June 26, 2017
426 Helminthic Therapy [26 June 2017]
We have come to understand and accept that the vast majority of bacteria and some yeast [see #387] living in and on our bodies are either benign (harmless) or actually beneficial (helpful) to our health. Chapter 5, “Old Friends, New Treatment: Helminthic Therapy in Autism” by Judith Chinitz, in “Bugs, Bowels, and Behavior” extends the range of beneficial microorganisms to include parasitic worms. Now that’s a stretch!
These Pickles cartoons (#1, #2) illustrate most people's perceptions of worms.
Helminths is the name for parasitic worms including whipworms, hookworms, tapeworms and pinworms. Our immune systems developed during a time when exposure to parasites was much greater than in today’s developed countries with our modern hygiene. The theory is that these parasites are necessary for the proper development of our immune systems.
The theory was first published in 1999 by Dr. Joel Weinstock who reported successfully treating patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) with eggs of a harmless parasitic worm, a whipworm that lives in pigs but not humans. Six patients with IBD were given the “helminth therapy”; five went into remission and the sixth improved dramatically.
Weinstock and other researchers have since discovered that when our immune system develops in the absence of helminths, the Type2 T helper cells (Th2) which normally control parasites instead begins to react to pollen and other allergens causing allergies, or begins to attack our own bodies causing auto-immune disease. The presence of helminths is also required for the normal development of the regulatory system which controls the Th1 and Th2 systems, preventing runaway inflammation.
As we have seen, inflammation is a significant part of the autism syndrome. To date no studies have been done on ASD with helminthic therapy but many desperate parents haven’t waited and persuaded their doctors to give it a try. Results have been very encouraging with reports of significantly improved gastrointestinal and behavioral symptoms.
This 2015 National Institutes of Health article gives a good overview of helminth therapy in the USA.
I won’t be too surprised if someday helminthic therapy will become an accepted treatment for inflammatory diseases, just like fecal transplants [#243] have for IBD.
For more information on this or other natural health topics, stop in and talk to Stan; for medical advice consult your licensed health practitioner.