Tag Archives: hookworm

Delayed Post: Dose 3.

I’ve been meaning to update ya’ll for over a month but haven’t. 

On June 6, I received my third dose of hookworm larvae. This was my second dose of 50. They were alive and well. (cuz summer!) So, if all worms have persevered, I’m now hosting 135 of them in my gut. 

 And here’s a picture of the inoculation rash at day 4! 

  
Lovely, isn’t it? It was slightly painful this time around. A good portion of my forearm was swollen and bruised. And the itch! Yikes. It was bad this time. Those of us who brave helminthic therapy seem to have more severe skin reactions with each consecutive dose. 

And since I haven’t posted any progress notes from the ‘hookworm timeline’, I’ll do that to keep things interesting and more informative.

Weeks 12-20

Although some hosts have reported experiencing the start of long-lasting improvement at 7 or 8 weeks, the worms only really start to ‘work’, and symptoms begin to ease, at around 12 weeks. Allergies and asthma, in particular, generally (but not always) resolve between the 11th and 13th weeks. By week 20, the worms are usually in their stride.

I’m now at week 24. So quite honestly, I can still improve from here. 

I’ve had a few mild eczema flares on my hands and arms. These flares have been coming and going since March. I’ve had zero episodes of urticaria or hives since about February. The hives were pretty unbearable and I’m hoping they’re gone for good. 
And! I recently did an interview with an online tech magazine about helminthic therapy and my progress thus far. It was pretty exciting, I’m not gonna lie. I’ll keep you posted on that article if/when it’s published. 

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Dose 2. They’re alive! 

Hey there! It’s been awhile.

My second dose of hookworm arrived this past Saturday after much “rigmarole”. I had asked that it be shipped to Florida (where we were spending two weeks of vacation) thinking that they’d have a better chance of survival due to the tropical climate. Two weeks had passed without the arrival of my little friends. Turns out that my provider had shipped them to my home address. Luckily, our mail was held in a warm indoor post office. 

On Saturday, when we received our giant stack of mail I panicked a bit when I saw that special package. I immediately assumed they would be dead. I decided to try something different this time. I let them chill out for about an hour or so in a very warm spot close to a heating vent. My intention was to try and wake them up.

After slapping them on my inner forearm, I felt the burning/tingling after roughly 7 minutes. Yay!!! The little pals were alive and well. I was pretty darn excited after waiting a month for a replacement dose. 

  

The photo above is what the inoculation site looks like today. Two days post inoculation and it has gotten redder and more itchy. It’s also starting to become raised. I’ll take it!

I know some of you are wondering how long the larvae can survive outside of a host. I’m not sure if I covered this or not. I’m told that they can survive for about a month. They were shipped to me on March 1. We were cutting it pretty close.

As for the rest of my skin (the reason I’m infecting myself with parasites), it’s been pretty great. I think two weeks of sun and water helped it but I also believe it’s due to my tiny worm friends. 

Dose 2. Inoculation fail.

Oh, hi! Long time no post, I know.

Obviously, there’s been a bit of a lull. My skin has been extra itchy and angry for about the last week. But, I’m happy to report that it’s been good for brief periods here and there as well.

That was the good news.

Now, onto the bad. My 2nd dose of 50 hookworm arrived today. I’m fairly certain they were dead on arrival. There was no tingling/itching/burrowing-into-my-skin feeling. None that I could really feel anyway. It may also be that since the rest of me is already pretty itchy/tingly that I simply just couldn’t distinguish the difference between the worms burrowing and my already tremendously bothersome yet normal (for me) regular ass skin crawl.
I hope that last sentence made sense. (I drank some wine tonight.)

The only real explanation for the possible (and likely) worm death is due to the arctic temperatures. Our worm friends are tropical creatures. They’re not fans of the cold and literally can’t survive long in these temperatures.

I could also be wrong about the worms being DOA. I’ve still got the bandage in place and if I see “love bites” tomorrow then I’ll know at least some of them made it through okay. If not, then I’ll be provided with another dose. The yucky part is that I’ll have to wait another 2.5 weeks or so. Shipping these babies takes awhile due to where they’re coming from.

I’ll keep you posted on what I see on my arm tomorrow. I know you’re all on the edge of your seats.

P.S. — that photo at the top? Those are the vials that my worms came in.

IMG_3319
This photo here is where I placed my (possibly dead) worms this time.

