Most of us like to believe that we are immune to such repulsive things as invasive harmful organisms also known as parasites. Unfortunately these invasive organisms don’t care who we are or where we live or even how clean we are. Increases in world-wide travel, importation of foods, personal pets, weakened immune systems, weakened digestive systems and other parasitic concerns have become more rampant for children and adults alike. As a result, intestinal harmful organism concerns occur in most people at some point in their lives.
Most sources estimate that a massive 90% of Americans have parasitic infections.
According to the CDC, a parasite is defined as an organism that lives on or in a host and gets its food from or at the expense of its host. Parasites can also cause disease in humans. Some of these parasitic diseases are easily treated and some are not.
There are two major types of intestinal parasites which are helminths and protozoa. Helminths are worms with many cells. Tapeworms, pinworms, and roundworms are among the most common helminths in the United States. In their adult form, helminths cannot multiply in the human body. Protozoa have only one cell, and can multiply inside the human body, which can foster serious infections to develop. Intestinal parasites are usually spread when a person comes in contact with infected feces (for example, through contaminated soil, food, or water). In the U.S., the most common protozoa are giardia and cryptosporidium.
According to The University of Maryland: “Parasites can live within the intestines for years without causing any symptoms.” They go on to say “Exposure to child and institutional care centers” are possible causes of parasitic infections, which would pretty much describe all children attending school. Parasites are known to be very contagious, especially when people (children and adults) don’t practice effective hand-washing and sanitary habits.
Signs and Symptoms of Parasites
Intestinal invaders can live in your intestines for years without causing symptoms. They can mimic many illnesses and are a threat to the intestinal tract when they set up house inside your body. They will leech nutrients from your body and excrete harmful toxic waste materials. When they do, symptoms can include the following:
- Abdominal pain
- Abdominal distension
- Repeated diarrhea or constipation
- Nausea or vomiting
- Gas or bloating
- Dysentery (loose stools containing blood and mucus)
- Rash or itching around the rectum or vulva
- Stomach pain or tenderness
- Feeling tired
- Weight loss
- Passing a worm in your stool
- Multiple food allergies
- Difficulty sleeping
- Palpitations (Hookworms)
- Loss of appetite
- Recurrent bladder infections
- Psoriasis or eczema
- History of antibiotic use
- Low back pain
- Joint inflammation
- Bad breath
- Teeth grinding
- Urinary tract infections
Options for Eliminating Parasites
Conventional Drug Therapies for Parasites
Your conventional medicine doctor will choose an anti-parasitic drug that is most effective against your intestinal parasite(s). You may need one dose, or you may have to take the medication for several weeks. Be careful to take the medicine exactly as it is prescribed, or it may not work. These drugs are always toxic, for it is their toxicity that kills parasites. Be sure to read all contraindications as well as side-effects before taking the drug. Swelling of the lymph nodes, hands and feet are common. Vision concerns, lack of coordination, and convulsions can also occur. Diarrhea is also typical with these drugs.
Natural Medicine Therapies for Parasites
Alternative treatments can be used by themselves or along with conventional drugs. However, it is good if a knowledgeable doctor can find out what kind of organism is causing your concerns before you start treatment. The following may help keep parasites from growing.
Diet and Supplements for Parasites
- Avoid simple carbohydrates, such as those found in refined foods, fruits, juices, dairy products, and all sugars, except honey. Also avoid pork, raw fish, wheat, alcohol and processed food.
- Eat more raw garlic, raw pumpkin seeds, pomegranates, beets, and carrots, all of which have been used traditionally to kill parasites. In one study, researchers found that a mixture of honey and papaya seeds cleared stools of parasites in 23 out of 30 subjects. Drink a lot of purified water to help flush out your system.
- Eat more fiber, which may help get rid of parasitic worms.
- Probiotics (Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacilus plantarum, Saccharomyces boulardii, and bifidobacteria). These probiotics help to keep your digestive tract healthy. Probiotics may not be appropriate in some severely immune compromised patients. Talk to a knowledgeable doctor/practitioner.
- Digestive enzymes can help restore your intestinal tract to its normal state, which makes it inhospitable to parasites. Papain is an enzyme from the papaya plant that may help kill worms when taken 30 minutes before or after meals. Papain may increase bleeding in people with clotting disorders, or in those taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin) among others.
- Vitamin C. Supports the immune system. Lower the dose if diarrhea develops.
- Zinc. Supports the immune system. Zinc may interact with certain medications, particularly some antibiotics, and it may not be appropriate for people with HIV/AIDS. Talk to your doctor.
- Diatomaceous Earth (DE). Important: Use food grade diatomaceous earth only. Diatomaceous earth is a naturally occurring substance that has the remarkable ability to kill parasites, yeast overgrowth and most importantly parasite eggs. Naturally high in silica and other trace minerals, it can also help restore body tissue and improve digestion.DE can also support healthy blood pressure and cholesterol, increase bone strength, and can aid in weight loss. If you decide to take DE, begin with 1 tsp per day in 8 ounces of purified water and work up to 1-2 TBSP a day until yeast symptoms disappear. Read info below on Herxheimer’s reaction.
