NAET and other alternative approaches to allergy

Dr Janice Joneja has specialised in the allopathic management of food allergy for many years. She looks at alternative approaches, such as NAET, and the role played by the placebo effect.

NAET refers to “Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Techniques”.  It is a system developed by Devi S. Nambudripad, a chiropractor and acupuncturist based in California, USA.  It purports to treat a wide range of allergies and even autism. Practitioners use a variety of different types of alternative therapies such as applied kinesiology, radionics, acupuncture, acupressure, chiropractic manipulation and nutrition in diagnosis and treatment. 

In “traditional” (allopathic) science and medicine, as practiced in Western countries we have a great deal of understanding about the anatomy and physiology of the human body based on decades of careful research.  Alternative medical practices using such techniques as mentioned above do not lend themselves to explanation based on allopathic science.  Hence, traditional scientists and clinicians view these practices with suspicion, at best.  Medical societies of the United States, South Africa, Australia and several countries in Europe warn against the procedures because of the risk of misdiagnosis and malnutrition as a result of treating either the wrong disease, or a fictitious allergy .  Nevertheless, some patients and practitioners report favourable results and the practice seems to be growing in popularity among chiropractors and acupuncturists.

In commenting on this system of allergy management I must start by saying that I have no direct experience in these techniques.  During my many years of research into allergy diagnosis and management I have observed the methods of chiropractors, acupuncturists and practitioners of applied kinesiology, radionics, and other alternative methods, but must admit that I do not have a great deal of understanding about the basis for their practice as it does not conform to my scientific training and thinking.  However, as a scientist I keep an open mind, especially about systems that differ markedly from allopathic science and medicine as we understand it in the “Western world”.

In criticising the types of techniques such as those used in NAET, doctors cite the “placebo” effect in explaining why people seem to benefit from them.  A placebo is an inert material used as a control in clinical trials, which is completely free from the drug or other substance under test.  The patient, and usually the administrator of the test, does not know whether they are taking the test material or the placebo.  It is surprising how many people report benefit from the placebo during the trial.  In fact some practitioners estimate that a surprising 30% of their patients who report obtaining relief from their medications or treatment protocols are actually reporting a placebo effect as a result of believing that the treatment is working for them.

It is completely understandable that a person who is suffering from many types of allergies and intolerances, such as you describe, who has often consulted numerous medical practitioners, but without significant respite, should look for treatments that promise relief, however bizarre they may appear at first glance.

So, in summary, my opinion on practices such as NAET in general is: if it does no harm (except in the wallet!) and even when the outcome is due to a placebo effect, if the patient experiences relief from their symptoms I would not advise against it.  But as a scientist, I remain sceptical.  I would advise caution if the techniques of diagnosis and treatment or dietary directives appear worrisome in any way.  Furthermore, I would strongly suggest that you inform your family doctor or general practitioner that you are undergoing NAET so that he or she can monitor any adverse effects that may arise during the process.

Stephen Barrett MD. Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique (NAET).  Chirobase 2012

July 2016

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