Parasites and worms - deworming cleanses. How does it work? What's the safest way to do this?

Feb 13, 2023
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Worms in your belly - it’s the stuff of nightmares, right? However, a surprising number of health influencers are saying - even showing, in some cases - that many of us may be unwittingly harbouring parasites. They claim these parasites can cause bloating, fatigue, and other ills; a ‘parasite cleanse’ can cure these symptoms. What are parasite symptoms?

Parasites are any kind of organisms that live off of food from their host. They can be anything from microscopic single cells to intestinal worms measuring several feet long. Parasites can also live in various body parts, like the liver, brain, and intestines. The ones of TikTok fame are usually intestinal worms. After taking a cleanse, these worms are passed out in bowel movements. 

Not all parasites cause symptoms. Often, you may even ingest and pass parasites without being aware of it at all. Sometimes worms can cause symptoms such as:

  • Stomach pain
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Weight loss
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Itching
  • Constipation
  • Swollen lymph nodes

How do you know if you need a parasite cleanse?

The challenge with parasite symptoms is that they are all non-specific. This means they could easily be caused by late night pizza, poor sleep, stress, a new medication, and a million other reasons. They could also be a sign of something that requires medical attention, for example inflammatory bowel disease which is a condition that tends to show up in your 20’s and 30’s.

The only sure way to know if you really have parasites? Visit your doctor and give a stool sample to have it checked for parasites. 

How do you do a parasite cleanse?

If you do have confirmed parasites in your stool sample, your doctor will prescribe medication to help get rid of them. Commonly used deworming medicines are:

Mebendazole (Vermox) - a prescription pill 

  • The exact dose and regimen depends on the type of worm being treated

Pyrantel (Combantrin) - an over-the-counter pill or liquid

  • The exact dose and regimen depends on age and type of worm being treated

What is deworming?

You can think of deworming as a synonym for parasite cleanse. The idea is to kill off intestinal parasites - including all parasite eggs - over the course of several weeks. Medications typically work well at killing adult parasites. But, eggs can live on and even re-infect you by living on clothing, bedsheets, and unwashed hands after going to the bathroom. To make sure you truly deworm, make sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for any repeat medication doses (to kill off any parasites newly hatched from eggs). Also, wash clothing and bedsheets in hot water to kill off eggs.

What about ParaGuard?

ParaGuard is a herbal mix that is popular online as a do-it-yourself parasite cleanse. It contains walnut hull, wormwood, clove bud, pumpkin seed, fennel seed, and garlic bulb. Just because herbs might sound more “natural”, it doesn’t mean they are necessarily safer than any other medication. Herbal products can have side effects too. Before taking ParaGuard, check with a pharmacist to see if it’s suitable for you.

When is it not safe to do a parasite cleanse?

Generally speaking, you should only do a cleanse if you have confirmed parasites in a stool sample. It is best to only use deworming medication prescribed or recommended by your doctor or nurse practitioner. 

So, why not do a little cleanse just in case? Well, a couple actually. 

  • Symptoms like diarrhea, stomach pain, bloating could be signs of something serious. Instead of relying on a DIY cleanse, getting yourself checked out by a professional will make sure you get the right diagnosis and treatment as early as you can. 
  • All medications - including herbals and over-the-counter drugs - have side effects. There’s a chance you could put yourself at risk of dehydration from excessive cleansing, or even liver damage from adulterated products.  
  • The likelihood of getting parasites in day-to-day life is generally very low. More likely than not, you don’t have any worms or parasites to cleanse anyway. In developed countries, the incidence of intestinal worms is very low. 

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