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Multiple Sclerosis: Gut Check

Multiple Sclerosis: Gut Check

Researchers are studying the gut and its relationship to MS.  Yes, I know those of us who can stand to lose a few pounds do worse physically with those guts, but that’s not the idea they are exploring. Forget our brains – they are really looking into the gut, our digestive system in all its glory, to find if there is a connection between its health and our Multiple Sclerosis.

If you tend to be squeamish about anything with an ick factor, you might want to stop reading now.  If you are like so many of us willing to consider anything for a cure to MS, then read on.  You’ve been forewarned.

The gut, that stretch of intestine  from our stomach to where it exits our digestive system at the anus, and its contents,  are important to our health – ask anyone who suffers from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) or Crohn’s Disease and they can quickly tell you the importance of gut health.  That health has to do with balance – hoping the good stuff in there is in control of eradicating or at least overwhelming the bad stuff. There are strong indicators there is a connection with gut health – having the right stuff  in our system– and autoimmune diseases, and researchers in different parts of the world are looking closer to see if perhaps there is an MS connection hiding there as well.

The MS Discovery Forum reports that Dr. Sushrut Jangi,  an internist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston presented his initial research on gut health and multiple sclerosis at the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) annual meeting.  For this study they gathered fecal samples from 168 people with RRMS and 77 healthy controls for analysis and then narrowed their study group down to a smaller sampling. Through some additional screening processes, samples from 66 RRMS and 46 control participants were studied further and from these fecal samples they found several marked differences between people with MS and people living without this disease.

More than once I’ve told you I’m not the science whiz and I won’t attempt to tell you the technical terms for all these things that should be in our gut –  but there are several different categories of microbes that should be doing their thing keeping our systems clean.  The absence/decreased/increased levels of these essential microbes might lead to our systems being more receptive to autoimmune disease or even the severity of its course.

From their study, they believe that people who have helminths in their gut are much less likely to have autoimmune diseases such as MS. If you’re like me, I had to look up what a helminth is and find they are a wormlike parasite, and are commonly known among other things, as whipworms and hookworms. People with MS are lacking these helminths, which are believed to have  an anti-inflammatory effect.

Why would we have fewer worm parasites than our healthy partners? They suspect that hygiene plays a role in this but are not yet sure and this isn’t to mean that those of us with MS are much cleaner than the average person. This would support the idea that our increase in cases of MS is an environmental problem. The researchers speculate that because of their increased exposure to these helminthes, there are much fewer cases of MS, asthma and other autoimmune diseases in under developed countries that don’t have the clean sanitary conditions we expect to find here in the US.

As I read this recent study, I remembered seeing a story many years ago on the evening news about a man who had severe allergies and traveled to Africa to walk barefoot about open latrines, hoping he would be infected with hookworms.  It stuck with me because I was newly diagnosed at the time and they also talked about MS being treated with hookworms. A quick google search turned up a link to the story from 2009 and you can read an extensive interview with this man and learn more about his quest to be infected with hookworms for a cure to his allergies.

How do the scientists  test these theories?  It’s really pretty simple.  People with MS were given oral solutions that contained these microbe parasites and were monitored for relapses and worsening of their disabilities. They were intentionally infected with human hookworms and whipworms and their conditions remained significantly better than those people with MS who weren’t given these worms to drink. These worms have a stable life and can live inside us for several years, but can also be easily eradicated with the appropriate antibiotic if there is a problem with them and they need to be removed from the gut.

Helminth therapy is being studied in a number of places worldwide for a variety of autoimmune disorders, and it appears promising but it is still in the early stages of investigation.  We all know how easy it is to set off problems in our gut if we drink or eat too much or too differently but it is possible that knocking back a few cc’s of worms might have a positive effect on our MS and gut health.

We all say we would do almost anything to stop our MS, but would that  include swallowing worms  if this research holds up on further study?

Wishing you well,

Laura

 

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • Catgirl66
    3 years ago

    I dunno…. Are the worms flavored or plain, and if flavored, what flavor?

  • north-star
    5 years ago

    Very interested in this research. I have MS and Crohn’s disease, using methotrexate to keep the Crohn’s at bay. I’d swallow pretty much anything to keep my MS from progressing. (Afterwards there would be chocolate and or a BIG glass of wine.)

    Thanks for the discussion, Laura! I’m planning to ask my physicians about repopulating my innards, will let you know what they think.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    I do like the idea of the chocolate and wine chaser. The entire idea of the gut controlling our body is very plausible to me and I hope the research speeds up on this one. Keep us informed as to what your doctors say. -Laura

  • Tracy Anne
    5 years ago

    I don’t know if this has any relation to this … But I’m so retaining fluid it’s awful along with nausea & the infrequent bowel movement even w/ laxatives! They even told me to lay of drinking so much water to see if that would help my inflammation I give up I’m so depressed ,my parEnts both just died & I feel like the freakin’ GoodYear thanks for listen….Tracy

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    Tracy,First let me say i am so sorry about your parents. That has to be rough to lose both of them close together. Anytime my digestive system gets out of whack, it snowballs into so many other things feeling bad. I hope your doctors can help. And please, talk to someone about the depression – you have plenty of reasons to feel down and I would like to know you have asked for help. feel better, Laura

  • Dianna lyn
    5 years ago

    Thank you Laura for your research..you said, “you would be willing to do anything, to reset your body?”…i have a question, then? I had been on and off Depo provera because of well..doctor claimed, shut down my ovaries to prevent endometriosis…well, I would like to know why I actually, feel better when I take the depo shot? And does the depo actually, mask my MS symptoms??..none of my doctors of course want to answer my question??..what do you think? Is it possible??..i am 100 percent my own advocate always will be, through all of this…let me know, because you are a great researcher??

