In the U.S., research estimates that more than 50 million people have an allergy or allergies, and 32 million of those have food allergies.1,2 Further, 5.8 million, or one in 13, children under the age of 18 have food allergies, and up to 40 percent are allergic to more than one food.2
Having a child with a food allergy can be scary, because many times the allergy can be life-threatening. When a serious reaction (anaphylaxis) occurs, symptoms may include tongue or throat swelling, difficulty breathing, vomiting, hives, lightheadedness, abdominal pain, low blood pressure and cardiac arrest.3 It can happen suddenly, and quickly worsen until death if not treated immediately.
What Causes an Allergic Reaction to Food?
Food allergies are a result of your body’s immune system attacking a protein in the food you eat that is normally totally harmless. More than 170 foods have been reported to cause an allergic reaction, but there are eight major allergens that cause most of the serious reactions in the U.S. These foods include milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, soy, fish, and crustacean shellfish.2 Peanut allergy is the most common, followed by milk and shellfish.4 Children may typically outgrow milk or egg allergies, whereas peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish allergies often persist throughout adulthood. The Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) group brings to light another important factor related to food allergies: children with food allergies are twice as likely to be bullied than children without a medical condition.
Even in adults, new allergies can develop.3 Food allergies aren’t just life-threatening either, they cost money too. Care and treatment of food allergies costs approximately $25 billion a year.2,4
Food allergies are, without a doubt, inconvenient, scary, costly, and can greatly interfere with quality of life, especially in children.
Current Allergy Treatment Options
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, the only current treatment option for food allergies is to avoid the allergens at all costs. This is the standard of care. There is no medication to manage food allergies, except for epinephrine, which is only used in life-threatening situations. However, keeping auto-injectable epinephrine on-hand at all times is essential to food allergy treatment.
In an attempt to get allergy relief, some people may seek out alternative treatments such as acupuncture, massage, chiropractic, homeopathy and acupressure.5 Another popular method, Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique, uses a blend of these treatments to “alleviate” allergies but not cure them. Most current research consists of case studies, and randomized controlled trials (the gold standard) are lacking.
The oral immunotherapy (OIT) technique however, is a possible option on the market for those seeking allergy relief. OIT exposes an individual to the allergen, first in small amounts, then in larger amounts over time. This is thought to help increase the threshold at which an allergic reaction takes place. For example, if a child is allergic to peanuts, the doctor or allergist may give the child an amount of peanuts small enough to not trigger a reaction. Over a period of months, this dose is increased.6
The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology states that 60 to 70 percent of patients studied have shown successful desensitization to peanut, egg and milk allergens from OIT, however, responses to other allergens have not been closely studied and OIT may vary in effectiveness.6 A process such as this can be costly and it is not a curative treatment. In addition, patients often drop out because they experience allergic reactions and anaphylaxis during the process.5
What Is ART?
Finally, there is an allergy treatment available for those who don’t want to just raise their allergen threshold, but want to safely eliminate their reaction to allergens all together.
The Allergy Release Technique (ART), created by Amy Thieringer, is a process that integrates multiple components of alternative and Western medicine to eliminate allergic reactions for good. It combines skin conductance assessments at acupuncture points, exposure to radio frequency pulses, food desensitization, cognitive behavioral techniques to manage anxiety, and post-treatment exposure to foods to successfully give patients freedom from their allergies.5
ART works by using these methods to identify elements that stress the immune system and then restore balance to and strengthen the system. This step can take three to six months. After this balance is achieved and the immune system is functioning effectively, the known food allergens are then incrementally introduced first on the skin, and then later orally for desensitization. This process can take another four to eight months per allergy, as each one is worked on individually to minimize stress on the body.7
“The first component of the ART process that sets it apart from anything else is that ART addresses the overloaded immune system” said Thieringer. “Along with balancing and strengthening the immune system, ART has varied tools that support anxiety response in the body. Once the immune system is strong, the allergen is introduced and carefully supported until the client can safely free-eat and integrate the food into daily life.”
Length of treatment depends on the severity of the allergy or allergies, and how each individual body responds to the treatment. ART is not an overnight process, and it can take months, a year or more. For a successful treatment, there also needs to be a commitment on the part of the patient to the process and the therapist.
