Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dealing with rheumatoid arthritis . . .

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that evidence is beginning to pile up that I might have rheumatoid arthritis.

I thought my doctor would contact me; he didn't. On Thursday, I went to the Kaiser Permanente website and discovered he had written a note online, but Kaiser never informed me (as they normally do) that he had written.

"Sorry. Your numbers are inconclusive," said the doctor. So he told me he wants me to take some more tests (I went in on Friday to have my blood drawn) and possibly go to a rheumatologist.

Meanwhile, last week I did some research.

Everything I saw online said there isn't much doctors can do for rheumatoid arthritis besides slow its progress (maybe) . . . but/and--I also noticed--the drugs they would prescribe are likely to do damage to my liver. (Great!)

I mentioned this to my family, and Amy, our eldest daughter, urged me to buy a certain book. I did . . . but I also bought a couple of other books that intrigued me.

I have now read Conquering Arthritis: What Doctors Don't Tell You Because They Don't Know by Barbara Allan.

Allan presents a compelling case for the idea that a large portion of rheumatoid arthritis is the result of food sensitivities. (One of the things that impressed me about Allan right off: She is extremely careful in her use of words. She notes, right off, that "allergy" is well defined in the medical literature; moreover, these sensitivities don't match the traditional definition of allergy; yet there is no question they exist. So she refuses to call them allergies in her book. [On her website, however, for the sake of grabbing an audience among people who would not be quite so fastidious, she does occasionally use the word . . . and then is careful, quickly, to shift her readers' vocabulary to the more precise--or, at least, acceptable--sensitivity.)

Allan's general advice: find out the foods to which your body rebels, avoid those foods, and you'll get better.

You get a sense of why Allan is so careful in her presentation: She was a doctoral student in molecular biology who had to quit the program when she got slammed with what her physician called "reactive arthritis."

She provides one of the most thorough and most thoroughly documented (from primary, research-journal sources) "popular" books I have ever read.

In the [relatively small] portion of her book in which she explains how to identify food sensitivities, Allan walks readers through how to use an elimination diet and carefully planned--and widely-spaced--reintroduction of potential problem foods.

In the back matter of the book and on her website, however, she mentions a panel of blood tests with which she had not been familiar when she first wrote her book. Done by Cells Science Systems Corp. (CSS; full listings on their Order a Test page; summary technical descriptions on their Studies page), the test panels are called ALCAT (for "Antigen Leukocyte Cellular Antibody Test").

As a British sports fitness trainer notes in an article available on the CSS website,
The . . . elimination diet . . . has to be by far the most laborious and unsuccessful method I have ever come across to establish food sensitivities. I really feel for anyone who has . . . to go through this; it really can't be fun.

For a therapist, it must be a nightmare if this is the only weapon in your food sensitivity arsenal. There can only be one in a hundred sufferers/clients who have the time, energy and willpower to put themselves through such an ordeal, not to mention the inaccuracy of it due to delayed reactions--each trigger food on Friday, migraine on Monday.
And so, he said, he has adopted the ALCAT tests.
I decided to to use blood tests with my clients because of the advantages of specificity. I decided to use the ALCAT test with my clients . . . because I tried others and they didn't do the job. Since then I've seen people's lives really change for the better using ALCAT testing.

. . . Some of my clients have reacted very strongly to coriander, some to chicken, some to potato. I had some results back recently where somebody has a severe reaction to strawberry and leek!

The results are never the same, so there couldn't be just a book you could read or a 'one-size-fits-all' diet plan to follow. But when eight or nine out of ten people's conditions are so improved that they feel like they have their lives back and all this energy to celebrate the fact with, it's very worth it. Even the one or two who aren't completely sorted out say that they feel so much better on the plan even if it's not a complete solution.

People need to be tested for their own individual trigger foods, and if it means that you go without cheese or lamb or broccoli for a while, it's hardly the end of the world. I don't eat bread anymore and I feel fantastic because of it. It's not hard to do; I just look at the sandwich and know that if I eat that it will make me feel lousy. I do not smoke for exactly the same reason.

