How to talk to your doctor about helminthic therapy

When you decide to use helminthic therapy, you'll want to keep your doctor in the loop about your health decisions. Several of the helminth providers require that you provide a written statement that you will be monitored by your healthcare practitioner before they will ship helminths to you, so you may have to deal with this subject sooner rather than later. So, how should you talk to your doctor about helminthic therapy?

Don't know what helminthic therapy is? Learn more here.

Be aware of your doctor's job description

Your doctor's job is to provide testing, diagnosis and treatment for your health conditions within the framework of best practice as currently set out by the Western medical establishment. Keeping up with the latest research-based developments in medicine is a daunting and time consuming task for any healthcare practitioner. Keeping up with cutting edge therapies that have not yet gone through successful Phase 3 clinical trials, like helminthic therapy, simply isn't in their job description. To put it bluntly, it isn't your doctor's job to know about helminthic therapy, so don't expect them to know anything when you start the conversation.

Be prepared to start the conversation

A good way to start the conversation is with an script like this:

As you know, we've been unable to treat my condition in a way that returns me to optimal health. After a good deal of research, I have decided to try helminthic therapy. If you aren't familiar with it, helminthic therapy adds organisms into the gut to help control immune responses at a fundamental level. While no Phase 3 clinical trials have been completed on helminthic therapy yet, the anecdotal evidence is compelling. My assessment is that the potential risks are low and the possible rewards are high and I'm unwilling to wait for the results of clinical trials that may take decades to finish.  I'm happy to supply you with links to some of the more than 400 peer reviewed papers on the subject if you wish to read more.

I understand that since this therapy is not yet approved by the FDA, you are unable to give your professional​ blessing for me to undertake helminthic therapy. However, I hope that you will provide any medical care required that arises from my decision, including medication to control side effects of this treatment, if needed, as well as access to anti-helminthic drugs should I decide to terminate the therapy.

Click here to download a printable version of this script.

Be ready for a number of possible reactions

Your doctor may react to the news in a number of ways. They may be intrigued and want to know more. If so, you've hit the jackpot! This will not always be the case. 

Some doctors may become angry at the idea and tell you flat out that you are not allowed to pursue helminthic therapy.​ Fortunately, it is not their decision to make. They can continue to provide you with medical care or not, but they can't ethically prevent you from trying helminthic therapy on your own. In fact, according to William Parker, PhD, physicians may violate the principle of primum non nocere (first, do no harm) when they arbitrarily discourage self-treatment with helminths. 

Anger from your doctor may be due to their perception of this therapy or alternative therapies in general, regardless of whether they have done enough research to form an educated opinion, or they may feel that their status as an expert is threatened due to their ignorance on the subject. Your doctor, especially if they are a specialist, may be inclined to bluster and bully rather than admit to any ignorance. Additionally, they may react with anger if they feel that you are wasting their extremely limited time. Your doctor will also be aware that it is safer for them from a medical liability perspective to tell you a blanket "no, you can't" than to seem to be supporting your decision to pursue a cutting-edge therapy.

​Chances are close to 100% that you know vastly more about helminthic therapy than your doctor does. You've studied it; they haven't. Some doctors will be very uncomfortable with that dynamic.

However your doctor reacts, remember that a white coat does not equal absolute authority. In the end, your health is your responsibility and your doctor is only one of many resources you use to manage it. 

Be clear on what you want from your doc

You need to be aware that your doctor cannot give their permission for you to try helminthic therapy or any therapy that hasn't yet been approved by the FDA or similar governing body in your country. That doesn't mean they can't support you, but they definitely cannot give their professional blessing. Please don't ask for it. This includes avoiding even simple statements like "If you'll continue to treat me, I'll try this." If you make it clear to them that you aren't asking for their permission and will be going forward with your decision no matter what, they may be much more comfortable continuing to be your physician.  Try using statements like, "I hope you will continue to provide me with any medical support I need." 

If your doctor agrees to provide you with ongoing medical support, congratulations. You've gotten all you can reasonably expect from them. You should expect to be on your own or working with your helminth provider in determining the best helminth species, dosage size and dosage frequency to treat your conditions. Your doctor is EXTREMELY unlikely to be of any assistance in making these decisions. Remember, it is not their job to know about helminthic therapy!

Be willing to go to Plan B

On the other hand, your doctor may refuse to continue to treat you and discharge you as a patient if you use helminthic therapy. Hopefully, they will do this in a professional manner. If they are too scared of liability issues, uncomfortable with what they perceive as a lack of safety in your course of actions or simply don't like a patient who insists on going their own way, you are better off finding a doctor who is willing to work with you. 

Be confident in your choice

To recap, make sure that your doctor knows what you are planning to do, but that it is YOUR CHOICE to do it. If they are willing to go along for the ride, great. If they don't respect your decision, it's time to find a doctor who will. You hold the ultimate responsibility for your own health.

Special thanks to William Parker, PhD of Duke University School of Medicine for his insights on this matter and generous donation of his time.