Is It Safe for You to Trust Your Health to the Holistic Health Practices of Today? – Program 3

By: Dr. Norman Shealy, Dr. Robert Leightman, Dr. Jane Gumprecht, Dr. Paul Reisser, Dr. John Weldon; ©1994
Medical doctors sometimes recommend these practices. Are they scientific?

Unconventional Health Practices


Today on the John Ankerberg Show, four medical doctors and a Christian theologian will debate the question: Is it safe for people to trust their health to the new unconventional medical therapies? The New England Journal of Medicine reports that one-third of all American adults now seek out and use unconventional medical treatments and holistic health practices. By definition, an unconventional medical therapy is a practice that not in conformity with the standards of the scientific medical community. But if so, how can the public know which therapies are safe? Who has tested the principles upon which each holistic health practice claims it can cure illness? And what about harmful spiritual effects? Haven’t some holistic health treatments incorporated parts of occult belief and practice?

During this series, doctors representing all sides of these issues will discuss the individual holistic health practices by name, and express how they may impact your physical and spiritual well-being.

My guests are: Dr. Norman Shealy, the founder of the holistic health medical association in America. He is a neurosurgeon and former professor of medicine at Harvard university; Dr. Robert Leichtman, a medical doctor, who is also recognized as one of the premier psychics in America; Dr. Jane Gumprecht, a Christian doctor who has warned the public about many holistic health practices; Dr. Paul Reisser, also a Christian doctor, who has written extensively on the medical dangers of unconventional health methods; and finally, Christian theologian Dr. John Weldon, who did his Ph.D. work on the beliefs and practices of the eastern religions. We invite you to join us as we investigate the question: is it safe for you to trust your health to the holistic health practices of today?

Ankerberg: Welcome. We’re glad you’ve joined us this week. We’re talking about a very interesting topic. And the topic is: Should New Age holistic health techniques be cataloged as quackery or the new wave of medicine?” And we have five doctors on the platform. And I’d like to move on to the next one, folks, and that is acupuncture. How does it work? And, Norman, start us off on this one. How does acupuncture work?
Shealy: I think acupuncture works neurophysiologically. I’ve worked with acupuncture now for 23 years, and you can take a person who has, for instance, infertility, which almost 30% of college age men do in this country today, and in two out of three restore fertility with the proper electrical circuit in the body. To me it has always been a problem of neurophysiology. And I don’t relate it to the Chinese mysticism around it. I relate it to neurophysiology. We certainly know that it affects beta-endorphin production. It has a tremendous effect upon cortisol production. And, it is tremendously effective in treating pain.
Reisser: Your colleague is, I think, involved again in the spirit side or the spiritual/mystical side of it. Do you discount that side, that the flow of chi, the meridians, the map of the Chinese, how do you decide what map to follow there?
Shealy: Well, I follow the Western French acupuncture technique. The French have worked with acupuncture for 300 years and have tremendous neurophysiological information about it. And my use of it has always been within the physiological parameters. And I don’t understand the mystical aspect of it. And to me, that’s not important.
Reisser: You don’t buy it or you just sort of ignore it or…?
Shealy: I don’t pay any attention to that.
Reisser: You’re just not interested in that side of it.
Shealy: I’m not interested in that side of it.
Ankerberg: Well, let’s get definition. The mystical side is that the energy flows through you—this universal flow, the prana, the life force, okay? And that the idea is that if you’re sick, it’s blocked somewhere, alright? And the acupuncture is simply saying, “Look, we’ve got all these points and if you hit the right one, you’ll release that energy. It’ll unblock it or something.” And the problem I saw with it is that everybody’s got a different chart it seems like. You’ve got different points, different things are supposed to happen. Even the Chinese disagreed whether it was seven, nine or 23 or, etc.
Shealy: I do have to disagree with that a bit, John. I’ve studied acupuncture for 23 years. And there is a marvelous 200-hour, category one, AMA-approved course in acupuncture taught at UCLA. And the Chinese are very specific about acupuncture points. Yes, there are some people who change this. But if you look at the traditional texts, these points are anatomical. You don’t have to have any [chart]. You feel them. You can go down and there are little indentations in muscle tissue planes where the points actually are. And I really probably use no more than 30 points in the body as a whole because those are the big guns. And there’s no point in fiddling with the little ones.
Ankerberg: But what I’m getting to, Norman, is then you would discount the mystical side of that and just upgrade it scientifically.
Shealy: Absolutely.

