Parasites lurking deep within the human body may be hidden from sight – but their effects can be far-reaching and serious. Ranging in size from tiny microorganisms to ten-foot-long segmented worms, intestinal parasites can cause inflammation in the brain, muscles, esophagus and skin, and are associated with leaky gut syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, acid reflux, joint pain, seasonal and food allergies – and a host of other problems.
The good news: These noxious pests are vulnerable to certain foods and natural herbal remedies. Read on to discover what these substances are, and how you can use them to rid your body of a parasitic infection.
Intestinal parasites can wreak havoc on our health
Parasites consume nutrients from the food we eat – and can also feed on blood, resulting in a lack of vital iron and protein. In addition, they can cause malabsorption of nutrients, leading to deficiencies.
Intestinal parasites can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout the body, where they can penetrate body tissues such as liver, lungs and stomach – with serious consequences. For example, parasites lodged in the liver can cause cirrhosis and abscesses.
There are many routes through which parasites can enter the body, including contaminated food – particularly pork, shellfish and scavenger fish – and water. Some can also be transmitted through the bite of a mosquito or flea, through intimate contact, or even enter through the nose and mouth after a contaminated surface has been touched. Although anyone can get parasites, having low immunity, poor diet and poor hygiene can all raise the risk of infection.
Protozoa and helminths: A pair of health threats
There are two major classes of intestinal parasites.
Protozoa are single-celled microscopic organisms. Examples of infectious parasitical protozoa include Giardia intestinalis and Cryptosporidium. Because these microorganisms can reproduce inside of humans, infections can be fatal if left untreated. Symptoms of protozoan disease include diarrhea, abdominal pain, nausea, dehydration, fatigue and joint pain.
Helminths are multicellular worms, and include roundworms, flatworms, pinworms – the most common form of helminth in the United States – tapeworms, hookworm and whipworms. Helminths differ from protozoa in that although they can live in your lower intestine, they can’t reproduce there. However, they can still cause serious health problems.
Before treating for parasites, make sure you undergo comprehensive tests, including microbiology. After you know which parasites you are fighting, you can try one or more of the following foods and herbs to eliminate them.
Pumpkin seeds are an anti-parasitical snack
Pumpkin seeds are tasty, crunchy and nutritious. They also have the ability to paralyze helminths, allowing them to be easily flushed from the body, and have been traditionally used as a remedy for parasites.
Some natural health experts advise blending a cup of raw pumpkin seeds with half a cup of coconut milk and half a cup of water, then eating the resultant paste – following up with a glass of water. Although pumpkin seeds can be very effective, results may not be immediate – you may need to repeat the treatment several times.
Garlic: A one-two punch against parasites
Garlic is packed with sulfur-containing amino acids, which help to combat parasites. A compound in garlic known as allicin also helps to kill and expel worms – but the garlic must be sliced, diced or chopped to fully release it.
In fact, the more finely garlic is chopped, the more allicin it releases. After mincing or dicing garlic, let it sit for a few minutes to allow this chemical process to occur. Alternately, you can chew it for at least a minute.
Papaya: A tropical fruit that fights parasites
Along with amino acids, digestive enzymes such as papain (found in papayas) and bromelain (found in pineapples) can create an unfriendly environment for protozoa and helminths alike.
The value of this traditional natural remedy for intestinal parasites was confirmed in a placebo-controlled study published in Journal of Medicinal Foods. Sixty children were treated with a mixture of air-dried Carica papaya seeds and honey, resulting in parasite clearance rates that ranged between 71.4 percent and 100 percent. Researchers praised papaya seeds as an effective, cheap and safe way to treat human intestinal parasites.
In addition to foods such as pumpkin seeds, garlic and papaya seeds, some common herbs have parasite-destroying properties. Just one word of caution: Always consult a naturopathic physician or trusted herbal medicine expert before any serious detoxification program to avoid harming the body.
Let’s not forget: Oil of oregano
Highly antimicrobial, oil of oregano – made from Oreganum vulgare – can be very effective against intestinal parasites. In a study published in Phytotherapy Research, adults who were infected with three different types of parasites were treated with 600 mg of oil of oregano a day. After six weeks, parasites were totally eradicated in 72 percent of the participants; 23 percent greatly decreased their parasite load.
Because researchers think that oil of oregano gets its anti-parasitical powers from carvacrol, be sure to use oil standardized to at least 65 percent carvacrol.
Neem: An ancient remedy for parasites
Antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral, neem has been used in India for thousands of years to reliably kill parasites both internal and external. The neem tree, scientifically known as Azadirachta indica, is native to India, where it serves so many medicinal purposes that it is often referred to as “the village pharmacy.”
One of neem’s assets is that it not only kills parasites, but also removes the toxins they leave behind as they are dying. This detoxifying property of neem also makes it a boon to the liver, which is often compromised by parasitic infection.
Wormwood, black walnut and cloves: a potent combination
Wormwood, scientifically known as Artemisia annua and also called annual mugwort and sweet Annie, has pronounced anti-protozoan effects, and is particularly effective at killing parasitic larva. In addition, it stimulates macrophages, which are key in immune system defense against parasitic infestation.
Wormwood is often combined with black walnut, or Juglans negra, and essential oil of cloves. The juglone in black walnut helps to kill parasites, while antimicrobial oil of cloves can destroy virtually all parasite eggs in the intestinal tract. Using these three substances in combination can interrupt the parasitic life cycle, terminating these pests for good.
How diet can help you to avoid parasites
Remember: Organic acids and enzymes help to kill parasites. By eating foods rich in these substances, you can create a body environment that discourages parasitic infection. As a preventative, natural health experts recommend eating six tablespoons of raw, extra-virgin coconut oil, a whole clove of garlic and one large red onion.
High-quality multi-strain probiotics can help destroy parasites in both the upper and lower gastrointestinal system. Drinking fermented beverages – such as kefir and apple cider vinegar – and eating fermented probiotic-rich foods such as kombucha, miso soup, sauerkraut and kimchi can encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut and help to ward off infection.
Finally, it is essential to sharply reduce and eliminate sugar, grains – which break down to sugar in the body – and alcohol.