Wait, aren't parasites only a problem in tropical countries?
Not exactly. Parasites are actually very common all over the world and even in developed countries.
The reality is, if you're a human, you probably have parasites. Now this isn't something to be particularly alarmed about but instead educated around so you can take the required action steps to keep critters at bay and avoid any health complications.
When you understand how to reduce your risk of obtaining any bugs by regularly cleansing and keeping your body healthy and strong, parasites are nothing to fear!
What are parasites?
Parasites are micro-organisms that live off another organism in order to survive, at the expense of their host (1). These organisms cannot survive without a host, this means that unfortunately an individual's nutritional and health status will be compromised in the presence of parasites. Though we cannot entirely avoid parasites, problems arise when our defence systems are compromised and our body cannot properly eradicate them.
Parasite infections can occur anywhere and for many reasons such as ingestion or contact with contaminated water and food, pets, raw food, waste, soil, blood transfusions, insects, and other people. A simple act such as walking barefoot can predispose you to parasites!
Now this is not to freak you out, we all have parasites and can co-exist with these critters without encountering problems however issues may arise when there is an overgrowth of parasites that can compromise the body's proper functioning.
Though parasites are often found in the digestive system they can also take up residence in other parts of the body like the lungs, ovaries, liver, esophagus, brain, blood, muscles, joints, eyes, and other organs and tissues.
You can test for parasites via stool and blood tests and certain scans, however these tests are not always accurate and can miss parasitic infections, which is why it is typically recommended to do a parasite cleanse at least yearly and of course to adopt a healthy diet and lifestyle to keep your system in tip top shape and avoid overgrowth of pathogens.
Symptoms associated with parasites
Parasitic infections are not always obvious and can be disguised by many symptoms such as:
- digestive symptoms: bloating, constipation, diarrhea
cravings, especially sugar
- menstrual pain
- teeth grinding
- weight issues
- autoimmune disease
- skin conditions
- insatiable hunger
- nutritional deficiencies
- brain fog
- weak immunity
Or you may not be symptomatic at all. Parasites can live in the body for years without any signs but can be a primary cause of many health conditions. If you find yourself suffering from chronic health conditions and are unable to find the cause, parasites may be a significant contributing factor.
How a cleanse can benefit you
If you think you might have parasites, there are natural treatments and protocols that can help you get rid of the infection.
Though natural anti-parasitic remedies can remove the infection it's important to assess what may have contributed to your system being compromised in the first place. Reasons for this may include low stomach acid, poor diet, stress, and toxins.
The duration of a cleanse will depend on your unique situation however it typically spreads over a 4 week period.
Always consult with your health care practitioner before starting any new regimen. Avoid if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, and consult with your doctor if you are taking any medications.
Parasite Cleanse How To's
The food we eat can either promote pathogenic proliferation, or keep bugs at bay. It's especially important during a cleanse to make sure your diet is fighting parasites, and not feeding them.
Top anti parasitic foods include:
Essentially you will want to be following a whole foods diet with more of a paleo approach if possible, reducing sugars as much as possible.
You will do best to steer clear of foods such as fried foods, processed foods, sugars, pork, wheat, grains, and alcohol. Critters thrive off these foods and they dampen your immune system making you less able to win the fight.
Fuel yourself, not the bugs!
There are many natural alternatives to antibiotics that can be quite effective at killing off pathogens such as parasites.
These may include:
Black walnut: More particularly, the hulls of black walnut, are what provide anti-parasite effects as they contain juglone a plant compound that is naturally anti-parasitic. Juglone has promising studies backing its ability to target certain parasites such as acanthamoeba and toxoplasma gondii, common parasites that can weaken the immune system and organs of the body (2). It also has antimicrobial, anti-fungal and antibacterial properties making it a valuable addition to your cleanse to get rid of unfriendly critters (3).
Clove: This common spice that you may find in your kitchen cabinet is a fantastic food to include as part of your parasite cleanse. For more therapeutic effects you can take it in supplement form as its oils are rich in a specific compound called eugenol, shown to be effective at combatting different types of parasites as well as fungal infections, which typically go hand in hand (4)(5).
