Are you struggling with nagging fatigue, issues with your mood, aches and pains, weight that won’t stop piling on, or other chronic health issues? If you answered yes to any (or a few) of these, it may be time to consider a parasite cleanse.
We spoke to parasite expert and functional medicine practitioner Jess Peatross, MD, who believes that parasites are often the unknown mechanism behind many of our health issues. By doing a cleanse to eradicate them via bowel movements and sweating, we can regain optimal health.
What are parasites?
According to Dr. Peatross, parasites are foreign invaders that use a host (that’s you) for nutrition and survival — and they can drastically affect your health. There are three categories of parasites:
- Protozoa: These parasites are single-cell microscopic organisms that can multiply or divide within the host. They are transmitted from person to person through fecal matter, or through blood or insect bites. An example is the parasite Plasmodium which causes malaria or Babesia that causes babesiosis.
- Helminths: These are worm parasites that have been found to be able to activate herpes viral infections. They are larger, multi-celled organisms that may be visible to the naked eye. Examples are roundworms, pinworms, trichina spiralis, tapeworms, and flukes. It is estimated that HALF of the world’s population (over 3 billon people) are infected with at least one of three worms: round worm, hookworm, and whipworm
- Ectoparasites: These live on, rather than in, their hosts. Ectoparasites are also described as “blood-sucking arthopods.” Examples are lice, bed bugs, mosquitoes, and fleas.
How do you get parasites?
Though we don’t often hear about them, Dr. Peatross says that it’s fairly easy to contract parasites. “You can contract parasites through tap water, undercooked meat, raw produce, walking barefoot in certain areas, letting dogs lick you in the face, and eating sushi!” she explains. “Imbalances in the gut microbiome, poor diet, chronic stress, negative sleeping habits, unnecessary use of antibiotics, and other factors can also weaken your immune system and predispose you.” Yikes!
Symptoms of Parasites
The symptoms of parasites are very similar to other conditions, and so they often go undiagnosed and untreated. Dr. Peatross says that if you’re often dealing with one or more of the issues below, it could be time to talk to your doctor about parasites:
- Skin rashes such as eczema or hives
- Bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding
- Dairy sensitivity or lactose intolerance
- Migraines or chronic headaches
- Sleep issues such as insomnia and poor sleeping habits
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome or POTS, especially increasing at night
- Aches and pain; sore joints for no reason
- Weight loss, increased appetite, weight gain
- Abdominal pain, diarrhea, and vomiting
- Weakness and feeling unwell
- Deficiencies in nutrients, especially iron (anemia)
- Mitochondrial toxicity and fatigue
- Leaky gut and IBS
- Food cravings especially for sugar; insatiable hunger
- Low blood sugar or difficulty fasting
- Brain fog, anxiety, mood swings or depression
- Rectal or anal itching
Interestingly enough, Dr. Peatross also says that increased anxiety and insomnia during the full moon may indicate a parasitic infection. “While it sounds like woo woo science, it is true that many people’s symptoms ramp up around the full moon,” she says. “This is due to the parasites’ life cycle in which they are more active and reproducing during full moons.” These circadian rhythms affect all of us. During the full moon, we naturally produce less melatonin and more serotonin, which these pesky pathogens are attracted to. There are serotonin receptors on human cells and parasites as well, she explains. Parasitic worms use serotonin to help them move. When they have access to higher serotonin levels during the moon’s full phase, they can move around more freely.
How are parasites diagnosed?
When it comes to diagnosis, Dr. Peatross suggests seeing a functional medicine doctor to get a better idea of whether or not you have parasites. “Sadly, the [at-home] tests are lacking,” she says. “The sensitivity and specificity on an Ova and parasites stool test is abysmal. Even PCR or DNA based stool tests will miss these stealthy pathogens. They have evolved alongside of us so they are experts are hiding from most modern testing. Symptomatology is often the only way to test for parasites.”
Treating Parasites Naturally
Dr. Peatross emphasizes that doing a parasite cleanse (annually, if possible) is the best way to fight these sneaky invaders. There are medications that your doctor can prescribe to help get rid of parasites. But Peatross says a functional medicine practitioner can help you gently and safely remove the parasites using natural herbs.
When treating someone with parasites, Dr. Peatross says herbs and toxin binders are kinder to the body. But you must have energy, be able to sweat well, go to the bathroom, have normal bowel movements, and have proper bile movement prior to starting a detox.
“I go with herbs that focus on bringing the body back online so it can fight properly before a detox,” says Dr. Peatross. “Once the body is in homeostasis, it is ready to detox. I love Microbe Formulas and think they have the best supplements on the market which address root cause issues. This includes mimosa pudica seed, activated carbon binders, and even Ayurvedic herbs.”
Preparing for a Parasite Cleanse
Many people endeavor to do parasite cleanses on their own, but as mentioned, it’s definitely safer (and probably more effective) to enlist a medical professional to help you cleanse properly and reduce your risk of adverse reactions. Dr. Peatross asserts that ensuring that your body’s elimination pathways are working beforehand is essential to a healthy parasite cleanse.
“I prefer to ensure the patient is ready by checking that all their drainage pathways are working at tip top performance before diving right into ANY detox,” she emphasizes. “Opening drainage pathways prior to killing off the parasites ensures the patient does not have healing detox reactions, which occur if the body cannot release and dump the toxins it is killing and binding up. Prepping for the detox/cleanse by opening drainage pathways first can take one to two months, depending on how sick someone is in the beginning and how long they have been sick.”
How to Do a Parasite Cleanse
When your healthcare practitioner starts you on a parasite cleanse, you can expect to make some changes to your diet and will probably be asked to take some cleansing herbs in the form of supplements and perhaps even a probiotic.
As for your diet, you’ll want to avoid all foods that are processed and contain refined sugars, favoring foods that are minimally processed (as close to their natural state as possible) like fresh fruits and vegetables. Things like alcohol will also be off limits. Foods that are high in nutrients will help to keep your immune system strong during your cleanse, too. In addition, you’ll likely be asked to consume lots of fiber which will help with elimination during the process.
A parasite cleanse can last two weeks, a month, or in certain cases, even longer. Some practitioners will have you cycle between cleansing for a few weeks and taking a few weeks off of your supplements to maximize the benefits.
Benefits of a Parasite Cleanse
According to Dr. Peatross, it’s estimated that as much as 70 percent of people suffer from parasitic infestations without ever knowing it. Doing a cleanse can not only help eliminate all those symptoms we mentioned, but also help to restore your health long term. “Parasites are a root cause of chronic, preventable diseases, so I have been able to reverse autoimmune conditions such as Hashimoto’s, eczema, and irritable bowel syndrome,” she says. “You can also halt migraines in their tracks, reverse lactose intolerance, and improve clarity of thought. So many of my patients have chronic fatigue due to issues like lyme or parasites that reversing the root cause issue can be life changing.”
There you have it. If you’ve been struggling with a number of chronic health issues and have yet to find any answers, talk to your doctor and a functional medicine expert about doing a parasite cleanse. Addressing parasites as the root cause beneath them could give you a brand new lease on life.
This article originally appeared on our sister site, First For Women.