What is Allergy Treatment and Testing?
Anything could be the culprit. It could be the pollen of a poppy, the fur of a kitten, dust, egg, prawn, peanut, paint, polycotton pillowcases, perfume, gluten, kiwi fruit, soya sesame seeds or latex. Anything that we eat, breathe, wear, sleep on, touch and stand near, could create an allergic reaction. Our body’s immune system has a reaction to a substance that is not in itself harmful, but the body has reacted to it.
There is a wide spectrum of ‘allergic’ responses: from mild response of sneezing or itching, to anaphylaxis – a sudden and severe reaction that could take you to A& E. At the mild end of the spectrum are symptoms from watery eyes, rash, hives and swelling to tingling in mouth, stomach cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea and a sudden drop in blood pressure. At the severe end symptoms include difficulty in breathing, swelling of tongue and throat, wheezing and losing consciousness.
As the range of products and processing in food becomes increasingly complex, there is evermore possibility of our bodies reacting ‘allergically’ to substances. So, Allergy Testing and Treating is about the different methods to identify and treat these allergic responses.
Of course, the established complementary therapies, such as Acupuncture, Homeopathy Naturopathy and Herbal Medicines have a history of methods to deal with Allergies (or ‘altered reactions’) according to their own systems. But there is also a burgeoning market in newer technologies for identifying and offering treatment for allergies, such of Kinesiology (muscle-testing),Vega allergy tests (electro-acupuncture) and hair-testing, among others.
What to expect
There is some suspicion about what could be called ‘the allergy testing’ industry, so be sure to choose a practitioner who belongs to, or is accredited by, a professional body. There are various different allergy intolerance specialists, so before you go it’s worth researching which kind specialises or has experience in your particular problem.
You may be advised to stop taking whatever medication you are currently on in order to make the test more accurate. And take notes of what times, places, environments, following what foods etc you have experienced allergic episodes; this could help your practitioner in the diagnosis.
If you know precisely what you are allergic to (it’s suggested that you take a sample or , packet with ingredients, so that your practitioner will be better able to identify a cure. There are a variety of tests available both in traditional and complementary practice. Sometimes you can discover the nature of your problem through a conventional test, and then search for complementary therapy that gives you relief.
The usual tests for allergy are:
Skin Prick Test is usually the first test offered when trying to identify an allergen. A very small amount of allergen is introduced into the skin,
- It is usually carried out on the inner forearm, or back, if the patient has severe eczema.
- As few as 3 or 4 or up to about 25 allergens can be tested
- The arm is coded with a marker pen for the allergens to be tested and a drop of the allergen (extract) solution is placed by each code.
- If there is an allergic reaction, the skin around the test site will very quickly become itchy, red and swollen. The ‘skin prick test’ can detect over 350 allergens; results appear within 20 minutes.
Patch Test is used to identify allergic reactions in the skin. A number of circular patches containing the allergens are placed on skin (generally on the back) and left for 48 hours, after which the reactions are observed to identity what substances have caused the allergic reaction: make-up, cosmetic creams, dyes, medications, solvents, washing products or preservatives.
Blood Test takes a small amount of blood from a vein and measures the amount of IgE (immunoglobulin E antibodies) produced by your immune system in response to a suspected allergen; the results of the test (measured on a scale of 1 -6) can take between 7-14 days. This test will identify a rare allergen or extreme risk.
There are also a number of complementary therapies which claim to identify the source of allergic reactions in a less invasive way.
Applied Kinesiology, for instance, tests the relative strength of the muscles (which are weakened when in close proximity to a source of the allergen (usually a small sample in a glass phial). See the HealthyPages Therapy guide for fuller details of Kinesiology testing.
VEGA Resonance Test (VRT), developed from the 1950’s technique called Bio-Feedback Diagnosis (BFD), uses electro-acupuncture, which measures electrical activity in the body. With a small electrode touched to acupressure points on feet and hands, it is reported to be able to identify reactions to:
- A range of over 150 foods
- Food preservatives and colourings
- Environmental allergens
- Dust & dust mites
- Shrubs, weeds & grasses
With this method the practitioner only uses one Acupuncture point and introduces different Homeopathic substances (Test Ampoules) into the measurement circuit, then simply reads the value on the display. There are no pin pricks, blood tests or discomforts with this method.
