Candid Quackery | Letters | Chicago Reader

Candid Quackery 

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To the editors:

I would like to make a few comments on the recent Robert McClory piece on Environmental Illness [January 22]. It was a pretty good summary of the controversy. However, I do have a few quibbles:

The article describes the reaction of mainstream allergists and physicians to the concept of EI as "shrill." This is perhaps overstating the case. Medicine, like other endeavors, is subject to fads. A few years ago many people were diagnosing themselves as Hypoglycemic after reading some paperback. Yet there was little evidence that this condition is anything other than a rare disorder, and the fad faded. EI and the Candida effect may end up the same way.

The question asked by the mainstream is, "Where's the Proof." There is a system to find this proof, and it is used every day. New diseases and conditions are described in every issue of medical journals, and old theories are routinely disposed of through the process of controlled experiment and critical analysis. The idea that Clinical ecologists are too busy curing people to build a firm theoretical basis for their contention puts them into the realm of near-quackery. Medicine is not a body of immovable dogma, but a flowing pool of new insights and connections that assemble and become part of the matrix. There is little in EI that is incompatible with modern health science. If the clinical ecologists spend some time convincing their colleagues that the disease actually exists, the rush of manpower to help solve the problem will become overwhelming.

I suspect that the element of EI theory that most distresses the mainstream is the broad effects that it allegedly creates. Nothing in medicine causes so much trouble as Candida is blamed for. The "single cause" to all mankind's ills has been a hallmark of fringe and quack medicine, and weakens the case for EI. The relation to Schizophrenia particularly raises eyebrows. Everything seems to cause, or, alternatively, help the poor schizophrenic. A few years ago a Florida physician claimed that subjecting these patients to kidney dialysis alleviated their symptoms. He suspected that filtering out a certain chemical improved their condition. However, at the same time another doctor was dosing his patients with extra amounts of the same chemical, and reporting similar results. When both ideas were put to a controlled test, they failed. Claims such as these are subjected to the most rigid analysis, and EI will have to work hard to meet these standards.

It seems that the only feature in the Reader that doesn't have the ritual attack on capitalism is the sex-hotline ads. The paragraph in McClory's piece is one that suggests that there has been little research money for EI because the drug companies can't profit from diseases that are cured by dietary change rather than expensive pharmaceuticals. This concept depends on the viewpoint that businesses are staffed by Eichmanns and Stalins, rather than by people who might live next door to you. Ask yourself a question: How many truly evil people, persons who would withhold a valuable medical treatment from the sick, do you know? Unless you hang out at Nazi party headquarters or a Mafia poolroom, you probably don't know any such people. Yet we are asked to believe that these fiends totally populate the drug companies. I for one don't buy it.

A little analysis will also show that the idea that the triumph of the EI theory will ruin the drug companies is silly. Somebody has to make the anti-candida drugs. EI may be blamed for an incredible amount of illness, but it can't cause all of it. These disorders will still require medication. Even the antibiotics blamed for EI will still be used, albeit in a much more cautious fashion.

The fact that some serious, controlled studies of EI and Candida are being done is to the credit of the clinical ecologists. If their case has any merit, it will be accepted by medical science. If the studies fail, it will be up to the EI proponents to either close down, or degenerate into quackery and permanent crackpot status.

Michael Walsh

N. Sheridan

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