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Bad Research or Media Lies? The Problem with Conflicting Health Information

January 26, 2010 by  

Bad Research or Media Lies? The Problem with Conflicting Health Information

We don’t know why, but poor health information surrounds us everywhere. Some of it is just down right lies. And the general public has no way of knowing if what they hear, read or see is authentic or bogus.

Is it the media sensationalizing information for a “compelling story?” Is it government agencies in cahoots with some industry looking to quash the competition? What if it’s the companies themselves misrepresenting their goods? Then again, it could be simple ignorance.

I’d like to share an item with you that recently came to my attention. A patient of mine told me about an article on acupuncture she had read in a major newspaper. She said that the article was positive toward acupuncture and mentioned that it is very effective for certain diseases. It also noted that acupuncture was being taken seriously by physicians of Western medicine—and many were now studying it. So far, so good.

But the article went on to say that given the trials conducted by these M.D.s, the only thing important to acupuncture was the insertion of the needles—anywhere on the body! So according to their reports, patients got better by mere virtue of a needle or needles being inserted into their bodies at random locations.

Ridiculous!

This is not the first time I have heard such claims made by physicians trying to dismiss 3,000 years of Chinese medical history, case studies and theory. It’s their way of saying Chinese medicine is not only childlike but its efficacy is based solely on the placebo effect.  This was the understanding I walked away with years ago after seeing a documentary on the subject hosted by Alan Alda.

In this documentary, a physician treated a patient with an illness using a single acupuncture point. The patient felt better. The next week the same patient was treated using a different acupuncture point. Again, the patient felt better. And I remember thinking, “Of course the patient feels better. Both points selected are indicated for her problem.” But the show’s message was: acupuncture must work on the placebo principle since both points worked.

The theory of Chinese medicine is based on relationships in the body between organs, fluids, oxygen, thoughts, etc. And since there are many causes for any given disease and many associated signs and symptoms, to be truly effective the acupuncturist must select acu-points that address not only the main problem, but also the symptoms and secondary problems.

Thus, one could use the “horary” acu-point for that time—the point in the body holding the most qi (energy) for the current time period. Or, they could select the “master point” for the particular problem. Or a combination of points on different meridian channels to make an energetic current in the body. And so on.

So we practitioners say, “Of course many points work for any given illness. They are supposed to! But to get rid of the problem or alleviate the pain for the long term, the correct points must be selected and sequenced. Otherwise, acupuncture becomes a symptom-chasing method of masking problems in the short term. And this is not its domain.

Furthermore, the idea that a needle inserted into the body at any location and at any depth will heal the body is ludicrous. And here’s why.

Acupuncture is a science based on understanding etiology and pathogenesis of disease and the flow of qi (vital energy) in meridians (pathways) and specific location of points on those meridians. Proper depth of needle insertion must also be mastered as well as precise location of insertion. If the needle misses the exact location of an acu-point, the patient will not experience the “arrival of qi.” With no arrival of qi, there is no curative effect. If you miss the point but stay on the actual meridian channel, you will still receive an effect, but not as strongly as if you were to hit the point and channel concurrently. If you insert the needle too far you can puncture an organ or artery. If too shallow, you miss the channel and fail to activate the energy.

This theory and energy anatomy is so important that students of Chinese medicine spend years memorizing and training to locate point accurately, to needle them precisely. Moreover, acupuncturists become intimately familiar with several hundred different points, their effective uses en solo and in combination with others, and their contraindications. If these practices are not adhered to, patients would either fail to get better or they could get much worse.

And so the idea of inserting needles into the body at random to cure any illness or disease is pure fantasy. I’ve had patients tell me they went to another practitioner for their sinus problems, but felt no different after a dozen treatments. After one of my treatments, their sinuses were already draining. They ask me how this is possible when the same points were used by both of us. The answer: the former practitioner missed the points, even by a fraction in any direction, or by incorrect depth of needle insertion.

Acupuncture points are each named and numbered and indicated for specific problems. This is based on thousands of years of clinical experience and millions of case studies. And any acupuncturist will tell you that using points for stomachache will not help neuropathy; that points for acne will not help knee pain.

