Natural Relief from Seasonal Allergies

It is that time of the year.  Flowers are blooming, trees are pollinating, and folks with seasonal allergies are starting to feel the effects.  As of 2017, just less than a third of all Canadians have an allergy of some kind (pollen, food, medicines), with 20-25% of Canadians having seasonal allergies.  Most commonly, seasonal allergies will start when we are younger but they can affect folks of all ages.  Other people can develop them or see their allergies change in adulthood and as elders.

Seasonal allergies can be serious but are mostly a nuisance, leading to disrupted sleep, worsened productivity, and general fatigue.  Reactions to inhaled substances are some of the most common concerns Canadians have, whether seasonally or all year.  That’s right, allergies can occur when the seasons change or for some all year round.  Pollinating trees and flowers are predictable seasonal causes but so are fungal spores, seen more frequently here in our moist west coast climate.

Various factors can make us more susceptible to seasonal allergies.  Addressing these factors and providing symptom relief are what I consider, as a naturopathic doctor, when creating an individualized plan for someone. 

One factor are the foods we eat, which can make us more susceptible or even trigger a reaction.  Foods like milk and egg, wheat, even citrus and pork can be culprits.  Determining which foods may be a trigger for you is key to providing relief for your seasonal allergies.

On top of that, eating more fruits and vegetables generally can lower the risk of seasonal allergies.  This is because they contain various compounds, such as flavonoids and antioxidants, that can help modulate inflammation.  Various green leafy vegetables are best, bitter ones like arugula are even better.  Healthy omega 3 fats found in fish and algae also are anti-inflammatory.

A healthy gut microbiome and the use of probiotics is another factor that can reduce susceptibility to seasonal allergies.  This is because various strains of probiotics (good gut bacteria) can help balance immune cells that are involved in allergic reactions,

Acupuncture can also support relief from seasonal allergies.  We can improve allergy symptoms by using points to stimulate the body to balance the immune system and support the sinuses and lungs.

If you are looking for other options or for a comprehensive plan to tackle your seasonal allergies, naturopathic medicine can help.  Working together with you, naturopathic doctors have multiple tools to help you manage seasonal allergies.


Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.

The Many Faces of Food Intolerances

We all know that eating healthy food is essential to maintaining our health. But sometimes, what is healthy food for one person, can be a cause of physical distress for another. Deciphering which foods are causing problems can be a frustrating task. But in my 24 years of practicing naturopathic medicine, I’ve found that helping my patients to identify and eliminate food intolerances can often be a powerful key to unlocking better health. 

 The trouble is that often, people’s food intolerances don’t fit the usual stereotype of a person who has an immediate and dramatic reaction to certain foods like peanuts or shellfish.  Those immediate hypersensitivity reactions are usually easy to identify and can be tested. But there are about 15 different ways that people can react to foods, and only a few of them can be tested through conventional lab tests. 

 The most common food reaction I see is delayed hypersensitivity reactions. I have helped countless people overcome eczema by identifying food reactions. Sinus or mucous-related conditions are often aggravated by food reactions, as are many digestive issues. Chronic fatigue and “brain fog” are red flags that food sensitivities may be at play. There are tests available through naturopathic physicians that can begin the process of elimination and reintroduction needed to pin down the culprits. 

 Celiac disease is actually an autoimmune disease in which gluten triggers a variety of symptoms that are digestive, neurological, psychiatric and autoimmune. A blood test or upper intestinal biopsy can diagnose this often overlooked condition. 

 In some people, the issue isn’t so much allergies as it is an inability to digest certain foods properly. For instance, people with a (fixable) microbiome imbalance in the small intestine can have excessive fermentation of certain starches which then creates gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation and more. The foods most likely to ferment have been categorized under the acronym FODMAP foods, which include lactose-containing dairy products, onions and garlic, beans, cabbage family vegetables and more. 

For my patients with chronic hives, flushing, digestive issues, headaches, anxiety and more, we also look at the possibility of a histamine intolerance. There are certain foods that contain histamine, which is normally broken down by the body. Foods that are aged or fermented like deli meats, yogurt, beer, wine and others can be especially triggering. 

Oxalates are naturally high in spinach, strawberries, rhubarb and more.  For people with chronic bladder pain, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, and kidney stones oxalates can be a trigger. The intestinal microbiome is supposed to metabolize the oxalates in our foods, but an imbalance in the microbiome can prevent that process, causing a building up of oxalates in the blood and urine. 

Food additives can cause an incredible range of symptoms from temper tantrums, hives, swelling, migraines and more.  Key culprits to consider are MSG (there are many ways food manufacturers hide MSG on food labels), sulphites (used as a preservative in dried fruit, wine, vinegar, commercial baking) and nitrates (found in deli meats, bacon, ham, and food dyes. Artificial sweeteners like aspartame can create issues for some, as can the sweeteners called sugar alcohols like sorbitol and maltitol. I especially see the latter causing gas and diarrhea.  

 Acidic foods can trigger irritation of already sensitive tissues. For instance, excessive orange juice intake can trigger bladder issues, and acid reflux can be triggered by caffeine, alcohol, tomatoes and more.  