Ankerberg: Now, let’s pause for a moment and I want to comment on acupuncture. We agree with Dr. Shealy that people should avoid doctors and practitioners who practice acupuncture based on traditional Chinese mysticism. But, how about scientific acupuncture?
Dr. Shealy may be correct in his claims that acupuncture is a possible treatment for certain cases of male infertility. But our own evaluation also leads us to be cautious about firm conclusions until all the data are in. For example, some studies seem to indicate that while sperm count may be increased, some indicate sperm quality may be adversely affected.
Further, claims that acupuncture affects beta-endorphin production, or that it has a tremendous effect upon cortisol production, or that it is tremendously effective in treating pain, other than as a placebo, have been questioned. Here, medical authorities and scientific researchers disagree.
A meta-analysis conducted by the National Council against Health Fraud showed that acupuncture is effective in treating pain only as a placebo.
Further, Dr. Peter Skrabenek at the University of Dublin, an authority on the neurotransmitters of pain, has cast doubt on acupuncture claims in articles written in such prestigious medical journals as The Lancet. There he states, “There is no good evidence that acupuncture-induced pain relief is mediated by endorphin release and there is no correlation between plasma endorphin levels and pain.
Now, on the other hand, we know that simple exercise and other factors can raise endorphin levels. Based on a major search of the world’s medical literature, we have found that there is a plausible mechanism for an acupuncture effect on endorphin levels, but whether or not there is a clinical application is currently unknown.
But, regardless, why do all of us advise against traditional classical acupuncture, the kind that is based in Chinese mysticism? It’s because this kind of acupuncture claims that when body organs are deficient in the proper supply of chi, a mystical energy, then imbalances are produced in the body which result in illness or disease. Mystical practitioners say this problem of the imbalance of energy can be solved by sticking acupuncture needles into specific points on the body. This procedure supposedly unblocks the flow of the universal energy or chi through the alleged invisible channels thought to be throughout the body which are called meridians.
But the latest scientific research is not supportive of the mystical Chinese claims of acupuncture. For example, a recent article published in The Clinical Journal of Pain, citing over one hundred scientific studies concluded that: “After more than 20 years in the court of scientific opinion, acupuncture has not been demonstrated effective for any condition.”
Further, it must be stated that while the minority of scientific practitioners of acupuncture avoid its occult aspects, most mystical traditional practitioners do not. Classical acupuncture and acupressure treatments are based in ancient pagan beliefs inseparably related to the Chinese religion of Taoism. That’s why eastern meditative programs and other occult practices are also used much of the time in conjunction with traditional acupuncture treatment.
In conclusion, because science has shown that traditional mystical acupuncture diagnosis and treatment methods are ineffective, all doctors devoted to the non-scientific practice of acupuncture should not be relied upon for the treatment of any illness.

Reisser: Do you then also discount the acupressure theories and some of the kinesiology theories that also are…
Shealy: I think kinesiology is a figment of somebody’s imagination.
Ankerberg: What is kinesiology, for our audience?
Shealy: Kinesiology means you can put a vitamin on somebody’s belly-button and tell whether they eat fish. I mean, to me, that’s utter fantasy.
Reisser: But that’s based on a lot of the same theory that. . .
Shealy: Well, there’s a lot of gobbledygook based upon real fact that somebody takes into fantasyland. I just choose not to believe that.
Ankerberg: Okay. Paul, clear it up what we’re talking about. Give a description for the audience, because we’re talking about acupuncture, acupressure, kinesiology.
Reisser: Dr. Shealy was referring… I happen to agree with him that there’s a theory out there, and many people probably watching this program, had this done to them where supposedly by holding a food in your hand or putting it on your bellybutton, as you say, and pulling on the arm—or some other muscle— you can determine where there’s a weakness in the body, whether it’s in the liver or the spleen or the pancreas or whatever. And then by touching various aspects of the body you can improve the flow.
And I agree. This is what I would call totally non-intuitive as far as I’m concerned. But it just seems to grow out of the same roots that the others do.
You know, Dr. Shealy has taken a very pragmatic approach to acupuncture which a lot of Western people have done and has disassociated himself from that which, again, something you see a lot in the university centers.
Shealy: Well, I mean, we wouldn’t have digitalis today if someone hadn’t been willing to look at an herb and find it was a tremendously effective drug. We wouldn’t have adrenalin today if someone hadn’t actually looked at frog skin. And so one can scientifically study almost anything and find out whether there are principles that are real and measurable and reproducible.
Ankerberg: But wouldn’t that be a good point also for knocking off a lot of the stuff we see in holistic health that hasn’t been scientifically traced? Because digitalis and some of those things you mentioned are awfully powerful chemicals in the body.
Shealy: I am a big believer that anything worth investigating is worth investigating scientifically.
Ankerberg: Well, that would knock off a lot of people out there, wouldn’t it?
Shealy: I don’t believe that herb tea and foot massage are holistic medicine.

Ankerberg: Now, let me comment on applied kinesiology. Applied kinesiology should be distinguished from medical and scientific kinesiology proper, which legitimately deals with the science of human muscular movement. Applied kinesiology was developed by George Goodheart around 1965. Goodheart combined the occult belief in the body’s alleged innate intelligence with other ancient eastern practices. He assumed these mystical life energies could be regulated and they could benefit a person’s health. Applied kinesiology uses what is termed muscle testing, whereby a person’s muscle strength or weakness is assumed to reveal corresponding problems in different body organs or in one’s general state of health.
But the problem with applied kinesiology is that scientific testing, as documented in The Journal of Oral Medicine, The Journal of the American Dietetic Association, and others reveals that the claims of applied kinesiology are false.
Further, because of its claim to manipulate invisible energies, applied kinesiology also has an occult potential. John Thie, the developer of the popularized form of applied kinesiology known as Touch for Health, pointed out in Science of Mind magazine that applied kinesiology can essentially become a form of non-physical healing. He claims psychic power is manipulated as the hands pass along the body’s alleged meridian lines, supposedly changing the flow of mystical energy within the body. Some practitioners further use occult pendulums and dowsing rods in the performance of this treatment.
Our advice is to avoid any doctor who recommends that you be treated with the non-scientific treatment of applied kinesiology.

