If you’re not already aware of hookworm therapy (also known as helminthic therapy), then perhaps the name has you feeling a little (or a lot) hesitant.
Trust me, I get it.
After all, despite their benefits, hookworms are considered parasites. Likely, you’ve heard plenty of tales about parasites in the human body, and usually we are working to rid ourselves of parasites. Thankfully (and at first surprisingly) hookworms can actually benefit our health, and do not have the same negative ramifications as pinworms, tapeworms, or roundworms in our bodies.
How do I know?
I gave myself hookworms to ease my own allergies. The result? Success.
My Hookworm Therapy Experience
A few years ago I came across hookworm therapy in my continuous efforts to seek out the best stress relief options. I was looking for not just my patients, but for myself, as well.
Hookworms—which are named for their shape—seemed worth considering. After years suffering from severe headaches (related to my Ehlers Danlos syndrome) and allergies, I finally decided to give it a try.
I knew it would be a process best attempted slowly, in small doses increased over time. This was incredibly important since I am sensitive to almost everything: medications, chemicals, dust, and many foods. Typically, hookworm therapy researchers recommend a standard dose of 20 at one time. I chose to start with one; I wanted to experience, identify and record every single symptom.
For four weeks, I gave myself one hookworm per week. They are microscopic (meaning you can’t see them) and enter through the skin. After six weeks blood work showed a significant increase in white blood cells—specifically eosinophils—which indicated that the hookworm had established itself within my small intestine. With evidence that the treatment was working as intended, I began to increase my dosages; first by two a week and then to five.
I knew that rashes were a common symptom of hookworm therapy. However, I didn’t notice an irritation or rash until I began treating with five worms per week. Prior to that, I would notice a fleeting tickling sensation on my foot at the point of application. Once the rash did appear, however, it lasted mere hours. That was followed by mild swelling and increased phlegm in my throat for 24-48 hours after application. Additionally, 36-72 hours following the first hookworm, I experienced a single loose stool, but not after subsequent hookworms.
It was working…
My Hookworm Therapy Results
Two months after my first hookworm treatment I was able to clean my house with minimal reactions to dust. Three months in and I experienced ZERO reactions. My normally severe allergies while deep cleaning or decluttering my house and basement were gone.
So I tested one more thing—gluten. After 15 years of avoiding gluten, I ate ¼ cup of gluten pasta. No headaches, no migraines, no pain—NOTHING.
The results of only three months of hookworm therapy are, too me, astounding—both as an ND and as a lifelong patient looking for effective relief. As a bonus, I experienced an increase in energy and a consistent better night’s sleep.
Other Hookworm Therapy Benefits
While my quest was to help reduce or eliminate known triggers for me, there are a number of other benefits of hookworm therapy.
Successful treatments have helped other patients dealing with:
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome and imbalanced gut bacteria
- Celiac Disease
- Crohn’s Disease
- Acne and eczema
- Asthma and allergies
- Anxiety and depression
- Autism and ADHD
- Autoimmunities such as Rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis and Hashimoto’s
- Joint pain and Ehlers Danlos Syndrome
- Fibromyalgia and adrenal fatigue
- Migraines and insomnia
- Chronic infections like EBV, HPV, and Lyme
- Dementia and neurodegeneration
- Neuropathy and chronic pain
How Hookworms Work In Our Bodies
Studies have found that hookworms are able to positively modulate our immune system, nervous system and optimize the bacteria living in our intestines. They send signals that decrease inflammation and bring our body back into balance. This shift is to their benefit, and it turns out it is good for us too.
If you think about it from the perspective of stress—which is how I think about everything—hookworms help us there, too. They help us to recover from the effects of stress, while helping to turn off genetic predispositions. So if you are susceptible to autoimmunity, the hookworms are able to override that susceptibility and bring your system back to balance.
In parts of the world where humans are more likely to have hookworms naturally, there is a greatly decreased rate of autoimmunity, allergies, and cancer. Because of this, you may not be surprised to learn that pharmaceutical companies are busy trying to create medications that mimic the effect that hookworms have on our bodies.
