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The Allergy Volcano

by Jennifer Worth(more info)

listed in allergies, originally published in issue 27 - April 1998

Allergic diseases are increasing world-wide. It seems that we cannot adapt to the environment we are creating, and the allergy volcano is erupting fast. Western scientific based medicine is ill equipped to deal with this, and complementary medicine, which is based on ancient wisdom and experience gathered over centuries, cannot cope with this modern phenomena either.

Atopy is the inherited tendency to develop allergies and throughout the centuries some people have always been allergic to certain things, grasses, pollens, feathers, etc., and have known that they must be avoided. The industrial revolution brought with it a number of strange new illnesses, and the term "allergy" was coined by Baron Clement Von Pirquet in 1906, a paediatrician working in Vienna. Von Pirquet used this new word to describe "an acquired, specific, altered capacity to react to physical substances on the part of the body." Von Pirquet also introduced into the language the word "allergen" to describe the substances that brought about these chemical changes.

The Allergy Volcano

In the last 50 years we have seen the immense increase of chemicals in the soil, air, water, food; metals entering the body; thousands of drugs; electromagnetic waves of all frequencies in the atmosphere. All these things are causing much chronic ill health. The human body cannot adapt. Sensitivity can be acquired to anything, damaging the immune system, and once acquired a chain reaction starts involving other seemingly unrelated substances, which then become allergens.

A wide range of allergic diseases results, affecting 1 in 3 adults in Europe, according to the European White Paper, June 1997.(1) Every organ of the body can be affected: the respiratory system; the skin; the heart and venous system; the gastrointestinal system; lymphatic and endocrine systems; the muscular system; the reproductive system; the kidneys; the eyes; the ears; the mucous membrane; the synovial membranes; and most insidious of all, the brain, the nervous system and the personality.(2) Suppression of the immune system occurs which will precipitate further illness through infection, which the body cannot resist.

Inadequate Training and Research

Most of the illnesses arising are not considered as diet/environment related. Even the "classical allergic diseases" asthma, eczema, hay fever, etc., are treated as a lung or skin problem, not as allergic diseases. Doctors trained in the tradition of Western scientific medicine are taught on a system-based view of the body, with drugs that will treat or suppress symptoms. Thus it is not unknown for a patient to see a dermatologist for eczema, a respiratory specialist for asthma, a gastro-enterologist for bowel problems, a gynaecologist for PMT, a rheumatologist for arthritis, an optician for blurred vision, a cardiologist for tachychardia and a psychiatrist for panic attacks or depression. None of these specialists will get to the root of the problem.(2)

There is no training in allergies, and there is no post-graduate training either, for doctors in the U.K. The EEC White Paper(1) analyses the training and practice of all European countries and is severely critical. It states that most people with allergic symptoms first consult their doctors, who are for the most part inadequately trained in the diagnosis and management of allergic disease. Consequently, a misdiagnosis is frequently made, and the patient treated inappropriately.

All health workers within the NHS are involved. Nurses, midwives and health visitors have no training in the proper management of allergic diseases. Nurses specialising in asthma or eczema are trained in the administration of drugs, and not in the identification and elimination of allergens. Nurses specialising in arthritis and related diseases are not even taught that they are dealing with an allergic disease at all.

Health Visitors see a great deal of allergy related problems in babies and young children, and the Central Advisory Board of Health Visiting is trying to come to terms with this and improve health visiting training in this area. But it is very difficult, as there is so little lead from the medical profession.

When it comes to food allergies, even dieticians have only a smattering of knowledge. Until 1986 the subject was not included on the dietetic students' syllabus at all. Since then it has been introduced on the average of between two and six hours' lectures, with no clinical experience. Even this is non-obligatory, and will not be examined, which means in practice, that the student can skip those lectures if she wants to.