As always, thanks for being interested!

Day 59. (Someone Else’s) Success Story.

Hello loyal readers. (I know there are at least a few of you!) As promised, I’m going to share a helminthic therapy success story. But first, I want to update you all on MY OWN progress because I’m selfish like that. It’s all about me, me, me!

Let’s look at our handy-dandy timeline, shall we?

Weeks 12-20

Although some hosts have reported experiencing the start of long-lasting improvement at 7 or 8 weeks, the worms only really start to ‘work’, and symptoms begin to ease, at around 12 weeks. Allergies and asthma, in particular, generally (but not always) resolve between the 11th and 13th weeks. By week 20, the worms are usually in their stride.

I was going to update last week on the state of my skin but I decided not to. What I’m about to tell you should really be HUGE but I’m going to make light of it because that’s what I do. I’m a cynic. Last week, my skin was clearer than it had been in about two years. I was only a tiny bit itchy in a few small areas. I was so amazed that I think I was in shock and I hardly mentioned it to anyone because I just didn’t want to get my hopes up. Even Andrew, who barely notices anything unless it’s a scantily clad babe, noticed my skin and commented on it several times. (Andrew is my almost husband for those not in the know.)

I’m really glad I didn’t get my hopes up. That little stint of relief lasted about 5 days. The hives came crashing back on Sunday in full force along with my menstrual flow. I talked about this with my friends in Helminthic Therapy Support and they reassured me that symptoms tend to come and go within the first 12 weeks of therapy. Andrew and I have both decided to take it as a good sign that the worms are doing their job.

And now, I’ll shut up about me and I’ll tell you about Courtney. Courtney is someone I met in the Helminthic Therapy Support Group on Facebook. She posted her story about a month ago and it got me all choked up. Courtney is a young woman who suffers from Crohn’s disease. She told me that her mom was the person who first told her about helminthic therapy and was encouraging her to try it. Like many of us, Courtney was afraid to try this therapy. She says that it took her two years after her mom first mentioned it to finally try it. What you are about to read was written by her and shared with her permission (and I may edit it a bit to better fit this screen). Courtney posted this success story just after her two-year mark of hosting helminths.

I just hit my 2 year anniversary with helminths (hookworm specifically) a couple of days ago. I’ve been treating for Crohn’s Disease, which I’ve had symptoms of for most of my life; I was diagnosed at 19 and started hookworm at 29 years of age.

For me the improvements didn’t start happening until several months in, and once they started they were VERY gradual and I didn’t even recognize improvement until one day I just realized I hadn’t had any abdominal pain for a while. That pain is something I lived with daily for YEARS and after eating ANYthing. And all of a sudden one day, I realized it was gone. I was eating without pain. And very slowly I started noticing other improvements as well.

When I started with HW I was having as many as 20-30 trips to the bathroom per day and through the night. I had a ton of intestinal bleeding. I was almost entirely home bound because I simply couldn’t be far enough from a bathroom long enough to get anywhere, including across town to pick up my son from pre-school.

In spring of 2012, my parents had planned on going on a cruise that they had booked ages before and my mom told me when she got back that she had been afraid to leave because she thought I might not make it. I was surviving solely on Absorb Plus at that time – no solid foods and was very under weight.

In Dec of 2012 is when I got my first shipment of 35 hookworm. It was around 4, maybe 5 months in that I noticed my abdominal pain had disappeared. Slowly my stools were becoming less frequent (10-15 times per day/night). Then they started firming up slightly. Then I was noticing less and less blood. I would have 1 good day out of 7, where I would only be in the bathroom a few times and I’d have energy and feel GOOD. Some kind of turning point happened this past summer and I started feeling human again. I was able to go outside and do fun things with my kids again without being exhausted 5 minutes into an activity and desperately wanting to lie down. I wasn’t constantly running to the bathroom. Now, I have really good days probably 65% of the time.

I haven’t had ANY blood in my stools in months now and my stools are mostly always formed. Most days I’m only having a couple of BMs which are not painful. The urgency is MUCH better. Despite having a bad stomach virus twice in November, I have been able to bounce back pretty well and I’m back to formed stools and no pain. I do still feel like I have some more healing to do but after being VERY sick for so long, I absolutely realize there is a lot of damage to heal, and that takes time. I also have 2 young boys, one who is still nursing; I’m not getting enough sleep because of those things, and I frequently feel stressed, so when those things are factored in, it’s really amazing how far I’ve been able to come!

