You may remember my blog of a weeks ago about the energy healer who contacted me, offering to cure me of food allergies which I don’t have, using untested and unorthodox methods.
It was obviously worrying. She seemed prepared to offer her ‘instant’ treatment, and then encourage her patient to consume their trigger food allergen, without any orthodox medicine or resuscitation equipment to hand. Her site confuses and conflates allergies and intolerances, and encourages self-diagnosis – ‘give it a go at home’ – of food sensitivity (including nuts and peanuts) using kinesiology.
I decided to ask either an allergist or allergy charity to try to intervene; it was clear the healer wasn’t going to listen to my concerns, and seemed genuinely convinced she had found a cure for food allergy.
It wasn’t easy. Several politely declined to get involved.
Allergy UK, though, raised their hand. Their nurse, Amena Warner, was happy to speak to the healer in order to voice concerns about her unvalidated methods of diagnosis and desensitisation. I introduced them via email.
I would like to be able to report a ‘happy’ ending to this, but a week or so on, Allergy UK’s PR officer contacted me, and admitted that the healer remained unmoved by Team AUK’s appeals. The charity has issued the following statement, which I’m happy to reproduce in full:
As a patient information charity, Allergy UK prides itself on providing access to factual and useful information in order to educate people about allergy and intolerances, how to manage the condition and the treatment methods involved.
We are aware that some individuals promote alternative methods of treating allergies and will claim to be able to use holistic approaches to cure the condition. Allergy UK will always try to educate these individuals about allergy and the science behind an allergic reaction so that they are aware of the dangers that they could be exposing a sufferer to, whilst using their alternative methods. Sometimes these people will take our advice and will thank us for pointing them in the right direction, but sometimes they are so passionate about what they do that they just do not see the reality of the dangers they are exposing people to.
Unfortunately on this occasion, they continue to promote their method of ‘healing’, despite us providing extensive clinical advice and highlighting the risks involved.
This is why awareness is so important. The more people that receive factual information about allergies, the less likely it is that sufferers will expose themselves to these kind of dangers as they will know about the real risks involved. We urge the public to share information from our website so that people can get the correct information and can make informed decisions about how they choose to manage their condition. If you have any questions about allergy or intolerances, please contact us on 01322 619898 or visit the Allergy UK website.
Allergy UK’s Allergy Awareness Week for 2015 starts today, the 20th, and runs until the 26th. The theme is Living in Fear (#livinginfear), which needs no further explanation. No doubt this week you’ll be hearing a lot about the emotional and psychological difficulties of living under the threat of an anaphylactic reaction.
The business of fear can be lucrative, argues an article which defines happiness as ‘freedom from fear’. People will pay for happiness – through the nose, quite often – and those living with the misery of allergy are vulnerable to both unscrupulous and deluded purveyors of treatments which promise that ‘freedom from fear’, essentially. The way to combat it, I’d like to believe, is through education and advocacy, and through supporting those – such as Allergy UK – who are doing it right. What other way is there? Campaigning or arguing for tighter regulation or legislation? Naming and shaming?
Next time something like this happens, I may respond differently. But for now, I don’t have the answers. Does anyone?
Sadly, we've got charlatans everywhere. I get incensed by the people (mostly chiropractors and acupuncturists) who claim they can "diagnose your health problems" by doing "live blood cell analysis". (total hogwash) Then, they tell these people they should go on (an unnecessary) gluten, dairy and soy free diet. They sell them supplements that do nothing but shrink their wallets.I've got nothing against chiros and acupuncturists,; I got something against scammers who take advantage of people who are struggling to find a solution to their poor health.Good on you for following through. Boo on this person for not listening to Allergy UK. Aside from calling them out publicly, I too wonder what can be done. I talk a lot about being wary of people who seem like they're frauds, but sometimes, when people are desperate, they try anything. I know. Before diagnosis, I tried the alternative route too when no doctors could figure out what was wrong with me. Of course, nothing was helpful at all. Since then, I am very vocal about some of the practices I see as being bogus. I hate to see people falling for nonsense and not getting the help they need. This is dangerous on several levels. Thanks for writing about this subject.
Thanks, IrishHeart! This treatment is under an hour and costs a substantial three-figure sum – but it's always hard to know whether they are charlatans or deluded … I actually suspect the latter, in this case …
Yes, agree…deluded is a better word. However, once presented with the facts, you'd think they'd reconsider.
You really would. But someone evangelical about a treatment is going to reject anything which challenges that dogma. If the evidence doesn't fit their picture, then the evidence must be wrong / must have been gathered in the wrong way …. that is, I imagine, how their thinking works and rationalises …
I completely understand sufferers frustration with finding diagnosis and wanting more answers and solutions to their symptoms. It is tempting to seek out any one offering tests and treatments when you feel ill especially over a long period of time. I have sought medical advice from NHS and private professionals and still have no true diagnosis. This frustration could easily lead to alternative and debateable therapists. However, I ask anyone in the same position not to risk their health by trusting people with little or no recognised qualifications or offering miracle cures. I hope that anyone with severe allergic reactions would firstly be diagnosed by the NHS and secondly be able to access accurate information through superb charities such as Allergy UK.
Exactly right. I've often said, if you want or are prepared to spend money, first try a private dietitian trained in allergy and intolerance – and, these days, FODMAPs too. Several hundred quid on a food intolerance test which orthodox medics do not recognise – or an amount in the same price range on a purported cure for a food sensitivity which may or may not even exist – is not money well spent. Several sessions with an RD may well be.
Oh man this maddens, saddens and worries me greatly. I have tried alternative therapies in the past through sheer desperation but nothing worked. I tried homeopathy, NAET, York Test blood tests and other things. However this lady is suggesting things that are truly dangerous.
I fear as long as we have a struggling NHS system which doesn't prioritise allergies and makes it very difficult for anyone to see a specialist due to the shortage of allergy experts in the country that people will slip through the net and resort to this kind of thing. This lady is offering hope to someone. On the face of it it must seem like finally someone wants to help, finally someone understands and that there is an answer but if a child with a peanut allergy went home and was fed nuts, without adrenaline available it could be disastrous.
I don't have the answers either. Just keep doing what you're doing. She hasn't contacted me but if she does she won't get anywhere. Frightening. I wonder how much damage she has already caused or is an accident waiting to happen?
Well I got the impression that there would be no going home – that the offending food would potentially be offered there and then, after the treatment, in her clinic.
Good point about the NHS, which I'd not really considered, and something the allergy charities have been campaigning to change for some years.
Let's just hope if and when a reaction does occur, that it is minor, and that it provokes a serious rethink …