Slowly things will change though, in the U.K. In 1997, Professor Jonathon Brostoff was awarded the first professorship in allergies in the U.K., enabling a chair for the research into allergic diseases to be founded at University College Hospital, London.(3) This is a significant breakthrough, Professor Brostoff is a brilliant allergist, and an internationally known figure in this field. His stated objective is:

"Through the Allergy Research Foundation (1996) we hope to establish a post-graduate diploma in allergy and environmental health, and better treatment for patients with food allergy, food intolerance and environmental reactions, with top class research leading to diagnostic tests which would be the most crucial intervention to benefit the health of hundreds of thousands of patients."(4)

A post-graduate diploma in allergy and environmental health will mean that doctors can be properly trained and it is hoped that this will filter through to general practice, as well as specialist units in hospitals. I hope that nurses will be trained also, so that we can have special allergy nurses in general practice. Above all I hope that proper treatment will be available on the NHS.

All this is in the future, and in the meantime most people with allergic diseases have to diagnose and treat themselves. It is depressingly rare to meet someone who has had expert medical treatment. For this reason I believe that the public are entitled to as much knowledge as possible, so that they can help themselves.

The Crisis in Childhood Allergies

Before continuing with suggestions for self-help, I would like to say a special word about children with allergic diseases.

At a conservative estimate 1 in 8 children now have asthma or eczema or both. Headaches, chronic fatigue, muscle pains and weakness, stomach cramps, diarrhoea, Crohn's disease, perennial hayfever, obesity, juvenile arthritis, persistent respiratory infections are all on the increase among children. So is the hyperkinetic syndrome with varying degrees of hyperactivity, uncontrollable behaviour, irritability, violent mood swings from depressed and weepy to over-excited, inability to concentrate, aggressive behaviour.(5) They are all related to allergens encountered in the diet or environment, though largely unrecognised. Drugs given to combat the symptoms only make matters worse, because all drugs are chemicals, and any chemical introduced into a young underdeveloped body can provoke an allergic reaction.

Many babies are born today with an allergic disease, or develop it soon after birth, and this is due to allergens from the mother's blood stream entering the foetus, so that the child is sensitised before birth. The baby is frequently prescribed steroids, which reduces the immediate inflammation, but which will compromise an undeveloped immune system, preparing the ground for further trouble.

Any pregnant woman, with a history of allergies in the family who is worried, is advised to contact:

* Foresight, (Association for Pre-Conceptual Care), 28 The Paddock, Godalming, Surrey. This organisation can advise about controlling the inherited atopic tendency.

I advise any parent of a child with suspected allergic disease to join one, or more, of the charities who help and advise.

  • Action Against Allergy, Box 278, Twickenham, Middx TW1 4XQ
  • National Society for Research into Allergies, Box 45, Hinkley, Leics. LE10 1JY
  • British Allergy Foundation, 30 Bellgrove Road, Welling, Kent DA16 3PY

How Allergens Enter the Body

The range of allergies is vast, and increasing annually. The range of allergic diseases is also vast. The whole thing is quite bewildering.

However, it is possible to synthesise into broad groups, which make it easier to understand. Allergens will enter the body by one of four routes:

  • Ingested
  • Injected
  • Inhaled
  • Contact

They all overlap and a specific sensitivity acquired to, say, an inhaled allergen, can trigger off sensitivity to a contact or ingested allergen, which had hitherto been harmless. However, I will treat them separately for clarity.


Allergies are a controversial subject, but nothing seems to provoke harsher scorn or disbelief amongst medical people than the statement that certain commonly eaten foods make some people ill in specific ways, different to each person in both cause and effect. No blood tests are available which prove an altered reaction in the body, even though the symptoms are observable. In fact, no tests of any sort are reliable in detecting food intolerance. The only reliable method, at present, is a very strict elimination diet, followed by carefully controlled challenge reintroduction of foods. This is a very complex process, difficult to achieve, and if not accompanied by meticulous attention to detail, will be unsuccessful.

Masked food allergy must here be considered. This was discovered by Herbert Rinkel in the 1920s(6). It can be likened to smoking. The first cigarette tastes unpleasant, and frequently makes the smoker ill, but then he has another, and another, and the unpleasant effects go, and the body seems to adapt to smoking. Very soon the body seems to need the nicotine in the blood stream, and if it is absent, unrest and craving develops, which is only satisfied by a cigarette, to raise the nicotine level in the blood.