For a while I was using LDN (low dose naltrexone) as well as helminths but now I’m using helminths solely (with the exception of some vitamins/minerals, and being careful with my diet) and I’m still seeing gradual improvement. This has been the single most helpful thing I’ve ever done for the Crohn’s that I’ve dealt with forever and thank goodness my mom kept bringing it up (I should know by now to listen to my mother, she has a good track record of being right.)

Cool story, huh? I think so. And yes, I agree with Courtney. Our moms are usually right.

Day 29. Tales from the Crypt(o).

It’s been nearly one month since I infected myself with hookworm! And speaking of infection, I have a shiny new one to report on which caused me to have minor surgery in the emergency department yesterday. I’m fine. I just have a skin abscess (that is roughly the size of a golf ball) due to taking immunosuppressant drugs. It’s pretty gross. Much grosser than parasitic worms that feed on my blood. It’s also very painful. They even gave me Vicodin for it which really knocks me out. I’d much rather have something like this than chronic itching, however. And said chronic itching is back in full force since I stopped the steroids in order to heal this wound.

Plus, I’m now on antibiotics. I’m a bit worried about my worms. There are some antibiotics, like amoxicillin and clindamycin, that will most certainly eliminate helminths. I’m taking Bactrim which is not listed as a known antihelminthic (worm killer). It is possible that even short courses of antibiotics could cause a return of symptoms in some people. I’m not at that stage yet but I worry that my worms will be affected by this.

I want to reiterate that this skin infection has nothing to do with the worms. It’s caused by prednisone which has far more dangerous side effects and is also approved by the FDA. Oh, and it’s much more socially acceptable to take prednisone than it is to take worms. And by socially, I mean foolishly. I say all of this and still use prednisone. Until the worms start to work, prednisone is a necessary evil.

The purpose of this post is not to complain about stuff. I came to tell you about a parasite I had back in 2006. Cryptosporidium!

Cryptosporidium is a nasty little parasite. From the CDC website:

Cryptosporidium is a microscopic parasite that causes the diarrheal disease cryptosporidiosis. Both the parasite and the disease are commonly known as “Crypto.”

There are many species of Cryptosporidium that infect humans and animals. The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very tolerant to chlorine disinfection.

While this parasite can be spread in several different ways, water (drinking water and recreational water) is the most common method of transmission. Cryptosporidium is one of the most frequent causes of waterborne disease among humans in the United States.

Where I contracted crypto was one of two possible scenarios: tubing in Lake Erie or helping family members clean up after a flood. No one else in my family (or anyone I know) was graced with crypto. Just me! I was sick for over 3 weeks. At that time, I had stool cultures done through the laboratory I worked in. The health department called about my diagnosis. It was pretty funny answering the phone there and talking about myself. And then they called my personal phone and were very confused as to why they were talking to the same person who took the call at the laboratory.

Crypto really does cause geysers. Geysers for days. And days. And days!

The weirdest thing about crypto was that it cycled or came in waves. I’d be miserable for 4 days and then I’d have a break for 1.5 days. It tricks you into thinking you’re better and then it comes back in full force. When you hear someone say they lived in the bathroom, that really happens! I laid on the floor with a pillow and blanket and truly made myself at home.

My point in telling the crypto tale is that the past experience with a parasite and this new experience with parasites are worlds away. Cryptosporidium was contracted “in the wild”. My human hookworm infection is controlled. I don’t even notice the worms are there. In fact, had I not intentionally infected myself I wouldn’t know they were in my gut at all.

Thanks for reading! I’m going to try and update more than once per week in the future.

Day 23. Merry Wormsmas.

I’ve made it to day 23 without any sort of geysers. Phew!

I’ve been on steroids for the last week. Yesterday, I took my last dose of those and today I am experiencing joint pain, severe itchiness, gut aches, and dizziness. I decided to call my doctor and see if I could get some more prednisone to get me through Christmas. She refused to give me more steroids and told me that I should just take Allegra or Benadryl. She was forgetting what I told her when I last saw her: that I take enough antihistamines to cause toxicity. I take 1,080 mg of Allegra per day. That’s 6 of the 24 hour tablets. She was forgetting the gasp and scowl she gave me when I told her just how much I was putting into my system and just how little benefit I was getting from all of those pills. Today, I told her receptionist that I just wanted to be able to enjoy the holidays. They could not have cared less.

