Yes, Science.


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Ok, I know this is not the first time I’ve shared a John Oliver video from HBO’s Last Week Tonight.  It’s not just that I am a fan (although I am), it’s that he’s like the only celebrity with a major platform from which he consistently shares accurate scientific information. From climate change to vaccines, vitamins to this report on “scientific studies,” he continues to be a major voice of reason (and humor) to concisely wrap up why the current social attitude about science is so often wrong.

Science as a body of knowledge, and as an epistemological process entails an overlapping family of procedures for updating our collection of facts, (as well as principles, laws, models, theories and hypotheses), and amending the conceptual infrastructure of which they are understood to arise. Questioning beliefs is important and is built into the foundation of both science and science-based skepticism. However, using incomplete, inaccurate, and sensational reports from a perceived authority to either deny or support a scientific fact does not a critical thinker make.

And it’s not just the media, or pop culture that is to blame. Academics themselves disrupt the very skeleton that progresses our knowledge of the universe by participating in that sensationalism. Pressure on scientists to publish (and publish often) earth-shattering new studies is repressing the tried and true (albeit more boring) process of examination, replication, and peer review. As the video points out, there is no incentive for funding replication studies, or even studying something that can’t make a good headline with a little massaging. Consciously or subconsciously, researchers may manipulate data or poorly design studies in order to further their career. 

So, what’s the answer? How can one trust that any scientific study is reliable? Or should we just throw up our hands and say, “scientists don’t know what they’re talking about anyway, just do what makes you feel good.” Unfortunately, it’s not easy, succinct, or quick to become literate in any scientific area of study. That is true for scientists, and it is true for the lay public. It takes decades of deeply dedicated study, re-study, trying to prove your ideas wrong, then studying it more. There will be no amazing simple answers like “The cure for cancer may be hiding in your kitchen pantry!”

The best thing one can do is learn why certain hypotheses are credible based on the available evidence, and what makes them prevalent in that area of study. Understand the core of the scientific method, and when it’s being applied correctly. Skepticism must never be based on denying relevant proclamations simply to oppose mainstream consensus or the “academic establishment”, just as it must never be based on the perceived intellectual authority of a person in a white lab coat.

If a line of questioning is not motivated by actually arriving at plausible answers, then its function ceases to be about improving one’s objective understanding and becomes an act of mental masturbation. If that line of questioning is not even present in one’s quest for answers, the act of even having a brain is futile and wasted.

No, MMS will not treat CF (or anything else).


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I was a strange combination of shocked, horrified, and amused recently when I read a proposed question and testimony that MMS could be used to treat CF. MMS, (miracle mineral solution, miracle mineral supplement, or master mineral solution depending on which re-branding you are looking at) if you are unfamiliar, is a snake oil concoction of the worst kind. Created by Jim Humble, leader of the Genesis II Church of Health and Healing, it is mainly known for how it has been marketed to parents of children with autism as a cure. I have been an outspoken critic of MMS and Kerri Riverra (the woman who hooks these parents with fear and false hope) since I first learned about it in 2013. However, I never thought I would have to defend against its use in CF. It was almost surreal to read someone advocating it.

As it stands, though, the reality is that MMS advocates are branching out to market to other diseases, (it’s already been touted as a cure for cancer, AIDS, malaria, hepatitis, and others as well). There are already a variety of websites that have decimated the claims of MMS, and the con-artists selling it. I will list those references at the end of this post, since they have already done a much better job of explaining it than I am about to. Because of that and my prior familiarity with the topic, this post will essentially be my summary of what I know of it and the information common to other evidence-based websites.

What makes Miracle Mineral Solution so toxic is that it is essentially industrial strength bleach, sodium chlorite, which is then “activated” by a food acid such as vinegar or citric acid. This reaction produces a solution of chlorine dioxide (CD or ClO2), a powerful oxidizing agent that’s hazardous to humans in even low doses.girl-poison-water-300x199

CD is used in several industrial processes, including water treatment and bleaching consumer products. Of course, by the time those products, and potable water makes it to our hands and lips, there is virtually no trace of it left. CD is tightly regulated by most governments, and is not approved for medicinal or food use anywhere.  It is not available for the average consumer to use in the home; only industrial bleaching processes, and thus the manufacture, sale, or distribution of CD by any unlicensed individual is illegal in most areas.

The maximum exposure limit to CD is well below the recommended dose. While the creators of MMS insist that their recipe for mixing it yields a solution much weaker than the industrial counterpart, the reality is that their instructions for use dilute the CD in water to approximately 250-500 parts per million, which, at face value, seems very small. But when you consider the chemical’s safety data sheet, used by the industries that treat water and other consumer products, the concentrations are rarely more than 3 parts per million. Similarly, the WHO’s recommendation for the safe daily intake of chlorite, a chemical derivative of CD that is produced when it reacts in the body, is just 0.3 mg/kg. A single dose of CD contains close to 400 mg/kg.

Any competent chemist can explain that CD is a highly reactive chemical and will damage cells indiscriminately. Within seconds of ingestion, it begins to strip electrons away from molecules in our body; molecules that make up all the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and micro organisms that we are made of. In the digestive system, some of these chemical reactions produce the poisons chlorite, chlorate, chlorine and chloroform, which, scientists have worried, could make it into the blood stream, causing tissue damage, infertility, pain, and organ failure.

Lab tests have been done to observe the precise mechanisms of action that occur in the body with CD, however these tests were done in with 5 and 25 parts per million, and the participants were instructed to sip the solution over the course of an hour. Because the reactions in the body happen very fast, the actual measured amount of CD in the stomach at any given time was very small. Kerri Rivera, and proponents of using CD as medicine, instruct users to ingest the solution in a single shot, (or worse, as a daily enema) resulting in much higher concentrations than what were observed in the tests, which I imagine no ethical review board would ever approve of human testing at those levels.

At these levels, an effect called methaemoglobinaemia would occur. Essentially, that means that oxygen- carrying red blood cells are damaged to the point of not being able to do their jobs. With repeated dosing, or in people with a certain genetic mutation that can’t fight methaemoglobinaemia, this can easily be deadly.

Another thing that has been proven to happen is that it depletes the body of sodium, an essential mineral, to the point of causing near lethal blood pressure from severe dehydration. This is more proof that the creators of this poisonous snake oil do not understand the chemistry as they claim they do, since they assert that CD breaks down into harmless water and salt. In addition to sodium, (and iodine, and iron, and manganese), CD also seems to completely destroy the molecules that make up Vitamin C, leaving the user critically deficient. In the protocol designed by Jim Humble and Kerri Rivera, vitamin C supplements and foods high in vitamin C are prohibited, as they believe it will impact its potency. As a matter of fact, their plan includes a very strict dietary regimen that would leave most people malnourished in one way or another.