Ankerberg: Now that brings us into reflexology, right? What’s reflexology?
Shealy: It means you tickle some part of the body and it’s supposed to get stronger or weaker or tell you something’s missing or whatever. I mean, I wouldn’t trust that.
Ankerberg: Jane?
Gumprecht: It actually is a type of acupressure, and it has the same idea of flow of energy and that every part on the foot is connected to some organ in the body, which is totally non-anatomical and it’s not physiological. And that’s the way with a lot of these holistic health practices.

Ankerberg: Now let me comment about reflexology. Reflexology practitioners claim that mystical life energies such as chi or prana can be manipulated through their special foot and hand massage and bring new health to a person. Supposedly, a reflexology massage breaks up the assumed “crystalline deposits” that are believed to be obstructing the flow of psychic energy throughout the body. It is further assumed that if the “flow” of this psychic energy can be restored, it will positively affect bodily organs and systems, and bring health.
Now, those who practice reflexology massage claim they can cure everything from bed wetting to cancer and heart disease. But there is not a shred of scientific evidence to back up their claims. Medically, it has been scientifically disproven and it should be labeled as quackery.

Ankerberg: What about iridology? Is that the same thing?
Gumprecht: Iridology is the same sort of thing.
Ankerberg: What do they do in iridology?
Gumprecht: Well, they look at the eye and they have a map of the eye—of the iris—and that’s why it’s called iridology. Every little point on the iris is supposed to tell the iridologist whether you’re healthy in a certain organ or not. They’re all connected to certain organs.
Ankerberg: And you folks are all saying that that anatomically doesn’t operate. It’s not true.
Gumprecht: It does not operate. Actually, with reflexology, for example, a reflexologist was on a program that I was on recently. And their training is, there’s a board of reflexology. There’s no school. And they go around and they give weekend seminars. You take one or two or three of these weekend seminars and then you’re a reflexologist.
But I’d also like to point out that all of this energy system that we’ve been talking about—and I disagree with you, Dr. Shealy, it is a religious system. For example, in Hinduism it is based on the chakras. It’s based on yoga. With yoga you breathe in prana. You breathe in God, actually. And it’s a way to “yoke” yourself with God.
Now, when I was in a New Age cult—I was raised in the New Age, studied Theosophy, Unity, Rosicrucianism, all this type of thing—my idea that I filtered out from all this was that God was a divine mind or a divine energy. And because I am, supposedly, a child of God, I had this same divine mind and I can lock into it. And that’s essentially what yoga is doing. You’re breathing in and out this energy. And, of course, it has to be balanced, and then that’s why they have acupuncture, acupressure, etc.

Ankerberg: Now, I want to comment about iridology as well. In the U.S. today, there are thousands of practitioners of iridology. And the concept of iridology can be attributed to naturopath Dr. Bernard Jensen, a committed member of the occult Rosicrucian sect.
Iridology is based on the assumption that the eyes “mirror” the health condition of the body. The iris supposedly displays in detail the status of every organ in the body and one’s overall state of health. Iridologists even claim that by carefully studying the iris, they can detect future illness or the oncoming of disease.
Why has medical science concluded iridology is a false system of diagnosis? It’s because, first, worldwide, over 20 different iridology charts exist. Collectively, these charts correlate specific segments of the iris to different parts of the body. Obviously, since these charts are not uniform, one practitioner may give a different diagnosis than another.
Second, practitioners vary in the remedies they prescribe for the diseases they see revealed in the iris.
And third, numerous scientific tests reported in such journals as The Journal of the American Medical Association, The British Medical Journal, The Journal of the American Optometric Association, and The Australian Journal of Optometry have conclusively proven that iridology has no scientific basis and that bodily organs have no diagnostic connection with the iris.
Fourth, those who trust in iridology run the risk of having a serious condition misdiagnosed, or worse, having iridologists tell them that they have a serious disease when, in fact, nothing at all is wrong with them.
Finally, in a minority of practitioners there are occult approaches to iridology which present their own forms of danger, as we have documented in our book, Can You Trust Your Doctor?
Therefore, our advice is not to trust your health to those who practice this unscientific method of diagnosis.

Ankerberg: Well, we’ve got a good conversation going and I’m out of time for this week. We’re going to pick it up next week and we’re going on with our list. Homeopathy, friends and neighbors; chromotherapy, biofeedback, chiropractic. Please join us next week.

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