I happened upon this flyer during my travels a few months back.

Stephanie Ridling, a self proclaimed naturopath,  is offering nutritional blood cell analysis and you should schedule your appointment today!! (double exclamation points)

At a hospital?  Nope.

At an urgent care facility?  Not exactly.

At her private practice clinic?  Nuh uh.

A laboratory that specializes in blood testing?   Not even close.

Stephanie Ridling provides her medical services, at $50 per session, at neighborhood corner markets and juice bars.

What is Live Blood Analysis?


If you are unfamiliar with the business of Live Blood Analysis, here are two high level summaries:

Live blood analysis (LBA) is a medically invalid diagnostic technique using dark field microscopy to observe live blood cells.

Practitioners claim that live blood analysis provides information about the immune system, vitamin deficiencies, “toxicity”, high blood pressure, pH and mineral imbalance, fungus, yeast, cancer, degenerative diseases (including Alzheimer’s), low trace minerals and so on. All this with a tiny drop of capillary blood taken from the fingertip.

By a curious coincidence, every person having live blood analysis somehow appears to be seriously ill and in need of whatever the practitioner happens to be peddling.

According to Edzard Ernst, “no credible scientific studies have demonstrated the reliability of LBA for detecting any of the above conditions.” Ernst describes live blood analysis as a “fraudulent” means of convincing patients to buy supplements and Quackwatch describes the dishonesty of proponents.

[via RationalWiki]

There is no scientific evidence that live blood analysis is reliable or effective, and it has been described as a fraudulent means of convincing patients that they are ill and should purchase dietary supplements.

Live blood analysis is not accepted in laboratory practice, its validity as a laboratory test has not been established, and its practice has been dismissed by the medical profession as quackery.

The field of live blood microscopy is unregulated, there is no training requirement for practitioners and no recognised qualification, no recognised medical validity to the results, and proponents have made false claims about both medical blood pathology testing and their own services.

[via Wikipedia]

Naturopathic Diaries: What Is Naturopathic Medicine?

 

How Does LBA Work?


live_blood_microscopeSo how does a naturopath test your blood?

A sample of your blood is placed in a microscope that has been outfitted with an additional light source, digital camera, and a video output to an external display device, such as a laptop or monitor.

The practitioner simply looks at your blood on the display and makes a hasty diagnosis.  The diagnosis is solely based on individual visual interpretation and the materials that the naturopath purchased with the very expensive LBA equipment.

Suprise!  Your blood is not actually being tested in any real medical sense.

 

What Will LBA Tell You?


Stephanie Ridling claims that her blood analysis can detect thirty different conditions and includes a scary sneak preview image on the flyer.

Here is a breakdown of the six conditions listed on the flyer and the most common explanations, minus the pseudoscience.

 

Uric Acid which promotes gouty arthritis & free radical damage;

Uric acid crystals are not visible in blood samples.  Microscopic splinters of glass are often present when the slide is not cleaned thoroughly.

Parasites which promotes acid reflex [sic] and leaky bowel syndrome;

Which parasites exactly?  Throwing the word “parasite” around is intentionally vague.  As an example, what about a Malaria parasite?  While Malaria parasites can be diagnosed from a blood sample, it must be stained before diagnosis.  LBA would not spot Malaria parasites.  Anyone with malaria parasites in their blood would be extremely sick with severe symptoms,  and would require urgent medical care, not herbal supplements from a naturopath.  Particles of dirt and debris, commonly found on glass slides not cleaned thoroughly, or slightly deformed red blood cells are mistaken to be parasites.

Deficiencies such as iron, B-12, antioxidant deficiencies;

A common LBA diagnosis is Hypersegmentation of Neutrophils, a type of white blood cell whose nucleus has several lobes.  The naturopath incorrectly claims that the extra lobes mean that the person is deficient in iron, folic acid, or vitamin  B-12.  In this case, the B-12 status can be related to the number of lobes in the nuclei, but only high skilled medical technicians using special stains and techniques (hint: not LBA) can determine the average number of lobes accurately.