MMS can be delivered to the body in multiple ways: eye drops, baths, nebulized vapor (I shudder to think), drinking regular doses seems to be more common in adults, where as parents of young children are often told to administer it to them in a daily enema. A daily enema of any sort is damaging, as it disrupts the bowel functions and can even lead to perforations and incontinence. A daily bleach enema is abusive and torturous. The sort of chemical reactions that happen when CD is ingested, still happen inside the colon, and it can be very painful, nauseating, and can damage many organs as it is absorbed in the blood stream.

This stuff can even be strong enough to disrupt DNA synthesis, particularly since these are amateur chemists mixing highly volatile chemicals in their kitchen, and inconsistent or improper mixing can happen easily.  There’s no regulatory body overseeing what you get when you order MMS through a highly secretive website, especially when manufacturers go out of their way to get around the law by claiming it is for water purification, not ingestion.

Pictures have circulated Facebook and other social media of proud parents, who believe they are curing their children’s autism, posting what they believe to be “rope worm parasites” (such an organism does not exist), they have pulled from their child’s stool after an enema. What these “dead parasites” really are, are the lining of the intestines which, quite literally, have burned off through the use of corrosive CD.

It takes a massive amount of cognitive dissonance to believe that MMS really is a harmless cure, and that governments world wide have suppressed this knowledge and are purposefully persecuting the creators, marketers, and sellers of it. Especially, when the leader of the Genesis II Church, a former scientologist, believes he was part of the Space Navy sent here on a mission by other galactic peoples to look out for the humans on Earth.  However, when in desperation, even the most intelligent of people can be swayed by the emotional claims and moving testimonials of MMS. Their fear for their child, and their hope for the future, all can outweigh the established toxicological profile of this product. It’s true that activated MMS can kill the sickness causing bacteria, and dissolve mucus but it also will indiscriminately erode healthy tissue and damage cells. It will not treat Cystic Fibrosis, it will only cause bodily harm, and possibly more chronic health problems.



Read the 2010 FDA warning of MMS here:

Read the ATSDR warning of CD here:

Read the Australian TGA’s warning here:

Read Health Canada’s warning here:

Read the U.K.’s FSA warning here:

Read Belgium’s FAMHP’s warning here:


The trial of four MMS peddlers from the Pacific Northwest is going on RIGHT NOW! (May, 2015) Here are the details of that:


Watch the thoroughly detailed Irish RTE Prime Time documentary on MMS, The Bleach Cult here:  Approx. running time 35 minutes.

FURTHER READING!the-effects/cc3a!a-collection-of-blogs-about-cdmms/c1li4   Chronic low dose chlorine exposure aggravates allergic inflammation and airway hyperresponsiveness and activates inflammasome pathway.  Controlled clinical evaluations of chlorine dioxide, chlorite and chlorate in man.   Effects of the acute rising dose administration of chlorine dioxide, chlorate and chlorite to normal healthy adult male volunteers. Toxicological effects of chlorine dioxide, chlorite and chlorate Toxicological Problems Associated with Chlorine Dioxide




Negative research on negative ions: Beeswax Candles edition


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Earlier this month, a reader, Anni, emailed me to ask about negative ions. She had read my post on Salt Lamps which had piqued her interest in other products which make similar claims of cleansing the air. In particular, she was curious about a few different websites that tout natural beeswax candles as an indoor air ionizer. Kindly, she agreed to let me share our exchange and to write a more detailed post regarding these claims.

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I read through the links she provided, and as I suspected, the claims they were making were completely unfounded. There are a few reasons I came to this conclusion, and I’d like to go through each point, as I did in my email response, to break it down further, and explain in detail why I reject claims of beeswax candles using negative ions to cleanse the air.

  1. Considering the source. The websites that perpetuate the idea of beeswax candles having mystical healing properties through ionization are all natural health websites. The reason this is a problem is because the foundation of their ideology is rooted in the logical fallacy known as the Appeal to Nature. When all the information shared is based on an emotional appeal that natural remedies are more pure and more wholesome, then evidence to the contrary will be ignored, overlooked, understated, or misapplied.
  2. Their evidence. In addition to using emotional appeals to nature or primitive wisdom to support their argument, these websites rely on unverifiable anecdotes to hold up this claim. While it might sound amazing and convincing that a woman who says her son’s asthma has not flared up at night since lighting a beeswax candle before bed instead of his usual treatments, the reader has no way of knowing if it’s true. It could be entirely made up, and if it’s not, how does one know whether it’s truly caused by the beeswax candle, or some other environmental variable, or whether it’s exaggerated, or whether the boy’s medicinal regiment has changed at all recently? Without having any of this information, it becomes no more than a nice story at best, and a baseless opinion at worse.
  3. Their references. Most of these websites or blogs do not cite their sources for their information, which is often fine for a personal blog or opinion site, but should they be expect to be taken seriously, they can’t, without credentials, presume authority over a topic and then not provide any references other than “well, duh, it just is.” That approach should raise red flags and be unacceptable to the reader who truly wishes to be informed, not brainwashed. Out of the links provided to me in the email, only one offered any assemblage of a reference section, which, upon investigating, fell flat.

This website, which speaks of beeswax as “scientifically proven” to provide an abundance of negative ions, ended their post with an epilogue of sorts that read: The above information is based on numerous research papers, studies, and information available on the following websites: National Candle Association (, American Lung Association (, US Environmental Protection Agency (  Well, that all sounds pretty legit, and I’m sure many people would find it convincing enough to take it at face value. However, rather inconveniently, they do not link even one of these “numerous studies.”

I ran a search through PubMed for beeswax candles and ions, and came up empty handed. I changed keywords a couple times, and still, nothing relevant. If there are “numerous studies,” they sure are elusive. Then I fell back on Google. The only results were circular blogs and websites all claiming the same thing, as if it’s a widely understood fact. Until they can link to credible sources, I can only presume this is an unsupported hypothesis.

Next, I clicked the American Lung Association link. It took me to the home page, which is uninformative about matters of our focus topic. Searching that site made no mention of candles – of any type – nor did it say anything about negative ions versus positive ions. also does not mention ionization in candle burning anywhere. It did, however, explicitly debunk a different point that was common to each site: paraffin wax candles are not toxic. The EPA website was entirely unhelpful as it caters to more general talk of air quality in cities, states, and the nation.

  1. Positive Ions Effects on the body are still uncertain. Admittedly, I wasn’t sure where this idea of positive ion poisoning came from. It seemed like it was just rumor that got passed around for so long, that it had just become part of alt-med culture and I believed there was nothing supporting it. Digging deeper though, I found a few clues as to the origin of this vague malady, and it turns out there is some legitimate research that started to confirm that hypothesis, but not enough to accept it as fact.

