“You can fool too many of the people too much of the time” (James Thurber).
If this treatment is fake, then why is their cure rate so high?
Many people offering dubious treatments advertise a very high success rate (we're talking way over 50%, and usually between 90-100%). However, if their success rate were so high, then why do so many people with food allergies still have food allergies? Is it because they haven't heard about the treatment yet? This is what the people who offer treatments claim. However, the truth probably lies somewhere else.
These practitioners generally do their own testing. The method of testing is generally not approved by the medical or scientific community. The people they diagnose as having food allergies probably do not have food allergies to begin with. Only about 2% of Americans have them. Ask your “doctor” how many of the people s/he has tested for food allergies have actually had food allergies. If the percentage is well over that amount, then you should get a “red flag” about this specific doctor. I personally went to a practitioner who performed a non-accepted test. I knew only two of his other patients, yet both were diagnosed with the exact same allergies he said I had. The chances of that being true are incredibly infinitesimal. Not even my closest relatives who have legitimately diagnosed allergies have the same ones I have. And, after traditional testing and challenging were performed, I found out his accuracy was less than if I had flipped a coin.
A genuine “cure rate” would rely on many factors. First of all, the patient would have to be tested via an allergy test accepted and approved by the traditional medical community prior to the treatment. (Such tests would be a RAST or skin prick test.) Positive results (i.e., allergies) must be proven through the test, and also proven through “challenging” the allergens and establishing that they truly exist. Afterward, the treatment would be performed. After the cure was said to have occurred, the same test would be performed. If all of the allergy numbers then went to a “0,” and “challenging” produced no negative effects over an extended amount of time, then a cure will have genuinely taken place. Keep in mind that numbers on a test can naturally go down once an allergen is no longer present in the body. So even simple avoidance can cause the numbers to decrease. This means that the numbers must fall drastically, preferably to 0. Also keep in mind that allergies are tricky things. In young patients they may fade, and then show up suddenly again in adulthood.
This brings us to the real question: how can someone who has a treatment for food allergies claim such a high cure rate, especially if the treatment is new? Food allergies are tricky things. It would take – literally -- years to genuinely be able to prove that a patient had been permanently cured from food allergies. This may sound a little outrageous, but it's not. My father outgrew his lone food allergy during his childhood. However, it reemerged -- and brought a few "friends" along with it -- in his adulthood. Food allergies come and go as they please.
How does this practitioner talk about traditional medicine (traditional medicine is the kind practiced by MDs, as opposed to alternative medicine)?
Note that many people who claim to have “cures” are playing on the fact that they know there IS no cure. Thus, they may discuss your frustration with not having found a supportive doctor or allergist who will offer you treatments, and will talk about your disappointment with traditional medicine. "Traditional medicine doesn't have an answer for this, they'll tell you there's no cure, but I have one . . . "
“A successful hoax must be at least a little bit believable…Often, a good hoax relies on the listener’s preconceived notions” (Scams, Shams, and Flimflams (Gordon Stein and Marie J. MacNee, 1994)). These doctors know at the outset that many (probably most) of their patients are at their wit’s end and are frustrated with the medical community at large.
One common line from people offering “cures” is something to the effect of, “Traditional medicine only treats the symptoms, whereas we treat the entire body, and heal the body.” Specifically in relation to food allergies, they will say that it is an underactive immune system that causes the food allergies, and that they must heal and repair the broken down immune system (perhaps through massage, supplements, aura treatments, acupuncture, acupressure, or something else that they say builds up the immune system). Here is where you need to know more than they do about food allergies. Food allergies are caused from an overactive immune system. In other words, the immune system is SO active that it is attacking things it shouldn’t be attacking (food). Anyone with a relatively basic knowledge of food allergies knows this.
So, in other words, be prepared and be sure to ask questions – if they don’t fit with what you already know from traditional medicine’s studies on allergies, then you’ll know to walk out the door and never look back. Also remember that, “Good lies need a leavening of truth to make them palatable” William Mcilvanney). Large words and explanations that boggle the mind but contain a grain of truth are often intended to confuse.
Can I trust the test that was performed?
Probably not. Most of these tests are non-invasive, meaning they don’t require the prick of a needle or any other invasive technique. But that also means, unfortunately, that they aren’t really checking your immune system’s response to an allergen. The two tests that are currently found to be most accurate are a RAST test (which requires vials of drawn blood) or a skin-prick/scratch test, which is also considered “invasive.”
What if the results seem accurate? Ask yourself if the person treating you asked for your medical history files. If his or her test was subjective (meaning, s/he decided what you were allergic to with the test, rather than sending it off to a lab), this could be how s/he had such accuracy. A glance at your past medical history – especially any previous allergy tests – is one way that this doctor might have found out what you were allergic to.
