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May 7, 2008 2:14 PM   Subscribe

Please help me convince my in-laws not to take colloidal silver (silver water).

My brother-in-law (not a medical practitioner in any way) has been hawking colloidal silver to his mom and his other sister's boyfriend for treatment of their (respective) pre-cancerous uterine cells and colitis. He claims it's a wonder cure, his mom is really gullible about "alternative medicine" and wonder cures and his brother-in-law (who, at thirty is likely to need a colostomy bag in the near future, effectively ruining his career as a marine biologist) is desperate. My partner and I are concerned about the health and well-being of our family, and know that colloidal silver, which, although it has been used in the past as an expensive disinfectant, has never proved its numerous claims to treat 650 different illnesses. What it has been shown to do, however, is turn you blue/grey, among who knows what other consequences from silver toxicity. Also, colloidal silver water has been demanded to be removed from shelves in Canada, where I am (although is still widely available).

As you can see, I've done a bit of research. What I need, though, is a way to make this accessible to my family. How do I convince a scared woman with a propensity to believe in what Greta Christina calls "woo" and a man who is desperate he is going to lose his livelihood, that there is no way colloidal silver is going to help. Neither of them have good livers, so liver damage from silver toxicity is a real threat, not to manage pocketbook damage. I don't want to totally antagonize my family over this, but as a loving and caring relative I feel I need to tell them how I feel and why I feel this way.

So: can you recommend specific articles (medical are fine, as long as they are clear enough that an MA student could read and summarize them) discussing the danger of colloidal silver? Clear arguments/articles on the uselessness of anecdotal data would also be welcome. On the other hand, if I am wrong and colloidal silver can cure cancer and colitis, please point me to some articles which show that.
posted by arcticwoman to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Show them pictures of this guy. There's more at the link of interest, too.
posted by OmieWise at 2:23 PM on May 7, 2008

Show them this dude. Makes me want to not even be near the stuff.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:23 PM on May 7, 2008

I find this interesting personally because Indians consume silver beaten to a thin sheet quite a bit -- it's used a decoration for many kinds of sweets -- it is known as varak. I found this interesting article about the subject that examines both sides of the issue.
posted by peacheater at 2:41 PM on May 7, 2008

This guy died from elevated silver levels after drinking colloidal silver water for four months. It's scary to imagine that you can still go out and buy this stuff.
posted by rancidchickn at 3:04 PM on May 7, 2008

Yet another victim of argyria. I know all these anecdotes are not actual data, but I would guess they are better than data in the eyes of your in-laws. Also, since part of the reason your brother in law is pushing it is because of concerns about a possible colostomy affecting the marine biologist's career, you might want to point out that he can still dive with a colostomy; I am not sure why a colostomy would otherwise interfere with being a marine biologist.
posted by TedW at 3:33 PM on May 7, 2008

You are not wrong, obviously if colloidal silver could cure cancer, we would not need to find a cure for cancer.

I sympathise with your predicament, and unfortunately it is not an uncommon one, you still have to way the benefits and costs of confronting your loved ones with this fact. There maybe some hope for you to persuade a Marine Biologist that what he is taking will have no effect.
However, your mother’s fears about her health are completely rational, but it would seem she lacks the ability to judge what a rational approach to dealing with them would be. Therefore even when you present her with irrefutable evidence that she might as well be drinking mouth wash, most likely she would not be able to really understand what you are telling her anyway.

You must address your concerns to your Brother in Law, why is he behaving so irresponsibly? Perhaps, it is a misguided attempt at helping, maybe he believes in it, whatever the reason as he is the person who is not facing a life altering medical condition you can be a lot blunter with him than you can with your Mother in Law. Maybe he can be coerced into providing a new (less dangerous) supplement/miracle cure like a Berocca or prunes or god knows what? Surely it is not his intention to turn his family into members of the Blue Man group. But he is, and he needs to take responsibility for diffusing the situation.

Am I suggesting you to lie to your mother in law, absolutely, if it gets her off the silver.

As regards the other Brother in Law, I am sure he is afraid for the future, but having personally known blind nurses give injections I doubt that in reality his professional life will be over because of a colostomy bag. He should be directed towards making contact with a relevant charity or support organisation that can help him take steps to ensure that he can adapt to this new period in his life.

Bad and the excellent Ben Goldacre for further reading.

posted by munchbunch at 3:41 PM on May 7, 2008

You yourself say that they are "scared" and "desperate", so they may feel that by trying to nay-say this potential "cure" you are taking away the one thing that gives them even a sliver of hope. Even if it may harm them more, they may feel that being gray and alive and working is better than zero hope of a cure.

So, you probably ought to give them something else to focus on as possibly helpful. Otherwise you run the risk of seeming to advocate "just giving up".

I do not know a great deal about this, but there are a lot of people I've met (in and around Chapel Hill, NC, which is admittedly a good place to meet people like this) who have advocated very careful diet choices -- whole foods, vegetarian, certain nutritional supplements and choices. Researching web sites on your relatives' particular conditions should yield some probably-harmless, yet reasonably involved, regimens that might actually work, or at least make them healthier overall. Yes, they may be doing most of this already, but maybe you can dig up something they haven't tried. A book or two would probably be much better, and more authoritative, than a web site, and if you can find a talk or clinic or something that they can attend, this could be even better -- a charismatic health advocate would be just the thing here.

Here's a book that might be something to start with, if you can't find something that's a more precise fit: The China Study -- I haven't read it cover to cover, but I think it's a reasonably (but not perfectly) solid argument in favor of a plant-based (i.e. vegetarian -- actually vegan) diet as a way to mitigate cancer risks. Depending on the writing style that's most appealing to your relatives, this might be helpful, and the vegan diet will certainly not hurt (as long as they get enough B12, but I believe the book addresses that -- and if it doesn't, then it's addressed just about everywhere else, and isn't a huge problem).

Disclaimer: I'm effectively eating a vegan diet myself, but not really for health reasons. Not really for ethical reasons, either. It's complicated.
posted by amtho at 4:58 PM on May 7, 2008

If you want proof that not only is legitimate (like the links above), but looks legit to people hard to convince, I would recommend going to a library and checking out a book, or copying some journal articles. Or you could always pay for an online membership to a medical journal so you can get full-text articles and not just abstracts. Of course the NIH link is really good, too.
ughh I hate pseudoscience so much, I feel for you. I've only ever had to convince people that Airborne is a rip-off (turns out they ended up getting sued for making false claims, haha).
posted by fructose at 6:56 PM on May 7, 2008

FWIW, a good friend of mine had an internal colostomy performed (continent ileostomy). While this was far from optimal for all sorts of reasons, because it was internal, he was able to play hockey and carry on a normal life in almost all respects once he recovered. I can't believe that someone with this wouldn't be able to handle most of the tasks in marine biology... certainly, the odds are better than turning yourself into poppa smurf.
posted by jenkinsEar at 9:08 PM on May 7, 2008

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