Masked food allergy is surprisingly similar and closely linked to addiction(7). In fact many specialists say that addiction = allergy and vice versa. Favourite foods are always the culprit, and the body seems to crave the very foods that are the most allergenic. This is because adaptation has taken place, and the body can function (up to a point) as long as particles of the allergen are present in the blood stream. It is always commonly eaten foods that are involved – milk, wheat, corn, sugars, eggs, potato, tea, coffee, chocolate. These are virtually the staple diet of western countries and it is very hard indeed to give them up even for a short time.

However, given up they must be, along with many other things (probably). For an elimination diet to succeed, two golden rules must be observed:(8)

1.) Every trace, even microscopic particles, of an allergenic food must be eliminated from the diet in order to unmask a masked food allergy, or intolerance.

2.) All potential allergens must be eliminated at the same time. No benefit will be gained from eliminating two or three allergens if a further two or three remain in the diet provoking symptoms.

There is no doubt that incidence of food allergy and food intolerance has increased dramatically in both severity and incidence over the past ten to twenty years. For example, fifteen years ago few people had even heard of anaphylactic shock. Now there are few people who have not. I cannot believe that throughout history large numbers of people have experienced severe illness from commonly eaten foods. Yet this is the case today. Why? A widespread altered reaction (allergies) to physical substances (allergens) first observed and named over 90 years ago by Von Pirquet is now becoming dangerously endemic.

Chemical food additives, of which there are now over 40009 in our western diet are a contributory cause. So is residue on foods left from farming, pesticides, fungicides, etc. Fluoride and other chemicals in water can also contribute. Some people are acutely chemical sensitive, and improve greatly by buying only organically grown foods(10) or drinking natural spring water, or by having a reverse-osmosis water filter fitted. It is certainly worth a try, but it is unlikely to be the whole story. The actual foods themselves seem to cause most of the trouble, possibly because the overload of chemicals ingested create an altered reaction in the gut, which then triggers off an allergy or intolerance to other natural substances.

It must not be forgotten that virtually all drugs and patent medicines are chemicals. We all take a great many of these things in one way or another, and this must contribute significantly to an increased sensitivity in the gut to other ingestants.

A connection with candida albicans exists(11), but no-one is quite sure how closely this relates to allergies, or how much chronic ill health it causes. Allergists are divided, and there are many theories, none of them proven. A widely accepted theory is this: Candida is a yeast spore occurring naturally in the gut. Antibiotics, steroids, hormone tablets, and many other chemicals ingested destroy the natural microscopic flora of the gut allowing the yeast spore to proliferate parasitically. This can have the effect (the theory goes) of the roots of the spore penetrating the gut wall. This creates a leaky gut, through which microscopic particles of food, and the yeast, enter the blood stream, thus penetrating the entire system and causing multiple problems.

However, opinions are divided. I know an eminent specialist who says that all the patients he sees have a candida overgrowth, which if treated properly will cure the patient(12); I know another who says there is no such thing as a candida overgrowth, but that the trouble is caused by an allergic reaction to yeast(13); yet another says that the candida albicans is not to blame at all, but another as yet unidentified organism(14).

Only theories exist, but whatever the cause there is no doubt at all that large numbers of chronically sick people improve dramatically when properly treated for candida overgrowth. This consists of anti-fungal drugs prescribed by a doctor; massive doses of bacillus acidophyllus to restore gut biosis, and a strict no sugar, no yeast, low carbohydrate diet. The candida support group is very helpful and can be contacted:

* Candida Support and Self-Help Group, All Hallows House, Lesser Halings, Tilehouse Lane, Denham, Middx UB9 5DG

So overloaded is our western diet with refined carbohydrates, sugars, milk, eggs and chemical additives that many people think there is nothing left to eat, if you eliminate them all. This is not so. Historically the diet of man has been the hunter/gatherer foods, that is meat, fish, fruits, nuts, berries and plant leaves and roots. This is called The Caveman Diet(15) and is what we are best adapted to eating.(16) However, anyone can be allergic to anything, and certain patterns are evident. For example, people with the arthritis/gout/psoriasis group of illnesses must have very little meat, no meat fat, and a high fruit diet(17). Those with asthma/eczema/rhinitis symptoms must beware the fruit and nut allergens(18). Elimination is very complex, requires careful understanding, and the guidance of an allergy specialist is desirable.

