finishing up by demanding of them whether they are completely committed to her plan. This is, of course, the favorite woo-meister technique that allows plausible deniability. If the patient follows the quack’s treatment and dies anyway, obviously that person wasn’t “dedicated” enough. She doesn’t say it that way, of course. What she does say is that, in essence, it is entirely up to the patient and the family to do everything.

In a way, it’s hard not to stand in awe at how someone like Seeger can believe so much nonsense. It would be amusing if it didn’t endanger cancer patients. Nonetheless, it’s all there, logical fallacies, pseudoscience, appeals to antiquity, relying on anecdotes instead of science, all sold by a naturopath who continually brags about 34 years of experience. Interestingly, Seeger no longer has a clinic, but only operates a consulting business, hence the need for the patient and family to do absolutely everything.

As I’ve said time and time again, science-based medicine has its flaws. It sometimes holds on to old treatments longer than it should based on evidence and sometimes leaps too quickly at new treatments based on insufficient evidence. It’s expensive, and the system that has been built up to administer it is inefficient and unwieldy. Meanwhile pharmaceutical companies can have too much influence. However, the flaws in SBM do not mean that naturopathy or other “alternative” treatments work. If you want to get an idea of the difference between SBM and naturopathy, you need do no more than look at a naturopath like Judy Seeger, realizing that I’ve only dealt with the tip of the iceberg and that there is still at least one of her videos remaining that probably deserves its own post to deconstruct. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.