Stephen Malthouse, MD
The homeopathic approach to food allergies may surprise some people: food allergies will completely disappear with proper treatment.
The homeopathic approach to food allergies may surprise some people: food allergies will completely disappear with proper treatment. This seems to be in contrast to the usual medical approach of eliminating the offending food or using digestive aids and then viewing the patient as cured.
A true food allergy differs from food sensitivity or intolerance. When a patient develops hives or anaphylactic shock after exposure to a certain substance, that is a true allergy. It involves the immune system and can be life threatening. An example of this would be the peanut allergy that is now seen quite often in children.
Some children have a true allergy to milk or eggs and react with an itchy rash (hives); swelling, either local or generalized; or changes in breathing, pulse and consciousness (anaphylactic shock). In this situation, conventional medicine such as antihistamines and adrenaline injections can save the person’s life and should be the mainstay of acute treatment. Life-long avoidance of the offending food makes sense if the risk is high.
In the meantime, homeopathic treatment can help strengthen the immune system. After homeopathic treatment, if there is an accidental exposure, the chances of a severe reaction are reduced. In addition, acute homeopathic remedies, such as Apis mellifica for hives, can be added to the conventional treatment.
Food sensitivity or intolerance is a more common problem. These are characterized by nasal congestion, gas, heartburn, bloating, abdominal pain, constipation or diarrhea–even distant symptoms such as a migraine or leg pains. The immune system is not involved and the risk to the patient from exposure is not great. However, the symptoms can be quite debilitating.
Homeopathy views food sensitivities (and allergies, too) as an expression of a disturbance in the patients energetic system. This system keeps all the tissues and organs as well as the emotions and intellectual apparatus functioning at optimum level. Under stress, the energetic system will cause certain symptoms, such as food intolerances or allergies, to appear. These symptoms are not a disease to be cured in themselves, but a reflection of an underlying, deeper malfunction.
Although the superficial symptoms of food intolerances can be treated with acute remedies, such as Nux vomica (heartburn, burning stomach pains, better after eating) or Carbo vegetabilis (stomach gas and distension), it is important to treat the entire person with more deep-acting constitutional remedies in order to prevent the recurrence of the problem. The added advantage of this latter approach is that symptoms that appear along with food intolerances, such as chronic headache, insomnia and fatigue, will also be addressed.
In the short term, avoiding the offending food and using digestive enzymes may be helpful. It will alleviate nasal congestion, bloating or other symptoms for a period of time. However, in the absence of a more deep-acting treatment, new food sensitivities tend to develop.
Although homeopaths encourage proper diet and lifestyle, freedom to be able to eat just about anything is the goal of homeopathic treatment. A child that can go to a birthday party next door and eat cake and ice cream without significant risk to her health is considered a healthier child.
To achieve this level of health, homeopathic patients are treated with constitutional remedies. These remedies have a profound effect on the constitution of the whole person, not only one part of their system, as occurs in acute prescribing. They take much more into account and require the experience of a trained homeopathic practitioner to prescribe them.
Constitutional treatment is similar to piecing together a giant jigsaw puzzle: each puzzle piece represents a symptom or characteristic of the patient. Symptoms can be mental, emotional or physical. The patients personality, desires and aversions, past medical history and family history must also be considered. Some puzzle pieces have been smudged by previous treatments, surgery or drugs. Some pieces are missing. A skilled homeopath can recognize the final picture and match it to the correct constitutional remedy.
The fundamental principle of homeopathy is like cures like; in other words, a substance that can cause symptoms in a healthy person can cure those same symptoms in a sick person. As there are over 2,500 remedies in the homeopathic pharmacopoeia, it is not always an easy job to find this remedy. The remedy strength and frequency of administration are also important factors in a successful outcome.