I’ll stop whining now. I do have perspective and realize it could always be worse!
Here’s what’s happening on “the timeline”:

Anyone reaching day 23 without experiencing significant symptoms will almost certainly be in the clear.

Allergies may get somewhat worse in the first 4-5 weeks, due to an increased inflammatory reaction, before usually improving after this.

Worms begin producing eggs between weeks 6 and 8, and, although egg output may remain low for several more weeks, some hosts have reported that they experienced the start of long-lasting improvement at 7 or 8 weeks.

And since I don’t have very much to offer this week in the way of interesting/fun material, I’ll leave you with a fun and festive song written by John Scott:

A Helminthic 12 Days of Christmas

On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
twelve donors pooping,
eleven stools-a-steaming,
ten eggs-a-hatching,
nine technicians counting,
eight doctors doubting,
seven asthmatics singing,
six autistics mingling,
five years relief,
four months wait,
three days itch,
two plastic tubes,
and thirty five hookworm larvae.

Day 7. No bounce.

Hey folks.

Not much going on here that’s out of the ordinary. Just having a giant skin flare-up that’s causing me much grief today. I’m a huge, itchy, wanting-to-cry mess. I’m not sure if this is from the immune response to my new, still microscopic pets but I’m looking forward to better days. I know they’ll come eventually. I’ve also had some weird tingling/numbness in my hands and wrists that isn’t quite normal for me.

So, again, here is what could potentially be going on with me right now. This is taken directly from the document titled, Hookworm timeline: what to expect after inoculation with hookworm larvae, written by John Scott:

Day 6 to end of Week 2

Typically, not much happens during this period, unless it is a continuation of symptoms that started within the first few days. The only change that may occur is a possible ‘bounce’. This is a fairly unusual phenomenon observed in some subjects but not described in the literature.

The ‘bounce’ is a period in which all the subject’s usual symptoms (Crohn’s, asthma, allergies, etc.) disappear, sometimes completely. It typically occurs around the end of week one, perhaps as early as day five and even as late as week two. It can last about a week, but may appear for only 3-4 days, or, rarely, last for almost two weeks. Often this cessation of symptoms is accompanied by a wonderful feeling of calm, serenity, well-being and happiness.

It is easy to take a ‘bounce’ as evidence that the worms have ‘worked’ and that all will be well form this point on. Unfortunately, the ‘bounce’ never lasts, so one should not suddenly abandon whatever medications one is taking, or the diet one is following! This phenomenon is only temporary and not an indication that one has achieved remission in record time.

The appearance of a ‘bounce’ may be due to the fact that the body suddenly finds it has an appropriate target at which to aim its immune artillery. Alternatively, it may be due to something that the larvae are doing that elicits a strong response that quells inflammation. Either way, the ‘bounce’ is something to be enjoyed… while it lasts.

The worms are now maturing in my intestines. Soon they will be visible to the naked eye. Cool, huh?

I’ll post some more interesting bits tomorrow. In the meantime, if you’re reading this and would like me to cover a question you have or another related topic please comment and let me know.

Day 5. This Week in Parasitism.

I found a really interesting podcast called This Week in Parasitism. Well, it may not be interesting to others but it’s extremely interesting to me. It’s two adorably nerdy professors who talk about parasites. This episode tackles hookworm. The discussion includes the history of hookworm eradication in the industrialized world.
….And it’s all John D. Rockefeller’s fault!

Other than that, no really crazy side effects yet. There are a few things to note though. I’ve had mild joint pain today, my hives are out of control, and I’ve had some weird red bumps on my face for the last few days. I’m not sure if any of these symptoms are worm related because I’ve had things like this in the past. Hives are part of my everyday life. But, many others have reported hive flare ups during the beginning of their therapy.

I’ll keep you posted.

Also, notice at the top of my page I’ve added clickable research! in case you’d like to learn more (like from actual experts) about helminthic therapy.

Day 3

Still alive here. Haven’t died from the worms yet.

I’m going to include some information I have here, and this will probably be a regular thing as the timeline progresses, from a document I have obtained from the wonderful Helminthic Therapy Support Group on Facebook. These folks know their stuff and have been a terrific resource for me and for countless others. Facebook isn’t always so bad. (Thanks HTSG!)

