alive logo

Parasites: Unwanted Guests


Do you feel tired most of the time? Suffer from digestive problems, food sensitivities or allergic-like reactions? Do you have difficulty gaining or losing weight? Have you tried a yeast-control program, yet can't stay away from sugar? Is something not quite right physically, but you can't pinpoint the cause? Welcome to t.

Do you feel tired most of the time? Suffer from digestive problems, food sensitivities or allergic-like reactions? Do you have difficulty gaining or losing weight? Have you tried a yeast-control program, yet can't stay away from sugar? Is something not quite right physically, but you can't pinpoint the cause?

Welcome to the world of parasites! More than half of all Canadians will at some point in their lives play host to these invaders. In fact, what many of us attribute to stress, growing older or plain old poor health may actually be due to the toxic byproducts of these uninvited guests.

The word "parasite" comes from the Greek words "para" (besides) and "sitos" (food). Medical dictionaries typically define a parasite as "an animal or plant that lives on or in another organism where it can obtain nourishment." The organism serving as the home for the parasite is known as the host. Parasites cause trouble by competing with the host's digestive system for nutrients; they also secrete waste products into the gut and bloodstream that are capable of causing various allergic and autoimmune reactions.

Humans often mistake parasitic infection for another abdominal or intestinal disease since the warning signs for parasites are also symptoms of other common illnesses. The most common signs of parasitic infections are stomach cramps and diarrhea. Constipation, gas, bloating, irritable bowel syndrome, joint and muscle aches and pains, anemia, allergies, skin conditions, granulomas (tissue growth), nervousness, sleep disturbances, teeth grinding, chronic fatigue and immune dysfunction may also occur.

For the most part, the increasing prevalence of parasitic infection can be attributed to our modern-day lifestyle. Here are the key factors involved:

Contaminated water - A highly infectious parasite called Cryptosporidium parvum has been the culprit of waterborne disease outbreaks in Canada and the United States. In 1993, for example, "crypto" was responsible for illness in nearly 400,000 people due to a malfunctioning water system in Milwaukee. Found in the feces of wild and domestic animals and humans, crypto is difficult to treat using common disinfection methods because it is resistant to chlorine.

Day-care centres - Giardia lamblia, also present in animal and human feces, is the main culprit and is transmitted through improper diaper-changing practices. For example, parasites from infected feces can lodge under the fingernails and spread from one infant to another.

Household pets - As carriers of more than 240 diseases, our beloved pets can transmit parasitic infection to humans. For example, parasite eggs from dogs or cats can be deposited through feces in grass and playgrounds, where they can eventually be ingested by children.

Processed and sugar-laden foods - High sugar and simple carbohydrate diets provide the ideal breeding ground for parasites.

Raw and undercooked meats and fish - Both undercooked beef and pork can harbour tapeworms, while fish can harbour tapeworms and anisakid worms, which cause a condition resembling Crohn's disease.

Five Steps for Prevention

Here's some practical advice for keeping the critters out of your body.

1. Practise Proper Hygiene
Always wash your hands for at least 30 seconds before eating, as well as before and after handling pets and changing diapers. Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom. Keep fingernails short and clean. Parasitic eggs can lodge under the nails.

Teach your children good hygiene. Keep toddlers away from puppies and kittens that are not dewormed regularly. Don't allow children to eat dirt or play in yards, playgrounds or sandboxes in which animals roam. Breastfeed your child as long as possible. Breastmilk has antibodies that fight parasitic invaders such as Giardia lamblia.

2. Eat Antiparasitic Foods
Maintain a balanced diet with moderate amounts of protein and high amounts of fibre. Fibre cleanses the gastrointestinal tract, the first step in ridding the body of parasites. Cook with lots of garlic, onions, thyme and sage, all of which contain natural antiparasitic properties. Snack on pumpkin seeds, a high-zinc food that helps eliminate worms. Season your dishes with unrefined natural sea salt, which has an antiseptic effect on body tissues. Avoid sugar and other simple carbohydrates, as parasites thrive on them.

