LEXINGTON (CBS) — Just a few years ago, digging into a bowl of Peanut M&M’s was out of the question for the Lombardo brothers of Needham–all three suffered severe, multiple food allergies.
“I was allergic to peanuts, tree nuts, peas, beans and sesame seeds,” explained Nick Lombardo, the oldest of the three boys who is about to graduate from Needham High School.
Luke, a sophomore, said living with allergies was a constant struggle.
“I always had to worry about what I was going to eat whenever I went out with my friends,” he said.
“It was a constant worry,” explained the boys’ mother Diane, who says the family rarely went out to dinner because it was too stressful. “We’d have six Epipens wherever we went, just in case.”
But the Epipens are gone and so is the worry. Diane no longer hesitates to give her boys food that not long ago would have meant a trip to the hospital.
All three of her boys went to see Amy Thieringer, a nutrition health coach who developed her own system to treat allergies.
“I have worked with over 300 families. They can eat whatever food they want, whenever they want,” she explained.
Thieringer began developing her homeopathic, non-invasive program called Allergy Release Technique, or A.R.T, when her own son had a reaction after eating a handful of cashews.
“I believe the body has the ability to heal itself,” she said.
Explaining her treatment is difficult as it’s more of an art than a science. She says a special computer program helps her to identify stressors in the body. She also uses a something similar to acupressure to help strengthen her patients’ immune systems. All of the kids she treats also take a high-quality probiotic.
“Seventy percent of the immune system is in the gut,” she said.
Before slowly introducing the offending foods, she works on the mind-body piece which she says is critical for her system to work.
“If you give a kid a food that they know can kill them it creates a heightened state of anxiety. In A.R.T, we have tools to help with that,” she said.
Right now, there are no scientific studies to prove that Amy’s method works, but a few allergists across the country are using the method of slowly introducing foods. It’s called oral immunotherapy. But even that isn’t approved or widely practiced.
According to Lahey Clinic allergist Dr. John Saryan, there is a practice in Connecticut that has had some success with this method–but that it’s really just experimental.
“Some of my colleagues in the allergy community, probably against the recommendations of the research community, have actually decided they want to do oral immunotherapy or OIT,” he said.
But Amy insists her results are better than the doctors using OIT.
“The repeat reactivity of the OIT studies are 75 percent,” Thieringer said. “That means 75 percent of the kids five years out are having serious reactions [If] you talk to the kids who are five, nine years out of my practice and they don’t even remember having food allergies.”
Many kids eventually outgrow allergies, but according to Saryan, there is no known cure.
“For most patients, it’s avoidance and unfortunately that’s all we have to offer,” he said.
But Amy disagrees and says Children’s Hospital has taken interest in her results. According to Diane, Luke, a former Children’s patient, took part in the study, eating 30 peanut M&M’s at Children’s in one sitting.
“The medical field really needs to understand what she does,” Diane said. “She has changed so many lives.”
It took about three years for all three boys to complete the program. Then the family celebrated.
“We went to the store and we bought every kind of peanut butter product we could find and brought it home for them to just try,” Diane said. “It was a night to remember.”
Amy Thieringer story is featured in a recently published book called The Other Side of Impossible. It chronicles Amy’s story and the story of a Colorado family who moved to Boston for a year to work with Amy.
Theiringer says she has a 10–15 percent dropout rate which is often due to children and parents who are so fearful; they cannot successfully complete the mind-body piece of the equation and therefore can’t finish the program.
Since their journey with A.R.T, the Lombardo brothers say many other kids from their hometown have also been treated successfully.
The boys and Diane all say they are forever indebted to Amy for what she has done for their family.
“It completely turned my life around,” Nick said. “I don’t have to worry about food at all.”
Amy has a four year waiting list but is working to train other practitioners. The cost of treatment varies depending on the child’s allergies and how long it takes to conquer the anxiety piece. The price is comparable to seeing a therapist.
Patients should talk to their doctor before trying an alternative treatment.