Food Particles which promotes allergic reactions;

Undigested food particles are not found in a blood sample as they would be too large to pass through the intestinal walls.

Candida which promotes bloating, rashes, itching and depression;

A common LBA diagnosis involves yeast cells, which cannot be seen in the blood of a healthy person.  This would only happen if the person was critically immunodeficient and near death from sepsis.   The person would be in the emergency room and not blissfully wandering around a juice bar.

Plaque which promotes circulation problems

Cholesterol cannot be casually visually diagnosed in a blood sample and requires actual testing.  The only thing a naturopath is observing is more dirt on the glass slide.

 

Six out of six diagnosis claims by Stephanie Ridling can easily be demonstrated to be outright false, highly dubious, and not based on serious medical science.

 

Check out Mark Crislip’s article at Science Based Medicine for more in-depth examples of LBA diagnosis falsehoods.

Science Based Medicine: Live Blood Analysis: The Modern Auguries

 

In the end, a naturopath using Live Blood Analysis cannot tell you anything useful about the condition of your blood or health.

Want more examples that LBA is simply “Seeing is Believing” deception?

 

Quack Theater With Special Effects


The Conjurer [via Wikipedia]

The Live Blood Analysis session itself is an elaborate combination of techniques, such as: active listening, cold reading and theatrical special effects.  The entire production has a single goal, gain your confidence in practitioner’s abilities and ultimately what they are selling.

The manipulative techniques and special effects used by naturopaths are simply updated versions of old time parlor tricks and deceptions that have been around for centuries.

 

Here is how the analysis session typically plays out with a random patient, along with my own observations calling out a few of the manipulation techniques and fallacies used to fool you into suspending your critical thinking capabilities and to ultimately empty your wallet.

Disclaimer: The synopsis described below is not specific to a session with Stephanie Ridling.  I endured a LBA session years ago at a naturopath’s shop (vitamins, homeopathic supplements, and juice bar!) in Aliso Viejo, California.  The techniques used can vary between practitioners but the overall manipulations and fallacies are universal in my opinion.

 

The Setup


When you first meet the (extremely friendly) naturopath, they will greet you warmly as if you were old friends that have not seen each other in years.  Your newest bestest buddy will make every effort to get to know everything about you.  They might get you to talk about your job, how you met your significant other, kids, and pets to really make that personal connection with you.  The practitioner will be very attentive and listen carefully to all your answers to demonstrate a high level of interest in you as a wallet person.

Patient:  Aww!  This complete stranger is really attentive and really listens while I go on and on about my health woes!  They really care about me!  I don’t see any diplomas or medical credentials anywhere but dang it, I’m gonna trust this stranger! 

Manipulation via Active Listening

Keep em talking!

The practitioner uses active listening techniques by repeating back what the speaker says in their own words in order to demonstrate that the speaker was heard and understood.  The practitioner will adapt the technique to how the speaker is feeling and reflect it back to them by saying “that must feel awful” or “I completely understand how you feel”.

A few other manipulative techniques to watch out for include: lavish flattery, exaggerated or fabricated credentials, intense eye contact, or attempting to isolate you during the session if you brought someone along with you.

The goal is to keep you talking and offering up personal information to foster an illusion that the practitioner is trustworthy and actually cares.

 

Tell Me Where It Hurts

Before you get started on the actual LBA, the naturopath might ask you to fill out a questionnaire about your personal health issues.

I am literally giving this complete stranger a detailed list of my health issues!

 

 

Fishing Expedition

The act of filling out a questionnaire is common practice at a real doctor’s office so most people would not think twice about filling out one when asked.  This is not one of those times.