In the late 1950’s through early 1960s, Dr. Albert Krueger and associates published several papers on the effects of air ions on various different animals, as well as human trials in the Proceedings of the Society for Experimental Biology in Medicine, and the Journal of General Physiology. Their research, now viewed as foundational to the field of studying charged particles’ effects on living organisms, seemed to suggest that an abundance of negative ions helped kill airborne bacteria, stimulated plant growth, decreased the mortality rate of mice exposed to influenza and checked the levels of the brain hormone serotonin, which is believed responsible for symptoms of migraine, nausea, respiratory distress and irritability[1].

Most relevant to those of us with CF, his research regarding the ciliary activity in the airways showed that negatively charged ions sped up the actions of the cilia, and positive ions slowed them down. The cilia are the tiny hair like filaments in the trachea and bronchial tubes whose whip-like actions help remove particles and mucus from the lungs. In CF, this mechanism is impaired.

The doctor’s research, however, led to an explosion of commercial quack devices claiming to ionize the air. It got so bad at one point, that the FDA was forced to confiscate and seize a host of ionizer machines in the 1960’s. Dr. Krueger never blamed skeptics, as he himself admitted that many of his experiments were poorly designed and controlled, but he did stand by his research until his death in 1982[2]. Unfortunately, because of his research being instantly translated into pseudo-medical home treatments, much of the potential of Krueger’s findings were not further investigated for fear of being associated with junk science.

Most of the research conducted on the topic of charged particles in the air focuses on serotonin production, as it seems the neurohormone is sensitive to the amount of negative or positive ions it is exposed to. This research has led to experimental use of ionized chambers to control pain in burn victims, as well as to treat those who have been diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While interesting, this sort of work is not accepted as scientific consensus yet.

Ion studies focusing on respiratory function outcomes are even less convincing. In fact, a review of the literature published in the Journal of Negative Results in Biomedicine- a publication dedicated to changing the positive result bias that has led to a lot of  misinformation published in years past- concluded “the literature does not clearly support a beneficial role in exposure to negative air ions and respiratory function or asthmatic symptom alleviation. Further, collectively, the human experimental studies do not indicate a significant detrimental effect of exposure to positive air ions on respiratory measures. Exposure to negative or positive air ions does not appear to play an appreciable role in respiratory function.”[3]

Some people believe in electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS), which is similar to positive ion poisoning, and is said to cause debilitating headaches, nausea, and mood swings. While the symptoms of EHS are very real, the phenomenon causing them can’t be attributed to electromagnetic fields, as the sufferers claim. In a systematic review published in 2005, out of 31 experiments including 725 self-described electro-sensitive subjects, there was no corroborating evidence in blind and double-blind studies to suggest it’s a real disorder[4]. If a subject believed it could detect EMFs, he or she would have symptoms, whether or not they were really exposed to them in the tests. This is what is known as a “nocebo” effect.

  1. Candles do not carry a surplus of negative ions to be released when burned. Having established a background on ions and their real or perceived health effects, it’s time to get to the crux of the issue. Is it even possible to produce negative ions from a burning candle? Yes! But the candle is also producing positive ions. That’s because fire is an energy source hot enough to separate atoms from their molecules, at least temporarily. As they cool, the strong attraction between positive and negative rejoin the atoms in their molecular compound.  This whole process happens in a tiny fraction of a second, and the gas emissions (mainly CO2 and water vapor- the same chemicals we exhale in every breath) are not ionic[5]. So there is not a surplus of negatively charged particles to float around hopelessly looking for a partner until they are inhaled by you.

Hypothetically speaking, if a flame was releasing negative ions, there would have to be positive ions being left behind. This would create an electrical charge in the flame, and eventually a spark would jump. There is somewhat of a positive charge in a flame, however, it is slight, and only measurable with sophisticated equipment. The closest species of ions we could get from a candle burning is ionized oxygen, which are free radicals.[6] This type of free radical is different from the kind we normally think of in cell respiration (the stuff we’re always fighting with anti-oxidants), but nonetheless they could be bad for you if they were to get into your body. Fortunately, they don’t survive long after being released, and the likelihood of any significant amount entering your body is slim to none.[7]

In times past, candles – of any type – have been used as air purifiers in rooms where there’s a lot smoke, or volatile fumes, because they can consume and burn away the offending odor-causing chemical. Nowhere in the process do they release ions to cleanse the air.

  1. Beeswax is not chemically superior to other fuel sources in candles. From what I understand, beeswax candles have a higher melting point than soy or even paraffin wax[8], which means they will last longer, and often are more expensive. But from a gas emission standpoint, they are not any better or worse than other types of wax.[9] Some people have made claims that beeswax produces more soot than conventional candles, but I think, like a lot of things, this varies between batches and manufacturers and is not necessarily a characteristic of the beeswax itself, as I have not been able to find any primary sources to back that up.

One thing that chemists seem to agree upon is that candle burning generally carries minimal risk, no matter what type of candle one is inclined to prefer. This also appears to be a major point of misinformation, since it is a popular belief that paraffin wax, being derived from petroleum, has more toxic emissions than naturally derived wax. (I used to believe this too!). Most all credible studies have found paraffin wax exposure to be benign[10]. While each wax has a different signature on a gas chromatograph, none appear to emit a more hazardous composition than another. A large international study investigating emissions from multiple types of candles found that even the worst offenders fell well below a harmful level of exposure[11]. Unfortunately, chemophobia and a hatred for all things petroleum have distorted the perceptions of much of the general public, and the media reporting that sensationalizes it.

Ultimately, which candle you buy is a personal preference, as there’s not a clear superiority to any type. Candles can be very relaxing and very beautiful. Many people prefer the natural scent of beeswax candles, over other types of added fragrance. Inherently, there’s nothing wrong with burning candles to set a mood (in a safe and reasonably ventilated area, of course). I would steer clear of anyone trying to justify an extra cost of beeswax candles with pseudo-medical claims though, because they are either lying, or are grossly ill-informed.

Thank you again, Anni, for bringing this to my attention. I hope my explanations were clear and helpful! For what it’s worth, the best information I have found suggests that HEPA Filters are a person’s best bet for air purification.





[5] Walker, Jearl. “The Physics and Chemistry Underlying the Infinite Charm of a Candle Flame,” Originally printed in    The Amateur Scientist Column, Scientific American, April 1978. Accessed via   


[7] Combustion Fundamentals





Dr. Grekos and Regenocyte’s Stem Cell Promise


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Because there’s been some recent press coverage on stem cell therapy used in patients with Cystic Fibrosis, by the company Regenocyte, I decided it was imperative that I finish up this post now. At the request of a doctor at my CF Clinic last year, I was encouraged to look into Dr. Zannos Grekos, the main doctor behind Regenocyte. Apparently, Dr Grekos had contacted my clinic in order to get some information and medical records on one of my fellow patients. Well, let’s just say things didn’t smell right to the CF doctor, and Dr. Grekos’ request was denied.

