Oh, hi there!
I’m happy to announce (happy is being used very loosely here) that over the weekend I broke down and had to go and basically beg for steroids to control the immune response I was having from my lovely little hookworm pets. As unpleasant as I was feeling, I take it as a good sign that maybe (just MAYBE!) this journey shall not be in vain! Sorry to sound all biblical and shit. I don’t really feel as if I’m moving mountains or paving the way or anything like that. There have been many far braver souls before me. (muahaha!) Okay, I’ll stop now.
The side effects I was feeling were completely normal and expected. No gastrointestinal issues really besides a mild gut ache — Just an epic skin flare-up (the kind where you scratch until you bleed), joint pain, and rather intense tingling and numbness in my hands.
So, if you’re following along I’ve been referring to the Hookworm timeline: What To Expect After Inoculation With Hookworm Larvae — written by John Scott (who is a serious wealth of knowledge). I’m getting pretty close or damn near to the stages you are about to read below at week 3. I’m going to summarize what John wrote and edit the English a bit since he is from the UK and some of you people will just ask me too many damn questions or wonder why he spells diarrhea funny. (I kid! I love your questions!)
Week 3 to week 10
The hookworms moult and become adults after reaching the intestines, and attach to the intestinal wall towards the end of week 3. Their eventual home is usually the lower reaches of the small intestine, unless this has been surgically removed, or an individual has hundreds of worms.
Side effects at this stage can include, in order of occurrence: fatigue, cramping, bloating, gas, epigastric pain (stomach ache all over the abdomen), diarrhea, nausea, and a recurrence of the skin rash. A few people have reported constipation.
For those individuals who get gastrointestinal side effects, these are most likely to occur around day 21, as a result of the body’s attempt to expel the worms by deploying eosinophils – white blood cells that attack helminths – to cause eosinophilic enteritis. In most people, this inflammatory response translates to a few days of loose bowel movements or diarrhoea, perhaps accompanied by fatigue. A few people may get prolonged gastrointestinal symptoms continuing for many weeks, even into the low 20s, but it always resolves eventually, without treatment, and with no harm done.
The severity of the side effects varies enormously from person to person. Only a small percentage – perhaps five percent – experience stronger side effects, including pronounced diarrhea and cramping due to gas, which can be spectacularly bad and has been described as ‘toxic’, ‘industrial’ or ‘otherworldly’. Rarer still are fever, night sweats and joint pain. For those suffering the worst side effects, even if it is only a few percent of those who try the therapy, the effect is such that study or work would be very difficult. (Sorry, but I had to keep the “toxic/industrial/otherworldly” part in there. Cuz, well, it’s me.)
All the side effects except the skin rash normally reduce sequentially with successive doses.
The skin rash at the inoculation site may also recur during the gastrointestinal side effect phase, perhaps because the worms shed cells and debris from their skin as they migrate through the host’s skin, and, when the worms attach and put the same kind of material (their skin) into contact with the host’s immune system in the intestines, the host’s immune system releases antibodies to those types of cells or proteins wherever they occur, whether in the intestine or in the skin.
Strangely, the first few hookworm doses produce a successively more pronounced skin rash, with the fourth or fifth inoculation leaving some people with a very impressive ‘love bite’, perhaps even surrounded by a halo of apparently bruised skin which can become raised and may be as itchy as the rash site itself.
Apart from the skin rash, which tends to ease after a few days, all the other side effects typically come and go, and the experience can be very much like riding a roller-coaster. There is also enormous variation between individuals, with some people getting no symptoms at all, and others experiencing relentless fatigue, disabling abdominal pain and geysers of diarrhea.(Geysers, people!)
None of the geyser stuff has happened to me and I’ll be quite content if it does not, thank you very much. The inoculation rash has flared up a tiny bit and you can see many little dots where the little larvae entered my skin. Photos don’t do it much justice. It’s difficult to see the dots via photograph and it is diminished due to the way the rest of my skin looks.
And lastly… if anyone knows of any good doctors near me, in Cleveland, Ohio, that will actually listen and be supportive of me during this process and not look at me as if I’ve sprouted a second head after mentioning undergoing a treatment NOT approved by the FDA (*gasp!*) please throw me a bone. I’m not saying anything super negative about my doctor. She is just anti-drug (which I normally like) and won’t give me prednisone so I need to go to urgent care or emergency departments for it. I will say though, that I don’t care one freakin’ iota if something is approved by the FDA or not. I could go on and on about this but you’ll be even more bored than you already are.
As always, thanks for your support and for even just reading.