Q:"I'd like to respond to Dr John Mansfield's answer to your correspondent, C.P., who enquired about the homoeopathic management of asthma and eczema. It seems to me that the enquirer's question was not dealt with fully, though much useful information was supplied.
"I have treated many cases of allergy related conditions, the most common being eczema and asthma, the outcome being a significant reduction of prescribed drugs (including oral steroids), or the withdrawal of them completely. What should be emphasized to your correspondent is that this may need to be a slow process and that prescribed drugs should not be, and need not be, withdrawn before homoeopathic treatment begins."Usual and safe practice in homoeopathic treatment where drugs are administered for potentially life threatening conditions is simply to leave the orthodox drug regime in place when the homoeopathic treatment is begun. Often patients have a degree of latitude in the administration of Ventolin, depending on symptoms experienced, and the first response that is noted is that less and less is required.
"Once symptoms of the illness are relieved and attacks become less frequent or less severe, further withdrawal of prescribed drugs may be considered. Most professional homoeopaths would seek to do this is cooperation with the patients' GP.
"It is unclear whether your correspondent has sought professional advice or is considering treating the children herself. I would advise against prescribing any over the counter homoeopathic remedies in such circumstances, since the management of such problems may be quite complex.
"I would like to respond to Dr Mansfield's assertion that homoeopathy is unlikely to deal with the cause of the problem. This runs contrary to my own clinical experience and that of many of my colleagues. Dr Mansfield's comment may rest on the perception of homoeopathic treatment offering an alternative drug regime, ie, that homoeopathic remedies are an alternative way to suppress and control symptoms. They certainly can and do act in this way. Examples of this kind of homoepathic treatment have been published (see Reily, et all The Lancet: ii 881-886, 1986 and Ferley et all Br J Clinical Pharmac 27: 329-335, 1989).
"However, most professional homoeopaths are not seeking to control symptoms, but to restore their clients to a state of health. This implies freedom from the need for any continuous treatment be it by drugs or remedies as an eventual outcome. To return to the situation described by your correspondent, remedies prescribed in this way would result in restoring a normal immune response to the allergens. In order to achieve this a homoeopathic remedy must be matched to the patient in a very individual way.
"Thus the approach of the practitioner in prescribing homoeopathic remedies can and does play a large part in determining the outcome of homoeopathic treatment." B.F., registered homoeopath, The School of Homoeopathic Medicine, Darlington.
"Speaking from my own personal experience of homoeopathy for my young son,who had severe asthma and eczema, he is now a very healthy seven year old with no traces of either. I have also seen children of close friends treated most successfully with homoeopathy for the same problems,which seem to be on the increase.
"Homoepathy treats the cause of asthma and eczema very satisfactorily. My son can now eat and drink whatever he likes, has contact with animals (which used to irritate his condition) and can enter into all the sporting activities at school with no adverse effects. His quality of life has improved tremendously.
"I feel it only fair to your readers that this comment be retracted as this type of remark could very easily dissuade parents from turning to a very successful form of treatment for their children.
"I am certain the reader who wrote the letter will be very happy with the progress of her two children under homoeopathy. In the care of a good, classical registered homoeopath, there is no gentler cure." K.S., Farnworth.
"We were very sad and angry to read Dr John Mansfield dismissing homoeopathy so lightly.
"Allergies to dust, food etc can help to bring out asthma and eczema, but they are not the cause of these distressing conditions, but merely part of the general imbalance the patient is exhibiting.
"The answer as always in our opinion is the holistic approach attention to diet, supplements, stress and pollution control, plus skilled homoeopathic treatment (we find it very painful that such an approach is generally ignored in your publications, and thus try not to read the questions page). We feel very strongly that desensitization is not the answer, as it does not address the basic imbalance at all." C. and S. T., Thorpe's Health Foods, Melton Mowbray.....
"Dr J Mansfield may be a specialist in allergies, but with due respect knows nothing about homoeopathy. . . Why didn't he stick to what he knows? I personally wouldn't dare to make claims about acupuncture or osteopathy, as I simply do not know (I am qualified to practice homoeopathy ). Let's hope to hear from more people qualified in their field talking about their subject." T.G.Hove..
A:Boy, did we step on a number of toes with the answer to the question about treating asthma! Thank you all for writing in with your comments and protest.
Dr Mansfield assures us it wasn't his intention to denigrate homoeopathy, but only to "stick to what he knows" by discussing the therapies he's used successfully to treat eczema and asthma. And while we're on the subject, please note that a misprint occurred in his answer. Becotide is only used in the treatment of asthma, not eczema.
As you can see with the question about HRT, each of the allopathic and complementary disciplines has its advocates. In their experience that is what has worked for them. One of the problems with medicine is the ignorance or distrust of practitioners for other forms of medicine.
I suppose if we were to offer "C. P.", our original correspondent, some revised advice, putting together all the comments above, we would suggest that she slowly wean her children off asthma drugs while trying homoeopathy with a qualified practitioner and possibly also experimenting with an exclusion diet to determine if her children are allergic to anything.
Actually, we're very pleased this tempest has brewed because it enables us to answer the many readers (particularly those who practice alternative medicine) who write in asking why we don't provide more information on complementary approaches, particularly in our Q and A section.
Members of the WDDTY staff have had remarkable success with almost all forms of the major alternative approaches; I am a firm advocate of many forms of alternative treatments by qualified practitioners (we even used acupuncture to get my daughter's birth going, after she was 28 days overdue with success, I might add).
What often seems to work best is a combination of approaches; I am currently suffering from a recurrence of candida albicans and am getting better through a mix of diet, short term use of a drug and acupuncture. We applaud a judicious combining of the best from both camps.
But here's our problem, editorially speaking. Once we begin discussing one type of alternative approach,we'll have to mention all of them; before long, we might be more appropriately renamed the "Second Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine".
Although several fine publications already exist for alternative medicine (including a real JACM), there is nothing much in print about the dangers of conventional medicine.
That is our little niche and that's where we feel we can be of most use, both to lay persons and alternative practitioners. We often publish information about nutritional medicine or clinical ecology because both are considered within the outer perimeter of allopathic medicine.
We feel we can best serve you by sticking to what we know best, while occasionally suggesting that you seek more information about alternative treatments when conventional ones are dangerous or ineffective (see case study).