Complementary and alternative medicine Friday Woo Medicine Quackery Skepticism/critical thinking

Your Friday Dose of Woo: Allergy Antidotes

When I originally conceived of doing a weekly feature entitled “Your Friday Dose of Woo,” I did it almost on a whim. Now that I’ve reached the second week, I’ve realized that this is going to be harder than I thought. No, it’s not that it’s hard to find suitable targets. Quite the opposite, in fact. There’s just too much woo out there, that it’s really hard to choose a suitable subject. I had a hellacious time trying to pick one particular instance of woo that tickled my fancy enough to dedicate a blog post to it.

Of course, I did think about doing a followup to last week’s Friday Dose of Woo about the quantum homeopathy. I was even assisted in this endeavor by readers who were kind enough to send me a PDF of the complete article by Lionel Milgrom from which the abstract I quoted came. Not only that, but it turns out that Dr. Milgrom is a prolific little bastard when it comes to fusing quantum mechanic jargon with homeopathy to produce a highly toxic mixture of woo whose effect on my brain was such that I’m still recovering from trying to read the whole thing. Indeed, another reader sent me four articles by Milgrom, all chock full of the same toxic woo brew (apologies to our latest host of the Skeptics’ Circle). After a few pages, my brain’s energy field must have become quantumly entangled with that of Dr. Milgrom at the subatomic level. Or something. Either way, my brain hurt too much before I could finish all of that woo. I think my neurons were rebelling as the homeopathic quantum woo field assaulted them.

Maybe next week. Milgrom’s papers represent perhaps the most target rich woo environment I’ve ever seen. In a way, it’s almost too easy–other than the brain pain, of course. But then, what’s a little pain in the service of critical thinking?

Fortunately, after much searching through links that I had saved, I found just the thing to cleanse my chakra after prolonged exposure to Milgrom’s quantum homeopathic altie woo: Allergy Antidotes. When I saw this therapeutic technique, which I had never heard of before, billed as an “Energy Psychology Treatment of Allergy-like Reactions ,” I knew I had my woo for this week.

So what can Sandi Radomski, the proprietor of Allergy Antidotes and apparently a licensed social worker and naturopath, do for you?

According to the Allergy Antidotes website, it’s a three-step process:

STEP 1: Assess whether substance sensitivities are a possible cause of symptoms.

This is all well and good, but somehow I’m guessing that Allergy Antidotes will find that virtually every patient’s symptoms are caused by “substance sensitivities.” Why do I think that? Just a hunch. You’ll see why.

STEP 2: Identify specific reactive substances. Any symptom can be from a substance sensitivity. In turn, any substance can potentially weaken the body’s energy system. Possible culprits range from toxic chemicals such as petrochemicals, to non-toxic substances such as eggs and vitamin C. Since everything is suspect, a methodical system is required to assess whether a particular substance is weakening a person’s energy system.

Reactive substances can be easily identified using non-invasive muscle testing. This variety of muscle testing, adapted from Applied Kinesiology, involves the patient holding or thinking about different substances while applying consistent pressure to the patient’s outstretched arm. If the arm “gives way” (weakens) it is an indication that the held substance is weakening the muscle energy system.

Uh-oh. Applied kinesiology (AK)? We’re talking some serious dubiosity here. (OK, I mean “dubiousness,” but I just liked the sound of “dubiosity.” In fact, I may just use the term “dubosity” in the future.) AK is a pseudoscience the basic premise of which is that every organ dysfunction is accompanied by weakness in specific muscles. Practitioners thus go through elaborate measurements of the strengths of various muscles. In this case, Allergy Antidote is applying AK to alleged allergies or sensitivities to specific substances. Heck, the patient doesn’t even have to hold the substance; he just has to think about it, and AK can diagnose it as a cause of “weakening of the muscle energy system.” Neat, eh?

