Detox Learning Center

Rope Worm: Parasite or Mucoid Plaque?

  • You may see rubbery rope-like ropy strands in your stools when you do a parasite cleanse. 
  • It’s not been scientifically confirmed what these blobby strands are — they could be either rope worm parasites or a form of intestinal debris called mucoid plaque. 
  • Rope worm, or Funis vermis, is not yet a scientifically “confirmed” parasite.
  • Mucoid plaque is thought to be a mixture of fecal matter, toxins, mucus-like material, and lymph that gets stuck in your colon.
  • Whether rope worm is a parasite or mucoid plaque isn't the issue — what’s critical is that it may be contributing to poor health.
  • You can support your health by supporting drainage, by removing toxins, and clearing pathogens.

You might be alarmed (and a bit disgusted) to see rubbery rope-like strands appear in your stools during a parasite cleanse. Lots of people see them — they’re a common occurrence. 

Many types of intestinal parasites can infect humans, including roundworms, pinworms, tapeworms, hookworms, and more. There's been a lively discussion of another potential intestinal inhabitant called the rope worm in recent years.

Those ropy strands in stools, purported to be rope worm by some, are not scientifically-identified parasites. Their true identity is a bit of a mystery. 

Two leading theories explain the stringy strands. One speculates that they're rope worm parasites. The other believes they're a form of intestinal debris called mucoid plaque.

Unfortunately, little science exists to confirm either viewpoint.

Let’s take a closer look at this peculiar substance, including reviewing the theories and helpful suggestions to address this.

What’s Been Observed?

Some people report passing rubbery, brownish-colored strands in their stools during parasite cleanses, water fasting, enemas, colonics, and other detox regimens. This rather disturbing stringy stuff can even be up to a few feet long. (1)   

If you're not familiar with colonics, they are a more thorough colon flush than enemas. Trained professionals administer them — you don't do them on your own. 

Interestingly, the so-called rope worms people observed during colonics and parasite cleanses aren't a recent phenomenon. 

 A 1930s article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association noted people passing the unsightly materials after taking colonics. They were described as "brown or blackish sheets, strings, and rolled-up worm-like masses of tough mucus with a rotten or dead-fish odor." 

The article also reported that ill people who purged this unpleasant, stringy material had relief of their symptoms. (2)

Some people believe that these ropy blobs are a by-product of health protocols. For example, it could be psyllium husk fiber leaving the gut. But people also see them when they haven’t taken psyllium.

Scientists aren't sure what the material is, yet something odd is coming out.  

The Parasitic Rope Worm Theory

The Parasitic Rope Worm Theory

It’s been theorized that the rope-like material passed during a parasite cleanse or other gut detox regimen is a parasite called "rope worm." 

A scientist advanced this theory in 2012. During a 17-day water fast, he passed what he suspected was a parasite during an enema. After purging this "rope worm," he had immediate relief from his chronic back pain. 

He began a study to determine what this stuff was. He co-wrote papers about it, but they aren't published in scientific journals. Reportedly, journal editors rejected the documents due to a lack of scientific evidence and inadequate research protocols. Still, they share some intriguing information. (3)

Here's a closer look at this theory and the details the scientists provided.

Could it be a parasite?

Rope worm, or Funis vermis, is not yet a scientifically “confirmed” parasite. Scientists don’t understand how you would contract it or where it comes from. (3) 

Complicating matters, it is claimed to be an anaerobic critter, meaning it fails to thrive in an oxygenated environment. It dries out quickly when outside your body, making it harder to identify.

Still, it can be seen in photographs in different forms or stages. Rope worm theory is alleged to have five growth stages: (3)

  1. Thin mucus stage: A slimy goo with very little structure — except for a few bubbles — found in various places in the body.
  2. Thick mucus stage: A slimy mucus with more gas bubbles. The bubbles are said to enable the parasite to move throughout the body.
  3. Branched jellyfish: An irregularly-shaped structure with branches protruding in multiple directions. 
  4. Small rope worm: A critter that resembles a short adult rope worm with a softer, slimier body. The bubbles may develop into suction cups.
  5. Adult rope worm: A parasite with a long rope-like structure with a suction-cup for a "head," which attaches it to places like your gut wall. The adult pest may reach over three feet in length.  

Scientists claim that they’ve seen microscopic scales on rope worms. They also appear to have inner tunnels where gas bubbles travel. But they don't have muscles, a nervous system, or reproductive organs. (3)

Only a small portion of the rope worm genetics have been analyzed. This assessment showed that only 10% of the DNA could be matched to current databases and that DNA matched a mix of human and bacterial genes. (3)

Thus, DNA evidence doesn't yet confirm it's a true parasite. More extensive genetic analysis is needed.

Why weren’t they discovered sooner?

Rope worms typically come out during cleansing protocols. They may not be seen otherwise. Plus, some people simply won’t notice they're passing them in their stools. Reasons for this include: (3)

  • Immature form: You may purge one of the earlier growth stages and not see much difference in your stools. 
  • Broken pieces: Rope worms usually don’t come out in one piece. So they could be overlooked as merely part of your stool. 
  • Mistaken identity: They may be incorrectly identified as parts shed from your intestinal lining. 