Why Is ART Useful?
A study published in 2019 compared the effectiveness of ART and standard allergy management (SM). As was mentioned earlier, SM involves avoidance of the allergen and having auto-injectable epinephrine on-hand at all times. SM can be effective, but it is not a cure and the allergies continue to greatly impact quality of life.
The results of the study showed that children who underwent ART were able to eat foods they were formerly allergic to on a weekly basis, they had a greater intake of calcium (for those with milk allergies), and quality of life was significantly higher for ART participants versus those who used SM.
Over the past 12 years, almost 400 children have participated in ART and are seeing results today.5 One parent, whose child went through ART two years ago, still has much to say: “With Matthew’s wide array of allergies, we could never travel to a place that didn’t have a kitchen—we couldn’t rely on any restaurant to prepare him safe food. It’s been a little over two years since his last appointment and he is a different child. Able to eat all of the foods that once sent him to the hospital. And… this August we will all be traveling together to Italy. We owe all of this to Amy.” Kristen DiChiaro said that her son, Matthew, would previously be admitted to the ER for anaphylactic reactions to dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts and sesame.
ART is non-invasive and works to alleviate each patient of not only their allergies, but also the mental and physical stress associated with those allergies. For many ART clients, some saw improvements in other areas as well, such as improved eczema and even a reduction in OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) symptoms. This technique is the first and only of its kind, and it is proven to be effective. “There is no ideal candidate for ART treatment. While I limit myself to clients with severe anaphylaxis, we have many trained ART practitioners who help with a multitude of conditions including Lyme, IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), environmental allergies and eczema,” said Thieringer.
In order to expand its reach and continue treating individuals with food allergies, especially life threatening allergies, ART is currently looking to recruit other practitioners to become trained in the technique. There is more information on how to become a practitioner or get treatment at Allergyart.com.
1 American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Food Allergy. https://acaai.org/allergies/types/food-allergy Retrieved July 10, 2019.
2 Food Allergy Research and Education. Facts and Statistics www.foodallergy.org/life-with-food-allergies/food-allergy-101/facts-and-statistics Retrieved July 10, 2019.
3 College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Anaphylaxis. https://acaai.org/allergies/anaphylaxis Retrieved July 10, 2019.
4 Asthma Allergy Foundation of America. Allergy Facts and Figures. www.aafa.org/allergy-facts/ Retrieved July 10, 2019.
5 Brody LR, Thieringer AR, Wang TL, Le-Bovidge JS, Elversn W, Timmons KG, Schneider LC (2019). Retrospective Study Comparing Allergy Release Technique to Standard Management of Pediatric Peanut and Cow’s Milk Allergies. Alternative and Integrative Medicine, 8:1.
6 American Academy of Asthma, Allergy, and Immunology for OIT (2019). The Current State of Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) For the Treatment of Food Allergy. www.aaaai.org/conditions-and-treatments/library/allergy-library/oit Retrieved July 10, 2019.
7 Allergy Release Technique. http://allergyart.com/strengthen-bodys-immune-system/ Retrieved July 10, 2019.
Dr. Nicole Avena is a research neuroscientist and expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction, with a special focus on nutrition during early life and pregnancy. Her research achievements have been honored by awards from several groups including the New York Academy of Sciences, the American Psychological Association, and the National Institute on Drug Abuse. She is an assistant professor of neuroscience at the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, in New York, NY and is a visiting professor of health psychology at Princeton University in New Jersey. Dr. Avena has written several books, including What to Eat When You’re Pregnant and What to Feed Your Baby and Toddler. She regularly appears as a science expert on the Dr. Oz Show, Good Day NY and The Doctors, as well as many other news programs. Her work has been featured in Bloomberg Business Week, Time Magazine for Kids, The New York Times, Shape, Men’s Health, Details, as well as many other periodicals. Dr. Avena blogs for Psychology Today, is a member of the Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau and has the No. 2 most watched TED-ED Health talk, “How Sugar Affects Your Brain.” You can follow Dr. Avena on Twitter (@DrNicoleAvena), Facebook (www.facebook.com/DrNicoleAvena) and Instagram (@drnicoleavena), or visit www.drnicoleavena.com.