If the practitioner was unable to learn enough useful information by active listening, the questionnaire will literally fill in any remaining blind spots.  People are all too willing to give private information to strangers who will then use it as part of the alternative medicine theater production.  The information provided to the practitioner is an extremely valuable element to their eventual diagnosis that will happen later in the session.  The patient will be amazed at the diagnosis connection but will be surprisingly unaware that they themselves gave the information to the practitioner to use.

A Fishing Expedition via Questionnaire is common practice in several alternative medicine healers businesses, such as: Iridology and Applied Kinesiology.

This is a similar tactic to Peter Popoff’s faith healing ministries operation before being busted by James Randi.  Audience members had written their physical afflictions and other identifying information on prayer cards when they first arrived, which Popoff then used to trick the audience into believing that God was talking to him and their illnesses could be divinely healed.  In reality, Popoff’s wife was feeding him the information via wireless ear piece.

Be aware that these charlatans need you to offer up information, otherwise they will have a lot of difficulty in succeeding in their pitch.  Deny them personal information and watch how fast they begin to trip and stumble.

 

The naturopath might also direct the patient to sign a section of the form that includes a teensy tiny section of fineprint.

Whelp!  I came all this way to get my fortune told, I ain’t gonna back out now!

 

No Ethical Responsibility via Appeal to Emotion

This is the “I’m not a real doctor, so please don’t sue me” disclaimer.

The typical disclaimer theme means that you must agree that:

  1. The LBA session is not intended as actual medical or health advice,
  2. The naturopath makes zero guarantees of their analysis,
  3. You are directed to always consult your (real) physician or other qualified (and licensed) healthcare professional regarding any health or medical conditions, and
  4. You absolve the naturopath of any legal and/or ethical responsibility for any negative consequences to your health that you may incur by listening to their medical advice.. even though they do not call it “medical advice”.

This type of disclaimer is similar to the ones used by several natural supplement stores like the one Stephanie Ridling has used previously for her LBA sessions, which can be viewed here.

If you ask the naturopath about the disclaimer, they may launch into a practiced explanation that they must take these steps to protect themselves from the FDA or other evil regulatory entity.  Instead of admitting that they are not an actual licensed healthcare professional, they will address your concern that they are being persecuted for their all natural healing services.

The goal is to replace your very valid concern for the lack of ethical responsibility with an appeal to emotion/pity as they are the unfortunate persecuted underdog.

 

The naturopath will tell you all about the wonders of Live Blood Analysis and what it can tell you about your blood.  They will try to convince you about all the science behind the marvels of LBA.  The naturopath might provide you a few examples as proof or evidence in the form of poorly photocopied materials from the company they purchased the LBA microscope.

 

Fallacy Warning - Appeal to Authority

If you ask for actual proof of their claims (how dare you!), a naturopath will struggle with several vague answers such as: “Studies show…”, citing anonymous or unverifiable experts, and the extremely common intentional fallacy of passing off anecdotal stories as actual evidence.

Warning!  If you dare to ask for too much evidence of the naturopath’s abilities or if the naturopath is unable to answer your reasonable inquiries, you may be elevated to the status of “HATER!!”.

 

The naturopath might also give a prepared speech to warn you about the dangers of modern medicine, toxic chemicals, and the insidious monster known as Big Pharma.  Scary buzzwords of parasites, toxins, yeast infections, plaque contamination, etc. are thrown around.

Natural remedies are the path to true wellness and the naturopath is here to save you!

I’m so scared!  What can I do to survive?  TELL ME!

 

Fallacy Warnings

The double whammy cornerstone of all naturopaths… promoting the of fear of modern medicine and then presenting natural supplements as the primary source of healthy living.

The level of naturopath’s absurdity is directly related to the number of paranoias or conspiracy theories that worm their way into the conversation.  Feel free to ask the naturopath if they recommend things like magnets for healing or bleach enemas to cure autism.

Does the naturopath have a Facebook page or personal blog?  Check out their post history or other pages that they follow to determine where they fit on the spectrum of pseudoscience.  This method also works to expose quantum psychic fraudsters.