Thus, inserting needles at random locations to cure anything and everything becomes a non-issue. It is simply a false statement. If it was true, and I wish it were, then everyone who ever went to an acupuncturist would already be cured of all of their health problems. And each time you got a splinter, your body would suddenly be free of disease. For every bee sting, you would have one less arthritic joint.

So we are left with the problem of the media presenting to the public information on health that is bogus, misinformed and potentially hazardous. But is it the fault of the media to sensationalize a story by making it bipartisan? Or is the establishment offering the information and queering it for their benefit?

While the public has no real way of knowing, it is probably safe to assume both parties are at fault. In the end we can only take responsibility for our own health decisions. So if you are considering trying something for your health that is out of the mainstream, do as much research as you can, visit centers, talk to other patients, interview practitioners. Don’t rely on reports by opposing organizations or sensationalized media presentations. They’re only looking to push an agenda or make ratings.

Dr. Mark Wiley

Jeffrey R. Matthews

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  • John C. Davidson

    The idea that if the government does take over health care in this country, it will have a big effect on many independent insurence agencies. This is just one of may factors that concerns us all.

    Presently, Medicare and the VA systems have demonstrated that they are more interested in denying claims as are private insurance companies. There difference between private and government agencies is that you essentually have no recourse with government controlled entities.

    • denniso

      Probably the most fundamental problem in our health industry is the conflict of the profit motive w/ healthcare…whether it’s accupuncture or drugs or herbs or surgery,essentially everything involved has profit attached to it and often huge profit. Health studies done by drug co’s and treatments pushed by private co’s,make it almost impossible to determine what is actually effective and safe. And at the root of the whole mess is a giant pot of money that good practioners and charlatans as well are all fighting for.

    • Smilee

      John

      My experience since I retired is that Medicare does a far better job than the private insurance companies do, just my personal experience and I have now been on Medicare for six years. Medicare only denies claims if it is a not a covered expense and my experience with private companies they will use any excuse to not pay and I have seen many of these overturned but you need a lawyer to accomplish it. For example if an insurance company denies payment due to what they claim is a pre existing condition and you just discovered that medical condition they are lying to you as by law it is not a pre existing condition before you know about it even though you may have had the condition for years, I have seen this many times and just one letter from an attorney get the payment out pronto as they are fully aware of their lies and they known they cannot defend them, Medicare and the VA are prohibited by law for denying for any pre existing conditions and never try except by those who will tell lies about or do not understand what it is they are talking about. You are also wrong about recourse with Medicare and each statement you get when you file a claim has that information for an appeal given to you with the statement but it is rarely needed as they do always pay and very quickly. Many people simply hate these plans and will tell lies about it because of that. What is your reason??

  • http://www.yahoo.com/?fr=fptb-msgr Jean

    I haven’t listend to the so-called health experts for many years and I sure will not listen to people who look like a toothpick and look half dead because they eat only veggies and no meat and their going to tell me what is healthy or not I don’t think so.Read Leviticus chapter 11 those are our food laws and there from GOD who created these bodies and knows what will keep us healthy.Pork is the worst thing to eat they have no sweat glans so what they eat you eat and that in itself will make you sick.

    • DaveH

      Does Paula Abdul look like a toothpick to you?
      Or how about Alec Baldwin (I dislike him by the way). Does he look skinny to you?
      Here is a list of famous Vegetarians:
      http://www.soystache.com/famousaz.htm

    • Meteorlady

      I am not a vegetarian but do limit my meat intake. I have lived a healthy life, including diet and exercise. I am currently 65 years old and weight 130lbs, have great muscle mass and am able to still do most things I did at 30. I am also not on any prescription medications. So……. how do I do this? I use supplements from the health food store – things like high quality multi-vitamins and minerals, fish oil, and a few other minor supplements. I watch my weight by eating moderately, eat regularly, do not diet (they don’t work), and exercise daily. As for God and our food laws – bunk. How much do you weight and how old are you?

