P. Heil-Mealey’s response to this post:
‘This is an interesting comment. I feel sorry for you, that you are in the medical profession (you say you are a nurse) and have suffered SS for many years. If you read my blog correctly, I did not say that I cured Mr. P. I reported what I saw, and his own testimony as to how the herbs and homeopathy helped him. His doctor said that his was idiopathic, but I do agree with you, that many cases are an auto-immune disease.
The medical profession will tell you that there is no cure for this syndrome. Why not look elsewhere and see if other modalities will give hope? I certainly do agree that not all health modalities are appropriate for every person, but if you have tried allopathic treatments, and they have not worked for you, you have nothing to lose in trying homeopathy or herbal remedies. Always go to a trusted professional, as these types of illnesses are very complex and you will need professional help.
And to my nurse friend, you have a very poor understanding of homeopathy and herbal remedies. It is very mean-spirited to strike out against me and the good results that we had dealing with this syndrome. I wish you well, and hope you find help for your issues.’
Comments within this response that should be cause for concern:
- Refers to ‘allopathic treatments’ or medicine. ‘Allopathic’ medicine is a term that is sometimes used by alternative therapists to refer to proper medical treatment or evidence-based medicine, and distinguish it from alternative therapies. By using this term, P. Heil-Mealey is essentially admitting to the fact that herbal and homeopathic treatments do not work as there is no evidence to prove that they work, i.e. not real medicine and not evidence-based. If they did work and were evidence-based then they would become ‘allopathic’.
- No mention of evidence or research to back up her claims.
- P. Heil-Mealey if of the opinion that people have nothing to lose from trying these remedies. Unfortunately, this isn’t true. These remedies or alternative therapies cost money, often don’t help, and can sometimes make Sweet’s syndrome or an underlying condition worse.
- P. Heil-Mealey resorts to insults in order to justify her practice, e.g. because I disagree with her potentially unsafe practice that is not supported by research, then I am ‘mean-spirited’ and striking out. This reaction is incredibly telling. Alternative therapy practitioners sometimes become insulting and abusive when questioned or criticized about their treatments. This is to cover-up the fact that the treatment doesn’t work, and that there is no evidence to back-up their claims. Genuine and effective healthcare practice is backed-up by research, and practitioners do not need to resort to name-calling to support their claims.
A Texas-based naturopath, Biblical nutritional counsellor, and iridologist called Dr. Polly Heil-Mealey has been treating Sweet’s syndrome (SS) patients and offering advice, despite having a very poor understanding of this condition. This is great cause for concern, as not only is her information inaccurate, but some of her advice is potentially harmful (posts date from Dec 2011 – Jan 2015). Also, in her disclaimer (under ‘About’ on her website), she states that she is not a ‘Medical Doctor’ and that her ‘site does not provide medical or health care advice’, despite the fact that she is clearly providing health care advice. N.B. The State of Texas DOES NOT license naturopathic doctors.
The main Sweet’s syndrome post from her blog-site.
December 2nd 2011.
‘Nothing is sweeter than seeing a client respond well to holistic treatment. The client I am referring to came to my clinic about three weeks ago. He had been diagnosed by his medical doctor with an illness known as Sweet Syndrome (a link to the Mayo Clinic was added here).
If you check out this link, you will see that this has nothing to do with sweetness. This disease turns its sufferers into modern-day Jobs. You remember Job in the Bible? He was covered head to foot with boils and skin abrasions. Such was the case of my client.
He had been suffering with these skin lesions for two and a half years. He had been seeking traditional medical treatment, with no progress, no healing. The Mayo Clinic states that this disease is idiopathic which means that no one knows what causes it. If there is no determined cause, then it is very hard to treat with pharmaceuticals.
Such was the state of affairs when Mr. P came to see me. After taking a case history, we embarked upon a treatment with homeopathic remedies and herbs. After one week, Mr. P called me, stating that the lesions on his skin were more numerous and it appeared that he was getting worse. What he did not know, (and maybe you need to know too) is that when the body starts to heal, the natural healing process is to push out the offending germ/bacteria/virus/microbe/parasite through the natural elimination pathways of the body. Because we don’t know what the cause of Sweet Syndrome is, one of the best ways to bring him to healing was to encourage the body to eliminate whatever was the origin. The skin is the body’s largest eliminative organ, so seeing the lesions become worse in a very short time gave hope that the body was clearing itself.
Mr. P came back into the clinic, and we made up a topical preparation with almond oil and about four different herbal extracts to put on the lesions. After about two weeks had passed, we called him this week to check on his progress. He said that he had been to his medical doctor, and his doctor was amazed at his recovery. In fact, his doctor wants to know what we did to effect this improvement.
Yesterday, Mr. P came into the clinic. He rolled up his pants leg, and I was amazed at the transformation. Three weeks ago, his body was covered with very sore, painful running tiny blisters. Today, the sores are all scabbed over, and are fifty percent smaller. There is no blistering, very little pain, and no inflammation. Mr. P’s testimony is that he is very much better than he has been in the previous two plus years, and he wants to continue working with other health issues in a holistic manner.
