Travels with 10 hookworms. Treating total food intolerance, food allergy and MS
In 2009, after years of total food intolerance and food allergy, Isobel Bracewell, a 68-year old Scottish lady, turned to helminthic therapy when the only food she was able to tolerate - a semi-elemental infant formula - was discontinued, and the medical community had nothing else to offer her.
As one of the earliest pioneers of helminthic therapy, Isobel first inoculated at a time when dosing with hookworms was poorly understood. Consequently, she was advised to start with 10 NA larvae, which we now know is an excessively large dose for someone as sensitive as she was. Three larvae would have been a more appropriate introductory dose for someone with Isobel’s extreme hypersensitivity, and the severity of the side effects which she suffered was largely a consequence of overdosing.
After having spent much of her professional life working as a nursing sister, Isobel’s report is, not surprisingly, meticulous, and it illustrates in graphic detail the possible initial side effects from hosting hookworms.
An extraordinary journey
Everyone's experience on this path will be different as our bodies react in their own way.
I hope that this new field of treatment will lead to an as yet incalculable number of new scientific and medical findings. It is sad that, in our so-enlightened world of medicine and science, many hospital consultants are as yet unwilling to test and question basic concepts relating to helminths, having the usual misunderstandings and reservations, and subscribing to the motto: What I don't understand I don't believe.
This is my story of a process which has probably been the most intense experience of my adult life as I set out with confidence that I would succeed and better health would result.
Reasons for undertaking this experimental treatment
I have multiple food/salicylate sensitivities, allergies and intolerances. For some reason my body has an adverse reaction to food - cause unknown. However, all of these problems only started after taking statins and aspirin, which were prescribed for high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure in 2004. Since then I have also become chemically sensitive. The consultant at the hospital said that I am "a conundrum", and that "there is nothing more I can do for you." A frightening situation to be in!
Since March 2005, I have lived almost entirely on Prejomin, a semi-elemental infant formula, and it was only fairly recently that I was able to introduce and tolerate a very restricted diet.
Interestingly, while having had multiple sclerosis for many years and being quite disabled by this, it has improved since being on Prejomin.
Unfortunately, the manufacture of this formula was discontinued on 1st of June 2009 and I have been unable to find a replacement that my body could tolerate. As a result, things were looking desperate, and after much research, thought and discussion, I decided that helminthic therapy was the only viable option left open to me.
I am allergic to many medications, and particularly sensitive to new drugs and treatments, probably due to the excipients and fillings. I had previously collapsed in hospital after being given steroids, and the only medication I now use is the antihistamine Levocetirizine dihydrochloride, 5 mg. daily. I also carry 2 Epipens in case of anaphylaxis. Fortunately, homeopathic remedies appear to work well for me.
The journey begins
My journey with helminths began on the 30th of October, 2009, when I inoculated with 10 hookworm larvae placed on a dressing applied to my left forearm.
Even with this number, my journey has been particularly tough and far worse than I expected, with some extreme reactions that are not usual for the majority of helminth hosts. On two occasions I needed a great deal of support just to keep going, but I am glad that I did.
I kept a detailed diary, recording all the various symptoms that occurred, such as fatigue, diarrhoea, cramping, gas, nausea and mood changes - highs and lows which are usually bearable and not a cause for concern.
Itching at the site of inoculation started within 12 minutes and came and went from mild to very itchy on days I-8 and 10-13. There was a faint pink rash at the site of the inoculation on day 2. What was fascinating was the way the 10 red dots (the entry points of the microscopic larvae) which appeared on day 1 were raised, faded and became quite raised again over this same period. They vanished at the end of day 16.
Fatigue was a problem. Five hours after inoculation I suddenly felt overwhelmingly tired and detached. I immediately fell asleep and slept soundly for 25 minutes, then was okay again. Days of total exhaustion and feeling shattered were days 3, 22, 27, 30, 31, 37-41, with an MS relapse for one week, following marked gastric symptoms, on days 44-46, 48, 50 and 55.
There were other days when I had very little energy to do anything and just felt physically and mentally weary. This was on days 20, 24, 36, 43, 47, 56, 58-61 and 66. It was hard at this time to cope with even basic domestic tasks.
It is important that our surroundings should be as pleasant and stress free as possible to help with this healing process. I had good light reading, puzzles such as cryptograms, did two jigsaws over the Christmas period and enjoyed good music. My husband was a great companion and support throughout as were a few special friends.
What was fascinating though was that, although mental exhaustion occasionally accompanied some of the days when I was physically shattered, more often than not my mind became very alert. This was a bonus as one of my MS symptoms has often been a 'fuzzy' mind, making it hard to concentrate clearly or for very long.
