John Mansfield, like so many others specialising in allergy and its treatment, was a conventional doctor until, in 1976 he heard Dr Richard MacKarness on the radio talking about his book Not all in the Mind. The book suggested that reactions to everyday foods could be a major cause of much chronic illness. Subsequently he met and worked with Dr Mackarness - and solved his own chronic fatigue problem (stemming from a bout of glandular fever as a student) by eliminating wheat and corn from his own diet.
Having spent some years working with allergy and environmental medicine in general practice, John Mansfield became a founder member of the British Society for Allergy & Environmental Medicine (now the British Society for Ecological Medicine). Finally in 1982 he decided to bite the bullet and start his own out-patient clinic of which he remains Medical Director. Recently Dr Michael Radcliffe joined the clinic as a consultant allergist.
The Burghwood Clinic is private (recognised for fee reimbursement by most major medical insurance companies) but they do see NHS patients who can be referred under the Extra Contractual Referral system. Although the Burghwood Clinic is best known for its neutralisation techniques, its approach to the chronic conditions that it treats incorporates the broader range of nutritional and environment medicine, looking beyond the symptoms to seek their causes. Each new patient therefore fills in a detailed questionnaire before their 45-60 minute first consultation during which an attempt will be made to identify the cause - or causes - of their problem.
The first treatment is usually an elimination diet as Dr Mansfield believes that the majority of chronic conditions are food related. The elimination diet often has dramatically positive effects so that the patient can move straight on to a long term elimination diet, neutralisation for problem foods (if it is undesirable to permanently exclude them) or a combination of the two.
If the elimination diet has not pinpointed a problem intradermal testing for food, inhaled and chemical allergies is the next step. At the same time the patient may be tested for fungal dysbiosis (candida) and if shown positive put on a anti-fungal diet combined with anti-fungal treatment. Patients may also be tested for nutritional, trace minerals and essential fatty acid deficiencies and for heavy metal toxicity such as mercury. Dr Mansfield is now also increasing testing for chronic parasitic infections which appear to account for most of cases who have not responded as well as anticipated either to an elimination diets or neutralisation.
Intradermal Provocation Neutralisation, to give it its full title, is both a diagnostic technique and a treatment. Even though it has been around for well over 20 years, neutralisation is still sometimes confused with the ineffective and dangerous technique known as Incremental Desensitsation (giving ever increasing doses of the allergen to try to build up resistance). Neutralisation is a totally different and is extremely safe. The Burghwood Clinic estimates that worldwide over 30 million people have now had neutralisation tests or treatment without a single fatality.
No one really understands how neutralisation works. However it appears that for each person there is a dose of their particular allergen which effectively ’switches off ‘ or ‘neutralises ’their allergy – in contrast to other doses which may result in symptoms. Although for each person the (and for each allergen) the dose is different they are all vanishingly small – the most common doses for house dust mites, for example are 1 in 625 dilution, 1 in 3,125 or 1 in 15,625. This explains why the technique is so safe, even when dealing with quite serious allergies.
The downsides are that in order to establish the neutralisation point the patient has to undergo a large number of intra-dermal (under the skin) tests; to maintain the immunity they have to inject themselves on a daily basis, at least initially with their cocktail of neutralising doses; and that, as their state of health changes, so may their neutralisation point. This could be dangerous for serious anaphylactic allergics which is why the technique is seldom recommended for severe sensitivities. But even those with less severe problems may need fairly regular re-testing.
On the other hand, unlike EPD, it works fast (from minutes to a couple of days) and one can be neutralised for a wide range of allergens (food, chemical and inhaled) at the same time.
Obviously no treatment is perfect and there are patients who have found the testing too prolonged/invasive, the self injection unacceptable or the whole process beyond their means. Nonetheless, the clinic does claim impressive success rates – 75% of their food intolerance patients felt that they were 80% better and 75% of the rheumatoid arthritis patients improved up to 100%. (RA is a particular speciality of John Mansfield, who feels that wheat and corn sensitivities, often combined with parasitic infection, account for most rheumatoid arthritis cases).
The Burghwood Clinic is for outpatients only; patients needing inpatient treatment are passed to the Breakspear Hospital.
Treatment is not cheap – in ball park figures it could cost £700 - £1,000 to treat chronic IBS, migraine, arthritis, asthma, rhinitis etc. But if it ‘neutralises’ or eliminates conditions as debilitating as rheumatoid arthritis or migraine then many are willing to pay the price.
The Burghwood Clinic is to be found at 34 Brighton Road, Banstead, Surrey SM7 1BS Tel. 01737 361177
First published in 2002
More articles on the management and treatment of food allergy and intolerance
Top of page