Skeptics with a K: Episode #075


Homeopaths, Italian judges, vaccination and pharmacists. Plus hearts, hitchhikers, poets and puns.

For more information on homeopathy regulation, see the Malleus Homeopathicum blog.

For more on the MMR story, see the Stuff And Nonsense blog.

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  1. #1 by mandydax on June 29, 2012 - 05:05

    Mike, that heart problem you’re describing sounds a lot like mine. I wore a Holter monitor for 48-hours and they told me there were some benign premature ventricular contractions. I also had a stress echocardiogram done to make sure there were no structural defects with my heart. So, “Yes, your heart is stopping for no apparent reason, but it probably won’t kill you. Excercise more, reduce stress, continue to not smoke, stop using caffeine, and hopefully it will clear up.” It was the caffeine. (Dammit.) Never had a problem with it before, but if I have even a cup of regular coffee, I get the symptoms again.

    To be clear, though, you should see a cardiologist and see if you can get a Holter for a day or two. It could be something not so benign.

  2. #2 by Mike Fulford on June 29, 2012 - 08:01

    Speaking as a certified healthicist, I’d say your heart problem can be cured with a homeopathic preparation of um… some.. chemical that causes your heart to stop.

    In all seriousness, hope it’s found to be a simple fix, like some sort of app for your phone you can download. That makes an unseemly loud noise when your heart stops.
    (In all seriousness, I really do hope it works out for you, despite all of your attempts to shake your American audience I still love the program.)

    Also, the poetry segment provided me my required five minutes of poshness while I was running the lathe, thank you for that.

  3. #3 by Richard on June 29, 2012 - 15:53

    Just visited my local Neal’s Yard Remedies to ask how their homeopaths administer their remedies, and they seem to primarily use Helios. I’m listening back through the episode a second to make sure I’ve got it right, but from what it sounds like, it is illegal for them to order, stock, and/or sell any Helios products (minus those 60 that are approved). Have I got that right? I just want to make sure before I send both the homeopaths’ names off in an MHRA complaint.

  4. #4 by Chris on June 30, 2012 - 03:40

    As a parent* who is not unbiased in regards to heart issues, I think it would be worthwhile for your doctor to at least order a 24 to 48 hour holtor monitor, and a stress test. The best of luck and health to you. I will not be praying for you.

    Also, it has been very amusing to participate in the discussion on JDC’s blog article about his correspondence with Ms. Reid. It seems that ChildHealthSafety has declared epidemiology is not a science, and yet he and his friends refuse to supply a proper study design for MMR (and I am kind of insisting that no children be harmed).

    * My 23 year old son just had surgery to remove excess muscle inside his heart that was partially blocking his mitral valve. He would experience rapid heart beat, with pain in one of his arms. During the stress test his blood pressure dropped because the blood was blocked from leaving his heart. As I read around (real medical sites) I have learned there are lots of heart conditions. Also, the doctors did say since the condition (hypertrophic cardiomypathy) screws up the electrical signalling he may require an implanted defibrillator. Though they said one should avoid that because they go rogue and shock your heart for no reason, and that is very painful. Fortunately, a test they gave him indicated he did not need one. Whew!

    His heart condition is genetic, but the genetic test did not show any of the eighteen known sequences. So all of his first degree relatives need echocardiograms every few years. His sister had hers last fall (she is normal), the rest of us go in for a family set of echocardiograms in August.

  5. #5 by martin on July 1, 2012 - 20:47

    I don’t think I’d trust a mobile phone app for this sort of thing. Not sure how well / accurately the software functions and whether the OS platform is up to the job of running it properly.

    In my case a really slow pulse turned out to be an adverse reaction to medication. If only doctors believed in individualized treatments like what quacks do they’d have given me a different treatment. Oh wait they did. And it stopped happening.

    I think the other advice above is sound. Get a second opinion and maybe a 24 or 48 hour ECG.

  6. #6 by Steve Andrew on July 2, 2012 - 17:23

    Oh, the Mail again… That story just horrified me. The British press being caught using underhanded tactics to get salacious gossip on celebrities is pretty awful. A herd of overpaid, underqualified Littlejohns and Moirs pontificating on subjects they know fuck-all about, just to stir up the worst instincts of the public is pretty vile, but I’ve just become numb to that. (Don’t feed the trolls, as they say.)

    But stirring up the MMR manufactured controversy AGAIN? And for what, just shits ‘n’ giggles? Just to fill column inches under the guise of crusading journalism? That’s just fucking despicable. Have they no sense of responsibility at all? Digging up dirt on public figures is one thing, but this story can actually hurt a lot of people.

    I know this is the sort of shitty “science-reporting” that Ben Goldacre eats for breakfast, and yeah, we always moan about it… But shouldn’t there be some kind of legal action that can be taken against news outlets when their stories can cause physical harm, even if it’s indirectly. Isn’t this a textbook case of shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre?

  7. #7 by simon on July 4, 2012 - 15:00

    Possibly the best episode ever, would’ve been perfect with the addition of the Giant Book of Fantastic Facts. Thanks guys and keep it up, you always make me laugh and think.

  8. #8 by Paul on August 18, 2013 - 23:26

    Not very often my experience in addiction (and recovery) can serve as expertise in something. Colin mentioned when homeopathic IV treatments were discussed that it might be dangerous to be introducing water into your circulatory system. Water is in fact the preferred solvent to use for intravenous administrations, and assuming the water is 100% de-ionized and free of adulterants, is perfectly safe. That’s not to say that the IV of illegal drugs dissolved in water is safe overall–just that the h2o molecules isn’t what would hurt you.

    So IV homeopathy should be just as safe and effective as pill homeopathy.

    PS. Yaknow if it were true that diluting solutions increase the effectiveness of a solute, then “ye olde Chinese watering down” method of quitting junk should work way better. In this largely futile technique, the addict takes their last shots worth, and shoots half the solution. Then he/she adds water to dilute it up to the original volume. Repeat this over and over until the user has weened off junk. Never worked for me. If only homeopathy were real, it would make the shots stronger and stronger…But it doesn’t, because homeopathy requires subjective outcomes, and opiate withdrawal is just way too real to be masked in homeopath make-believe land.

    Oh well, I prefer living in the real world now anyway.

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