A reader pleasantly reminded me that it has been over two months since my last post that actually dealt with how I’ve been feeling. Although I like to post on related topics, the major aim of this blog is to document my experience, so here we go:
To summarize. It has been more than 7 months now since I inoculated with 1,000 human whipworm ova. After the first month I started to see marked benefit, but still had some bad days. At two months, my bowel movements had totally normalized. I mean totally. Starting after two months, I began having 1-2 BMs per day, zero blood, zero mucus, zero pain. My stools were totally formed and well digested. At 4 months, I tapered down the medicine I was taking, Colazal, to half a dose. At 5 months, I stopped completely. Since then, it has been “smooth” sailing, and I am continually excited each day when I pass a nice solid BM. It’s such a relief. My blood work is all normal. For the first time in 6 years, I no longer am taking daily medication. No longer must I carry around pills in my pockets and bag, swallowing 9+ pills per day, often to little effect. Nor more prednisone regimens that leave me exhausted, feeling sick or wanting to throw up. No more spraying steroid foam up my rectum in a vain attempt at quelling my inflammatory proctitis. Currently, all I’m doing besides eating a (mostly) healthy diet and some moderate exercise is taking some Vitamin D, some calcium/magnesium, and I drink peppermint tea. Oh, and course my little comrades hard at work.
The best part is the mental well-being that comes along with the feeling of having stable health. I’m far less stressed with work and school than I used to be. I’m more energetic, I’ve picked up jogging after a 5+ year hiatus. I admit to feelings of glee & happiness when I think about the potential for this therapy, and how it has, thus far, benefited my life–but I try to quickly remind myself that it is simply far too early to make any conclusive claims. I’ve just got to appreciate my health now, and hope that things continue. We all need and deserve hope, don’t we? Everyone with IBD, or any debilitating condition must slough through days, months–sometimes longer, without hope. If anything, this therapy provides a new hope for the millions who suffer daily under the (often) hidden burdens and pain of autoimmune diseases.
I wont now, or any day soon, say that this therapy “cured” me, and it is still way too early to have any idea about the long-term efficacy of this therapy. Sadly there are very few people that have used helminths therapeutically for longer than a year or two. The patient profiled in the scientific american article has been using human whipworm to successfully treat UC for 3-4 years now, which is encouraging, but this is ONE example. My hope is that in 3-5 years, we will have amassed enough experiential and hopefully scientific data to know whether or not this therapy can be effective to treat the disease for the long term.
In the interest of full disclosure. There have been two incidences over the past 5-6 months where I have had diarrhea. This is entirely my fault, as I am somewhat lactose intolerant (runs in my family), and in my new found joy of not worrying about what I eat, I have done stupid things like put heavy cream in my coffee, or eat cream cheese. Each incident lasted just one bathroom session, and things went right back to normal the next day.
A surprising note: I have a fantastic GI who is very supportive of this therapy (I switched to her from a ‘shitty’ one), and when I first got on board with her at the start of my therapy, I was her only patient who was actively trying helminths to treat Inflammatory Bowel Disease, although she had had a few patients inquire about it. I just saw her again last week, and as we talked about the increasing attention being given to helminthic therapy, she noted that she now has four patients actively using helminths!! I was shocked. That seems to be quite a good sign.
Hasta la victoria siempre, my little colon comrades.
*In the bizarre fantasy I have created to deal with the weirdness of this therapy, I’ve decided that my ‘little ones’ are latin american revolutionaries, fighting against colon(ial) imperialism (hehe) and/or intestinal inflammation, and thus I speak to them in Spanish. To be fair, they do come from central america, originally. I also like to call them comrades to challenge the concept that they are parasites–as for me, clearly they are not. Apparently I’m not the only “helminther” out there who names/makes up weird references/plays music for their helminths. Anyone want to admit theirs?
An interesting little piece on how our culture of hygiene, most extreme for girls, is having some majorly bad effects later on in life. Apparently, according to the ‘American Autoimmune Related Disease Association’, autoimmune disorders affect women three times more often than men.
Why Keeping Little Girls Squeaky Clean Could Make Them Sick, from NPR’s blog.