Who Has Parasites?
Probably you, and it might be time for a parasite cleanse. Nearly everyone has parasites at some point. Hookworms, tapeworms, pinworms, roundworms, and threadworms are the most common infections in the United States. Think you only get parasites from traveling to third-world countries? Think again! You get them from your organic carrots you didn’t wash thoroughly, that salmon avocado sushi roll from last weekend, gardening, and from playing with your dog. Avoiding parasites is almost impossible.
It is a tradition to do parasite cleanses or take measures to de-worm in many cultures around the world. We Americans tend to believe we are so sanitary as to be immune from these little buggers, but this is not true. Instead, there is an epidemic of parasitic infections in the U.S. and very little knowledge about symptoms and treatment. Bad combo. So, get educated and start feeling better right meow.
There are stool and blood tests that look for specific types of parasitic infections. There are no accurate broad-spectrum parasite tests offered by conventional MDs. I use a test called the GI Map, which is far superior to anything you will receive from a GI specialist. Functional medicine testing is much more advanced than what insurance typically covers through your conventional doctor. I had conventional parasite tests miss a tapeworm and fluke infection for years. Even with good testing, parasitic infections can be hard to find. Stool and blood tests are limited to only showing eggs/larvae/worms in those locations at that time. If you’ve never done a parasite cleanse, you are likely to have parasites.
I offer functional medicine consults via phone and can ship test kits to you anywhere in the U.S. (except NY).
I’m not making this stuff up:
Stats from the Center for Disease Control on Parasites.
CBS News Article on Parasites in the U.S.
Hookworm Infections in the U.S.
What are the Symptoms of Parasites?
All of the following can be symptoms of parasites. If you’ve never done a parasite cleanse, you are due.
- Repeated diarrhea or constipation
- Chronic, unexplained nausea, often accompanied by vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
- Swelling around the eyes
- Multiple food allergies
- Intestinal cramping and/or bloating
- Dizziness (not due to low blood sugar)
- Foul-smelling gas
- Heart Flutters/Palpitations
- Loss of appetite
- Itching around the anus or vulva, especially at night, itching around feet, itching or tingling sensations on the scalp.
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty maintaining a healthy weight (weight gain or loss)
- Teeth clenching or grinding
- Strong sugar or carb cravings
If you don’t test, the only way to tell if your symptoms are from parasites is if they improve post-cleanse. My digestive system improved after the cleanse– less constipation and food moved more quickly through my GI tract. Regardless of how frequently you are having bowel movements, the food you eat should be exiting your body 12-24 hours after consuming it. If you want to test bowel transit time, eat something like beets or corn that you typically can identify in your stool and watch how long it takes to move through you. Fun 🙂 My bowel transit time was closer to 48 hours, and treating for parasites brought me to about 18-24 hours, which is a big improvement.
If left untreated, parasitic infections can cause more than some unpleasant bloating. Parasites feed on you. It is already incredibly challenging to get enough nutrition from food today. Food is grown in over-used soil and toxic water. We can’t afford to be hosting parasites who get to leech off the good stuff we eat. Parasites can travel from your intestines into your heart, brain, reproductive organs, lungs, and skin. They can live virtually anywhere and cause serious problems when they enter vital organs. There is evidence coming out that cases of Heart Disease, Neurological disorders, and other chronic conditions may be due to parasitic infections.
How Do You Parasite Cleanse?
To do a parasite cleanse, you need to take anti-parasitic herbs for a minimum of 2 weeks. It is best to repeat the process again within 3 months, to kill off any parasites missed during the first round. Most practitioners agree that you should parasite cleanse once a year. The following are anti-parasitic:
- Diatomaceous Earth
- Black walnut hulls
- Pumpkin seeds, papaya seeds, pineapple, coconut oil
- Marshmallow root
⇒For full instructions on how to parasite cleanse, get the parasite cleanse guide.
Tip: It is best to have your family members, partner, and pets all parasite cleanse at the same time as parasites are so frequently passed back and forth between members of the household. Dogs can take the same herbs as humans, adjusted for their weight. Koa took the same tincture I did during the cleanse.