 Salicylates are naturally occurring chemicals in fruits, vegetables, spices and some medicines. But for some people, they can trigger asthma and allergies as well as digestive distress and headaches. 

 So if you have a dead-end diagnosis like Irritable Bowel Syndrome, chronic headaches, asthma or Chronic Fatigue syndrome or you just don’t feel your best, consider investigating the array of food intolerances as a possible way to unlock some of your health and vitality. 

Naturopathic physicians have extensive training in nutrition and regularly use custom nutrition plans as medicine.  We make sure that you know what you CAN eat as well as help you pin down specific foods to avoid.

Understanding Food Allergies and Sensitivities

Have you noticed that more and more people are avoiding certain foods for health reasons?  It turns out that food allergies and intolerances are more common than we once thought. Identifying and eliminating food allergies can solve a broad range of health problems.  I have had hundreds of patients find that once they learn to eat a diet free of their triggering foods, they can get off prescription medications and enjoy much better health.  It turns out good scientific studies are backing up this treatment method.

The symptoms of food allergies can be obvious, such as when people have anaphylactic reactions to peanuts or shellfish.  These food allergies are usually easy to identify.  Other allergic reactions are much subtler and can be delayed, making it challenging to figure out which foods are causing symptoms.  For instance, acid reflux is commonly aggravated by eating certain foods, but the reaction may come the next day.  I have had many patients who determine that dairy causes their sinus congestion, but it may take two days for their sinus headache to set in.  Therefore, to identify most food allergies, careful testing and dietary experiments are necessary.  Food reactions can range from fatigue, depression, post nasal drip, ear infections, constipation, diarrhea, skin issues, headaches, joint pain and more.  In my twenty years of naturopathic medical practice, I have found that helping people eliminate food allergies has been one of the most successful interventions that we can make to help people feel better with less medication.   I am happy that medical science is confirming my clinical experience in several studies on food allergies.

Children who get ear infections often have food allergies that cause excess mucous in their middle ear, setting them up for infection.  A clinical study showed that 94% of ear infection prone children who avoided their food allergies had fewer ear infections.

Many factors can cause migraine headaches, and food allergies can be one of them.  In a study of chronic migraine sufferers who avoided food allergies, 85% became headache free.  In another study, patients with rheumatoid arthritis who avoided food triggers fared much better than the placebo group who ate normally.  In a follow-up study 10 years later, of the 100 rheumatoid arthritis patients who avoided food allergies, one-third were still well on a food allergy free diet alone, without medication, which is remarkable.

Irritable bowel syndrome is a condition I see frequently and know it to respond well to naturopathic treatments, including food allergy elimination.  In a study published in the Lancet medical journal, 14 out of the 21 patients with IBS who went on a hypoallergenic diet for one week became symptom-free.

Celiac disease is a special type of food intolerance where the immune system not only reacts to gluten, but it can send out anti-bodies that affect healthy tissue, like the intestinal lining, the brain, the thyroid and more.  Screening for this food reaction is available through an MD or an ND through blood testing, and a diagnosis can be confirmed by a biopsy taken by a specialist.  Anyone with digestive issues should be tested, but so should people with autoimmune, neurologic and psychiatric conditions. For people with Celiac disease, avoiding gluten containing food, such as wheat, can be life changing.  While true Celiac disease is uncommon, more people have non-celiac gluten intolerance or a simple wheat intolerance.  These people also fare better off wheat and / or gluten containing foods.

While it may take some careful testing and experimenting to figure out which foods are contributing to a health issue, it is certainly worth the additional effort.  When I coach my patients on how to avoid their food allergies and enjoy healthy alternatives, they are often thrilled that something so simple can make such a difference to their wellbeing.

Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician whose practice is in downtown Courtenay.

Asthma in Children, Let's Treat the Cause!

Asthma takes away the freedom to enjoy a deep breath.  That is something no child should have to experience.  Seeing your child struggle to breathe is a heart-breaking experience for parents.

Asthma is caused by swelling in the airways. When an asthma attack occurs, the muscles around the airways become tight and the lining of the air passages swells. This reduces the amount of air that can pass by.

The main goal of naturopathic treatment of asthma is to treat the underlying cause of the problem.  A child with asthma has an immune system that is hyper reactive.  On a biochemical level, the immune system is releasing histamine and inflammatory chemicals in response to normally benign situations / triggers.  Therefore, naturopathic physicians endeavor to promote the regulation of the immune system.

First, let’s explore the role of the immune system in asthma.  White blood cells play a role in the genesis of asthma and allergies.  One type of white blood cell, the type 2 T helper cells (Th2) play a triggering role in the activation of allergies and inflammation.  They trigger the formation of IgE antibody which cause allergies, plus they tell mast cells to release histamine.  The combination results in the allergic inflammation that drives most cases of childhood asthma.

