“CANCER IS ACTUALLY A GOOD THING!!!”
It’s not every day that I encounter a statement that physically deforms my face. I believe the right word is “aghast”.
I have become immune to the commonplace claims of naturopaths, homeopaths, and other merchants of quackery. I have heard of the diluted substances that allegedly cure, of the homunculus found on the sole of our feet which can apparently serve as proxy for our liver and lungs, of the magical power of positive thinking.
But cancer depicted as a hero, complete with all caps and exclamation marks?
The quote is from a blog post by Montreal Healthy Girl, AKA Brittany Auerbach. She states her qualifications on her website as a “certified naturopath” and “health coach”. Although she is only around 30 years old, she has written a number of ebooks on health topics and was, until recently, offering her services to the world (she has seemingly stopped offering the services that were listed on her website a few months ago, though “some new and exciting” ones are on the way. She has also not answered our request for a consult). For 145$, she would give you an initial consult via email. For 50$, she will make you a one-day detox juicing plan (though you would have to pay for your own groceries). For 45$, she would make a personalized YouTube video on your condition within 7 days. I’m such a loser. Here I was making videos on the Internet for free.
The reason why Brittany writes that cancer is good is because she sees it as a warning sign that your body is too acidic. You see, in the world in which she lives, your body thrives in its alkaline environment (pH above 7). The poisons and toxins of the world are all, apparently, acidic (pH below 7), and so the body uses its alkaline reserves to fight the insidious acidity. When the body becomes too acid, its healthy cells can no longer thrive, so they morph into cancerous cells, better adapted to the new environment. Got a tumour? No sweat: just recognize the warning and switch to an alkaline and oxygen-rich lifestyle!
If it sounds too good to be true, it’s because it is. Brittany’s understanding of cancer is majorly misguided, but it appeals to desperate people looking for a white hat/black hat narrative they can easily swallow. Alkaline good, acidic bad. She claims all diseases are reversible: all you need is the proper lifestyle changes and a positive outlook on life. She sprays magnesium oil from the Dead Sea on her skin to ward off the magnesium deficiency that apparently affects 95% of people. She rather boldly claims that chlorine in the water is a man-made chemical that turns into fake estrogen in the body, and this synthetic estrogen causes disruption of all our hormones. Pure chemophobia.
The question we need to ask ourselves when faced with highly dubious health advice is: where is this person getting their information from? According to Brittany’s LinkedIn profile, she spent the 2012-2013 academic year at the Institut de Formation Naturopathique du Québec (IFN). If you don’t know what naturopathy is, it is a would-be medicine that promotes the belief that the body can heal itself and that favours so-called “natural” remedies. Naturopathy walks arm-in-arm with homeopathy, acupuncture, traditional Chinese medicine, and many more questionable interventions.
I had a look at the IFN website. Since 2007, it is an online-only education establishment. How would you regard a medical doctor who told you they got their diploma through online education and never saw a single patient? For 1,200$, you can get a diploma in naturopathy from IFN. Their website boasts that their students don’t need to take notes! Also, their admission is open to everyone, which seemingly indicates that anyone can become a naturopathic doctor and give you health advice once they’ve gone through the measly 1,900 hours of online courses and completed a memoir.
This kind of education does not prepare you to dole out health advice on any human disease, much less every human disease, and it predisposes you to falling prey to snake oil salesmen. Indeed, Brittany practically glows when she mentions the time she spent at the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, run by Brian and Ana Maria Clement. Readers of this blog may be familiar with Brian Clement. He has been in the news numerous times for telling First Nations parents that their children with cancer could be cured not with chemotherapy, but with sprouts, green juices, and pseudoscientific laser therapies. When an audio recording of one of his lectures revealed that he said he could cure multiple sclerosis, he denied it and accused the media of fabricating it.
Brittany Auerbach fully embraces the pseudoscience that comes out of Clement’s mouth. Cooked food is dead food. We should eat grass. Stagnation is death (what are we, sharks?). The magnetic force of the Earth is not what it used to be. Synthetic fabrics should be avoided. This sort of lifestyle advice is usually based on some common sense truth. Yes, most people could benefit from eating less processed food and moving more. But an unhealthy smear of fear-mongering is spread on top of this advice, with proprietary solutions just around the corner. Brittany and her sister Tiffany used to own a juicing company called LivingJuices. The website is no longer active, but Brittany’s main webpage has a Store page that sells her ebooks.
I was reminded of the Dunning-Kruger effect while browsing Brittany’s website. Ignorant people do not have empty minds; rather, their brain is filled with inaccurate information they believe to be true. And the Dunning-Kruger effect is the fact that many of these people actually think they have superior knowledge. If a fool knew they were a fool, they would not be dangerous. But a fool who thinks he is a genius, that is problematic. With videos that can reach up to half a million people, Brittany “MontrealHealthyGirl” Auerbach can do a lot of damage. She has more YouTube subscribers (over 106,000) than the Food Babe (38,566), though her Facebook and Twitter followers are dwarfed by her American counterpart.
Seven minutes into her video adulation of Brian Clement, she mentions that some lecturers predict that in the next 800 years, there will no longer be any life on Earth.
“800 years, that’s nothing. That’s, like, 8 generations… you know, 9 generations.”
That’s totally, like, not.
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