I had begun to feel certain I was from outer space. Dramatic, maybe but how else could I explain my complete incompatibility with the world at large? Everything I touched made me break out in hives, sneeze, wheeze or vomit. It was in this state that I met Berkshire-based allergy therapist Janette MacKay. And so began my journey to health.
As an asthmatic with a fatal allergy to peanuts it would be fair to say I have a 'sensitive system'. For the past four years my reactions to food and the environment had been increasing in severity and frequency.
Every morning I had a heavy cold, at work I was known for my sneezes, a picnic on the grass would bring my legs out in welts. I had perpetual stomach cramps sometimes so severe I was unable to walk. While these things were tiring I had learned to live with them through an antihistamine haze. Homeopathy has changed that, but it is not a quick fix.
The principle of the 200-year- old therapy is to treat like with like. It was discovered by a German doctor, Samuel Hahnemann (1755 - 1843). Dissatisfied with the medical theories of his day he challenged the ideas about how medicines might work.
Dr Hahnemann began by experimenting on himself, taking a medicine to experience its effects on a healthy human. Repetitions of this experiment led him to discover the basic principles of homeopathic medicine: that the symptoms of an illness are identical to the symptoms experienced by a healthy person who had been given a drug used to treat that illness. In trying to minimise the harmful effects of the drugs he repeatedly diluted each medicine - and discovered that the more stages of dilution the drug went through, the greater its potential to cure quickly and harmlessly.
At the first appointment Jeanette set about testing me for allergies to all the things I regularly ate. Some substances she had in little glass bottles others, such as tap water and house dust, I had to bring with me. Using kinesiology, one by one, we went through more than 100 substances from house dust and diesel to wheat and champagne.
To test for allergies by kinesiology a patient holds a substance to their stomach with their other arm hanging by their side. The homeopath tells the patient to resist the homeopath’s attempt to move their arm away from their side. Incredibly, when a patient is holding a substance to which they are allergic they cannot resist the movement. Jeanette explained that kinesiology works through the energy lines in the body. When an allergen is near the body it momentarily weakens the muscles.
At the end of this process there was a list of substances to which I was intolerant. If it had stopped there I would have been
happy. To know what had been making me feel so terrible for the last few years would have been enough. The proof of the diagnosis was that by avoiding the things on the list I eliminated all of my symptoms. But Jeanette wanted to eliminate the allergies themselves.
My treatment began with tobacco smoke, as every time I went out with friends I needed my inhaler and invariably ended up wheezing the night away.
I was given a highly diluted form of tobacco smoke in a little pipette bottle - this is known as a tincture and instructed to take two drops morning and night. The tincture sneaks a tiny amount of the irritant into your body to allow you to have a normal response to it, although there is a debate about how much of the original substance can be left in the tincture after it has been so diluted. Current research is focusing on the ability of water to retain an imprint of substances which have been dissolved in it. In my experience I react to each tincture in the same way I react to the substance itself.
Whatever the debate, I can now enter a smoky bar (thanks to the law soon to be a thing of the past) and suffer no symptoms, no asthma.
Tomatoes were the second culprit to meet its match and now I can also enjoy them, in moderation, without crippling cramps.
My dairy and house dust allergies are taking longer to fix, but given the success of the first two I will persevere. Eventually Janette hopes to cure both my peanut allergy and my allergy to sulphites (found in wine, beer and dried fruit to name but a few) that triggers my asthma.
Janette explained that allergies build up like the 'layers of an onion'. Once you have a core allergy more can follow. She is slowly pealing back the layers.
Homeopathy is not an over-night cure. It requires commitment and a determination - hay fever takes two years of weekly drops to be rid of the symptoms.
In the NHS
Some GPs are trained in homeopathy and they can refer patients to one of the five homeopathic hospitals (Bristol, Glasgow, Royal Tunbridge Wells, Liverpool and London). However, as many primary care trusts are in financial difficulties, and since there are no
government targets for allergies, they are not willing to sustain contracts with homeopathic hospitals.
The Royal College of Physicians carried out a report in 2003 on the provision of allergy services in the UK, Allergy - the unmet need: a
blueprint for better patient care. The report highlighted the implications for the NHS of the trebling of the prevalence of common allergic disease in the last 20 years in the UK, resulting in approximately one-fifth of the UK population likely to be seeking treatment for allergy.
Moreover, despite the rise in allergic diseases in epidemic proportions (potentially life-threatening allergies now affect approximately one in 70 children; hospital admissions for anaphylaxis have doubled in the last four years; asthma, rhinitis and eczema have increased two to three fold in the last 20 years) there is no cohesive approach to delivering an adequate clinical allergy service within the NHS’.
In 2003 there was one consultant allergist per two million of the UK population, but one per 100,000 for most other major specialties.
There was no mention of homeopathy in the report as it was only interested in ‘evidence-based medicine’.
The founder of the British Institute for Allergy and Environmental Therapy, Donald Harrison, trained in pharmacy and psychotherapy and works as a homeopathic pharmacist. He teaches allergy therapy and has managed to alleviate symptoms (homeopaths do not claim to cure allergies only alleviate symptoms) of the most severe allergies for 50 years. He founded the institute in 1987 and it now has 200 members who are qualified in allergy therapy and bound by a code.
He said: ‘What doctors mean when they say evidence based medicine is medicine that produces an effect when compared with a placebo. What I mean by evidence based medicine is medicine that makes people better.’
‘People have said for 200 years that we haven't got the science to prove homeopathy. But there are many, many homeopaths at work in the world and many, many people being treated with success. If you help 100 people then it's beginning to look like something, when you alleviate the systems for a 1,000 people how can anyone say it doesn't work?'
Donald Harrison acknowledges that there are questions that cannot be answered.
'Diagnostic kinesiology is difficult to explain. My own belief is that the information comes from the unconscious mind of the patient.'
Donald Harrison says that the only allergic symptoms he
cannot help alleviate are those caused by drugs that are no longer in circulation so that a tincture cannot be made up.
'Allergies are a multi-faceted problem - sometimes they are inherited or due to lifestyle or stress. It is rare that there is just one cause. The
thyroid can be involved or the digestive system or the liver. They won't be alleviated by dealing with only one aspect.'
Where to go
An internet search will yield homeopathy information sites, often listing practitioners in your area. Primary Care Trusts should hold information about GPs with homeopathic qualification and agreements with homeopathic hospitals.
But, as Donald Harrison points out, many homeopaths have been working for 30 or more years; at the time they served their apprenticeship there was no one to give them a certificate so recommendation is a good way to find a homeopath.
Conventional medicine asks suffers to avoid allergens or put up with symptoms. Homeopathy offers a light at the end of the tunnel. It's a slow process but homeopaths will tell you they can alleviate symptoms to allergies and my experience has so far proved the claim. I am feeling much more confident about my earthly status...
First published in 2007
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