Eating for One: Eliminating Harmful Parasites (Phase III)
Our gastrointestinal tract is a complex ecosystem, containing “good” bacteria, or probiotics, that are essential for our overall health and optimal digestion. However, when the bad guys outnumber the good guys, they cause physical trauma to our intestines, eat away at our body’s vitamin and mineral reserves, and create toxic byproducts.
Living with chronic dysbiosis takes a significant toll on our overall energy and health and prevents us from reaping all the benefits of the healthy food we eat. When our digestion is impaired, this means we’re not getting the most out of our food, so we must address the underlying cause. For many, this means eliminating harmful parasites.
As outlined in my two previous blogs, the first two steps to treating parasitic infections involve eliminating foods that parasites feast on, including sugary, processed, and high fat foods, then attacking the infection with parasite-ridding herbs, such as black walnut, wormwood, cloves, barberry, oregon grape root, and burdock. For the sake of convenience, I recommend a prepared, encapsulated formula such as HUMAWORM. This brand is a favorite of mine because it’s a 30-day treatment, uses organic herbs, and is, most importantly, affordable.
Though I mentioned the importance of following a specific diet in the two previous phases, I wholeheartedly believe this is the most important part, so I must again reiterate. When researching herbal remedies for treating parasitic infections, many will indicate that a change in diet is not required. Keep in mind that while an herb may serve its therapeutic purpose regardless of diet, the basis of treating any ailment with natural alternatives is bringing our body back into balance, maintaining homeostasis, and preventing future reoccurrences. If we don’t identify and remove the underlying factors, we are not experiencing true health. The fundamental cause of dysbiosis is a diet high in sugar and fat and lacking fiber. With that said, we must address this root cause by eating a diet high in fiber and low in sugar and fat, which is exactly what a plant-based diet provides.
Phase III: Maintenance and Prevention
Once you’ve done all the hard work in phases one and two, and are therefore finally free of parasites, it’s equally important to prevent a reoccurrence. This involves understanding how humans get parasites in the first place. As mentioned previously, we all have microorganisms living inside our body. The problem is that, when we do become a host for parasites, our diet, which is often high in fat and sugar, and low in fiber, feeds the parasites and causes dysbiosis. Phase III really involves understanding how we’re exposed to parasites, and making changes to avoid a re-infestation. Some of the following causes might surprise you:
Contaminated Water: Water is the most common way humans come in contact with parasites. Bodies of water, including lakes, rivers, and streams, are infected with the Giardia Lambia. Studies have confirmed that this parasite cannot be killed with chlorine and is commonly found in tap water. We can even become infected with parasites when we swim in a contaminated body of water and accidentally swallow even a very small amount.
Other Humans: Most parasite infections come from the anal-oral route, which, unfortunately and disturbingly, is incredibly easy to transfer from one human to another. Parasites can live under human fingernails, even after thoroughly washing our hands, for up to two months. With all the common objects we come in contact with on a daily basis - doorknobs, restaurant menus, gas pumps, cash, the copy machine at work, etc. - it’s no wonder over 90% of the human population has a parasitic infection! Infections can also come from kissing, holding hands, sharing eating utensils, and sexual contact. If any of your loved ones is a parasite host, it is highly likely that you’re infected too.
Animals: Yes, this includes our beloved pets that we often consider our children with their humanistic qualities and silly, toddler-like tendencies.
Our pets can spread 240 diseases to humans through parasites alone. When we rub, snuggle, groom, and kiss our pets, they are transferring parasite eggs to their new host. Do you let your dog or cat sleep in your bed? If so, the possibility of parasite transmission is even higher. Another common way of parasite contraction is walking barefoot on areas where an animal has defecated, even if we can’t see the actual feces.
Meats: Undercooked meats, especially commercial pork products, are notorious for parasite infections. Sushi also contains eggs and larvae of several parasite species.
Fruits and Vegetables: Unwashed fruits and vegetables are a source of parasites, especially if imported from countries where animal manure is used as fertilizer.
Travel: Now that so many people travel out of the country regularly, Americans are seeing an increase of parasites being brought home from these worldly travels. The influx of refugee and immigrant populations is also a source of parasite exposure.
Now that we know how easy it can be to come in contact with parasites, don’t worry too much about getting rid of your pets, never eating at a restaurant again, and/or becoming a prisoner in an anti-bacterial home. Here are some simple tips to minimize exposure:
- Filter your drinking water at home and don’t drink the water when camping or while traveling in foreign countries. Choose bottled water during these times and filter your water when home if possible.
- When out in public and using common areas, avoid putting your hands in your mouth or touching your face. When going out to dinner, wash your hands thoroughly prior to eating.
- Worm your pets at least once a year, though twice is ideal. Do not walk barefoot where animals have been known to defecate.
- Thoroughly cook all meats, and stay away from raw meats, including sushi. Cold cuts, including hot dogs, should also be avoided.
- Thoroughly wash all fruits and veggies, even if organic, before eating.
- Eat a diet high in fiber and low in fat and sugar. This includes plenty of fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Avoid processed food, including high fat and sugary junk. Parasites love this stuff!
- Complete the first two phases of my outlined parasite cleanse once or twice a year.
Murray, M.T., & Pizzorno, J. (2012). The encyclopedia of natural medicine. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster, Inc.