Probably the most interesting case study to pass through the center is Dr. Don Jewett, now professor emeritus at the University of California at San Francisco.
Jewett's illness, like many patients', started amid heavy stress.During a midlife crisis he
developed more than 80 symptoms of mysterious origin, including migraines, diarrhea, light sensitivity, cramps, and a chronic runny nose.He
consulted a couple of allergists during several months, but his
condition worsened.Eventually, one allergist told him he
had to go to Dallas, where he
was diagnosed as a universal reactor.Rea recommended that Jewett
house "safe" (stripped of paint, carpet, and other potential irritants) and that he
go on a rotation diet-meaning he
couldn't eat the same food more than once in a period of several days.
returned to San Francisco, Jewett
took with him a new understanding of life, he
eating habits and bought a new house without carpet, formaldehyde-treated furniture, or gas appliances.He
also convinced his
colleagues at UCSF's
Orthopedic Surgery Department, where he
was on faculty, to let him open a small clinic specializing in Rea's techniques.Jewett
also started a research project to determine the efficacy of the "provocation-neutralization" food testing (a centerpiece technique of Rea and his cohorts), in which patients are given samples of food and report whether they experience symptoms.
"I thought I was going to win the Nobel Prize, because I thought I was going to prove the effect of small [amounts of] chemicals on humans," Jewett
says.Not quite.In the study, which was eventually published in the New England Journal of Medicine
and three collaborators found that patients had the same response whether they were given the allergen or a placebo. (Rea and others protested that Jewett's results were meaningless, because the doses tested were too low.)
After the test failed, Jewett
faced a dilemma.Dozens of his
patients had gotten better using the rotation diet.Was it really just a placebo effect?He
continued to advocate the diet, but with less enthusiasm and only as one of several options.He
gradually noticed a change.New patients didn't report improvement on the diet."The doctor's attitude definitely influences the symptoms," he
stopped telling patients about the diet.Instead, when MCS sufferers would come in, he
would try to get them to talk about the underlying problems in their lives.If they were willing to discuss them, he
often saw improvement.If they couldn't move beyond their belief in MCS, "then I had no effect."
Looking back, Jewett
wide range of symptoms to stress.They disappeared when his
life stabilized, he