Hookworms give chronic headaches the old heave-ho

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    I had had migraine headaches since childhood, but these had always been fairly infrequent. Of much greater concern were the chronic headaches that developed along with M.E., a type of chronic fatigue syndrome. From this point onward, I began to experience a daily headache, the exact presentation of which varied over the years. For a long time, it would begin within a couple of hours of rising each morning and continue until I went to bed at night, at which point it would gradually subside until the next day.

    My GP theorized that there may be a problem with the pressure of my cerebro-spinal fluid, but neither he nor anyone else was able to confirm or dismiss this theory, or offer any solution, so I was left to manage the problem as best I could.

    I tried all the usual remedies, with little success, and had to rely on the regular use of paracetamol (acetaminophen), which I have always used as sparingly as possible, only taking half a tablet at a time and then waiting 3/4 hour before taking another half, if necessary. Occasionally, however, the headache would escalate to monstrous proportions and would necessitate the addition of dihydrocodeine to the maximum permitted dose of paracetamol.

    Being aware that the regular use of such drugs can actually perpetuate headaches, I had periodically stopped taking them for several weeks at a time to ensure that this was not the cause of the problem. Unfortunately, this strategy had never resulted in any diminution of the headaches and I have always been forced to resume taking the drugs.

    My intake of paracetamol had remained fairly constant for many years, fluctuating between 2 and 3 tablets per day - 56 to 84 tablets each month.

    During the two months preceding my first inoculation with the hookworm, Necator americanus (NA), I averaged 57 tablets per month. This was followed, in the first 4 months after the introduction of 35 NA, by a slight increase in my need for pain relief, with an average of 74 paracetamol tablets being required each month. (NB. That first dose of 35 NA caused 19 weeks of diarrhoea, and this number of hookworms is now known to be far too large for an initial dose. See Hookworm dosing and response.)

    Once the hookworms began to "work", at 4 months, there was a noticeable, sudden drop in my need for pain relief, with an average of only 36 tablets being needed in each of the next three months.

    When I added the ova of the human whipworm, Trichuris trichiura (TTO), after having had the hookworms for 7 months, my need for pain relief again increased slightly. This increase in pain coincided with an increase in allergic symptoms, and it would appear that the whipworms initially impeded what might otherwise have been a more rapid reduction in head pain as a result of the effects of the hookworms.

    The following 16 month period, during which I added several further hookworm doses, saw my need for paracetamol steadily decrease to the point at which I only needed 6 tablets per month, a mere fraction of what I had needed to take before adopting helminths.

    It's conceivable that some of this reduction may have been due to improvements in my diet that were made possible by the introduction of hookworms. In particular, the headaches may have been helped by being able to resume taking a range of food supplements that I had previously been unable to tolerate for many years, especially ginkgo biloba, which is known to have a beneficial effect on headaches.

    The graph below shows the number of 500 mg paracetamol/acetaminophen tablets required each month to control my chronic daily headaches from two months before introducing the first dose of hookworms and during the following 2½ years. Each bar of the graph represents one month, and each "x" two tablets. The total number of tablets taken each month is shown in brackets.

    Last 2 months before helminthic therapy
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    Introduced 35 NA

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    Added 100 TTO
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    Added 200 TTO
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    Added 800 TTO
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    Added 10 NA

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    Added 10 NA

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    Added 10 NA

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    Added 10 NA

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    xxx (6)
    xxx (6)

    The degree of progress achieved in those first 2½ years was nothing short of miraculous. To be able to enjoy not only whole days without any headache, but also entire weeks, was just incredible. In addition to the reduction in daily, M.E.-related headaches, my occasional migraines were also greatly reduced in both frequency and severity.

    What amazing creatures hookworms are!

    By John Scott, May 2021.

    (An earlier version of this report was published in July 2011 on the Foods Matter website. [1])

    See also

    Further reports by Scott about other aspects of his personal experience of helminthic therapy.