Genetics play a role in who gets hyper-active Th2 cells, but evidence shows that the part of the immune system that lives in the lining of the intestines plays a role in activating the Th2 allergy producing cells.  Eighty percent of the immune system hangs out in the intestines, assessing what you’ve taken into the body.  It is here that all incoming material is marked friend or foe.  This labeling process can become deranged if there is too much stress or inflammation in the intestines. The intestines can be inflamed by improper diet, food allergies, and toxins.  One of the key triggers of a disordered immune response is an imbalance in the intestinal bacterial called the intestinal microbiome.  The intestinal microbiome is such an important determinant of immune function that it is the number one area of research in all of medicine today.  Imbalances in the microbiome can be caused by antibiotics use, high sugar and carbohydrate diets,  and c-section births.  Good bacteria in the intestines normally teach the immune system how to self-regulate.  Without that function, the local immunity gets fired off randomly and allergies are triggered.  Studies show that probiotics (good gut bacteria) enhance gut maturation in infants, and decrease the risk of atopic disease:  asthma, allergies, and hay fever.  Therefore, the naturopathic approach to asthma starts with a program to reduce the immune reactivity in the digestive system by reducing stresses on the intestines, such as food allergies and enhancing the intestinal microbiome.

There are nutrients that can also help stabilize the immune system. Specifically, they can help prevent the mast cells from releasing histamine and prevent the inflammatory reactions that follow.  For instance, vitamin D is typically low in asthmatic children.  In Canada, most children become deficient in Vitamin D in the winter.  I advise supplementing vitamin D to all my patients in the Comox Valley.  There are potent herbal antihistamines that are both safe and effective.  Fish oil and other herbs like curcumin have anti-inflammatory effects as well as many side benefits.  Certain mushrooms have been found to help calm down the hyperactive immune system by the regulating the overactive Th2 system in allergic children.  Homeopathic medicine can be very helpful for children.  An individualized homeopathic prescription by a naturopathic physician or homeopathic practitioner can help to strengthen the constitution of the child and reduce asthma symptoms.

If we determine that there are specific airborne allergens that are dominant triggers (such as dust, pollen, grass, cats) then we can start a process of allergy desensitization called sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT).  This safe, non-injection, mercury free allergy desensitization technique has been shown to reduce allergies in 85% of people.

There are pros and cons to using conventional asthma medications.  Asthma symptoms are caused by bronchospasm and by inflammation of the airways.  The salbutamol or Ventolin (“the blue one”) works on the bronchospasm, while fluticasone or Flovent (“the orange one”) is an inhaled corticosteroid (ICS) that works on the inflammation in the airway.  Puffers can certainly help manage asthma symptoms and buy some time while we are working to solve the problem in a more long term manner.

Many children can overcome asthma if we treat them from the inside out and strengthen their immune system with a comprehensive naturopathic medical approach. The naturopathic approach to asthma is to firstly determine what allergic and other triggers are driving flare ups of asthma.  Secondly, we work on reducing exposure to those triggers and use natural medicines to reduce the allergic and inflammatory reactions.  Thirdly, we need to endeavor to balance the immune system by working with the deeper systems of the body to treat the underlying causes of the immune hyper-reactivity. 

For more information or to book an appointment with Dr. Macdonald, please contact her office at 250 897-0235 or via

Autoimmune Disease and Naturopathic Medicine

Autoimmune Disease is a major health problem in our society. One in twelve people in general, and one in nine women, will be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease. There are over one hundred different autoimmune disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Inflammatory Bowel diseases and Celiac disease. Together these conditions affect more people than cancer or heart disease and can rob patients of their quality of life, mobility and even take their lives.

Scientists worldwide are puzzled over the alarming rise in the rates of autoimmune disease, particularly in the Western world. The rates have more than doubled in the last three decades. Genetics can no longer be blamed as the only cause of autoimmune disease since our genetics can’t change that quickly.

As a naturopathic physician, I have treated many patients with a variety of autoimmune diseases in my years of practice. The familiar story is one of misdiagnosis, dismissal and frustration with limited treatment options. In half of all cases, women with autoimmune disease are told there is nothing wrong with them for an average of five years before receiving diagnosis and treatment. Once a diagnosis is made, treatment is focused on reducing symptoms but not treating the underlying factors that may have caused the disease. Commonly used immunosuppressant treatments can be lifesaving, but can also lead to significant long-term side effects.
The path to a long lasting recovery from autoimmune conditions focuses on correcting the underlying stress factors that may have caused the immune dysregulation that drives the disease.

Exciting research was recently presented at a gastroenterology convention I attended in Victoria. The immune system has well developed mechanisms to attack foreign invaders. In autoimmune disease, the immune system loses its ability to differentiate our own normal tissues from foreign invaders. That ability to temper the immune system’s inflammatory reactions to invaders is something our bodies must learn. And strangely enough, in fact, the teacher lives in our guts. The bacterial lining of the intestines (the intestinal microbiome) is responsible for educating our immune systems, letting them know when to attack and when to cease fire.

The delicate intestinal bacterial lining is made up of over 1000 species of bacteria and weighs about three pounds in an adult. We are created in a sterile womb, devoid of bacteria and acquire our first dose of beneficial bacteria in the birth canal. In the western world, there is an ever increasing trend towards delivering babies by C-section. Without that first dose of beneficial bacteria from the birth canal, the baby’s microbiome is different than a baby born via vaginal birth. Abundant research has shown that there are increased rates of asthma and autoimmune disease in those delivered by C-section. Researchers concluded that a C-section (or Caesarean section) raises the risk of type 1 diabetes by 20%. They also crunched the data from 23 studies and showed the same increased risk for asthma—20%—in children delivered by C-section.