Regenocyte boasts of cutting edge medical technology that is so far advanced, it is illegal in the United States. While that’s slightly misrepresented, Dr. Grekos practicing stem cell medicine is, for sure, illegal. That’s because as of April 2013, the Florida Board of Medicine revoked Dr. Grekos’ already suspended medical license. This decision was recently upheld last month.[1] The Board based its decision on a judge’s finding that he committed medical malpractice in performing an unproven stem cell therapy on a patient who later died. Her cause of death was a massive stroke caused by fragments of bone marrow directly injected into her circulatory system.[2] As a cardiologist, Dr. Grekos should have been well aware that small fragments of any kind in the blood stream could cause thrombosis. The decision was unanimous and without discussion. [3]

This is only the first stem cell patient he’s allegedly killed.  Another patient, just two years later also died after a similar procedure, while the doctor’s license was under restriction and practicing stem cell therapy was strictly verboten. That case is still under review. Early in his career, while he was an employee of a hospital, he was sued for medical malpractice after a patient died, who, as prosecutors argued, could have been saved if Dr. Grekos had chosen to act sooner to repair the damage from a failed procedure he performed. The case was settled for $600,000 out of court in 2001.[4] Nonetheless, he has developed an almost cult like following of patients with debilitating conditions such as heart and lung failure with his stem cell therapy.

Dr. Grekos began his stem cell career at TheraVitae, a Bangkok-based profit scheme that offered processed autologous bone marrow cells for heart and vascular repair, founded by Don Margolis (more on him later).[5] While there, he was part of a team of investigators that conducted a trial in Thailand which showed patients’ ejection fraction (a qualifying measurement of heart function) improved by approximately 20%.

The trial was criticized by peers, for no regulatory body overseeing the study. Robert Lanza, the chief scientific officer of US cell-therapy firm Advanced Cell Technology said, “This was a safety– Phase 1–  trial, so the results don’t really tell us much about the potential efficacy of the cell. There may have been some improvement. However, it’s impossible to reach any conclusion, since the study wasn’t randomized and there was no control group. The study was further compromised by the fact that the cardiologists evaluating the patients were not ‘blinded’. The slight improvements reported in this paper could easily be the result of a placebo effect.” [6]

Patients who swear to have been cured or dramatically improved after treatments, have generally not measured significantly different in tests, despite the statistics presented by Dr. Grekos.  “I do not doubt the sincerity of patients who believe they have been helped by stem cell therapy, but there is an enormous placebo effect in almost all of these cases. I have looked for the scientific efficacy of this approach, and can find none,” says Dr. Norman Edelman, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. [7]

I do not doubt the sincerity of patients who believe they have been helped by stem cell therapy, but there is an enormous placebo effect in almost all of these cases. I have looked for the scientific efficacy of this approach, and can find none.

The procedure costs $15,000-54,000 (according to Regenocyte—CNN  and other sources have reported as high as $64,500) and only the preliminary blood draw is covered by insurance. The patient will also need to travel to Santiago, Dominican Republic for the procedure. Regenocyte claims part of that cost is for the cells to be hand couriered to their lab in Israel, and back to the Dominican Republic. However, in at least one case, records show the patient’s blood was sent to a lab on the east coast of Florida.[8]

For a typical procedure, a sample of the patient’s blood is sent to Israel for cultivating the stem cells. The blood is spun and filtered through a centrifuge, and the stem cells are given a “Growth Factor” to multiply them. When ready, the patient would travel to the Dominican Republic and Grekos’ partner, who was trained in Regenocyte’s proprietary catheter methodology,  (Dr. Grekos is not licensed to practice in the Dominican Republic) would inject the stem cells into the patients damaged heart muscle, lungs, or circulatory system.

Regenocyte claims the Israeli laboratories, which are run by Theravitae, can produce between 40m-80 million stem cells from the blood sample, then “activate them and educate them to become the end organ to any tissues we are looking to regenerate”[9] (Yes, really). Dr. Grekos calls the product Israel returns “regenocytes” (millions of tiny little organ school graduates!) which he defines as “a stem cell that has been activated to become a target organ”, and admits it is a marketing term, not technically a biological identifier. [10]

Dr Grekos prof

This admission is probably due to pressure from critics who say that Dr. Grekos is “simply wrong”.  Leading thinkers in the field do not have nice things to say about him. “There is no such cell. There is nothing called a regenocyte….As a stem cell scientist who works in the field of regenerative stem cells, I am disappointed and shocked that somebody would prey on a family that has an untreatable disease with the promise of a therapy that has no scientific or medical basis,” says Dr. Irving Weissman, president elect of the International Society for Stem Cell Research.[11] Neurobiologist and stem-cell innovator Hans Keirstead of the University of California at Irvine calls commercial stem-cell clinics like Regenocyte “deplorable.” “It’s absolutely terrible. They’re taking advantage of people’s need,” he says.[12]

Regenocyte’s website makes claims of grandeur, despite the criticism from these and many other scientists. For example, in pulmonary patients who make up the largest portion (45%) of his patient base, asserting that transplant may be circumvented, improved lung function and lung capacity, decreased dependency on steroids and inhalers, reducing or eliminating the need for supplemental oxygen. These are all very emotional topics, and it is easy to let go of reason, when such suggestions are being made possible. On the CF specific portion of their website, you’ll find this blurb (which I might add, contains the best Freudian slip ever):

“Treatments using your own adult stem cells (which contain the genetic markers for CF) combined with the adult stem cells of a relative, have been shown to restore some normal functions that had been written off as gone forever. This unique, two pronged attack on both the disease and it’s [sic] underlying cause has produced startlying [sic] results. Patients show renewed vigor with a stronger respiratory function. They may recover their independence from breathing devices and other kinds of medical apparatus. They may be freed from their dependence upon others. Hospitalizations have been shown to be reduced dramatically.  Intercellular is the only known provider, using stem cells to treat CF, so call or write us today for a free evaluation.”[13]

Intercellular is the re-branded name for Regenocyte, where Dr. Grekos appointed himself Chief Scientific Officer, and named a different registered agent and COO in the incorporation documents with the state. This may be to protect him from charges of practicing stem cell therapy.[14]

Dr. Grekos is pretty well practiced in filing incorporation papers too, as it turns out. In addition to his cardiology practice, he also finds time to own and run a popular Greek restaurant (which has been cited for health code violations including hand washing violations[15]), a boat fixing business, and a tax-exempt Greek Orthodox Church, among others. He’s registered documents under his name for at least 18 corporate entities with the Florida Department of State[16].  He manages or managed a variety of real estate ventures with his wife, from which they have made themselves multi-millionaires, including Gawn Fishin’ whose controversial  plans to build a marina and condominium resort on protected land, ultimately failed.[17]


The man’s resume[18], on first glance, is pretty impressive. However, after doing a little digging, I found some questionable claims. On his website, his bio states that he is a “Clinical Assistant Professor for Nova Southeastern University.” I can’t say outright this is untrue, but he’s certainly not listed in any faculty directory for NSU that I found. I checked Bachelor, Master, and Doctorate Programs at several different colleges within the university, including: medical science, health science, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and arts & science.

