By definition, parasites are organisms that live inside a host and intercept nutrients, essentially leaving you with just the leftovers...and maybe some nutritional deficiencies, too. No matter how healthy you eat, these uninvited and uunwelcome guests prevent you from getting all the essential vitamins and minerals from the food you eat.
Dealing with parasites is something you can do safely from home, as long as you have the right protocol and supplements. Even “healthy” people (those not experiencing uncomfortable, daily symptoms) can choose to perform a parasite cleanse in their search for optimal health. Generally, these people need to do parasite cleansing for about 90 days, while those with more complicated infections or chronic illnesses may need to extend their cleanse for much longer.
Since there are so many different types of parasites, the symptoms they produce are varied. Tapeworms, for example, cause very different symptoms than roundworms or hookworms.
Often, digestive issues are a sign that you might be a parasite host. If you have unexplained diarrhea, bloating, gas, or constipation, you are wise to look into clearing parasites out of your GI tract or bile duct.
Some other symptoms of a parasite infection include the following:
- Skin rashes
- Itching, especially rectally at night
- Teeth grinding
- Unexplained aches and pains in either joints or muscles
- Food sensitivities
- Chemical sensitivities
- Brain fog
- Fatigue, lethargy
- Mood disorders
- Stomach pain, tenderness, or cramping
- Weight loss
Die-Off Symptoms and How to Combat Them
When a targeted “eradication agent” is introduced into the body, parasites die. They release inflammatory toxins that alert your body to expel them as fast as possible. This can be uncomfortable, but as long as you’re prepared and have the right tools in the house to deal with these die-off symptoms, you’ll have a much easier time.
Parasites can release neurotoxins, heavy metals, viruses, and other toxins when they die, which enter into the interstitial fluid that surrounds the tissue cells. These toxins then travel to the lymphatic system, which helps filter your body’s waste. Next, they head to the spleen, lymph nodes, or liver to be further filtered, and then sent to other drainage organs (like your kidneys, bladder, colon, or even your breath and skin).
The trouble is, especially if you’re chronically ill, some of these detoxification organs can be blocked. This means the toxins can recirculate in the body as they wait to be detoxified, and that’s a substantial contributor to die-off symptoms.
At times, it's necessary to endure die-off symptoms, because the very thing causing the blocked drainage pathways is often the parasites themselves. Parasites love to take up residence in the liver and bile duct, and many of the other elimination organs, as well. The more you work on parasite elimination, the more these reactions may ease up.
Headaches are one of the most common symptoms of any kind of detox. They can occur as your body adjusts to your parasite cleansing diet (avoiding caffeine and sugar), or because of parasite activity in your head. Sometimes, these parasite die-off headaches can co-occur with sensitivity to light and nausea.
Try applying some frankincense essential oil or WO China Healing oil on your temples, across your forehead, and on the back of your neck. Make sure you’re well-hydrated, as headaches can easily worsen due to dehydration.
Adding the juice of half a lemon to your water gives your immune system a boost of vitamin C helps to balance the acidity in your body. Richard Horowitz, MD, a well-known Lyme doctor, also recommends taking two tablets of Alka-Seltzer Gold to help reduce the effects of a Herxheimer reaction.
SYMPTOM: Aches and Pains
Another very common and uncomfortable die-off symptom is an aching body. Your muscles, joints, or even organs may hurt as a result of your body eliminating toxic waste while parasites die.
Try adding Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) to your bath water. An Epsom salt bath can help pull toxins from the skin, and also replenishes the magnesium in your body, one of the first things you burn through during stress.
Fatigue is one of the most frequent complaints during parasite cleansing. It’s tough on your body to process and eliminate the toxins released when killing parasites, so be gentle with yourself. Most people begin to regain vitality and energy after spending some time on the parasite protocol.
Sleep is vital, not only for fighting fatigue, but also for giving your body the time and space it needs for healing. Be sure to get 8-10 hours of sleep, if possible. Go easy on the exercise, and replace your cardio or kickboxing with some gentle yin yoga or stretching, at least until your body has had some time to recover. B vitamins can also help combat fatigue.
SYMPTOM: Skin Rashes
Skin is an organ of elimination, and sometimes your body tries to eliminate toxins through it. You might experience rashes, skin sores, flare-ups of eczema or psoriasis, dry skin, or a number of other rash-like symptoms. The good news, though, is that these typically resolve on their own in just a few days.
Dry skin brushing is a good way to stimulate your lymphatic system and also slough off that dead, toxin-containing skin. Use a firm brush with natural bristles, and always brush toward your heart. It’s best to skin brush once or twice a day, ideally before a shower. Additionally, coconut oil with some tea tree oil is a great way to help your skin rashes heal a bit faster.
