The Prejudice Against Homeopathy

In the last few years there has been an increasing criticism of the use of homeopathy as a medical treatment system. My suspicion is that this is happening because more and more people are using it and the other medical practitioners and the pharmaceutical companies are starting to feel it in their pocket books. In any case this is happening and it is increasingly annoying.

I want to give you a recent example of this and show how it is an example of prejudice, not the comments of a neutral observer. In the July 1, 2017 issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association is a letter to the editor by a professor of pharmacology at the veterinary school in Virginia. Right away we can be suspicious in that it is written by a professor of pharmacology as such a  person is obviously focused on, and committed, to the use of drugs in treatment. If a system like homeopathy comes along and says these drugs are not necessary and even that not using them and instead turning to homeopathy will be more effective, this is a threat to such a person.

I won’t put up the whole letter but rather focus on the part that is criticizing homeopathy. Here is the excerpt:


Botanical medicine, homeopathy, and the placebo effect
The AVMA is currently exploring two aspects of complementary and alternative medicine: a petition before the AVMA American Board of Veterinary Specialties for recognition of the American College of Veterinary Botanical Medicine and a recent news report on the role of homeopathy in the veterinary profession.

As explained in the recent JAVMA News report homeopathy is an 18th-century notion that rests on two basic principles: “the idea that a substance capable of causing particular symptoms in a healthy individual will cure similar symptoms in a person with disease” (the so-called “law of similars”) and the idea that these substances retain their medicinal properties when highly diluted (so-called “potentization”). Large scale studies have shown that homeopathic preparations are not effective and that their reported positive actions are nothing more than a result of placebo effects. In veterinary medicine, some species—especially dogs. cats, and horses—may seem to react positively to placebos, but this generally is a result of conditioned responses to human-animal interactions, such as touch, voice, and visual cues. In addition, a phenomenon known as placebo-by-proxy has been described. by which an optimistic animal owner (or even the veterinarian) may imagine improvements in a sick patient when no true benefit has occurred.

As for homeopathy there seems little justification for recognizing a modality that has not been shown to be effective. The AVMA’s position is clear: “all aspects of veterinary medicine should be held to the same standards, including complementary, alternative and integrative veterinary medicine, non-traditional or other novel approaches.” When we ignore this basic principle, we undermine our credibility as a science based profession.


Commentary
Notice the use of this language “homeopathy is an 18th-century notion.” I think I can say with some confidence that when this professor talks about the idea of using drugs in amounts enough to influence the body he does not introduce it by saying “use of drugs is a 6th century notion.” (I don’t know if 6th century is accurate, just picking it for effect.) To say “18th century” is to make is sound old and antiquated. Then to use the word “notion” it is a judgment. It is not a principle or a hypothesis, it is a notion. The dictionary defines “notion” as “a belief about something” or “a desire or impulse.” Obviously this denigrates the principle of homeopathic work, the great discovery made by Dr. Hahnemann that medicines could act in this way. It is an indication of pre-judgment, of prejudice.

The next thing to note is the statement “Large scale studies have shown that homeopathic preparations are not effective and that their reported positive actions are nothing more than a result of placebo effects.” What does large scale studies mean? A large number of test subjects? isn’t the critical factor in a study the decision if it is statistically significant or not? We don’t base the evaluation of something because a large number were involved. It depends on how it was set up and if properly controlled. By this standard there are many double-blind, controlled studies of homeopathic treatment that show greater effectiveness than the conventional use of drugs. Why is this ignored?

Then the most outrageous statement of them all is that any perceived effectiveness of homeopathy is due to “placebo.” When the word placebo is used this way it is dismissive, in other words, it is imagination, not real. The professor of veterinary medicine is actually saying that even though there are case reports of animals improving with homeopathic treatment it is all imaginary. In case it is too much a stretch to think that placebos act on animals (because they do not know what they are receiving), we will instead say the client has brought about imaginary improvement because of the way they interact with and touch their animal during the treatment. Is this a stretch or what? I can say, after 50 years of being a veterinarian, that I have not seen this correlation. Sure, it is important how the client thinks and acts towards their animal but this does not show up clearly as the factor that determines if the animal is better or not. Isn’t it incredible that instead of allowing the possibility that homeopathy may be an effective modality this person, ignorant of homeopathy, would make the statement that the clients of homeopathic practitioners are imagining improvements in their animals?

