Self-proclaimed font of Celiac knowledge, Libby tries to educate everyone she comes across on the differences between allergies, gluten sensitivity, and Celiac Disease.See all posts »
Helminthic therapy is a type of immunotherapy that is quite trendy right now in the treatment of autoimmune diseases. "Helminthic" refers to the helminths that the person receiving the therapy is inoculated with. Helminths, for those who don't know, are parasitic worms, and the idea behind this therapy is that a small dosage of parasites will aid an immune system response that is lacking in people who suffer with certain diseases and disorders.
In western society, we have an obsession with being clean. Though this blocks out many harmful illnesses, there has been a backlash of problems surrounding the lack of exposure to certain germs and parasites while growing up. This "Hygiene Hypothesis," which argues that this lack of exposure puts people at greater risk for illness, is now affecting all of the industrialized countries in a very negative way. Beterween allergies and asthma, autoimmune diseases and possibly mental illness, people everywhere are falling ill to diseases that have no cure.
I first heard about this therapy on an episode of This American Life, a free podcast put on by National Public Radio. The story followed a man who suffered from terrible airborne allergies. Over time, he got so fed up with his lack of relief through modern medical treatments that he began his own research. Long story short, he inoculated himself by walking bare foot over rural latrines in Africa where the parasitic worm eggs entered the soles of his feet and grew inside his body.
Research is now being done extensively on helminthic therapy for Crohn's Disease, colitis, IBD, MS, asthma, allergies, and now Celiac Disease.
Two types of worms can be used, either hookworm or whipworm, and the patient is inoculated with a specific controlled number via a patch of eggs applied to the skin. The eggs entering the body is insanely itchy and causes a very rough rash that last for the full growth period from egg to adult (around 21 days). The rash is worse during the second inoculation and can even keep people up at night due to the itching.
Why do I know all this? Well, I was inoculated with 35 hookworms in the UK in the winter of 2010 and again with a few more in the summer of 2011. Pre-worms, I was sick what seemed like every hour of every day. Not exactly gluten sick all the time, but just run down and drained. My immune system was weak and I was constantly busy.
The worms obviously do not mean I can eat a slice of bread and be fine, and all you readers know that I still get sick from cross contamination, but the severity and frequency of sickness have been dramatically reduced.
If you are having a really hard time with your autoimmune disease, I suggest you do some research into this type of therapy. It has really helped me and though a little freaky at first, it is perfectly safe. The worms cannot multiply in your body and you cannot infect your loved ones. Even if it eases the burden of your disease just a little bit, then the therapy has worked and it is worth it.