      • Arkham Grundy

        Great common sense, Meteorlady. I lived in Asia for many years and saw successful treatments with simple natural remedies that do not have the daunting list of side effects that many Wester drugs have.

      • home boy

        you go girl. here’s a good documentury to watch concerning food .it’s call FOODINC. watch it and you will be amazied at what you are eating. we spend 7% of our money on health care and 15% on food. it should be the other way around.

        • DrKete

          @ homeboy- Nononono! We SHOULD spend more money on food and supplements than medical care. That is the proper way to do it. Stay away from most of the mainstream media propaganda about food and weight and exercise- most is lies sponsored by the drug companies. The illustrious medical community brought us the statin drug, cholesterol-lowering drugs and the idea that butter is bad but margarine is good- all ways to kill you quicker. They operate by a consensus of opinion- not science. Beware.

      • Charles Bower

        I am 90 and quite able. I am looking forward to the return of Christ. We are headed into a depration that will make 29 look like a Sunday school Picnic.

      • http://LibertyAlert Dee Doyle

        Recently I celebrated my 80th birthday at the top of the chairlift at the local ski resort. Then I skied down with all my friends. I research alternative medicine, exercise regularly, practice medical meditation, take vitamins, drink lots of tea, and eat a low-fat healthy diet. I am 5’10″ and weigh 146 lbs.

        Personal Liberty has been very helpful. I am especially interest in maintaining a healthy heart and strong knees at my age.

        • libertytrain

          dee – congratulations – hope I’ll be able to that!

      • James A.

        Enjoy your life here because future prospects, based on you comment, appear bleak to say the least.

  • http://www.yahoo.com/?fr=fptb-msgr Jean

    Here is a bumper sticker I have tells you about my attitude toward them. VEGETARIAN-old indian word for poor hunter.

    • libertytrain

      Jean – cute.

    • jim

      I didn’t climb to the top of the food chain to eat carrots.

      • http://Don'thaveone Sally

        Before the flood, all people on earth were vegatarians however, after the flood God allowed the eating of meat of various kinds and prohibing some. Vegatarians all look anemic to me. Its funny, but Japan where soy use to be big, has ban the production of certain soy products for human consumption as it was found it stunted growth for one thing plus many other malfunctions.

        • Cathy S

          I certainly don’t look anemic or “half-dead.” As far as a vegetarian being a poor hunter…I don’t think there’s much skill involved in shooting a defenseless animal. I’m a good shot, BTW.

          Genesis 1:29 “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”

          There’s another Bible quote. So what? I don’t believe in much of that stuff anyway. I just wonder what God thinks about you all brutalizing his creatures. You can make fun of us, put us down, think we’re crazy for not chewing on corpses.

          Actually, I’m in pretty good company with some pretty smart people who also were vegetarians: Leonardo daVinci, Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, Ben Franklin, Henry David Thoreau, Leo Tolstoy, H. G. Wells, and Albert Schweitzer.

          Our bodies are not designed to eat meat because we cannot digest it. We have the long intestinal tract. All animals that have the same system are vegetarians, such as the elephant, giraffe, and hippo. The animals with the short intestinal tracts are the carnivores, such as the lion, wolf, dogs, and cats. I guess animals are smarter than humans…they know what they’re supposed to eat.

          “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined. If beef is your idea of `real food for real people,’ you’d better live real close to a real good hospital.” -Neal D. Barnard, M.D., President, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, D.C

          I believe it is morally wrong to torture, brutalize, and slaughter helpless animals that have never harmed us in any way, just so people can gorge themselves with this crap. I don’t want to be a part of this.

  • http://BobLivingstonAlternativeMedicine Michelle

    Dr. Wiley, This was a wonderful article.
    I have been visiting accupuncturists for 8 years and I am very happy this treatment is available in USA.
    I have to say though that non-Chinese accupuncturists do much better than Chinese ones, at least that was my experience.
    It is not the lack of knowledge, of course, this is their medicine, not ours, but it is the lackm of communication with Chinese (and for that matter Korean doctors as well) that is lacking.

