The Allergy Myth

I was at the hairdressers again the other day. In case you’re wondering, I’m sticking with the slinky 20’s bob for now because it makes me even better looking that I would be in normal circumstances. It’s hard to believe that such a thing could be possible, I know, but like they say: every day’s a school day.

Niall the hairdresser has recently discovered he is allergic to many things and has inadvertently been making his own life miserable and bloated for years. Thanks to the attentions of a professional, he can now avoid red meat, wheat and various other good things with impunity. Intrigued by this, I asked him more about the process and this marvellous woman he saw.

She is very clever apparently. She uses a mixture of different disciplines such as Acupressure, Reiki, Traditional Chinese Herbal remedies and the like. Cunningly, she only uses the bits from each one that work.
In order to find out what Niall was allergic to, she gave him various substances to hold and made him stand on a special machine. The special machine would read electrolytes in his feet (or something) and through this his allergies would be revealed. To prove the machine right, the woman demonstrated trying to push Niall’s arm down when he was holding wheat (she could) and when he was holding rice (she couldn’t but she was really trying, honestly she was).
As politely as possible, due to the fact he was wielding blades close to my head, I let Niall know what I thought of this. He agreed that he had been sceptical at first and it was only after his mother, his aunt, his father and several cousins had all been and raved about the results that he had gone at all. Since cutting out wheat and the other things from his diet he has lost a stone, his rugby coach has commented on how much fitter he is and how much better he is playing, and he is feeling generally more lively. I remained non-committal and refrained from asking what he was managing to eat now that bread was a controlled substance.

The sad thing is this woman probably believes her own hype. She is very famous apparently and has a three month waiting list. Everybody thinks she’s great.
Now. I don’t know much about allergies but what I had always understood to be true was that, medically and scientifically, it is not possible to tell you what you are allergic to; only what you are not allergic to. I’m pretty certain I have an allergy to something but due to my lifestyle can’t be sure if my killer migraine has been caused by hormones, turpentine, pineapple or any one of a thousand other things I manage to come into contact with daily. I once tried to work it out by omitting things from my diet and putting them back in again but quickly grew confused and testy and decided it wasn’t the way forward.
Why anybody would pay, heaven alone knows how much, to be told they can no longer eat the things they previously have enjoyed thoroughly is beyond me. She also sold him a load of supplements which have made him feel really energised. I asked if they had caffeine in. Once he had put the scissors down, obviously.
He also told me that he was amazed by something she had told him about himself. Almost straight away, after a mere few lines of conversation in which she had asked for no personal information at all, she was able to tell him that he was a very deep thinker. He told her that he actually tried not to think too deeply about things because he doesn’t like to get too involved. She told him that although he liked other people to think he was that way, in actual fact he did think very deeply about things; underneath mind. Amazingly, he realised she was right.
I told him to go and read “Trick of the Mind” by Derren Brown.

In other ways Niall is a delightful fellow. He tells me off for oppressing his people. I tell him they needed oppressing and reminding him that all the historically great Irish people got out as soon as humanly possible. He lectures me on the superiority of Irish rugby. I nod benignly and ask how many Welsh players are they talking about for the Lions tour again?

Troubled that this belief in allergies may point to some hitherto unsuspected facet of his character that I might be uncomfortable with because of the blades and everything, I asked him what he thought of these “Angel” mediums who have been advertising their courses in the local rag over the last couple of weeks.
“Put it this way,” he said, “Jesus doesn’t come down from heaven to talk to us. Mohammed doesn’t. The Virgin Mary, Zeus and Allah don’t come down to talk to us. I really don’t think the angels are going to.”
“And even if they did,” I added helpfully, “It wouldn’t be via the medium of cardboard.”