He also states he is a “distinguished Master of the American Academy of Cardiology.” In some documents he prefers “distinguished Fellow of the American Academy of Cardiology”. This is a deceptive, made up, and paid for title. The American Academy of Cardiology is a phony organization trying to sound like American College of Cardiology. The difference being that a Fellow (F.A.C.C) and Master of the American College of Cardiology (M.A.C.C) is a real and honorable distinction issued to peer-nominated candidates who’ve proven their merit. The other is the slick workings of Rev. Dr. Keith A Lasko, who, from the address of a UPS store on his letterhead, will issue a certificate with this CV (stands for Curriculum Vitae- like a doctor’s resume), M.A.A.C or F.A.A.C distinction for $300, and who is currently wrapped up in an anti-trust lawsuit against the Board of Surgeons.[19]

In similar fashion, my attention was drawn to a certification on his resume which states that he’s a diplomate of the American Board of Medical Examiners. As far as I know, that’s not a thing. The National Board of Medical Examiners, is an old and legitimate US organization, whose exam is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards, and must be passed by any MD before practicing medicine in the US[20]. Perhaps he made a mistake in writing it, or perhaps he means what he says, and is trying to pull the wool over unsuspecting clients’ eyes.

Additionally, he writes that he was, “Recently appointed to the science advisory board of the United States Repair Stem Cell Institute.”  The Repair Stem Cell Institute is a lobbying group founded by Don Margolis, the same Don Margolis who got Dr. Grekos in the stem cell biz. I cannot verify all of it, but there are many allegations[21],[22] of Margolis being a scammer, and of selling patient information to stem cell clinics, such as Grekos’. He claims to have severed ties with Dr. Grekos after Dr. Grekos lost his medical license, though some people assert that Grekos stopped paying him for referrals after uncovering that the cells are processed through an intermediary company, Regenecell, which is owned by none other than Margolis and his son, who goes by a pseudonym allegedly to avoid law enforcement. They are still friends, and a quick peek at his Facebook page shows that he subscribes to “Big Pharma” cure suppression conspiracy theories and is also anti-vaccination.

Back to Dr. Grekos track record, aside from the first malpractice suit he settled in 2001, his problems really began in 2010 when the first stem cell death occurred. In 2011, Florida State Department of Health issued an emergency restriction on his license and told him not to do anything with stem cells.[23] Not long after that, the father of a 5 year old Texas boy wired $57,000 up front to Regenocyte’s Dominican Republic account for treatment of the child’s Primary Pulmonary Hypertension. Despite the boy weakening by the day, the treatment was never scheduled. The boy died without ever being seen at the Bonita Springs clinic.  They waited 3 months after paying but never got the call to come to Florida. The father received only a $10,000 refund. The family claims they were never told Grekos’ license was in restricted status.[24]

Then, in March 2012 his medical license was suspended when he violated the DOH order and did a stem cell procedure on another patient, who also died. In the beginning of 2013, less than two months from Dr. Grekos’ hearing, his defense lawyer backed out and resigned the case saying he had “good cause” but would not elaborate.[25] Later, the expert witness who testified on his defense’s behalf sued Dr. Grekos for non-payment of his fee.[26]

The medical license was not the only thing he has lost, either. Dr Grekos has had multiple vehicle offenses, and has been charged with careless driving and driving with a suspended license. I include this information not as an ad hominem, but as relevant character insight. In 2006, with $300 in unpaid tickets, he hit a car turning left out of a Taco Bell at 70 mph in his 1972 Ferrari. The accident put two people in intensive care.[27] Clearly, he thinks he does not need to comply with the rules imposed on him by governing bodies.

Perhaps it is not updated, but Regenocyte’s website still claims that Grekos is board certified, with extensive experience in the field of stem cell therapy.  And that their therapy is highly effective, and presents minimal risk. I guess this is ignoring the two deaths already.

The listed advantages read exactly like you’d expect from a charlatan’s pitch:

  • A Second Chance-(Offer hope for the hopeless).
  • Natural-(Body’s “natural regenerative potential” is superior to temporary or artificial fix).
  • Safe and Effective-(Except that there’s no quality evidence to say that, and is quite insulting to the memories of the two dead patients).
  • Positive side effects -(Flowery language about reactivating the healing process where the body would not have done so voluntarily).
  • Proven Results– (claims clinical results positive, and that no patient has responded negatively-again excluding the two dead patients, oops).
  • The Earlier the Treatment, the better the Success Rate—(Use victim blaming language when the treatment fails.)

Of course, he advises patients that they are supposed to continue their regular prescribed treatments after therapy, making it difficult to assign credit to the therapy. He also warns that patients may not see any difference for 6 months or more, and may need multiple treatments. This all sounds extremely dubious, and the kind of lines fed to you by ‘holistic’ pseudoscientists.

As is consistent with these “Brave Maverick” type doctors, the “establishment” is out to get him; persecuting him for his genius. Or so he believes. Dr. Grekos really displays a lot of the critic-dodging delusional narcissism common in quacks like him. He claims he is on the cutting edge of medicine, and that history will look favorably upon him. When asked to provide evidence for his claims, he shrugs off the importance of empirical evidence, peer review, and safety trials, citing the numerous testimonials from his patients, and the urgency of treating those with progressive diseases.

The International Cellular Medicine Society (ICMS), a group of doctors and scientists whose aim is to track and verify patient results by an objective third party source, contacted Regenocyte about participating in their program. By joining such a registry, Regenocyte would be opening up its treatments to the same statistical metrics used by clinical trials, but Regenocyte rejected the offer because “they didn’t see what was in it for them.”[28]

He claims he is collecting data from his procedures and has been in contact with a Florida hospital to independently review his findings, but that hasn’t happened yet. He also claimed that by 2009 he would submit his findings to the FDA, but he’s too focused on healing people with degenerative diseases to waste time and money “proving himself to the scientific establishment.” More truthfully, the FDA will simply not accept data from a physician if the doctor has a financial interest in the outcome. To be sure, he does have a financial stake. A huge one. The Regenecyte website says they have treated over 200 patients. At a cost of around $54,000 a patient, that’s 10.8 million dollars his company has made in gross revenue.

