Hippie science is easy, and wrong

Doing a "cleanse" at the start of the year to "detox" your body is one of those modern myths of medicine

Laurence Fishburne's character Morpheus in the Matrix science fiction movies has become a popular Internet meme

Laurence Fishburne's character Morpheus in the Matrix science fiction movies has become a popular Internet meme

Did you do a “cleanse” to start the year? A diet or supplements to, you know, “detox” your body?

Please, if you did, I don’t want the details. I’m here to discuss the underlying assumptions of this fad. TV presenter Dr. Oz is a promoter of various schemes, soup diets and the like, but there are many books and consumer products being flogged.

“Supplements, tea, homeopathy, coffee enemas, ear candles and foot baths promise you a detoxified body,” writes Ontario pharmacist Scott Gavura, who treats cancer patients with modern medicine’s most potent drugs.

Frustrated by the pharmacy industry’s willingness to cash in on fake cures for nonexistent conditions, Gavura began contributing to ScienceBasedMedicine.org, where you can find his takedown of this notion.

Gavura traces the roots of purification rituals in religious and medical history, such as when patients were bled with leeches.

Actual “detox” is administered in hospital for those with dangerous levels of drugs, alcohol or other poisons. Credible physicians abandoned theories of “autointoxication” in the 19th century.

“Today’s version of autointoxication argues that some combination of food additives, salt, meat, fluoride, prescription drugs, smog, vaccine ingredients, GMOs and perhaps last night’s bottle of wine are causing a buildup of ‘toxins’ in the body,” Gavura writes. “And don’t forget gluten. Gluten is the new evil and therefore, is now a toxin.”

Gluten-free products now occupy whole sections of grocery stores, not far from the pricey “organic” produce that may or may not be tested for synthetic pesticides.

Living in the Lower Mainland 20 years ago, I noticed people lugging big plastic jugs to the grocery store to fill with water. Metro Vancouver is a rainforest, with some of the best tap water in the world, so I wondered what they were trying to avoid.

Discreet inquiries yielded similar answers. Aside from the odd superstition about chlorine or fluoride, they had no idea at all. They didn’t know about the Coquitlam reservoir, or ozonation, or what they were buying, which was essentially municipal water run through a filter. They had been convinced to pay $2 for water in plastic bottles, and this somehow led to the conclusion that their tap water is only fit for washing clothes and driveways.

Vaccinations? Don’t get me started. In the past year I have had an argument with a registered nurse at a blood donor clinic, annoyed that the health ministry denied her imagined “right” to infect frail patients with influenza, and with a veteran politician who only recently overcame a vague taboo against putting vaccines in her body.

It’s no wonder people constantly fall for enviro-scares like toxins from the Alberta oil sands that are actually concentrated in cities where all that fuel is burned, or the threat of genetically modified canola oil, or smart meters. The media are frequently part of the problem, lacking scientific literacy and preferring conflict over common sense.

Take Vancouver (please). The mayor rose to fame with a company that sold overpriced imported tropical fruit juice in single-serving plastic bottles. Calling it “Happy Planet” convinced a new generation of urban rubes that they’re doing something for the environment. Plus, there are “no chemicals” in it, to cite the central myth of hippie science.

At the risk of giving you too much information, I did a cleanse last year. It was for a screening colonoscopy, one of many that have taxed the B.C. health care system since a new test was added to the standard medical checkup.

Try that one if you’re over 50.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Just Posted

Workers had a busy time today repairing a broken main water line. (District of Houston photo)
Water service being restored

Main line on 13th had broken

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered last week following the news that the remains of as many as 215 children were found buried on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. The flags were raised back up yesterday. (Houston Today photo)
Flags lowered in memory

Flags at the District of Houston administrative building were lowered last week… Continue reading

Bruce Tang- Unsplash photo
World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

“Older adults in our communities continue to find themselves in vulnerable situations… Continue reading

At an outdoor drive-in convocation ceremony, Mount Royal University bestows an honorary Doctor of Laws on Blackfoot Elder and residential school survivor Clarence Wolfleg in Calgary on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
‘You didn’t get the best of me’: Residential school survivor gets honorary doctorate

Clarence Wolfleg receives honorary doctorate from Mount Royal University, the highest honour the school gives out

“They will never be forgotten, every child matters,” says Sioux Valley Chief Jennifer Bone in a video statement June 1. (Screen grab)
104 ‘potential graves’ detected at site of former residential school in Manitoba

Sioux Valley Dakota Nation working to identify, repatriate students buried near former Brandon residential school

The Queen Victoria statue at the B.C. legislature was splattered with what looks like red paint on Friday. (Nicole Crescenzi/News Staff)
Queen Victoria statue at B.C. legislature vandalized Friday

Statue splattered with red paint by old growth forest proponents

Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters on Saturday, January 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Vancouver police officer charged with assault during an arrest in 2019

The service has released no other details about the allegations

Denmark’s Christian Eriksen receives medical attention after collapsing during the Euro 2020 soccer championship group B match between Denmark and Finland at Parken stadium in Copenhagen, Saturday, June 12, 2021. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner, Pool)
Christian Eriksen in stable condition, Euro 2020 match resumes

Eriksen was given chest compressions after collapsing on the field during a European Championship

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

As stories of the horrors of residential schools circulate after the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced it had located what are believed to be the remains of 215 children, Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs said he feels a connection with the former students. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
2 sides of the same coin: Ex-foster kids identify with residential school survivors

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip says the child welfare system takes Indigenous children from their families

Nathan Watts, a member of the Tseshaht First Nation near Port Alberni, shares his story of substance use, a perspective he said isn’t seen enough. (Photo courtesy of Nathan Watts)
Public shaming, hate perpetuates further substance use: UVic researcher

Longtime addict Nathan Watts offers a user’s perspective on substance use

Most Read