Consume at least one to two tablespoons daily of expeller-pressed 100-percent safflower, sesame or flax seed oil. These oils lubricate the gastrointestinal tract and serve as a carrier for fat-soluble vitamin A. It appears that of all vitamins and minerals, vitamin A best increases resistance to tissue penetration by parasite larvae. Foods rich in vitamin A, such as cooked carrot, squash, sweet potatoes, yams and greens, should therefore be amply included in the diet.

3. Prepare and Handle Foods Properly
Do not eat raw or undercooked meat. Avoid preparing raw fish dishes such as sushi and sashimi yourself. Leave the job to experienced chefs who are properly trained to spot parasitic larvae.

4. Avoid Unsafe Water Sources
Drink only filtered water. For home use, choose a water filtration system with a one-micron or smaller porosity. Never drink water out of brooks, reservoirs, ponds, streams or lakes, regardless of how pristine they appear. The water must be boiled for a good 20 minutes before drinking.

5. Cleanse Your Body of Parasites Once or Twice a Year
Many parasites remain undetected because of varying reproductive and life cycles. Periodic parasite cleanses are the practical way to go.

Choose natural parasite cleansers containing ingredients such as grapefruit seed extract, wormwood, cayenne, garlic, cloves, bismuth, black walnut hulls, prickly ash bark, quassia bark, slippery elm, bromelain and cranberry juice extract. Some very effective parasite-cleansing programs are available in health food stores.

Parasitic infection persists in the 21st century. These common-sense steps and natural approaches can help you say goodbye to uninvited guests.

How Parasites Damage the Body

Parasites can damage the body in a number of ways.

  • They demolish cells in the body faster than the cells can be regenerated. This leads to ulceration, perforation and anemia.
  • Parasites also deposit toxic substances that can propel the body's immune response into overdrive, causing tissue damage and resulting in pain and inflammation.
  • By depressing immune system functioning while activating the body's immune response, parasites can cause immune system exhaustion.
  • They can invade the skin, producing dermatitis, and also place pressure on the brain, spinal cord, eyes, heart, and/or bones.
  • As in parasitic cysts, they can obstruct the intestines, as well as the pancreatic and bile ducts.

PDF Table of Common Parasites

Your Yearly Parasite-Cleansing Program

To eliminate all stages of a parasite's lifespan, adopt a yearly parasite-cleansing and prevention program. Check your local health food store for effective natural formulas.

  • A combination of wormwood, black walnut husk and clove juice is particularly effective in cleansing the body of all stages of parasites. Take as directed on the label.
  • Barberry root bark has the ability to kill parasites. Drink three cups of tea daily, adding one teaspoon to one cup of boiling water.
  • Both garlic and pumpkin seeds have strong antiparasitic properties. To purge parasites from the intestines, eat a clove of garlic and a handful of pumpkin seeds between meals, chewing thoroughly. Garlic capsules are more easily tolerated than raw take three capsules three times daily.
  • Take two capsules as directed of black walnut and burdock root every morning to purge worms.
  • Grapefruit seed extract is another excellent natural medicine for a wide variety of parasites, including giardia. It is also well tolerated and can be taken for an extended period. This extract is available in both liquid and tablet form.
  • Papain or bromelain should also be taken with meals to digest protein and destroy parasites before they reach the intestines. Digestive enzymes offer some protection against parasites in contaminated food.

Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Healing (alive Books, 1998)

How Did It Happen?

A number of seemingly unrelated factors unique to the late 20th century have contributed to the unrestrained parasite epidemic and added to the increased risk of parasitic infection. These factors include the:

  • rise in international travel
  • contamination of municipal and rural water supplies
  • increasing use of day-care centres
  • influx of refugee and immigrant
  • populations from endemic areas
  • return of armed forces overseas
  • continued popularity of household pets
  • increasing popularity of exotic
  • regional foods
  • use of antibiotics and immunosuppressive drugs
  • sexual revolution
  • spread of AIDS


Your winter wellness game plan

Your winter wellness game plan

Stay healthful when the weather outside is frightful

Joshua Duvauchelle

Joshua Duvauchelle