    There is also a lack of trust on my part. For instance, I live in a “Chinese” neiborhood, so I figured I coulld see someone locally in 5 minutes, rather than 3 hrs. round trip.
    The doctor was polite, his office was clean, and he know his points!
    But, I noticed, in a corner he had jars of alcohol with used needles.
    I spoke with my regular, 3 hr. away accupuncturist and he said that is illegal to reuse needles, even after sitting in alcohol. My osteopath also said that some pathogens, such as those for Hepatitis would not be killed by alcohol.
    Bottom line, we need to be careful, and stay away from Chinese accupuncturists, foreigners do not care for our rules!

    • Dr. Mark Wiley

      Michelle, it was good you were able to see those needles. Indeed, it is illegal to reuse needles in the US. That is why they are sold in unit dose packages, 1 needed, in plastic, to throw away in a sharps container after use.

      There is a big communication problem for many Americans when seeing Asian acupuncturists. In Asia, they do not feel the need to explain things to the patient. The patient, for their part, does not see the need to ask. Trust is implicit. Here, that is a different story. Good luck!

  • Raggs

    Mark… I have to agree with your article.
    Let’s just take a look at the swine flu for instance… Fueled by the media hype.. “Cry wolf” comes to mind. I see at least 30 ad’s / infomercials on tv everyday for products that will save the world.
    It almost seems as if they come up with a new disease twice a week just to sell a procuct…

    • Johnny Putt

      Plain Logic should tell you that acupuncture is right down
      there with faith healing. Neither one manipulates the
      molecules in living cells. But they both fatten the wallet
      of hustlers. My experience:
      I’m a fairly healthy 76 year old who has had several bouts
      with nasty malignancies over the last 15 years. My conventional
      treatment has allowed me to be amongst others suffering with
      the big C. Some of those
      poor devils were destitute enough to try off-the-wall non
      scientific stuff such as acupuncture. I’m still around those
      folks won’t be down for breakfast.

      Show me an example of an intricate DNA spiral helix molecule
      10,000 could fit on the tip of the acupuncture needle how
      they’ll change their characteristic to ease an ear ache.

      im-effin-possible

      From Johnny (Stud-Muffin) Putt

      • DaveH

        Yes, and I have known many who died in spite of enduring the pain and suffering of Chemotherapy for the last few months of their lives. Medical treatment is a very personal thing and should be determined only by the patient. If people want to try alternative approaches, then that is their natural right.

        Kudos to Dr. Wiley for keeping an open mind. Many physicians fight tooth and nail against any potential competitors. I’m glad to see Mark isn’t one of them.

      • Rod James

        Johnny Putt, If so healthy why so many nasty malignancies?

      • Arkham Grundy

        Like in all forms of medicine, there are acupuncture quacks and real healers. Too many practitioners in the West study for a short time and declare themselves masters (as is the case with martial artists).

        Acupuncture wrks by stimulating the nervous system which in turn stimulates internal organs to function differently which in some cases can result in health benefits.

        Acupuncture does not change anyone’s DNA or the chemical content of a patient’s body.

        Before ou write this thousands of year old practice off, do some homework.

  • Richard Pawley

    Most of my life I have not had “health insurance” other than the interest in staying well that God gave me and a desire to know more. The few times I’ve been hospitalized were covered by auto insurance, but mostly I’ve relied on myself and on a rare occasion when I felt I should go to a doctor I paid with money. Of course I don’t eat the way most people eat, my butter is organic, my milk is free of artificial bovine hormones, I have taken natural – not drug store synthetic – vitamins and minerals made from fruits and vegetables for decades, far more Vitamin D-3 than the government says is necessary. I never get ‘shots’ except for polio and TB shots as a kid, although I did get one in 1970 when I thought I was going overseas. I also take Muscadine grape seed, and Antarctic Krill oil, and Yaeyama Chlorella on a daily basis. I haven’t drunk unfiltered tap water in over 30 years and I avoid all artificial sugars and try to avoid HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) because of all the damage it does to the human body. Since this filler is now in most processed foods and is made from genetically modified corn, illegal in most major countries, it is hard to avoid it all. I don’t drink American soda’s or eat American jam because it is all made from HFCS with only a trace of cane sugar or none at all. It takes a long time to learn all this.

