LOS ALTOS, CA, May 16, 2013 – Check out the latest Google Trends and you’ll see that searches for all things “allergy” are peaking this month, just like they have every year about this time since at least 2004. However, despite all this searching, it would appear that we’re not getting any closer to finding a fix for a problem that continues to plague millions of people.
The term “allergy” was introduced in 1906 after Viennese pediatrician Clemens von Pirquet began noticing that some of his patients were having adverse reactions to presumably innocuous things like dust, pollen, and certain foods. Since then, the list of allergy types has been expanded and refined to include everything from hay fever to egg, fish, dairy, nut, and soy allergies.
And yet, as good as we are at describing this disease, developing consistently effective treatments has proved elusive.
Although drug-based remedies are by far the most popular, what works for one doesn’t always work for another. And sometimes what works for one eventually stops working. Even when there does appear to be some benefit, the side effects are often worse than the ailment itself.
“I pretty much missed out on most of my 20’s” a good friend told me, “because I was whacked out on [allergy drugs] that made me very sleepy.”
Failure to find lasting relief in drugs has led to an explosion of alternative approaches such as body detox programs and acupuncture. But even here we’re seeing decidedly mixed results, some of which – especially in the case of acupuncture – is being attributed to the placebo effect; the idea that people get better simply because they think a particular pill or procedure will make them better.
Although the jury is still out on whether these approaches are any more effective than drugs, there is increasing agreement among members of both the conventional and non-conventional medical communities that the thought of the patient plays a significant part in the success of the treatment. This might explain why certain methods work for some and not for others, and sometimes only for a limited period of time.
A woman I know here in the San Francisco Bay Area found that the best thing to cure her cat allergy wasn’t a drug or even acupuncture, but prayer. As she describes it, this prayer wasn’t a matter of pleading to God to fix a bothersome situation but, instead, a realization that God hadn’t created cats to be bothersome. With this simple shift in thought – a spiritualization of thought, really, a kind of mental treatment rather than a drug-based one – her allergy symptoms completely disappeared. And while sitting next to a cat no less.
This was years ago and the problem has never returned. Today, she lives with a cat.
Prevailing medical opinion suggests that while we can’t expect most allergies to be cured – especially those involving inhalants like pet fur – there are some that can be outgrown. Based on my friend’s experience, it would appear that not only is cure possible in all situations, but that perhaps the growth that’s required isn’t physical but decidedly spiritual.
Eric Nelson is a Christian Science practitioner, whose articles on the link between consciousness and health appear regularly in a number of local, regional, and national online publications. He also serves as the media and legislative spokesperson for Christian Science in Northern California. This column originally ran in May 2012.
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