Antibiotics are the other western phenomenon that disturbs the intestinal microbiome. We know not what we do when we take an antibiotic for an infection without consideration of the trillions of beneficial bacteria that form an integral part of our digestive and immune systems. Mice given antibiotics were more likely to develop inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis.
Naturopathic physicians have long emphasized the importance of correcting deficiencies in the intestinal microbiome. Programs to repair the intestinal mucosal lining, replenish probiotics and kill off harmful elements of the microbiome have long been a mainstay of the treatment of autoimmune disease.

Vitamin D deficiency in northern countries have also been linked with increased rates of autoimmune disease. As we spend more time indoors and lessen our exposure to sunlight, thus using sunscreen more often (as those with paler skin tend to do) when we are outdoors, we play an active role in depleting our Vitamin D stores. Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in the regulation of inflammatory fires of the immune system. Vitamin D helps tell the immune system to tolerate our own cells. Some studies show that Vitamin C inhibits induction of disease in autoimmune encephalomyelitis, thyroiditis, type-1 diabetes, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), lupus, rheumatoid and Lyme arthritis.

For my patients with joint pain associated with autoimmune disease, laser therapy is an excellent way to manage pain, reduce joint destruction and improve joint function. A recent Canadian expert panel determined that this painless laser therapy is an effective treatment for rheumatoid arthritis. I have been using a high tech laser light treatment for my patients for years. It is very effective for most patients with osteoarthritis and is part of an overall treatment for inflammatory arthritis too.

Natural anti-inflammatory medicines may reduce the dependence on harsh prescription drugs. A turmeric extract called Meriva has been shown to be a safe and defective pain reliever in arthritis. Fish oil is considered an essential part of auto-immune treatment in that it helps alleviate the inflammation that drives most symptoms. Most auto-immune disease involves high levels of oxidative stress, so sufferers who incorporate anti-oxidant foods and supplements into their daily regime are making a wise choice. Kale and blueberries are my favorite high anti-oxidant foods; grape seed extract and resveratrol are my favorite supplements.

Fatigue is often a crippling element of auto-immune disease. I also work with patients to support their adrenal gland through teaching them meditation and relaxation techniques using herbs like rhodiola.

Science is beginning to shed light on the complexities of the immune system and ways that we can influence the health of it. Take care of your immune system, and if you have an autoimmune disease, learn ways to tame your inflammation – naturally.

Treating Sinusitis Naturally

In my practice, I have many patients who come for help with chronic sinus congestion. It can be a frustrating and painful condition that can last a lifetime if not treated with the long term in mind. The medicines conventionally used may be okay in the short run, but they have significant issues with long term use. For instance, nasal steroids thin the lining of the nasal mucous, making it more susceptible to bleeding and infection. Fungal infections in the nasal passages are present in 52% of people with chronic sinusitis and are can be caused by long term use of steroid sprays. Antibiotic use creates increased fungal infections throughout the body, including the sinuses and the digestive system.

In treating sinusitis, the goal of naturopathic physicians is to relieve the symptoms using natural medicines (which often have side benefits instead of side effects). In addition to symptom treatment, naturopathic physicians also endeavor to determine the underlying causative factors that are driving this chronic congestion and inflammation. Most patients with sinusitis are aware that they have allergies to inhalants like pollen and dust. However, there may be other factors in one’s health that contribute to the conditions. For instance, in my experience, many of my patients with chronic sinusitis also have bowel problems. There is a link between these two conditions, in that both can be caused by food allergies.

I saw a patient, Rose, who presented with a 15 year history of nasal congestion, reoccurring sinus infections and she also had been diagnoses with “Irritable Bowel Syndrome”. I suggested that we start our treatment by addressing the bowel. We tested her for food allergies through our non-invasive and effective technique called Vega testing. I coached her on how to make dietary changes and how to heal the lining of her intestines. Within a few months, she was delighted to report that not only were her bowels much improved, she was breathing freely for the first time in years. She said, “I realize that after all these years, my chronic sinus inflammation was my body’s way of reacting to wheat”. Of course not all cases are so one dimensional, but a thorough investigation health issues is essential to uncovering the clues that will lead to long term success in treating this condition.

Another often overlooked factor for people with chronic sinus conditions is that unresolved dental issues can result in disease spreading to the sinuses. Patients may not realize that an old dental extraction may be harboring an infection under the healed gum tissue. I have also seen a disturbing number of men with chronic sinus infections and allergies that started shortly after working around excessive amounts of sawdust. The sawdust likely assaults the nasal mucosa, allowing antigens to permeate through it and trigger the immune system to create allergic symptoms. Getting to the bottom of the problem, instead of being satisfied with short-term quick fixes is essential for the patient who wants to improve this condition, once and for all.

