Allergy Alternatives – NLP

October 17, 2008 at 5:15 pm (Alternative Medicine, Dangerously Wrong, Placebo, Woo) (, , , , , , )

A reader named Claire recently left a comment on my blog that included a link to Allergy Alternatives. I was surprised to see that they claimed to relearn your immune system by having a nice chat with you. I dropped them a line to find out more.

Dear Allergy Alternatives,

I was interested to read your website, featuring statements to the effect that you can provide an allergy treatment that is effective without
any drugs or supplements, that you help “re-educate [the] immune system”, and that the treatment “educates your immune system with the news that the allergen is not harmful“.

The treatment is apparently along these lines: “The process is largely conversational. We will discuss your allergy and its possible causes. You will explore any attachments that you may have acquired, ensuring that you are ready and eager to let this behaviour go. Using the power of your imagination through enhanced visualisation we will teach your immune system a new response.

Please can you send me further detail of how discussing an allergy with someone can teach their immune system to respond differently to the allergen? I would like this because I am interested in the actual mechanism of action of your treatment.

I would also like to see references to the trials that you or others have published which refer to the effectiveness of your treatment. I ask for these references because I would like to see what kind of clinical evidence you have for efficacy.

Kind regards,
Mr X.

Since sending this initial email, I’ve been pondering that someone out there would apparently tell people with genuine allergies that they can simply wish them away. Not only does it feel weird that they seem to be suggesting that allergies are something that you can wish upon yourself or wish away, but it seems to me it could be dangerous to tell someone you have relearnt their immune system as they could easily assume that this would mean they no longer had to take their antihistamines – or, in the worst case scenario, that someone with a serious allergy could be led to believe that it was safe for them to throw away their EpiPen. Now that I’ve spent five minutes thinking on these lines, I’m left wondering what the hell Allergy Alternatives are thinking. I have drafted a new email to ask whether they tell people with genuine allergies to maintain their prescription and keep hold of their EpiPen (not to mention continuing to see their GP). Reproduced below with original spelling.

[...]

Further to my previous email, I would also like to know if Allergy Alternatives advises patients to keep up their prescriptions of antihistamines and to continue to carry an EpiPen (if requried) and maintain contact with their GP?

Regards,
Mr X.

ETA: link.

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20 Comments

  1. Claire said,

    I should be interested to hear about any reply to your inquiry. The Allergy Alternatives site does seem to be bordering on recklessness. But a bit of googling indicates that this view of allergy appears common in NLP, given the existence of something called the NLP allergy techique .

    Those of us afflicted by itching, sneezing, hives and wheezing etc are well aware that psychological states can influence symptoms, the worsening of which can in turn increase emotional distress, and I do feel that many patients receiving conventional treatment for allergy and asthma would benefit from psychological support. But the NLP theory seems to me to go way beyond this into sheer bonkersness.

  2. Sceric said,

    I agrre with both of you. As I have a good friend (she still is and will be), that is going into NLP and probably trying to be a “teacher” in it, I asked her about the above link. She – at least – is aware that using NLP for lightening the load of people with allergies is probably feasible, healing is not. But she seems to involved with the German better-yourself-with-analyzing-yourself-trait of NLP.

  3. AntibodyBoy said,

    I am not aware of any evidence linking true allergy (atopy) to ‘psychological states’. Allergen-specific IgE and mast cells are either present in your subcutaneous tissue or mucosa, or they aren’t – they are supremely indifferent to whether you feel depressed, or are in a Bodyform commercial.

  4. Claire said,

    @Antibody Boy, I think I expressed myself badly above. I wasn’t suggesting at all that psychological factors on their own produce allergic responses – which is I why I find the NLP all-in-the-mind theory reckless and disturbing in its blame-the-victimness. But I have been told by doctors and nurses treating the chronic, allergy-related diseases affecting myself and my family (asthma, allergic rhinitis, eczema) that things like stress, anxiety or strong emotions can affect these conditions, which accords with my personal experience. GINA includes emotional triggers in their list of triggers. And by psychological support, I was thinking particularly of people or families where a child has had a diagnosis of severe food allergy. Proper diagnosis, avoidance of the allergen and having the appropriate rescue medications and training in their use are of course vital to managing this. But it can be extremely daunting to be told that a substance innocuous to most could possibly kill you and, for parents of children with anaphylaxis, it means activities most parents don’t give a second thought to, like going to birthday parties, can become occasions of anxiety, requiring planning and vigilance. This can have implications for family life.

  5. Claire said,

    Margaret McCartney had a piece recently on NLP in her FT blog . General rather than allergy related though one commenter makes the following claim:

    “…Another point I always find interesting is that of research. If you actually look a bit beyond the surface of eye accessing and representation systems, you will find that the phobia cure and the allergy relief pattern have been proven to work, and work better than medication and comparable techniques. …”

    He hasn’t responded so far to MMcC’s inquiry about evidence for this claim.

  6. jdc325 said,

    Thanks for the link Claire –
    Someone making claims for NLP in allergies and not backing them up? I think I can see a pattern developing here. Still heard nothing from AA, so have sent a reminder email. Not optimistic though…

  7. Claire said,

    Correction to post at 9:56am – enquiry rather than inquiry!

