Allergies

How homeopathy can help by Dr Jacqueline Mardon

Many people are genetically pre­disposed  to allergies – this is known as atopy and you often see allergies such  as eczema, asthma and hay fever running in families. Atopy is becoming  more common and the rea­sons for this are not entirely clear. One theory  is that people have much better health these days and the body’s immune  system doesn’t have a lot to cope with, so goes into “overdrive” in  response to normally harmless substances. There is some evidence to suggest that those who have grown up with  lots of brothers and sisters are likely to have had numerous infections  in childhood which their immune systems have had to fight off and so  have simultaneously built up resistance to allergens; so per­haps the  trend towards smaller families is a factor. Other possible contributing factors include increased pollution in  the atmos­phere and the use of chemicals in food, medicine and household  products. Whatever the cause, more and more peo­ple are becoming  susceptible; an esti­mated three million people in England alone now  consult their GP each year about an allergy-related condition.

What is allergy?

Allergy is a heightened or altered reac­tivity of the immune system  to exter­nal substances. Conditions that are caused by an external agent  or “aller­gen” include eczema, allergic asthma, urticaria (hives), hay  fever and peren­nial rhinitis (all year round hay fever-like symptoms).  The most common allergens are house dust mites, pollen from trees and  grasses, cats, dogs, milk and eggs. An allergic person’s immune system believes allergens to be damaging  and so produces a special type of antibody (IgE) to attack the invading  material. This leads other blood cells to release further chemicals  (including histamine) which together cause the symptoms of an allergic  reaction. A reaction can be caused by inhalation, swallowing,  injec­tion, or contact with the skin, eyes or airways. In mild cases  there may be slight itchiness or reddening of the affected area. In  serious cases anaphylactic shock can occur, where the body’s immune  response is so extreme that it causes low blood pressure, constriction  of breathing and sometimes even death. But this subject is too complex  to be covered here.

Treatment

Conventional medicine often involves taking antihistamines or  steroids to manage symptoms. A huge range of products is also available  over the counter. These may be useful but can also have unwanted  side-effects like drowsiness, need to be used continu­ously and are not  effective in all patients. By contrast, homeopathic medicine stimulates the body’s own defence  sys­tem to cope with exposure to allergens, rather than suppressing the  allergic symptoms. Often, treatment doesn’t have to be taken continually  – for exam­ple, a homeopathic medicine taken before the start of the  hay fever season can protect the patient through the whole season,  reducing the need for antihistamines. There are a number of ways in which homeopathy can be used to help allergy sufferers.

Local prescribing

Medicines are prescribed based on the patient’s actual allergic  symptoms, for example runny nose, itchy eyes, sore throat. This is known  as “local” treat­ment and can be achieved in a standard GP appointment  or even through self-prescribing, although it’s probably best to visit a  homeopathic doctor to get the correct medicine, as you are less likely  to pick the right one off the shelf first time.

Constitutional prescribing

Constitutional treatment in homeo­pathy is slightly different. It is  based on a more in-depth consultation which takes into account not only  the allergic symptoms but also the patient’s indi­vidual way of coping  with the disease. This may involve looking at aspects of the patient’s  lifestyle, eating habits, med­ical history and state of mind to achieve a  complete picture of the individual.

Isopathy

Isopathy is similar to homeopathy, but the treatment is selected  solely on the basis of the patient’s proven allergies (as shown by skin  testing, for example). It involves giving a patient the substance to  which they are allergic in a homeo­pathic potency.It is best to arrange a consultation with a homeopathic doctor so  that they can tailor treatment to you as an indi­vidual. 

Dr Jacqueline Mardon describes the treat­ment of one of her allergy patients

Allergy is a fascinating and satisfying area to work in  homeopathically. There is great variety in the way people can present,  and a challenging potential to significantly make a difference to their  lives, particularly as there are often not a lot of options open to  them. As well as asthma, eczema and other atopic  conditions, I also see people with food sensitivities and intolerances  and people with multiple sensitivities who are often desperate. 