I don’t recommend taking prescription antiparasitic medications unless you know exactly which type of parasite you have. These medications are tailored to one or two types of parasites and if you are unsure what is causing your symptoms, you may fail to resolve the issue. Some people need prescription-strength anti-parasitic drugs, just be sure to work with a knowledgeable practitioner about how to support your body during the process as side effects can be strong.
If you are pregnant or nursing, I recommend waiting to do a parasite cleanse till a later date.
What Can You Expect During and After a Parasite Cleanse?
During the Cleanse
As you kill off parasite worms and eggs, they release ammonia. Ammonia can make you feel like crap. Some people take an arginine supplement (500mg capsule) to help detox the ammonia. Common symptoms during die-off are sharp cramps (from parasites burrowing into intestines to escape anti-parasitic herbs), headaches, brain fog, loss of appetite, fatigue, and itching. Most people feel bad for at least a few days during the cleanse. I felt horrible for the first week. This reaction is known as a Herxheimer reaction: people become sicker as a result of the toxins that are released by dying parasites. Acupuncture may help lessen the side effects during your parasite cleanse.
You should do your best to eat as clean a diet as possible— limit sugar, caffeine, grains, and anything processed. You want your immune system in top shape to help clear out the waste products from the parasites.
Some people experience the added satisfaction of actually seeing parasites come out in their poop. This is potentially a bit traumatizing on the one hand, and very validating on the other. Nothing like a little worm poop to make you realize you’ve been playing host to some unwelcome guests. If you’re feeling curious, google “parasite cleanse” images.
My Experience During Parasite Cleanses
My first parasite cleanse was rough. I terrible the first week. Nauseous, dizzy every time I stood up from sitting, I experienced itching all over my body for 3-4 days, and I was an emotional wreck. It’s common to experience intense mood swings or depression while on the cleanse. There is research indicating that parasites influence serotonin, which may account for feelings of depression during or post-cleanse.
My mood symptoms only lasted about a week, but it was heavy. I felt deeply sad, borderline hopeless. I was not enjoying food (this is pretty dire for me), I didn’t feel happy to see my partner or friends, and I didn’t want to go to work (I love what I do). It was like a black cloud sat over me for 7 straight days. It was hard for me to connect it to the cleanse while it was happening, but sure enough, it started to fade after week 1, and by the end of week 2 I felt back to my normal happy food and people-loving self.
You might feel great the whole time! There’s no way to know, but please be prepared to feel emotional, and know that it will pass. I felt like I purged some dark inner emotional goop with the parasites. It was unpleasant during the experience, but the joy of lightness that comes after a period of feeling down was worth it.
After the Cleanse
The hope is that some of the symptoms you experienced pre-cleanse will be gone. In addition to the benefits I already mentioned, I experienced less bloating, less frequent dizziness, less morning nausea, and less itchy scalp.
It’s a good idea to do a maintenance dose of the tincture once a week or once every couple of weeks to help kill any newcomers. Other ways to prevent parasitic infections:
- Wash your hands more! Soap, water, and vigorous scrubbing work best.
- Wash or peel raw produce thoroughly, as well as any surfaces they touch (counters, cutting boards).
- Cook meat and seafood thoroughly.
- Avoid raw or undercooked meat/sushi/fish if your immune system is weak or you have insufficient stomach acid. Signs of weak stomach acid include bloating/fullness after eating high protein meals, high-stress lifestyle, heartburn not related to acidic or spicy food, and frequent gas.
- Wash your hands well after handling pet poop, or even cuddling your dog/cat.
- Give yourself, your kiddos, your partner and your pets a parasite cleanse yearly.
- Be wary of street food or restaurants with questionable looking sanitation.
- Wash all surfaces touched by raw meat or seafood with hot, soapy water.
- Wear gloves when gardening.
- Wear shoes when walking in the dirt.
- Use protection during sex, or get your partner to do a parasite cleanse too.
- Wear non-toxic bug spray!
- Avoid swallowing water from lakes, river, streams.
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