Did the name give it away? A popular herb against parasites, wormwood has been used as an anti-parasitic remedy since ancient times, treating intestinal worms as far back as Ancient Egypt (6). It too has a specific property known to fight parasites called thujone.
Fun fact: thujone is also found in absinthe, a popular liquor in the 19th and 20th centuries made from different botanicals including wormwood, anise, and fennel. Though we don't recommend using it as it is actually illegal in many countries (7).
You are probably familiar with oregano as a cooking herb and remedy for
all sorts of infections due to its potent antibacterial properties. Oregano essential oil in particular is shown to reduce parasitic infections and replication (8)(9).
Oregano oil has a very strong taste therefore it is typically encapsulated as part of a parasite treatment.
Grapefruit seed extract:
This little seed has some big qualities to it! Shown to be effective against fungal, viral, bacterial, and parasitic infections, grapefruit seed extract can help to improve overall digestive symptoms and eradicate harmful pathogens (10)(11).
Many brands have created parasite kits that provide a variety of anti-parasitic herbs working synergistically together. This can be more useful as different herbs have different functions and can thus be more effective at clearing out parasites from the body.
Support detoxification & remove toxins
The liver is a prime organ responsible for detoxification and clearing of waste and toxins. Thus it is essential to support this organ during any sort of cleanse.
What's more, when parasites take over it is commonly a result of a weakened immune system more susceptible to pathogens and less able to clear chemicals. For this reason, heavy metals and chemicals often go hand in hand with parasitic infections as these bugs like to feed off these compounds and the body is weakened in the process.
As parasites are killed off they may also release all sorts of toxins including heavy metals which can create "die-off" symptoms such as bloating, brain fog, cravings, anxiety, depression, cravings, skin conditions, body soreness, insomnia, GI symptoms, and headaches.
If the digestive and detoxification organs are congested or sluggish this will increase the likelihood of die-off symptoms and make the process that much longer.
There are many ways to support detoxification and reduce the severity of die-off symptoms while improving the efficacy of your cleanse:
Epsom salt bath: helps to replenish magnesium levels while pulling out toxins from the skin, supporting the overall detoxification process and stress response while relieving muscle soreness. You can add essential oils or herbs for additional calming benefits such as lavender or chamomile.
- Binders: these supplements help to bind onto toxins and escort them safely out of the body. Carbon based binders in particular are shown to be effective at targeting multiple toxins at once without eliminating beneficial nutrients.
Castor oil: applying castor oil topically over the abdomen can do wonders for supporting the liver and drawing out toxins. It may also help to reduce die-off symptoms.
- Herbal teas: dandelion, milk thistle, and burdock are all great herbs to support the liver and detoxification.
- Sweat: as the skin is the largest detoxification organ, sweating can help to release additional toxins. This can be done via exercise, sauna, etc.
- Stay hydrated: this will help reduce headaches (common symptoms of die-off), support energy levels, and help eliminate toxins.
- Movement: regularly moving your body supports lymphatic drainage as the lymphatic system relies on exercise to be able to function properly and do its job. This enables toxins to be metabolized more efficiently and pathogens neutralized.
Remember, your body is working hard at fighting off these pathogens so you might feel worse before you feel better. It is that much more important during this period to support your body as much as you can during the cleanse. Of course we recommend working with a practitioner to ease the process and minimize any ill symptoms.
A common symptom from parasite cleansing is fatigue, as the body is going through an intense process. Extra rest will likely be necessary during a parasite cleanse to build up your strength and resources and promote healing of the body. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep every night or more if needed, always listen to your body! To support optimal sleep avoid electronics around bedtime, dim the lights, and keep your bedroom as dark as possible to promote melatonin production and get that deep restorative sleep.
You might also want to reduce exercise intensity to not over stimulate and stress out your system, your body needs all the energy reserves it can get!
About the Author
Laurence Annez is a Certified Nutritional Practitioner and Health Coach, specializing in PCOS and women's hormones. She also holds a degree in Creative Writing and has extensive experience writing on health and wellness topics. Laurence's mission is to inspire and motivate individuals to take control of their own health and reach their ultimate health goals.