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Intriguing Cases

Chronic catarrh

Dr David L. J. Freed, MB, MD, MIBiol

A 74-year-old retired female medical secretary reported in 1996 with a history of chronic catarrh for most of her life.

After many decades of various nose drops, sprays and oral medications, she had eleven years previously consulted a private allergy clinic in Manchester run by a former colleague of mine. At that stage she had also developed indigestion, palpitations, headaches and asthma. This allergist had now left the country. She had been advised to transfer to another colleague in the south of England but could not afford to, so she came to me instead, bringing with her a sheaf of notes from the previous clinic.

From what I knew of my former colleague, I thought he would have started her first on an elimination diet, but I saw no reference to that in the notes, indeed it was clear that she had not been keeping to any diet. She had received fairly extensive neutralisation with some success in that the abdominal symptoms, asthma and headaches had settled, but the catarrh (which was now her only remaining problem) had stubbornly refused to budge until she had been neutralised also for moulds. This extra treatment had worked very well and she was hoping that I would be able to repeat the success.

I dislike taking over patients from colleagues, since the patient always arrives with that colleague's indoctrination firmly in place and it is not always entirely the same as mine! This patient specifically requested neutralisation for moulds and that only, so that is what I gave her though without any success. She thought that perhaps she would also need the extensive food testing that she had received at the other clinic. I also thought that we would have to explore the possibility of food sensitivities, but rather than proceed immediately to testing I advised her to give up milk and all of its products (had I seen her "virgin", as it were, I would have advised that first of all). She followed that advice and within a week her symptoms had all disappeared. She has remained perfectly well and off all medications for the 10 years ever since, apart from occasional minor stuffiness which she does not bother treating. She is managing perfectly well without milk.

I publish this case to illustrate (a) that symptoms which been troublesome for decades, resisting all the ploys of modem pharmacy, can still respond to ridiculously simple dietary advice, (b) that age is no barrier to success, (c) that milk is an allergen and is not essential for any human beyond infancy (in spite of popular medical opinion), and (d) that clinical ecologists do successfully treat classic allergic conditions as well as controversial ones.

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