Parasites: Symptoms, Causes and Ayurvedic Treatment

parasiteAlthough the thought of parasites is both terrifying and rarely talked about here in the US, parasitical infection is said to be undeniably prevalent, affecting millions of people here in America (and much more worldwide!).  Unfortunately, due to the lack of knowledge on this issue, many infections go misdiagnosed or undiagnosed, causing a wide variety of chronic symptoms that seem to have no cure.  Luckily, parasitical infection or “Krumi” as it is called, is all too common in the world of Ayurveda, and through a detailed examination they can be readily diagnosed and properly treated.

According to Ayurveda, the main cause of parasites is a weak digestive fire (Agni).  Therefore, many people may be exposed to these pathogens; however, the individuals that will become most affected by them will be limited to those that have a weak Agni or digestion to begin with.  This also means that when treating parasites, you not only need to kill off the infection, but equally as important will be increasing the digestive force and reestablishing healthy gut flora. 

Although this may be the main cause of parasites, there are indeed many ways to become susceptible to infection.  Here is a non-exhaustive list of some common ways to contract parasites:               

Common Causes of Parasites:
  • Traveling to a third world country
  • Poor diet high in sugar, refined grains, unhealthy fats and processed foods
  • Prescription medications including frequent use of antibiotics, steroids or birth control
  • Chronic stress (weakens digestion and immunity)
  • Drinking water from a contaminated creek, lake, river, ocean or pool
  • Contaminated foods including raw meat or unwashed fruits and veggies
  • Improper hand washing after elimination
  • Exposure from a pet (usually through fecal matter)
  • Lowered immunity

Since parasites can infect virtually all areas of the body, the list of symptoms come in a wide variety to say the least.   These tiny invaders can infect numerous areas including the colon, small intestine, blood, mucosal lining, brain, liver, kidneys, bladder, muscles, skin, joints, eyes, and beyond.  This is partially due to which parasite you are dealing with, and secondly involves which areas of your unique body and genetic make-up have a weakened space (known as kavaigunya), therefore welcoming invasion. 

Here is a non-exhaustive list of common symptoms to look out for if you suspect a potential parasitical infection.  Of course the more you are saying “yes” to on this list, the more likely the infection.  Alternatively, if you only have one or two “yeses” on this list, I would do more investigating before jumping to any conclusions.  As you will see, these symptoms can be caused by many different disorders, making detection not always so obvious. 

Common Symptoms of Parasites:
  • Chronic gas and bloating
  • Intestinal cramping
  • IBS-like symptoms
  • Diarrhea and/or constipation
  • Hyperacidity
  • Peptic ulcer or gastritis
  • Chronic inflammation in the GI tract
  • Increased or decreased hunger
  • Chronic fatigue or weakness
  • Malabsorption of nutrients
  • Change of mood
  • Anxiety, depression, irritability
  • Mental fog
  • Dizziness
  • Anemia
  • Insomnia or trouble with sleep
  • Rectal or vaginal itching
  • Unexplained rash, hives or skin irritation/inflammation
  • Aching muscles and/or joints
  • Unexplained headaches
  • Recurring yeast infection or UTI
  • Heavy coating on the tongue
  • Teeth marks on the perimeter of the tongue (sign of malapsorption)
  • Long lines on the nails (sign of malapsorption)
  • Brittle nails 
  • Puffy, redness around nails
  • White spots on the nails 
  • Chronic allergies
  • Lowered immunity
  • Eye floaters

If you suspect you have a parasitical infection, it may be helpful to get tested by your Western doctor.  However, a negative stool sample does not negate the presence of parasites, since they can infect may different areas of the body.  Additionally, some tests only can detect living, active parasites and are not able to read the ones that can lay dormant in the system. 

Therefore, if you are experiencing many of these symptoms listed above, it may be beneficial to see a knowledgeable Ayurvedic Practitioner to get a professional diagnosis and to guide you through a proper treatment protocol safely and effectively.  As with most treatments in Ayurveda, this traditional medicine provides a holistic, non-invasive, non-toxic approach to parasitical infection; however, due to the die-off effect that often accompanies treatment, the symptoms may get worse before they get better.  This makes having a professional guide all the more necessary for such a serious issue. 

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Ayurvedic Treatment for Parasites

Dietary Tips For Parasites:

An anti-parasitical diet must be extremely strict in order to ensure proper, effective treatment.  Simply taking the herbs without changing the diet will not be enough, as these invaders are not easy to remove.  The more you eat a poor diet, the more the parasites will continue to thrive in your system.  So if you are serious about finding permanent relief, it is essential to go for it 100%.  The amount of time can vary, but I would recommend at least 3-6 months of implementing these very strict dietary changes, depending on the severity of the invasion.   