Human hair stores information about an individual (it’s now used in forensic science to test the amount of drugs etc in a person’s system). It is claimed by those involved in Bio-Field Resonance Analysis that a few strands of a person’s hair can be analysed to reveal dietary, toxic and nutritional imbalances which could be affecting their health, causing food intolerances and reducing their energy.
To get an analysis, you send a sample of your hair to a testing centre and in about 7 days you receive a report which indicates your personal state of health, and may recommend foods to eliminate from your diet, and supplements or products to correct the imbalances. It needs to be remembered that diagnosis and test results are in themselves not treatments, and you may need to seek additional therapy for your condition.
Hair analysis, can indicate whether the condition is an inherited tendency or a virus or bacteria that has not been undiagnosed. Recently developed symptoms, for instance, can be tracked in time to a foreign holiday or trip abroad, and identified as a parasite. Digestive problems, chronic fatigue may be the presenting problems, but hair analysis may be able to give you some deeper answers.
Effects and Benefits
According to the Royal College of Physicians, 1 in 3 people suffer from allergies at some point during their lives with food being one of the most common triggers.
“Knowing what you’re allergic to is key to managing your condition,” says Allergy UK’s Lindsey McManus. And that is the basis of Allergy Testing and Treating. When you know what might be blocking your overall health and wellbeing, then you can take action.
While conventional medicine tests tend to focus on a particular symptom or condition, complementary practice looks at the individual holistically. So many complementary therapies review allergies and intolerances as part of their overall treatment.
Kinesiologists, Homeopaths, Naturopaths, Herbalists and Nutritionists use allergy testing in their diagnosis, and can then prescribe the appropriate form of treatment according to their own complementary therapy.
Homeopathy treats the individual with highly-diluted substances given in mainly tablet form; these trigger the body’s natural system of healing. Based on their experience of the symptoms, a homeopath will match the most appropriate medicine to the patient.
Over the summer when pollen counts are high, it is estimated that hay fever costs British businesses £324 million in staff taking time off. A number of recent research trials have shown that homeopathic treatment can produce a significant improvement in hay fever symptoms.
Allergists have found that general health might be closely related with the frequency of allergic reaction. So herbalists try to boost the general health and immune system as well as using specific herbal preparations to alleviate allergies, such as Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica), Marshmallow (Althaea officinalis), Chamomile (Matricaria recutita), Eyebright (Euphrasia officinale), Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) and Elder Flower (Sambucus nigra).
Studies into the use of Acupuncture for allergies have shown it to be an effective remedy, especially when you are suffering from multiple allergies, regardless of what allergens they are caused by (such as milk allergy, nickel allergy, nasal allergy, dust mite allergies or seafood allergies). Acupuncture treats diseases mainly by improving the immune system. However, some experts suggest that acupuncture therapies cure allergies by the mechanism of nerve deallergization. Patients have reported relief through Acupuncture for: asthma, recurrent nasal congestion, sinus and nasal irritation, runny nose, sneezing and other symptoms of allergic rhinitis.
Naturopathy is a form of medicine that uses natural substances and techniques to bring about natural healing. It utilises things present in nature, for their therapeutic benefits. Naturopathy promotes health rather than confronting disease. It consists of several systems of diagnosis and treatments such as nutritional counselling, iridology, and herbal medicine. So Naturopathy focuses on a healthy lifestyle and diet to prevent allergies. Food intolerance can be the cause of a number of symptoms from bloating and headaches, fogginess and tiredness, to extreme conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, migraines and skin conditions, but food intolerance should not be confused with food allergies, which are more serious. Excluding a suspected foodstuff and then introducing it after a period can prove whether that is the culprit or the body’s immune reaction to it has changed. Re-introduction is not recommended in the case of severe allergic reaction.