Too bad AK makes no sense physiologically and there is no scientific evidence that it does what practitioners claim:

Although the claims of applied kinesiology are so far removed from scientific reality that testing them might seem a waste of time, competent researchers have subjected the muscle-testing procedures to several well-designed controlled tests and demonstrated what should be obvious to rational persons. Some have found no difference in muscle response from one substance to another, while others have found no difference between the results with test substances and with placebos. One study, for example, found that three practitioners testing eleven subjects made significantly different assessments; their diagnoses of nutritional deficiencies did not correspond to the nutrient levels obtain by blood serum analysis; and that the responses to nutrient substances did not significantly differ from responses to placebos [9]. Another study found no effect from administering the nutrients “expected” to strengthen a muscle diagnosed as “weak” by AK practitioners.” [10] Other researchers who conducted an elaborate double-blind trial concluded that “muscle response appeared to be a random phenomenon.” [11] Another study showed that suggestion can influence the outcome of muscle-testing. During part of this experiment, college students were told that chewing M&M candies would give them instant energy that would probably make them test stronger. Five out of nine did so [12]. In yet another study, four AK practitioners tested seven patieents who were extremely sensitive to wasp venom. Altogether, 140 muscle tests were done to see how the patients responded to preparations of venom or salt water in a bottle. If the test were valid, the venom bottles should result in “strong” reactions and the salt-water bottles should produce “weak” test reactions. However, the practitioners were unable to identify which bottles contained which.

But, hey, alties never let a little thing like science stand in the way of their favored therapy, now have they?

So what’s the next step, if for whatever reason the unfortunate patient can’t completely isolate himself from the allegedly offending substance that is supposedly responsible for his symptoms, whatever those symptoms may be? (And it doesn’t seem to matter too much to Allergy Antidotes what the specific symptoms are, be they multiple sclerosis, allergies to dogs, digestive problems, back pain, or migraines.) Well, step right up:

STEP 3: Use energy psychology techniques to reprogram the body to no longer react negatively to the reactive substances. The reprogrammed body no longer views the substance as a poison. All treatments are done with the patient’s focus on the reactive substance. The patient holds the substance, or holds a tube with the energetic signature of the substance, or holds piece of paper with the name of the substance, or says or thinks about the substance. By stimulating acupuncture points, we eliminate the energy imbalance in relation to that substance, thereby ending the body’s negative reaction.

Silly me. I always thought that allergic reactions involved little things like histamine release by mast cells in response to an allergen, with all its attendant effects. I guess I’m just old-fashioned. Fortunately for her altie customers, Sandi Radomski’s more hip and with it when it comes to defining allergies. She doesn’t let a little thing like a medical or scientific definition stand in her way:

It is important that I am not referring to allergy in the strict medical definition of a histamine reaction. Basically I am defining “allergy” as an abnormal response to a food, drug, or something in our environment that usually does not cause symptoms in most people. I am viewing an allergy as anything that weakens the body’s energy system. This work has grown out of the discoveries of Dr. Roger Callahan who found that an energy toxin or anything that weakens the energy system can cause emotional and physical symptoms.

Allergies can cause real problems for people; some people even die from allergic reactions to various substances. I wish I could redefine diseases or abnormal physiology like that. I wonder if it would work if I redefined cancer as a “weakening of the energy system” and applied Randomski’s techniques to treating it. Oh, wait. There are already other alties who do something fairly similar to that and claim fantastic success. They even have the testimonials to prove it! Never mind.

It turns out that Dr. Roger Callahan is the inventor of thought field therapy (TFT). Basically, TFT involves tapping various points in the body to “rebalance its natural energy system.” That’s it. It’s that simple. Indeed, TFT has been called psychological acupuncture, except, I guess, you don’t need all those nasty needles to do it. Unfortunately, there’s no evidence other than testimonials and badly designed studies showing that it does anything. (I do, however, like the term “energy toxins.” It sounds way cooler than just “toxins.”)

Of course, Roger Callahan’s disciple, Gary Craig, who invented a variant of TFT known as Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), just loves Randomski’s work:

I give you a gift and her name is Sandi Radomski… She has created a professional, easy to understand manual that is a MUST READ for serious students of these procedures.

