Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A True Placebo has No Effects

Do clinical studies lie? A true placebo has no effect. Is the Gold Standard of medicine, the double blind placebo controlled trial, scientific nonsense, based on "fools gold"?

A placebo effect, is defined by Webster's dictionary as: "improvement in the condition of a patient that occurs in response to treatment but cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used".

In other words, a placebo is not caused by a placebo. If it is a true placebo, then it did not cause the placebo effect. Only false placebos can cause placebo effect.

How can this be? Aren't placebos a gold standard tool of modern medicine? Actually no. Placebos are scientific nonsense.

The best known, perhaps first, serious medical consideration of placebo effect, was written by Henry K. Beecher, M.D. with the title "The Powerful Placebo". Beecher documented many situations where a placebo, given to a patient in a clinical study, had a powerful effect. But the placebo given, by definition, could not cause the effect.

But Webster's says the effect "cannot be considered due to the specific treatment used". How can a placebo have a powerful effect, if placebo effects are not caused by the placebo?

The Oxford Dictionary attempts to provide an answer with their definition: “A beneficial effect produced by a placebo drug or treatment, which cannot be attributed to the properties of the placebo itself, and must therefore be due to the patient's belief in that treatment

This answer that has been used to support many medical research studies.

But, it's nonsense.

If placebo effect is "due to the patient's belief in the treatment",

then... if we treat the patient by modifying their belief and we successfully change the beliefs of the patient,

then...changing the patient's belief is a treatment. It's the that treatment caused "the beneficial effect" on the patient.

But, by definition, it's a real treatment, causing a real effect, not placebo treatment.

A placebo treatment cannot cause placebo effect. When a treatment causes an effect, it's not a placebo treatment. 

How can this paradox be resolved?  It's easy actually. We need to rewrite the definitions of placebo and placebo effect, with definitions that make sense.

Placebo Effect: a beneficial effect on a patient's illness, where we do not understand the cause. 

 - when we understand the cause, it is not a placebo effect.
 - when we don't understand the cause, it is placebo effect.
 - when we figure out the cause of a placebo effect, it becomes a real, known cause, and the placebo effect disappears. It's converted in to a real effect.

Placebo effects are like shadows, illusions, unknowns, caused by misunderstanding. As soon as we understand, they disappear.  They become real effects.

But... If a placebo effect is an effect where we do not understand the cause, then, what is a placebo?

Placebo: a treatment followed by a beneficial effect on the patients illness, where we do not understand the cause of the benefit.

We're not saying the placebo caused the effect.  Maybe it did.  Maybe it didn't. We don't understand.

What does this mean for the Gold Standard of medicine, the double blind, placebo controlled, clinical trial?

A double blind placebo controlled clinical trial pits a placebo against a new medicine or treatment. Sometimes, the medicine wins. Often, it's a statistical, technical draw. Once in a while, the placebo wins.

Let's look at all six cases.

Six cases? Aren't there only three possible results?  Actually no. There are six possible results for any treatment, depending on whether the treatment cures, or only makes the patient (or the doctor) feel better. When a treatment cures, the results have a different meaning.

When the Treatments cure:

1. If the cure is only produced in the medical treatment group, and never produced in the placebo treatment group, the medicine is clearly the best treatment.

2. If the cure is sometimes produced in the medical group, and sometimes in the placebo group, then - we really don't know what happened.

3. If the only the placebo treatment group produced cures, then we need to study the placebo treatment, and abandon the medical treatment.

NONE of the above situations occurs in today's clinical studies. Today's clinical studies don't cure. Almost never.  If the treatment cures, it is not necessary to test against a placebo.  Why not? There are two main reasons:

a. A cure is a cure. If we know how to cure, there is no need for a clinical study. We diagnose the disease - and prescribe the cure. The illness is cured.

b. Cured is not defined for most diseases. Cured is almost NEVER defined for clinical studies. There is no need to define 'cured' for a double blind placebo controlled clinical study. In the vast majority of clinical studies, if a cure is encountered, it is ignored. Cures are not defined for the purposes of the study, and it is assumed that any cure is not a result of the medicine being tested.

When the Treatments Don't Cure:

The clinical study might produce a beneficial effect on the patient's illness, or their symptoms of illness, (or not), but it cannot produce a cure for the illness. Most clinical studies have no intention to cure.

4. If the treatment group gained more benefit, than the placebo group, the treatment wins.

5. If a benefit results from the treatment group, and the placebo group also sees a benefit, then we really don't know what happened. This is the result of many, perhaps most, double blind, placebo controlled clinical studies.

6. If the placebo group benefits more than the treatment group - we should to pursue the placebo treatment, and discard the medical treatment.  But that never happens.  What actually happens? We dismiss the placebo treatment, and pursue a different medical treatment.

And the Winner is? 

Most, almost all placebo controlled double blind clinical studies today result in 5. The treatment group sees some benefits. The placebo group sees some benefits. We're not really sure what happened.

If the treatment group wins, the treatment heads to market.  If the placebo group wins, the results are discarded.

How can this happen? It happens because the goal of double blind placebo controlled study is to find a medicine that "does not cure" better than the placebo treatment "does not cure".

Double blind placebo controlled studies measure which treatment "does not cure better".  The result is predictably, nonsense, failure to understand.


We know that we don't know why the placebo treatment worked some of the time. But nobody cares, because they forget that a true placebo treatment has no effects.

The next time someone says "It's probably just placebo effect.", ask: 
"Was it caused by a real placebo, or a false placebo?"

to your health, tracy


Saturday, December 24, 2016

What's Your Christmas Happiness Score?