Kinesiology allergy testing is a non-invasive and safe form of muscle-testing which can be used to identify those substances that are adversely affecting you. The first visit can take up to two hours as a full medical history is taken and will be tested for between 150 -200 different foods and outdoor pollutants. Once your allergies are identified, you may be given a list of foods to be avoided in the short term.
Your practitioner may create a Personalised Nutritional Programme to help you develop a healthier lifestyle. In order to speed your transition to optimum health, you may be encouraged to take certain dietary supplements of any vitamins or minerals.
Revisiting your kinesiologist after a set interval will enable the progress of allergic reaction to be tested, and to establish whether further treatment is required.
Fascinating Facts & Allergy Treatment and Testing
- The word ‘allergy’ was first coined in 1905 by Austrian paediatrician Clemens Pirquet (1874-1929) to describe the adverse reactions of children, who were given injections of horse serum to combat infection. He referred to both beneficial immunity and to the harmful hypersensitivity as ‘allergy.’ The word allergy is formed from the Greek words allos, (meaning different or changed) and ergos, (meaning work or action). Allergy can be defined as an “altered reaction.”
- The earliest report of an allergic affliction is reckoned to be the death of King Menses of Egypt due to the sting of a wasp.
- Around half a million people throughout the UK suffer severe allergic reactions to food, including about 250,000 young children with peanut allergy. Other common causes include wheat, soya, shellfish, fish, egg, milk, kiwi fruit and sesame seeds.
- There are thought to be about 120,000 people diagnosed with coeliac disease (with an allergic to gluten, the protein found in wheat) in this country.
- You may not be safe from allergy indoors or outdoors: allergic reactions arise from scores of indoor allergens –for instance, fur and fluff from household pets (animal dander), dust mites and mould spores. Outdoor allergens are mostly seasonal, pollen allergy is well known but allergy to particular trees, grasses, weeds and tree mould are common. Other outdoor allergic reactions can come from plants like cuckoo pint and poison ivy, bee stings, and insect venom.
- One of the most important breakthroughs for allergy intolerance testing occurred in 1966 when Japanese scientist Kimishige Ishizaka discovered the antibody immunoglobulin E (IgE). IgE is the antibody that is released by the immune system when allergens are present.
- Any of this A-Z list of symptoms ( and there are more) could indicate the presence of an allergic reaction: Abdominal Pain, Acne, ADHD, Anaemia, Arthritis, Asthma, Body Odour (BO), Breathing disorders, Chronic Pain, Circulation Problems, Constipation, Depression, Dermatitis, Diarrhoea, Digestive Problems, Ear Ache, Eczema, Fatigue, Food sensitivities, Gastroenteritis, Hay Fever, Headaches, Heart Burn, Hormone Imbalance, Immune System Dysfunction, Incontinence, Indigestion, Infant colic, Influenza (Flu), Insomnia, Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Itching, Joint Pain, Learning difficulties, Migraines, Mouth ulcers, Muscle Cramps, Nausea, Obesity, Runny Nose, Sinusitis, Sore throat, Stomach cramps, Tiredness, Tonsillitis, Urinary Problems, Urticaria, Vomiting, Watery Eyes.
- Around 33% (1 in 3) of the population will at some time in their life have a disease where allergy may be involved. Between 15 and 20 per cent of the British population suffer from the often debilitating symptoms of pollen allergy, ranging from sneezing to itchy swollen eyes.
- A survey on behalf of Nelsons Pharmacy showed that 72 per cent of sufferers would prefer a natural alternative to anti-histamines and 79 per cent would like to access natural treatments on the NHS.
The British Institute for Allergy and Environmental Therapy
The British Institute was formed in January 1987 to bring together a group of Therapists who practise a unique system of allergy diagnosis and treatment, a system that had already been used very successfully for nearly ten years. The Institute’s members are all qualified health professionals – both mainstream and complementary – with a keen interest in allergic conditions (such as Hayfever) and their causes.