Transcript: Thom Hartmann's Worms rant, 04 March 2009

Thom Hartmann's Worms rant, 04 March 2009

Video: part 1, part 2.

As promised, I want to share with you something that on the one hand is something that we should all be knowing about and thinking about as science at the micro level, the level of us as individuals, and on the other hand, has something to do with why our planet is melting down at the macro level, the big picture. Why our planet is melting down. Why our culture is so dysfunctional. Why we're destroying the world. And it has to do with worms.

You know, I wrote a chapter for my new book "Threshold" which is not out yet but will be in a few months and this chapter is titled, "Unnatural selection". And it starts out, "I remember the German toilets". And I just have to tell you this story. When Louise and I first started visiting Germany in 1978 when we started working with Kinder- und Jugendhilfswerk Salem; with Salem International, .org is their web site. And I've done international relief work with that agency for 30 years and we created a community for abused kids based on their model and they ran three children's villages in Germany and programs all over the world. And in fact we'll be broadcasting our show from there, assuming that we can work out all the details, in about 3 weeks.

But in any case, when we first started going to Germany back in the late seventies and the early eighties, many, maybe even most, of the toilets, of the toilets that you would see in Germany and you would find this occasionally in other countries as well, I saw them in Belgium, I saw them in Holland, were what are referred to, and you can Google this, this is a hoot, they were referred to as the 'lay and display' or 'continental shelf' toilets. And basically what it is the toilet was, there was a little platform about 6 or 8 inches below the seat that you did your business on, and it just sat there, right there in the open air for you to look at, and you could poke a stick into it if you wanted. And then when you flushed the toilet, the water would come flushing in from the front and it would shove it all to the back where there was about a 3 inch hole and it would go down the drain.

And I couldn't figure it out. I thought the Germans must be poop-obsessed. You know, they're all into scatological weirdness or something. And in fact one time, Louise and I, the red light district in Frankfurt is just a block from the downtown Frankfurt train station, and we were, and there's a great, there used to be, anyway, they've closed it since then, but back in the eighties, just one of the world's very best Thai restaurants was 2 blocks into the red light district, 2 blocks away from the main Hauptbahnhof in Frankfurt. And we used to love to eat there. And you walk by these shops, you know, the porno shops, and very often they had these really weird things in the window. You know, people peeing on each other and stuff like that.

And so, I thought that the toilets were just a symptom of the Germans having a bizarre fetish with excrement.

Well, it turns out it wasn't that at all. And now, by the way, most German toilets are just like American toilets. You know, you do your business and it drops into a pool of water. The reason why they were the way that they were, and they were that way all over Europe and much of the world, was because back then, back before the 1960s, '70s basically, most people had worms. And it wasn't, you know, a terrible problem. It didn't cause people to die from worm infestations, but it was kind of creepy. And so people would take a look at their business, and if they saw something moving around in it then they'd know that next day they would do what was called a purge. You take bitters, and the Germans were really big on bitters, you'd drink down some of these bitters and you'd have the worms come in and the worms go out. This is the thing. You drink the bitters and you take senna leaf or some other kind of violent laxative and it would cause the worms that were attached to your gut to go, "aaah!" and they'd let go and then, whoosh, everything goes out and you do a purge and it gets rid of the worms for a few months.

But what happened in the '50s and '60s, particularly in the 1960s, was that new generations of antibiotics were developed that didn't just kill bacteria; they killed worms as well. And so now, 40 years later, pretty much nobody has worms any more. Now, why am I going off about worms?

Well, because of some really, really interesting research that has been done. Three generations ago, three generations ago, this reading from my book "Threshold. Three generations ago, only one in ten thousand people in the United States had inflammatory bowel disease; IBD, or sometimes referred to as IBS, where people have, you know, they get diarrhea, they get constipation, it goes back and forth, things like that. Crohn's disease was rare. Multiple sclerosis was virtually unknown to most people. Very few people knew anybody who had MS.

Today, this is 40 years later, today 1 in 250 people has IBS. 1 out of every 250 instead of 1 out of every 10,000. Crohn's disease is widespread; yes, there is a genetic weakness that makes you more vulnerable to it; it particularly hits people who are Jewish, but it is widespread, it is not because of the gene. The gene just makes people vulnerable. And pretty much everybody knows somebody who has MS. Why?