It must be stated that elimination and reintroduction of foods should never be attempted on a child without expert supervision. This is because there is increased sensitivity in the body after a period of elimination, and on reintroduction a child can react violently, even with anaphylactic shock, which can be fatal.

After five or six days of the correct elimination diet, an improvement is usually seen, and after three weeks a dramatic improvement. Then challenge reintroduction can be started. This entails one new food every five days, allowing time for the gut to clear. It is far from simple, and contains many unsuspected pitfalls, which is why expert medical guidance is so necessary.

Most people on reintroduction prove to be allergic or intolerant to about six to ten different foods (19) and remain healthy if they refrain from eating these foods. However, this is not the end of the story because allergies shift and change all the time, and new sensitivities develop. Anything commonly eaten can become a new allergen. To avoid this occurrence, all allergists advise a rotation diet,(20) which entails eating any one substance on a five day rotation basis only. This allows time for the gut to clear before it is consumed again.

Hypo-allergenic vitamins and minerals are advisable, but this can be a minefield because they must not only be hypo-allergenic, but must be taken in correct proportions, as an overdose of one will prevent the absorption of another. Generalisations would be dangerous within the space of a short article, and the correct medical guidance must be sought. The training of a doctor does not equip him to deal with food allergies or the food supplements that are needed.(1) A specialist must be sought. There are two societies of specialist doctors:

* British Society of Allergies and Environmental and Nutritional Medicine (BSAENM), Box 28, Totton, Southampton, SO4 2ZA

* British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 66 Weston Park, Thames, Ditton, Surrey, KT7 0HL

Nutritionists are usually well trained in food allergies, and a qualified practitioner in most areas can be located on application to the:

* Society for the Promotion of Nutritional Therapy, Box 47, Heathfield, Surrey, TN2 8ZX

Dieticians have very little training in food allergy, but some have made a special and private study of the subject. Before consulting a dietician, one should enquire if they have specialised in allergies. Action Against Allergy (address given) carry a register of specialist dieticians.

Due to the limitations of medical and dietetic knowledge about food allergies and intolerance, a good many untrained people are entering the market, purporting to be able to test, diagnose and treat allergic diseases. Great caution should be exercised before consulting such a practitioner. Food allergy and intolerance are due to biochemical changes of unimaginable complexity, requiring years of study to understand. Untrained people can be very dangerous.


Anything injected goes straight into the blood stream and is carried quickly to all parts of the body. Wasp and bee stings, jelly fish stings, snake venom are all examples. Wasp stings, which always create an allergic reaction, can in some people prove cumulative and the total load can be fatal.

Medical injections are relatively new and can be damaging to the body in unsuspected ways. Whatever the drug injected, it will be a chemical compound which can trigger off allergic reactions in some people. Additionally, the active ingredient of the drug administered is frequently preserved in phenol, which is a highly allergenic substance when introduced into the bloodstream. Medical injections may interact with other allergens in the bloodstream.

Gulf War Syndrome is an example. A number of drugs was injected into young men and women in perfect physical health, who were then subjected to a bombardment of insecticide sprays. These young men are now chronic invalids, displaying many of the symptoms of allergic disease: chronic fatigue, muscle pain and muscle weakness, gastrointestinal problems, hair loss, skin rashes, repeated infections, tinnitis, loss of concentration and memory lapses, impotence and depression. The cocktail of drugs will never be identified, due to MoD secrecy laws, and the pharmaceutical companies are also protected by secrecy laws second only to the Official Secrets Act in stringency. However, the interaction of drugs with pesticides cannot be doubted, even though it cannot be monitored. The EEC report(1) emphasises that different contaminants may interact with each other.

The MMR inoculation (measles, mumps and rubella) introduced in 1986 is implicated in a number of reports of infantile illness, ranging from an obvious allergic disease like eczema to hyperactivity and autism, and severe mental impairment. This is a controversial area because the benefits of inoculation during this century are self-evident and the Ministry of Health say there is no danger from the MMR vaccine.

However, reports of severe mental and physical damage to infants are so numerous that they cannot be ignored. It is possible that whilst any one of these inoculations is in itself harmless, the three given together may interact with each other. Any parent worried about this should contact:

* Justice, Awareness and Basic Support (JABS), 1 Galsworth Road, Goldborne, Warrington, WA3 3RF.