Herbs for Parasites
Herbs can strengthen your body’s systems as well as help to make your body undesirable for parasites. As with any therapy, you should work with a knowledgeable doctor/practitioner before beginning the use of herbs. Herbs used for a parasite infection can be found in the form of dried extracts (capsules, powders, or teas), glycerites (glycerine extracts), or tinctures (alcohol extracts).
Some of the herbs used to treat intestinal parasites have side effects or interfere with other medications. Use them only under the supervision of a qualified and knowledgeable practitioner. A few of the herbs that your practitioner might consider include:
- Garlic (Allium sativum)
- Barberry (Berberis vulgaris)
- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
- Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium)
- Anise (Pimpinella anisum)
- Wormwood ((Artemisia annua))
- Curled mint (Mentha crispa)
- Black walnuts (Juglans nigra)
- Olive Leaf Extract
- Wild Mediterranean Oregano Oil
- Grapefruit Seed Extract
If you have a severe case of yeast overgrowth or parasites, consider using one or more of these potent herbs. However it’s important to first do your own research into possible side-effects and contraindications and/or talk to a knowledgeable practitioner.
Homeopathy for Parasites
Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person’s constitutional type which includes your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced homeopath will assess all of these factors, as well as any current symptoms, when determining the most appropriate remedy for your specific needs. The following remedies may be suggested for parasites:
- Cuprum oxidatum nigrum
Performing Yearly Parasite Cleansing
Prevention is always best when it comes to health concerns and it rings true concerning parasites. Because harmful organisms and parasite exposure is extremely common and can be attributed to environmental factors (suppressing the immune system from recognizing parasites) as well as undercooked meat, fish or poultry, contaminated water, poor hygiene, contact with contaminated feces or soil, pets, and unwashed fruits and vegetables, it’s always a good idea to perform a harmful organism cleanse at least two times yearly.
Effective parasite cleansing promotes healthy detoxification. It also helps to turn your body into an environment that is hostile to harmful parasites. Best of all, performing yearly parasite cleansing can actually rejuvenate your energy levels and help you to feel better.
A Word about Herxheimer Reaction
For some very sick individuals, including people with chronic fatigue syndrome or particularly heavy loads of virus or bacteria in their bodies, cleansing from parasites and harmful organisms many generate detoxification symptoms — known as the “die-off effect” — that may be unpleasant.
The “die-off effect,” or Herxheimer Reaction as it is medically called, refers to symptoms generated by a detoxification process. If you are already sick, you should be aware of the possibility. For this reason it may be advisable to consult first with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner before using it.
Die-off symptoms may include extreme fatigue, diarrhea, headaches, muscle/joint achiness or flu-like symptoms. Severity usually differs from person to person. Keep in mind that such symptoms are positive signs. Nevertheless, they can be unpleasant and inconvenient. Some people may not want to continue because of the inconvenience. Others handle it better. Others experience no such effect.
What you can do in case of substantial detoxification symptoms using supplements/herbs: Drink at least 4-6 cups of purified water between each dose. Reduce the number of capsules, or even stop them altogether for a while. You may need a day or two, or even a week, to allow your body to process the “die-off.” When you feel better, you can resume the supplement at a lower dose and increase slowly. Vitamin C to bowel tolerance is also recommended for “die-off” symptoms.
References and Research
Alum A, Rubino JR, Ijaz MK. The global war against intestinal parasites–should we use a holistic approach? [Review]. Int J Infect Dis. 2010;14(9):e732-8.
Betti L, Trebbi G, Majewsky V, et al. Use of homeopathic preparations in phytopathological models and in field trials: a critical review. Homeopathy. 2009 Oct;98(4):244-66. Review.
Lima AA, Soares AM, Lima NL, et al. Effects of vitamin A supplementation on intestinal barrier function, growth, total parasitic, and specific Giardia spp infections in Brazilian children: a prospective randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010;50(3):309-15.
Okeniyi JA, Ogunlesi TA, Oyelami OA, Adeyemi LA. Effectiveness of dried Carica papaya seeds against human intestinal parasitosis: a pilot study. J Med Food. 2007;10(1):194-6.
Ritchie BK, Brewster DR, Tran CD, Davidson GP, McNeil Y, Butler RN. Efficacy of Lactobacillus GG in aboriginal children with acute diarrhoeal disease: a randomised clinical trial. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2010;50(6):619-24.
Pereira AP, Ferreira IC, Marcelino F, Valentão P, Andrade PB, Seabra R, Estevinho L, Bento A, Pereira JA. Phenolic compounds and antimicrobial activity of olive (Olea europaea L. Cv. Cobrançosa) leaves. Molecules. 2007 May 26;12(5):1153-62.
W. R. van Kuijk, P. J. S. M. Kerstens, R. M. Perenboom, B. A. C. Dijkmans, and A. E. Voskuyl. Early-onset polyarthritis as presenting feature of intestinal infection with Strongloides stercoralis. Oxford Journals: Rheumatology. 2003. http://rheumatology.oxfordjournals.org/content/42/11/1419.long