SYMPTOM: Emotional and Neurological Disorders
Many parasitic infections, like Toxoplasma gondii, can be responsible for disorders like OCD and generalized anxiety. Additionally, certain neurological symptoms can flare during a parasite die-off reaction. In a 2013 study published in JAMA Neurology took cerebrospinal fluid at the peak of a 55-year-old man’s Herxheimer reaction, and found elevated cytokines (particularly interleukins), which returned to normal when the reaction was finished. These substances, released by white blood cells, help stimulate an immune response (including inflammation) in response to a trigger or toxin. Though it’s challenging to foster this mindset, bear in mind that die-off symptoms mean that your body is working hard to eliminate the toxins for you. Sometimes, you just have to ride through the resulting anxiety or depression. (1)
EFT is a wonderful tool for processing emotional trauma. You can also look into programs like Gupta and DNRS, which help you rewire trauma loops in your limbic system without the use of supplements or drugs. Braintap is another great resource for working through temporary anxiety due to parasite die-off. It’s a set of headphones and “glasses” you can use to listen to relaxing meditations and visualizations. The light, tones, and “auriculotherapy” (trigger points in your ears activated by frequencies) all work together to create a relaxing experience.
SYMPTOM: Anxiety and Depression
Parasitic infections, especially food-borne ones, can be responsible for depression, anxiety, and even schizophrenia. Certain parasites, metacestodes of Taenia solium, actually influence the neurotransmitter pathways, affecting serotonin, GABA, and dopamine levels. Herxheimer reactions can sometimes cause flare-ups of these mental health issues. (2)
Get out in the sun and soak up some Vitamin D. Not only is this a great mood booster, but it’s also a wonderful way to boost your immune system and help your body with its detox burden. If it’s too cold or cloudy, try a light therapy lamp. Place it a few feet away so you can see it out of the corner of your eye. You can even do this while reading or working (you want your eyes to be open). This works best in the morning or afternoon, because if you use it in the evening, it can be too stimulating and disturb your circadian (sleep/wake) rhythm. For anxiety, try practicing Buteyko breathing exercises, diffusing bergamot oil, and drinking a calming herbal tea.
When you’re parasite cleansing, you want to avoid the foods that help feed them. The biggest two to avoid are sugar and grains, but animal products, too, can slow down digestion. Add as many fresh vegetables as you can, some low-sugar fruits like berries or green apples, and plenty of healthy fats to your diet. Stomatologists (oral medicine specialists) published recent research in The Chinese Journal of Dental Medicine that link sugar not only to poor oral hygiene, but also obesity, diabetes, liver and kidney disease, heart complications, and other systemic diseases. It can also suppress immune system activity for up to six hours after consumption. (3, 4)
Eliminate all processed, boxed, or packaged foods, and reach for the one-ingredient foods that don’t need a nutrition label (like produce). This will help you keep your parasite infestation under control. Watch out for hidden and artificial sugars, too. Even “healthier” sugars like honey and maple syrup should be avoided, at least while you’re actively cleansing.
A cup of peppermint tea (or any herbal tea) can help fight your sugar cravings. Adding more healthy fat, like avocado or coconut oil, can help your body feel satiated, as well.
SYMPTOM: Phlegm or Stuffy Nose
Mucus and phlegm are your body’s way of trapping and eliminating toxins, so a flare-up of these symptoms can occur once you start killing parasites.
Oil pulling is a wonderful way to keep your mouth free of bad bacteria. On an empty stomach, take 2 teaspoons of organic coconut oil and swish it in your mouth (between your teeth) for 10-15 minutes. Then, spit it out into a trashcan--it can clog your pipes if you spit into a sink or toilet--and rinse your mouth with water. Brush your teeth afterward. You can add frankincense or lemon essential oil to your oil pulling for extra anti-microbial protection. Using a saline rinse, or neti pot, to irrigate your sinuses is another trick to battle the stuffiness that occurs with die-off.
SYMPTOM: Increased GI Upset
Since parasites like to live in your digestive tract, sometimes digestive symptoms can increase during a parasite cleanse. You might experience bloating, constipation, diarrhea, cramps, or other issues with your digestion.
Fresh ginger or pure aloe can be calming to the digestive system. If you’re struggling with diarrhea, carbon technology binders can help stabilize your stools. Applying a digestive essential oil blend (with coconut oil as a carrier oil) can also be helpful to apply topically on your stomach. You can also up your green juice or bone broth intake to give your digestive system a break.
SYMPTOM: Flu-like symptoms, Fever, Chills
Patients fighting Lyme disease, tick-borne relapsing fever, or other parasitic infections may experience brief Jarisch-Herxheimer reactions from treatment. In a 2017 study published in The American Journal of Tropical Medicine Hygiene, these patients’ die-off symptoms resolved in just a few hours. Researchers deemed these temporary uncomfortable flu-like symptoms as necessary for eradicating the parasite infestation. (5, 6)
Keep your body comfortable. If you have chills, an infrared sauna can help. If you have a fever, make sure you’re getting sufficient fluids. If you’re sweating, remember--it’s actually a positive sign. Your body is working to eliminate toxins for you. The discomfort should pass soon.