Inhaled Allergies

This is as big a subject as food allergy, and possibly more difficult to avoid. The air we breath today is polluted in a thousand ways. Traditional inhaled allergens have always been related to such things as pollens, grasses, animal dander and fur and feathers, and the people affected have known that these allergens must be avoided. Certain industries, such as tanning, stone masonry, wool manufacture, dying and weaving have also been problematic to atopic people prone to develop allergies.

It is generally thought that inhaled fumes of any sort affect only the lungs. This is not so. Anything entering the lungs will find its way into the bloodstream and can provoke an allergic reaction in any part of the body. This is hard to credit, but reports of farmers who have inhaled and had contact with organophosphates are well substantiated, and illnesses reported are similar to the Gulf War Syndrome. Many people have experienced a severe allergic reaction to something inhaled. This can cover thousands of things like paints, varnishes, domestic pesticides, adhesives, garden sprays, gas, perfumes, washing powders. The list is endless. The reaction can be headache, vomiting, weakness, light-headedness – in fact, any of the symptoms of allergic diseases, although most of them will not be recognised as such.

It is generally thought that heavy traffic is responsible for the increase in asthma in children, but this is not necessarily so according to the EEC White Paper.(1) (Although when I see babies in the modern low prams, facing away from the mother towards the traffic and in direct line with the exhaust pipes of vehicles, I cannot help but wonder. The old fashioned high pram with protective sides and the baby facing the mother seem much safer.)

The EEC White Paper suggests that domestic fumes, coupled with hermetically sealed houses, are more likely to be the trigger.(1) Our homes are filled with toxic substances emitting chemical fumes of which we are quite unaware, but which we breath all the time. Anything that can be smelt is obvious, and virtually all modern cleaning materials are of a chemical origin, are highly perfumed and are highly allergenic.

However, the things that have no odour at all are just as dangerous, such as formaldehyde, plastics, polystyrene, modern paints and varnishes, insulating materials, synthetic fibres, dirt-repelling finishes on furniture and carpets, fire retardants in furniture and mattresses(1) (an allergic reaction to fire retardant chemicals in babies' cot mattresses are implicated in the rise in cot deaths).(21)

All these substances, and many more not mentioned, give off chemical fumes, especially as they get warm, which add to the total load on the body from other sources. All can interact with each other and contribute to the increase in allergic diseases seen this century.(1)

Open windows, open fireplaces, less insulation, cool draughty houses, are the only means of blowing the fumes away.

Anyone with an allergic disease of any sort must make an intelligent and objective assessment of their living and working environment, must recognise that all these things will contribute to their problems, and seek advice from one of the charities mentioned earlier or

* British Asthma Campaign, Providence House, Providence Place, London N1 0NT.

Contact Allergens

These are things that touch the skin and provoke an immediate reaction. An obvious example would be stinging nettles and many other plants, moulds and fungi. The skin is mainly involved and many sorts of rashes and skin inflammation occur through contact.

However, contact overlaps considerably with inhaled allergens and no-one can be quite sure where the real trouble lies. For example, is a skin reaction from contact with a cat due to touching the cat's fur or to inhaling the dander from the cat present in the atmosphere? Or both? No-one can answer this for certain, and although most dermatologists would not agree, I am certain that eczema and dermatitis are just as much caused by ingested, injected and inhaled allergies as they are by contact allergens. It is true that anyone with eczema can be driven mad with itching from contact with wool, nylon, grasses, soaps and many other things, but these things are only an external aggravation. They do not cause the eczema which is already coming from within. Avoidance of these contact allergens is essential and the National Eczema Society at: 163 Eversholt Street, London NW1 1BJ offers invaluable advice. However, avoidance of contact allergens alone will not cure the eczema.

