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Dr. Dane is the founder and owner of the Carolina Brain Center. She is a Diplomate of the American Chiropractic Neurology Board and has extensively studied childhood developmental disorders, traumatic brain injuries, and vestibular disorders. She is a charter member of the International Association of Functional Neurology and Rehabilitation.

Caveat Emptor* and Critical Thinking
*(let the buyer beware)

By Darcy Dane, DC, DACNB

Critical thinking is: “The process of actively and skillfully conceptualizing, applying, analyzing, synthesizing, and evaluating information to reach an answer or conclusion.” And critical thinking is essential when it comes to health and the Internet. There is no denying that the Internet provides an enormous amount of great information—and provides it quickly. However, without the proper medical background and without taking time to critically think about the information being digested, the information can be useless and even harmful to your health; which leads to caveat emptor..

Dr. Dane with the Carolina Brain Center’s therapy dogs, Doc and Ollie.

The fact is, every practitioner these days is competing with information on the Internet. People love to take their health into their own hands for a variety of reasons. And, while the Internet can be valuable resource for information, by itself, it’s not sufficient. Establishing a relationship with a holistic doctor is important. Self-diagnosing based on a symptoms search can be very misleading and creates stress and panic.

For example, I cannot count how many people come to me because they are worried about having ALS—all because they looked up twitching muscles on Google. ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis)—also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease—is a rapidly progressing, and ultimately fatal, neurological disease. So that self-diagnosis can be really scary. However, the fact is, people can experience muscle twitching for a very wide variety of reasons, not just ALS. It’s not that symptom checkers aren’t helpful; they can be. But jumping to conclusions is not helpful. So: read the information critically and always remember: caveat emptor!

Fads, Fibs, and Failure

It’s important to realize that what is “good” (according to the Internet) is not necessarily “good” for you specifically. Just because something worked for your friend or 287 Amazon reviewers, does not mean it will work for you. When making a clinical decision about what to prescribe any given patient there are numerous factors to consider.

For example, it’s easy to be persuaded to use products labeled “natural.” But you need to remember that natural supplements work like medication; your body has to process (metabolize) and eliminate wastes from natural products just as it does with medication. It is important to realize that even natural substances can have negative side effects. It is also important to realize that supplements can have interactions with prescribed medications.

Quality of products is another issue. Everyone loves looking for a deal, but when it comes to purchasing supplements based on reviews, marketing, etc., caveat emptor. I utilize a very small cohort of product lines in my office. I only use companies that are research-based, offer continuing education courses, and have high industry standards.

The same is true of OTC laboratory studies. Only in the past several years has it become easy for people to order many different lab tests without a doctor’s order. Caveat emptor! Many of these lab companies are working directly with supplement companies. Many specialty lab studies can actually be ordered through LabCorp or similar companies. The difference is the package the information comes in. This is not to say that I don’t utilize specialty labs; I most certainly do. But I am trained to review the information and to compare it to other information so that I can come up with a specific treatment plan.

When critically thinking about lab studies, you must take into consideration the whole person view. It is extremely difficult to critically think about your own health. I never make big clinical treatment plans for myself without having a colleague’s input. It is a lot like reading your own papers—you miss typos because you know what you are trying to communicate.

In the end, if you are the kind of person who likes to be informed and wants to go the natural route, that is great, but don’t go it alone. You need to establish a relationship with a holistic doctor. An excellent holistic doctor will be familiar with current research, will base recommendations on objective information obtained through laboratory studies and examination, and will have a few good product lines that they can recommend with confidence—all while keeping you best health interests at the forefront.