  • Dianna lyn
    5 years ago

    Thank you Laura, I knew if anyone could find it, you could. Everyone in my family, has noticed the HUGE difference in me, when in am off the Depo Provera, and has commented to the extremes of..please get back on that Miracle SHOT..i thought maybe, it was all in my head, until recently, the doctor took me totally off and I can barely move in the mornings again..oh no, it’s back! .thank you so much for your research, it helps alot..have a great day!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    Dianna lyn, I could make all sorts of guesses but instead a quick search using the terms ‘progesterone and multiple sclerosis’ turns up a lot of information on why there might be something to your thought-

    “Multiple sclerosis: neuroprotective alliance of estrogen-progesterone and gender.
    Kipp M1, Amor S, Krauth R, Beyer C.
    Author information
    Abstract
    The potential of 17β-estradiol and progesterone as neuroprotective factors is well-recognized. Persuasive data comes from in vitro and animal models reflecting a wide range of CNS disorders. These studies have endeavored to translate findings into human therapies. Nonetheless, few human studies show promising results. Evidence for neuroprotection was obtained in multiple sclerosis (MS) patients. This chronic inflammatory and demyelinating disease shows a female-to-male gender prevalence and disturbances in sex steroid production. In MS-related animal models, steroids ameliorate symptoms and protect from demyelination and neuronal damage. Both hormones operate in dampening central and brain-intrinsic immune responses and regulating local growth factor supply, oligodendrocyte and astrocyte function. This complex modulation of cell physiology and system stabilization requires the gamut of steroid-dependent signaling pathways. The identification of molecular and cellular targets of sex steroids and the understanding of cell-cell interactions in the pathogenesis will offer promise of novel therapy strategies.”

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22289667

    This study was just published in 2012, so it is current and the talk of estriol was big this year at the ms conferences. you might be on the right track with your thinking.

  • Ojibajo
    5 years ago

    I was diagnosed with IBS prior to my RRMS diagnosis. As interesting as this information is, I am not yet to the point of desperation where I care to ingest hookworms. Perhaps it is just the “ick factor”. Perhaps, I would feel differently if my situation become more dire.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    Hi Ojibajo, those other worms are microbes – you can swallow them by the spoonful and not even know it. Would that change your mind? it’s good to see you. ~Laura

  • SharonD
    5 years ago

    This is fascinating. I have rheumatoid arthritis also, and I’m using a JAK 3 inhibitor for treatment. I once attended a lecture by renowned researcher Dr. Lloyd Kasper who told me that he believed all disease originates in the gut. We are beginning to see some evidence of that theory. When my rheumatologist and neurologist planned my treatment, they chose the JAK 3, because ultimately it will be used for both diseases. There was no mention of worms at the lecture, but it doesn’t seem so far-fetched. I am very excited to hear this news!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    But you look so well,
    The fecal transplant has been shown to be very effective in treating c diff (Clostridium difficile)and is also being looked at for other gut disorders such as iBS and maybe even autoimmune problems. The most common and preferred method of administration is through a colonoscopy procedure – ingesting this through a gastrotube has many risks. have you talked with some of the fine doctors up there in New England about this possibility?

  • But You Look So Well
    5 years ago

    I have secondary progressive MS and wicked, wicked IBS (can you tell I’m from New England?). Like you, I would do absolutely ANYTHING to deal with the IBS, because what I’m doing for MS is really working well — Copaxone and exercising like a freakin’ fiend. I do really well with Physical Therapy, and I love to lift weights. I wsa considering getting my gastroenterologist to prescribe a shit transplant, which I also hear works well with IBS. The idea is that you ingest the feces of a person with a healthy gut, and his or her healthy bacteria take over for your unhealthy bacteria. The worms also sound like a very interesting possibility, and as I say, if both the transplant and the squigglies would help either my IBS OR my MS, sign me up. Dear Ojibajo, you must be very young and tender to have such a reaction to the possibilities. I am old and jaded and I’ve had MS for thirty five years. I’ll try anything.

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    I agree – the unhealthy gut idea has been around a long time – it’s fortunate that there are researchers taking a serious look at the idea of balancing our systems. I’m willing to consider anything, if it holds a promise of resetting my body. ~Laura

  • Betty
    5 years ago

    Interesting as I have RMMS and about every gut problem my gastroenterologist can handle! I’ve even had a colon resection and lost 12″ of intestine. Bouts of colitis, bouts of C-dif. I’m very interested in this newest research. When I get a stomach virus it isn’t like anyone else in the family. I am like turned inside out with pain. Also, when very agitated…for lack of another word…my gut takes it out on me and I am sick for days.

  • Candy
    5 years ago

    Me too- I’m gonna go over in the corner and eat some worms!

  • Laura Kolaczkowski author
    5 years ago

    Betty, it does make me pause and wonder how interconnected all of these problems might be. I hope this research yields some positive results, especially for people like you who have such a wide group of gasto-ills. ~Laura

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