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Thursday, October 22, 2009

Getting Inside a DAN! Head

So I went to a presentation from a DAN! doctor. I'm already a skeptic, I'll own that. And yes, I knew I was mainly there for the snark, but I'm also curious. What is the appeal?

Ok, so her background. She's a health administrator who went back to school to become a chiropractor with DAN!, "detoxification," and HBOT certifications. That's a lot of woo in a very concentrated package, but she's labeling it "integrative care." And there's not a single one of those things with any solid, evidence based science behind it, but all of those treatments do require regular, repeated visit$.

Anyway, as she was giving her presentation, she focused on tests. Tests are good. Tests sound very scientific, don't they? Turns out DAN!s love their tests. Actually, I'd gathered that from listening to other parents.

It was rather vague about why they chose particular testing. It sounded a lot like a shotgun approach - give them tons of tests and then treat anything that comes back abnormal.

On the surface that doesn't sound too bad, except for a couple of things. For one, she already questioned the test range. She seemed to think that the labs determined their normal ranges from people who submitted samples and were "mostly sick," so she seemed to think a result in a normal range wouldn't necessarily indicate a realistic normal range. I didn't get a chance to ask her how exactly she determined a normal range, since the labs apparently didn't do it. Does she guess? If so, why test?

Anyway, another problem is that when you take enough statistical samplings, you will eventually find something that isn't in the normal range. Because it's an average, and some people are going to normally and naturally fall at either end of the curve due to natural variation, lab errors, etc. That doesn't always indicate a problem. If someone isn't showing symptoms, chances are there isn't a problem. She seemed to think people wouldn't always exhibit symptoms when they came back with abnormal results, but they should still be treated. She also seemed to think some people would exhibit symptoms but have normal lab results. Those people should also be treated. So people should be treated whether or not they had symptoms and whether or not they had abnormal test results.

There were blood tests - too hight of cholesterol was a problem, as was too low. Normal results could also indicate a cholesterol problem. That seemed to be a theme. Even if the tests come back negative, you're still sick and need treatment.

Allergy tests - and beyond the blood IgE testing, (not as accurate as skin testing, but not as traumatic on the child) she liked to do IgG tests and claimed allergies could have a 72 hour reaction. Ok, first off - IgG is not in any way shape or form a valid allergy test. But now picture this. Your trusted practitioner gives you a laundry list of allergies and tells you that you could see "symptoms" up to 72 hours later. So for three days you're chasing shadows to find some vague symptom. Oh, a headache - must be an allergy. My kid must have had something he shouldn't have had. I've already got a taste of this with lactose intolerance, which does manifest itself the next day as a nasty diaper, but 72 hours later? Good golly, I'd never get any work done with the backtracking to figure out what he ate.

You somehow get past the impossible allergy and cholesterol testing? Well how about yeast. Yeah, we can find some yeast in your poop. We can find yeast in just about everyone's poop, because that's where it grows, but now you get the disgusting and OCD inducing joy of knowing just how much and what type if they can culture it.

I asked if yeast was always a problem or if she had a level at which she thought it should be treated. She gave a vague answer that some yeast would be ok in a normally functioning gut but that other people would need to have it entirely eliminated. In other words, if she deems your child to have a bad gut - and autism, according to her, involves "toxin and bacteria" in the gut - she's going to say you've got to get rid of all the yeast. Ever try to get rid of a standard, common yeast overgrowth in a young child's mouth? Let me tell ya, that stuff doesn't want to go away. Now I'm trying to picture getting rid of it entirely, and I'm thinking she's got a cash cow. If only cash cows were bulls, because we could... never mind.

Toxins, oh the toxins. She does indeedy chelate. My partner in crime asked her several questions about the safety of chelation, and she seemed to think that oral chelation was hunky dory in the hands of a qualified specialist like herself and that any safety/ethical concerns about clinical studies on chelation involved IV administration. The chemical involved is EDTA, which could be either IV or orally administered. If anyone in the know could tell me if the proposed studies involved oral or IV EDTA, I'd be much obliged.

Celiacs, celiacs, oh my.
One of the other things she finds is a lot of "non enteropathic celiac disease" My Google tells me that enteropathy is a disease of the intestines, and celiac disease is gluten sensitive enteropathy by definition. So a non enteropathic version would be an IgE reaction to wheat? Or possibly another case of "even if the test comes out negative, you're still sick."

IgA deficiency. This seemed to be the only thing she mentioned that when I Googled actually existed as a real problem. And, surprisingly enough, you can have it and be asymptomatic. Score one for the testing.

Yes, HBOT therapy. It's the new secretin. She cited a study by BMC Pediatrics, and my thought was what's so special about HBOT? What's different that couldn't be done with a weighted vest and an O2 tank? My partner in crime asked her if there were any studies available in journals that weren't open access and then suggested several reputable journals where one might find medical research. She answered that the study met with the approval of some HBOT industry group. Isn't that a bit like Toys R Us approving a study that claims people should buy more toys?

Anyway, I'm sure I'll remember more at some other point in time. I've got some good thoughts from the conference to blog about, too.


  1. Well..I guess that tests can't give you any answers because there are too many variables so regardless of what the tests results are you ought to be treated..? Are you sure this wasn't a Dr. Seuss meeting?

  2. Seriously, that seemed to be the answer to everything. Even if the test comes back negative, you could still be sick. Plus I didn't even get into the whole chiro thing. Apparently all that evolution was a waste of time because we've al got these hight maintenance spines that must constantly be realigned.

    I could see how some parents might find the whole thing very reassuring. Lots of tests. Lots of numbers, and pills, and things to scurry around and do, so you've got a focus and feel like you're doing something. I'm just not big on wasting my money or putting my kid through procedures that are potentially dangerous.

  3. Well, and the promise that if you just do these things, you can fix it. Easy, certain answers are appealing, and the more conviction an authority figure can place behind it, the better for some folks.

    I get it, I do: uncertainty is a bitch and a half, and living there all day every day (something each of us does regardless of whether we want to admit it or not) is a hard thing to do. In the end, it appears that doctors and other health-care professionals who cater to these parents are snake-oil salesman and conmen. Of course, it's also possible they buy what they are selling, too.