    • Patrick

      Richard, thanks for your interesting posting. I was talking to a friend just this morning about vitamin D3, and would be interested in what sources (producers) of vitamins, krill, and chorella you would recommend in general. I am currently trying to identify local sources of clean organic dairy and meat products, and am planning my first attempt at organic gardening using the “square-foot” containered technique. Anyway, good post. Take care…

      • Earlw

        Look no further than the Weston A. Price foundation, which is a proponent of your request for natural food and milk…..Google it and you will be pleasantly surprised. also try realmilk.org. We buy in Fl regularly and use it….The LAW says it has to be labeled “pet food only” Nudge,Nudge!

  • Medina, Fl.

    As a person who is afraid of regular medicine, I applaud to be able to take advantage of natural medicine, which I rather use it. It’s amazing to hear advertisement of all kind of pills,etc. to cure some kind of illness, but the side effects are worst than the illnesses. Well am not taking any chances with them, as long as I can avoid it. Pharmaceuticals are just worried about their money machine, not about us human beings, as they had done with H1 vaccine, who was not tested for humans!? I had lived plenty of years without those horrible shots, which gives you the illness it’s supposed to avoid getting. Thanks, No thanks.

  • http://Yahoo Dee D

    What chemical found in all natural water sources becomes deadly if it comes in contact with the floride they inject into our water?
    Our meat processors use floride for shelf life for profits.

  • http://trainwithjake.com Austin Personal Trainers

    Acupuncture changed my life, although not until I found the right acupuncturist. I speak from personal experience when I say IT DOES MATTER WHERE THE NEEDLES ARE PLACED. This has been an ongoing 3000+ year study for a reason.

  • edd

    Some times I think the practice of medicine is by-gosh and by-golly. I do know that the mind is most powerful and has been shown over the years to defy all logic. I also know that clorine, fluride and msg is poison. And trial lawers and government are responsable for the high cost of health care. Groth hormones in our meat cant be good! So,if you be vegeterian or meat eater, you are going to die!! What the hell, we have been doing that for years. I believe the secret to good health is a bolanced diet, plenty of fresh clean water,exersize clean air positive attitude and a spirit of kindness to others. So if it hurts or makes you angry, leave it alone.It is written” get knowledge my son get wisdon, but of all thy getting get understanding”.

  • Meteorlady

    Good article. I have visited Acupuncturist and they have certainly helped. I also visited Chinese Herb Doctors for certain ailments that would otherwise have required prescription medication and they worked wonderfully well. In fact the Herb Doctor actually fixed a few things like Carpal Tunnel and a sore hip with herbal treatment. There are many herbal supplements that work as well if not better than prescription medications but are written off by the medical establishment and pharmaceutical companies. Modern western medicine is based on treating the symptoms, not the underlying illness nor prevention.

  • Dickie

    What in the HELL does the media,And the BOZO,Obama expects,That the people are getting the wrong message about the pelosi,reid,& bill clinton’s Health-Death plan,When his administration shuts the doors,To all the nonBribe Takeing Politions,And the PEOPLE OF AMERICA,Nobody knew what was in the the bill,They only showed an hour on C-Span,After every one that took a bribe,Got their bribe or deal,And tried to pass it in the dark of night.And no one still did not know what they were to vote on.If polsie & reid were some what honest,Why did they hide it from everyone,And WHY DID THEY MAKE THEIRSELVES EXCEMPT,And have their on different plan.And then obama goes again behind CLOSED DOOR’S,And GIVES THE MOB UNION DEALS & MAKES THEM EXCEMPT!.These TRYANTS REALLY THINK THE AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE STUPID!.And when asked,They like the bribe takeing muthar,Gets P–S OFF,And runs his smart a– mouth,Like how dare someone question his integrity,Like he knows what that is.If these people were not crooks,or shoulders,Why hide their activity,Instead of the way communist do.I think obama & his clan have got to be so arrogant,Or they just don’t care what the people in America want.I can’t believe they are that stupid not to see,But just don’t care how we feel or think.You see how dodd & some of the other demon’s have takeing their money and ran,Trying to save face,But they will not excape history,And kerry better think about he will be doing after the next election,Along with pelosi,reid,boxer,franks,spector,& muthar.I pray they they WILL BE OUT,Even if by another Demoncraft,That will be better than nothing,Now only if Chicago,Can some how find someone that is almost honest,If there is anyone there.