Surprising Facts About Hookworms
- The most significant potential symptom of hookworms in the human body is anemia, however, with hookworm therapy, we use a type that doesn’t cause anemia. 20 Hookworms require 2 drops of human blood per day.
- Helminthic therapy isn’t new. Worms have been used in medicine for decades, and researchers have been studying hookworm therapy for over a decade (see references below). To that end, having “healthy worms” inside the human body helps to support the Hygiene Hypothesis first argued in the late 1980s by Dr. David P. Strachan. He argued that a lack of exposure to microorganisms increases susceptibility to allergies. When you think about it, humans were exposed to hookworms over 9,000 years ago. Only in the recent past do humans actually work to prevent them in our bodies. And not surprisingly, chronic health conditions have increased.
- Because they cannot replicate inside the human body, it is a controlled process. Their life cycle requires that they lay eggs, which develop outside of a human (in the soil), and then re-enter through human skin.
- Hookworms never grow bigger than half an inch and no thicker than a hair. Interestingly, they can live up to 15 years according to studies.
- There are many types of hookworms, and certain types provide the most benefit to humans. That’s the type we use with hookworm therapy called Necator americanus or NA457.
- We each have our own “set point” of the optimal number of hookworms. Similar to gut bacteria, we DO need them, however, it must be the right kind and amount for our individual bodies.
Where to go from here
If you too suffer from allergies, digestive troubles, headaches, sleep issues or autoimmunity and are interested in learning more about hookworm therapy, contact me today. We can discuss your current medical hurdles, previous attempts at managing your symptoms and if hookworm therapy will help to give you a better quality of life.
To get started working with me to help with your health concerns – please complete an appointment request here. I’ll review your request to get a sense of your case and whether I’m a good match for your needs.
18th March 2019
P.S. I get it – when we first hear the word “hookworms,” we don’t think of positive effects. That paradigm is changing. From now on, when you think of the “microbiome” – the bacteria and other organisms living in our intestines that have a huge influence on our health – I encourage you to add hookworms to the list.
*Please keep in mind that any and all supplements—nutrients, herbs, enzymes, or other—should be used with caution. My recommendation is that you seek the care of a naturopathic doctor (with a doctorate degree from a federally-accredited program) and that you have a primary care physician or practitioner whom you can contact to help you with individual dosing and protocols. If you ever experience negative symptoms after taking a product, stop taking it immediately and contact your doctor right away.
Daveson AJ, Jones DM, Gaze S, et al. Effect of hookworm infection on wheat challenge in celiac disease–a randomised double-blinded placebo controlled trial. PLoS One. 2011;6(3):e17366. Published 2011 Mar 8. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017366 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3050888/
Gazzinelli-Guimaraes PH, Nutman TB. Helminth parasites and immune regulation. F1000Res. 2018;7:F1000 Faculty Rev-1685. Published 2018 Oct 23. doi:10.12688/f1000research.15596.1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6206608/
Giacomin P, Zakrzewski M, Croese J, et al. Experimental hookworm infection and escalating gluten challenges are associated with increased microbial richness in celiac subjects. Sci Rep. 2015;5:13797. Published 2015 Sep 18. doi:10.1038/srep13797 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4585380/
Maizels RM, Smits HH, McSorley HJ. Modulation of Host Immunity by Helminths: The Expanding Repertoire of Parasite Effector Molecules. Immunity. 2018;49(5):801-818. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6269126/
McSorley HJ, Gaze S, Daveson J, et al. Suppression of inflammatory immune responses in celiac disease by experimental hookworm infection. PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24092. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3174943/
Smallwood TB, Giacomin PR, Loukas A, Mulvenna JP, Clark RJ, Miles JJ. Helminth Immunomodulation in Autoimmune Disease. Front Immunol. 2017;8:453. Published 2017 Apr 24. doi:10.3389/fimmu.2017.00453 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5401880/
Versini M, Jeandel PY, Bashi T, Bizzaro G, Blank M, Shoenfeld Y. Unraveling the Hygiene Hypothesis of helminthes and autoimmunity: origins, pathophysiology, and clinical applications. BMC Med. 2015;13:81. Published 2015 Apr 13. doi:10.1186/s12916-015-0306-7 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4396177/