An article in the Huffington Post recently popped up on my Facebook feed. Even though it was first written in 2010, it naturally grabbed my attention. It’s written by a doctor telling the incredible story of a little girl who was amazingly cured of a terrible autoimmune disease by eating gluten, dairy, and sugar free for a year. In addition, she was put on a so-called anti-inflammation elimination diet, probiotics were added, and she was given DMSA, which is a binding agent to remove mercury in her body from vaccines. When I saw this article, my scientific background brought up skepticism immediately and I wanted to investigate further.
First, I’m thrilled that the little girl is doing so well now. It’s such good news when someone who is suffering so much receives relief. And the news is even better when it’s a child.
However, there are some red flags that need to be addressed.
- There is no official clinical diagnosis of a specific disease. The doctor fails to give a clear diagnosis of an auto-immune disease using accepted diagnostic criteria, developed through years of research, and accepted by professional societies like the American College of Rheumatology (see http://www.rheumatology.org/Practice/Clinical/Classification/Classification_Criteria_for_Rheumatic_Diseases/). While the girl’s symptoms certainly sound similar to many auto-immune diseases, there are other diseases and conditions which can mimic these symptoms.
- The shotgun approach utilized in this case does not allow anyone to determine what exactly helped or didn’t help this little girl. In such cases, it could even be that spontaneous remission occurred. There’s just no way to tell exactly what happened in this case.
- A single case of one patient does not allow the methods used to be generalized to larger populations of millions of people suffering with auto-immune diseases. The very title of the article makes it sound like a cure for auto-immune diseases has been found through the strategies used for this girl.
- The mercury thing absolutely amazes me because this myth has been thoroughly and systematically debunked for years (see http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/toxic-myths-about-vaccines/).
- Finally, a little investigation into the doctor involved, Dr. Mark Hyman, reveals many concerning issues. The fact that he has many books and services for sale reveals a clear conflict of interest in telling this story and writing for the Huffington Post. He even has his own commercial website. Dr. Hyman is not a trained or board certified rheumatologist or immunologist and probably shouldn’t be treating a patient with such symptoms. He routinely publically delves into topics in which he is not trained. A group of doctors devoted to debunked non-scientifically based medical practices wrote a scathing review of Dr. Hyman and so-called functional medicine (see http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/bill-and-hillary-clinton-go-woo-with-mark-hyman-and-functional-medicine/).
Unfortunately, such stories only fuel the fire of those suffering with serious and life threatening autoimmune diseases making them believe that they should not take take medicines from the “evil pharma” industry. The generalizations presented in this article amaze me mostly because they come from a person who is trained as a Medical Doctor (M.D.). This approach smacks of propaganda and huckstersim. If the treatments promulgated by this doctor worked for all auto-immune diseases, then multitudes of highly trained and compassionate doctors and researchers would be applying them to millions of suffering patients. Such shoddy medicine and journalism does nothing but push patients away from accepted medical systems that can bring treatment and even life-saving relief.