Sunday, February 24, 2008

Pass the cream and sugar, then shove it!

Ok, people.  I love my morning cup of coffee as much as anybody does.  It goes back to residency.  I could drink a half pot of tar-like coffee back then and go to sleep without a problem.  Caffeine dependency is glorious.  But, why would anyone want to waste a perfectly good cup of Trader Joe's 100% Kona (in my opinion, the best coffee in the world) by forcing it up his anus into his colon?  Coffee enemas?  Come on!  Who comes up with this crap!  Totally wrong route of administration if you ask me.

So, ok, there has to be a logical explanation, right?  It must make some medical sense, right?  Why else would all these people be spending all this money on coffee for their wazoos, right?  Absolutely not!  A Google search for the phrase "coffee enema" returns 61,700 hits.  Maybe Freud was right about the whole "anal fixation" thing.  A Medline search for "coffee enema"--using the extremely powerful, very user-friendly search engine relied upon by scientists all over the world--returned only fourteen hits, none of which were clinical trials on this subject.  Two were unabstracted reviews criticizing the use of coffee enemas.  

Overall, I'd have to say that is extremely compelling evidence against sticking a hose containing coffee up your own, or your friend's anus.  It is my medical opinion that only a well trained provider of evidence-based medicine should ever have a crack (no pun intended) at inserting any thing in any ones' anus under almost any foreseeable circumstances.  And even then, make them explain it to you twice, OK?  Its your anus!

Now, having effectively ruled out the well-informed, "I've got logic and reason on my side" approach to this, we are left with trying to understand the other motivations for filling the colon with some quantity of Folgers, or Yuban, etc.  If I could insert the sound of chirping crickets at this point, I would.  It conveys absence, or silence really well.  Close your eyes and picture it.  Poignant, yes?  Like most of this nonsense, coffee enemas are about money: profit margin.  None of this is real science.  Absolutely all of it is crap and belongs in the septic system with the usual contents of our collective colons.  

Sites touting the use of coffee enemas often recommend them for daily use prior to other types of alternative medical treatments, such as liver "detoxifications," calling them safe and more effective than drinking coffee.  That's great.  "Heres some nonsense to do that will keep you busy flushing coffee up you arse for a month prior to getting to the real stupidity."

The plural of anecdote is anecdotes, not data.  No number of personal testimonials should be enough to convince a prudent, well reasoned person to flush coffee up his or her anus.  Always hold any person who wants you to try something for your health to the same skeptical scrutiny that you would use when listening to your doctor describe the potential side effects of your prescription medications.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


I was out for dinner with some friends yesterday when someone mentioned a new "medical specialist" had moved to town, setting up shop in a local family practitioner's office.  Apparently that practice has hired an iridologist.  Now, you would think that iridology refers pretty generically to the study of the iris--the colored part of the eye; in fact, that is what the latin and greek roots for this word mean, "the study of the iris."  Perhaps a subspecialty of ophthamology, one that deals only with diseases of the iris, would use this term to describe it's clinical focus.  Unfortunately, not so.  Iridology is completely bogus, absolutely discredited quackery.

Iridologists believe--or at least they say they believe it--that they can diagnose all sorts of physical and mental illnesses by studying the appearance and location of features on the iris of the eye.  The claim that the iris can be directly mapped to various organs and regions of the human body, and that certain features can signify specific illnesses in the mapped regions.  For example, they claim the part of the iris near the six o'clock position correlates to the kidney.  Features located in this area denote illness or disease of the kidney.  

Iridology generally limits it's scope of malpractice to diagnosing illness.  I suspect this explains why all manner of alternative medicine crackpots use it as a launch pad to sell their various  incarnation of "treatment."  Anybody looking for a way to justify their particular brand of nonsense can diagnose some malady using iridology.  After that, guess what, they have the perfect cure!  They might be selling natural supplements, magnets, homeopathic remedies, or whatever--iridology makes a great segway into all of them.

Lest there be any doubt, this particular field of idiocy has been the subject of many wasted research dollars.  Taken as a whole, which is the way medical literature should always be taken, the research confirms that iridolgy is worthless.  There are certain recurring patterns seen in the scientific literature surrounding subjects like this:
  • The better the quality of the study, the worse the quackery performs.
  • The pseudoscience always seems to yield results that are just barely beyond the border of significance, even with increasingly rigorous protocols.  This is often used to justify provisional acceptance while "awaiting further study."
  • Quacks support their quackery with vague, feel-good rhetoric that boils down to nothing of substance.
  • The quacks try to use an imperfect understanding of a disease or condition as evidence in support of their quackery.  This is really a poorly-veiled argument from ignorance ("I don't understand what is happening here, therefore it must be due to my snickelfritz").  
The literature on iridology uses all of these.  The bottom line: absolutely no decent evidence supports the premises, or the practice of iridology.  The best studies that have been done on the subject prove it is crap.  But, crap is a subject for another post...