If you spend a lot of time with anti-vaxxers, you’ll notice that they tend to misuse a scientific principle, this time, the hygiene hypothesis, which is a description of how early exposure to microorganisms may assist the immune system to avoid allergic reactions to things in the environment.
Although we’ll discuss the scientific evidence in support of the hypothesis later in this article, anti-vaxxers tend to abuse it. They conflate potentially beneficial organisms, such as the gut biome, with dangerous and deadly pathogens, like measles and polio. The former may be a critical component of the hygiene hypothesis, but the latter is not.
Time to tackle this scientifically controversial topic, and put to rest one of the tropes of the anti-vaccine world that all germs are good. They aren’t.
Continue reading “Hygiene hypothesis — misunderstood, misused by the anti-vaccine world”
COVID-19 has been a windfall for quacks who think that they have the secret power to boost your immune system. The problem for these scam artists is that there really is no way to boost the immune system – well, vaccines do that, but they are targeted to single pathogens, like varicella-zoster virus or SARS-CoV-2.
The problem with these immune system myths is that they overlook or ignore a basic physiological fact – the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevent the invasion of hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens and other antigens every single day. In fact, the immune system works almost perfectly all the time – when it doesn’t, it’s because of a chronic disease or condition, not because you haven’t swallowed a bottle of vitamin C.
And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system, it does not make it so. If it were easy as downing a handful of supplements or the magical blueberry-kale soy milk smoothie for boosting immunity to the novel coronavirus or any other disease, every physician in the world would prescribe it.
Unfortunately, even if we could boost our immunity, we shouldn’t – a hyperactive immune system is frequently dangerous to an individual.
The problem with the quacks is that they don’t know any of the science of the immune system, and they make money when they think you don’t.
This article will try to explain the immune system and how to keep it running effectively without buying the overpriced pseudoscience you might find on the internet or your local Whole Foods. So, I’m going to save you some money and give you confidence in the power of your own immune system.
Continue reading “You cannot boost your immune system – except with vaccines”
Bill Gates vaccines are one of the biggest shibboleths of the anti-vaccine world. Of course, he is one of the world’s leading sponsors of vaccine research along with healthcare (including vaccinations) to underdeveloped countries.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), founded by Bill & Melinda Gates using their vast Microsoft wealth. I have always favored capitalism, and believe there is no particular moral code associated with accumulating wealth. It is, however, wonderful that they have decided to use their wealth to help humanity.
As strong supporters of vaccines, the Gates and their foundation have become one of the leading targets of the vaccine denialists who use a bunch of outright lies to attack his good works. Bill Gates and vaccines is a constant drumbeat from the anti-vaccine world.
Most of us know that Bill Gates did not invent these vaccines, but the attacks on him make it seem like he did.
These personal attacks remind me of Ernst’s Law, which states “If you are researching complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and you are not hated by the CAM world, you’re not doing it right.”
For vaccines, I guess we should create a corollary of the law, “if you are supporting the safety and efficacy of vaccinations for children, and you are not hated by vaccine denialists, you’re not doing it right.” I think I want to call this corollary “Offit’s Law,” named for Paul Offit, a tireless supporter of vaccines who has been the target of lies and hatred, or even “Gate’s Law.”
So, let’s talk about Bill Gates vaccines. They are amusing.
Continue reading “Bill Gates vaccines – causing hate across science deniers everywhere”
I keep track of articles that claim that they have THE METHOD for immune system boosting. There are so many of them, but I find them all amusing and filled with pseudoscience.
Why do I do this? Outside of those individuals who have some chronic disease or chronic malnutrition who require special treatment, the only methods for immune system boosting are vaccines.
Recently, I ran across a blog post on a woo-filled website called Nature Moms. As you can imagine, science isn’t exactly the standard of evidence. The post that caught my eye was entitled, “15 Ways to Boost Immunity and Keep Illness Away Without Vaccines.”
As you can imagine, out of the 15 ways, only 3 or 4 may be useful for immune system boosting. I know, you’re shocked.