    Steven Novella gives his views of NLP in the field of counselling and mental health.

  8. Claire said,

    This looks like the NLP masterclass Margaret McCartney referred to in her blog.

  9. Rob Mesrie said,

    Thank you for your enquiry and I read your blog with interest and curiosity. I fully understand that for many people allergies are indeed a tremendous problem. They result in very dangerous and uncomfortable times for many sufferers. It is a great shame that they seem to be on the increase and there are very few remedies to assist suffers either in mainstream or complementary medicine approaches.

    At first glance the idea that the mind can be used to assist with an allergy is shocking and can be taken as an insult. However, it is not our intention to belittle in any way the severity or indeed reality of allergies. Nor are we saying that allergies are all in the mind – this is a ludicrous statement that is not our message either. Even though there is evidence that some people will suffer from an anticipated contact with an allergen (such as was the case documented by Dr MacKenzie when his patient suffered a reaction to a plastic rose), for many sufferers, this is not the case. Allergic reactions usually happen whether or not a person is aware if the presence of the allergen.

    That said, the whole study of Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is a medical branch of immunology, which specifically explores the use of the mind-body relationship and its effect on the immune and nervous systems. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychoneuroimmunology )

    Indeed the importance of the mind or expectancy in healing is noted by the concept of a placebo, which is not questioned even by the medical establishment.

    Experiments in the field of PNI have led to many interesting findings. Various experiments noted that rats’ immune systems could be affected or changed by conditioning. One experiment noted that rats could be taught to be allergic to something as harmless as salt water. This demonstrates the theme used by Allergy Alternatives http://www.allergy-alternatives.com that the immune system could be taught. And if it can be taught, it can be untaught. This is the part that as far as we are aware, PNI has not yet done experiments that support this view. However, it is a logical step and a step which we take beyond existing PNI findings.

    (As an aside, there is a case noted in many medical journals of patients with multiple personalities or identities who were allergic in certain personalities but not in others. see http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0ISW/is_274/ai_n16359703 . Again this demonstrates the tremendous importance of the mind in producing symptoms which are incongruous to the identity of an individual)

    At Allergy Alternatives we strive to ensure that we have safety as the highest priority. We never knowingly have an allergen on the premises when treating a client. We treat at an Integrated Medical Centre where trained GPs are present should they be required (although thankfully this has never happened). We always recommend that patients continue with their medical treatments until it has been changed by their GP or allergy clinic.

    Not all our treatments are successful. However, we have never known any side effects and the majority of our clients are happy living a very different existence free of their allergy symptoms. We are proud of our results and would recommend the process to anyone suffering from specific allergies. You also mentioned clinical trials. We are looking to work with the Institute of Advanced Studies of Health to raise the sufficient funds to perform such trials. We will keep you informed of our progress.

    We hope this has assisted your understanding of the way in which we work. Further information can be found at http://www.nlpu.com/Articles/article9.htm or http://www.allergy-alternatives.com

  10. Claire said,

    Thank you for replying Rob. I have to say, my concerns about your approch are not allayed. This in particular concerns me:

    “This demonstrates the theme used by Allergy Alternatives…that the immune system could be taught. And if it can be taught, it can be untaught. This is the part that as far as we are aware, PNI [Psychoneuroimmunology] has not yet done experiments supporting this view. However it is a logical step and a step which we take beyond existing PNI findings…”

    Are you saying you are happy to provide a therapy in conditions which can, occasionally, be fatal, even though there is no good peer reviewed medical evidence of its efficacy and safety? I find this alarming. Asthma UK and The Anaphylaxis Campaign are, in my experience, two very sensible organisations. They will tell you that when adverse outcomes occur in these conditions, it can be because they were not taken seriously enough.

    Also, you mention the Institute of Advanced Studies of Health but don’t provide a link. Where is this Institute based and is it part of a university medical school or linked to any government health department?

  11. Rob Mesrie said,

    The perspective that is raised in this point is somewhat different from that which was my intention.

    To be clear, in the Allergy Alternatives process, there are no allergens present in the building. Clients are requested not to change their medicines without consulting their GP or allergy clinic. The client is kept safe at all times. The client is fully conscious at all times. The client and the practitioner have a conversation with words.

    I would also like to add my support to organisations mentioned such as Asthma UK and the Anaphylaxis campaign which do excellent work in the field.

    Points were also made about references to IASH. You can find links to IASH here http://www.nlpiash.org/dnn/ . IASH has begun collating and performing specific research, co-ordinated by Frank Bourke Ph.D. Details of this research so far can be found here http://www.nlprandr.org/ The first International NLP Research Conference was held at The University of Surrey in July 2008 where research was collated and also plans made for future research. The link is http://www.nlprandr.org/UniversityofSurreyAbstracts/tabid/213/Default.aspx#Witt

    This includes research done by Dr Klauss Witt who noted as follows:

    In a randomised study was with help of psychological tests, a diary of medical consumption and ailments and skin prick tests as a read-out system examined, how NLPt (like the Hildesheim Health Training) influences the allergic immune function on birch pollen allergic humans. The results of the study were: (1) In comparison to the people of the control groups the participants of the NLPt-HHT-groups experienced highly significant improvement in all psychological diagnostic measurements; (2) The in vivo results demonstrated a significant difference between the treatment groups in both, symptoms and medicine consumption; (3) The force of the allergic reactions showed a drastically decrease during the following season of birch pollen. It seems possible to influence immune function like allergies and the (subjective covariate) state of health by NLPt.

