Restless legs syndrome yields completely to hookworms

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    Becoming restless

    Restless legs syndrome (RLS) was a problem for me for many years.

    I had M.E./chronic fatigue syndrome, so I desperately needed all the rest I could get and relied on a good sleep at night and two lengthy periods of deep relaxation/meditation during my waking hours in order to get through the day without feeling too dreadful.

    But, as my health steadily declined, I began to develop a tendency to become uncontrollably restless just as I was going to sleep, and also after I'd been meditating for only 10 or 15 minutes. This situation threatened to scupper the energetic equilibrium that I was already having to work so hard to maintain.

    Trying the available therapeutic options

    I reported the problem, which mostly affected my right leg, but also, to a lesser extent, the left, to my GP. He didn't recognise any specific condition, and could only suggest that I take sleeping tablets to knock myself out at night, so prescribed an -azepam drug. While this worked fine for one night, it actually made the problem worse if I took it for more than two nights.

    When I returned to see the doctor, after doing some homework, I was able to give him detailed information about RLS, which was clearly the problem I was experiencing. He admitted that he had not heard of this, but he was willing to learn and, together, we explored several therapeutic approaches. Unfortunately, none of them proved to be successful.

    I then tried electroacupuncture - again unsuccessfully - and sought, but could not find, an osteopath familiar with the use of the Dalrymple pump technique, which I had heard might help.

    Taking magnesium, calcium and potassium, and avoiding caffeine also didn't work, nor did vitamin E or a strong B complex formulation. Drinking tonic water (for the quinine) didn’t help either, and, as the problem worsened, I began to find that drugs taken for other conditions, such as metoclopramide to treat gastroparesis, could dramatically worsen the symptoms.

    The breakthrough

    It was at this point that I joined a clinical trial at Nottingham University for patients with Crohn’s disease, and this was where I had my first encounter with a novel treatment that would eventually transform my health in many ways - helminthic therapy.

    After being inoculated with 10 larvae of the human hookworm, Necator americanus, I initially experienced some gastric symptoms, particularly a little diarrhoea, but this side effect was only transient, and the small number of worms that I was given have not caused any further health issues. I never got to see an actual worm, either, at any time during the therapy.

    The hookworm larvae were microscopic when they were applied to the skin of my forearm on a dressing and, from there on, the only indication I had of their presence, apart from the mild gastrointestinal symptoms following their introduction, was the glorious gradual reduction over the coming months of many of my longstanding health issues, including the RLS. These little guys are true stealth fighters!

    Enjoying the fruits of the worm

    I was overcome by the extent of all the remarkable health improvements that I found myself unexpectedly enjoying. The hopes of improved health that I had nurtured for so many years, but never expected would ever be anything more than dreams, were now really coming to fruition! And, as my health was changing so much, and so rapidly, I didn't immediately notice the actual moment of cessation of several of my symptoms, including my restless legs.

    Helminthic therapy has been shown to effectively treat many immune-related disorders, and I began to read the large catalogue of scientific research that has built up over the past half century about the benefits of replacing some of the organism with which humans and our primate ancestors have cohabited continuously for hundreds of millions of years until the twentieth century. And it was while I was looking at a list of all the autoimmune diseases that are potentially amenable to helminth replacement therapy that I happened to notice RLS among the 150-plus diseases included. As I thought about this, I suddenly realised that RLS was no longer a problem for me, and I was almost as shocked to acknowledge that I hadn't noticed its passing as I was relieved that it was finally gone.

    After having waved goodbye to the RLS, it was suddenly "Hello" again!

    I immediately looked up the record I had begun after getting my hookworms, and found that references to RLS had started to reduce rapidly from the fifth week after inoculation with the larvae. There was then no record at all of any of the classic restlessness from weeks 6 to 10, only a few mild episodes between weeks 10 and 19, and then absolutely nothing until nearly three years later when I ate some sauerkraut for the first time in my life, and unfortunately consumed more than my digestive system could cope with. The result of this over-indulgence was 24 hours of uncomfortable “digestive distress” followed by the passing of copious amounts of very bloody diarrhoea, during which I lost consciousness several times. [1]

    About a week after this incident, I developed a headache after eating Stilton cheese - an effect that had been thankfully absent since getting the hookworms - and, at two weeks after eating the sauerkraut, I began to experience an increase in another symptom that had gradually disappeared after I’d acquired my worms - nasal congestion. Then, at three weeks after the sauerkraut upheaval, my restless legs syndrome returned and I was also, by then, once more experiencing intolerance reactions to several foods, so it was clear that I'd lost most, if not all, of my worms. Fortunately, after restocking my hookworm colony, I gradually regained all the benefits that the helminths had previously provided, including freedom from RLS.

    Looking back with immense gratitude

    It's now 12 years since I adopted my treasured harem of hookies, and, apart from the set-back caused by the sauerkraut incident, I have never been troubled by restless legs in all this time. RLS is now just a memory that I'm very grateful to be able to forget!

    For a much more detailed account of my experience of helminthic therapy, see, Wriggling out of total food intolerance, M.E. and Crohn’s disease.

    By John Scott, February 2021.

    (An earlier version was published in Aug 2010 on the Foods Matter website. [2])

    See also

    For more about helminthic therapy and RLS, see:

    And, for reports by others who have used helminthic therapy to treat their RLS, see:

    And for a few of John’s other articles about specific aspects of his helminthic therapy experience.