First, let me apologize for not getting this post up sooner. Even without the haze of allergies bogging me down, life is still busy around here. I’m on two committees at the children’s school, there’s a monthly drum circle at our house now, and then all the weekly groceries, laundry, dishes, errands and school schedule to keep track of. Somehow, even with more energy at hand, there are always enough tasks on the list to keep me busy. Plus, I’m still pulling myself together from having been “down” for so long. I could really use a vacation, to be honest. A chance to get away with just Brian for a few days on a beach somewhere. No kids, no responsibilities – just a chance to recoup and heal emotionally. At the Waldorf school they talk about the early childhood kids especially needing their rhythm to be like breathing – inhale and exhale – periods of energy and movement with periods of quiet in between. I need a period of quiet. I could go away by myself, but the last time I tried that it was too lonely without Brian. I want my “quiet” to be spent in my husband’s arms. Frankly, he could use a little rejuvination too, and wants to get away almost as badly as I do. But there’s the logistics of the children to consider. No one can really take them off our hands for even a weekend. So, for now, I’m just trying to get as much of the “list” of things I’ve been behind on taken care of. Perhaps I can make myself a period of time where I have less responsibilites for a while. Before we launch into new projects we’re planning to undertake. More on that another time though…
Last time I spoke about the situation that led me to end up at Midwest Allergy Relief Centers in the first place. About the myriad of ailments that I’d been suffering from. I’ve touched a little on how I feel that so-called “modern medicine” has been failing me, and how I was on 8+ prescriptions when I first went to see what Advanced Allergy Theraputics (AAT) was all about. I am down to four medications right now – one for pain that I have been weaning off of except for when my knee and back hurt, and three for gastrointestinal issues (reflux & IBS). I have recently found an new gastroenterologist (GI) who has been more receptive to both my questions and the fact that I’ve been seeking “alternative care”, and I have a test tomorrow morning to find out what’s going on that’s causing the reflux to be so bad. This new GI listened to me talk about my allergies and suggested that there is a possiblity the problems I’m having are ALSO related to having has so many allergies to deal with all this time. This has been good to hear, as I had some worst-case-scenario concerns about what could be wrong. My body has been busy alerting me to EVERY little thing, however, now that it knows I’m paying attention and getting some results. The GI seems confident that I can get off the meds I’m on for intestinal issues too – the first time in a long while I’ve had a doctor even imply that my meds aren’t supposed to be taken forever. Hooray!
But, this time I promised to talk about the AAT procedure itself, so here goes…
One of the first things Dr. Ian Wahl told me was that the difference between “allergies” and “sensitivities” was whether or not it could be identified in the blood. I had done a scratch test through my ENT’s office already – 30+ scratches of different allergens down my back and then wait to see how horribly red, blotchy, puffy, and/or rashy each scratch gets. I’d been told I was “highly allergic” by the ENT who’d tested me and had been put on a huge concoction packed into two allergy shots to try and convince my body to accept those allergens (the seasonal and household – they can’t cure food allergies that way, I was told) and learn to live with them without reacting. Basically, bully the body into accepting something it can’t change, whereas Dr. Wahl’s approach is to explain to the body the way it’s supposed to behave. But the shots were just for the allergies that showed up in the scratch test. – the ones that would also show up in bloodwork. That didn’t even touch the “sensitivities”, which are things that DON’T show up in the bloodwork, but we STILL react to in a similar manner as we do to the “allergies”. Wheat, Cat Hair and Tree Pollens would be among the “allergies” but Sunlight, Sound, and Barometric Pressure would all be classified under “sensitivities” instead. However, any of the items from both groups could cause a rash, swelling, headache, stomach upset, sweating or fatigue – some of the various ways our body might respond when exposed to something we have a reaction to.
After Brian and Jareth had also endured the scratch tests our ENT had administered, Brian made a spreadsheet (he is an analyst, after all) to compare our allergies to see what was common and where each of our worst areas were. I went to my appointment with Dr. Wahl armed with this sheet, which he promptly stuck at the very back of my folder. He explained that he didn’t want to see it and have any preconceptions of what he was looking for while he did the testing. Since I was going in as a bit of a skeptic, this meant that it also confirmed to me as we went along that he really could ”see” my allergies with the AAT method. Not only was he finding the groups that coincided with the allergies I already knew about, but he was also finding others that the ENT couldn’t test for, but made sense to me.