 

The Analysis


The naturopath then takes a blood sample by sticking the tip of your finger with a needle.

Ouch!  Wait, was that needle sterilized?  Are you certified to draw blood?   Nevermind, obviously not important.

 

They put a drop of your blood on a glass slide, which then goes into the Live Blood Analysis microscope.  Now you get to see what your blood cells look like on a monitor.

Wow!  High Tech!  Why doesn’t my regular doctor do this?  I didn’t even need to fast for twelve hours!

 

Fallacy Warning

Just because a standard microscope has been outfitted with an external light source, digital video output, and marketed as science-y sounding “Live Blood Analysis” does not mean it is even capable of the naturopath’s claims.

The LBA microscope is merely a simple theater prop.  It is used as an appeal to the novelty of technology.

Keep in mind, the naturopath paid anywhere from $5,000 to over $10,000 dollars for the blood analysis microscope equipment and training materials.  The naturopath is heavily financially invested in the LBA business and is highly motivated to make a return on that investment.

 

The naturopath will take a few moments to look at the blood sample on the monitor.  They may pause for dramatic effect or even make an occasional “hmmm” sound under their breath.  The practitioner will then begin to detail what is wrong with your blood and will most likely touch upon a few health issues that the patient already knows about.

Amazing!  How did they even know I have this problem.. that I wrote down on their questionnaire not ten minutes ago?

 

Deception Warning

The naturopath’s diagnosis is solely based on a quick visual interpretation and whatever they can remember from the instruction manuals/training that came with the LBA microscope.  This is the equivalent of making a medical diagnosis based on flash cards, from someone that had the wrong answers to begin with.

So how did the naturopath identify a condition that (closely or completely) matches your situation?  It’s easy.

  • You told the naturopath everything about your health situation when you first walked in the door.  Between your first “get to know you” talk and the written questionnaire, you already told the naturopath all about your health.  The naturopath simply picks a malady that you already know about, making it appear that their test confirmed it.
  • The naturopath chose extremely common conditions that affect just about every single person on the planet.  There is no high-tech diagnosis here.  Over a certain age?  High blood pressure!  Overweight?  I see plaque in your blood, so you have high cholesterol!

The bottom line is that a LBA diagnosis is based on individual interpretation and deception… not medical science.

 

The Gotcha


To help seal the deal on their mark, the naturopath might even whip up a homeopathic solution for you to drink and then take a second blood sample.

Ouch!  Was that the same needle as before?  Wait, why does my hand feel tingly?

 

The patient is then shown the second blood sample on the monitor, which clearly demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt, that their expert diagnosis can achieve instantaneous results.

Incredible!  My blood looks slightly different right there on the monitor!  My eyes haven’t deceived me, therefore it must be true.

 

Deception Warning: False Cause

The second blood sample ploy is used to solidify the naturopath’s hold on their mark by attempting to demonstrate a before-and-after view of your blood in a very short space of time as proof that the analysis is accurate and that their holistic solutions actually work.

The blood sample will look different on the monitor, however the actual cause of the change has little to do with the medicine water you just drank.

Any number of changes can be made through the LBA equipment to manipulate the video imagery, such as: using a different coated slide, changing the light source settings, or using different software filters that control the video.

 

Time To Shop


Nature's Corner MarketThe naturopath will then hastily write up a list of natural supplements that you absolutely must have if you want get healthy… that they just happen to have for sale right behind you!

<cue angelic music>

It’s your lucky day!  You might even get a special 2% discount since this is your first session!

The store operators are all smiles and happy to help you fill your basket with everything the naturopath listed and quickly rush you to the checkout.

 

Red Flag Warnings

While the patient is swept up in the glow of natural health euphoria, a few very important ethical red flags should be considered.

The naturopath is not a licensed medical professional.  Remember all the disclaimers from the beginning of the session?  Nothing is intended as actual medical advice in order to protect the naturopath from legal consequences or ethical responsibility.  However, specific medical diagnosis and recommendations are exactly what the naturopath is all too eager to sell.