OK, time to do what I do – debunk (or confirm) the 15 ways to boost immunity, so I’ll do that in order. Continue reading “Immune system boosting myths – 15 bogus ways to avoid the flu vaccine”
It’s been well known for years that measles damages the immune system, one of the many dangerous complications of the disease. That’s one of the many reasons why we are so strongly in favor of the MMR vaccine and so strongly against measles outbreaks.
Of course, the anti-vaccine zealots will continue to believe that “natural” measles infections will confer some super-immunity to their children. Many deliberately try to infect their kids with the disease.
However, this scientific research, published in one of the most prestigious peer-reviewed scientific journals on this planet, provides convincing evidence that measles damages the immune system. And we should make sure our children don’t contract this dangerous disease. Continue reading “Measles damages the immune system – more reasons for MMR vaccine”
I wrote this article over five years, debunking the claim that bananas prevent cancer, and it remains the most popular article I’ve ever written. It probably gets so much traffic because of the ongoing memes about how bananas will cure every cancer known to man.
Too many individuals see these memes on Twitter and Facebook, then they accept them as scientific facts. They rarely are. That’s why critical thinking is necessary.
But if a meme is going to make an extraordinary claim, like bananas prevent cancer, then that claim ought to be backed by extraordinary evidence. But this wild belief about bananas is not even supported by ordinary evidence. It is supported by zero evidence.
Continue reading “Bananas prevent cancer – debunking another myth about food”
One of the pervasive myths expressed by the anti-vaccine world is that one or all childhood vaccines can be replaced by breastfeeding. Somehow, these people believe that breast milk is such a powerful agent of the immune system that vaccinations are unnecessary. But that’s not based on any science related to human physiology, especially with respect to the immune system.
These beliefs represent a misunderstanding of how our immune system functions, especially regarding the role of passive immunity. Breastfeeding, of course, has a lot of benefits to both the developing baby and the mother. But we shouldn’t endow it with magical qualities, especially with regards to how it operates with the infant’s own immune system.
I want to take some of your time here to give a condensed version of immunology, especially the differences between passive and adaptive immunity. And I want to show how breastfeeding complements the developing baby’s immune system.
Continue reading “Breastfeeding cannot replace a vaccine – let’s talk about passive immunity”
Immune system myths are one of the common claims of the junk medicine crowd, especially the anti-vaccine activists. The pseudoscience of the immune system is pernicious and possibly dangerous.
It’s frustrating that the pseudoscience from the junk medicine crowd claims that this supplement or that food is critical to boosting the immune system – hang out for a day on Facebook, and you’ll probably see way too many memes saying that all you have to do to boost your immune system is eat a blueberry kale smoothie. I still see that dumb banana claim that it cures cancer.
The problem with these immune system myths is that they overlook or ignore a basic physiological fact – the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, and molecules that prevent invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens and other antigens every single day.
And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system, it does not make it so. One can claim all day long that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it doesn’t make it scientifically accurate. Nor does it create an accurate description of the immune system.
Continue reading “Boosting the immune system – that’s what vaccines do”
There are a large number of tropes and myths pushed by the anti-vaccine crowd. Like toxic chemicals in vaccines. Or vaccines cause autism. And one that keeps showing up – multiple vaccines overwhelm the immune system.
And like other articles I’ve written about anti-vaccine myths and tropes, the idea of multiple vaccines harming children is easily debunked by scientific facts. And we’re doing that right here.
Continue reading “Multiple vaccines overwhelm immune system – another myth debunked”
One of the most ridiculous pseudoscientific claims that I keep hearing from the junk medicine crowd is that this supplement or that food is critical to immune system boosting – this myth is so prevalent, I had to debunk it with lots of real science.
These type of claims ignore one basic physiological fact: the immune system is a complex interconnected network of organs, cells, tissues and biomolecules that prevent invasion of the body by hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pathogens every day.
And no matter how much individuals try to trivialize the complexity of the immune system by claiming that downing a few tablets of echinacea will boost the immune system to prevent colds (it doesn’t), it still doesn’t make it a scientific fact.
So let’s take a look at why “immune system boosting” can be considered a pseudoscience. And to discuss pseudoscience, we will have lots of real science.
Continue reading “The pseudoscience of immune system boosting”