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Episode 36: Would You Give Yourself Gut Worms To Ward Off Chronic Disease?

Would you give yourself an intestinal worm if it meant you’d no longer have allergies or symptoms of an autoimmune disease? 


Would you give a few to yourself if it meant preventing those conditions altogether? 


Perhaps you’ve heard of something called the hygiene hypothesis. In essence, this (now proven) theory says that because we’ve moved indoors, use plumbing and toilets, and are generally much cleaner now than in the past, we’re creating a new set of problems for ourselves. 


Our guest today, Dr. William Parker, likens this phenomenon with our immune system to a bored teenager: when left to their own devices, teens generally get into trouble because there’s not enough to do. Our immune system is no different. Because it isn’t busy fighting off many of the pathogens it’s evolved to deal with, it turns on the next closest thing: us. 

Enter Dr. Parker and his research, a solution that could cure everything from seasonal hay fever to Crohn’s disease and many, many conditions in between. Best known for the discovery of what our appendices are for (spoiler alert: they’re a nursery/safe house for bacteria), Dr. P has spent the last 15 years looking at the fundamental cultural causes of inflammation in Western societies. 


What he’s found is that by infecting humans with helminths – also called intestinal worms – he’s able to halt a wide range of symptoms and support healthy neuropsychiatric function in adults and in children. 


On this episode, Andrea talks to Dr. Parker about the “ick” factor of giving yourself worms, the different types used in therapy, the quantity threshold for symptom alleviation versus exacerbation, and whether helminths could benefit even those who are healthy and well. 


Because this is NOT an FDA-approved therapy, they also discuss the obstacles to treatment and what we know about how helminths interact with the rest of the microbiome. 


To connect with Dr. Parker and stay up-to-date on his latest research, including work on how acetaminophen (Tylenol) is strongly implicated in autism, head to his Facebook page, William Parker Lab.  


Resources mentioned on the show: 




On this show, you’ll learn: 

  • What is a helminth? (3:52)
  • The Hygiene Hypothesis (7:07)
  • How this evolved (10:21)
  • Potential benefits of helminths (13:04)
  • The conditions helminths are most helpful for (14:59)
  • Helminths and leaky gut (18:29)
  • Can helminths help with the gut-brain connection? (22:34)
  • Are they a viable option for prevention of disease? (24:44)
  • Dr. Parker’s personal experience with helminth therapy (26:49)
  • Introduction during pregnancy or at birth (28:44)
  • How worms interact with the bacterial and fungal communities in the gut (32:46)
  • How bacteria affect the helminth (35:25)
  • Adverse conditions to watch for (40:19)
  • Access to helminth therapy (43:10)
  • Resources about helminths (48:41)


Tune in on iTunes here:



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