Dr Grekos court

Ironically, the FDA, in 2005, reclassified autologous stem cells that are manipulated by growth factors or other compounds as drugs, in order to have the same double-blind multistage trials in order to protect patients from ineffective or perilous stem-cell therapies. And most scientists agree this was a good idea.  However, Grekos counters that it’s all an elaborate scheme for Big Pharma to line its pockets with new patents.[29]

It may be no coincidence that 59% of his patients are between the ages of 65-79 and originate in Florida.[30] There are a lot of rich retirees down there, who may be very trusting consumers in the health and wellness business. I realize this is inferring something without evidence, and I apologize for not sticking to facts here, but at the same time, I can’t ignore the fact that Dr. Grekos has made himself very rich on credulous claims. This is why it’s so important to educate yourself in scientific reasoning, to protect yourself from self-chosen messiahs with nothing to offer you but false hope.

You see, when a doctor truly believes s/he has made a break through discovery in medicine, s/he doesn’t incorporate a for-profit private business to proprietarily treat patients for the accumulation of their life savings account. They carefully, meticulously put it through trials and record every data point, positive or negative, and submit it for review from other research scientists, and to the FDA for approval. They want to share that information far and wide to help as many people as possible, not keep it to themselves as a business opportunity. There’s nothing wrong with making money, but without the scientific method, there can be no self-correction or progress made in actual treatment options. Zannos Grekos is a gunslinger taking advantage of an unregulated medical technology market.

Stem cells are an important field of research for the future. They have been used successfully in the treatment of leukemia for decades, and adult stem cells like Dr. Grekos advocates do show great potential in regenerative medicine.  What makes Dr. Grekos so dangerous, in my opinion, is that he is taking advantage of the public’s awe and mystery surrounding this futuristic treatment to sell his very own brand of snake oil under the guise of caring about patients, when the government or conventional medicine lets them down. He’s clearly a very savvy businessman, as evidenced by his multiple successful enterprises and gold chains. He may have even had altruistic intentions. But Regenocyte has yet to show objective data for the miracles they claim to perform. And that’s why I felt compelled to write this post.

Currently, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has been expanding efforts to include stem cell research into future CF treatments. According to William R. Skach, M.D., who recently joined the CF Foundation as vice president for research affairs, peripheral stem cells are a promising avenue to combine with gene therapy. But he adds, “While much has been learned about peripheral stem cells in recent years, it is not yet clear exactly how they can be used in the lungs. First, we need to identify critical stem cell populations in the airways, understand how they behave and then develop ways to correct the CFTR gene. Thus, stem cell research must go hand in hand with work on gene editing.”[31]
































What You Need to Know About Microwave Popcorn’s ‘Butter’ Chemical


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Just under a year ago, a study made a splash among CF news and advocacy groups. It was a paper out of Southern California that linked the chemical gas 2,3-Butanedione to certain types of bacteria that are commonly grown in the lungs of CF patients. 2,3-Butanedione, also known as diacetyl, is a found in many types of foods, and is particularly known for providing the butter flavor in microwave popcorn. The study, authored by Katrine Whiteson, et al., measured breath gas metabolites in seven CF patients and one healthy control. They noted an apparent relationship between the levels of certain bacterial colonization and level of 2,3-Butanedione detected.


Diacetyl, as I mentioned, is a buttery flavored molecule that is a byproduct of fermentation. Anyone who has brewed beer is familiar with diacetyl, as it is usually (with some exception) considered a defect. In microwave popcorn (at least in some brands), it is used to add the artificial butter flavor. When the study made the rounds of CF news outlets, there was often mention of diacetyl being implicated as the culprit for a condition known as ‘popcorn lung’,(or more properly Bronchiolitis Obliterans) named so for the common affliction of lung damage seen in workers at microwave popcorn plants who are exposed to high levels of diacetyl in the factory over time. This sounded very alarming, and many people began to question if CF patients should even eat microwave popcorn in order to limit their exposure to this toxic chemical.

While it is true 2,3-Butanedione can cause damage to the lung tissue, there’s nothing to suggest that casual consumption of microwave popcorn carries any risk aside from it just being junk food. To achieve the kind of scarring talked about in popcorn lung, you’d probably have to open the bag of freshly popped popcorn and huff it on a continual basis. Another misunderstood interpretation implied that diacetyl caused pseudomonas to grow, which is not quite true. What the study does say is this (put on your science hats, things are about to get tricky): 2,3-Butanedione was more present in the lungs of the CF volunteers than in those of the healthy control. One of the patients’ breath gas detected lower levels of 2,3-Butanedione after being treated with IV antibiotics for an exacerbation. This means the the level of 2,3-Butanedione could serve as a biomarker for infection.

In CF lungs, the tissue pH is slightly lower than in healthy lungs due to lack of oxygen, or pockets with mucus plugs. It is there in those pockets some of the microbes are driven to respirate anaerobically creating an environment for fermentation. Fermentation lowers the pH further, and in order to avoid lethal acidification, 2,3-Butanedione is produced to bring the environment to a more neutral pH.

2,3-Butanedione has the ability to harm lung tissue directly by reacting with the immune system’s guanidinium groups such as those found in arginine side chains. However, as the authors cited, recent work has shown that 2,3-Butanedione also mediated cross feeding between fermenting bacteria and Pseudomonas a.

At low-oxygen environments, molecules called phenazines, which are produced by bacteria such as Pseudomonas and Streptomyces, and usually (when oxygen is present) create deadly oxygen radicals that act as antibiotics, instead act as alternative electron receptors and enables anaerobic respiration for other member of the microbial community. So, there’s a synergism happening, particularly with the phenazine called pyocynin produced by Pseudomonas a. that contributes to its ability to colonize the lungs.

The sputum samples in this study were dominated by P. aeruginosa, Streptococcus spp., and Rothia mucilaginosa, and through metagenomic testing, they were able to assert that the genes encoding 2,3-Butanedione biosynthesis were disproportionately abundant in Streptococcus spp, where as the genes for the consumption of Butanedione pathway products were encoded by P. aeruginosa and R. mucilaginosa. In other words, it’s possible that strep is helping to produce it, while pseudomonas and others are feeding off it.

So this tells us some form of metabolism is happening by anaerobic bacteria in the lungs caused by low oxygen and low pH environments. It also means that there’s a synergism happening where the triggered byproduct 2,3-Butanedione is acting as a carbon source, or signaling molecule with other bacteria.

