Thursday, July 4, 2013

Helminthic Therapy

A few times over the past 3 years, people have mentioned helminthic therapy to me. At first, I dismissed it, it sounded crazy. When it was mentioned again, I did some research and it sounded plausible. This last time, I was approached by a doctor (and former soccer teammate) who has seen helminthic therapy in action.

She said, "I've had a few patients with allergic/immune disorders try helminthic therapy, and the results are really wild. It's not a total remittance of all allergies but it does help with a lot of them, particularly food allergies... just wanted to send a note to say, it's not all hogwash, I've seen it work."

Now I'm curious. Not that its actually an option at the moment. My insurance won't cover it and to do it on my own would cost thousands of dollars. But, if eventually I have the money or the coverage, I would consider beginning helminthic therapy.

So, what is it?

The basis for helminthic therapy is in the Hygiene Hypothesis: several chronic inflammatory disorders (allergies, autoimmunity, inflammatory bowel disease) are increasing in prevalence in developed countries because a changing microbial environment has perturbed immunoregulatory circuits which normally terminate inflammatory responses.

The goal of the therapy is not to treat the symptoms of the disease, but to fix the underlying problem.

So, a person is intentionally infected with helminths (parasitic worms), their ova or larvae. Examples of helminths used therapeutically include Trichuris Suis Ova (TSO) and Necator Americanus (hookworm).

It appears that we co-evolved with these organisms, because they have almost always been present in our bodies. The sudden removal of these organisms from our bodies by modern hygiene is now believed by many scientists to be a major factor in the malfunction of many people’s immune systems. By re-introducing the helminths to our bodies, people with inflammatory diseases often find relief. 

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