Alternative Allergy Treatments: Exploring the Claims of NAET

Devi S. Nambudripad, D.C., L.A.c., M.D.(W.I.), Ph.D.NAET, or Nambudripad Allergy Elimination Technique, is an alternative, non-invasive, drug free treatment intended to eliminate allergies and chemical sensitivities. NAET was developed in 1983 by Devi Nambudripad and uses procedures from acupuncture, acupressure, allopathy, chiropractic, nutritional, and kinesiological disciplines.

As a holistic approach to allergy treatment, NAET views allergies from an Oriental Medical perspective. NAET considers an allergy a condition of unusual sensitivity to a substance that is viewed by the brain as a threat to the body's well-being. It defines an allergy in terms of what a substance does to the energy flow in the body. Thus, allergies are believed to be the result of energy imbalances in the body that compromise the state of health of one or more organ systems. The goal of NAET is to balance the entire body, physically, physiologically, and emotionally to achieve optimal health and eliminate allergies. However, NAET is not impervious to some credible critique, and the method has not been scientifically validated.

History of NAET

NAET was developed by Dr. Devi Nambudripad, a California acupuncturist, chiropractor, and kinesiologist. She developed this treatment while trying to relieve herself of severe allergic symptoms that she suffered since her birth in Kerala, South India.

However, some of her description of the history behind this development is sure to leave the sensible reader with doubts. Nambudripad describes having taken 30 aspirin a day to "keep her going" and living on a diet of white rice and broccoli for three and a half years in her book Say Goodbye to Illness. This book is required reading before making an appointment with a NAET practitioner.

She also claims to have been allergic to vitamins C, A, and B-complex, when in fact true allergies occur as reactions to proteins, not vitamins, minerals, or sugars. She stumbled onto the beginning of what would develop into her theory of treatment when she was giving herself acupuncture while (incidentally) in contact with some carrots. After the acupuncture, she was no longer allergic to carrots and believed it was the result of a piece of carrot being in her electromagnetic field during the acupuncture treatment.

Your Brain and AllergiesNambudripad began theorizing about the systemic relationship between contact with an allergen and the neuro-physiological effects produced in the body. She believes a brain can be "reprogrammed" to no longer react to what it previously perceived to be harmful or toxic.

NAET therapy and treatment views allergies as the result of energy imbalances in the body. Contact with an allergen causes blockages in energy pathways. In other words, allergens disrupt the normal flow of energy through the body's electrical circuits. This interferes with the brain and body's communication through the nervous system. According to this theory, it is the first step towards developing an allergy.

In contrast, science-based allergists define allergies as reactions of the body's immune system when the body has become sensitized to a substance. A reaction occurs when allergy-causing proteins combine with antibodies and trigger the release of histamine and other chemicals in the body.

Whether skeptical or credulous, one can visit one of the over 9,000 licensed medical practitioners (mostly acupuncturists and chiropractors) that have been trained in NAET procedures all over the world and begin the process of diagnosing allergies.

Diagnosing Allergies through NAET

In diagnosing a patient, a NAET practitioner should first take a complete history and ask for all medical records. A physical examination is done (observation of mental status, face, skin, eyes, color, posture, movements, gait, tongue, scars, wounds, marks, body secretions, etc.) and vital signs are taken.

Electromagnetic Spectrum

Then, a series of less conventional testing is done including a skin-resistance/electro-dermal test, neuromuscular sensitivity/muscle test response, dynamometer testing (measures finger strength in the absence and presence of an allergen), electromagnetic field testing (supposedly measuring the pool of electromagnetic energy around a person and object and determining whether the electric fields produced have suitable charges for the person to absorb the energy from the object), and a pulse test (measuring the pulse while eating something you're allergic to). In this way, allergies and their responsible allergens are determined by the NAET practitioner.

NAET Treatment

After testing is completed, the practitioner "treats specific acupuncture points on the back using strong acupressure either by hands or with a pressure device while the patient is holding the allergen in their palm, touching the sample with the pads of their fingers." Patients wait 15-20 minutes after the treatment and are then again tested for muscle strength while holding the allergen. If the treatment was successful, the patient's muscles should be stronger while holding the allergen than when initially tested.

The patients are then instructed to avoid all contact with the recently treated allergen for 25 hours, and encouraged to follow the NAET Guidebook to find suitable food to eat during this time. At the next visit, the allergy treated will be tested again, and if the result is deemed satisfactory, the practitioner will begin treating another allergy.

Fifteen to twenty such visits are recommended to treat mild or moderate allergies. Certain foods, supplements, and herbs are also recommended based upon need (specific supplements are determined by the patient holding a supplement with one arm while the practitioner pulls on the other arm--muscle weakness indicates deficiency). In this way, NAET is purported to treat and cure allergies. It is even marketed as preventative care for people who are not ill.

BioSET as an Offshoot of NAET

BioSET Allergy TreatmentBioSET - Bioenergetic sensitivity and enzyme therapy - developed by Ellen Cutler, DC, is an offshoot of NAET and claims to achieve more permanent results by adding digestive enzymes and detoxifying the body. Three areas are focused on to restore a patient to health:

  • Allergy testing through muscle testing or a computerized device
  • Enzyme therapy to improve digestion and correct nutritional deficiencies
  • Organ detoxification

Like NAET, BioSET views the body holistically. It believes there to be an energy system in the body composed of meridians that is intricately involved in the way the body maintains its overall health. Culter's book The Food Allergy Cure outlines many similar beliefs and practices to NAET procedures and treatment.

NAET - A Credible Treatment?

While there are supposedly thousands of testimonials of being cured or helped by NAET, there are also some serious considerations regarding the validity of several of its claims. So far there have been no randomized, double-blind studies on the NAET technique. A lack of scientific justification to many of its approaches and the absence of supporting scientific evidence of clinical effectiveness leave indelible doubts to the complete legitimacy of NAET testing and treatment.

Stephen Barrett, M.D, the leader of "Quackwatch," states that "NAET clashes with the concepts of anatomy, physiology, pathology, physics, and allergy accepted by the scientific community." Surely seeking alternative and holistic approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of allergies is a commendable endeavor, but some sensible skepticism to dubious claims is also healthy.

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