Swine flu and Woo

Continuing with the theme I’ve had on swine flu, I’ll start with this: Don’t panic.

Don’t start looking for random alternative medicine treatments and prevention for swine flu.

Don’t, for example, give yourself an enema. That may seem like it’s in bad taste, and tangential at best, but it’s exactly what Kim Evans, author of “cleaning up!” over at Huffington Post is suggesting. Her article is so ridiculously wrong that I feel the need to explore it with you.
She starts with some potentially relevant information.

1) Stay home as much as possible.
2) Avoid public places unnecessarily.
3) Wash your hands frequently, and keep your hands from your face.
4) Get some surgical face masks and wear one when you need to be in public places, even if you feel a little foolish and until others have caught on.

I agree completely with number 3. Hand washing is key. It’s a good idea to avoid smearing all the junk that is on your hands onto your face. The rest of this, is fear mongering.

Given the small number of cases, and the mildness of the cases seen in America so far, 1, 2, and 4 are overboard. They aren’t completely unreasonable, unless you’re in mexico. If you have a risk factor – you’re on chemotherapy, you’re otherwise immunosuppressed, maybe even just bad asthma, than you might consider being cautious and avoiding public places. The evidence is out on whether or not masks are that helpful right now.

Not that it matters, that’s not why she’s writing all of this though. As far as I can tell she’s really writing this to create an atmosphere of fear.

Why scare people? She has a hook. A hook that sounds crazy unless you’re scared!

The above is all pretty basic stuff, I’m going to offer more as well. But before I do, you should know that I’m a huge proponent of body cleansing, or removing the accumulated waste that most people have stored in their bodies. I’ve been a fan for years and have seen cleansing work miracles in myself and others, but in circumstances like this, I believe deep cleansing could actually save your life

I hate it when people say they can save your life. I hate it when doctors say it, and sometimes they’re right! Doctors aren’t usually the ones who say it. Liars say that. Hustlers say that. In fact, it looks like she only says that there distract from the fact that she still hasn’t given us a reason to believe cleaning out your colon would heal your lungs.

And it’s my understanding that many people who took regular enemas instead of vaccines during the 1918 pandemic made it out on the other side as well.

This is impressive. Her understanding is that people who took enemas instead of vaccines in the 1918 pandemic made it out on the other side as well. Why is this impressive? There wasn’t a flu vaccine in 1918. In 1918 we weren’t even sure of the cause of influenza, at that time some people thought it was caused by hemophilus influenza, a bacteria. We couldn’t grow influenza virus until 1931, and the first inactivated vaccine was used in World War II. Either she didn’t do her homework at all, or she thinks people used time machines to go forward in time, get a flu vaccination, then go back, and die.

This is normally the point at which I’d cite articles on why this is wrong. The problem is I can’t even find articles on this! I haven’t found one scientist who was willing to test enemas for the flu. In lieu of direct evidence, I tried to look up her basic science on this. Why would this even potentially work? Her article has some junk about taking out the trash to get rid of flies. I found it patronizing AND uninformative. I checked her website, and found it a barren wasteland of propaganda. Not a fact in sight.

Failing to find anything helpful on her website, I exercised my google-fu, which reveals: Not much. On one website, Diagnose-Me.com, I found this. That website recommends a warm, and then a cold soda enema. Why?

Most of the mucous from the respiratory tract is swallowed and waste to be expelled from this mucous makes its way to the colon. During an illness like a cold, viral particles remain in quantity in the colon. The gentle washing away of the bulk of this material allows the immune system to focus on the respiratory tract rather than maintain a second larger front in the colon. This is one reason why almost all doctors in the preantibiotic era recommended enemas, or at the least laxatives, for colds. The use of enemas gives immediate relief of symptoms and helps to concentrate the immune response where it is needed.

That almost sounds reasonable if you haven’t studied medicine. When you have influenza, you primarily have lung problems. You are not fighting a second battle in your colon. When you have something that feels like influenza, and you have diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, you might not have influenza. It’s not impossible, sometimes influenza can cause those symptoms, but there are a lot of other viruses that are more likely the culprit.

I can’t find anything anywhere saying that doctors in the pre-antibiotic era prescribed laxatives or enemas for colds… It’s not as if doctors in the antibiotic era prescribe antibiotics normally for the flu – it’s a virus, so I’m not sure where she was going with that.

The use of enemas doesn’t relieve any symptoms! If we stick a tube up your butt and clean out your colon, your lungs will still be filled with junk. Your immune response will do just fine without the enema.

This whole article is just irresponsible. Blogging may be a less formal media form, but if you have a large audience and you act like a newspaper, like HuffPo does, you’re obligated to do some fact checking. This goes double for when you’re offering medical advice. This goes triple when you’re writing about a potentially panic-causing issue like epidemic swine flu!

Shame Huffpo, shame

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21 Comments on “Swine flu and Woo”


  1. Seriously, vaccines in 1918? I must have missed something in that virology class I took back in the 80’s. The professor must have been an incompetent dork to have failed to have mentioned that. I should demand my money back.

    Note sarcasm. The woo-meisters are going to be coming out of the woodwork for this disease. But this one is complete moron.


  2. So beyond wrong, she’s not even wrong.

    • ddw11 Says:

      Fractally wrong is what we call it. This is a woman who thinks antibiotics cure cancer. Huffington Post is a hub of crazy.