  • Meteorlady

    I had some problems a few years ago – well 15 actually – and could not get medical establishment help so I visited a place called the Tahoma Clinic in Kent, Wa. The clinic is run by Dr. Jonathan Wright and he is internationally known for his research and treatments. Years before he was so successful in treating people with alternative medicine that the local doctors got scared and accused him of various things. The result was a raid by the FDA. Since Dr. Wright treats a lot of elderly people his waiting room was filled with them. The FDA came through the door in full dress – flack jackets and automatic weapons at ready. They scared the heck out of the people in the waiting room and also the people in the examination and chelation rooms half to death. They took Dr. Wrights computers, records and generally tore up his office. There was a Grand Jury hearing and he was not allowed to attend. The news media was in a frenzy about this quack in their midst. Exactly one hear later the government quietly gave him back all his belongings and no charges were ever filed against him or the the Clinic. To this day there are signs on the doors to his clinic that let the government know that they cannot enter and must go through his lawyers. They are never bothered him again. He is remarkable and practices the very best of the best in alternative medicine and is know throughout the world. They also train other physicians and osteopaths so they can better practice in their own communities.

    • Marilyn

      I have subscribed to newsltrs from alternative Dr’s but ea letter is selling a different product which I figured wd cost $1000/wk to buy them all. I believe in these Dr’s.but can’t find out any good ones in my area to see.Do they all communicate and practice with same ideas.I have read the story on Dr. W along with others who were forced to leave country and publish their works from there. I want to find a good one in my state that I can see (NJ) I refuse to take prescriptions and have remained healthy on my own diet of natural vitamins. It is time to get on a regime monitored by an alternative Dr I can trust. I don’t like making my own guesses. Can anyone help me out finding a Dr…

  • Marilyn

    Does anyone know of any alternative, natural Dr’s in NJ.. I can’t seem to find one and would love to go to one… I get a lot of mail and books from them but can never find out where they are to see them

  • Fed Up Gal in NM

    Dr Wiley,

    Thank you for this article. I’ve had migraines since childhood. I can go months without an episode and then have 2 or 3 days out of a week where I have raging migraines lasting from one to several days.

    I’ve heard that acupuncture/acupressure can (in some cases) reduce the severity and/or frequency of migraine headaches. I live near Albuquerque NM, where there are plenty of alternative medicine practitioners. I’m wondering however, if you might provide a reference one might use to research licensed, qualified practitioners as opposed to simply searching the yellow-pages or the internet.

  • http://diyhomemadeacnetreatment.blogspot.com Clint Eastwood

    Saw your blog bookmarked on Delicious. I love your site and marketing strategy.

  • s c

    The correct answer is bad research AND media lies. Drug firms make a habit of fudging research (that makes many medical ‘scientists’ as utterly irrelevant and unconscionable as al gore). At the same time, the lamestream, PROSTITUTED media pimps for Big Pharma while Americans are expected to accept anything put forth by the media as divine words chiseled in granite.
    The FDA has ADMITTED that it CAN’T do its job, and yet our media retards just can’t find a way to get the message across to the public. At long last, people have started to wake up and see media slime for the losers they really are. It’s no wonder so many newspapers are going OUT-OF-BUSINESS (while I’m at it, so much for Air America). People want to hear the TRUTH.
    Anyone who can’t handle the truth should live in another country. Let the mass exodus begin with the hundreds of self-made cretins in the MEDIA.

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