Human ingenuity has no limits, that is how NOT to diagnose allergies - Strefa Alergii
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Human ingenuity has no limits, that is how NOT to diagnose allergies

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Bioresonance, cytotoxic tests or live blood drop testing are becoming increasingly popular among patients. Patients wait in long queues to have them performed and pay significant costs for them. Can allergies be detected using alternative methods? What do they look like in practice and what is their effectiveness? Let us take a look at non-conventional diagnostics for allergic diseases.

It should be noted from the outset that the alternative methods presented in this article have no application in the diagnosis of allergic diseases. They are based on the naivety of patients and, at the same time, pose a danger in terms of the omission of proper diagnosis and therapy.

Alternative methods – or what kind?

On the Internet, we often find information on alternative or so-called unconventional methods for both diagnosis and treatment of allergic diseases. However, alternative in this case does not mean “good”. These are methods that have no validation in clinical studies. Their diagnostic or therapeutic reliability has not been proven.

The use of such methods is comparable to guessing. They are typically  characterised by a lack of repeatability of results and, when used therapeutically, produce a placebo-like effect. Consequently, non-conventional methods are not recommended either for the diagnosis or for the treatment of allergic diseases.

Why are these methods available at all? Unfortunately, but our legislation remains helpless in the face of unproven “phenomena” – for this is how I will refer to alternative methods used in the diagnosis of allergic diseases later in this article. If they were to be banned, it would go against the principles of democracy, human freedom and free choice of behaviour.

It should be stressed that scientific societies, including the Polish Society of Allergology, do not recommend the use of these methods. Moreover, alternative methods may even prove harmful, as their use may lull our vigilance and lead to a delayed  diagnosis and introduction of appropriate therapy.

Do metod alternatywnych należy m.in. biorezonans

What is the reason for the popularity of alternative methods?

Unconventional diagnostic methods are widely advertised on the Internet, positively portrayed by well-known athletes or actors, which can be an encouragement to patients.

These methods are usually used by patients for whom a diagnosis has not been established despite a carefully traced medical history and numerous additional tests performed. Such patients seek other diagnostic options and end up with alternative methods. Interestingly, it is not at all easy to get these ‘tests’. Queues to the clinics can be long, which demonstrates the great interest in this type of diagnosis.

Let us  now scrutinize  the most commonly used alternative diagnostic methods for allergic diseases.

Cytotoxic tests

One popular alternative method for diagnosing allergies is cytotoxic testing, about which a great deal of information can be found on the Internet. According to the proponents of this method, blood washed from the patient is incubated with a potential allergenic agent and then assessed under a microscope. The number of white blood cells and their size are assessed. Where did the idea come from in the first place? The whole concept is based on a study from more than 70 years ago. It was shown that after an hour’s incubation of the blood of a patient allergic to grasses with grass extract, the number of leukocytes decreased by 43%. However, NO follow-up studies have confirmed this!

We need to be aware that the number of leukocytes and their shape can change under the influence of many factors, such as the temperature and pH of the environment in which the blood taken from the patient is placed. This is a naturally occurring phenomenon, although it is presented quite differently in the context of cytotoxic tests.

Advertisements are spreading on the Internet showing that these tests are used by actors, politicians, millionaires and by their cooks (so that they can prepare meals for these people). We find statements from celebrities about the high effectiveness of these types of tests, which can certainly encourage people to reach for them. They are not cheap solutions. Cytotoxic tests can cost up to 2 000 Polish zlotys.

Measurement of allergen-specific IgG concentrations

Another method is the determination of serum levels of immunoglobulin class G (IgG). The sellers of these tests claim that measuring the concentration of IgG specific to certain foods is an excellent tool for the diagnosis of allergies or food intolerances. They argue that these tests are used to detect so-called hidden allergies, which sounds very encouraging.

 

What do they mean? According to them, hidden allergies are those that we – the doctors – cannot detect by determining specific immunoglobulins, but in class E (IgE). How are such tests performed? The test can be carried out in a professional laboratory or by yourself at home, following the instructions provided with the test purchased online.

What do we know about IgG? What does scientific research say about it? IgG are so-called memory antibodies, the presence of which in the blood serum indicates exposure to a specific foreign antigen, but not its harmfulness. The presence of IgG in the serum therefore does not indicate either an allergy or an intolerance, but only that we have been in contact with the food in question, in short, that we have eaten it. There are no differences in the concentration of this immunoglobulin against specific foods between people who actually have an allergy and those who do not.

A patient with an allergy diagnosed based on  IgG concentrations, when the food in question is excluded from the diet, has an effect comparable to a placebo. Studies show that – when in contact with a certain food – our body produces IgG. Thus, the production of IgG and, above all, IgG4, indicates tolerance to the food in question rather than an allergy. This completely contradicts the theory put forward by the proponents of this method.

Live blood drop test

metody alternatywne w alergii, test z kropli krwi

Sounds magical, doesn’t it? The declared range of applications of this test is significant. We can read on the Internet that, thanks to this method, it is possible to detect, for example, predispositions to allergies and food intolerances, blood acidity, stress deposits, liver strain, vitality levels and much more. There are even guides available on how to interpret a live blood drop test.

The test involves observing blood taken from the patient under a microscope. According to proponents of this method, pathology is evidenced by the aggregation, or rolling, of red blood cells. However, it should be noted that these are physiological processes that occur after the blood has been pored over and applied to a microscope slide. The people who perform this test convince patients that they see viruses or parasites in their blood, which of course is total nonsense.