Another possibility is mind over matter. I had a relative who thought she was allergic to nearly every food in the world…and she genuinely got sick after eating them. However, she finally started eating everything and found out she had no allergies at all. It was an instance of her body playing tricks on her. Stress can do that to people, and it’s a realistic and not unheard of possibility. If you think you’re allergic to something, your anxiety might actually make you ill after ingesting it. Panic attacks and other diseases or disorders may also mimic allergic reactions.
How much medical schooling did the person offering the treatment undergo?
There's a joke that goes something like this: "Say, Janie, what type of degree are you going to college to get?"
"Oh, I'm going to get my M - R - S."
This yarn sounds silly, but the truth is that many "doctors" add initials after their names to sound more professional. Remember that, in order to pull off a good scam, you only have to fool some of the people some of the time. These "initials" are generally not representative of genuine medical degrees, but are "titles" that were fabricated by that business practice as a whole – or that person, individually -- to bestow on those who have passed some sort of "training" and become practitioners of that treatment.
A simple check in your home dictionary can verify whether or not this person has a genuine lettered medical degree that actually exists (unlike an MRS). Also, you can check with your state to make sure this person is an actual, licensed doctor. However, remember that even if said person is a licensed doctor, that still doesn't guarantee quality of treatment.
One easy test is to ask your doctor how you could become a similar practitioner of the cure he or she offers. The answer to this can really reveal a lot. Specifically, finding out how long it took for him or her to receive his or her training can disclose quite a bit. And remember that even you or I could print out a relatively official looking medical certificate/license/document with a home computer.
Doctor . . . doctor?!
All along I have been calling practitioners of food allergy treatments "doctors." However, if you investigate it, you might (and will most likely) find out the person claiming to have a cure is not a "real" doctor. What's a real doctor? According to Webster's College Dictionary (Random House), a doctor is "a person licensed to practice medicine, [such] as a physician, surgeon, dentist, or veterinarian." However, some people have been known to call themselves doctors without having an actual doctor's license. It's pretty confusing!
My dad's a doctor. I would never trust him to give me brain surgery or even to remove a splinter from my finger. That's because he's a scientist. Yet there are also those who call themselves doctors without having had any sort of advanced college degree. They may have not even completed two year college, four year college or (yikes!) perhaps even high school. Thus, I am using the term "doctor" in this article very loosely indeed! I would never be so brazen as to call myself a "doctor" without having had the education, experience, and degree to make me one. Yet many people do.
Who wrote/published their literature materials?
When you first go in for treatment, you may be presented with free materials, or materials (books, brochures, flyers, etc.) will be available for purchase. Check to see who published the flyers and books. Sometimes a doctor will write his or her own book, and quote (and misquote) people, textbooks, etc. to support his or her own theor(y/ies). Often they will say things such as “studies say…” without giving a specific reference. Other references will not pan out. They will use for reference “my many patients,” etc. without giving specific references that can be double-checked.
Unearthing the history behind published works will take an incredible amount of work. This may be more than you are willing to do. However, it may save you time and money in the long-run.
I was personally diagnosed with a strange-sounding disease, and led to believe in it through reading a tiny little booklet from my "doctor's" office which was, of course, published and written by that practice's group. Come to find out, I don't have any such disease, and I have yet to find any MD who thinks it really exists. Hence, self-published materials can be really misleading, and the information within them may not necessarily be true. It could be completely fabricated.
Why are supplements really pushed?
Some doctors make much of their money through the sale of very expensive supplements. Sometimes these supplements are not approved by the FDA, are potentially dangerous, or contain your allergens.
The supplements are usually very costly, and this is often where the practitioner gets his/her biggest cut. So if supplements are pushed on you as a means to “build up” your immune system, this is something to question. Multi-vitamins are a different story, as people with severe (specifically multiple) food allergies may need a multi-vitamin. However, supplements for building up the immune system are genuinely unnecessary, as your immune system is overactive.
Another caveat emptor is to run all of the supplements, if you decide to take them, by your MD doc. This is because some of them can have deadly reactions with drugs (antibiotics, blood-thinners, etc.) you may already be taking. Also be aware that “all natural” doesn’t mean safe, though this is a term they often capitalize on. Remember things such as tobacco and poison dart frogs are natural, too.
Treatments can be dangerous?
Yes, they surely can be. Children especially can be in danger of treatments that haven’t been under the strict procedures of a testing program. Do not fall for statements such as that the treatment has gone through FDA-style testing. This means nothing. Check the fda.gov website – do a search for the specific treatment’s name. Generally you will find out that “FDA-style” does not mean it is approved by the FDA, but rather that the treatment is using the name to mislead you. Also check the FDA for the names of things you are prescribed to take (such as herbs). Sometimes doctors offering a treatment will say the government is “out to get us” or “against us,” and that’s why they are not mentioned on the site. They may also claim that there is some vast government conspiracy. If this is the case, generally you should truly be wary, and turn and run the other direction. That is, unless you believe that the government is also hiding green martians and Elvis somewhere ("thank ya, thank ya veruh much, yer a beautiful audience, thank ya").