There are many layers in the naturopathic treatment of chronic upper respiratory problems. First, we must find ways to help with the immediate symptoms while we are investigating the deeper disturbances in the immune system that are causing the problem. Naturopathic treatments for sinus infections are aggressive and varied. We must focus on reducing the inflammation and congestion that impair circulation and set the stage for bacterial infection. There are effective ways to reduce congestion using herbs, hydrotherapy and nutritional supplements. We also want to address the inflammation of the sinus and nasal passages and bromelaine gives good results. Natural anti-histamines, like nettles and quercitin are nutritious as well as effective alternatives to drugs. Addressing the fungal and bacterial infections often chronically harboured in the upper respiratory passages is essential. Infections are best treated without drugs that damage other organs, but rather natural medicines like oil of oregano, goldenseal or tea tree oil that are gentle and effective.

The real strength of naturopathic medicine is that is addresses the underlying causes of health problems and treats symptoms as the body’s intelligent response to a stress. For sinus problems, the search for underlying factors often leads us to look at food allergies, candida yeast overgrowth in the digestive and respiratory systems, and dental issues. In my clinic, we offer Allergy Desensitization using homeopathic medicines in a fast and effective procedure. Please call for a handout on this topic. Naturopathic doctors also coach their patients on how to build their immune systems through optimal nutrition, herbal, nutritional and homeopathic medicines. The body wants to heal so sometimes we just need to listen to its clues and give it tools to help it succeed.

For more information, or to book a visit to start your personalized program, please contact Dr. Macdonald’s office at (250) 897-0235 or via this website. Dr. Deidre Macdonald is a naturopathic physician with a naturopathic family medical practice in downtown Courtenay.

Vega Allergy Testing

Frequently Asked Questions

Vega testing is a fast, safe, painless, and most importantly, accurate way of gathering information about your body. At the Macdonald Centre for Natural Medicine, we have used Vega testing extensively for 13 years and have found it to be a highly valuable tool for helping patients to understand the underlying causes of their health issues and achieve lasting improvements in their health. Vega testing is also called Electro Acupuncture, according to Voll or EAV testing. It uses the acupuncture points in the hands as access points to your body’s sensitive electromagnetic system. From there, the machine measures electromagnetic fluctuations in your body in response to testing various elements. Clinically relevant information can be attained from those measurements. Naturopathic physicians also use conventional blood work, medical history and physical examination to assess their patients. Vega testing is one more tool in the quest to understand the keys to unlocking your health potential.

At the Macdonald Centre for Natural Medicine our technicians can perform the following tests: 

1) Food allergy testing: we test 90 common foods to see which ones may be disturbing your body and which ones are not. Patients consistently see clinical improvements when they eliminate or limit the foods that the Vega test identifies. Your naturopathic physician will coach you on what you CAN eat so that you can easily transition to the diet that is right for YOU. 

2) Organ Screen – we assess 67 different body parts on a three point scale: healthy, stressed, very stressed. The organ screen assesses organs such as the stomach, kidneys, lungs etc and other body parts like spinal segments, lymph nodes, eyes, diaphragm, adrenals and more. It is not a diagnostic test. Your naturopathic physician will use the results of this screen as clues to be investigated. Most times, patients report that the body parts that are flagged as stressed are the areas they are having trouble with. If new areas show up, it may give you and your doctor insight into your symptoms, or you both may decide to “watch and wait”. 

3) Intestinal Flora imbalance: One the keys to the healthy functioning of the body is the presence of adequate good bacteria in the lining of the intestine. If the good bacteria are not present then yeast (Candida albicans), fungus and other opportunistic organisms will colonize the intestine, creating problems. (See the Candida article for further reference). This test assesses the balance of intestinal flora and reports the degree of Candida yeast present on a scale from 0-10. Zero indicates a healthy balance of flora. Ten indicates a lack of good bacteria and an overgrowth of Candida and possibly other opportunistic organisms. If necessary, your naturopathic physician will discuss an intestinal cleansing program to reestablish the healthy bacterial flora. 

This test is included in the Food Allergy Profile

The advantages of Vega food allergy testing:

  • Results are far more accurate than scratch allergy testing and as accurate as the much more expensive blood tests.
  • The test is virtually painless. No scratching and no blood draw. o Most children and even infants can be tested.
  • We can retest you after some time to see if your food allergies have resolved or are persistent.
  • It is reasonably priced compared to blood tests. Blood tests are not covered by MSP unless there are exceptional circumstances like Autism.
  • Dietary food elimination and reintroduction require months of dietary restrictions that may not prove fruitful. With Vega testing, you can eliminate foods that have a much higher chance of making a clinical difference.
  • You get your results right away and can begin designing the dietary program that will lead you to greater health.

Water: Drink lots of water. Water assists the conductivity of the electromagnetic system. Your test will run more smoothly if you are very well hydrated. Please ensure that you drink abundant fluids the day before and the day of testing. 

Food: Just eat what you normally eat. If you are avoiding a certain food and have done so for a long time, then that food will not likely show up on the Vega food allergy testing. It is difficult for any test, including blood tests, to identify food allergies in foods you are not eating. 

Medications: If you are taking anti-histamines or oral steroids, these medications may mask results. 

Fatigue: Extreme fatigue or extreme stress can affect the testing. Try to ensure that you arrive at the test as well rested as possible.

1) You will be seated in a chair at a desk. You will be asked to hold a metal rod that is connected to the machine via a wire.