House dustmites are an inhaled and contact allergen and may contribute to the increased incidence of asthma and eczema in the last 30 years. It is currently being studied by researchers.(22)

Mankind has always lived with the house dustmite without, apparently, much ill effect, but there seems to be excessive numbers of these minute creatures in houses today, probably due to warmth, humidity, insulation, soft furnishings, fitted carpets and other modern comforts, all of which encourage their lives and breeding cycles.(1)

Trying to get rid of them by various patent sprays will only make matters worse for the atopic person because the chemicals in the spray will contribute to the total load of chemical allergens in the house. Killing them by freezing with a liquid nitrogen spray will certainly help and will not harm the individual, but the benefits will not last for long unless other measures are taken. The only real answer to the house dustmite is a total change in living conditions, which is far from attractive. No-one wants to go back to bare floors with cold air blowing through the cracks, hard furniture, ill-fitting windows, unheated houses, cold water. But at present there is no alternative that I have heard about. Having suffered from terrible eczema, I developed a compromise. All the windows are opened every morning, no matter what the weather, and the house is cold for several hours. The duvet and bedclothes are thrown over the windowsill as well. All washing was dried out of doors to kill the house dustmite.

The charity support groups mentioned give extensive advice about control of the house dustmite. However, I suspect (this is just a personal opinion) that it causes far less trouble to atopic people than the chemical overload in our environment and diet.

One of the most serious contact and inhaled allergens to be found today is the multitude of cleaning agents on the market. We are mad on cleaning these days, but the harm these products do is seldom considered. Cleaning used to be done with pure soap emulsified from animal fat, bicarbonate of soda, crystal soda, vinegar, alcohol spirit, bees wax, etc. Today all cleaning agents are manufactured chemicals. The residue left on fabrics cannot be totally removed and the fumes emitted can fill a whole house. I refer to everything from lavatory cleaner to after-shave; washing powder to carpet shampoo. They are all chemical compounds and no-one knows how they affect atopic people. It is not known what chemicals are used, or how they interact.

The general public is just not informed. The advice is generally "try it and see – if it makes you ill don't use the product again".

This is just not good enough. The public should be informed of what they are using. I have proposed to all the charities dealing with allergic diseases that a national campaign should be launched calling for legislation for proper and accurate labelling of all cleaning materials, toiletries, perfumes, cosmetics, etc., in exactly the same way that food labelling is now a legal requirement. It is only in this way, by content labelling, that atopic people will be able to build up a pattern of personal knowledge of what suits them and what causes harm.

Eventually, the chemical contents must be analysed for their known, or possible, allergenic effects, and the public informed. But first they must be identified. Chemical sensitivity is one of the most serious problems facing mankind today, that we are kept in the dark about the contents of everyday cleaning products is not helpful.

I am urging my MP to introduce a Private Member's Bill in the House of Commons, and I call upon all people dealing with allergies, personally and professionally, to join me in this.

There are yet two more groups of harmful substances which today enter the human body, which can provoke severe reactions in some people:

* metals in the body;
* electromagnetic waves of all frequencies.

Metals in the body

Metals in the body arise mainly from mercury fillings in teeth.(23) Mercury is one of the most dangerous poisons known to man, affecting amongst other things the nervous system and the brain. Particles of mercury are nearly always swallowed as the filling is being done. Once they filling is in place, although fixed and immovable, particles grind off and are swallowed. More seriously, fumes from the mercury are inhaled all the time. Once absorbed, the body is unable to get rid of mercury and it can accumulate to alarming levels. The World Health Organisation points out,

There is no level of mercury exposure, however low, that can be considered harmless.(24) Dental amalgam accounts for the major human intake of inorganic mercury, a lethal poison planted in the human body and allowed to vaporise. It can cross the placenta and accumulate in the developing foetus.24

For further information and testing contact:

* British Society of Mercury Free Dentistry, 221 Old Brompton Road, London SW3 0EA. Tel: 0171-370 0055.


Electromagnetic Waves of all Frequencies

It is very hard to prove sensitivity to electromagnetic waves,1 but people affected know that exposure will provoke all sorts of symptoms of illness inimical with those of allergic diseases. There must be millions of other people world-wide who are ill but have no idea what is affecting them. Cancer is connected with electro-radiation.(25)

Cause and effect in this field are very hard to identify. However, many people have become ill after a microwave oven was introduced into the kitchen, and improved when it was removed. Strobe lighting is known to cause epileptic fits. A vase of flowers placed upon a television will quickly die. Living near an electric pylon is dangerous,(26) which can be proved by walking towards a pylon on a dark night carrying a fluorescent tube. Due to the electricity in the atmosphere, the tube will light up.