Foods to Avoid:
  • All refined sugar
  • About 95% natural sugars including fruit, honey, agave, maple syrup, coconut sugar and so on
  • All refined grains
  • Starches
  • Processed foods
  • Dairy (a small amount of plain yogurt or kefir is alright for those that do not have a dairy allergy)
  • Unhealthy fats such as trans-fat and saturated fats (coconut oil is an exception)
Foods to Favor:   
  • Bitter green veggies
  • Papaya and pineapple (beneficial for worms)
  • Coconut oil
  • Bitter gourd (available in Indian and Asian shops)
  • Digestive spices such as agni churna, turmeric, ginger, fennel, coriander, black pepper, trikatu, cloves, cayenne pepper (in moderation) and cinnamon
  • Cilantro or cilantro juice
  • Unsweetened cranberry juice and pomegranate juice
  • Garlic and green onion
  • Apple cider vinegar (avoid for Pitta types)
  • Healthy, unsweetened probiotics such as plain kefir and yogurt (if lactose intolerant, avoid all dairy!)
  • 100% whole grains (in small amounts); for severe cases grains may need to be avoided altogether
General dietary tips:
  • Eat organic, whole foods
  • Include lots of colorful veggies and other antioxidant rich foods in the daily diet
  • Eat meals at their proper times
  • Do not skip meals
  • Avoid eating past 7pm
  • Favor home cooked meals, limit eating out
  • Cook your meat thoroughly
  • Wash your fruits and veggies thoroughly
  • Drink lots of warm water between meals
  • Avoid chilled or iced beverages

Lifestyle Tips For Parasites:

Having a healthy, consistent lifestyle is important for any anti-parasitical protocol, and should be quite strict during the initial phase of extermination.  The proper self-care practices along with an organized daily routine will be necessary to keep the body and mind strong, reduce stress levels and boost the digestion and immunity.       

1. Begin each morning with 16 ounces of hot lemon water:

This simple practice helps to hydrate the body and flush out the system each morning upon awakening.  The lemon targets the cleansing of the liver and provides enzymes and Vitamin C to strengthen the digestion and immunity respectively.   If desired one can add 1 tsp of Apple Cider Vinegar instead of the lemon, although I do not recommend this for Pitta types or those with a Pitta imbalance.

2. Exercise Regularly:

Exercise is a great way to get the body moving and blood flowing, helping to dislodge any deep-rooted parasites.  The sweating that exercise encourages is great for detoxifying and debugging the system as well.  Of course exercise is a great way to boost your immune system, reduce stress, balance your mood and increase the digestive fire as well.  Ideally I would suggest getting about 30 minutes of movement in each day.  This can be a walk, hike, bike, cardio at the gym, exercise class, swimming, or what ever feels good to you.  Avoid excessive or intense exercise however, as this will be more depleting than beneficial and can actually worsen the symptoms and lower the immunity. 

3. Sweat Routinely:

Sweating is a powerful way to promote detoxification.  The best methods for this are either a sauna, steam room, or taking a ginger-baking soda bath.  Exercise is also beneficial, but some methods of passive sweating should be incorporated as this provides a different effect.  I would suggest applying one of these methods 3-5 days each week depending on the severity of the infection.  If you are performing a parasitical cleanse, sweating should be done each day starting 5-7 days prior to the cleanse and every day of the cleanse as well!

Purchase our Ginger Bath Blend here.

4. Abhyanga (oil massage):

The Ayurvedic oil massage carries many health benefits including removing deep-rooted pathogens and toxins from the system.  This is a major part of any cleanse and it is no different when cleansing the body from parasites.  In order to remove the bugs and the toxins they produce, it is important that they are not emerged in an organ or traveling through the blood stream, but rather in the GI tract where they can be easily removed (through purgation).  Perform a full body massage daily during any parasitical cleanse (and 5-7 days pre-cleanse), and at least 3 times a week for general anti-parasitical treatment.  For best results it is recommended to use a medicated oil such Vata Oil, Pitta Oil or Kapha Oil, depending on your needs.      

Read more on the Ayurvedic Oil Massage here.

5. Get Proper Sleep:

Sleep is the governor of all we do and our state health as a whole.  In order to strengthen the immunity and the system to overpower the parasites, it is essential to be getting an adequate amount of sleep each night.  This means not only getting the 7-8 hours of restful sleep, but also sleeping at the appropriate times.  According to research, the best time for sleep is between 10pm and 2am.  Therefore to get the most nourishing and rejuvenating sleep, you should be in bed and asleep by 10pm each night, especially during such an intense treatment program.