The Presidium of the National Council of Laboratory Diagnosticians, in its position paper, referred to this test and clarified it  that it is not a medical procedure. It opposed the performance of such diagnostics and pointed out that it is carried out by unauthorised persons who do not work in medical diagnostic laboratories.

Hair composition analysis

The patient’s task is to cut off a small amount of hair and send it in an envelope to the laboratory – simple, right? But does it make sense? A study involving fish-allergic patients and healthy volunteers was published in the journal Lancet. It turned out that no fish allergy was detected in any laboratory based on hair composition analysis among patients who actually had it. In addition, the hair of one person was sent to different laboratories and in each laboratory sensitisation to different allergens was found. Thus, this method has been shown to have a lack of reproducibility of results and is completely unreliable when it comes to allergy diagnosis.

Applied kinesiology

Proponents of this alternative method claim that it can be used to assess the energy fields generated by the patient when exposed to potentially harmful food. What does this test consist of? For example, by having the patient hold potentially harmful food in the left hand while the examiner assesses the muscle strength of the right hand. An allergy is indicated by a reduction in muscle strength, i.e. a droopping of the hand. Surprising? No, over time the hand will droop, the cause of which is fatigue, not allergy.

The validity of using this method for allergy diagnosis is disproved by a study conducted by Ludtke et al. The study involved patients with a confirmed allergy to wasp venom, who held a tube of insect venom or placebo (saline) in their hand. The task of the applied kinesiologist was to indicate whether the patient had a tube of venom or saline in their hand. The results were clear – applied kinesiology as a diagnostic tool in allergology has a reliability comparable to guessing.

Iridology

Metody alternatywne, irydologia

Another alternative diagnostic method – iridology – involves comparing specific sections of the iris before and after an adverse factor, e.g. after the patient has eaten a potentially allergenic kind of food. The iris is assessed both by direct examination and on photographs taken. According to proponents of this method, a vascular grid at the iris border indicates allergy. Of course, scientific reports confirm that this method has no use in the diagnosis of allergic diseases.

Bioresonance

Finally, a few words about the famous bioresonance, which is said to be used to diagnose and treat allergic diseases. Proponents of this method claim that bioresonance detects vibrations with electromagnetic wave characteristics. Harmonious vibrations are supposed to indicate health, and disharmonious ones, pathology.

In preparation for a lecture in which I was to discuss non-recommended methods in the diagnosis of allergic diseases, I went for a bioresonance test to see from the other side what this “test” is all about. The following equipment was used for the test:

  • BICOM, a device that receives, conducts, amplifies and transforms the vibrations that occur in the human body,
  • a punctoscope,
  • test ampoules with allergens,
  • an electrode for testing individual allergens.

The electrode was applied to the ampoule containing the allergen. At the same time, the examiner applied a scintilloscope to my finger. The BICOM device indicated whether I was allergic to the allergen in question.

I was very curious as to why the scintilloscope was being applied to my finger. Of course, I found the answer to my question on the Internet. According to the proponents of bioresonance, there are acupuncture points in our body between which meridians, or pathways for the movement of energy, extend. The acupuncture points are only located very shallowly in some parts of our body (e.g. on the fingers) and it is these points that provide insights into our body.

After receiving the bioresonance result, I compared it with the result of the molecular allergy test. The differences were large. I am allergic to house dust mites, whereas according to the bioresonance result I am allergic to 15 allergens. After the bioresonance, I was invited to 23 appointments, during which I would allegedly be cured of my allergies.

Bioresonance is a non-scientific method of alternative medicine whose theoretical basis refers to metaphysical phenomena. The studies that have been conducted to demonstrate the efficacy of bioresonance contain methodological flaws. Bioresonance is a diagnostic method that has no reproducibility and its therapeutic effect is at the placebo level. This method is based on the naivety of patients and at the same time poses a risk in terms of abandoning necessary treatment.

Alternative methods – summary

  • The use of unconventional diagnostic and therapeutic methods can be harmful and dangerous for the patient.
  • The results of unconventional diagnostic tests may make it difficult for the doctor to cooperate with the patient.
  • Diagnosis of allergy based on unconventional diagnostic tests may lead to unnecessary use of a restrictive diet. This, in turn, can have a negative impact on the patient’s health and well-being.
  • Many of the unconventional tests diagnose non-existent diseases and divert attention from the actual problem. This often leads to a delay in making a proper diagnosis and starting effective treatment.

Dr Kamil Janeczek

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translation: Julia Majsiak

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[2] Niekonwencjonalne metody w alergologii. Stanowisko Zarządu Głównego Polskiego Towarzystwa Alergologicznego. Alergia Astma Immunologia 1996; 1(3): 168-171.

[3] Raport Komisji ds. Weryfikacji Niekonwencjonalnych Metod Diagnostycznych i Leczniczych ZG Polskiego Towarzystwa Alergologicznego. Alergia Astma Immunologia 1996; 1(3): 172-183.

[4] Bock S.A., AAAAI support of the EAACI Position Paper on IgG4. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125(6): 1410.

[5] Wüthrich B., Specific IgG antibodies as markers of adverse reactions to food. Contra! Monogr Allergy 1996; 32: 226-227.

[6] Sethi T.J., Lessof M.H., Kemeny D.M. i wsp., How reliable are commercial allergy tests? Lancet 1987; 1(8524): 92-94.

[7] Lüdtke R., Kunz B., Seeber N., Ring J., Test-retest-reliability and validity of the kinesiology muscle test. Complement Ther Med 2001; 9(3): 141-145.

[8] Ernst E., Iridology: not useful and potentially harmful. Arch Ophthalmol 2000; 118(1): 120-121.