My mind suddenly became very alert on days 5 and 6. Day 9 was the 'Bounce' when physically and mentally I seemed to have loads of energy. Other very mentally alert days were 10, 26, 32, 38-54.
Normally a contented, laid back individual, I became very irritable and bad tempered on day 17. My body that day felt 'toxic' with lots of offensive gas. A migraine, preceded by 'aura', started and continued with a headache the next day, then I reverted to type.
Side effects in detail
This was more of a problem than the frequent diarrhoea and came on in intermittent waves that varied from mild to strong and lasted from short periods of time to several hours. It started on day 4 and continued on days 12, 14, 15, 18, 19, 29 - 34, 36, 37, 39, 41 - 44, 46 - 56, 58, 60, 62, 64 and 66, and day 70, after another migraine.
Sipping half a cup of hot water with one quarter teaspoon of organic demerara sugar in it helped, and a barley sugar might work as well. Homoeopathic remedies also helped.
My abdomen sometimes became very bloated, with or without cramps, and at times felt very taut. This was not always related to other symptoms such as flatus or flatulence. Days 6, 7, 12, 17, 19, 22, 26, 29, 30, 33, 34, 36, 37, 40, 44, 53, 55, 66 and 68.
Mild abdominal cramps, which could be intermittent or last many hours, occurred on days 12, 18 - 21, 25, 27, 30 - 32, 38, 39, 42, 3, 46, 54, 59, 62 and 66. Strong cramps which could be very painful and also last for many hours were on days 21, 22, 23, 26, 28, 44, 45 and 53.
Abdominal rumbles or grumbles, which were quite audible, without flatus or flatulence, occurred on days 40 - 43, 61 and 63. I did not feel hungry at such times but wondered if my body wanted solid food, though this was not possible at that time due to frequent diarrhoea.
My whole Abdomen felt sore and tender on days 29 - 34, 36, 51 - 54, 58, 62 and 64.
Gas with lots of wind (flatus) was often putrid and offensive. It quite often preceded violent diarrhoea or marked nausea but not necessarily so. It started on day 4 and continued on days 6, 12, 17, 22, 27, 34, 37 - 39, 44 -47, 50 -55, 62 and 68.
To my knowledge, halitosis (bad breath) is not a symptom that anyone else using helminths has reported. When it occurred it was as if 'spurts or spasms' of this toxic gas rose from the gut into my mouth. Most unpleasant! Yet my husband said he was unaware of this when it occurred on days 13,16,18-27, 33, 37 and 55. My tongue always remained pink, clean and moist.
Flatulence (burping or belching) started later on in the journey, on days 44, 45, 47, 52, 53, 57 and 58.
Diarrhoea, which was always urgent, explosive, and often foetid, frequently followed abdominal spasms. This occurred 93 times in 35 days. It felt as if my body and the hookworms just did not want to cultivate a symbiotic relationship. I often felt quite ill at such times. Other days starting from day 4 there were frequent loose stools but I did not chart this.
I normally sleep soundly, but was awakened with gastric upsets on days 6, 11 and 12, Nightmares occurred on day 18, gastric upsets on days 26, 27, 39, 40, 44 - 46, 53 - 55, 58 and 66. Allergic-type reactions with tachycardia also affected my sleep on days 22, 34, 39, 40, 45 and 46.
A dry cough was present on days 8 and 9. This was not helped by sips of water and was annoying overnight. Mild sore throat and head cold from days 57 - 63. I rarely have a cold.
Oedema of Legs and Feet
From day 25 - 30 my feet and legs suddenly became quite puffy, swollen and heavy. Urinary output decreased and, as suddenly as it started, everything went back to normal.
- Day 22, the day after the helminths took hold of my gut, was an awful day. I was totally exhausted, felt really ill and my abdomen was taut and sore, and my whole body felt 'toxic'. This woke me through the night, also with tachycardia - pulse 118, just like an allergic reaction. My mouth was so dry it felt as if my tongue was sticking to the roof of my mouth.
- Day 34 was similar. Felt ghastly and wondered what on earth was I doing this for.
- Days 37 - 47 was equally bad. Lost five pounds in weight.
- Days 51 - 57 was also awful and I lost a further two pounds in weight.
- Days 44 and 55, had geysers of diarrhoea.
Although the GP and the pharmacists who knew me were wary of prescribing any anti-diarrhoeal mixture, in desperation I bought lmmodium Instant (Loperamide Hydrochloride 2mg) at a supermarket.
