This cover picture is scientifically inaccurate. See explanation below.

This cover picture is scientifically inaccurate. See explanation below.

José Jarimba believes that our bodies are physically molded into an asymmetric form by our mothers’ sleeping positions during pregnancy, that this has lifelong adverse impacts on health, and that shoe inserts can eliminate pain and other health problems by realigning the body. This is a silly untested hypothesis by a single individual. As such, it would be too minor to merit mention on SBM; but it is worth analyzing as a teaching opportunity. Jarimba attempts to bypass the scientific process; he provides a prime example of self-deception, confirmation bias, scientific ignorance, and the “Unpersuadables” I recently wrote about.

Much of alternative medicine originated with a “lone genius” who had an epiphany, thought he had discovered something no one had ever noticed before, extrapolated from a single observation to construct an elaborate theory that promised to explain all or most human ills, and began treating patients without any attempt to test his hypotheses using the scientific method. Some of them were uneducated laymen, others were scientifically trained medical doctors who should have known better. I wrote about one of them here, Dr. Batmanghelid, inventor of the Water Cure, who attributed a great variety of illnesses to dehydration after he thought he had cured a prisoner’s peptic ulcer disease by giving him a glass of water. Similar paths were followed by many others. Hahnemann invented homeopathy after he thought a malaria remedy gave him symptoms of malaria. Palmer invented chiropractic after he thought he had restored a man’s hearing by repositioning an out-of-place bone in his back. Nogier invented ear acupuncture after he imagined that the external ear looked sort of like a fetus. Shapiro invented EMDR after she noticed during a walk in a park that moving her eyes seemed to reduce the stress of disturbing memories. Bach invented Bach flower remedies after a walk in the country revealed his intuitive psychic connection to various plants. Jose Jarimba follows in their footsteps.

Jarimba has no medical or scientific training. His epiphany was a combination of two observations: he noticed that a man’s sideburns were asymmetrical and his hair coarser on one side, and he watched a film clip about a fetus. He thought: adults are not symmetrical, and when a mother lies on one side, that puts asymmetrical pressure on the fetus’ body. Eureka! He concluded that the mother’s sleeping position must cause physical deformation, organ deformation and malfunction, and various ailments.

He asked, what do pregnant animals do in the wild? He says that mammals alternate sleeping on one side and the other (Do they? How does he know? Are other mammals more symmetrical than humans?) and birds sleep on their feet because if they lay down their eggs would come out lopsided. (I think it’s because if they tried to lie down on their side they would fall off the branch where they are roosting.) He says pregnant women should sleep equal numbers of hours on the left and right side if they want a healthy baby.

He thinks the process of deformation begins at conception. He blames modern technology. Before we had machines, women worked and exercised. He thinks their fetuses were in an upright position and faced towards the mother. (Really? I don’t think so!) After the development of machines, pregnant women were advised to rest and got help with their domestic duties. Those who worked and were active throughout pregnancy had more symmetrically perfect babies. (Really? How does he know?)

He claims that physical misalignment occurs in proportion to the hours the mother sleeps on one side. 6 hours a night corresponds to 5-10% chance of misalignment, 16 hours to 60-70%. (Who sleeps 16 hours?) I asked him how he figured out those percentages. He explained that a day has 24 hours, and if a mother rests 8 hours a day, that’s 33 1/3%; then divide one inch by 3, and 8 hours equals one third of an inch. I asked where the figure of one inch came from, and he said that’s the measurement of deformity that can be corrected without surgery, and he cited a webpage about congenital hip dysplasia. (None of this makes a bit of sense to me; maybe it will to you.)

If the mother sleeps on her right side, he says it affects the baby’s left side. He seems to be assuming the baby’s left side will be down. The most common presentation at delivery is left occiput anterior, which would put the baby’s left side down when the mother slept on her left side. And the baby’s position is constantly changing. It only becomes fixed when the presenting part engages in the pelvis shortly before delivery; most breech babies turn head-first spontaneously by the 37th week. He thinks the internal organs are affected. He thinks the valves inside the heart can be malformed by fetal position; he thinks they become tilted towards the affected side and that this decreases oxygenation and cause heart attacks. He says resting on one side can cause upper body misalignment and on the other side, lower body misalignment (I asked him to explain how that would work, and he failed to answer.) He says sitting on a chair causes foot misalignment (how would that work if the baby was in the common head-down position?). He says vision is affected by position because the orbital muscles on one side become stretched toward the back of the head. He thinks too much sitting leads to breech deliveries. None of this is plausible; it’s impossible to visualize how gravity and pressure could accomplish those things.

I had never heard of Jarimba before he contacted me and sent me a copy of his book The Human Mold. We had a long e-mail exchange. I asked him what left-sided asymmetry meant and how he could determine which side was the abnormal one. His answer was nonresponsive: “When I say asymmetric from the left side, I mean that the left side is the abnormal side.”

I asked how he knew how many hours a woman slept on one side. He acknowledged that self-reports were unreliable, but claimed he could assess sleeping time accurately by measuring the degree of physical misalignment. He can tell the degree of misalignment from the number of hours, and he can tell the number of hours from the degree of misalignment. I pointed out that this is circular reasoning. He did not comment.

He says most women sleep on their right side “as recommended by the CDC.” He got that backwards: the left side is preferable, although not enough to matter. We know that in late pregnancy, the uterus may press on the vena cava, and lying on the back or on the right side may reduce blood flow; but in a normal pregnancy this is not significant. Women are encouraged to sleep in whatever position they find most comfortable.