The authors suggest that the amount of 2,3-Butanedione detected in breath gas metabolites could potentially be a biomarker for upcoming infections. Many patients and their loved ones have said they’ve been able to smell an infection coming on their breath. Being able to link breath gas metabolite to the products unique to microbial metabolism, and then using metagenomic sequencing learn specifically which bacteria are colonizing, could potentially lead to new technology strategies in attacking an exacerbation before it does irreversible damage.

This study was small and stressed the need for further research with larger sample sizes. Considering that 2,3-Butanedione gas detection levels were measured to be lower when antibiotics were in use, that could give us a clue if the reason has to do with smaller population of the producing bacteria, a change in the metabolism of the bacteria, or a consumption of this metabolites.

Understanding a causal relationship between the gas and the pathogens could potentially be very significant to lung health.

It should be said that 2,3-Butanedione is one of an abundance of gases taken from the airways of the lungs that could be different or cause changes in CF lungs, and at this point it is really hard to assess the significance of any one of them. However some interesting work has been done with diacetyl as far as microbial interactions in host insects, mammals, and plants that has shed some light on how these diacetyl and acetoin producing microbes evolved. In mosquitoes, for example, 2,3-Butanedione can disrupt their CO2 receptors, so they can no longer detect the exhaling breath of the life that is their next blood source. Knowing this, it could lead to the prevention of many types of mosquito borne illnesses, and potentially save thousands of lives.

This has nothing to do with CF, but it is, of course interesting. And, hey, next time you’re out camping, you can bring some pre-popped microwave popcorn instead of Deet to protect you from the mosquitoes. (No promises about bears though, they’d probably love the smell of diacetyl). On second thought, bring the Deet.


Whiteson, Katrine L.; Meinardi, Simone; Lim, Yan Wei; Schmieder, Robert;
Maughan, Heather; Quinn, Robert; Blake, Donald R.; Conrad, Douglas; and Rohwer, Forest. “Breath gas metabolites and bacterial metagenomes
from cystic fibrosis airways indicate active pH-neutral 2,3-butanedione fermentation,” ISME Journal(2014) Vol. 8. January 9, 2014.

Link to full study PDF

Salt Caves


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With proven benefits shown for hypertonic saline in restoring airway surface liquid, one might make the assumption that being in a room filled with salt would be beneficial for people with cystic fibrosis. Indeed, CF is often mentioned specifically among the respiratory disorders Salt Spas (also called salt caves, salt grottos, or halotherapy chambers) claim to ameliorate. That doesn’t happen often, if I’m honest.  Usually the closest we can get to being marketed to is asthma or bronchitis. So it almost makes it feel sort of special, that salt caves would be popping up around the country, as if they were made to cater just to us.

Of course, that is not true by any stretch. The salt rooms and spas that offer halotherapy generally assert that they’re specially designed with a very specific distinction of salt rocks which can treat everything from migraines to high blood pressure, chronic fatigue to, of course, breathing difficulty. For any layperson who wants to critically examine such an idea, this should be the first red flag. In all actuality, salt room businesses didn’t open with us in mind, it just so happens that they used legitimate research done concerning cystic fibrosis as a platform to advertise as a medically supported therapy.

Annoying as that is, it is smart business. Securing a loan, insurance, acquiring real estate for an actual brick and mortar location, furnishing it with high quality halite imported from the Himalayas and Eastern Europe…it all gets pretty expensive. It would be a very poor profit plan if your wellness center could only accommodate a relatively tiny demographic, as opposed to nearly everybody who has considered themselves ill at one point or another.  The problem comes when these businesses, who sell themselves on scientifically sound principles, step off into pseudoscientific territory, making illogical and dubious claims as extensions of proven therapy.

When a person or entity makes a claim, it is incumbent on them to provide evidence to back it up. As it stands, very little examination of salt spas has been done, and most certainly not with the vigorous scientific standards which would be required to be accepted in peer review.  So when confronted, people with a personal stake in a salt cave business may grasp at research that could be cherry picked, or misapplied for a broader meaning. That’s what they do when they use cystic fibrosis research (among others) into salt therapy to rationalize the parameters of their claims. (In fact, some halotherapy companies have been reprimanded for advertising they can treat specific diseases such as CF and psoriasis)[1].

Another thing they do, is supply testimonials, and appeals to antiquity and cultural wisdom as support. Salt cave supporters resort to stories of the thousands of people who’ve found relief in salt caves world wide, many times, as witnessed by their own eyes. But these are just anecdotes, most likely of the placebo variety. In fact, the entire set up is aimed at psychosomatic relief. Salt rooms use masterful lighting schemes, intimate spacial design and soft, squishy recliners to manipulate the anxiety levels of the user.  Really, it’s a pleasant way to while away an hour. Though, for the price being charged, one would hope it’s providing more than a relaxing atmosphere to doze away one’s worries.

salt cave

So let’s look at the claims of the average salt room, and see if there’s anything more that could be leaving the user feeling refreshed, and breathing better. First, there’s the micronutrients that are allegedly being absorbed during your time in the salt room. Business owners assert that the average person is deficient in the minerals like bromide, iodine, and potassium, but appropriate levels can be gotten through their salt. In reality, potassium-iodide related deficiencies have been significantly curbed in first world countries thanks to fortifiers in salt, and most people manage to get the necessary amounts of these through their food.[2] In any case, one doesn’t go to a salt cave to eat the salt, so instead, they suggest that simply being in the room with the stuff is enough to right any imbalances you’ve been experiencing.

Next is the unsurprising declaration of ionization to heal the daily stresses from modern life. Aside from the fact that there’s not much credible evidence to accept that our bodies are effected by charged particles of any kind, negative ion output from salt is, as I have explained in this post, pretty much a marketing myth.  There’s also no way to support the claim that salt cave air is any cleaner than normal air, certainly nothing that could quantifiably be stated as a fact.

With halotherapy, as is common in pseudoscientific alternatives, there’s a lack of prior plausibility. That is, the likelihood that a remedy could work the way it claims to work based on what we know about the laws of nature. When the plausibility is low, it raises the stakes for the burden of proof. In other words, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Studies supporting these claims are scant, mostly published in Russian or Polish journals, and have been criticized for being vague, biased, and of low quality.[3] Many salt spas use dry aerosol “salt generators” which grind up salt into tiny breathable particles and blow them into the air. One such generator has been clinically studied in Russia, the Halomed device, and was shown clinically effective for respiratory and skin conditions, however, the study’s prime author, Alina Chervinskaya, is a minority owner of Halomed.[4]

A few prominent pulmonologists have warned against salt rooms and salt generators for the treatment of asthma. Salt being a known irritant, it can cause airways to contract, which may trigger an asthma attack[5]. However, overall, the risks associated with going to a salt cave are low, the real “danger” being that of a thinning bank account. In general more salt isn’t a bad thing for CF patients, and one CF specialist in Florida has noted that while FEV1 remained unchanged, a small number of patients who he has referred to a salt spa for multiple treatments have reported less congestion and sinus pressure.[6] Still, the benefits of going to a spa for halotherapy are unproven to be better than a placebo, and are likely short lived.








