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You’ve probably heard horror stories of 3-foot tapeworms camping out in someone’s gut. Most parasites though are so small they can only be seen with a microscope! Millions (if not billions!) of people around the world have parasites. Many don’t even know it.
There’s a very good chance you have yeast overgrowth or intestinal worms. The CDC estimates over 60 million in the US are chronically infected with toxoplasmosis. And at least 14% of us have been exposed to toxocariasis. And that’s just in a developed country.
Countries with poor sanitation and poor hygiene due to economic factors are even more likely to have issues. The World Health Organization estimates over 700,000 people worldwide die each year from parasites and vector-borne pathogens. The prevalence of parasitic diseases is likely much higher than estimates.
Our bodies are literally crawling with hundreds of strains of yeasts and bacteria. The digestive tract alone holds more than three pounds of bacteria. We need them in the right balance for good digestion and nutrient absorption in the intestinal tract. Probiotics are the good guys and have a huge impact on our health.
Out of Balance
When the good bacteria get out of balance, problems begin. There are many risk factors including diet, certain medications, stress, contact with infected sources, and others. Our bodies also host naturally occurring yeasts. When we have an overgrowth this can have a big impact on health (and not in a good way). While vaginal yeast infections may sound familiar, they’re usually a sign of a much larger infection.
The most disturbing invaders to our bodies, in my opinion, are parasites. Sadly, most people carry these guys around too. Studies have found that most people, especially those with chronic diseases and cancer, are host to at least one kind of parasite.
Parasites can range from tiny ones only seen by a microscope to long tapeworms (several feet long). A tapeworm can live for 30+ years and parasite infections can last for years!
Different Types of Parasites
We don’t really want to think about the creepy crawlies in our gastrointestinal tract. But it’s important to know what we’re dealing with here. With the high prevalence of intestinal parasites, there are a whole range of different types. Common intestinal parasites include:
- Whipworms – Nearly 800 million worldwide have whipworms. They hang out in the large intestine and are a type of helminth infection. It’s transmitted by fecal contaminated soil and contaminated food grown in that soil. Lighter infections don’t even have symptoms.
- Tapeworm infection – Tapeworms can cause intestinal parasitic infections but they can also travel to other parts of the body. Young tapeworms form cysts and can live in other organs, including the brain, liver, spine, and heart.
- Roundworms – The larvae can infect various body tissues. Ascariasis is also a type of roundworm. Mature worms like living in the gastrointestinal tract, blood, and lymphatic system.
- Pinworms – These are the most common intestinal worm infection in the US. The females lay thousands of eggs while their host is asleep. This can cause intense itching on the anus and restless sleep. The microscopic eggs are most commonly spread between young children. It’s important to regularly wash all sheets, pajamas, and underwear. You’ll also want to treat the whole family if one of you has it.
- Hookworm Infection – Along with Ascaris, hookworms are a helminth parasite. They live in the small intestine and attach to the intestinal wall and cause blood loss. Many infected people don’t have symptoms.
- Entamoeba histolytica – The CDC estimates only 10-20% of people with E. Histolytica show symptoms. It’s more common in tropical regions or you can pick it up by visiting one. Those living in unsanitary conditions or men in homosexual relationships are also at risk.
- Protozoan – Protozoa infections, like giardia and giardia lamblia, are microscopic. They infect the blood and can be transmitted from one person to another through mosquito or bug bites. They can also infect the human intestinal tract and be transmitted through feces.
- Cryptosporidium – Aka crypto, this parasite is one of the most common waterborne diseases in the US. You can get it from the ingestion of contaminated food or water, including while swimming. It can cause symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal pain, and weight loss. Not everyone who is infected has symptoms, but they can still pass it to others for about 2 months after infection. Those with a weakened immune system are most at risk for serious symptoms.
How Do We Get Parasites?
Parasites can enter the body in a variety of ways, depending on the type. You can get it through contact with contaminated soil, eating raw or undercooked meats, or even from bug bites. If you’re traveling to a developing country or drink contaminated water you’re also at risk. Because some parasites are microscopic and live on surfaces for several weeks, they’re easy to spread.
Treating parasites is a 3 step process. First, we have to kill the invaders, then they (and the toxins they create) need to be flushed from the body. Finally, we need to support the body in healing and regenerating itself.
How to Tell If You Have Parasites
There are many symptoms directly or indirectly associated with parasites. If you have several of these symptoms, there’s a good chance you have an infestation. Remember that some parasites don’t even cause symptoms though!
Symptoms of Parasites
- Lowered immune system and constant illness
- Rectal itching, especially at night
- Digestive problems like bloating, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, or nausea
- Bloating and gas
- Tired all the time
- Floaters or spots in the eyes
- Trouble sleeping and teeth grinding at night
- Flu-like symptoms
- Joint and muscle pain
- Psoriasis or eczema
- Extreme hunger
- Anxiety and depression
- Plus many more…
If left untreated, Candida, yeast, and parasite overgrowth have been linked to a plethora of chronic conditions. Yeast and Parasites are often found in people with the following conditions:
- Infertility or permanent fertility damage
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Autoimmune disease
- Vitamin Deficiencies
- Chronic Fatigue
- Leaky Gut Syndrome
- Kidney Stones
- Chron’s Disease
- Skin conditions including eczema and psoriasis
- Insomnia and sleep disturbances
- Digestive problems of all kinds
Conventional Parasite Treatments
Typically your healthcare provider will order a stool test. Stool samples that don’t contain live, visible parasites are considered negative. PCR tests though can detect dead or dormant parasites. If someone tests positive they can be prescribed anti-parasitic drugs.