2) The test will be conducted by one of our trained Vega technicians: a. Debbie – registered nurse and laser technician with 11 years of experience b. Sue Zonneveld – laser technician with 7 years of experience

3) A probe will be gently applied to your hand by the technician. It doesn’t hurt.

4) You will receive a copy of your results immediately after your testing.

5) At an appointment with your naturopathic physician, you can discuss the significance of the results and what treatments may be indicated. The Vega technician is not in a position to interpret results or advise you on treatments.

For forty years, Vega testing has been used in clinics throughout Europe and North America. The concept that the body is a bio-regulatory mechanism under electro-magnetic control is not new. The Chinese developed a sophisticated theory of energy (chi) and bio-electrical control through the acupuncture meridian system of the body. The Indians developed an analogous system based on breath energy (prana) and electro-magnetic control points called chakras. It was not until the early 1950’s that a German medical doctor found that he could accurately locate acupuncture points using a simple electrical measuring device. He found that acupuncture points had a uniquely different electrical resistance (lower) than the tissues immediately adjacent to them. Dr. Voll mapped the entire body using his device which he called the DERMATRON.

i He also discovered a method of testing the allergic response of substance using the Dermatron without physically introducing the material into the patient. Dr. Voll’s technique involved a lengthy testing session with the patient to measure hundreds of points all over the body and resulted in a prescription involving several dozen homeopathic and herbal remedies. In the early 1970’s, another German, Dr. Schimmell, a dentist, simplified Dr. Voll’s technique by inventing another electrodermal diagnostic device called the VEGATEST.

ii Dr. Schimmell took all measurements on one acupuncture point on the finger and varied which organ system was being measured by putting a homeopathic dilution of it into a metal honeycomb on the machine. Much research continues into the technique in Germany, and the method has more recently become completely computerized and automated through a device called the Segmentalelectrogram (Seg). Dr. Julian Kenyon has done considerable clinical research in the application of the Vega technology to the field of clinical ecology at the Centre for the Study of Alternative Therapies in England.

iii iv v vi At least three double-blind studies have been published on electrodermal allergy testing. Dr. Ali found a 73% concordance between electrodermal testing and ELISA IgE antibody levels for a variety of pollens and moulds. vii Dr. Kiop in Toronto found a 66% correspondence in identifying the neutralization sublingual dose for a variety of foods, chemicals and inhalants between the electrodermal test and intradermal sublingual testing. viii In 1984, a University of Hawaii research team compared six different diagnostic modalities for assessing food allergies including history, food challenge, skin, RAST, IgE antibodies, and electrodermal. ix In over 300 tests, electrodermal testing matched the history 74%, the food challenge test 77%, skin testing 71%, and RAST testing 69%. This research group, which has already published several research studies, is embarking on an extensive fiveyear study on the efficacy of the electrodermal testing procedure in medical practice. 

i  Voll, R. : “Twenty years of electroacupucture diagnosis in Germany,” American Journal of Acupuncture, vol. 3, 7-17, 1975.

ii Fehrenbach, J., Noll, H., Nolte, H.G. & Schimmell, H.: Short Manuel of the VEGATEST method. Vega Grieshaber, 1981.

iii Kenyon, J. : Modern Techniques of Acupuncture, vol. 3, Thorsons, 1985.

iv Lewith, G. & Kenyons, J. : Clinical Ecology, Thorsons, 1985

v Kenyon, J. : “Diagnostic Techniques of the Future: Bioenergic Regulatory Medicine”, Journal of Alternative Medicine, vol. 12, December 1985.

vi Kenyon, J. : Twentieth Century Medicine, Thorsons, 1986.

vii Ali, M. : “Correlation of IgE antibodies with specificity for pollen and mould allergy with changes in electrodermal skin responses following exposure to allergens”, American Journal of Clinical Pathology, 91:357, 1989.

viii Kiop, J., Swierczek, J., Wood, A. : “Comparison of Ecological Testing with the Vega Test Method in Identifying Sensitivities to Chemicals, Foods and Inhalants”, American Journal of Acupuncture, 13:253-59, 1985.

ix Lam, F., Tsuei, J., : “Case Findings from a Family Practitioners Office Using Electroacupuncture According to Voll”, American Journal of Acupuncture, vol. 11, 23-29, 1983.

x 10Lam, F., Tsuei, J., Zhao, Z. : “Bioenergetic Regulatory Measurement Instruments and Devices”, American Journal of Acupuncture, vol. 16, 345-49, 1988. 11 Tsuei, J., et al., “Study on Bioenergy in Diabetes Mellitus Patients”, American Journal of Acupuncture, vol. 17, 31-37, 1989. xi 12 Lam, F., et al., “Study on the Bioenergetic Measurement of Acupuncture Points for determination of Correct Dosages of Allopathic or Homeopathic Medicines in the treatment of Diabetes Mellitus”, American Journal of Acupuncture, vol. 18, 127-33, 1990.

Sublingual Immunotherapy for Allergy Elimination (SLIT)

What is sublingual immunotherapy (SLIT)

Sublingual Immunotherapy (aka. SLIT) delivers a small dose of allergen daily in via allergy drops under the tongue. Allergens are things like pollen, dust and animal dander that trigger allergy symptoms such as nasal congestion, itchy eyes and sneezing. Over time, taking allergy drops improves the allergy sufferer’s tolerance. This process of desensitization is the best treatment for allergies as it eliminates the root cause of allergies not just allergy symptoms.

