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Parasite Testing 101: A Complete Guide

Medically reviewed by 
 
Parasite Testing 101: A Complete Guide

Worldwide, parasite infections impact the health of many people. In fact, one-fourth of all infectious diseases are caused by parasitic infections. While there are medications to treat many parasites, the rising number of emerging parasite species, the increase in immunocompromised people, and the increase in life expectancy have all drawn attention to a need for a holistic approach to combating this health concern.

Functional medicine, which takes a whole-person root cause approach, can often resolve long-standing health concerns. Working with a practitioner that will utilize functional stool analysis, and evidence-based natural protocols, while monitoring your status can be a therapeutic approach to a parasite cleanse.

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What Are The Most Common Parasites Humans Are Infected With?

There are two main classes of parasites to consider when concerned about cleansing parasites from the body. These are Protozoa and Helminths:

Protozoa

These are single-celled organisms that are transmitted to humans through a fecal-oral route or arthropod vector (Ex: mosquito bite). Some of the most common protozoa infections are Giardia, Cryptosporidium, and Entamoeba histolytica.

Helminths

These are multicellular worm parasites consisting of Roundworms, Flukes, and Tapeworms. The most common transmission route is through contaminated soil, which can infect humans through direct contact or poor sanitary practice. The most common helminth infection is Ascaris, a roundworm that infects 807-1,121 million people worldwide. While highly prevalent in impoverished countries, it is uncommon to have a serious Ascaris infection in the United States due to modern-day sanitation and hygiene.

What Causes Parasite Infections?

Parasites infect the human body via four main routes:

  • Consumption of contaminated produce and undercooked meats
  • Insect vectors
  • Sexual transmitted
  • Skin, nose, or mouth passage

Signs & Symptoms of Parasite

In a healthy microbiome, a symbiotic relationship can occur between you and parasites, which can mean that we often may not know we have parasites. Other times, you may have a variety of gastrointestinal or system symptoms present, which could include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Diarrhea, constipation, or gas
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Eczema, hives, or chronic urticaria
  • Fatigue
  • Teeth grinding in your sleep
  • Nutrient deficiencies
  • Anxiety
  • Rectal itchiness
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Weight loss
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Visible worms in your stool

Parasite Testing

Your conventional medicine doctor can run an O&P fecal test, which will microscopically detect if ova or parasites are present in your stool. A more specific way to test for parasites is through a comprehensive stool analysis that looks for specific parasites and other pathogens. Here are three stool analysis tests we recommend for detecting parasites and overall microbiome health.

GI Effects Comprehensive Profile-3 day

This test by Genova Diagnostics analyzes stool from a 3-day collection sample. It tests for 31 parasites and can detect other parasites that are not specifically listed. What is great about this test is that it also evaluates other areas of your health by examining five key areas of GI function: Maldigestion, Inflammation, Dysbiosis, Metabolite Imbalance, and Infection. Results include a Functional Imbalance Score, which helps your practitioner determine the best therapeutic plan for you.

GI-MAP

Like the GI Effects test, this analysis will also detect common parasites and other gut pathogens. One unique aspect of this test is that it quantifies the pathogens present, which can be helpful when retesting after treatment.

Parasitology- 3 Day

If you are looking for a straightforward parasite test, Doctor's Data has a parasite profile test. This tests for over two dozen common parasites. This test is adequate if you want to know if parasites are present, but it does not give quantitative results or overall microbiome health information.

How to Do a Parasite Cleanse

Holistic medicine practitioners assist patients with parasite cleanses using complementary and alternative therapies. While there is no one way to do a parasite cleanse, there are generalities that one should follow. Some companies provide parasite cleanse protocols and supplements, which should be done under the care of an educated practitioner. Common parasite cleanses include detoxification support, herbal supplements, and dietary recommendations.

Detoxification

Leading up to a parasite cleanse, you'll want to ensure that your organs of detoxification are working correctly. Emunctories, which are your organs of elimination and detoxification, will assist in ridding parasites from the body. These include the bowels, kidneys, lungs, and skin. Before any cleanse, it is recommended that these are all functioning properly.

Clinically speaking, signs of properly working organs of elimination include daily bowel movements, appropriate urine output, proper breathing, and the ability to sweat. If these are not working properly, supporting these bodily functions would be a priority before beginning a cleanse.

During a parasite cleanse, healthy bowel movements are especially crucial because defecation is the route in which parasites will be eliminated from your body. Working with a holistic practitioner would be the best way to formulate a detoxification plan for a parasite cleanse.