A true treatment is one that has gone through rigorous testing and is the result of years of research. In the case of disease treatments, generally animals will have been tested. You will be able to find write-ups about the treatment in traditional medical journals (the kind that universities carry). Often “doctors” will say “I am the only person who knows how to do this…” If so, then generally that means it’s because that person doesn’t really have a real cure. A real cure for a disease would be something that would make someone millions of dollars. S/he would be on the evening news and would, quite frankly, be famous. Yet people in tiny little rented offices or on .com websites claim they have the only cure in the world, and that it’s 100% (or close to it) effective. According to the book Scams, Shams, and Flimflams (Gordon Stein and Marie J. MacNee, 1994), there was a man named Guido Franch who “asked automobile companies to pay him $10 million for a secret fuel formula they could neither see nor test before they paid him.” You wouldn’t experiment on your car – why would you experiment on yourself or your child?
Are these people just out for money? Or do they truly believe in what they are doing?
I honestly believe that some of the people probably believe in what they are doing and think it will genuinely help. The problem is that everything they do is flawed. They don’t perform real tests. They don’t follow up with patients to make sure they are genuinely cured (not that it matters, since these patients have not been diagnosed correctly, anyway), and they don’t submit their “cure” for peer review. Still, they may believe in what they do, especially because this may be something they learned in training by the person who invented/discovered the treatment.
However, I also believe that people are just plain and simply motivated by money. Many people in our society are . . . people tend to pick certain jobs for the assets involved. So yes, I do think they may be out for the money.
But this "doctor" is trying so hard to get to know me. Isn't that commendable?
Many practitioners are warm people, outgoing, and ask questions about your life. There are various reasons this may be the case, and it certainly isn't a guarantee. They may really care. They may know that we're used to doctors not listening to us. They may have more time to get to visit with their patients (and less patients than a "normal" medical doctor). They may try to connect on a more personal level with patients and talk about interests in common. While this may make you feel comfortable and that you are being listened to, it may also get to the point of being uncomfortable. Some of my appointments evolved into nothing but listening to things such as political views unrelated to health issues, for example. Another time, a doctor railed against the evils of sugar (any sugar) and red-facedly bawled me out about eating sugar and where it would end up making me go (a very hot place).
Be sure to speak up and let a doctor know if you feel the time you have paid for is not about your health. Regardless of the types of doctors you choose to go to, your appointments should address your health needs and questions and be handled in a professional manner.
Why are people (friends, relatives, etc.) upset if I question their peculiar choice of treatment?
It’s probably one of a few factors. These treatments can run hundreds or thousands of dollars, and insurance generally does not pay for them. Aside from that, we want to believe that we are being helped when we are sick. We also want to believe what we have been told by people…we want to trust the person from whom we are seeking treatment. Treatment isn’t all that can make people feel better. Hugs, animals, and even prayer have all been shown to help. A positive attitude can as well. Just having that extra someone to talk to can even help. Your friend really MAY feel better than before s/he started the treatment. Perhaps the treatment is even helping with another health problem that person had, thus making him or her feel better overall. Children can get better from their food allergies through avoidance, so if it’s a child this factor may account for some of the healing process. However, when it comes to something that can truly heal or cure people from legitimately diagnosed food allergies, that’s where we must draw the line. There just isn’t any treatment available that does that.
In other words, your friend’s elevator probably still goes up to the top floor. It’s just that when it comes to legitimately diagnosed food allergies completely disappearing in response to a treatment, the chance of that is pretty minimal.
Some of the Claims to Know Before You Go
When food allergies seem to be too much to bear, it can be tempting to turn to alternative treatments. When I was a teenager, my mother sought advice and treatments for me outside of the normal medical community. As a youngster with an inquisitive mind, I paid close attention to the comments made by these three people, and noticed that a lot of what they said sounded very similar . . . and somewhat suspicious.
People in the alternative treatment industry have several claims that are repeated in their testimonies. While you are ultimately responsible for whatever treatments you choose to pursue, knowing what those statements will be ahead of time--and thinking them through--may help you avoid confusion and better sort out the truth from possible fiction.
As always, be sure to address any questions you have with your allergist.
There is a cure in another country, but the US (or your country) will not allow it here.
If a cure existed for food allergies, the word would not be spread through a for-profit business or Internet website. Instead, if a cure truly existed for a significant and devastating disease, you would have known about the cure long ago from the news.