A strong and sensitive lad

Joe, an 18 year-old lad, was referred by his GP with longstanding  atopy prob­lems in the form of asthma, eczema and allergic  keratoconjunctivitis (severe inflammatory eye condition). Even with  several months of immunosuppressant treatment (with corticosteroids and  cyclosporin), he had flare-ups every few weeks. His parents were  concerned about the impact on his confidence and life, particularly  since he was due to leave home shortly for university.Joe has reddish-blond hair and is tall and bony with a very inflamed  com­plexion and extremely dry, unhealthy-looking skin with cracks and  excori­ations. He came to the clinic with his mother and seemed quite  reserved, rather downcast, self-conscious and polite. He did not look at  me much.His skin problems started at 18 months-old with scratching behind his  ears and itchy eyes. He is described by his mother as intuitive and  sensitive to people, just as she is. He had an unfor­tunate experience  of being bullied at pri­mary school and had to move school, which  resolved the problem. When he was eight, his mother was away from home  during weekdays for two years. He missed her a lot and was anxious about  it. He is the youngest of four sons and the only one still at home. Two  brothers have eczema.Joe’s skin condition is aggravated during really hot weather. He has a  big appetite and is averse to fish, shellfish and spicy food. At the  age of two he had a very rapid onset of his face and eye­lids swelling  up and his lips puffing up with shellfish. If he puts fish like salmon  to his mouth, he has spots on his tongue within a few minutes. He can  only tol­erate tuna, either fresh or tinned, which he likes. He loves  fruit, salads, choco­late, meat and mild curry. He’s had a dental brace  for 18 months.He has had surgery to his corneas and treatment with steroid  eye-drops from the age of seven until he was 14. There was concern that  he might develop cataract, which can be a com­plication of this. Since  then, he has Opticrom eye drops and antihistamines.When his skin flares (usually affect­ing his inner elbows, under his  neck and behind his knees), his eyes can flare up too. The inside of the  lids can swell up and feel gritty and there is a yellowish-green  discharge. It may be hard to open his eyes when he wakes up and the left  eye is slightly worse.He has tried food exclusion diets with no real benefit. Recent skin  prick tests showed reaction to horse hair, cat fur, pollens and a big  reaction to house dust mite. Blood tests have shown lev­els of response  to house dust mite “off the scale”!His asthma is fine now and he takes a regular inhaled steroid, is not  prone to chest infections and manages to perform sport, which he loves,  to a high com­petitive level. He loves to shake hands at the end of the  match. His mother says he is a gracious sportsman. He says he doesn’t  like partying all the time!

Treatment

Joe is clearly distressed and embarrassed about his highly visible  problems. He is anxious to relieve his eye symptoms and I did consider a  local or pathological remedy. For keratoconjunctivitis, Silica, Ruta,  Thiosinaminum or Graphites might be indicated. However, I felt the first  approach with a prescription should be the constitutional remedy Natrum  muriaticum, for which there seemed strong grounds in terms of his  appear­ance and demeanour and also the his­tory of separation from his  mother, which had affected him and may have coincided with the  experience of being bullied at school. I chose to give Natrum Muriaticum  as 30c, 200c and 1M poten­cies and then as daily LM1 drops. I also gave  concurrent isopathic desensitisa­tion with House Dust Mite, also in the  LM1 potency, just a few drops twice a week. The LM potencies are much  less likely to cause aggravation, an impor­tant consideration in such a  sensitive and atopic individual.

Two months later

Joe returned on his own to tell me his eyes had been good, the best  for a while with no bad days since his last visit. His skin had been  quite dry and itchy. He appeared much more relaxed (in retro­spect and  in contrast I realised how tight he had been) and his skin generally  less red. His neck was a bit blotchy, perhaps an indicator of his  emotional sensitivity.He had left home and started his uni­versity course three weeks  before and was returning to see his parents every weekend. He had  managed to stop all his medication except the Opticrom. He felt he had  had a good initial response with the homeopathy with his eyelids and was  pleased about this.I gave Natrum muriaticum as LM2 and House Dust Mite as LM2, in the  same way as before. He also told me his new accommodation was nice and  he had “allergy sheets”. 

Six months later

His skin had been generally good with a slight recent irritation on  his back after he wore rubber and fibre gloves to garden. His eyes had  been fine, with some itching the previous week going to bed and redness  on waking, which lasted a couple of hours. He noted that this was when  the birch pollen count was high, to which he is known to be sensitive.  His studying was going fine and he had exams soon. He saw the  ophthalmolo­gist again who said his eyes are stable. Joe thought his  eyes had been bad only a very few days since starting university. My  impression was he seemed more relaxed and his skin was very calm. I gave  a slight increase to LM3 potency for Natrum muriaticum and House Dust  Mite.

Five months on

When I next saw Joe he had spent time in the summer with his parents  who had moved to an old and dusty house. His skin got worse and he had  two courses of antibiotics for impetigo. Since return­ing to his new  student flat which is clean, his skin was much improved! He told me his  ophthalmologist had been thrilled. He was told that no one exam­ining  his eyes now would think anything had been wrong with them! He now has  an annual follow-up for his eyes.I gave Natrum muriaticum alone, as LM4 potency, and advised he could  try tailing this to use every two days or less, with the option to  increase again if needed. I offered a review for six months.  It has  been very instructive to meet Joe and understand something of his  experience of this relatively rare and dis­tressing condition of  allergic kerato­conjunctivitis. Certainly, there was a change in  environment and many life circumstances, but homeopathy and isopathy  played a part in the dramatic improvement in his long-standing  con­dition and he certainly seemed to lighten and blossom too.He actually became less competitive in his sport and seemed happy  that it did not seem to grip his life so much. He had been promoted to a  higher team, but actually found it too much of a strain and enjoyed the  second team more. He seemed more playful and life was more fun.Perhaps he will even end up party­ing longer, despite his original assertion!

Dr Jacqueline Mardon MBBS MPhil MRCGP MFHom is a specialist in  homeo­pathic medicine is an Associate Specialist and the Clinical Lead at the NHS Centre for Integrative Care in Glasgow.