[6]Layish, Daniel, et. al. “The effect of halotherapy on pulmonary function, dyspnea and sinus symptoms in Patients with cystic fibrosis”.

Denying Death: Morbid thoughts and irrational behavior


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Happy Halloween Readers!grave stone

Here in America, today is one of the nation’s favorite holidays, at least judging from the $7.4 billion spent on Halloween products this year (source: today’s Fortune magazine blog). I know other countries don’t celebrate nearly as much, and in America especially, it has morphed from a meld of Christian and Pagan harvest feasts honoring the faithfully departed, to one of pop culture costumes and way, way too much candy. But many cultures still have a long and storied history of remembering the dead this time of year, from the Gaelic Samhain (SAH-win), to native Mesoamerican Dia de los Muertos, mixed with influences of Christian All Hallows Eve and All Saints Day.

A lot of these Veneration of the Dead celebrations are a mixture of both fear and honor for the deceased. Some rituals were made to look after the well-being of their ancestors in the next world, some to make special sacrifices to stay on the spirits’ good side, or to ask special favors of the dead, especially from martyrs or saints in the church catacombs where relics of their earthly bodies were kept.

Either way, the cultural familiarity with death was heightened in ages past, to a point, which, in my opinion, has been lost in the last century or so, as medical progress began raising the average life expectancy, curing disease which once killed large numbers of the population, and finally, with the creation of the funeral industry as a proprietary enterprise.

That last factor I think carries a large amount of fault for what I call society’s death denial. Nowadays, we keep death hidden. Hospitals have found discreet ways to transport dead bodies down to the basement morgue without upsetting the public. An unmarked van will pull up to a loading dock in the back and carry the corpse away to be prepped for burial or cremation. There is very little family involvement with the corpse, even when a person dies at home or in hospice, the body is just taken away and disposed of.

Many people in the Western world go their whole lives without seeing a dead body, which is just so unusual when compared to the thousands of years of human history predating the death industry. I think this has lead to a real anxiety and phobia about death. Most times when we talk about death in our society, it’s in the context of tragedy. Where am I going with this? What does it have to do with pseudoscience?

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about cognitive dissonance, that an idea– a fact– can be so uncomfortable to a person’s psyche, that they will go to great and illogical lengths to avoid it. There is no more sure fact that we all will die one day. Life is terminal. People with chronic and fatal illnesses know this better than “healthy” people, but that doesn’t make us immune to the fear of the unknown.

I theorize that the natural movement and health craze that’s caught hold in recent years may be due, at least in part, to the societal fear of sickness and death. I haven’t personally seen any research done on this, so this post is entirely from my own curious ponderings, but it seems to me, that fad diets, the popularity of celebrity doctors and “wellness experts”, the insistence that “chemicals” are bad (chemicals in quotes because all matter is chemicals), and there are shadowy entities out to kill us all all have one thing in common: paranoia and fear.

Orthorexia, which is yet to be clinically recognized, is a very real anxiety and eating disorder, in which the afflicted spends an unhealthy amount of time obsessing over their nutrition, and what’s in it. Constantly in fear that they’ve accidentally ingested an ingredient that they believe will give them cancer, detoxifying, or shaming themselves for not following a strictly organic/ vegan/ local/ paleo/ gluten- free/ GMO- free/ preservative-free/ antioxidant rich/ raw whole food diet, or whatever unusual rules they have dictated to themselves and others in order to match their perception of healthy.

People, in general, are scared of their own mortality. Those who get caught up in the health craze are really just terrified of the most unavoidable part of life. A lot of us, especially who face death more closely than we should for our age, will often time seek out ways to control and prevent it. In desperation, our critical thinking skills can diminish, and we are more prone to fall for what may appear to others as obvious scams.

With a lot to lose if we’re wrong, we become unpersuadable in believing that if we just put in the extra effort, we can somehow escape it. When sickness happens anyway, the blame gets shifted into ‘the patient just didn’t want badly enough to be healthy, or didn’t follow the program well enough.’ Conspiracies involving rich businessmen who will stop at nothing to keep us sick make space in our brains in order to square the round peg that is the fact that the inevitable happened, despite the patient’s best effort. It’s too hard to accept that this is just how it is, and sometimes, there’s nothing more that can help. The dissonance is too strong.

When Brittany Maynard, the 29 year old who is opting for a planned death after a stage 4 brain tumor all but guaranteed her a painful, humiliating deterioration that would rob her of her entire self before eventually finishing off her body, made headlines around the world, quacks all over America came out to try to reach her in order to sell her their particular brand of cure. I believe most of these were motivated by selfish reasons: exposure, attention, drum up business, create controversy, etc. However, it started a national dialog about death and how it should be viewed.

This attitude that insists that death is the worst possible thing that could happen to a person, is problematic in perpetuating a fear-driven market for pseudo alternatives. I believe if we had a more open conversation about death and sickness, more visible, tangible corpses, and rituals to make death more about a beautiful human send off (could be religious or not) that could be done by the family of the deceased at home, and without being immediately surrendered to the mortuary, our collective fear of death could be diluted (it will never disappear, of course) to a point that all places allow for a planned death, and these charlatans that use fear as their main selling point would lose a lot of power preying on fear and desperation the way they do now.

I recently finished a book called Smoke Gets In Your Eyes, by Caitlin Doughty, a mortician and crematory operator who founded an organization called the Order of the Good Death. There she advocates for a more talked about presence of death in society, and educate people on their options for handling their death, getting over death anxiety, and really sort of shift the paradigm that exists of death being something to be feared into something that is beautiful and natural, and non-threatening. I highly recommend reading it, I finished it in just a few hours as it was a very easy and fun read. If nothing else, watch some of her Ask A Mortician videos on Youtube.

For me, familiarizing myself with the natural processes of death has been therapeutic in accepting its eventuality. Now, this is not to say I am going to just give up and let nature take its course. Nor do I recommend that for anybody, modern medicine is a beautiful thing. However, when you find your thoughts straying into a place where dying is creating a cognitive dissonance and you begin accepting irrational forms of health advice, pause for a moment and recognize how your emotions may be determining your beliefs more than credible evidence, then call yourself out on it.

Death doesn’t have to be ghoulish and foreign. Whatever your religious beliefs, or lack thereof, this Halloween, take some time out and think about how to remember the dead and honor their memories. Recognize your place in the land of the living only lasts so long, and that’s ok.