Tuesday, March 06, 2012

the placebo effect

my husband i argue about the benefits of the placebo effect all the time.  probably more than any other couple i know, at the very least.  i was thinking about it the other day, though, after we watched a movie called fat, sick and nearly dead.  the film was all about a guy who lost a lot of weight doing a 60 juice fast, and a guy that he inspired to do the same, and how they both radically changed their lives and appearances thanks to the power of juicing.  i cannot tell a lie, it was pretty inspiring to see the guy he helped get healthier and happier.  the guy who made the film, eh. he was a rich dude, travelling around, preaching the powers of juicing. of course he lost weight and was the epitome of new age healthiness. the other guy was a truck driver who started the film very sad and overweight, and by the end of it was smiling and happy.  you didn't know if he would be able to stick with the juice fast, or if he did, if it would make him any happier.  i always root for the underdog!

anyway, we have a juicer because my husband worked as a cook for a group that took juicing very, very seriously.  they were a new age health center that primarily helped cancer patients feel better.  (i'm not going to tell you who they were, because i don't want anyone thinking i endorse their methods.)  here is what D and i argue about: he thinks the the juicing, attention to nutrition, and holistic, alternative methods the place he worked for were honestly helping to cure cancer.  he believes that with the right nutrition, atmosphere and attention, you don't have to use all the chemo and radiation.  i think that the methods the place he worked at certainly don't harm the patients, and may make their treatments easier to handle and endure, but that ultimately no juice in the world is going to cure cancer.  i call it the "magic applesauce" approach to oncology and he calls me an "asshole."  which is fair.  i'm kind of a loud mouth when it comes to cancer, and love modern medicine.  this is where he cites the placebo effect, and i admit, while that might help some of the patients, if it were someone he cared about, would he be willing to put his faith in their survival in placebo only?

which leads me to my next point; drinking the juice.  i have been using the juicer lately, and like it.  the juice it makes is awesome, super fresh, delicious, and you may not believe this, but kale juiced is like the greatest thing ever.  it smells like a fresh cut lawn and tastes like springtime to me.  i add it to everything and love it.  i don't know if it makes me feel any better, because i don't feel that bad to start with.  however, i'm seriously curious about doing a short juice fast/cleanse and think i might try one sometime soon.  i like the idea of taking food out of the equation for a few days, getting a crazy amount of vitamins and nutrients in a few shakes/juices a day, and seeing what the big whoop is.  there aren't a lot of medical studies about the benefits of a juice fast, but there is a ridiculous amount of anecdotal evidence.  i'm wondering if the placebo effect will affect me, because like all good rational humanists, i'm not sure i believe in it.  i'm skeptical, but intrigued, and wonder if anyone i know has tried one of these.  if so, what kind of results did you have? do you think the idea is batshit crazy? will it make me poop like a madwoman?  questions, questions, questions.  leave your answers below!

5 comments:

kc said...

I feel the same way as you -- and I don't think it's being an asshole about it. now, if we said all that was total bunk and a waste of their time, then I guess that's more asshole-ish. you need to do this experiment and keep a detailed log & blog it. do it!

Sarah Lindahl said...

Kale juice??? That sounds so gross. I do like the smell of grass though, so maybe I shouldn't judge.

I don't think juice cures cancer. Maybe it gives the patient a little edge of energy and a feeling of well-being which would help but as far as removing tumors? I'd stick with surgery and chemo, as awful as that sounds.

bp said...

I read recently that the placebo effect can work even if you are aware that you are using a placebo:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2010/dec/22/placebo-effect-patients-sham-drug

amanda said...

kc, i promise to document my little juice experiment! sarah, kale is sooo fucking good. seriously. i know i sound like a hippie when i say it, but two kale leaves added to your juice will load you up with vitamin K, and tastes great mixed with apple and carrot. i'm thirsty just thinking about it! and bp, that article was awesome.

Anne said...

Aaron juice fasts all the time! You should call him for tips.