Toxins can leave your body through your skin, and so can parasites and their eggs. If you’re experiencing more breakouts than you normally do, be sure to keep you skin clean by washing it twice a day. You can apply apple cider vinegar to the breakouts to dry them out, or you can make your own Skin Rescue cream: coconut oil, almond oil, and tea tree oil. Tea tree is a potent anti-microbial. It is used for all kinds of skin issues, ranging from MRSA to acne to athlete’s foot. (7)
Make a home bentonite clay mask. Take 1 Tbsp. bentonite clay (this helps draw toxins from your skin), 1/4 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar (for its astringent properties), 1 Tbsp. raw manuka honey (very healing, but also for texture), and 1-2 drops lavender oil (soothing to the skin). Mix everything together and add a little water to make the mask easy to spread. Apply to your breakouts. Let the mask dry, and after about 15 minutes, wash it off with warm water. Pat dry.
Whenever the body is processing toxins, issues with sleeping can arise. According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a body clock which explains why certain times of day align with certain organs. For example, if you frequently wake up between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM, it could be your liver that is affected. You may also experience trouble falling asleep or staying asleep while you’re detoxing.
Try a castor oil pack before bed, followed by a warm Epsom salt bath. This can give your body a boost in eliminating toxins before you climb into bed. Also, diffusing cedarwood essential oil is a great option. Creating a completely dark room is also important, as well as avoiding stimulating foods, beverages, or blue light-emitting device screens for two hours before bed.
Liver/Bile Duct Support
You always want to make sure your liver and bile duct are functioning well if you’re experiencing die-off. Here are some general detox practices that you can use any time you’re experiencing die-off symptoms.
Coffee enemas: Read 3 Main Benefits of Coffee Enemas (Plus an Instructional Guide) for specific directions on how to perform a coffee enema.
Castor oil packs: Soak unbleached cotton flannel in organic, cold-pressed, hexane-free castor oil. Place it over your liver, cover in a thin towel, and apply heat.
Infrared heating pad: A good infrared heating pad has all the incredible infrared technology of an infrared sauna, but it’s portable and inexpensive.
Dandelion root tea, milk thistle, beetroot, and NAC (N-acetyl cysteine) are other great liver support agents.
Since your lymphatic system helps process the toxins and waste and remove them from your body, give it some extra TLC while on a parasite cleanse. Here are some tips for keeping your lymphatic system moving.
Massage: Your lymphatic system doesn’t have a pump like your heart to keep it flowing, so it relies on movement. Try a home lymphatic drainage massage or get a professional lymphatic massage.
Rebounding: Purchase a personal-sized trampoline and jump on it for 5-10 minutes a day. Not only does it strengthen your cardiovascular system and provide a good workout, but it also stimulates your lymph to move. For you, this means the toxins are being pushed through at a faster pace, lessening unwanted detox symptoms. (8)
Dry skin brushing: Using a natural bristle brush to brush your skin, always toward your heart, to stimulate lymphatic flow.
Contrast showers: Turn your shower water very warm (careful not to burn yourself) for three minutes, followed by cold for one minute. Repeat the cycle 3-4 times.
General Die-Off Support
Epsom salt baths: These can help draw toxins from your skin. If you’re sensitive to Epsom salts, your body may have trouble with its transsulfuration pathway. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate, which can be hard for a small percentage of the population to process. In this case, you can try magnesium chloride flakes instead. Taking certain forms of magnesium, like magnesium citrate, can also keep your bowels moving. (9)
Binders: BioActive Carbon binders made of humic acid and fulvic acid extracts can safely escort toxins out of your body.
Infrared Sauna: Infrared saunas can help you sweat out toxins and eliminate them faster. Just be sure to restore electrolytes and minerals you lose through sweating.
Green Juice: Flooding your body with nutrition in the form of green juice or green smoothies will help your digestion, energy, and immune system.
Stress-Relief: Practicing forms of stress-relief, like yoga or meditation, keeps your body out of fight-or-flight mode and encourages your parasympathetic nervous system to take over. Your parasympathetic nervous system promotes “rest and digest" functions, which allows your body to relax and heal.
Hydration: Staying hydrated is incredibly important during a parasite cleanse. Dehydration slows down your organs of elimination, like your lymphatic system, and keeps toxins trapped in your body longer. Add some trace minerals and lemon to your water for additional benefit.
If you’re choosing to intentionally rid your body of parasite infestation, make sure you’re also giving it the drainage, lymphatic, liver/gall bladder, nutritional, and emotional support it needs to process the toxins.
Keep your mindset positive, and ask your friends and family for additional support during your cleanse. Experiencing die-off is a necessary (and temporary) discomfort in order to continue on your pathway to optimal health.