People are often too eager to believe there is a cure somewhere out there, just waiting to be found. Unfortunately, folk medicine that has been around for generations may seem "new" to us simply because we haven't heard of it. We also fail to realize that alternative medicine practitioners pick and choose what they feel will be seen as acceptable to western civilizations. In foreign countries, these practices are accepted and exist alongside treatments you may have heard of or tried. In some cases, folk medicine is controversial because, whether or not it works, it has helped contribute to animal species becoming endangered. The whole subject of folk medicine--and the controversies surrounding it--is much more global than we tend to realize.
People in other countries are (a) more healthy than we are, and (b) it's because their government allows this treatment.
There are many things that could account for the supposed better health of people in other countries, such as their less sedentary lives, less addiction to junk food, etc. Although "a" may be correct, it does not necessarily make "b" correct.
The government will lose money if this treatment gets out.
The government is often portrayed as a villainous entity that desperately wants your money. This is an easy thing to claim; after all, most people have a bone to pick with the government for one reason or another (taxes, gas prices . . . ). Focusing the blame on the government takes away any questions you may have on why the treatment has not been approved or mentioned by the government. The government is the enemy; this gets the treatment promoter away from having to explain why the government has not approved the treatment.
The government doesn't want you to know about this!
The government probably doesn't care if you learn about it or not . . . the reason you haven't heard about it is not a government conspiracy. It's probably the fact that the "cure" doesn't work, and is performed by a few practitioners. Remember that word-of-mouth is the best advertising. If something really worked, people would get the word out, no matter what the government thought. Be wary of this type of comment, because sometimes it is made because a company has been charged with illegal activity. They hope to discredit the government so that you won't take the government's findings seriously.
This treatment underwent FDA (or FDA-style) peer review.
Interestingly, the same treatments that blame the federal government also claim to have undergone FDA trials. This is easy enough to check. Go to the FDA website at www.fda.gov and search for the treatment. With one of the treatments that claimed this, the only mentions on the FDA website were about possible illegal activity . . . not approval.
The US government is going to get me for mentioning this to you, and I'm risking my reputation/freedom/safety by telling you about it. The first amendment actually provides a lot of freedom here, but the government may go after this person, if s/he is giving out medical information or performing medical treatments without a license. While this comes across as a "we're the victims here" type of comment, it may actually be a warning sign to avoid the advice or treatment being offered.
Look on the Internet for more information about the treatment.
The Internet is not a very regulated community now, because it is global. More things can be said on the Internet than in person or in print, so basically "anything goes." Because of this, the Internet is actually a great place to find unreliable and biased information.
Medical Community Complaints
Drug companies want you to be sick, because it helps them make money.
Prescription drugs cost a lot of money because of the amount of research money and years of work that go into them. While there is certainly improvement to be made in the prescription drug industry, rest assured that the scientists working there are not solely money-motivated. Since my father is a scientist who has worked in the drug industry, I do not see scientists as mindless enemies in white lab coats. Remember they, too, are real human beings. Many have been touched personally by illness and are devoted to finding cures for such diseases as cancer and food allergies. Portraying scientists and the drug industry as enemies minimizes all of the advances made in the medical community.
The most ironic part of this is that the person offering the "treatment" always does so with money strings attached. If the medical community is horrible for wanting to make money, why is this other "doctor"--who also asks for a check--any better?
To make this even more personal, I have been told by an alternative medicine practitioner that I am one of those people who wants everyone to be sick with food allergies, just so I can have a website about food allergies. Yes, that is my motivation, and that is why I refuse to spread the word about treatments. I found this quite interesting, considering I have serious food allergies myself. When people attack, attack, attack, it is often to take the focus off themselves.
Another important thing to remember is that traditional medicine has one thing going for it: clinical tests. Peer review. Scientific studies. Although prescription drugs may not be 100% safe, in most cases the possible side-effects and dangers are tested for and known before they are made available to the general public.
Researchers will never attempt to find a cure; they will only attempt to create prescription medications so that they can continually make money off people with diseases.
Sadly, managing or lessening symptoms is "easier" than finding a cure for a disease. While people like to blame drug companies and lump all scientists together, not all scientists researching diseases work for drug companies. Additionally, the fact that someone can find anything to lessen the effects of a disease should be looked upon as a positive . . . even if it is a medication that will "only" lessen the effects of a disease.
The scientists who discovered cures for diseases such as rabies (Louis Pasteur) and polio (Jonas Salk) did not make prescription pills to "manage" these diseases. Instead, they truly found ways to eliminate or treat them. Finding a cure for a disease would not preclude its discoverer from making money or, especially, from becoming world reknown!
People are not living longer or better lives than before. This is a trick of the medical community.
This statement always shocks me. Once you have family members who have been helped by traditional medicine, you realize that this type of statement has absolutely no basis in reality. My grandmother, for example, came down with juvenile diabetes soon after insulin treatments were created. She would have died if she had missed that by a year or so. My mom has had cancer four times and was saved four times. These types of claims are easy to dispute, even just by looking at the current lifespan compared to decades ago, and the amount of seniors alive today, and their quality of life with better medications.
