“Do You Believe in Magic” Book Review

“Do You Believe in Magic” Book Review
Do you believe in Magic? The Sense and nonsense of alternative medicine. Book cover.

This is the first book I picked off of my big stack of books in my fall reading goal, it’s a great start to my fall reading campaign.

Title: Do You Belive in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine.

Author: Dr. Paul A. Offit

I had a few surprises with this book. Firstly, I was not expecting this book to be as compelling a read as it turned out to be. I must admit I looked forward to my bedtime reading as I might a good novel. Admittedly, I am a nutrition geek and my reading preferences are a bit skewed from the normal reading public, but I was pleasantly surprised by its readability. I think this is largely due to the authors story-telling style. Hey, who doesn’t like a good story, even if it’s about the FDA versus rogue alternative medicine practitioners?

My second surprise with this book, was the rude awakening I received about the size and power of the alternative medicine industry. I knew it was big and I knew that over-the counter alternative and complementary medicines are unregulated (in Canada and the U.S.), but there was still some shock-value in the actual details for me.

Turns out it’s a $34 billion dollars industry in the U.S. I don’t think that necessary makes is bad, but neither does it make the pharmaceutical industry bad, which is how alternative practitioners tend to paint mainstream medicine – as being under the thumb of ‘big pharma’.

I have already mentioned this book to audiences. I tell them, it’s written by Dr. Paul Offit… “as in, if you are on a supplement, you should be off it. That is definitely the message of this book.

My favourite quote from the book is from Dr. Joe Schwartz who asks, “Do you know what they call alternative medicines that work?”

Answer: “Medicine”

Dr. Offit is definitely a skeptic and relies on evidence-based science to determine if a product works or it doesn’t. He doesn’t shy away from naming offenders, even big media names like Dr. Oz, Dr. Weil, Dr. Mercola and Suzanne Somers.

You Should Read This Book If…

  • You are feeling pressured from well-meaning friends and family to take a particular complimentary or alternative therapy. Read this book and you will not be at a loss for words.
  • You yourself are curious and considering a complimentary therapy. This book would definitely provide everything you need for the “con” side of your decision making process.

You Must Read This Book if…

  • You are considering an alternative therapy in place of conventional cancer treatment recommended in hospital

My Opinion

While I am trained in evidence-based decision-making, I do also believe in some unproven things, like prayer, affirmations, miracles and gut-feelings. I believe I have experienced benefits from complimentary therapies including meditation, massage, and acupuncture. Of course, I also believe in the benefits of good nutrition.

Having said that, I never once considered taking an alternative therapy instead of the chemotherapy and radiation offered to be at the cancer centre. Without it, I don’t believe I would have lived more than a few days from the time I arrived at the cancer centre.

I would recommend conventional cancer treatment.

I do think that though that there is room for complimentary therapies. Keep in mind – complimentary means you do this as a compliment to your conventional treatment. Alternative therapy – as the name implies, you would do instead of conventional. Because of this, alternatives are a much higher risk. Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple computers is an excellent example of the level of risk involved in choosing an alternative therpy over a conventionsl one.  I have never felt confident enough in any alternative therapy to recommend one.

As I say in my book (The Essential Cancer Treatment Nutrition Guide and Cookbook), there is no right way to go through cancer treatment. It’s everyone’s individual journey. It’s a difficult decision to determine, what if any complimentary therapies you will use and the decision can have many social pressures associated with it. I do believe though that this book can help you navigate your way through some of those decisions.

What Do You Think?:

Add your comments below; I’d love to read what you think of this book or my review of it.


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