Shortly after taking the first tablet, on day 47, my pulse went up from 73 to 92 beats a minute. This is normally a sign it is not going to agree with me.
The second tablet was taken on day 52. Not long afterwards, nausea, cramps - especially across the midriff - and general gastric symptoms started. Had a very disturbed night with 'busy' dreams and gastric symptoms.
The third and final tablet was taken on day 57 - Christmas Day! Felt ill all day after taking it and overnight was awake at 12.20 a.m., 1.20 a.m., 3.15 a.m. and 4.15 a.m. Very tachycardic - pulse 128 beats per minute. It remained rapid until I could have my next dose of antihistamine at 7.30 a.m. My whole being was warm with severe gastric symptoms and I was especially tender right across my midriff.
Marked diuresis (excessive urinary output) x 5 overnight. This is common when I have an allergic type reaction. There was a similar marked diuresis reaction overnight on days 39, 41 and 42.
The diarrhoea response to the hookworms was so severe on many occasions that the homeopathic remedies could only reduce the severity, not stop the diarrhoea.
Very concentrated rice water greatly reduced the frequency of diarrhoea episodes. When I was nursing in Algeria in the 1960s, we used this with good effect with the babies and children, when no medicine was available. It is mucilaginous, very soothing and binding.
Method: boil 2 ounces of organic brown rice in 2 pints of water for one to one and a quarter hours. Add a good half teaspoonful of salt and strain through a fine mesh sieve. Take 30 mls. (one fluid ounce) three times a day.
As my diarrhoea was so severe I cooked the rice for longer until the strained liquid was almost like wallpaper glue. This helped considerably.
When there is diarrhoea, it is important to replace the salt and fluids lost to prevent dehydration. I drank about 2 litres of hot boiled water with a quarter teaspoon of organic demerara sugar and a good pinch of sea salt in every eight ounce mug and was never hungry or light headed. I regained and maintained my weight on this too. Pharmacies stock rehydration therapy powders, but I was wary of some of the ingredients added to these sachets so avoided them.
When my body felt 'toxic', and at times of diarrhoea, I often had a marked thirst and drank copious amounts of bottled or boiled water.
Constipation is something that rarely affects me but, on days 28, 29, 31 and 32, I was very constipated. Gentle rubbing of acupressure points relieved this.
From day 61 it felt as if I was at long last slowly coming out of a long, dark, difficult tunnel. For the first time in six weeks thought I was feeling hungry. On day 65, I really was hungry! Water and Prejomin formula have been my main source of nutrition for the past 10 weeks.
As energy levels were so low, I tried to introduce, just once a day from the end of week seven, minute amounts of the 'safe foods' that I had tolerated in the past. For example, I started with 2 tsps of pureed rice and water. The next day, 1 small new potato sliced and grilled with sunflower oil. The following day, 1 small slice of EnergG toast with scraping of Pure Dairy Free Margarine. Next, 15g organic quinoa flakes with 110 mls original organic rice drink and one quarter teaspoon of organic demerara sugar. I ate whatever I could manage previously, keeping to the minimum of a six day cycle.
Day 55 was my 68th Birthday and I felt great in the morning so, for lunch at 12.50 pm, I decided to treat myself to one free range organic poached egg with one medium sliced and grilled potato. Delicious!
By 1.30 pm, I was very nauseous, with bloated abdomen, pain across the midriff and feeling really ill. At 5.20pm, 5.30pm and 6.30pm, I was violently sick at the same time as having marked explosive diarrhoea. After two further episodes of diarrhoea, I just had to go to bed, still extremely nauseous, at 7.30pm, though I doubt this was due to the helminths. Up to two years previously blood results showed IgE to egg white but repeat tests came back negative and I have enjoyed one egg a week for a few months. As my husband ate from the same egg batch I wonder if the helminths have re-triggered an old allergy? Only time will tell, but, in the meantime, I determined to avoid eggs. Another possibility is that it was something in the hens' feed? I reacted to the organic free range eggs from Sainsbury's but not from those from Marks & Spencer.
Benefits, at last!
In spite of all the above symptoms, benefits of the therapy were beginning to appear, and one bonus is the improved body temperature control that I have enjoyed since week six. Always being cold, even in summer (thyroid normal), and often having to wear thick, warm clothes is one of the MS symptoms. But, even in the snow-bound, icy conditions of this year's exceptional winter, I have been heard to say 'it is quite warm.'
Another bonus is the fact that I now need less sleep in the afternoon and three quarters of an hour less sleep at night when well.