The following smaller italicized text is taken directly from the document titled, What to expect after inoculation with hookworm, written by John Scott, April 2012:

Days 3-5

Having migrated from the skin, via the bloodstream to the lungs, during the first two days, the still-invisible larvae then burrow through the lining of the lungs to join all the particulate matter – dust, smoke particles, pollen, etc. – being swept up along the ‘escalator’ of hairs that lines the inside surface of the lungs. This ciliary conveyor belt eventually transports the larvae to the throat, where they transfer from the airway to the gullet before continuing on their journey down to the stomach and on to the lower intestine, where they will spend the remainder of their 3 to 7 year life span (average 5 years). 

Occasionally, the migration of the larvae through the lungs may make some people cough, though this dose-related effect is actually quite rare. Coughing up phlegm and/or spitting should be resisted from days 2-5 to avoid expelling larvae that might be passing the throat at the time, on their way from the lungs to the gastrointestinal tract.

Common side effects at this stage are, in descending order or occurrence: a flare of the skin rash at the site of inoculation, fatigue, diarrhea, cramping and gas, nausea and vomiting. Children may display behavioral changes akin to those seen in a child with flu or allergies – lethargy, crankiness, etc.

(Yes. People do treat their children with helminths. Don’t judge.)

So far, no side effect to report here besides the inoculation rash. As I’ve mentioned before, the rash is not bothersome to me in the slightest due to all of the other skin eruptions I’m dealing with currently. The site actually feels a bit sore when I touch it. Maybe that’s to be expected? I did, after all, have 35 hookworm larvae crunching and munching their way through my dermal layers. Delightful, eh? I think so. Check out the photo at the top of this post and you can see their ‘dental plates’. He looks quite angry about something.

That’s all for today. I’ll educate you some more tomorrow.

Let Me Google That For You!

Okay, okay. I know. *sigh* I’m being asked by more than one reader to explain how helminthic therapy works. I’m sorry. I thought you were all mind readers. Or that you would just friggin’ Google it.

There are countless articles out there written by much better writers than myself. That’s the real reason I didn’t explain it. But anyway, I’ll quit making excuses. Here goes….

How does helminthic therapy work? 

Helminthic therapy works by reintroducing organisms to the body that we have evolved with. It’s intention is to correct an imbalance within the immune system.

The developed world has become obsessed with hygiene and the elimination of germs and parasites from our society as a way to keep the population healthy. Little thought and understanding has been given to the consequences to our immune systems as a result of these actions.

Humans evolved alongside parasites as well as a whole host of protozoa, bacteria, and germs. The importance of this close relationship between man and the organisms we have evolved with forms the basis of the Hygiene Hypothesis.

Our immune systems have evolved to expect parasites to be present in our bodies. When we cleanse our bodies to such a degree that the immune system has nothing to work against it does not simply stop working. It starts reacting in inappropriate ways and this is when it’s possible for diseases involving allergies and autoimmune issues to arise.

The reintroduction of parasites, such as hookworm and whipworm, is a step in redressing the natural evolutionary balance of the immune system; giving the immune system a target to work against, thus halting the destructive actions of the immune system on it’s own tissues or benign substances such as pollen, animal dander, etc.

It is also known that, in order to live in our bodies unharmed by our immune system, helminths secrete substances that turn down the immune response. This is believed to result in a better regulated immune system; one less likely to attack it’s own tissues or benign substances.*

And I’ll continue on with some more information that I have at hand…

Who can benefit from helminthic therapy?

It is possible that anyone with a chronic inflammatory condition or one involving autoimmune related inflammatory diseases, autoimmunity, or atopic diseases such as asthma, could benefit from helminthic therapy. It is impossible to predict if any one person will respond to the therapy in advance. The only way to test it is to try it. Diseases/disorders that have responded include: asthma, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, eczema, psoriasis, hay fever, irritable bowel syndrome, migraine, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, and allergies. 

It’s worth noting that the above list of diseases/disorders does not cover all success stories. There are many more conditions that helminthic therapy has helped. I’ve read a pretty extensive list myself.

A few more things before I sign off for the night…

So far, no side effects which is to be expected on day 2. Just the little inoculation rash which you can see at the top of this post. In case you forgot, that’s where the worms crawled into my skin.

As always, thanks for reading. I sincerely appreciate the love and support.

* the italicized text above was not written by me; I reworded it a tiny bit. I do not want to give actual written credit to the source due to my strong stance on not mentioning the name of my provider in this blog.