You see similar numbers with asthma, lupus and a whole host of auto immune disorders. So this back in the 1990s sort of fascinating, this gastroenterologist by the name of Dr. Joel Weinstock and he started looking into this and saying, you know, 'what's the deal here?' He noticed that pig handlers, pig farmers, people who worked on pig farms didn't get asthma, didn't get multiple sclerosis, didn't get lupus, didn't get hay fever, weren't allergic to cats; they didn't have all this whole range of what we refer to broadly as auto immune disorders. There's even speculation about things like arthritis. They didn't have it. They were also almost always infected by a worm that is very common with pigs that infects people but is easily fought off by the human immune system so that typically the infection only lasts a few weeks. But if you work with the pigs you continuously are re-infecting yourself. It's called Trichuris suis. It's called pig

worm, the common name. And that all these people were infected with Trichuris and they had none of these diseases. And he thought, 'that's pretty amazing'.

So, he took a bunch of Crohn's disease patients, and this is from research that was actually done following on his work. No, this is his work. It was reported Moises Velasquez-Manoff in the New York Times: "After ingesting 2,500 microscopic T. suis eggs at 3-week intervals", this is eating the eggs of the worms, right? 2500 of them, "for 24 weeks, 23 of 29 Crohn’s" disease, Crohn’s disease is this disease that just basically the large intestine just starts to disintegrate and it has to be cut out. I mean, people die from Crohn’s disease. "23 of 29 Crohn’s patients responded positively. ... Twenty-one went into complete remission. In the second study, 13 of 30 ulcerative colitis patients improved compared with 4 in the 24-person placebo group."

"Trials using T.", I'm reading from the New York Times, science section. "Trials using T. suis eggs on patients with multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and hay fever are beginning in the United States, Australia and Denmark, respectively. In Germany, scientists are planning studies on asthma and food allergies. Other European scientists, meanwhile, plan to replicate many of these experiments with Necator americanus", which is the common American hookworm, the worm that, when I was a kid back in the 50s, everybody got from their pets. And kids used to be wormed just like dogs and cats used to be wormed. And back then, nobody had hay fever, nobody had asthma, lupus was rare as hen's teeth, or whatever the phrase is, and MS was really rare.

Another scientist, Dr. David Pritchard of the University of Nottingham. He was working in Papua New Guinea in the 1980s and he saw that these people who were infected with hook worms never got any of these auto immune disorders.

Here's another study. This was done by the British National Health Service and this, from an article in the New York Times that I reprinted or quoted in my article in my book Threshold, trial participants, they were given worms, right. People with god-awful allergies; cat allergies, house allergies, mold allergies, dust allergies.

"Trial participants raved about their allergy symptoms disappearing. Word about the study soon appeared online among chronic allergy sufferers, and a Yahoo group on ''helminthic therapy'' " Helminths is the, what, category, class, phylum, order, whatever, for worms? "sprung up.

''Many of the people who were given a placebo have requested worms, and many of the people with worms have elected to keep them,'' Dr. Pritchard said. "

So, why does this have to do with saving the world? The point here is that we have become so disconnected from the fact that we are the product of a million years of evolution, and during the 165,000 years that humans have been on this Earth, all but the last 40 of those years, we had parasites. We continue to. We have also bacterial parasites. There's over 400, some would argue over 500 different bacteria in the gut, most of them good bacteria. You know, acidophilus is the most famous one. And we have so disconnected ourselves from nature that we are killing ourselves at the same time we're killing nature. It's amazing, isn't it? Just consider it.


OK, here's how it works, OK? I laid out the epidemiology on this and how these scientists have discovered this. Here's how it appears to work. These parasites attach themselves to the inside of the gut, you know, to the lining of the small or large intestine, depending on which kind of worm it is. And, by the way, there are some that are real pathogens. There are some that are really bad for you like, for example, Trichinosis, a parasite that gets into your muscles that you get from eating uncooked pork and from some kinds of shell fish. There are a variety of ones that are nasty ones that you don't want. And, you know, I'm not recommending here in any way that people go out and start eating dirt or get worms. I'm just relating the science to you. But I want to put this in a larger picture.

But anyhow, here's how it works. When the worms attach themselves to the gut, they secrete into our blood streams, those people who have worms, they secrete into their host's blood stream proteins that down-regulate the immune system; that say to the immune system, 'just calm down a little bit, don't be so hyperactive'. Now, why would they do that? Because they don't want the immune system to attack them and reject them.