Research in this area is being carried out by The National Radiological Protection Board, (27) who can offer advice. The address is:

* NRPB, Chilton, Didcot, Oxon, OX11 0RQ.
All these potential allergens overlap and interact with each other.

One subject remains to be discussed, and this is desensitisation.


Since the early part of this century various attempts have been made to desensitise people who have acquired sensitivity to various things. Most of this work has been carried out in America. The system of administering minute but gradually increasing doses of an allergen to a patient in the hope of building up a resistance has been tried with some success in some cases, but the risk of a hypersensitive reaction is so great that this method has now been discredited and has largely fallen into disuse, although I understand that some hospitals still retain this method, and the attempt at desensitisation is carried out in the Intensive Care Unit, where emergency treatment is at hand. The greatest danger arises from unqualified people who claim to be able to desensitise.

This can be terribly dangerous, and no-one should ever go to a person who is not a qualified doctor who has studied allergies and desensitisation in depth.

Two methods are now used with more safety and reliability.

The Provocation Neutralisation Technique

This was devised in the 1960s by Dr J.B. Miller in Alabama.(28) It involves provocation by an allergen injected intradermally, followed by neutralisation of the reaction, achieved through progressive dilutions of the same allergen administered until turn off point is reached. It is remarkably successful, even though it is not known how this turn-off point is achieved. The dilution is then given to the patient in the form of drops to be placed under the tongue, which effectively desensitises the patient to allergens encountered in everyday life. The danger is that for anyone hypersensitive, provocation can cause a severe reaction. Safer, and probably more effective, is EPD.

Enzyme Potentiated Desensitisation (EPD)

This was developed in the 1960s by Dr L.E. McEwen of London.(29) Dr McEwen discovered that if the enzyme beta-glucuronidase is administered together with a microscopic part of an allergen, the enzyme will potentiate, or facilitate, the process of desensitisation. The amount of the allergen used is so tiny that is it less than the dose needed for the conventional skin prick test. This is the reason for its safety. EPD is now used world wide and a success rate of 85-95% desensitisation is reported by practitioners. It is particularly effective for children. Advice can be obtained from:

* Dr McEwen, Weir View, Wargrave Road, Henley on Thames, Oxon, RG9 3HX or from BSAENM or AAA or NSRA – addresses given.


Extra-Contractual Referral (ECR)

Allergy treatment is scarce and in some areas specialist consultants are non-existent, although private practitioners are more numerous. Most people cannot afford private medicine. One way of getting specialist help and the cost met by the NHS, may be through the present system of Extra-Contractual Referral (ECR). This was introduced in 1991 and means that a GP can refer a patient outside the local health authority if there is a good reason for doing so. There are two types of ECR: emergency and elective. The first relates to emergency treatment outside the area of the District Health Authority, and is mandatory. Elective ECRs are given at the discretion of the GP and the District Health Authority, who annually must set aside a proportion of their funding for such purposes. In some cases private allergy consultants, and desensitisation, can be available through ECR funding. Further details and how to apply can be obtained from AAA (address given) or from District Health Authorities or your Community Health Council (in the phonebook).

Circle Drawing

circle drawing

It is easy to see from this diagram how hard it is to disentangle the threads of so many potential allergens, particularly as most of them are new to mankind during the last couple of centuries. Most doctors will say that it is impossible, and that even if one set of allergens is identified and eliminated, the patient will quickly develop new sensitivity to other things, and will be back at the starting point.

There is a good deal of truth in this, but like all generalisations it is overstated. Allergies can be treated, and even people severely ill can be cured. The most successful are intelligent people who learn as much as they can about the subject and virtually cure themselves. They reject the standard medical advice for what it is – narrow and ill-informed. Sadly, most people with allergic diseases struggle on untreated, or consult their doctors and are misdiagnosed and maltreated. Such people cannot hope to get better. The European White Paper calls for more medical attention to be devoted to this important subject, and more research.[1] The new Chair in Allergies3 at the University College Hospital is a step in the right direction.