For one thing, there are many clients that come to us that use homeopathy and they are doubtful or skeptical about using this method yet will report improvements. But this ridiculous statement becomes more clearly so if we turn it around. Let us say that “placebo-by-proxy” is a significant happening in medicine. If so, does this not also apply to clients who report their animals are better with allopathic treatment? Or is the author of this letter saying this happens only with homeopathy?

Do you see the lack of intelligence in a letter like this? First of all it is coming from prejudice, a pre-formed conclusion, one made without any personal experience or study. It basically is what this professor was told by someone else. Then to ignore double-blind studies that have shown effectiveness of homeopathic treatment is to act with blinders. The final evidence is making the statement that when improvement with homeopathy is reported it is only imaginations of the client. This is not the action of intelligence, it is simply a closed mind expressing its limitations.

Unfortunately this is commonly the sort of criticisms being put out these days. It is blind, emotional, and ignorant and eventually will have to end. In the meantime those of us that use homeopathy in treatment (in my case now almost 40 years) continue to do so and see wonderful outcomes.

Citation
July 1, 2017, Vol. 251, No. 1, Pages 29-31

Feeding grains to dogs and cats.

Since the 3rd edition of our book was published in 2005 there was a strong movement towards feeding dogs and cats primarily meat and bones. This was called a “raw food diet.” The strange idea was put forth that grains are harmful or poisonous. Likely this is an exaggeration of the concept that grains in large amounts are not the optimal diet. The situation is more complex, however, than most realize.

The first question is if grains are not good for animals. The short answer is that grains are well accepted by animals if they are properly prepared. By this, I mean that the animal digestive tract is shorter than the human so the grains must be well cooked to be digestible.

Well, then, are they are in some way harmful? They are not if the quality is good. By “quality” we are meaning that the grains are complete, not just “leftovers” from milling. Also they need to be fresh, not rancid or spoiled. One would assume this is obvious but the fact is that commercial pet foods can use the leftovers and rejects from the production of human foods — the spoiled, contaminated, nutritionally inadequate floor sweepings — as their source of grains. Much of the concern about the harmful effect of grains in food for animals is because of the poor quality grain used in many commercial pet foods. The formula is like this:

Poor quality grain in commercial food = diminished health in animals = avoidance of grain based commercial foods = all grains are bad.

You can see that the first 3 steps make sense but the last conclusion does not as it is not taking into account that the health problems seen in animals has to do with the quality of the ingredient rather than the nature of it, e.g. that it is from grains.

Research into animal nutrition as cited in “Nutrient Requirements for Dogs” and “Nutrient Requirements for Cats” published by the Subcommittee on Dog Nutrition and Cat Nutrition by the National Research Council (about as reliable as one is going to find outside of the industry) reports that growing dogs fed a diet of up to 62% starch (which is an unusually simple carbohydrate, grains being much more complete) were able to digest 84% of the starch and use it for growth and energy. Even more significant these puppies had no apparent health effects from such a diet, growing the same as the group fed no carbohydrates. Cats have been shown to be able to digest over 96% of starch fed to them.

Another factor to bring in is that whole organic grains are very nutritious and compared to meat or other animal products have a fraction of the environmental toxins found in the tissues of animals. The animals that eat plants, drink the water available, and accumulate huge amounts of toxic substances, many hundreds of chemicals, that build up in their bodies. It is not so much that plants are completely free of these because our environment is so contaminated, but the amount in plants is like 1-2% of what is in animal tissue. The animals eating these plants day after day (or GMO soy or corn) accumulate this in their bodies. Then when their bodies are eaten by others, those that eat them again accumulate thousands of greater quantities of these chemicals in their tissues. This build up each step of the food chain is called bioaccumulation.

We discuss this in detail in the 4th edition of our book, Dr. Pitcairn’s Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs and Cats, published by Rodale Press. It is now available from booksellers.