Sometimes I am 100% convinced that the world has gone crazy. (Actually, every day I am convinced of that. But some days it just boils over for me…)
Now, you may think that someone who finds intestinal organisms utterly fascinating is a big one to talk but honestly, at least there is logic behind my madness.
[Spoiler Alert: I am not going to get through this post without sarcasm, so if you aren’t in the mood, read no further.]
Those of us in the industrialized world are suffering from continually increasing rates of chronic immune-mediated disorders. Those living in non-industrialized places are not. These people have native helminth populations, which humans have had for all of their evolutionary history…until the last few decades. When people from non-industrialized countries move to the industrialized world and lose their helminths, they develop allergies, etc. Helminths modulate the immune system by boosting levels of regulatory cytokines. Helminths improve the quality of the microbiome, shifting it from pro-inflammatory species to anti-inflammatory ones. Helminths seem to have beneficial effects on boosting humoral immunity. This is all in the medical literature in hundreds and hundreds of articles.
Almost 20 years of research supports the idea of restoring our natural biomes with helminths, and researchers who are actually involved in helminth research – like Dr. William Parker, at Duke – state in the medical literature, “Principle among these consequences [of post-industrial modernization] is depletion of important components, particularly helminths, from the ecosystem of the human body…”[i]
Or how about this one from researchers at the University of Iowa, including Dr. Joel Weinstock, one of the great pioneers in this field, ““Immune-mediated diseases (e.g. inflammatory bowel disease, asthma, multiple sclerosis and autoimmune diabetes) are increasing in prevalence and emerge as populations adopt meticulously hygienic lifestyles…Loss of natural helminth exposure removes a previously universal Th2 and regulatory immune biasing imparted by these organisms….”[ii]
And yet, an article[iii] came out today by Dr. Mercola on his website, which – while acknowledging, for example, the Duke University/University of Central Arkansas study, showing fairly dramatic results in those self-treating – he concludes that there are better ways of dealing with all this: nutrients and soap.
Yes, Dr. M – I am sure that avoiding anti-bacterial soaps, letting children play in the dirt, eating cultured foods and taking our vitamin D will most certainly rid us all of autism, allergies, autoimmune diseases, and many mental illnesses, including depression.
Is it me?! I mean, either I am over-complicating this whole problem big time or he is rather astronomically under-complicating it.
According to Dr. Mercola, we should completely discount biome restoration with helminths. Why?
- Some kinds of helminths are dangerous. (Of course, not the ones people are using to restore their biomes in the doses they are using…) Ok, Dr. M – I think we should make berries illegal, because some kinds of berries are poisonous. For that matter, some kinds of bacteria are deadly so let’s bag probiotics while we’re at it.
- Stay away from helminths because there are already heaps of treatments for inflammatory bowel disease. Do I actually need to comment on this one? Ok – well, just one comment because I can’t stop myself. I DEFINITELY think using chemotherapy agents like 6MP which knock your white blood cells down to nothing and open you up to get cancer…or methotrexate, with its black box warning about how it can be potentially fatal, as just two examples of all those fab treatments that are out there, are WAY better ways to go. (I AM restraining myself. I haven’t said a word here about the TNF-alpha inhibitors!)
- He claims that “many inflammatory diseases can be either prevented or remedied with good nutrition — that is, eating what’s good for you, and staying away from what isn’t, such as genetically engineered foods, grains and sugars, and making sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals that are so critical to your health, such as vitamin D and those found in fermented foods.” Firstly, no one is claiming helminths are the cure-all and without a doubt, a healthy diet is mandatory. But honest to God…how naïve is this man, if he actually believes that all we need to do to get rid of these epidemics of autism, allergies, etc. are improve our diets and use regular soap?
Dr. M’s article is…well…it’s almost childish. In fact, so much so that I almost believe he is being purposefully obtuse. For a doctor who is known for promoting natural health, and “Exposing corporate, government, and mass media hype that diverts you away from what is truly best for your health and often to a path that leads straight into an early grave” – and who supports so many worthy causes – it is very strange to me that he would so readily discount something that has helped so many thousands of desperate people who have been failed by traditional medicine.
I really hope he rethinks his position at some point. Maybe talk to some of the people who have found relief through helminths. Maybe talk to some of the practitioners recommending them or some of the researchers studying them. We could use a guy like Dr. M on our team. And the truth is, we are all too damn sick to simply write off something that many other doctors, researchers and patients deem to be so absolutely critical.
[i] Bilbo, SD, John P. Jones, JP, Parker, W. Is Autism a Member of a Family of Diseases Resulting from Genetic/Cultural Mismatches? Implications for Treatment and Prevention,” Autism Research and Treatment, vol. 2012: Article ID 910946, 11 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/910946.
[ii] Elliott, DE, Summers, RW, Weinstock, JV. Helminths as Governors of Immune-Mediated Inflammation. International Journal of Parasitology. Volume 37, Issue 5, April 2007: 457–464