The first visit starts with testing of all the major allergy areas – looking for all the serious stuff and things you’d be more likely to be exposed to on a regular basis. It’s not going to find out every single allergy you have, or you’d be there for hours and your arm would fall off. Well, maybe not fall off, but it’s going to be really darn tired. Because testing for allergies with AAT is accomplished via ”muscle testing”. Some readers will nod sagely as they read that, knowing what muscle testing means. For those who don’t – when something is amiss, and you explain to the body/brain that you are looking for it, your body will “weaken up” to let you (or the doctor) know that something is amiss. Originally, this was done with samples of the actual allergies. The AAT doctors would put drops of an allergen onto your skin and your body would react – part of that reaction would be some measure of weakness in your muscles. Nowadays, modern technology has come to the rescue and the “signal” that the allergen would send to your brain to let your body know it was being exposed has been duplicated and is sent out to you through a small cuff on your wrist (or on the calf if you’re a child). The cuff looks like a small blood pressure cuff and is hooked up to a laptop that tells it which signal to send. I don’t know all the complicated techy stuff that makes it work. And, if I did, I’d probably have to sign a waiver not to put it up her on the internet. However, I can tell you that unlike a blood pressure cuff, there’s no pressure or inflation – it just sits there quietly on your wrist, looking innocent. It’s not. It’s a busy little sucker. At least it ought to be pretty darn familiar with sending signals to my body/brain by now.
If you don’t understand about the muscle testing though, here’s a little test you can try at home that might help a little - Stand up straight and tall and put out your writing arm, straight out, perpendicular from your body. Have someone else press gently on your arm. This tells you both how “strong” you are to begin with – setting a control for comparison. Then pick up something sweet & chocolatey – Reeses Peanut Butter Cups will do nicely (sorry Dr. Wahl – I know you said those are your favorite, but they work really well for this). Hold the item (it can stay in it’s wrapper, so you don’t have to feel obligated to eat it afterwards) in your opposite hand (not the one you have sticking out in the air - you still need that one) and place the Peanut Butter Cup at your stomach by the belly button. Then have your friend/spouse/stranger-you-grabbed-off-the-street press on your writing arm again. Go on… I’ll wait.
Were you able to keep your arm up while holding the candy? OR, was the other person able to just push it down without even really trying? I’m betting the latter.
It always amazes me how afterwards people shake their head at me and say “well of course – because of the sugar” as if everyone ought to be weakening up to something with sugar in it. “I” no longer weaken up to candy, I’ll have you know. Because Dr. Wahl has explained to my body that it’s not supposed to DO that! But it was more than just the sugar that was a problem there. You could be allergic to the chocolate, the caffeine in the chocolate, the dairy products, the nuts or even artificial sweeteners if it is a low-calorie product. Yikes!
Hopefully though, that gives you a better understanding of the muscle testing part. So, during the first visit, he tests the patient against the signals for a LOT of different allergies. There’s a bunch that are standard – common allergies that are likely to be a problem – but he’ll also ask some questions and you’ll inevitably tell him some things that he’ll also check you for. As an example, we had just gotten a rabbit in the house in December, so Dr. Wahl checked all of us for rabbit on our first visits. Good thing too – Kayla WAS allergic to rabbits! We’d chosen that animal because no one else in the house was, but Kayla had been too young and never scratch-tested. So rabbit was one of the early treatments for her, so she could resume playing with the new family pet. As simple as that, she was cured. With Kayla I was more stunned to find out that she was allergic to peanuts – every component in peanuts EXCEPT the two that cause people to go into shock! – and here I had been giving her a peanut butter & jelly sandwich at more than half the lunches for at leasts a year. No wonder she had been so cranky in the afternoons – right after eating something she was highly allergic to! Nowadays, any afternoon crankiness from her is either due to tiredness if she’s had a busy morning or caused by typical sibling issues. They can’t treat for siblings. She’s on her own there.
Once Dr. Wahl knows what you’re allergic to, he’ll pick some of the worst ones and do a “priority check” on them, to find out which ones are affecting the patient the most. The computer seems to be fairly good at giving him the information he needs to determine which of the items on your list need to be a priority. Again, I don’t know all the techy stuff behind it, but it always seems to be accurate. I went in there expecting “dust & dust mites” to be the topmost item on the list. However, my sensitivities to barometric pressure, humidity, and rain topped the priority for me. It even came out as being worse than sugars – which are often one of the worst for most people and need to be treated BEFORE all the other food items can be treated. There are a few items that do have to be done in order, otherwise the treatment might not hold. Sugars are in so many things (especially here in America) that the allergic reaction to them has to be dealt with first – otherwise the body/brain is not going to understand why it isn’t supposed to react to that lovely gluten you’re eating when it IS supposed to be reacting to the sugar in it. Poor brain. It would be all confused. I try not to abuse mine so much, so I went with the order Dr. Wahl recommended on most items he’s treated me for.