This is like the pilot fish. You ever see pilot fish? The fish that attach themselves to the outside of sharks and things, and they clean their skin, or the outside of whales. It's a symbiotic relationship. Both win. Everybody wins. So, by down-regulating our immune systems, by reducing the activity of the immune system, you end up without, or a person ends up without having the symptoms of a hyperactive immune system that we call, that takes a whole bunch of different forms that we may call arthritis, we may call lupus, we may call MS, we may call hay fever, we may call cat allergy, we may call a food allergy, we may call dander allergy. All of these things that are exploding, that have been exploding in the last 40 years, because during the last 40 years most people at one point or another got a pretty bad cold or some nasty whatever and they took one of these antibiotics that killed the worms. And everybody's hysterical about worming their dogs and their cats. And the worms are just not endemic in our environment like they were 40 and 50 years ago and for the last 165,000 years of human history.

Now why is, why am I ranting about that today, other than just giving you a forehead slap of, 'holy cow, I didn't know this'?

We are destroying this planet because we have stopped seeing the interconnectedness of everything on Earth. The fact that we are part of nature and nature is part of us. We have stopped seeing that nature is sacred, that everything that is, is sacred, instead we put God in a box and we go worship Him every week, once, for a couple of hours. We have lost the mystery as a culture. We have lost the great mystery of all the life around us. You know, Wakan Tanka is no longer known, you know, the great spirit that permeates everything. It is, instead we're, well as I said, we've put God in a box and we've decided that we are so unique from all other life forms that we need to sterilize ourselves; get rid of all of them.

And now you've got, Dannon now has this product Activia where they've, I don't know if they've, how they came up with this bacteria, whether, very, very careful hybridization or whatever, but it's apparently a very, very effective bacteria, because I know a number of people who have had bowel problems over the years who are taking Dannon's Activia and it, actually it helps them. In fact, they're offering a money back guarantee on it. What is it? It's full of parasites. They're bacterial parasites instead of worm parasites but they're parasites. They live off the food that we eat and they live off the nutrients in the gut that are part of our gut.

So the point is, we are part of nature. And until we wake up to that, we're going to continue to destroy this planet. And by the way, as a side effect, we're killing ourselves. I mean in a small way, with things like with things like Crohn's disease, arthritis and allergies and asthma. But in the big way we're killing the planet because we don't get it. As a culture we've gone nuts. We don't get it that we are part of everything that is alive, and everything that is alive is part of us.

We have lost the lesson that humans who lived compatibly with their environment for 160,000 years, that ancient cultures got. They learned it by trial and error in many cases, but they knew it. And that is that in nature, nothing produces waste that isn't the food for something else. In nature, everything is recycled. Everything's waste is something else's food. And we're now producing waste that can't possibly be the food for anything else. We're producing nuclear waste, we're producing these coal slag, miles, these inland lakes of coal ash that is toxic and deadly. We're producing plastics that will last for tens of thousands of years. We're producing waste that can't be recycled, that can't be the food for something else. We're fouling our own nest because we have lost this basic understanding that we're just animals too. We're just part of this world too. And this world is part of us. That we are interpenetrated by nature. That it's all alive, it's all sacred, it's all wonderful, it's all extraordinary, it all deserves our respect. And if we don't, it'll kill us.

Transcribed by Sue Nethercott.

Thom's Blog Is On the Move

Hello All

Today, we are closing Thom's blog in this space and moving to a new home.

Please follow us across to - this will be the only place going forward to read Thom's blog posts and articles.

From The Thom Hartmann Reader:
"With the ever-growing influence of corporate CEOs and their right-wing allies in all aspects of American life, Hartmann’s work is more relevant than ever. Throughout his career, Hartmann has spoken compellingly about the value of people-centered democracy and the challenges that millions of ordinary Americans face today as a result of a dogma dedicated to putting profit above all else. This collection is a rousing call for Americans to work together and put people first again."
Richard Trumka, President, AFL-CIO
From Screwed:
"Hartmann speaks with the straight talking clarity and brilliance of a modern day Tom Paine as he exposes the intentional and systematic destruction of America’s middle class by an alliance of political con artists and outlines a program to restore it. This is Hartmann at his best. Essential reading for those interested in restoring the institution that made America the envy of the world."
David C. Korten, author of The Great Turning and When Corporations Rule the World
From Screwed:
"Thom Hartmann’s book explains in simple language and with concrete research the details of the Neo-con’s war against the American middle class. It proves what many have intuited and serves to remind us that without a healthy, employed, and vital middle class, America is no more than the richest Third World country on the planet."
Peter Coyote, Actor and author of Sleeping Where I Fall