In 1996, Karen Charman and her fiancé moved into an apartment in Inwood, the northernmost part of Manhattan.
It was an old building that had been completely renovated, with all the wood floors redone. Karen had had allergies as a child, and in her twenties, back in the 1980s, she discovered she was allergic to gluten and dairy. For the most part, if she avoided those two things, the eczema outbreaks that signaled an allergic reaction remained dormant. But after the couple moved into their new apartment, all that changed.
"It was like everything was setting me off," says Karen. "I was having the eczema, I was having difficulty breathing, my digestive system was way out of whack. If I ate certain things, my stomach would bloat out, and I would be gassy. I was experiencing terrible brain fog, and I was tired all the time. I just felt like my system was completely flipping out."
An investigative environmental journalist, Charman was better informed than most, thanks to her job. "I had met some people at a pesticide conference in Washington, D.C., a couple of years beforehand," she says, "and they were glue sensitive. That was the first I'd ever come across that concept. So when this started happening to me, I at least had a little bit of knowledge—enough to be pretty scared."
Realizing she was probably reacting to the formaldehydes in the flooring and VOCs (volatile organic compounds) in the paint in her new apartment, she knew she needed professional help.
Figuring a medical doctor would probably say something along the lines of "It's all in your head—go see a psychiatrist," she instead found an environmental doctor who ran a great many allergy tests. Apparently "allergic to everything," she was put on a course of allergy shots and a very strict food-rotation diet that she said was just miserable, because her entire life revolved around what she could eat. But it helped.
She also fled the city and moved to Vermont for the winter, which initially proved beneficial. But, as she points out, "You can't just keep running." Eventually she returned to Manhattan—and so did all her symptoms. "I was writing for publications, but the wheels in my head were just turning so slowly," she says. "It was awful."
On top of these symptoms, Karen was in constant pain from an old back injury and suffering from joint and fascial pain. In 1997 she was diagnosed with fibromyalgia by a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist.
"In terms of fibromyalgia, I wasn't as severe as some people," she says, "but it was severe enough. One thing that was really a drag was that I wasn't able to exercise. I like to ride a bike, and I would hop on my bike and within five minutes my whole system would start spasming out. And that went on for at least five years."
One of the great ironies of Karen's condition was that, unlike most people in the West suffering from chronic inflammatory conditions such as fibromyalgia, she had always been very conscious about the food she ate. Even as a child she wasn't a junk food person, but ate well and mainly organic.
But when her immune system started reacting, anything she ate seemed to trigger an allergy—including soy products, which had become a staple in her diet ever since she was diagnosed as sensitive to dairy.
Now, even soy was triggering highly unpleasant bloating and worse symptoms. After more research and tests, the results showed that she was suffering from leaky gut—a condition where the intestinal walls become more permeable, and food particles and toxins enter the bloodstream, triggering an immune response.
"It's a really scary thing to be chemically sensitive," says Karen. "You don't know what's going to trigger you, when or where. It's like you're constantly on edge, and of course, when you're in that kind of emotional frame of mind you've got cortisol coursing through your system, which isn't helping you either. So it's just a very, very difficult thing to navigate."
The summer of 1997, she again left New York City and moved temporarily upstate to Ithaca, New York. There she discovered the power of acupuncture. Between visiting an acupuncturist six times a week and a physical therapist three times a week, she stayed "functional." But she didn't want to spend the rest of her life going to doctors and knew there had to be a way to heal her leaky gut and deal with the allergies.
It was then that she discovered a practitioner who used NAET— Nambudripad's Allergy Elimination Techniques—an energy medicine treatment protocol that was developed in the early 1980s by Dr Devi S. Nambudripad, a Doctor of Oriental Medicine and also a licensed acupuncturist, chiropractor, registered nurse and PhD who used a combination of chiropractic, acupuncture, applied kinesiology, acupressure and nutrition to heal various conditions.
"This woman gave me an NAET treatment for soy, and I never reacted to it again," Karen says. "That really got my attention. I instinctively knew that this would be my healing path."
However, things got complicated when Karen and her now husband moved up to the Catskill mountains of New York in 1999. A tick bite turned into a nasty case of Lyme disease, which was resolved by a month-long course of antibiotics.