I did not need to go to medical school to learn what I know.
But wouldn't you feel more assured knowing that your doctor did go through years of training? One way to respond to this is to ask what type of training one must go through to become a practitioner. In some case they will tell you how you could learn and/or go into business for yourself.
Your underactive immune system must be built up for the food allergies to go away. This can be done through taking supplements.
WAIT! This is one of the main mistakes alternative treatment practitioners make, and it's a red flag. People with food allergies have overactive immune systems. Why would you want to make your immune system even more sensitive? Food allergies are not caused by an overactive immune system and cease when it is balanced; they are genetically inherited.
Traditional medicine only treats the symptoms, whereas we treat the entire body, and heal the body.
This is an excellent claim. Many people are upset that medicine often treats the symptoms and not the problem. However, what proof is there that the treatment actually does address the entire body, and how can it change a person's genetic makeup?
We unfairly judge the medical research community when we say they try to make money by treating only the symptoms (through prescription drugs) and not the disease itself. It's easier to find something (i.e., a drug) that helps lessen symptoms than it is to find an entire cure for a disease. It's an honor that people are researching food allergies--we should be humbled and grateful!
It is easy to test for food allergies, and doesn't even require a medical test.
One of the ways I was tested for food allergies was by placing fingers on my stomach. Needless to say, it didn't have a very good accuracy rate, and my two friends who went to seek the same treatments mysteriously had the same allergies.
A real allergy test requires the drawing of blood, or "skin pricks." It is important to seek this testing from your allergist.
Sign on the dotted line . . .
You may feel pressured to make an immediate decision and agree to a certain length of treatment, or certain terms. As a teen, I had a year-long membership which came due to expire. My mom did not want to "subscribe" again. The "doctor" acted like I'd been helped all I could and was in good health, and the decision was up to me about whether or not I thought it would help to be treated more. I still felt horrible! It seemed odd that I was supposed to be cured in a year and yet did not feel the least bit better (indeed, I was worse; having been given dairy products by the practitioner). So I agreed to another membership.
Check, because you may be asked to sign something and write a check or hand over your credit card. Unlike with doctors where you pay for treatments as you go, you may be asked to pay for everything upfront, and sign a binding contract. As I went back to appointment after appointment, I felt silly because nothing was being done and nothing was being accomplished. As I decided to stop taking allergen-containing supplements, it seemed there was nothing to do at each appointment.
It would be best to say, "Don't sign anything without a lawyer reading it first." But a more realistic statement would be, "Don't sign anything yet." Before signing them, take home papers that "need" your signature--and read them very carefully, seeking advice for any words you do not understand, or anything else that sounds peculiar. Make sure you agree with everything that is stated. Most people don't read contracts. They sign their names without ever looking at what's written. Or they merely glance at them and ignore words that are "legalese." Or they try to read papers in the office, but understandably
can't absorb anything due to the high-pressure situation.
We also signed a contract agreeing to purchase supplements, and another, as mentioned, agreeing to a length of "treatment."
Read those papers before you sign them--don't sign them until you are comfortable with each and every word. This is difficult to do in times of anxiety, so it's always fine to have someone else not in the situation read them and offer an opinion.
You have not heard about this treatment because it is brand new. The treatment has to be new, or you would have already heard of it, right? The claim of being "new" is often used. In reality, the "cure" or "treatment" has likely been around for years or even decades. Perhaps only the name has changed--they often do. One of the treatments still saying it's new--and which is viewed with excitement by some individuals with allergies even to this day--is the one I tried 14 years ago. That's right. It's still called "brand new" to this day--as if it had just been discovered. Back then it was introduced to me as being new, too, and I believed it.
Again, the reason it is supposed to be new is because that helps explain why you have never heard of it. Being new also drums up excitement. I'm the first who ever heard of it! I'd better tell my friends! Friends like to tell friends about new discoveries. That is how they get their best advertising done. When something is new, it's exciting and word spreads quickly.
Why would they change the name? Because it helps the "treatment" appear to be new, and because it leaves little paper trail behind. Here's an example. Let's say you hear about a treatment and you get online to see what you can find out about it. If the treatment has recently changed its name, you may only get positive reviews they have put online. However, if you knew the original name, you may be able to find professionals discounting it.
"You can read more about this by looking us up online!"
Why would they say this? Because when someone tells you to look something up online, they probably realize you're going to find mostly positive material. Many people only look at the first page of "hits" after searching for something on a search engine website. If they can make sure all the first page of search results is positive information, then it's free advertising. The Internet is pretty unregulated with what types of claims can be made on it.
