Many people with arthritis pound pain relievers just to get through the day. Regular dosing is also a way of life for those with allergies, who depend on antihistamines, steroids, and allergy shots.
Now, alternative healers say they’ve developed treatments that can cure these stubborn ailments—and many others—without drugs. But first, you have to be willing to suspend everything you know about medical science and start thinking in terms of chi, the Chinese term for a life force that flows through the human body.
As Diane Olson Rutter explains in Catalyst (July 2000), one of these alternative treatments, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique (or NAET) helps diagnose suspected allergens by employing a form of "muscle response testing," or applied kinesiology. The patient holds a small vial of a suspected allergen. If the arm muscles weaken in response to the "molecular vibration" from the vial, the patient is deemed allergic to that substance. Once an allergy is identified, the cure involves a form of acupressure and an austere diet of chicken, rice, and vegetables.
Rutter, who submitted herself to the treatment, initially had her doubts. "I can’t contain the skepticism (mixed with embarrassment) that overtakes me every time I’m handed a vial and my arm is pushed down. I feel like a New Age slot machine," she tells her acupuncturist. While practitioners can’t produce a pile of studies to assuage the skeptics, they can produce satisfied patients like Kristy Theurer, who told Rutter that NAET cured her of depression and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Of course, it will take more than anecdotal evidence to bring NAET into the medical mainstream. Andrew Saxon, chief immunologist at UCLA Medical Center, calls the treatment "bullshit": "There is no way I am ever going to believe that you can cure allergies by sticking needles in someone while they hold little vials of nothing."
Rutter herself gives NAET a mixed review. While some of the treatments had no effect, she credits others with curing an intolerance to wheat and milk she believes was causing fatigue and headaches. "Do I think it’s a miracle cure? No," she writes. "Will I go back for more? Yes. So far my positive experiences still outweigh the negative."
Meanwhile, Larry Trivieri reports in Alternative Medicine (Nov. 2000) that two alternative healers in Pennsylvania have come up with a variation on the same theme to treat arthritis. Carolyn Jaffe and Judy Mellor believe that microorganisms they call "external pathogenic factors" (or EPFs) cause arthritis. "When an EPF sets up housekeeping in the body, the brain alerts the nervous system to continuously send out attacks," Jaffe explains. In other words, the immune system is acting normally by attacking a foreign substance. But in the process, they say, it destroys healthy tissue.
Jaffe claims that she and Mellor have been able to identify several of these EPFs and isolate their "energetic signatures," which she describes as "the unique vibration of any substance." These signatures are then bottled in tiny vials, which are used in a muscle response technique similar to the one employed by NAET. "If the testing arm goes weak . . . we know that the patient’s subconscious has determined that there is something in the vial that represents a weakened link in the immune system and therefore must be treated," she explains.
Jaffe then uses acupressure treatments to deactivate the EPFs and alter the immune response. Like NAET, the Jaffe-Mellor technique has not been subjected to the kind of rigorous placebo-controlled studies Western doctors demand. But, Jaffe contends, the treatment works for many of her patients and is in accord with the approach she and Mellor take to natural healing: "We strongly believe that the magnificent human body is programmed to self-correct with a little prodding from caring and knowledgeable health providers."