In this, the Christmas season, we often take time to think about happiness. Some people are very happy at Christmas, some - not so much, even some who are happier all year round. Christmas happiness is different. How can that be?Measure your Christmas Happiness.
What is it about happiness? Sometimes, it seems the more we pursue it, the faster it runs away.  We capture it for a moment, and then it's gone. Some people never seem to be happy, while others appear always to be in the bliss of ignorance. Most of us, are floating, somewhere in-between.  Seeking happiness, sometimes finding it, sometimes not.
What is happiness? What are happinesses? Wiki offers "Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy." That might seem pretty broad - happiness can be a lot of things. But actually, it's too narrow. Happiness is a mental or emotional state, yes, but it can also be physical healthiness - or even community healthiness, community spirit. When you have a toothache, or arthritis, it's not just your mind that is unhappy - your body is complaining too.
This diagram represents the circles of healthiness of an individual. Each person has one body, but can be of several minds, has many spirits that ebb and flow throughout their days and their lifetime - and participates in many communities. The circles are fuzzy - actually fuzzier than the diagram. In team sports for example, when "in the zone", the line between body and community can merge completely.
Healthiness, and happiness too, exists in every circle - body, minds, spirits, and communities.
We might pretend that the happinesses of Christmas are about getting presents, extensions of the body, our physical self, but no.  The happinesses of Christmas are spirit and community happiness.
Christmas has an interesting effect on community happinesses. When Christmas comes, we have to choose which community to be with. By choosing, we must also exclude some of our communities. We can, if we try, find many ways to include more of our communities, by travelling and spreading Christmas across many days - but some people limit their communities at Christmas.  Some people deliberately exclude some, or a large number of their communities at Christmas - and their Christmas happinesses suffer.
We can each choose to involve more, or fewer of our communities at Christmas - but our communities, and the people in those communities, are choosing as well. When others exclude us, it's harder to work on our own community happinesses. There are two sides to any community happiness - one of which we cannot control.
The Oxford Happiness Questionaire is a set of 29 questions designed to measure happiness, or 'psychological well-being'. They are not sorted by body, minds, spirits, and communities - but clearly refer to each area. From them, we can create some sample groupings of their measures;
Body: feeling healthy, energy levels, rested, alertness, attractiveness,
Mind; rested, alertness, attractiveness, make decisions, get things done, good memories, able to find beauty, optimism, satisfaction, empowered, rewarded by life, and influence events,
Spirit: happy, pleased, laughter, joy, elation, optimism, satisfaction, empowered, rewarded by life,
Community: interested in people, cheerful, fun, warm feelings towards others, .
Note: there is overlap, or fuzziness, as in the coloured diagram. Many questions refer to different layers of happiness at the same time. The Oxford Happiness quiz appears to put the most attention on mental and spiritual happiness, with much less emphasis on physical and community happiness. On the other hand, painkillers are designed to improve physical healthiness, while we use alcoholic drinks can improve social healthiness.
The World Happiness Report measures and compares happiness of people around the world.  You can view their 2016 report on world happiness if you are interested in learning more. They define happiness as 'subjective well being', and their measures of happiness seem to be, like the Oxford Happiness Questionnaire, mostly based on mind and spirit happinesses. The Authentic Happiness website, managed by the Positive Psychology Centre, offers many quizzes and tools to measure different aspects of happiness, but does not distinguish well between body happiness, mind happiness, spirit happiness - and does not pay much attention to community happiness at all. Most of their focus appears to be on 'emotional' aspects of happiness - which in healthicine is 'spirit happiness'.
Complete happiness requires happiness in every layer: body, mind, spirit, community. Is it possible to feel happy if the body is unhealthy? Actually it is. Drug addicts sometimes work so hard to find happiness - that they can kill their bodies. To the outsider, it's a false happiness, but to the addict, it might be the best they can do at the time.
We can see false happiness when we raise one layer above the others artificially. However, this technique can be useful, and can - over a short period of time, actually make us happier. When we hurt our physical body, get a tooth pulled, or undergo a surgery, a painkiller, or a placebo, can provide relief and helps us recover.
On the other hand, sometimes a powerful happiness technique becomes addictive, leading to unhappiness that spreads throughout the entire person. Too much team spirit - community happiness, can lead to loss of self, loss of mental and emotional happiness. Constant attempts to find joy - emotional or spirit happiness can lead to seeking or purchasing more and more things - sacrificing other happiness of the body, mind, and community. Being too rational is a common road to unhappiness - it's always easier to criticize, and to rationalize criticism, than it is to understand, accept and be grateful.
Physical happiness comes from a healthy body. Healthy bodies come from healthy nutrition and movement. Dead things aren't healthy, they don't move. When you stop moving, you lose healthiness, and happiness too. When you move your body, happiness increases.
Pain resides in mind and body - and intrudes into our spirits and communities. Empathy includes community pain and community pleasure - community happiness. Pain can be real, physical, but our minds, spirits, and even our communities can create it, magnify it, and diminish it. Seeking happiness in painkillers - drugs - can lead to an empty happiness, that feels great, sometimes even as the body stops moving and dies. Sometimes, pain requires rest, to facilitate healing. But often, pain, and healing requires movement. When I walk my dog - I feel no pain. Life, health, and happiness are not simple.
The mind, like the body, is happy when it is active, happiest when it is "in the flow". "I'm bored!" is the classic adolescent expression of unhappiness, often expecting something from the outside to make them happy. But mental happiness comes from within. We can exert power over our mind, by planning specific actions. We can enjoy joy more - by anticipating it. Simple acts of gratefulness can create and improve mental happiness.
The line between mental happiness and spirit happiness is the line between your rational and your emotional self. Like all boundaries, it is fuzzy. Do you think you are happy (minds) do you feel happy (spirits). A reliance on one to the exclusion of the other leads to a happiness imbalance - and to unhappiness.
At Christmas time the happinesses and the unhappinesses that we notice most are those of community. Christmas brings families together, whether they are strongly religious or not. Those with strong religious beliefs return to our religious communities. Community happiness is a measure of the healthiness of our selves - body, mind, and spirit - in our communities, and also the healthiness of our communities towards each other and towards ourselves.
People with stronger, healthier communities, have more community happiness. Much of the year, we live independent lives, but at Christmas, we choose to make our communities more important.  It is perhaps ironic that Christmas is often all about getting gifts for the 'body', the personal self - but these gifts do little for community healthiness. Giving, on the other hand, can benefit community healthiness.  But not just gifts. The most powerful gifts for community healthiness are ourselves. When we give our time, our bodies, our minds, and our spirits to our families, and to other communities, we improve our own happiness and the healthiness and happiness of the community.
It is possible to use drugs to feel happy, but many drugs cause the person to retreat from community, from society - resulting in a physical and mental excess of happiness, but a severe loss of spirit and community happiness.  Others, like alcohol, can enhance spirit and community happiness, but if used excessively they result in poor physical and mental health, poor physical and mental happiness, leading to poor community happiness.
Is it possible to be 'too happy'?  Actually, yes it is. It is possible to rely too much on physical (body) happiness, or mind (rational) happiness, or spirit (emotional) happiness, or social (community) happiness, leading to happiness imbalances - unhappiness. If you are too happy, Pollyanna happiness, you have two problems.  First - the only way is down.  Every action you take might make you less happy. But perhaps more important, if you are too happy - you have nothing to strive for, and lose those aspects of happiness.
Analgesics, antidepressants, alcohol, and more. Sometimes, they are effective - especially in the short term, but in the long term they can easily lead to addiction, danger, and death.
What about placebos? Can placebos make us happier - better than drugs?  The main benefit of a placebo is no side effects. People are much less likely to become addicted to a placebo - and if so, what's the harm? But the definition of a placebo is weak, and many real actions that improve happiness might seem to be nothing but a placebo.  Being grateful is a powerful tool to improve happiness. It's not a drug. Is it a placebo? No.  A placebo is something that has no real effect. Prayer might seem to be a placebo, but it can lift the spirits - and in a church it can also feed community happiness.
Is unhappiness the opposite of happiness? It can be, but that's a simplistic view. Unhappiness can also be the absence of happiness, or a severe imbalances in happiness - caused by excessive happiness in one area. Unhappiness is opportunity for improvement in happiness - just as unhealthiness is an opportunity for improvements in healthiness.
By separating happiness, and unhappiness into body, mind, spirit, and community, we gain more insight into how to improve our happiness.  Happiness in the body is improved or gained by actions that improve the healthiness of the body.  A healthy body is a happy body.  Happiness of the mind can be improved by directed positive thinking, by removing mental roadblocks. Happiness of spirit is central - and can be improved by many techniques that improves happiness, from meditation to play.  Community happiness is improved by active participation in your communities, and by working to make your communities happier.
At present, there are no scientific tools to measure your level of Christmas Happiness, so I've created one in EXCEL, and you can download it here:
to your health, tracy
Founder: Healthicine