What many people don't realize is that treatment practitioners will even post on popular message boards so that they can drum up the Internet search results for their treatments. The now-defunct FAST board used to be spammed regularly by people offering treatments. One "doctor" railed into me like a steam-engine for removing his ad. I personally feel it is the responsibility of allergy groups to not allow treatment information of any kind--alternative or mainstream--on their message boards, due to this practice. However, there has never been an MD who has spammed FAST, to this day.
"You need to do this part yourself."
Watch out! If something looks strange, chances are it's a warning sign. At the "treatments" I went to, I had to use a needle on myself. Why? Now that I'm an adult, I realize the real reason is that they were not licensed to do so. Even as a trusting teen, I found this to be very odd. They would take me away from my mom so she wouldn't witness any of this. However, even when told, she was trusting enough not to think anything of it. When I asked them why I had to do this on my own (using a needle on yourself is a bit intimidating!), I always got evasive answers.
If something seems odd to you . . . trust your gut!
"You can still eat your allergens, in rotation."
The allergist who diagnosed me said to avoid the foods I was allergic to, period. One of the alternative doctors also told me to avoid my allergens, although the two he diagnosed me with were not done through clinical testing and were inaccurate.
However, two of the people I went to--a "health expert" who did not advertise herself as a doctor, but who gave free advice from a small office, and an alternative doctor--both told me to ingest my allergens. "The good will outweigh the bad."
I clearly remember the meeting with the woman, as she told my mom to buy garlic supplements for me on our way out of her office. This was after we had already informed her I was allergic to it and we weren't sure, but thought my response could be fatal. As we left, we felt the need to sneak out, not making eye contact with anyone who might try to thrust the supplements on us!
The other practitioner gave me a liquid dairy product. I took it, but realized on my own that ingesting it was causing allergic reactions and that, indeed, the good did not outweigh the bad. This doctor also advocated ingesting my allergens "in rotation," in order to lessen the chance of allergic reactions. In reality, that type of diet would have kept me having allergic reactions constantly.
It's important to speak to your allergist and other MDs about any advice you receive that is in direct conflict to theirs.
Personal Accountby JJ
My mom has had several different types of allergy "cures" done. But so
far she's not been cured by any of them. She's spent thousands of dollars
and even been promised that she was cured. We almost lost her (death)
from an allergic reaction after one of those treatments! It was
frightening because the practitioner promised her she was cured and
could be around my uncle’s dogs, then she got so sick that they had to leave in
the middle of the night, and she almost died.
I've been frustrated because she'll try almost anything and at first
will think it's working, only to have serious reactions later.
My brother has spent thousands of dollars and had "cures" done that
didn't cure. Now all his allergies, food and environmental, are coming
back. His practitioner told him that the environmental cures last for
only a season. But now they are re-treating his food allergies because
they are returning!
It makes me angry because my family has wasted thousands of dollars they
couldn't really afford for treatments that didn't work!
It also scares me because when they are told they are cured and then they are
around things they are allergic to, they have had serious reactions and
I'm afraid I'll lose them to a "cure."
Legitimate Newsworthy Information
My personal theory is that when/if there is a genuine cure or allergy breakthrough, we'll know about it! That's because the news will carry the story. The topic of food allergies is a big one right now. It makes sense that if there is a big change, it will be one we'll hear about on the news.
If you don't frequently watch the news, try searching for your favorite food allergy term, putting it in quotes (such as, "food allergies" or "egg allergies" for example), at one of the following news seach engines:
Be aware, however, that anything you find there may be a scientific study. These often do not pan out. Research is a long process and, unfortunately, peer review does not always prove successful, or a treatment may not prove to be safe. There are many factors that may keep it from coming to fruition, and research takes years. If you do choose to be an armchair researcher, always remember to view stories with a skeptic's eye and know that what is true in one study may not pan out in other studies. Many people have been overwhelmed with excitement over treatment/cure findings, only to later find out that the treatment/cure is not safe and will never be made available to the public.
Finding a Good Doctor
In my opinion, the worst doctor of all is one who brushes symptoms off. Some, if they can't think of an explanation for them, simply decide the symptoms are nothing important.
When I was a newborn, my parents were worried that there was something wrong with me. I cried incessantly and also had a facial rash. My mom, who was not a first-time parent and felt she had two otherwise-healthy children, was convinced I had colic. The pediatrician, however, told her there was nothing wrong, and added, "She's just high-strung." Nowadays experts say newborns cry for a few valid reasons. The only one that fit, since my basic needs were being met and because the crying was chronic, was that I was sick. Based on the pediatrician's "diagnosis," however, from that time on and into my mid-teens, it was established that I was an emotional wreck and creating my own illnesses through stress. This is not a bitter and disillusioned person talking; my parents said they believed this, and blame it on the pediatrician's words. One time, for example, my mom said I was vomiting because I'd been stressed by working on a craft, and made myself ill. "Schoolitis," making myself sick so as not to go to school, also was used as an excuse, although I had no fear of school. There were always ways to "explain away" why I was perpetually sick. As my parents continued to tell me this, it became ingrained in me, and I decided I was making myself sick. Even at age 16, when I became too sick to get out of bed, I worried in the back of my mind that I was doing all of this to myself and that I wasn't legitimately ill. Ultimately, my school ordered counseling, so I figured they felt the same. I gained confidence when the counselor declared me someone who was in fine psychological shape and petitioned the school to discontinue the mandated counseling.