Regardless, it's important to remember that there isn't any conclusive evidence that what is called rope worm is actually a parasite. The other theory about rope worms is that they are mucoid plaque.

The Mucoid Plaque Theory

The Mucoid Plaque Theory

The mucoid plaque theory was put forth by a naturopathic doctor in the 1990s. He coined the term “mucoid plaque” to describe the stringy masses he saw in his stools while doing a cleanse with wild herbs.

Mucoid plaque is said to be a mixture of fecal matter, toxins, mucus-like material, and lymph that gets stuck in the nooks and crannies of your colon. Mucoid plaque build-up is thought to represent movement toward a disease state. For example, it may point to a bacterial infection or the development of bowel disease

Is it protection from toxins and poor diet?

Proponents of the mucoid plaque theory suspect that this rubbery barrier is formed to prevent your body from absorbing toxins

Others suggest that an unhealthy diet rich in processed foods and alcohol may promote mucoid plaque buildup. Consumption of genetically modified foods (GMOs) is another proposed trigger.

Some of these unproven ideas might have some merit. 

The human gut produces mucins, which are sticky carbohydrate/protein combos that form mucus. A single layer of mucus blankets and protects your small intestine's inner lining, while a double layer of mucus coats your large intestine. This mucous undergoes continual replacement and renewal. (4, 5, 6)

Still, it's unclear whether old mucins can build up and exit in large quantities as stringy mucoid plaque.

Is it protection from parasites and bacteria?

It's also suggested that harmful bacteria and parasites could stimulate mucoid plaque formation in your gut.

In one published case study, a woman with Clostridium difficile bacterial infection-induced colitis was found to have oozing mucoid material and yellowish plaque lesions during a colonoscopy. This condition cleared up after treating the infection. (7)

The ropy goo may be lymph tissue built up in the gut from bacterial infection. Plus, a bacterial or parasitic infection may trigger some of the intestinal lining to die prematurely. This leads to shedding dead cells. (8, 9, 10, 11)

Furthermore, studies suggest that an increase in mucus may be an attempt to bind onto a pathogen to expel it. And animal studies show that mucus production in the colon increases when clearing parasites. (4) 

So, the stringy sludge in your stools may be a combination of bacteria, parasites, lymph, mucins, and dead cells.

Challenges of Solving the Mystery

Why is this issue still clouded in mystery? Reasons include:

  • Lack of scientific investigation: Most of what is known about rope worm is based on personal experience. Although many stories and photos exist online, little scientific study has been done. 
  • Existing studies are unpublished: The small amount of completed research isn't published in peer-reviewed scientific journals. The investigations so far have lacked the appropriate scientific methodology. 
  • Limited interest and awareness: Most researchers don’t know about rope worm, partly because of a lack of published research. It's also hard to spark interest because mainstream medicine doesn't consider parasites a significant health problem.
  • No research funding: It takes a lot of money to do proper studies. Groups like the National Institutes of Health aren't likely to help fund a study of something that isn't deemed a health concern.

It's unlikely that a clear and authoritative answer on rope worm will be available any time soon. So, what's the best approach to take?

What You Should Do

Whether rope worm is a parasite or mucoid plaque isn't the critical issue. Instead, what warrants attention is that if you’ve got the rubbery goo in your gut, it may be contributing to poor health. 

So, supporting your body's drainage and detox is your best course of action.

Support drainage

To help purge rope worm or mucoid plaque from your body, try:

  • Colon support: Make sure you're pooping at least once daily — and ideally, more often during detox. Certain herbs may support your bowel movements and also support the lowering of inflammation. (12, 13, 14, 15)
  • Kidney and liver support: Toxic buildup can be hard on your liver and kidneys. Nurturing their function aids detox. Some herbs may support your liver and kidneys against damage. (16, 17, 18)
  • Coffee enemas: Enemas appear to promote purging rope worms or mucoid plaque. You can do these yourself at home. Boost effectiveness by using coffee in your enema. (19)

Remove pathogens and rebuild the gut

Both the rope worm and mucoid plaque theories involve pathogens, including parasites. Whether the stringy goo is a parasite itself or forms due to your body's defensive efforts against pathogens, it's crucial to get rid of it.

Certain herbs can help support your gut and trigger you to pass the stringy substance if you choose to do a parasite cleanse.

Both the parasitic rope worm and mucoid plaque theories suggest that the stringy goo in your stools signals your gut needs support. Reclaiming your gut health requires hauling away toxins. You also need to rebuild tissues damaged by pathogens and toxins.

Binders can support grabbing toxins like pesticides and heavy metals. At the same time, they can help provide additional support the body needs. (20, 21, 22)

Shift Your Focus

If you do a parasite cleanse or other detox regimen and find stringy goo in your stools, you don't need to worry about which theory is the right one. The limited science doesn't  confirm whether "rope worm" is a parasite, mucoid plaque, or something else.

However, what is clear is that you could be healthier and feel better when it's gone. So shift your focus to things you can do to support your gut health. 

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You might be alarmed (and a bit disgusted) to see rubbery rope-like strands appear in your stools during a parasite cleanse.

Rope Worm: Parasite or Mucoid Plaque?

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