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Injurious and toxic
on November 30, 2013
The title should have warned me. The word "unmasked", of course, means that only the author has the wit, insight and clinical acumen to show the rest of the world what is *really* going on. The problem, he says, is with the adrenal glands, which gradually cease to function under accumulated stresses. That's it. All the probing and research and uncertainty by excellent doctors all over the world is a waste of time. It's the adrenals and nothing else. In our present state of knowledge, nobody with this degree of certainty about the causes and nature of CFS/ME is to be trusted.
It gets worse. Much worse, in fact. In the chapter on Sex and the Adrenal Syndrome Patient the author asserts that we obtain essential health-giving substances when we mix our sexual fluids with those of someone of the opposite sex. However, if we are not both married and in love when we have sex, then the compounds which are "vital to the neuroglandular mechanisms" of our partner become "injurious and toxic". (No details of the compounds concerned are given, nor is any mechanism for this remarkable chemical transformation.) Further, we cannot expect to benefit from sex outside marriage because this is "breaking the Laws of Nature and of God, both of which will punish any and all lawbreakers."
Whether or not one agrees with it, the belief that sex should be confined to loving married couples is a perfectly respectable and defensible moral stance. However, to dress it up as science based upon wild assertion and threats of the wrath of God is disgraceful. Then to link this to the ill-health of CFS/ME patients is simply outrageous.
There is a deceptive and borderline-dishonest use of references to attempt to lend respectability to his argument. He argues, calmly and reasonably, against use of the Pill and IUD for contraception because of possible harmful side-effects. These are very well-known and no longer disputed by anyone, but Poesnecker carefully cites no fewer than eight references on the subject, listed, as is customary, in a References section at the back of the book. One's eye runs down a list of papers from highly respected medical journals: American Heart Journal, both the American and British Journals of Obstetrics and Gynaecology and so on. Very impressive - and utterly uncontentious. The next reference is cited after the following sentence:
" It is a foregone conclusion among advanced endocrinologists that various secretions of the human body can be altered by the emotional status of the individual, and compounds which under normal circumstances should be beneficial and sustaining can become injurious and toxic if produced in an environment of disturbed human emotion."
Now this is really controversial, not to say wacky. We can look up the reference which Poesnecker cites to support it, which immediately follows the list of prestigious papers on a peripheral subject which no-one disputes. Amongst all of these, the reference supporting the amazing statement above is not to the Journal of Advanced Endocrinology, but to Reader's Digest of May 1972, for heaven's sake, containing an article entitled Your Emotions Can Make You Ill by Blake Clark. Very few readers, most of whom will be sufferers rather than doctors, would bother to check this. At best, most of us glance in a general way through lists of references, and would be impressed with all of the solid medical papers cited. It's a very dodgy way of lending spurious authority to a thoroughly unscientific idea.
One worries that Poesnecker's Olympian self-certainty means that his diagnosis of Adrenal Syndrome is based on the notion that it must be true, and evidence to the contrary is to be ignored because it is just obscuring the truth. Statements such as the one I have cited above (and plenty of others in the book) are not science, they are articles of faith. Science attempts to describe, explain and predict the world as it is, and scientific ideas shape themselves according to the world we see. Poesnecker, on the contrary, seems to be trying to adapt the world to his ideas. People throughout history have tried this. None has yet succeeded, although some medical practitioners have done a great deal of harm to their patients in the attempt.
In fairness, the book makes some reasonable points, such as the difficulty which the medical establishment has had in coming to terms with CFS/ME, and the fact that sufferers recover better if they have a good diet and are loved and supported. It talks about allergies in a way which seems reasonable, at least to a non-clinician, and adrenal problems are a factor in the illness of some CFS/ME patients. However, all of this has been much better dealt with by people like Anne Macintyre, and much of Chronic Fatigue Unmasked is little short of ghastly. In my view, reading this book would be terribly injurious and toxic to your neuroglandular mechanisms, so don't.