If you are a sufferer, the relation or friend of a sufferer, or a health practitioner, and if you suspect the problem is a food sensitivity, then I urge you to look beyond the articles in the popular press that say white flour and pasteurized milk are bad--they are, but that's likely to be just the tip of the iceberg--there is a test out there that really can make the difference.
Considering the relative inability of the medical mainstream to offer hope of a cure, and considering, too--what I've been discovering and realizing--how my tendency toward asthma, my Graves' disease, my cholesterol/lipid issues . . . and, now, this . . . all seem tied to foods (and most of them, too, to autoimmune issues), and, finally, considering that two of my four kids have discovered that, though they are not officially allergic to wheat, they both become . . . shall we say . . . mentally unstable (to the point of suicidal) when they eat anything with a trace of wheat in it . . . after reading Allan's book, I have decided to take more seriously the need to identify my own potential food sensitivities or allergies.

So I have signed up for the ALCAT "Platinum Comprehensive" Panel of tests for food sensitivities--a panel that covers 200 Foods, 10 Food Additives, 10 Food Colorings, 10 Antibiotics, 10 Anti-Inflammatory Agents, 20 Pharmacoactive Agents, 10 Environmental Chemicals, and 20 Molds.

As the CSS website explains:
The ALCAT Test . . . measures leukocyte cellular reactivity in whole blood, which is a final common pathway of all mechanisms. . . . Standard allergy tests, such as skin testing or RAST are not accurate for delayed type reactions to foods and chemicals [because t]hey measure only a single mechanism, such as the effect of mast cell release of histamine or the presence of allergen specific IgE molecules. Delayed reactions to foods and chemicals are NOT IgE mediated.

The ALCAT Test also differs from standard IgG tests in that they rely exclusively on one immune pathway, serum levels of immunoglobulin G (IgG). In fact, high food specific IgG titers are indicative only of exposure, not necessarily intolerance.

The ALCAT Test reproducibly measures the final common pathway of all pathogenic mechanism; whether immune, non-immune, or toxic. It is the only test shown to correlate with clinical symptoms by double blind oral challenges, the gold standard.
Before I ordered the test panel, I called the 866 number on Allan's Conquering Arthritis website (1-866-432-5244) and wound up speaking with Barbara directly. We had a good conversation. I commented on--and thanked her for--her careful primary-source documentation for virtually every claim she makes in the book.

If you or someone you know is suffering from arthritis or, actually, almost any autoimmune disorder (asthma, Crohn's, . . . even thyroid difficulties [I'm astonished to discover how many human ailments are related to autoimmune problems!]) you might want to get Barbara's book just for the sake of the astonishing things you'll discover inside . . . like her insights on "Standard Recipes" for commercially processed foods (which recipes mean the manufacturers don't have to tell you what they're actually using to make the food you eat), and how table salt is actually half dextrose (a sugar usually made from corn), and how (and why) Barbara even found a product that proudly proclaimed on its label, in large letters, that it had no MSG in it . . . actually had MSG in it. . . .

Quite amazing.

And if you're interested in taking the tests, I'd like to suggest you consider ordering from Barbara's site. She's an affiliate of ALCAT. And by buying from her for the same price as from ALCAT, you get everything ALCAT offers, plus an additional consultation from Allan.


Oh. For some additional interesting information, check out these studies on the ALCAT (found on ALCAT's Clinical Studies page). All of the studies--and there are many more than listed below--are in PDF format.


For full disclosure:

Let me note that there are many nay-sayers about ALCAT and the entire therapy regimen recommended by Allan. Google alcat test scam for a few indicators.

Amazingly, even in the midst of communities in which there is obvious antagonism, you will often find people who speak up for the efficacy of the methodology.

I don't want to be taken for a fool. But I have to confess a growing inability to take the word of the American medical establishment and "Big Pharma" without some huge "grains of salt." --They can complain all they want about the alternative medicine "quacks"; but we have seen too many quackeries perpetrated by them as well without apology.

I think we are all left with "Buyer Beware."

Considering Barbara Allan's demonstrated credibility, I have obviously been tempted to trust her. . . . And if her recommendations prove ineffective? --You may be sure I will report on it.
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