He described an experiment he did with 17 women, asking them to alternate sleeping sides and finding that the babies were born more symmetrical. There was no blinding and no control group. When I asked him about that, he said, “I do understand very well that experiments with no control group might reach false conclusions, but in this case, I am proud to announce that my research produced no false conclusions.”

I asked how asymmetry could affect organ function, and he said when the structure is misaligned the weight of the imbalanced fluid pressing on the veins causes the veins to bend resulting in slow blood flow to the organs, heart, head (brain), and to all the body causing major health complications. He says a “tilted” kidney can’t function properly. I don’t believe any of those assertions.

I asked if he had talked to any obstetricians about his theories, and he said no, because he had studied their literature and found “a lack of deep knowledge into the development of our being.” His own lack of even basic knowledge is obvious in the cover illustration he chose to grace his book. It depicts a fetus in a woman’s abdomen. The fetus’ head is positioned just under the breasts at a height not reached even at full term. The fetus appears to be at about the 12 week stage of development and at that stage the uterus should be about the size of a grapefruit and still down inside the pelvis, and the fetus should be much, much smaller in relation to the woman. And the fetus’ position as shown is that of a footling breech, one of the rarest presentations for delivery.

He has treated over 2,000 clients. He doesn’t advertise, but he has an office where he sees them by appointment only. He charges $120, sees them only once, and gives them a shoe insert that he makes himself. He does no systematic follow-up.

He says you can analyze yourself by looking in a mirror, and you can analyze your friends. You will notice that one ear sticks out more than the other, one shoulder is higher than the other, one eye is smaller than the other (he says this is more noticeable at the end of the day), one leg is shorter than the other, one heel is more curved, etc. Once you know which is your bad side, you can sleep on the other side to counteract the asymmetry. He says the blood flows slower on your bad side.

He himself had 52 years of low back pain, foot pain, and overall body discomfort. All of these vanished after he put an insert in his shoe. He has plenty of patient testimonials. Back pain relieved. Back surgery avoided. More energy. Better sleep, more mentally focused, no headaches, no longer get sick. Alternating sleep sides during pregnancy produced a happy baby who doesn’t spit up and sleeps through the night. He apparently doesn’t understand that the plural of “anecdote” is not “evidence.”

He echoes the claims of chiropractors about spinal alignment, nerve interference, and disease. He cites the discredited Winsor Autopsies study from 1921 that supposedly correlated spinal misalignments with diseases of internal organs and concluded that 80% of chronic disease problems are linked to the spine. Jarimba comments that Winsor’s findings “indicate that most human physical deformities found in his autopsies were possibly caused by the mothers of the subjects sleeping/resting mainly on one side during pregnancy.” Winsor’s findings indicate no such thing!

He indulges in a bit of doctor-bashing, encouraging people to avoid dependence on the current health system. He says that reading media reports and visiting a doctor can cause stress and “lower” the immune system. He says overuse of medical care is wrecking your health. He says the mere act of purchasing health insurance may subconsciously prepare the mind and body to allow your health to break down. He says maintaining a positive attitude will help keep you healthy.

I suggested he might be risking prosecution for practicing medicine without a license. He said, “I do not practice medicine. I do not touch people physically.” Yet he is telling prospective clients he can relieve their pain and emotional symptoms, and on this Facebook page his occupation is listed as Family Doctor.

I asked him a lot more questions, but instead of answering, he replied, “I am sorry, since you haven’t witnessed my work in action (live), I see no need to keep on going.”

I eventually got him to answer 3 more questions:

  1. “Has what I wrote made you question your theory in any way?” “No.”
  2. “Do you think there is any possibility that you might be wrong?” “No, because it works, and if it works it is OK.”
  3. “If good scientific studies found that time sleeping on one side was not related to asymmetry, and that your shoe inserts worked no better than placebo, would that change your mind?” “There is not a single possibility of that happening.”

Conclusion

In his book, Jarimba says, “I hope that my observations will one day have a positive impact in the health system and the entire human population.” I think there is little chance of that.

This is yet another sad example of a person who has deceived himself. He has adopted a belief without ever putting it to a proper test, and has been fooled by his own experiences and by confirmation bias. He has a poor understanding of science, of critical thinking, and of the cognitive errors we humans are all subject to. He fails to understand what Druin Burch calls “Medicine’s beautiful idea,” the idea that we can easily be misled into false beliefs and must test even the most apparently obvious hypotheses using reliable scientific methods. Jarimba demonstrates the hubris of a layman who thinks he knows more than the experts, the Dunning-Kruger effect. He demonstrates the closed mind of an “unpersuadable” to perfection. Fortunately, he is only a single crank who has not yet spawned a movement, and what he does is not likely to harm his clients. He may even do some good here on SBM by serving as a bad example.

Posted by Harriet Hall

Harriet Hall, MD also known as The SkepDoc, is a retired family physician who writes about pseudoscience and questionable medical practices. She received her BA and MD from the University of Washington, did her internship in the Air Force (the second female ever to do so),  and was the first female graduate of the Air Force family practice residency at Eglin Air Force Base. During a long career as an Air Force physician, she held various positions from flight surgeon to DBMS (Director of Base Medical Services) and did everything from delivering babies to taking the controls of a B-52. She retired with the rank of Colonel.  In 2008 she published her memoirs, Women Aren't Supposed to Fly.

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