12 Foods that May Fight Intestinal Parasites
Although it isn’t the most fun topic to talk about, at one time or another we may contract bugs in our bodies that cause undesirable symptoms. While the first line treatment of intestinal parasites is prescription medication, you can also help the body fight these pests naturally through a healthful diet.
The two main types of intestinal parasites are helminthes and protozoa. Helminths are worms such as tapeworms pinworms and roundworms. Protozoa are one-celled bugs such as giardia and cryptosporidium. Parasites (meaning they feed off their host) can live in the body for years without causing symptoms. The most common signs include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea or vomiting, gas or bloating, dysentery (loose stools containing blood and mucus, rash and itching, fatigue, and weight loss.
For the most part, living in the United States, we are at lower risk for contracting parasites than other areas of the world. The most common sources of parasites include poor sanitation (both food and water), undercooked meat or fish, and exposure to feces (human or animal). Children and those with weakened immune systems are particularly at risk.
Once diagnosed with a specific parasite, your doctor will prescribe a medication that may take care of the problem with one dose, or it may take several weeks. Take the medicine exactly as directed, or it may not work.
In addition to traditional medicine, you can also incorporate some dietary changes that can help rid the body of parasites. First, eliminate dietary sources of added sugar. Eat more whole grains, beans, and appropriately washed fruits and vegetables for fiber. Ask your doctor about taking a probiotic as this may help keep your digestive bacteria in check.
You may also want to incorporate these 12 anti-parasitic foods into your meal plans:
Chop fresh garlic to convert the phytochemical alliin to allicin, to which many of garlic’s health benefits are attributed. Allium sativa (garlic’s botanical name) has been found to have activity against roundworm, Giardia lamblia, and many other parasites. Try chopped garlic in a vegetable juice, on a side dish, or in a sandwich spread such as hummus.
Seeds are a great source of zinc, important for the function of the immune system. Pumpkin seeds may also help rid the body of tapeworms and roundworms. For the freshest seeds, remove the seeds from a pumpkin and expose them to air for a few days to dry them out. Try adding the raw seeds to salads or cereals or grind the seeds into a powder and add to a smoothie. If you prefer them baked, toss the seeds with oil and seasoning such as cinnamon, cloves or nutmeg – or even a sprinkle of plain salt.
Coconut contains lauric acid which is converted into monolaurin that kills or inactivates protozoa, including several species of ringworm and Giardia lamblia.
Pomegranates are high in antioxidants, potassium, vitamin C and a great source of fiber. The fruit has a sweet and sour flavor and can be used as a remedy for destroying worms in the intestinal tract. When in season (late summer to early winter), eat 1-3 per day.
This fruit has a strong capacity to destroy worms, including most intestinal worms and tapeworm. To enhance the anti-parasitic powers, remove the skin and soak in apple cider vinegar for one day. Then eat eight ounces of the “pickled” papaya and drink 2 ounces of the vinegar solution for 4 days.
The University of Maryland Medical Center suggests making a mixture of honey and papaya seeds which has been found to clear stools of parasites. Drink a lot of water to help flush the system.
Kulreet Chaudhary MD, a neurologist and practitioner of Ayurveda, suggests this papaya smoothie recipe: Take the seeds from an average size papaya and grind them in your blender. Next, add a tablespoon of organic virgin coconut oil. Then add about a cup of coconut milk and the rest of the papaya. Top it off with some organic honey and blend until smooth. Drink the smoothie each morning for at least 7 consecutive days.
Horseradish is effective against food borne illness and may be effective against some worms. When horseradish is cut, the powerful antibacterial ingredient allylisothiocyanate is released.
Always grate fresh horseradish in a room with an open window to avoid the stringent fumes burning your eyes and nose. A spoonful of fresh horseradish in soup adds a surprisingly mild but delicious flavor. For a sweet tangy sauce for fish or shrimp, mix grated horseradish with Dijon mustard and marmalade.
Thyme may help fight fungal infections. Regularly eat the sprigs of thyme and drink half a cup of thyme tea each morning and evening. For a dressing or marinade add fresh garlic and thyme to extra virgin olive oil and leave for 1 week.
Cayenne is a spice, closely related to the sweet red and chilli pepper, and widely used in Mexican and East Asian cuisines. Also known as Capsicum, its botanical name is derived from a Greek word meaning ‘to bite’. Start with small amounts before increasing quantities and it will help to repel parasites.
Bitter melon looks like an ugly cucumber. It is one of the most popular vegetables in Asia but an acquired taste for most westerners. In Chinese medicine, bitter foods drain ‘damp’ conditions such candida overgrowth and parasites.
Like garlic, onions release the enzyme alliinase when it is cut or crushed. For an anti parasitic tonic, juice the white part of green onions and add 2 teaspoons of sesame seed oil. Take twice a day on an empty stomach for 3 days.
Pineapple contains an enzyme called bromelain, which is anti-parasitic.
Beets and Carrots
Make a juice of these two vegetables, both of which have been used traditionally to kill parasites. Carrots in particular (as well as sweet potatoes and squash) contain beta-carotene, a precursor for vitamin A which is thought to increase resistance to penetration by larvae.
A Final Word
Many of these alternative methods have little research to prove they are truly effective against parasitic infections in the human body. However, most are healthful additions to the diet that offer many nutrients to support the immune system and digestive health. Talk with your doctor before trying any alternative medicine approaches to ensure that the foods will not interfere with medications prescribed.
The University of Maryland Medical Center
American Family Physician – Common Intestinal Parasites. Am Fam Physician. 2004 Mar 1;69(5):1161-1169.
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