But the antibiotics interfered with the NAET protocol she was on, and Karen went into a health crisis—a fortunate event as it turns out, because it led her to Dr Debra Singer, a chiropractor and acupuncturist in Albany, New York, who is also a practitioner of BioSET.
A comprehensive system
BioSET™ (Bioenergetic Sensitivity and Enzyme Therapy) is a spinoff from NAET and similarly combines acupuncture, elements of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and the body's meridian system, muscle testing and/or electromagnetic diagnostic technology and computer software for the diagnosis of food and environmental allergies, chemical sensitivities, toxicity and weakness of organ systems, as well as enzyme therapy and homeopathic remedies.
A desensitizing protocol for dealing with chronic health problems, BioSET was developed by chiropractor Ellen Cutler in response to her own digestive problems and sensitivities.
The BioSET system consists of four essential components: 1) testing; 2) blood and organ detoxification using homeopathic remedies (if necessary); 3) the use of digestive and systemic full-spectrum enzyme blends to increase digestion, assist in proper nutrient absorption, clear toxins and repair and support the immune system; and 4) use of a desensitization tapping technique on a variety of acupuncture points along the spine to clear energy blockages in the body's meridians corresponding to various organs, designed to aid in clearing environmental allergies and food sensitivities.
The system is based on the premise that the human body is not just a biochemical collection of organs and glands, circulatory and nervous systems. It also has an energy component that underlies and connects everything in an energetic system called the meridian system—a network of energy channels used for communication and for moving energy throughout the body that was mapped out thousands of years ago by TCM.
Acupuncturists use needles placed at specific points along these meridians to stimulate the flow of energy to specific organs and glands. Acupressure therapists also stimulate these points, but do not use needles to do so.
In the TCM model, the energy system is in touch with every part, every cell, in the body. As an information system, it senses when there are imbalances, deficiencies and excesses of energy, and biochemicals in the various organs and systems, and it detects when toxins, viruses, bacteria and other pathogens are present.
To "read" this information, BioSET practitioners use muscle testing, also known as applied kinesiology (AK, see box, right), or computerized electrodermal screening or meridian stress assessment devices to determinine sensitivities, weaknesses, deficiencies, food allergens and the presence of various toxins.
The device most used by BioSET practitioners is called an EAV, developed in the late 1940s by a German medical doctor and engineer, Dr Reinhard Voll. While experimenting with the effects of electricity on the human body, Voll discovered that the electrical flow was higher and more conductive along the TCM acupuncture points and meridians than any other places on the body.
The EAV was developed to take readings on those points, thus determining the relative strength and health, weakness and dysfunction of the organs and systems that correlate to the various acupuncture points.
Studies suggest that EAV is an effective tool for the diagnosis of food allergies, comparable to the use of food challenge tests,1 and that electrodermal testing in general may be a reliable method for differentiating between allergic and nonallergic substances.2
The advantage of AK and electrodermal screening is that they are said to provide instant, real-time feedback on the condition of the body's various organs and systems and the presence of pathogens without the need for introducing harmful substances into the body.
Enzyme therapy and homeopathic remedies are used short-term to help clear out whatever toxins, pathogens and allergens are determined to be present.
Physical "clearings" of energy blockages in the meridian system—and thus the corresponding physiological organs and systems—are reportedly achieved by tapping various acupuncture points, known as the Mu Shu points, along the front and back of the spine while the client completes a series of breathing patterns.
The journey to wellness
To date there have been no clinical studies supporting the healing effectiveness of BioSET, let alone using BioSET as a healing system for fibromyalgia. But there is plenty of research verifying the effectiveness of acupuncture and acupoint therapies for fibromyalgia and other health conditions.
Acupuncture treatments have been shown to reduce the overall pain and stiffness that accompany fibromyalgia,3 and acupoint stimulation therapy has proven effective against fibromyalgia symptoms in general.4 A large body of evidence also demonstrates that acupuncture can be effective for controlling chronic pain.5
In animal studies, acupuncture inhibited the production of proinflammatory cytokines (substances, such as interferon, interleukin and growth factors secreted by immune cells) responsible for inflammation, in addition to having antidepressant effects.6
Enzyme depletion might also be a contributing factor to fibromyalgia (see box, page 69). The same enzymes that are critical to breaking down the food we eat also play a crucial role in the bloodstream to destroy bacteria and viruses and digest the clotting protein fibrin, which, in addition to its links to heart disease and strokes, can promote chronic inflammation throughout the body.