Month 4, and more little friends
By February 2010, I was looking forward to the future with much optimism and confidence, so decided to begin to build up my colony of helminths by inoculating with a further 5 hookworm larvae. Inevitably, this brought further symptoms, but these were not quite as bad this time, as can be seen from the following details of symptoms experienced in the first 72 days after inoculating with the top-up dose.
This was a real problem the first time, when it was present on occasions almost daily for the first 43 days. This time round it was not severe.
Last time this came in 'geysers', but this time stools were only very loose or soft. Worst days were 27, 33, 47 and 54 - 60.
These seemed to be worse this time and more frequent. When they did occur, it felt as if my body was trying to reject the helminths. As of last time, when an old nursing lumbar sacro-iliac injury was reawakened, there was often marked backache in the lumbar area when the cramps were present. Homeopathic Arnica 30c - 2 pilules once or twice daily - was a big help. Day 10 - 48, cramps mild to moderate, almost daily, with or without bloating. Three clear days of cramps then mild cramps from day 53 to 63.
Interestingly, a fully recognisable helminth was passed on day 62. The symptoms were identical to those on day 98 after the first inoculation, when a helminth was also passed. Instead of general abdominal cramps usually caused by the helminths, these were spasmodic, intermittent cramps similar to a bad period pain.
Mild, not toxic like the first time, from day 5 to 62, either in the morning or evening.
Energy levels were not badly affected this time, and I did not experience great highs or lows of energy or sharp thinking.
Months 7 to 10 - and more foods to enjoy
During May, June and the first half of July, energies and life were fantastic. Since then, I have gradually felt that the helminths are perhaps being overworked. It is maybe wrong to blame them as I had an MS relapse. Vision in particular was affected but I had milder leg and arm spasms than usual.
I am eating more now, and had 2 ounces of organic chicken breast fillets on two occasions which for someone who prefers to be vegetarian for ethical and health reasons is quite something. Quite enjoyed this.
This also applies to the 2 ounces of yellow fin tuna which I have had weekly since the end of June. It is okay but not a favourite meal. Although the next day I have a sense of general abdominal unease and soft stools, it does get more protein in.
The fruit and vegetables that produce severe salicylate reactions are still a problem. I am pleased to be able to eat 1 small peach occasionally, 2 cooked apricots from time to time, one quarter banana, four rings of courgette or one small mushroom, 2 shallots, or a small helping of purple sprouting broccoli. Sometimes I tolerate half a peeled pear, other times I react.
I can now eat a little sweet potato, and 3-4 boiled new potatoes are a real treat. Milk products are still out, though, as they give me 'classical migraine'.
For breakfast, I rotate organic Kallo rice drink or my own amaranth, rice, millet and quinoa milks - made in small amounts - with 30g organic brown rice flakes, 30g organic millet flakes (Zwicky - Swiss make), 30g organic quinoa pops, 30g gluten free oats, 30g Big Oz organic morning puffs (mixture of organic buckwheat, millet and brown rice). All gluten free.
It is important to keep a rotation to avoid intolerances developing so, for main meals, I have (once a week only):
- Tofu (Clear Spot) or (Cauldron), plain - 80g fried with 1 or 2 shallots, safflower oil and, when well, one very small peeled tomato.
- Week 3, for a change, I will have 100g of tinned Braised Tofu with Fair Trade Rice and Quinoa spaghetti, or rice and milled pasta.
- Foresight Pease Pudding, 80g, on 2 small slices EnerG toast is another meal.
- One and a half tablespoons of Allergycare Egg-free Omelette Mix made up with organic rice drink and scrambled. (I find it indigestible as an omelette). Again, I serve this on 2 slices of slow toasted EnerG Bread (makes it crispier and avoids it going soggy).
- One organic free range egg, either scrambled with rice drink or poached.
- Ogran Buckwheat Pancake Mix made without egg once a week, with one small mushroom and four rings of peeled cooked courgette.
I make small gluten-free scones with organic brown rice flour, tapioca and potato flour, and have this with dairy-free sunflower margarine and agave syrup.
I still need about one third of a tin (about 120 - 130g) of semi-elemental formula between meals or as a meal replacement, daily. Thanks to the extra stock I obtained - from all over the UK - of the now discontinued Prejomin, I have enough to last until November of this year. Occasionally I have one tin of Pepdite semi-elemental infant formula to eke out my stock of Prejomin. This was the only other semi-elemental formula I could tolerate and, even then, can only take 30g maximum at one time.
This however is great progress, and all thanks to just 15 hookworms! Now, I need to continue to increase my circle of 'little friends' and I am looking forward to making further positive reports in due course.
By Isobel Bracewell, 2011.