While anti-histamines and herbal remedies mask symptoms, immunotherapy can train your body to tolerate the allergen, eventually eliminating allergy symptoms and the need for antihistamines or allergy medicines altogether.

Your SLIT vial will contain small amounts of the offending allergen which are administered two to three times daily under the tongue. Research shows that when an allergen is presented this way, it is naturally and more readily absorbed through dendritic cells found under the tongue. This allows the patient to build up a tolerance to those allergy-causing substances.

What is the advantage of this method?
  • Just one drop under the tongue two to three times/day
  • Eliminate the need for allergy medications
  • Treat the root cause of your allergy
  • All natural ingredients
  • No painful needles
  • Much safer than allergy shots
  • Europe’s #1 Allergy Treatment
  • Proven, used for more than 15 years
  • Endorsed by World Health Organization
  • Safe for home use
What allergies can be desensitized this way?

Grass, trees, weeds, ragweed, dust, mould, cats, dogs, trees.

Allergens that are not desensitized this way are broom, cedar and horses.

The trees in the tree mixture are Alder, White Ash, American Beech, Black Birch, American Elm, Shagbark Hickory, Sugar Maple, White Oak, White Poplar and American Sycamore

How well does it work?

Sublingual immunotherapy allergy drops reduce symptoms and eliminate allergies for millions of people every year. In Europe, SLIT allergy drops represent 50% of all allergy medicine taken!

This sublingual immunotherapy is backed by more than 50 double blind, placebo clinical trials showing long term efficacy. Sublingual immunotherapy has been used for over 15 years in Europe and is recognized by the World Health Organization as a viable option for the treatment for seasonal allergies.

How long will it take for me to see results?

Typically, favourable results are seen within 30 to 60 days of treatment. However, many patients report a reduction in symptoms within the first few weeks of treatment. One study showed that within two years 85% of people were desensitized to their allergens.

Can children use SLIT?

Yes! Children three years and older can be treated with allergy drops.

Is SLIT safe to use?

SLIT treatment is a low dose, high frequency model of sublingual immunotherapy. Low dosing levels and the ease of treatment mean it is safe enough to effectively treat people suffering from chronic conditions that previously made them unable to receive allergy treatments via injection. The frequency of use is the key to this product working as such, the safety profile is excellent and there have been no reported cases of adverse reactions at this dosage.

Are there any side effects to watch for?

Rarely, however, the most common side effect of allergy drops is a mild, local irritation in the mouth and under the tongue. This usually subsides within a few days of commencing treatment. If you experience mouth, throat, chest or abdominal discomfort or if experiencing hives, itching or shortness of breath do not take further doses until consulting with healthcare provider.

Who should not take SLIT?

SLIT should not be taken by patients who are on beta-blockers or who have uncontrolled asthma. Pregnant and nursing mothers should speak to their health care practitioner prior to use. People with immune deficiencies, malignancies or autoimmune disease are cautioned not to use this product.

When should I start SLIT?

There are 2 ways to commence treatment using SLIT:

Pre-seasonal: Start treatment 30 to 60 days prior to the offending allergy season, use throughout the season and then stop. This method of treatment is with an eye toward minimizing symptoms and will be an annual treatment.

Co-Seasonal: Start treatment immediately and continue year round for two to three years. This method of treatment is with an eye toward building a permanent tolerance of the specific allergen. This means no more allergies and no more medication! Studies show that after successfully completing a full course of Co-Seasonal Treatment, SLIT users do not develop allergies again, even years after completing treatment. No more antihistamines, no more medication, just easy breathing!

How do you take SLIT?

Take one drop below the tongue using the SLIT bottle’s metered dosage pump (0.05ml) two to three times per day not right with food, drink or toothpaste. Hold under the tongue for one minute, and then swallow. Studies show that frequency is the key to the efficacy of this product. Taking one drop per day shows no change in symptoms, whereas, taking two to three drops per day shows a significant reduction in symptoms. For more information, see our clinical studies page.

Single vs. multiple allergy desensitization

SLIT drops can come in single allergen vials or Dr. Macdonald can send in a prescription to customize a single vial to include several allergens. The custom approach allows you to save time and money by having all your allergens in one vial.

  • Custom formulas can have a maximum of four allergens.
  • Mould can not be mixed in with the others. It has to be a stand alone single vial.
  • Custom formulas are prepared by a licensed pharmacist at Western Allergy in Victoria.
When to use Regular Strength vs. Extra strength formulations?

Typically you would start on regular strength for a few months and we will monitor how you are feeling. If you are still experiencing allergy symptoms you should increase the strength of the SLIT to Extra strength. Age and severity play a role when deciding as well as; a child may be fine on regular strength with no need to increase or a person whom has mild allergy symptoms may be controlled with regular strength.

How much does SLIT cost?

The price per vial is:

Custom formula regular strength: $60

Custom formula extra strength: $70

Note: Mould can not be mixed with pollens. If we need to desensitize both mould and pollens, we would need to order two sets of vials.