6. Reduce Stress Levels:

Stress is a major cause of all disease, even parasitical infection.  It weakens our immunity and our digestion, two of the main reasons our body becomes susceptible to infection in the first place.  In order to really have an effective treatment, it will be essential to reduce the daily stressors in your life, in order to strengthen the body enough to keep the parasites away for good.  Luckily, most of these other practices that have been mentioned (exercise, etc) are all amazing tools for stress reduction as well.  Here are some other ways to reduce your stress load each day:

  • Create a healthy, consistent daily routine
  • Organize you daily agenda
  • Organize your work and home space
  • Take a Yoga class 2-5 days a week
  • Meditate daily, even for just 5 minutes
  • Take 10 deep breaths, three times a day
  • Go for walks
  • Get out to nature
  • Journal
  • Dance and sing
  • Practice the above recommendations #2-#5 regularly

Herbal Treatment for Parasites:

Herbs are a much needed necessity when it comes to a holistic anti-parasitical protocol.  Although they will not do much good on their own, taking the proper herbal therapies while implementing these diet and lifestyle changes is a powerful and effective way to become parasite-free while avoiding the harsh anti-parasitical medications that are used in Western medicine.  Just as the other recommendations must be consistent, the herbs too will need to be taken consistently in order to utilize their full potential.  In order to really find the specialized herbal treatment that is right for you, it is highly recommended to seek out a knowledgable Ayurvedic Practitioner to set you up with a balanced, non-invasive herbal program.   

**Remember, the more intense the herbs, the more likely they can lead to a die-off reaction.  Therefore it is always recommended to implement the diet and lifestyle changes in before slowly introducing the herbal therapies. 

1. Daily Herbal Formula:

Any holistic anti-parasitical treatment will undoubtably need a balanced, yet powerful herbal formula to kill off the bugs, flush them out of the system, remove toxins, reduce inflammation and increase the overall digestion (Agni).  The formula itself may vary depending on the needs of the individual, their doshic type and their unique symptoms.  This can be obtained in an Individual Ayurvedic Consultation, an Herbal Consult or one can take the generally cleansing (and anti-parasitical) Daily Detox Formula that we offer here.    

Read more about our Daily Detox Formula here.

2. Tikta Ghrita:

Tikta Ghrita, also known as bitter ghee is an essential part of any detox program including a parasitical cleanse.  The bitter herbs used in this traditional formula are cleansing, cooling and anti-microbial/anti-parasitical by nature.  This medicated ghee is specific for detoxifying both the liver and the blood, while increasing digestion and promoting the elimination of toxins from the GI tract.  This ghee is taken in larger dosages before and during the parasitical cleanse program, although it is also effective when taken in smaller dosages for a long-term anti-parasitical program.

Read more about Tikta Ghrita here. 

3. Triphala Churna:

Triphala Churna is the traditional powdered formula that is often thought of as an Ayurvedic panacea.  Taking these herbs on a daily basis during a parasitical cleanse will help to continuously flush out the GI tract, strengthen and cleanse the liver and blood, increase the digestive fire, promote elimination, boost immunity and rejuvenate the system.  This formula provides an incredible amount of Vitamin C and therefore is a potent antioxidant source, both of which are extremely important for the body during a parasitical infection.    

Purchase Triphala Churna here. 

4. Castor Oil Therapy:

Castor oil is used both internally and externally in Ayurveda for many different purposes.  The main purpose to take this oil when treating parasites is for the purgative (strong laxative) action it provides.  However, this treatment should only be administered during a detox program, as other therapies and dietary restrictions should be in order to ensure safe and effective elimination of the parasites.  Therefore, I do not recommend this particular treatment unless you are in the guidance of a knowledgeable Ayurvedic Practitioner. 

Read about our Ayurvedic Cleanse Consultation.

5. Herbal Enema (Basti):

The Ayurvedic herbal enema therapy known as Basti is highly effective in the treatment of general parasites, especially if the invasion is located in the colon or in the blood.  The best herbal mixture for this will be to use the traditional Dashamul tea enema, while adding in some Vidanga, Ayurveda’s most potent anti-parasitical herb.  This creates a direct dosage of these herbs into the colon where they then get absorbed into the blood stream.  The herbal enema also promotes flushing out of the colon itself and removing any constipation that may occur during the treatment of parasites (due to the die-off effect). 

Basti is considered a specialized treatment and should be done with the guidance of a practitioner.  This guide will provide you with the proper amounts of herbs to use, how to make the decoction and how often to perform this therapy during your parasitical treatment or parasitical cleanse.

Purchase our Herbal Enema Kit here.        

6. Parasitical Cleanse Program:

An at-home parasitical cleanse program is a great way to expedite the elimination of parasites in the body.  However, this powerful method should be introduced after the proper dietary changes have been implemented and some pre-cleansing herbs have been taken for at least one month prior to the cleanse.  This will begin the cleansing process ahead of time and therefore reduce the probability of a die-off reaction during the parasitical cleanse program. 

A parasitical cleanse is similar to an Ayurvedic cleanse in the sense of taking the proper herbs throughout each day, performing oiliation therapy, daily sweating, and allowing time for rest.  The main differences will be that you should eat a mono-diet of kitchari, but replacing the basmati rice with a better option such as quinoa.  For extreme cases, I would further suggest taking the grains away all together, as the parasites love carbs (especially refined) as they are converted into sugar.  The other differences would be to add in the castor oil purgation therapy and  basti, the herbal enema therapy.  Once again these are considered specialized therapies that should only be administered with the guidance of a knowledgeable Ayurvedic Practitioner.            

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