My Brief Encounter with an Allergy Quack
Jessica Jones, M.D.
My 16-month-old son has food allergies. He had terrible eczema from birth and was exclusively breastfed until I started solid foods. He had hives the first times he had yogurt and cheese, and an anaphylactic reaction (difficulty breathing, respiratory rate of 60, wheezing, and bluish skin) after exposure to a small amount of cow's milk. RAST testing suggested that he was also highly allergic to wheat, peanut, egg, and mildly allergic to soy. His eczema improved significantly once cow's milk and milk products were was eliminated from his diet. His allergies were diagnosed by a board-certified allergist. Because food proteins can be transmitted through breast milk, the allergist recommended that I stop consuming the foods to which my son was allergic.
Not long afterward, I saw a sign in our local "organic foods" store advertising the free services of a "nutritionist." Hoping for some advice on what foods we could still eat and maintain a balanced diet, I consulted her. I did not tell her I was a board-certified internist.
Our interaction lasted less than 3 minutes. She glanced at me and my son and said that we both had "yeast." She asked if I was tired. I said yes. My fatigue, of course, was related to the energy it took to care for the infant and toddler who were with me. But she said that my tiredness confirmed her diagnosis. She recommended that I eliminate all sugars, some fruits, rice, and juice from our diet and handed me a $30 bottle of a nutritional supplement to feed my son. Then she said she had someone else to see and that I should schedule a more in-depth (and NOT complementary) consultation. I looked at the label on the bottle. The first ingredient was whey, the very same milk protein to which he had had the anaphylactic reaction!
"Alternative medicine" practitioners often claim to be much more caring and interested than medical doctors are in their patients. However, as medical doctor, I would NEVER treat a patient the way this "nutritionist" did. If I did, I could justifiably be sued for malpractice. But this woman is still "practicing" at the same store with no accountability whatsoever.
My son is thriving on an avoidance diet designed with competent professional help. We are optimistic that he will outgrow his allergies, with the possible exception of peanut.
Dr. Jones, who is currently a stay-at-home mom, resides in Texas.
This article was posted on November 20, 2007.