Rita Bettenburg, a Portland-based naturopathic allergist, tells us about treating autoimmune diseases and tracking down hard-to-pinpoint food allergies.
How do you diagnose these issues? I use a controversial method called electro-acupuncture testing, developed in Germany in the ’50s by a Dr. Reinhard Voll. It seems woo-woo. I was skeptical myself, until I saw people getting better. Canada and Europe have used it for many years, and it’s more accurate than scratch testing.
How does it work? The instrument simply measures an individual’s electromagnetic field (giving a normal baseline for that person when nothing is in the field that affects them) when something is put into that field—like a food, or pollen—that the person “reacts” to somehow. We measure the change in resistance when someone is exposed to a potential allergen.
On which diseases of the immune system do you focus? I see a lot of women who have autoimmune diseases like fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, and Cushing’s syndrome.
How might you treat them? Obviously, the treatments for each will be unique. But the first thing I do is get their diet and sleep sorted out. I’m a big fan of herbs, because they’re gentle. I start weaning them off drugs like sleeping pills. I tend to run a little to the spiritual if patients are open to it: talk to them about meditation. A lot of diseases create mental and emotional issues.