Natural Remedies for Intestinal Parasites
The good news is there are effective natural treatments to help the body kill and remove parasites. If you suspect that you have an issue, you might consider some of the treatments below.
Change What You Eat
Since parasites thrive in a weakened immune system, eating healthy is one of our best defenses. Lots of sugar depresses our immune system and causes microbe imbalances. I recommend getting rid of all processed sugar and even reducing natural sugars. Sources like honey and high-sugar fruits can still cause problems during an active infection.
Some natural stevia is ok once in a while, but avoid anything that gives the body a sugar source and feeds yeast or parasites. Also, consider skipping dairy to give your body a boost. Eating healthy whole foods is a must!
Sweat it Out
As your body kills off parasites, their toxic by-products must be removed from the body. Some of these (like heavy metals) are best removed through the sweat glands. Work up a sweat by exercising, using the sauna, or even working in the garden! Taking cayenne is another good way to kick up the heat.
Diatomaceous Earth (DE)
This naturally occurring substance has an amazing ability to kill parasites and parasite eggs. It’s naturally high in the silica we need for hair, skin, and nail growth. Plus it has trace minerals and can help restore body tissue and improve digestion.
I start with 1 tsp a day in 8 ounces of water and work up to 1-2 Tablespoons a day. Be sure to only use food-grade DE. Taking DE may also cause a Herxheimer reaction (see more below).
Apple Cider Vinegar
What can’t apple cider vinegar do? It may help lower blood sugar, improves digestion, and kills harmful pathogens. It helps the body detox for clearer skin and a healthier body. While it won’t kill parasites on its own, it strengthens the body’s defenses against pathogens.
ACV is strong on its own so be sure to take it in water. I start with 1 teaspoon up to 3 times a day, 30 minutes before a meal. You can increase up to a Tablespoon at a time.
Probiotics help restore the helpful gut bacteria that are wiped out by parasites (or antibiotics or hormonal birth control). We need these good bugs for a healthy gut. I include lots of fermented foods in my diet, and I also like this probiotic supplement. Just don’t take them within an hour of ACV or diatomaceous earth though!
Herbs and Spices
Garlic is a powerhouse when it comes to pathogens and parasites. You can include minced raw garlic cloves liberally in your diet.
Cinnamon is another natural remedy for parasites. You can use ½ teaspoon of high-quality cinnamon powder in water, kefir, or coconut milk yogurt up to three times a day.
Anti-parasitic essential oils include clove, eucalyptus, fennel, and white camphor. These are great to diffuse or can be diluted and used topically. Consult with a qualified aromatherapist before using any essential oils internally.
Herbs commonly used for parasites include andrographis and a blend of clove, wormwood, and black walnut hull. You can also use digestion and immune boosting herbs to strengthen your body’s natural defenses. Be sure to do your research before trying any new herbal regimen!
Vitamin C is an excellent antioxidant and great for immune support. It’s also helpful for parasite infections. If you have parasite symptoms you can use 5 grams of vitamin C per day spread out in 2-3 doses. Too much can cause loose stools so you can adjust the dose down if needed.
Coconut oil is a natural, mild anti-fungal, and very nourishing to the body. If you’re not already using it in your cooking, it also tastes great blended into coffee or tea. You can add several tablespoons a day for healthy fats and to support healthy bowel movements as you’re eliminating toxins. Personally, I don’t use coconut oil as much anymore and mainly use olive oil.
Sometimes getting rid of parasites can be uncomfortable. Herxheimer’s reaction, named after the German doctor who discovered it, is basically a die-off reaction. Trying to treat parasites and infections quickly or with potent remedies can cause a Herx reaction.
It’s best to be on an anti-yeast/parasite diet for several weeks before even starting supplements, This can help minimize reactions. You can start with small doses of apple cider vinegar and diatomaceous earth. Work your way up to help keep the die-off symptoms at bay.
You may even find that you “catch a cold” a week or so after starting to treat your yeast and parasite symptoms. This is actually a mild Herxheimer reaction. Backing down supplements and drinking more water should help it pass quickly.
Other Important Notes on Intestinal Parasites
Removing parasites is a difficult job for your body. It’s important to support your body during the process. Regular exercise, a good diet, adequate sleep, and limiting exposure to toxins all help!
Epsom salt baths are another excellent way to help detox through the skin. I like to use 1/2 cup of Epsom salts in hot bath water or try one of these detox bath recipes.
Be sure to drink plenty of water to flush out die-off toxins faster. And of course, plenty of sleep gives the body enough time to regenerate and heal. I aim for at least 9 hours a night. It’s also very important to skip the sugar and refined carbs as these make the process much slower. Raw vegetables and healthy fiber sources help keep your energy levels up and clean the body faster.
You may also want to try this wellness challenge that has tips and recipes for ditching the grains and sugar.
Do you suspect you may have parasites? What are you doing to address them? Leave a comment and let me know!