College “Wellness Workshop” Promotes Pseudo-science

Speaker Stephanie Ewals presents misleading nutritional advice.

By Allison Groshens, Staff Writer

On February 11, Student Life hosted a Zoom wellness workshop led by Stephanie Ewals, BS, NTP, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner The purpose of this workshop was to educate the audience about detoxification through foodOne might expect a speaker at a college to present factual information, however much of her information was skewed and misleading, so we did some fact checking.

Speaker Stephanie Ewals begins her zoom presentation.

First, let’s look at the speaker’s credentials. Ewals is a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and is not a medical professional. She has a Bachelor of Science degree, which she lists as a letter abbreviation after her name, an uncommon way to list this credential, and a certification as a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. Having these qualifications after her name might make her seem like a qualified professional, however the Nutritional Therapy Association program is not accredited by the department of education, which they state on their website FAQ. The website also includes a disclaimer that, “The content on this website is strictly the opinion of the Nutritional Therapy Association (NTA) and is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to take the place of medical advice or treatment from a personal physician,” and asserts that the NTA is not responsible for possible health consequences of anyone following their information.   

FACTS: Many of Ewals’ statements are not entirely true. 

“According to Ayurvedic teachings… toxins are the main cause of disease.” Ayurvedic medicine is traditional Indian medicine. The effectiveness and safety of Ayurvedic medicine has not been tested extensively enough to definitively prove safety. Additionally, the CDC refers to toxins such as Botchulinum toxin and others that cause specific diseases, but not in the way that Ewals referred to general “toxins.  

“Losing weight causes problems because toxins are released.” There is some evidence that slight increase in pollutant compounds can be found in the subcutaneous adipose tissue of obese individuals after losing weight. However, not enough study has been done on this. 

Disease comes form [sic] congestion or stagnation in the body which needs to be cleared through cleansing and detoxification.” Cleanses and detoxes have not been studied enough or studied properly to determine effectiveness. In fact, some detoxes have been proven to contain harmful ingredients or ingredients not approved by the FDA. 

“A diet with little to no protein is in a constant state of cleansing.” In fact, the opposite is true. Low protein can harm the liver and cause problems with the body’s natural detoxification. 

“You can soak up chlorine from water in your skin when you shower. Human skin does not absorb chlorine well. Small amounts can be absorbed when exposed to high amounts of chlorine gas, bleach, or water or soil containing high amounts of chlorine. However, it is then eliminated from the body rapidly.  

Ewals recommended drinking raw milk. Raw milk, or unpasteurized milk, is more likely to contain harmful bacteria, and is illegal to sell between different states. Some states, Minnesota included, also prohibit its sale within the state. 

A diagram of the effects of “toxins” on the body.

LOGIC: Some of the statements in the presentation were skewed using faulty logic.  

Hasty Generalization: A statement made without enough evidence to support it.  
Ewals used this fallacy often. For example, Conventional medicine isn’t great for chronic health stuff” and “toxins are the main cause of disease. She also claimed that “toxicity” happens from everything! Environment, food, breathing, physical contact, drugs, free radicals, imbalance of gut bacteria, thoughts, emotions, “normal everyday functions at the biochemical and cellular level that need to be eliminated.” Regarding buying supplements – “I wouldn’t get something cheap. Get something decent at Whole Foods!”   

Causation FallacyArguing that one thing causes another, despite insufficient evidence.  
For example, Ewals said, if you can’t sleep, maybe it’s because your blood sugar is out of control.” 

Appeal to Authority: Relying too heavily on the authority of the person giving the statement. 
For example, when asked for sources on studies she mentioned, Ewals was unable to give specifics about the studies other than “you can find it on PubMed.”   

False Dilemma: Presenting an argument as either one option or another with no additional possible outcomes.  
Ewals stated, “If we didn’t continually detox, we would probably die.”   

Red Herring: Attempts to distract from the argument with a seemingly related point.  
For example, “A diet with little to no protein is in a constant state of cleansing.” 

Circular ArgumentArgument that repeats itself rather than adding new information.  
Ewals statedeat whole foods!” …. what qualifies as whole foods? She does not specify, just asserts that whole foods are best. 

Anecdotal Evidence Fallacy: Uses individual experience as if it’s the broad experience of many people.  
Ewals said, “There’s not a whole lot of science on this, but it is thought in the holistic circles that if you are sensitive to [scents], you may have a deficiency.”