      • I think she believes antibiotics cause cancer…
        She also thinks cancer is a fungal infection, from candida, and thats why “most cancers are white”.

        This is why it’s important to vet your writers. I think PalMD put it well, you just can’t do science based on ideology.

        My favorite variation on aristotle: Science is reason, free from passion.

        • ddw11 Says:

          You are correct. She believes antibiotics cause cancer. I wouldn’t want to misrepresent her positions, that might make her seem crazy.

  3. John H. Says:

    … that might make her seem crazy

    Too late!

    This is evidence that too many enemas wash away more than toxins. What a butt-brain. :)


    • I’d read your and PalMD’s posts on the subject before, can’t say I’ve ever been impressed with HuffPo’s science, but reading that was an especially low point.

      It’s one of the many reasons I’m disappointed with both the main stream media and the blogosphere as news sources. Lately, both are sesationalist, poor fact checkers, and highly ideological.

  4. Donna B. Says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me to find out that enemas were recommended for flu treatments during the early 20th century, though perhaps not by doctors.

    Both of my grandmothers (adults by 1918) prescribed enemas for everybody occasionally. And they were typical of the “doctors” many people looked to first.

    And the idea that something “foreign” or “dirty” is invading the body and making one sick isn’t completely crazy until you start making stuff up about what it is and how to treat it.

    But… my grandmothers were smart enough to learn new tricks when the information became available. Kim Evans is just plain crazy.

  5. Dawn Says:

    @whitecoattales: My grandfather was a GP and practiced back in the days before antibiotics, so I know some reasons for the enemas.

    Primarily, they were used for high fevers as a method to lower body temperature (cool water enemas). They were also used to relieve the constipation that was pretty common back in the days when you were kept IN BED (no, you could not go to the bathroom, you had to use a bedpan, even at home) when you were ill. Very little physical activity can lead to constipation. It was a comfort measure.

    Most good physicians back then didn’t believe in the “toxins buildup” myths but the old wives tales of “you must have a bowel movement daily or toxins will build up” did exist. Smart physicians just didn’t believe in it.


    • I’ll admit I’m vaguely familiar with enemas has comfort measures, and we still use them for constipation when patients prefer that. But I think doctors of that time wouldn’t say “I’m giving you this enema to treat your flu”, they’d say “I’m giving you this enema because you’re constipated/have a temperature”

      I was more getting at that rationale given by the website being incorrect, lacking in science, and either willfully ignorant, or deceptive in nature. I’m banking on deceptive since the website charges people for “reports” on how to treat their conditions.

      I’m not trying to insult doctors who practiced pre-antibiotics, so I apologize if the post came across like that! Infact, I have great admiration for doctors from that era, alot of the art of medicine, the physical exam especially, are handed down to us by those giants of medicine. Rather, I’m commenting that this is a perversion of what they would have done, instead of an accurate retelling.

      Incidentally, have I mentioned I have the smartest readers around? My favorite thing about this blog is that my best posts end up being good because of the discussion that happens after I post

      • Donna B. Says:

        I recently read a murder trial transcript from 1902 which featured expert testimony by three different rural doctors. The knowledge on display rather amazed me – I think their testimony would hold up quite well today.

  6. Tsu Dho Nimh Says:

    I can’t find anything anywhere saying that doctors in the pre-antibiotic era prescribed laxatives or enemas for colds

    The Practice of Pediatrics, Dr. Charled Gilmore Kerley, 1918 recommends immediately giving 2 teaspoons of castor oil to a child with “acute rhinitis”.

    He also had to do a differential diagnosis between the possibility of measles, diphtheria, influenza, and congenital syphilis as the cause of the rhinitis.

    His remedy was tincture of belladona and camphor, with Dover’s powder (imecac and opium) added for those over 6 months. He warns to watch for the constipating effects of the medicines. Alas, he warns of toxins from the “putrefying undigested milk” in the gut of the child.


  7. Unfortunately, the woo continues. OK, not technically woo about swine flu, but idiotic nevertheless.


    • As a rule I don’t speak alot about politics on this blog, but I think my hatred of Bachmann stems from my hatred of ignorance, rather than any political feelings.


      • I tend to stay away from politics, except when it crosses over to science and medicine. For example, Bush’s policy on stem cell research is one of those times.

        However, Bachmann reaches a whole new level of idiocy. Blaming swine flu on Democrats? PZ Meyers must be appalled by living in Minnesota with these nutjobs.

    • ddw11 Says:

      There are several politicians that make my jaw literally drop. They are not only completely ignorant of science, but that fact does not bother them in the least. Some carry this even further and are openly anti-academic. The scary part is that this endears them to a politically loud segment of our population.

  8. LW Says:

    “2) Avoid public places unnecessarily.”

    I actually had to go to the site to verify that she really said to unnecessarily avoid public places. She did. So we’re all agreed that avoiding public places is unnecessary.


  9. [...] people used time machines to go forward in time, get a flu vaccination, then go back, and die. Swine flu and Woo « Beyond the Short Coat   « Either Kristol was dropped on his head post-Ph.D. or Kristol’s professors were [...]

  10. Emily Doe Says:

    it is late to see it.
    Once i saw the swine flu, i remember the sars flu, which make many people lost their life.
    it is terrible.


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