Diseases of the Immune System considers the effect of the friendly bugs, bacteria and worms in the gut, on our overall health.
The Twentieth Century has seen an explosion of so called autoimmune diseases where the body takes revenge on itself. Whilst conditions like diabetes go back to ancient times, rheumatoid arthritis, heart attack, atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, multiple sclerosis, or MS, and a host of others, is a relatively new phenomenon on the massive scale seen today.
In the last 100 or so years, communities have made significant strides in cleaning up the water supply and building proper hygienic treatment plants for raw sewerage. Whilst this has had the effect of drastically reducing diseases such as cholera, it has also had the undesired effect of reducing our exposure to the beneficial bugs.
A century and more ago, people lived closed to the soil, and their gastrointestinal systems were swarming with friendly bacteria, as well as potential pathogens, and helminths, or worms.
Today, we know that eating active yoghurt, for example, that is filled with living bacteria like lactobacillus, is good for the gut; but worms to counter the diseases of the immune system?
Research from Tufts Medical University of Biomedical Sciences in Boston has come up with some startling findings.
Professor Joel Weinstock, gastroenterologist, and his researchers have found that the helminths in the colon exert a powerful and healthy effect on the immunity of the host where they dwell; they inducing the body to fight off and destroy the invaders.
They sharpen the immune system's response to bugs, good and bad, thus preventing needless tissue damage.
Deworming the population became a major public health project of the early Twentieth century; is it a coincidence that at just that time the prevalence of the diseases of the immune system like MS and rheumatoid arthritis really took off?
Moreover, these autoimmune illnesses, asthma and inflammatory bowel disease too, remain uncommon in the Third World where worm infestation of the colon is still widespread.
Twenty nine patients with difficult to manage Crohn's, an inflammatory bowel disease, were given whipworm ova for half a year. Within three months the inflammation in the gut of 76 percent of the group had responded very favourably, and 19 of the 29 were in complete remission. Read about the research in Int. J. Parasitol. 2007.
Remember this was a group who were not responding well to the so called current best known treatment. In fact, they were on the short list for a colostomy.
It's a most embarrassing condition; at no time can you ever be more than 2 minutes from the nearest loo. With some it's only 30 seconds; you get little or no warning that you should be sitting on the toilet.
Fifty four patients with another bowel disease called ulcerative colitis were split into two groups, one of which was dosed with whipworm ova, and the other given a placebo.
In this double blind study, the gold standard, neither the patients, nor their doctors, knew who got the worms, and who was given the placebo. It's the strongest form of research, removing all forms of bias.
Forty three percent of the group that were dosed with whipworm ova, compared with 17% receiving the placebo, responded well to the treatment.
Yes, it's well known that even a placebo treatment is better than none; that's the power of the mind. So, effective treatment must do better than the placebo.
Asthma and Multiple Sclerosis
Preliminary studies with treatment of whipworm ova have also been encouraging in the treatment of asthma and MS.
In separate research a high carbohydrate / low fat diet has been found to be one of the causes of the inflammatory nerve diseases. Read more at Tingling in arms and hands and legs and feet. Trying to lose weight on a high starch, together will very low fat, diet is very dangerous. Nerves are coated in a fatty myelin sheath.
Much has been written about butyrate, a short chain fatty acid, produced in the colon by the microbiota. Supplying plenty of prebiotics to these bugs is problematic in the modern refined Western diet. Most of the starches are broken down in the small intestine to glucose, and do not reach those friendly bacteria that contribute so much to preventing inflammation and autoimmune diseases.
Understanding more about resistant starch is important for us all, preventing obesity, diabetes and diseases like lupus and multiple sclerosis.
Why, in heaven's name you may be asking, is there a page on worms on a Bernard Preston page?!!! For two reasons. I have family, friends and patients suffering from diseases of the immune system, diseases which barely existed a century ago. That alone wakens my interest.
But secondly, I love the absurd, the paradoxes, the crazy things of life. That a medical scientist of high repute is seriously talking of dosing his patients with worms to cure diseases like MS, I find profoundly interesting.
Right now there is an ortho-manual therapist in the
Netherlands getting a hard time from a judge for committing quackery,
by claiming that she can help patients with MS by manipulating the neck.
I wonder what Judge Renckens would have to say about Prof Weinstock's
Similar studies with white mice have shown a reduction in the severity of RA. (Ann. Rheum. Dis. 2008)
Human beings and all animals, in fact, are teeming with life, and we are really just part of the environment. When we try to separate ourselves from the environment and exposure to these organisms, we leave ourselves predisposed to diseases of the immune system." (Rheumatology News International, Sept 2008)
- Prof JV Weinstock
It's probably only in the Third World that one might consider collecting and storing rainwater for the home; one possible advantage is that the drinking water, filtered only of particulate matter but allowing through a few bugs, may also be beneficial to the immune system.
Storing that water above ground in tanks where it gets warm is not a good idea; underground in a covered reservoir where it remains cold is perfect.
A test for E. Coli was negative, and the soft water is perfect for washing and drinking. Good for the immune system? Perhaps. Certainly we have none of the autoimmune diseases in our family.
It also has none of the asbestos fibres carried in the ancient municipal pipes that deliver water in our village. Considering a rainwater harvesting model makes great sense, whether it's exposing ourselves to low levels of bacteria, or just part of eco friendly homes; our cities are running out of fresh water, and making yourself resilient in the fact of climate change makes sense.
Other diseases of the immune system.