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

All your Truth are Belong to Us

The truth is not out there. The truth can only be found inside yourself. The interweb is full of lies, but the real truth can be found on the internet. The truth is obvious. You have to dig deep to find the truth. The earth is flat. Flat-earthers are idiots. The Twin Towers were downed by Islamic terrorists. The three towers were demolished by an evil government and business conspiracy. President Kennedy was killed by Lee Harvey Oswald. Kennedy was killed by accident, by a secret service agent. Elvis has left the building. Only alternative medicines work. Only conventional medicines work. Vaccines are safe and should be mandatory. Vaccines are dangerous and should be banned. Only a chiropractor can cure your illness. Chiropractic is a pseudo-science.

These truths are not valid, they cannot be validated.  The truth that "these truths cannot be validated", cannot be validated. The only truth: "There is no truth."

Only the simplest of truths can be true. The simple truth is simply a lie. Simple truths are yes/no answers - with no room for variations, and no grey areas.  Real truths are perceived differently by every viewer, vary over time, are sometimes useful and sometimes useless,

The stronger you believe in your simple truths, the more complex it becomes to hold them, the less truth they contain, the louder you need to yell to maintain your belief. The people who yell the loudest have the strongest truths. The people who speak the loudest tell the worst lies. The person with the biggest stick has the most useful truth. The person with the biggest stick can believe the biggest lies. Truth is dead. If you don't believe - you might be too.

The true guru sees the absence of truth as the only truth. There are no true gurus.

Life is goal oriented. Health is goal oriented. Life is not truth oriented. Truths are goal oriented. We use truth to accomplish our goals. We pursue, use, and abuse our truths to further our goals. Your truths is not important to, not useful to your neighbor, your competitor, your enemy. Their truths are not valid, not useful to you. When you share truths, the result is not larger truth, the result is might be cooperation, and it might be competition.

I'm reminded of the famous teacher's quote: “We have not succeeded in answering all our problems. The answers we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but we believe we are confused on a higher level and about more important things.

We have not succeeded in finding all of our truths. The truths we have found only serve to raise a whole set of new questions about our truths, and about truth itself. In some ways we feel we are as confused as ever, but our confusion is a higher level and about more important truths.

Life does not find truths, it searches for truth.  But look closely. Life searches for 'useful truths'. Life does not care if the 307th tree in the jungle in northern Brazil is young or old, has root rot, or an insect infection, or a bird's nest, or 5 bird's nests and a monkey colony that is passing through, is covered with rainwater, or dew, or mold. These truths are not useful.  When they change, they are not useful. Truth must be useful to be true. Useless truths don't matter, don't make any difference.  Truths that are useless, might as well be false. Only when truths are used, do they prove themselves useful.

When truths are used, they prove themselves.

Can you find the truth? Can you find the truths in the opening paragraph? Can you find your truth?Can you find my truth?

What if you genuinely want to know the truth? What if you actually want to find the truth, to learn the truth, what can you do? Who should you listen to? Me. Of course, it's true. It doesn't matter if you believe or not.  It's true.

