When people hear the word parasites they get squiggly. I recently listened to The Parasite Summit webinar, where functional practitioners and holistic professionals such as Dr. David Jockers, Dr. Todd Watts, and Dr. Sarah Ballantyne shared their knowledge and recommendations on parasite preventions, remedies, and protocols.
What Exactly Is A Parasite?
A parasite is defined as an organism that lives in or on another organism (its host) and benefits by deriving nutrients at the host’s expense. Parasites can cause disease in humans. Some parasitic diseases are easily treated and some are not.
How Do You Get Parasites?
You can get parasites from contaminated water and food, even person to person.
What Types Of Parasites Are There?
There are three main types of parasites in humans: protozoa, helminths, and ectoparasites.
Protozoa are microscopic, one-celled organisms that can be free-living or parasitic in nature. They are able to multiply in humans, which contributes to their survival and also permits serious infections to develop from just a single organism. Transmission of protozoa that live in a human’s intestine to another human typically occurs through a fecal-oral route (for example, contaminated food or water or person-to-person contact). Protozoa that live in the blood or tissue of humans are transmitted to other humans by an arthropod vector (for example, through the bite of a mosquito or sand fly).
The protozoa that are infectious to humans can be classified into four groups based on their mode of movement:
Helminths are large, multicellular organisms that are generally visible to the naked eye in their adult stages. Like protozoa, helminths can be either free-living or parasitic in nature. In their adult form, helminths cannot multiply in humans. There are three main groups of helminths (derived from the Greek word for worms) that are human parasites:
- Flatworms (platyhelminths) – these include the trematodes (flukes) and cestodes (tapeworms).
- Thorny-headed worms (acanthocephalins) – the adult forms of these worms reside in the gastrointestinal tract. The acanthocephala are thought to be intermediate between the cestodes and nematodes.
- Roundworms (nematodes) – the adult forms of these worms can reside in the gastrointestinal tract, blood, lymphatic system or subcutaneous tissues. Alternatively, the immature (larval) states can cause disease through their infection of various body tissues. Some consider the helminths to also include the segmented worms (annelids)—the only ones important medically are the leeches. Of note, these organisms are not typically considered parasites.
Although the term ectoparasites can broadly include blood-sucking arthropods such as mosquitoes (because they are dependent on a blood meal from a human host for their survival), this term is generally used more narrowly to refer to organisms such as ticks, fleas, lice, and mites that attach or burrow into the skin and remain there for relatively long periods of time (e.g., weeks to months). Arthropods are important in causing diseases in their own right, but are even more important as vectors, or transmitters, of many different pathogens that in turn cause tremendous morbidity and mortality from the diseases they cause.
Symptoms Of A Parasite
Unfortunately, there are a variety of symptoms of a parasite infection and can also vary from person to person.
Common symptoms are:
- You have unexplained constipation, diarrhea, gas, or other symptoms of IBS
- You traveled internationally and remember getting traveler’s diarrhea while abroad
- You have a history of food poisoning and your digestion has not been the same since.
- You have trouble falling asleep, or you wake up multiple times during the night.
- You get skin irritations or unexplained rashes, hives, rosacea or eczema.
- You grind your teeth in your sleep.
- You have pain or aching in your muscles or joints.
- You experience fatigue, exhaustion, depression, or frequent feelings of apathy.
- You never feel satisfied or full after your meals.
- You’ve been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia.
How To Test For Parasites
I asked naturopath Dr. Mary MacDonald her recommendations on testing, “I start with a Complete Blood Count test (CBC) to see if eosinophils are increased then I stick to stool testing. If stool testing comes back negative I request another at another time during the month to try to make sure I am not missing anything based on dormancy.” Parasites can be tricky to test for because of their life cycle in which they can rotate between being dormant and a live.
Tips For Prevention
There’s no guarantee that you’ll never get a parasite, however, prevent is key. Optimizing digestion is the first step to parasite prevention. When digestion is working optimally, food is being broken down and absorbed properly and toxins can be removed efficiently.
Here are some tips to help your digestion:
- Practicing mindful eating
- Reduces stress around meal times
- Avoid eating while driving or in a hurry
- Chew your food throughly (up to 40 times)
- Take a few deep breaths while sitting in front of your meal and ground yourself.
- Create an environment that is calming and enjoyable with no distractions.
- Avoid stimulating foods and drinks
- Avoid refined sugar
- Avoid dairy
- Avoid refined carbohydrates
- Avoid coffee
- Include alkalizing foods such as dark leafy greens, kale, swiss chard, bok choy
- Include fermented foods
- Increase fibre
- Ensure proper hydration
- Exercise regularly
- Practice proper food combining
- Wash your hands throughly after using the washrooms
Food Combining Rules:
Improper food combinations can also “confuse” the body, by demanding the body to release several types of digestive enzymes at once. This can further slow down digestion.
- Eat Fruit Alone: This is because fruit is a simple sugar that digests very rapidly, in roughly 20 to 30 minutes.
- Pair Protein With Non-Starchy Vegetables: In order to be digested, protein needs an acidic environment, which is why it’s considered a bad food combination to eat protein with starches. However, protein can be paired with leafy greens and other high-water-content vegetables, such as asparagus, peppers, celery or broccoli. Since these vegetables are rich in their own enzymes, they don’t require an alkaline environment for digestion.
- Pair Starches With Healthy Fats And Vegetables: Starches (like brown rice and quinoa), along with starchy vegetables (such as sweet potatoes and squash), need an alkaline environment for digestion. For this reason, starches combine best when eaten together – for example, brown rice or quinoa and sweet potatoes. Since non-starchy vegetables and leafy greens are considered neutral, they can also combine well with starches.
- Leafy Greens And Non-Starchy Vegetables Go With Everything: Leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables contain their own digestive enzymes, and can be paired with any food combination without causing a traffic jam in your GI tract.
- Drink Away From Meals: Avoid drinking large sips of cold water with your meals. Water can dilute your digestive fluids, which can slow down digestion. Instead, it’s best to have small sips of room temperature water with your meals, and focus on drinking the majority of your daily water intake away from meals. You can support your overall digestive process by drinking a glass of lemon water roughly 20 minutes before a meal. Lemon contains ascorbic acid, which can help stimulate digestion.
Foods To Get Rid Of Parasites:
Including these foods into your daily diet can be beneficial to killing off and preventing parasites.
- Garlic and onions
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Cayenne Pepper
- Dandelion Greens
- Pau D’arco
Prior to consuming the supplements listed I suggest speaking with a naturopath as it may potentially interfere with medications that you may be on.
- Black walnut
- Oregano Oil
- Grapefruit seed extract
- Clove Oil
By practicing proper digestion habits as mentioned above, eating an alkaline diet, and including some of the above anti-parastic foods and supplements to your daily routine, you can start taking the first steps into parasite prevention. I recommend starting slowly by mastering a few of the above suggestions and then incorporating a few more at time, so that you aren’t over burdening your body all at once.
If you suspect you may have parasites or want more information on parasite cleanses, I encourage you to reach out to a naturopath for more advice. I’ve done my share of natural parasite cleanses over the years and it’s really not as bad as you think!
Sumbul Zafar, R.H.N.