As a Naturopath, I see stories like this all the time. People come into the clinic regularly, very frustrated and disappointed with their medical outcomes. Often, like Mr. P, they have been under allopathic medical treatment for many years, and are not getting any better. They have been told that nothing can be done, and that they will have their conditions the rest of their lives. This is just not true.
Life should be sweet. If you are not enjoying health and a sweet life, I encourage you to research holistic therapies. There is a path to healing as long as there is breath in the body.
Until next time,
Inaccuracies in Polly Heil-Mealey’s blog post and the problems with her advice.
The inaccuracies in the blog post and problems with her advice include:
1. The suggestion that Sweet’s syndrome is always idiopathic.
P. Heil-Mealey says, ‘The Mayo Clinic states that this disease is idiopathic’.
She does not make it clear that not all cases are idiopathic, i.e. that there can be a trigger for SS. Read more here.
2. Sweet’s syndrome patients are like modern day Jobs.
SS patients are not modern day Jobs – a character from the Old Testament of the Bible who Satan covered from head-to-toe in boils. God allowed Satan to do this in order to prove that Job was a faithful and true believer, and not just worshipping God because of the earlier blessings that God had bestowed upon him. This was part of a trial or test of faith.
Unlike Job, SS patients are not covered in boils from head-to-toe. The skin lesions caused by SS are not the same as boils, can range in severity, sometimes only appear in one area, and on rare occasions, patients can develop SS without skin lesions. Also, some people might be quite upset or offended by the implication that God wants them or someone close to them to have SS, and cause them to suffer as some kind of test of faith. To say such a thing about SS patients is incredibly unprofessional, unhelpful and flippant, and in very poor taste.
3. Nobody knows what causes Sweet’s syndrome.
Even though SS is a poorly understood condition, we do have some idea as to what causes it. To begin with, SS is an autoinflammatory (not autoimmune) condition, and these are rare disorders that are caused by errors in the innate immune system. Specific causes for SS include hypersensitivity reaction; cytokine dysregulation; genetic susceptibility.
4. Patients are being told by doctors that nothing can be done or that they will have Sweet’s syndrome for the rest of their lives.
This is not true. The majority of patients are not being told by their doctors that nothing can be done or that they will have SS for the rest of their lives. In fact, most patients only have one episode of SS and it never comes back. For further information see no.5 – ‘Pharmaceuticals are not an effective form of treatment for Sweet’s syndrome’.
5. Pharmaceuticals are not an effective form of treatment for Sweet’s syndrome.
This is not true. The steroid medication, prednisone, is the main form of treatment for SS, and is a very effective form of treatment. At least one third or 33% of SS patients experience repeat flare-ups after initial treatment, but this means that the majority (up to two thirds or 66%) do not. If steroid medication is not effective by itself, then other medications are available. However, a patient’s SS might not always settle for the following reasons:
- Sometimes, SS patients are given the wrong treatment, particularly antibiotics, which is why their condition does not settle down. However, a group of antibiotics called tetracyclines occasionally work. They are a special type of antibiotic that can reduce inflammation.
- The patient does not have SS, but another condition. It is not unusual for patients to be misdiagnosed with SS, and if treatment doesn’t work, this is sometimes the reason why.
- If the SS does not settle down it is often, but not always, an indication that a patient has an underlying condition or has developed their SS secondary to medication. If the underlying condition is not brought under control or the offending medication stopped, then the SS will not settle. Unfortunately, it can sometimes take a quite a while before the underlying trigger is found.
6. Homeopathic remedies and herbs can treat or cure Sweet’s syndrome.
No. There is no medical evidence to show that SS can be treated or cured with homeopathic remedies, herbs, essential oils or any other kind of alternative treatment. Some of these may even be harmful, or make SS worse.
But alternative therapists, including naturopaths, often recommend these things. Doesn’t that mean that they work?
No, and in regards to homeopathy, it cannot be used to treat any condition. In 2010, the ‘House of Commons Science and Technology on Homeopathy’ stated that homeopathic remedies perform no better than placebos, and that the principles on which homeopathy is based are ‘scientifically implausible’ (NHS Choices, 2015).
But why do these alternative therapies sometimes seem to work?
Alternative therapies sometimes seem to help or cure SS even when they don’t. This can happen because:
- It is not unusual for the skin lesions to start to spontaneously heal in one area. You may then be tempted to believe that this is because an alternative therapy is working. However, new lesions can then sometimes start to develop in another area.
- Sometimes, small ‘bumpy’ lesions start to flatten-out. This can give the false impression that the lesions are healing, when in fact, they’re flattening-out and spreading to form larger lesions called plaques (raised red areas).
- Sometimes, SS can start to settle down because you have unknowingly removed, or reduced exposure to a trigger. Some reported triggers include certain medications; something that damages or irritates the skin (see pathergy); overexposure to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light.