But seriously.  Let's take a look at the truths in the opening paragraph. There are some insights there. We can learn from them. A guide for the perplexed, the confused, the bewildered, those who are puzzled, troubled, uncertain. Ask the dreamer. Ask the Red King. It's the same.
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"The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. 'Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?' he asked. 'Begin at the beginning,' the King said gravely, “and go on till you come to the end. Then stop.' (Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
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The Internet: The interweb is full of lies, but the real truth can be found on the internet. Of course the internet has lies and truths. Calling it the 'interweb', plants a seed, calls attention to untruths. But finding for the truth on the internet is like entering a web of lies, and searching for dead flies. No one cares about 'the truths' on the internet. They care about 'their truths'. The truth that sells. If you want to understand 'their truth', ask what they're selling.

The Flat Earth: The earth is flat. Flat-earthers are idiots. These truths are not mutually exclusive, they can both be true.  They can both be false. Flat earthers tend to be very intelligent people. Check them out. "But it's obvious the earth is not flat?"  Yes, that's true as well. Think about it.

X is true, Y is false. These truths are not mutually exclusive. Either can be true, both can be false. Situations change. Absolute truths necessarily ignore some aspects of reality. Simplification is the only path to truth. Simplification can only lead to false truths.

The earth is flat - the earth is not flat. Simple, boring truths. Only one can be right. Both can be wrong. The earth is flat; the earth is spherical.  Not simple, not binary, not mutually exclusive. Beware of complexity masquerading as simplicity. Complexity masks truths, presents lies as truth.

The Towers: The Twin Towers were downed by Islamic terrorists. The three towers were demolished by an evil government business conspiracy. I have no idea. You don't either. Maybe we'll never know. Maybe our great grandchildren will never know. Maybe nobody really knows. We can only search for better truths, not for the ultimate truth.

Who Killed President Kennedy? The official documents are out there. Locked in a box, like Schrodinger's Cat. We don't know who has the key.  We're not sure if the box still exists, or has been destroyed. We're not sure if the documents still exist, or have been destroyed. We're not sure if the official documents contain the truth or not. The truth is "out there". The truth is not out there. Does any government, or any business, have the ability to reveal their true truths? Or does governing and running a business require their truth, but not 'the whole truth', not 'nothing but the truth'?

Elvis has left the building.  True. It makes us sad too.

Medicines: Only alternative medicines work. Only conventional medicines work. Conventional medicines are not well defined. There is no official standard to distinguish between a conventional medicine and an alternative medicine. The US FDA only approves 'drugs', not 'medicines'. Therefore: Fact: every medicine, every treatment, is an alternative. Alternative medicines do not exist. The truths about alternative medicines and conventional medicines get more and more complicated, the wider your study, the deeper your search. We can only find faith, beliefs, and marketers. Lots of salesmen, on both sides. Salesmen need to believe their truths, their lies, because those truths feed them and their children.

Vaccines: Vaccines are safe and should be mandatory. Vaccines are dangerous and should be banned. A vaccine is a thing, a thing that exists. Vaccines are a class of things. You can't see them, our touch them. Vaccines are a thing do not exist, with regards to truth about safety and efficacy. Each vaccine is 'grown', not manufactured. Every batch is different. There is always risk. Every vaccine type is different.  Vaccine types change over time. Vaccine schedules change over time. Vaccines target living organisms. Living organisms change over time. Some vaccines have proven very dangerous. Some have proven very safe. Some useful. Some useless. Some have are safe some of the time, dangerous some of the time. Some are effective some of the time, useless some of the time. Some are a waste of time and money - but the salesman still makes a profit. There are no simple truths. And then it gets more complicated. Vaccines are given to people. People are different too. There are no truths to be found about 'vaccines'. That's the only truth to be found about vaccines.

Chiropractic: Only a chiropractor can cure your illness. Chiropractic is a pseudo-science. Chiropractors are more complex than vaccines. Chiropractic, the practice, is more complex than the sum of all of the people who practice it, and all of the patients, and all of their illnesses. Sometimes, chiropractors cure, forcing pseudo-callers to dismiss the truth. Most of the time, chiropractors fail to cure. But take note: most of the time, every medicine fails to cure. Sometimes, chiropractors cause damage. Sometimes, every useful medicine causes damage. That's how medicines work. We want to believe in simple truths, and get on with life. Simple truths do not exist.

We cannot judge every chiropractor as good or bad, any more than we can judge every doctor as good or bad. Truth requires acknowledging variations.

Real truth lies ahead. Real truths lie on both sides of every fence, both sides of every argument. Real truths lie quietly, silently, not caring what you believe.  Only lies need to yell.  Only lies need to swell their truths. Only lies need to sell.

There are no real truths. All your truth are belong to us.

Only health is true. Health is whole.  Health is slow and steady. Health is wide, and deep. Health is honest and true. - the Healthicine Creed.

To your health, tracy


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ps. The title "All your Truth are Belong to Us" is a play on the internet meme "All your base are belong to us". Translation: "you're busted". It is interesting to note that "all your truth are belong to us" contains a English error that makes the phrase technically wrong, technically untrue. If they belong to 'us', they are not 'yours' any more. 

Monday, September 12, 2016

Where can you find a Pseudo-Scientist?