Shipping is charged at $15 per order. We will try to help you avoid this cost, if possible, by combining orders. It may make sense to order a few bottles at a time.

If you take the drops twice a day, one bottle will last 6 weeks. If you take the drops 3 times a day a bottle will last one month.

How many vials should I order at a time?

I suggest you start with two bottles – enough to last 2-3 months.

How long will my custom order take to arrive?

Two weeks approximately.

Contact information:

Dr. Deidre Macdonald, ND (250) 897-0235

Reference: Allergy Specific and Western Allergy Services Ltd., Victoria B.C.

Allergy Desensitization Information – Miller Method

Dr. Macdonald is pleased to offer a quick, painless and effective method of allergy desensitization.

Who would use this technique?

People with inhalent allergies like dust, pets, trees, weeds and grass.

How does it work?

A nurse analyzes your allergies with the vega testing method of allergy testing. She then uses the vega machine to assess your tolerance of homeopathic dilutions of the allergen chosen for desensitization. A small amount of a safe, homeopathic dilution is then squirted under your tongue. After a few minutes, the nurse retests you and typically is able to give you a more concentrated solution with each subsequent “round”. By the end of the procedure, you will not test allergic to the allergen. Two allergens can be desensitized in one session.

How well does this method work?

This technique has been very successful in helping people with inhalent allergies. About 70% of patients report being extremely satisfied or very satisfied with the results.

Sometimes a booster is required to augment or maintain the benefits but generally one or two treatments is all that is needed to rid people of their allergy symptoms. Many of Dr. Macdonald’s patients have gratefully reported that they were able to stop taking antihistamines and/or reduce their use of asthma puffers.

What are the side effects?

This procedure is very safe and non-invasive. In rare circumstances, mild allergic symptoms may emerge during the procedure in which case the procedure is stopped. The nurse is trained in emergency procedures should an unexpected allergic reaction occur. None have been reported.

Testimonials from patients:

What is the fee for allergy desensitization?

1st treatment – $80.00

Booster of same substances – $40.00

Natural Therapies for Seasonal Allergies

Do the buds of spring signal trouble to you? If so, you may be among the 20% of the population who suffer from spring hayfever. Hayfever, known medically as seasonal allergic rhinitis is the most common allergic disorder in Canada. It is characterized by nasal congestion, sneezing, red, itchy eyes, nose or throat, tearing, fatigue and the dark bags under the eyes (known as allergic shiners). For people allergic to pollen, grass, and weeds spring and summer are a mixed blessing. But allergic rhinitis can occur at any time of the year for people allergic to dust mites, feathers, and animal dander. Mold and fungus allergies typically flare up in the fall when the molds grow rapidly in the cool moist air. Think mold allergies if you suffer from sinusitis at the time of year when mushrooms are popping up underfoot.

Allergies are a reflection of a disordered immune system perceiving harmless substances as foreign invaders. The symptoms the body produces are its convoluted attempt to protect itself. Parts of the immune system, mast cells and basophils, release histamine, which causes swelling and fluid discharges in the eyes, nose, and throat.

Conventional treatments target the symptoms of the condition and may provide temporary relief. The new class of anti-histamines, while producing far fewer routine side effects can have potential fatal side effects if combined with some other common drugs, including antidepressants and antibiotics. Steroid nasal sprays have local side effects including nasal irritation and bleeding and perforation of the nasal septum. So, what’s worse, the disease or the cure?

Many people are turning to natural medicines to help combat allergies. Extensive scientific research has helped us understand which herbal remedies and natural substances are most beneficial with the least side effects. Nature provides a medicine for spring hayfever in the form of stinging nettles. Ironically, the same plant that can cause a stinging rash if touched, can be transformed into an effective anti-histamine. Studies show that 60% of people find freeze dried nettles to be effective in relieving their symptoms, and 50% find it to be equally or more effective than the conventional drug counterparts.

Nettles not only rarely have side effects, they have many side benefits. They are one of the most nutritious, edible plants in our BC forest. Just make sure you steam them or dry them before eating!

Several other natural remedies have been proven to be effective against allergies. Bromelaine is an anti-inflammatory and mucous clearing agent. Quercetin has anti-histamine, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. N-acetylcysteine is an amino acid with few side effects and many side benefits that breaks down mucous, so it can be discharged more easily. Vitamin C is also helpful for allergies in a number of ways.

Naturopathic physicians are primary care physicians who often pay extra attention to diagnosing and treating allergic conditions. But they not only treat the allergy symptoms, with medicines such as those addressed above, they also help their patients to understand what may be the underlying cause of the allergies. What has caused the immune system to become so disordered that it mounts such a defense to such harmless invaders? What other stresses are impacting the immune system? What can be done to strengthen the immune system in the long run, to prevent or cure allergies? These are the deeper questions one must ask if one wants to get off the endless cycle of symptoms and short-term treatments.

Naturopathic physicians individualize an allergy treatment program for each patient. They educate their patients on how to use diet, herbs, vitamins and homeopathy in the safest and most effective manner. Allergy Desensitization can be achieved using a safe and effective homeopathic technique.

For more information contact Dr. Deidre Macdonald, naturopathic physician at (250) 897-0235 in Courtenay or via this website.