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4. getting the worm—and how it works

January 13, 2011

Of course, having made the decision to GET the worm, I had to discuss it with my fiance, Lisa. She knew how badly I was suffering. She was a doctor–a vet–too, so she was as mystified as my own doctors as to what was causing it all. I told her about the NPR show. She said she had heard of this theory, she called it the “cleanliness” theory. Here’s how it works: humans and hookworms co-evolved over millions of years in a symbiotic relationship. We gave them a place to live and food. And what did they do for us? Regulate our immune systems. It seems the worms secrete a chemical that supresses the immune system JUST enough that it doesn’t eject them. But not enough to endanger the host. Thus the worm is constantly monitoring the hosts immune system and secreting just enough of the chemical to keep itself and the host safe. This actually functions as a regulatory organ of the immune system, and since we already had one in our systems–the worms–we did not need to evolve one independently.

Thus, when humans got “too clean” starting in the early 1900s and automatically (and wrongly, it turns out) assumed that any parasite living in our intestines must be a BAD thing, they got rid of them, unknowingly amputating the only regulatory organ for the immune system that we have.

And what was the result? Instantly, people started having allergies, asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and more recently Crohn’s disease and fibromyalgia, and many, many other out-of-control immune system maladies.

But what if you re-introduce the worm? European studies show that in about 75% of cases, the diseases disappear. (To see medical journal articles, click on

“I need this worm,” I told Lisa.

She thought about it for a minute, and said, “I’m not excited about this idea. Ordinarily, I’m not trained to think of hookworms as a GOOD thing. But I know the theory. It’s worth a try. If it doesn’t work, you can take a pill and in 24 hours, the worms will be gone. I say try it.”

THAT’S my girl. I went to the web. I searched for “hookworms” and the name of the man in the NPR show.

I found him.

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