Naturopathy versus Science: Seasonal Allergy Edition

tilting at windmills

I glanced at my pharmacy license recently, and noticed I became a licensed pharmacist almost exactly twenty years ago. Two decades seems like a long time to do pretty much anything, yet I can still vividly recall some of the patients I encountered early in my career, working evenings in a retail pharmacy that drew heavily on the alternative medicine crowd. It was the first pharmacy I’d ever seen that sold products like homeopathy, detox kits, salt lamps, ear candles, and magnetic foot pads. And the customers were just as unorthodox. There were some that told me they manipulated their own pH, and others that insisted any prescription drug was designed to kill. And there was a huge clientele that relied on the pharmacy for their “bioidentical” hormones. It was an instructive learning experience, as it was as far from the science of pharmacy school as you could expect to find in a place that still called itself a pharmacy. One of the really interesting aspects of that pharmacy was the enormous supply of vitamins and supplements for sale. It stretched over multiple aisles and even back into the dispensary, where there were some brands kept behind the counter. This wasn’t for any regulatory reason – it was because these were the “naturopathic” supply, the brands often recommended by naturopaths. In order for this pharmacy to sell them they had to keep the products behind the counter, presumably to grant these supplements a veneer of medical legitimacy. These were “special”, and they had the prices to prove it. Continue reading

Science-based health advocacy and the end of “Registered Holistic Allergists” in Canada

Photo of the GSR-120

Caution! The GSR-120 is an uproven allergy treatment

As the trend of fake food allergies and fake food intolerances has begun to permeate pharmacy practice, I’ve become much more attuned to allergy pseudoscience. As I have pointed out before, there are scientific ways to diagnose and treat allergies, and then there are the methods used by “alternative” health practitioners, which are neither accurate nor effective. It’s not only naturopaths – there is a wide field of different practices, all claiming the ability to identify and treat allergies. These methods lack scientific substantiation – some prefer to redefine the word allergy:

A Holistic Allergist uses a new definition of allergy: “A bioenergetic counteraction to a given substance resulting in abnormality”.

It’s strategy first documented in Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass:

“When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.” Continue reading