Parasites: Unwanted Guests in Your Gut
Your body is home to many, many organisms, both good and bad. A healthy microbiome contains a balance of both "good guys" and "bad guys" living in harmony with each other. Sometimes, an organism gets in that has no place in your microbiome one example of these organisms are parasites. Parasites offer no benefit to your microbiome, all they do is take from you.
Parasites are surprisingly common and can wreck havoc on gut health. If you've been having trouble getting to the root of your digestive issues, skin problems, low energy, low mood, or hormone imbalances, it's time to look at parasites.
In this blog post, we're going to be digging into the nitty-gritty of these undesirable guests, what symptoms they cause, and some natural anti-parasite foods and herbs.
Whenever a parasite comes back on a client’s stool test they ask “HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?!”
We can’t always know. It isn’t always linked to travel or poor hygiene. But there is a common theme I see in my clients who have these unwanted guests.
The common theme is: low stomach acid. You see, stomach acid should be your body’s first line of defence against these guests. If you come into contact with a parasite, your stomach acid should kill them and then the get digested like any other protein (gross, but normal and healthy).
When your stomach acid is inadequate due to stress, nutrient deficiencies, PPI use, etc. it’s like the front door to your body is wide open for anyone who feels like coming over and enjoying some free rent and room service.
Luckily, we have amazing herbs that can help evict the visitors, and we can work on increasing stomach acid so that door stays shut tight. You'll be learning about that in a moment here.
What are parasites, anyway?
Parasites have developed alongside us throughout our history — and though they've been co-evolving with us, they offer no benefit. By definition, parasites are organisms that survive by accessing nutrients from a host, at the hosts' expense.
Most people shudder when they think of parasites, probably imagining worms, but not all parasites are worms! There are a few types of parasites:
These are single-cell microbes, basically highly evolved bacteria. Some protozoan parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium can cause acute infection and require medications. Others, like Blastocystis hominis and Dientamoeba fragilis can be asymptomatic. These bugs aren't "worm like" in their appearance, and generally cannot be seen by the human eye (you won't see these ones in your toilet bowl!).
Worms are generally larger, and can be seen by the naked eye. This type of parasite includes things like tapeworms, pinworms, roundworms and flukes.
Either way — neither of these situations are ideal, and are best to get under control.
Symptoms Associated with Parasites
What are some signs that you could be dealing with parasites?
Here are some signs and symptoms associated with parasites:
extreme cravings/increase appetite
unexplained GI issues
unexplained weight loss
joint and muscle aches
Note: Parasites are not the only thing that can cause these problems. Its always a good idea to see your doctor and rule out anything serious medical issues first (including the major pathogenic parasites).
If you’re not getting better or get labeled with “IBS” you may want to do more digging - but never assume you have parasites or get on a DIY parasite cleanse. Always speak to a professional.
How do you contract parasites?
While parasites are often associated with bugs that you catch while away on holidays, you can contract parasites anywhere!
Here are a few ways you may have contracted parasites:
Furry friends, especially if they share the bed
Fecal contamination in food and/or water
Water and food-borne outbreaks
Imported fresh foods from tropical locations
5 Anti-Parasitic Foods
As a nutritionist, I’m of course a big fan of using food first. While foods might not always be enough alone to get rid of parasites, there are a few that can help:
Raw pineapple: Helps break down proteins, including intestinal parasites. Best eaten on an empty coach for this purpose.
Pumpkin seeds: When you chew the seed, they release compounds that both paralyze parasites and help to expel them.
Unsweetened cranberry juice: Cranberries feed good bacteria, help reduce parasites and balance the microbiome in the right direction.
Raw garlic: Alicin and aliin in garlic are antimicrobial, killing off bad bacteria and parasites they interact with.
Raw onions: Similar to garlic, the sulfur-containing compounds in onion help to kill parasites and are most effective when raw.
Herbal supports are a great way to manage a parasite infection.
I usually recommend these in capsule or tincture form for parasite protocols and I always recommend a combination, they’re not usually effective enough on their own. Along with other supports for helping the body excrete the parasites.
I always recommend speaking to your doctor first as certain parasites require medication. This post isn’t meant to replace a conversation with your health care professional. Do not try to DIY this! See a professional!
Here are some anti-parasitic herbs:
When to Seek out Help
As mentioned above, parasites are pesky. If you've been struggling for some time with the symptoms mentioned above, it could be worthwhile to reach out to your doctor, and/or your practitioner about looking further into parasites, to see if they're at cause.
A combination of nutrition, lifestyle, and antimicrobials can be a great way to eradicate a parasite infection, followed by intentionally supporting stomach acid levels, rebalancing the microbiome, and healing the intestinal lining from any damage potentially caused by the parasites.
If you think you might be struggling with parasites, or resonate with any of the symptoms mentioned above, I'd definitely recommend checking out Gut Reset Program and Gut Rehab Intensive, where we can investigate further to see if parasites are responsible for how you're feeling.