She certainly was a gift to me–for my Friday Woo!

My absolute favorite part of Radomski’s treatment, though, is the “Laser Spray“:

The Laser Spray Treatment entails stimulating the reflex points on the ears, hands and feet with a laser beam to balance the body’s energy system in relation to an energy toxin. The energy toxin can be a reactive substance, negative emotion or thought or traumatic scene. Slowly spray the laser beam over the entire ears (front and back), hands, and/or feet while the patient is holding or thinking about the energy toxin.

You have your choice of the eTox Laser, the basic model, or you could go for the Advanced Laser:

The Advanced Laser is also 635nm. An added feature is its On/Off switch, which frees you from having to continually press a button to shine the laser. Another plus is a wider beam than the eTox Laser, covering a larger area at one time. Numerous healing experiences have been reported from using the Advanced laser with Allergy Antidote’s new LaserLight Technique™. It is also helpful for skin conditions such as mosquito bites, psoriasis and fascia.

Imagine that! It even has a switch! I’m still trying to figure out what disease “fascia” is, though. Fascia is a normal body structure, specifically a specialized connective tissue surrounding muscles, joints, and bones and doesn’t really have anything to do with the skin. Also, it’s not a disease. Of course, given that “fascia” is not a disease, I’m guessing that the Advanced Laser can probably “cure” it. I’m also guessing that telling patients that you’re going to use a laser to “balance their energy fields” sounds a lot more impressive than saying you’ll be tapping on them. In surgery, I see the same phenomenon when patients ask me If I’ll be using a laser during their breast biopsy. (No, I have to tell them, just an old-fashioned scalpel and electrocautery.) Marketing is everything.

Of course, never forget that all of this Allergy Antidote stuff is scientific! How do we know? Radomski says so:

Dr. Penny Montgomery and Dr. Margaret Ayers have conducted two landmark studies with great relevance to the treatment of allergy-like reactions to substances. Using real time EEG findings, Drs. Montgomery and Ayers have discovered specific brain wave patterns that denote sensitivity to a particular substance. In the first study, they have successfully proven that brain waves return to normal after using N.A.E.T. (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique) – a similar procedure to Spinal Release – to clear the reaction. The importance of this research is in documenting not only the presence of the sensitivity but the effectiveness of the treatment as well. The second study documents changes in brain waves when the subject merely holds an energy frequency tube containing a substance to which he or she is reactive, illustrating the effectiveness of Energy Frequency Tubes to detect and treat sensitivity reactions.

I did several PubMed searches and was unable to find any studies in the peer-reviewed literature by Montgomery and Ayers. When I searched for Montgomery alone, I was unable to find a PubMed citation for her more recent than 1976 (assuming I have the correct P. Montgomery). I couldn’t find any PubMed citations for Margaret Ayers, but I did find that she runs some sort of company called Neuropathways. I also found both of them listed as speakers at a conference on neurofeedback and an ISNR professional workshop, where I learned that Dr. Montgomery is in private practice in Beverly Hills, CA. (Where else?) Whatever Ayers’ or Montgomery’s research is or may have been, it’s not published in the appropriate scientific journals in the last 30 years, and therefore I can’t evaluate it properly. They do, however, appear to have a number of publications in books and non-peer-reviewed journals and magazines, including newsletters, my preferred source for hardcore scientific studies.

You know, I just had an idea, with all this talk of energy manipulation and biofeedback to cure allergies and other diseases and abnormalities. It all certainly sounds like a treatment modality that is crying out for a quantum approach to its theory and application, don’t you think? So….Sandi Radomski, meet Lionel Milgrom. Lionel Milgrom, meet Sandi Radomski. I think you two could make beautiful woo together!

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Tags: Thought Field Therapy, Homeopathy, Applied Kinesiology, Allergy, Alternative medicine, Sandi Radomski, Emotional Freedom Techniques

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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