By that time, my mom was convinced something really was wrong, but she decided to go toward unconventional medicine, since no answers had been found in conventional medicine. My family doctor just always said I had the flu and would be well tomorrow, surprising me, since I never was. However, these new kinds of doctors left me disillusioned, because the diseases they were diagnosing me with did not exist, and the treatments they offered made me sicker than I was to begin with. Additionally, though they said they treated the "entire body," they never found the root of the problem, as doctors of traditional/conventional medicine can through medical tests.
My feeling is that many, if not most, people who turn to unconventional medicine have done so as a result of having received little hope from conventional medicine.
What is the answer?
I personally believe that the answer is in conventional medicine meeting persistence. Perhaps you may find that the answer for you is conventional medicine and nontraditional medicine combined. We are all different. Since the age of 16, conventional doctors have diagnosed me with seven legitimate diseases, three or four of which were probably present in my youth, and two likely resulting from food allergies not being diagnosed in time. The number is listed only because I feel it's important for people to understand that you might live years with a disease before it's diagnosed. Many of us feel like we must be crazy if doctors can't find what's wrong with us. The problem is, you maybe just haven't had the right test performed on you yet. We live in an age where you really can know what's wrong. Even just a few generations ago, people didn't know what they were sick with when they were sick. Other words were used for illnesses, like having "consumption" or "spells," or being "delicate." Science has advanced by leaps and bounds and there is now hope for people living with an undiagnosed disease. Once a condition is diagnosed, there is then possibly hope or help for treating it, or at least alleviating the symptoms.
You can probably tell that I, too, lost a lot of trust in doctors through my negative experiences. In living through the lack of diagnoses, though, I've found some things that work well in finding and relating to doctors (general practitioners/family doctors); they are explained in somewhat chronological order below. I hope my experiences might help you. My hope is that you will be able to find a doctor who genuinely listens to your problems and takes the time to find out what is wrong. Of course, finding a good doctor has many more factors than those listed below, including making sure they are licensed, etc. That's also as important, but not what this article focuses on. Even if you follow all of these tips, it's not guaranteed that you will be satisfied with your doctor. The nice thing about choosing a doctor is that there are many to pick from on most insurance plans . . . so you can at least do a little shopping around.
To find a good doctor, make a list of what you'd like in a doctor, and then ask friends and family for recommendations of a conventional medicine/general practitioner doctor that fits those criteria. "Shopping around" for doctors is not easy--especially because of insurance. We have to rely on word-of-mouth and others' experiences. Let people know what qualities you want in a doctor, and ask them which ones that doctor has.
For example, from my own experience, I prefer alarmist doctors and would ask around for someone who would fit in with this preference. They are few and far between, but sometimes they can be the best to have. One doctor I was "testing" to become my normal doctor treated my health in a blasé attitude. Despite my having several health conditions and feeling ill, she told me I was a very healthy person. She also openly demonstrated that I was being silly for being upset about a major diagnosis I'd just had. She ended up giving me inaccurate advice in contrast to the mainstream medical community in order to talk down the condition, and she also lost a potential patient. On the other hand, I've had an alarmist doctor who ordered tests when I thought I had nothing wrong that would show up in blood work. Those tests discovered another health condition. Doctors who brush people off will rarely find the cause of health problems, and at the very least, they leave their patients feeling ignored.
You may also wish to ask around for a doctor who doesn't think s/he knows it all. These are the types of doctors more open to listening to you educate them, and as people with food allergies, we have a lot to teach them! One of my doctors listened to something I thought I had, but she didn't know much about it and wanted to read about it before offering any input. I got a phone call a few days later with a diagnosis of the condition. While it may seem alarming to hear a doctor say "I don't know," it also shows a lack of arrogance and an openness to learning and keeping up with current medicine.
Before your doctor visits, have a patient advocate lined up to go with you. Studies have found that people regularly miss what is said by doctors, and that it is always good to take along someone else who may hear things differently. A "patient advocate" sounds like someone you would hire, but it's really just a family member or friend who is open to cutting in to help your cause and provide an extra set of ears. If someone knows the ins and outs of your health, s/he would be the best person to have along. This person should also be encouraged to participate in the appointment, adding things you forget to say or reminding you of symptoms you wanted to point out--but not to the degree where you get distracted. Talk to him or her before the doctor visit and let him or her know what you want to be said and how much participation you expect.
