Eating for One: Eliminating Harmful Parasites (Phase I)
We have billions of organisms living inside of us.
In fact, we have nine times as many bacteria in our gastrointestinal tract as there are cells in our entire body!
Though this may seem disturbing to some, the truth is, we couldn’t live without them. The human gastrointestinal tract is an incredibly complex ecosystem, with an average of 500 species of microflora, or gut bacteria, living inside us and playing an important role in determining our health.
Probiotics, which literally means “for life,” are the health-promoting, friendly bacteria we need in order to promote and maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract. I like to think of them as "the good guys." They’re the friendly bacteria that promote our intestinal environment, enhance our immune system, as well as prevent and treat infections, food allergies, cancer, and digestive disorders. Not only that, probiotics help prevent the overgrowth of opportunistic organisms, such as the yeast Candida albicans, and parasites. In other words, the good guys protect you from the bad guys.
So, what’s the problem?
Good Guys vs. Bad Guys
Well, the problem is something called dysbiosis, which basically involves an altered state of bacterial flora in the gut. The bad guys outnumber the good guys, which can have significantly harmful affects to our health. The toxic byproducts produced when the harmful bacteria breaks down our food will inevitably lead to health problems. Here are some of the major causes of dysbiosis:
- A diet high in protein, sugar, and fat
- A diet low in fiber
- Food allergies (dairy and gluten are the most common allergens)
- Lack of digestive secretions, especially hydrochloric acid
- Antibiotics or other drugs, such as oral contraceptives
- Decreased immune function
- Intestinal infection
- Altered pH
Another underlying cause of chronic digestive issues are parasites. Though many of us associate parasitic infections with those living in underdeveloped countries with poor sanitation, the rates are also significantly climbing in the United States. In the past, parasitic infections have been identified through acute symptoms such as diarrhea and intense abdominal pain, but this seems to be changing. Interestingly, there is a growing number of incidences of infections that include milder and more chronic symptoms, including the following:
- Increased food allergies and/or allergic reactions
- Foul-smelling stools
- Hives, rashes, eczema, dermatitis, acne, inflammation, swelling
- Increased bacterial or viral infections
- Irregular bowel movements
- Irritable bowel syndrome
- Itchiness in ears, nose, and anus
- Loss of or increased appetite
- Low back pain
- Difficulty in losing or gaining weight
- Increased cravings for sugary foods, simple carbohydrates, alcohol
- Bleeding gums
- Restlessness, anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Sexual dysfunction
Natural Approach for Long-term Results
Though detection of parasites typically involves the laboratory analysis of multiple stool samples, if you suspect you might be dealing with a parasitic infection, there are a number of natural treatments that are safe and effective. The good thing about treating parasitic infections with a multi-phase natural approach is that it not only rids your body of these invaders, but it also addresses the underlying factors of the infestation in the first place. This means a process of complete internal overhaul and re-balancing our system to prevent future problems.
The first (and most important) step in treating a parasitic infection is feeding your body, while starving the parasites. Sounds tricky, but it’s actually quite simple and is how we should be eating in the first place.
It’s important to remember that the major cause of dysbiosis is a diet high in protein, fat, and sugar, and not enough fiber. When we clean up our diet we simultaneously cut off the parasites’ food supply. They don’t like high-fiber plant foods, such as green smoothies and juices, an abundance of veggies, low-glycemic fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
When we have a parasitic infection, they overtake our body and, in a sense, drive our cravings. They want to be in control and they want to be fed. They’re greedy and benefit only at our expense! Fortunately, we are smarter than these bad guys and get to choose what we eat. So why not eat well while starving them? This means cut out processed food, sugar, refined carbohydrates, unhealthy fats, and significant amounts of meat. Replace the parasite food with plant food.
Though eating a plant-based diet will help starve any parasites living in our body, there are some definite superstars when it comes to treating parasitic infections with food.
- Garlic: When eaten fresh, garlic has properties that are able to slow and kill over 60 types of fungus and 20 types of bacteria. Not only that, garlic is detoxifying and stimulates digestion, which is crucial for flushing out parasites. Crushed garlic can be added to veggie dishes and salad dressings, or even juiced if you’re brave!
- Cucumbers: Contain enzymes that kill tapeworms, are incredibly alkalinizing, and are a diuretic, which is important for flushing out toxins. Blend them into your green smoothies, eat an abundance in salads, or use them as a base of fresh green juices.
- Papaya: Papayas contain protein-dissolving enzymes that are crucial for starving parasites, especially in their seeds, which look and taste like peppercorns. When I put fresh papaya in my smoothies, I also blend some of the seeds.
- Clove: Contain eugenol and caryophyllene, which are powerful germicidal and antimicrobial agents. These properties travel through the bloodstream and destroy microscopic parasites, as well as their larvae and eggs. Cloves have an astringent flavor that might be an acquired taste for some, so start small and work your way up over time. Try adding a teaspoon of dried cloves to my Immune-boosting Tea.
- Pumpkin seeds: When eaten raw, pumpkin seeds contain curcurbitacin, which has anti-parasitic properties. Ancient chinese medicine has used pumpkin seeds to treat tapeworm infestations. Try them in my Bee-utiful Skin Smoothie, eat 1/4-1/2 cup sprinkled into salads, in homemade trail mixes, or eaten alone for a crunchy treat.
- Nutmeg: Also contains eugenol, which destroys parasites.
- Turmeric: Powerful anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting, and purifying food.
- Cayenne pepper: Increases circulation, boosts the immune system, and fights parasites.
- Ginger: Increases circulation, stimulates digestion, and helps relieve gas and nausea that is often associated with treating parasites. Turmeric, cayenne pepper, and ginger can all be found in my Immune-boosting Tea and can be added to a variety of plant-based dishes, smoothies, and juices.
Working on Phase One
As previously mentioned, treating parasitic infections involves a dietary overhaul and takes time. The primary focus of phase one is detoxifying our body while simultaneously starving and weakening the parasites. It’s important to stay in this phase for at least two weeks, though a month is ideal.
The next phase, which will be outlined in next week’s blog, is actually attacking the parasites when they are weak and vulnerable. Sounds a little evil, I know, but they are doing nothing for us but slowly eating away at our health, vibrance, and longevity. We deserve better than that, don’t we? So toss the sugar, processed foods, and high fat foods, etc. (aka parasite food), and start preparing yourself for phase two of the three-step plan. Don’t worry, the third phase is just maintenance. Start kissing those parasites good bye!
Murray, M.T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The encyclopedia of natural medicine. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.