When Dr. Wahl has nailed down the item a patient most need to be treated for, he jumps right in. That first appointment includes one freebie treatment. He’ll have the patient turn their back to him and then he takes his accupressure machine and runs it down the spine while it gently kicks a tiny bit of pressure over and over again. Doesn’t hurt a bit, either. In fact, he often puts his hand on top and runs his fingers down your back with it – you’ll feel more pressure from that than you will from the machine itself. Lounging in a swimming pool is more strenous than this. With floaty things in the pool. Seriously.
However, in all fairness, I can’t say it’s not without side effects – both in the office and out. He does the priority checks each visit and retests what you were last treated for, along with breaking down and checking the specific components of the item your about to be treated for – so you have a certain amount of muscle testing every visit. While I’ve sat in that chair, being exposed to different allergen signals as he tests me for the next item to be treated, I find that I have a mild reaction as if I was being exposed to the allergen. I’ll get sweaty, or a headache, or my intestines will start complaining. I found that I had more intestinal issues when being tested/treated for foods, while headaches prevailed during pollens treatments, as an example. I expect results may vary with that part. Also, be aware that with the foods treatments, you have to make sure you don’t eat (and sometimes not drink anything other than water) for two hours after the treatment, so that the treatment will take or “hold” as they say at the office. I frequently precede my treatments with a snack so that I’m not starving two hours after my treatment if my last meal was a while ago.
I also found that when I was doing 3-4 of these treatments a week, my body would get quite tired out by all of it. There would be one day a week where I would kind of crash and end up sleeping for several hours of nap that I normally wouldn’t have. But that has diminished as I slowed down the treament. I am now doing only one treatment each week (except for the occasional week when they are so booked up I can’t get an appointment!) and it’s not affecting me that way anymore.
There’s also the onion-layer bit. No, not the Shrek thing, but not totally unlike it either. Dr. Gwen Carfora (another wonderful doctor at Midwest Allergy Relief Centers, who has also done some of my treatments) was on hand the day I asked why it seemed like every time I had one allergy taken care of I had a seemingly “new” reaction to something else that otherwise hadn’t bothered me before. She explained, basically, that it was like peeling an onion – we were taking one layer off and exposing another new layer, giving it a chance to be seen. And whenever something new was allowed to come to the surface for me - it demanded to be noticed! Each time a treatment is done, I find myself reacting to something else. One day I sat down in my living room and felt myself weaken up – I was suddenly tired and a headache started building! Another time I ate something and suddenly my stomach was upset. Each time I mentioned it at my next visit and tried to recall what it might have been that I’d been exposed to at the time. I had forgotten that I’d always had issues when I had carrots – then I ate carrots with my lunch one day and had terrible abdominal pains immediately afterwards. When we tested me for the main components I’d eaten in my lunch, carrots came up! I was treated for them, avoided them immediately afterwards so the treatment would hold, and then resumed eating them 24 hours later. No more upset stomach or digestive issues with them! Carrots was the first difinitive food item I was able to pinpoint as having a distinct result, so I tend to use it as my primary example. Brian had an issue with coconut – his throat got scratchy and raw every time he tried to eat any. He has now eaten cookies with coconut, coconut cream pie and german chocolate cake with no problems.
Of course the definitive proof is really now – as all the pollens are coming out to play. This is the point in the year that I would start to pile on the Benadryl, in addition to the usual prescription allergy meds, and hope for the best. This spring, I am OFF the prescription allergy meds and have maybe taken 5 benadryl in the last month. For each of those, I’ve made a note in my folder and gone back to talk to Dr. Wahl to find out what I was reacting too. Fertilizers and pesticides was a recent treatment, after I realized I was getting a headache when I went down a particular road on my way to the kids’ school. There was a large area of farmland along that road and I’d even seen them recently tilling manure into the soil and then spraying something. I don’t get the headache on that road anymore. One less thing to worry about!
Next week, maybe I’ll find out what’s causing the little rash that recently popped up while driving the other day. I think it’s something around my yard. Today, however, we dealt with those pesky allergies to bananas and watermelons. I can’t wait to join the kids in their afternoon banana snack! And, ooooh – banana bread! Yum!
I think I’ve got one more post coming on AAT and the Midwest Allergy Relief Centers. So now’s the time to add any questions into the comments on this post. If you’ve got anything you’d like to know more about, from MY perspective anyway, please drop a note in the comments here and I’ll try to answer it in my next post on this topic.