Bowel Support

Making sure you have daily bowel movements, with complete evacuation, is vital in eliminating parasites from your body. Natural products that can aid in bowel motility are magnesium, vitamin C, and fiber-rich foods like whole grains, legumes, spinach, broccoli, and berries.

Dietary Implications

Like many invading pathogens, parasites thrive on sugars, processed foods, and alcohol. Reducing your intake of these inflammatory foods while maintaining a whole-food anti-inflammatory diet can help your body reduce its parasitic load. Depending on your situation and comprehensive gut microbiome testing, your practitioner may recommend The Microbiome Diet, which can improve your overall health and gut flora.

While parasite cleansing, it is essential to drink enough water to flush the body. A good rule of thumb is to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water daily (for example, if you weigh 150 lbs, aim for 75 ounces or more of water daily).

Natural Products That Kill Parasites

There are a few reputable companies that functional medicine doctors utilize for combination herbal products that help rid the body of parasites. While these products have been clinically effective, only a few of the botanicals in these products have evidence-based literature available.

On average, intake of botanicals intended for a parasite cleanse ranges from 3 days to 10 days of use. Some protocols may be longer depending on your lab results and your practitioners' recommendations. Here are five of the top botanicals you could use in a parasite cleanse:

Artemisia

The shrub plant Artemisia has multiple species that have been effective at eradicating parasitic infections. Artemisia absinthium, commonly known as Wormwood, is one species used to treat helminth infections. This review of the plant revealed a study that looked at the use of Wormwood in patients with intestinal amoebiasis. After 15 weeks of 500mg capsules (three times a day), 70% of the participants had completely eradicated these parasites.

Papaya seed

This tropical fruit has shown therapeutic benefits in treating parasitic infections. While it is not recommended to implement social media medical advice without your doctor's input, the viral TikTok antiparasitic seed, Papaya seed, has some clinical evidence in treating infections.

A study used an elixir made of air-dried Papaya seed and honey to treat 60 children with evidence of intestinal parasites. After one week of treatment, there was a 76.7% clearance rate of parasites amongst the participants taking the elixir. This was significantly more effective in comparison to honey alone. While these are promising results, further studies on papaya seeds' antiparasitic properties are needed.

Holarrhena antidysenterica

The bark of this Ayurvedic medicinal plant has been used for centuries to treat many ailments, including parasitic infections. In a clinical study testing therapeutic intervention against Entamoeba Histolytica, a proprietary herbal blend containing Holarrhena antidysenterica resulted in improvement in all of the patients taking this blend. Symptoms that improved included decreased watery stool, improved bowel movements, reduced nausea and vomiting, and weight loss.

Mimosa Pudica and Black Walnut

These two natural sources both have historical evidence for treatment against parasitic infections. There is theoretical evidence of the constituent Juglone from black walnut being helpful in killing parasites. Mimosa Pudica has also shown promising results in-vitro. While some holistic practitioners may recommend these as part of your parasite cleanse, evidence-based research is still needed.

Maintenance Care

Probiotics can help ward off parasitic infections by disrupting their lifecycle. While there is limited evidence on probiotic use as a treatment against parasites, the use of probiotics for microbiome diversity is well documented and clinically used. In theory, creating a healthy microbiome can help keep parasitic infections at bay.

How Do I know If the Parasite Cleanse is Working

There are three ways to know if a parasite cleanse is working: two subjective and one objective measurement. Parasite cleansing can open your eyes to many things, one being how many odd things end up in your stool! If you are brave enough to inspect your stool, you may see actual worms that have died off.

Some parasites are microscopic, so this subjective evaluation is not 100% accurate on whether or not the cleanse has been successful. Symptom reduction is also a sign that you are benefitting from the cleanse. Many people report feeling more energized, have less brain fog, or experience fewer gastrointestinal symptoms like bloating. An objective way to know if the cleanse has been successful is to retest. You'll want to retest using the same test you initially used for the most accurate evaluation.

Summary

Parasite cleanses are a hot topic right now, rightfully so, as many people suffer from signs and symptoms that could be due to a parasitic infection. If you have multiple symptoms of a parasitic infection, have investigated other causes with no resolution, or know you've been exposed to contaminated food, water, or soil, then a parasite cleanse may be right for you.

While a parasite cleanse can be helpful as a maintenance protocol, we highly recommend you seek professional guidance. Thorough testing and an individualized protocol is a way to ensure you have all the information and tools you need for complete healing.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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