So, enzyme therapy can not only help improve digestion and heal a leaky gut, it can also support defense and repair processes throughout the body (see WDDTY May 2018 for more on enzyme therapy).
For example, bromelain, a mixture of proteases found in the pineapple, is a common component of many commercial enzyme supplements with a large body of evidence demonstrating its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, fibrinolytic (fibrin-destroying) and immune-regulating properties in a wide variety of diseases from arthritis to cancer.7
Enzymes could even be at the root of the antioxidant deficiency seen in fibromyalgia patients. Glutathione, called the "master antioxidant" for its crucial role in neutralizing free radicals and eliminating toxins from the body, is found at lower levels in people with fibromyalgia, who also carry more markers of oxidative stress in their blood.8
To make glutathione, the body's foremost need is an adequate supply of protein from the diet being broken down properly and entering the bloodstream,9 which again comes down to digestive enzymes.
Clinical studies or not, Karen says that for her, BioSET worked. Dr Singer quickly pulled her out of her post-Lyme health crisis. The eradication of all fibromyalgia symptoms and her multiple sensitivities, however, took years. "As it turns out, for me, the herpes virus had been a huge issue, and Deb gave me at least 50 treatments for herpes in various combinations," says Karen.
"But it was the herpes in combination with gluten—and clearing that—which changed everything. When she did that particular clearing that day, for some reason I decided to hop on my bike after the session, and I was fine. And all of my food allergies resolved. It was really amazing."
In the BioSET worldview, everything affects everything else as we interact with the world around us. One of the most effective things about BioSET, Karen says, is how effective it is at locating and then clearing all the intricate, interwoven contributing factors to any given condition.
In her case, one of the main factors contributing to her fibromyalgia was not just gluten and not just the herpes virus. It was the combined effect of the two things that turned out to be the linchpin issue.
Peeling back the layers
Nothing in the body exists in isolation, which is why so much of the BioSET system of healing is about relationships and how the client's experiences in the world affect their health.
For example, say a client comes in demonstrating a violent allergic reaction to apples. For the BioSET practitioner, it's not enough to clear away an energetic sensitivity to apples or treat for poor digestion. The practitioner has to discover all the things in relation to apples that are triggers as well.
Dr Singer, the BioSET practitioner who helped Karen, explains it this way. "Say you're sitting in the kitchen, eating apple pie, and you're looking out at the window at your kid playing in the front yard, and then a car comes by and hits your kid.
"Everything, from the food you're eating at the time, to the time displayed on the wall clock, to the yellow color of the paint on the walls—all of those things can become part of the emotional allergy related to the food allergy you come in with.
"Anything in that frame, whatever imprinted on your brain at that emotionally charged, traumatic moment needs to be cleared, whether the color yellow or anything else. And yet all you know when you come in is that you're allergic to apples."
After more than a 10-year journey, Karen is finally free of fibromyalgia—which her original diagnosing physician has now confirmed. She no longer experiences extreme chemical sensitivity and no longer has eczema outbreaks. She has also become a BioSET practitioner herself.
"One of the things I love so much about BioSET is we can really zero in and clear very specific layers of things that are causing problems in people," she says. "Just bringing something to conscious awareness—it's like if you can name it, you can clear it. So in some ways BioSET is almost like information therapy. It astounds me every day."
Applied kinesiology (AK), also called muscle testing or muscle strength testing, was developed in 1964 by Dr George Goodheart, a Michigan chiropractor.
This diagnostic method is based on the belief that muscle weakness can signal internal problems such as organ dysfunction, glandular issues, nerve damage, reduced blood supply, chemical imbalances and the presence of pathogens.
An AK practitioner can test various energy meridians in the body by challenging particular muscles to assess their ability to accurately resist pressure. If the muscle, and thus the meridian, tests as weak, the practitioner can then stimulate specific acupuncture points to support the corresponding organ/system, and observe parallel changes in muscle strength.1
The practitioner can then continue to use AK to determine the answer to various yes/no questions such as, "Is this related to a dietary deficiency," "Is this an absorption issue," or "Is this related to a specific incident?"