Did you hear about the scam called ‘pseudoscience’? 
I don’t mean things we call pseudoscience, I'm refering to the scam of ‘calling things pseudoscience’. I'm referring to the science of pseudoscience, and the witch-hunts that result from claiming something is a pseudoscience. It's the latest fashion, and it's a big scam. 
If you don’t want anyone to think about something, to discuss something, if you want them to ignore reality, just call it a pseudo science. There is no science of pseudoscience.
The science of pseudo science is a pseudoscience. 
How does the 'science' of pseudo-science work?  Start with an authoritative sounding website or company.  Something with 'science based' in the name. Calling yourself a 'skeptic' is a common technique. But don't worry, you don't need to be a skeptic, you don't even need to know what a skeptic is, to become a 'pseudoscience buster'. Calling something a pseudoscience works best if you cloak yourself in the guise of a critic. No one will notice that your pseudo scientist has no clothes. 
Next, pick something you'd like to criticize or dismiss. You can start with few common examples to get some experience. Pick something you can poke fun at (pick things you don't understand - probably nobody else understands them either) and poke fun at it. It's easier if you start with things that someone else has already said are pseudoscience. There is no shame for plagiarism in the science pseudosciences. Next take out a wide brush and paint the entire field with your criticism.  Call it a pseudo-science. Get serious about it. The wider you can extend your 'criticisms' the better.
If you need a list of pseudosciences to get started. Simply punt the word pseudoscience into Google where you'll find examples like: Welteislehre, N rays, Lawsonomy, Laundry balls, Specified complexity, Holocaust denial, Rumpology, Scientific racism, brainwashing, and more. 
Now, I know what you're thinking.  "What is he talking about?  I thought pseudoscience was about medical things like homeopathy, and chiropractic and stuff like that." Well yes, they are included, but the bar for being declared a pseudoscience is not nearly so high. In fact it's so low that "searching for Noah's Ark" is considered a pseudoscience, according to Wiki. Seriously. I'm sure there are people out there searching for Noah's Ark, but is there a science called 'searching for Noah's Arc? Nope. But there's a pseudoscience called 'searching for Noah's Ark'. No one has to think it's a science to be declared a pseudoscience. 
Pseudoscience is often used to dismiss medical systems and technologies. But take care.  It's not considered kosher to use pseudoscience science to dismiss 'western' medical technologies - only so called 'alternative' medical technologies.  For example, even though scientific meta-studies of cancer research studies have found that the 20 foods that 'prevent' cancer are also the same 20 foods that 'cause cancer' in different studies - that's science, not pseudoscience. 
Honestly, how then are pseudosciences defined? You just call yourself an expert  in something, and pick something you don't believe, and get started. There's no qualifications required. You might have a PhD of arachnology, or a grade school education from Afghanistan. It makes no difference. There are no qualifications required to pseudoscience.  And me?  I don't need any qualifications to pseudoscience pseudoscience either. There is no PhD of pseudoscience, not even a Bachelor's degree. 
What is the science used to define a pseudoscience? Faith. That's it. If you want to believe something is a pseudoscience, you only need to believe. You only need to say "X is a pseudoscience" and then start convincing people. The larger X is, the more ground X covers, the easiest it is to call it a pseudoscience, because you can find more things to criticize. You simply make a claim that whatever you name has no scientific basis, and proceed from there. 
Don't worry, there is no need to 'prove' anything is a pseudoscience. That's good, because it's generally impossible. 
There are no standards to prove something is a pseudoscience - and as we've noted, you don't even need to prove someone thinks it is a science, to prove it's a pseudoscience. 
The most obvious examples of pseudo-pseudo-science are in the medical fields. Anything considered 'alternative' is fair game for a claim of pseudoscience. 
Homeopathy
One of the most famous, often cited ‘pseudosciences’ is homeopathy. Pseudo-scientists (typically geeks with high opinions of themselves and low opinions of everybody else) argue that homeopathy cannot work "because it cannot work". 
When you look closely at the arguments claiming homeopathy is a pseudoscience, they are simply pseudo-scientific. First of all, there is the ‘logic’ argument. That homeopathic medicines (a part of homeopathy) can’t work because of the dilution factor. But in real life, scientific tests, they work some of the time. What’s up? “Oh," the argument changes, "but they don’t work better than a placebo.” But there are clinical studies demonstrating that homeopathic medicines do sometimes work better than a placebo. “Oh, those clinical studies were not valid…” When practicing pseudoscience, it's important to be able to accept the research that supports your position, and dismiss any that is contrary to your argument. That way - the science always supports you.
Self proclaimed pseudo-scientists then leap to a second mistake. They say homeopathy should be banned, because the medicines can’t work. Duh. This is clearly a mixing of lines. If we want to know if homeopathy works, we need to test homeopathy, not their medicines. Surely you have met someone who claims to have been helped, or healed, or even cured, by homeopathy. Are these claims investigated by so called pseudo scientists? Nope. Nothing to see here.