The naturopath’s recommended cures are limited to only homeopathic/natural supplements.  Can the naturopath give you a prescription to your local pharmacy?  No, because they are not a licensed medical professional.  Ask a naturopath directly for a CVS/Walgreens prescription to treat the condition they claim to identify.

The naturopath and the business hosting the sessions have a huge financial conflict of interest in my opinion.  Does the naturopath receive a percentage cut from the business if their patient buys a basket full of homeopathic supplements?

Would the business owner halt all LBA sessions in their store if the naturopath’s fraudulent medical practices were called out?  I’ll let you know.  😉

Stephanie Ridling could potentially see 16 or more people from 10am to 6pm.  At $50 dollars for each session plus (a guesstimate of) 3-4 recommended supplements ($7 to $20/ea) per person… the daily take quickly adds up to a tidy amount for both the healer naturopath and the business owner.

 

Oh, don’t forget to schedule your next appointment in a few weeks!

You do want to be healthy right?

End of Session.

 

From my own experience with an LBA practitioner, the level of their continued friendliness is directly proportional to the amount of products you purchase.

The naturopath Aliso Viejo for example became visibly agitated after it became clear that I would not buy any of the natural supplements he was pushing.  The “newest bestest buddy” facade from earlier was dropped and the frustrated snake-oil salesman was on full display at that point.

 

LBA practitioners do not produce healthy people from their sessions.  Their goal is to have repeat customers buying worthless homeopathic garbage.

 

26 Ways to Spot Quacks and Vitamin Pushers

 

What’s The Harm?


Live Blood Analysis practitioners and proponents of homeopathy will claim that their warm-n-fuzzy all natural services and products are absolutely safe and harmless.

These claims are far removed from reality when naturopaths sow seeds of distrust against legitimate medical services, sometimes resulting in deadly consequences.

Here are just a few grim examples:

  • Omer Ahmetovic is on trial for the shooting death of Dr. Juan Gonzalez after losing his wife to cancer.  The lawsuit claims that Gonzalez guaranteed he could 100% cure her cancer, was content to sell the couple $7,000 on herbal supplements, and also accused of sexual assault.  [WBKO]
  • Penelope Dingle wrote a letter to homeopath Francine Scrayen before she died of cancer.  [ABC]
  • Hyland’s homeopathic teething tablets recalled nationwide after the deaths of ten children.  [CNN][Forbes]
  • Woman dies after turmeric infusion.  [Fox]
  • Warning issued about cancer pill sold online; could release cyanide when ingested [CTV News]

 

What’s The Harm: The Homeopathy Death Toll

 

To wrap this up, naturopaths practicing LBA are only in the business of selling homeopathic supplements.  LBA has been demonstrated to have zero scientific credibility and has been dismissed by the medical community as quackery.  If LBA actually worked, even to a small degree, the analysis claims would be successfully peer reviewed.  LBA would be widely used in every medical center across the country and would not found in use by naturopaths bouncing around between juice bars and natural food markets.

Reporting these charlatans and the business owners that use them to sell their supplements to treat falsely diagnosed medical conditions needs to happen every time they are found fishing for appointments.

Local communities should keep an eye out for peddlers of snake-oil and make it a point to let their city, county, and state business/medical groups are aware of what malignant medical pseudoscience is being conducted.

Naturopaths are not registered or licensed in the state of Georgia to practice naturopathy and are not permitted to use the title doctor.  Physicians in Georgia are regulated by the Georgia Composite Medical Board.  The complaint process is described here.  Anyone can file a complaint. The board accepts anonymous complaints, but discourages them.

To submit a written complaint, click here. To submit an online complaint, click here.

Complaints against naturopaths need to be restricted to the practice of medicine without a license.

 

Coming up next: How to test a naturopath’s abilities… or more accurately, how to quickly demonstrate LBA practitioner is conning you.

 

 

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