Victoria Wood shies away from parties. She says she either gets cornered by the couple who have done their own conveyancing or, worse, is lumbered with a woman who spends the entire evening telling her about the many types of cystitis.
Most of us are embarrassed by public discussion of the dysfunctions of the nether regions. Mention of our motions, bowels, wind and waterworks are reserved for the hushed solitude of the GP's surgery. However, I have a shameful admission: if Victoria Wood reluctantly stumbled into a party where I, too, was invited, she might well end up being regaled with the tale of my irritable bowel.
I have often found myself openly turning the dinner party conversation round to the treatment of my irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Why? Because I was successfully treated by applied kinesiology and I want the irritable bowel syndrome world to know about it. And it's a big world: IBS affects one third of the population at some time or other, and about one in 10 suffer symptoms bad enough to go to the doctor.
I went to the doctor with my symptoms a bloated feeling in my stomach, so extreme sometimes that I felt that jabbing myself with a pin would swirl me around the room like a deflated balloon. I also suffered cramping discomfort in the lower abdomen that would often wake me in the night, greet me in the morning and sometimes stay all day. Diarrhoea joined in, accompanied by belching and flatulence. I became as irritable as my bowel.
My doctor offered sympathy but no solution. I told him I had already tried two types of anti-spasmodic remedies, to no effect. He speculated about stress. I feared the worst, and asked for an X-ray appointment at the hospital. My relief at being told I hadn't got bowel cancer was cramped by the certainty I still had IBS. But after the all-clear from the hospital, I didn't return to my GP. I had heard about applied kinesiology, through BBC Radio Derby.
A phone-in guest, Ian Reed, a chiropractor from Derby's Wellbeing Clinic, talked to listeners of how he had embraced applied kinesiology in his practice after relieving his own symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome. Hearing this, the programme presenter sounded noticeably animated and intrigued. Not surprising, really it was me.
Not wishing to sound self-indulgent by revealing my personal IBS sufferings on air, I put on a record, switched off the mic and poured out my predicament. I told Ian I was at my wit's end and that my doctor had been unable to help.
"If only more doctors would refer patients on to people like me" said Ian. I booked an appointment. "Doctors can diagnose the symptoms of IBS," Ian continued, "but can't find what's wrong" (my own doctor concedes to this).
Ian contends that faced with IBS, applied kinesiology can spot the cause and help clear the effect. He claims that 70 per cent of his patients rid themselves of IBS, with improvements made in 80 to 90 per cent of cases. Applied kinesiology (AK) also treats other conditions including asthma, eczema, neuralgia, sciatica, ulcerative colitis and Crohn's disease and claims a similar success rate. So what does AK involve and why is little known about it?
Applied kinesiology is based on the idea that any imbalance in the body be it nutritional, muscular-skeletal or emotional can be detected through the function of the muscles. It draws upon the prin- ciples of acupressure and the body's energy pathways to identify imbalances and correct them through manipulation and using a variety of alternative therapies.
Ian Reed explains: "Chiropractic philosophy is based around our nervous system, which either controls or influences movement, chemical reactions and all bodily functions. If there is any interference to the nerves, no matter how small, it can affect your body's ability to function and therefore affect your overall health. I use muscle testing to work out which nerves are being affected. I can then identify which part of the body I need to treat".
Medical science doesn't yet accept kinesiology. A spokesman for the British Medical Association states: "Our opinion of applied kinesiology is the same as with all complementary medicine: we are neither for nor against it. We require proof; thus it needs to be tested for cost effectiveness and clinical efficacy."
The internet throws up as much scepticism as promotion of the practice. One forthright site called Quackwatch goes to great lengths to dismiss AK, quoting one of the very few studies of AK, involving three experienced applied kinesiologists, that concluded that diagnosis through AK "is no more useful than random guessing". But Tracy Gates, President of the International College of Applied Kinesiology (UK), says it's impossible to prove AK's effectiveness through controlled scientific studies: "The difficulty with AK is that it's holistic, so each patient is treated differently. However, there would be no difficulty in turning up a survey to show the high level of patient satisfaction."
Like many patients satisfactorily treated for IBS, the source of my suffering lay in food intolerance. Treatment consisted of placing various foodstuffs on my tongue. With each morsel, Ian placed his hand on my outstretched arm, instructing me to push against him to test the muscle response. Each time a different food was dropped on my tongue, my arm stiffened.
So far, so what? After serving up dollops of beef, butter, fish, fruit pasta and potato, and with my arm stiffening up every time, I began to question where this was going. Is it any wonder? All my previous ailments had relied on an appointment with the doc and a trust in drugs. I had never delved into so-called alternative therapy.
However, I had delved into a coherent and convincing book Thorson's Principles of Kinesiology by the holistic health teacher Maggie La Tourelle (with Anthea Courtenay). At one point, Tourelle states: "Kinesiology takes the guesswork out of treatment by letting the body reveal precisely where the problem is." As my own treatment wore on, I was about to be given a dramatic demonstration of this.
All of a sudden, as the food test and my patience neared its end, I popped a few cornflakes in my mouth. This time when I pushed, my arm didn't stiffen. It felt weak and floppy, as if drained of energy. "Your muscle strength switched off or short-circuited" said Ian. "This was your body saying it doesn't tolerate this foodstuff. Putting corn into your mouth was like pumping four-star into an unleaded car: it runs, but not as well as it should do."
Ian told me to dispense with the fuel of maize and cornflour. My symptoms would disappear. Blessed with the conflicting virtues of optimism and impatience, I expected instant relief. Not so. My abdominal pain stayed and my tummy rumbled on. As did my doubts. But, after three long months, the discomfiture lessened until I woke up one morning, and felt nothing. Buck's fizz for breakfast. It was over.
One might argue that my IBS naturally went away. AK detractors will still call for proof. I believe I have proof, delivered purely by accident: after a month of zero symptoms, my IBS came cramping back. However, hours before, I had swallowed several huge slices of lemon meringue pie. I hadn't realised it contained a substantial amount of cornflour.
I am back in the clear. To think I nearly resigned myself to putting up with my irritable bowel. No one has to, affirms Tracy Gates: "Patients diagnosed with IBS will always have some underlying factor causing it. It may be a parasitic infestation, a candida overgrowth, food intolerance, a chronic viral infection or psychological state. Once having found the cause, the rest is fairly easy to correct."
Ian Reed returns to his car analogy to rail against the drug companies who provide remedies for IBS: "Their drugs merely suppress the symptoms. But if you've got a problem with a noise in your motor, you don't turn up the radio to suppress that noise. My philosophy would be to open up the bonnet and find out what's causing that noise. Using applied kinesiology gives me a greater insight into the cause of a patient's IBS. I help them get better, and they stay better."
For more information, contact the secretary of the International College of Applied Kinesiology: www.icak.co.ukReuse content