Additionally, take along a list--and do so especially if an advocate is not available. Write down all you want to say on the list, and stick to your list. You may wish to rehearse what you will say, and try to make it clear and concise without leaving anything important out. Things you might want to write down, that you could forget at your appointment, include: the years medical-related events (such as surgeries, diagnoses, etc.) happened, what your symptoms are, and when they began. As you are giving out information, be sure to take it in. Take along a pad of paper and pen to jot down notes, and ask for print-outs of diagnoses or tests being ordered.
Before you visit your doctor about a suspected health condition, be educated. Go into the visit having a good idea of what you think you have. While some doctors may find this a bit backwards (after all, they're supposed to listen to the symptoms and provide a solution), I have yet to meet one who didn't like the fact that I went in with a good idea and something to launch from and refer to. Three of my diagnoses--each with a different doctor--were the results of this method. Of course, you must be careful not to attempt to fit into the list of symptoms available online or in medical journals. Some of us, when looking at lists of symptoms, suddenly feel we have all of them. This must be done with an objective mind. Make sure to stick with accepted medical websites so that you will get the most reliable information to launch from. Keep in mind that going in with an idea is not a shortcut or easy way toward diagnosis. Your doctor will still want to perform the necessary tests in order to determine whether or not the condition exists.
During the first visit, when you are asked about any possible drug allergies, be sure to specify your food allergies. Prescription drugs often (if not usually!) contain food-derived ingredients, and doctors may want to take note of the possibility of drugs containing your allergens. The last time I had an ear infection, the ER doctor worked to find one I could take through my ear in order to avoid the possibility of an allergic reaction. A former general doctor of mine put notes all over his office advising patients to tell him of any food allergies. A good doctor will already realize that this is a valid concern, or will at least listen to you when you explain that it is.
At your subsequent visits, tell about yourself or your most important concern. Doctors have an unbelievable amount of patients (their "panel size," as it is referred to, is often in the thousands), and while you can remember your doctor, don't assume your doctor remembers you from visit to visit or that s/he remembers your health issues. Yes, s/he has access to your charts, but that doesn't mean s/he remembers you. Sometimes it comes across that the doctor remembers you merely because s/he read your chart before going into your room. "So, you're here today about those pesky food allergies." "So, you had surgery a year ago. How are you now?" Be aware that this "memory" may not be a genuine memory, but a question in reference to a written record. Remind your doctor of what you have or why you are there.
Don't feel paranoid. Speak with confidence. If you're an adult with food allergies or a parent, trying to get a child diagnosed, don't feel paranoid that you're not being believed. Especially if the symptoms have been ongoing and especially if other doctors have been unable to diagnose the problem, you may feel emotional and upset. It's better to be matter-of-fact and levelheaded about what you have gone through so that you can convey the symptoms and situation clearly. While it may seem unfair, erupting into tears in a doctor's office may be counterproductive.
Don't feel rushed. Doctors nowadays have only several minutes set aside for each office visit. If you feel rushed, you may speed up or gloss over aspects of your health that you wanted to discuss. This is one reason having your list, as mentioned above, is so important.
Referrals are frustrating, but they can help. One time I was referred to an internist, who did nothing that really helped me. However, another time I was referred to a neurologist, and he did. It can be frustrating to be referred to a specialist and endure the wait for the appointment to come around, but it's important to acknowledge that the reason a doctor does this is because s/he knows something is wrong, but doesn't feel qualified to figure it out--that's why you are being referred to a specialist. It's not a sign of a doctor not believing you. It's a sign that s/he believes you, but feels someone else will be better able to help you.
If tests are ordered, normal/negative results do not mean "the end." I know from experience I always gave up after a normal test result, despite still feeling sick. There were many reasons, among them that I felt that the doctor had tested for all s/he suspected, I got tired of going to the doctor, or I got discouraged and didn't want to continue investigating it. If tests came back negative for the disease or condition a doctor thought I had, then I'd just give up. Normal test results don't mean you should give up--they mean the real reason for your health problems hasn't been discovered yet. They also indicate that it might be time for a second opinion, one of the cliché phrases in medicine. If I had never gone for a "second opinion" about my severe stomach problems, I'd still be on medication today for an "acidic stomach," a condition that I was diagnosed with rather than food allergies. Each doctor has a different idea for what the exact same symptoms might indicate.
Don't give up on finding a doctor who listens and cares. Going undiagnosed with certain health conditions is not only difficult and frustrating, but it can also be dangerous. Finding a doctor who will listen and help you is not an easy task, but it's one that needs to be taken seriously so that you can be as healthy as you can be. Good luck with your quest!