    Allergy Alternatives welcomes and supports the investment in further research in this area. It is hoped that with more and more research, sufferers of allergies will be helped to re-train their immune systems and so no longer suffer the horrible symptoms associated with allergic reactions. For more information, please call 0845 123 2811.

  12. Claire said,

    Regarding the Witt paper, I can only access the abstract which doesn’t give any information about the study size or if/how it was blinded. Also, have the findings been replicated by independent researchers not affiiated to NLP? The IASH appears to be an NLP institute.

    My position remains, I’m afraid, Rob, that you make extraordinary claims – retraining immune systems etc – regarding a condition about which the conventional medical consensus is that it it not curable, though subject to remitting/relapsing patterns. I remain of the view that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

  13. Kat said,

    I think the best claims are to actually try the techniques. I don’t know anything about allergy alternatives. I have seen NLP used to cure all sorts of allergies – including mine.

    I guess my thoughts are that there are the front runners – like myself. I had horrible food allergies that completely constrained my life for 10 years. At a certain point I was willing to try anything to get over them. I did try NLP and it worked.

    Then there are the hesitant people. People who wait for double blind peer reviewed studies. I have one friend who doesn’t believe in vitamins, because the AMA hasn’t come out with an article saying that they are useful. I find the blind faith in AMA studies, or the like, ridiculous!

    It sounds like these folks have a much more rigorous set-up than most allergy clinics, and get much better results. Why don’t you just try it for yourself, and see if it works. Doesn’t sound like much harm could come of it.

    I’m just saying.

  14. Dan Roland said,

    NLP has been identified as one of a top ten most discredited interventions:

    http://knol.google.com/k/joe-greenfield/neurolinguistic-programming/2j6nlcky7q5vo/2#

    The harm that comes of NLP is the same as the harm from all pseudosciences. It makes people talk crap and waste their time on nonsense. That may be harmless if there is nothing particularly wrong with you for a short time. But long term people will be making life decisions based upon it, and in a bad situation they will be spending resources on nonsense rather than getting the job done.

  15. jdc325 said,

    “The harm that comes of NLP is the same as the harm from all pseudosciences. It makes people talk crap and waste their time on nonsense.”
    I like your thinking here Dan. Thanks for commenting.

  16. Isobel Jaques said,

    I’m fascinated by the diverse range of views and opinions. Who’s your “go to” guy?

  17. Hugh said,

    Very interesting.

    While therapy might make allergic life less unpleasant for some, it seems very dangerous to be offering nlp for allergy and criminal to promote the idea of allergy as having psychological pathogenesis without sound evidence.
    Claire made a good point: ‘extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence’

    Does anyone know of a good review on psychoneuroimmunology?

  18. Clif Westin said,

    I’ve been taught this process by Tim Hallbom, here is the process as he teaches it.

    http://www.nlpca.com/DCweb/Allergy_Process.html

    The above should cover your question ABOUT the process. As for the extraordinary evidence; for me, I had seasonal allergies relieved while learning the process. I have since used this process to alleviate pet allergies with a number of people and I have been able to alleviate lactose intolerance in one person as well.

    I agree that a large study should be conducted on this to give the general populous that don’t understand what the processes is about, the ammunition needed to make a reasonable decision. On the other side of this statement, without such a study, it’s also hard to condemn the process.

    For those that feel this is dangerous. It is always recommended to validate the outcome of this process with a medical professional. If you have sea food allergy and you try this process, go back to the Dr. and have them run the tests again. For the love of all that is holy, don’t take anyone’s word for anything, certainly if you have a condition that could kill you.

  19. clif westin said,

    here’s the you tube video for the the link above. The above goes over the technique and background and has the transcript of this video:

    http://allergies.daelg.com/2011/02/13/allergies-nlp-allergy-demo/

  20. Christopher Bartow said,

    “I had a five minute hypnosis session with Christopher Bartow for the matter of dog allergies. I have been thinking whether or not this has worked. For the last two weeks I have been fostering dogs with no allergic reaction, I have concluded that my allergies to dogs have been cured! If you are skeptical of hypnosis then you should try it. If you don’t think this exists, try it for yourself. It’s not the Hypnotist doing anything, it’s how you go about in your own consciousness. It’s extremely hard to explain but if you have allergies, depression, addiction etc…… Just try a session with Ellensburg Hypnosis and see if it works for you. This is not voodoo or anything like it. Try it for yourself, if my allergies were cured in five minutes, imagine what could happen in an hour!!!!” Jonathan Arthur”

    In fact, this was just the NLP allergy cure.

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