Could Worms Make People Healthier?

Some scientists think that having certain worms or organisms in you is a natural part of life

The five-second rule may not be a real way to keep your food free from bacteria, but perhaps some of that bacteria is necessary. One example? Fast Company reports that Jim Lahey, founder of New York's Sullivan Street Bakery, recently decided to infect himself with intestinal worms to cure some wheat sensitivity. "These worms are meant to be in our bodies as part of human evolution," he said. We say, yikes.

Of course, some researchers say that gastro-intestinal worms may actually have therapeutic possiblities. For example, before the 20th-century, food allergies were reportedly very rare. And now?  Nearly 8 percent of children are affected with food allergies.

According to physician and researcher Joel Weinstock from Tufts University, changes to our environment, as well as how we interact with our environment, can make us more prone to diseases. "There's certain exposures that may be healthy for us rather than harmful," Weinstock told Fast Company. "Right now, it's hard to know what to recommend because 'going and playing in the mud' might expose you to the right organisms or the wrong organisms. We can't say what is appropriate hygiene."

In the past there were more "protective factors" that may have helped keep diseases at bay, such as parasites called helmniths. "Those organisms have very powerful influence and people always had them," Weinstock said. "For the first time in our evolution, we had children grow up without them."

Once more research is done, however, Lahey's self-inflected worms may not be necessary. Weinstock hopes a vaccine-like agent will be available in the future.