Science denial and the wellness industry

by Brian on October 10, 2021

in Cancer,Covid-19,Food,Health,In the News,Science

Why are so many people in the wellness industry – chiropractors, alternative medicine practitioners, nutritionists and massage therapists – opposed to vaccines and basic science?

Louise Hay (PRNewsfoto/Hay House)

Blame it on Louise Hay.

Hay’s 1984 book You Can Heal Your Life is a load of crock – unsubstantiated pseudoscience at its worst, dangerous in its implications and insidious victim blaming. 

Hay proposes that our thoughts create our physical reality and, while clearly there is a connection between mind and body, Hay goes too far.

The author has created an exhaustive (and exhausting) list of diseases correlated with what mental attitudes supposedly cause them.

Heart attack: Squeezing all the joy out of the heart in favor of money or position.

Rheumatoid arthritis: Feeling victimized, lack of love, chronic bitterness, resentment and a deep criticism of authority.

Bladder problems: Anxiety, fear of letting go and – wait for it – being “pissed off.”

Cancer: A deep secret or grief eating away at the self, longstanding resentments, carrying hatreds.

As someone suffering from cancer, I find Hay’s attempts to shift the cause for my illness to my alleged negative thoughts and behaviors outrageous. But it was mainly an annoyance when wellness-oriented individuals would exhort me to have a more positive attitude in order to “cure” my cancer. 

Now, the wellness movement Hay begat has come back to bite us and the result is devastating and deadly. 

Hay’s books have sold more than 30 million copies worldwide, but you don’t hear so much about the author herself these days (she died in 2017). Still, “trace elements of her philosophy survive when it comes to the wellness industry and Covid,” writes Brigid Delaney in The Guardian.

“The randomness of illness – and the ultimate certainty of death – is far too frightening for some to contemplate,” Delaney explains. “So, they rely on a fiction which makes them feel safe, superior and unconsciously immortal. Hay’s fiction is this: Stop acting like a child and you’ll cure your kidney problems. Her wellness counterparts today say, ‘Eat organic food, do yoga, don’t consume the mainstream media, and you won’t get sick from Covid.’”

Put another way: If we can control our bodies and our thoughts, then our natural immune system should be the best defense against Covid-19, not some newfangled vaccine. If your immune system is working properly, that’s all you need. 

“When this corner of the wellness industry refuses to be vaccinated,” continues Delaney, “it is not primarily out of fear of the vaccine’s side effects or because it was developed too quickly, but more likely comes from a place of arrogance: Those who are well don’t need the vaccine because they have Rolls Royce immune systems. Instead the only people who get sick and die from Covid have a pre-existing illness, or are in some way physically deficient, or have succumbed to the immune system-weakening emotion of fear.”

Dr. Vinay Prasad, an associate professor in the department of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California San Francisco, speaking on Bari Weiss’s podcastHonestly, notes that vaccine resistance often has to do with people feeling a lack of control over their lives – at work, in politics, their finances. So, they latch onto something, anything, where they can say, that’s enough, it’s my body and it can fight this without the need for medical mandates.

The implication of this way of thinking – that my immune system is compromised, and I am in some way deficient because of my cancer (substitute for others obesity, diabetes or high blood pressure) – is deeply disturbing. 

Let me make this clear: I didn’t get cancer because I was carrying hatreds and longstanding resentment.

Neither did my friend Sarah, a super healthy eater and vegan, who nevertheless is fighting a tough battle against breast cancer. 

Or my wife, Jody, for that matter, who hoped to knock down her high cholesterol by going vegan. It didn’t work – her LDL levels are still high – although she’s happy about not eating meat for ideological reasons.

This is not to say that diet and attitude are not important. Of course, they are. Fear and stress stimulate the hormone cortisol which has been shown to have a negative impact on the body. There was also a study published in the scientific journal Gut in September 2021 that found that “a diet characterised by healthy plant-based foods was associated with lower risk and severity of Covid-19.”

That’s a far cry from vaccine refusal, though.

And yet, the attitudes central to the wellness industry, given a boost by Hay’s series of best-selling malarky, lead to remarkable insensitivity and illogic. 

Jonathan Neman, the CEO of the Sweetgreen chain of salad bars, for example, posted on LinkedIn that “78% of hospitalizations due to Covid-19 are obese and overweight people. Is there an underlying problem that perhaps we have not given enough attention to? No vaccine or mask will save us.”

What should one do instead? Oh yes, eat more salad! 

How about this: We could all eat well, think positive thoughts and get vaccinated.

Don’t get me wrong: There’s nothing inherently problematic with wanting to be well. But it’s not an alternative to public health measures such as Green Passes, social distancing, and yes, vaccination. This is also not intended to be a blanket indictment of everyone in the wellness industry, many of whom are vaccinated and science positive.

Louise Hay was a proponent of an extreme form of magical thinking, not sound science. Covid-19 doesn’t care if you eat organic or if you “believe” you won’t get sick.

I’d much rather rely on a vaccine than the calumny of a self-help guru.

I first lambasted the wellness industry for science denial at The Jerusalem Post.

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