A new breed of gurus has emerged from the chaos of the Covid 19 pandemic, eager to sell alternative healing techniques based on raw food, intermittent fasting and carrot juice. Their message is passed on by naturopaths who keep gaining exposure and recognition on Doctolib. How do they operate? We looked into their means and at methods.
A man is sitting on a rock. He is wearing a shirt flocked with the following message: “Beware of the guru !”. In the background, a small waterfall, birds singing and a forest. Somewhere in the South of France, Thierry Casasnovas is about to deliver health and nutrition advice to his 559k YouTube followers. He tells them that drinking fruit juice and eating raw food will heal a number of serious diseases like cancer or AIDS.
The hundreds of videos he has published so far don’t look like conventional medicine lessons, but they are taken as such by many of his followers. Among them, naturopaths, registered on the online health appointment booking service, Doctolib.
A the university of Youtube
A quick Google search leads to various information regarding Thierry Casasnovas, most of which are published on social and professional pages set up by naturopaths and practitioners of alternative medicine. Some of them also mention the naturopath Irène Grosjean – a 90-year-old woman, known as the “Raw food Goddess” – or her business partner Miguel Barthéléry. Their profiles mention a series of certifications from their “teachers”: “Irène Grosjean certification”, “Hygienist formation – Thierry Casasnovas”, “2021 : Naturopathy for professionals / Practical and theoretical formation – Health Practical School – Irène Grosjean”. These “professional” acknowledgments are proudly put forth even though Thierry Casasnovas and Miguel Barthéléry are prosecuted by the justice system.
In 2020, the Paris prosecutor opened an investigation for endangering lives against Thierry. One year later, the Perpignan prosecutor launched a second inquiry for abuse of weakness, illegal practice of medicine and deceptive marketing practice. On Octobre 15th 2021, Miguel Barthéléry was sentenced to a two year suspended prison termafter the death of two of his patients with cancer. The Doctor had recommended fasting as a healing method. Regardless, at least ten practitioners trained by these gurus were scheduling appointemens on the French online platform Doctolib in January 2022.
Courses, camps and celery juice
It is very easy to identity the « Regeneration coaches » who followed the course « coach RGNR – mai 2019’’ given by Thierry Casasnovas. The list is displayed on his website. One of them, Magali Monnier, had her name on this list until 2020. She since removed it, as did other practitioners but she is still registered as an “hypnotherapist” on Doctolib.
Another Casanova enthusiast, Samuel Ruff, has a website dedicated to alternative medicine. In it, he proudly showcases his close relationship to Casasnovas and Grosjean by posting pictures of them three in outdoor settings. Other pictures of him with his gurus exist on the web like the one posted by Estelle Sovanna, a naturopath on July 5th 2019 on her Facebook page “Sovanna : Holistic Health”. It was taken during the 2019’s “Regeneration Camp Festival”, a four days event in the Cévennes. Samuel Ruff’s company, created in 2019, is named “Health Regeneration”.
Screenshot from one of Samuel Ruffin’s websites
Looking at his website, one can easily detect a network of professionals recommended by the gurus. In it, Irène Grosjean praises Aurélie Humbert, a sophrologist and a Reiki adept. She also has a Doctolib account.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away
How did these alternative practitioners manage to get established on Doctolib? They are not physiciens but can recommend treatment and they usually resort to giving lifestyle advices and plant healing tips. Some of them are former health professionals but most get a certification without going to medical school. They attend training courses in institutes such as Centre de formation professionnelle et de promotion agricole and the dozens of schools certified by the FENA, fédération française de naturopathie. These trainings allows them to get a CPS, a practicer’s permit. However, their profession is not recognized by the Order of Doctors in France.
weak ID verification on Doctolib
Since 2020, Doctolib has reinforced its ID checks in order to avoid identity theft and fraud. But only regular physicians have to enter their CPS number. It is therefore really easy for any naturopath to sign up on Doctolib. That doesn’t mean they are all dangerous but it means it is the patient’s responsibility to verify the validity of any treatment given a naturopath. Some do mention that they are not licensed doctors and cannot prescribe medical treatments.
It should be mentioned that Doctolib is not the only platform used by naturopath and those who use it often stick to the rules. Things are much more blurry with plateforme like Medoucine or Pungao that are entirely dedicated to alternative medicine.
Anaëlle Larue, Camille Bigot, Océane Provin
Most of our information comes from simple Google searches. We thoroughly checked Thierry Casanova’s adepts list and looked up if the “Regeneration Coaches” had subscribed to Doctolib. For each of them we typed site:doctolib.fr “Their NAME”. We found out two of them had public accounts.
By using the Wayback Machine tool, we also were able to identify Magali Monnier, whose name had been crossed out of the list. The program was useful to gather informations about 2019’s “Regeneration Camp Festival”, as the website had been updated for last year’s edition.
We searched site:doctolib “Thierry Casasnovas”. That is how we discovered some naturopaths had cited his name in their curriculum. We also looked up for links with Irène Grosjean and Miguel Barthéléry and found a few more profiles.
Going through the protagonists’ social pages, mostly Facebook, was useful to reach out to pictures and to understand how their community revolved around a few powerful figures.
This article is also based on facts we didn’t expose here. They were useful to understand the protagonists’ uses and practices but didn’t match our demonstration right away. For example, by looking up filetype:pdf “Samuel Ruff”, we found a document about autism and ADHD and how naturopathy would, if not cure, improve the patient’s state.