Did you shudder a bit when you read the word “parasites” in the title? It’s not a pleasant topic! However, intestinal parasites are more common than many people realize.
Parasites are living organisms that live off of their human hosts. There are a number of possible types of parasites, and many can have a negative impact on your health. Although parasites are a bigger problem in developing countries, parasitic infections occur surprisingly often in North America. Consider these stats:
- In the U.S. alone, over 60 million people are infected with the parasite toxoplasma gondi.
- Over 1,000 people are hospitalized due to cysticercosis, an infection caused by parasitic tapeworms.
- Over 300,000 Americans have Trypanosoma cruzi infections. This is the parasite that causes Chagas disease.
Some parasites can cause a number of serious health problems, including blindness, pregnancy complications, and even death. Others cause symptoms that you may attribute to something else entirely. This is why it’s incredibly important to work with a healthcare practitioner as soon as you suspect something is off with your health to get to the root cause of any imbalance.
Worried About Parasites? Watch Out For These Symptoms
Parasites can live within you without showing any symptoms for many years – awful, right? However, many will give signs you shouldn’t ignore. Some general things to watch for include:
- Digestive issues such as diarrhea, constipation, or gas
- Skin disorders like eczema, hives, or unexplained chronic itching
- Fatigue, even after a good night’s sleep
- Grinding your teeth while sleeping
- Nutrient deficiencies, especially anemia
- Anxiety (possibly due to nutrient deficiencies)
- Muscle or joint pain
- Itching around your rectum
Diagnosing and Flushing Parasites Out Of the Body
Because of the broad range of symptoms, many of which could be associated with other conditions, it can be tricky to identify parasites. A common first step is a stool test to check for the presence of parasites.
In conventional medicine, antiparasitic drugs, such as praziquantel and mebendazole, are the first line of defense.
In integrative medicine, many practitioners will use a combination of antiparasitic herbs plus nutritional protocols to make the gut an inhabitable environment for the parasites.
Some of the herbs used to treat intestinal parasites can interfere with prescription medications, therefore it’s important to work with a knowledgeable healthcare practitioner.
Following a parasitic cleanse can help rid your body of parasites. During this cleanse, you’ll combine nutritional strategies with herbal remedies, with the aim of expelling parasites from your body and creating an inhospitable environment for further growth.
During this cleanse, it’s important to maintain a well-balanced diet to maintain good health and focus on natural, unprocessed foods. Eating a lot of fiber can contribute to regular bowel movements to flush out parasites and contribute to a healthy gut biome. Avoiding sugar is also a good strategy to maintain a healthy gut.
Your health practitioner will determine the exact approach after testing. A parasite cleanse could include the following in your diet:
- Foods with antiparasitic properties like onions, garlic, and honey.
- Foods high in zinc, such as seafood, whole grains, and legumes.
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut and natural yogurt will also contribute to healthy gut bacteria.
- Foods high in vitamin A, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and mangos.
- Foods high in vitamin C to strengthen your overall well-being and immunity.
- Herbs that have proven effective in treating parasites include. oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, and cumin
And of course, it goes without saying that you must avoid undercooked meat or seafood during this cleanse.
Supplements with anti-parasitic properties that could be incorporated include:
- Probiotics to maintain a healthy level of beneficial bacteria. Again, be sure to work with a practitioner to determine the best type of probiotic for you.
- Berberine is a compound found in many plants.
- Research shows papaya seeds may play a role in eliminating parasites.
- Pumpkin seeds are another commonly used parasite remedy.
- Wormwood has been used to eliminate parasites, perhaps contributing to its name.
Prevention is the best way to protect yourself from parasites! Here are some simple everyday practices to keep in mind:
- Wash your hands frequently – and always after touching raw food, using the bathroom, changing cat litter or dealing with animal feces. If you are pregnant, avoid changing cat litter.
- Drink clean water. Don’t drink from lakes, ponds, or creeks, even if they look clean.
- Cook food to the correct temperature.
- Approach raw fish sushi with caution. A recent study found a 283% increase in the prevalence of parasitic worms in sushi since the 1970s. It’s worth cutting a piece of sushi in half before eating to check.
- Some studies suggest a diet rich in vitamin A and the minerals selenium and zinc may improve your body’s natural defense against parasite infection.
Don’t be embarrassed to talk about parasites if you have any concerns at all!
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