- On occasion, SS patients don’t have skin lesions, at least not some of the time, but still experience other symptoms of SS. If a patient doesn’t have skin lesions, it might seem that their SS has completely settled down after treatment with an alternative therapy, when in fact, it hasn’t.
- Sometimes, SS can settle down without treatment (may take weeks, months or possibly longer), and most of the time, we don’t understand why this happens. Therefore, it might appear that an alternative therapy has worked, when in fact the SS has settled down of its own accord.
7. When a herbal treatment, cream, lotion or oils make skin lesions worse, it is a sign that the treatment is working.
No. If symptoms are getting worse it means that the treatment isn’t working. Also, if something applied to the skin makes the skin lesions worse then the treatment needs to stop! Continuing the treatment could potentially lead to the development of new lesions (see pathergy), ulceration of existing lesions, infection (sometimes causes pain so severe that the patient needs to be hospitalized), and permanent skin colour changes or scarring. On very rare occasions, if the lesions are on the digits, i.e. fingers or toes, it could lead to amputation of a digit.
8. Skin lesions are caused by ‘toxins’ or something in the body that needs to be eliminated.
No. The development of skin lesions in SS patients is not caused by ‘toxins’ or something that needs to be eliminated from the body. This is a pseudoscientific claim, i.e. a false or made-up claim that appears to be scientifically based, but is not.
If ‘toxins’ don’t cause the skin lesions, what does?
SS lesions are caused by the activation of inflammatory cells, particularly neutrophils (a type of white blood), and can involve factors such as over-production of the cytokine G-CSF (granulocyte colony-stimulating factor). See no.3 – ‘Nobody knows what causes Sweet’s syndrome’.
Other concerns (taken from Polly Heil-Mealey’s comments section).
1. P. Heil-Mealey states that red root (blood root) is a key treatment in Sweet’s syndrome.
Red root is not a treatment for SS, and there is absolutely no medical evidence to support this claim. It may not even be safe to use. Read more here.
2. P. Heil-Mealey does not understand Sweet’s syndrome-related medical terminology.
P. Heil-Mealey does not understand the term ‘histiocytoid Sweet’s syndrome’ (the person leaving the comment refers to it as ‘histoicitic’), yet in the main blog post implies that she can cure SS. She states that ‘They have been told (by doctors) that nothing can be done, and that they will have their conditions the rest of their lives. This is just not true.’
As someone who is ‘curing’ SS, and happy to take money from SS patients, it would be acceptable to expect P. Heil-Mealey to have a much better understanding of SS.
3. P. Heil-Mealey has no basic understanding of how Sweet’s syndrome should be treated.
A woman states that her mother’s treatment for SS is not working. This is because her mother has been given different antibiotic therapies which is the wrong treatment for SS (see no.5 – ‘Pharmaceuticals are not an effective form of treatment for Sweet’s syndrome’). P. Heil-Mealey fails to tell the woman that her mother has been receiving the wrong treatment which would have been the responsible thing to do, but also suggests that P. Heil-Mealey has no understanding of SS. Instead, she agrees to provide a referral to a naturopath.
4. P. Heil-Mealey refers someone for EAV and bioenergetic testing.
EAV and bioenergetic testing are pseudoscientific forms of testing that involve using electrodiagnostic devices that can supposedly determine the cause of a disease by detecting the ‘energy imbalance’ causing the problem, or even cure a condition by correcting this imbalance. Please treat anyone who offers or refers you for such testing with extreme caution, and if they are in the United States (US), report them to the relevant authorities. These tests are a scam, and the importation of EAV devices into the US has been banned.
If you wish to try an alternative method of treatment then that is your right, but please be careful of the claims that are made over the internet, or the claims of those whose practice is not supported by proper medical research.
Treatments and practices that are not supported by medical research may be unsafe. If you are considering using alternative therapies, it is advisable to check that a therapy is supported by medical research, or at the very least, is a safe form of treatment.
Do not automatically believe what you are told or what is written on alternative therapy websites, and be particularly wary of anecdotal evidence and testimonials. Anecdotal evidence is a ‘word-of-mouth’ account of something that may be real, untrue or fake. Testimonials are when someone tells you that a treatment has worked, even when it may not have worked or there is no proper medical evidence to show that it led to an improvement in a patient’s condition.
Sometimes, people are paid or offered something in return to give false testimonials, and neither anecdotal evidence nor testimonials are a replacement for proper medical evidence. Genuine health professionals do not rely upon anectodal evidence, and rarely use testimonials. In fact, regular use of anecdotal evidence or testimonials is often a warning that something isn’t quite right.
And finally, just because something is ‘natural’ doesn’t mean that it’s safe or doesn’t have side-effects. There are plenty of herbs, plants and extracts that have side-effects, can cause allergic reaction, be poisonous, or even prove fatal.
Sense About Science (2008) I’ve got nothing to lose by trying it (PDF). This is a free guide to weighing up claims about cures and treatments.
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