The pseudo-science claimants don’t dare look too closely, because they might be forced to acknowledge a fundamental truth about most of today's medicines - which includes homeopathy.
Most medicines don’t cure. Most clinical studies, the Gold Standard of Medical Sciences, test medicines that don’t cure, to see which one ‘does not cure’ better. Sometimes homeopathic medicines do better. Sometimes prescription medicines do better. Sometimes placebos do better. 
What difference does it make if they don’t cure?
One clinical study that tested a homeopathic medicine vs a placebo, and reported that the homeopathic medicine worked better, but not by a ‘statistically significant amount’. Conclusion: the homeopathic medicine did not work better than the placebo. The catch? According the published research, the homeopathic medicine cured five patients (of 9) - the placebo cured only one (of 9). Duh. Homoeopathic versus placebo therapy of children with warts on the hands: a randomized, double-blind clinical trial.
Study conclusion: The homeopathic medicine showed no statistical difference in ability to ‘not cure’ warts. Of course they didn't use the word 'not cure', they used the word 'shrink'. There was no statistical difference between the placebo and the homeopathic medicine to shrink warts (when you ignore the cures). 
When the research was repeated 32 years later, the ‘does not cure’ results were identical. The conclusions of the researchers was identical. The only difference? In the 1998 study, ‘cured’ was not counted. Pseudo-scientists creates new pseudoscience to support nonsense pseudoscience.
Now, let me be honest, I don’t know if homeopathy works. I don’t know if homeopathic medicines work. But I do know that the pseudo-scientific geeks calling homeopathy a pseudoscience, don’t know what they’re talking about. And they don't want to know, to understand, they just want to be right. The goal of a pseudo-scientist is not science, it is simply to convince you to agree with their position. 
Acupuncture
Acupuncture is often claimed to be a valid medical treatment, but many pseudo-scientific geeks refer to it as a pseudoscience. What’s happening here?
Acupuncture does not cure. It makes no attempt to cure. In a true scientific test, acupuncture can only be compared to other treatments that do not cure.
As a result, all of the scientific studies comparing acupuncture to other treatments is simply a test of which treatment “does not cure better”. Pseudo-scientific pseudoscience. If you punt ‘acupuncture pseudoscience’ into google, you will get statements like
- acupuncture doesn’t work because acupuncture results are only placebo effect.
The truth about placebos are that pseudo scientists don't even read the dictionary definitions, much less attempt to understand them. Pseudoscience pseudoscience. Pull out your dictionary. Turn to P. Scan down to ‘placebo effect’. It says “an improvement in the condition of the patient”. Does it work? Or not. 
Placebo effects by definition, are real, positive effects on the patient’s condition that as a result of the treatment, that could not be caused by the treatment.  Eg. We do not understand them. If we do not understand them, how can we call them ‘pseudoscience’? 
When we find 'placebo effects', we need to work harder to understand, not stop trying to understand. We need to study and learn what really happened, not dismiss the evidence. Claiming ‘placebo effects’ is just an excuse to not investigate further. 
But of course that's the goal of the pseudoscience of pseudoscience. To shame. To halt discussion. To halt learning.  To halt any attempts to understand.
Some pseudo-scientists cast the net wide, attempting to capture any unconventional belief in their net. Others stick to more strict guidelines, but all make serious mistakes in their analysis. Once something is declared a pseudoscience, the need for rational thought, for scientific thought disappears and the tone changes from science to witch hunt. Pseudoscience is an excuse to ignore real science.
Science
Science, true science is about questions, not about truth. Science asks questions, attempts to understand. The answers found are seldom, if every ‘truths’. They are rather ‘interesting’, leading to different, more complex, perhaps more important. Scientific answers lead to more questions. That’s the way of science. That’s how science works.
Pseudoscientific questions and answers are designed to stop scientific investigation. They make nonsense measurements, using limited, nonsense assumptions, and produce nonsense results, which are often re-interpreted to create higher and higher levels of nonsense. The second homepathic wart study, in 1998, for example, was called “A double-blind, controlled clinical trial of homeopathy and an analysis of lunar phases and postoperative outcome.” Is this science? No. Is it an attempt to learn? No, it’s a blatant attempt to dismiss what we do not understand. It’s nonsense. But it’s scientific sounding nonsense, published by JAMA, available in PubMed, and often cited by other researchers.
Calling something a pseudoscience is not about science. It is a witch hunt. 
When we look closely at many ‘scientific’ treatment claims vs so called 'pseudoscience treatment' claims, we can see that both have some value, some danger, and some nonsense. We need to value the value, to avoid the risk and to dismiss the nonsense. Branding an entire practice as pseudoscience is simply a scam, an unscientific scare tactic, and a failure of science.
Calling things pseudoscience is a pseudoscience.  We can do better. 
to your health, tracy