Think you have an allergy? It might not be an allergy at all. The problem might lie in your digestion (or lack of it). "What I've seen is that some people will come in and say they have allergy symptoms, runny nose or a rash or something that may appear as an allergy, and in some cases they may simply be not digesting their food," says Dr Melisa Kuehn, a naturopath and BioSET practitioner.
"They have an inflammatory situation going on and something is setting it off. When they take systemic enzymes, that tends to help bring down the inflammation."
The result? The "allergy" goes away.
Enzyme therapy is a large part of the BioSET protocol, and some very specific blends are available from BioSET practitioners, such as a a "nose and throat" preparation that specifically deals with respiratory symptoms.
For the most part, however, enzyme therapy depends upon particular enzymes necessary to break down larger molecules into smaller ones, which are considered "digestive enzymes" when taken with food and "systemic" or "metabolic enzymes" when taken on an empty stomach.
Most popular enzyme blends are aimed at improving digestion, which is critical for the proper assimilation of nutrients from the food we eat. They also help prevent gas, bloating and acid indigestion. However, taken on an empty stomach, they become "little Pacmen," as Kuehn calls them, entering the circulatory system and gobbling up pathogens, viruses, toxins and undigested food particles, thus reducing the body's toxic load and lowering the immune response that is such a large part of inflammatory conditions like fibromyalgia.
Because the human body produces fewer and fewer enzymes as we age, both Kuehn and Dr Debra Singer say they think most people over age 50 can benefit from taking enzymes for both digestion and systemic health. Either follow the doseage on the bottle or, if you're working with a health pracitioner who does muscle testing, have them test you to find the optimal dosage.
Typical enzyme formulas used for inflammatory conditions include:
Pancreatin: 800 mg
Amylase activity: 20,000 units
Lipase activity: 3,000 units
Protease activity: 20,000 units
Bromelain: 5 GDU
Papain: 2,000 TU
Trypsin: 4,500 USP units.
A typical BioSET treatment
"The first thing you do is check the blood, because everything can change once you treat the blood," says chiropractor Debra Singer. "Then you check for fasting enzymes, and then a half-hour test for digestion enzymes. Then you check for overall toxicity and the ability to heal, which means how much energy there is in the body to actually recover."
Basically, the BioSET practitioner finds out what you're reacting to, then finds out if it's only that, or if it's that when it's in the presence of something else. For example, are you allergic to your cat or only allergic to your cat when you're around VOCs (volatile organic compounds) found in paints and other building materials? Then you find out what part of the body is sensitive and how the sensitivity manifests itself, such as itchy eyes, runny nose, a rash on the stomach, etc.
The more specific the practitioner can be in discovering the sensitivities and their combinations and locations, the better the treatment outcome.
To determine the toxicities and sensitivities, the BioSET practitioner performs muscle testing or epidermal testing with a computer using the acupuncture points for feedback. Based on what they observe, the practitioner will employ clearing techniques involving tapping on acupuncture points along the spine as well as homeopathic remedies and enzymes to clear the toxins.
As a BioSET practitioner, Singer focuses mostly on enyme therapy. Charman, on the other hand, primarily focuses on clearing by tapping on acupuncture points. In her treatments, Charman first tests for broad categories that sensitivities may be triggered by, such as acid or alkaline foods (foods with a low or high pH), contactants (things that you touch), diseases, emotions, injections, inhalants, metals, vitamins, physical agents, DNA and RNA, intestinal flora and "persons, places and things."
"There's no sense getting into specifics if you can deal with an issue related to a whole category," she says. Then she sets about discovering whether it's a nutrient or dietary deficiency, a structural blockage or toxicity.
To clear sensitivities and energy blockages in the meridians that relate to specific deficiencies, allergens or toxins, Charman taps acupuncture points up and down the client's spine, points referred to in traditional Chinese medicine as the Mu Shu points. This is done while the client breathes in several different patterns and rhythms.
"First they take a deep breath and hold it while I'm tapping up and down the spine," says Charman. "Then they let the breath out and hold it while I'm tapping. Then they pant without hyperventilating as fast as they can, and then they breathe normally. What this does is mimic different kinds of nervous system states."
Unlike NAET, the system from which BioSET derives, the BioSET protocol reportedly provides an "instant clear" that doesn't take time or require the client to avoid whatever situation or substance was triggering the sensitivity for at least 24 hours. The initial session lasts approximately 90 minutes, and follow-up clearing sessions usually last about half an hour.