1. EEC White Paper June 1997 Com (97) 266 97/0153 (COD)
2. Brostoff & Gamlin Food Allergy and Intolerance; Randolph & Moss Human Ecology and Susceptibility to the Clinical Environment Richard Mackarness Not All in the Mind; Chemical Victims
3. University College Hospital, Mortimer Street, London W1N 8AA
4. Action Against Allergy AGM October 1997 Reported in Allergy Newsletter No. 61 Winter 1997
5. Dr Doris Rapp Allergies and Your Family; Allergies and the Hyperactive Child Journal of Learning Disabilities Vol II No. 6 Does Diet Affect Hyperactivity?
6. Herbert J Rinkel identified and named masked food allergy in the 1920s. His findings were not published in the American Journal of Allergy until 1942.
7. Reference to masked food allergy and addictions occurs in all teaching on food allergy and intolerance.
8. Jennifer Worth Eczema and Food Allergy – the Hidden Cause? My Story
9. Maurice Hansen E is for Additives
10. The Soil Association, 86 Colston Street, Bristol BS1 5BE
11. The Candida connection can be found in all books and teaching on allergies
12. Gwynne Davies Overcoming Food Allergies
13. Dr L.E. McEwen Lecture on the Gut Flora, Centre of Allergy and Environmental Medicine, Santa Fe, USA 1996
14. Dr John Hunter Addenbrook Hospital, Cambridge
15. Richard Mackarness Not All in the Mind
16. Richard Mackarness Not All in the Mind Brostoff & Gamlin Food Allergy and Intolerance Drs Anthony, Birtwistle, Eaton & Maberly Environmental Medicine in Clinical Practice
17. Gwynne Davies Lighten our Arthritic Darkness; Margaret Hills Curing Arthritis the Drug-free Way
18. Drs Honor Anthony, Sybil Birtwistle, Keath Eaton and Jonathon Maberley Environmental Medicine in Clinic Practice
19. As above
20. Rotation diet first devised by Herbert Rinkel in the 1930s and recommended by all allergy specialists
21. Berry A Richardson Cot Deaths 1991 Penarth Research International
22. National Eczema Society's Journal Exchange No. 84 March 1997
23. Jack Levenson DDS Poisons in the Mouth Panorama July 1994; Hal Huggins DDS Mercury – a Factor in Mental Disease; University of Liverpool Dental Research Department; Royal London School of Medicine, Dental Department.
24. WHO Report on Mercury Poisoning 1991; WHO Report 1997.
25 NRPB Information Bulletin Electro-magnetic Fields and the Risk of Cancer 1993
26. NRPB information Electric and Magnetic Fields 1991
27. National Radiological Protection Board Information Bulletin No. 131 1992; Information Bulletin No. 152 1994
28. Joseph B Miller MD Double Blind Study of Food Extract Injection Therapy; Lawrence Dickey MD Sublingual Use of Allergenic Extract; John Mansfield Neutralisation Therapy in Food Intolerance, Inhaled Allergy and Chemical Sensitivity
29. Dr L.E. McEwen EPD, a Low Dose Method of Immunotherapy; Dr L.E. McEwen, M.A. Ganderton, C.W. Wilson, J.H. Black EPD in the Treatment of Allergy BMJ 1967; L.E. McEwen Hyposensitization In Brostoff & Gamlin Food Allergy and Intolerance; J. Eggar, A. Stoller, L.E. McEwen Controlled Trial of Hypersensitization in Children with Food-induced Hyperkinetic Syndrome Lancet 339, 1992. All specialists working with allergies advise EPD.


  1. June Whitehouse said..

    We are blindly using so many chemicals. I have become sensitised to a silicone compound used as a softenerin many applications. I cannot trace where this is used in clothes until my breathing is affected, and this substance cannot be removed. I find this is added to products more and more. I have to check all that I buy even though have used it previously without problem. Even deodorants have a softener used. Even all"sensitive" and " organic products.

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About Jennifer Worth

Jennifer Worth SRN, SCM, is a retired nurse and midwife. She is author of Eczema and Food Allergy (Merton Books, 1997) and writes extensively about allergic diseases. Her book Call the Midwife will be published by Merton Books in March 2002. She can be contacted via

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