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Cures Rule!

What is the true meaning of cure?  Actually, most of us know the meanings of cure, without referring to a dictionary. There are three:
  1. To stop the progression of an illness, by addressing the cause.
  2. To heal the damage caused by an illness.
  3. To prevent future causes of an illness.

Cures Rule:
Every illness has a cause.
Every cure has a cause.
What about Miracle Cures
A miracle cure is a cure that works without addressing the cause of an illness. If a person is suffering from cancer, or arthritis, or diabetes – each illness has a cause.  It is a miracle if they are cured without addressing the cause. If a patient has a disability, is blind, or cannot hear, and the damage is so severe that natural healing cannot repair it – a cure is a miracle. When we look closely at miracle cures, we generally find a real cause of the cure, or that the cure is not really present.
Dictionary Cures
Dictionary definitions of cure are confused and confusing, sometimes to the point of nonsense. Webster’s, for example offers “the act of making someone healthy again after an illness”.  Written as if, first we remove the illness – and then we proceed to ‘cure’ the patient. Oxford’s dictionary, defines cure as to “relieve (a person or animal) of the symptoms of a disease or condition”. Both definitions are simply and clearly wrong.
Other definitions define ‘cure’ as any treatment, or special treatment, for an illness. There are no medical nor scientific requirements for ‘cured’, and no tests for cured – except for illnesses cured by antibiotics. Frankly, this is medical negligence of cures.
Why are dictionaries so confused about cure? Because they do not use the word ’cause’.Webster’s definition of ‘cure’ does not contain the word ’cause’, in any of the four definitions presented. Oxford’s dictionary not only does not use the word ’cause’ in any definition offered for cure. How can you cure, if you don’t address the cause?
Cure: Stop the Progression by Addressing the Cause
If someone has scurvy, or obesity, or depression, or an infection, a cure is something that stops the illness from progressing, by addressing the cause. Finding the cause can be a challenge, but if we can find the cause, and address it – the illness can be cured. However, none of these cures are recognized by modern medical treatment references.
For illnesses caused by deficiencies, whether the deficiency be a nutrient, or a deficiency of rest, like sleep, or a deficiency of exercise, resulting in bedsores, the cure is to address the deficiency.
For illnesses caused by excesses, like a bacterial infection, breathing too much carbon dioxide, or working too hard, the cure is to address the excess. Sometimes the cure is to NOT do something.
There are many deficiencies and excesses that can lead to illness, not just nutritional deficiencies. We might also suffer from imbalances of mind – obsessions, of spirits – depressions, even of community – loneliness.
Many illnesses are caused by deficiency of process, not of ‘things’. Life, and health, is about balancing as much as it is about balance.  Illness can be a result of an inability to balance our food intake with our needs, to balance our rest and exercise, to balance our work and our play.
Sometimes, it seems to be not possible to completely address the cause of an illness. We can always try. It is not possible to prove that an illness cannot be cured.  Don’t give up.
Cure: Heal the Damage Caused by the Illness
Every illness, minor or serious, can cause physical damage to the patient. The health of the patient is always working to heal damage. Once the cause is addressed – or if the cause has gone, healing works to repair the damage. Of course, there are many cases where the damage caused by an illness cannot be healed completely.  What is left, in these cases, is a deficit, or a handicap, not an illness.
It may be possible to cure a deficit or a handicap, but only with more healing, because there is no active cause to address.
Cure: Prevention Of Future Illness
We might not think of prevention as a cure, but most of us are familiar with the concept. The cat was always jumping up on the table. The last time he did it, I threw a newspaper at him – it seems to have cured him of this annoying habit. Preventative cures are seldom perfect, sometimes even risky, but they are important.
When we look at nutritional deficiencies, for example, scurvy was first understood, not by curing it, but by preventing it. When sailors were provided foods that prevent scurvy, doctors learned how to treat and cure scurvy as well. Unfortunately, medical reference books speak about treatment of scurvy, but do not use the word cure.
Cures come from Healthiness
Every type of cure comes from addressing the cause of an illness.
When we look at these three definitions of cure, we can also see that all cures come from and benefit from improvements in healthiness. Improving the healthiness of the patient, or of their environment, – can stop and cure an illness. The challenge is to figure out which healthiness needs to be improved. Improving healthiness in general improves healing, and there are many different ways to improve healthiness that directly relate to healing. Improving healthiness, of the patient or their environment also prevents future illnesses.
The Circle of Cures
It’s useful to view the three types of cures working in a circle.
When we are healthy, we can work to maintain and improve our healthiness. We can develop and use preventative cures to secure the health of our bodies, minds, spirits, communities, and our environment.
When we get an illness, we need to find the cause and address the cause of the illness, and cure it. There are no other cures for active illnesses.
Once an illness has been cured, healing cures repair the damage done by the illness. Healing is, of course, active even before the illness is cured.
When we don’t have any illness, our healing is still active – ready to fight potential illnesses. When we don’t have any illness, we can take preventative actions to avoid illness. Even when we do have an illness, healing is active, and preventative actions are important to avoid other illnesses or to avoid the development of complications. Not every preventative action, not every healing action is a cure.
Perfect, Absolute Cure
Life is not perfect. No cure is perfect nor absolute, but every type of cure is important.
Preventative cures are not perfect, because they work by restricting life, restricting activities, opportunities and freedoms. It’s possible, sometimes easy, to push preventative actions too far, causing other illnesses. We’ll never get a cold, if we never visit anyone, but we might get depression or even dementia as a result of the preventative action. Preventative actions must always balance potential benefit vs potential harm.  Because they are preventative, there is no specific active benefit with any action.
Causal cures are not perfect, because the illness is advancing, creating damage – some of which might not be repairable. Removing the cause, if possible, stops the progress of the illness. Sometimes it is not possible to completely remove the cause, and the progression is only slowed, not stopped.
Healing cures are seldom perfect, because damage that occurs from an illness is often to severe to be cured. Healing can also go wrong, becoming to active, becoming a cause of a new illness.
Curing improve Cures
Searching for cures, focusing our attention on cures helps us to learn more about cures, and to develop better, more effective cures. Ignoring cures, suggesting that an illness is incurable, that the patient should ‘learn to live with their disease’, ensures that cures will not be found, not be improved.
We develop causal cures by studying the causes of illness and using actions against those causes to stop the progress of an illness. When we identify a common causal cure, we can use it to develop more effective causal cures, and also preventative cures.
Preventative cures can reduce the need for causal cures, by raising healthiness. When we are healthier, it becomes easier to determine the cause of an illness, because fewer illnesses are present.
The study of healing cures help us to develop rehabilitation techniques, to heal and cure illnesses that – in the past – could not be cured.
Many Medicines are Not Cures
Many medicines treat the symptoms of illness, but make no attempt to cure. These are symptomicines. Most medicines are symptomicines. Symptomicines are commonplace, because they produce measurable results – measured by signs and symptoms, even when they make no attempt to cure the illness, no attempt to address the cause.
What about placebo cures?
Placebos seldom cure. If they do, we’ve probably made a mistake.  If it cures, it is not really a placebo, it’s a cure. Most placebos are symptomicines – addressing the symptoms of the illness, making the patient feel better, but not actually addressing the cause of the illness. Many medicines, also being symptomicines, are just fancy placebos.
Clinical Studies
Most clinical studies do not test for cures. Most clinical studies do not defined ‘cured’ for the disease being studied, and thus cannot test for cures, cannot document cures if they occur. Most medicines are symptomicines, and in clinical studies, they are tested against placebos – also symptomicines.
An illness is what the patient has, a disease is a name used by the doctor to classify the illness and develop a prognosis, treatment plan, and cure. The disease, the classification system, cannot be cured. Only the illness can be cured.  Illnesses can only be cured one at a time.  Every cure is a story.  Every cure is an anecdote.
Nature Cures
It is often claimed that there is no cure for the common cold.  In truth, even modern medical science describes the common cold – and many other illnesses like influenza, measles, etc as ‘self limiting’. A self limiting illness is one that is naturally cured by health.  Our bodies are always actively working to cure many simple illnesses – sometimes even before they become a problem.
Nature cures work faster when we are healthier, slower when we are less healthy. Even natural cures can be improved, by improving healthiness.
But… don’t people sometimes die from measles, from influenza, and even from the common cold?
Actually no. In medical terms they die from ‘complications’ of measles that leads other illnesses, or from influenza or a cold that leads to pneumonia. These are new illnesses that arise because the person is not healthy enough to cure the first illness, or because the first illness was not cured.
Wrong Cures
There are several types of ‘wrong’ cures. Treatments that claim to cure, but simply do not.
Symptom cures: taking an aspirin for a headache does not ‘cure’ the headache. The headache is a symptom of an illness, not an illness.  However, in many cases of a simple headache – our health cures the illness. It’s easy to claim a cure when the body’s natural cures work so well – but we don’t distinguish between them.
Chronic cures: any medicine or treatment that must be taken every day, or even every week forever – is not a cure. Chronic cures convert illnesses into chronic illnesses, by avoiding actions that can cure. We can do better.
Chronic preventatives: Many of today’s preventatives are ‘wrong cures’.  They act by reducing healthiness, on the pretense that this prevents disease. Taking a medicine every day does not make the patient healthier and can easily lead to illnesses caused by taking an medicine every day.
Cures Rule!
Cures Rule! is a recognition that cures are more important than treatments.  Cures come from improvements in healthiness.  Cures end illnesses by addressing causes, repair damage caused by disease, and prevent illness by preventing causes.
to your health, tracy
First published on Healthicine.org 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Understanding Placebos 101

There are two fundamental types of placebos, although this is seldom recognized in any literature. Even though there are thousands of articles about placebos, and possibly hundreds of books, most of them are based on the confusing foundation, attempting to explain two types of placebo with one logic, resulting in nonsense.


Placebos (real placebos)
are medications or treatments prescribed by a physician with the intent to help the patient, when the physician does not know how to help the patient. The physician might believe that the prescription has no 'physical benefit' to the illness - but prescribes because they do believe it will benefit the patient in some way. The physician's beliefs might prove right, or wrong.  If the physician is wrong, there is little consequence. Physicians often make incorrect prescriptions - and items chosen as placebo prescriptions are generally very low risk. If the physician is right, or if any other factor causes an improvement in the patient, both the patient and the physician benefit. The physician benefits because the patient believes the doctor's action provided the benefit. Of couurse, correlation does not prove causation.

Note: The benefits resulting AFTER (not necessarily because of) the placebo prescription have real causes. In many, perhaps all cases, assigning them to the placebo causes much confusion and avoids actual investigation  Calling them "placebo effect" is navel gazing, when the challenge is to understand what is going on outside of the medical system, outside of the treatment prescribed.

Clinical Placebos (fake placebos)
are false medicines or treatments.  They are not prescribed by a physician and there is no intention to provide any benefit to the patient, nor is there any intent to deceive the patient about the administration of the placebo.  There is an active attempt to deceive the patient, and the administering physician, in the design and delivery of the placebo, eg. who gets a placebo and who gets the medicine being studied. Clinical placebos are used in scientific experiments to provide a statistical measure of the so called 'placebo effect'. So called, because clinical placebo 'effects' are not 'real placebo effects'.

Note: The benefits resulting AFTER (not necessarily because of) a clinical placebo is administered also have real causes. Ignoring these causes, naming them "placebo effects" assigning them to 'the mind of the patient' is simplistic nonsense, avoiding true investigation of the facts. Correlation between administering the fake placebo and changes in the mind (or the body) of the patient does not prove causation.

There are many fundamental difference between a real placebo and a clinical placebo. Unfortunately most references do not notice, much less attend to this distinction. The result is total nonsense and confusion in much that is written about placebos and placebo effects, more so when results from one, a clinical placebo for example, are used to support analysis about the other, a real placebo.  It's as if we used the same name for bears and teddy bears, and then did scientific experiments on teddy bears, to draw 'scientific' conclusions about real bears. Here's a comparative list of some differences:

Placebo (real placebo)
Clinical Placebo (fake placebo)
prescribed by a doctor
Patient decides to take, or not.
administered by a scientist physician.
Patient agrees to take. 
doctor doesn't know what is best
researcher believes that the placebo is useless
doctor intends to improve the health of the patient
researcher has no intention to improve the health of patients who receive a placebo
prescribed to sooth the patient, and perhaps the physician, who feels frustrated.
administered to measure statistically, the effects of medicine, by subtraction of 'clinical placebo effect'. 
can be active or passive. Active are more effective. Deliberately chosen to help the patient.
often specifically designed to simulate the activity of the drug or treatment being tested. Chosen to deceive the patient and the study physicians.
when a real placebo works, patient and doctor are happy. The data is ignored.
when the clinical placebo works, the research has failed. The data is ignored.
patient believes they are getting a medicine
patient hopes they are NOT getting the placebo

When we assume that clinical placebos are the same as real placebos, we create nonsense because the assumption is nonsensical.

Because of this fundamental difference between real placebos and clinical placebos, it is very difficult to measure the effects of real placebos in a clinical study. As far as I am aware this has never been accomplished - and I have looked for research studies. To create the real life placebo, it would require the doctor to be allowed to decide when to prescribe a placebo, and to choose the placebo being prescribed. To maintain a double blind externally controlled trial, another entity would be required to determine if the patient gets the placebo prescribed, or ... ?what?

Not only are real placebos fundamentally different from clinical placebos, 'real placebo effects' are quite different from 'clinical placebo effects', but that's another blog post, maybe someday....

Until this distinction between a real placebo and clinical placebo is recognized, we will continue to publish nonsense about placebos, because we simply don't understand the fundamentals.

to your health, tracy
Founder: Healthicine.org 
ps. Cures Rule!
It is important to be aware the clinical placebos, the medicines they are being tested against, and real placebos do not, in general 'cure' any illness. They provide relief from symptoms. Most medicines, and most placebos are symptomicines. When a real placebo is claimed to 'cure', a thorough investigation is likely to produce the real reason for the cure. When a clinical placebo or a medicine being tested produces a cure - the cure is ignored, because clinical studies in general do not define and do not test for cured.